House Renovation Progress

This summer has been taken over by another major renovation at our house. As we were finishing the kitchen renovation we started thinking about when to follow through with the rest of the house, which has two bedrooms, our dining room, an office and a library. Our main motivation for this was the fact that we still had knob and tube wiring and no insulation at all.

We went back and forth on whether or not we would go in sections or do the whole thing at once. Renovating in sections would mean the cost could be broken up into smaller chunks, but would also mean a higher cost overall and possibly years of living in a construction zone.  One thing was for sure:  We decided we were definitely going to wait until at least 2018 to do anything.  We and our bank accounts needed a break.  

Front bedroom before

Front bedroom before

Our desire for wiring that wouldn't burn our house down and for a warm insulated house in the winter ultimately won out.  So, we went ahead and started the project anyway.

We haven’t been posting regularly about this project because it’s largely just a case of "tear the walls down, add new wiring, put some insulation in while we’re at it, put the walls back up”.  Unlike the kitchen or living room renovations, many of the rooms will look largely the same as they originally did. However we are adding some built-in shelves to a number of the rooms and adding a 1/2 bath upstairs.

Our completed kitchen, bathroom and living room are all bunched together, which created a very small, but useable space, which Chris and I have been occupying all summer long.  The doorway between our kitchen and the dining room has been completely sealed off, which keeps some of the noise and all of the dust and debris out of our living space. This is a nice change from the kitchen renovation, which was right in the middle of our house and forced us to have to walk through a construction zone every time we needed to use the bathroom. And with no great way to close off the space, a thick layer of dust was on everything throughout the house.

Our current living space is pretty small. Most of our furniture has been placed in a storage pod in our driveway and every available space has been filled with something.   I set up my studio space in the second floor of our barn, which should stay warm enough to work in until November.  We moved the contents of the office into the living room, so Chris can still work from home.  I insisted on keeping the kitchen largely as is, but we did pack the cabinets full with the contents of our china hutch from the dining room.  Our sleeping arrangements were the biggest challenge.  Chris likes to sleep with the TV on, so always slept on the couch anyway, so nothing much changed for him.  However, I'm currently sleeping on a cot in our eating area of our kitchen.  I was initially concerned that I'd wake up every morning with a bad back, but the cot is surprisingly comfortable.  The space is pretty small, so I do have to set up the cot every night and fold it up every morning, which is a bit of a pain but not as bad as it could be.

At one point, a few years ago, Chris and I had floated the idea of doing the demo ourselves. But, when we saw the work it took to bring the walls down and clear out tons of plaster, we are pretty glad we decided that to pay someone else to do it.  Our contractor along with and a handful of high-school aged kids did the work and the demolition went pretty quickly. We were fortunate that no major structural issues were found once the plaster was down.  Seeing the exposed, slightly scary wiring made us really glad we decided to go ahead with the project.

The stairwell in the midst of demo

The stairwell in the midst of demo


As soon as people learned we were tearing our walls down, one of the first things that we got asked was if we found anything cool in the walls.  We did find things during our downstairs bathroom renovation and kitchen renovation and I did find a large number of items in our attic.  However, we did not find anything this time around. What we did discover is a history of the wallpaper in our house.  Some walls in an upstairs closet had layers of old wallpaper and more was discovered in the office, when the wood paneling was removed.

We had decided that since we were tearing the walls down anyway, we should add second floor 1/2 bath upstairs. The upstairs of our house is only two bedrooms so we weren't sure if we would even be able to put one in. Our original idea was to squeeze it in between the two bedrooms, but once the walls came down, we realized that the chimney was right in the way and the bathroom would be much too small.  Our back bedroom had a fairly large closet, so we decided to cut that closet in half and use part of the space for the bathroom. Our ceilings are all angled, which did create some spacial problems so the bathroom has to eat into the bedroom a bit making an already small bedroom even smaller. To make that a little more hospitable, the ceiling is being vaulted in that room and we’re adding some built-in shelves so it hopefully doesn’t feel /too/ small.  What we are sacrificing in bedroom space we are making up in not having to hike downstairs and across the house to use the bathroom in the middle of the night.

So far, we’ve gone through demolition, rough wiring and insulation.  Drywall is up, first coat of paint is on, and the existing hardwood floors have all just been refinished.  The new bathroom now has a new tile floor and the toilet and sink installed.  

There is still much left to do; trim work, built-in shelving, new stairs and final electric, but we hope to be able to move in soon.