Monday, March 30, 2009

Home Show

Dave and I went to the Greater Rochester Home Show yesterday and visited so many vendors. It was held at the Convention Center. We especially focused on the vendors selling insulation and geothermal systems. There a couple of tax credits and discounts right now that make some things, like geothermal, seem a little more affordable.

We also looked at a few vendors for wood flooring as we will need to replace the flooring on the first floor. I think we like the American Hickory hardwood. It costs from $6.00 a square foot, uninstalled, to about $9.00 a square foot, installed.

No absolute decisions on anything yet but we think we would like the foam insulation, the geothermal system and the hardwood floors. Ka-ching! Ka-ching! Ka-ching!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009


I will have more pictures to post soon. I have some of the upstairs floor and also of some things we purchased this past weekend - door casings and even a kitchen sink. Stay tuned. It's not what you think.

We also got our drawings sent out to Comfy House. I'll tell you more about that later, too.


Yes. I already changed my mind about curtains. The ones I thought I wanted would be too heavy for the room, I think. I have now found some fabric I like (a picture) but can't find where to get it from. Figures.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

The Colors of Nature

I made some decisions yesterday for our second floor "master suite."

My family is very artistically talented. When my parents lived in Arizona several years ago, my mother was homesick and painted three folk-art type paintings. They have beautiful blues and greens in them. I decided that I wanted to use those paintings upstairs in our home. They are connected to me emotionally and the colors speak of where we live. The colors are calming.

The color I have chosen for upstairs is Tavern Green with 50% white added. This is milk paint from Milk Paint, a company making historic paints. You can find a link to their color palette to the right. The color is a sagey green. I plan to use this color on the built-ins in the dressing area and in the bathroom. We plan to purchase the paint locally from Pittsford Lumber & Workshop. See a link to their site on the right.

Hardware has been another decision. I believe we are going to go with milk glass knobs and pulls on the built-ins. We can also buy doorknobs like that. Several companies probably sell these but we may go with the Vintage Hardware and Lighting Store. See a link to their site on the right. If we can buy these locally we will try to do so.

I am finding lighting to be the most difficult decision to make. So many choices and so many restrictions (placement). That's another blog. We are still a long way from installation but we do need to know placement now.

My mom and I went to Country Curtains yesterday (see a link to their site on the right). She needed new bedroom curtains and I looked around. This was a great opportunity to get my head around what I might choose. I think I found a plaid that works with the sage paint. I would only need to buy one set for the bedroom, then a valance for the bathroom and there is even a matching shower curtain that I could purchase.

Who knows? This could all change in a month. :)

Thursday, March 5, 2009

The Away Room

Here we are back downstairs.

This picture is what we call the Away Room or our den. For more about Away Rooms, read THE NOT SO BIG HOUSE (see the link to it on the right).

This picture is taken from by the stairs and looks down a fairly open hall area to the full downstairs bath and through the studs to the Away Room. This room was our old living room, now with modifications.

The angled doorway. We were able to do this because we removed the existing walls and support and added a new long beam support. I'll have to get more information on this beam (a lam beam?) from Dave. The main reason we have the Away Room opening on an angle is to create a more open floor plan from the front door, the dining room, the stairway and the hall to the bathroom. This angled room will also have interior French doors as the room will come into play in several ways. Most times the doors will be open and this will allow a flow of people in this part of the house. We love to entertain, mostly at holidays but also our family is growing and we like to have family dinners on a fairly regular basis.

More about the Away Room
If you read my earlier posts you will know that Dave and I felt we needed all these separate rooms for all the functions we wanted those rooms to perform. What we found we really needed was one room that performed all those functions. The Away Room was the room for these needs. It is a multipurpose room.

The Away Room will accomplish these things when it is completed:
1. Provide a guest room. We will be purchasing at least one and maybe two (if they will fit) 1 1/2 size chairs that fold out for twin bed(s). Dave and I both have family members that visit from out of state. This will be their room while they are here. Another reason for the doors on the room--for privacy.
2. This room will contain our home office. The alcove made by the French door frame and the tub from the bathroom will contain a desk. We are also going to laptops instead of desktops to further reduce our computer footprint.
3. This room will be the home theater room. I read for relaxation, Dave watches movies and he likes them loud with surround sound. This is another reason for the French doors.
4. By having the French doors open to the dining area and entry/stairs/hall, our floor plan has opened significantly to accommodate extra people whenever we need it and the seating areas required.

The second picture is looking through the studs to the dining room.

About the Floors Part 2: Fly Swarms of Biblical Proportions

Yes. You read it correctly. Swarms of flies in biblical proportions. It was like a Steven King thriller.

Here's what happened. When we refinished the floor upstairs it was getting late in the season and getting cold. Dave had to heat the upstairs to be able to effectively finish the floor. The heat drew in clusters of flies, I guess through the uninsulated walls. The flies clung to the windows in large groups and then frequently landed on the newly refinished floors.

The icky part wasn't so much that they landed--but that they stuck. Some standing up, some on their backs, if it wasn't so gross it would be hysterically funny. Some flies that were stuck on their backs had their little legs in the air doing the bicycle motion.

What do you do in a situation like this? Other than freak out, you need to sand your beautifully refinished floors free of the little varmints. Yes we, no Dave (I wasn't about to do this!) had to scrape them all off the floor and sand and refinish the spots. He waited a week before scraping because the stuck flies weren't dead. He waited until they died before he scraped them. Ugh.

Cost of fly removal=sandpaper and another gallon of polyurethane: $32.04

About the Floors

We love the floors in the second story of Hardy House.

The floors had been painted over but we knew they were variable width pine floors, original to the house. We wanted to do everything we could to save them. The widths went to about 11" though most were less than this, typically 6-10".

During the construction phase we asked that whenever the contractor had to remove a piece of the structure, floors especially, that he save the pieces. By doing this we were able to make any repairs in the floor upstairs. Okay, Dave was able to do the repairs.

It took a while but Dave was able to sand the floors upstairs. We tried to work with remover but it just made a gooey mess. We decided to just use the sander that we rented from The Home Depot.

The floors sanded beautifully. Dave did a fantastic job.

We next put two coats of polyurethane on them and that really brought out the red color of the pine. They are beautiful. We have decided to wait on the last two coats until the rest of the work is done. We also covered the finished floors with rosin paper (a roll costs about $10 and we only needed one) so if something drops or spills on them, there is some protection. I will have to add pictures and costs to this section later.

Floor Needs
We had to rent the orbital floor sander twice as we underestimated (as usual) the time it would take for us to get the job done. We also underestimated the amount of sandpaper packs we would need.
$240.00 rental for the floor sander

What we didn't anticipate is how much sandpaper we would go through because we were sanding old "painted" floors. They just became a gooey mess and gobbed up the sandpaper. Here's our sandpaper totals:

9 packs of 24 grit
10 packs of 36 grit
3 packs of 80 grit
2 packs of 120 grit

Total cost to refinish the floor inlcuding 2 gallons of polyurethane, 1 gallon of mineral spirits and a container of wood filler: $489.80

Advice: Because you can take back the sandpaper you don't use, stock up on as much as you can when you leave the store. There is nothing worse than having to stop work to go to the store to get more supplies. Not to mention we couldn't get the job done with one rental of the sander but had to rent it twice. You can read into this to mean mega more dollars spent.

Advice: Get the older sander. It's very heavy but it makes good contact with the floor. The newer models are lighter and bounce around more.

Advice: Definiately use a respirator if you use the oil-based polyurethane.

The Rest of the "Story"

This is the rest of the upstairs. The view in this picture is looking from our bedroom/sleeping area into the hall area. The entry to this room was widened considerably when the chimney was removed. We asked the contractor to open it up as much as possible. Again, we are looking for light and space in a formerly dark, somewhat cramped area.

To the right and left in the hall area are closets. At the back of the closet on the right will be a large drawer/drawers that will pull out and give us several cubic feet of storage for blankets, sheets, out-of-season clothing, etc. This pull out is being created from the wasted space behind the shower. My idea, I might add. :) I'm really looking forward to that great, hidden storage space.

To the left about half way down is the door to the stairs. Just opposite would be the bathroom.

As your eye travels to the end there is another skylight that faces north. This one does not open but emits a ton of natural light. This was very important as that part of the upstairs had no other natural light.

Along that wall (where the skylight is) and to the left will be approximately 15 feet of linear built-in drawers. They will run from the bathroom wall on the right down to the other wall. At the end of that wall will be a built-in-dressing table. There will be plenty of lighting.

The ceilings in the hall were also elevated by 12" and then beyond they were only elevated 6" because of constraints within the structure.

The New Bedroom

It may not look much like a master bedroom, but remember, we are using the entire upstairs of our home for a "master suite." This particular picture is of our sleeping area.

The picture here shows us looking south into the bedroom. That window is the one that looks out to the horses. We had the skylight added. It is an opening skylight with a screen. You may remember from an earlier post that we loved to look at the stars and the moon. We are hoping to still be able to do that from this skylight as well as getting more fresh air and more light. This skylight will allow us to take advantage of the morning sun.

When we talked to my brother, the architect early on, we asked him if we could raise the ceilings without too many issues. He said sure. So, we had Gerry Knibbs and crew, our contractor, raise the ceilings in this room by 12". It has made a big difference. This was not our first choice for a bedroom area but it worked after many redesigns of the space. Eventually, we may add another skylight or a dormer to the west ceiling/roof line. We also at some point may enlarge the south window.

Up, Up, And Away!

The new second floor of Hardy House
We now have the upstairs studded off. Is "studded" a word? This picture is looking into the new full/master bath. The door to it is directly across from the door from the stairs. (We are putting a door at the top of the stairs only because we have a dog and a cat and prefer they remained downstairs.)

Both doors (from the stairs and also into the bathroom) will have transom windows above the doors, letting in light and working to cross ventilate. The window is the front second-floor window where our bed used to be. Looking at this picture, a large shower will be to the right when you walk in the door. Because of the roofline there will be quite a bit of wasted space behind the shower but we are using that for something else which I will explain later.

The Shower
We had quite a fiasco ordering the shower. We researched a bunch of stuff, looked at a bunch of stuff, including tile and surrounds and came up with the decision to use Swanstone, a solid-surface product. Our fiasco was because we spent several hours one evening at Lowe's trying to order the product. The very helpful young man told us we couldn't get the size we wanted. Dave told him very nicely that we could as we had seen it on the Swanstone Web site. Unfortunately, Lowe's computers did not recognize what we needed. It ended up getting ordered incorrectly, took several weeks to appear because it was placed in the wrong part of the receiving area. When we finally got it, Dave and I struggled getting it home as it is heavier than you can imagine and we took it out of the box and wrapping and whoa! It was the wrong one. You see, we earlier realized the wrong one was ordered, tried to cancel the order, which couldn't be done (and another helpful young man went through a lot to get it cancelled eventually). So what happened was the new one had come in but we received the old one. All very confusing and time-consuming. I was really annoyed about this for a while. Anyway, we now have the parts but they are not yet installed.

Where the shower is going there was a hole in the floor which Dave had to repair. We opted to just put plywood over as it would not be seen. The cost of the shower unit, total, was $1,713.09 which included the walls and the shower pan. The walls were custom sized and we got as big a shower pan as we could for the space. We purchased these from Lowe's.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

The Stairs

We love how our stairs are coming together. The stairs are in the same place they were before but they are now open and with a new design. They are also much safer. I hope you like the picture. Our plan is to continue the bottom tread around, offering an additional seating spot during times of entertaining. It will probably also pop up so that we can store hats, carves,and mittens in there. We are currently investigating the kinds of spindles we want for the stairs. The window above lets in lots of natural light (This was the window in the office area at the top of the stairs.) Now, the stairs are a focal point of the house. They will be immediately apparent upon entering the house from the front door. And, the lower landing will be somewhat open to the kitchen area in the back of the house when that is completed.

The stairway opens to a newly formed hall area that is off the dining room. Beneath the stairs is a new entryway to the creepy basement where we will eventually build new stairs and maybe even start using the basement. It was important that we could get to the basement easily from inside the house.

Beyond is a full downstairs bath. We had anticipated (using Dave's design) that to get a full tub in that bath, we would not be able to get anything larger than a 4-foot bath. The builders figured out a way for us to get a standard-size bathtub in there.

Note: I am not fond of having bathrooms by windows. But, in this house that was a compromise I had to make. Both our baths will have full windows in them. We just need to come up with good privacy options.

Speaking of Design...

I want to state a few things about our design.

1. We have beautiful views, especially to the back of our home. We wanted to ensure those views were as available as possible.
2. We like easy sight planes. For example, when you walk in the front door, we wanted a visitor to be able to see through the house out to the field and woods.
3. We wanted to make the house lighter. Some areas were quite dark, like the south bedroom. We live in upstate New York and the winter can take on a very dreary tone.
4. We wanted as much cross-ventilation as we could get, using doors, windows, and porches.
5. We considered the way we live now and plan to live, every day. We also considered ourselves aging.
6. We have decided on exactly which pieces of furniture were important to us (family pieces) and the rest of our needs will be served by built-ins.
7. We seem to have collections (some art work, pots, textiles) for which we wanted some display areas.
8. We needed as much storage space as possible, with an unusable basement and no attic. Yes we have a barn. But things get damp and musty in a barn and mice have a field day. We lost all our family's hand-knitted and hand-made Christmas stockings this year due to mice finding them in the barn and using them for their home.

Advice: Consider how you live and design for that.

Once Again, Welcome To Our Home

Construction Has Started!
Dave and I both grew up in older homes with graceful lines, great woodwork, trim, and details. We still wanted those things but also wanted a home that would work for the way we live today. That became Hardy House. And we love the way it is evolving.

One of the most exciting things, I think, was during construction we walked into the house and there on a back wall was Dave's simple plans tacked up on a nail. The construction crew was using his plans. That's not to say there weren't some adjustments because there were. Still it was very gratifying to see all our time and Dave's significant effort being used. (Note: Dave loves doing this kind of thing and though we recognize designing your home in simple CAD software is not to everyone's liking, it can be done.) An architect could probably do the design in an afternoon, but Dave and I spent months on this design, going back and forth. But to see the builders using it was worth every little snarky argument we might have had about it.

We LOVE Our Contractor

How do you get a contractor?
Well, we asked around.

What We Looked For
1. Someone who could appreciate our house and our vision for it.
2. We wanted a person who we could afford.
3. We wanted a person we could trust.
4. We wanted a person who was responsible and did what he said he was going to do when he said he was going to do it.
5. We wanted someone that would respect our home.
6. We wanted someone with experience.
7. We wanted someone with a crew that had the same values and respect.

What We Got
1. Gerry Knibbs. (Millerd Knibbs is his real name).
2. A great crew.
3. A contractor who, when he said he was going to do something, did it, from the first phone call right through to the end.
4. A crew that respected our home and old homes in general.
5. A contractor and crew who cleaned up after themselves, daily.
6. A contractor and crew who also valued and considered our opinions.
7. Affordable. Perhaps not the least expensive contractor in the area but one who was extremely well thought of and who was recommended time and time again.
8. A contractor who was able to squeeze us in between other jobs he had which was a lifesaver for us because it was getting late in the season.
9. A contractor who is willing to come back and do any other work we need, from soup to nuts. They can do everything.
10. A respectable crew who were kind, polite, trustworthy, and considerate.

Need I say more? Of course I do. Here's his information:

M.J. Knibbs Construction LLC
526 A W. Main St.
Palmyra, NY 14522
(315) 597-3775

Pleased As Punch

Yup. That's right. Of all the awful things that could have been behind the plaster and lathe - rotted wall, nests of animals or bugs, we were thrilled by their non-existence.

The only place we really had an issue was in the south-facing window of the dining room. There had been a leak there and some of the wood had rotted and Dave replaced it. We also found a nest of ants there due to the water. We sprayed them and they were gone.

This is Hardy House and we love its strength and character.

Last Gutting Pics Before Construction

Here are the last three gutting pictures before we start constructions.

One picture was taken from the living room looking into the dining room (with our gold front door).

Another picture shows to the left of the living room opening where there was an original door concealed, common for this period home. It probably originally went into the parlor or our living room. It will continue to be covered. We are not adding it back.

Another picture shows Dave and Stu consulting again. Note the chimney is still there. That will soon be gone. There was a lot of discussion about the ceilings and the beams because of the way we wanted to remodel the space.

Not Done Yet!

More Downstairs Gutting Pictures
One picture shows looking through the living room wall studs (where we took that first swing early on) to the bathroom and into the dressing room. The other picture shows where the bathroom was and the way to the creepy basement from the dressing room.

Let's Gut Some More!

Moving Downstairs
One picture shows Stu and Dave consulting in the living room. See the white painted door frame to the living room? That will be going away soon.

The other picture is the air filtering system that Dave hooked up. Here it is in the dining room. Yes, you can buy such things, but if you're handy and you have some stuff, you can build one, too. I am hoping to place information on building this air filter and the chute, here on the Hardy House Blog.

1. If you don't use an air filter similar to what we used, you will be replacing those costly respirator filters frequently.

And, More Upstairs Gutting

From this picture you are looking from the front bedroom into the south bedroom. Notice the pipe and the chimney are still there. Those will be removed soon.

More Gutting From Upstairs

Here are some more pictures. The debris just felt like it never ended. The old blown-in insulation was light as feathers. The top picture shows Dave walking from our bedroom (front) to the south bedroom. See how narrow the entryway is?

Gutting From The Top Down

The Upstairs
We began our gutting upstairs. Most of these pictures came from my Dad, Fred Alderman, as I cannot seem to locate mine from this part of our renovation. My brother, Stu, and my husband, Dave are standing in the south bedroom after it has been cleaned up of debris.

Let the Crowbar Swing

Now we begin. The dirty, exhausting work has started. Remember safety first. Your respirator is your friend.

The pictures are of the chute and of my brother Stu, the architect, checking things out on a visit.

The square footage of the area we gutted is approximately 1050 square feet and that's without the kitchen, 1/2 bath and the family room. Our entire house is approximately 1550 square feet. So that also gives you an idea of what we are currently living in during this remodel-about 500 square feet.

The first few swings of the crowbar are exhilarating and you can't wait to throw them. Then it becomes difficult, hard work. Be prepared. There were times we considered hiring someone just to keep up with the debris. It seemed like we had to stop SO frequently to clean up and get stuff in the dumpster. We also grossly underestimated the time to it would take for us to gut the house. We figured two weeks of work would do it. It took us two months but we were also working full-time at our paying jobs which made it more difficult.

1. We originally just pulled down walls and ceilings in the south-facing bedroom and everything came down together. We tried to put the debris in big garbage pails and then drag the buckets to the chute where we shot it down the chute to the dumpster. It went into a tangled wad at the bottom of the chute and the dumpster. Dave had to get into the dumpster to sort it. Do not do it this way.
2. When we started gutting our bedroom, the front bedroom, we separated lathe from plaster as we went. We smacked the wall and ceiling plaster with a crowbar to get it to crack and tried to take that down first and pulled the lathe separately and threw it into another part of the room. The plaster (without lathe and nails) flew down the chute. We next bundled the lathe together and sent that down the chute when we were ready. Eventually Dave had to climb in the dumpster and reorient some debris to provide more dumpster room. This gutting scenario worked really well. You might think bundling was stupid but we were able to stack it in the house until we were ready to deal with it and I think it made for a safer work site.
3. Consider offering the bundled lathe as kindling for campers.
4. Consider placing a large piece of old carpeting on the floor to protect floors from debris.
5. Consider starting your gutting as early in the spring (or even winter) as you can. We got a late start and found ourselves starting on July 4 so we had really hot and humid weather to contend with, as well.

Side Bedroom

This would be our second bedroom and it is entered from the front bedroom. It's a very dark room with one south-facing window - toward the horses, which is nice. The carpet on the floor covers a loose board where the prior owners cut through to install an electrical box for a ceiling light in the dining room below. The doorway is to the front bedroom.

The Front Bedroom

The front bedroom is where Dave and I slept. It is where the window is on the second floor when you look at the picture of the house head on. We put our bed there and at night we could look up at the stars and the moon. We did love that and hope to capture some of that after the remodel is complete.

To get to this room you just stepped from the office area. There are no hallways on the second floor of Hardy House. I think this is quite typical of older houses. Rooms just flow into other rooms.

As you can see, we have a couple different wallpaper patterns.
The floors upstairs had been covered by a thin blue carpeting when we bought the house. We tore that out early on and found some wonderful variable width wide-plank pine floors which we were hoping to keep.

Dave says we have a 1 1/2 story house. That's what they are called when they have a sloping roof like this. He also calls those short walls, kneehole walls.

Our Office

The stairs led to a small area where we tucked our desks and computers up under the eaves, so to speak. There was a board closet built in up there but it was pretty useless and it surrounded a large pipe that worked its way from the basement. We stored some paint in the closet. It did have some old wallpaper on it and I don't believe I captured that, unfortunately. I did, however, take a couple pictures of the wallpaper that was found upon peeling away the top layer of wallpaper in the rest of the room which was a much more recent addition. I actually liked the wallpaper underneath. It even sported a border. I think the under layer of wallpaper might have been fairly old. Again, I wold love to hear from anyone who has knowledge about such things.

Welcome to the Second Floor

The Stairs - Oh Woe is Us
As you can see the stairs were enclosed. They were steep and they also tilted slightly. The treads were narrow so that Dave always went down the stairs in a sort of side-way fashion. The stairs led to a small area where we used our computers. The window looks to the back field and woods.