Wednesday, July 27, 2016

the river house #8: a new floor and a thunderstorm...

The basement of the River House continues, and if it were an episode of Fixer Upper, this would be the segment leading up to the drama of a cliffhanger commercial break...

 But first, let's start with some cute children who built their own house out of the refrigerator box.

Let there be light!
 And the highlights of the week:

Air conditioning!  See that cute, little ductless unit on the wall?  Super energy efficient and will heat/cool the whole basement area beautifully.  And during the hottest part of the summer, it's awfully nice to be cool.

Wall paint!  We chose a pale gray called Gray Owl by Benjamin Moore.  It's beautiful, and it'll be even more so once we get trim and all the finishing details in there.

Lights!  Nothing beats lighting.
Sconces on the bathroom shiplap

Kitchen lighting

Front view of addition
 The addition is taking on more shape this week, too.
View from the back

If anyone is needing floor samples, spare yourself from going around town because I have ALL OF THEM.  When it came to flooring, I've been super perplexed.  What material, what color, how much do we want to spend, etc.  Solid hardwoods were out of the question since it is a basement, but I wanted the look of wood rather than tile or carpet.

Of course the big trend now is tile that looks like wood.  But it seems like it'd be so COLD.  And when my kids fall while playing, I don't really want them cracking their head on tile.

So we looked at using bamboo because of it's resistance to moisture and lower cost, then couldn't find one that we really liked or the cost we wanted.  Since we're also on a timeline, we wanted a floating or clickable floor instead of something we'd have to glue or nail down.  Nothing we wanted came in this option.

Then we turned to engineered wood because its surface level is the same as a real hardwood floor, but underneath are layers that are better for handling moisture.  This option costed significantly more, and I was going to take the plunge once I decided on a color I liked.

But then Marc found a sample that was almost identical in color and texture in a LAMINATE for way, way cheaper.  With a lifetime warranty.  I honestly didn't want to end up with a laminate floor, but the handscraped laminate flooring looks just about like the real stuff and you can't beat the price.

So I'm pretty stinkin' proud of myself because yesterday, I paid a babysitter and spent the day putting down the underlayment and laying the new floating floor in the main room.  Looks good, right?  With Marc at RUF staff training in Atlanta, I did this along with one of our contractor's workers, and boy, by that night my body was HURTING!  
Midway through flooring
And then, a major thunderstorm hit last night.  30mph winds and a TON of rain dumped out quickly.

(You see where this is going...)

This morning, I gasped when I saw water puddled all over my beautiful new floor.  THE DAY AFTER I PUT IT IN.

So, yeah.

Cue the tears.  Cue the stress.  Cue the extra time, the extra money, the extra material, the extra chocolate I will be consuming in my body tonight in attempts of killing the emotional pain I feel over this.

The water came in through the doorway, and went UNDERNEATH the moisture barrier layer.

So we had to rip up the section of new floor, suck up what water we could, and let it dry out.  Our contractor is quickly going to work putting up plywood to close in the addition, which will help it from ever happening again.

But for now, morale is down.

To be continued...

Saturday, July 16, 2016

the river house #7: momentum...

 Oh, there's so much I could blog about right now.  There's so much on my mind I could share.  About adoption. About race.  About alopecia. About the sweetness and the chaos of life with small children.

But for now, how about an update on the River House?

Because it feels like we've finally turned a corner on the basement this week.  And that's HUGE.

One of our new neighbors who has lived on the block for twenty years gave us a TREASURE when she gave us these two pictures she took of the River House in 2006 before the previous owners began renovations.

Wow, right?  It's so hard to believe this is the same house... what we started with this year.  You can tell the previous owners had started something really special.

This was a BIG week in our basement reno!  Finally, we turned the proverbial corner.  And now it's a race to see if we can finish in time for our new RUF intern, Audrey, to move in when she comes to town in August.

This week, we sealed the brick walls and concrete floor.

And that piece of paper hanging from the header?  A passed inspection on framing, plumbing and electrical!

Which gave us the green light to move along to insulation and drywall- yesssssss.
Take a last look through the closet into the bathroom because you'll never see it again...

Houston, we have insulation.
I never want to hang insulation again.  I start itching just thinking about it.

(And somehow I keep finding these kind of pictures on my phone... I wonder who the culprit could be...)

At times this River House project is so large that it takes up our entire block.  

This week the gas company worked hard (under a tent in the road, no less) to get the house connected to the gas line.

And checking in on the side addition, it's beginning to take shape! 

Back to the basement...

So, if you're going to pretend you're Joanna Gaines and redo a house with the show "Fixer Upper" as your inspiration, you know you've gotta put shiplap somewhere in the house! 

I decided I wanted it in the basement bathroom.  But the problem is... there's no shiplap sold anywhere in my town (can you believe it??  Travesty.).  So if I wanted it, we were going to have to make it. 

We bought a bunch of 1x8 boards from our local big box store, and our contractor's son routed each one out to make them more like the original tongue-and-groove shiplap.  
I sanded off the rough edges, and using a level, we hung the first board, starting at the top.

Continuing down the wall, we used nickels as our spacers between each board.  (thank you, Pinterest tutorials)

And by the end of the day, the "shiplap" was up!  (I decided to prime in the grooves before we hung each board.  That may have been overkill.  We'll see.)

It's going to look soooo good when it's painted!!

On the right, you'll notice we're creating some small built-in shelves between the studs that will be next to the vanity.

Batgirl meets drywall.
 I love how the kids are beginning to take on this house project as a family.   They help out here and there, but each day they love seeing and hearing about the progress and I think they're amazed to see something finally beginning to take shape.

My beautiful gal
 Caroline liked learning how to mud over the screws in the drywall.

Cute guy concentrating with tongue out
Jameson just likes to bang stuff and play with tools, pretending he's hard at work.

A couple of afternoons a week, I let the kids watch a movie on the laptop in the basement.  That buys me a little time to help out on the house.

So now we've hung the sheetrock, and we have walls!  Sheetrock is a game changer, for sure! 

Three coats of mud on the seams, and we'll be ready to begin trim and paint next week!

To be continued...

Sunday, June 26, 2016

river house #6: the cheap man always pays more...

Taking on (multiple) major home renovations at one time is not for the faint of heart.  Just when we were hitting a stride on the River House, we received an offer from a friend-of-a-friend to paint the exterior of our dilapidating 1820 rental house we purchased last year.  The work had to be done.  And it was one of those offers we felt we just couldn't refuse, especially since the price was so right.

BUT you know how that goes...

Growing up, my dad always told us, "The cheap man always pays more."

Well, let's just say this was a case-in-point example of Dad's proverb.  (which has been so ingrained in our heads that all he has to say is "The cheap man..." and we get it.)

Little Miss Sassy on the ladder
Because it turned out this "painter" wasn't actually a painter at all.  Granted, he was an excellent worker, and a hard one at that.  (Man, if only half of the contractors I've dealt with could hustle like this guy.)  He earned his pay, no doubt.  And he's a great guy.

But ultimately we, the cheap man, paid so much more in so many other ways in order to get this job done.   You were right, Dad.

(and it's still not complete...deep breath, Amy...)

We lost 2 weeks of working on the River House to personally attend to this new, unexpected painting project, but I can at least show you the front of the house that's finished....

new paint job on the 1820 house
Waalah!  I'd say it turned out beautifully, (the part that's complete, that is) and it's nice not to have a property that's literally rotting out anymore. 

(Ever seen a black house before?  The color, picked by the former owner, is called Lincoln Cottage Black, and we decided to complete his original vision!)  

Okay, so back to the Haunted House, uh, I mean, the River House... 

Almost all of the plaster in the main house has now been demo'd and it's down to the studs.  It's basically a barn: no electricity (don't let that old lightbulb in the picture deceive you), no plumbing, no HVAC, no walls, no cabinetry, no anything. 

But where we're really focusing this summer is in the basement.  We've got a female intern coming to work with Marc this August, and our plan is to rent this cool new space to her while we work on the upstairs main house. 

let there be light!

So here's the latest... we installed windows in the basement!  (previously there were none cut out- construction must have come to a quick halt in the previous owners' renovations... but hey, that gives us the ability to design it which is half the fun.)

We love Mr. Larry!
Meet Mr. Larry, contractor extraodinaire.

He's wonderful.  Jameson pretends he's Mr. Larry around the house.

Believe it or not, the previous owners were having an elevator shaft installed on this open concrete area.  Ten years ago, it was abandoned, cinder blocks, rebar and all.  Well, of course, we're not installing an elevator, so the question remained.  How will we use that space all the way up the house?

It's going to be awesome when it's all said and done, but for now I'll keep you in suspense...

We had a major loss of morale the other day when we discovered an ENTIRE CORNER of the house (2 STORIES) has become a snack-fest for an unwelcome, large community of TERMITES.  Cue all the "what have we gotten ourselves into" feelings.

Thankfully, the termite folks will be coming to the rescue, and afterall, what's one more check to write on a project like this anyway??  (please note sarcasm)

But good news is that we've got framing inside.  And the electrician came to rough everything in yesterday.

I'm in love with this old door I found laying upstairs.  (which happens to be just like the doors where Marc's dad grew up)  We're restoring it and will make it the pocket door into the bathroom.

Marc's working on plumbing, and anytime he's got a big drill in his hand, the kids are begging to join him.
And here's a sneak peek at some of the things I'm putting together for the bathroom vanity....can't wait to see it all come together!

Until next time...

Thursday, June 9, 2016

opportunities to fail...

Sometimes it saddens me that everything academically has always come so easy to my Caroline.  She was that kid who was reading the Bible fluently at age 3.  She's currently devouring the old Nancy Drew novels in less than 3 hours each. (!!!)  She's at the top of her class, and she's just a really bright little girl.

Sounds like a great thing, doesn't it?  In many ways, it is.

But since everything has always come easy for her, Caroline has come to expect things to always be that way.   And if something doesn't come easy, she tends to crumble and run off.  Perfectionism often keeps her from trying, and her mistakes can produce much anger and frustration within herself.

Thankfully, she has a mama that shares her struggles of perfectionism, though our responses to it are often opposite.  (I kill myself striving to get something just right, and after she explodes in anger, she flees the scene crying in total defeat...)  And for all the hugs and Gospel talks she and I have had over the years about accepting and laughing at our own mistakes, perfectionism still maintains its solid grip upon both of our hearts.

So, being the loving parent that I want to be, I think it's important that my daughter has opportunities to fail.  I don't think I need to shield her from mistakes and challenges just because she's afraid of them.  If anything, I need to provide her with more places to safely make them and work through to overcome them.

And since maybe school isn't that place right now, we're taking dance.

dance buddies
I enrolled Caroline in a jazz dance class knowing she'd be the youngest kid, knowing she'd be the only one without prior dance training, and knowing she'd have a great time, but have to work hard to keep up.

She's really liking it!  And she's really doing well at it, too.

I feel like it's not only teaching her skills of coordination and musicality, but it's giving her a fun opportunity to work through some deeper level life skills.

She can't run away when it gets hard.
She can't emotionally unload on her teacher if she doesn't understand something.

Instead, she has to keep trying, keep going, and do the best she's able to do.

So I can't tell you how proud I was of her at her second dance recital ever.  She felt unprepared and knew she wouldn't be "perfect" at this difficult routine.  She was super nervous.  And yet, she did a WONDERFUL job!...

I'm so proud of her confidence.

I'm so proud of her courage.

God fashioned her so uniquely and specially.

She has no idea how many mistakes she'll continue to make her whole life long.

And yet, she's got parents and a heavenly Father who will keep on loving her in spite of them all.  That's what grace is all about- despite all of our failures, that love never stops and runs away.

It keeps on keeping on.

And I'm so, so thankful she is mine.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

the river house #5: trash and treasures...

You work and you work, and in a huge project like this one, it feels as though it'll never be complete.  But there's excitement in the journey, I suppose.  Here's where we stand with the River House!

We now have gutters!  Super important for keeping water and moisture out of the basement.

 And our wonderful contractor and his son (pictured here) worked all week restoring and repairing the brick walls in the basement.
letting the cement ledge dry
On one side of the basement apartment, we had a cement ledge built over the original river rock to keep any dirt or critters from coming into the house.  It will be hidden by the kitchenette and bathroom anyways, so it didn't need to be left exposed.

 Voila!  The cement ledge completed!
(you'll have to wait and see what this will become!)
 And on the other side of the basement, our contractor cemented around all the stone, leaving the foundation of original river rock exposed.  (cool, right?)  This room will be a small bedroom for the basement apartment.
It'll be 3-4 weeks before we can seal the bricks with a finishing, matte sealant product, but even so, they look SO much better than what was there before!!

So now we're on to framing walls!  We bought our shower insert yesterday, set it in place, and started laying out where the bathroom wall will go with various objects on the floor.  I already had that little mint-colored table, and I'm seriously playing with the idea of putting a vessel sink on top of it and turning it into a farmhouse-type vanity!  

Meanwhile, here's what's happening UPstairs in the house...

The front entryway looks a little creepy gutted, doesn't it?
In this Fixer Upper, it's not #Demo Day, but it's #Demo Month!  We've already hauled off one dumpster full of plaster and lathe boards, and this second load should finish the job.

I'm saving enough of the lathe wood (those are the narrow boards under the original plaster to the house) in hopes of attempting to cover one wall in the basement with it!  Stay tuned for that project...

Here's the view looking towards the front door.  See that exterior window on the right?  Originally that would've been the outside of the house, but now we'll take out the window and turn it into a doorway from the kitchen into the hallway and half bath.

Guess who really liked swinging their hammers?  Oh man, these two went to TOWN getting to tear down walls!  On this particular day, I just took them over to the house to see what was happening, and before I knew it, they had already grabbed masks and hammers and were going at it!  

View from Great Room into the kitchen.  Demo is almost done.

 Sometimes, it's the small things that really make you feel accomplished.

Like after spending a gazillion years trying to figure out how to order the correct replacement window sash on a particular window that had sat broken for almost 10 years...

And then waiting a few more weeks for it to come in...

And then finally putting it in...

And suddenly, there's no more broken window anymore.


But even more rewarding than that window was knocking down all that plaster to find a gorgeous, floor-to-ceiling brick chimney that we'll restore and leave exposed in the historic front room of the house.  (the back side will be exposed in the kitchen where the stove will be placed!)  

I'm so excited about all the character this house will have! 

Behind that fireplace, we found a three page beautiful hand-written letter from 1946!   I asked my dad to do some research on the writer and recipient of the letter, and it appears they were pen pals during WWII.  They have both since passed away, but he was able to find out some pretty fascinating things about these people!  What an interesting treasure to find.

And just look at the rich color variation in the wood along the ceiling in that room, too. 

As always, to be continued!...