Chronicling the cleanup and restoration of our house and property in northern Michigan

Chronicling the cleanup and restoration of our house and property in northern Michigan

Monday, February 27, 2012

This, that, and that there other stuff we've done...

It's been a busy three weeks since our last update, which is likely why there hasn't been an update in three weeks.  Hah! ;-)   Probably the best way to do this would be to give you the bullet points, then the details on each.  :-)

  • Basement Refinish Project
  • Spackling & Painting
  • Dying Appliances
  • Tree Pruning
  • Contending with "THE HILL OF DOOM"
These past few weeks Shelly and I have pretty much been taking a divide and conquer approach.  Though we're working together on side projects, we're focusing separately on our main projects.  My main project continues to be the finishing of the basement.  Our last update had the water proof paint on the walls.  The floor is now painted in that quarter of the basement.  There...that's it...that's the entire update.  I've been traveling quite a bit for work since the last update, with a conference in Grand Rapids and training in Chicago.  There were also the "Dying Appliances", which we'll get to.

1/4 of basement, sealed and painted

Shelly made considerably more progress than I did.  Realizing with the pace we're on that the basement is going to take us as long as a year or more to complete, we knew we couldn't live with the upstairs looking like it does/did.  At some point the upstairs will become our project, and there'll walls coming down and sliding doors going in, and etc...  But, we just can't stare at these walls any more.  The house was built in the 70's, and this is the original paint.  It's got to go.  So, Shelly set herself the task of prepping the walls and painting and started in the living room.  This involved wiping all of the walls with TSP to remove the soot from the wood stove, spackling all of the many holes from various wall hangings, trim, and shelves, sanding said spackling, and painting.  In addition to the walls she also painted the hearth for the wood stove.  The difference is nothing short of stunning.  

Our major kitchen appliances came with the house, and had quite a bit of use on them.  While I was in training in Chicago our refrigerator and stove died.  So, on the way back from Chicago Shelly, Michael, and I met up in Gaylord to shop for replacements.  We checked out Lowe's first, but we ended up buying from Sears.  So, our little kitchen is now equipped with pretty, new, stainless steel, matching Kenmore appliances.  They look out of place right now, with all of the outdated and worn out flooring and cabinets, but they'll look great after we remodel.  Think to the future, right?  :-)  Picking up the fridge and moving it in took the good part of a weekend (blech), and part of another to convert the stove from natural gas to LP.  Hence the short list of progress on the basement.  

We have a dozen or more fruit trees on the property, which we're just learning how to maintain.  Having learned that they need to be pruned in late winter before the sap starts running, and with the warm weather we've been having, I dove into getting them all pruned up.  Now, there has been nobody living up here in quite some time, so these trees have been seriously neglected and were seriously overgrown.  Armed with my pole saw and pruning shears, and what little knowledge I gleaned from various internet articles, I pruned the crap out of all but a few of our trees.  I think I did pretty well for my first attempt, but only time will tell if I really did them any good.  

The one thing we've been struggling with more than anything this winter is the entrance to our driveway, aka THE HILL OF DOOM.  Our driveway starts from a deep dip in the road.  This means that to get into our property you have to climb up a fairly steep gravel incline, or descend down into the dip when leaving.  Add some snow and ice, and it can quickly become an insurmountable obstacle if you're not driving a 4x4 equipped vehicle.  We've plowed it, snowblowed it, salted it, chopped it, spudded it...but the ice just continues to build up.  The only thing that seems to work remotely well is to spud through the ice a trench the length of the incline, about a tire width.  As long as we aim well for the trench, so that we can bite onto gravel, we have relatively no problem.  Miss it, or if it's not completely cleared down to gravel, and you find yourself sliding backwards to the bottom of the hill.  With a ditch on either side of the driveway, and with a sheer drop on the other side of the street opposite the driveway, it's a white knuckle ride in reverse.  Digging out the drive to lessen the slope is not an option, as there is a spring under the hill.  Digging it up and possibly uncapping it would just add water and mud to the mix.  We need a viable plan to address THE HILL OF DOOM before next winter.  Sooner or later something bad is going to happen to one of our vehicles, or UPS's, or FedEx's, or USPS's, or the Jehovah's Witnesses', etc...

That pretty much catches us up to today.  Shelly left this morning for Ohio.  Kyle is on spring break from Capital University, and she's heading down to spend the week with him.  I'll be traveling around the state again this week, so that means no more progress before this weekend.  

We've been getting more snow lately, compared to earlier this winter.  Here are a few shots of the property, all decked out in its winter finery.

Talk to you all soon!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Basement Finishing Project - Research

With this project we'll be tackling things we've never done before.  We've never framed entire rooms, or run all new electrical and plumbing for an entire basement remodel.  We've done drywall patching, but we've never drywalled entire rooms.  We've never built a bathroom from scratch, let alone in a basement.  We do have a basic understanding of the concepts, but that's not enough to build our confidence going into a project of this magnitude.  So, like every other home improvement project we've taken on where we lacked a solid knowledge base, we're doing our research.

After extensive searching on the web we found that there are many different ways to frame and insulate a basement, and each is offered as "the best method".  Additionally, there wasn't enough down and dirty details to help these amateurs feel confident.  So, we modified our internet search and began looking for highly recommended publications for framing, drywall, and basement finishing.  Yes, we're going to kick it old school and go with actual books.  :)  

This is the list we've come up with.
For the first two we went completely off of the online reviews and how they compared to reviews of similar publications.  With the second two, for us, the author has instant credibility.  We're big fans of Mike Holmes and his shows, and after reading the raving recommendations from the readers of these books we were coughing up good money for them.  We'll need to fish through some Canadian code, but heck...we're far enough north that we're nearly Canadian anyway, eh.  ;)

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Light Up The Yard!

This weekend we tackled a relatively small project, but it's one that was sorely needed.  When it gets dark up here, it gets really dark.  Our back porch opens out onto our side yard, and it is our main entrance.  When it's dark and we're letting the dog out, stoking the boiler, or going out for any other reason we had to use a flashlight.  We have other exterior lights already in place, but nothing mounted in our single most used area.  Brilliant, huh?

We're fortunate in that our back porch is unfinished, which made running the new electrical a whole lot easier.  Still, this wasn't going to be as simple as just running new wiring and installing the boxes and fixtures.  We also needed to clean up some home improvement sins of the past.  You know...things like pieced together extension cords used as permanent wiring and ground wires secured with drywall screws into wood.

Two extension cords, taped together...

...and permanently attached to the existing fixture.

Why?  We stopped asking that a long time ago.
In addition to these fine examples of home improvement know-how and craftsmanship, we also found that none of the outlet boxes had cable clamps.  We cleaned up all of the wiring, grounding, and clamping issues, and below is the finished installation.

New wiring tied into existing outlet, with proper clamping.
Wiring run to existing light fixture on rear of house,
with proper stapling and grounding.
Wire run from new light fixture, over and down to the new switch.
New switch, again with proper clamping and grounding.
The new dual halogen exterior fixture.
The end result of this?  See for yourself.  :)

Before.  Yes, this is an actual picture.
I even had the camera set for "Night Shot" to capture all available light.
After.  Same picture, but with the new light turned on.  
In just one evening of letting the dog out and stoking the boiler, this little project made a HUGE difference.

Talk to you all again soon!