Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Jam Up the Pump!

So, there's air conditioning now. With the size of the house, it was no small endeavor to replace the entire HVAC system (and no small penny, either). The crew has worked on it piecemeal but we're very nearly at the end of it. The big thing, with the heat over the weekend, is to have working air conditioning upstairs and down. The outside heat pump units are huge, as you might be able to tell from the pictures.

I'm glad I was home when those exterior units were going to be placed, because they were about to be placed very un-smartly (there's still a future blog entry coming about the HVAC saga, but I need distance before I get into all of it). For instance, they were going to put the big one out in front of the smaller one, and they were going to put that big one in front of one of the bay windows. I think with the way that area has been knocked down to grade, and the retaining wall built, the best solution was to let them nestle back into one another in that tucked-in area between the dining room bay and the new kitchen complex bay. See what you think...

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

What's Cool and What's Cold

This is the new beverage cooler that I got for the wetbar. I like to have an ample supply of cold beer and sodas on hand, which is why I've had a whole shelf in the side-by-side as well as two dorm fridges going for the last five years. (Well, longer: I had two fridges even in my Range Room at the University of Virginia.) I did much online study and comparison before settling on this dandy little number from Summit Professional Appliances. Yes, it's a commercial undercounter fridge, with 5.5 cu ft capacity. It seemed to me to be perfect in all the right ways.

Except the sodas and beers didn't seem all that cold coming out of it. Not nearly as crisply cold and satisfyingly stinging as these beverages had been coming out of my trusty old black Danby dorm fridge (spotted in this pic, to the right of the old stove in the temporary kitchen). I kept nudging the thermostat up to colder levels until it could go no higher. Well, then I spotted this morning strange brown liquid pooled at the bottom of this fine cooler, and it turns out the fridge CAN get incredibly cold, at the rear.

Now I just need someone who will regularly rotate my stock.

Feeling Quilty. How's this for a great present and a terrific new adornment for the fireplace?

A Few More Visitors. While the place ain't finished yet, it's still fun to bring folks through it and let them check it out. Those who got to pass through lately include Jen Martin and Jen Watson, Danny McGuinn, and Monica Alonso (who does a great job as head chef at 6th & Vine).

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

A Few More Tidbits

Last night's tour of the progress on the addition by Leslie Martin finally netted me the squeal of delight that I've been waiting for someone to have. Talk about making me feel like it's really looking as good as I hoped it did: Leslie was terrific in her praise and positive strokes for how everything is looking. All that, and we also got to enjoy a fine dinner out afterwards, with Leslie very kindly picking up the tab. In return, a promise for a reciprocating dinner experience in the new kitchen was extracted from me. I think she can definitely commiserate with the ups and downs of this project, having nicely redone her own kitchen not so long ago.

Today, clean-up, touch-up, and near-final-installations stuff was tackled with the cabinets in the kitchen. The center island is still in a bit of a holding pattern, while the cooktop and downdraft are wired and routed and such. So that's going to be open and unfinished a while longer. But everything else is looking pretty good.

This afternoon, Jason Lanier and crew are here continuing the work on electrical in the kitchen. They are working on the undercounter lights at the moment. I'm hoping they'll get a lot more than just that done, because the list is rather long for what remains! I especially want them to get the beverage fridge running in the wetbar counter, so's I can get back to stockpiling cold beer.

Pete and his crew spent time today smoothing out the back yard, getting up rocks and debris, and double-checking the slope and run-off. Looks like water is heading out the drain pipe just as intended. Robert has continued doing grout in the upstairs guest bathrooms, and a finishing guy is here doing patching and repair on some of the outstanding sheetrock needs.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Counter Point

Countertops were installed today. Yippee! I think they're looking mighty nice, although the following pictures are not giving you quite enough light to see them all that well. Still, here's what I can show you now.

Monday, April 20, 2009

A Few More Visitors

It's always fun to have a chance to show friends what's been going on with the addition and renovation work. Last week, it was good to get a visit from Byron, Laura, and Noah Hoover; they took my well-meaning tour, and then Laura made it clear to Byron that with all I was doing, her request for new hardwood floors could hardly be called excessive. Over the weekend, it was also awesome to see Julie Grogan-Brown, Trevor LaFauci, and Brad Phillis from my last group of grad students at Wake Forest. They were good sports about sitting for hours in front of the fireplace, even though the two lone chairs out there were hardly enough for all of us. Tomorrow evening, I expect to see Leslie Martin (who's already beautifully re-done her own kitchen, I might add) and see what she thinks of all that I've done to this place. She'll be quite honest with me about it, I'm sure!

Wall Mart

Because so much of the small patch of backyard needed to be removed to get on grade with the addition, we needed a plan for building a small retaining wall along the north side of the property. (Currently, that neighboring lot is a semi-utilized gravel parking lot but someday could be developed into something else.) Another ornamental fence (like the one I installed on the south border of the property) will go on top of it.

Pete and the fellows got a start on this in the last few days. They dug out for the footings at the end of last week and the footings were poured last Thursday or Friday. Today, they dug out for a drainage line to tie into my current gutter discharge line. Here are a couple of shots of that work.

Update on Tuesday April 21:
In spite of a late afternoon shower that halted things for a bit, the crew rather quickly got the retaining wall built, and as I write, they're putting the caps on it to top it off. These shots are from mid-day.

By the end of the day, they'd placed the caps on top and it's ready for final mortaring and a stucco coat to dress it up nice.

Come Sit By the Fire

Hardwood floors down, fireplace completed, kitchen cabinets installed, lights mostly hooked up: seems too perfect not to go ahead and set up a couple of comfy chairs for hanging out in that cool transition space, between kitchen proper and eating nook. That's where the fireplace is in front of you, and the wetbar is behind you. Come read with me some evening, won't you?

New Interior Doors: Stained

You may recall last month when I wrote about the new interior doors that Pete said we'd need to use, since the historic ones we'd saved from the demolition phase could not practicably be used. He promised me they'd do everything they can to make them look really good to me, and they have now been stained and urethaned. He asked me recently if I still hated them, and I had to tell him honestly that I do, but he has gone to great lengths to at least make them look very fine. I'm sorry that the picture here has so much reflection from the flash; I missed my chance today to get good sunlight on the laundry room door so I shot the door that had been featured in that earlier snarky post.

The stain on the trim work and on the doors does look really good, no doubt. I just hate that style of 6-panel door and feel that it screams "new" or "modern" or "ranch home from the 60s," even if it has a nice stain and sheen to it.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Out With The Old...In With the New

Let's do a bit of before and after on bathrooms, shall we?

Master Bathroom: Original
If you were walking around with me in the Fall of 2003, checking out the house, here's what we would have seen when we went into the master bathroom. Just behind the door was a closet that you had to step up into. It was narrow and deep and had a nice shelf surround up high. As you turn to your right, you'd see the sink in the left corner of the bathroom, and then as you kept turning right, you'd see a lone toilet over in the right corner of the bathroom. Here's what you wouldn't see: a shower or tub, a source of heating or cooling, electrical outlets, or a window.

Master Bathroom: New
I feel like now I have an amazing master bathroom. When you walk in, the toilet and vanity are on your right. To the back right of the bathroom is a closet, and in the back left corner is the roman tub with a tile surround and a nice, big window. On your immediate left is the massive shower with some really beautiful tile in it. (Right now there's a little problem with slope on the floor, so water puddles where it shouldn't, but Pete's going to address that.) Ready for a shower party? There are two shower heads on the left and right, and once it comes in, there will be a rain head faucet directly above you.

Main Upstairs Bathroom: Original
Head up the stairs and you'll come to a landing; that's where there's a door leading into the main upstairs bathroom. In the original house, you'd walk through that door and, straight in front of you, you'd find a water closet with a toilet. Look to your left, and you'd see a great old pedestal tub in front of a window, a sink just beyond it, and then a door into a cedar lined closet.

Main Upstairs Bathroom: New
Sam Binkley, my architect, decided we should shift that main upstairs bathroom to the center of the back of the house (it used to be off to the side, above the master bathroom) and also raise its floor so that we'd have full 10-foot ceilings in the new kitchen complex below it. (This bathroom is basically located above the powder room, coat closet, and anteroom.) The following shot, taken from where the old pedestal tub will be re-situated, shows the new vanity (faucets are on order), the mostly-tiled big walk-in shower, and the narrow linen closet. In the front right corner of this picture, you can see the nice stain job Pete's crew did on the stairs you have to walk up when you come in from the landing.

Eliminating the Old Shower/Bathroom
Wednesday night, April 15, 2009, was not only the release from eight straight hours of doing my taxes up to the deadline and getting them mailed with about 10 minutes to spare. It was also the first time I got to take a shower in the new master bathroom. The plumbing was switched over from the old system to the new. This meant that Pete could have his guys demolish the old bathroom that had been built into one of the back bedrooms upstairs. Here's what it basically looked like back in 2003:

I want you to understand this: for five and a half years, the only way to take a shower in this great old house was to go upstairs and into this tiny, tiny bathroom. It measured 6.5 feet wide and 4.5 feet deep. Of course, the standing room in there was more like 4 feet by 2.5 feet, because there was a tub/shower along the right wall, a sink in the middle, and a toilet on the left. Even the door was small: it might have been about 5 feet 10 inches. I didn't have to duck my head to go in, but many people did. The caulking around the tub was so aged and poor that the cement board had disintegrated and, once the kitchen had been demolished, there was a gaping hole opening to the out-of-doors.

The picture on the right shows where there was rotting in the floor under the tub. I think elsewhere, earlier, I talked about the places in the dining room below where water had dripped through and rotted out the ceiling below.

So not only was it amazing and wonderful to utilize the new master shower, it was with no remorse that I saw that old bathroom's demolition finally come to pass.

Reincarnation of the Butler's Pantry

Back on November 3, 2008, when I was working in Luray VA and Pete was starting the first day of the job, he called me at the front end of the demolition phase and told me the butler's pantry would need to be dismantled. He'd found evidence of old termite damage underneath, and he felt like we'd have a heckuva time getting the floors to match up if we tried to build around it. So he had his guys carefully remove the original cabinetry and it's been stored in his shop in Mocksville these last six months. The room for it to go in has been completely rebuilt as part of the kitchen complex addition to the house, although it is still in the exact place as the original butler's pantry.

This pantry is a big deal to me...while there might not be anything all that remarkable about the cabinets themselves, the fact that no one ever tore out the original cabinetry and turned that room into a laundry room or extra powder room amazes me. I've been in so many houses where those big changes had been wrought. So I very much appreciate the care Pete took in trying to restore this space.

And the result is mighty nice. Kevin and Joe got the old cabinets reinstalled, I bought a slightly-too-expensive but very nice light fixture, and Pete ordered a frosted full-glass door for it. (In one of the following pictures, the glass looks dark pink, but that's because of the deep red color of the anteroom wall behind the door, picked up by the flash of my camera.) It ended up being a really tight fit, so the wall at the far end is still bare sheetrock; they'll tape and mud that next week and then it will be painted to match the rest of the pantry. Comparing the old with the new pictures, you might also notice that I had Pete eliminate the window in the pantry; it seemed unnecessary plus sunlight sometimes came in and melted my big bag of chocolate chip morsels.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Latest Happenings

More pictures will be posted soon, but I thought the effect would be best achieved once current elements of the work are at a finished place. Here's what's going on: countertops for kitchen have been measured and should be delivered Tuesday; hardware has been installed on cabinets; undercounter beverage fridge has arrived for wetbar; almost all the stain work has been done on the door and window trim; butler's pantry cabinetry is now about half-way reinstalled; two of the bathroom vanities arrived today and are being installed; many of the faucets have come in; the master bath tile work grout is nearly done; tile work of two of the bathrooms upstairs is completed with the floors and partially completed with the showers; vanities for remaining bathrooms are on order; sinks for powder room and wetbar have been ordered; grading of the backyard around the addition is completed.

Coming up: plumbing should be switched from old to new tomorrow, which means the master bath will be brought into service and the kitchen will become partially useable; retaining wall and fence on north side of property will be begun as soon as the weather gets clear enough; wrapping up tile work in remaining bathrooms; demolishing current bathroom upstairs; dining room ceiling repair; assorted and sundry other things.

We're getting close!