Sunday, December 26, 2010

Wide Open Spaces

We finally got rid of the pipes.

The tall steel pipes that were in the center of every picture are now history, resting comfortably on pile number 4 of Padnos Iron & Metal Recycling. With those gone, a lot could (and has) finally happened. We were finally able to move the fridge to the other side of the room. We finally removed the last of the original counter containing the sink. We finally plugged the large holes in the plank floor and put new subfloor over the whole area.

And that enabled a whole bunch more activities. We installed the large pantry cabinets along the wall where the fridge used to be. We installed a small desk area (Deb's meal planning area) next to the pantry cabinets. We now have a bunch of undercabinet lighting installed.

It's beginning to look a lot like ... kitchen!

Last picture before the pipes were removed by the plumber

First picture with the pipes and the old sink cabinet gone. We have a couple pieces of new subfloor down also in this picture.

Last picture of the original refrigerator wall. The fridge always seemed to be an unintended focal point in our kitchen because it stuck out so far.

After all the old cabinets in the fridge wall were removed. This also reveals some of our secrets. When I installed the new wall oven several years ago, it was an inch and a half too long to fit into the opening, so I cut an enormous hole in the wall, trimming back the two-by-fours to make the space deep enough for the oven to fit.

The new cabinets and desk area. (The remaining doors have been installed since this picture was taken.) The big hole is still there, along with a few smaller ones. It's just now hidden again by the new cabinets.

The (almost) finished pantry wall. Deb lost no time in filling the bookshelf.

Looking towards the oven and sink. The sink is only temporary since there are no countertops, yet. Perhaps that can be started this week.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

A New Look

If you come over to our house, please take your shoes off at the door. Our kitchen floor has a new look, and we would hate to get any dirt or snow on it. We've decided to go for a more 'rustic' look complete with gaps in the planks, which allow us to immediately see when the basement lights are on. The kids thought this effect was cool, and Josh commented that, when you sweep the floor perpendicular to the floor planks, the dirt just kind of disappears. You don't even have to pick it up. So if you have your shoes off, there's no danger of getting dirt on our floor.

There is a slight risk of getting a nail in the foot, however.

We removed all the old flooring yesterday, complete with a large layer of sub-floor, leaving only the old planks in place. Unfortunately, the builder already removed our big dumpster, so the old material is now sitting in a pile outside. We're also waiting for the plumber to come in and remove the big pipes we've been working around for the past several weeks. The plumber was due yesterday and didn't show up. Once he does his thing, the last piece of the old counter containing the sink can be removed and we'll be able to complete the new subfloor and start building the island.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

More Cabinets Up

I put in a few more cabinets last night. At least one corner of the room is starting to look like an actual kitchen. And a little bit more of the old kitchen has gone away. I had to remove the dishwasher in order to install the wall-oven cabinet. When Abigail came in and noticed the dishwasher was missing, she started at the empty location for a little bit then asked, "Where's the dishwasher?"

"I'm looking right at her," I told her. She didn't comprehend and repeated the question.

"You're the dishwasher," I said.

When it finally dawned on her what I was saying, she asked, "Are we going to be using paper plates from now on?"

Perhaps when the plumber comes on Tuesday we can get rid of all the pipes that are sticking up all over the place.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

First Cabinets Up

We hung the first cabinets last night. I'm sure it would have been more efficient to paint the whole place first before hanging the cabinets, but we haven't picked out the colors yet and wanted to get the cabinets out of the dining room. At least now we have three cabinets worth of order in the chaos we've been living in for a few months.

My trusty assistant along with a couple properly-sized boards held things up while I fastened the units to the wall.

Progress. Definite progress.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

The Wall is Gone

It's been several days and a LOT has happened. Somehow, it's hard to find time to post pictures on the Internet when the house is in chaos, there's big holes in the ceiling, letting in all the cold air, and I am in the process of starting a new job. But here are a few pictures of our progress since the last post:

First picture with the wall gone. This was taken AFTER all the rubble was cleaned up. It was quite a mess for a while.

Another view. The space looks considerably bigger now. One of the first orders of business was to remove the toilet from the middle of the floor. With all the walls gone, it was now in the way.

With the wall gone, the drywallers came back and finished up. Now things are really taking shape. The big holes in the ceiling are now all gone, and we are no longer heating the great outdoors.

With the drywall done, it was now time to put on primer. I hung all sorts of plastic and then figured out that the primer was too thick to use in my paint sprayer. I ended up doing it with a roller.

Another view, shortly before primer was put on.

Next job is to start hanging cabinets...

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Big Changes

Things are a-happening now. The heat in the house is having a struggle keeping up because of the missing window and a large section of missing ceiling in the former kitchen. The large support beam is in place, the roof is held up, and things are a real mess. Deb, the neat-nick of the family is holding up pretty well. The kitchen is somewhat of an extension of herself, and having it in such chaos is unsettling for her. With no power, no heat, and very little light in what was once the nerve center of the house, she is a bit at loose ends.

But, so far, she has been managing to soldier on, even attempting some baking amidst the dust and debris...

I keep having to tell her that it WILL get better. It may get a little worse, particularly today, when the adjoining wall is torn down and much of the rest of the countertops are ripped out, but it WILL get better.

On the bright side, the drywall crew has been hard at work and the addition looks dramatically different than it did one day ago.

The drywallers will be back once the wall is gone and the framing is fixed up (probably tomorrow), and then maybe we can be warm again.

Another sign of progress, the siding was finished on Monday. From the outside, it's looking pretty good:

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Moving Forward

After a few weeks of very little happening, things are hopping again. The drywall crew is due to arrive on Monday and a large roof-support beam is supposed to be installed on Tuesday. In preparation for the beam, I had to remove all the upper cabinets in the kitchen and open up a couple walls for the support pillars. I had taken several pictures of the kitchen just before I started tearing things out, unfortunately, the memory card in the camera decided to go bad so those pictures no longer exist. So what is below is all I have. I had to remove the lower cabinet just to the left of the dishwasher and discovered that granite is pretty tough to remove. It had to be pulverized by beating on it with a hammer and then removed in very small pieces. This was a little hard to do because I just installed it three years ago.

As soon as the beam is in place, the wall with the window will be completely removed.

Meanwhile, the siding guy was hard at work on the exterior and will probably be finishing this coming week also.

Below are a couple pictures of the inside of the addition. It's just waiting for drywall right now.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

A Garage-Full

Our cabinets were delivered today. We're not near ready for them. The drywallers are not scheduled to arrive until after Thanksgiving, so, until the drywall is done, the cabinets will be crowding the garage.

I did manage to save some space by consolidating some of the boxes. One box felt rather light, and I opened it to find it nearly empty. It only contained a very small box with six knobs and four drawer pulls. So much for efficiency.

Abigail helped me check most of the shipment over. We discovered she was just about the right size to fit in one of the shelves, sort of looked like a doll in a box.

I spent most of the evening opening boxes and checking the paperwork. Abigail thought it was fun, sort of like a whole garage full of large Christmas presents, only we knew what they all were.

November 10, 2008 - Gotcha Day

Two years ago, we were sitting in a hotel room in central China, wondering what to do next. We had just picked up a scared little 9-year-old girl the day before and now we had the newest little member of our family whom we didn't have a clue how to communicate with. We could tell she was a talkative person because she jabbered continuously with our Chinese guide and struck up conversations with just about anyone she met on the street. She just didn't converse with us. In the two years that followed, she gradually grew nearly silent as one language faded away and then started to talk again as the next language was acquired. She now loves to talk again.

In the mean time, she has grown nearly nine inches in height and her hair, coming from the normal orphanage buzz cut, is now halfway down her back. I wonder if those she knew back in China would recognize her anymore.

She celebrated her "gotcha day" by making an apple pie. She had scratched "Abigail, 2 years" into the top crust before she baked it and we enjoyed most of it yesterday.

I must say, these last two years have been quite an adventure. Pulling two far-different cultures together in one family has been a stretching experience for all of us. Abigail has grown from a scared little 9-year-old into a lovely, outgoing 11-year-old. And we are eating more rice. Among other things.

It will be interesting to see what the next two years has in store...

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Warm and Dry (almost)

The new addition has been dry for a while, now it is almost warm. I spent most of Saturday hanging insulation, and finished the entire addition except for just a few wall cavities. I spent the next several hours scratching my itches. Fiberglass is fun stuff to work with.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Wiring Approved

The last several days have been spent drilling holes and pulling wire. It's amazing how much wire goes into a kitchen and a bathroom, especially when the bathroom will eventually contain laundry appliances. Today the electrical inspector came and inspected and approved the wiring. With that approved, I could proceed with the insulation and cover up my beautiful wiring job. I completed just about all the wall insulation, and the ceiling will follow shortly. Below are a few pictures of the current state of things. It is still technically outside the envelope of the house, since the original wall is still up and there is no heat yet, but we are moving closer to having the wall come down.

Looking into what will be the bathroom

Looking at the old wall of the house and the old kitchen and bathroom window

Monday, October 25, 2010


With the roof on and the windows in, it is now officially "dry". We no longer have to worry about water coming in through various openings or ending up in the basement. Just in time for the inclement weather that's supposed to be headed our way.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

NOT Another Use for Duct Tape

We have been having phone problems lately. Lots of problems. As a result, we've missed a lot of calls. If one of them was you, please accept our apologies. It wasn't intentional. We've contacted AT&T service a few times over the last couple months, and each time, things started working acceptably before they came.

This past Tuesday, the phones stopped working altogether. No dial tone, no Ring-y Ding-y, no Internet, no nothing. It was at that time that we realized how much we rely on the Internet for so many things. Even tonight, there are four of us in one room, each one with a computer on their lap. We are a connected family.

I got on the Internet at work and logged a trouble report on AT&T's web site. Their estimate for having it fixed was Saturday evening, five days hence. So much for speedy service.

On our way to church a couple days later, I noticed a wire lying on the road. In fact, I ran over it as I passed by. It looked the right size to be a phone line. I put two and two together. That was probably MY phone line being pounded into the pavement by all the passing cars.

Most of it disappeared a couple days later. Perhaps that coincided with the apartment complex across the street mowing their lawn. Now my line is not only down, it's probably shredded into a million pieces.

On Saturday afternoon, we were beginning to lose hope. There was no sign of any AT&T repairman. And David is supposed to start an on-line class on Monday. It was looking like he might start his class at the local McDonalds.

The guy showed up at 4:00 on Saturday afternoon. I pointed to the wire dangling from the pole. "That could very well be the problem," he stated. I agreed with him.

An hour later he came to the door. "You should be all set," he told me. I tried it out. Wow, a dial tone!

He called about a half hour later. When the phone rang, we were dismayed to hear that the old problems were still there. It worked, but we were now back to the problems of a couple weeks ago. He told us that he checked the line after getting it fixed and it still registered a problem. "I will try to be back out on Monday," he said.

I did a little checking of my own and figured out that the problem was INSIDE the house instead of OUTSIDE. That meant it was my responsibility. So I set to work attempting to isolate sections of the wiring to determine where the problem was.

I eventually found it. A splice behind a wall. There are quite a few splices in this house, but this one was different. It was wrapped with duct tape. I'm not sure what gave me the presence of mind to wrap electrical connections with duct tape, but I now know that, as the stuff ages it assumes certain electrical characteristics that can drive you and your phone company nuts.

I was just at Lowe's today, buying some supplies for our new addition. In the electrical section was a large box containing zillions of rolls of electrical tape. I remember pondering it for just a few seconds, and then concluding that I really don't use electrical tape all that much and the sixty cents would be better spent somewhere else.

I now know better.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Progress In Spite of Being Busy

The picture below is a little bit old. It was taken Monday and it is now Friday. From the outside it still looks similar, although the roof is now done and the door is installed. Inside, the plumbers have been hard at work, the heating guy was here yesterday, and the electrician (yours truly) has been drilling his own holes in the walls and the floor.

There wasn't a lot of time to work on it yesterday evening; about the only thing I had time for was to hang a couple recessed light fixtures, and then we were off to a presentation of traditional Chinese dance and music put on by the Living Hope Angels, a group of Chinese orphans who are currently traveling here in the States and putting on these presentations. We were privileged to host five of them at our home last night, three teenage girls, an interpreter, and a US-based support person. Abigail was excited to have them over. All the girls slept on cots and mattresses in the basement last night, and Abigail joined them--sort of like a Chinese slumber party. She even was able to practice a little bit of her Chinese

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Getting Darker

It's definitely getting darker on the inside. On Friday, more of the trusses were put up and quite a bit of the roof deck was also placed. Right now it is all protected against the rain by a patchwork of tarps and leftover Tyvek.

Below is a view from the inside, looking out the old kitchen window. The stud wall in the foreground is the location of the sink, although the wall will be half-high, and allow a view of the window beyond from the kitchen. The wall on the right is the new half bath.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Growing Taller

Some of the trusses were set yesterday. This gives a little better idea of what the roof line will look like. Also, a few interior walls, outer sheathing, and some of the moisture wrap.

Last night it rained. Hard. But we were better prepared this time. The basement stayed dry.

Thursday, October 14, 2010


Our Indian Summer took a breather yesterday when a thunderstorm rolled through. There's nothing like little rain to reveal the holes in the open walls. Deb went downstairs during the storm and discovered it was raining harder in the basement than it was outside. Water from the roof was being funneled down onto the new subfloor, where it rain against the house. Since all the outer brick had been peeled off the house, the water ran freely down inside the house, and into some upper wall cabinets in the basement, which then distributed the water evenly over the washer and the dryer. It was quite a mess.

Deb didn't have the presence of mind to take any pictures. When it's raining in the laundry area, the last thing one thinks about is getting the camera.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Standing Walls

This awesome Indian Summer we've been having has allowed building to continue unabated since the start of the project. But, alas, progress will halt for a couple days as we wait for trusses, which should be here on Thursday.

Our screened porch now only has windows on two sides as side three was torn out to make way for a new wall.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Subfloor In

This is the time of the project when things seem to happen really fast. It is no longer possible to fall into the hole in the ground because the subfloor is now installed and the first wall is nearly built. The plan today is to start tearing into the wall on the right of the screen-porch in the picture below in order to put a support beam up to bear the roof trusses. Perhaps I'll be able to take a picture of a standing wall when I get home from work this evening, or perhaps there will just be a bigger mess.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Feeling Poorer

We ordered cabinets for the kitchen today. I'm holding the receipt. Need I say more?

Monday, October 4, 2010

Lotsa Concrete

The floor of the crawl space under the addition was poured today. More large trucks in the back yard, more big muddy ruts in the lawn.

We spent a few hours on Saturday moving the dirt from the big piles on the lawn into the hole beside the new foundation wall. One shovel-full at a time. Abigail even helped for a while. She had a small trenching shovel, and every scoop of dirt she would hold up high and say, "Look, Daddy! Look how big THIS load is!" Not only was I moving my own loads of dirt, I was inspecting and acknowledging every load of dirt that Abigail was moving. Helping out was her idea, however, and she willingly moved dirt with the rest of us.

Today the floor was poured, so at least that part has a finished look about it. Now, with the weather becoming frosty at night, the hole in the house is becoming a problem...

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Foundation Wall Up

Some of us were barely out of bed this morning when the block crew arrived. It was nearly dark. I suppose we could have stayed in bed and just watched them, since we have been sleeping on the 3-season porch right next to the addition. A whole swarm of guys arrived with all their equipment and had the wall finished by noon.

Next up is to pour the floor.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

A House Full of Holes

If we weren't committed yesterday, then we are really committed today. I had a guy come out and cut a large hole in the foundation wall of our house, and we took out a large section of the 10-inch thick concrete to make an access hole into the eventual crawl space under the addition. Now I just have to move some of the plumbing that is directly in front of the hole (visible in the picture).

Why, oh why, does every job eventually involve plumbing??

Monday, September 27, 2010

The Big Dig

I guess we're committed now. There's a big hole in the back yard and the place is a mess. I took a day off work because there were some things to keep track of so I got to document the whole process in pictures:

Starting Out. First thing that came up was the buried power, phone and Ethernet cables running to the barn.

Oops. We knew the old septic system was here somewhere, but after over 25 years of non-use, we figured the tank would be pretty much dry. It wasn't. When we broke through the lid, it was full within a foot of the top.

Kerkstra Septic Tank Cleaning was there within a half hour, and a half hour after that, the tank was empty and the sides had been collapsed in.

Progress once again. Here the hole is almost complete.

By now all the trucks and equipment had made mincemeat out of the lawn.

The footing guys came a short while later and poured the footings.

End of Day 1. Progress.