Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Stairs, walls and floors!

We continue to make progress, albeit slowly.  The last month was spent making progress on the laundry room, getting the water heater going (finally!), hanging drywall in the kitchen and getting stairs in.

First, we got the water heater working.  I was elsewhere for this event so it didn't get photographed, but man was that first hot shower at home amazing!  Finishing the vent stack for the water heater also enabled us to finish out the last of the laundry room/coat closet.  We started by hanging the last drywall in that space, then moved on with the usual mud/sand/mud/sand exercise.

First coat of mud
Power panel ready for paint

We got it primed and painted before the holidays, so I spent the time just before Christmas putting down cement board and laying tile in the laundry.  For anyone not local, we have been in a deep freeze since just before Christmas eve, so getting the tiles cut for this work involved a very cold Jeremy running a tile saw well past dark while I carefully laid out tile and marked cuts.  We ended the evening of the 22nd with all the tiles cut for the laundry and the first couple of rows in the coat closet.  We couldn't keep going - it was just too cold to keep cutting - so the rest of the coat closet will get tiled later.

Cement board ready for tile

We were up early the morning of the 23rd to lay tile before we left town for Wichita.  We were supposed to be there for lunch, so the race was on!  I managed to lay all the tiles we had cut and Jeremy was amazing and cut a couple of re-do's and a couple of extras so we got a little more done than we thought we would.  Here's what it looked like when we left town:

When we got back, I knocked the levelers off so we could walk on it more easily.  There was one tile that didn't stick in one corner that I had to re-lay, but the rest of the floor was solid.  Woo hoo!  I felt pretty good about that for my first attempt at laying tile.  I got the tile grouted the day after Christmas and I think it turned out pretty well!

As my Christmas present to myself, I sealed up the coat closet studs and installed the coat hooks.  I think our family must have 20 different coats and jackets that had been strewn around the house.  It was driving me more than a little bit crazy!  I feel much better now that they all have a home.

You can see the line of unfinished stud at the back

All sealed up and ready for hooks

The coats have a home!

Meanwhile, Jeremy worked on the stairs for most of December.  You saw the rough cut treads in the last post.  Each of them got sanded 3 times, shaped, cut to length, any cracks filled with wood epoxy, sanded again and then Jeremy got to start on the runners and go through all of it again!  Once everything was sanded and test fit, he put 2 coats of tung oil on them and it really brought out the grain and beauty of the douglas fir.  The result is so worth the weeks of work!  We got them installed on the 22nd, although they were held together with pipe clamps.  The treads will get pegged into the runners just like the knee braces everywhere else in the house.  It was so nice to finally fold up the ladder we had been using to get to the second floor!

Treads with wood epoxy drying

Chiseling out tread slots

 Assembling the finished stairs

The craftsman with his creation!

Now we are working on finishing the last of the sanding, mudding and painting downstairs and moving on with tile!  Bit by bit, it is getting there.

Friday, December 8, 2017


Getting the wood stove installed and ready turned out to be a fairly involved process.  First, we had to get the corner finished and tiled.  Thanks to some amazing help from Chris Kesslering and, of course, Scott Dunn, we managed to get that done!  The backsplash is slate and the floor tile is porcelain.

 Scott working on the slate backsplash

Chris working on the floor tile

The finished corner!

We wanted to put the wood stove on a platform to make it easier to load, easier to sit by the fire and to gain some storage underneath.  From that vague description, Jeremy created an amazing piece of incredibly functional and sturdy furniture.  First, he made the pieces out of 3/4" furniture plywood.
Then I stained all the pieces a dark walnut so they would more closely match the eventual window sills in the living room.  After the stain, they all got 2 coats of polyurethane to seal them up.

Platform pieces being sealed

With the pieces finished, it was time to assemble the platform!  Once it was together, Jeremy tiled the top of it and then made cedar trim to match the other cedar details in the house.  The finished platform is perfect!

 Platform assembled and tiled - ready for the wood stove!

 Finished platform with cedar trim

In the midst of working on all this, we found a really cool wood stove on Craigslist.  It is unlike anything we've seen before but it was the right price and so we decided to give it a try.  With the platform done, we set the wood stove and started piping the flu.  Over the course of a few hours and with more help from Scott Dunn, we got the flu installed.  Let me tell you, after a week of temperatures in the 50's in the house, that fire felt amazing!

We had been "heating" the house with candles and terra cotta pots for a couple of weeks.  It was more than a little cold!

 Jeremy and Scott making the flu connections


 Here is our cool little Morso stove.  It has been remarkably functional and efficient, not to mention being beautiful!

With heat in the house, we were finally able to get back to focusing on the stairs and the rest of the downstairs.  Before the stairs can go in, the tall walls in the living room had to get the drywall finished, be painted and have trim installed.  We also had to get the ceiling fan installed in the living room so that the rolling scaffolding could get taken down to make room for the stairs.  First, we did drywall.  I finally got to cut my teeth with a mud knife in addition to my already developed sanding skills.

 The "short" living room wall mudded (its only 13 feet tall).

Between Scott and I, we got all the drywall in the laundry room, dining room and living room finished and sanded.  I spent Thanksgiving day sanding drywall and masking off all the wood for paint. 

Laundry room masked for painting

On the Friday after Thanksgiving, my Mother and Stepfather, Connie and Frank Bondurant, came up to help for the day.  Mom, Catherine and I managed to get all 3 rooms primed and painted while Frank, Jeremy and Jacob got 2 walls of drywall done in the kitchen.  As a bonus, we harvested the 15 rabbits we have been putting off for the last month.  It was an amazingly productive and exhausting day.

I got to paint the tall wall (19 feet) and look down on the other 2!

 Catherine had fun with the super extension roller.

Here are 3 of the 15 rabbits we harvested that day.  It went fast with 3 of us!

We were all pooped after all that.  A sit down was in order!

Since then, we have completed the trim on both tall living room walls and Jeremy has started work on the stairs.  The stair runners are 3x10's and the treads are also, so this will be a serious staircase when its all done!

Treads cut and ready for sanding.

Here is the template for the runners in place. 

We got the ceiling fan hung on Wednesday of this week so we can start disassembling the scaffolding finally!  It will be nice to have the space back and not have that very visible piece of construction equipment sitting in the living room anymore.  Getting up on a wobbly ladder on top of wobbly scaffolding was a bit intense though.  Everyone was happy when that job was done!

Ceiling fan going in!

Next we will be working to finish the stairs, get the propane connected to the hot water and get the storage/utility room ready for tile.  Bit by bit, it's coming together!

Friday, October 27, 2017

Real rooms and lights!

At the end of the last post, we were starting the flooring in the bedrooms.  Since then, we have finished the flooring and trim and gotten the lights and outlets all done for all 3 bedrooms.  Woot!  We are all in our own rooms for the first time in 4 years with actual furniture (not plastic bins and suitcases).  Wow.  So, back to where we left off....

While Scott and I worked on flooring upstairs, Jeremy cut our leftover car siding into trim for the upstairs.  This way it matches the ceilings and the beams and we don't have to buy more stuff.

Stack of trim waiting to be installed

Once the trim was made, he moved on to finishing out the windows.  We used cedar boards milled from trees we cut off of my mother's family farm (where she was born) to finish out the deep window wells and do the window built in shelves in our room.  They are absolutely beautiful thanks to Jeremy's amazing attention to detail.  There is something really special about being able to tell my kids that when their grandmother was a little girl, she probably played around the trees that are now in their windows.  You can read the story of us cutting those trees 5 years ago here:

Sealing the boards after they were cut to fit.

The first finished window!
Cedar under our window waiting for the built in


While Jeremy was busy with that, Scott and I hung the ceiling fans in the bedrooms, finished out the rest of the upstairs electrical and hung the doors.   Doing the trim was somewhat tricky in that our beams are not square thanks to the trees growing on the side of a mountain.  That meant that the trim around every beam and collar tie had to be custom cut which was a very fiddly, tedious process.  The end result is beautiful though!

Doors hung

Finicky trim

They were predicting a very cold couple of nights and we really wanted to get the kids into their rooms and out of the RV before that happened, so we were all in on getting the rooms done.  We just made it!  The kids got to sleep in their own rooms for the first time on the first near freezing night of this fall.  Whew!  Then we started moving the rest of their furniture in and put the finishing touches on Jeremy and I's room. 

Jacob on moving day
Our room with actual furniture!

With everyone in a more stable sleeping place, it was time to get the power on to the house.  We had been running our refrigerator and a single lamp off of an extension cord from the outlet in the shed since August.  Now that we had all the circuits upstairs and in the bathroom tied off and ready, we started the process to cut power over to the main house panel.  First, we dug a trench and laid the heavy gauge wire in it inside of electrical conduit.

Trench with conduit starting

Then we killed the power to the power system in the shed - inverter, batteries, everything - to make sure no one got hurt.  Then my amazing brother took care of connecting the wires to the appropriate ports on the inverter and in the house while the rest of us buried the conduit. 

Covered trench and Scott working on the cables in the shed.
Then it was time to flip the switch!  As you can see in the sneak preview above, it worked!  There was much rejoicing that we didn't have to keep wearing head lamps around the house to see.  It was a pretty awesome feeling to get to pull the extension cord out of the house for good!

No more extension cord!!!!
Let there be light!

Due to the impending cold weather, getting the place for the wood stove ready to go became the next top priority.  The first step was to finish out the electrical by the front door since we needed to close up that wall.  That involved installing the outside light and outlet.  Scott and I knocked that out in about 2 hours last Wednesday.

Outlet and door light

Inside view of the wood stove corner

Now we are focusing on getting the corner ready for the wood stove.  It is going on a platform which Jeremy is busy building.  One step at a time, we're getting there.  It is starting to feel a lot more like home now though. 

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Working on finishing rooms and plumbing!

The last month has been busy.  When we left off, we were continuing the work on drywall upstairs.  Since then, we've finished the upstairs drywall and painted all 3 bedrooms. 

Catherine in her very blue room

Jacob in his white room

Me in our yellow room

Since we had the painting done in the bathroom already, I went ahead and built the built in shelves behind the bath tub so that I wouldn't have to work around the toilet later.  It was a tight fit, but I like how it turned out!

Built ins behind the tub

Our amazing friend, Dan Saunders, came out to help with the PEX connections in our plumbing lines and to extend our propane line closer to the water heater which was awesome.  When it was done, he set up an air test on the water lines.  We pressurized the system to about 80 psi leaked.  Crap.  The search was on!  We found 1 PEX connection leaking, 1 solder joint and 4 threaded joints leaking.  Unfortunately, the threaded joints were all for the shower which meant I had to carefully disassemble the shelves in the bathroom so that they could be done over.  Boo!  Luckily, the came apart with only 2 pieces breaking. 
Dan working on the gas line

While Dan was working on plumbing, Scott was busy with tile.  He did a beautiful job on the floor and the shower surround.  I almost can't believe we have such a beautiful space in our home. 

Floor tile complete and waiting for grout
Tub surround waiting on grout
After all the leaks were fixed, we re-pressurized the system and it held steady at 100 psi.  Woo hoo!  I re-installed the built in shelves and we went to town finishing the bathroom.  In the course of a day, Scott got the toilet mounted, vanity installed and the vanity sink plumbed except the drain (didn't have the right size trap kit). 

Holding at 100!!!!

Working on the sink

Bathroom with all the furniture!

Running water in the house

I polished off the drain the next day (last Sunday) and got the pocket door installed, so the bathroom is looking almost done now!   We just need to do the trim around the door and the ceiling.  Then the only thing stopping us from a hot shower at home is a vent for the water heater!  Maybe this weekend...

Finished pocket door

Last night, I started laying the floor in Catherine's room.  We're using snap together hardwood/composite flooring in a dark oak.  It looks really nice and is pre-finished which is a huge time saver.  The bedrooms lack finished electrical, ceiling fans, flooring, trim and doors.  While that seems like a long list, it isn't much when you consider where we started. 

Beginning of the floor in Catherine's room

Parts of the house are starting to look like a house! 

Along with the progress on the inside, Jeremy got all of the windows and doors pointed so that they are completely water tight.  Woot!

Jeremy pointing on the west wall

Its been busy and we've got lots left to do.  Its nice to see some mostly finished spaces finally though!