The To Do list…

Here is the To Do List – presented as if it were a house tour…

Yard –

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  • Redo front flower bed – It is stacked river rock right now.  I like it.  The problem is that grass grows between the rocks and makes it hard to keep it looking decent. Tad proposed a decorative concrete type of bed container created with an architectural form liner.  I am contemplating this idea.
  • Redo front & side brick borders – I put in a flat brick border between the grass and flower beds years ago.  Now the bricks are not so flat.  The bricks don’t really work with the rest of landscaping now either – the bricks seem frumpy?  We are thinking about doing a cut stone border set in a mortar base (my preference) or a poured concrete border (Tad’s preference).
  • Fence decor – We have a basic builder type fence along our north side property line.  We stained the posts and rails a dark color and the pickets a lighter color.  It looks pretty good, but I feel like it still needs something artsy.
  • Replace mulch with ground cover on the north side.  I need something that is shade toleratant.
  • Reroute roof drainage from the NE corner of house – Right now, the roof drainage on the northeast side of the house dumps right into the edible garden path.  It flows downhill into the street taking with it dirt, mulch and such.  I would like to reroute the water to the aspen trees and other landscape.
  • Resod or reseed front lawn – The small front lawn is so bumpy that it is hard to walk on it without twisting an ankle.

Front porch –

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  • New welcome mat.
  • Refinish house number plaque – Tad made our house number plaque many years ago.  It is still good.  Due to years of weathering, it just needs to be refinished.
  • Convert side window panes to windows that can open – I think Tad’s preference is that we remove the side window grids all together.  I like the little extra protection it provides from the wind, rain, and blowing snow.

Main level reconfiguration of the entryway, living room, dining room, master bedroom, guest room, guest bathroom)

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  • New ceiling joists
  • New ceiling
  • New walls
  • Move some walls
  • New and improved insulation
  • New doors
  • New paint
  • New flooring
  • Recessed lighting
  • Some new woodwork
  • Fix any cracks along the exterior walls

In addition to all these structural changes, there are some room specific things that we would like to do.

Entryway –

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  • Refinish front door – Our front door is the original door – we think (our neighbor has one just like it).  It is a solid wood door so I would like to keep it.  The problem is that some of the veneer is peeling off and the previous owner’s dogs damaged an entire panel on the inside below the window.
  • Accent wall – I think a feature wall would be great to add interest in this small area.
  • Maybe a new light fixture – We installed the current light fixture when we first moved in a long time ago.   It is a bit out of place in that it doesn’t really go with the rest of the house.  The style is antique like, slightly haunted house looking, and almost gaudy.  That is why I like it.  That is why Tad doesn’t like it.
  • New furniture – After the main level configuration, there will be a door to the guest bathroom from the entryway so the current furniture pieces won’t work.  It may be that no furniture will go back there – we will have to see.

Living room

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  • Ceiling treatment or beams – You can’t see our current ceiling treatment in this photo, but it is unfinished – and has been unfinished for 10ish years – and at this point, will never be finished.  We have beams in our kitchen and we love the look.   We are wanting to do something similar once we renovate the living room.
  • Consider a new furniture layout/space plan – Our living room is long and skinny with a fireplace on one wall and the only TV wall being opposite the fireplace wall.  It is awkward.
  • New furniture – We recently got a new sofa and side chair (the one on the left in the photo).  We are wanting to replace the brown leather club chair with something less bulky.  I also want  to get rid of  the table under the window (don’t tell Tad – he refinished this table is his youth and he loves it). Finally, I want to eliminate the side table next to the sofa and get a sofa table for behind the sofa or a coffee table depending on the layout we decide on.
  • New area rug – Style and size will evolve as we decide on the layout, paint color, and feel we are going for.
  • Fun pillows – this is an ongoing endeavor for me.

Dining room

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  • Ceiling treatment or beams – The dining room is between the living room and kitchen.  As discussed with the living room, we love our kitchen beams so would like to possibly do something similar in the adjacent dining room.
  • Window treatments – It has been 15 plus years and still no window treatments.  Good news though – I measured and ordered honeycomb shades today!
  • Tuck point exposed brick wall.
  • New light fixture – We installed this light fixture 15 years ago.  Tad still likes it and wants to keep it.  I like it but am wondering if there is something out there that I might like better?
  • New sideboard – We have a tall, skinny cabinet in the space right now.  Both Tad and I are thinking a lower longer furniture piece might better fit our future renovated space.

Guest bathroom

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  • Relocate – Tad doesn’t like that there are bathroom things going on a few feet from the dining room.  With our main level reconfiguration, we hope to move the bathroom to the front of the house – far away from the dining room.
  • Everything a new bathroom needs – new plumbing, new electrical, new fixtures, new vanity, new tile, etc.

Guest bedroom

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  • New closet – The future guest room is currently the master bedroom.  The current closet for this room will become the new bathroom. A new closet will be built in a different location.
  • Window treatments.

Master bedroom

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  • Eliminate hallway – Our future master bedroom is currently an empty room waiting for a reno to happen.  The new plans call for elimination of the small hallway so we can move the wall to enlarge this room a bit.
  • New window – We will need to replace a frosted glass window that is part of our current guest bathroom because it will become part of the new bedroom.
  • Accent wall – I would like to see large scale artwork or some sort of dramatic treatment along the wall as you enter the room.
  • Window treatments.
  • New bed and bedding – We like to upgrade to a king sized bed if possible.
  • New bedside lighting.

Attic

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  • Reinforce rafters/roof timbers – The roof rafters are flimsy and some are cracked.  We hope to reinforce these before they break on their own.

Hallway, master closet, master bath

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  • Radiant floor heat reconfiguration – Now that we have access to the joist space in the basement after removing a wall, we hope to get some heat in there.
  • Artwork – Looking for something in the hallway and maybe the closet.

Laundry room –

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  • New washer and dryer – I am pondering energy efficient front loading appliances? 
  • Countertop over washer and dryer – If I go with front loading washer and dryer it would be great to have a countertop.  It isn’t mandatory, but for some reason I like the idea.
  • Enclosed storage – I like that the storage is easy to access by being open.  I wonder though if enclosed storage would make it feel less like a laundry room?

Kitchen 

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  • Lighting over open dish shelving – The one missing thing in an otherwise completed room.

Sunroom

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  • Table/seating off peninsula – The current reuse of an old sofa table is functional.  Though, I am hoping for something that looks better – and made of wood (I think).
  • Light fixture or fan – I would like a light fixture by the name of The Zeppelin, but it is $4000 (so, likely that is a no go).  Plus, Tad’s suggestion of a fan might be more functional – especially in the summer, when air movement is greatly appreciated.

Basement

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  • Finish main level floor supports between joists – The old ones were removed so the radiant floor tubing could be installed.  We hope to get this done in the near future.
  • Cut an opening in the metal beam for utilities – You can see we’ve got a glob of stuff at the top of the photo.  Just today we were talking about our options because this is the first step in getting things cleaned up.
  • Clean up radiant heat tubes – as mentioned above.
  • Clean up plumbing and electrical – Our goal is to get everything between joists or along the main structural beam.
  • Replace 2 temporary support posts with a single specially engineered and fabricated post.
  • Seal sewer line entry – We have had some water leaking in around the sewer pipe during heavy rains.  An outdoor drainage problem is contributing we think, but Tad also thinks that we could seal this with some sort of hydraulic stuff.
  • Finish the space – We would like to keep the space open feeling,  possibly with movable walls.  We are hoping to fit in a bathroom, sleep space, utility room, storage area, and maybe a craft room.

Mudroom

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  • Window treatments – I measured and ordered these today!
  • Ceiling treatment – We have been talking about beadboard on the ceiling.

Garage

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  • Organize yard tools and miscellaneous stuff – I hope to get everything up off the floor.
  • Insulate the place.
  • Drywall and/or some other type of wall treatment.
  • Window treatments – I am thinking shutters.
  • Bike storage.
  • Bench – We store our snow boots and garden shoes in the garage.  It would be nice to have a seat when putting on or pulling off snow boots.
  • Remote door closure – We have accidentally left the garage door open a few times.  I like the idea of being able to close the door if it is accidentally left open.  It would provide me with peace of mind.
  • Climate control – Tad would like some heat if possible.

Miscellaneous

  • Change to LED bulbs – We have started this process but LEDs are pricey.  So, a gradual changeover is in order.
  • House wide sound system.
  • Cooling – We keep debating the need for air conditioning.  Today, I am inclined to not install AC, but it is the middle of winter.  Though, ask me again during the dog days of summer.
  • Solar panels – I like the idea of being self sufficient.

Courtyard

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  • Finish kinetic art table/plantscape – We installed this art piece last summer but it still needs a finishing detail – see that here.
  • Dining table – We got new furniture and dining chairs last summer.  I am looking to replace the round teak table with a rectangular shaped table that also better fits with the style of our new furniture.
  • Outdoor pillows.
  • Water feature – I want something small and bubbly.  Tad wants something grand and splashy.
  • Art.
  • Television – We have a cable connection.  We just need to get the TV out there.
  • Music – We hope to include the courtyard in our whole house sound system.
  • String lights – Tad likes the idea of those round cafe lights strung across the courtyard.  I like the idea too if we can find the right kind of lights.
  • Outdoor rug – Tad thinks an area rug would pull the space together.  I am kind of feeling like it would be pain to keep clean and dry.
  • Seal concrete – We ended up with exposed aggregate by accident.  It is a story for another day.  It is looking like it needs to be sealed again.
  • Fix a drainage problem off the elevated concrete patio – The entire patio drains off one corner.  I need to figure out a way to divert this drainage away from the house.

Edible Gardens

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  • Contain edible garden – Right now my raised beds are just piles of dirt.  I was thinking I needed to contain the dirt within walls of something.  Then, I got a book for Christmas that has me thinking about other options.
  • Create a planting spiral – An idea from my new gardening book.

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  • Fill in south side yard with edibles – I cleaned up my South Side yard and reorganized plantings here last fall.  I am hoping to add some perennial vegetables this upcoming planting season.

Potting Bench Area

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  • Get rid of excess bricks – That would clean up the area nicely.  Tad wants to keep the bricks – just in case we need them in the future.  I am working on it.
  • New gate – The fence and gate are relatively new so this is not urgent.  I would like a metal, unique, artsy gate to spruce up my area.
  • Neighbor’s Garage – This might seem like an odd thing for MY To Do List.  The problem is that the garage is built on the property line and the roof overhangs onto our property.  This was discovered during the survey process when building the garage and addition.  Anyway, the garage has not been maintained at all.  The roof is constantly shedding asphalt shingle pieces and nails onto the ground of my potting bench/garden storage area – it is a mess.  The garage wall needs to be tuck pointed and painted.  I did get permission from our neighbor to tuck point and paint the garage wall – so that is on my To Do List.  We will see how long I can hold out until I ask if I can have the garage roof rebuilt and repaired.

Obviously, I need to get started on this To Do List ASAP…

Celebrating our successes, Part 2 – recent project list…

Upon review of my lists, I think the previous list was more a “had to get it done to keep the place standing” kind of list (roof, tuckpointing, electrical, windows, front porch repair/rebuild) with a few “nice to have because it makes my life more pleasant” projects thrown in  (painting, fireplace reno, window trim, landscaping).

This Part 2 of completed projects is in the “nice to have because it makes my life more pleasant” category.  Well, with the exception of our most recent project – that one was mandatory.  And – fair warning – while not graphic, our last completed project might make the faint of heart a bit queasy just thinking about the subject matter – you might not want to be eating when you get to the bottom of this post.  With that out of the way, let’s get to recently completed projects:

New fireplace windows – our old fireplace windows were single plate glass in a non-opening frame.  In the winter, these windows had a thick layer of ice on the inside.  During the day, the ice would melt and run down the wall.  Finally, we saved up our money and had in-swing, opening, energy efficient windows custom made and installed. We also hired out the woodworking – because the angles needed to accommodate the in-swing window so it would open flat against the wall – were a bit of a mind teaser.  Anyway, we love these windows in the winter and the summer.  The summer breeze coming in from the open windows drops the indoor temperature by 3-4 degrees.  The windows look great too!

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Garage – Tad finally got his garage after 15 years!  We stained the floor, installed a sink with hot and cold water, organized the tools in a newly procured tool chest or two, had some nice steps made for the entry into the house, and finished the multiple wood doors.  Tad still wants to finish the interior and we need to get our yard tools and miscellaneous stuff better organized – so it still remains on the To Do List – but we don’t have to scrape the snow and ice off of our cars in the winter and that makes us feel special.

Garage Floor

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Addition – the addition came about as a result of the garage project.  If we put in a garage, we wouldn’t have had access in the future to replace or repair the rotting porch and stairs to the basement on the back of the house.  I painted this thing purple 15 years prior – thinking we would be ripping it down soon.  Little did I know that it would be purple for a really long time.  I liked the purple.  Our neighbor was not a fan.  There were also multiple broken windows from golf balls, wiffle balls, crab apples, etc.

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The stairs were skinny and steep. I fell down these rickety stairs a number of times.  The photo here also looks like you are descending into the pit of despair.  In retrospect, it was a bit of a pit of despair.

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We added a 2nd bathroom, laundry room, mudroom, stairs to the basement, additional kitchen space (so I could have a dishwasher), a “sunroom”, and a new outdoor courtyard.  This first photo below is the north side view of the addition.  Pictured is the new bathroom and laundry bump out with garage in the background.

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Below is the south side view of the addition that includes from front to back the sunroom/stairs to the basement (3 tall windows), mudroom (3 high windows), and garage (door and 2 small windows).

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This is also a north side view of the laundry room and sunroom on the left, mudroom in the middle (with the french doors), and garage on the right – creating the new courtyard (as we like to call it).

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Radiant Floor Heat – I would say that this probably goes on the list of Best $ Ever Spent  – we love it. I think Hanna the cat is also very happy with this feature – she knows where all the “hot” spots are.

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The Big Dig – the basement was your typical old, low ceiling kind of basement. We used it only for storage because it was yucky.  Then, the addition happened and we added a basement under the new addition.  In the middle of the addition project, Tad decided that we needed to dig out the dirt pile in the front of the basement for our new utilities area. We hired Tad’s teenage nephew, his nephew’s friends, and Tad’s 10 year old niece for the dirt removal – I think it was the hardest money they ever earned.  We had to use a jack hammer to remove the dirt!  This picture is the only before picture I have of this area.  You can see where we had just started digging down 2 feet or so…

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A year or two later, we wanted to dig out the middle part of the basement to match the floor and ceiling height of the new addition’s basement.  It was weird.  It still had low ceilings and you had to step up a couple of feet to enter that area.  Anyway, one digging experience was enough for us – and the relatives refused to help despite the offer of a raise.

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So, we had that professionally dug down and an appropriate foundation added.  It was the quickest project ever – 10 days from start to finish – impressive in my opinion.  For an unfinished basement, we think it’s pretty nice.

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We do hope to finish the basement at some point in the future.  In the meantime, we added a wall treatment on the stairwell wall going down to the basement – so, I can say that there is one small piece of the basement completely finished…

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Kitchen – I think this actually came before the final basement dig phase, but after the addition.  Tad and I did most of the work.  We gutted the space, removed a wall, replaced the subfloor and ceiling joistsran electrical, insulated, hung drywall, tiled the floor, tiled the walls, and painted.  We think our work is as good or better than any professional out there – and it passed inspection!  This project made a huge impact on the look, feel, and flow of our house – it was a bit shocking but in a really good way.

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South Side Yard – the back half of the sunny south facing side yard had been dirt and weeds since we completed the addition/garage construction.  I thought about what to do over there for 2 years.  Finally, I just did it and got it done!  It is lovely.  Vegetable planting troughs, sedum, strawberries, hosta, irrigation system, flagstone path, and a dry creek bed/drainage swell.  See all the details here.

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Then, the front part of this South Side Yard looked overgrown and unkempt in comparison to the back half.  I cleaned it up, cleared the weeds, relocated the flamingo, reorganized the stepping stones, and replanted the plants.  Check the whirlwind garden organizing session here. 

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North Side Yard – the north side yard had also been just dirt and weeds since we completed the addition/garage project. We had plans, but 2 years later it was still dirt and weeds (we live in Denver so that is ok as long as the weeds don’t grow completely out of control).  Well, one evening we were across the street at the neighbors having some wine and looked out towards our house.  Oh my, it was not pretty – we were so embarrassed by our side yard that we got on that landscaping pretty much the next day.

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The Google maps people caught me on camera doing some of the manual labor – alone – no help in sight.  Want to know more about gabions?

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Anyway, a year later the final detail was complete – Tad finished his pitcher’s mound and home plate on the 4th of July!  Yes, we have a pitcher’s mound and home plate in our yard – and it is almost regulation.

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Sidewalk and steps – our front sidewalk and steps were cracked and uneven from tree roots and age.  It drove Tad crazy.  We opted for new concrete with slightly exposed aggregate. The exposed aggregate looks old even though it is new.  I like that and it’s nice to have pretty, flat concrete.

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Shade – we recently got some shade after a review of many options out there – see the review of options here.  We went with the custom made horizontal, roman style shade that is retractable.  More pictures and the final install story here.

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Sewer line replacement – we received the dreaded letter from the City of Denver.  They had scoped the main line, decided we had a problem with our sewer line, and told us that we needed to fix it.  The proof was in the picture – pretty green dye indicates a not so pretty problem.

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We were totally stressed thinking that we were going to have to dig up new concrete and sod to fix this – despite having put in an entirely new sewer line when we did our addition.  It didn’t make any sense.  Come to find out, there was some clay pipe still left – that connected our new sewer line to the main city line – and it was in the alley.  So, it was a huge relief that our concrete and yard could stay intact.  Once the relief passed though, I wondered why we still had clay pipe if we paid some plumbers a boat load of cash to replace the sewer line a few short years ago.  Tad could not provide an answer to my question.  I finally accepted that we had to do this despite the unanswered question.  We got several bids.  Serious sticker shock ensued.  Tad negotiated.  It was done in a day.

I want to put this last project behind me.  I want to move on to the next as quickly as possible.  When people ask what the last house project was, I don’t want to have to discuss our sewer line.

 

Celebrating our successes – before the internet…

I like lists.  I like To Do lists.  Since it is a new year, I was updating my To Do list.  As I was updating, I was sort of complaining to Tad that the list never seems to get smaller – and we need to get on it.  Picture me with wide eyes and a bit of an accusing look on my face.  I also commented that some of the stuff on the list has been on the list for 15 years!  Tad sighed, nodded his head, and started to remind me of all the things we have accomplished over the last 15 years.  I admit that I don’t often celebrate the successes.  I am most often focused on the next thing – and there is always a next thing.  So – before I get to the updated To Do list, I am going to “celebrate our successes.”  Surprisingly, the list ends up being pretty long so I am going to break it up into past successes and recent successes.

Here we go – our past successes – you know, before the internet and digital pictures…

Exterior painting – the house is mostly unpainted brick but the trim was pink and pale blue when we moved in. The picture below is a scan of an actual/non digital picture from oh so long ago.

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I swear to you, I have never seen such a thing.  I didn’t think it would be that big of a deal to paint a little trim. I was wrong. The basement window trim was still pink when we replaced the windows 12ish years later!  Exterior painting is really hard work!

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New roof – we knew that we needed a new roof from the get go.  It had the original wood shingles and 2 layers of asphalt shingles – thanks to a hail storm and a neighbor suggestion we got it replaced through insurance – yay!

Tuck pointing – you could see daylight through some of the bricks between the dining room (which has an exposed brick wall) and the outside.  After 90 years of weather and such, I guess it was time to get some new mortar between those bricks. I thought about trying to do this myself but I was fresh off the exterior painting thing.  I was tired. In the end, I am glad I hired it out because those guys did a really nice job and it ended up being much more extensive than I thought – the 2 chimneys had to be entirely reset.

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Interior patching and painting  – everything was yellow when we moved in. Yellow is probably my least favorite paint color. So every room was painted – and has since been painted numerous times.  The walls are lath & plaster – enough said – well, except I am an expert plaster repair person now – and no, I am not for hire.  I like the sturdiness of the plaster walls, but the plaster is starting to fail so we have been replacing that plaster with drywall.

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New windows – the historical people are probably cringing right about now, but I have to say that this made a huge difference in noise reduction and energy consumption/conservation.

Electrical/old knob and tube – Tad spent many a miserable day in the attic rewiring the place – thank you Tad…

Front porch – while Tad was in the attic updating our wiring, I was on the front porch.  I think I was supposed to be trying to refinish the wood floor or something.  Somehow there was a removal of an odd 2X4 that I didn’t know was supporting the ceiling.  You can see the pink 2X4 in the background of this picture.  Again, this picture is a scan of a real picture from a while ago  – Tad is soooo young!  And – no, that is not me on the leash!

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Anyway, the porch didn’t fall down, but it did lead to an extensive demo and rebuild of the porch roof, ceiling, and floor structures. Check out the date on this picture 7.5.97.

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Here I am priming the edges and undersides of the flooring.

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Here is Tad finishing off the floor.  Notice the date on this one – 7.19.97 – 2 weeks from start to finish – not bad…

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The porch was our first major DIY construction project and it turned out great! Well – except a lumber company employee stole my credit card number and used it to make some weird calls to a telephone dating service of some sort – but that is a story for another day.

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Fireplace – Tad came home one day to a pile of bricks and a dismantled mantel on the front lawn.  We had a gas insert installed.  The surround remained unfinished for a long,long, long time.

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There was a $6000 bid for some basic cinder block work.  We saved about $5940 by doing the work ourselves – the supplies were $60.

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See the detailed fireplace renovation story here.

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Window trim/baseboards – again, those of you that are preservationists are going to want to skip this.  We removed the old beat up and heavily painted baseboards and window trim. We also were left with weird window frames where the previous owners removed plaster from the dining room wall and slapped up some (s)crap wood as trim.  Surprisingly, this picture is a digital picture rather than a scan of a paper picture – it was taken with the first digital camera ever I think – haha!

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Tad did some crazy, unbelievable woodworking and created new cherry/maple window trim designs.

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To this day, he has visitors feel the window trim – he spent hours and hours sanding that trim.  It is as smooth as a baby’s bum.

Landscaping/irrigation system– we had some initial landscaping done that included huge rocks and a sprinkler system.

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We did hire out that initial landscaping.  One of the landscapers said that our yard felt like a little mountain retreat in the middle of the city.

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I liked that – over the years I have tried to keep the front yard with that mountain feel.

The list continues – our recent successes up next…