I work to deadlines…

Today is August 18, which means I have gone a whole summer “meaning to blog”, “planning on blogging tomorrow” and telling people that “the blog will be updated soon”, but not actually blogged. (Unless you count paying $127 to recoup my domain name after I unknowingly let it expire. I am still shocked that no one scooped up “yrppies”; it is brilliant.) While Yrppies and I have remained estranged over the summer; Pinterest and I have only strengthened our relationship. We compiled a fabulous menu of tasty “easy weeknight” dinners, decided 30 days is all I need to get the ass back that I thought was fat in college, and devised a list with of 15 MUST DO DIY projects that make Pottery Barn executives cringe. As of today I am officially out of summer vacation days. Like many teachers tomorrow is my first day back, and while my Pinterest boards are full of fabulous things that I will probably never make; I will not feel accomplished unless I get ONE blog post done before school starts. So here it is (I work to deadlines :)).

I am not sure where to start as so much has happened since my last post in October. The past year and a half has been a whirlwind of barely contained chaos that I tried desperately to control. The universe kept putting me in my place though, reminding me that I don’t call the shots in renovations, relationships, work, childbirth or anywhere else. We did not move into the Yrppies’ homestead until the end of January, much later than I had planned. There is still a ton of work to be done, both inside and outside, but the house has definitely become a home over the last 7 months. I have been dutifully taking pictures of projects completed to document all the “fun” we have had.  Now that I have finally faced my fears and opened WordPress I am determined to carve out a little blog time each week to share what we have done, what we are doing and what we are planning to do as the renovation process continues.

Something we “did” last summer definitely derailed my goal to update Yrppies this summer (*inappropriate pun alert, as long as one person laughs it was worth inserting…). I did spend enough time on the computer this summer to accomplish my updating goal, but could not execute it due to the fact that most of the time I only had one available hand to type. You can blame the little angel face in the picture below. She is a wiggly boob-fiend who requires one hand while nursing. Blogging one handed=ineffective use of time. Pinning one-handed=successful multi-tasking.

Peek a boo! I see you!

Peek a boo! I see you!

Philippa (Pippa) Wren was born on March 19, 2013 at 7:33 PM. She was 7 pounds 3.6 ounces of baby love and 20.5 inches long. She was a few weeks weeks early (ready or not!) which did deter some of our progress and plans for the house in the spring, but we would not have it any other way. At a later date I will share the details of her early arrival; I want to meet my deadline and still have things to get ready for the first day back tomorrow, but know that the Yrppies’ household is completely smitten with this adorable little lady. Well maybe not the whole household, sometimes these two have secret conversations about sending her back.

New allies brainstorming how to get rid of furless puppy who is always attached to mama.

New allies brainstorming how to get rid of furless puppy. 

Tight screws are best (mom and I build a sink base)

Yesterday was the hubby’s birthday. To celebrate, my mom and I traveled up to the Yrppie homestead to build a sink base. Then we traveled all the way back to Harrisburg so I could grill expensive steaks in the middle of a electrical storm and horrendous downpours for his birthday dinner. The reason my mom and I put the sink base together, instead of the hubby and I, was because I wanted to give him a break from working a full day at work and then working a full night on the renovations. He needs sleep. And meat. Hot, grilled meat.

On Monday we had this conversation:

Hubby: So tomorrow for my birthday do you want to go up to the farm and put that sink together?

Me: Why? 

Hubby: The plumber wants it put together so he can see where to put the plumbing.

Me: We can’t give him the dimensions? The wall is not even in yet. I am not mowing the damn grass.

Hubby: Blah, blah, blah, blah (to quote Maggie-she has gotten rather cheeky as she edges closer to the big “5”)

He actually went on a rant about how much there is to do, how I complain all the time, how I hate mowing the grass (he throws that into EVERY debate) etc, etc, etc. Rather than engage in this debate I just let him think he won. Then I suckered my mom into going up and putting the sink base together with me. We were done and back soon after he got home from work.

It took us about 2 hours and 15 minutes (not counting driving time). It would have taken  less than two, but we had a few snafus along the way. As a reminder, here is a picture of an Ikea sink base that is SIMILAR to ours (ours has handles):

Ikea Sink Base, picture from Sunset magazine

The first thing we did was take inventory of the cabinet parts and directions.

Pre-assembly Sink Base

There were a lot pieces but we weren’t “scurred”. Since my mom was with me I had to act like I am all organized in life, so we grouped all the hardware with their buddies and made sure we had all the parts.

Mom found the hardware!

All pieces grouped and accounted for

The we took a picture of ourselves; you can see how excited we were:

Self-portrait of myself and my mom

We had our first hiccup as soon as we started. I got the drill out and felt all powerful and “I am woman; hear me roar”.  Then I proceeded to strip the crap out of the very first screw because the drill was on reverse, which I did not figure out until after my second attempt. My mom made the comment “Shouldn’t the drill be doing all the work?” as I was bent over grunting and sweating, trying to push the screw into the pre-drilled hole. Her comment inspired my “ah-ha!” moment. Sure enough, when I looked, the drill was set to “reverse”. Once we got that straightened out it was quick work. Mom got a blister on her thumb from from grabbing the stripped screws; she did not believe me when I told her they were hot. Then my mom made a comment about needing a hot screw. No we were not drinking, my mom is just classy like that.

Here is our cabinet base put together, at this point we did not realize that we had put the wall mounts in backwards. Whoops.

Mom and the directions; we THOUGHT it matched to picture perfectly

Can you find the mistake in this picture? We did not realize it until we went to put the drawers in.


We then assembled the drawers. I was reminded as to why I did not get into gifted classes in 3rd grade; spatial visualization has always been my downfall. After about 10 minutes of pondering which way the sliders slid, and 20 minutes putting the first drawer together, we were on a roll.

When we went to put the drawers in; I realized we had a problem. Luckily I knew the drill had a reverse, so we unscrewed and rescrewed the wall mounts in the right direction. Once again my mom made some un-mom joke about never having enough screws. I cannot take her anywhere.

Mom-tightening the screws


Wall mounts reversed

Once everything was facing the right way, we lugged it upstairs, put the drawers in, and called it a day. When it is actually installed, the base will have feet and a sink top so it will be standard height. (No we are not installing a sink for the Tyrion Lannisters of the world.) I did spend about 5 minutes perplexed about where the top was, until I remembered that the top is the sink. Duh.

Here is a picture of the finished product, the bathroom seems so roomy without anything in it.

Our success!

As I looked at the empty bathroom with the lonely sink base; I had a brief “hubby moment of panic” about how much we have to do.

The bathroom; it will be a while until someone is brushing their teeth in that sink

I usually deal well with stress and overwhelming to-do lists; I like to break it down and focus on one thing at a time. Do you ever feel overwhelmed with renovations…or life in general? What are some your coping techniques? I have been known to revert to potato chips and entirely too much caffeine, but I am trying to curb those unhealthy choices. Share below, I would love to hear from you!

A big thank you to YOU!

Hey you, up there on the ladder, guess what?

Maggie playing peek-a-boo

As of this past friday Yrppies has reached over 3,000 views! How does that make you feel?

Maggie excited that Yrppies has reached over 3000 views

Not only did Yrppies surpass 3000 views on Friday (we are currently at 3140), I was also nominated for a “One Lovely Blog Award” by Julie at Home on 129 Acres. I will be dedicating a post to this nomination later this week, but I did want to thank Julie for her support, and encourage all of you to take a look at her blog when you have a chance. I found Julie’s blog when looking through WordPress for fellow renovators and followed it immediately.  Finding others who are doing similar projects makes our renovation project seem almost normal.

As you can tell Friday was a pretty exciting day. Not exciting enough for me to pull out my blond afro wig and my pink ruffle dress, but if it would have been 20 degrees colder things could have gone very differently. Now, I do know that there is a chance that 2,900 of those views over 3,000 views could be my mom, so it is probably not as impressive as it sounds. It is still nice to know that there are people out there are as nosey as I am :).

So thank you to everyone who has stopped by to check out what we Yrppies are up to; I hope you keep coming back. Thank you for your positive feedback and for sharing your thoughts and ideas. I should also thank the hubby; he has been very patient and supportive of me invading our privacy and spewing his dirty secrets all over the internet. Love you honey!

Below I have created a poll that includes the three most popular posts on Yrppies to date (I  am a little surprised that “Yrppies do yoga” did not make the cut). Which was your favorite?

Hot & Wired!

Last weekend the hubby and I celebrated 6 years of matrimonial bliss by getting all hot and wired. This time last year we had just got back from vacation and 10 days of this:

Maggie loves the beach and not having cellulite

Yrppies love the beach and rum punch

Two days after we got home, on our 5th wedding anniversary, we celebrated the marriage of my brother, Will, and his beautiful wife, Becky. They got married at Naylors Winery on the same day that we got married at Benigna’s Creek Winery, 5 years before. It rained. It rained on our wedding day 5 years before. If you follow this blog long enough you will see a pattern. Whenever Yrppies have a party/event; it rains. Even with the dreary weather it was still a wonderful afternoon that turned into a blast of an evening. Here are some pics:

Husband & Wife-right before the rain/lightning began

Ninja brother and beautiful wife

Flower arrangements done by yours truly

As it got darker people started tearing it up on the dance floor. Here is a picture of Maggie trying to keep up with my dad and his red disco pants. No really, they are his red disco pants from the 70’s. If you went to high school with me and are reading this, you saw these at any special event, including graduation. And don’t feel bad for my brother; Crazy Pappy wore these to our wedding 5 years before even though they totally clashed with our colors.; I think he got more attention than I did. Crazy Pappy dances to his own drummer, as evidenced here:

Maggie breaking it down with Crazy Pappy; ignore the sneakers, we were just glad he did not wear his work boots

“Mommy-I can’t even keep up with this wild man in the red disco pants”

Now that you are totally distracted by the 65+ old man rocking disco pants, a white tee and sneakers, let’s refocus the point of this post. So this past weekend was not only our anniversary but also my brother’s. Will decided to spend it by traveling all the way up from Stewartstown, PA to help the hubby with some wiring projects. He is a certified electrician with Stewartstown Electric; this will come in handy as I change my mind 700 times about where I want the hanging light fixtures over the island.  In retrospect, we felt horrible about picking this weekend since it was their first wedding anniversary, but the men had fun and knocked some things off our list.

The brother’s work van

To quote Deuce Bigalow “That’s a huge bit!”

Brother & Hubby

Maggie had a great weekend hanging out with her cousins, and I supported OPEC and the middle east by driving materials back and forth from Harrisburg to Klingerstown and back, and back again, and again. Even though we were not in the Caribbean or dressed up in our dancing clothes (and trust me, the only thing “hot” was the temperature in the house); it was a great weekend. Happy one year anniversary Becky and Willy, thanks again for all of your help!

What about you? How do you celebrate special occasions, like anniversaries? The hubby and I had totally forgot it was our anniversary (and Willy & Becky’s) until last Friday, and then it was to late to change plans. We were so tired from the weekend (especially the hubby) that we were in bed by 9 PM Sunday night. Do you make a big deal out of anniversaries or do you like to keep them low-key? Share below, I would love to hear from you!

Where the wild things are

Gutting a 100+ year old house is fascinating because you find all kinds of crazy and wild things. Things that have been secretly cohabitating in the walls for an unknown period of time, things people have hid or lost and forgotten about, things that live outside but want to come in, lots and lots of things. Wild things live in the walls, and outside in the middle of nowhere.

Some things are more welcome than others. We are not overly selective about who shares our space. We Yrppies both have a BS in Biology and a love of nature. However, I am definitely more of a softie then the hubby is. I do not like to kill things (except flies; I hate flies; I am a drosophila-ist).  I don’t mind spiders; I feel they are crowd control. Beetles who are led astray in the night by the light; I gently collect them and put them back outside. Snakes-the more the merrier; they eat mice and other rodents. And mice…well mice are a contentious issue because they are so darn cute and squeaky, but they tend to multiply quickly and poop a lot. This why we got a cat (actually we got a second cat because our old and sleepy cat Sammy would literally sit and watch them eat out of her bowl in the office while I worked at the desk; it reminded me of one of my favorite books from when I was little, Pettifur, I found it endearing; the hubby found it infuriating).

Pettifur, A Story by Jay Williams, image from: http://www.pagebooks.net

The hubby solved the mouse problem in our Harrisburg house by bringing home Baby Kitty. Baby Kitty is “not that little” to quote the vet tech from a few weeks ago, but she has been a ruthless killer from kittenhood. Baby Kitty is an indoor kitty; however, there apparently is already a pride of barn cats that inhabit the yard of the Yrppie homestead. Baby Kitty better not have forgotten her ninja like mousin’ skillz since she drove all of the city mice out of Harrisburg house two years ago or she could be easily replaced. The pride is already buttering me up.

Baby Kitty watch out; there is competition waiting outside

Black kitty (who looks exactly like Baby Kitty) that mat message is not for you; don’t get any ideas

Of course if the pride sees this picture she may become the laughing stock of the valley:

Baby Kitty getting her antibiotics and loving it

Mommy holds and Maggie drops-teamwork

Apologies for the boob shot; when wrangling a cat with a towel (gently) and trying to keep her still so a 4-year old can drop a pill down her throat, you do not have time to make sure your milkshakes are still in the yard. And as far as the bicycle helmet-no idea. Her bike has been locked in the shed since the fall.

We also have a whole “knot” of toads hanging out in our scrap pile. I had to google what you call a group of toads because I did “knot” know; there are other fun names for animal groupings here.


Big toad!

Proof that I need a manicure and that I need to stop biting my thumb nails.

Inside our walls we found evidence of previous existing wild things. Our favorite, one we actually have not removed yet because it is so cool; is this really old, really big wasp nest. I think it is a paper wasp nest. Most people get totally freaked out by bees and wasps. I am not saying I like to get stung, but I am pretty tolerant and don’t freak out when bees or wasps are around (we are also fortunate that none of us get an severe allergic reaction when stung).

Large paper wasp nest-it is empty and has not been used in a long time

Really beautiful part of wasp nest

I did some research and found out that wasps do not have wax-producing glands like bees; instead they usually chew dead or old wood, and even man-made wood (HA!). They use a substance developed from wood pulp and wasp saliva to construct their nests. The different colored layers are the result of wood pulp from different sources. Apparently a structure this complicated is only used for one season. Thousands of wasps work together to create a living space, and then the nest is abandoned in the winter when majority of the colony die from the cold.

I probably counted 30+ wasps nest on the walls throughout the house. None were active. Here is one of my favorite shots:

Another wasp’s nest

Wasps are not the only nests we have found. Birds also took shelter within the walls.

A big bird’s nest

This was found in the wall of the spare room. We are not sure what kind of bird roosted here, but there were lots of seeds and downy feathers. We also have a resident kestrel who lives in our eaves. The hubby was pretty excited about this and wants to build a kestrel box when we replace the roof. The kestrel’s nest was too high to get any kind of picture, but here is a Wikipedia image that shows you what a kestrel looks like; they are small, predatory birds. You often see them perching on telephone poles.

American Kestrel-image taken from Wikipedia

Critters are not the only wild things lurking in the walls of the Yrppie homestead. We also unearthed these treasures:

Whoa…wild things from the 1970’s!

Someone did not want mom to find these wild things-they were hidden in the ceiling. The hubby and I could not stop laughing. We are not sure what format they are, but they are much bigger than a VHS. We also found pictures of people, snake skins, underwear, and other odds and ends. None were quite as amusing as the adult films.

Our new walls will be filled with spray-foam insulation, so that will significantly reduce the wall space for critters to live and kiddos to hide incriminating evidence. Gutting the house definitely gave new meaning to the phrase “if these walls could talk”. Have you ever gutted a space or replaced a wall and found wild or crazy things? Have you ever hidden anything wild or crazy (that you want to share) in wall, ceiling or floor? We were really hoping to find billions of dragons but that did not happened. Looks like we cannot quit our day jobs just yet.

Bathroom Brainstorm

Currently we have one working bathroom in the Yrppie house. It looks like this:

Shanty bathroom

Rotting shanty shower

The one that still has a toilet is on the first floor off of the kitchen in the shanty. If you have been following the blog you may remember that the shanty is actually on the demolish and rebuild list. It is slated for Spring 2013ish. The bathroom has wall-to-wall carpet and smells about as good as it looks. It is an interesting combination of mold, rotting wood and really, really old urine.

The shanty bathroom is not that bad; when I student-taught in Mexico many years ago I used a bucket over a hole behind a shower curtain at a restaurant, so I compare everything to that. (It is a constant reminder of how much we take good plumbing and running water for granted in this country.)  Still, I really do not want to shower in a bathroom that I have to wear shoes in for the next six months. Luckily, the decision to complete the renovation of both floors at once solved our problem. We are going to be installing a new bathroom on the second floor exactly where the old bathroom was. I wish I could show you pictures of the 2nd floor bathroom before we ripped it out, but I did not take any pictures. Just imagine a really small, moldy bathroom with a tub that is ready to fall through the ceiling.

Speaking of tubs, the hubby and I went back and forth on the tub issue. This bathroom will eventually be dedicated to Maggie and her sibling, if we have another child (NO-I am NOT pregnant). We both agreed we wanted the bathroom to have a double sink; however, adding a double sink where there used to be a single takes up more space. Our original plan was to install a stand-up shower with no tub to save space. As we finalized plans though, I had a change of heart and I decided I wanted a tub. The hubby didn’t. I won. The tub won (reminder: relationships are NOT about competition but compromise). The hubby compromised by moving the bathroom walls and making space for the tub (one more reason why I love him).

Now that the hubby and contractors have enlarged it, the size is around 8×8. The pic below is before the wall was erected. You can see how small it was.

Hubby trying to prove to me we cannot fit a tub in the bathroom

Once we had finalized dimensions we went to the Ikea website to look for examples of small bathrooms (Ikea specializes in bathrooms for small spaces). We found the perfect sink with two faucets, a long trough and two drawers. Even better, the base was on SALE for $99 when we got to the store! (I think the original price was $479.) We bought it immediately. It is 39 inches long and will fit perfectly in the bathroom. I found a picture of it on the Sunset Magazine website so you can check it out below (I LOVE that magazine; I think I was meant to live on the west coast.)

Photo by Martin Inger / IKEA , written by Emily Hsieh

That is about as far as we have with the bathroom plans; I am working on a floorplan to share with you next week. This bathroom will be the primary bathroom in the house until the shanty addition is complete, and we add on a Master Bathroom. Currently we are spoiled with a HUGE bathroom in our Harrisburg house; transitioning to a smaller bathroom will be a challenge, but totally worth it. (See how our roomy our Harrisburg bathroom by clicking on the link below, it is a Maggie classic. As an FYI-her disbelief in the beginning is because I picked up all the dirty clothes on the bathroom floor).

Do you have small children or big children who share a bathroom? What tips or suggestions can you add to our bathroom brainstorm; I would love to hear them!

Kitchen plans complete!

20% off your ENTIRE KITCHEN purchase-jackpot!

Last Thursday I posted a quick and dirty post as we headed out the door to Ikea to plan the kitchen. We arrived to Ikea around 2:30 pm (it took a little longer because we had to make a Starbucks and potty stop along the turnpike). Seven hours later we walked out with a complete kitchen plan, a bathroom sink and a happy marriage. Mission complete!

That is not to say there was not a little drama and problem-solving along the way. The first dilemma was that neither of us had thought about needing cash for the Turnpike tolls. The hubby (or should I call him “Ned Stark”) saved the day and remembered his secret stash of “gold dragons”.  “Gold dragons?” you may ask…you have never paid for anything in dragons? All the cool kids are doing it (all of the cool, rich kids in the imaginary city of Westeros). The hubby is currently obsessed with Game of Thrones and has taken to carrying dollar coins that he refers to as “dragons”, the currency used in the book/TV series. He likes to leave them as tips when we go places; he thinks he is starting a trend. I think we are just asking to be pelted with the coins by a disgruntled waitress who does not want them weighing down her apron.

Once we had arrived at Ikea we grabbed some swedish grub. Important note: after lunch and before dinner is not the best time to get Ikea food, even the meatballs were dry. While eating, we game-planned our afternoon, set up some rules and expectations, and printed out our Ikea Family Card. The Ikea Family Card has perks like discounts on monthly specials, free coffee and tea in the cafe, and an extra 30 minutes for kids in Smaland. The extra 30 minutes of child care is key; without it you only get one hour. You cannot even walk around the store in one hour.

Once we had a game plan I went down and put the child into Smaland, and the hubby headed to the kitchen section to start planning (actually he headed out to the car first because I left our blueprints in the car, whoops). If you have never used the childcare at Ikea I totally recommend it; there are things for them to color, movies to watch and places to climb. Maggie loves it. Did I mention it is free? That is what makes it really awesome. You put their shoes in a bin and sign them in, then you get a matching bracelet so no one can kidnap your kiddo.  Your child gets to burn off some energy and you get to have child-free time to spend argue with your significant other while perusing the store.

Maggie’s bin-note the wallet, proof that I did have it at this point in our day

The planning started out a little rough. They had a lot of employees staffing the kitchen area and not a lot of customers (not a lot meaning TWO customers counting us). Apparently they like to keep a lot of staff standing around; it took a while to get someone to actually help us. After some time spent being frustrated we were able to get a helper, Stephen, who disclosed that he was “new” and still figuring everything out. However, he ended up being a wonderful source of information, and I am pretty confident that by the end of our night Stephen could consider himself an “expert”.

Nick & our kitchen guru, Stephen

I spent a lot of time walking back and forth between the kitchen display we were trying to replicate within our floor plan, and the computer. The hubby did all the computer work. This is what he looked like for about 4 hours:

Nick considering a career change to drafting

Eventually I just gave up my seat next to the hubby so Stephen could sit down. At this point in the process I realized that I had left my wallet and phone over at the kitchen display (this was right around the time I was pondering why they do not sell wine at Ikea). Luckily someone had turned it into Lost & Found. Collecting it involved about a mile long walk to retrieve it, but I was relieved to get both items back intact. I then headed to Smaland to pick up the kid. We were unable to get the kitchen planned in the allotted time for Smaland, but there were kids for her to play with in the kitchen section by the time we got back, so that was a good diversion.

Maggie outside of Smaland

We wrapped up our plans, and were given a purchase list right around 8:30 PM. Our total cost, including appliances is right around 15,000 dragons (can you imagine paying that in dollar coins?). We will save 20% off of the total so that will bring us down to $12,000. That includes a refrigerator large enough for a polar bear to live in it, a microwave, a dishwasher, a professional-sized range AND a wall oven. Imagine the Christmas cookie possibilities. We did not order Thursday night because we still had to pick out the inserts for drawers and cabinets (utensil organizers, pots & pans organizers, etc). This would have involved a lot of brain power along with conversation, and at that point in the evening we did not have it in us (I know, first-world problems). Plus, we still needed to snag our bathroom sink before closing (we are also in the process of planning a bathroom on the second floor-there will be a post later this week). Looks like we are headed back down in a couple weeks.

So what will the new kitchen look like? I converted some views of our plans into images so I could post them for you to see. Check them out:

Kitchen view from the glass doors leading outside

View of kitchen from dining room

So what do you think? We are going with white cabinets and butcher block counter tops. These images have no counter tops in the design because we have to order them locally. I realized after looking at my Pinterest Kitchen Ideas board that I am obsessed with light, white, airy cabinets and dark floors and counters. The hubby said we cannot stain the counters; so I am still trying to figure out other options to make them dark. We considered granite (really pricey) and concrete (really heavy). What do you have for your kitchen counters, or what would you want in your “dream kitchen”?

Framed up and ready to go!

The hubby and the contractors have been working steadily to get the house ready for the electricity to be run this weekend. We went up this past Sunday to check it out, and it is pretty amazing to see the layout. All the rooms have framed up, including closets and widened doorways. I got to help the hubby put dry wall blocks up, which involved the use of power tools. This was not nearly as much fun as I thought it would, but that could have a lot to do with the sweltering temperatures and the adult beverages I indulged in the night before.

What does the yrppie homestead look like all framed up and ready to go? Here is a reminder of what the dining area looked like before:

Dining area BEFORE taken from the shanty door

Really bad picture of dining room door (on the right) from kitchen area and living room door (on the left)

Here is what it looks like after:

Closed up shanty door in the dining area

View of dining area from kitchen (shanty door is by the ladder, all covered up now)

The first floor is exactly what I wanted with this space. I do not think the hubby thought it would look right opened up, but it is perfect! Here is what the kitchen looked like before and after:

Kitchen space before demolition and “the bump”

Covered porch attached to the kitchen-this now “the bump”

Door opened that leads to the shanty from the bump

View of kitchen area with hot dogs (bunless)

Next I will share the living room with you. I apologize that the pics do not match perfectly. As I was putting this post together I was cursing myself for not taking pics from the exact same spots for the before and after series. Rookie mistakes.

Living area space before:

Front door in living room taken from stairs

Dining area picture taken from living area

Oak stairs in living room heading to the 2nd floor

And the after pics:

Shot of living areas taken from the kitchen area

View of living room with new sub-flooring

Basically we opened up the whole first floor, but on the second floor we left the rooms intact and widened the doorways and framed out closets. Starting with the soon-to-be office space, here is what it used to look like:

Stairs leading to the creepy attic-before

Creepy attic stairs after

Another after shot of the creepy attic stairs

And here you can see what it looks like with the wall removed. We decided to open up the staircase leading to the attic in the office. The downside is there will be no way to close the attic off from the office, but we figured when it is eventually turned into a guest room the office door can always be closed.

Side view of the stairs leading to the creepy attic

So there is your really detailed look at the creepy attic stairs. Moving onto the rest of the floor. Here is the master bedroom before and after:

Master bedroom closet-before

Master bedroom

Master bedroom closet

View of hallway and doorways taken from the office area-master bedroom doorway on right

And here are the before and after of the other two rooms, and new closet space created by splitting the sewing space into two closets:

Maggie’s bedroom before

Spare bedroom before

View of the master bedroom to the left and the doorway to the hallway from the guest room

View of spare room closet and Maggie’s room behind the closet

At this point the we are ready for the electrical work which will take place this weekend. My brother is going to come up for the weekend to do all of the wiring with the hubby’s assistance. (He is an electrician by trade.) The only thing we have left to do before the wiring can take place is to finish the kitchen plans. (Yes, I did post about finishing them a few weeks ago; we work to deadlines.) Before we left the house this weekend we did one final check on measurements so that the plans are precise. We are going to finalize the kitchen plans tonight (for real this time), and then are planning an Ikea trip tomorrow. Hopefully, it will not end in a divorce. We have been known to have a lively debate or two in the middle of the bathroom aisle. That being said, Ikea is one my favorite places to window shop. I love all the mini-rooms they have set up and the kid’s mac and cheese. The hubby loves the meatballs. Have you ever been to an Ikea? What was your favorite part?

Daddy’s little helper

Measure twice; cut once

Maggie micromanaging daddy

Show me the money! (How the geothermal tax credit works)

After spending hours trolling various websites, two phone calls, one to EnergyStar and one to the IRS, I have finally confirmed that the 30% tax credit applies to the installation of the ENTIRE system NOT just the heat pump. That will amount to about $7,800 of awesomeness come February 2013 when I do our taxes.

My original hunt for verifiable information made it obvious that finding a definitive answer to the question “What does the 30% tax break apply to?” was not going to be easy. Some websites use language that indicate the whole installation is eligible for the tax break, some are very specific in their mention of the “heat pump” when referring to the tax break. EnergyStar’s Federal Tax Credits for Consumer Energy Efficiency page has in small print on a secondary page that installation is included. I decided to be that annoying person who calls with a question that is already answered for them. The conversation went like this:

Me: “Hello, I was just calling to confirm that the 30% tax credit for geothermal systems includes the installation costs and not just the heat pump.”

EnergyStar Man: “Yes, that includes the whole system.” 

Me: “I saw that on your website but just wanted to clarify that it includes the loops, digging, excavation and all the other things that go along with installing the system.”

EnergyStar Man: “Ummmmmm…I think, but you should call the IRS just to make sure.”

Me: “Ummm, okay, so how do I do that…just call up the IRS?”

EnergyStar Man: “Yes and they will be able to tell you specifically what is eligible.” 

I am sure this conversation would drive the hubby crazy because he hates that I ask too many questions. He really hates it when I ask questions that we seemingly already know the answer to, but I like to be super thorough when dealing with insurance, realtors, banks, loans, purchases of really expensive products and directions when lost in the middle of NYC. So I called the IRS. After an extended wait and about 7 holds I was put through to Mrs. Sneed (sidenote: perfect name for an IRS agent). She asked me about 30 questions, which included “Is the house in the United States?” and “Will you be using this system to heat a pool or hot tub?” (There was an awkward pause when I answered “I wish.”)

To sum up her 30 questions:

  • you must own the home where you are installing geothermal (and it must be in the US)
  • you CANNOT be receiving any other subsidies or credits from your local government or other entities
  • the system must be EnergyStar approved
  • you must be heating your house, not a pool or hot tub
If you meet all of these requirements and are installing it in 2012 you are eligible for the 30% tax credit and that covers the ENTIRE cost of the installation and materials. The other awesome thing about the credit is that you can split it up if needed. For example, if when I do our taxes in February we owe less than what the credit is, we can carry over the difference to 2013 tax return. I think that is how she explained it. I suggest calling the IRS to confirm if you are thinking of installing a geothermal system just to be sure :).

The Heat Beneath…or “How Geothermal Works”

Pennsylvania is a four season state, which is one of the reasons it is a great place to live. Even though the temperatures fluctuate above ground, the temperature about 8-10 feet below the surface stays around 50°F (http://extension.psu.edu/energy/geothermal-energy). While 50°F sounds cold in actuality it is 50 degrees of heat energy that geothermal systems move to heat or cool your house. One unifying theme that I try to burn into my science students’ heads is that “energy” likes to move from area of higher concentration to lower concentration, this same concept is what drives the really complicated and hard to explain condensers, loops and heat pumps. The simplified explanation is that the heat is moved from the ground into your house in the winter, and from your house to the ground in the winter. I was going to try to write a post that was all scientific and sexy to get folks really excited about geothermal but instead I think the easiest way to explain it is to check out these awesome graphics Mike Armstrong created for Morrison Inc. Tomorrow I will have information about what tax breaks and incentives are available for people who install this type of system. Anyone have any experience with geothermal? What do you think the pros and cons are?

How Geothermal Heats Your House, Image courtesy of Mike Armstrong of Morrison Inc.,http://www.morrisongeothermal.com/Morrison_Geothermal/How_they_Work.html