How we spent our 4th of July holiday

Hope everyone had a wonderful 4th of July! We yrppies had a pretty low-key day that involved some grilling, lemonade and fireworks in beautiful downtown Harrisburg, PA.  We scored perfect seats right across from the firing location thanks to some friends who got there early and we were home and in bed by 10:30 PM. There are definitely benefits to living right up the street from City Island and the state capitol.

Maggie micromanaging Daddy’s grilling

“Adult” strawberry lemonade

Quick pic of the Capitol as we were walking home from the fireworks.

We had purposely planned a day full of “laidbackness” because we knew we were going to be pretty tuckered from July 3rd. The hubby took off from work on the 3rd so we could tackle removing the sub-flooring, removing some metal pipes and old heating units and mow. We are used to a 15 minute mow-job at our Harrisburg house; the hubby usually completes it once a week and we move on with our lives. The mowing at the farmhouse is much more involved; it is a lot of grass.

I am used to a lot of grass. Growing up we had about two-acres of lawn that we push-mowed and then raked into nice, neat piles for my dad to collect and dump into the compost pile. While it was better than hanging wet laundry out on the line on a freezing winter’s day; it was not one of my favorite chores. I am still not a fan. I would rather have more trees and less grass. Once we move, we plan to do some tree-planting in different areas of the yard to provide some shade and wind-breaks. The hubby is also in the process of cultivating bee and butterfly habitat on the hill so we are not mowing that. Neither of us are fans of endless, monocultures.

The hubby’s bee & butterfly hill-“no-mow zone”

On Tuesday I got up, went to the gym at 5:30 AM, came home and woke the hubby up so we could get started before the house really heated up. The temperature in central PA has hovered around the mid-ninties the last week or so; this is not ideal manual labor weather for someone who is used to sitting in a temperature-controlled environment teaching on a computer all day. I wanted an early start. When it was all said and done we did not get up to the house until 10 AM. We immediately started to hack away at the floor. Once the hubby felt confident that I could not screw up removing sub-flooring;  he transitioned to removing the metal pipes and metal heating units that were left over from the gutting of the house.

Sub-flooring about to be removed

Sub-flooring and the most durable chair ever (LHU peeps you should recognize this as an old dorm chair)

83 degrees and rising…

The sub-flooring removal involved a lot of hammering, crowbarring and splinter-removal since the hubby thinks gloves are sacrilegious. At first we were only going to remove the parts that had water-damage and urine stains, but we were having so much fun we decided to do the whole thing. We had only one minor melt-down about half-way through due to the hubby thinking we were not getting enough done. Apparently he had a whole “secret to-do list” that involved about two-weeks worth of work to be completed in one 8-hour day. Renovations and heat bring out the best in everyone :).

Bend over and pull, break and pull some more

Removing the old copper pipes leading to the heating units

While I worked on the sub-flooring; the hubby cut out the old copper pipes leading the heating units around the base of the first floor. This was a wet and messy job. However it was cooler in the basement so that had to be a plus. He then came up to the first-floor and ripped up the heating units themselves. Once this was done he took over the sub-flooring job and I went outside to the Sahara and mowed.

Water damage to the floor and old metal heating units

Copper pipe cut in half ready for removal

Working on my farmer’s tan and feeling bad every time I run over a bee

Once I was done mowing the parts of the lawn that are not going to cause the lawnmower to tip over and cut my feet off (this is my fear the whole time I am mowing; I would really prefer a push-mower); I went back inside and removed the hundreds of nails that did not come up when we crow-barred the sub-flooring off the floor. I then swept and cleaned up from the mess we had made while the hubby finished trimming up the lawn and moving the metal heating units to the scrap pile. We got a little over half-way done, which means we have more sub-flooring fun to look forward to this Sunday. The finished product looked like this:

Living room without any sub-flooring; new ductwork to the left-more on that in a later post

Kitchen without and sub-flooring; the dogs approve and want to head back to the AC

It was a pretty productive day. We are trying to balance the DIY part with the “pay someone else to do it” part so that we make the most out of our monetary and time budget. If we can do it, our plan is to DIY it, but we both work full-time jobs and a part-time job every other weekend. The hubby keeps saying he can’t wait to have more time; I feel like our part-time job is worth it because we have more money. Which one do you think is more valuable when doing renovations?

Bump it! The creation of the kitchen addition

We are still in the process of battling Ikea’s virtual planner, so while you wait to see the grand unveiling of the 3-D kitchen plans I decided to share the progress we have made on the kitchen addition, fondly referred to as the “kitchen bump”. The kitchen is in the back of the house and faces the backyard; in the picture below you can see the “before”.

Before the removal of the built-in kitchen porch

The hubby and I were both in agreement that the kitchen needed to be enlarged from its original size. Our Harrisburg kitchen is small and does not have a lot of counter space. The appliances are all close together which makes for close quarters if you are trying to make dinner and load the dishwasher at the same time. The decision was made to remove the built-in porch (it was falling down anyway), and to “bump” out the kitchen to create a more permanent addition. The first step was to tear down the porch; the contractors were ridiculously fast at this and it was really exciting to see it come to fruition so quickly.

After the removal of the kitchen porch

Termite damage to the left of the sliding glass door

Finding termite damage was not so exciting, but the hubby did not seem too upset over the discovery. He gave some complicated explanation about the life cycle and leaving the wood to burrow in the yard during the summer, etcetera, etcetera. During his explanation, I realized I probably could have paid better attention in Dr. Yoho’s Entymology class back in undergrad because I still don’t understand why they would not return to munch on the new kitchen come the fall. The hubby assured me we could wait to treat the house after the renovations were complete and that the termites would not destroy the NEW kitchen. We shall see.

Checking out the inside was even more exciting than looking at the outside. As a reminder here is what it looked like before:

Partially gutted kitchen

And here is what it looked like before the porch was gone, but after the walls were out and some of the naked parts were exposed:

Kitchen window to the left; opening to stairs leading to the second floor

Kitchen window and the porch wall to the left of the window

Sliding glass doors with the view of the blue shed

Once the porch was off and the sliding glass doors were gone forever it looked totally different on the outside and the inside.

Prior to the bump being built the exposed kitchen was closed in

A few days later “the bump” was complete and it looked awesome. The kiddo and I drove up the evening it was completed to see it and surprise the hubby with a picnic dinner. The first thing I checked out when we got out of the car was the roof color. I was thrilled to see that it was exactly the color we were imagining. We had chose “avocado green” without actually seeing it in person, so there was some worry that it would not be what we wanted. It was perfect though, and eventually the roof will be replaced on the rest of the house to match.

Avocado green metal roof covering the kitchen bump

New roof, addition of the kitchen bump all closed in

More room and new concrete

Exposed stairs leading up to the second floor-this picture was taken while standing in “the bump”

Maggie approves of the kitchen addition

Once everything had been given my approval and two-thumbs up by Maggie, we ate. It ended up being a great evening to eat outside (not that we really had anywhere else to eat) and it was wonderful to eat some picnic food while gazing at the completed kitchen bump. We are looking forward to more picnic dinners between now and the completion of the kitchen. If you have any good suggestions for picnic foods, let me know. It could be a while before we have a working oven…

Picnic dinner celebrating the kitchen bump

Greens, berries, pecans and raspberry vinaigrette

Maggie excited about moving; Huck excited about fried chicken


Kitchen Dreams…Planning Nightmares

Tonight the hubby and I are sitting down to layout and plan the kitchen. We have picked out an Ikea kitchen per my request. I am super excited about the white cabinets with lots of room for organizing and wine bottles; he is super excited about swedish meatballs and teeny-tiny allen wrenches. The planning and layout you do all on-line; it is in 3D and can be user friendly once you know what you are doing. Once the plans are done you save it in your Ikea account, head to the store, and share it with one of their “Kitchen Experts”.  They look it over and either give you the thumbs up, which means they can then help you order all of the flat-packed materials you will need from their little kiosk, or they give you a thumbs down. Thumbs down means you then have head down to Smaland to see if you can extend your 4-year olds play time so that you and your significant other can have a quiet domestic dispute over the changes that need to be made in the presence of a “Kitchen Expert”. We are hoping to avoid being “that couple” in the kitchen section and perfect our plans tonight. I will let you know how we make out. We are becoming quite skilled in the art of compromise throughout this renovation process. Check out the pictures below to see our inspiration (these were taken on my phone in Ikea so the quality is pretty poor). What do you think a “dream kitchen” should have?

The “before” of the second floor

In the last post I shared the “before” pictures of the outside and the first floor. I am working with the hubby on creating a postable image of the floor-plan so it will be easier to visualize the lay-out of the house. Originally “we” had some pretty grandiose proposals (there may be a little bit more of “me” in that “we” than the hubby), but we have settled on staying pretty close to the original layout with two small additions and an attic renovation. The goal is to try to complete the projects in stages so we are not incurring a huge amount of debt (“huge” is a relative term-I have not figured out what it is relative to yet…). The first stage was supposed to be a complete renovation of the first floor before we moved to the second floor; however, that has already changed and currently both floors are completely gutted.

In the pictures below you can see that the second floor consisted of a little hallway at the top of stairs. There were four bedrooms, one very small bathroom and a closet area (this used to be the hubby’s mem’s sewing room). The plan at this moment is to renovate the bathroom first so we can move in sooner than later (I can deal relying on a microwave and grill for cooking but this yrppie is not popping a squat in the woods). Eventually we will be adding a master bath onto the master bedroom when we renovate and add an addition onto the shanty. Somehow, in this series we missed taken pictures of the second floor bathroom; I am sure I have them somewhere and will post when I find them. They are worth a look.

The Beginning…

Overwhelmed by what to write as a first post, I decided to start at the beginning (see title of post). We are currently at the electric/HVAC stage of our renovations, but it is important to understand where we began. The house we are renovating is over 100 years-old, sits on a hilly 2 acre lot and is really, really close to the road. It is actually the house the hubby’s dad grew up in, and it has always been a dream of the hubby’s to inherit this property. It has not always been mine.

To be completely honest if someone had asked me 5 years ago if we would ever consider moving “back” to his area my answer would have been in the form of a condescending laugh followed by a very confident “No.” (I think this may have even happened a few times.) A lot changes in 5 years though, and having a child gave me the chance to re-evaluate our goals and priorities. Moving to the middle of nowhere so our daughter could have space to play and grow now seems like a better fit. Slowly the hubby’s dream has become mine (with an updated kitchen and lots of room for entertaining and guests), and it is hard to believe that in a few months it will be a reality.

My initial bargaining chip was that we should demolish the existing structure, and build a new house closer to the middle of the lot. I wanted the house further away from the road (and a great room with a cathedral ceiling). This was quickly shot down by the hubby with the argument that building new is not as sustainable as renovating. After some research he easily won the debate (this does not happen often; it was good for his ego). In a future post I will outline the pros and cons of building new versus renovating, but for now I want share with you the before pictures of the first floor before any work had begun, with the exception of the kitchen demolition. In the following pictures the hubby had already tore out the upper kitchen cabinets, some of the wall and the drop-ceiling. One really cool thing we found, that could not be salvaged, was an old, ornate tin-ceiling. The house is an odd mixture of original structure and later additions; there is a “shanty” built onto the back of the house on the right-side, and a covered porch on the left-side. You will also notice that previous inhabitants were completely enamored with wooden paneling. We do not share this love. In my next post I will give you a tour of the before pictures of the second floor and attic.