The Big Reveal; what fabric did I choose?

Hello all, the long-awaited reveal is here. I apologize for the wait; Monday I was supposed to reupholster, but I needed one set of hands to stretch and one set of hands to wield the staple gun. I tried to get the 4-year old to help, but it just did not seem worth the $200 co-pay at the emergency room. My other option was the dogs, damn evolution and their non-opposable digits. I told them they need to start earning their keep, all they do is lay around, eat, shed and bark.

“What do you mean I have to earn my keep? As soon as you get that new fabric on I am going to figure out a way to lay my short-haired, yet sheds constantly body all over those chairs.”

Since no one was available to help on Monday, I had to wait until yesterday for some available adult human hands. My prayers were answered by my very close and very crafty friend, Julie. I hesitate to type the word “crafty”, as that word does not begin to cover her multi-tasking skill set. Julie goes beyond crafty, this girl can install a toilet and change a tractor tire with one hand, while processing a bushel of tomatoes and sewing a peacock Halloween tutu with the other. She is ah-maze-ing. And she probably has arthritis after all the fabric pulling I made her do yesterday. However, the chairs turned out fantastic, and it was a blast.

I wanted to share pics with you last night when we were done, but I had a technical glitch trying to load them into our newly acquired Photoshop program. Luckily, I was able to fix the issue today, and once I figure out how to use Photoshop (on tonight’s agenda) I will post a step-by-step tutorial so you can reupholster your own dining room chairs. Trust me, you are going to want to find some $7 chairs at a flea market and make them your own after you see how mine turned out.

So without any further ado, here are the new, old chair seats:

Newly reupholstered chair seats

What do you think? I have decided not to paint these; I really like the bright, bold print with the dark wood. Instead, I plan to do some more Craig’s List/flea market hunting and find 4 MORE wooden chairs that are not as nice. I am going to paint those a green or red to coordinate with the newly reupholstered seats. We are planning to get a big, farm-style table, so we will need more than 4 chairs, and I really like the idea of some painted and some not.

As a reminder here is what they used to look like:

Chair-before new fabric

And here are what they look like now, we decided to highlight each design in the fabric.

Chair #1

Chair #2

Chair #3

Chair #4

So what do you think? I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE them. I am sure they would have looked as equally awesome with some of the other fabrics, but am so happy with the one I chose. Let me know your thoughts in the comments below, I love hearing from you!

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 ( 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.,

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.