Thursday, December 30, 2010

Coming to terms...

I have been trying to get our [one and only] bathroom clean for 5 days now...and everyday, for one reason or another, I never get around to it. So tonight, I told myself that I couldn't play on the internet until the girls were in bed and I got it clean. Well, it isn't clean...and here I am. (I SWEAR I'll do it right after this!)

So, if you remember from my previous post, contractor #2 promised us a ballpark bid today. I woke up with a skip in my step and a few butterflies in my stomach as I checked my email to see if it had arrived. Not yet. About 100 'email checks' later, it arrived. There it was...sitting in my inbox with the subject line "Home Bid." G to the U to the L to the P! I opened it...

SLAP IN THE FACE! Shocked, appalled, flabbergasted, almost EMBARRASSED to see how much we underestimated the costs. Now...let me back up a bit. As most of you know, Jeff and I are no strangers to home remodeling. On our last home, we completely gutted the house, added a 3 story addition and redid every single solitary surface, wall, floor, etc in the entire house. Not to mention we added 1000 square feet to the size of the house, added three bathrooms and two additional bedrooms. We general contracted that project on our own and swore after the blood, sweat and tears we put into that house, that we would never do it that way again.

That little tangent brings us to today...our first bid from a HIRED general contractor and wow is it EXPENSIVE to manage a project of this size (or at least contractor #2 sure thinks it is!) They broke the bid down into three separate bids as requested. Of course, Jeff and I had OUR own projections forecasted in our heads. At no point did we share our numbers with the contractors...wanting to hear their pitch first. Afterall, if we were high on our projections, we certainly didn't want them upcharging us to meet our numbers. Well, let me put it to you this way...the basement came in at MORE THAN DOUBLE what our projection was. The kitchen came in at EXACTLY double what we thought and the exterior came in at more than double what we thought.

Ahem, now...I'm no expert in home remodeling, but their total cost to do our kitchen, exterior and basement is MORE money than we spent completely gutting and adding a three story addition on to our last house. So exsqueeze me if I go ahead and cross contractor #2 right off my list.

I felt tired and defeated after reading through the bid. Not because I think we can't make this project happen within our budget (I KNOW we can...we've already done it once before)...however, I just wanted it to be easy this time. I wanted to have the plans drawn to perfection, have the bids come back right on target, the project to start without a hitch and be all wrapped up in a perfect little package come summer. But, what's the saying? Nothing easy is worth doing...something like that.

So after I kicked the dirt off my shoes and wiped the blood off my face (wow I'm getting dramatic here), I got back on the horn and called 'old trusty' (no, not our folding table in the dining room...but rather a contractor that we hired as a sub at our last house and who has done a lot of work in the Schaffer family). I told him the situation: we need you, we're desperate, people are trying to rob us...and wouldn't you know he responded just as I knew he would - 'I'll be right over' (not exactly, he's coming on Monday).

I could go on and on about the rest of the afternoon I spent calling more contractors to come over next week and throw us a ballpark number, calling Senor Swan to see if he could get his bid to us sooner, etc...but I won't. I'm just going to leave you with the fact that when it comes to home remodeling, you have to do your homework. In my battered brain tonight, I'm hoping the other estimates are going to come in at half the price - but in reality, I know that completing this project within our desired price range is going to mean rising to the occasion and doing what we have to do to make it work for us, which in this case, means getting out our tool belts.

This weeks' featured space will be the Master Bedroom. Will be needing your help on furniture and fabric selections.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Contractor Interview #2

Eyeyeye! We could not be more confused! We just wrapped up our second general contractor interview and feel like we just met the swan and the beast. Allow me to elaborate...

Our second contractor arrived tonight 4 minutes early (props to him). He was well prepared (had contacted the architect directly after my initial call for a copy of the plans to study ahead of time...kudos on the enthusiasm). He walked into our meeting with a good understanding of the plans. He, too, wanted to begin with a tour of the house and walk-through of the project. He asked more specific, project related questions than the contractor we met with last night...and even got into some specific details like doing a tankless water heater vs a "standard" one...pros, cons, etc. He asked about brands of fixtures we would be considering, finishes on cabinetry, style of hardware - all in an effort to give the most accurate bid possible. Now, this was his only walk-through of the project...he will not be bringing any subs back to walk through on their own.

After we did a very comprehensive walk-through, we sort of stood around our mock dining room table (our folding table known as 'old trusty' as she has served us during many a transition period). We never actually sat down and conversed like we did last night where he told us the fairytale of the 'Contractor And Our House.' No, as he was getting ready to leave, Jeff and I started firing questions off at a rapid pace. Can you tell us a bit about your operation? How many projects do you take on at a time? Do you always work with the same subs? How long will it take? How many? How much? When? Who? Where? Ahhhhhhhhhhhh...

So, a completely different style. Our impression is that this group is a 'git er done' type operation - but not at the cost of quality of work. But less, "Let's talk about our feelings" and more "Let's DO THIS." He says their work speaks for itself and if we want to see it, there are 5 homes in walking distance that we can go check out. A few specifics that we liked about him:

- He did a project for our architect's mother-in-law.
- He's from Bloomington and knows Bloomington Drug.
- They always use the same subs, know their work, stand behind it
- Take on a small number of projects at a time, didn't necessarily say TWO like last night...but said it depends on the size and scale of the project - never more than 4 of them.
- He owns the company along with 2 other business partners. One of them will be here at all times.

So when I list the pros out like that - it really is like comparing apples to apples. But where he lacked was in the charisma department. Whereas last night I was left floating on a could as the contractor paddled his way out of our house with the grace of a swan...I felt more like a beast had trampled through my house who couldn't wait to get his sledge hammer out and start demoing my historically original home.

Where does this leave us? At the numbers. Where yesterday's contractor will take about 3 weeks to get back to us, this bid we will have on...wait for it...THURSDAY????? Last night's contractor also told us that the project would take 4 months - where speedy McSpeederson tonight told us he would have it done in 10-12 weeks.

Without seeing the numbers, Jeff and I both agreed that, while we liked both contractors, if the bids came in the EXACT same, we would both choose Senor Swan (however this is without having spoken to their references or seen either of their work). will be a good 3 weeks before we will know that. In the meantime, we will sit tight until Thursday when the first of the projections comes in (gulp).

Monday, December 27, 2010

Contractor Interview #1

Just when I was about to start slandering all over this non-gossip site as 5:30 came and went without so much as a call from the late general contractor, he arrived - and knocked our socks off.

He was late...STRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRIKE. I can't stand when people are late (yes, I am notoriously late)...but this was to impress us, woo us, make us see stars with a presentation that was above and beyond anything we had ever seen before. And...he was late. ARGH! I called at 5:45 saying, 'WHERE THE HECK ARE YOU?', I didn't, but it was an honest mistake to which he took full responsibility and apologized profusely. Ok...we are back on track...but this better be good!

We started off the meeting with a tour of the house. He got his bearings with what was where and we filled him in on little details (a seeping foundation, move plumbing here or there, etc, etc). Then we sat down and the conversation began. He told us a bit about his company (he owns it along with a business partner), told us the types of renovations they do, the scale of work they take on, the age of homes they do, the quality of their craftsmanship, etc. He touched on a few key points that left a strong impression on us - here's what they were:

- They have found through experience that it's most beneficial for both he and his business partner to be on-site - everyday - with a tool belt on doing the work. It's most beneficial for them financially and also in terms of actually managing the project. This hit home for both Jeff and I as this is a similar mentality that Jeff's dad has when it comes to the drug store..."If you own a business, you need to be at it all the time" - Paul Schaffer.
- They want to work with people who care about the project and care about quality craftsmanship...not just getting the job done.
- They take on no more than two projects at a time in order to be able to properly manage them and get the results that they want.
- They work with the same sub-contractors on all of their projects. They know them, know their work and will stand behind it.
- They only work on projects that have an architect involved.
- He's married, with two kids and lives 10 blocks from us (and commented on how cute Gloria is...but then said he didn't think she was fussy...STRRRRRRRRRRRRRIKE...he he;-)!

So from here, he will be bringing in all of his sub-contractors next week to individually bid out the project. From there, it will be another 10 days before we get our estimate back. He said he virtually needs to build the project in his head in order to know how many hours each person puts in in order to properly project a number. The soonest they would be able to start (due to their current work load) is 6 weeks. But if you consider that it's essentially 3 weeks to get a number back...waiting only 3 weeks after that wouldn't be much, especially considering we need to get the whole main floor packed BACK UP. Finally, he projected our project would take 4 months and that if we could tolerate it, there would really only be one week that we couldn't actually be living in the house (during the demo phase when the led based paint would be floating around).

We closed the door behind him, exchanged a giddy gaze and melted as we bid farewell to the man of our dreams. But seriously, Jeff and I both really liked him. He was a laid back (but not too laid back), particular, detail oriented, visionary who clearly had a passion for what he did. He also had a passion for Minneapolis, older homes, the neighborhood itself and pride in his previous work that left us wanting more. He promised a bid, a set of references and the promise of a new kitchen on the horizon;-)

Tomorrow night is our next meeting with the second contractor. We decided to start by interviewing two - if we didn't feel as though we clicked with any, we would dig deeper into the list our architect sent us. I think after tonight we know that won't be necessary. More to come...time to google the heck out of his name!

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Contractor Q&A.

Christmas has come and gone in a flurry of excitement, anticipation, chaos, anxiety and joy! We had a wonderful Christmas with both Jeff's family and mine and had a great time making Christmas special for our girls. A few traditions we do in our own little family include Christmas Eve Eve ice skating at Centennial Lakes, our advent calendar that we buy little gifts for each day for the girls (Rosemary tells people that the gifts are from Jesus;-), reading 'Twas The Night Before Christmas' on Christmas Eve and Jeff and I watching Christmas Vacation while wrapping gifts (and watching it about a million other times throughout the season!)

The girls all ready for ice skating

We just plopped Gloria's carseat in a sled and dragged her around

It's the day after Christmas and our tree is down (I couldn't take the needles any longer), the decorations are packed away (how Scrooge of me) and it actually feels good to have celebrated...and now to be looking ahead to the new year. I feel like we do holidays HARD in our family...packing each day with festivities and when they are finally over, it's nice to switch our time and energy on to the next thing.

That next thing, in our case, is our remodel. This week starts off with two separate general contractor meetings. Both of the contractors we are meeting with were recommended to us by our architect. We felt that it was so incredibly important for them to be builders who had worked with her in the past as she will be the one primarily managing the project through construction - alongside the GC. Past contractors we have worked with have had 'attitudes' about architects - may not respect them, like taking the easier route vs thinking through the details thoughtfully, etc. The architect really acts as an advocate for the homeowner, so having a builder that respects the architect and their vision/craft is 100% essential. As far as we are concerned, we'd be fine with our architect choosing whichever builder she wants. But, she has a point when saying that WE are the ones that will practically be living with this person for several months - we need to make sure we click with them (she gave us a list of about 5 different GC's...we are starting by interviewing her top 2).

So, thus starts the interviewing process. I'll hold off on sharing the names of the people we are choosing from as this blog is not meant to be a gossip or slandering site...he he. I will, however, share with you a few of the questions we have floating around in our heads that we are eager to ask them.

Contractor Questions
- What are your work hours (aka: what time are you going to be coming to my house and leaving my house as I need to figure out where the heck my kids are going to nap)
- May we see a previous kitchen/exterior that you have done and speak with the homeowners?
- What age of homes do you typically work on? Have you done many homes in Minneapolis?
- How long have you been licensed in Minneapolis?
- How close do you typically come in on your budgets?
- How much time will you yourself actually be working on the project?
- How often do you check in on sub-contractors if you are not doing the actual work?
- At what capacity do you work with the architect? Weekly meetings? Phone calls, etc?
- How does your payment plan work? How much to get started? How often are draws made from the homeowner? How much to finish?
- What is your relationship with your sub-contractors? Do you always use them same ones or have several bids?
- What size of projects do you typically do (new house construction? Kitchen/bath remodels, etc)?
- How long is this project going to take and how do you see the project progressing?

Of course, the big question is what is the project going to cost? From what we've heard, it's not unusual to wait 3-5 weeks to get numbers back. It's also not unusual for the GC to request a chunk of time on a particular day to bring their subs through to bid out their portion of the project. We have also learned that just because one contractor comes in with a lower number doesn't guarantee you that the project will end at that number. Some contractors will intentionally bid the project low in order to get the job...but ultimately charge you for miscellaneous things throughout the course of the project. This is another reason that using a builder that our architect is familiar with is essential. She knows from experience who typically comes close to their number and who doesn't.

All in all, we are really looking forward to meeting them and hearing about their vision for the project. I, personally, am most anxious to know WHEN, WHEN, WHEN we can get things underway. Who knows? They could say we have to wait until the summer? But, we are excited to be at this step and finally be starting to talk about dates. We'll be back soon with feedback on the contractors and ultimately who we decide to work with!

Merry Christmas & Happy New Year!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Year In Review - Merry Christmas!

Welcome to our blog! You may be a regular visitor, or perhaps you were brought here by our Christmas card...either way, it's time to take a moment to recap the year and give thanks for our many blessings.

2010 was full of magic for our family as we welcomed our second daughter into the world in May.

Gloria Frances was born on May 26th and has been keeping us on our toes ever since. While her entrance was grand as we discovered her personality to be a bit...uhm...abrassive...she has since managed to grow on us with her dazzling blue eyes and hint-of-red curls. At almost 7 months, she is a giggling, smiley, sweet, rolling, babbling, almost sitting fool. She LOVES to eat and is almost 3 pounds more than her big sister was at this age.

Speaking of big sisters, Rosemary has taken to her role with grace and ease.

She loves to share with her sister and help mom and dad take care of her. Gloria is the first thing Rosemary asks about in the morning and the last thing she's talking about before she goes to sleep. Talking to Rosemary is like talking to a 16 year old. I can hardly believe the conversations we have throughout the day and the memory she has for things we've done or seen. Even at two, she is an absolute delight. She loves watching cartoons, playing in the snow with dad (mom gets the hot chocolate ready to avoid having to go in the cold), playing with her friends and cousins, going to swimming lessons and changing her outfit about 5 times a day.

Other happenings this year included the sale of our previous home that we had remodeled. After completing that project, putting our house up for sale, two fallen through offers, countless showings...finally, a closing in July. The sale led us to a 4 month stay at Paul & Doris' house while we searched high and low for a new home, eventually found and closed on this one and after a brief remodel of the upper level, we finally moved in in November. Eyeye! You can look back on past posts for pictures and details of what we've been working on inside the house.

Since moving in, we've been enjoying settling in and planning out the main floor and exterior remodel we will begin on this property in the early part of 2011. Never a dull moment!

Jeff has been busy at the drug store working with his dad. Of course, in his free time, it's all about where and when he can go on his next motorcycle trip. He's been working hard on home improvement projects, spending time wrestling the girls (and that includes Gloria) and spending time with friends in the little free time he has.

As I'm sitting here writing this, I feel most thankful to be in our new home. It is so great to be in a place we hope to call home for many years to come. I have had a wonderful year being home with my girls and paying witness to their ever-evolving personalities (even though I was initially not all that fond of Gloria's personality in general;-). We have fun meeting Jeff for lunch while he's at work, meeting friends for playdates, having lunch with Grandmas and Grandpas and playing with cousins. I have also been enjoying decorating our new house, baking for the holidays and spending time with our wonderful family and friends.

Our biggest adventure of this year (aside from bringing a human being into the world of course) was our motorcycle trip out to Sturgis Rally in August. For me, I think they call this "baptism by fire" as 1500 miles in 4 days was quite the undertaking. But I must say, it was actually (dare I say) fun and we look forward to visiting the fine town of Sturgis again.

Here we are baking in the sun as we drove through the Badlands.

Of all the awe inspiring moments this year has brought us - nothing compares to having such amazing people in our lives to share them with. Merry Christmas to you and yours and blessings of peace, love and joy in 2011!

**Photos by Stephanie Bloom Photography (**

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Runner for your life!

Runner installation day has come and gone and our lives will never be the same. No longer will our 2 year old slip down the stairs (falling on her own is a different story), no longer will I clench the railing for dear life while carrying Gloria to and fro, no longer will I leave my bedroom without the guided path of the uber luxurious feeling of wool beneath my feet...the runner is in and it's posh.

Jeff and I have BOTH dreamed of having a wood staircase with a runner on it as long as we have been in the business of owning a home. However, we've never really felt as though we were going to stay somewhere long enough to make the investment (since you can't take it with you and all). Now that we have a runner in, I don't think we could ever leave.

Runners aren't exactly cheap - and in this area of the home, a high traffic, narrow space that takes a beating day after day - you really can't afford to go 'cheap' in your material selection if you want it to last for any substantial amount of time. It was recommended to us that we not install a polypropylene or nylon runner as the amount of use it gets would cause it to wear almost immediately. And if you remember that in our case, the runner is really a necessity on our stairway due to the soft Fir wood that ALSO wears quickly meant we had no choice in compromising on quality of material. So we opted for a wool runner by Couristan.

We didn't purchase a traditional roll runner with the decorative pattern in the middle and borders along the edge. Instead, we chose to purchase a 'broad loom' carpet (typically used to create custom rugs for peoples' homes) and had it made into a runner. The pattern (a damask pattern) is VERY traditional, however, without the traditional borders on the edges and the unique color combination, it allows us a little flexibility in our style. If we ever were to have a change of heart and decided to take a turn for a more modern look, this runner could still work. In the meantime, the colors work so well with what we already have going on and it works with the traditional style of the home (or at least I think it does:-)

What Jeff compromised with the floral wallpaper was made up for in the runner. He LOVES it (and there aren't many things that he loves so passionately outside of his girls and his motorcycle). We both seem to be making a couple extra trips up and down the stairs just for fun these days. We are looking forward to enjoying this runner for decades to come.

Now that the runner is in, I took a shot of it with the wallpaper we are considering for the foyer. What do you think of the combination?

Here's a close up of the colors & pattern in the runner:

There will be very little of the wallpaper since the actual wall space in the foyer is so limited. I told Jeff that the house feels a bit like it's closing in on us the more we fill up the walls and other surfaces with wallpaper, flooring, etc. Once the window treatments go in, it will really feel that way. We became so accustomed to living in an empty house. I think the reason we finally feel like we are home is because we are actually spending the time making it our own. It's no secret that I've had help and guidance from the fabulous Jenn Taft (of Jenn Taft Interior Design) on making most of the selections in the house. She has been outstanding in making the process simple and convenient so I haven't had to be dragging the kids around in the snow and cold combing through stores. However, it also means that everything isn't 100% "me." I feel like she has taken my taste and made it more grown-up and sophisticated. For example, I picked out the bathroom wallpaper on my own and just ran it past her for approval. That bathroom is 100% me...but I think we can all agree that too many birds and butterflies is never a good thing. Jenn has incorporated things she knows I love (ahem...the color PURPLE), but has kept the decor "decade friendly" enough that we won't be sick of everything a year from now.

We have two meetings scheduled next week with two different contractors that we will be interviewing and gathering bids from. Both have been very easy to communicate with on the phone and eager to check out our project. Liking their enthusiasm! However, it isn't all house business these days. We have been lucky enough to spend some good quality time with friends and family enjoying the holidays and indulging in Christmas delights. Tomorrow will be our family Christmas shopping outing for the girls to pick out gifts for eachother and fun! Our next post this week will be our 'Christmas Year In Review.' Looking forward to reflecting on the blessings that made this year so memorable.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Wallpaper Day!

Christmas come early for this mama...the wallpaper is up! EEK!

SO much to say about it. First of all, wallpaper just isn't what it used to be. Our generation has angry and hostile feelings towards wallpaper because most of us have spent the better part of the past decade buying homes and thus stripping previous generations' wallpaper. In this house, we wised up and paid the $25/hour to have the painters take it down as renting the scaffolding for us to reach the peeks of our stairway would have cost more than just having them remove it for us. (I'll have you know it took 6 guys, 15 hours to remove the wallpaper...can you imagine how long it would have taken Jeff and I?)

Of course having a wallpaper installer in our house means cornering him into an awkward conversation for me to probe his brain for tips and tricks of the trade. First off, he shared with me that the wallpaper that is produced these days is completely different than what most of us are used to taking down. It is more of a fabric/woven type paper/material that is much easier to work with than previous wallcoverings. He assured me that even in a bathroom where humidity will build up on the paper over the decades, I will be able to strip this wallpaper in one hour of time with no damage to my walls. You're on buddy! See you in 20 years to take you up on that little wager;-)

Being the weird stalkerish type homeowner that I am, I managed to get a grasp on the steps David The Wallpaper Man used (solely for the purpose of sharing them with you on my blog). Here is how his process went:
Step 1) Remove everything off the walls including light fixtures, towel bars, etc.
Step 2) Cover all surfaces (floor, counters)
Step 3) Prime the walls using Zinnser "Sheildz" Primer. This is specifically for wallpapering. The primer comes either in clear or white. The clear primer has a more adhesive property to it whereas the white is solely for protecting the walls and providing a proper surface for the wallpaper to adhere to. David feels the white primer is the better choice. Here are the primed walls all ready for paper:

Step 4) Allow the primer to properly dry
Step 5) Cut all of your paper to proper sizes according to how you mapped out the room.
Step 6) Apply the adhesive to the back side of the paper. The adhesive he recommends is called Roman Pro 880 - Ultra Clear. He rolled in on using a paint roller and then loosely folded each piece into itself (obviously only touching the sticky sides together). As a novice, he suggested only applying the adhesive a piece or two at a time (a pro like himself applys it to all pieces at the same time). You have about 45 minutes - 1 hour to get the paper hung once the adhesive is applied. Otherwise, the paper will begin to dry out and stick to itself.

Step 7) Start hanging that paper!
Unfortunately, that's where my tips and tricks end because I was too terrified to watch him put it up in fear that I might panic and pull the plug on the whole operation. For our small bathroom, the entire project from start to finish took about 3 1/2 hours.

The results? A WOW factor that you just can't achieve with paint.

The paper gives the room such a unique feel, a homey feel and a really personalized look. It took this basic 4x4" white field tiled bathroom and turned it into something really special for a fraction of the cost of a large scale remodel. I also really think the scale of the pattern works well in this size bathroom. If the pattern was any smaller (which would be easy to think 'small room - small pattern'), it would really compete with the intricacy of the floor and make the room all together too busy.

And now for the big elephant in the room - the fact that this is Jeff's bathroom too. What am I supposed to tell you? That Jeff loves flowers and butterflies? That pink and purple are Jeff's favorite colors? I'm guessing you wouldn't buy those answers considering you know the one and only thing there is to know about my husband - that he is a motorcycle riding crazy person. When I posed this very question to Jeff about how he lives with floral/bird/butterfly wallpaper his response was this, "I don't give a s&%$ what it looks like so whoever actually cares should be the one that picks it out." I love my husband.

Now that the paper is up, those light fixtures are just killing me. I'm not crazy about the chrome finish of the fixtures against the paper. What do you think about going oil-rubbed bronze with the lights? I feel like it would pull in the dark out of the floor and also the hardware on the door (knob and hinges, also in ORB). Need your thoughts!

One final note - while I feel as though the installer did an excellent job at his actual craft, I did not feel his communication and punctuality were in the "above and beyond" category. Therefore, I will not be able to add him to my Twin Cities Notables list.

Friday is our next big day - runner installation day. Yikes...another one that will have a big impact with such a small amount of material. Here's to hoping our luck continues!

And, today I shall leave you with a few photos of my baked goods. I challenged myself to 12 straight days of baking (for the 12 days of Christmas of course). Well, I threw in the towel on day 9...but scored some pretty great treats out of the deal to give away to friends and family. Jeff caught me in action last night working on the dough for the Peanut Butter Blossoms (one of my favorites!) The baking was a lot of work, but it was all worth it to start another fun Christmas time tradition with Rosemary. She loves helping me "Make" (her version of the word 'bake';-)

No, I didn't coordinate my outfit with my kitchen... :-)

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Time to CLICK!

Everything is coming together over here in terms of unpacking and completing the upper level. Things need a bit of shifting, a bit of moving, a bit of cleaning - and CLICK! It will all fall nicely into place. We have managed to get quite a bit done the past few days despite Jeff having to work through the weekend. Unfortunately, it has meant long days of work for both of us with working/taking care of the kids all day and then working on the house late into the night...and getting up and doing it all over again the next day. However, it's the home stretch and the last few details will be the most rewarding!

SHOUT OUT to my dad for coming over and offering a huge hand this weekend.

Together, Jeff and him changed out all of the switches and outlets with nice new ones, replaced all the switch and outlet covers, finalized the doorknobs with the correct latch plates and hung pictures on the walls.

If I can just say, if you live in an older home and have "ugly" looking outlets and switches (maybe previously painted over or just plain dirty from age/use), switching the outlets and switches out with new ones is SO inexpensive and makes such a big difference. For our whole upstairs, it probably cost about $25 and took about 2-3 minutes per receptacle to do. Wow does it make such a nice difference!

The bookshelves for the office arrived yesterday and they are a PERFECT fit! SHOUT OUT to my faithful followers for suggesting the darker wood finish. I don't even think they need to be painted...they really pull in the color of the floor and the darker colors out of the rug. Plus, they give a little more of a masculine feel so the office isn't just all white and florals (although wait till I get my hands on the backs of the bookshelves and cover them in the leftover floral wallpaper from the bathroom...Mwah ah ah ah ahhhhhhhhh;-) After I finish this post, I'll head up to start cleaning all the packaging materials off of them and load them up with stuff. Pics to follow.

Finishing out this week will be the wallpaper installation tomorrow, the runner installation on Friday and a "Green Scan" by Centerpoint Energy to see where all the heat is escaping out of our attic so we can properly reinsulate it (we knew there were issues with the insulation from the inspection prior to our closing. Now to alleviate those issues before the snow starts melting (if it ever does) and avoiding water coming in the freshly finished upstairs!

Final bit of good news is that our new camera should arrive tomorrow! Found a heck of a deal on Amazon (can you believe that's my FIRST Amazon purchase?) But for $10 less than anywhere else AND free shipping - who can say no? Stay tuned this week for after photos of the wallpaper and runner. We're on the home stretch!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

What do you do when you're snowed in? Epoxy the floor of course!

Hurrah for a holiday blizzard! 18" of snow fell over the course of about 30 hours here in the fine state of Minnesota - and the falling snow, combined with the winds and temperatures equaled an official BLIZZARD! It was the 5th biggest snow storm to hit the state of Minnesota in HISTORY! The last time we had a snow this bad (or great...depending on how you look at it) was the Halloween Blizzard of 1991. WOWSA! I was fortunate enough to not have to be anywhere in it just added to the holiday spirit over here. Jeff may disagree as he had to work all weekend and ended up digging quite a few cars out of the parking lot. The fortunate part was that, along with most other businesses, Bloomington Drug closed down early and I got to have my Jeffy home with me:-)

Being snowed in means knocking a few things off the old to-do list if you can keep yourself away from that snuggly warm bed and cozy fire. Jeff and I compromised with our bed and said that if we got the storage room floor done, we could retire for the evening with a fresh batch of Chex Mix and a little glass of vino. So after we wrapped up a mean game of Memory with Rosemary by the Christmas tree, we headed down to the basement to start the process. There is a crucial step of mixing the paint with the actual epoxy that requires a predetermined amount of time to allow the product to properly cure. So we mixed the paint early so it would be ready for us precisely after Rosemary's bedtime.

We began the process of epoxying (glorified painting - but the product involves a hardening agent that keeps the finish on the floor virtually damage-proof no matter what you set, park or do to it). I was the cutter-inner and Jeff was the roller (our typical painting roles).

It's a VERY simple process: cutting in all of the edges first followed by rolling the epoxy in 4 foot x 4 foot sections.

The kit also comes with a bag of "sprinkles" that you often see on an epoxy'd floor. If I can just say, I was the "sprinkler" at our last house when we did this and it's harder than it looks. I kept getting big blobs of sprinkles vs an even dusting (here's an example of a little blob we accidentally got this time).

And below is a nice evenly dusted area:

So Jeff was sprinkler this time and did a much better job. We like to require that the sprinkler yells, "Wooo, Wooo" while spreading the sprinkles. Makes the job much more fun...ha!

My paint brush first touched the concrete at 8:30pm and we were cleaned up and done by 9:40...not bad! An hour of work with a great looking finished product. Here's a picture of us celebrating our accomplishment with a brew.

Now, I should clarify that this is a two day process. Earlier in the week, Jeff did the elbow-greasin' work of cleaning and preparing the concrete. It doesn't take a terribly long time, but the only way to get the epoxy to properly bond with the concrete is to have a perfectly clean surface.

My favorite part about this epoxy is that MOST concrete (especially in older homes) has some sort of stains on it from this or that. In our case, there was rust on the concrete from an old furnace that has since been replaced. Here are the before and afters of that area:

Now that we have the floor looking all spiffy, we'll eventually get around to deciding what we are going to do in here next. When we are gathering bids for the remodel, we are actually having them bid out finishing the basement as well. By finishing it, it would mean the addition of a large bathroom (with ample storage and sink/shower/counter space for GIRLS), putting in an egress window (it is code in Mpls that you add an egress in your basement if you do ANYTHING down it's not an option), framing out a separate utility room for the water heater and furnace, building out a laundry room and completing the living space with drywall, new carpet and a bit of cabinetry to house toys, tv, etc. Included in that scope of work would be drywalling this storage room at which time we would install some nice shelves to stack all our holiday decorations, camping stuff, etc on.

Our prediction is that for now, we will focus our efforts on doing the main floor project and the exterior as adding the basement bathroom will be QUITE an expense in itself as it requires moving the electrical panel and moving quite a bit of plumbing. However, after being in this house for a month now, we figure we could make it about 2 years without having that additional space/bathroom. Having only one toilet once we have two potty trained girls (which seems only possible through some sort of miracle) is going to be a challenge. Plus, once the kids are in school and we are all trying to get out the door in the morning, we are going to need another place to get ready outside of ONE tiny sink. So...until we see the numbers, that is our plan. We would do the main floor and exterior remodel immediately...and wait 2 years to finish the basement. Those two years would give us the time we need to be sure this is where we are going to stay for a while. If in two years we feel like this home is a 5 year house for us, then we'd scrap the basement all together and move on. However, our feeling really is that we will be in this house for a lot longer than that. So, here's to hoping we someday see these plans come to fruition!

And finally, a few pictures from the weekend:

Future Pharmacist? Here's a shot of Rosemary whipping up a little "medicine" (lotion) at dad's work.

I thought it seemed a little quiet in the playroom. I found the girls playing like this:-)

Another batch of homemade Chex Mix baking in the oven