Tuesday, November 29, 2005

The Finish Line (level 1)

After a few months of detours, lost paths, and pit stops we have finally reached our first real milestone. Something is finally done. Actually, an entire level of our house!

The basement has reached the final stage (sans decorating), and we even have the official approval inspection from the city building inspector! Wee!!! There was a slight problem when the electrical inspector noticed that there was no grounding wire jumping over the water meter, but realizing that we're doing the work ourselves, he gave us a stiff lecture and an approval. We have it fixed now though [picture]

Sara helped Jen again by putting on an extra coat of paint. Jay had to come back from thanksgiving early to finish off various trim details, but the extra work over the weekend has paid off. The place looks sharp, except where the floor level varied so much that there are gaping crevices under the trim. Not the levelest floor in America, but we'll take it! Just caulk it! (I'm kidding, mark :)

We've got our movers coming in today to bring back our furniture that has been forgotten since we left our condo in July.

View final pictures (pre-furniture)

The empire of carpet

Nothing motivates you like a deadline, right! After all, if you put things off until the last minute, they'll only take a minute to do! Oh, if those words were true, life would be much simpler.

In reality, we decided to bring in some professional help for some of our final tasks. Although Jay helped Chris (and his pal Mario) install carpet in his basement, we just did not have the time, so we dialed that time-tested chicagoland number... "Eight hundred, five eight-eight, two-three hundred; Empire! "

Yes those of you who grew up in Chicagoland are surely familiar with that little tune. It was so popular in fact that when my little brother Rob was three years old and my parents asked him if he knew our phone number, he responded by singing the Empire Carpet jingle. No wonder the poor kid never calls home! (jest)

Honestly, nothing makes you feel closer to looking at something as a living zone (as opposed to a construction zone) than finished flooring, and boy has it ever transformed our basement. The drum roll please...

[follow link to photo gallery]

Monday, November 21, 2005

Things we learned last weekend

As we wrap up work on the basement, Jen and I have learned a few things:

- Wet sanding drywall is just as messy, but in a different way than dry sanding. This has advantages by letting you actually be able to breathe (without dust) and sponge/squeeze the sanded drywall mud instead of shopvac-ing it.

- Vintage doors are quite amenable to reuse. They are crafted with complicated joints, and are much more solid than most modern doors, making them excellent sound barriers for noisy utility rooms. Semi-gloss paint breathes new life into them with ease for a brighter basement.

- Painting and priming stairways with hard to reach places is not fun. Quite possibly the biggest downfall to increased headroom. On the marginally positive side, back and arm muscles get a fabulous workout as they contort into previously unexplored positions while balancing on a ladder.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Powerzoning Humphrey House

Busy weekend as we went about getting a lot of punchlist items taken care of to help us feel better about living in rehab.

Scott came over Saturday and helped Jay seal off the final walls in the basement (actually, the stairway walls going down). And Kenny came up for an extended weekend to help with a number of things that will help make life easier for us as winter nears, not the least of which was figuring out some arcane wiring in our breakfast nook. No wonder the Previous Owners had never had that light hooked up to a switch! It took Ken and Jen nearly 2 hours to sort out the power flow and switching (hidden receptacles didn't help!)

Also on Saturday, Chris journeyed out from Aurora to come do some work on our HVAC system before it got too cold. He and Jay added a register to the breakfast nook, which means we finally have heat on that half of the house! He also installed a new drum humidifier for the furnace that spins around automatically. Looks very similar to a hamster wheel with a pool of water in the bottom!

But one of the most interesting things Chris did was cut a 12" hole in the back of the furnace and putting in a return in our basement. This proprietary technique his company pioneered is called Powerzoning [view website], and acts as a booster for the cold air return. It gives the system a lot more velocity and we have already noticed a difference! An added benefit is that in summer, we can run our HVAC on fan, and it will be pulling most of the air from our basement, which is naturally cooler. This will reduce the need for running the AC. Jay can't wait to see the lower utility bills!

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Hell House

So, I'm feeling a wee bit despondent over the restoration/rejuvenation/renovation of Humphrey House the past few days. "Jen, I feel overwhelmed, too," Jason tells me. But overwhelmed doesn't even begin to describe what I've been feeling. It's not that I'm overwhelmed anymore - that's how it began. Now I feel ... hopeless. The first thing I see every morning when I open my eyes? Cracked walls covered with decades-old strips of green glue that once held on tacky pressboard paneling that now I would even prefer to the shock of utter chaos I see every a.m. And I'm a chaotic person, truth be told, so chaos shouldn't/didn't bother me. But now, I feel like a tornado must after it destroys a small town - spent, wasted, and feeling melancholy for the good old days.

I've never been a fan of cleaning - anyone who knows me can attest to this fact - but I always came through in the end. Now, I don't see a point. The place is a disaster no matter what I do - we have nowhere to put the things we own, why bother inventing a new place all the time? Why not just leave it be? I know this is a bad attitude, but I currently don't know what to do to change it. Maybe I will just have another glass of wine ...

The whirlwind continues

The last month or two has been relatively slow in our progress. Of course, we had other distractions in Chicago, such as 70 degree whether in November, and a White Sox world series sweep, which was truly an amazing experience. Especially in this city! But now the pace has quickened, as we are trying to wrap up our work in the basement and shift our focus to the main floor of the house.

There have been a number of "housekeeping" things to do in the basement. Finish trim, clean out basement, finish installing electrical outlets, installing rough electric for stairwell light, move a crawlspace access door. Now that that is all wrapping up, we are having a final electrical inspection Friday.

And besides raking all those leaves (see post below), there is more exterior stuff we are working on before it gets too cold, such as finishing off the window framing outside, capping the exterior trim with aluminum flashing, cleaning gutters, installing HVAC duct for kitchen nook (this 1/3 of our house is currently not heated!), cleaning out and reorganizing the garage (those construction supplies in the basement got to go somewhere!) and more.

We're managing well, but we're motivated because we want to get our stuff moved out of storage by Nov. 18. Next week! Ahh! The power of a deadline should never be underestimated.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Autumn is the second spring ...

... where every leaf is a flower.

And we got a gorgeous yellow garden. :)

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Don't Fence Me In ...

...at least not till I get pix of the battalion posts ...

Our fence is scheduled to be finished tomorrow, and not a day too soon. It's weird having no sides to the lawn. Part of me is a fan of the openess that seems to make our 20 x 18 yard feel slightly larger, but the rest of me is like "Augh! Neighbors too close! Driving me crazy even without being present! I can't take it!