Humphrey House – Transforming an Arts and Crafts Bungalow into a Green Home for the Future

Kitchen Demolition Party, part 1

Jay, Julie and Scott – The Wrecking Crew
Last weekend we sent out the call for a demolition party and started to tear into our kitchen renovation by beginning to combine the space with the small bedroom that was next to it. Because we first went to Jim Gill’s house for the Illinois Solar Tour, and we then had to set up a temporary kitchen/pantry in another room of the house, we actually didn’t start tearing into the lathe and plaster until late afternoon.

Our Wrecking Crew was rounded out when Scott and Julie showed up armed with humidity controlling masks and OSHA-approved Chicago Bears hard hats. And much to the WSJ’s chagrin, we followed our usual procedures of holding off on alcohol until after the work was done. Unfortunately, later in the night neither of these prevented Jen from accidentally getting knocked in the head with the handle of a sledgehammer – she didn’t have her hard hat on! Luckily she was ok, but next time she’ll definitely be wearing the hats!

Julie and Jen tear into the wall
Julie and Jen tear into the dividing wall.

We ended up doing a lot of work – tearing down all the walls in the “other kitchen” room. And there were a few interesting surprises, too. On the exterior walls, we discovered that Mark and I did a good job blowing cellulose insulation down our walls because there were no gaps or spaces in the loose stuff. Best of all, we weren’t itchy! But Scott won the prize for best discovery this time, as he uncovered an old leather shoe in the wall, which looked to be a vintage woman’s dress shoe!


Next up is to finish moving out the old kitchen itself, so we can tear down the other half of the wall.
Posted by jay at 12:33 PM 1 comments

Labels: cellulose insulation, demolition, julie, kitchen, scott

Cabinetry Decisions

We’re beginning to seriously (re)plan a complete remodel of our kitchen, after tossing out many ideas over the past three years. While we have a designer helping us with the layout and specifications, there are some considerations we’d like to make that are more consistent with green building standards:
Patching and refinishing the existing hardwood floors under nasty old vinyl.
Instead of the standard granite countertops, using a polished concrete and recycled glass product called Ice Stone. That way when I break a beer bottle on it, it will blend right in.
More daylighting! We liked our suntunnels so much, we’ll add one to our kitchen nook. More sunlight = less need for electricity. And a more pleasing open spaciousness.
On that note, upgrading the windows to highly energy-efficient ones.
Cabinets. This is where it gets more difficult.
On a routine trip to Menards shortly after moving into our house, Jen saw some cabinets that would match the arts and craft style of our home. The manufacturer, Medallion Cabinetry, got the product name right by naming this style of cabinets, the “Oak Park.” They even have window panes mirroring the windows in the front of our house. Great!

Except now, in our quest for green building, we reach a dilemma. These cabinets are made of quarter-sawn oak, which, while beautiful, is extremely wasteful and not sustainable since oak is a very slow growing tree. So it takes longer to replenish this material than other woods such as Maple, Alder or Lyptus.

There are other options that would match the style of our home, such as Mission-style maple cabinets that would work – but not as well as the “Oak Park” line. The higher cost of these oak cabinets may ultimately prevent us from purchasing them anyway, but its very difficult to balance being environmentally-conscious renovators while matching the character of the home.
Posted by jay at 11:32 AM 2 comments

Labels: cabinetry, green building, kitchen, plans, suntunnel

W’re rock stars … WSJ Article Came Out Today!

Something we at Humphrey House have been keeping as a secret can now be told. We were one of several people interviewed by the Wall Street Journal for a story about people that host Renovation Parties, titled “The Three Martini Renovation” which mentions us and even our frequent reveler Scott.

We couldn’t be where we are today with all the help our friends and family have given us. Whether it was from our New Years Party after first moving into our home, the many demolition derbies we’ve had, helping with out with all sorts of miscellaneous jobs, or just coming out to scare people, we owe them our sincere thanks and gratitude. Thanks everyone!
Posted by jay at 12:12 PM 4 comments

Labels: demolition, new year’s party, scott, wall street journal

Photos of Vintage Doors in Place on our new Second Floor

Posted by Jen at 10:58 AM 3 comments

Labels: recycling, restoration, second floor, vintage doors

Open Houses for Solar Homes on October 6

Solar Panels on a Chicago BungalowFor those interested, Saturday Oct. 6 is the National Solar Tour, a day where homeowners and businesses with installed renewable energy systems open their doors to the public – not just solar, but wind too. Through a series of open-houses and informative tours participants learn about renewable energy options, energy efficient design, real-world costs, current rebates available, and other valuable insights.

Here in Illinois, the event is being organized and coordinated by the Illinois Solar Energy Association (ISEA), who have worked with homeowners across the state to showcase their solar and wind powered homes. View the list of solar sites on the IL Solar Tour. The coverage in Chicagoland is great, but even better, there is a thorough list of homes throughout the state. Odds are good that there is one close to you!

Simply show up at one of the tour locations during the hours of 10am and 4pm, and be sure to bring your curiosity and questions! We’ll probably be visiting some of the many locations in Oak Park, River Forest, and Berwyn.
Posted by jay at 11:24 AM 0 comments

Labels: illinois solar, renewable energy, solar energy, wind energy

Installing a Loopy Rain Barrel

The city of Chicago offered a rain barrel initiative this year so people could purchase these at a discount. The city benefits because, during a period of heavy rains like we had in August, less water goes into the storm sewers, reducing the chance of basements flooding. Personally, I just like the idea of using natural water for our garden plants rather than treated chlorinated water.

Jen is cool with almost any idea that helps keep her plants green. Normally, a rain barrel is installed directly beneath a downspout. The problem is, none of our downspouts are near our backyard plants. When I mentioned this idea to my friend Mark, he said he had just watched a TOH episode where they not only installed a rain barrel, but did so with a neat backflow diverter kit. Once the barrel is full of water, this sends the excess water back down to the gutter. That sounded perfect for our situation, so I picked one up when Jen and I checked out a green building supply house in Chicago.

So last weekend, with the supplies in hand, Mark and I set to modifying our gutter system to install this two-part system. Our setup was a bit more challenging as the gutters were much larger than what the diverter was designed for, but we finally decided to create a loop branch off one of the main downspouts.

As shown here, most water continues uninterrupted through the downspout, but some water is caught by a flap and brought IN to the rain barrel loop. Once the barrel is full, the water level will feedback and rise to the diverter, and excess water will flow through the OUT branch of the loop.

Since this downspout was about 12 feet from the rain barrel’s desired location in our backyard, we couldn’t install the supplied hose that came with the kit, and had to adapt a longer garden hose shown in the photos above. I think I may need a can of spray paint to make the white diverter brown, but other than that, the system is complete.

After a quick hose test, the barrel started to collect some water, so all we need is a nice downpour to see how quickly the barrel fills up!
Posted by jay at 11:03 PM 3 comments

Labels: diverter, downspout, garden, green building, mark, rain barrel

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Kitchen Demolition Party, part 1
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