8 min read

Little Things

A big update after my long stretch of travel.
Little Things
In the front garden of 615, little things are coming up! Tulips and hosta and ferns and all.

I was in Boston for work most of last week, and when the tornado warnings for East Lansing started lighting up my phone while I was at my Cambridge hotel, I wondered whether I might have to deal with two houses' worth of insurance claims! But all that blew down was an old squirrel drey, long abandoned in the arms of Bob.

Being away did result in the problem of not being around to supervise, and so I couldn't be sure little things were happening correctly. I came home to discover the drywaller had covered up the wires for the second floor bathroom sconces, a problem since that wall will be covered in handsome big tile.

So, today, the electrician had to come back and put in the holes and boxes for the sconces. Of course I apologized, explaining my failure to communicate the tiling plan, and of course he was perfectly nice about it, as always.

It's been a week of all the little things....

On Tuesday, Top Notch tree service came out to give Ann and Bob haircuts – removing dead material and trimming Ann back a bit from 615's lower roof. Before getting started, the two tree wranglers spent some time exclaiming in wonder at the forest that is our subdivision. They really got it when I explained we had bought 615 for the purpose of conserving Bob and Ann.

The day before, Monday, just as I had a mountain of laundry to do from being gone most of two weeks, our washing machine at home broke. Realizing I temporarily own a much bigger washing machine next door, I went to do our laundry there.

But I forgot how the washing machine there was set up, and so, when I went back to get the laundry, I discovered a small pond centered on the floor drain of the laundry/furnace room.

I found some buckets and bailed out the water collected around the floor drain and texted the plumber. He came by and showed me how it's supposed to work: The washing machine dumps the used water through a tube that goes into the slop sink, the sink slows down the flow down its drain, and the drain from the sink goes into the open floor drain.

In moving everything around the furnace/laundry space for the new electrical panel, one of us had knocked the washing machine drain out of the sink, and we had also managed to clog up the floor drain with debris. The plumber cleaned and reset it all (no charge), and I asked him if this system really makes sense in the modern age.

"You don't remember!" he said, chuckling at me. "Your house had the same system in the basement when you moved in! It's just because your laundry is now in the kitchen that you don't have this system anymore."

He's right. I forgot. It works perfectly well if you keep it all draining the right way. Now I will remember. And wow, do I miss having a full-size washer and dryer! Whoever will buy 615 will be lucky to have those big appliances. Ours in our kitchen are apartment-sized because they are under the counter. Maybe we should keep 615 a little longer! Ha ha...

Also on Tuesday (yesterday), my good friend Bobby did me a solid and helped me load Dumpster #3, moving a mountain of debris from 615's carport to the ten-yarder. It was only after we were all done that I discovered the dumpster's door wasn't quite latched and closed.

Ugh. Dreading the thought of having to remove enough to get that door closed, I called On Demand Dumpster this morning and asked them to tell me this was going to be okay. They sent out Jerry, the guy who knows how to navigate this tricky driveway, and he tightened the chain and told me it was just fine. Phew.

Before he drove off, Jerry asked me if he'd be back or if this was the last one. I told him I thought we probably had one more load coming, and as I said it, I realized I'm going to miss seeing him. He has a great sense of humor. The first time he came, I warned him about the electrical pole directly across the street from 615's driveway.

"You want me to take it out with my truck?" he asked with a grin.

"It would make my life easier!" I replied with a laugh.

Meanwhile, the little things in 615's garage are all in place, waiting for the bigger things in the garage.

While I was in Boston, the electricians moved the new ceiling lights (circled in yellow in the photo) out of the space that will have the heated chamber for the pipes, and on Sunday Aron installed a 2x4 (see purple arrow) under the floor joist that will get some legitimate beefing up by the framer before we're done. Just to be safe, that 2x4 boost needed to happen before the tiler got serious on the bathroom floor above. (That floor joist was cut years ago to accommodate the old first-floor bathroom.)

Once the tiler is done mudding in the shower drain for the new first-floor bathroom above the garage, the plumber can complete the shower drain (see orange circle), and at that point we can clean up the garage, demo that north wall (back of photo), re-insulate, drywall it, fix the floor joist, and have the heated chamber built. That's all actually simpler than it sounds. It's just a matter of time and little steps.

Based on what the guys are muttering about, I think the heated chamber will have a trap door that can be opened just in case someone needs to access the plumbing, though we doubt they will need to for fifty years at least. It will all be nice warmed and insulated to keep the pipes from freezing, something that at the start of this project we worried about – a lot – as we set out to fix the problem of the first floor bathroom renovation.

The heated chamber is a good example of why when people ask me, "Are you flipping this house?", I answer, "Not really."

What a flip normally means is that you put a whole lotta lipstick on a pig to maximize profit. This beautiful old pig is getting joint replacements, vaccinations, a new pacemaker, and lipstick. I'm going to feel really good when it's done, because all the "little things" a flipper would hide, we are fixing.

We're not fixing absolutely everything, of course. I'm not spending an extra couple thousand dollars to make the washing machine drain through a real pipe straight into the sewer line rather than going through the sink down the floor drain.

But everything that really matters is getting fixed. HVAC, electrical, plumbing – this house is going to be in fine shape.

Upstairs, drywall is proceeding and it's looking great. The kitchen looks amazing with fresh walls and ceiling.

The drywaller forgot to leave the space for the transom window in the breakfast nook, but he's going to cut that out soon. I've marked the photo above with a blue rectangle where that transom will be.

Notice in the photo how tiny the drain-pipe soffit (shown with purple arrow) has turned out to be! Barely noticeable. It will be even less noticeable when the refrigerator and cabinetry are all in place. The ceiling is high and level and glorious.

Here's the "hallway" in the kitchen with fresh drywall:

To orient you, to the left you see the main part of the kitchen, with the far left of the photo showing the doorway to the vestibule that leads to the bathroom. In the photo, to the right is the door to the living room (where the wooden door is lit up). The door at the end of the hallway on the right goes down to the basement. The lit space at the end is a pretty window.

It's hard to explain how much better this hallway area feels with fresh drywall instead of a drop-down ceiling and lumpy plaster.

Best of all, the kitchen will be lit with nine ceiling-inset lights plus two pendant lights – one over the sink and one over the breakfast nook – making it marvelously bright and cozy. And the basement door, which was solid, will be replaced with a salvaged door that has a window, so anyone coming or going through that door can see what they're doing.

The back bedroom/office/playroom/guest room, behind the dining room and kitchen nook, is also looking great.

In the photo above, you're looking from the dining room. This room shrunk a bit so the new first-floor bathroom could be bigger, but it's still a delightful room. Way better without the drop ceiling and paneling – all now replaced with drywall. And I think we've managed to safely preserve the beautiful hardwood floor under the paper.

In the back of that photo, you see the new closet, which will have a sliding door. Here's another view of the same room, taken before the drywaller pulled out the old rugs and put in the fresh floor paper:

To the left you see the west-facing window that gives you a great view of Ann, then the closet door. To the right is the door that goes from this room into the vestibule.

Here's a photo of the vestibule looking from the back bedroom/office:

To the left is the door to the new first floor bathroom. Straight ahead is the house's side door (an emergency exit that looks towards our sunroom). To the right is the doorway to the kitchen.

The drywaller spent most of today working on the first floor bathroom, finishing the drywall in preparation for the tiler. Here's how that's looking:

To the left is the space for the new walk-in shower. Straight ahead will be the vanity and a small linen closet. To the right will be the toilet. One more look from the doorway:

He also worked today on the second-floor bathroom, finishing the drywalling around the bathtub/shower:

A vapor barrier will be installed in the shower spaces before the tiling, ensuring that water will not seep into the walls.

Both new bathrooms have new vent fans above the showers, so nice and quiet compared to the old-fashioned fans they had before!

The drywaller has confirmed he will have the bathrooms done by the end of this week. That means the tiler starts Monday.

All is good.