• Monday - Friday: 9:00 - 5:00
    • 603-294-4222
    • Email Us

    Blog

    Reclaiming Balance

    Budgets are a reality. Unfortunately, not all of us can afford to spend unlimited dollars for our remodels and renovations and our family is no different.  So, the question that comes to mind is where can we save some money and where will we be able to spend the money to make a great space without putting ourselves in a financial hole. It’s all about reclaiming balance.

     

    An area where we are saving money is in bathroom.  We don’t need a top of the line toilet, we just want a low flush toilet that will save water and gets the job done.  What that means for us is spending about $250-$300 per toilet as opposed to $400-$500 for the higher end models.

     

    Fortunately for us, the house already had a laundry sink in the basement that we will be moving to the mudroom area for laundry. It is a concrete wash basin sink.
    dsc_9093

    dsc_9092

     

     

    An exciting find for us, was a 48inch double concrete sink with cast iron legs for a base, which was in the basement of our office building, which we were able to purchase from our landlord for $200. Both sinks need a little spiffing up, but will look great in the spaces.  We have been researching and reaching out to contacts, to make sure we refurbish them correctly, to fix any cracks, replace the drains, and avoid future leaks and issues. Where we decided to splurge was on the kitchen faucet and went with a commercial pot filler by Chicago Faucet.  It’s a big expense but it will complete the look we are going for.

     

    dsc_9095dsc_9047dsc_9054Note: If you decide to go this route, make sure you have plenty of help to move the sink or an amateur engineer in the family, who can rig up something like we did to unload it from the truck, (see pulley system in picture).

     

     

     

     

     

     


    We found a claw foot tub from the local architectural salvage shop.  It is in great shape and just needed some cleaning up and a couple of coats of paint on the outside. I was able to sand and scrape the exterior, as well as the claw feet, apply a good primer, then finish off with 2 coats of white paint. After priming the clawfeet, and using a spray paint to match the chrome fixtures, it makes for a great combination. We have purchased a shower kit for it with a curtain attachment to complete the look we are going for.  Not pictured, is an antique pedestal sink for the powder room that was purchased at the same time.

     

     

    img_4594

    dsc_8975

    img_4609

    img_4610

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Tile for the master bath shower and the toilet rooms in the bathrooms was another area we saved.  If you don’t have a certain color in mind and are willing to be flexible, you can find some great deals at Home Depot or in the clearance section at your local home improvement store. The bathroom floors will be salvaged wood floors from the attic that we have de-nailed, and will be sanding and finishing with a low VOC oil finish.

    Things are really moving along now, so more to follow soon.

     

     

     

     

    Read more

    Wallpaper…and more wallpaper.

    So, now that all but a small bit of demo is done, what else is going on?

    Well, one of the things that we knew had to happen as soon as we saw the house was wallpaper removal.  Now, I don’t know about you, but the couple of times I have taken on this task, I have ended up, well, GRUMPY!!! I really don’t like doing it. I love to paint, you know the whole instant gratification thing, but wallpaper removal, no thank you.  In some spots, there were 3 layers of wallpaper, (see picture).  So, knowing that 90% of the house was covered in wallpaper, we put it in the budget, to have all of the wallpaper removed and to have  2 coats of primer put on the walls.

    DSC_8925

    DSC_8381

    Upon removing the wall paper, there was horsehair plaster throughout the house, which was not a surprise, and it needed some repair before the coating of primer.

    My husband and I very wisely hired a painting crew to come in and take care of this.  Now, some of you may say, why would you spend money on that, when you can do it yourself?  Did I mention it makes me GRUMPY!

     

     

    DSC_8942

    DSC_8939Believe me the money spent on this is well worth it for this family.  Now, I get to go and do the fun stuff and paint colors for that instant gratification thing I had mentioned. Because of the order of renovations, I have been able to paint our son’s and daughter’s rooms.

    I prefer Benjamin Moore paint as I like the way it covers and rolls out, this is purely a personal preference.  Some colors used so far are: Lavender Secret, Ballet Slippers and Hancock Green, all in Eggshell finish. All of the trim throughout the house will be Simply White semigloss finish.  I am looking forward to figuring out the rest of the color scheme, but we need to have walls up in order to do that:)

    DSC_8322

    DSC_8938DSC_8936

    Next time, I will share some of our “finds” that we will use in the house.

     

     

    Read more

    Recycle, Reuse

    DSC_8333

    One of the things we did in the house was demo the attic space, (pictured above prior to demo).  At one point, it was finished living space, with small bedrooms and a hall, so we removed the walls and ceiling.  We had the demo crew vacuum out the old insulation, which will be replaced with cellulose R50. Then we will be air sealing the attic.   Next, we will put down Advantech flooring so that we have all of the storage space available.  But, before all of that, a key part of the demo was to have the crew pull up the floors a bit more carefully then  just hitting it with a sledge hammer.  There were many square feet of wide pine that appears to have been put in the house over many years at different times.  So, they pulled it up and stacked it.

    DSC_8916

    DSC_8914

    Now comes the job of removing the old nails.  If you look at the various nails that were used, it creates quite a history timeline. The photo below is, in what we believe, to be chronological order.  There were the original nails which were the extreme pointy ones. The square nails are ones that would have been used next and were most likely manufactured by the Tremont Nail Company in Massachusetts,  (When the time comes to install the boards, we will be ordering the nails from Tremont to match the rest of the flooring). And lastly, the modern wire nails, which are the ones most people are used to seeing.

    DSC_8913

    DSC_8918

    DSC_8922

    DSC_8909

    We are going to reuse the flooring in the kitchen, mudroom and master bath.  The process to make the floor ready again is to, patch the original subfloor, and screw down a layer of Advantech subfloor.  When the time comes to lay the floor, (most likely after framing, although we are thinking of laying the floor first, as this is how the rest of the house is),  the boards will be cut square, laid as is, then finished in place.

    I have grand ideas of using the wood for a sliding barn door from the master bedroom to bathroom, but I’m thinking that will be a later project say after we actually have a usable  kitchen, bath and bedrooms.

    Stay tuned for more updates…

     

    Read more

    Now that we own a 1770 Colonial… Renovation time!

     

    Ok, so we have the 1770 Colonial…what now?  Well, although it is a bit daunting, decisions must be made and a budget, (yikes), needs to be created for the renovation.  (Full Disclosure, the budget was done prior to buying the house:)).

    There are certain things that are a must.  The baby blue bathroom in the hall needs to go, as does the avocado colored master bath.  The 70’s were awesome, with flower prints, lava lamps and for me, The Partridge Family, (Big Crush on David Cassidy), but not so awesome in the bathroom department.  But, don’t tell my mom, as she still has her bathrooms firmly planted in 1972.

    And, the bathroom changes in this house are not so simple to execute.  The upstairs hall bathroom in its current layout, is just too small for our family. So, we create the space we will need by taking out the back staircase from the first floor to the second floor and the stairs from the second floor to the attic.  The attic stairs will be replaced with a pull down to provide access to storage.  As a plus, this creates space on the first floor for a much needed mudroom/laundry space. Photos below show the hall bath and back/attic stairs followed by the demo results, as well as the master bedroom/bathroom before and after demo.

    To create the master bathroom, walls must come down between the bedroom, bathroom and a small bedroom behind.  Oh, did I mention that the kitchen is below the master bath and because of this the ceiling in the kitchen needs to come down for the plumbing, electrical, and mechanicals…Can you say MESS, DEMO, and spending money on things that aren’t new and sparkly?Unfortunately, we had a few surprises, not uncommon in an old house and demo went over budget 40%?  This is something to keep in mind when renovating an older house.

    While we are at it, we decide to knock down the wall between the kitchen and dining room which will create an open floor space, which works well for how our family operates.  It is more cost efficient to do all the demo at once, plus you get the mess out of the way at one time. Photos below are of the kitchen/dining room before and after.

    How are we living in this house as we do this, you may ask?  Well, thankfully this wonderful house has a one bedroom apartment attached. So the 3 of us that are here, (thankfully our son is living at college this summer), are sharing one room that is our living room/bedroom and we are grilling a lot.  Come September, I’m thinking none of us will want to see another burger…

    Stay tuned for more updates…

    Read more

    You bought,… What?

    When people find out you own a ‘green’ construction business and you tell them you have bought a house, their first reaction is why didn’t you build a house?  Hmm…cobblers kids with no shoes?  And, what do they picture once they realize you have bought a house? Most likely, a small, efficient, new and completely ‘green’ house.  Well, they need to think again.  What if say, the wife, in this partnership, for example, is in love with old houses. Not just old but really, really old houses.  The kind with slanting floors and 3 layers of wallpaper on the walls.  The kind of house with ‘Character’.  Yes, I said character, the word that sends builders into a cold sweat, the word that is synonymous with a Summer spent in one room family living while the rest of the house undergoes a transformation.  Let’s not forget that the husband who originally said no to old historic homes has suddenly fallen in love with a 40×30 timber framed barn to hold all of his ‘treasures,’ aka his tools, trinkets, and all of the stuff  he couldn’t bare to part with. So the decision was made to buy this house with historic beauty that is hidden by layers of linoleum and wallpaper. Welcome to the Summer of sawdust, paint brushes, and creating our family’s home.

    DSC_8761DSC_8284 (1)DSC_8307

    Read more
    mower-cutting-green-grass

    No Water, Green Lawn

    As summer begins to take full effect, many homeowners start paying much more attention to their lawn.  Fertilizing, re-seeding, mowing, watering. Just thinking about it makes us tired, and when it comes to watering – it makes our wallets hurt!

    What if you could plant a grass that, after it’s first growing season, didn’t need to be watered (except in extreme drought) and didn’t HAVE to be mowed? No twice a week, or weekly nights spent out mowing when you could be at the park or having fun with the family.  No daily waterings.

    Wildflower farms has a grass seed called “eco-lawn”, which has been in production and available for household use for the last 10+ years.  It is a blend of 7 fine fescue grasses that grow into a thick turf that can thrive in a variety of soil types, even dry or infertile soils.  The grasses are able to live in those conditions because of the deep roots inherent to their properties.  In hard clay the roots can grow up to 9″ deep, while in sandy soil that depth can reach 14″. This allows the grass to pull water and nutrients naturally from a much greater area of soil.

     

    Eco-lawn is quick to germinate, but slow-growing once solidified.  Over the course of a full growing season, if left unmowed the grass would be 9″ long, but because of the thinness of the blades it falls over the a carpet-like look at a height of 4″.  If you are still wanting the “classic cut lawn” look, however, it will only need to be mowed once a month to a height of 3-4″.

    From a sustainability standpoint, this is the first major incentive.  Lawn mowers drink gas like a child does koolaid.  The EPA states that “operating a typical gasoline-powered lawn mower for one hour produces the same amount of smog-forming hydrocarbons as driving an average care almost 200 miles under typical driving conditions.” Just think of all the places you could’ve visited, adding up all of those miles, instead of mowing the lawn!

     

    The second, and yet equally great, issue from a sustainability perspective is the lack of watering needed for the turf to continue growing.  While the seeding/germination process is similarly intensive to common grasses, once the turf has passed its first growing season successfully it only needs to be watered during times of extreme drought.  Think of all the money, and WATER, you will save by cutting out the 3+/wk waterings!  Wildflower Farms provides a chart, which can be seen here, of the cost effectiveness of eco-lawn compared to normal lawns.

    Northern USA should plant in the beginning of May or around Labor Day if considering switching to eco-lawn.  The seeds germinate best in cool temperatures (55-77), morning dew, and occasional rain.  Their planting chart based on location can be found here.

     

    If you decided that you would like to convert your lawn to an eco-lawn, the steps you take are similar to any other lawn conversion process.  You should first eliminate any weeds and remove debris.  If the home is new construction and grass has yet to be planted, then you should rototill the site at a dept of 3″, rake smooth, and then spread a weed-free organic compost 1/4″ deep.

    If converting a lawn from a different grass type, you can either kill the current grass (and then either plant over top of it or remove it and re plant like new construction), or you can overseed onto the current grass.  If killing you can use either organic or non-organic herbicides (the non-organic tend to take longer), mow the dead grass as short as possible and then rake hard before seeding.  Overseeding into existing lawns can be done, but it takes longer to fully switch, requiring yearly re-seedings for up to 4-5 yrs.  This time can be cut down, however, if you re-seed in both spring and fall.

    When you reach the seeding process, you want to achieve 15seeds/sq. inch or 25/sq. inch if wanting extra thick grass to help keep out weeds.  Gently rake the seed/soil mix so that they are just barely covered and then roll the lawn with a lawn roller.

    During the germination process you should water every day for 3wks for about 20-30 minutes, or the time needed to make the soil moist up to a depth of 1″.  After 3wks, cut the watering back to every two days for 2wks.  (only water if it’s not going to rain)  The germination process typically takes 7-14 days and will take 4-6wks before it arrives at a hight of 4-5″ and is in need of it’s first trim (if you prefer a manicured lawn).  Once the grass has solidified after its first growing season, as mentioned earlier, it need only be watered during extreme droughts.  If this case arises, remember that it is better to fully saturate the ground for this type of grass than to provide frequent light sprinkles.

    Below is a video of a customer installation and review of eco-lawn at their home (a redsox fan it seems!).  If you are interested in converting your lawn, eco-lawn can be purchased either online or at 8 retailers in Mass or 1 in NH.

    Eco-Lawn home review

    Read more
    IAQ-little-girl-with-toys-wearing-16362665

    What’s hiding in your home?

    Homeowners, scientists, manufacturers, and designers are just recently becoming more aware of the things that easily win the game of “hide and seek” in your home.  And these game “winners” can unfortunately make your health a big loser.  The following is a list of materials, particles, and gases that can lurk in your home, causing not only health issues, but also structural issues to your home.

    Excess Moisture

    Excess moisture can affect the structure of a building and health of its occupants. Moisture settles into materials, causing mold and bacteria.  These things, as most people know, can cause a variety of minor to major illnesses.  The structure of the building is weakened by the moisture settling on materials and causing wood framing to rot or metal framing to rust. Excess moisture most commonly points to an airflow issue within the building.

    Biological pollutants

    Biological pollutants are things that are sometimes able to be seen, but not always. Pollens, bacteria, soil, plant debris, and dander fall into this category.  These things are typically brought into the house by the inhabitants on clothes or shoes, or via the wind, and affect different occupants in different ways.

    Radon

    Radon is a radioactive gas caused by the breakdown of uranium in soil, rock, and water. This gas is thought to be the second leading cause of lung cancer, gaining access to buildings through cracks in floors and walls, construction joints, and pipes.  It is estimated that 1 in 15 homes in the US have high radon levels; a simple test can tell you whether or not your home is one of that percentage.

    Combustion Products

    Gas-fired appliances emit carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, nitrous oxides, and water vapor. Not all of those particles are bad, but the ones which are not healthy are also less easily seen.  This does not mean that a home should stay away from gas appliances, but merely realize the gaseous output and make sure all appliances are vented properly.

    Volatile Organic Compounds

    VOCs are becoming more of a talking point due to green initiatives.  Many materials and furnitures are striving to achieve the ranking of low or no-VOC.These VOCs come in the form of formaldehyde in carpets and other materials, pesticides, cleaning materials, paint, gasoline, adhesives, and office equipment.  They are known to cause illness in both short term and long term periods.

    Tobacco Smoke

    This category is a no-brainer for most people.  Most local governments have begun initiatives to remove smoking from indoor public buildings for the same reasons that it’s not good to smoke in your home.  The carcinogenic off-gas embeds and clings to materials in the home, essentially making your home’s interior covered with chemicals that cause cancer.

    Garage pollutants

    This category is a reiteration of what was spoken of when we talked about combustion products and VOCs.  It is important to realize, however, that even though it may seem safe in your garage instead of your home, these materials can easily find their way in if there is not an airtight separation on homes with attached garages.

    These things are merely the main players in the fight against your home’s health.  In the upcoming weeks we will talk about things you can do to win the game of “hide and seek” and take back your home.

    The EPA provides quality information about indoor air quality suspects, which can be found here.

    Read more