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    Do we really need that wall there? Because I have an idea…

    How important is that wall? This was a question I asked Jesse while deciding how we would change the floor plan of the house. Do we really need back stairs, or the attic stairs, I mean the house isn’t that big.

    These questions proved to be the best thing that I could have asked and completely changed the options to reconfigure the upstairs floor plan and create a mudroom/laundry downstairs. Originally, the back stairs arrived at the same spot the front stairs did upstairs and limited the amount of floor space available for the hall bath. There were 3 hallways upstairs, the main hall, the hallway that joined a small room, one bathroom, and the master bedroom, and the final hall which created an extra bedroom upstairs. We chose to do away with the latter 2 halls in order to create usable floor space and a larger bedroom for our daughter. Many of the before pictures were taken during our walkthrough before purchasing the house.

    Here is a view of the upstairs hallway, where the back stairs and attic stairs converged.

    This is the back staircase and the attic stairs, prior to removal.

    This is the back staircase and the attic stairs, prior to removal.

    We were able to knock those out as well as the partition walls to open the space up. See the pictures of the progress below.



    The following pictures show the view of the upstairs hall now that the new walls were put up and notice the pull down to the attic space which was added.




    The Master Bedroom had a hall that connected the bathroom and a small back room all together. Due to the fact that we wanted a larger bathroom and closet space, we eliminated that as well and created a new layout for the bathroom.

    Master Bedroom to hall

    View from back hallway to master bedroom.

    View from back hallway to master bedroom.

    Now we have a private master bedroom and bathroom, with 2 walk in closets. Here is the bedroom with the new walls and hallway to the bathroom.



    Other walls were torn down to create our daughters bedroom and dance area. With the walls up the one room was very small, now it is a true teenage retreat.

    Here are before pictures. One note to make here is that we were very fortunate that the flooring under these particular walls were finished and no repairs were needed.



    How it looks today:



    The back hall originally had the back staircase and was extremely narrow.

    Back staircase


    By eliminating the stairs, it created a mudroom and laundry area.


    Next up, the bathroom makeovers…

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    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.




    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.














    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.





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    Recycle, Reuse


    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.



    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.





    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…


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    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…

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    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.

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