Archive | June, 2010

Changed My Mind With Lighting

June 25, 2010


Choosing lighting for the kitchen has been really difficult for me. The kitchen is very large, 12 x 23, but it has a lot of angles and doorways. And the ceilings are 9 feet. I eventually chose two sets of chandeliers, which I absolutely love.


But I can’t say I have been 100% settled with the choice of chandeliers. They would certainly spit out a lot of light, but they would also generate heat, and could possibly be more costly to have on (certainly more costly than fluorescent lighting).

My kitchen gets very hot in the late afternoon. It is situated on the southwestern side of the property. Dumb, I know. I didn’t plan it! But the sun comes blasting through the windows in the summer. And the area right outside the window is a HUGE asphalt parking lot (I didn’t do that, either!!). The house used to be a parsonage, and was once connected to the church nearby. The previous owners installed a HUGE parking lot right outside the back door all the way over to the church. It gets pretty hot. I have planted trees to provide shade, but they’ve only been there a few years. So it’s HOT in the summer.

Plus, I will be installing a gas space heater in the kitchen. I will eventually save up money to purchase a very nice little gas fireplace, to create a small “hearth” in the location, but for now, it will be a gas heater. And I’ve been reading that if you have a gas heater, you should either purchase a blower unit to move the heat around ($150 additional), or install ceiling fans to move the air.



So I got them. Two of them. šŸ˜€ I think they will be perfect. I’m going to return the chandeliers. I love them, but the fans are much more functional and just as beautiful.

That’s renovation for you. I think it’s impossible to have EVERYTHING pre-planned. Things change. For example, we had no idea we would have to change the heating system in this house, until we opened walls and saw the condition of the ductwork. Unfortunately, things like this have broken the budget, but at least we are making the house more efficient, more comfortable, and more valuable. So I’m rolling with the punches these days. There really isn’t anything you can do.

Anyway, I’m pleased with my fans. I’ve read through the manual and I really like Hampton Bay brand. The manual is in ENGLISH and it actually makes sense!

TIP: Never install a ceiling fan using a plastic ceiling hanger work box. Use a metal box, it’s much, much sturdier. šŸ™‚

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Hashing Through Insurance Policies

June 25, 2010

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It’s a good thing The Hubs is familiar with all the technical lingo for insurance policies. As I’ve stated before, part of the reason that we are renovating is because our home insurance policy, at over a decade old, is set to review and revise. At the time, our kitchen was falling down over our heads, half the house had no electricity, and the plumbing drains were iffy. I decided I would MUCH rather spend money renovating the house than spend money on paying a higher insurance premium. It was difficult enough to get the house insurance 10 years ago. We are in a mixed residential/business area, and therefore most insurance companies were hesitant to insure the house (we are very close to a parking lot and are surrounded by businesses). Of course, we could always get business insurance quotes, right? We’re not a business, exactly…. well, I do work at home, on my business.
Anyway, insurance costs are *kinda* hard to control these days. I think it’s very unfair that I have to pay for knuckleheads who live in flood-prone, hurricane-prone, earthquake-prone areas… why do I have to pay for those decisions?!

Anyway, it sure pays to shop around for insurance. All insurance is expensive, especially in New York, but many mortgage lenders and banks will not fund your home loan or home renovation loan without it. And in my opinion, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. šŸ˜€ Thanks to the dudes at for giving me the opportunity to briefly discuss the importance of insurance!

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Find the Kitty Friday 6/25

June 25, 2010

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Find the Kitty Friday

This is a slightly older photo, when my desk was still plaster-dust free and the carpet had no sawdust embedded in its fibers.

FTK 6.11.10

One of the tougher things about living in the house you are renovating is the dirt. EVERYTHING is disgustingly dirty and dusty. And I am too busy and too exhausted to constantly clean it, and it is so pervasive. A dirty house can be depressing. It’s hard to eat from paper plates every day… to try to maintain the piles of laundry when you have no dryer and it rains every day… But we are pretty perky folk, doing our best to roll with the punches. And thank God, there have been no mishaps during this process. I knew from the beginning that this would be a stressful time… I had no idea how very stressful renovation on a major scale can be. Add to the mix all the other things going on this summer, and it’s been downright tough at times. But hope springs eternal.

I’ve been waiting for this moment for 13+ years. Probably more like 25 years. It’s finally here. It’s a HECK of a lot of work, but it’s here. Not only are we renovating two downstairs rooms (the two most important downstairs rooms, to boot), but we are totally installing a new electrical system, a new plumbing system, revising the central heating, and installing an Internet ethernet system. Plus, we’re insulating, planning for future renovations to to upstairs, adding walls, flooring, windows…. all on our own. Well, all on MY own. I am researching and studying and planning and constructing most of the jobs. I have some incredible brothers and sister in Christ helping me, and that has been my sustenance. And The Hubs had taken over the plumbing, which is a huge burden off my back. We’re getting it done!! I’m not going to say it’s a cakewalk, because it has not been. But we are progressing AND the end result will be so rewarding.

Only two more months!!!!

And oh WAIT til you see the “after” photos!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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Working in the Attic

June 24, 2010


It actually wasn’t so horrible this time. šŸ˜€ Some folks must be praying for me!

The weather was nice– a bit cool, breezy, and overcast– perfect weather for a latte at the cafe… or a pedicure… …. orrrr….. WORKING IN THE MOLDY, DUSTY, DARK ATTIC. This is what greets me when I pop my head into the small 3-foot wide attic hatch:



It is for this reason that I will NEVER NEVER NEVER use blown-in insulation. This house is SOOOOO dusty. Who is the knucklehead who came up with the idea of filling a home’s cavities with DUST for insulation?! Egads.


That is the original knob and tube wiring resting in peace there. The wiring must have been installed sometime in the 1920s or 1930s… and the insulation (I assume) went in sometime in the 1970s or 1990s. It is against codes to insulate around the old knob and tube wiring. There is the danger of wires overheating, and thus a fire hazard. Plus, the old wires are not grounded at all. I am glad to be rid of them.

You can see the handiwork of an 1855 attic, eh? I took lots of photos, because if I ever get curious about what the attic looks like, and I get it in my stupid head to go up and see, all I have to do is look at these photos to remind myself.


Today, I ran some wiring for my son’s bedroom ceiling light, the hallway ceiling light (unfortunately, I won’t be able to wire a light until next year when we gut the upstairs. But I thought I’d throw in some wiring while I’m up here), and the feed line coming from the service panel, two floors down. A junction box handily holds all the wires for me.



I was exhausted after the job. Tomorrow, I wire the light and the two outlets for my son’s room, and feed it to a junction box in the basement, which will be connected to the service panel. Then, this room will finally have electricity for the first time in three years. AND he’ll have a ceiling light that WORKS, something he has never had since we moved here.

The attic work is not yet finished, though. Besides the hallway light situation reserved for next year, The Hubs has to go up here this week– we need to electrify the bathroom ventilation fan again (I couldn’t get to it when I was up there). It hasn’t worked for three years, and mold grows on the bathroom walls because of the intense moisture. I haven’t broken the news to him, yet… šŸ˜

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A Good Toolbox Is Hard to Find

June 24, 2010

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Sheesh! Remember how– seems like eons ago– you could just walk into a store and find a sturdy, tough, and affordable tool box? I was perusing the aisles at my local Big Box store. :-p yuk. Who on earth wants a plastic toolbox? Or a nylon bag toolbox?! I am pretty tough with my stuff. When I am pounding, sawing, banging, demolishing, etc., the LAST thing I want to do is fuss about my delicate toolbox falling over and its contents spilling out. Or throwing my crowbar into it and worrying about the end tearing the fabric. What ever happened to those good old, metal boxes with metal clasps and metal handles???

OK, rant over. šŸ˜€

I have an old plastic toolbox and I’m not terribly pleased with it. The closing clasp is a dud (a plastic latch that you press over a plastic bar). I looked and looked for a toolbox- a good one- but didn’t find anything suitable and durable.

Lo an behold– has one! I wish it was in pink or purple, but I guess you can’t have everything, lol. Behold the 20-inch red metal toolbox:

See those nice sliding drawers?! They lock in place when the lid is closed. No more digging through 10 inches of tools to find your nail punch or jigsaw blades at the bottom! And it’s metal. And notice that it has a metal flap for a combination lock, to keep tool thieves from taking off with your FAVORITE measuring tape and then losing it so that when you REALLY need it for your project, you spend half the day searching for it!!!!


So the toolbox is nice. šŸ™‚ Very handy. It’s a good price, too– about $60. That’s a good price for a toolbox that will last years and years. Those lousy nylon ones may be $30, but it’s no good when you have to buy them every year. :-p has tons of stuff like this: tools, organizers, household items, apparel, books, jewelry, and tons and tons of stuff. They have weekly and daily specials that go fast. You can register to get their deal emails, to keep track of what’s on sale and learn about promotions. Thanks for great stuff,! šŸ˜€

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“Where Have You BEEN?!”

June 21, 2010


Oh my word. After a frenetic flurry of posts for the past few weeks, I see that I haven’t said a peep here in a WEEK! I am still here! I have been busy, as usual. But I did get a break for half a day. šŸ˜€ It was definitely too short.

When I last left off, we had an inspector here, from the local codes department. He told us a few things:

We could leave the plumbing in place, if we wanted to. It was old, but the drains were “grandfathered in” and the copper pipes looked OK. Still, we decided to re-do the water supply, with PEX. The copper is very old, especially in the upstairs bathroom above the kitchen. And I’m uncomfortable leaving the old pipes in after we install the new kitchen below it. Plus, the washer, kitchen, and dishwasher all need brand-new lines. So we’re redoing it all, using a PEX manifold system in the basement.

The inspector said that the rough framing all looked good, except for one thing: with our new partition walls, we created a “chase” which is a fire hazard. A chase is basically a tunnel through which air drafts (and fires) run up through the walls between the studs and into the joists, unimpeded. Balloon framing itself is such a hazard because of the chases– the studs are straight up from foundation sill plate to the attic rafters. Fire stops are required. The inspector said that sheetrock would be fine. So that’s what we did.


I have to make an appointment with the electrical inspector. Of course, we have to wire all the electric in first, haha. It’s time-consuming.


Half the time is spent figuring out how to get the wires where we need to place them. Wow, it’s tougher than you think. We have all sorts of impediments– 8-inch beams, brick nogging, 10-inch sill plate… whew. The other half of the job is spent drilling holes and running wire. It’s very easy to box things in and strip the wires/connect them.


We also have to build out various walls. To build them out is to add an additional layer of wood in the existing studs. This gives you more room for the narrow electrical boxes, and for the addition of insulation. It does add to the expense. My ceilings are over 9 feet high, so I have to buy the 10-foot studs and waste 1 foot of them. :S


And we’re still doing dishes by hand, in the old sink.


But not for long! TWO MORE MONTHS til I have a dishwasher!!! I haven’t operated a dishwasher in 28 YEARS, people!! It will be glorious.

By the way, my daughter doe snot wear glasses– those are fake. She was acting a “nerd.” LOL. Anything to make the dish-washing fun, I guess. Because right now, it’s NOT.

We also have ELECTRICITY in the upstairs bathroom!!! Woooooohooo! The first time in 3 years! We have a working light with a SWITCH! We have a GFCI outlet! And we have a newly installed medicine cabinet. I tell ya, modern living is RICH people, RICH.

This week on the schedule:

Wire the son’s bedroom upstairs*
Wire the bathroom ventilation fan/light fixture*
Install electrical boxes for kitchen, to prepare for the wires coming in
Prepare washing machine for plumbing area
Insulate above small area above dining room that leads into the garage
Install wiring for exterior light and switch
Install dryer vent hole through the wall
Install stove range hood vent hole through the wall
Buy more supplies
Do the plumbing (The Hubs is handling most of this)

* I have to go into The Attic to do this. Cry with me, my friends. It is a HORROR up there! šŸ™ šŸ™

More to come!

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Livvy’s Window is IN!

June 14, 2010


It seemed to take FOREVER!!! But we have the kitchen window installed. And it is beautiful!!

Yesterday, we spent many long, arduous hours on it.

Window Workers

Demolition is easy. Demolition is always easy.

Window Open

It’s rigging up new stuff to the old that is NOT so easy. Nothing “matches” anymore. A 2×6 in 1855 was a literal 2×6. Today, it’s a 1.5 x 5.5 :-p So of course, we have to shim everything under the sun and then some, to get everything level. And that wasn’t even possible (getting things level). In the end, we just “winged” it. šŸ˜€

Today, the window went in! The siding is a disaster, and I have yet to slap something up over the tar paper… and paint it… but the window is in! It’s in! And Livvy is very happy.

Window Ext

Window Int

We had the town codes guy stop in to inspect our rough framing. I’ll have more on that later. And the old toilet broke today, leaked everywhere. I had purchased two new ones a while back, so The Hubs got to install the new one today. It looks great! Thank God I had the new one on hand!

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Wiring the Upstairs From the Downstairs

June 12, 2010


I worked on a small project Friday. Well, it was a BIG project– lots of sawing, drilling holes, running up and down stairs and ladders… all for three outlets in the upstairs bedroom. :-p But it’ll be worth it. I’m finally getting electricity in this house! Hopefully by autumn, the entire house will be completely wired.

So here’s a small pictorial story of how it goes.

First, I have to meticulously run the wiring, from the basement through the first floor and up to the second floor. Because the second floor walls are closed (and have the lathe and plaster), I have to measure the first floor studs to locate every wall cavity, then measure the upstairs wall to match the cavity exactly. I then drill holes and run the cable. Lots of work for every measly outlet.

Wiring 1

I break through the plaster. Dirty and messy. Some holes are larger than others, because I may find some extra wood in the way, or I need to enlarge the hole for whatever reason. Today, my holes were pretty small. Yay!

Wiring 2

Saw through the lathe. Install the new work box, and run the first cable through. Lots of running up and down stairs and up and down the ladder to perfectly situate the cable, staple it to the wood, and run another cable in.

Wiring 3

My work place. I take my yellow caddy with me wherever I go. šŸ™‚

Wiring 4

I strip the wires and make little loops on the ends. This is the end of the line of outlets for this circuit, so I only have one cable to work on here.

Wiring 5

Here’s a middle-of-the-run outlet section; notice it has a lot more wiring (one for the feed, one for the outlet here, one leading to the next outlet in the circuit). I attach pigtail wires that attach to other wires in the box, to continue the circuit along a run of outlets. As a general rule, I always wrap the ends with electrical tape, to prevent arcing. I don’t expect arcing, but it’s just another little thing to do for safety’s sake.

Wiring 6

I attach the pigtail wires to the cable wires in the work box using some fancy new devices, called “push-in connectors.” I like them because I don’t have to mess around with twisting three groups of three wires each and then capping each group with a huge wire nut (I find it hard to twist the wires neatly, and I find it very hard to cram all the wire nuts in the box). These pigtail connectors are really handy.

Wiring 7

Finally, I ram all the wires in the box. My least favorite chore of the job. šŸ™ I have small, sensitive fingers, and find it difficult and painful to push the wires in. It’s a tough job for me.

Wiring 8

Forgive me, I didn’t snap an end photo of the outlet in the box! Maybe next time. šŸ˜‰

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When There’s Nothing Left to Control

June 11, 2010


Since we’re renovating, I’m paying much more attention to news and government actions about home ownership and renovating.

And it’s getting scary out there.

There are a slew of new proposals and laws, none of them good. Actually, they are all very strange and control-freaky. I guess this is what happens when government already controls our cars, our driving, our banking, our health care, our energy use, etc etc. They want to control what we eat and how we live. Things are going tooooo far. Look at some of these news stories.

New Lead Paint Law Effective April 22, 2010,;
Congress has deemed that any renovation work done by contractors on houses built before 1978 are to be done by a certified contractor. This does not apply to Do-It-Yourselfers. But not everyone is a DIY’er, and this law could jack up the renovation budget into the tens of thousands. I once applied for a Rural Development Loan for $7000, and they told me that before I could get that loan, I had to have certified groups come in the home and test for lead and asbestos, and have it removed. The cost: over $30,000. I would pay for it. And that was JUST for a $7,000 loan to fix my chimney!!!! (P.S. Just because a home was built before 1978 does not mean it has lead paint/asbestos. But you can bet your bottom dollar that this won’t matter to the form-and-fee-claimers).

Is Your Home Improvement Project Legal?;
In the city of Utica, NY, a small city in Central NY near to where I live, it is illegal for any homeowner to do ANY repairs on their home themselves. They must hire a professional, certified contractor. You can’t even change a toilet. So instead of repealing the law, the Utica city government came up with an additional, “try and fix it” law (no surprises there): get every homeowner to pay for a special repair course and get a temporary license. Now, I wish there was actually a program like this for homeowners who WANT something like this– but to force all homeowners to take this course and get a certificate so they can add an electrical outlet or replace their toilet is insane. One commenter on the news story made a great point:

By the time all is said and done you won’t even be able to live in your own home without have a special license. This is getting ridiculous and all it’s about is making more money for the government. Now you can’t even fix up your own home.

New Wood Boiler Regulations by Department of Environmental Conservation,;
The government wants to force everyone to upgrade their wood-fueled boiler heaters to new and approved heaters. The DEC says that this will cause less pollution. What the?! If they were so concerned about pollution, they’d look for bigger fish to fry than to hunt down poor, rural farmers who burn wood as their only source of heat! These folks cannot afford shiny new $20,000 boilers. Give me a break.

And there are a handful more such new laws and proposals, but I don’t remember them all. And to top it all off, the property taxes are SKY HIGH in New York and New England. I pay almost $30 per $1,000 assessed valuation on my home, and my rickety old home is assessed at 100%.

They are making it nearly impossible to live peacably and in liberty in one’s own home. They want to regulate EVERYTHING when it comes down to it. NY even has some silly ideas about banning certain fats, taxing sodas, and banning salt! It’s getting crazy out there…..

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Choosing Central Heating

June 10, 2010

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I’d mentioned that we were getting rid of our forced air furnace. I hate forced air, always have. All it does is blow around dusty, moldy air. In an old house, it’s terrible. We were always coughing and getting sick. We finally tore out a 60-year old WOODEN duct a few weeks ago… and the inside was caked with almost an inch of disgusting dirt and dust. To think that we’d been breathing all that in, all these years.

I pondered going with hydronic baseboard heat (the best there is, in my opinion). But the system is wildly, wildly expensive; to retrofit it into my home would cost the tens of thousands. After some thought, the only kinds of heat we can go with are electric baseboard and wall-mounted gas heater units. I’m going to go with both. Electric baseboards are going upstairs. The forced-air furnace was so bad that it hardly pumped ANY heat at all for us– we had to use electric space heaters in the bedrooms, even with the forced-air furnace running. Ridiculous! But because electric heaters are so expensive, I really can’t install them throughout the house. So we’re going with natural gas wall-mounted heaters. I’ve seen the vent-free models in action, and they do a good job keeping the houses warm, it seems. However, I’m not going with the vent-free models. They pump a ton of moisture into the air, which can lead to mold, rot, and respiratory problems. The direct-vent models are installed on exterior walls (or chimneys), and get their intake and outake air from outside air.

The direct-vent heaters are still pretty expensive– $400 a unit for the very basic 8,000 BTUs (which supplies a 200 square foot room). I’ll need three of them, one for the living room, one for the kitchen, and one for the dining room. This will enable us to have zones all throughout the house, where we can control the heat for each individual room. And since they are gas-fueled, they will save us a little. The really nice thing about them is that they do not require electricity to run, so if there is a power outage, we will still have heat.

Of course, this change in the heating system alters my home. My basement will no longer be heated (the forced air furnace ducts leaked like crazy into the basement, creating a rather balmy atmosphere down there). So I’ll need to insulate the basement ceiling to keep my first floor floors warm. But at least we won’t be breathing in decades-old mold and dust….

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