Monthly Archives: September 2011

The Next $10,000 Worth of Plumbing (Bonus Content: He said use a tampon)

Yeah, I'm paying for that
When you think renovation, it’s easy to consider the fun stuff- the shiny modern kitchen (with a dishwasher!), the luxurious shower in the master bathroom, the shiny oak floors waiting to be revealed. What’s not so fun is plumbing. Our first $10,000 plumbing project was installing an overhead sewer system, a type of flood control which is useful in Chicago because it prevents the literally crappy contents of the municipal sewer system from backing up into your basement during a heavy rainstorm.

I will give you a second to consider the enormity of that previous sentence, what it means to pay that much for flood control or the alternate vision of your neighbor’s poop floating around your basement.

This second project was to increase our water service, the good kind you can drink that comes from the municipal pipes. We’re required to do this because we’re adding a new bathroom and a dishwasher, which put us over the allowance for the 7/8th galvanized pipe that used to bring water into our house (it might be 3/4, or 15/16th diameter. I let the husband concerns himself with such details). In order to get our new 1.25-inch copper pipe in place, they needed to dig up part of the street.

At least we knew this was coming. I’ve heard of renovators who didn’t know they’d be required to do this until they had made all sorts of other commitments and decisions. Our estimates on the water service project went up to about $15,000. This is not the kind of money you can pull out of the air, especially when you’ve already committed to a large renovation project. So if you’re adding a bathroom or other plumbing fixtures, be sure to ask your contractor and check your village code for water service requirements.

plumbing hole in street with guy down deep

The guy in the hole in the street.

Once the pipe crossed the street underground, it had to go under our lawn to meet the foundation of the house five feet below grade.

plumbing pipe going thru lawn

It also had to be something like 10 feet away from the underground sewer pipes that were installed from the overhead sewer project, meaning that an entirely new portion of our lawn is now ruined. The whole thing is now completely trashed.

Sewer work front walk dug out

This pic is from the last job, but the look is the same.


I still haven’t cleaned up all the leftover material from the sewer job. We’ve got hundreds of pounds of dirt, sand and clay (mostly clay, though) that was excavated out by the previous plumber and never made it back in to the ground. I tried to get rid of some of it, but, take a look at what happened!



A happy post-script is that Plumber 2 took away a bit of the mess that Plumber 1 left behind, but we’ve still got large dried out, no good mounds of clay on the lawn.

The unhappy post-script is that we still haven’t received our waiver of lien from Plumber 1 after no less than four requests for it. I have to get DH to start writing on this blog because he’s better at explaining things like why it’s really important to receive a waiver of lien from your contractor when you pay for the job.

Another unhappy post-script. We learned an expensive lesson regarding the order in which things should be done. I’ll write more about this soon. Let me just say I live to make mistakes so you wonderful people can learn from them.

If you’d like to follow along on our journey, “Like” Reluctant Renovator on Facebook, subscribe to this blog or Progress Notes, our monthly newsletter that serves up links to our most popular posts as well as a chance to enter product giveaways. Click to subscribe.

Who Gets to Walk Through Your Door?

locked door with skeleton keyAs I’ve noted, we’ve had a range of service professionals coming through our house to install flood control, upgrade our electric service and take on other tasks that go beyond our DIY capabilities. This traffic trend will continue for several more months. Usually it’s all good, but last week I had an experience that made me go hmmm.

There’s a bit of a backstory, which will be a whole post unto itself, but we lent our key to a provider and now it’s gone…along with information about our house, such as our address. Not good. The provider offered to send over a locksmith to re-key our locks, but their preferred locksmith wasn’t available until the next day. I told them that was not acceptable; I wanted someone out to secure my house ASAP. Well, they did what I said, but had to go through the phone book to find someone to get over here right away.

I was given a window of time and told to expect a locksmith on my doorstep soon. The someone that showed up was in an unmarked minivan. He wasn’t wearing any clothing affiliated with the company and he couldn’t even produce a business card!

He offered to call someone from the company to bring one over and vouch for him, but WTF?! I called DH who agreed I should not let the guy in the house. I called the original service provider with my concerns. While making the calls, I Googled around not only was the company not listed on Angie’s List, but didn’t even have a website. I ultimately decided I’d rather wait the extra day to get the locks re-keyed by the more reputable provider.

In addition to the red flags they guy on my doorstep was figuratively waving, vague recollections of two stories I’d heard on NPR echoed in my mind. Did you know there are a lot of con men out there posing as locksmiths?

This could have been bad, costly and generally ugly. I’m glad I sent him away. Though I didn’t really send him away. He disappeared  before I could give him official marching orders. Hmmmm.

Have you ever kept a contractor or serviceman out on the stoop and locked yourself inside?

Eat, Play, Love in the Kitchen

I love to read about my friends and their renovations. This past week Denise from Eat, Play, Love showed off some budget-friendly kitchen updates. She and I have the same cabinets–for now. Mine should be going soon and hers will be going eventually, too. You see, she just made a few changes to make her kitchen a bit more user-friendly. For instance, she got rid of the good fair/evil elf that used to watch over her while she did the dishes. She’s holding out another year or two for a gut remodel. Given how much time a family spends in the kitchen, that could seem like a very long wait.

It’s always interesting to see how a few changes and a fresh coat of paint can really update a room.

If you’re a friend of mine, be sure to let me know about your renovation efforts. Want to be featured here or guest post? Drop me a note.

I Shot a Deer This Morning

shooting a deer in the woodsIt’s true. I was out on my morning walk, my cellphone/camera in hand, and look what I shot! With my camera, of course.

As long as you’re reading, will you click to let me know what color combo you think works best for my kitchen and living room/dining room?

And the master bedroom?

And be sure to enter the SodaStream giveaway!



Bloggers Gone Wild at #PaintMeBen, A MomImpact Event

Last week my blog friends and I were treated to a presentation on How to Choose the Perfect Color at my local Benjamin Moore retailer. Color wizard Mary Hoffman, a third generation Benjamin Moore employee, talked to us in a way that made zillions of paint colors seem a little less overwhelming and a lot more fun.

After an inspiring presentation, we headed over to Casa de Renovation to look at the color themes suggested by Evelyn Martinez, our designer provided by the brand. So what happened when the energetic crowd headed over to my house?

Bloggers. Gone. Wild.

 Bloggers behaving badly Hope and Tracey defaced the wall.

One woman demolition crewJen then smashed it, finding her her true calling.

No wait, that all came later. When we got to the house, Mary and Beth, also from Benjamin Moore, drew a winner for the Grand Prize of the Evening- a personal in-home color consultation from Benjamin Moore. Lucky Melanie from Tales from the Crib won.

I awarded a few lesser prizes- an old key to the house, vintage wallpaper scraps (removed from my wall earlier that day) and a chance to hammer a hole in the wall that will soon (pretty please) be demolished.

Oh dear, it appears the other Jen forgot to take home her strip of vintage wallpaper. I’ll have to remember to bring it to her the next time we’re together.

Alli won my hip-again lime green sheer living room curtains- an item I didn’t even know I was giving away. But really, I’ll give almost any old thing away to a good home.

Everybody who showed up is a winner because they received coupons for Benjamin Moore sample pints.

I hope they go bold.

Maybe they will. After all, Kathy, (below) a blog friend dating back to when dinosaurs ruled the digital space in 2006, has been pondering a color change. And Lisa learned a few tips to help with her troubled yellow bathroom walls.

Special thanks to my guests: Paula, Beth, and Maureen.

Kathy looking tough

The party isn’t over yet. Take a look at the colors we’re pondering and let me know your favorites.

Your vote will also put you in the running for coupons codes for Benjamin Moore sample pints! Voting ends 9/16/11 at 11 CST.

Click to see our options for the master bedroom.

And also vote on the living room/dining room and kitchen. (My largest paint challenge.)

And when you’re done, you’re done, take a look at Evelyn’s suggestions for my teen son and my tween boy.

So, what do you think? Help me decide!

It will be months before the house is finished. If you’d like to follow along on our journey, “Like” Reluctant Renovator on Facebook, subscribe to this blog or Progress Notes, our monthly newsletter that serves up links to our most popular posts as well as a chance to enter product giveaways. Click to subscribe.

SodaStream Giveaway!

Soda Stream unit with flavor mixesI received a SodaStream for review on my personal blog just around the time we were filling out our mortgage application, which was also the week of my son’s bar mitzvah and the first party I’ve thrown for more than 150 guests. Needless to say, the box and my review got put aside for a few weeks, but eventually the Soda Stream made it over to the reno house where it receives much love. SodaStream is a make-your-own soda pop system; it doesn’t require electricity and it’s so easy, even a kid can do it.

In fact, my kids love to make soda. I approached the company to host a giveaway because my boys and their friends have so much fun with it, I wanted to share the joy.

Not only is it cool to customize your fizzy drink, but since you reuse the pop bottles, you’ve got a green drink regardless of what flavor it is.

The main unit comes with carbonating bottles and a CO2 gas cylinder that will makes the bubbles. The cylinder, or carbonator, can be returned through participating retailers. The Soda Stream folks inspect, clean and refill the gas cylinders for re-use. As for the carbonating bottles, simply wash with hot soapy water and they’re good to go again..

There are a variety of Soda Stream flavor options. Flavor syrups include a variety of traditional options (cola, ginger ale, root beer) in regular, diet, energy and caffeine-free and Sparkling Iced Teas. These retail for $4.99 and up per bottle and make 12 liters or equivalent of 33 12-ounce cans at a cost of about 25 cents a can, according to their website. The also offer unsweetened Flavor Essences which retail for $9.99 and make up to 20 liters, and  have a sparkling natural line made with cane sugar and without artificial colors or flavors. Woot! Though it’s a bit pricier at $9.99 for 6 liters.

Whether mixing up your own drinks or adding a little pizazz to your parties, the SodaStream is fun to use.

Here’s what I’m giving away:  a Fountain Jet Soda Lover’s Start-Up Kit (approx. $100 retail value.) It includes the winner’s choice of black/silver, white or red/silver(!) Fountain Jet, CO2 to make over 100 liters of soda, 2 reusable carbonating bottles, a sample pack of flavors, and 3 full-sized flavors of the winner’s choice.

Would you like to win this sweet package?

To enter:

1. (required) Comment once on this blog by 11:50 PM CST on September 22, 2011 for a basic entry.  Comment as you wish, but if you have a sodamix flavor you’re eager to sip, let me know, especially since it’s part of the prize. :-). US addresses only. No purchase necessary to win.

You can also have up to five optional extra entries; I need a separate comment for each of these items, so I can count each one as an extra entry:

2. Tweet about the entry and come back to let me know you did.

3. “Like” Reluctant Renovator on Facebook and come back to let me know.

4. Subscribe to our newsletter, Progress Notes. Starting later this summer, we’ll be sending 1-2 updates a month featuring our progress and advising you on our fabulous home product finds and giveaways. Come back to let me know.

5. Subscribe to my YouTube Channel so you can keep up with Reluctant Renovator video blogs. Really, you don’t want to miss the most recent one.

6. Follow @RenovatorKim on Twitter.

Winner will be chosen and notified by September 24, 2011 and will have two days to respond to me. If no response if received, a new winner will be chosen.


Disclosure: SodaStream provided me with a unit to review and will ship a prize pack to the winner.