Monthly Archives: November 2011

Home Inspection: The rough-in version

We had our rough-in and insulation inspections last week. Being the HGTV geek I am, I turned  it into my own little “Holmes Inspection.” I knew that centerfold of Mike Holmes would come in handy. Again.

We’re on a roll and running around like mad to pick fixtures and such. I’ll be back with more updates soon!

I Am SO Not Grounded

old water service


This is a blast from the past, relatively speaking, but I’m bringing it up because it’s an opportunity to learn from our mistakes. Thankfully, this didn’t turn out to be as expensive as I feared.

You know the age old question about whether to vacuum before you dust or dust before your vacuum? Well, we should have questioned which to update first, our water service or our electric service.

The water service upgrade was mandated by our village code. It was a costly ($10K!) and not very sexy upgrade- the kind of thing that makes a homeowner cringe because the investment will never be recouped.

The electric service upgrade was an important piece of modernizing our home.

We did the electric upgrade first, thinking that was the most useful to the contractors who’d be coming in and out of our house with equipment that demanded a high level of power. Part of the electric upgrade included a new grounding wire leading to where the water service pipes enter the house.

So when the water service location moved as part of that upgrade (because it needed to be a certain distance from our sewage pipes, per newer codes), we were no longer grounded. The house, I mean. But I was pretty rattled, too.

The water service  location switch made the grounding location a bit closer to our new electric panel and the electrician was able to re-use the pricey grounding wire and conduit he put in place the first time he did the job. He made the switch for less than $200; I had feared the cost would be more than $1,000.

He might have given us a price break because he took pity on us. I don’t know, but I’ve been recommending him to friends and one of them has already hired him, so it’s all good.

updated new water service with copper piping

Freshly grounded with shiny new copper pipes.

Seeing My Flaws

crack in wall needs to be patchedWe brought in a professional painter to beautify our new ceilings. In addition to painting, the ceilings needed a bit of patching and freshening up. It was well worth the the money. But I can’t look at my walls the same way anyway. There are flaws everywhere!

{sound of needle scratching a record}

I wrote the above words in September 2011 and the post was put in draft until I forgot about it could give it more attention. It’s funny to see that I wrote it was well worth the money to have the ceilings painted, something DH pushed for prior to the Plan A Renovation. Not funny as in “ha, ha”, but funny as in bitterly ironic because our electrician is going to install a ceiling fan anchor and a hard-wired smoke/CO detector (mandated by code) on at least one of those pristine ceilings.

The electrician will do his best, but the ceiling fan install may require a 16-inch by 16-inch square cut smack dab in the middle of the newly smooth and creamy white ceiling. D’oh!

As for the flawed walls, well, so many have been torn down in the reno, that it will only be an issue in certain rooms of the house. I think we want the old walls in our living room and dining room to look as new and smooth as possible, but we’ll accept a bit of imperfection in less public areas.

As a homeowner, do you think you are more likely to notice your own (wall) flaws than your guests are?

Home Renovation Week 5: The Highlight Reel

I wanted to share a few updates from recent weeks. Due to my surgery, I only made one brief stop at the house last week and I missed quite a lot- some of which I’m not happy about.

Take a peek at what’s going on now.

Our first inspection is tomorrow; wish us luck! Or perhaps, as my son’s Science Olympiad coach used to say, we don’t need luck, we need skill. I like to think that our general contractor has brought in a crew of skilled professionals and that we’ll get the green light to continue moving ahead.

It’s Like a Giant Puzzle

I’m up and about a bit more, but the last few days have been a flurry of activity- hardware store, lighting store, back to the house. I have a video almost ready to go showing our recent progress. I suppose in an ideal world, we’d have a complete vision for each room in the house.

We don’t.

I think our vision matches our builder’s in that all we picture are the completed rooms, not the furnished and fully decorated rooms. We have an unexpected soffit in our den because we asked the contractor to rework some exhaust ductwork. In that case, the soffit is not unexpected- the issue is that it’s unexpectedly wide.

I was all What?!

Until he explained why it looked the way it did. And then it all made sense. *sigh*

Now this is design inspiration.

What’s an old house without a few quirks?

But now there is the matter of whether we should put electrical service in or near the soffit.

It depends on your plan for the room, said the electrician.

Uh, we’ll probably have the TV in there. Or maybe bookshelves with a built-in look under the soffit. Or…

We’re putting in an outlet high up on the wall near the soffit. I guess we can always cover it with a picture frame…

So anyway, it’s all kind of like this. We didn’t/don’t have the full-finished version in our minds and trying to make the best decisions we can as long as the walls and ceiling are open.

With the guidance of a patient plumber, a patient electrician and a patient GC, we’re piecing it all together.

It might be just as well that we don’t have a long-term vision for our rooms. It’s helping us be more accepting and flexible now (see the part about the large soffit). At any rate, I think we’ve had enough change orders* that we’ve pretty much blown the decorating budget.


*We decided to install new windows now rather than later $$$, we’ve added extra outlets and recessed can lights $$ and made some plumbing changes. $

How about it? I’m trendy! Updated 11/7/11

small foyer wiht original tileAs someone who generally avoids the local mall, I’m surprised when I see myself all over a trend story. Case in point, the Wall Street Journal‘s piece earlier this week, “Blueprint for a new American home.”  The story notes that today’s homes are more practical and less aspirational. Meaning, there is more of a focus on how family members live in and utilize the space in their home.

Gone are the days of the fancy white-carpeted living room that no one is allowed to lounge in.

And those grand foyers? Generally seen as a waste of space. (Not to say I wouldn’t mind a few more square feet in our place where you walk in the front door and are practically forced up the stairs.)

Also, those outrageously large bathtubs? A thing of the past. High-end showers and steam rooms are where it’s at now.

DH and I generally consider ourselves “function over form” types and it seems like such an outlook is finally cool.


new tumbled edge foyer tileWe will bump out the foyer area just a bit with this new tile.

 Updated to add: It turns out the old tile was placed directly onto the existing wood floor. As much as I like the tile we selected (but have not yet purcahsed) and I know that the wood won’t hold up to wet, dirty shoes in the long run, we are going to try to salvage the original floor in the foyer. It will save us money now and we can always tile later on.