Thursday, August 26, 2010

Anti-Gravity!

No, we are not back to the future (though the thought of jiggawatts is reminding me of the post below)! We've been collectively dreading the thought of bringing up the required amount of blue board (sheet rock, plaster board, drywall, yada yada yada) since we wrestled with the few pieces required for our bathroom renovations over the past year. Funny how a house that was built prior to the invention of drywall would not take into consideration the ability to fit a 4'x8' sheet up three flights of stairs. doh. Even our drywaller (bringing in a pro for this one boys and girls) didn't like the idea of it, and offered a 50% discount on the project should we find a way to procure the materials and get them into the condo. Procurement was obviously as easy as a shiny piece of plastic with the letters S A V I (not necessarily in that order), and borrrowing the "BIG GREEN TRUCK". Surprisingly, I have become aware that you, dear reader, may not have met the "BIG GREEN TRUCK" yet. Here she is from a sunnier day during demo
The beast can still tackle 80mph on the highway, but sounds like a B52 doing it!! Mucho thanks as usual to B's Mom (by way of B's Dad - the previous owner) for use of such a beaut. 

Clearly, this still left us with the dilemma of how to get the 25 sheets from the truck to the condo. Realizing that this may be a great opportunity to flex the good ol' engineering grey matter, the brainstorming commenced. Plan 1.0 went a little something like this (note: Plan 1.0 was not executed, merely conceived). 
  1. Screw pulleys (x2) into the roof of the back deck
  2. Lower ropes through pulleys down to the back yard
  3. Build "fixture" connecting the ropes with a 2x4 for the drywall to rest on
  4. Tie up the drywall and haul it up 
While in Maine for the weekend I explained Plan 1.0 to my Dad. I believe one of my Dad's many great mantras involves having the "right tool for the job" so he automatically convinced himself (and later me) that Plan 1.0 had to go. Luckily, he totally pulled through by suggesting the use of a ladder hoist. A ladder hoist is primarily used to haul heavy buckets of shingles to a roof. Within 12 hours of the initial suggestion a ladder hoist was found for rent at 495Rental and put on hold... Ladies and gentlemen, without further ado I present...

The hoisting!!! It was so totally awesome (sorry for lack of vocab, but seriously, it was)!! This was our Friday night test run, and by the time I got back from dance on Saturday morning all the drywall (and cement board for the floors) was in the house stacked neat and tidy. Ahhhh... life is good. Special thanks to Mr. Matthew Coolidge, Mr. Steve Sheehan, and Mr. Matty Maguire for their support in the loading/unloading process!

Monday, August 23, 2010

It's Electric, boogey-oogey!

Work is essentially constant at the house lately, and I'm having a hard time naturally segmenting the projects into posts. I promise I will try to document everything, but I am sincerely sorry if some of it is out of chronological order!

With the successful sign-off of our plumbing inspection, it was time to approach electrical. Thanks to the before-mentioned ghetto renovations by previous owners EVERYTHING had to be re-done. The Mike Holmes mantra of "if you're going to do it, do it right" continues to rear its ugly head throughout this process. Even our breaker box had to be moved, since its previous home on the wall was obliterated during demo to make room for a pennisula with breakfast stools. The box's new home is secure on the wall of our new laundry closet. LAUNDRY. CLOSET. *le sigh* Clearly, I'm righteously pumped about this future laundry location!

Let me preface the remainder of this discussion by mentioning that, to me, electrical work looks mostly like this... 
courtesy www.xkcd.com



Yet again, B saves the day by being handy enough to do most of the work on his own. Personally, I don't recommend this model if you are new to renovations, or do not feel comfortable, as electricity isn't something to handle lightly. Again, this is a permitted project and must be overseen and signed off by an electrician prior to inspection by the City inspector. Another family friend (Phil) was a fabulous addition to our team, and was able to button up everything B had started within one day. Keep in mind that for a rough inspection all wires must be visible, all staples should be in place, and outlet/switch lines should be stripped and capped. Since kitchens require a plethora of electrical (good lighting, plenty of lighting switches, and outlets for small, medium and large appliances) mapping out a diagram (however crude) is critical. If nothing else, it self generates a heavy shopping list for your local HD. A tip: buy more staples, they go fast! Also, keep a Sharpie around, with so many wires running everywhere it's nice to mark them when they reach the box. Here are a few crummy pictures from my phone (for now). 
Newly wired switch box with marked wires
Light switches for entering from the deck (plan ahead so you don't end up in the dark!)

An lastly, if you know enough to stay far away from electricity, never fear! You can still contribute to the project. Typically for me this would mean providing yummy homemade vittles, but under the circumstances the men will have to settle for the following...
Big A$$ sammich full of steak, thanks D'Angelo!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Wet 'n Wild

Hello Virtual Friends! 

Hands down the number one question we get about our renovation: "When is it going to be done?" DUHHHH - trust me you'll know, it'll be right around the time we aren't walking around like dust covered zombies, and actually return your phone calls

Number two question: "How did you learn how to do this?"

This question hasn't gotten any easier to answer, but after a little foot shuffling and nervous chuckling the answer usually incorporates the following:
  • Experiences in our first projects. Our "lessons learned" list from the bathroom projects is mighty long and in many ways a kitchen is like a bathroom on steroids
  • Transferable skills. Bernie's summer jobs as an auto mechanic don't directly relate to home repair, but the fearless approach to hands on problem solving really helps
  • Engineering school. BAH! In theory, technically this should help us, but mostly it just gives people a warm fuzzy that we know what we're talking about. Trust me, I still wish I was a plumber or electrician. Though I do try to remind B of my great project management skills (some might interpret this as "nagging" or "supervising" but I consider it more of a "direct, involved management practice")
  • Good Genes. The beloved patriarch of the Purpura family (B's mom's dad), Sal, passed down the basic skills, the get-it-done attitude, and the overall aptitude. Though I sadly never got to meet "Pupa" I am constantly assured that B is just like him!
All that being said, we are always quick to admit that mistakes often get made. And that is really what I wanted to write about today (sorry for all the lead in). As I mentioned, last week we ventured into plumbing land. For permitted projects a plumber is required, and thankfully we have a great friend who does great work (thanks, Billy!). B was able to set-up a lot of the stuff prior to his arrival, and as a result they were able to knock out 90% of the work in one (long) day. Work included installation of laundry hook-ups and drain, addition of water hook-up for fridge, new flex tubing for hot/cold sink, gas line for the stove, and movement of the baseboard heat. Nothing like shiny new copper pipe!

Saturday the boys set out to level the floor so the sub floor could be laid (but not screwed down, as the rough plumbing must be visible for the inspection). After another 12 hour day that consisted of precision cutting and leveling, the MDF was down, and the new wall sections were framed (I know I need more pictures).  Another shout out B's Dad, and the one-and-only John Burrows, Class of 2000. :-)

Fast forward to Tuesday, when the owner of the second floor unit emails us to say that the 2nd floor tenants have a "wet ceiling". B is on his way to hockey (all this work, and he still has time to be a hockey-stud. swoon.) so I am dispatched downstairs for investigation.

Whoops! Luckily the wetness neatly corresponded with the heat pipe in the floor of our unit, so I can at least ID the source and shut down the water to that location. Also luckily, there were replacement ceiling tiles in the basement, which were installed the next day. Even more luckily (are you sensing the pattern here?) Billy the kid plumber was scheduled to be back in the morning to prep for the inspection anyway. Wednesday morning the root cause was found: a pin hole in the baseboard heat from driving a nail through the pipe. This also explains why it took the better part of four days to get that bad. Thank goodness the subfloor, cement board, tile, and cabinets were not installed when this issue was found. 

All in all, I'll explain this like I explained my recent appendectomy: if something bad had to happen, this is the best thing that could have happened. 

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

I said "Brrr, it's cold in here!"

Say hello to my new friend!

Isn’t she a beaut?? Now I know you may think we’re getting a bit ahead of ourselves here (like you really need a floor or walls to have a new fridge?!?!), but it was actually quite critical that we found a fridge early in the process. This is important because unlike stoves and dishwashers there are actually about 5,467,312 “standard” sizes of refrigerators ranging in price from $1,000- $3,000. Since our cabinet layout requires the width of the fridge, we wanted to make sure we could find something that fit that wouldn’t force us into an obnoxious price point. Additionally, there are certain Zoolander-like concerns re: refrigerators (i.e. “how is it supposed to work, if it can’t even fit in the building!”) After copious online searching, and a trip to the Sears scratch and dent outlet, I have to say I was initially super stressed out. When you are doing a budget kitchen you really can’t blow the budget on a fridge, but it looked as if we weren’t going to find ANYTHING we could afford. But then… finally… CRAIGSLIST!!!!! I know, I know, this isn’t the solution for everyone, but it turned out to be a really great alternative for us. We have a deposit down on this baby, and let’s just say, we’re saving about 50% for something that has been only very gently used. I’m already having dreams of polishing the finger-prints off every other day, and let me tell you, they are sweet sweet dreams. 

Monday, August 2, 2010

Life in Dirt Land!!!

Sorry for the terrible delay in posting. Looks like this blog thing is not really for me, but I am doing my best. The work in the kitchen continues on an almost-daily basis, though visually it is getting harder to see progress. Here's a few of the things we've done lately...
  1. Finished removing all debris from the room. So far we are at 4,000lbs of building materials brought to the transfer station, which means we've muscled down roughly a ton of junk a piece from the third floor walk-up **flexes**
  2. Removed non-critical electrical (done by B, I don't mess with electricity after my dubious success in "electrical engineering for mechanical engineers" class). As per the norm in this house, ghetto work before hand resulted in many single outlets each having their own breaker. These have been removed, all new electrical materials have been purchased and a diagram has been made of future outlets/switches. 
  3. Removed base-board heat from along the wall that has been removed. The little experiment was quite the funny one. Basically we had to turn the AC in the front room where the thermostat is located to cool the room to a reasonable temp. With the center section of the pipe removed and the hot water shut off, B then went to the basement. We communicated via cell phone as he turned the water back on. I then ran to the front room and cranked the heat on the thermostat. Still on the phone, I ran back to the kitchen with a bucket and waited to see which end the hot water would start gushing from. Once I got water upstairs, B was able to shut off the main supply again, and now we know which way the water is moving through the heating system. Naturally the supply side is not near the existing walls (that would be way too easy) so we'll have to cap that and have the plumber put a new supply line in when he arrives Friday.
  4. Stuck new drain pipes from our unit to the basement. Our new laundry closet will require more drainage, and though we couldn't really see down the scary dark shaft next to the fireplace, this turned out to be a fairly painless task. Thank goodness, as busting through a wall in either of the two units below us was NOT part of the plan. Hopefully this should speed some of the plumbing work this weekend. 
  5. Extended the gas line to new stove location. Again, I did not participate in this task (are you sensing a trend re: tasks that require real skillz?). After some out-of-the-box thinking, B was able to extend the existing line behind the "kitchen chimney" (not to be confused with the fireplace chimney or the front room chimney), to minimize the space we will lose from that wall. Viola! He is so fancy and impressive :-) 
I'm sure there has been plenty of other action while I've been off gallivanting at dance and what-not, but this gives you a quick glimpse of how many projects are required before you can even start the big stuff!