Sunday, October 30, 2016

Foam Board...yeah!?

Foam board...hmmm...not exactly an exciting topic let alone blog title. However, what IS exciting is that I am far removed from the process that occurred around this same time 6 years ago. Fall was in full swing and the phrase "winter is coming" that surrounds the now popular Game of Thrones home of House Stark, "Winterfell" would be an appropriate one as my husband and I feverishly worked to finish several home exterior jobs before the snow fell.

To say it was a difficult job is not entirely accurate as the actual process of adding foam board insulation to the exterior of our house was not exactly hard. However, the fact that together with my husband, we covered every exterior face of our house completely by ourselves after our typical 8-hour regular work day did not make it a fast or easy job. Combined with the fact that we needed to tear off the current, original old siding and repair a few places beforehand also complicated the matter. So, as our usual reconstruction process unfolded, several deconstruction steps had to be completed first, allowing us to get to the actual job we were intending to do.

Little by little, each day we removed the old siding and repaired the base beneath so that we had a "clean" and structurally sound foundation to attach the foam board to.

That is where I kind of felt like the "fun" part began because at least we could cover up all the grunginess with something that would add much value in warmth and, to some degree, an improved exterior aesthetic. At least now it looked like we were actually trying to make this old house look like things were improving rather than just making new mess out of the original mess we started with. Plus, it also kind of made our house look like a gingerbread house. That sounded more charming in my mind than what it really was. This was helpful since our house remained in this current state all winter before we were able to finish the job of adding siding that following spring.

The installation took A LOT of foam board and A LOT of spray foam insulation cans--you know that stuff that you spray our of a can and it expands over time to triple its size. It's tough sometimes because in your mind it takes less than you would think but often when you try and gauge you overcompensate, afraid that if you don't put enough in initially it won't expand to completely fill the crevice which is the whole point, and then it expands and spills way over the original space, often makes a big mess and generally wastes a lot of the product.

Anyways, it took a lot of weeknight evenings to get everything covered and since it was late October, it started getting dark earlier and earlier until we were almost beginning work when it was completely dark. I remember going to our local home improvement store and purchasing a couple construction-type work lights just so we could keep working during the week after our regular jobs--ugghhh!

However, we did get it all done over the course of a couple weeks and while I was not thrilled with the amount of time and effort it took to get everything done, I can say that during the dead of winter that followed, I was thankful that we had such a lovely protective barrier between me and the chilling cold and howling wind outside.

I can also honestly say that I occasionally still think of what is behind our siding (mostly during the winter) and can appreciate, probably a bit more than most, the many aspects to a home that are hidden out of sight.

I also think that while I can appreciate these aspects because of this experience, I believe that you, too, can appreciate aspects to your home that are not in plain view. Maybe it's not foam board insulation but maybe it's just the fact that there are reasons your home can function in the ways that matter to you--warm showers, baking in your oven, reading a book with your kids before bedtime. These things happen due to hidden aspects such as plumbing and wiring so that you can enjoy them.

So, to end this thought, I know that come this January, I will thoroughly enjoy a warm cup of coffee inside my cozy living room while watching the blizzard unfold outside.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Walls of Warmth

Wow, it's steamy out today so in honor of the sweat equity that I am still finding myself working on, today's post recounts what I was doing at just about this same time eight years ago. I'll say it again. Eight. Years. Ago. I can't believe it's been that long. I'm soooooo thankful we're way past that stage in our home reconstruction process.

In July eight years ago, we were actually getting to a really exciting place on the house. Installing insulation! Insulation isn't exactly fun to purchase but the significance of that step precluded a more exciting process--drywall! Ha! I'll save that tale for another time.

We were finally ready to cover up all the wiring, plumbing and structural beams in the walls--in hopes to never again see what that looked like post-plaster and lathe removal. Our house was getting closer to looking like something you would want to live in.

The walls were starting to take shape and as you can see all the windows were open and we had a large circular fan blowing because it was July in Nebraska and that means heat and humidity. (you can also spy a magnetic dart board hanging from the drywall jack--sometimes you just need a fun break to pass the time until it's time to quit for the day!)

And what do I get to wear?

A lovely and insulating layer of long sleeves, jeans, hat and gloves. Oh and a respirator to keep from inhaling fiberglass.

Although the job was hot and sweaty, it really wasn't too difficult. I spent days working my way around each room and each wall cavity stapling batts of insulation from floor to ceiling. By the time I was done, you couldn't see much else other than wall after wall of craft paper with the John Mansville logo on it.

Despite the scorching July weather I could still envision cozy winter nights at home thanks to the hefty layer of warmth I was helping add to our home. A bit of security and a solution that would reap benefits down the road no matter the temperature outside. And with below freezing temps really only a few months away, I can still appreciate what this job does continue to provide and also protect us from the outside world.

So the next time you are looking at your own walls, remember that there is a lot going on behind them and hopefully plenty of the stuff that keeps you warm!

Friday, June 10, 2016

"THE" House Project

"THE" House Project began in February 2007. I refer to it as "THE" House Project because that is what the folder on my computer is named that holds all of the photos taken related to this ongoing project. It got named "THE" House Project because just prior to that, a completely different house was originally being considered as our house project and so a folder was named "Yellow House" to contain the initial photos of that house. Here is a shot of the exterior at the time:

Thankfully this house was not purchased and did not become "THE" House as two stories and many more rooms and surely many more problems to deal with would've inevitably arose and I just can't imagine we would get to the conclusion of that project in the same two-and-a-half year time frame it took to complete our one-story bungalow. Therefore, a folder to contain photos of our current abode came to be "THE" one to keep adding to.

Recently it has been brought to my attention that there are folks out there who do not know the stories behind our house and what it took to get it where it is today and those stories are worth telling. Here is a before and after view of "THE" house:

Here are few shots of the inside transformations:

I show these because not only do they show dramatic comparisons but it puts some perspective on how far we have come from our original beginnings. However, what before and after shots fail to show and as HGTV, DIY Network and countless other TV networks and reality shows certainly fail miserably to illustrate are the true realities of tackling projects like this without the help of big budgets, work crews, contractors and numerous other tradesmen.

I have to point out not in arrogance but in truth that between me, my husband, and some generous help from friends and family, we did not hire a single person to do any work (aside from brazing the refrigerant lines of our AC system) to accomplish the results above.  And don't assume that the friends and family were any of the tradesmen mentioned above. While some had construction skills and knowledge, the extent in which they could help was still often limited. So when we say "we" gutted and renovated our 100-year-old home, it is completely true. No contractors. No electricians. No plumbers, HVAC specialists, drywallers, painters, architects, drafters/designers, framers,--you name it, we didn't hire it done. We did it. Ourselves.

Now the point was not to do it ourselves for the sake of pride. While it certainly did result in some satisfaction, it was done primarily out of financial advantage. From the house purchase price to labor fees and supply costs, we saved a ton of money. What we traded in dollars we made up for in time and effort. Two-and-a-half years of time and effort to be exact. From the time we started to the day we moved in, during the days in between, we worked hard and often. Sounds like craziness to many--and they are probably right. But now that we are on the other side of it, we can certainly say that the results are worth it.

What the before and after photos also don't show is the financial foundation that keeps us free from any sort of home mortgage. Does that seem worth it? I have my doubts that it does for some but it was the right decision for us. And I am thankful for it. Is it an mansion? No. Does it need to be? No. It is so often just enough for us--no more, no less--? Absolutely.

So, as this journey continues for us in renovating and living in our home, may we remember how far we have come and what that means for our future no matter what "THE" projects is.