What we are doing:

In what spare time we have, we decided to spend it (and our savings) on remodeling our rowhouse in South Philly. When we purchased our casa it was a 3 story, 5 bedroom, 1 bath that hadn't been touched in 50+ years. It's currently a 4 bed, 2 bath construction site with so much more to do it's hard to believe.

We use this blog to mark progress, say hi to friends and family, rant about the process of remodeling, and try to have some fun along the way.

- Bryan and Christina

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

We're Baaaaaaaack!

Well hello interweb friends and admirers. Yes, this is a blog post, and yes it's been ages since the world has been updated on our comings and going here on 13th st. We probably broke Google's algorithm with our lack of traffic, and for that I apologize.

Real quick update on our house since the last post: we've done nothing. Oh, we bought a new stove. But yeah, I think that's about it. I won't get into the life stuff that we are up to but suffice to say we've stayed busy and the house has been an after thought.

That has changed. Part of us getting busy was, um well, we're having another kid. This little bundle of screaming and not sleeping joy is slated to arrive in July. A - we're pumped. Parker loves babies and is really excited for a 2 year old which is fun to watch. B - it's time to get on to the final chapter of the house (that doesn't involve the words "kitchen", "bathroom" or "dig the basement out and pour a new concrete pad").

So we decided to gut the final bedroom and totally overhaul it with twin closets, (finally) fully insulated walls and ceiling and new windows. Oh, AND I'M NOT DOING IT! That's right, we hired a contractor. Now, I expect that you're a good reader of this amazing blog, so you already know about the nonsense we had with a previous contractor that we poured our hopes and dreams into. It went to shit. Messy shit. So after that shit (it really was shit) we did pretty much all of the work ourselves, and by that I mean I (Bryan) did it all. Well I don't hang or mud drywall and I hired a painter for the last room, but hey I had a spa day or something.

So Merlin (A+ on the name) showed with a couple dudes in a late 80's Ford F-350 quad cab with the name "Le Beaste" stenciled on the side. All vehicles the size of small boats need names. Anyway, the room being gutted has been in the past (in order): my office, our bedroom, our living room, a storage room, my workshop, and a guest room. It's had a life, and it had the scars to prove it. Aside from pulling up the old carpet and painting the floor, we hadn't touched this room since we bought the house. Pictures of the room before and after are scattered throughout this post, but I hope you figured that out already.

The room had a 1960's paneled (then painted) closet that was haphazardly added and added poorly as well. There was a special notch cut out that allowed someone to stick their hand through the hole in to adjust the radiator valve......But we never once complained because it was one of our 2.5 closets in the house, and the biggest, for the first 4 years we've been here. That was function over fashion in a major way. The other walls are covered in layers of wallpaper, newspaper, and then paint. The back window was so bad that in driving rain the kitchen below it would pour water, which happened just the other day. It was time for this room to GO. So in the end we're getting three custom windows, I'm insulating the walls and ceiling, Merlin is supplying proper electrical in there, and a great sense of this being the "last" thing we have to do to make the house really feel like we're in every room.

Before the baby arrives in July, which means this is Parker's room in October-ish, my mother-in-law will probably be residing in it for a few weeks. So it'll be a good chance to break it all in and see if we need to tweak anything before Parker takes over. Right away there's talk about building a bench that spans the closets which will be on either side of the back window. We'll see.

Dudes were off today so I snagged some pics. Tomorrow is framing and electrical, Thursday is something and Friday something else. Honestly, I wasn't paying attention to what Merlin said, that's why Christina is great.

We'll post pictures every couple of days for this few that want to see what is up. And I WILL get a picture of "Le Beaste", I assure you.

Sigh...for those "non-technical" readers in my family....click on the pictures for larger ones.


Monday, June 21, 2010

D-O-N-E. What's that's spell?


Before I get into showing any pictures or crafting some witty banter about the week I just went through, let me give you a Reader's Digest snippet of what life has been like since October with the playroom:
  1. Emptied the front second floor bedroom which was PACKED (i.e. inaccessible past 3 feet) into random parts of the house.
  2. Started demo in the room in mid October with the idea of everything being done for drywall in November.
  3. In reality, the room sat for months while I had one hour per week of time to work on it.
  4. Framed in the new closet a couple of times
  5. Installed new electrical in the room...over the course of 6 weeks
  6. Parker got bigger and accumulated more "stuff" that crowded our living room.
  7. I got older, grayer and more desperate
So that's about it. Last week I decided that enough was enough and pulled the ultimate DIY reno card: the "I'm taking the week off" card. It's a card that you can play from time to time, but must be used very sparingly and for the appropriate reasons. Well this was the time.

But since I do have a job with responsibilities I went to the office mid week for some meetings, so I got to write three days off as working. GO ME!

But I digress. So the week had to have a project plan and priorities...oh, and I had both. Check how it went down:
  1. Monday - install all remaining door casing, first coat of paint on the playroom floor
  2. Tuesday - caulk, install all baseboards, prime and paint (first coat) three of the doorways, second coat on paint on the floor
  3. Wed - stuck at work
  4. Thurs - create little railing thing for the bathroom, install all trim around closet, caulk
  5. Fri - second coat on the three doorways
  6. Sat - prime all playroom trim (including the nurse
  7. Sun - both top coats on all playroom trim, prime radiator, install the railing thing, third coat of floor paint plus paint hallway floor.
Right now I have to say that Christina took on an extra job over the past few days to paint the stairs leading up to the third floor. While she always thought that was in the current plan, I did not. But in the end the stairs look awesome. The risers are the same white as our trim in the house, and the treads have the same floor paint which really makes them look nice. Too bad we'll be ripping those stairs down in a year or so, but hey, in the meantime they look great.

So that's what happened this week. The playroom needs some outlet covers (which I just realized I forgot to pick up) and the doors hung. In the pictures I have it looks like the base cap white is lapping up the wall, but I assure you that is some Nikon trickery, and not true. I just have to say that for the record or my head will explode.

We're giving the floors a week to fully dry then it's moving time. It'll be nice to get things like our spare TV, couch and entertainment center out of the way and into a proper room. Plus Parker keeps accumulating "stuff" that just needs to get out of the living room. I mean what 16 month old doesn't want the same square feet as a Chelsea condo?

Posh living on 13th St.

- Bryan

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Hello....is this thing on?

Greeting fellow DIY folks, parents, friends and wealthy admirers. It's been some time since I've done a proper blog post and since I actually get people asking what we've been up to (I know...I'm shocked too) I decided to just put it all out there. Online. To strangers. Like Chatroulette.

Ever since Parker came into the fold here on 13th street, projects have slowed to say the least. What would have been 2 weekends of 8 hours days now takes 6+ months, as evidenced by our work on Parker's playroom/guest bedroom/bass gear storage. In my previous post I laid out what was going to happen, and since then work kept going at a snail's pace, but like the Ice Age...slow movement is still pretty big.

In the past 2 months I completed the electrical (with an eye popping SEVEN outlets in there) as well as the rest of the framing and general to-dos. Our drywall guy and his crew squeezed us in between some actually profitable jobs just about 10 days ago, and they wrapped up the painting last week. I've included some progress pics of the the drywalling as well as the final closet I built along with the look of the bays since we decided to cover up (NOT REMOVE) the old wood trim at the bottom for a cleaner look. IF we don't like it I can remove the three pieces of drywall and all is well.

Note the "H" design of the closet with the left and right "flairs": the top is for a TV and whatnot with power and cable, and the bottom is a traditional closet space. The left side is square in the closet but hide the radiator pipes, while the right side is open in the closet for shelves and additional storage. We LOVE symmetry around here.

The pic to the left here shows how this front room connects to the rest of the house via the main hallway on the second floor, but also to Parker's current nursery, thus creating a 200 sq ft suite for a 15 month old. ....Yeah. This is about 48 hours old now, and the door on the right is gone and undergoing some TLC and I have created and installed the jambs for both this doorway and the lower closet.

View of the bay with the filthy screens.

What I'm doing right now is wrapping up the rest of the trim which I hope will b done net weekend if I can get a hold of Tague Lumber and get a delivery of some door casing. We'll see about that. In any case, I'm sanding/priming/painting the door between this room and Parker's room and Christina is taking care of the old bay window trim. I'm running baseboards tomorrow in between racks of ribs and beers.

Parker Approved!

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Pondering Parker's Playroom

After what has essentially been something like 7 months off from construction, we're back at it. And man, getting back on that horse was a tough one! Granted I’d much rather dabble in framing, electrical and the major items instead of trim and paint (ugh), there is an essential factor that you must have for any major work: time. That is far and away our greatest challenge right now.

With our daughter Parker now at a whopping 11 months old, she officially needs her own space to do what little kids do. So we decided to take this as our chance to redo the front bedroom on the second floor into a playroom that will eventually be her bedroom when she’s ready. As it happens, her nursery has an adjoining door to this front bedroom, so in the end it’s like she is getting her own suite at the Bellagio or something. It has a bay window that I'm already itching to make into a window seat!

(I’m banking on that move meaning that her nursery room can be taken over by me. What man doesn’t want his own cave with a mini fridge and HD cable?)

The room had been packed to the gills as a storage room for 18 months, so once that clutter was jettisoned I had to tackle the closet. Now, we’re pretty sure that the closet was original to the house, and it was built like a brick s#$%house for sure. The kicker is that I could barely ever use it. See, in the olden days, people must have had REALLY small feet or didn’t wear shoes. Because the original closet (you might be able to tell by the pictures) is a nice like 36 inches wide, but a mere 10 inches deep. I wear size 12 shoes, and putting my shoes in there was a pain in the butt. Not only that, but any shirts that hung we on one of three rods that ran perpendicular to the closet opening which made it weird to look for that long lost Cosby sweater in the back.

So I got to smash it apart and throw the whole thing away. As usual this meant a huge mess and since I’m paranoid about that level of dirt in the air, I had both doors sealed up like a bio medical lab. So getting bags of trash in and out plus ladders, compressor, etc was a chore. But you have to do what you have to do right?

Anyway, the original closet has been replaced by one of Christina’s design that I had the pleasure of constructing. If you can’t picture it with the framing, there will be an upper and lower closet with little “wings” off the side (you can see the header of the bottom closet, but you can’t see the studs running to the back wall to make the separate between the two boxes). The left side boxes in the radiator pipes for the third floor, and the right side will be open inside for shelves, TV equipment…whatever. Pretty decent use of symmetry and space if you ask me….

The other task for this room is getting more than the current number of working receptacles since keeping only ONE for a room this day and ages is not only against code, it’s pretty lame. The challenge was in the party wall opposite the closet, since there was no way I was going to grind into brick again for two boxes and the channel needed. Not going to happen in the room next to my daughter’s crib, and since brick dust goes EVERYWHERE and takes eons to get rid of; I elected to just frame a wall against the brick/plaster that’s there.

So in the end I got to build a closet and a wall plus add four new recessed lights and relocate the existing overhead fixture (still to do because I keep forgetting). I hope to get the new receptacles in next weekend, and then hopefully get our man Jose to sheetrock and paint the room by the later half of Feb. Like I said before, it’s just time…and when you get about 4 hours over the entire weekend to get anything done between naptime, and bedtime, it’s all a shell game.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Misson Accomplished

Happy Memorial Day! I hope this finds you reflective on the reason for the holiday and not too sun burnt. We here are the Grimes casa are busy living life with a 3 month old and trying to trod along with the work on the house, the goal is to have it done enough she can't snack on lead paint or step on nails when she starts crawling. Picking up from the last blog post, my work for the past few weeks has been trying to focus on the door jambs/casing, and installing the baseboards in the first and second floors.

Just like our previous President, I can also say "Mission Accomplished". Ok, so just like Bush needed to clarify the misleading headline 6 years ago, I have some 'splainin to do. 6 of the 7 doorways have new jambs, 3 have doors and only one has a door that latches. The baseboards are pretty close to done, but I am in need of a nice transition piece to help with the difference in the height of the baseboards we've been installing throughout and the stair trim that we left in place. So in all, good enough for government work!

In this post are some picture from the past week or so. The top one is the trim we used for the two doors on the first floor since they are tight on a wall and the profiled casing would just look odd since the mitre would be off. The rest of the pics are some doors on the second floor as well as some baseboard. Not quite as riveting as a picture of the shooter on the grassy knoll, but it's a holiday and I'm dog tired.

(OK, here's where I walked away and Christina finished the post. Enjoy)

We also have finally hung art work on a couple of walls, and have some empty frames just waiting for adorable baby pictures that will go up shortly. This really means that I have to commit to the locations, and that might take quite some time of placing, and rearranging. I did dig out my UPenn diploma from the depths of our junk room, it should be good for something other than collecting dust right? We also put some of the white wall stickers up in Parker's room today too, but those are also going to take a little more rearranging before the big reveal!

All in all it we do have some outstanding big projects, but those are going to be a ways off. It is really just nice bite sized afternoon projects for awhile, and wrapping up the big ones that we started over the past year. Bryan and I joke about who is going to paint the base board that are recently installed, and the general consensus is that it will be Parker! That or any unsuspecting house guests over the summer.....

Any takers!?!?!

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Hello blog, It's me Bryan

It's spring time. It's the time of the year where the bleary eyed DIY home renovator brushes off the pitifuly small winter projects for the glory of full on renovations!!! I mean it's time to say NO to painting trim (that's ok in December). NO to weekend projects seeming huge when they involve lowly drywall anchors. NO to your table saw being used as an actual table in the basement.

Wow, that felt good to type! But I have to confess something to the internet Gods...I'm taking the spring and summer off.

I think I know what you're telling yourself right now...."But Bryan, in the past year you've done a lot, why stop now?". Ah yes, that question. I get that question a lot actually. Well I have a pretty good reason, and her name is Parker. In my last post (two months ago almost!!!!!) I posted some pictures of her. Well she's just about two months now and while the diplomatic answer to this question should be "I just can't bear spending time away from work and NOT with Parker" or something like that. Well honestly, that's very true, but not 100% of the story. The main reason is that by Saturday morning I'm tired. I mean dead to the world, need a coffee IV all day....tired.

Who wants to demo a room or hang sheetrock like that? Not I says the bearded man.

Anyway, on to the house blogging. Since Parker and Christina came home on March 4th, things have been pretty chill. Above are a few pictures of Parker's room.

We had the baseboard material delivered at the end of Feb and with the help of my visiting father, managed to install a bit of it in the dining room, and her room, and then promptly store the rest in the basement. Sometime we will actually get the rest of it in place, but maybe that will be a fall project. Who really needs trim in the house anyway? Wouldn't modernism dictate that trim is just unnecessary decoration? Our home inspector might disagree, but I think we can make a case for sure!

What's on the plate right now is fixing the door casings after the drywall was hung. The pictures above show the problem. You can't just trim out the door when the current casing is not wide enough to cover the existing plaster and the new sheetrock. No good. So I've removed the casings from the two doors downstairs since the back sides of them are not important (one is to the basement, and the other into a closet). It is always better to try something first in the least noticeable spot.

In the end I ripped a 1 x 8 down to fit the "unique" and "charming" characteristics of each opening. I did shim the pieces to finally make the opening square. Speaking of square in a house this old, check out the pic to the upper right of the front bedroom on the second floor. Notice anything a little Tim Burton-esque about it?

Yeah, that's most of the doors here. Not the fault of the fellers who hung the sheetrock, but that's just how the house has settled for these 100+ years. What can you do. I'm going to fix all of that when I install that doorway's casing next weekend. Might be some work.

Up and to the left is a quick shot of the basement doorway after I removed the old casing. In the end it was pretty easy, I was just careful to not mess-up any of the surrounding drywall. Like I mentioned before, these two doorways were done first as there is no back to them really. The doorway into Parker's room is on the right above, and that will be the good one as the hallway and her room have the top coats of paint on them. As much as I hate painting, I REALLY HATE repainting anything.

In all that's about it. The casing needs to be fixed so I can rehang the doors and then install the both the door trim, and the baseboards. Bleh.

I've also included some pictures of Parker's room in it's 90% completed state. It wouldn't be a DIY project if there weren't "little" "3 hour" projects left to do. But since Parker is sleeping in a cradle in our room, I'm chalking up my procrastination to "out of sight, out of mind". But time is ticking....

Friday, February 27, 2009

I'd like to introduce everyone to Parker!!

So on Monday Feb 23rd at 5:22 AM Christina gave birth to our daughter (and future weekend home remodeler) Parker. In just 2.5 hours of labor Parker was born and that was that. Parker was born at 34 weeks, which is a bit early, so she's been in the ICN at Pennsylvania Hospital and is tentatively coming home this Monday or Tuesday. Good stuff.

In the meantime Christina came home on Tuesday, and so we started to wrap up Parker's room. Luckily we have an extra week while she's being taken care of, and it's time that I desperately needed. The list for Parker's room was:
  • Paint the back wall magenta
  • Trim out behind the radiator and piping in the corner
  • Paint the old sub floors
  • Hook up all of the electrical and install the recessed baffles
  • Get the furniture and put it together
Not a bad list, but since I hate painting it took all of my effort to get at least that part done. Right now the magenta is up, the electrical is 90% done (just need to connect two receptacles and find plates for the 2 square boxes (not an easy find).

Scattered throughout are some pictures of the room. As for the floors, note in the first room picture that the floors are just the old sub floors. They were deemed not really salvageable by our flooring guy, and after flirting with installing carpet, we opted to just use a dark grey floor paint. Admittedly I was kind of apprehensive about the process and the potential outcome, but Christina was right...the floor looks good.

Up next is painting the second floor hallway the same color as Parker's room, and picking up the baby furniture tomorrow. I need to run at least the baseboard trim in there, so I'm hoping that I can squeeze that in tomorrow AM before the furniture arrives. But man, who knows. Do babies care that the baseboard and the base caps is not installed? Maybe she'll notice at 4 months...but probably not at 9 days.

So yeah, that's that. Parker's IV and feeding tube (used as a back up only) were removed yesterday, and she's already back to her birth weight and nursing like a full term baby.

In summary, Parker has made all of the months of blood, sweat, and expletives worth it in every sense.

P.S. - Since I drafted this post like 8 hours ago, the second floor hallway has been painted the same color. Also, Parker has all tubes removed from her but is unfortunately under Billi lights for the next day or so. What's a "Billi" light you say? Use Google. But in the meantime I'll say that the lights are used to cure any signs of jaundice, to which Parker has just a hint of. They say maybe 2 days with the blue lights. We'll see I guess.

- Bryan