Thursday, June 28, 2012

Takin' Care of Business

Not too much has been going on in the farmhouse over the past few weeks. Nothing very photo-worthy at any rate. Dan and my father in law have been running electrical wires to all of our lights, outlets and light switches, and stapling the wires to the overhead beams and wall studs. The most difficult part has been trying to decide where lights will go in each of the rooms. The smaller rooms are simple; for example, the bedrooms will each have an overhead light. But what do you do with an awkwardly situated dining room? We have no idea and we need to decide soon, so any ideas are welcome!

We bought our first "home" items - lights for the kitchen and exhaust fans for the bathrooms. We chose two overhead lights for the kitchen, each with three light bulbs, and one small light for over the sink. With only one small window in the kitchen, I wanted to make sure that we would have plenty of light!

My project this week has been to look for siding for the house. Our contractor gave us a start date of July 19th for the outside work, so I've been looking for wholesale places in the Pittsburgh area. Again, if you know of a place, drop me a line! Daniel and I are going on vacation July 14-21, so we need to have siding ready to go for the contractor before we leave. I'm hoping to find a dark grey siding, similar to the stuff in this photo, perhaps even darker.

I think that the best news is that our jobs are done! We can run a few more wires, but at this point, it's up to the various contractors to put everything back together. How awesome is that?

Oh, and just as an FYI and because a number of people have asked about this, we are hoping to move in by October, if not before. Our apartment lease will be up for renewal at the end of October, and we don't plan to sign on for another year :) This way we also give the contractors some time to work around any issues that may arise, or delays that inevitably come.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Adventures with Jake

It's starting to look and feel very real to me.

My brother Jake drove from NY almost two weeks ago to lend us a hand with the farmhouse. It's been great to have someone there working on it for 8 hours every day instead of just on Saturdays. I'm pretty sure that he upped our move in date by a month with everything that he was able to do!

There was a bit more destruction that we realized we had to do. When we took the fireplace out of the wall in what we decided will be the living room, we realized that the ceiling and floor above it had been held up by the fireplace. Without it there, the whole thing was unstable. There was also a huge hole in it from where the old bathroom had been, and there were no supports in that area. Step one was getting the plaster and lath off of the ceiling. Honestly, just when we think we have finished getting all of the necessary plaster out of the house, we figure out that something else has to come down.

(Warning: overhead plaster removal is a little more dangerous than it may seem. Beware of sledgehammers being tossed by younger brothers.)

I can't remember the reason why, but Dad told us to take the ceiling down in the library as well. This was much easier, as the ceiling was pressed sawdust squares that broke apart pretty easily. And hey, they were burnable. Anyone with Heotzler or Buettner blood in their veins knows the awesomeness that comes with finding something that is burnable :)

Our main goal was to get a good start on the electrical and the plumbing. Sounds pretty simple, but there was quite a bit that had to come out before the new could go in. The house had been wired for electric and indoor plumbing in the late 1950's/early '60's - considerably later than many other houses. There weren't nearly enough electrical sockets or lights, nor was any of the plumbing up to par, so Jake pulled everything out. He had a rather comical mishap with a huge black iron pipe that was used for the bathroom upstairs; it was extremely heavy, and I'm not sure exactly how it happened, but the pipe ended up falling from the upstairs through the cracks and crashing through the plywood kitchen floor. No big deal, we can either repair it or leave it and put cement board over it. We might leave it just so we can tell our kids about the hole in the kitchen floor that Uncle Jake made!

Before we could run any new electrical wires, we had to decide where we wanted our light switches, electrical outlets and overhead lights to go. Easier said than done. We had to decide how we wanted some of the rooms set up, whether doors would swing in or out, and where we wanted overhead lights, and how many we wanted, etc. I think our motto ended up being, "When in doubt, put one up." If the "before" house didn't have enough electrical outlets/lights, the "after" house is going to have an absurd number of them. Step 1 was to buy the blue boxes to screw into the walls. We made a list, went to Lowes, and came back with this...

(Boogerhead #1 and #2)

Ladies and gents, that is about 100 different boxes. Doubles, singles and round light boxes. That poor cashier at Lowes....

I spent a few extra days this past week working with Jake. My job was to screw all of the boxes to the walls at the proper height so that when Saturday rolled around we could run wires. Dad and Jake laughed at me plenty because most of the drills were too heavy for me to use with one hand, and as a result my hands bear the scabs and scars of accidentally drilling myself instead of the screws! I came to love this drill, the "girly drill" as I call it.

It is actually called a hammer drill, and it is awesome. Easy enough for me to hold in one hand without it  being too heavy in the front. I even went so far as to ask for one of my own for Christmas!

It took forever to get all of the boxes up in the house, but I did it!

(our downstairs, tiny awkwardly placed bathroom)

Once all of the boxes were up, the wiring could begin.

We didn't finish all of the wiring, but we should be able to do so next weekend. One of my father in law's friends is an electrician, and he will be dropping by to give us some pointers and lend a hand with the more technical aspects of the electric.

One of Jake's biggest contributions to the house were the studs that he put up that will form a number of our wall. We had a few areas open that we had planned on putting a wall, and Jake was able to get the framework in place for all of them!

(our upstairs bathroom, being split into a bathroom and a master bedroom closet) 

(wall built between the kitchen and the living room where once there was a doorway)

(same wall from the other side)

(bedroom wall build upstairs to separate the room from the hallway)

Getting these studs up was a bit of a challenge. The house is so old that nothing is really level or angled correctly, so Jake spent a lot of time getting things as straight as they could be. Also, please note the DOOR!!!! Jake was able to frame in almost all of the doors in the house! We are trying to keep as many of the old doors as we possibly can, and many of them are not the standard size. Jake did a fantastic job of creating the correct size frames for everything so that we would be able to keep our old doors, and put up new ones where they would be needed. 

See what I mean? It's starting to look like a house again!

Another problem that Jake was able to help fix was the level of the floor in this room (the one pictured above). This room is right over top of our living room. After Jake took down the ceiling below early in the week, we realized how sloped the floor was for this room. One of the main support beams was splitting, and a number of the beams to the right were non-existent because there was a hole in the floor from where the old bathroom used to be. 3/4 inch plywood took care of the hold in the floor, but the splitting beam and the missing ones had to be fixed as well. Dad and Jake took a car jack and pushed the floor up almost 2 inches to make it more level and then screwed support beams on the sides of the existing old beams to keep the floor up. 

(this is what it looks like when you lay on the living room floor - you can see the plywood where the old bathroom used to be)

The floor will never be perfectly level, but there is a noticeable improvement when you stand on it - the floor doesn't bounce anymore!

Other miscellaneous items of note: 

Our basement door and frame have been removed in lieu of making the doorway bigger and re-doing the basement steps (which are tiny and narrow and a little bit dangerous). Jake was able to put a header over the entrance to the living room as well. 

We have our picture window for the living room, and it is absolutely huge! I didn't realize it was so big until we got it back to the house. We're going to let the contractors handle putting it in the wall, I think this one is a little out of our league to deal with. 

(yeah, this baby is going to take up most of the wall, floor to ceiling)

Biggest of THANK YOUs to Jake for taking the time to drive out here and do all of these great things with the farmhouse. I definitely am blessed to have such awesome and talented family!