Home Renovation 3: New Sticks

One thing for sure about this home renovation project – it is completely messing with my sense of time. The past eight (8!) months have swept right by me. It doesn’t help that Chicago’s weather has been very kooky, with a long summer, mild fall, mild winter, and last week was more like May than February. So my inner clock is all messed up. But anyway, at the last update, yes, over four weeks ago, the first floor demolition was pretty well wrapped up. The project was on to the next stage: first floor interior framing.

intframing1stflrgrtrmtofyr

“Great Room” and view of foyer/front door (will be drywalled)

It was fun to walk around the house and see it start to take some shape. The Architect and the Contractor warned me that the space would still feel small and out of proportion at this stage. They said it wouldn’t seem right until the drywall set the arrangement. The space did feel confusing, but it did not feel small to me. Because the framing was all sticks (okay, technically 2 x 4’s), all doorways were optional. So I kept walking into rooms and closets through the walls. Again, the space was just a bit confusing.

Kitchen View 1

Kitchen View 1

Kitchen View 2

Kitchen View 2

It’s always good to stop by the house and see progress. This is nice and dramatic. So a couple of details from the photos; the green behind the framing is foam board. It is mounted to our brick walls on furring strips, setting up an air gap to allow the masonry to breath. Spray foam will eventually go over everything, insulating the first floor way more than the original plaster & lathe + air gap insulation. And yes, those sticks are turned on their faces to minimize the loss of space in the rooms.

Looking in from the back porch

Looking in from the back porch

Some notes on this window opening.This was once a window opening that was filled with plywood when we bought the house. It was in our old pantry, so when we remodeled our back porch I installed a homemade blackboard for the girls. You can see how the masons squared off the top of the opening, removing the arch. Then they doubled the width of the opening. An open cabinet will be installed on the stone sill for books or maybe a television. The kitchen sink will be on the other side of the opening with an unobstructed view of the porch and into the backyard. This opening, coupled with the removal of our old kitchen door, will incorporate the back porch into the house and bring lots of sunlight into the kitchen area.

Now the first floor is framed and the structural supports are installed in the basement. The house is now ready for the second floor work. That’s where we’ll pick up the project next time. And I’ll try to get that up in fewer than four weeks!

What is that? The ground floor bathroom re-imagined

What is that? The ground floor bathroom re-imagined.

Advertisements

Ugly before Pretty – demo phase

Finally gettin’ back to the house project folks. As I mentioned in the post that introduced our renovation, the work started in July 2016 and has moved along steadily ever since. Some of you out there have actually seen the work in progress, but here is the initial demolition (“demo”) work.

Brother Mechanic has a saying that he applies to any project’s early phases: “It’s got to get ugly before it can get pretty”. The demo started with gutting our first floor which was our primary living space. This included our entrance way, three bedrooms, our only bathroom, our kitchen and our pantry. They took away all of our pretty painted walls and our hardwood floors and even our plaster ceilings, cracks and all. When we handed over the keys things looked like this:

Bedroom 1

Bedroom 1

Bedroom 3

Bedroom 3

Kitchen

Kitchen

 

 

 

 

 

img_1635

Pantry and Kitchen Door (note Bedroom 3)

Obviously this is not our entire house. The idea is to show that we had a “finished” living space. I use quotes because any homeowner will tell you that the work on your house is never actually done. Three days after handing over our house keys, the same spaces looked like this:

Former location of Bedroom 1

Former location of Bedroom 1

 

 

 

 

 

 

Former location of Bedroom 3

Former location of Bedroom 3

We stopped by the house the Saturday after demo started, unannounced, just to see the progress. As you can see, the work was fast, the change was dramatic. I have done demo on smaller projects at the house and made a mess of the space, even with a solid containment effort. So I was amazed at how tidy the house was, despite how extensive the demo. This pile left at one end of the house was that was left by the week’s demo. It was comforting seeing the work site, our house, straightened up before everyone left on Friday.

rubble

Former Pantry

So the ground floor is just about gutted. A couple of items were discovered once the walls and floors were opened, and we expected that. No Architect or Contractor can tell you exactly whats behind your walls or under your floor. Some advice for any of you out there planning on a renovation: Expect the Contractor to find issues once the demo is completed, and don’t get bent at him/her for suggesting additional work. Anyway, now they can start focusing on the second floor and the removal of 75% of our current unfinished attic.

unfinished and under-utilized

unfinished and under-utilized

Ugly before pretty, that’s the way it has to go. Both the Architect and the Contractor warned that the space would be weird without walls and ceilings to delineate it. And it was. I was walking around thinking, “how did we fit our rooms in here, and how are we going to fit our planned rooms in here?” But rest assured, it will all go back, and even a bit more. So that’s demo. And now, the Cricket:

Hey there

Hey there

Home Renovation: An Introduction (and update)

I mentioned in an earlier post that Wife and I decided to renovate our house. We have lived happily in our Historic Chicago Bungalow for the past eight years. We had done a bit of maintenance and light remodeling, but last year we started feeling constrained by our home. While its three bedrooms fit our family well, there was no room for guests. The kitchen was an awkwardly laid out, contractor-grade rehab that was completed to sell the house (just before we purchased). And the one bathroom, also awkward and freshly “redone”, made for interesting family parties. Especially with rookie and newly potty-trained children around. One main level of living space was no longer cutting it.

We had some ideas for renovations, but no real plans. The attic was unfinished but the pitch of the roof made the space challenging. The basement is unfinished and concerns about water and musty odors delayed any action. We looked around in the area at houses that had the additional space we were looking for, but we didn’t find any that felt right. Wife and I have been ruined by our stout little brick house – it is definitely our home. But we needed to make some changes.

Chicago loves its Historic Bungalows, so there are many resources here for preserving, renovating, improving and enjoying your bungalow. We had attended a Historic Chicago Bungalow Association expo some years back, and there we saw an architectural presentation showing how creatively our house could be tweaked without losing its bungalow feel. We saw plans for additions with lots of daylight and interesting architectural details that stayed true to the character of the houses. So we started saving.

The process started last year, but this feels like a better time to start writing about it. First, we are done with the planning stages, so nobody can weigh-in on any of the design items. Second, the construction is underway and the site is secure, so it’s not easy to steal the appliances anymore. Third, I finally made the time to start writing about it. There are plenty of details to share, but here are the essentials: 80% of the ground floor is getting re-worked and a second-floor addition is going up. We are going from three bedrooms to four, and one bathroom to three. Thankfully there was room for an actual master bedroom and bath – woo-hoo! Here’s the general picture of the end result:

Our "new" old house

Our “new” old house

So everything in dark grey was existing. The details in light grey are the new. I know the notes make the picture busy, but you get the point. And as I mentioned, the work is moving along, so updates should come frequently. The view from the sidewalk remains the same until you are right in front of the house, so it doesn’t look like someone just dropped a shoebox on top of our house. Pretty exciting and scary stuff.

And so where are we? We are renting an apartment on the Southside from our family. Specifically the McKinley Park neighborhood. So maybe we’ll see you over at that playground if you’re in the area. Funny, but I thought about a post entitled, “Our Year in Exile”, but that seemed a bit dramatic. And are you truly living in exile if you have chosen it? Well, we’re three months into the nine month project, so this story will definitely be continued.