Turning Up the Heat

Since we plan on moving in sometime in late December/January we are getting into crunch time. Our weekends are getting busy and we have A LOT to get done…fast.  We took care of some much needed jobs this weekend.  Since the snow has decided to come early this year, we are very lucky to have our furnace installed.  This weekend  we ran our hot water heater’s vent outside, some more heat ducts, and our bathroom fan vent into the attic and through the roof.  After we got all of the attic vents run we added R-30 insulation (10″ thick!) above the kitchen and bathroom.  You can see our new cross-beams for support and insulation here:


The furnace and water heater now have almost all of their ducts and vents run.  The furnace just needs one more elbow to connect the upstairs duct.  This is what the new equipment looks like:


Now that most of the work is done with the furnace, we worked on building it into a closet.  We were able to build the walls and put up drywall for the closet.  Now it just needs some drywall work and bi-fold doors.  It is located between the kitchen and dining room and took up a lot less space then we thought it would:


Lastly, while we were working on heat-related projects we cut a hole in the living room drywall to make room for our electric fireplace insert.  The insert will be under the stairs and will vent the air from our bedroom closet.  Here is a picture of Ryan in the closet cutting our hole:


The insert actually doesn’t take up much space at all in the closet, so we will still have quite a bit of storage space.  It isn’t done yet, but the hole is in the right place, just waiting for our drywall to be finished up:


We still have a lot to do, but now we have a warm house to work in and our pipes won’t freeze (fingers crossed).  Thanks for reading!

How To: Choosing Appliances

I have spent many weeks researching appliances and trying to pick the one perfect for our kitchen.  After a lot of research I am happy to say we have finally made a decision.  If you are doing a kitchen renovation or just need new appliances here are a few things to think about:


  1. Make a list of your must-have functions.  Functionality is by far the most important part of kitchen appliances.  Paying an extra fee for extra features may be more important than having stainless steel if those features make your life easier.  However, if you don’t need a water and ice dispenser in your refrigerator, there is no need to pay extra for it!
  2. Before heading to the store, know how much space you have available.  Some appliances come in standard sizes, while others can vary a lot.  This is especially important if you need built-in appliances rather than free-standing ones.
  3. Decide what kind of energy source you will be using.  Many people have specific preferences about gas and electric ranges and stoves.  It is important to decide which you would prefer (everyone has different reasons), as well as what hook-ups are available in your home.
  4. Choose the finish you would like to match your kitchen style and your budget.  Most appliances come in multiple finishes and prices can vary.  If stainless steel is a must, you may have to increase your budget.
  5. Decide what brand you prefer.  The best way to decide what brand you prefer is research, research, research.  Even if you can narrow it down to a couple of brands to begin your in-store search it will help.  Read customer reviews and make sure you are getting what you really want.  Your appliances do not all need to be from the same brand, but you may get a package price if you stay within one brand when you purchase.
  6. Shop around.  Very few stores have every appliance on display.  Shop around for the appliances you want, at the price you want them.  You may find the perfect appliances at a store, but make sure they are giving you the best possible price.  Once you have chosen your appliances, bring the model numbers to other appliance stores and ask what kind of price they can offer.  Most appliance stores can special order appliances and many will quote a lower price than what you can find online, so go negotiate!


For me, functionality trumps finish and our budget is tight!  This automatically removes stainless steel from my options.  I shopped the big box stores as well as some local appliance stores to decide what functions and features I wanted.  Here is my list:

  • Large oven
  • Convection oven
  • French door refrigerator
  • No water and ice dispenser in refrigerator
  • About 22 square feet refrigerator/freezer space
  • Microwave with hood combination
  • Whirlpool Brand

I found my appliances at Lowes, but was able to negotiate a better price at our local appliance store.  Here’s what we chose:












While everyone has different preferences, research can make your appliance shopping much less stressful.  At first, I didn’t know where to start and just looked at the appliances available in the store in my price range.  Once I streamlined my search, it became so much easier!  Pick what works for you and spend the extra dollar if you have to.  You will be using these appliances a lot and it is important to like them.  Good luck!


How To: Stripping Furniture


Refinishing furniture can be a very intimidating task, at least it was for me.  We have a beautiful fireplace mantel in our living room that had many layers of paint and even some sharpie marker on it.  I really wanted to strip it down to the original wood finish.  We set up the mantel outside where it was well ventilated and dove right in.

We decided to use a semi-paste stripping compound that would be able to penetrate the paint even on the rounded surfaces.  We purchased a wash-away compound, but decided to use mineral spirits instead of water.  Here is a step by step process and method we used:

  1. We started by applying the stripping compound to a relatively small area (no more than 4 square feet).  You will want to use a natural, but inexpensive paint brush for this task.  Tip: Apply the stripping compound liberally, especially in areas of detail!  It will make a big difference when it comes time to scrape.
  2. Let the compound soak for about 30 minutes.  When the paint has bubbled you are ready to begin scraping.
  3. There are a lot of different tools you can use during the scraping process.  We used a 2″ scraper for the majority of the work.
  4. After the large pieces of paint came off there were still some areas that needed more work.  We coated the area with stripping compound again and let it soak for about 10 minutes.
  5. After the paint looked ready and bubbled, we used steel wool to remove the remaining paint.
  6. Once the paint was removed we used mineral spirits to clean off any remaining paint particles and stripping compound.  
  7. If any imperfections remain, you can use a fine sandpaper before staining or painting.

We are very happy with the final product.  Soon we will add stain and install our mantel back in the living room where it belongs.  We hope you find this tutorial helpful and look forward to comments and feedback.  Thanks for reading!


Living Room Renovation

The living room has been our most recent project.  We haven’t spent much time in there until lately.  We are just starting to get a handle on this room.  When we purchased the house the living room was the only room that looked functional, but it didn’t look pretty.  


The fireplace mantel is one of the only pieces of character original to the house.  Since most of the house was gutted when we purchased it, all of the old trim was gone.  We will be refinishing the fireplace mantel and getting an electric insert (because there is not a chimney behind the mantel). We recently finished hanging drywall and the room looks much different.


In this room we have:

  • Removed the carpet and paneling
  • Leveled the foundation and added new supports
  • Laid a new subfloor
  • Gutted the walls to the studs and insulated
  • Removed the header from the entryway to open up the room
  • Installed 3 new windows (Crestline from Menards)
  • Hung new drywall
  • New electrical
  • New heating vents

We still have a lot to do in this room, so stay tuned.  We will be posting about our fireplace re-do very soon.  Thanks for reading!

Bathroom Renovation

When we purchased our house it did not have a bathroom.  Instead, it had a toilet in the corner of the house that ran straight into the sewer with no other plumbing.  After many days of consideration, we finally decided that we needed to build a new bathroom and move an exterior door in order to have a functional kitchen area as well.  This is what we were dealing with when we moved in:


So far, designing and plumbing a bathroom has been the biggest obstacle. We were very limited in where our plumbing could be located and we did not have much choice on the bathroom layout.  While it is a small room, we are very happy with how it has turned out so far.  The room still needs trim and some finishes, but is functional.


So far in this room we have:

  • Leveled the foundation and added support
  • All new plumbing
  • All new electrical
  • Laid a new subfloor
  • Moved an exterior door and insulated the exterior walls
  • Built new interior walls
  • Installed fixtures
  • Installed heat vent
  • Laid linoleum
  • Painted (Jumpin’ Jack Flash by Dutchboy)

I’m sure we will have more bathroom updates soon, as well as a projects post about the custom built in shelving we made.  Thanks for reading!

Kitchen Renovation

Our kitchen project has come a long ways since the purchase of this house.  When we first saw the house the first thing we noticed was the lack of a kitchen, or even a designated place for one.  The listing had designated one of the bedrooms as a kitchen, just to put dimensions on the page.  Here are a couple pictures of the kitchen area in the very beginning:


The kitchen is now located in the back of the house.  The previous renovators had installed a toilet in the corner with 2×2 walls surrounding it.  We tore out the walls and toilet and started fresh.  In the past year, the majority of our work has been in the kitchen.  There is still a lot of work to be done, but here are a couple of pictures of the current state:


Here is a general overview of what has been done in the kitchen so far:

  • Foundation leveled with new supports added to the old
  • Plumbing throughout
  • Electrical throughout
  • Heating ducts added
  • New subfloor laid
  • New window (Crestline brand from Menards)
  • Exterior door was moved
  • Insulation in all exterior walls
  • New drywall throughout
  • Ceiling torn down and raised
  • New ceiling tiles installed (Silencio by BP)
  • Painted (Summer Fun Blue by DutchBoy)
  • Cabinets installed (Unfinished Oak from Menards)
  • Cabinets Primed and Painted (Ultra White Cabinet and Trim by DutchBoy)

With many more additions and updates to come, you can expect to see many more kitchen posts here and on our projects page!

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