Friday, July 26, 2013

Summer Shower(s)

A drop fell on the apple tree,
Another on the roof;
A half a dozen kissed the eaves,
And made the gables laugh.
- Emily Dickinson

The sun peeks through the branches after a wallop of a storm...

Hear ye, hear ye... summer is back and in full force. If you have any doubts, just take a look at your local weather report. If you live anywhere near the northeastern seaboard, you will most likely see a 10 Day forecast with 90% + humidity, chance of daily thunderstorms, and temperatures that could cook your Sunday roast. And it's been that way, week after week...after week.

Summer, we get it! You're here, you love to oppress us with your ridiculous humidity levels, so just cool it and give us a few decent days of weather! You're raining on my renovation parade, literally. (Apparently I complain about the weather in both winter and summer equally... I need to pick a side!)

At least all of this rain is good for our hedge wall!

So now that school is out and unemployment is in for the summer months (and hopefully not much beyond that...) I see no reason not to update this blog as often as possible. After all, who doesn't love new pictures?! So it's time to do a brief recap of our last few visits to the farmhouse with Tony and Co.

While the summer showers were slowing down my painting outside, Tony was facing down an entirely different sort of shower. As of this month, Tony finally began the...

Bathroom Build-Out

That's right, people... work has FINALLY begun on a bathroom! A real bathroom, with a shower, and a sink, and... be still my beating heart... a toilet. Our plans for the downstairs bathroom include a Victorian tile floor and a subway tiled walk-in shower with two large glass doors. First on our to-do list: research and then build out the shower pan, customized to fit our glass door specifications. But how does one build a shower pan, you might ask...

With a little positivity and a lot of mortar, that's how!

Building a customized shower pan begins with a little old fashioned wood framing, as you establish the size of your shower and the height of the curb on the floor. There's a million tiny factors to keep in mind as you frame it out, especially if you're using pre-made glass doors like we are, such as the width of the tile, and where the framing sits in the walls so you'll have something to attach your shower doors to. Tony spent hours measuring, remeasuring, and adding in bits of framing to the walls here and there to make sure all of our fixtures and doors will have a secure place to latch onto when it comes time for the install. Once the framing was set up, it was a multi-step process to turn our wood floor into something concrete and waterproof; Tony achieved it by creating multiple layers of rubber membrane, sand mortar mix, and roofing paper, with a dash of ingenuity and love thrown in for good measure. It was a bit like building a lasagna, except it required a trowel and wasn't nearly as delicious.

The end result was basically a mortar block in the corner of the room with a center drain... not exactly the most exciting thing ever built, but boy did that change when we started to build out the shower walls! With cement backer board up behind the shower and throughout the entire bathroom, we discovered we had a room with walls... real walls! If you've been following this blog closely you'll know walls in this home have been a sight unseen for some time. Finally, the time had come for...

Bathroom Tiles

Before we knew it (aka after many days of hard work), Tony had the bathroom looking like this! As hard as it is to believe, this is the first room ever built in this house with the intention of truly serving as a bathroom. The Victorian era was delightful and all, but give me indoor plumbing any day.

There are days when it feels like this renovation is taking forever, but it's always uplifting to look back and see how far we've come. When I look back at photos of the old pantry and compare them to this newly tiled room, I am just ecstatic!

Summer 2010: The downstairs bath was a rotted out pantry with a gaping hole in the floor, a leaking roof, snakes in the ceiling and slanted walls.
Summer 2013: Hoorah! So clean, so classy! A temporary design for the floor has been laid out... 

Tony and I are heading up to Vermont for an entire week of renovation fun starting tomorrow, when the bathroom build-out will shift into high gear. Stay tuned for even more impressive photos in the weeks ahead!


Oh, painting. You were once the apple of my eye. That was two years ago, when I never imagined I'd still be sanding and priming in 2013!! Now, depending on the day, we are enemies.

So goes the love/hate relationship of renovation. It's just crazy to believe that two years down the road, I am still getting a face full of lead dust every time I climb a ladder! I try to comfort myself with the thought that we really are in the final leg of this "painting prep" race, but it does seem to be taking forever. This is due mainly to the fact that the last corners of the house that still need sanding/priming are highhhhh, high up and require me to get help every single time I need to move the ladder more than 1 inch in either direction. Just painting around the attic windows requires moving the ladder (and lifting and lowering the rungs) no less than 5 times. All of that added work  = time killer!

Not my favorite place to be...

But, with that said, things are looking UP in a big way!! Tony and I have finally bit the bullet and signed up for a week-long rental of a 34' personal bucket lift. We were hoping to avoid such a rental because of the cost, but at this point time is money too! Finally, this painter will be headed straight for the roof peaks in comfort and safety. With the mere touch of a button, I will be able to lift myself in any ole direction I please, without having to worry about a long fall or bugging Tony every 20 minutes to move the ladder another 1/2 centimeter.

We have some pretty lofty goals for the coming week: have ALL of the peaks and ALL of the rooflines not just primed but painted too! I'm talking about a finished paint job, complete with accent colors and everything. Tony will also use the safety of the bucket lift to repair all of the rotten wood along the roofline. Personally, I'm much more comfortable with him wielding a Sawzall when he has a protective railing behind him. Man can those things gyrate - not a good situation at 30+ feet!

Looking lovely on a summer's afternoon!

It's a big to-do list for one week, but we are going to give it our all. I've already told Tony we can get a basket pulley system ready to send my lunch up in, because I am not coming down from that lift until this house is painted!

Looks like I might be up there for awhile...

We've been up to more than just painting and bathroom building at the house too, so please check out our slideshows for more photos! Click here to see the us finally take on the gable over the bay window and Tony's build-out of the shower pan, and click here for our 4th of July slideshow when we declared war on blank bathroom walls, switching out muskets for trowels and subway tiles!

This house never gives us a shortage of things to do! There's always...

Windows! Slow and steady wins the race, or in this case slow and steady prevents the 100 year old glass from breaking. We're finally all caught up with our window glazing, and are waiting on the return of Sues Merkel to continue with her masterful glass removal skills. Once the glass has been removed, we can sand them down and prep them for glazing.

In the meantime, we have a few window frame paint colors in mind that we plan to test this weekend!

The basement! What a delight it was to discover ungodly amounts of condensation dripping from all of the support beams and ceilings in the basement during our 4th of July visit. Seemingly all of the rain and humidity have caught up with our damp home. Mairim and Alastair got to work on emptying out the basement ASAP, and Alastair has plans to grade the land downward to a drain by the front of the house. Anything to help get that moisture out of there! This will definitely be a bigger problem we'll be tackling in the coming months.

Thanks for reading, everyone! Hope you're all staying cool out there, and come back soon for more photos and updates!

Until then...
Happy Summer!


  1. Hi Melissa, My wife and I (Melissa) just discovered your blog. We are young couple looking to take on another project (did our first renovation three years ago in a 650 s. f. home in NH) and it happens to be a large farmhouse located in NH. It looks like your progress is amazing and I can certainly see blood, sweat and tears in the work you've put in, but...believe me, when it's done, the feeling of accomplishment has never felt so good.

    Anyways, I'd like to chat, ask you a few questions on your experiences, etc. Please feel free to email me at I would really love to talk about your experience, challenges, things to look out for, etc. that you've learned along the way.

    Thanks! Look forward to your next post.

  2. I was looking for… this kind of post from long time. Thanks for sharing.

  3. You have a very big house! It’s really a challenge to renovate this. Thankfully the weather is good; at least you were able to work on the tough jobs with ease. How’s the progress, by the way? Judging to your progress here, it’s getting closer to completion as of this post. Hope to see the final result soon!

    Lynne Halloran @ Suburban Glass Service