Sunday, June 1, 2014

Hearth & Home

Appropriate subtitle: Spring Has Sprung!

With the snows of late March (and even early April) having finally melted away, the soggy, snow-soaked grounds of Vermont are eagerly taking in their first breaths of fresh air for the 2014 season. Winter was, well... long. Endless. No end in sight. Snowy. Arctic. So on and so forth. It honestly seemed impossible that we'd ever see a day that didn't require multiple layers of wool!

Alas, the celestial gods continue to push the Earth onward as it makes it's yearly journey around the Sun, and so here we are... all thawed out and ready to go for the warm weather. We have survived yet ANOTHER Vermont winter (an impossible feat had you asked me in February), and from here on out, the only shivering our bones will be doing will be from pure excitement over how much we're going to accomplish this summer. Summer 2014 - bring it!

Cloaked in spring colors!

Well there is no shortage of updates to report on since we first started making regular visits to the house again in February, so let's get to it! As you will come to see in the upcoming months, we will be trying to crank through a serious amount of work to get the house looking as decent as possible for our wedding guests come this September - while the house isn't ready to host the wedding itself, we hope to invite friends and family to tour our beloved construction site the day after! Our big goals for September included a finished paint job, a working bathroom, and perhaps a few drywalled rooms. We'll see where we are come late August... fingers crossed we won't fall short of our goals!

Now, time to recap our oh-so-busy weekends. First, let's start off with...

Interior Updates

Tony and I have finally reached the miraculous place where, in truth, there isn't too much left to do inside the house until plumbing and electric are run. There are of course various outstanding projects... like build out the two upstairs bathrooms, per se, or remove all of the window and door trim for drywall... but none of these things need to be done immediately. The downstairs bath will be in working order once plumbing is up and running, and we already have all of the trim removed and stored for most of the downstairs, which will be the only floor getting wired next month. So really, we're kind of at a standstill! Therefore, during the chilly (freezing) months of March and early April, we took on a few pet projects inside to pass the time.

First on the list was laying down a brick floor in the back hall of the kitchen, which once functioned as a sectioned off hallway that led out to the milkroom and barn. The floorboards were rotted, plus very worn out from many a trip spent walking back and forth to the barn, so we decided to replace them with a hearth-style floor which should stand up well to all those muddy boots coming in and out of the yard in the future.

This was a somewhat time-sensitive project, as our kitchen radiator will be placed on top of this brick floor, so we knew it needed to be completed before radiators could be hooked up this summer.

Laying out the brick pattern first

My dear friend Meredith braved the freezing temperatures of March to join in the creation of our brick floor. After laying out our 1/2 inch brick veneer to get a good mix and match of colors, Tony showed us the ropes on proper mortar techniques. After getting the first few rows down, we sped into high gear! The floor was finished in only a matter of a few (cold) hours.

Laying bricks... a breeze, but tough on the knees!

The finished product (before Tony filled in the joints with mortar)

With a little exposed brick showing in the kitchen, I became motivated to finally try and remove all of the old plaster from our chimneys. I took a crack at the kitchen chimney first using an air-powered chisel, a tool which turned out to be a complete godsend. I can't believe I actually attempted to clear a chimney of plaster using a hammer and crowbar two years ago! It probably took no more than 30 minutes to remove the plaster from all four sides, and saved me the exhaustion of swinging a hammer and chisel for hours on end.  

After clearing the chimney of all of its plaster, it was time to remove the remaining plaster residue from the chimney via a rotary sander. I had seen this done once on Rehab Addict, but I don't remember the end result being quite so dusty.

I look like a home renovation G.I. Joe 

All done!

Definite lesson learned - when it comes time to sand the chimneys in the other 4 rooms, find a way to CONTAIN the dust! It has been two months since I cleaned this chimney and almost everything on the first floor is still covered in brick dust. It's like pink pixie dust but far less magical, and apparently way harder to clean. Fingers crossed those lovely summer breezes whisk it all outside.


With our electrician John coming to wire the entire first floor in a few weeks, it was also time to make some final decisions on the lighting layout. This proved to be an epic weekend for sure, as Tony and I anguished over placement of sconces and dining room chandeliers.... never has a 1/2 inch here or a 1/4 inch there been so stressful! After having this house look like a total mess for three years, making decisions on its final appearance was a little scary.

Blue ceiling boxes indicate placement of our matching kitchen pendants

My father, handyman extraordinaire that he is, has helped us rewire all 7 ceiling light pendants for the kitchen (which were salvaged from this house during demo), along with a bunch of other lovely antique lighting finds, including antique gas lamp chandeliers and hanging lanterns. All of the lighting throughout the house should be very unique and period appropriate. This house will be off-the-charts cozy once it's all lit up!

Restoring the copper patina on an old hanging gas lantern

Exterior Work

Now that the warm weather has arrived (amen!), Tony and I have begun to fly through our outdoor to-do list. Tony's first project was to finally cover up the all of the subwall that was left exposed after we replaced the house sills under the kitchen/dining room. We've been putting this off for awhile since this project required some major custom woodwork, but Tony stepped up to the challenge last week and knocked this job out of the park!

Woodworking - done! Now time to paint this baby ;)

Aside from putting up more clapboard, Tony had to create custom base trim with angled joints at the ends, along with his own 'water table trim', which sits above the base trim and is angled down to help water run off the house. It was no easy task and took hours of precise measuring and cutting to complete. The end result, though, is amazing!

Close-up on our custom water table trim 

After finishing this trim work, Tony took on the feared "kitchen window switching" project. We've been putting it off for some time, as it seemed it would be an obvious pain to complete, and we were right! The small window, meant to sit above the kitchen sink, needed to be moved to the back of the kitchen (where the sink will now sit) and replaced with the longer window currently located in the back of the room.

Bring on the bigger window!

As always, nothing goes as easily or as quickly as it should, so we're only about 90% complete with this project. Removing the window frames was the easy part... reframing the openings and getting the windows to sit plumb and in line with the other windows was not.

The corner where the small window sat has been our greatest challenge thus far. This area is pounded relentlessly by rain thanks to the low roof of the bathroom, which stops just above the window, and has been slowly rotting away over the years due to this onslaught of water. Upon removing the window frame, which was in rough shape itself, Tony had to cut out and replace all of the rotten subwall and siding. It also took a few attempts to get the new, longer window frame to sit perfectly in line with the window to its right. Once all of that was completed, Tony had to face the challenge of rebuilding some of the intricate and very angled window trim that surrounded the window frame and was rotted beyond repair.

This fella should start his own woodworking business, because Tony once again rose to the challenge and recreated the top of the window frame to nearly exact specifications. Once it is painted, there will be no way to tell this trim hasn't been happily hanging on the side of this house for the last 130 years.

Long window in place with custom trim by Tony!

There is still some minor siding that needs to be added to complete the window switching process, but once all of this is done I will be able to sand this area and finally finish painting this side of the house! We also intend on adding some sort of gutter system to this area to prevent the window from getting pounded by rain once again.

Which brings me to my final update...


When, oh when, will painting this house be finished? While I do love the whole process of painting my home, I am also beyond eager to move on to other projects. Painting has to be finished by this fall!

The bay window, finally in progress!

The front and two sides of the house each have a little remaining work here and there, so my intent is to go from side to side and finish each side for good! The only work remaining to do on the south-facing side of the house was the bay window, so that was the first project I took on this spring. I worked on the bay window (including painting the window panes themselves) over Memorial Day weekend, and finished everything minus our pink and hunter green finishing touches. The application of Pinedale Shores really anchored the bay window and makes it feel like a true extension of the house. Next weekend, weather permitting, (knocks on wood) I will finish the window using our pink and green highlights, which should add a bit of fun and liveliness to this beautiful feature!

Once the bay window is complete, I will move on to the north side of the house and paint all of Tony's new trim work, and hopefully wrap up all finishing touches on that side of the house in just a weekend or two!

There will be many photos and updates to come on that end so stay tuned :)

I'd also like to share a big Thank You! to all of our readers who have been sharing stories and support as of late. You guys are all wonderful for sharing your comments with us, and we are so excited to see that some readers have personal ties to this house and have seen our progress in person! We hope we're making you all proud, and thanks for investing your time and interest in our farmhouse :) The love others have for this home inspires us to keep going on some of our more challenging days.

Many more exciting summer updates to come, but in the meantime we hope you all are well and thank you for continuing to visit this blog! Until next time, wishing you a very happy June!

Melissa :) 

1 comment:

  1. While renovation projects can be challenging at times, seeing good progress like this makes it all worth it. Everything seems to be shaping up very well. Also, it was a great idea to add a gutter system. This will prevent rainwater from overflowing from your roof onto the siding, which can lead to damage in the long run. How was it, btw?

    Meghan Bowers @ Gutter Dome