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Showing posts from 2011

Look What Followed Us Home

Last week, while connecting the washer and dryer to the new circuit panel Luke and I were discussing the laundry set we had picked up in September. After having front loaders in our last house we were not satisfied with the performance of a traditional top-loading washer. And we were both concerned that when we sell this house the buyer is going to ask for an allowance to replace the aging laundry appliances.
We agreed to start looking for another set, either high efficiency top loaders or front loaders, but limited ourselves to a $500 budget for the set. I thought we would be looking for quite a while, but thirty-six hours later we found a set on Craigslist. The dryer had recently quit working and the seller had been quoted $500 to replace the circuit board. He decided he would rather put that $500 toward a new set instead and offered the washer for $175 with the dryer thrown in for free. After doing a little research into the cost of a replacement board we decided to buy them. …


Even though we're still months away from beginning our kitchen remodel we're already collecting materials. During our most recent trip to Helena we happened to find a few more things for the future kitchen. First off we spotted a chandelier for over the table.
Can you see that tag? $20 for a chandelier that originally retailed for $149.
It was a great deal, but the rest of our light fixtures are oil rubbed bronze. I'll be painting it to match later.
I also picked up another display model light fixture
This motion detector light will someday go on the garage. But since we currently have a flat roof and nowhere to hang the light it will be in storage. It too will be repainted.
And our other great find? Granite
I had already planned to do the counters in granite tile and had actually picked this exact color. So image my surprise when I spotted this on clearance.
That $8 price is for the entire box which works out to $1.60 per square foot. I still need to buy the rest of the…

New Service

Now that the blog is up and running again I thought I should probably post about what we've been doing for the last month. In addition to replacing the plumbing and heat we also have to update the wiring. The house does not have a single grounded outlet and most of it is the original cloth-wrapped wire from 1953. Currently our power is controlled by this disconnect that supplies power to the upstairs circuit panel.
The breaker panel is currently in the hallway linen closet. Code does not allow panels in closets and we'll be ripping out the linen closet during the kitchen remodel. So to bring the house up to code we removed the disconnect and installed a new panel in the laundry room.
While we are doing all this electrical work we decided to upgrade to 200 amp service. Northwestern Energy offered to replace service to the house for free but we had to upgrade our equipment to meet current codes. We took advantage of a beautiful November day and replaced the service to the garag…

A Seamstress I Am Not

We don't take pictures of Rikka often. Atlas is the one who follows us everywhere and has a knack for getting into most of our pictures. But Rikka was our first dog, a ridiculously cute puppy abandoned at a stable. When she was a year old we got Atlas to be her companion. Despite being younger he has always been the leader. He's big, smart and good-looking. Rikka is his dimwitted sidekick.
We don't know her heritage, but the best guess is lab and Australian shepherd. She's got a thin coat, handy during hot summer days but not so great in Montana's coldest town. As the temperature drops she looks increasingly miserable when we put her out for the day. I built her a dog shelter to help her stay warm, but decided she needed a coat. With tuition and Christmas coming up spending money on a dog coat was not in the cards. Solution: make her a coat. I got out my old corduroy work coat that was too short and too wide for me.
It's a sturdy material and sheepskin…


How did this happen, you ask? We were running a new wire from the porch light to the switch box. Luke was in the attic pushing the wire down. I was next to the door with my arm in the wall trying to reach the wire. Apparently when Luke shifted his weight it was too much for the sheetrock. Fortunately he was able to get his weight back onto the ceiling joists right before it gave way. The only injuries were having my face and neck sanded by the popcorn ceiling texture. And now we get to look at our lovely patch job until ... whenever we get around to redoing the ceiling.


Do you know what this means? We have heat! Running the pex lines was labor intensive and exhausting, but not complicated. The pump and zone controls are a different story.Luke put a lot of time and effort into figuring out how this all should work together. The company we purchased our supplies from

A Little Closer To Having Heat

As I write this I am sitting on the floor in front of our little electric fireplace. Why? Because the rest of the house is 62 degrees. We are still working on getting the heat installed. The last five days have been spent in the crawlspace running pex lines and transfer plates. For those of you not familiar with radiant heat here's a quick summary of how our system will work. Water is heated to 130 degrees by our tankless heater and is circulated through flexible plumbing lines run between the floor joists. Aluminum plates help to transfer the heat through the floor to heat the house. To do this we have to run two lines in each bay. Since 2/3 rd's of the house is over a crawlspace this means spending a lot of time crawling on our hands and knees, contorting around supports, compressors and random piles of concrete. I've spent most of the last few days looking like this.
 We've now run five of the eight circuits needed to heat the house. We're able to finish …

In Hot Water

We've been in the new house for a month now and the only hot showers we've had were at my parent's house. The old water heater was barely able to keep the water luke-warm. Combine that with a bad shower valve and it took me longer to get the water temperature adjusted than it did to shower. And the house still has no heat so stepping out of the tepid shower into a 60 degree bathroom is rather unpleasant. But this weekend we finally did something about it. We said goodbye to our seventeen year old water heater
and welcomed my new best friend, a Rheem ultra-efficient condensing tankless heater that cost as much as our F-150. I'm not kidding, it was $1200 on sale.
But we didn't spend all this money just to take hour-long hot showers. This unit was carefully selected because it will also be running our radiant heat system instead of using a traditional boiler. Unfortunately for us the company that we bought our radiant system from screwed up and we had to order m…

Wide Load

Adding a set of stairs in the dining room is not the last of our changes. The stairs are blocking the doorway between the living room and dining room. To remedy this situation we are getting rid of the arch and creating a 9' wide opening. After removing the cabinets on the dining room side we starting demoing the walls.
Because this is a load bearing wall we need a strong header. We decided on a 10' glulam. To support the roof while installing the new beam we built a temporary wall. (Yes, we were watching LOTR while working.)Looking a little better with the beam in place
Just for comparison, here's the old doorway from the living room
And the new opening
From the dining room you can see the old doorway and laundry area
And the new opening
Now that the stairs and doorway are in we can turn our attention back to the basement. There's still a lot of work to be done before the weather turns.

Garage Repairs & Plans

Our garage has problems, to put it mildly. The roof is so bad that you can see daylight between the shiplap.
Why is it leaking? Perhaps because the roofing should have been replaced fifteen years ago. Not to mention flat roofs do not belong in Montana. Can you tell what what areas were completely exposed?
Our building permit allows us to put up trusses but we don't have time for that this year. As a temporary measure to keep our tools dry we rolled out 6 mil plastic and anchored it with lath strips.
 We still had a little water getting through so we added a 20x30 heavy duty tarp for an extra layer of waterproofing.
Then we turned our attention to the interior. The garage was built with a support port for the overhead door. At some point the post was cut out and the garage door opening has since sagged over 2". We jacked up the door opening until it was level and put in a temporary post. It blocks one side of the garage but it's only a temporary measure until we r…


Now that the hole for the staircase is cut it's time to start building the actual stairs. Our plans called for 13'8" stringers so we bought some 2x12x14' and made our cuts. We bought our treads in 12' lengths and cut them down to size which saved a few dollars over buying individual treads. We also cut our risers out of a sheet of osb instead of buying precut ones from the big box store.
Risers in
And then we had real stairs
It's so nice to be able to go downstairs without having to outside and around the house. And the big window over the staircase brings some much needed natural light into the basement. While Luke was cutting the stringers I started demo on the wall between the living and dining rooms.
This weekend we will rip out the rest of the framing and install a beam. Even with the studs still in place the house feels very different from when we moved in three weeks ago. I can't wait to see what it's like this time next year.

A Hole In The Plan

For the last sixty years the only way to enter the cellar has been through this outdoor access.
Ever since we first looked at this house back in May we decided to add a staircase from the dining room to the cellar. Having an interior staircase would allow the lower level to be counted as part of the house, adding another 450 square feet. And easy access to the basement will allow us to move the washer and dryer out of the dining room and into a new basement laundry room. We turned in our building permit application yesterday and 24 hours and $58 later we have the approval to cut the hole for the basement (plus a some other structural changes that we will get to later).

When we got home tonight our dining room looked like this.
And now it looks like this
You may have noticed that the staircase hole is in the way of both the side door and the doorway between the living room and dining room. The only way to access the bedrooms and bathrooms is by going through this doorway and throug…