Friday, November 03, 2006

Paint and Flooring

Paint and Flooring

Flooring and Paint


Sunday, October 01, 2006


The drywall is almost finished. So that means that the flooring can be installed next. Which should take 3 or 4 weeks.

Back in July, I wrote that I hoped to be done by Halloween. I could conceivably be "done" by Halloween, and move in, but, there wouldn't be any water, electricity, or heating. I could pitch a tent in the family room and sleep in it. Maybe burn some of the rubbish in the backyard to stay warm. Take a bath in Evian.

It's time to announce a new estimated completion date. I read the entrails of a fish, studied the stars, had my cards read, let go of my feelings, listened to the midichlorians, and the future is clear. The house will absolutely, positively be done by Christmas.

Unless the date slips again.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

The Insulation Goes Up

Did I say that I was going to finish up by end of summer? I think I said that. I now, officially, formally, take it back. Consider it rescinded. It ain't gonna happen, folks. This house is quite far away from being done. The original plan did not include such extensive renovations. The new plan has included a complete gutting of the interior. It's a good thing, because the house was in need of a complete renovation. The wiring and plumbing were out of date. There was little or no insulation. The interior fixtures were worn out. The layout was inefficient. So, yeah, it won't be done by end of summer.

I'm aiming for Halloween.

Besides being another step closer to being done, the insulation really shapes the rooms and gives them shape. It makes the house look more like a house. I can start imagining how the furniture will be placed and how I will live in the space.

I like how it frames the skylight wells too.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Framing Goes Up

It's been awhile since I blogged about the house. Much has changed and it's starting to look like a house again on the inside. The framing is going in now. The sub-floor is completely finished, and the walls and ceilings are being roughed-in.

Here is a shot of the skylights and the light wells. The skylights are one of my favorite upgrades from the old layout. This is in the family room, which faces south. It will get light all day and so I've also added a large window and glass exterior door to allow as much natural light as possible. In a somewhat small house, I expect the family room will be the center of home life.

Someday I'll be able to take a shower here. For now, I have to be satisfied with knowing that there used to be a door here.

Here are some additional photos of the framing.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Off to IKEA

I need a lot of furnishings for this remodel. Even though the exterior of the house is craftsman style, I want a more modern interior. Modern interiors at an affordable price pretty much only come from a few places, IKEA and Target being the two that come to mind immediately. And IKEA sells fixtures, which Target doesn't. I also like the fact that IKEA has an environmental policy with some real teeth, so they insure that their low-cost overseas suppliers are protecting the earth. The downside is that the nearest IKEA is a four hour drive away.

You've got to like the Swedes. In fact, thinking back to my old backpacking trip through South East Asia in 1992, no matter where I went, no matter what problems one cultural group had with another cultural group, everyone seemed to like the Swedish. They never really colonized or tyrannized anyone.

I also recall a small boy I saw in Indonesia. He was wearing a t-shirt with pictures of Saddam Hussein, a tank, and a anti-aircraft gun. I'd show you a picture, but I don't have one. That small child may have had no love of America or George H.W. Bush, but he did love capitalism. Taking a picture of his t-shirt cost 50 cents.

I bought a Honda Element and a trailer for this project. Buying an entire kitchen and 1400 sq ft of flooring and hauling it 250 miles requires a little more space than the old Integra.

This trip was about scoping out their kitchen options, picking out what I would like, slowly walking around the store taking pictures so I can get ideas, and leaving with bamboo flooring. Lots of bamboo flooring.

I wasn't able to get everything in one trip. On a subsequent trip, I really loaded down the trailer. Jed Clampett would have been proud.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Floor Joists

The floor joists and some of the wall framing are now up.

The electrical rough-in is now complete.

Master-carpenter-in-training Finn, with his tool belt, inspects the work and explains what we should do next. Actually, that's not a tool belt. It's a LEGO sword. But I'm sure he's explaining something.

Thursday, April 27, 2006


Most of the sill on the north side of the house had to be replaced. (The sill is the wood that sits on top of the foundation.) It wasn't obvious at first, because the side of the wood that looks fine is the only side we could see. When Ray was trying to repair a small bit of settling in the front room floor, they discovered that the sill was more than half rotted away!

It's fixed now, but this is exactly the sort of problem that is causing "feature creep" in the scope of this project.

Monday, April 17, 2006

New Floor Joists

The old joists needed to be removed. Here, Ray is using a sawzall to remove part of the rotted sill.

The old floor had settled more than 3 inches from east to west. You can see here how the old joists were patched together and repaired piecemeal over the years and shored up with makeshift piers. It's all coming out and being redone right.

This rotted joist and crumbled pier were holding up the floor. It's amazing that it hadn't collapsed!

Eventually, the entire floor from the front of the house to the read had been removed.

By the time the demolition was complete, the pile of rubbish in my backyard had grown quite substantial.

A foundation crew came in to pour the new footers.

And finally, the new floor joists could be installed.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006


Now that I've purchased the home, it's time to start tearing things up! Demolition started small and grew quickly, as the number of problems behind the walls and under the floors manifested themselves. I could have done a quick update, but the floors would have been very uneven, the low ceilings with popcorn would have remained, and generally the house would not look particularly original OR new.

I decided to really tear things apart and rebuild the right way. This means tearing out all of the walls so I could re-insulate, install new plumbing, HVAC, and electrical wiring. It also meant tearing out the substandard foundation and flooring on the entire West side of the house. As you can see in the picture of the fireplace, the flooring, joists, and supports are completely gone.

This bathroom will remain, but I'm going to change the entrace from where the picture was taken to the left side, near the toilet. There will be a second bathroom added to make the house more modern.

Below is all that remains of the fireplace. There is a hole in the roof where it used to protrude. The remaining bricks will be removed soon.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Original House Interior

Before I started renovations, the house interior was pretty basic. The house had been rented for many years, so the house was serviceable. The family had made an effort to get the house ready for sale, and wanted the house to be in good shape for whoever bought it.

I decided that I want to live in the house, and to be a place that I want to live in, I needed to update the interior. I want to open up the floorplan by opening up the wall between the kitchen and the family room. I am going to create a second bathroom, and redo the original bathroom. When I bought the house, there were 8' drop ceilings and wall-to-wall carpet throughout.

The house has had an interesting history. It's located in a traditionally African-American neighborhood and the property had been in the same family since 1918. The original patriarch had 10 kids, who now range in age from 50 to 85. He was a pillar of the community and was well known and liked in both the black and white communities of Chapel Hill.Elsewhere in the neighborhood, aunts and uncles and cousins used to live. Over the years, most of the family has moved to other parts of town or left town altogether.

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Friday, February 10, 2006

This is my new house

I just bought a house in downtown Chapel Hill! It's an old house with a rich history, but had been vacant for several years as the heirs to the property decided what to do with it.

There is a huge amount of work to do. Since buying the house, I've hired an excellent design/architecture firm, BellaDomus, to rework the interior to fit a more modern lifestyle. Part of the redesign is to move the kitchen to a new room, add a second bathroom, and rework some of the existing space to open it up.

Originally, I was hoping to do some of the heavy lifting myself. Since then, I've decided to serve as the general contractor and hire subs for the various parts of the project. My goal is to have all of the work done by the end of the summer, then host a party to show off the new digs to friends and family. Fortunately, I don't need to live in the house right now, which is good because there is no longer a toilet, sink, kitchen, or shower.

The project has just begun, and I'll post to this blog over the coming weeks and months to show what is going on.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

This autumn evening

So where did the title to my blog come from? It is from a poem by Matsuo Bashō, a Japanese poet from the Edo period. The full poem is:

None is traveling
Here along this way but I
This autumn evening.

The Edo Period of old Japan is really quite interesting. The poetry is beautiful, haunting, and full of sorrow. Yet the simple descriptions of nature really evoke a powerful image in my mind. Another one my favorites from old Japan is the classic Diary of Lady Nijo, from the 13th century.