Thursday, November 20, 2014


In a house there always seems to be a "cold room."  Sometimes it's a room with big crappy windows, sometimes it's a basement, and sometimes it's an old porch that was turned into a sunroom.  The latter situation is one I had to deal with.  Every late fall through early spring, we had a door (seen below) leading to our sunroom that would remain closed because it was simply too cold.   

While I was running new wiring in September/October timeframe, I was constantly going in the blistering hot attic to trace some wires down or demo them out completely.  I was finally to the front of the house for the wiring; this meant an even further joist walk from the back of the house to the front.  I had to make my way for a drop that was a shared wall of the sunroom and living room. To my surprise, when I got there, there was no insulation to be found anywhere on the ceiling of the sunroom.

Now normally you would assume first thing, cold room = crappy insulation.  I could assure that for the rest of the house this was not the case as there was about 10 inches of blown insulation everywhere.  Also from the view  into the attic it appeared there was insulation blown in there as well.  I cannot tell you how angry I was when I realized the 2 cold winters we had in this room were for no reason whatsoever.
Installing insulation is fairly easy, anyone could do it.  Add insulation.  Done. That's how simple it really is.  The stuff that is important however is where are you putting it? Does it need to be faced/unfaced?  Should I just get a blower and blow some in?  Should I get really fancy and get sprayfoam?
I was adding it in a ceiling where we had access from the attic.  This type of application is slightly different.  First, since it was a small area about 90-100 sq. ft., I just chose to use rolls of fiberglass insulation.  Second, since I was running the insulation right to the roofline, I needed to add baffles so the roof can still breathe properly.  The baffles, I assume, are where most DIY people would go wrong, this is very important for your roof.  Your roof needs to breathe or your new 30 year roof just became a 20 year roof.  You can see some of the installed baffles here: 

Next is actually installing the rolls, the first layer is faced.  The faced side of the insulation is always installed to the warm side in the house.  Then when you add the next layer of insulation (if you so choose), run it perpendicular to the first and make sure it is unfaced.  If you have 2 faced layers, moisture could be trapped between the layers and no one wants a moldy attic.

Now that worthless sunroom for winter is useable space year round.  Instantly, you could tell a difference in the room.  So yeah, we spent $100 on insulation and baffles, but adding 100 usable sq. ft. year round is more than worth it.
Finished product! more “INSULATION FOR THE WIN(ter)!”

Friday, November 14, 2014

Baseboards Are Not My Friend

We are in love with our local hardware store called Sutherlands.  They have a Ladies Night once a year where everything in the store is 20% off and the store is filled with vendors trying to sell various products.  We like to stock up on items that we know we will need whenever this sale is going on.  Unlucky for me, Matt was gone on a business trip when they had this sale this past year.  This left me all by my lonesome picking up tons of tools and products.  Let me tell you, being a young girl by myself in a hardware store, I got plenty of weird looks by vendors.  On the bright side none of the vendors even bothered to talk to me since they figured ‘what could a young girl like that know about renovations?HA – little did they know!  That left me with my huge list of items to pick up and no distractions.

Our big buy this past year was to buy new baseboards for our entire house.  All the baseboards in our house had ~4 layers of paint that were in rough shape with globs of paint dripped on them and lots of scratches and nicks.  Since there was nothing special about the baseboards in the house, we decided to buy brand new.  *Although, at first, I fought Matt saying I wanted to save the baseboards and strip them down to the original conditions.  I quickly changed my mind when he showed me how much of a time waster that would be (not to mention lead paint!).*   So, my task was to pick up all these baseboards - I didn’t see a problem with this at first, but, oh boy, was I in for a treat.  I started to get nervous as I was picking out 12’ long baseboards into my cart with one of the store associates, thinking to myself ‘these things are awkward and heavy when I’m just picking them up one at a time, and I have to bring almost 30 into our house by myself! Loading them up into my truck wasn’t too bad as the store loaders helped.  Then I got into my car and started panicking: ‘Oh crap, how am I going to get these into the house!? I wish I could just leave them in my truck but I have to go to work in the morning… Call in sick? Nah.  This was my sight: 
It was pitch black and I decided to tackle this head on.  I overzealously thought to myself ‘I can carry 4 at a time who cares that they are only more than double my height’. I completely wiped out (butt on the ground) just trying to get them into our front door...  I still had to maneuver them through the entry way, living room, and into the dining room.  Next trip I tried 3 at a time and was still wobbling all over the place.  I finally wised up and decided to tackle 2 at a time which seemed to work.  It only took me about an hour… but finally they were all sitting in our living room.  MISSION ACCOMPLISHED. 
Lesson learned: all project are easier with 2 sets of hands.  I need to remember not to take Matt for granted even with such easy tasks! 
Just for fun this is the difference between the old basboards (left) and new baseboards (right):
The finished dining room project can be seen at 50 Shades of Gray - okay maybe like 4 or 5. more “Baseboards Are Not My Friend”

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Our Sump Pump Jump

Installing a sump pump into a house that never had one is an extremely messy job!  Our first house, built in 1926, had a wee bit of water problems.  We had all the confidence that we could fix it ourselves – and we did.  First we filled in the mortar joints that had come loose in our cinder block foundation with hydraulic cement.  Since we plugged up holes where water used to come in, we only had water seep up through the floor – but we were also still worried about the water pressure on the house.  Thus, the best solution for both these issues was to install a sump pump.

We had quoted a contractor to install a sump for us, and it would have cost us $1500.  So big shocker, after hearing that number, we decided to do the work ourselves.  The materials ended up costing us a whopping $250.  That’s $1250 in savings and I would say it was well worth tackling this project by ourselves – even if it was a dirty job.

Matt and a good friend Jeremy tackled the work from here on out.  They first used a jack hammer and concrete saw to cut a hole in the basement concrete floor where the sump would go.  Matt had to install a breaker just for these tools as they draw so much power.  This is the lovely temporary power solution for 30A service.

After all the concrete was out, it was just a lot of digging…


 The hole was finally big enough for the mesh and drainage rock to go in.

Matt drilled holes in the sump well for water to seep through.

And voila we were ready for concrete.

 Side note: a different corner in our basement had horrible cracks, so we decided to rip out the concrete and lay new concrete while we were doing the sump.  Yay for pretty, new, concrete and no cracks (seen in the left corner of the room)!

And this is the lovely pile of dirt we were left with...

Matt and I removed the dirt and concrete in 60 (Yes, sixty!) 5 gallon bucket loads and it was a happy sight seeing a clean room and empty buckets.

By the next day, we had 12” of water in the sump which means it’s working!

Next we had to core-drill through the wall for the discharge piping for the pump to spit out the unwanted water.

At last, here is the completed, working, sump pump! #DIYwin more “Our Sump Pump Jump”