Thursday, June 18, 2015

White Milk to Golden Globe Glow

Anyone that knows Matt and me knows we are obsessed with HGTV... seriously our DVR is filled with 95% DIY/HGTV shows...  One of our favorite shows was Flipping the Block and we immediately fell in love with John and Whitney Spinks from the black team.  

We have since followed John and Whitney's business 27 South Design on all social media platforms and entered one of their giveaways for a West Elm Globe Pendant light fixture - AND WON!  

I couldn't have been more excited and surprised!  If you follow our blog, you may remember that we aren't huge fans of our light fixtures in our house from These Little Lights of Mine, I'm Gonna Let Them Shine (for now...), so I immediately knew which light I wanted to switch out for this gorgeous West Elm light.  This milk glass had to go.  What can I say about this light fixture... it blocked the window light, it hit people's heads when washing their hands at the sink, did not fit the space, and was overall not our favorite thing to look at.

I realize our kitchen needs an entire face lift, so just ignore the green/black tile counter-top and back-splash, please , while we walk through the steps of how to change out a light fixture.

1st step: Turn off the power from the electrical panel! We always double check using a hot pen (Non-Contact Voltage Tester) to make sure the power is successfully off (electrical panels are not always labeled correctly).

2nd step:  Disassemble the old light fixture.  We first removed the glass globe/bulb by carefully releasing the set screws holding the milk glass monstrosity in place.  Seriously that milk glass is as big as Matt!  The 3 set screws are circled below in the right picture.

3rd step: Unscrew the light fixture canopy/base from the ceiling.

4th step:  Remove the 3 wire nuts for the hot (black), neutral (white), and ground (green) wires.

5th step:  Install new mounting bracket (since the one that came with the light fixture is beef-ier than the old mount).  However, when we went to install the new bracket the holes were too wide for the current electrical box.  So... we have additional steps to retrofit the new mount!

6th step:  Create new holes.  We used our Dewalt hammer drill and my grandfather's amazing work bench with a clamp which we inherited.  The picture on the right shows the new longer bracket (left) with drilled inner holes that match up with the old bracket (right).

Just for a visual here is a short video of Matt creating one of the new holes.

7th step: Center the bracket on the electrical box during installation.

8th step:  Shorten the pendant cord.  Why do they make them so ridiculously long!?  We shortened the black cord down to ~18".  The best way to choose the length is to hold it in the place where you want the light to hang.

 9th step: Strip the wires for connection in the electrical box.

10th step: Connect the 3 wires with the wire nuts taken out in step 3.  Black to black (hot), white to white (neutral), and green to green (ground).

11th step: Screw new canopy/base in place.

12th step: Install light bulb and new glass pendant (exact steps vary by light fixture).  We bought a vintage style light bulb from Lowe's that puts the perfect amount of mood lighting in our kitchen!

13th step: Enjoy!

1 out of 100 problems in our kitchen fixed :)  Slowly but surely we will make this a dreamy kitchen!

We are extremely grateful to John and Whitney for this giveaway and they have a new show Florida Flippers airing this Sunday - so everyone watch it!!!  

John and Whitney inspired us to apply for the second season of Flipping the Block which turned into Beach Flip which airs July 5th.  We went to NYC to audition as finalists, but sadly we weren't chosen to be on the show.  Super sad for us, but I still can't wait to watch the show!!!  Watch our audition here: more “White Milk to Golden Globe Glow”

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Raising the Roof!

Home improvement is not always glorious work... Keep reading to find out what had our front yard in shambles.

The most important thing about a house is the foundation.  If you have a great foundation, with proper upkeep, everything else can last - and stay pretty.  There are many different signs for foundation/settlement problems everyone should notice and they should never be ignored.  Cracks are probably the most obvious sign that there might be something wrong with the foundation.  These cracks can be in the foundation, floor tile, walls, or in the brick veneer on a house.  Another sign is if doors are becoming harder and harder to close.  All these signs should get you thinking, "Maybe I should call someone."  I speak from experience.

The main foundation of our house is great.  We have a fully waterproofed, stone foundation basement as seen below.  This basement would make the guys on "This Old House" proud.  There is no water penetration and we do not even have a sump pump and pit.  

However, the reason for this post is to talk about some piers we had installed which didn't even touch our main foundation.  The portion we were concerned about was the front entry way we will refer to as the "tower" (looks like a tower Rapunzel should let down her hair from - circled below), which covers less than 50 sq ft of combined space between the main level and upstairs.

This foundation is separate from the main house foundation.  When we bought this house we realized some tuck pointing on this tower was recently done.  I have been taking mental pictures (while Brooke takes physical pictures) for the 8 months we have owned the house to make sure nothing changed.  Well it did, very slightly, but it did.  The front 2 corners of the tower were slowly sinking. Essentially, the tower was slowly cantilevering away from the house, but since it is attached as one structure to the main and 2nd level, there were other issues that arose. This included cracks in corners, a hard to open front door, and the floor bowing upward in the upstairs tower portion.

Crack in the front hall closet located in the main level of the tower:

Crack in the upstairs tower was a direct result of the cantilevering movement (this picture is as we were patching the crack):

As with slow occurring issues like this, it can be fixed now or fixed later with potential bigger issues in the future (or sell i guess).

We went to the Home Show in KC (Brooke wanted to see Chip and Joanna Gains from HGTV’s Fixer Upper) 

and of course there were all types of vendors including foundation contractors.  There are different ways to fix different types of foundation issues so we needed to choose the proper fix.

As follows, we had a foundation guy come out and take a look.  He recommended using a pier system to stabilize the foundation and maybe do a slight lift.  He said we could get by using 2 piers, but recommended 4 (2 in the front of the tower and 2 where the tower meets the house).  For us, piers were the most economical and least intrusive route.  Due to the style and age of the foundation we felt this was the most appropriate fix.

We decided to use DynaPiers from Pier Magic.  The following 2 pictures are directly from their website which does a great job illustrating the differences between several foundation stabilization treatments.

The pier foundation system is quite simple but very labor intensive.  The first step to start the installation was to dig the holes for each pier, in our case there were 4 holes (labeled below).  

We had some bushes/plants in the way which had to be removed.  The company would have replanted them, but since we wanted new landscaping anyway we told them to not worry about saving the bushes.

Once the holes were to the bottom of the foundation, the next step was to dig under the foundation.

Holes 1 & 4:

Before cinder block foundations and poured concrete foundations, this is what foundations looked like, literally stones piled on top of each other and mortared in place.  Once they were done digging under the foundation a bit, they started driving steel slugs into the ground.  These slugs are nested into each other and driven until they encounter bedrock, in our area this distance was about 34 ft. 

After the slugs were driven, a large piece of steel angle was used on the foundation to distribute the load across more of the foundation.  This steel angle was needed because of the foundation type (a new poured concrete foundation would not usually need this).  After the steel was in place, the bottle jacks were used to slightly raise that area so the last slugs and shims could be put in place.  

Steel Angle:

Hydraulic Press (drives slugs to bedrock):

Piers in holes 2 and 3 were the most important for the tower foundation since that is where the tower was sinking.  These were also the two piers used to slightly lift the tower. Just so you know, being in our house when the tower was being raised was absolutely terrifying!  It sounded like they were ruining our house and Brooke had mini heart attacks the whole time. I knew it would sound like this and it still terrified me, mainly because there is always a chance things can go south quickly with old houses. Luckily the slight lift was successful and we got our front door working smoother.

Picture when one side of the tower was jacked which caused the door to be temporarily crooked:

The back left corner (hole 1) was causing issues and in the end could not have the pier installed.  Since the hole was already dug, that area was back-filled and re-mortared. Basically, we made sure it was as stable as we could make it.  

Last, all the dirt was re-inserted that was dug out to install the piers.

An electric powered tamper was used to do the job right.

In the end, there is no trace that these piers were even installed.

We couldn’t be happier that we now have the peace of mind that we won’t have any issues with our foundation and subsequently no cracks and hard to open doors! more “Raising the Roof!”