Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Egress Window- Do as we say, not as we do.

You may remember reading about the "Big Hole in the House" a few months back and wonder how that story ended. Note in the "after" picture to the left- there is a window! But for anyone out there thinking about putting in their own egress, read on...

We started the egress project on a warm Saturday in December. (Yes, thanks to global warming, even frigid Minnesota has warm Saturdays in December!)
Although we had never done this before, we had good instruction- (See How to Install an Egress Window) and we thought we could do it.
A simple summation of project tasks:
1) Cut a very large hole through a 100 year-old, 18 inch limestone foundation.
2) Frame in the window
3) Install the window
4) Seal the window
5) Attach the window well to the foundation

We thought it would be a two-day project: one day to cut the hole and another to put the window in and seal it (We already had dug and prepared the hole in the ground for the well).

We thought we had the right tools.

We thought we knew what we were doing.

And we were very wrong.

Day 1:
Our first cutting tool of choice was a 12 in. concrete saw, rented from our local tool rental shop. Our instructions recommended either calling a professional to come cut the hole, or renting chainsaw with a diamond blade.
Well, this was a do-it-yourself job, and we weren't calling anyone to simply cut the hole. And when we found out diamond blades cost about $400, we laughed, defied instruction, and proceeded to rent the normal blade to cut the hole ourselves.
Now, if you do the math, an 18 inch foundation and a 12 inch concrete saw don't quite match up, as 12 in. concrete saws only actually cut 5 inches in.)

Part of the problem, we discovered, is that limestone is such a soft stone and it crumbles very easily. So, with the vibration of the saw coupled with the not-so-smooth normal chainsaw blade, we ended up with a very jagged cut, and only partially through.

So, our second tool of choice was a hammer drill.

This is the part where you can laugh at us if you want. Please laugh at us. We deserve it.

We used the hammer drill to break through and chisel the hole. Result: We got the hole we needed. But again, a very very very jagged edge. Not so conducive to nailing a frame for a window. That was the end of Day 1. And we were not happy.

Day 2:
Brainstorming begins. We thought we could smooth out the sides of the window by mixing our own concrete to patch the jagged edges. We used a few creative options to try to get the wet concrete into the small crevices and up against a smooth surface to cure. That only "sort-of" (read: not really) worked to give us a good enough surface to nail into. We didn't know what to do next. So we cursed. End of Day 2.
And, oh yeah, the warm December weekend was about to turn really, really cold.
Cold and concrete don't mix. So, more cursing.

Day 3:
We called the "professionals"- ie, the people who really had the right tools. But even then, they had differing opinions on how best to handle the problem. It was clear that a couple of the guys we called were as stuck as we were about what to do next (not that it made our egos feel any better.) The guys that ended up helping us finish the job were true professionals. Having done about 2000 egress windows in old houses, they had come up against this challenge before.

They dug a bigger hole in the ground, smoothed out the edges of the hole in the wall, then framed, installed, and sealed the window, and attached the window well. A big bonus: their work comes with a warranty. So, if it leaks, they come fix it. It did cost us a little more than we had planned, but in the end, we are confident that we have a job done right. And, considering the things that can go wrong when you put a big hole in the foundation of your house, we are pretty happy it ended up this way.

Moral of the story: Call the pros, or rent the diamond blade. They weren't kidding.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Guest Bedroom FINISHED!!

When my brother and sister-in-law announced they were going to be staying with us for a week while my brother interviewed for medical residencies in the area, we knew we had to finish the guest bedroom. It had been our room while we worked on the master bedroom, and we hadn't touched it since we moved out. I had the paint, so I went to town weeknites after work.
The color isn't showing up quite as rich on the computer- it's Benjamin Moore's "Whipple Blue" from the Historic Collection.
Add artwork, a new rug, and, oh yeah, make the bed, and viola! Guest Bedroom FINISHED!!

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Puppy pictures, and oh yeah, the house...

Ok, before I start, I had to share these. We think she might be a mix of Bernese and lab. Any other ideas? We know the Bernese for sure, but nothing else...

So, you wonder how the whole renovating-a-house thing is going with the arrival of the new puppy? Well, we DID actually make some progress this weekend. Granted, it's not as much as we would have done pre-puppy, but we are still moving along. I built one (1) IKEA kitchen cabinet.
And I painted one (1) kitchen wall (not the most earth-shattering accomplishments, I know, but the wall did take 3 coats of red paint.) Sean did a little more- He finished sheetrocking/taping/mudding the last kitchen wall and helped his brother finish the basement lighting. Since the main basement room is so big, we divided up the lighting into two zones on two dimmer switches to create the illusion of two separate spaces. I need to take some more un-puppy related pics and I'll add them.
AND now we can insulate and finish ANOTHER ceiling!! (If I never have to do ceilings again in my lifetime, you won't hear me complain.)
Tonite my goal: One (1) more IKEA cabinet. (Hey, they say you travel a road by taking one (1) step at a time....)

Friday, February 16, 2007

Yes, we're crazy. And in total puppy love.

**Addition** Sean has started a "New Puppy Blog" for all you dog-lovers! Puppy advice greatly appreciated!!

For those of you who haven't heard the story yet, we have a new addition to our family. As it happened, on Sunday, on my way to the grocery store, a yellow lab ran out into traffic and nearly got hit. I stopped and opened up my back door, and he bounded right in. He didn't have a collar or any tags,so I took him up to the humane society. While I was there, I decided just to take a look at the puppies.

Well, it just so happened that they had a new litter of 6 Bernese Mountain Dog pups. Which is what Sean and I had decided we wanted once his dog, Shadow, passed. These dogs are hard to come by, and they are pretty expensive. And so, the long and short of it is-

After 3 days of discussion about whether we are crazy to consider another
dog or not (the verdict: yes, we are crazy, but we love it.)... Here she is! (and another
happy ending to the story- the yellow lab got picked up by

its owners the next day. :)

To see more info on Bernese Mountain Dogs:

Ours is NOT purebred- her littermates had more brown color in them than she does.
We aren't sure what she's mixed with, but we have never cared much about pedigree.
Any guesses?

More pics to come...

Monday, February 12, 2007

Poll: Are we crazy?

We are thinking of getting a puppy. We've been talking about this for awhile, since Sean's dog, Shadow is getting on in her years (she's 10). We know we would get another dog when there's no more Shadow... (although she is in decent health right now). And we've thought about different breeds and done some research- deciding a Bernese Mountain Dog is one of the top contenders. And NOW our local Humane Society has a new litter of 6 Bernese Mountain Dog pups. They are mixed and look like they may be mixed with lab (the pics are labernese). It's a long story about how I ended up at the Humane Society and stumbled upon them, but the question at hand now is.... do we get one??
Two dogs... a puppy... the house... a wedding....
are we crazy for even considering it?

Friday, February 09, 2007

The Blog Has Been Dark and Quiet...

Yes, I have been absent from my blogging. If you are wondering where I've been, well, we've been planning a wedding. We made a promise to ourselves when we got engaged that we were not going to make wedding planning the focus of our lives until the wedding (we do have LIVES, after all), so we vowed (nice pun, huh?) to get as much planning done as soon as possible. Then we could get on with our lives. And our blogs. And our house projects. Which, namely, is THE BASEMENT, currently.
So, we have planned, and the planning is nearly complete. At least the big stuff, anyway.
I'm going to spare all you housebloggers the agony of reading through endless posts about the wedding planning process, but some of it has proven to be good writing material. So, if you wanted to check out the new "Wedding Blog"- you can find it all there.
Here's the only thing I'll cross-post. I promise. And then back to all the juicy details about the new lighting in the downstairs kitchen... :)

The Anti-Bride Plans a Wedding

Those of you who know me know that I have been decidedly anti-bride pretty much my whole life. Now, by "anti-bride" I don't mean I am against getting married, or against weddings as a whole. I am just not into all the hoopla that a "having a wedding" has become.
It makes makes me a little ill that there is an entire "wedding industry." It makes me even more ill to know that we, as a nation, spend the equivalent of the gross national product of small countries on these events. AND it makes me even MORE ill that there are those people out there (you know who you are) that knit-pick every teeny-tiny detail of each wedding "extravaganza," comparing one to another and deciding which events were "fabulous, dahling" and which were just "blasse."
Weddings have become a status symbol.
But not ours.
Oh no.
After being an anti-bride for nearly 30 years, I am now getting married.
And I'll be damned if I am going to be that bride.
Here's my day-by-day story as I try to stay calm, sane, and most importantly real about the whole thing. Cheer me on. I might need it.