Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Stone floors!

The downstairs floors have been re-done and they are looking very lovely.  Under the linoleum we had an uneven concrete slab and quarry tiles, all of which was sitting on dirt and rubble.
Matt had to do a lot of digging out to safely remove all the bad old stuff and prepare for laying in the new sub-floor.  
They dug down to dirt, literally, that is a dirt floor in the kitchen, and living room.. and dining room... But soon enough things started going back in to construct the new sub-floor.
The new sub-floor consists of layers of foam glass insulation with limecrete on top meant to be vapor permeable.  It was fun for me to see these progress shots each evening.. especially because I wasn't living in it.
The whole process took them several days, but resulted in a gorgeously level new floor which should also help stop the rising damp from destroying our plaster walls, because at the same time as all this flooring fun...
...Most of the downstairs plaster was being redone.  To deal with that same rising damp issue, the bottom half of the walls had to be demo'd and re-plastered. I was very glad to not be around for all this, I know the disorder would have made me go a little mad.
The stone for the new floors is an Aged-Heritage-Limestone and before deciding we looked at several other samples.  Naturally I spent an entire afternoon moving the samples around to different rooms to see how they would look.  Below you can see my three samples, the linoleum we started with, as well as the ugly hearth stone, and the partially hidden mess that is the old cracked tile under the old wood burner.
I had this vision of bright whites/ivories everywhere in the house, but in the end I was won over by the ripples and texture of the gray limestone.  They look something like river stones and what I really like is the fact that they are common around Tewksbury.  Once I started looking I saw the texture and color used in several other old buildings and on some of the sidewalks!  
We are still trying to decide how to seal it though, the options are a 'wet-look' or a 'dry-look'.  Above it is dry (very natural, maybe a dusted look to it) and below is right after mopping (slightly glossy, shiny).  Which would you choose?
If you compare this photo of the finished stone floor in the kitchen to the earlier process photos of the same space you can really see how far we've come!
Now the downstairs is nearly finished structurally and a post on the kitchen is coming soon.  Walls have been whitewashed, the furniture moved back into the space, and I've been obsessing over rugs.  Now, final flooring thought this week, check out my new Kilim area rug!
Thank you Ebay for existing!  This is a colorful over-sized beauty from the 1940's all the way from Istanbul and I am so in love.  It currently is living with me in Maryland, but I can't wait to see it against those stones in the cottage! One side is very faded for a more muted look and the other is still incredibly vibrant.

- Nicole

Sunday, January 15, 2017

DIY Outlet Upgrades!

As promised I have an overview of our process installing new outlets into what we think will be the master bedroom, we are not electricians and this is not a how to guide, always consult a professional.  (We did end up having a proper electrician do the rest of the house and he checked out our work.)
Now that the disclaimer is out of the way... we needed more outlets in the bedroom, and Matt had the brilliant idea to upgrade to a set with USB ports, so we were pretty excited and motivated.  
The upgraded receptacles only cost a few dollars more than the standard and came with installation instructions.
We measured out the size of the bed so that the outlets would go outside of it and got about securing the casing to the brick.  Drilling into the brick was tricky because, in an old house like ours, the bricks are not uniform, some were way to soft and crumbly, others were very very hard, the mortar was to soft as well, so there was some trial and error here.  The first of the two outlets we installed went back in the original space, IE: where the wires were coming up from the floor. 
I threaded the wires (electricity was shut off at this point) into the case and Matt took over attaching the correct wires to our new outlet face as well as separating out the ones which were to go off to the second new outlet.  (See the gray cord going off to the left.)
The second case and cover went faster than the first, though there was some hanky panky using the electric drill to install because to use the drill the power had to be turned on... Do Not Do This! But glossing right over that...
Look how pretty!  And it works!  Our next move was to use this metal strip to secure and cover the wire to the brick, protecting it and us from any reno in the future.  This took forever to get right, but with some good brick anchors for the screws, careful measuring, and pilot holes we got it done.  
Very proud!  This was one of the bigger projects that we've taken on and successfully finished all in one day with no outside help.  When we plastered this room the wire housing was secured further and covered over, the outlets are now nearly flush with the surface of the wall and rock solid.  I'm so glad we made the effort here, we really needed the extra outlets in there and now with the built-in UBS ports we have a plethora of options. 
I should probably pick out some cool bedside lights..
- Nicole

Plastering at the Cottage. Fall 2016.

Last time I brought you up to date on my holiday and new job, but naturally, I spent most of my August holiday 'helping' at The Cottage, that is part of why it took so long for me to publish this, I didn't want to come off to whiny... Plastering is hard work.  
So, as of August 2016, Matt had spent a lot of time before my visit pulling down the ruined and damp lime plaster, exposing the brick in what will eventually be our bedroom. This allowed for the brick to dry out and for us to update some electrical work (post on how we totally didn't do anything dangerous with electricity coming soon!)
Now I know this goes against the grain and probably ruins any Hipster cred I may have earned when diving in to a Victorian Renovation, but I don't love exposed brick.  It's cool for a bar or a loft apartment, but it wouldn't be right for this house.  The exterior is already red brick and the interior would have originally been plastered anyway, so this is in part wanting to stay true to the character of The Cottage. 
Matt likes the exposed brick, so we compromised and ultimately decided that the fireplace in the bedroom could remain exposed, but that I can do a thin lime wash over it to tone down the red.  Additionally, Matt finished the raking out and re-pointing of the fireplace front, so it looks very sturdy now.  
A big part of what we did this August involved plastering.  There was also a lot of driving to get more plaster, and then some more, and several meals, and then plaster.   Plastering the rest of the room was  a major undertaking, there is definitely something to be said for using Sheetrock... 
Lime Plastering 101.
Step one: Be great at plastering as you assumed you would be.
Step two: Arms aching, cry tears into your pizza at dinner because you are actually terrible at plastering.
Step three: Play assistant and try to be somewhat helpful.
Anyway we got the bedroom re-plastered and no one died. Did I mention that new ceilings were put up for us? They look great and have been painted white. 
The attic has been fully insulated, which has already made a difference in heating the home, and we made major steps towards picking out the kitchen and flooring!  The next post will be much more fun, I promise, with some pretty pictures!
-Nicole