We Got our Electrical Approved!

10 May

This is a momentous occasion.

The electricians have finished their work, and had the electrical inspector in for the final inspection. And he has signed off on it!

I told a friend of mine that getting these signatures is like searching for golden tickets. They are very very precious, and when you collect all four of them, you get the GRAND PRIZE. You get a Certificate of Occupancy, and you get to tell the city to piss off and stay the hell out of your life from now on.




The second phase of the electrical went so much better than we ever expected.  They even gave us a cute little porch light.

Granted, Hubby has since discovered that if you have the kitchen light on and plug anything into one of the outlets, you blow the fuse….But I’m sure they will come and fix that.

Here’s a recap of what we’ve been doing

2 May

Well, to start with, we got a front door.

We turned this:

basement door
Into this:

It’s one of the first forward moving projects that we did. It actually would have been a lot nicer to have done this project near the end, and had the garage door when we were hauling most of the materials in there, but we didn’t really have a choice. The floor and the shaft wall and the sheet rock on the ceiling all had to be built in a certain order for fire rating purposes, and the way they fit together, the front wall needed to be first.

I was given the task of stapling horrifying amounts of insulation into the ceiling.

It was itchy and miserable, and made especially gross by a constant rain of soot from the many slightly charred timbers from a fire long ago. (I would like it noted that I got this job because I was pretty much the only one willing to do it.)

We got a bathroom!!

See my amazingly fabulous tub!? My daughter and I have already been enjoying it a great deal. We were able to get the plumbing done in February, so we had to build the floor portion for it ahead of time. It was kind of cool, we had a bathroom on a stage for awhile. The plumbing itself was kind of a crazy deal. They did a few kind of weird things. They also plumbed the sink upstairs with hot water and hot water, and they unplugged our freezer to run some Pex and forgot to plug it back in. Sadly, we did not discover this until several days later.

We built the garage floor up level with the rest of the apartment:

You see those boards leaning up against the wall in the first pic? They are THAWING OUT. We did the floor in March when it was still bitch-ass cold out, and all the lumber at the store was soaked and frozen. They were so slippery that the entire load of wood slid out of the back of the truck in the middle of an intersection. THAT was really fun.

Of course, the thing that’s taken up most of our time BY FAR is sheet rock. On the ceiling. We had to cover the ceiling, the center beam and all the posts with TWO LAYERS of 5/8″ sheet rock. Doing the job ONCE would have been bad enough. Doing it TWICE has been a special kind of hell. (We’ve been doing the layers in tandem as we go along because there was NO WAY we could face the prospect of sheet rocking the whole length of the ceiling and then going back and starting all over.)

I have also had the distinct honor of doing ALL the mudding and taping for this project. (I’d like you to know there’s A LOT OF IT.) We still have the center section of the beam, four of the columns, the bathroom ceiling and the ceiling over the laundry area as far as overhead sheet rocking goes. And bedroom and bathroom walls.

The sheet rock has been just horrible and we’re very lucky to have a lot of really nice friends. More than one Saturday saw two or three extra guys in there helping to hoist sheet rock in the air and screw it to the ceiling. And one guy Hubby works with has gone to Menards with him on the way home on several occasions to pick up sheet rock and unload it in the apartment. We are so incredibly thankful for all their help.

The most recent big deal is that we’ve had the electricians in working on the actual installation, and this go around with them has been much nicer. They show up several days in a row and every time we go in there, we can see new things they’ve done. This is very exciting not only from a progress standpoint, but also due to the fact that we’ve been operating off two outlets, a string of shop lights, and a million miles of extension cords since sometime last fall.

Quite frankly, you didn’t miss a hell of a lot in the time I wasn’t blogging, and what you did was either horrible or boring. You’re welcome.

Now that we’re getting into the fun and exciting parts of the project, I’m inspired to start posting again.

Wanna See My Progress Now?

30 Apr

20150430_191250     <———– I have champagne           









I am reviving the blog   ——————–>  20150430_191329                



Our apartment plan took a massive detour and hit a few hiccups along the way.  In my *coughcough* previous post, I mentioned financing.

We didn’t get it.

Which began year one of the massive delay. Instead of spending our summer building our apartment and moving into town, and then fixing up our house to sell….we had to do it the other way around. Without the business loan, we would have to rely on money from the sale of our house to build the apartment.

That’s when I abandoned the blog temporarily. This is supposed to be about my funky new urban life, not the rehab of a lovable country shithole we knew we could probably only sell on contact for deed. It was too depressing. I was angry to be putting in so many long hours and such hard work that wasn’t going toward my apartment – it was all basically for someone else. (Who took a party in there before even moving in and repainted every last square inch of our wonderful, cool home.)

They also remodeled the kitchen right away. He demanded to know: “I’d like to know why you put the refrigerator against that wall instead of here where it makes much more sense.”  His tone was exactly that of a parent: “I’d like you both to explain why there are snakes in the toilet.”


We closed that November and moved into a makeshift apartment in the back rooms of our shop. Just in time for Hubby to get a new job!  So, now we had the urban lifestyle, at least, but it was anything but funky.  It was Hubby going to the new job way early in the morning and then coming back to the shop and working well into the evening, while I worked in the shop in the morning, my other job in the afternoon, and back in the shop alongside Hubby all evening. Then we’d both crash into bed. No time or energy for building an apartment.

(This is not to say that we didn’t enjoy some of the perks of living downtown. We definitely have, and it’s going to be twice as fun when our stress level is cut in half. Personally, I relished walking to work all winter. All summer, too, but driving in the snow is one of my personal bug-a-boos.)

The next spring we got back into that project, but progress was very very slow. Infuriatingly slow. We had the horrible work of shoring up floor joists, and other awful, unsatisfying things. Plus the electricians would show up one day, and then not come back for three weeks. And most of the work couldn’t be started until they finished their initial phase of separating the electrical for the apartment from the rest of the building.

I also began a new job search because we decided to either sell or close the shop. Hubby’s really enjoying his new job, and we both would love the simplicity of ONE job, someone else’s butt on the line. I finally landed one and started in October.

November rolled around AGAIN, and our deadbeat tenant finally left us (we rent the business space above the apartment). He also left us a huge mess. We were fortunate to find new tenants right away, but it took a full month to get the place cleaned up, painted and other things fixed the way they wanted them. Again, I was miserable doing work for someone else when we’d barely gotten anywhere with OUR project.

December finally dawned, we got everyone else in the family moved or married off and our time was finally ours!!

Since then, we’ve been going like gangbusters and have made MASSIVE progress! We set a goal of being in by June, and we think we stand a really good chance of making it. More like IN June, rather than BY June, and “being in” constitutes just that – a certificate of occupancy and permission to move in. It won’t be anywhere near finished, but it’s all the fun stuff. There’s just a couple of projects we’ll be smart enough to do before we move in (like carpet the bedroom), but the rest of it will be done in residence like perfect morons. Happy morons, though!  I mean, we’ve been living without a real kitchen for a year and a half, you think we’re not moving in the first chance we get?

Over the next couple of posts, I’ll recap some of the highlights of construction so far.

Progress – See My Lack of it

23 Apr

Just when it seemed we were poised to really get going….we stalled out almost completely.


And it’s driving me crazy! I expected to be so much further along by now. We finally got our building permit, nearly a month ago, and WOW was that an eye opener. I was expecting a pretty healthy tab because there’s a $940 fee just for adding usage volume to the sewer system (won’t we be paying for that on our BILL?), but the acutal permit was higher than I’d anticipated, and there was a staggering “plan review” fee, which is pretty ridiculous given the simplicity of our plans. Apparently, however, we really stumped them because they had to call down to the state to find out what to do with us, and made a few confused calls to our architect. Turns out we are truely the very first people in this town to want to put an apartment in a basement downtown. (And somehow that is drastically different than putting one on the second or third floor, since we’re surrounded by downtown apartments.)


We had the general building inspector out to give us the preliminary details…and they weren’t good.  First of all, we have to shore up a bunch of joists in the ceiling – not a HUGE project, but fiddly and time consuming nonetheless. Second of all, we have to put up TWO layers of sheetrock on the ceiling. Third (and my most hated), we have to sheetrock the nice beam that runs the length of the basement, and the three rustic posts in the center of the living area. (*pouts*)  Finally, we have to install a “shaft wall system” on the wall that is shared by the stairwell leading upstairs. This will be a bit pricey, but substantially better than the double layer of sheetrock on both sides (which would have required ripping out the stairs and putting them back in), and he was planning to just keep on going with that double sheetrock – he kept getting further up the stairs, and then onto the landing….it wasn’t pretty. The shaft wall solves all that.

In the meantime, we had hoped we’d finally get the bank financing lined up, so we’d be ready to go….but it’s been a month, and other than one call promising she’d get back to us the very next day (two weeks ago), we haven’t heard from our banker and she’s not returning phone calls.

OH, and the truck developed some issues that are preventing us from picking up materials – although we do have a friend who can loan us his, so that’s not a huge deal. But we lost a weekend to fixing the brakes, and now may have a wheel bearing problem.

This isn’t ALL bad. During the past month, we wanted to spend as much time as possible with our son anyway. He finally, after a lot of hassle and hoops, got accepted into the Army and was headed to basic training on April 15th.


We got to spend a lot of great time with him, and really appreciated the chance. We also got to text with him while he traveled down and went through reception, so we know that so far he really likes it there and says he’s having fun. That meant the world to me, because I won’t worry about him too much now.

Hopefully, the snow will quit falling, the bank will call with good news, the electrician and the drywall guy will both call with affordable quotes, and this project will get humming along again.  (Keep your fingers crossed for that affordable drywall – we really don’t want to sheetrock that ceiling ourselves, but we’ll have to if the quote is outrageous.)

Basement Project: Kitchen Layout Revisited

26 Mar

We’ve been playing around with the kitchen layout some more.

Divider Graphics

It began when Hubby started to get a little shirty with me about what and how many appliances we were going to be having on the counter in the new place.  Awhile back, where we are now, it was a food processor and a blender. Currently, we have a coffee maker and two blenders. I was still deciding which I liked better for smoothies when it turned cold, and so they haven’t been used in a couple months – which he translated to NEVER EVER EVER GET USED EVER, and got on a tirade about how cluttered our counters are as if I’d suggested that I wanted ALL the appliances lined up on the counter in rows, including the roasting pan for good measure.

So I made a deal with him – we each get to have one appliance of our choosing that lives on the counter full time. I think that’s fair since we all know he’s going to want to have the coffee maker on the counter – that only makes sense. BUT – I don’t drink coffee very often, and I do make smoothies most days in the non-winter months. (And when we live there and I don’t have to go out and get in a cold car, I might make them year around!).

Then we started talking about possibly making a breakfast station area where we could have those things and maybe the toaster too, or the new egg steamer our folks just got me. We got all excited about how we could use the old counter that’s in the garage, and just move things a little further down the wall, etc. I was really into this plan, because our previously settled upon kitchen design still made me a little uneasy.

Since it was Sunday morning, we loaded the counter into the truck and headed off to the shop to try it all out. We set everything up…….and HATED IT. I hated it so much there are hardly words. It was just too long and the island got moved down far enough to match up with one of the support columns in the basement, and we didn’t want that.

I got very edgy at this point and may possibly have been a pain in the ass to deal with.

After a few more tries – some of which were even MORE horrible, (including Hubby’s suggestion to just ditch the island. Um, NO), he very carefully approached me like a cornered animal and said, “What if we put the sink on the other wall?”  My immediate reaction was to be a bigger ass and freak out about how that would mean I’d NEVER get my pantry door in the kitchen if I wanted, but he promised me that moving a sink is not a big deal at all, and if we want, he can always replumb it in the future if I really want that door. I know from experience that he can, so I settled down and started to consider the idea seriously.

New Kitchen Mockup

I’m a little concerned that the sink is too far away from the working area, but that’s the beauty of this mock up thing. I was able to play around in there a little bit as if I were really cooking and such, and truthfully, I don’t think it’s going to be a big deal.  It’s really the stove and the working area that I like to have close together, and the fridge is still located where it’s easy to pull things out and put them on the island.

Moving the sink to this end puts it right next to where the dishes will go, (please admire my mad GIMP skills – that hutch is still sitting on my front porch), which is nice, PLUS I can be in there washing dishes while he’s cooking, and we won’t get in each other’s way like we certainly would have with the old plan.

Best of all, when I imagine the finished product, I get that excited feeling I did when my imagination kicked up the very first image of a kitchen in the apartment.

Sadly, this means we don’t really get our breakfast station the way we wanted, but we’re going to use that counter on the backside of the peninsula there, and we think we can set up the coffee maker and blender against the wall there and it will be nearly as good. (That black bucket in the photo? Is the pretend coffee maker while we were trying out places to put things.)

Slaying Monsters

23 Mar

I’ve been slaying monsters recently. 


Slaying monsters is a term I came up with to describe the act of dealing with those tasks I’ve been putting off that have grown into looming clouds of dread. Some of these things are actually difficult, but often times, they’re just kind of unpleasant, or they involve making a phone call I don’t want to, or some other ickiness.  Usually, they really aren’t so bad once I dive in and do them, but I put them off until they become epic and I feel down and crappy every time I think of them. This time it’s been getting tax stuff ready for the accountant, finalizing some reservations for my other job that involved walking in the cold, and that I was afraid we might have lost (we didn’t), and getting certain bills paid.

Slaying monsters is a very liberating and uplifting experience. After feeling depressed and hemmed in for weeks, I finally get a head of steam and motivation up and get a bunch of things done, and then suddenly, I just feel light and free. It’s such a weight off.

I hate March anyway, and I usually end up in this situation about this time every year. It’s crappy and depressing outside, and it seems like a lot of the harder, more frustrating things in life tend to happen now. (Yes, taxes, I’m looking at you).

Fortunately, as I get older, it’s easier to remember how that works and I’m usually able to pull myself out of a slump and slay the monsters a lot sooner and easier than I used to.

Divider Graphics

Ironically, I have also been breeding monsters for the past few days.  I discovered a great free game app, called Monster Story, and I’m just HOOKED. You have an island and you buy a couple eggs to raise your first monsters, grow them up, and then you can start breeding new ones. (Once you buy a “breeding garden”, of course).  I have four monsters I’m raising right now (none are fully grown yet), and I’m waiting for one egg to hatch. It’s got nine hours and forty-six minutes left. I know it’s silly, but I can play it on my phone while I’m waiting in lines or whatever, and it’s fun, and the monsters are SO CUTE!!  Pictures don’t really do them justice, because they play around in their habitats and some of them do pretty funny things…but LOOK!

Monster Story

Basement Project: Kitchen Layout

12 Mar

Recently, we spent a little time in the basement brainstorming layouts for the kitchen. A long time ago, I got a very clear, very wonderful mental image of what it should look like, and I’ve been stuck on that ever since.  In the meantime, however, we’ve changed a couple of other things and I thought it was important to really think it through. I’m glad we did, because what we’ve come up with is a bit different than my original concept and I think it will be much better than what I originally had in mind.

The first idea was like this:

Kitchen B

Technically, this is a revised version of the first concept. Originally, we were going to move the door to the pantry around the corner, so it would be IN the kitchen, but we’ve decided to leave it for now. It’ll be less work in the beginning, and it would certainly offer more flexibility in the kitchen layout if we had that wall to use.  In the very first version, both the sink and the stove would be along the back wall, but in the idea pictured above, the stove would be at the end of the “U”. I’ve always envisioned this enclosed wrap-around style of counters, etc, that would be like some kind of command center to work from while I chatted with the family or watched whatever was on TV in the living area.

Interestingly, when we finally mocked this up (after we had already tried out the version below), I realized that it felt kind of cramped and claustrophobic. I also felt that it looked kind of…amateur in a way.  I’m not sure why.

What we’ve settled on is a more open concept with an island:

Kitchen A


I like the airy feel of this and the freedom to approach it from both sides, and move around more freely. It has more of a sophisticated feel to it, I think.  We’ll build a half wall to back the stove and that will extend a bit above the counters to kind of finish that off.

Note:  We’ve since found out that we will be required to have a stove hood, and I’m not entirely sure I want one hanging down in the middle of the room, so we may very likely put the stove against the back wall along the same line as the sink, and let that peninsula just be counter.

I haven’t really decided about any kind of upper cabinets. We’re going to paint my old china hutch and use that for the dishes and some appliances, and there will be some drawers and things in the lower portion of the island and counters, so I originally felt there’d be enough storage. Plus, I want to do a pot rack of some kind on that back wall. Recently, though, I realized there’s not really going to be any place for the kind of food items, oils and spices that you’d want to have on hand in the kitchen.

Most of the food will live in the pantry, but up until recently, that was going to be integrated into the kitchen a little more than it is now.  So, I guess we’ll have to see on that one. I think we’ll kind of wait and see what we really end up needing there and filling in as necessary.

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