Friends Don’t Let Friends Drink and Drywall

Everytime I work on my house I feel like I’m turning into Don Draper working on Sally Draper’s club house. That is, I generally get decently loaded when I am doing something I find to be monotonous. I love LOVE rough framing. It is so much fun to take nothing and create something. Then, someone comes along and says that it isn’t pretty enough, and has to paint it ugly colors that will go out of style in a fashion season. If I wore white clothes(I don’t because they always end up stained) I would definitely wear them after labor day, just to spite people. If I were a more ballsy person I would have also left the unfinished drywall hang, but being a semi-sane human being who still is trying to get some action, I hung drywall, finished it, textured it, and painted it. So, I now have one bedroom nearly done, with only the flooring and trim left to do. You can mark my words though, there will never be a gaudy decoration in my house that has the words  LIVE LAUGH LOVE on it. I hate this crap. Why do middle aged women insist on hanging these things everywhere?

Picture Time :

Fresh Starts With Volatile Chemicals.

With walls up the next step is to pull wires and insulate this place.

This house has rough cut 2×4 walls so the R21 Fiberglass option is out. R13 Fiberglass could potentially be the way to go, but I want a way to eliminate air movement in my walls. If only there were some kind of magic material which had double the R value of fiberglass, was a moisture barrier, and I have access too.

Closed Cell spray foam insulation! R7 per inch(4xR7=R28). Very expensive to install($1.05 per board foot our cost) but it will pay for itself in 3 years due to no air movement knocking the heat out of my house. The only problem with this stuff is that you have to make sure you have a VOC Mask or even better, supplied air. It is a 2 part foam that loves moisture, and guess where there is a lot of that : your lungs. If you start spraying this stuff naked your lungs will be candy coated.

The spray foam that you see in Holmes on Homes and other DIY shows(spray 1/8 inch and it expands outside the walls)  is an open cell foam which has the same R value as fiberglass and allows moisture to pass through, but is roughly half the cost. I want the highest R possible in my thin walls and I feel that closed cell is always the best option. We’ve done a lot of jobs tearing out improperly installed open cell with huge air voids so I simply don’t trust that product. An interesting fact about icynene brand spray foam : It can not stick to itself. If you spray it, cut it with a hot knife and there is an air void(which there can be a lot of) and you spray some more in, the product will not bond with the previously applied foam.

Next step : Hang drywall, climb up into the attic, spray the top of the drywall to create a 100% airseal.

Demolition Sounds Like Fun But Then You Have to Clean it All Up

Now that the roof was on and the house was water tight it made sense to really start cracking the whip and get some work done. Bedrooms and living rooms are relatively cheap to remodel compared to bathrooms and kitchens so I started with the front bedroom and expanded it out into the front half of the living room. Since I knew there would be a giant mess I bought some 4mil plastic and stapled/taped it to the walls and ceiling in order to create a dust/debris shield. One unique thing about this house is that unlike most houses it has 9′ ceilings instead of the standard 8′. It will suck buying a little bit more expensive taller drywall, but the added height makes it feel a lot bigger(when half of it is not torn apart).

I climbed up into the attic and just like I did in the porn den, knocked down the ceiling with a sledge hammer. This whole process sketched me out since the ceiling stringers were rough cut 2×4’s which bounced and bounced with every swing.

😦 Time to work that shovel.

Blew out the bedroom wall’s lath and plaster and tore down the chimney from the attic down to the floor.

Two important things in these pictures : First, there are nice decently conditioned hardwood floors underneath the carpeting in the living room that I plan on refinishing. Second, my home made boom box. Took a PC power supply, grounded it so that it would turn on with the switch on back of it, have it powering a car amp, which pump really nice sound out of my eclipse 6×9 speakers. Truly, a ghetto blaster.

Removed the closet wall and put some new vinyl windows in.

New wall! The old dimensions of the room were 9’8″ x 9’7″ which makes a small ass bedroom. Now the room measures 11′ x 10’8″. Not a whole lot bigger but a room has no business being smaller than 10 x 10. Now for these pesky ceiling stringers…

See those rafters? See how they are not tied to the stringers by anything? Yeah, scared the hell out of me too. All that was holding my roof to my house were two barn spikes through every single rafter. Even better than that is the fact that neither the stringers OR rafters have any spacing scheme and differ from the living room and bedroom. If old houses like this have managed to stand for near a hundred years it is my belief that current construction homes will be able to stand for thousands of years.

Well, since they aren’t tied to anything I’m going  to tear them out.

And install my own!

Unlike the crazy miners who built this house I am going to tie my stringers into the rafters so that the whole god damn roof doesn’t collapse on me during 60mph winds!

Webbing and cross bracing to actually increase the structural integrity of the rough sawn 2×4 rafters.

New closet wall built with drywall nailers installed. Previous closet was 3′ deep, this one will be 2′ when finished. Next I need to move ductwork, pull wire, and insulate the walls.

Stay tuned!

I Am At the Peak of My Career

Before I got too far ahead of myself with how much work I had done inside the house I used my adult brain. As a man who works on a lot of people’s homes some things really piss me off. One thing is people who don’t pay what they owe. Another thing is people who overspend on flooring and under spend on cheap fixtures, doors, and windows. The most egregious error of all home owners, however, is spending a ton of money on interior remodeling, new siding, and landscaping, while they have a roof on their house that is 20 years old.

Yes, I realize that roofing is expensive, and it doesn’t add a whole lot to the look of a house, but come on people, your roof is the most important part of your house. By the time you realize that your roof is leaking it probably has been letting water in for at least a few weeks. Ignoring water in your house is quite possibly the dumbest thing you can do. Black mold loves warm, moist, dark areas, and guess what your attic is?!

Fast forward five years and your former honor roll student is now laying in your crawlspace licking mushrooms and huffing spores while in their seventh trimester of pregnancy. You would normally notice but you are too busy waving a broom around trying to hit the dials on your tv because you lost the remote and have merged with the couch. Black mold, scary stuff.

No pictures of the tear off, because it was hot, sunny, humid, and there were 2 layers of 3 tab shingles. I was super excited when I did not find a third layer of cedar shakes, because holy crap do cedar shakes suck to tear off. Firstly, they are all filled with small tiny nails that are destined to destroy pants. Next, I have very rarely not ended up with a decent amount of skin missing from either giant stakes that puncture my body or the nails tearing me apart. Finally, when cedar is stuck under layers of shingles, it breaks down and when torn apart throws out an amazing amount of black cedar dust that lodges itself in your sinuses and covers your sweaty body. When done I usually look like one of the trapped Chilean miners because I am covered in soot, not wearing any pants because mine have been destroyed, and speaking in tongues because I am enraged and my brain is cooked from staring directly into the sun questioning why I have made such terrible life decisions.

Picture time!

As you may have noticed in a previous update, my roof is very very steep. It is a 12/12 which means that it rises 12 inches in 12 inches(45 degree angle). Because I have only developed a serious rash and blackening skin from where a radioactive spider bit me and not the ability to walk on any surface I had to use roof jacks to hold my bulbous ass up on the roof.

1/2 of the main portion of the roof on. I ended up buying TAMKO brand shingles because they at the time were $20 a square cheaper than Certainteed, had an awesome consumer reports rating, and we had a bunch left over from a previous job. I myself am a Certainteed laminate shingle man. GAF makes an okay laminate shingle, but they have poor quality control and end up with shingles that looks like a mouthful of hillbilly teeth. I have not been all that impressed by Tamko’s offerings. They cover a smaller area, and feel thinner that Certainteed. Any brand of 3 Tab shingles are garbage, suck to put on, and end up tearing off in high winds. NEVER BUY 3 TAB SHINGLES!

Step flashing and booting around the sewer pipe. Protip: always cover up the crap pipe. It absolutely wreaks.

The shingle shear… God’s gift to roofers. Measure the piece you need, lay down a shingle, and chop away. Oh how I do not miss the days of using hook blades to cut up the edge of a roof. Another great invention people should be using more of : Ice and Water shield. Use it!

Next time : Expanding the demo into the living room.

The 70’s Were A Time When It Was Acceptable To Put Wood Paneling On Cars and In Houses

Before we get to the pictures : a story. My house was built in the very early 1900’s when insulation was either non existent or people loved the thought of working 80 hours a week in the iron mine then coming home to shovel coal into the furnace. There is zero insulation in my walls but there was a decent amount in my attic. The problem : It wasn’t nice bats of fiberglass that could be easily removed, it was a mixture of vermiculite and blown wool. If you don’t know what vermiculite is : I envy you.  The only real way to get this mixture out of my attic was to scoop it out, or just drop the ceiling and shovel it off of the floor. I had a third option available that worked, somewhat. A family friend has a duct cleaning business and what amounts to a 8hp vacuum. This rig has a 8 inch hose that is so powerful that it sucks your entire hand into the end of it even if you are prepared for it.

What I did was climb up into the attic and suck out the vermiculite and wool from half of my house until I heard a lot of yelling coming from outside. Once the blown wool hit the vacuum it atomized and even though we had it dumping into a tarped trailer there was a giant cloud of wool particles that stood taller than my house that began to drift over the neighborhood. Needless to say, the neighbors were not amused with my attempt to save myself some grunt work. I managed to get half of the attic sucked out before I had to go on damage control and apologize to my now understandably pissed neighbors.

Now with the neighbors placated I decided to make some more dust. I decided to begin in the front bedroom since it was completely unused at the time and easy to seal off from the rest of the house. I referred to this room as the porn den for the longest time because of the wood paneling and long red shag carpet.

It was at this point I was starting to get sick of plaster so I decided to grab my ladder and do some work outside. Up on the roof.

And in an incredibly hot attic.

With the new furnace installed I no longer have any need for an unnecessary hole in my roof to flash around and a waste of my very valuable living room space.

You can see in this picture my legs, the sledgehammer, and the ramp I made to funnel the rest of the attic insulation into the dump trailer.

Ceiling mostly dropped down, insulation mostly out, old scary wiring, and a mess on the floor. The cleaning never ends!

Next update : Shingles, no, not the skin condition and expanding the demo into the living room

Floor Plans

So now that I am bringing the blog into what I’ve done on the main floor of the house I figured it was time to do a layout of the place so that people can place the pictures to a portion of the house. 

What I plan on doing is pushing the bedroom walls out 1 foot into the living room, shrinking the closets from 3 to 2 feet deep in order to make the bedroom facing the front of the house an additional 1 foot wider, moving the back doorway to the other side of the house, making the basement stairs come out into the living room, and completely changing the layout of the kitchen. Here is another picture to more easily explain the previous run on sentence.

Sorry for the brevity of this post, but ended up doing a roof late this week and worked on the house all weekend. Will update with more content soon, and a video walkthrough is coming eventually.

I Said Get Back In The Basement!

After I catch up with the current progress I will be going through the house one room at a time and post up some floorplans.

March and the tree fiasco had passed. I had been doing a lot of work in the basement and going all the way outside to get back into the thing during a severely cold April was beginning to get annoying. You can tell by this picture that at one time there had been death stairs that led to the basement(look where it is missing paint). 

So what was directly above this?

The previous tenants were getting up in years and wanted a main floor laundry instead of having to walk down the cliff that was the previous set of steps. So, they boarded over the floor, made it into a closet…. and never ended up putting in a main floor washer or dryer. Lucky for me I know a guy with a hammer and a flatbar.

The stringers that were in there only existed to hold up the closet floor and were easily removed and did not fudge up the rest of the house. I took two 2x12x12 boards as stringers and instead of cutting in treads, simply put 2×4 blocks on the sides and then put 2×10’s over the top to act as a set of temporary steps. Eventually I will be running the steps the opposite direction from the living room and this will make more sense when I do the room by room update. 

Alright! I’ve got new temporary death stairs! Let’s step down them carefully and see whats going on down there now.

Looks like they’re doing some kind of pirate radio from down here…. I don’t trust it… Let’s take a quick turn to the left.

Well, they’re either trying to make a kick ass robot costume or they have got a new furnace.

But I thought he was broke? Aren’t new furnaces expensive?

Right you are. I scored big time on this furnace. I was hanging drywall at a different house and replacing the hot water heater. I had moved the hot water heater out onto the front porch and let it sit there overnight. When I was working the next morning a man walked over and asked me if I needed to buy a hot water heater, as he had a newer one. I declined but said that I was looking for a furnace. It turns out that he was stripping his dead father in law’s house and planned on tilling it under. Luckily for me right before the guy keeled over he put a brand new high efficiency furnace and all new ducting into the house. I ended up with the furnace all of the ducting and hot water heater for $1500. After that, another neighbor walked by looking to buy the hot water heater so without even having the thing loaded up yet I sold it to him for $100(gas non power vent hot water heater) so for $1400 I had a few model years old 92% efficient furnace that hadn’t even been used for one heating season.

See all that white tape? That there is asbestos. Whenever I get bored of cracking open cfl bulbs and drinking the mercury I climb down the steps shake the heat ducts around while taking some deep breaths.

Moving that fat bitch of a furnace was….. a bitch. The red cylindrical drum was a giant cast iron pot. The way the furnace worked was a bunch of heating elements designed to burn diesel fuel(but now burned natural gas) super heated that thing until the thermostat told the squirrel cage fan to kick on. The only nice thing about the furnace was that when it finally kicked in and started moving air it was HOT. If you sat in front of it you started to sweat.

It is now the middle of April and it is still extremely cold outside. How am I supposed to stay warm for the next few days while I wait for the furnace man to come put this new one in?

Luckily I am used to living in cold houses, as this little heater barely kept my bedroom above 60 degrees while it was in it.

Another advantage of doing construction work for a living is having a lot of friends in the plumbing, electrical, and hvac fields. For $650 I had the new furnace installed and got an AC coil put in, so my house is all set for air conditioning once I get the outdoor unit. 

Well, that’s all for today. If some of this doesn’t make sense it is because I was working outside in the sun with a heat index of 106 degrees running a jack hammer. If there is some sort of glaring error or something doesn’t make sense I’ll come back later when my brain isn’t cooked and fix it.

I Have A Lot of Making Up to Do Next Arbor Day.

Just remembered I have bar league volleyball tomorrow so I will hammer out one more blog post tonight and skip tomorrow’s update.

I live in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Trees are a major part of the economy around here. I love trees and nature, so long as they stay the hell off of my lawn. Now I didn’t just have three trees in my yard, I had twenty three, a quarter of which have a parasitic bug in them killing them. These were no ordinary 8′ tall Oaks these things were absolute monster pines…. and I had to kill every one of them. Here is a google maps before tree eradication photo. 

And here is one more before of the Biggest one occupying my front yard.

But how to get rid of these monsters? This front one is enveloped in telephone and cable lines, surely the public utilities will offer me some assistance! Not a chance. Surely I will hire a tree serv- over $3000 you say? Sheeeeiiiit… Screw it, I’m doing it with some help.

I called in some favors to family friends and managed to get a hold of two very important pieces of equipment, a mini excavator, and a 60′ man lift. Since these pines trees are so wide and grouped up on top of each other there was no real safe way to just take the chainsaw and insure that they would drop anywhere near a safe zone. What my father and I ended up doing was climbing into the bucket with the chainsaw and limbing these things starting from the bottom to the top. One man would cut, while the other held onto the branch and dropped it away from the base of the man lift. When it got windy I ended up getting super seasick, not because the bucket was moving, but because of how much the trees themselves swayed.

The tall tree in front could only be limbed to this height because we ran out of boom. The tree was near 80′ tall. Once the trees were sufficiently limbed we had to bring these bad mother bitches down. The way we accomplished that was by taking the lift back up the trees, tying a 200′ long rope to them, lowering the boom, driving the boom away, having one man start sawing the base of the tree, while the rest of us pulled on the rope the direction we wanted them to fall. For the larger trees we tied the rope onto a 3/4 ton diesel truck and gave them a good firm tug.

We left the three pines that were near the house for last in order to act as a shield for the house. and continued to drop more and more pines.

Fast forward a few days and trees

Comparison shot to the google maps one I put at the beginning of the post:

With no trees covering 3/4 of it you can see how truly dilapidated my garage is.

The cement pad is from the tin shed that used to be hidden in the trees.

The amount of branches from these trees was incredible. We have a 12′ long dump trailer with sides around 4′ tall and it took 12 total loads in branches alone for all of the trees, and another five loads of just logs. It is amazing how simple this whole process looks when you just snap a couple of pictures, but in reality removing these trees took up three entire weekends and I had the help of a mini excavator one day to load up the majority of the wood and brush.

Disposal was the easy part. I just drove all of the wood to my parents house. They have 10 acres of land and an outdoor wood boiler. The brush will be burnt this spring or fall when there has been a large amount of rain.

The Things I Do In My Basement

So it was mid March, I was now a home owner, and I was broke because I had put down a large amount of money for my down payment. I was excited to move in to the new place and wanted to live here for a while before I started the main renovations. The cheapest place to start was the basement.

The room to the left of the dresser was the old coal room. Lucky for me this house was equipped with a furnace from the early 1960’s that was converted from running fuel oil(diesel) to natural gas. Oh…wait…. that sounds super inefficient for some reason. Turns out that for every dollar I spent I was getting about 33 cents worth of heat. This thing had to go, but due to me not having any money(come on we covered this earlier) it had to stay for the time being. That coal room on the other hand….

No need for that to exist anymore. The wall came down super easy, it was bucketing the cement out that was the worst part. Definitely got a good exercise for the glutes. After all of the crap was cleaned out I cemented in the new holes in the floor from where the walls used to be and pressure washed all of the walls to get rid of the coal residue.

So walls out, walls washed, new hot water heater purchased to replace the one from the 1970’s, let’s get drunk and paint some walls.

Turns out PVA drywall primer works awesome for lightening up a room. The water heater install kind of sucked because I am by no means a pro solderer and the pipes I was attempting to tie into were old soft copper. I can not wait to rip out all of the plumbing in this house because it goes through galvanized pipe, soft copper, rigid copper, and pvc. Thank god for pex piping. It is going to be wonderful to run this place with clean easily manipulated water lines.

Stay tuned because my next update will document the arduous tree removal process that took place over a period of three weeks.

An Introduction.

I’m going to start this blog off by introducing myself.

My name is Joe LaFreniere(I pronounce it Laugh Wren Ear but telemarketers and bill collectors have much more interesting variations on it). I grew up in a small town and graduated with 65 other people. I made the hilarious and costly mistake of thinking that I wanted to educate other people’s children. I continued to make this mistake until I student taught fifth and sixth grade children at a middle school where the faculty and administration had no drive to do anything except teach to the statewide assessment test. Instead of dropping out immediately I signed up for classes for an additional year but didn’t attend them because I didn’t want to tell my parents that I was unhappy and had zero interest in finishing out my degree. Stupid, huh?

Like many of my generation I moved back into the bedroom I held as a teenager. I even took up my old middle school, high school and summer break job, working with my father doing construction work. It was not the ideal situation.

Due to no fault of their own I could no longer stand living with my parents. Being 23, depressed, working for your dad all day, and having a relationship with your parents that was identical to the one we had when I was 16 was infuriating for me and for them as well. It is hard to work for a man from whom there is no escape. A normal person can be pissed off at their boss, go home, relax, and let some steam off. Not me. I would be working outside on a hot day, sweating, tearing shingles off of a roof and then get in an argument with my dad over something completely trivial. Then after work was over and I was supposed to go home and relax I would have to look at the stupid bastard across the dinner table.

I had had enough of being a boomeranger and began seriously looking for a house or a rental in December of 2010. I had three major benefits from living in a small town: my old man was friends with the most hated man in the town(he owns a large number of rental properties but is by no means a slum lord), my friend’s father was President of the local bank, and thanks to the housing crisis I had a near endless amount of houses I could buy for under $25,000.

In February of 2010 the most hated man in town introduced me to some of the nicest people I have ever met. They were an older couple who had been holding onto their mother / mother-in-laws house for quite a few years. The wife had tried several times to clean out the place and ready it for sale, but every time she did she was overcome by emotion and couldn’t bring herself to do it. Her daughter and son in law ended up care taking the place for close to five years. During this period of time they had received and rejected several offers on the house because they didn’t  want to see the house they had so many memories in go to someone they weren’t fond of. For some reason they liked me enough to accept my offer of $16,000 plus covering full closing costs(around $17,750). I later found out that they had been offered a considerable amount more but still chose to sell the place to me. There is more to write here, but it is starting to sound like a humble brag, so I will move on. Thank You, Margaret and Joe.

Financing through the small town bank was incredibly easy. Most places ask for 2 years worth of proof of income, w2’s, and other information. I simply walked in with a month’s worth of pay stubs on LaFreniere Construction letterhead that I had printed out myself and was approved for an $18,000 loan within a week. There are some benefits to being a townie.

I was all moved in on March 14th, 2011, and that is when the home remodeling nightmare and or adventure began. I will try hard to catch up to my current progress but it will take some time, so please bear with me. Thanks for reading and I hope you learn something, are inspired to start a project you’ve been putting off, or at the very least are entertained by the silly words I put here for you to read.