Home is Where the Heat Stays.

It is now mid November, the height of the “oh shit I should have stopped procrastinating on finishing this house” season. Outside high temperatures are around 30 degrees and will only be falling. So whats new since my last update?

Well, I finally put a front door on the house. It is really comforting being able to actually lock your house instead of hoping that none of your neighbors have a crowbar and a pill addiction. The door is fiberglass, which means it will take stain like wood and is very well insulated.  My parents both came over and just swung it open and shut jealously. That’s what they get for buying a crappy Mastercraft door from Menard’s. The best part is that this door was only $350. The pictures don’t really do the glass in the window justice. I love how it looks.

After the door went on I started to demo the second bedroom. I don’t have a lot of pictures from this part but imagine shit getting knocked onto the floor and me shoveling it into a trailer.

With moving the walls to make the bedrooms bigger I was also forced to move a lot of the ductwork around. Crawling on my back with a spray bottle filled with water, a VOC mask on, then wetting and removing asbestos tape has inspired me to never get into HVAC as a career.

With the ductwork all moved I then ran new ceiling stringers, put in drywall nailers, pulled wire, placed outlets and switch boxes, insulated the exterior walls with closed cell spray foam, insulated the interior walls with R13, and then hung drywall. It all sounds so easy when squashed into one run on sentence.

Yesterday I had my friend come over and help me blow cellulose insulation into the attic. I put in around 16 inches of it, which according to the packaging, should be near an R-60 . I now have the furnace set to 65 and the house holds the heat incredibly well considering the fact that 1/3 of it(the kitchen and bathroom) are still basically uninsulated.

So what’s next? The two most expensive rooms in the house.

Here’s a video with my nasally childlike voice giving an updated walkthrough of the place.

Much Ado About Spray Foam

This is what my living room looked like a few hours ago.

This is what it looks like right meow.

What you are looking at is a little over $500 worth of spray foam. Expensive? Very. I’d like to think I’m worth it though. Once again I used our touch n seal cpds closed cell foam. It was cold, and I had limited time, so I didn’t get the optimal expansion, but it turned out okay. I sprayed around 2 inches,  giving me an air tight, moisture proof r14. I could have filled the entire cavity, but opted not to for cost reasons. I’ll be picking up some drywall later and throwing that on.

I had an opportunity earlier this week to use another type of closed cell spray foam so I figured I would share my experience. What I used was Dow chemicals refillable set up. I’ll start with what I liked about it first. The cost per board foot of dow’s chemicals is cheaper than what we are paying right now, the applicator gun feels more expensive and does a better job at keeping a 1 to 1 ratio, the tanks are larger so there is less down time swapping out product, and they had a much longer hose reach.

Now, the negative. Instead of an air compressor with a doubler like our machine has, it uses a nitrogen bottle as it’s propellant. Setting and maintaining equal pressures in each tank was kind of a hassle. The tanks are refillable, which means that there is the possibility of some jack ass pounding to much product into a tank at one time and creating excess moisture in the tanks. The problem with moisture is that it makes the chemicals crystallize and not mix properly and clog up the system. Finally, it seemed like there were more air voids in their foam than ours. Granted, the foam was a few months old, but it just didn’t seem as rigid as what we are applying.

All in all though, I wouldn’t have an issue with using either product but give a slight edge to our touch n seal based on my familiarity with it.

Windows ME

If you’re a nerd you’ll get the joke in my title. If you don’t get it, congratulations, you probably have friends. Regardless, I put some new windows in. 6 foot wide by 4 foot tall. The old widows were 5’5″ by 5’5″. I am not a fan of windows being close to the floor. I like having them above average groin height (which I’ve found to be three foot tall). The reasons for this are simple: 1, if you wake up hung over and have no pants on, you can’t be called in and wind up on the registered sex offenders list and 2, if you are drunk and fall over you won’t be as likely to fall completely through your window. Now I know this place will never have a huge resale value do to it’s limited square footage so I went with cheaper vinyl windows.  Something interesting about windows is that there are only a few companies that make the actual glass. What you are paying for is whatever companies hardware that surrounds the glass. So if you need some new windows, and can only afford the cheap vinyls and not the fiberglass or wood framed ones, don’t worry about it. You’re still  getting a high quality well insulated window, it’s just wrapped in a not gorgeous looking piece of plastic. If you’re not  completely lazy you should be framing out the windows with pine boards anyways, so the finished project shouldn’t look like a crappy apartment. Having said all of that, here is a picture of the new windows.

I later removed the window to the right and currently have it all boxed in. Tonight I was having fun in my crawlspace pulling wiring. I should have all of the wiring and insulation done for the weekend and then it’s drywall time again.

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 :

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!

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

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.