Thursday, May 9, 2019

1960s paneling & built-ins
February-March, 2019: Abracadabra! The Reno Queens turned a cramped office/storage room into a bedroom!
   In case you're wondering why on earth they would tackle such a big project in the middle of a school term -- Joie's good friend from Texas State years, landed a great job at UMass and quickly needed a place to the gals leapt into action to create some space upstairs for Lisa and her two cats, Sammy & Monkey.
   Unfortunately, saying a magic word wasn't enough to make it happen, but here's the pictorial account of how it did.

Joie+crowbar= breaking bad

Built-in # 1 eliminated

1/4 way there
Built-in # 2

Housemate Brittany sledge-hammering

#2 gone - useful closet coming

+ behind door cubby for books

Whole room down to studs
New electrical work roughed in
 Bussiere electricians Serge & Vitale(2) did rough electrical work (the Reno Queens don't do electric ...yet). No power in the room for next several steps--but extension cords made it possible to keep working after the sun set (which was around 4 pm when this project started).

Marilyn got the plumbing pipes wrapped in sound-reducing insulation, then Joie installed sound-proof board on that entire wall before drywall was hung over all of it. (Definitely helped with sounds of rushing water & toilets flushing.)
Marilyn installing soundproofing insulation
Wall of plumbing needed extra soundproofing

Ex-housemate Katherine cutting foam board

Exterior walls required rigid foam board insulation


Mixed insulation completed

Katherine installing

Dust was blown up the chimney!
Our contractor/master builder/mentor/friend Ryan Regan-Ladd regularly stepped in to give guidance and suggestions, and to check on our demo and insulation progress, but when it came to hanging the drywall, especially on the ceiling, his expertise, special equipment (like the giant air purifier shown here), and hands-on help was needed and appreciated.
Ryan, Joie & mechanical helper

Drywalling a ceiling isn't for weaklings!

Joie just can't get enough learnin'


Joie with her mudding hawk

Joie taping corner of closet

Beautiful teamwork
Marilyn painting
Modern lighting cans and switches, as well as more wall outlets, were installed by the electricians in record time. Then Marilyn and Joie tag-teamed to get the walls and ceiling painted.

M removing old carpet staples

But they were just getting started on installing the carpet pad and carpeting when Lisa arrived. Not surprisingly, our newest housemate jumped right in to help finish that job...proving just what a good friend she is!

Baseboards and door & window trim are still to be done but here are some almost-final pics of the conversion.

Rods, shelf and a chest of drawers turned office built-in #2 (see above pic) into a bedroom closet with a perfect space for the television opposite the bed.

Until doors arrive, a curtain suffices nicely.

And THAT is how magic actually happens!

Friday, March 8, 2019

Jan-Feb, 2019: What's in the box? Joie's reaction to her discovery of a mysterious box was about the same as Brad Pitt's had been in Seven -- a freakout of monumental proportions!

"It's the Plague of a Thousand Deaths," she screamed, recalling the tales of those who had accidentally inhaled the lethal exhumations of an Egyptian tomb. Yes. It was that bad.

It all started with Joie's need to demolish a wall before the start of the new year. The beginning of that reno story can be found in the January 3, 2019 post and, when the transition is complete, the whole story will be related in a blog tentatively titled "Bar Crash 101." But the "What's in the box?" mystery began when the removal of a section of old paneling revealed an air/heat duct (marked with a suspicious white X in the photo). The rectangular holes in the floor are air returns that had been covered by the former built-in bar.

 A thorough investigation determined that the surprising duct came off the main shaft from the furnace in the basement, ran straight up the wall between the dining room and hallway into the attic, crossed over twenty+ feet of the attic floor toward a hole that opened into the kitchen below.  However, the duct was disconnected from the hole.

The Campbell gals had been told the vent in the kitchen ceiling (only about 10 linear feet from the duct in the hall) was an old "fresh air" vent that opened into the attic for cooking fumes and smoke to go up, a function which was actually handled by a new exhaust duct they'd had installed above the stove. Since no air, hot or cold, came out of that vent, it had made sense to seal it off so that nothing undesirable could travel from the attic to the kitchen.

It should be noted that, even if the duct had been properly connected to the vent, the attic is too cold in the winter and too hot in the summer for the heat or cooled air to reach the kitchen by such a long, circuitous route.

The next logical step in demolishing the wall was to remove the duct that served no apparent purpose. Thus, the Reno Queens received another shock when they were greeted with a flow of heat powerful enough to warm the entire upstairs!

After moving into Chateau de Joie, the gals had the original furnace and a/c system replaced with a brand new (very expensive) system, but since their living space was never as warm or cool as it should have been, it was assumed that, as Floridians, they were expecting too much, or perhaps the lack of exterior wall insulation and old windows were the culprits. A mere 4 years later they learned the truth -- a good amount of the heated or cooled air was going straight to the attic!

Ductwork maze
Now you're probably wondering what any of this has to do with Joie's encounter with a mystery box. soon as she realized one major thing was wrong with the ductwork, she decided a complete tracking of the entire system was necessary. By spending a lot of time on ladders and inspecting the crawl spaces with flashlights, several ducting problems, including more disconnected supply lines, were found and, at least temporarily, rectified (a lot of duct tape was involved). Unfortunately, the coldest room in the house held a secret just as bewildering as a main duct delivering heat to the attic.

A rusty old grate very high on an exterior wall of that chilly room seemed to be part of an original clothes dryer vent, but it had been rigged to connect to the main air return to pull fresh air into the system. In reality, that "fresh" air is freezing half the year, which resulted in an ice-cold draft being continuously pulled into the crawl space above the room...solving the mystery of why that room was the coldest in the house.

Behind the rusty grate, a metal duct piece passed through the wall and connected to a large, home-made cardboard box covered in foil with a rusty metal handle on one side. The odd contraption was hung by wires from the rafters. With Marilyn on a ladder outside in the cold working to remove the grate and metal duct piece, Joie worked from the inside to separate the weird box from the other end of that piece.

The mystery box will forever remain a mystery.
At the moment of separation, a blast of ancient black dust hit Joie in the face. And that's when she screeched something about the Plague of a Thousand Deaths.

After all that, the Reno Queens were incredibly disappointed to discover the box was empty, giving no clue at all as to its purpose or what the metal handle was supposed to turn. There was nothing left to do but add the box and its accessories to the growing dump pile...then race to the decontamination showers.

Thursday, January 3, 2019

Ye Olde Box
January 3, 2019:
A Tale of Two Mailboxes
   by Marilyn Campbell

Once upon a time there was a happy abode, known as Chateau de Joie, that sat on a peaceful country property where all manner of woodland creatures frolicked. The elderly caretaker of the home was known to all as Mama Marilyn and she enjoyed her various tasks…except for one—fetching the communiques from Ye Olde Box where they were delivered daily by ye olde letter carrier. That task required endurance and courage...for the rugged journey was fraught with peril.

First there was the long walk from the abode to the property's border, along which ferocious beasts waited to pounce on anyone foolish enough to enter their domain.

The walk starting from the front door

Even when she made it to the end of that trek, she had to dodge speeding carriages to cross a highway that was coated with invisible ice in the winter

Mama Marilyn had heard tales of those who had not survived the journey but she was not one to shirk her duty because of a bit of danger.

Continuing walk past parking lot

Last leg of driveway

Unfortunately as the seasons changed and she grew slower with age, she became determined to ease her travails.

Deadly crossing
It took a very, very long time, years in fact, but having a strong will and the time to repeatedly plead for help from local authorities, she was finally granted an audience with the Royal Postmaster.

FINALLY, a week before Christmas she received official permission to have The Box relocated to a mere ten feet from the Chateau's front door.

As a Christmas gift to their beloved caretaker, the local lords and ladies prepared the ground and installed a new post for a new box to be set upon.

Lady Katherine pick-axed

Lord Chris shoveled

Mama Marilyn & Lady K scooped

Marquess Joie, recently injured in the line of duty, supervised

Huzzah! A post set in stone to last for many ages to come. And then The Grandest Box in the realm was delivered... does part b attach to parts a and c?
And lastly, the best part of every tale of woes and wishes...The Happy Ending!

Ready for service!
And from above a choir of angels could be heard singing, "Hallelujah!"

1st Delivery - with room to spare!

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

1/1/2019HAPPY NEW YEAR!!

Looking back on the last 12 months, the Campbell gals concluded that, thankfully, it was not as personally challenging as the previous year had been, but it also couldn't be filed with the best years they've enjoyed together.

Busy schedules and six months of continuous heavy rain prevented them from completing a single item on the never-ending list of renovation items at Chateau de Joie.

NCNW Council House

Joie's winter/spring and fall terms were totally filled with her teaching 2 different freshman classes at UMass (both of which she created) and she spent the entire summer traveling to several major libraries to do important research for her doctoral dissertation.

For those unfamiliar with the PhD track, writing and defending her dissertation is the final step and she expects to complete it by 2020.

Marilyn also took "some time away" in February for a much-needed visit to Florida. During the year, she also completed Some Time Away, the third book in her time-travel mystery series and re-released her three-novella Christmas anthology, Christmas Presents.

L-R: James, Chris, M, Brittany
One of the year's happiest notes was that two more brilliant and delightful grad students joined the Chateau's family in the downstairs apartment!

But that wasn't quite enough for Joie, who was driven by the blind need to demolish a wall, any wall, before the year was done. The gals agreed on crashing the wall of cabinets that had a pass-through but physically and visually separated the dining room from the kitchen. The ultimate plan is to create a completely open flow throughout the main rooms.
The Wall to go bye-bye

The cabinets were built to hold a LOT of bottles and glasses but solid construction barely slows Joie down any more. The heavy wood doors came off fairly easily but a crowbar, nail pull, sledge hammer, and the tip of one of Joie's fingers were needed to remove the shelves.
Quarter-way there

The full story from crash to conclusion will be detailed in a later post.

Unfortunately, the year ended with three, much bigger problems that couldn't immediately, easily, or inexpensively be taken care of--

1) Marilyn's car transmission gave out. It will be more expensive than the car's value, but it can't be ignored because Joie's vintage mustang can't travel on icy roads.

2) With the non-stop rain, it wasn't a shock when water started leaking through the living room ceiling. It turned out to be a very long crack in one section of the roof, as though something heavy fell on it - we're guessing a meteor or piece of space junk that was secretly removed before we could see it, which would explain the black helicopters that regularly circle our property. But regardless of the cause, the roof can't be replaced until spring/summer no matter what the cost.

3) Then the swimming pool, which Joie, Marilyn and several wonderful friends, had successfully closed and covered for the winter, suddenly lost almost all of its 40,000 gallons of chemical-infused water. It was obvious the water drained down the hill into the labyrinth and flowed on to the drainage pond, which suggests a major leak of some sort, but exactly what happened is another mystery that can't be solved until spring/summer.

That's a lot of tough stuff to deal with all at the same time, but one of Marilyn's biggest pet peeves connected to Chateau de Joie was very happily resolved simultaneously. The victory is such a big deal to her that it quite literally needs its own post. Check out the next blog post for "A Tale of Two Mailboxes" by Marilyn Campbell.