Saturday, September 16, 2017

July-August, 2017: It's all in the wrist.
That's what contractor, Ryan Regan-Ladd told Joie when she asked him to show her how to "mud". Those of you who knew Joie as a child might remember just how fond she was of playing in mud, so her interest might not sound new.

But this particular kind of mud, formally called joint compound, was part of her newer interest in learning how to do drywall...and that interest was triggered by the fact that we had just gutted a large portion of the downstairs apartment.

 
Typical wall of holes
First things first, however. Joie's training began with patching holes. There were holes of different sizes and shapes in every room--some were caused by the removal of intercom speakers, telephones, outlets, fire alarms and in-wall vacuum connections (the original owners were quite high-tech for the early 1960s). Others were caused by sledge hammers and crow bars that didn't quite hit their target. Marilyn's solution for the past three years was to cover them all with pictures, calendars and mirrors, but she wholeheartedly endorsed Joie's intention to "do it right".

The methodology is quite logical but Ryan had to explain it step by step to the newbie: 1) cut a piece of drywall larger than the hole & big enough to reach at least one stud; 2) trace the outline of the piece over the hole and cut along the lines;
 3) as needed, secure 1 or 2 pieces of 2x4 pine into the frame for the new drywall piece to be screwed into; 4) tape all seams and smooth mud over tape then over entire patch 3 times, letting it dry completely between each layer (this is where the special wrist action comes in); and lastly-- gently sand and wipe surface of patch to remove any dust then prime and paint... which was the only part Marilyn felt confident doing.


 After a thorough inspection by Mentor Ryan, Joie was allowed to graduate to whole walls, which started with replacing some rotten studs, blocks and bottom plate, and continued on to cutting and fitting rigid foam board and/or insulation between the studs.




A screw gun is the professional way to quickly secure large sheets of drywall to the studs (try not to think too deeply about the combination of Joie and a gun of any sort). And finally, the mudding process proceeds the same way as with patches.

Sorcerer and his apprentice

The advanced drywall lesson came in connection with turning a grungy under-stairs crawl space into a usable closet that would bring a tear to Harry Potter's eye...but that story deserves a whole post of its own.



Sunday, August 27, 2017


July-August, 2017: Secret Message in a Bottle ...

It takes guts to gut a bathroom, especially one in a basement, but Marilyn, Joie and their contractor pal Ryan came up with a way to add some fun to it! The pic at right is of 1 of 6 antique beer bottles discovered hidden in the bathroom walls. According to eBay, the baseball hat bottle cap is worth about $10. Read on to see how that inspired them to "pass it forward".



The last post included a few pics of the demolition that started with Marilyn and Joie searching for the source of the foul odor. To the left are Joie and former housemate/colleague Katherine standing in what used to be the old cast iron tub with 3 walls of tile. Before a new, modern tub/shower could be installed, everything down to the studs & concrete walls had to be gutted.

 
Once the broken pipe under the sink was discovered, the rest of the bathroom walls had to get the same destructive treatment.

Next came the rigid foam board for the external walls, which Ryan taught Joie how to measure and cut for a precise, dampness-resistant fit.



 

Favorite plumbers, W.S. Pickering & Son in Amherst, had already installed the new power flush toilet and now they had to replace all the pipes and install the tub.



But here's where the fun came in. Because of the curious finds of beer bottles during the demolition stage, Joie & Ryan decided they should pass on the surprise by putting something in the wall for the next owner to discover. Soooo, before putting up the drywall on the wall between the under-construction bathroom and one bedroom, an Angel's Envy bourbon bottle (sans boubon) was tucked into the soundproofing insulation. Inside the bottle was a secret message:

 


"This message in a bottle was surreptitiously hidden on July 13, 2017 by Joie Campbell, Marilyn Campbell and their extraordinary building contractor, Ryan Regan-Ladd. During the process of totally gutting and rebuilding the downstairs apartment, we uncovered 6 empty, antique beer bottles with tiny metal baseball caps for lids (circa 1960s) and decided to pass on a similar surprise to the next resident renovator. Our renovation adventures are related in a Google blog titled "Rural Renovation Diary". If humanity survives the coming zombie apocalypse and the internet still exists when this message is found, perhaps you'll read about the dramas, traumas and giggles of a mother and daughter renovating an old house in the country with no previous experience --  www.citygirls2countrysquirrels.blogspot.com."




And then there was drywall...




 











And finally, Joie and Marilyn are very pleased to present the renovated bathroom --


Tuesday, August 8, 2017


June 20 thru July 31, 2017 - Holy Dumpster, Batman, The Sequel.
This photo of Joie and early housemate Rob standing atop a mountain of trash was taken 3 years ago, following the first cleanup efforts at Chateau de Joie.

It was hard to believe that one house could have any more trash to discard...until the problems hidden behind the walls and floor coverings began making themselves known via leaks and mysterious odors.

For the first time since Joie & Marilyn have been in residence, the downstairs apartment was to be completely empty for a few weeks, so it was decided to replace the old carpeting, bathroom fixtures and cabinetry and, hopefully, figure out what smelled so bad. So they did some shopping and ordering, lined up their favorite contractors for the work they couldn't (like plumbing and electrical) or didn't have time to do (like laying 800+ sq,ft. of plank flooring) and had our second dumpster delivered.


Sweetie is NOT amused.



In their delusional optimism, they opted for a smaller one than the first. A month into demolition, they realized their mistake but there was no way to swap it out.
The giant tetris game is going to have to be in play once again.
Wondering if we'll EVER get rid of those dang poles!



So, where did all that trash come from? It turned out that beneath all the old carpeting was very thick, rubbery padding (which answered a piece of the smell question) and beneath that were a gazillion tiles, all of which had to be removed before planking, appropriate padding for a concrete floor and new carpeting could be installed.

And then there were all the bathroom and kitchen cabinets and fixtures which had been concealing rotten drywall and behind the drywall was questionably filthy, pink fiberglass insulation, broken pipes (like the one at right) and rotten wood... (sigh). At least, there was no longer a question of where the unpleasant odor originated from. Joie and Marilyn had no choice but to gut a great portion of the apartment down to the studs.

Katherine vs nails in concrete

As you can see from the pic at left, Marilyn seemed to think demolition could be done without making too much of a mess.



 
Luckily, former housemate Katherine and colleague Adeline volunteered to help crash the bathroom that had the worst problems. Both ladies only asked that they be allowed to use the crowbar and slam the sledge hammer against something that dared to resist. Cussing out loud was a secondary request. Both requests were happily granted!







Adeline vs cast iron tub
Katherine & Joie in full battle gear

The cast iron tub turned out to have more resistance than any of the ladies imagined possible. Our Main Man, Contractor/Magician Ryan Regan-Ladd had to take over the sledge hammer to get the job done.

Obviously, the idea of updating the entire apartment within a couple weeks was as delusional as our choice of dumpster size. In the posts following this one, you'll see how Marilyn, Joie and a wonderful crew of subcontractors raced against the clock to get everything ready for the next round of graduate student housemates.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

June 13, 2017 - It's been a long time since we had any renovation progress to report but a lot of brainstorming and "window shopping" was going on in between Joie's intense academic schedule and Marilyn's completion of several new novels.

A lot of decisions have now been made and materials have been ordered, so work will be commencing again next week. As projects get underway, we promise to take plenty of pictures and tell stories of our mishaps and successes. All we have for this update post, however, is a pic of the samples we've chosen for the downstairs kitchen...
The flooring in the entire great room will be a gray composite wood planking, which we will install ourselves. A lot of new, solid white cabinets with black & gray granite countertops will replace the handful of makeshift boxes, cracked formica and three old, unmatched rolling carts. That work we are leaving to pros. New, standard-sized, black appliances have already been delivered. The three bedrooms will soon have speckled, shades-of-gray carpeting.

You may recall that, shortly after we moved into Chateau de Joie on June 30, 2014--yes, we really are inching up on our 3rd anniversary here--one of our first projects was to make the downstairs apartment safe and habitable for housemates. We removed all the commercial fluorescent lights, filthy drop ceiling (and the decaying matter concealed above it) and installed new white sound-absorbent tiles and recessed lighting, replaced broken interior doors and bifolds with standard ones , converted a mud room into a bedroom suite, drywalled window-sized openings between rooms, and  did a lot of clean-up, painting and patching.

Three years later, this area is again at the top of the reno list but all the changes and updates about to take place will take the space from above-average rental space for the area to outstanding livingspace.

Friday, February 24, 2017

February 24, 2017:  A just for the record post...because someday in the future we'll wonder if this really happened.

The last post reported on the big snowstorm that lasted a week. That was less than two weeks ago. As you can see, there is still plenty of snow on the ground from that storm, it's still February, usually the worst of the winter months, and yet, the thermometer reading was in the high 60s yesterday and again today.

Birds are everywhere and acting like it's springtime.

But the really big sign that winter may already be coming to an end -- Joie & Marilyn have a mighty case of spring fever. Although, yes we would like to go a little wild and crazy, but here at Chateau de Joie spring signifies the launch of a new round of renovations. We've been getting estimates on new windows, new siding, new roof, new kitchen, new garage door, new screened-in upstairs porch, reconstructing Marilyn's portion of the upstairs...

Obviously we would have to win the lottery to do all of that over one summer, but there's just something about the high temperature in the face of two feet of snow that has us thinking ANYTHING is possible!

Monday, February 13, 2017

At least we're safe & warm inside.
February 13, 2017: Mother Nature lured us into complacency last month with minimal snow and temperatures in the 40s, but she certainly gave us a swift kick in the past week. The snow storm started on the 8th and just kept on going through the 12th. The plow driver had to work his way through our driveway every day in order for everyone to get in and out.
 
Yep, that's the narrow window Joie climbed out of




Plus, Joie and Marilyn had to continuously shovel a few gazillion tons of snow followed by salt to keep the walkways and stairs safe. Special acknowledgement must be made to housemate Katherine, whose snow shoveling abilities rival that of the plow. And,of course, an area had to be kept clear for the Chateau's Princess Sweetie to do her business (though she still resists as long as possible).



  Midway through the storm, it was necessary for Joie to climb out a window to clear the snow off the flat roof before it caved from the weight.






We will never forget contractor/friend Ryan's warning that the multitude of acorns that fell in the fall signified a harsh winter coming up!


North end of driveway


There is more snow coming in a day or two, but meanwhile we're trying to enjoy the "pretty" views out our windows.


View out the kitchen window

Sunday, January 1, 2017



January 1, 2017: 2016 was a "challenging" year for almost everyone we know. As we look back on our blog, we are reminded that we had a lot of happy moments and fun with friends. But renovation-wise, finishing the fence around the pool was the only major improvement made for several practical reasons. THEREFORE, one of our resolutions for 2017 is that we will accomplish a LOT more home work to share...even if we have to resort to magick!

In numerology, 2017 = a "1" year, the launch of a brand new 9-year cycle (globally speaking), so our New Year's wish to all our family, friends and followers is that whatever seeds you plant this year will blossom into a magnificent tree!