Our New Old House

1918 Bungalow


Posts Tagged ‘fireplace’

A room in which to live: the Living Room

I wanted to take a picture of this before it got painted over. The living room and dining room both had this trim around the top of the wall.


I had to do a lot of plaster work in this room. I’m particularly proud of reconstructing this corner that had crumbled away as the house settled.


Here’s a before picture:

One side of the wall over the fireplace needed some major repair:

I started attacking the gunk on the floor with a new vengeance, doing garbage bag sized sections rather than grocery bag sized ones.


Mom came over with some of my friends to help me put primer on the walls.


We bought a new rug, cleaned everything up, and arranged the furniture and here’s the result! It’s not finished, but I can see the finish line from here!




Phew! We can actually live in the living room now! Paint colors for the wall are being planned, also I’m going to restore the bookcases with leaded glass windows.

[tags] built-ins, photos, plaster, furniture, paint, future plans, ceiling fan, flooring, living room, fireplace, cabinets[/tags]

Progress… in progress

The electricians are probably going to wrap up today. We stopped by the house to drop of a light fixture for the kitchen and we took a look around. Here are pictures!

The house is in various stages of disarray, but no worries!

This is the light fixture that was removed from the basement hallway. Pretty gross huh?

The ceiling fan we picked out for the living room:

The light in the dining room that compliments the ceiling fan in the living room:

New light fixtures in the bathroom. We’re going for a chrome and white look for all the bathroom fixtures. These lights look a little out of place amongst the 70s wallpaper and dingy yellow paint. Just wait until everything is crisp and white! (Additionally, we have had them install a ceiling fan + light, but since that wasn’t fully installed yet I didn’t take a picture.)

The wood burning stove insert is all done, the chimney is re-lined, and the part above the roof has been rebuilt completely. It all looks GREAT and I’ve never been so excited for cold weather to arrive so I can try this out!

Just a quick plug for a really great business here: The company we hired for this, Alpine Chimney Sweep, was simply awesome! If you have any chimney or fireplace or wood burning stove issues at your house and you’re anywhere near Des Moines, I really recommend looking them up. They’re friendly, efficient, clean, and even bumped up our installation day because they had an unexpected opening in their schedule.

Here’s the stove unit ready to install:

While they had the chimney and firebox all cleared out, I took the opportunity to take a few pictures of an area most homeowners never really get a good look at: the inside of the chimney and ash dump.

Here’s the firebox all cleaned out:

The damper had rusted shut and debris from the crumbling chimney had fallen on top of it. It had to be removed anyway, so here’s what’s left of the broken pieces, leaving room for the new liner and stove pipe:

The view up the chimney:

I put my camera in great peril to get this shot looking down into the ash dump:

The front of our new wood burning stove:

A wider view:

I’m really glad they put the original flue damper handle back in its place. It’s not needed anymore, but it’s better than having a big hole in the brick where it should go. I can’t wait to clean up the area around the hearth and maybe paint the brick a different color. I have big plans for this fireplace area of the house! Big plans, I say!

Sadly, by the time we got around to looking at the chimney outside we’d lost too much light for me to take a picture. You’ll get your picture though, never fear!

I am absolutely thrilled at how much progress was made this week. I never imagined everything would go so smoothly and so fast. Here’s hoping for continued good fortune in the rest of our projects to come.

Oh! And another quick shout out to a damned decent guy, Matt, who works with Brandon, at least for the time being. Matt is headed back to Omaha to rejoin his lovely wife there and since he’s moving, he graciously offered us his futon, no charge! That’s great because we can use all the free furniture we can get! 😉 Thanks again, Matt!

[tags]bathroom, ceiling fan, chimney, contractors, dining room, electricity, fireplace, light fixtures, living room, photos, wood burning stove[/tags]

Another morning with the contractors

We had a very productive, very awesome morning with the two people we asked to give us quotes today.

First the electrician came and he was super professional, friendly, and really knew how to deal with our house. In fact, by the time I got in to work he had already emailed me a fully itemized quote, with everything we talked about on site, AND his total price for everything is exactly what we were hoping to budget for initially, right around $5,000. Of course, we have a little extra money available should unexpected things come up, but he seemed really confident in how smoothly this job would go. We will probably get a third electrical quote, just for good measure, but this guy has all but won the bid already.

The chimney sweeps came next at 9:30. There were two people, the person who owns the business and her assistant of seven years, who is also fully certified. They did their inspection and then we sat in the air conditioned living room to discuss our options. This company offered two solutions: 1.) insert a stainless steel liner through the chimney and get it working as a traditional fireplace, or 2.) install a wood burning stove insert with a lined chimney pipe for increased energy efficiency. There would only be a difference of a couple hundred dollars between the two choices, so after hearing all about the stove insert and how it works and all the options we have with it (it does have the option to look like a regular fireplace if you want that ambiance) we’re leaning toward that. Either way, the work will cost just under $4000, which is GREAT for our budget.

After everybody else left, Brandon and I went outside to measure for building our retaining wall planting beds on the south side of the house. I had forgotten my tape measure, but we found a yard stick inside left by the previous owner, so while Brandon walked the area measuring with the yard stick, I wrote down the measurements on a diagram. I’m going to take that information tonight and start drawing a (mostly) to scale diagram of how these will be laid out so we can plan for how much it’s going to cost.

It was so much fun going through everything with Brandon. He’s really caught the enthusiasm to get started now too.

(Excited squeal and happy dance!!!)

[tags]budget, chimney, contractors, electricity, fireplace, landscaping, retaining wall[/tags]

General pre-closing update

This week has felt really busy but I can’t for the life of me figure out what the hell I did besides work. I have been putting in a few hours of overtime this week to make up some of the scratch I overspent last weekend up at the lake.

Last night, however, I did go to the library and do a few searches in their catalog to get a feel for where info on my house and neighborhood might be. My house sits in sort of a black hole between neighborhoods, as far as historical information goes. It’s not technically close enough to Union Park to claim the Union Park neighborhood. It’s too far north to count as Capitol Park. The plat it’s on is part of the “Union Addition” but that’s pretty meaningless to me at this point. The houses in the area are very middle class, built between 1905 and 1945. I found a few books on general Des Moines history, but one book I found right before closing is exactly what I want to read. It’s called Historical Residential Architecture in Des Moines, 1905-1940. SCORE!!! Unfortunately, it’s in the closed stacks of the library so I can’t take it home with me and pore over it repeatedly. I’ll just have to be content to visit it in the library and take notes and copies of relevant information. But the book is so great because it focuses specifically on two house types: bungalows and four-squares. I’ll be sure to share the exciting bits!

Brandon and I have a plan for the first few days of ownership. Here’s how it goes, sing along if you know the words:

Friday, Aug. 17 we close escrow and take ownership. We immediately begin clawing at the walls and floors like frantic badgers, ripping out carpet, pulling down paneling, and generally causing mayhem and destruction.

Saturday, Aug. 18 we borrow someone’s pickup truck and haul away the heap of trash we will build on Friday. (More about waste removal in a minute.)

Sunday, Aug. 19 we do additional cleanup on the place and make bundles to put out on the curb for garbage pick up.

Monday, Aug. 20 my grandma will hire the cleaning ladies to wipe everything down and give it their best on the kitchen and bathroom.

Tuesday, Aug. 21 we’ll start the tiny bit of moving in that we’re going to do: a bed and a dresser. We’re basically going to just live in the front bedroom, since that room needs the least amount of work and we need the rest of the house clear to give space to work on the woodwork and walls and everything.

And so on and so on.

So, about the waste removal thing:

When we bought my grandparents’ house in Clear Lake it was left to us to clean out all of the stuff Grandma and Grandpa didn’t need to take with them to their assisted living apartment. This amounted to 25 years’ worth of accumulated odds and ends saved fastiduously by my depression-era grandparents. We had like, five garage sales and for whatever was left that we couldn’t sell or donate somewhere, we called the local garbage company and they brought us a dumpster to fill up. It was a nice industrial sized thing that they let us keep for about a week. I think it was like $30 for the dumpster delivery and pickup, and $15 to dump it if it was under a certain weight. So like $50 max when all was said and done.

Since I’m new to Des Moines I decided to call around to see what rubbish haulers charge for their services around here. The first place I called quoted me $270. The second place said $390. I began contemplating buying a 30 cent book of matches and just setting fire to the looming pile of garbage.

Then I had an epiphany. Well, I wish it was that dramatic. It was more that I just saw the answer staring me in the face after having looked at it for weeks and weeks. As I pulled my mom’s garbage can up from the curb, I realized I was probably calling the wrong people about getting my garbage hauled away. I needed to be calling the Metro Waste Authority. Or rather, I needed to Google them. Anyway, I found out that they sell $5 stickers that you can attach to bundles of carpet and other oversized items that don’t fit in the regular garbage cans. So that’s certainly an option for us. ALSO, the landfill east of town accepts pick-up truck loads of garbage for like $16-30. So that’s what we’re going to do.

Now, tonight I have plans with two coworkers of mine, my uncle, my uncle’s pick-up truck, and a brand new dolly that my husband is going to buy after work today. My small collection of friends, relatives, and tools are going to move the washer and dryer from my other uncle’s new house to my new old house. I’ll report later on whether my plan actually functioned as it was intended.

Next Tuesday we go another round with the contractors, this time getting a quote from a big name electrician and another chimney inspection for a second opinion.

[tags]carpet, chimney, contractors, dryer, electricity, fireplace, garbage, landfill, neighborhood history, paneling, washing machine[/tags]

My morning with the contractors

I got to the house right at 8am and George, the electrician was already there. But my realtor wasn’t, so I called his cell and left him a message. I had a feeling this might happen. With his newborn son waking every few hours to eat, he and his wife haven’t been getting any sleep at all. The electricians were very patient and I finally got ahold of him and he said he’d be there in half an hour, he’d completely forgotten with all the craziness of having a new baby.

So they waited and we talked about everything about the house that I know and they gave me ideas about what the work will involve and everything. Once the realtor showed up and let us in they got to look around at everything. Here’s an overview of our discussion:

These older houses often have something called fireshield inside the walls behind the plaster and lathe. That means the walls are not hollow, in fact you have to drill through that stuff to fish wires through it. He’s not certain ours are like that, but it’s something they were putting in the construction of these old houses.

He measured the house to be about 1000 square feet, 1200 if you count the attic (which, incidentally, was exactly what I guessed!). And he’ll use that number to estimate how much wiring will be needed.

We talked about what it would take to put wiring up to the ceiling and run wiring for the existing ceiling lights. Because those all have knob and tube, they have to run it all through the ceiling, they can’t just fish it up through because there’s not a big enough hole for modern wire to go through. They’d have to cut notches in the joists to put the wire through. Regardless, we’re looking at ceiling patches and probably re-doing the texturing on the ceiling in the long run. If the crown molding is wood, the best solution may be to take that down so it can stay in one piece, strip the paint and texturing off it while it’s down, and once we fix up the ceiling, put it back.

The may be able to access the bedroom lights and the kitchen light through the attic crawl space, though.

The meter will have to be outside, probably right under the bathroom window. The circuit box will probably still be in its present location.

He agreed we should wire for 200 amps to prepare for a garage. I asked him about how to wire the kitchen and he said the garbage disposal and dishwasher go on one circuit, the countertops go on one, the fridge and stove go on one, and the lights may be on one with the lights of another room. That seemed to make good sense to me.

He wasn’t able to give me a firm bid today, but he’s going to get that to me tomorrow or the next day. He did generally ballpark it for me at around $7000, but I really want to wait to see what his actual bid is before I go with that number.

I learned a lot from Dan the fireplace inspector. He showed me all the specific problems with the fireplace and chimney. He had a diagram of the insides of the whole system and showed me how it all works. He recommended this kind of flue damper since ours is totally rusted out and it isn’t the best design for that to begin with.

I did get a firm bid from him with stuff specifically itemized. His bid was $5000 exactly for the whole job to make it a working fireplace. It takes about a week to get the whole chimney done and ready to use.

The tree service gave me a $400 bid to clean up all the trees close to the house and wires, clean off our roof, and haul away the cut debris. I told him I’d take care of the brush in the back and along the alley myself. I need a good excuse to buy a chainsaw anyway, and I know Brandon will LOVE that. 🙂

So that’s what we’re looking at right now. I did finally get everything done and then switched off the circuits and locked up the house. It took me just over half an hour to ride downtown, find a place to lock my bike, and get to work.

There’s just so much work that needs doing. I just want to get started already!

[tags]chimney, contractors, electricity, fireplace, trees[/tags]