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Finally an Update on the Guest Cottage

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Hello friends. It has been a while since I let you all know what was going on with the guest cottage. Remember what Thumper’s mother told him? “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all,”. We went through a period where there wasn’t a lot to say that was nice. Since I last updated you, it rained, every day for over a month. Every. Single. Day. Then, our contractor flaked on us only to come back and do the worst job possible on our Sheetrock.

I have seriously cried more tears over this silly 486 square foot building than any other remodel we have done. Even our rent house that the city of Huntsville had tagged as uninhabitable.

Soooo, that is why I haven’t had a lot to say but finally we are back on track and moving forward.

First of all, what hasn’t changed since my last update. The exterior hasn’t been touched.

Still looks just like this. No caulk or paint.

What has happened since I checked in last, is the interior and the front door.

The front door had to come out completely and get reinstalled before the doorknob could be put in but thanks to my sister in law’s boyfriend coming to help out Mr. Math but now it works great and gives me a lot of joy. I love that reclaimed door and it makes me happy.

From the inside this morning.

Also, after the terrible Sheetrock job got some love from the hubby, okay, lots of hard work not love but the Sheetrock messes are mostly fixed, we got the ceiling and walls painted.

The Sheetrock walls were painted Helium which is a very light turquoise. It doesn’t photograph well but it is a beautiful color.

We installed v groove planks on the 12 foot tall wall. Nothing about the cottage is plumb, square or level so installing horizontal planks was a challenge. My husband purchased a laser level that made our life so much easier. I am thrilled with how it turned out. One of the smartest things I did was to paint the planks before nailing them up. Being able to paint the grooves while it was laying flat and I was standing on the ground made the process so much easier! Soon I will show you the whole beautiful wall.

The bathroom has been painted. Well, the part that will have paint. The tile isn’t up yet but upcoming.

Canned lights, ceiling fan, and bathroom lights have been installed along with our split unit air conditioner.

There are electrical problems that will be fixed this week but the ac is functional right now which made working inside the building bearable in July.

Finally, I found someone to refinish the claw foot tub and sink for the house and they look amazing.

More to come. I have lots to say now that we are driving the bus on the remodel and lots to celebrate.

Looking forward to sharing our adventure.

Blessings,

Karen

The Struggle is Real. Remodeling a Home is Hard Right Now.

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Well hello there everyone. Sorry I didn’t update you on our progress last week.

Last week was a bit of a challenge. Well actually this whole project has seemed a little rougher than anything else we have done. That is saying a lot for a couple of serial DIY-ers. It seems we, along with the rest of the country, are in a home improvement boom. According to these articles by NPR, and CNBC the pandemic is only partially responsible. The data below is from the two articles linked and a Forbes article on the rising cost of lumber.

  • Deck construction is up 275% ( We built a deck so I guess we were part of the crowd.)
  • Fence construction installation is at 144% compared to 2019
  • Home Depot, sales for the second quarter of 2020 were $38.1 billion, up 23.4%
  • Lowe’s reported $27.3 billion in sales for the second quarter, compared with $21.0 billion for the same period in 2019
  • Houzz, an online home remodeling platform, reported a 58% annual increase in project leads for home professionals in June.
  • Kitchen and bath remodels saw a 40% jump in demand in June compared with a year ago.
  • The Lone Star State added nearly 374,000 residents between July 1, 2019 and the same day in 2020, according to the Census Bureau’s December 22, 2020 report
  • Conroe, our nearest large city, has consistently been one of the top ten fastest growing cities in Texas since 2017. People are moving here. Conroe’s population has doubled since 2000 and continues to grow at record speed.
  • Lumber prices have increased 171% since COVID started.

All that information plus the great Texas freeze means finding construction materials and manpower in our neck of the woods is harder and more expensive than a year ago. It makes the whole building process more complicated and stressful. There have been times on this project where we looked more like Building Alaska than the happy couple on Fixer Upper. We scoured every barn on our property for left over lumber and removed nails and reused lumber removed during the remodel, checked all storage areas for screws, nuts, lock rings… all because getting materials for construction is like shopping Black Friday or looking for bottled water or generators before a hurricane.

All that said, and that is a lot, we are making big progress. Most of the insulation is up, all the interior wiring is done, all the hot and cold water Pex pipe is in along with the drain pipes, and we have cleaned around the house.

We have found a contractor that we really like and his crew is working hard in spite of the electricity to the building going out and rain. I am so grateful for their good attitude and work ethic. Because we have help we now have most of the house covered in siding. They have also started planking the eaves of the main house.

We have had about nine inches of rain in a week, a blowout on our trailer, our washing machine line stopped up, and a friend had to help Mr. Math replace the underground electric line to the shop and guest house. I have to wonder what lessons I am supposed to be learning!

.

In spite of all our little problems, we have so very much to be grateful for. We are healthy, we have friends and family that love us, and in spite of everything, we are still moving forward.

We love hearing from you.

Blessings,

Karen

Why I Changed my Mind About Board and Batten

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When we started the Guest House I was dead set on board and batten siding. You can see my vision board below.

It is a very popular look right now and liked it because it is a clean look and is something that is commonly seen on old farm cottages around our area. But I won’t be using it for our guest house. While I love the look, and think it would be beautiful, it isn’t for us because of red wasps. Yep, a bug is changing my mind. They love, love, love our guest house which is conveniently located next to our garden where they have a food source- all those bugs that want to eat our hard work.

The view from the guest house looking at the garden.

Every open space in the walls, and there were a lot- like a whole lot- has either wasp nests or spider eggs jammed in. I cannot describe the condition and won’t bore or disgust you with the details, but the picture below is a wasp apartment complex we found included five connected nests. We found over fifty nests in the corrugated exterior.

Now I know this sounds crazy, but I don’t want all wasps eliminated from our property, in fact I am glad to see them in our garden where we don’t use pesticides, I just don’t want them living with us. They are aggressive when protecting the nest and they sting. I want them to keep eating the aphids and other bugs that eat our garden, but living in the wooded area behind the garden so we need to make it more difficult for them to move in.

Board and batten leaves a void between every board that is covered by a smaller board called a batten, and that will be difficult to totally seal up. Those wasps find the tiniest little crack to get in so I want something more solid.

We are going with our contractor Thursday to look at options. It is going to be something that is a solid panel that can be caulked and sealed. I want it to look like 12 inch planks and he assures me there are options I will like. Fingers crossed.

Also I learned a term from our daughter and used that term this last week. Project creep. It is the “While you are here, could you also…” sentence that apparently happens a lot.

We are adding on the aluminum siding removal around our house and adding new siding to the eaves and soffits. We started the project with the carport, deck and porches but this will finish off the house. I am so excited! We could do it ourselves but it would mean days on a ladder.

Woo hoo! I am so excited to get this projects done. They will be painting the house and guest house too which has me giddy.

Great things are ahead.

We love hearing from you.

Blessings,

Karen

Week 2 Update

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Y’all, I can tell you that we made real progress this week.

First of all, there are no blue tarps on the building. We now have OSB and house wrap on almost all the building. Hooray!

What a difference!

Also, there are windows installed. We have six new super cool windows that Mr. Math spotted on clearance at Home Depot. I am so happy with how they look. They are dark frames which is going to look nice with our light paint.

We got all the nasty, disgusting insulation that was filled with wasp nests, spider eggs, and just general grossness. Even better a friend gave us enough brand new insulation to do the house. Life is good.

I got busy on the sink I bought way back when for two dollars at a garage sale. I was happy to see that under all the grime, oil, and calcium deposits the sink is not in bad shape. That was a good surprise. Now to get it and the claw foot tub refinished.

The sink was cast on 05/05/1935

Finally. The electrical is getting put in. My husband wasn’t excited about what was already in place so everything got ripped out and five new circuits are getting installed.

We have to have all our part done by next Thursday because Friday our contractor starts on the siding and sheet rock. It is going to be glorious! Seriously we are excited to see the progress we have made but a crew will make it so fast.

In spite of everything going on in the building we got 1/2 the garden weeded. Mr. Math did a lot but I put in some hours too. Next week the other half.

We are loving this cool April weather!

We love hearing from you!

Blessings,

Karen

Weekly Update on the Guest House

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Three things before I start so I can be all sunshine and roses for the rest of this post.

  • I just want one space on the building to be finished, no matter how small. Just one.
  • I believe weather folks use magic 8 balls for their weather forecasts and the one they use for our area is broken.
  • Putting up blue tarps every evening is no fun. Especially in 25 mile an hour winds, and with an inner ear infection. (This coming from the chick on the ground-not the ladder.)

Thank you all for indulging me as I complain. I feel so much better. My husband is a saint. He has put up with me, less than epic weather, me, contractor stuff, me. DIY building isn’t for the faint of heart particularly rebuilding an existing building that was used for a totally different purpose. Dealing with me for more than 40 years is no picnic either. So glad he has stuck around.

My goal is once a week to give an update on where we are on this 464 square foot future guest house. Hopefully there will be more ups than downs. Renovation is rewarding but also very frustrating.

We did have some wins this week. First of all, we now have pitched metal roof! That is a big deal folks. In spite of contractors and weather the roof is on and it makes the place feel so much bigger.

It makes me so happy to see the roof.
It has come a long way!

Another win is that we got the front door in. I will have better photos soon but the front porch was too much of a mess to get a good shot. Soon, I promise.

I made progress on the upper kitchen cabinets. They have now been cleaned, nails removed, holes filled, primed, and mostly painted. I also bought the hardware for it.

Additionally , the north wall is now covered in OSB and the windows were removed. It is ready for wall wrap and siding. There aren’t going to be any windows on this wall because there is going to be a closet on the wall and the bed headboard. We decided that was best because the north wall gets a lot of wind and rain in the winter and the view that direction isn’t great unless you like looking at our rv storage.

My final bit of good news is that we have found a contractor who is able to fit us in next week for the siding to be put up! Hooray! My superstar husband and a neighbor have put up the OSB sheathing but the siding is more than he wants to tackle. I don’t blame him one bit.

We are so grateful to be able to take on a project like this and that we get to live where we do.

Blessings,

Karen

Progress (Sort of)

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We are making slow but steady progress on the guest shed and I have to keep reminding myself that. We. Are. Making. Progress.

Mr. Math, in true Mr. M fashion wants to do as much as he absolutely can on his own. He removed the foam insulation panels, the acoustic tiles, the hardboard wall panels, a ton of wasp nests, roach poop, and the cabinet with a sink in it. The man has had days where he limped from spending the day on a ladder but he didn’t quit. He is such a hard worker. After contacting several contractors- two never showed up- and another was backed up with Texas freeze work, we did hire someone to put the new roof on and had it scheduled to begin this past Monday. Sunday was stressful. We dodged rain and high winds to get the corrugated metal roofing off and our great neighbor helped get the last of the heavy furniture out and tarped the building.

Monday came, the sky was clear, and the weather was perfect to work on the building. The builders didn’t show. They didn’t answer texts or calls. It was radio silence. I cried a bit. Finally in the evening we got a text saying they went out of town and were very sorry but would be there first thing in the morning. First thing in the morning meant they arrived at 2:06 p.m. By that time the weather was changing with rain expected so Mr. Math didn’t want the tarp removed only to have to put it up again in an hour or so. The lumber got dropped off and that was that.

Wednesday …well Wednesday it rained followed by near gale force winds. Here the building sits. So frustrating because had it been started on time it would be totally dried in and we wouldn’t be worried about the rains.

I have to remind myself that we have made progress on the project. The front wall has been reworked, the door frame resized and moved, the wall over the area that will be the kitchenette resized and a new window installed, the window space cut in the bathroom wall, the bathroom has been framed up and covered with a house wrap. Mr. Math also got all rotted wood replaced and has everything firmed up. I can’t wait for the tarps to be off to show you the front wall.

We did take a shopping trip to pick out metal roof color, windows which was ordered and picked up Wednesday morning before the rain came, we also picked up 2 pocket door kits, an exterior door kit, and I found a 24 inch vintage door on marketplace for the closet. I have cleaned the antique kitchen cupboard, and removed the loose paint. As soon as it is dryer I will get it outside so it can be safely sanded (lead paint) then get it all painted.

I have also got three coats of Spar varnish on the front door. I am keeping it dry in the greenhouse. I love this door. I still need to do some work on it but it is going to be so pretty when it is in place.

As I work on my attitude about things I can’t control, I have to add that I channeled some of my frustration into painting the master bathroom which was the last room in the house that was the peachy-beige. I don’t love the almond colored counter and shower but I am going to make it work. I do plan on stripping the paint off the vanity and staining it weathered oak. The wall color is called historic gray. It is a green-gray that goes with the yellow tones well.

We have so much to be grateful for and I guess I needed a few days to work on my attitude.

This morning the sun is up and we are hopeful.

We love hearing from you.

Blessings,

Karen

The Greenhouse Gets a Makeover

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Sometimes I just get wild idea and drag Mr. Math along with me to do a project at our house. The greenhouse makeover is not one of my wild idea projects. The old harvest gold building reached the point where it got moved to the top of our to do list when the last warm front blew through here and the fiberglass roof panels lifted with each gust of wind and ripped the 25 year old (just guessing here but it is really, really old) corrugated panels away from the screws. We were sitting on our back porch watching the storm move in when we saw that the day had come to repair or tear down the old eyesore. I really hadn’t paid attention to how much it deteriorated. It was always ugly, and I hated looking out at our backyard and seeing it. Before tearing down the old fiberglass panels, I climbed up on the ladder to look at the roof and snapped this picture. It was gross.

I really was willing to just tear the building down even though we use it because we have so many projects going but for once Mr. Math was the one wanting to save something so rebuilding the greenhouse got started. The first thing to do was take off the roof. It was by far the hardest part.

The roof was too fragile to get on any more than necessary so a lot of the work was done from inside on ladders.

There was a lot of up ad down latters, but once the roofing was down, Mr. Math saw immediately that the wooden sill plate was rotted from water leaks in the roof and as he tore in the amount of rot was a lot worse than he thought. It took a whole day to get rotted wood out and new wood back in. I didn’t get a picture because I was painting the doors on the porch and carport but the dude worked hard. Once everything was repaired we were back to the roof. All together we put up 16 pieces of clear fiberglass corrugated roofing and replaced the ridge cap. As with most things, we got better and more efficient as we went along. I did all the ground level work like handing up the sheets of fiberglass and tools and cleaning up the mess. Mr. Math sat on the roof, lined each piece up and screwed it in. All in the roof install only took about four hours but the set up took a while too. The overhang was cut down to four inches after finishing the install to get it nice and neat.

We got busy putting the siding up as soon as we finished the roof. It was slow but steady work getting all the siding up. We got quicker as we learned what worked and I was very happy to have a math teacher figuring out the angles and matching up corrugated bumps and valleys on the eaves. Probably more time was spent driving back and forth for supplies. It is a two hour round trip to get a box of the special screws for the siding, ask me how I know… We made a bold decision to put up dark gray siding with a clear roof and eaves. There is plenty of light coming in the top to keep the plants we store in there when it is cold or get seedlings started and potting supplies. Since we store outdoor games and chairs in there, the opaque sides will be better for us.

Because the building will get warm in the warmer weather we are installing an exhaust fan with a thermostat so that it will move air when it gets too warm and also a vent that will let in fresh air.

We are not done with the building but it is now solid and dried in. That is good news since we are going to have record low temperatures the next few days. The plants will be inside where they will survive.

Altogether we put up 22 panels on the sides in addition to the 16 and spent close to a thousand dollars. That seemed like a lot of money to me but it is a concrete foundation 12 by 15 foot building and would have cost a lot of money to build.

Our next steps on the building are to add stained cedar siding trim on the corners, around the door and window, get shelving and storage built and the inside organized and the fan/vent installed. I also have a window that I will be installing on the back wall to help with ventilation.

We are so happy to have you follow along with us as we work on our projects.

Blessings,

Karen

Exterior Doors and Paint

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Our house is pretty dark inside due to the low ceilings, tinted windows, and shade trees. We have done what we could to add light by adding canned lights to the ceiling, installed blinds that open, and painting the cabinetry white. Our newest project has also made a big difference. We have added glass doors to all the exterior doors.

Our front door is my absolute favorite. It is solid mahogany with beveled glass in 3/4 the door. It bends so well with the cedar trim. We purchased the door at the Door Clearance Center in Houston.

The door that was here before was solid steel. On the outside. On the inside of the house the door had been completely sealed off with Sheetrock in order to have space for a china cabinet. The door was completely sealed so it wouldn’t open until we expanded the front porch. We replaced the front door when we added on to the front porch.

As we worked on the back porch, we decided to change out the storm door/ half glass door that leads to the back. The storm door allowed for sunlight to come in when it was open but was a pain when we were bringing things in and out for grilling and eating. The half door just didn’t provide enough light.

We decided to put in steel doors at both the back door and off the carport with full glass and mini blinds between the glass panes that we bought at Home Outlet. By shopping around for doors we saved a ton of money.

Let me tell you that putting in doors is not for sissies. Mr. Math removed the door, brick moulding, door facing, and door frame because the hinges and door locks would not have ones up. That was a lot of work but not super stressful. The putting the new door in requires a bit of skill and can’t be done alone. If you don’t have help and some construction experience hire this out. The door to the backyard slipped when we were putting it in and hit the floor. Somehow it didn’t break the glass or bend but it did get a dent. I was so sad but Mr. Math used car Bondo to repair the dent. You can’t tell there was ever a problem now but it shook me up so bad we didn’t put the carport door in for a week.

The carport door went in easier, probably because we made all the mistakes on the first door. We are thrilled with the doors an the light they add to the rooms.

We decided to paint the trim, the soffits, and doors all new colors and I am so happy for the update. The colors are all Behr. The door is Whiskey Barrel, the trim is Dove, and the siding/soffits are True Taupewood. I wanted the doors to coordinate well with the front door and the deck stain. I tried several different colors to blend with the brick I am not crazy about. My advice is to spend the money to buy samples of colors you like. The one I was positive I wanted for the siding an soffits ended up not being my favorite.

I am really happy with how it turned out. We still have some caulking, staining the cedar on the back porch, and I will be painting and stenciling the front and back porches but we are almost done. It is a good thing too. We have two more projects going on already and I am soooo excited about one of them I can’t wait to get on it. Until then, here are some pictures of the progress.

Thanks for following along on our journey. We love hearing from you.

Blessings,

Karen

Updating the Back Porch

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Happy 2021 to you and yours. In the last 11 months we have spent a lot of time at home. A. Lot. Of. Time. One of the areas we have worked on is our back porch.

When we bought our property the back porch was an area I did not like. It felt neglected and a bit claustrophobic. There were four foot-wide metal posts across a 12 foot wide porch. The posts didn’t match the rest of the house and there was a lot of things that needed to be replaced.

Four posts! It felt like a bird cage.

During this past summer we put in a wooden deck that joined the concrete porch that more than doubled our backyard eating/ shaded space. (You May notice by by comparing what we thought we would do with reality.) We are crazy about this spot but it has been little embarrassing to have it connected to the less than awesome porch. Checkout the seven foot long rolling buffet that gets used al the time. We can’t wait for the pandemic to end and it to warm up a little where we can have our friends and family over more often.

We also really have enjoyed the table and chairs for family outdoor eating.

Right after Christmas holidays were over Mr. Math (Can you believe it wasn’t me this time?) decided it was time to work on the porch. I. Was. Thrilled.

The first step in the process was to determine why in the world a twelve foot span required two corner posts and two single metal posts. There was a every three and a half feet. After removing the vinyl and checking out the header, it was clear that all the metal was decorative. I guess in the 80’s a human birdcage was popular. Once we earned it wasn’t a problem Mr. Math and our wonderful neighbor jacked up the porch, took out the old posts, and put in treated 6×6 posts at the corners. He then wrapped the posts in cedar to match the rest of the house. Down came the nasty ceiling fan and a couple of coats of haint blue paint on the ceiling. The weather has been mild here in the middle of the day but too cold for paint or us to work in the mornings. That means we tried to do one major job a day then clean up the mess.

We replaced the vinyl siding along under the porch with 1 X 12 cedar planks and the underside with cement board soffit and finally on a freezing cold and rainy day my hubby got the ceiling fan and light installed. It was actually much easier than I thought it would be. Sometimes things go our way and sometimes they don’t.

I can’t get over how much more open and roomy the porch feels now.

We aren’t finished with everything. We still have to work on the electrical, caulking the gaps and staining the cedar, we are going to put in a new back door to add more light into the house, fill the holes and paint the concrete, change out the siding on the front of the porch, and paint the soffits and trim. It will be an ongoing project.

The electrical work still needs to be done.

I know it has been a while since I shared our progress but we continue to make slow but steady progress.

Thanks for following along on our journey.

Blessings,

Karen

When a Mudroom Needs a Mudroom

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As soon as we bought Providence Acres we added a wall off the carport to creat a Mudroom. We are so happy to have this space. In summer it keeps towels, sunscreen, flip flops, and outside grandchildren toys like bubbles confined. In the winter, coats hang on the hooks.

This space keeps most, but not all the clutter out our the living space.

The problem is that we sometimes have shoes that are so dirty or wet we need to take them off outside. Rain boots, rain jackets… For the last few years we have had a wrought iron and wood bench outside the door but when the vehicles are pulled up, there isn’t a lot of room to get out to the deck. We needed something a little narrower.

The solution to the problem has been sitting in the shop for two years.

I built (with help from Mr. Math) a cedar bench for my parents several years ago. He taught me how to hide all the screws and I was really proud of the little cedar bench. It was rough but I thought they could use it at their deer camp to put on and take off boots on the porch. Parents being parents, my mom thought it was too nice for the camp so it sat in their entry way for three years until Harvey flooded their home. My mom asked me to take home the bench. It then sat in my shop for two years.

Last week I got busy. I sanded down the bench, used diluted bleach to get the flood stains off the legs and then sealed it with Olympic clear outdoor sealer I already had out for the seven foot table. I am always struck by how the sealer changes the depth in color of the cedar. It turned out well.

The bench now sits outside our carport door and it fits well.

We removed the AstroTurf from the porch concrete and have purchased tile to match what we have in the mudroom to install. It is on our long list of things to do.

View from the carport door to the deck

Now we can easily get from the porch to the deck even when we have vehicles under the carport.

We are making steady progress.

I hope you are all staying healthy and taking care of yourself.

Blessings,

Karen

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