Sunday, October 5, 2014

Winter is coming—project update

Woke up last week and some local maple trees had gotten a head start on fall. Minnesota is not known for its colorful foliage but my little town didn't get that memo.  In the 1970s, the magnificent elms that provided a canopy for most of the streets died in the Dutch Elm Disease epidemic.  While the temptation was to replant with something fast-growing like silver maples, many chose to plant the much slower-growing but sturdier hard maples.  The big payoff is that these trees go out in a blaze of color each fall.  And now that most of these trees are turning 40 years old, our town looks a lot like something you would see in New England with their large stands of hard maples.  Because so many chose patience in their plantings, our little town has some of the prettier street-scapes in the state.  And they do provide an early-warning about winter because they change color at least two weeks before the oak trees turn.

And I have a project that needs finishing.  I still have a stretch of exterior wall with no insulation whatsoever.  But at least the demolition phase is done.  It is amazing how much effort it required to fill that little dumpster.  When I was 25, I could have filled it in a couple of days.  Now, at 65, it took a bit longer.

Dumpster rental / disposal fees are a LOT higher than they used to be.  Rehab creates some serious piles of junk.  Notice there was no door on this dumpster so everything had to go in over the 6' (1.8 m) side.  This included an old iron tub.  Nice to have a big strong neighbor.

The rotten floor and stud have been patched and the fun part of the project has begun—building is SO much more satisfying than demolition.  Besides, new parts are cleaner so I can stop wearing gloves—which I really dislike.

The big payoff.  One of the important upgrades of this project was to make this bathroom wheelchair / walker accessible.  Because the walls of the bathroom could only be moved at great difficulty and expense, we needed to find a few inches using the floorplan we had.  A shallow vanity was required.  A favorite niece married a cabinetmaker a while back so we had a source of expertise.  Partner designed a vanity that recalled some of her favorite 50s design themes—tubular chrome hardware, and bookmatched and blueprinted flat surfaces.  Cabinetmaker did not like the idea of plywood construction in a bathroom.  So the vanity below may look booked-and-blue but those are solid-wood fronts.  A lot of thought went into making that possible. We tend to forget that there were some magnificent designs in the 50s because so much was overwrought.  This will be an excellent reminder of the good stuff.  I still have problems considering a 50s-era house as an historical artifact that requires era-faithful upgrades, so I am glad someone else has taken up that torch.

So yes, I am a lot slower than I used to be.  And I really detest demolition.  But I still get a kick out of fixing a real problem with style.  And because I now know what is in the walls, I seriously believe that we can cut the energy usage of this house in half using that knowledge to design a new insulation package.  Reducing a carbon footprint is harder than it looks but it can be done without breaking the bank.

1 comment:

  1. Wow, I have never thought of renting a dumpster before when doing home renovations. That is a great idea! There is always so much junk that debris that needs to be thrown out. When my husband and I start on our renovations we will have to try renting a dumpster and see how it goes!