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And now I’m obsessed with concrete and want to use it everywhere

3 min read Because, come on, why wouldn’t you?

I’ve spent the last two weeks struggling through the muggy heat to de-lead and prime the north and south walls of the house and prepping for my upcoming talk at the MREA Energy Fair but when I think about design, I’ve been thinking about concrete and wondering what I can make from it.  Pavers?  Planters? Benches?  The possibilities are endless.   Continue reading “And now I’m obsessed with concrete and want to use it everywhere”

Cliff May and the Origins of the Ranch House

3 min read Cliff May was an artist: a saxophone player turned furniture designer who inspired a modern housing movement. Today I meditate on his 1946 style book, Western Ranch Houses.

For my birthday, I took a break from scraping and re-painting from precariously balanced ladder platforms … just kidding, I was up and painting on the platform at 7am.  However I did STOP at 8:15 when I hit the milestone of getting the second coat of paint on all the area that needs a ladder jack platform to reach.  Then I took the rest of the day off from manual labor.  Instead went down to campus to the Kohler Art Library to (metaphorically) check out Cliff May’s 1946 Sunset Western Ranch Houses.  Continue reading “Cliff May and the Origins of the Ranch House”

The Tools You Need To Scrape and Sand Exterior Wood Siding

4 min read Scraping, sanding and painting your wooden house is not a job for the faint of heart but with these tools you can get the job done!

Scraping, sanding and painting your wooden house (especially if it’s in rather bad shape) is not a job for the faint of heart.  It’s hot, sweaty, dusty work that requires at least SOME ladder work.  If you like pinching pennies and feeling a sense of accomplishment, by all means take it on.  If you are looking for easy, fun DIY that people will admire … maybe choose another project.

For me, painting a beat up wall in an ugly color into a new smooth color of my choosing is about the most fun I can think of, and is well worth the labor.  Stay tuned for my discussion of how high on ladders you have to climb to paint a single story ranch in an upcoming post!

Continue reading “The Tools You Need To Scrape and Sand Exterior Wood Siding”

Progress: Pouring the Concrete Slab was Pretty Easy!

4 min read I poured a mother freaking 28 square foot concrete slab in the basement this week … and it really wasn’t that hard. Here’s how I did it (hint: I roped my parents into some of the extra manual labor!)

I admit, this was one of the tasks I’ve been most excited about … and afraid of.  I could, of course, have asked the plumbers to repair the slab they tore up when their work was done but I’ve never worked with concrete before and wanted the chance to try my hand.  When I saw the size of the hole I had a few second thoughts in the end it was a really fun time to fill it back in.

With the right tools (another post) the job was really pretty simple. Continue reading “Progress: Pouring the Concrete Slab was Pretty Easy!”

Progress: There is a Huge Hole in the Basement to get at the Under-Slab Plumbing

2 min read Two weeks ago I took the most dramatic step yet in bringing the basement plans to fruition.  A crew of plumbers showed up at 8 in the morning with jack hammers and tore up a big patch of concrete slab in the basement.  

This is step one of removing the ridiculous open-to-the-laundry toilet and shower arrangement.  They carted off the broken basement floor chunks, removed the old plumbing and then did  the underground rough in for the new 3/4 bathroom. Continue reading “Progress: There is a Huge Hole in the Basement to get at the Under-Slab Plumbing”

Progress: Basement Measuring, Mockups and Making Final Checks

2 min read With the plumbers incoming the next day to tear out the concrete slab and old pipes, and lay new ones, time for a good old fashioned mock-up with blue tape lines and visualize it one more time.

Having finally (mostly) cleared the deck in the basement I took a moment to revel in the bare walls, exposed floor joists overhead and swept-clean floor.  Then I got out my laser measure, a pair of tape measures, a sharpie and a roll of blue painters tape and marked the location of the new bathroom walls (and fixtures) on the basement floor. Continue reading “Progress: Basement Measuring, Mockups and Making Final Checks”

The Five Tools under Twenty Dollars You’ll Need to do Your Own Demolition

4 min read Here’s what you’ll want to have on hand in order to take own your own basement demolition. You can get most of these for under twenty bucks, and with them, you’ll be set to tear about nearly any basement.

Even if you plan to hire contractors to do your remodeling work, you can save money and feel a sense of ownership for the project by chipping in labor during demolition.  With a few of the right tools (and some common sense) removing an out of date “finished” basement before replacing it with a new one is a task most homeowners can tackle with success. Continue reading “The Five Tools under Twenty Dollars You’ll Need to do Your Own Demolition”

Minimizing Waste in Demoltion

3 min read Any remodeling project is inherently more or less wasteful. “Out with the old and in with the new” means that something is being tossed and new resources are being consumed. Here are the steps I took to keep limit the landfill content produced by my basement demolition.

From an ethical standpoint, I think remodeling is better than building new and even remodeling should always be justified by improving utility and energy efficiency to offset that waste.  From a design point of view, the new work should be not only more aesthetically pleasing but more multi-functional – future proofed as much as possible.

I apply these ideas to all the design work I do, and I’ve been trying to use the same principles during my physical remodeling here. Continue reading “Minimizing Waste in Demoltion”

Basement: the Midwestern Ranch House’s Secret Weapon

3 min read A basement is the secret weapon of the midwestern ranch house.

(This is one clear advantage we have over all those cool, glassy California Pinterest ranches.

Upper midwestern basements secretly expand square footage, storage and differentiation of spaces all without bulking up the house to the street or eating up the building site.

Sure, basements CAN be your extraneous junk space.  They CAN be your quick and dirty work out or project space.  But they they COULD be the inner sanctum – the most private and cosy spot in the house, insulated from temperature, sound and other people’s view.   The secret of an effective basement is not to treat it like part of your home, not a second class space. Continue reading “Basement: the Midwestern Ranch House’s Secret Weapon”

Demo with a Dog

3 min read Just to throw a wrench in the works once again, I gave myself an additional major delay in construction (or de-construction) at the beginning of the year: bringing home a new dog, Roxie. Here’s a little intro to my pup and the techniques I’ve used to acclimate her to her new life as a construction dog.

I decided to make the most of my non-office-worker stint by bringing a pup into my life.  After some research,  I found Roxie at the Humane Society, sugar sweet but bouncing off the walls of the meeting room.  She’s around a year and a half old and was picked up as a stray in Mississippi in December.  I  brought her home the last day of January.   Continue reading “Demo with a Dog”