A blog about the restoration, remodel and renovation of a 1929 Chicago-style brick bungalow

The Projects for 2012

The big question is: Will 2012 be the year we finish the attic remodel, i.e. install trim and hang doors? I sure hope so! It would be a huge load off my shoulders as I really hate to leave things hanging.

In the end, we probably won’t be doing it ourselves so it’s going to depend mainly on our finances. I got an initial quote from a trim carpenter for stained and varnished poplar to match the downstairs, which exceeded our budget. After I asked him to revise for installation only, we didn’t hear from him again (we have a source for materials, and I’m sure we can handle staining and varnishing ourselves once I just put my mind to it). Oh well. Our neighbor recommended his trim guy, so I’m going to call him as soon as I can match the stain on a sample piece of poplar.

Accompanying the trim project is finishing the stairway. When we remodeled the attic I didn’t know how I wanted to handle the steps so we kept the existing wall/railing that the PO built. I have a better idea of what I’d like to do now so perhaps with the expertise of a finish carpenter we can make it a lot more attractive.

Okay, so that’s Project #1.

Project #2: Garden/Outdoor Area
Following the plan our landscaper friend designed, I’m really hoping to work on our garden and outdoor areas this year. We may be able to rebuild/expand the porch/deck area first, but the first thing we really need to do is remove the rest of the concrete sidewalk along the house. We’ll probably have to hire someone to remove it and haul it away.

As for the rest of the hardscaping, it calls for a gravel patio and paver walkway linking the deck and flagstone patio together which shouldn’t be difficult to do (hard work, yes, but we’ve done it before). A row of grasses is to provide screening from our neighbor’s yard to the gravel patio. On a road trip last fall which took us through Milwaukee we saw this installation of grasses along the river. I think building a box structure like this to contain the grasses and elevate them a bit will work better both for height and to keep them from flopping over and encroaching into the neighbor’s lawn.

As far as plants are concerned, I go back and forth on my “commitment” to native plants. I think I’m going to loosen my grip on “only” native plants and incorporate more hybrids and cultivars. I’ll probably keep most of what we’ve already planted and transplant them to other spots, but we are probably going to dig up the Smooth Sumac we planted next to the flagstone patio. They were fast-growing and gave us the privacy we needed at the time, but now that they’re a few years old they’ve become a bit too invasive. Suckers appear everywhere, so it’s a constant battle to keep them from spreading. We (or shall I say, I) want to add a pergola to the patio which will require some adjustments anyway, and the sumacs will likely be in the way. We’ll see what happens.

As if these two projects aren’t daunting enough, I’m going to throw out two more just because they are also high on my really-want-to-do list:

Project #3: First Floor Bathroom
I’ve talked about this project since day one, but unless we get really ambitious I have a feeling it’s not going to happen this year. But oh how I long for a white-tiled, neutral bathroom! The worst thing about it would probably be the demo, and I think I would only tile the area surrounding the tub (in addition to the floor), so tiling wouldn’t even be that bad. We would keep the toilet, sink and tub so it really wouldn’t be that expensive. And as long as we’d have to do demo work…

Project #4: The Fireplace
Yes, the behemoth fireplace could be demo’d at the same time as the bathroom! I’ve talked about this since day one as well, at first having mixed feelings and now just having negative feelings about it. The PO had it installed and while a wood-burning fireplace with a gas starter is a nice luxury, I’ve been thinking about getting rid of it altogether lately. I think we’ve only built one fire this year and we didn’t go through all our wood last year either (I think we bought 1/2 cord). Granted, it’s been a very mild winter, but is it really worth the space it occupies?

Up until this point I had been pondering how to modify/minimize it using the existing fireplace box and just getting rid of the fake stone surround. The past couple of days I started thinking about total elimination, or perhaps replacing it with a direct-vent gas fireplace with a 12-14″ depth versus the current 4-foot depth of the fireplace plus hearth. That sucker takes up a lot of room!

Since we already have a gas line for the starter I would think it would be a pretty easy thing to install. Building built-in bookshelves on either side of it would be more difficult and something we’d have to pay to have done. But it would look sooooo much better!

What do you guys think? Anyone have any experience with the current direct-vent fireplace offerings?

1 Comment

  1. Kate H. on February 12, 2012 at 11:20 pm

    Pity we don’t live closer. I could help you install your trim and you could help me install mine. At least I have someone who can lend me a compressor and the nail guns, though I don’t know if any of them will be able to shoot into the exterior brick.

    As to the fireplace, yeah, it is a behemoth. I’d keep some sort of fireplace myself, but I can see how that one would be a space problem.

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