Our 92-year-old farmhouse was in decent shape but far from perfect. We had minor structural issues, some damaged joists, second-rate plumbing and a deteriorated porch ceiling. The contractor has repaired these issues.
Contractors excavated the area along the back foundation wall (and part of the sidewalls), repaired the mortar joints, applied two coats of asphalt-based sealant and added a heavy-duty waterproofing membrane and perforated PVC drainpipe. They then covered the drain with ¾-inch stones and filter fabric and back-filled the dirt.
The new exterior drainpipes connect to the sump pump. As an added bonus, the workers extended the sump pump discharge to a drywell where the water will seep into the soil slowly. They also connected the downspout to the drywell.
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With the surprises behind us (fingers crossed), we hope to get back on track with the deck, entry staircase and interior finish work. Progress has been sporadic.
The subs have installed all the windows, sanded the wood floors, installed most of the recessed lights and bath fans, installed the tub, built the custom shower pan, hung the cement board and tiled the bath walls. They also installed the electric floor-warming system in both bathrooms and started the drywall repairs throughout the house.
There was a hiccup with the window trim. The workers rushed the job, so a handful of the windows were poorly done. We requested that they redo it. I grew impatient and decided to redo them myself, so the carpenter has a template for how we want the rest redone.
We also failed our first plumbing inspection due to a couple of minor issues. The existing laundry room had a two-inch waste pipe, but the inspector asked that we upgrade to a three-inch. In addition, he asked the contractor to beef up the wall insulation behind the water line to the refrigerator and add insulation to the pipe. These fixes are done; we’re waiting for a new inspection to confirm the work.
Progress has been made on the kitchen design. Originally, we toyed with the idea of using Ikea for our cabinets, but the brand’s limited sizes did not maximize the space. Plus, we switched gears when we considered doing cobalt or robin’s egg blue — a color Ikea does not offer. Then we decided to go with a colored range, so we changed our minds again. White was a little too predictable. Instead, we chose painted gray/stone.
We found the perfect color from American Woodmark, a Winchester, Va.-based company that sells its products under different brands at Home Depot and Lowe’s. We opted for painted maple — which is a great substrate for painted cabinets — and upgraded to thicker plywood boxes and solid-wood drawers with dovetail joints.
Our kitchen designer, Hans M. Aguilar, at the College Park Home Depot gave us an efficient design that includes 42-inch uppers, a 48-inch island with pullout trash bins, and a few glass-front doors. We’re using a cabinet panel to cover the dishwasher because it gives the kitchen a built-in look.
That is one of the goals of the remodel: a high-end look that doesn’t break the bank. Based on years of interviewing architects and designers, we’re using some simple strategies to further that goal.
The first thing is consistency of materials and wood species. Renovations often seem disjointed because different rooms often have different finishes.
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We want uniformity, so we’re using lever door handles and polished chrome on all hardware and faucets; the same light fixtures in all the bathrooms; the same flush-mount light fixtures in the foyer, upstairs hall and master bedroom; the same ceiling fan in the living room and master bedroom; and the same Carrera marble floor tiles in the main and master bathrooms. The bathroom wall tiles are from the same product line — gray in the main bath and white in the master.
The wall-hung bath vanities and pulls also will be similar. We purchased the master bath unit (in oak veneer), but I made the two units for the powder room and main bath in a similar style. Additionally, I made the bathroom mirrors and the sliding doors to the laundry in the same shaker-style panel as the kitchen cabinets.
In the kitchen, we opted for a 30-inch refrigerator that measures 80 inches tall and 24 inches deep to give the look of a truly built-in unit. The different flooring materials will be as level as possible with no thresholds, so the existing wood floor will be completely level with the new wood floor in the kitchen and the new tile in the powder room. (The bath floors will be about 1/8 of an inch higher than the wood floors because of the floor-warming system.) Finally, the kitchen and bath countertops will be the same Calacatta Gold quartz.
We had expected to have the house completed by the middle of March, but that is now unlikely. In October, we applied for a new gas line from the street to the house, and the process took about three months. But we are still waiting for them to add the meter and finalize the process.
Without the gas, we have no furnace to warm the house. A warm house speeds the drying of the drywall mud, and it allows the new wood floor to acclimate to the temperature of the house before the contractor installs it. Until Washington Gas turns on the juice, we are in a holding pattern twiddling our thumbs.
Nigel F. Maynard is an architecture and design writer/editor who temporarily lives in New Carrollton, Md., with his wife, Stephenie, and their 140-pound harlequin Great Dane, Yeager. Over the next few months, he will chronicle their experiences renovating a 1924 farmhouse in historic Hyattsville where they eventually will move.