Saturday, March 10, 2012

Heating the house

When we were looking for a house, I really wanted to find one with a wood stove.  Wife wasn't too crazy about that idea.  She grew up with one and said they were really messy.  We were blessed to buy a house that had one of these in it:
Picture isn't the greatest.  It's a wood pellet/corn stove.  It runs on electricity to drive an auger that feeds the fire pot, and a blower that, well, blows the heat off the firebox and into the room.  There is a hatch on the top to load the pellets.  It has a damper you can adjust and several feed settings to adjust the rate of feed of pellets into the fire pot.  It also has an automatic stirrer of which you can control the rate of speed.  There are only a few places on the thing that get too hot to touch.  The rest of the stove is very safe.  I buy the pellets from the stove salesman a pallet at a time.  That's 50, 40 pound bags.  I keep them stacked in the garage.  It can also burn corn, which burns hotter, but creates more ash.  And the corn has to be very clean, free of chaff, etc.

Our house is far from airtight.  We have a furnace in the basement to heat the downstairs, and a furnace in the attic to heat upstairs.  They both run on LP gas.  This little number, in the corner of the kitchen, doesn't really heat the whole house, or the whole downstairs, for that matter.  But, except in the coldest temps (20 degrees or so) it really does a nice job of warming a large area and it keeps the furnace from running so often.  When the temps are in the 40's it's almost too much, and I have to shut it off if it gets above 50 because it's just too warm.

It runs through a 40 pound bag of pellets about once a day.  As it runs, it produces ash which falls into an ash pan below the fire pot.  There is no smoke, no smell, no dust, no messy wood, and no smoke from the flue.  It's pretty doggone nice. It has to be cleaned out about once a week or so, which is about a 45 to 60 minute job to do thoroughly.  That part is messy, but I use a shop vac so it isn't too bad. Also, if the power fails, the stove shuts down as there will be no way to feed the pellets or run the blower (unless you have a gas generator). In all, I'm pleased with it, and would recommend it to anyone looking for alternative ways to heat your home.

The Move: Part 3

Well, it finally happened.  The previous owners had their auction, found their new house and gave us the keys on the 13th of September.  We were very excited.  It was a Thursday and I had a class that night (that's a story for another post).  So I left and went to class.  While I was gone, my wife and Sister-in-law decided to tear up the carpet in the living room to see what the wood floor looked like underneath.  They dragged the huge wad of carpet to the garage but got it stuck in the doorway.  My wife was in the house and SIL was in the garage.  So the wife decides to step over the carpet to help her sister pull from the garage.  In the process she missteps and falls, while hearing popping noises from her ankle.  Long story short, I took her to the ER after class to confirm that it wasn't broken, but indeed, very badly sprained.

After that, the work began in earnest.  We tore out all the carpet.  All of it!  The floors in the master bed and what became our homeschool room, as well as the living room, were really nice oak.  However, they were a mess.  Some of the carpet had been glued down, other parts were splattered with paint.  So I hired a handyman to sand them for us, and I refinished them.
In this picture, you can see what they looked like, and some of the old paint on the wall.  This is one end of the living room.

We knew we wanted laminate flooring in the rest of the house, so that was ordered and installed.  But that process took several weeks from start to finish.  We painted probably 90% of the house, including trim, doors, walls, closets, and ceilings.  The parts left that weren't painted were a few ceilings, some of which will yet be painted!  It may sound like overkill, but really, the place hadn't had new paint in a very long time and things just looked 'dirty' - and not our style at all.  You'd be amazed at what a new coat of paint can do to liven up a ceiling!
This is our home school room.  The floor is covered with the glued down remains of the rubber backing from the carpet that was there.  It's gone now and in its place is beautiful oak hardwood.  The green on the wall is called "Melange Green".  It was a bit of a daring step for us, but Melinda (my artist/designer Sister-in-law) thought it would be a great color. We had decided that we needed bright, cheerful colors, especially for me during the winter months.  Once we got the color on, we loved it!  It's such a fun, fresh color.  We have crisp white curtains on the windows and black accents throughout the room.  Eventually, we'll add some other things too... maybe a burst of tangerine orange!

The kitchen was another big project.  It needed a new window (and subsequently new plywood below it to replace the weather rotted wood under the siding because of poor caulking).  This little project revealed that the original door to the kitchen was where the sink now sits. We thought the cabinets were ok at first, but then we decided that paint (GASP, paint the cabinets?!? NO!!.... YES!) and new hardware would do nicely.  The bulkhead over the cabinets was a mess and needed to be replaced, so we decided on bead-board for the bulkhead and back splash.  Oh, and the wife wanted a new sink and counter top.  The house didn't have a dishwasher, and frankly, I have too many other things to do without washing dishes by hand.  We had to have a dish washer.  First-world problems, I know. That was going to require a bit of rearranging of the kitchen.  We thought and thought and thought.  There was no way to leave the refrigerator where it was and have a dishwasher too, there just wasn't room to open a dishwasher door.  So we move the refrigerator over to another area and were able to put in the dishwasher.

What our handyman discovered was that the cabinets weren't hung level - at all.  If he put bead-board up, it would look really awful.  So he rehung the cabinets, built new mounts for the bulkhead and put it all back together.  In the meantime, he put in the dishwasher, but couldn't hook it up yet because we were waiting on the electrician.  Yes indeed, there was much electrical work needed doing.  The electrician kept busy redoing wiring, putting in new, hard-wired smoke detectors, etc.  He even wired us up for under-the-counter lights (which we have yet to buy and install). 

The new counter top... well, that was a HUGE headache.  The handyman took the measurements and placed the order.  We had to wait a month for it to be made and shipped.  He showed up on installation day with the counter top on a trailer pulled by his truck.  He began to take out the old counter top, but something made him stop and decide to measure the new one.  Glad he did.  It was too big.  They had applied the outside measurements to the inside, which made the outside edge just that much longer.  How frustrating.  By this time we were in the house.  It took us a month, a week, and two days just to get the house livable for us.  Now our new counter top was wrong and we'd have to wait longer.  The company gave our handyman quite the runaround but eventually, a boss agreed that they had made a mistake.  They decided to make a new counter top for us.  It would actually be cheaper for them to do that, than ship the first one back and fix it!  So we wait another few weeks.  Finally, it arrives.  Sigh.  It's still wrong!  the measurements are short by about a half an inch on one end, and are still too long on another!  More phone calls, more stress and headache (for the handyman, not me - I was just frustrated).  The company we ordered from agreed to take the second counter back and refund our money.  Ok, that works.  Then our handyman, since we still had the first counter, called around and found a company that agreed to cut it down to the right dimensions for a fraction of what the counter top actually cost us.  That still took several days.  I have to credit our handyman, though.  He did a great job for us and worked very hard to get it right.  We got our new counter top in just about a week before Christmas!
In the process of working in the kitchen, we decided to look under the drywall surrounding a protrusion that we took to be some kind of central support.  Nope, what we discovered was the original chimney for the old cook stove!  The bricks were very dirty and had concrete smeared on them.  But I worked on them and cleaned them up (mostly) and they now have the most beautiful, warm color.  They even match the yellow color we painted the wall.  The concrete circle at the top is where the flue from the stove went into the chimney.  I have a clock hanging over it now.  We left it.  It looks rustic and rough, but it's part of the house, part of the history, and we like it.

I ended up remodeling the bathroom next to the master bedroom.  It had some really old tile on the wall and a very large, outdated vanity.  Wife wanted a pedestal sink.  Boy, was that a challenge.  I won't even go into that.  What should have been a pretty simple install, turned into a several week project that I worked on as I had time.  But the bathroom looks really nice now, even if it's still not done.  It needs some trim and touch up paint.  Plus, SIL was talking about putting a stencil on the walls.  Wife wants a spa look.

During this process, I had ordered a 20 yard dumpster.  We FILLED it!  Remodel stuff, old carpet, scraps of wood, trash from the barn, bits of metal/screws, etc. from a burn pile.... we filled it full. But once it was done, we had what we feel is a beautiful home.  Sort of 'Modern Country Farmhouse.'  And so, here are some pics of the finished product:
 Yes, I painted the front door red.  It symbolizes prosperity and welcome.

One end of the living room.  See the pedestal sink back there?  Notice the floors!
It was Christmas.  This is the other end of the living room.
Kitchen.  Pardon the mess!
Sunset at Providence Farm.  One of the many beautiful ones we're blessed to enjoy.
 I may add more posts with more pics as time goes on, but for now that gives the idea.  Let me just add a couple of other things:  First, thanks a ton to my sister-in-law, Melinda Spear-Huff, whose creativity and eye for style and color really helped us in this project.  She's still working with us and helping us put it all together.  Second.  Are we rich?  How did we afford to do all we did to the house?  Answer: No, we are not rich.  God blessed us and helped us sell our house above our payoff price in a very bad market.  And we had some money from a refund.  God blessed us in order to do all of this.  We home our home becomes a place where we can, in turn, bless others.

Keep reading.  I'll soon be posting about my new chicks and chicken coop.  I've got to show you our wood pellet stove, too.

Thanks for reading!