Normally, my blog is about my photography. I haven’t been writing or taking photographs lately as it has been too busy with other projects. Time to get back to my photography again, summer is finally here and the critters have returned to our yard. We recently spent the last 2 months living in the basement while a remodel of the upstairs was being performed. I did manage to escape to the yard with the camera to maintain my sanity through it all though. Found this young buck, think those new antlers growing in were a little itchy. (If you click on photos they enlarge)
The bluebirds were nesting in the front bluebird house. There is a family of wrens in one of my other houses.
My winter was spent working a lot of overtime as we planned to remodel the bathroom. We didn’t have a real snowy, photographic winter this year anyway. Our bathroom was in rough shape and we had some mold in the ceiling from a fan that was vented into the attic instead of out the roof.
As you can see, it is very dated. We contacted 3 contractors to bid the job. One never called us back or came out. John from Heritage Remodeling in Forest Lake came out and immediately saw the layout problems and suggested a new design. Took in the whole situation, took a few measurements and discussed a plan.
There was this odd indent in the bedroom wall that backed a closet in the bathroom. He suggested turning the tub/shower to go along the back wall of the bathroom, block off the closet in the bathroom and open it up on the bedroom side. Doing this we could change the walls in the bedroom to remove this funny indent and extend the bedroom closet all the way down to the corner. Sounded good to us and he came up with it just by looking at the situation and not going into actual closets. I add this to compare to the other contractor that bid the job. He left us at this point and told us he would send us a bid once he had it figured out. We received a very detailed bid after he checked in with sub contractors.
The second contractor came out, opened every closet in the house it seemed,even those that didn’t matter. He had no clue what to do for a design idea at all in the bathroom. When we mentioned we had thought of turning the tub and closing off the closet, he said, “leave the closet there and we will tile the inside of it and you can have shelves in the shower”. Really!!! He then gave me a list of references to call while he was here and told me which to call for the best reference. He said he would be in the bathroom taking measurements. How many measurements does one need? He was in there a good half hour. I went down in the basement where he couldn’t hear me and purposely called one of the references he didn’t tell me to call. She was very guarded in her answers, you know the kind of answer that tells you a lot without telling you anything. Would you hire him again? “Well, would I hire him, you know we are thinking of a bathroom remodel and his name came up”…… In other words, NO. She started off the reference telling me about a mistake they made but told me they did fix it in the end so she guesses it came out all right. I never got a yes or no answer, always a answer without answering which basically told me what my gut already was telling me, don’t hire this guy. Two hours later, we are hungry and wanting dinner and trying to think of how to get this guy out of our house. He came out of the bathroom with a total for us right there, no consulting sub contractors or anything. This guys bid was $8000 over the other contractor and he wasn’t going into the bedroom at all. Or even really changing the layout of the bathroom very much. I asked him, Can I get a copy of the bid to take to the bank for financing. I loved his answer…. “I can’t give you that, it is confidential.” In what way is asking how my money will be spent confidential to me? He told me, “I can tell you your allowances, you have a $600 allowance for a custom vanity.” I don’t think I can buy a vanity pre-manufactured at Menards for that. To top this, he said that he has two places to send us, there is a custom builder they use for the cabinets but his shop is small and doesn’t have much of a showroom. As a result he sends you to a DIFFERENT cabinet maker showroom to pick a cabinet as they have a better display. They then have their cabinet maker make it for us. I want to see the cabinets by the maker making them. Sorry…… 🙂 At this point he told me that he would also finance it for us at cheaper interest than any bank will give. Seriously, a contractor that finances the build….. SCARY! We told him we needed to talk to a bank and would get back to him. He said, “Can I get a check?” A check? for what? To hold a spot for you when you are ready to start….. NO!!
He got us to thinking though, since we have to finance anyway and we want a new kitchen… maybe we should look at doing it all at once.
I had been discussing this with my brother throughout this process as it is hard to know who to trust in a contractor. My brother gave me two more contractors that he knew were out of the area some but thought they might consider the job. I called both, one said we were too far away but he gave me an organization to check out any contractors through. I don’t remember the name, was an abbreviation of some sort. The other contractor gave me advice on what to look for and what to stay away from. One of his comments was stay away from a contractor that asks for a check to hold a spot, hmmmm our second guy? He told me how a good contractor would bill and collect payment, how they would work out the job…. some other good advice. He offered to drive up and check out the job and be an adviser even though he couldn’t do the job himself.
He asked for a copy of our bid that we did get. I told him I didn’t think I could share a bid…. He said as a contractor he is grateful we feel that way as contractors don’t like their bid being shared. Since we were using him for a consultant only and he didn’t work our area and wasn’t bidding too we could send it.
I sent the bid to him and my brother to look over for me and the comments I received were that it was very detailed but easy to understand, very professional. After checking everything over, both advised us they felt we should hire Heritage Remodeling. Well, I sure wasn’t hiring the other one. lol So, we went to the bank and got financing and hired John.
We added in the kitchen at this point and he came out with his cabinet maker to design a kitchen for us, This wall above had to go, we had wanted it gone and they agreed. Open concept kitchen with an island where this wall is. Which also meant basically redoing the living room and dining room walls and flooring. So, what started as a bathroom became a bedroom, bathroom, kitchen, dining and living room. Scary project to take on for sure.
It also meant removing this ugly old pantry closet in the hallway, move the refrigerator down into this area and give me working area around the stove as if you look back at the photo of the kitchen layout above, there is no room around the stove to do anything.
This is the kitchen side of the wall we were taking out for an island.
Demo day came, what a mess. We asked John how long this whole project would take, he said about two months. The other contractor told us three to four months for a bathroom alone, interesting. lol
At this point, there was no turning back for sure. The walls were gone, they removed a chimney that for some unknown reason whoever built the house put on the inside instead of the outside and sheetrocked around it giving us another of those odd bumps in the wall.
There were junction boxes hidden in the walls and everywhere. Whoever built this place didn’t do it correctly, that was becoming very obvious to us already.
Our kitchen cabinets now sitting in the living room.
What once was a kitchen, wall gone and junction boxes all over. Keep in mind a lot of these photos were taken with a cell phone so not the best.
Time to go shopping, talk about stress. I am not good at picking this stuff at all. We went to the granite shop as we were advised to pick this first. We both fell in love with this Sienna Bordeaux granite. One decision made. John told us to get the granite and the floor and go to see his contact at the tile shop he works with, she is an interior designer and would help us. So, off to the floor shop where we picked a good vinyl that looks almost like an old barnwood floor. Had to go vinyl so my knothead dog could walk on it without doing the splits. Headed to pick our tile and this gal was amazing, I thought we would be there for hours but she knew right where to go and what would look good and had us happy and on our way in about an hour.
In the mean time, more bad news on the house. The idiots before us put in a sliding glass door without a header, no wonder the door never opened decently. We thought we had a bad door. The dining room window was the same way, no header. Even worse there as the window was basically just sitting in the slot unsupported. They had cut the wind bracing on the house as well. With all the issues on the house from the previous owner, it got to where we dreaded opening an email from John at all. Dollars just kept adding up. We came home one day from work to find a copy of the DVD The Money Pit with a note to enjoy….. pretty funny, I guess you have to laugh or cry so might as well laugh and deal with it. It helped that we had our weekly stress therapy at the range as well, shoot off 200-300 rounds each and stop for Thai food on the way home.
The new header is in and sheet rock under way. We now know at least the majority of the upstairs of the house is repaired and safe. Time to start re-assembling things, this is where it gets exciting as we can watch the progress.
The popcorn is gone, we now have a nice knock down ceiling, much nicer looking.
New shower walls are installed and look great.
New rustic cherry cabinets in bathroom and kitchen both that are phenomenal looking and well built. Glad we went with custom built cabinets.
Really hard to get good photos of the bathroom as you can’t get far enough away from anything to get a photo. The walls look blue here but they are really a pale grey color.
I absolutely love the Travertine floor tiles. We still need to replace the doors but with all the issues we ran out of money. We will do those ourselves down the line.
The new closet in the bedroom, nice and large and no indent in the wall anymore. For some reason even though the indent gave a small area of extra room, the room looks larger squared off this way.
The dogs are checking out the new living room, brand new hand railing that is done right and really nice. The old one was an eyesore.
The hallway with the ugly pantry gone and new canned lighting. Had just one ugly old fixture before. Now three cans and much brighter.
And the best part for last, the kitchen. It is so nice I am almost afraid to use it. At the same time I am very excited to finally be able to cook some of the recipes I made at the old house but didn’t have the room to deal with making since moving here. Time to dig the old cookbooks out again. And after two months in a basement with just an electric skillet, ready for healthier, better food again.
You can see the wall gone and the whole open concept.
Looking in from the living room to the kitchen. Now I need a new dining room set as mine is light oak. Maybe my brother will make me one for a house warming gift. lol
We searched high and low for bar stools, we either didn’t like them, they didn’t match the kitchen or if they matched and we liked they were $300 per stool. I finally found these on line and we both really liked them, they look perfect in the kitchen. Best part, all three were shipped to the door for $240 total. Memorial week sale or they would have been over $400.
Looking in from the stairs as you walk in the front door. Have to say we are loving our new home now thanks to Heritage Remodeling and his crew, the subcontractors were all wonderful to work with as well. Things are slowly coming together what with the new remodel now, new car port we added on, new rain gutters and the new deck 2 years ago. Started working on the front driveway island again, I want to build a pergola out there with trumpet vines for my hummingbird friends. But for now time to get back to being out with my camera and having fun.
Before and after on the deck, thanks to the guys from Lakes Trading for building a new one. Check out the little spindly legs on the old deck, these old owners really did this backwards. 🙂