Photo Gallery: Remodeling

[Dave pries wallboard in the parlor]Today, by popular request, I am sharing photos of our renovations, and relating anecdotes from along the way. Warning: this page may take a while to load.

At least 50% of all work on the house occurred during the first few days after we took possession. Our friends pitched in to pull up carpeting, peel wallpaper, and then remove wallboards and molding. You’d think that we would have taken all sorts of photos during these few days. You’d think wrong. We were too busy to remember to document the project until the flurry of activity had faded. This picture of Dave is the only photo we have from those days.

When Jeremy and Jennifer came over to help the day after we moved, we realized we had a digital camera and Kris snapped a couple of shots.

In the following photo, Jeremy and I are peeling wallboard in the parlor.

The wallboard in the dining room and the den comprised quarter-inch sheetrock of ancient vintage. (Most sheetrock is half-inch thick.) In the parlor, however, the wallboards were some strange laminated paperboard material that was reluctant to peel off in sheets. It mainly wanted to break off into tiny pieces (which you can sort of tell from the pile around Jeremy’s feet).

You can also see a couple of corrugated boxes near us. During this project, we filled about a dozen boxes full of wallboard scrap and set them at the curb. When the Oak Grove trash collectors rejected them, I took the boxes to our Canby house. The Canby trash collectors took them. (And charged us a pretty penny, I’m sure.)

[Jeremy and J.D. remove wallboard]

While the adults worked, the kids played. Actually, Harrison was moderately helpful, except when he was dropping the Superbar XL on the floors, or making like he was going to smash the windows with it. Emma occupied herself by lining up all of the empty cans and bottles. Into each one, she placed a single flower. When she had finished, Kris took a picture of her handiwork:

[Emma helped by picking flowers]

On Karen’s suggestion, we kept samples of the various layers of wallpaper. We’ll mount them and have them framed. I love the old wallpaper patterns, though the women universally found them hideous. (I’m not sure about the men; they never really commented.) In particular, I thought the bottom-most layer of wallpaper was gorgeous:

[The bottom layer of wallpaper -- beautiful stuff]

You can’t tell from the above sample, but there are metallic bits in that pattern. It was directly above the ship-lap siding, so we surmise that this was the original wallcovering, probably from right around 1900. Depending on the room, there were between three and five additional layers of wallpaper above the original stuff.

When we peeled up the carpeting (which had been freshly installed in order to sell the house), we found lovely oak floors which had lain unfinished for about eighty years:

[The unfinished floors in the parlor]

We brought in several contractors to make bids on refinishing the floors. Each one said something like, “These floors are gorgeous. They’ve never been refinished.” One of them pointed out a board to Kris. “See here? From this mark, you can tell that these came directly from the factory and have never been sanded.”

[The unfinished oak floors]

It’s a challenge now to keep the floors safe. As everyone said, we should have done the floors last, after we’d done everything else. Instead, we did them first. Now we have to protect them every time we do any work.

The drywall contractor begins work today (seventy-four minutes ago, actually). He came over yesterday to tour the work area with us. He seems to know a lot about old houses.

I pointed out the door to the closet under the stairs. “I don’t want to paint this,” I told Kris. “I love the way the paint is crackled and glazed. We can paint it when the paint starts to peel.”

The contractor looked at the door and muttered something to himself. Then he looked at the paint around a nearby window. He kneeled and ran his finger along the baseboard. He held it up so that we could see: it was black, covered with soot.

“There was a fire in here,” he said. “That’s why the pain on the door is crackled and glazed. That’s why there’s soot along the baseboards. And look at that window — see how it doesn’t have the same trim as these other two? They may have had to replace it.”

While this would make for an interesting story — and we’ll certainly research the possibility of a fire in the den — we’re not convinced that any trauma ever occurred there. That room used to be the kitchen. It seems more likely to us that the heat damage and the soot were caused by the presence of a wood-burning stove.

I’ve decided to document the daily progress in the three rooms that are being drywalled. To that end, here are photos of the rooms at the outset. (For some reason, I can’t find my photo of the dining room.)

[Day one of the drywall project -- the den]

Above is a photo of the den. Below is a photo of the parlor (facing east). You can see where we finally gave up on removing the wallboards ourselves. I took this photo last night after I finished pulling off the molding, which you can see strewn across the floor. Just after I took this photo, I began to label each piece of molding so that we’d know where to put it when the work was done. I lost my balance at one point, and stepped backward. Directly on top of a nail! Ouch! Kris played nurse for me. We checked the nail, and saw no signs of rust, so I’m not going for a tetanus shot. Yet.

[Day one of the drywall project -- the parlor]

The photo below is of the parlor facing southwest. You can see where we gave up around the circular window. The circular window is vaguely problematic. The current wallboards extend beneath it, but because the thing was custom-built by the previous owner, we’re afraid to remove the framing material. The contractor assures us that he can work around the circular window, so we have our fingers crossed.

[Day one of the drywall project -- another view of the parlor]

In both photos of the parlor, you can see wiring sticking up from the floor outlets. Sometime this week, I’ll try to find the time to complete this project. Jeremy helped me by wiring the den, but the parlor is unfinished. I’m going to try it on my own, but if I run into trouble, I’m going to call upon our neighbor, Mike, who used to be an electrician.

Below, you can see the holes in the wainscot. (Not “wainscoting”, according to Craig.) You can also see that if the contractors had gone up only a couple of inches, they would have avoided the wainscot. (This isn’t true around the windows, of course.)

[The holes in the wainscot]

I find it curious that the dining room has so many electrical outlets. The rooms upstairs that are wired like this have maybe two outlets for the entire room. Yesterday afternoon, we stocked up on power strips.

And here you can see the hole in the ceiling:

[The hole in the ceiling caused by the insulation contractors]

It’s really not that large — maybe eighteen inches by thirty-six inches — but still, it’s going to cost a couple of hundred dollars to repair. It’s just Another Thing, you know? We considered making the hole into an access panel to the attic (since there are none), but there’s only about eighteen inches of clearance above it, which may explain why the contractor was crawling on the sheetrock instead of the joists.

Finally, on a more pleasant note, I’ve got a couple of flower photos to share.

When we bought the house, MJ (the woman who lived here) told us there were 134 roses. That number may be a little high — Kris thinks there’s around 120, though she hasn’t done an official count — but it’s true that this house is surrounded by roses. In fact, it’s easy to forget that there are other flowers here.

And it’s the other flowers I find more beautiful.

In particular, we have several hydrangeas around the property. Two of them are spectacular. There’s a deep blue hydrangea by the workshop, and a gorgeous purple one just outside the utility room door.

[One of our blue hydrangeas]  [Our purple hydrangea]

Kris and I have both commented that doing chores around the new house is not like doing chores at all. It’s a pleasure to take the garbage out, to walk through the locusts and the dogwoods, past the hydrangeas and roses. It’s a delight to water the lawn, pulling the hose past the boxwood hedge, around the corner past the camelia. Kris says that she doesn’t even mind doing laundry any more.


On 12 July 2004 (10:24 AM),
Dana said:

It’s a beautiful house, and the bits of the views I can make out through the windows look fantastic.

I particularly love the round window.

(re: Electrical outlets. During a retrofit it’s generally a LOT easier to drop wiring down from the ground floor than to fish it up through walls to the second floor.)

On 12 July 2004 (10:33 AM),
Dave said:

I’m hoping that your contractor is paying for the fix to your ceiling since it was their problem (the guy should’ve known better that to have been crawling around on drywall in the first place).

On 12 July 2004 (10:37 AM),
J.D. said:

I’m hoping that your contractor is paying for the fix to your ceiling.

Yes, the contractor is paying for the repairs. And he’s promised that they’ll make it so that the wainscot will be fine after a coat of paint.

Basically, he’s been perfect in responding to our concerns. He’s a good guy, with a stellar reputation. (Our drywall contractor was raving about him yesterday.)

We’re not too worried. Yet, at the same time, we can’t help but be a little concerned because of the bungling so far.

On 12 July 2004 (10:48 AM),
Jethro said:


Hey, I know him. He’s the guy who owns half of Canby.

On 12 July 2004 (11:03 AM),
Amy Jo said:

The house looks beautiful. When can we come visit?

On 12 July 2004 (11:03 AM),
Joel said:

Jeremy’s a man of many sterling qualities. Among them are his shapely calves.

On 12 July 2004 (11:04 AM),
Joel said:

Jeremy’s a man of many sterling qualities. Among them are his shapely calves.

On 12 July 2004 (11:09 AM),
J.D. said:

Joel likes Jeremy’s calves so much, he mentioned them twice. I’ll be sure to post more photos of the Grinch’s legs…

On 12 July 2004 (01:06 PM),
Mom (Sue) said:

I wish I could transfer to you the benefits of the tetanus shot I got a couple of months ago. It hasn’t been doing me any good so far. 🙂 Maybe it would be a good idea for you to get one, although hopefully that would be a needless precaution. (Why doesn’t Genevieve Gorder ever step on any nails when she goes barefoot through whole episodes of Trading Spaces?)

I have been very tempted to stop over but I don’t want to get in the way of the construction so I have been reining in my curiosity. Your pics here are very much appreciated as they give me a good idea of what all is going on. And I’m glad that the contractor will be responsible for the costs of the repairs that his employees necessitated. I’m really looking forward to seeing the finished work!

On 12 July 2004 (02:15 PM),
Coleen said:

Okay … here’s the deal on tetanus shots. You need a booster every ten years. The old “rusty nail” deal is a myth. It matters not whether something is rusty or not (the rust only indicates that the object has been sitting around for a while). A puncture wound of any type (even from a rose thorn) is cause to remember when you got your last tetanus. Clostridium tetani is the bacteria whose toxin can kill you (there is not cure), and its spores can be anywhere, particularly in dirt. So everyone needs to make sure they have their tetanus shots every ten years (good idea to carry that information in your wallet because if you’re ever in an accident you will be asked when you had your last tetanus). So, j.d., call your doctor, and if it’s been greater than 10 years, go get your shot!

On 12 July 2004 (02:52 PM),
J.D. said:

I’m on hold with the doctor right now. Here’s the encouraging word: “A teanus shot is something that needs to be in your system before and injury. It doesn’t do any good to get a shot after you’ve stepped on a nail.”


And while I wait on hold, here are tetanus symptoms:

The incubation period from the time of the wound to the time of the symptoms is anywhere from a day to several months, with an average of about eight to nine days. Initially, individuals are very tired, irritable, have headaches, neck stiffness, and difficulty swallowing. Then comes the muscle rigidity and spasm, which you will have sustained contractions of muscles, specifically facial and jaw muscles, hence the term “lock jaw”. The overall mortality rate is around 30%. In individuals over 60 years of age, it jumps to 50%.

In some cases, symptoms will develop in the absence of any cut or wound that you can recall. In addition, you may notice restlessness, lack of appetite, and drooling.

Call Your Doctor If:

You are bitten by an animal or wounded by an object that might be contaminated with dirt, feces, or dust, and you have not been immunized against tetanus or received a booster within the last 10 years. Tetanus infection can be fatal and should be treated as soon as possible.

So, I’m going to get a tetanus shot today at 3:30, though it won’t do any good for my current wound. The woman I spoke with told me that I should just keep the injured area clean and watch for infection. If infection occurs, I’m to call the doctor immediately.

Odds are very slim, indeed, that there’s anything to worry about, but Coleen has put the fear of God into me. Well, the fear of biology, anyhow.

On 12 July 2004 (03:56 PM),
Lynn said:

So, Denise, are you reading these symptoms? Have you been drooling?

On 12 July 2004 (05:14 PM),
Lisa said:

Your floors, BTW, look gorgeous in the pictures (even better than Jeremy’s shapely calves). I can’t wait to see them in all their glowing glory.

On 12 July 2004 (09:24 PM),
Denise said:

Ha, Lynn! No drooling, and I’m still eating a lot. But that is pretty scary. If fevers were in there I’d be at the doctor tomorrow.

On 23 September 2004 (11:50 AM),
cindy said:

Let’s see…. the symptoms are tired, irritable,headaches, neck pain……sounds like what you feel like after a day of home remodelling. Yours looks in better shape than mine started 7/31/04. Keep up the good work. Speaking of which I’d better get back to…….


Some of you are beginning to believe that Kris and I haven’t purchased an Old Home, but that we’ve purchased a Money Pit. For you, this story will only serve to confirm your suspicions.

(Let me assure you, though, that despite feeling overwhelmed by circumstances from time-to-time, Kris and I do not view this house as a Money Pit; it is an Old House with Issues. When these Issues are resolved, this place will be Beautiful.)

You’ll recall that, with the help of a half dozen friends, we peeled the wallpaper in the dining room, parlor, and den. You’ll further recall that upon doing so, we discovered that we could not paint the underlying drywall. And that we then proceeded to rip off the wallboards, revealing the old ship-lap siding beneath.

We called in drywall contractors, got bids, and scheduled a guy to start this coming Monday.

“Hey,” said W., our drywall contractor. “You know, while you have these walls exposed, you really ought to do some blown insulation. If you do it from the inside, the holes will be covered by the new drywall.”

“That’s a great idea!” we said. “Can you recommend anyone?”

“Sure. Try P. from GCS — he does excellent work.”

I solicited advice from you, Gentle Reader, and you also suggested P. from GCS. And the consultant from the Energy Trust also recommended P. from GCS. P. from GCS has a high reputation for quality work.

I called P. from GCS and explained that we had drywall work starting in a couple of weeks, and could he come out to give us a bid on insulating our house. I met him two weeks ago, and we toured the house.

“This is a beautiful Old Home,” he said. “Let me assure you that we’ll take steps to provide improved insulation while preserving the Old Home’s Historical Integrity.”

“Great,” I said. “When can you start?”

“Right away,” he said. “Let me go back to the office and work up a quote.”

This was a Monday. Tuesday passed with no quote. And Wednesday. And Thursday. On Thursday afternoon I began to fret. I called P. He apologized. He’d been Swamped but would get the quote over right away.

“When can you start?” I asked, worried that he was Swamped.

“Oh, in about two weeks.”

My heart cracked in seventeen places. We felt we needed to have the insulation done before the drywall work started, and that the drywall work had to start on the twelfth.

Kris and I went over the quote and selected a handful of insulation measures. I called P. on Friday morning and told him we’d like to proceed, but that we needed at least the blown insulation part of the job done by Monday the twelfth.

“I’ll see what I can do,” he said.

Friday passed with no word on what he could do. And then Independence Day weekend came and went. On Tuesday, I was in a panic.


I called P. again. “Oh, we’ll have a crew out there Thursday,” he said.


But on Thursday, P. called me early in the morning. “The crew ran late yesterday. They may not get a chance to start on your house today.”

Despite P.’s concern, the crew did start on Thursday. When I pulled up to the house after work, they were loading the van to leave. I could tell right away something was wrong.

“Are you the owner?” asked a young man, tattooed and sweaty. “We have a bit of a Problem,” he said. He led me into the house, through the kitchen, to the dining room. He pointed at the wainscoting. The beautiful wainscoting, the focal point of the dining room, sported nineteen two-inch diameter holes evenly spaced around the perimeter of the room.

Inside, my heart shattered. Outside, I grinned feebly and said, “Wow. P. told me that you wouldn’t touch the wainscoting.”

The young man shook his head, frowning. “He forgot to tell us.”

I called P. immediately and, with a minimum of panic, told him what happened. He had the right answer: “We’ll do whatever it takes to make it so you cannot notice the holes.”

I felt reassured. Still, when Kris got home, her heart shattered, too. We agreed that on Friday morning she would have have a talk with the contractors.

Which she did. And they appeased her. And they continued their work. Then, fifteen minutes before I was scheduled to leave work, she called in panic. “There’s been another Problem,” she said. “They were putting the insulation in the attic when one of the workers fell through the ceiling.”

My shattered heart crumbled to tiny pieces.

“Come home,” said Kris. “Now.”

It’s difficult to drive home with a shattered, crumbled heart, but I managed. The sweaty, tattooed guy grimaced at me as I passed him on the lawn. “There’s another small Problem,” he said. He led me upstairs. There, in the hallway, was a large hole where the other worker had fallen through the ceiling.

I shook my head.

I wanted to talk to Kris about the Problems, but didn’t feel I could around the contractors. We headed to the Panda Chinese Buffet. Over a lunch of Szechuan chicken and Chinese dumplings, she told me about the meeting she’d had with P., who had dropped by to look in on the project.

“He was re-assuring,” she said. “He could tell that I was panicked, and he told me, ‘I know that these seem like huge problems to you. But we can deal with them, we can fix them. To us these are little problems.’ I told him that wasn’t completely reassuring, but that maybe I’d feel better later.”

We both felt more relaxed after lunch, and driving home we were even in high spirits. Then, as we walked in the back door, the same worker who had fallen through the ceiling tipped a bookshelf filled with bottles and boxes and cans of cooking supplies. The back of the shelf popped off, and foodstuffs tumbled to the ground.

“It’s like the Keystone Kops doing contracting work,” I muttered.

We turned back around and left. We went to see Anchorman, which is not one of the ten funniest movies ever made. (It may, however, be one of the ten most mediocre films ever made. It’s never outright bad, but it the audience never really laughed hard once. Just lots of little chuckles, like you might expect from a sitcom.)

I know this entry does nothing to convince some of you that this Old Home is not a Money Pit. Again, let me assure you that this is a solid building. It just has some work that needs to be done, and there are going to be minor disasters along the way.

We’ve just had a statistically large number of them over the past twenty-four hours.


On 10 July 2004 (09:41 AM),
mac said:

Oh man…I’m sorry. But we need some pictures of the hole in the ceiling. And if you could, put a body half way through the hole so we can get the true effect. Really though, I am sorry and in my experiences with home remodeling from when I was a kid…when contractors screw things up, they generally do fix things right.

On 10 July 2004 (11:16 AM),
Tiffany said:

I wish I was there to help.

On 10 July 2004 (01:02 PM),
Mom (Sue) said:

You poor kids! My thoughts are with you, and my hope that a lot of these things can be cleared up real fast. I feel kind of sick just reading about them — I guess you could say that I’m strongly empathizing. Somehow we always get through these kinds of difficulties but my heart goes out to you right now while the situations exist.

On 10 July 2004 (07:49 PM),
Anthony said:

Really sorry, JD. I feel for you. But we do want pictures. Of the hole. And the nineteen holes. And the tattooed guy, the way he looks when he says, “We have a small problem.” Good writing, by the way.

On 11 July 2004 (02:05 PM),
jenefer said:

Sounds like Baby Boom with Diane Keaton. That turned out okay, and I suspect yours will too. No matter how bad it looks, a good contractor or handyman seems to be able to make it “right.” We are in the middle of the demolition for our remodel, and we are hoping for a great result also. When we did the bathroom using the same guy, it did turn out great! Here’s to keeping a positive thought.

On 12 July 2004 (08:48 AM),
Joel said:

It IS a great house, and it’ll make you happy for years to come. It makes me happy just thinking about you guys being in that great house. Well, alternately happy and violently jealous.