On April 15, 2008 we closed on a 1955 Mid-Century Modern home in Merriam, KS that was custom designed by the late Donald R. Hollis of Hollis + Miller Architects. We will be sharing our journey as we update the house to make it our own, while trying to stay as close to the original design as possible.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Cork Floors-if we can do it, so can you!

Given that we had to rip out all of the flooring upstairs, we had over 1500 square feet of flooring to cover. We intially thought about going with hardwood floors and LD fell in love with some exotic prefinished hardwood from Lumber Liquidators, but I was not sold on it. I wanted something with an expresso finish on it. We also considered bamboo flooring but dismissed it because it was easily scratchable. We have 3 dogs so the floors have to be really scratch resistant!!  LD really liked the idea of cork floors, but we were also concerned with how well they would hold up to the dogs. Laminate flooring was out of the question because Morgan (black lab also known as "Booboo") is deathly afraid of slippery floors and she is 10.5 years old (in our current house we have rug islands set up for her). Cheapo Home Depot carpet was also a consideration, but we both felt like we would be settling for something we were not thrilled with and felt bad about ripping it out in a couple of years.

Then one day while surfing the internet, I saw an ad for a flooring outlet in Kansas City. It sparked my curiosity because they were advertising hardwood flooring with an expresso finish for $2.99 a square foot. The price was right, so we decided to drive out and check it out. I was not convinced by the quality of it, but LD was willing to give it a shot. So she took some samples and business cards of a couple of installers and called them for estimates. I was hesitant about it, so we did not call to accept any of their bids right away (which turned out to be a very good thing).

Right around that time, our neighbors (who have since left the neighborhood for some sweet diggs near Eureka Springs) hosted the annual neighborhood association meeting. We met an architect who lives in our neighborhood, and happened to have a great appreciation for modern design. So we invited him and his wife over for a house tour. As we were dicussing our flooring plans, he pointed out that the hardwood floors would have to lay perpendicular to our ceiling because of the direction of the floor joists. This meant that the hardwood floors would be competing with our cypress vaulted ceiling. Not only that, but the floor joists are in the opposite direction on the other side of the house!  So the hardwoods would be layed perdicular to each other from the living room to the hallway and bedrooms.  He suggested cork, so we revisited the idea and decided it was meant to be. We placed an order through for APC's Apollo Brown plank cork flooring.  We chose APC cork because it has a 25 year warranty and 3 coats of urethane already on the planks.  This was the best we could find for us and our 3 dogs.

LD wanted to hire a pro to do the installation, but I talked her into tackling it ourselves (well more like her tackling it herself). With the money we saved from not having to pay any installation costs, we bought a table and miter saw at Home Depot. A freight company delivered our cork planks in a short while, but they had to acclimate to the house for at least 48 hours. We also held off on the installation for awhile because we were a little intimidated. LD was not too sure about our skills (but I had full confidence in her skills, she is a fast study). So I made a deal with her, we would give it a try and if things did not work out she could hire a professional to finish the job (yes I learned after my adventures with drywall patching). We started in the office, and it was slow at first, but LD got the hang of it pretty quickly (I knew she would). The very next day, however, the city was sponsoring a free large trash pick-up, so I left LD to tackle the floor on her own. I went into the backyard to pull some rotting lumber, rusty chicken wire, and other miscellaneous trash heaps that had been left behind by the previous owner. By the time I got done with that, LD had finished the office and had started in the second bedroom. Then Monday came along and we had to get back to work, so the floors had to wait for the following weekend. 

I left for San Diego that weekend to join my family on a cruise to Cabo San Lucas. I was not trying to get away from all the work, it was a crusie my sister had planned months before I even knew that we would be buying this house. While I was out enjoying the warm weather, the surf, and the sun, LD was hard at work. By the time I got back, she had finished the second bedroom, the hallway, and the living room! The cork is stunning!! We are now waiting for some drywall work to get done in the master bedroom so that we can finish our cork floor installation.

So far the cork floors have held up to 12 very active, rambunctious paws (two labs and a pointer)!!!  Time will tell how long it will be before we find claw marks!

Morgan making sure that LD was staying on task.
First room was all done!

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Stained concrete floors

I must have been 7 years old when my dad drove us out to my Tio Alfonso's house to check out his new driveway.  My eyes just about popped out of my sockets when I saw his new red driveway.  I had no idea that concrete could be another color besides gray.  You can just imagine my excitement when I started seeing stained concrete floors in restaurants and other commercial applications.  

After contemplating various floor options, we decided that stained concrete floors would be the best solution for our basement.  When we shared our plans to stain the concrete with our realtor she thought we were out of our mind.  She tried to dissuade us by telling us how sorry we would be in the winter time when the floor was cold.  Well we thought we had the answer, we would put in a radiant floor system.  After discussing our plans with some concrete contractors, however, we soon realized that retrofitting an old concrete floor was way out of our budget.  So we decided to buy some slippers and get them stained anyways.  We hired Paul Bowser with Artistic Concrete Coatings.  The process was not pretty, there was dust everywhere (it was a good thing we were not living there).  But we are quite happy with the finished look so far. 

Wallpaper removal was a nightmare!

If you have ever removed wallpaper then you will probably understand my pain.  If you have never removed wallpaper, then pray that you never have to.  

When we first purchased the house we knew that wallpaper removal would be one of our first projects.  The master bedroom was blessed with birch bark wallpaper, and the hallway had some really groovy Aztec pattern design.  The tiny bathroom downstairs had some of that old-fashioned newspaper wallpaper that used to line the walls of Wendy's (at least where I grew up).  We did not think it would be too bad given that the areas were not so big.  We did have some crackling paint in the two other bedrooms and the living room, but we did not know how we were going to address that.  Well we were wrong! 

Wallpaper removal in the master bedroom and the hallway went relatively smooth.  The paper came of quite easy.  It wasn't until I spoke with my sister (she is part of the wallpaper removal sisterhood) that I found out that the wallpaper paste also had to be removed.  I thought it would be something that you could just cover up with primer prior to painting.  Well my sister set me straight.  Thus, the beginning of our nightmare began.  I can't tell you how many brands of wallpaper removal products we went through before finally finding out that fabric softner works best (50/50 ratio of water and fabric softener).  

Our nightmare did not end there.  Well, we discovered why there was crackled paint in the living room and the two other bedrooms.  Because there were several layers of paint on top of wallpaper!  The wallpaper in one of the bedrooms did not want to come down, and when it finally decided to do so, it came down with parts of the drywall paper.  That room looked like such a mess that we considered tearing down all the drywall and starting from scratch.  But given that we were on a budget we decided against that.  I figured that some spackle would take care of it.  LD felt that the job was too much for me and wanted to hire a professional to do it but I was too stubborn.  I allowed her to get some bids but I felt that they were asking too much.  I will not go into the nasty details of what I had to go through to get the walls looking decent.  However, LD was right.  Believe me if I had to do it all over again I would have certainly paid somebody else to do it.  I can't remember how much time we spent on wallpaper removal (or maybe my mind is blocking it) but it was way too much.

Here's a somewhat little positive about removing the wallpaper.  It was the original 1955 wallpaper, which made it easy to peel off in the master bedroom and hallway.  

Crackling paint is never a good sign.
Birch pattern wallpaper in master bedroom, Aztec in the hallway.
Wallpaper in master bedroom.
Wendy's newspaper wallpaper in bathroom

Saturday, December 27, 2008

New gutters and asbestos tile removal

We closed on our house on April 15th, and immediately started getting bids for new gutters.  The other gutters were barely hanging on by a thread, I did not take any pictures but take my word for it. 

The asbestos tiles in the basement, two of the bedrooms, and the hallway, were our next project.  LD obtained a recommendation for an asbestos contractor from one of her task force team mates and we hired him to remove over 1400 square feet of asbestos tile.   They tried removing as much of the mastic as they could, but they could not get all of it of.

Concrete slab in basement after tile removal
View of hallway after tile removal
Close up of mastic that could not be removed
Subfloor in one of the bedrooms after tile removal.

The beginning of our great adventure

I kept getting bugged about documenting the remodeling of our house, so today I decided that I would go ahead and start blogging about it.   

Our adventure started back on a cold Sunday, December 2, 2007, when we decided to drive by a house I had seen on the MLS listings.  The realtor's pictures were less than spectacular, but it was described as having a large yard so we decided to just drive by.  The house had no curb appeal, had it not been for the fact that there was an open house we would have never stopped.  The minute I walked into the house, however, I was sold.   You know when people tell you that you should not judge a book by its cover, well, this house fit that!  But you also had to look past the dirty worn out carpet that looked like it had been there for over fifty years, the retro wallpaper, the loose asbestos tiles, the painted outlets and switches, etc...  In a nutshell, I fell in love with the bones of the house.