Home Renovations: Part 4 – The Floor

What can I say? Everything in the house rests on the floor – it’s the foundational element in any remodel. In fact, when we renovated our master bedroom, it started with the changing of our closet. It was too small and there was a section that was cut out and set aside for a vanity and chest of drawers. However, we didn’t need that and had the wall removed. That meant that there were gaps in the flooring: and lo-and-behold a whole room renovation was now required just from changing a small part of a closet.

That project took almost six months to complete in small stages in Spring of 2021.

Why are we talking about the master bedroom when the kitchen is all the rage right now? Well, they are closely connected. Quite literally, connected by the flooring.

Speaking of the closet, let’s throw a few pictures of the end results of the master bedroom & closet remodeling project:

New closet layout

Back wall of master bedroom – shiplap on rear wall, new baseboards and window casements, and new floor. Not just a new stain, but an entirely new floor. The old floor was a hideously blonde bamboo from one of the previous owners.

Old blonde bamboo flooring – now since burned with the fires of heaven. Well maybe not burned, but we wanted it as far away from us as we could get it.

Back to our current renovation, we are now connected by the floor in the master bedroom to the floor in the hallway, entry way, dining room and kitchen – they are all the same:

Here is the join – notice the different color. On the right, new flooring in the master is red oak (which we though the flooring on the main level was).

On the left, is actually white oak – not what we were originally told and had we known, we would have gone with white oak all the way through for a consistent stain color.

We knew this was a sticking point and wanted to be careful about getting the color right.

Fast forward a bit to the last couple of weeks.

Since we are changing the kitchen layout, there are parts of the floor which have never seen the light of day in 35 years, and some which have degraded or been cut for some nefarious purpose (and by that I mean some shoddy duct work and water line rerouting). There was a great deal of patching and repairs to be done.

The floor team was actually quite skilled at the repairs and finishing techniques and many holes and gaps were repaired and filled in.

Before repairs

Repairs being done.

Repairs and flooring sanded.

At this point, we are in a hotel – the sanding and staining are not pleasant to be around. The dust just makes me cough, and the stains and topcoats are somewhat toxic. We used a few free hotel points to stay at a nearby hotel for a few days.

Here is the result.

View from the back of the kitchen.

And ooops. The flooring does not match – it’s even worse at the steps into the living room.

While the rest of the floor looks wonderful, and the quality of the finish is great, the color is not what we wanted and looks strangely green in the area of the steps at the top of the last picture. We are not happy with it, but we are hopeful that our floor guy will be able to come up with a fix.

We’re not letting it delay us, though – cabinets are next for this week. Once those are in, we will start putting the appliances back and template for the counter tops.

We have the faucets on order to arrive soon, as well as the cabinet pulls and knobs. So many details to get done!

But we are close. Very close.

Home Renovations: Part 3 – Walls & Wires

Part of any renovation will include electrical work – and that also means removing some sheetrock as well. In our case, the electrical work was more extensive than planned – over three times as much effort and cost.

See, the house was built back in the 80s: 1987 it was completed. What that means, in the most significant sense, is that codes have changed quite a bit since then, as well as kitchen life. There are many more new, high-power appliances that are in use today; many more countertop devices, like toaster ovens, air fryers, rice cookers, etc. than there were in the 80s. This means a considerably larger current draw on existing circuits.

Of course, when your 80s house isn’t even up to 80s code, that makes it all the more work to bring it up to modern specs.

It seems that our kitchen circuit for small appliances (which should have been at least 2 circuits in a house this size) was not only the kitchen outlets, but the dining room, front room, crawl space, and some hallway outlets also. That is almost half the main floor on one circuit. We tried putting two heaters in the room early on to keep it warm for construction. That tripped the breaker even though they were plugged into different rooms.

So, several days of electrical later, we have several new circuits in the kitchen, dining, and other parts of the house which needed it. I don’t have pictures of the new wires and circuits, but I do have pictures of what came next:

Drywall. Lots of it.

We had to have a lot of new dry wall added in the places where we removed the window and door and the extra closet and decorative wall. Those are all gone now, and sheetrock has been replaced and repaired.

Following the sheetrock and mudding, new texture and primer were applied.

The door here is the new pantry pocket door primed and ready for install.

Some good benefits from the renovation here in addition to the new circuits, I now have sound dampening insulation in the kitchen ceiling – which helps not only with noise coming from my office when I roll around in my chair, but from the kitchen to my office. Sounds are now very muffled, and my office is much quieter than it was before.

In addition to primer and texture, we have the new vent hood installed above the space where the new range top will be installed.

Close up

Wide shot

I got to help install this – we needed three people to mount it properly and I helped hold up my end.

Now, all I need is a new range top and I can fry me up some bacon!

Good thing I already have it ready to go.

Home Renovations: Part 2 – Demolition

Now that the project is underway, our house is in a bit of a state. Shambles, really. Or at least the ground floor is.

When we first envisioned this project, we had grand dreams of doing things like a “Demo Day” party – inviting the neighbors over for some good old-fashioned destruction while sipping mojitos or some such frilly drink in hand. Of course, originally, we were planning to start this project a couple of years ago.

Now, we were SO ready for it to start, that all those plans and images (mostly fed by HGTV renovation shows of course) have been thrown by the wayside in the name of speed. No champagne toasts for us and the sledge-hammer-swinging neighbors – just a flurry of contractors ripping stuff out and throwing into a dumpster.

We did have a tiny toast with sparkling apple juice for the demo team, however:

A toast to the demolition team

The removal of all cabinets was very quick, followed by the removal of the extra closet and wall – which was purely decorative.

Closet and wall removed

One bad thing was uncovered during demo. As part of our plan, we removed a door and window from the side wall of the house. This was to both increase the counter space by moving it further into the main room and to remove the extraneous door – we had 5 doors on the house. On door removal, we discovered rot around the base of the door which had to be repaired:

Rotten wood

This meant removing all the rotten wood and replacing it and doing quite a bit more siding than was planned. We also used this as an excuse to remove the narrow part of the deck, which was wobbly and unstable.


This was then walled-in and repaired. This was an additional cost, of course, but our contractor gave us some discounted labor costs since it was unexpected.

With this, our kitchen renovation was fully underway.

Dust and all.

Home Renovations: Part 1 – Project Overview

Since moving into our new house in 2019, it has always been our plan to renovate the kitchen in this house. It was the worst room in the house. The last owners before us did some renovations, but it was clear that they skipped the kitchen to do other things in the house – quite possibly because they knew how big the job would be. I can’t say I blame them completely for that: after what we have been through just trying to find the right company to work with, it has been a very difficult process.

First, I will say right off that we got an excellent price for the house – the only house at the time in the neighborhood that went below market. It was certainly miraculous that we even got the house at all at just the right time. That being said, we knew it needed work when we bought it.

So, we went looking for contractors who would not only help us with designing a layout for the kitchen, but also do the general contracting work – a “design build” company. The first place we contacted was the best-known company and gave us an informal high-ball range that shocked us to no end. We found another company that we liked who also would create a whole house plan that could be implemented in phases, and we would own the design. We liked that.

We started planning with them. Then: COVID. Boom. Lockdowns, market crash, supply problems, and demand. And by demand, I mean that with everyone stuck at home looking at their boring walls, the entire country decided to do home remodels all at the same time.

We put our plans on hold.

Not only did we do that, but we did other projects in the meantime as well: master bedroom full remodel, including new floor and closet, new door and small deck removal; back yard cleanup; my office floor and repainting; new garage cabinets. All these took time and money away from our main goal of the kitchen.

A year later, we tried to pick up the pieces again only to find out how bad the situation was. We weren’t satisfied with the plan and tried to work with the designer to change it – and were less satisfied with the results. Then, their price went up higher than we had originally discussed all while the stock market had taken a dive – along with our main savings. So again, we waited. A few months later, we went to a storefront design company that helped us work through a wonderful plan. We like what we saw, and the designer was very helpful at getting everything in we wanted – except for the price which was WAY higher than the last company. We moved on again.

Finally, we remembered a local cabinet maker from the Seattle Home Expo back in 2019. We thought we’d check with them on the cabinets and see if they had suggestions on how to make it work. Of course, they did! They worked out a design along the lines of what we were happy with out of the last few attempts and then found a contractor who would help us with the build out and install – and all roughly within our original budget.

So, at the first part of the year, we signed on with them. Yes, it’s a year later now, but we had to work through several details: exact cabinet placement, accessories inside the cabinets, exact dimensions of the room (harder to nail down in an open space like our kitchen), and appliances (both new and old). Once the details were finalized, the cabinets were ordered, and demolition began.

First, I’d like to share the very nice photos from our house when it was originally listed for comparison:

A view into the kitchen

The original size of the kitchen – not using all available space. The new kitchen will remove the door and right-hand window and extend the counter a couple of feet past where the door is in this picture.

There will also be an island instead of this peninsula. The ovens will move to where the closet is on the left. The space in front of the peninsula will become the dining room and be smaller than it is in this picture since the kitchen will extend several more feet into that open area.

We have a camera in the room to take still shots for a stop-motion video of the whole remodel process. I’ve included some more photos below of the last picture before demolition of the main kitchen peninsula and one at the start of demo.

View from the video camera.

Just starting demolition.

A view to the side where we will have a new buffet area and what will be the new dining room.

I will have some more updates later. There is much going on and much to tell.

100 Airports and Counting!

Now that I’ve started the new job and am travelling a little again, I’ve been able to expand my list of airports to 100 now after visiting Nebraska and flying in and out of Omaha (OMA) and Lincoln (LNK).

Not only that, but I’ve achieved Premier 1K for the first time. My efforts at that lagged when I moved out of services into IT at Microsoft. Now that I’m not there anymore and back in the consulting field, I’m able to fly a little more. Just 5 times in the last year so far – enough with the United “COVID bonuses” (incentives) to qualify for 1K.

Now, back before the Continental/United merger, I had achieved the highest even unpublished status on Continental (Continental “Star”) after spending almost all year every week flying for at least a couple of years. That travel was brutal and was one more reason I took the Federal consulting job at Microsoft: less travel. Well, and it was Microsoft… 🙂

After almost 5 years in MSIT, though, I had to get back out into consulting and I’ve chosen a great place at West Monroe. The travel burden is low as well. I can live with travelling once per month and it’s not even been that. I have the freedom to work remote if I wish or need to. Or, even work from the beach – although that would be a distraction. Just a bit.

But – if I want to, they would be happy to let me range all over the country.

Epic Change

… and a new blog platform as well.

Or more precisely, the new blog platform is necessitated by the change. That change is:

A new job.

That’s right, and not only a new job, a new company. I have decided to hang up my Microsoft FTE spurs and take up with a new (to me) company and go back out in the field as a consultant to help companies recover from ransomware attacks.

It will be a challenging new job, but I’m much more hopeful about my future opportunities with this new company. Plus, the “stress” of the new job can in no way compete with the demoralization I’ve been subjected to in the last couple of years at Microsoft. It once was a great company to work for, and likely still is in other organizations, but the one I was most lately in had become toxic and hostile.

I start the new job in a couple of days. Which, of course, leads me to my next topic: platform!

Because as a MS employee I had a full MSDN subscription, I also had a free Azure subscription and I used it to host this blog and to test out other technologies as well. Now that I am leaving, I have migrated off Azure and moved the blog to WordPress.com to be hosted. This should provide me with an even more stable, updated environment, but it comes with the loss of my favorite theme. You will notice the stark appearance of this one.

It will take time for me to find the right template and graphics to make the site “mine” again.

And with this new job, perhaps I will begin to write more again. Perhaps I will have some more mental bandwidth again.

Perhaps, even, some happy thoughts and pictures.

50 in 50: Done.

I started writing this post in mid-September, but the days have conspired to keep me busy and sap my energy. Today, since I’m now 51, I will finish this post:

Last week [early September], in my 50th year of life, Laura and I visited my 50th state: North Dakota. The desire to visit all 50 eventually has been on my mind for a few decades, but the idea of getting my last state in my 50th year (before I turn 51) came to me on the day before my birthday last year when we visited Maine (48) a week before, followed by New Hampshire (49) the day before I turned 50. I thought: “Hey – I just did the 49th state in my 49th year, so maybe I can do one more this year.”

Sure enough, that last state was North Dakota. I’ve now completed my state travel map which now shows as all red. I’ve been to every state and some island territories, such as Guam, St. Thomas, and St. John, as well as DC which doesn’t really count as a state. In the course of that visit, I’ve added yet another airport to my list. It’s a very nice airport with a beautiful sky painted on the ceiling.

Fitting since it’s certainly one of the “big sky” states. Fairly flat with very few trees. Sort of like this:

Many said, or rather asked sarcastically, “What is there to do in North Dakota? There’s nothing there…” We discovered, to our great benefit, that there is quite a lot to do – at least, there is in summer. I cannot speak to winter in the Dakotas – I can only imagine that it’s rather bleak and brutal. During the summer months (or month? – I imagine that it’s not quite as long as in the more temperate zones) there is much outdoor activity to be had.

Theodore Roosevelt spent much of his time recovering from the death of his wife and his mother in the western wilderness of this state developing an appreciation of the wild landscape. This appreciation led him to create many new national parks later in his terms as president. In the western part of the state, Theodore Roosevelt National Park is broken into two “units” one in the north and one in the south. Separated by the high plains, these two different sections of badlands are like mini “grand canyons” carved into the flowing grasslands. Each one was different in feel and had unique charms.

The north unit was smaller, but we felt more interesting. We drove through the entire length of the park and were able to see most of it in a few hours. A more thorough experience could be had by camping and hiking through the various trails (we only hiked one – we are novices when it comes to hiking). At one point, we were able to see the “concretions”, or strange spherical rock formations mixed in to the landscape.

While examining these, we came across a lone bison wandering the nearby grass. It was a big, old, mangy bull and it had cornered an older couple just by wandering by. It seemed to be looking for a boulder to scratch its belly.

Later that day, we ventured to the edge of the state to see the Fairview Lift Bridge. Long decommissioned, it’s now open to walk across and into the tunnel behind it. It was a unique experience and I have to give credit to my cousin Matt Phillips for suggesting a visit.

We then headed across the border into Montana for dinner, and then headed back to our hotel through dark empty roads. Empty, that is, except for deer. We counted over 50 deer we had to slow down for and avoid. That made the trip take a bit longer than it should have.

Next, we visited the south unit where there was the Painted Canyon, through which we hiked, and then took the trail to the Petrified Forest on the western edge of the park. That trail took the most time since there was so much to see. The terrain changed so much between desert valley, hilly cliff trail, high plains grasslands, and painted desert canyon with petrified wood scattered throughout the area.

This picture does not do it justice, but it’s the best sample of a few varieties of the petrified wood (foreground) scattered around looking like wood chips and the carved out walls of the canyon.

We visited Minot and toured the Scandinavian Heritage Park and visited local restaurants. All in all, a great time was had by all. We are certainly well pleased that we chose to travel there and spend more than a week galivanting across the “empty” state. Now we know that we have to go back.

And we certainly won’t think there’s “nothing” to do there.