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Demo, Week 2

We’ve had both good and bad experiences with contractors in this home, and as a result, we have a tendency to be overly cautious with anyone we hire. We make copies of every check we give, we write out the most detailed contracts and we go over line items no less than 5 times a day with anyone we work with. Although no one has ever taken our money and run (thank goodness), we were a little – no, a lot! – scarred by the guys that left our kitchen unfinished and stopped taking our calls.

All this to say, we’ve been careful with our progress reports, as we didn’t want to boast our love for our current contractor team before we saw them in action, but you guys, we are so, so impressed. This marks the beginning of week 3, but by the end of last week, most of the messy behind-the-walls work had been completed! They’ve been overly communicative (the key to my obsessive heart), they’re incredibly efficient, and every morning, the GC gives me an update with a quick walkthrough. Most importantly, Jack loves them, as evidenced by his disappearing acts every afternoon – that is, until I find him chewing on a discarded 2×4 scrap amongst the dust.

So, let’s dive in with a progress report! Here’s a 360 bedroom view to kick things off:


THE BEDROOM. We have windows! We have a framed out closet! We have a light switch by the door, and all the outlets have been put in their proper place! The windows are almost 9′ wide x 5′ high, which as you can imagine, lets in All the Light. Can’t you just see a sweet bitty Maddie on the windowsill eating her kitty grass? (And you better believe we’ll be putting blackout liners on any curtains or shades. We have a few ideas in mind already!)

THE LAUNDRY ROOM. We mapped out this space, making sure that the washer and dryer hook ups were in the right place. An outlet was added that’ll sit above counter height, and plumbing has been run for the sink. Plus, it’s all prepped for a pocket door! Laundry room, you are going to be so cute with your ostrich paper.


The original plan was to have a singular light centered in the room, but at the last minute, we decided to add recessed lighting, too. The fixture we have planned for this room has a dome shade, and although the space is small, we thought an extra hit of task lighting would go far if we’re swapping wash loads in the evening. The additional cost was nothing more than the materials, so it really was an easy decision.


THE BATHROOM. This room, you guys. This room! We have gained more floor space than we originally thought we would, since we pushed back the wall as far as it would go. To this point, all electrical and plumbing has been run, and do you spot those horizontal 2x4s along the back ‘wall’? Those are little niches for soap and shampoo, which for some reason, feel very, very fancy to us. We’ve never had a soap niche! Scott and I like to say soap niche in our most posh accents, which I can never do right, but it always, always makes us laugh.


To the right of the tub, the team framed out a perfect spot for all those extra things people stash in bathrooms, and it’s exactly the height of this IKEA cabinet. We’ll need to hack the width, but we did gain almost 10″, which like the floor plan, is more than we thought we’d get.


It’s not just our soap niches that upped the fancy factor in this room; our lighting got an upgrade as well! You can see below where the old fixture was (and by fixture, I mean one tiny light bulb hanging from the ceiling), and we’ve since added a junction box for a pretty overhead light, a vent-slash-nightlight and recessed lighting above the shower.


And finally, a chimney update! The bedroom chimney has been the biggest surprise, but after a one hour meeting with our favorite HVAC guy, we figured out a way to re-route the furnace venting internally. Unfortunately, it also became clear that we’ll need to replace the water heaters. While we thought the water heaters had a bit more life in them, we were surprised that they were way, way past due for a replacement, and so we’re going to bite the bullet and upgrade to tankless heaters – one for us, and one for our tenants in the garden unit. That definitely stung, but in the end, the tankless water heaters will be (much!) more efficient, and we’ll gain space where those old tanks hogged an entire utility room. Silver linings, we suppose.

Next up, drywall!

PS: For anyone in the Chicagoland area, we would be thrilled to pass along the name of our general contractor. Just shoot us an email using the contact form in the menu bar!

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  • Sajida12.15.15 - 7:18 AM

    Wow! Looks fantastic so far. Im glad you found a GC that you like.
    Question: Will there be dead space behind and above the 10″ cabinet,or are you doing the same from the other side?ReplyCancel

    • Kim12.15.15 - 8:21 AM

      Finding a GC in Chicago that we like has been no different than finding a needle in a haystack. He’s a real gem!

      It will be dead space above, but the cabinet space is 70″ tall, so anything much taller, and it would never be reachable by 5′ me! We considered the same on the opposite side (in the laundry room), but it’s SO close to the window in there, that any trim would hinder the practicality.ReplyCancel

  • Laura (LK Art)12.15.15 - 8:40 AM

    What progress! I’m glad you found a good contractor and I’m especially loving the windows. And the bathroom niches. And the closet and the pocket door. So pretty much everything.ReplyCancel

  • Loryn12.15.15 - 9:20 AM

    Looking really good! Those new bedroom windows are fantastic. Does that outside stair go up to the attic?ReplyCancel

    • Kim12.15.15 - 9:29 AM

      Yup, it does! Next summer’s plan – fingers crossed – is to tear that whole back deck down, add attic access from the inside and build out a nice deck off of the first floor kitchen.ReplyCancel

  • Sarah12.15.15 - 9:48 AM

    Will you be spray-foaming the exterior walls? I have an upcoming bath reno in my old home and am curious what others do about insulation. :)

    Oh, and what kind of water-proofing system did you choose?

    Thanks and am loving the progress.ReplyCancel

    • Kim12.15.15 - 10:01 AM

      No spray foam, just good ol’ insulation rolls! I’m not sure what you mean by water-proofing system? Durock cement board is going up on the walls in the bathroom as I type this, which is moisture resistant!ReplyCancel

    • Pie12.15.15 - 2:06 PM

      I am just finishing a bathroom reno now with my contractor hubby so I thought I’d chime in. He swears by Schluter waterproof membrane behind the tiles of the shower and Schluter Ditra under the floor tile. This prevents tiles from cracking and if any ever do, then it is waterproofed and prevents mold! They have a ton of pre-fab stuff for the bathroom too. (Sorry I totally sound like a spokesperson now, but check out their website, their products are awesome.)

      Just did a quick search to try and find a comparison between the cement board and waterproof membrane, and I think the first paragraph here sums it up:


      P.S. Spray foam on exterior walls are SO worth it!ReplyCancel

  • Elizabeth12.15.15 - 10:27 AM

    Would you (or have you) consider doing a detailed post about hiring and working with a contractor? I think that would be so helpful–I’m hoping to buy a fixer-upper myself, and while I plan to do some of the work myself, I know I’ll need to hire some of it out.ReplyCancel

    • Kim12.15.15 - 10:41 AM

      Thanks for the suggestion! Once we wrap up this renovation, I think that could be helpful. I’ll start putting some ideas together.ReplyCancel

  • Liz M12.15.15 - 11:40 AM

    We just built a brand new house and we want to get rid of our tankless! I don’t want to scare you but I don’t think there is any real savings there. We have calculated it out and really we are saving energy – but we spend way more money and waste water. It takes so much longer for the water to get warm – so we spend a lot of time wasting water with the tap on waiting for it to get warm! You house has a smaller footprint than ours so it may not be as big of an issue but the farther you are from the unit – the long it takes to get warm water.

    Also- if you like your water HOT then it takes even longer. We set ours at 120 degrees and that is the recommended. You can set it lower and it won’t take a long to heat up – but still much longer than a tank.

    The cost per month for us is really where you really see the difference. We pay almost $50 per month for our tankless and it was only $13 per month for the tank!

    Just saying, do some research on that one maybe. We have found that its not all its cracked up to be!ReplyCancel

    • Kim12.15.15 - 3:37 PM

      Can we just say, ‘we love you guys’?

      Thank you so, so much for chiming in on your thoughts on tankless heaters (to Liz and everyone else, below!). We had some concerns as well, and although we felt pretty confident with our decision, we decided to talk with our contractor/installer again. We told him our thoughts – taking too long to get warm, how will it fare with water traveling from the basement to the second floor bath?, etc – and I think we might be moving in another direction for our water heaters!

      Our first decision had to be made quick to keep the demolition moving along, and in hindsight, perhaps we didn’t give it enough thought! #realtalk Thanks again for feedback that prompted us to give our initial thoughts a second look!ReplyCancel

      • Jaime12.16.15 - 12:08 AM

        So glad some one brought up the “dark side” of the tankless water heaters. We have one and the amount of time it takes to get our water hot wastes an INSANE amount of water, and our master bath is literally 3 feet directly above the heater!!! We fill our mop bucket for almost every shower or bath and use it to water the plants. I should point out that we live in San Diego CA (can you say major drought!!) and in the winter it takes even longer. I can’t imagine how long it would take where you live!! To be fair, ours is an older model and my mom (our landlord) didn’t do any research when she decided on tankless and didn’t install a recirculator. My brother, on the other hand, lives in a much newer place and his was plumbed with a recirculator. So whenever they want to shower, or start the dishwasher or clothes washer they hit a button that recirculates all the cold water out of the hot line thru the heater and shuts off when it reaches temp. It seems to work great for them. So that might be something to think about putting in while you have the walls open and if you had your heart set on tankless. It’s too late for us so we might look into going back to a tank when the tankless poops out. On the plus side, if you have a tank and there is an emergency (we have earthquakes in CA) you have all that stored water on site as long as tank is still intact. Sorry for the novel!ReplyCancel

      • Uncle Brain12.16.15 - 3:04 AM

        I’ve toyed with this on the electric and gas versions. Ultimately I decided the initial cost that it wasn’t worth it but only after after waiting too long.

        I ended up in a pinch as ours broke on December 23rd a few years ago and I had to just go get anything I could find and install it myself as no plumber was available. I got a traditional “high efficiency” unit for a few hundred dollars and called it good.

        However, had I known we’d be in this house for a long time I would have went with this, I think:

        Over the course of it’s 12 year warrenty the rated energy savings would pay for it twice compared to our “high efficiency” unit.

        I’ve since learned that the biggest reason for a tankless is space savingsReplyCancel

        • Jaime12.16.15 - 7:16 AM

          I see a few folks bring up the cost savings of going tankless vs tank, that the upfront cost is more than made up for over the life of the heater due to it being efficient. Is savings only in reference to its efficiency in heating the water? We rent so I have never had to do the research. I only know from our experience is that what we might be saving energy-wise we are more than losing in wasting water. Not to mention, we are in a drought here in CA and water is a precious resource and even if the money/cost ended up breaking even (savings from energy efficiency vs money lost on water wasted) it doesn’t negate the fact that we are wasting a tremendous amount of water just to take a warm shower or wash our face in the sink. Sorry to be such a nag, I just wanted to make sure that folks understand that while they might be energy efficient, depending on your model and set up (recirculator) they can be huge water wasters.ReplyCancel

          • Kim12.16.15 - 9:56 AM

            You’re definitely not being a nag! This feedback is appreciated.

  • BSM12.15.15 - 12:00 PM

    Would you mind giving a little more insight into the cost of switching your water heater? We have an old tank that is going to need to be replaced soon, so we’re contemplating going tankless.ReplyCancel

    • Kim12.16.15 - 9:57 AM

      I think this will vary on region, depending on the cost of the work, which needs to be considered as well. An energy efficient water heater (of most kinds – tankless, power vent, etc) will run around $1,000, plus the cost of install. Definitely gather a few quotes if you’re feeling on the fence on any contractors.ReplyCancel

  • Sheila12.15.15 - 1:09 PM

    I’d also be interested in more detail on your decision to switch to tankless. I had to replace my water heater not long ago was interested in tankless but the plumber I used said he had stopped installing the tankless units because his customers were almost all dissatisfied with them.ReplyCancel

  • Heather12.15.15 - 2:10 PM

    I’m glad things are zipping right along. I was very interested in your chimney update. Yay for taking it out… but I’m equal parts horrified and excited that you’re going to tankless water heaters. One of those is on our list to consider whenever we get to updating the upstairs, particularly the master bath. But those are spendy… so ouch! As you said, silver linings and all that ;)ReplyCancel

  • Melissa @ HOUSEography12.15.15 - 3:11 PM

    Looks GREAT! So much progress! We love our tankless hot water heaters. One is 9 years old and the other 6 years old (ironically the same ages as my kids!) and we have only had to do minor service work to both. Our gas bill is TINY in the summer and I think it’s largely due to those water heaters. We have Rinnai but I think there are a lot of good brands out there now. I’m sure you’ll research the sh!t out of it!!!ReplyCancel

  • Amanda @ Our Humble Abode12.15.15 - 3:39 PM

    It’s going to be so great! The new, wider windows make all the difference. So glad you’re getting functional spaces instead of a kitchen turned bedroom. ?

    We have had tankless water heaters for years now and absolutely love them. Although the price sucks compared to standard ones, it is so nice having endless hot water.ReplyCancel

  • CPeter12.15.15 - 4:57 PM

    Just stopping by to comment about water heaters…. We switched to a gas Rinnai tankless two years ago and absolutely love it. The ultra hot water is almost instant and never ending. It is very inexpensive to operate month to month. We can run both showers, a dishwasher, and the washing machine with no problems. I will add that my husband was very conscientious about where and how it was installed, as well as how the pipes were laid out, in order to avoid problems like having a lot of extra cooled water in the pipes. If you have a plumber with experience you should do fine. I did not want to spend the money initially but I am now totally convinvced; it is well worth the cost for our household. ?

    The link to the ikea cabinet doesn’t work for me. Which is it?ReplyCancel

  • emily @ go haus go12.17.15 - 1:33 PM

    Ahh you’re doing ostrich paper! I can assure you: you will love it. It’s one of the top 3 things I miss about my old house. I’ll find a spot for it somewhere sooner or later.

    Did you do big ostriches or small?ReplyCancel

    • Kim12.18.15 - 9:20 AM

      Yay! We cannot wait to get it up. We chose the small ostrich on bone. We loved the all gold ostriches too, but we love how the pencil-esque drawing stands out against the paper more!ReplyCancel

  • tess9.30.16 - 11:29 PM

    hello, would you share the name of your contractor, thanks so much!ReplyCancel

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