Friday, March 29, 2013

Another New Item

A month or so ago, I decided that I was going to buy myself a new refrigerator for my birthday.  I've never liked the refrigerator at New House (NH).  There is nothing wrong with the way it functions, and it looks nice and is in great condition.  However, it is a top freezer model.  That means that the refrigerator part was very low.  I found it difficult to get stuff out of the bottom bins, and it was necessary to practically crawl into the compartment to reach stuff in the back.  And then, invariably, I would hit my head on the freezer door while coming out after reaching something in the back.  After a year of putting up with all this, I finally decided I'd reached my limit.

Last Saturday I did a scouting mission to the local Sears Hardware, and then to Home Depot in search of a nice bottom freezer model.  I came home armed with information, and then I did more homework online.  (What did we do before the internet?  Oh yes, I remember, we went to the library and searched Consumer Reports Magazines!)  After thoroughly investigating our options, I decided on a Kenmore 69002 from Sears.

The new Fridge was delivered today around noon.  It fits perfectly in the space, and so far seems to be just what I wanted!  We have temporarily moved the old one to the garage.  We are going to be donating it to the Furniture Bank next week.

Here are some photos of the old Fridge.  It is a Whirlpool.

The empty space was quickly cleaned up after moving the old one:  

Delivery of the new model was amazing.  There were 3 workers.  They had a truck with a lift bed on the back, and unboxed the new fridge in the street.  Then, when we were ready, they carried it in.  Yes, I said "carried".  2 guys with wide straps over their shoulders and a strap under the fridge carried it up the driveway, through the front door, and put it in place in about a minute.  No dolly, no fuss !!  

Here it is in place:  

We didn't want an ice-maker because they take up valuable room, and we have no water access on that side of the kitchen, so that meant getting a side open door instead of a pull out freezer door, which is fine with us. This is very similar to the refrigerator we bought for Old House (OH) about 6 years ago.  The main difference is the freezer door handle which is smaller and closer to the edge on the OH one.  

The delivery guy said it will take about 4 hours to get the temp where we can safely put food in.  Here is another advantage of 2 houses:  A couple of days ago, in anticipation of this delivery, we started taking food to OH for storage in that fridge (mainly stuff from the freezer, but also some fridge stuff).  We took a load on Wed and another yesterday.  That left just enough here to get us through the morning, and it was easy to manage at the time of delivery.  

So, there we go !  Another successful purchase for NH !

Thanks for reading about this latest adventure, and don't forget to feed the fish!


Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Welcome to Spring in Ohio

Monday, March 25, 2013 - the first day of Spring Break for my school, and most of the schools in central Ohio.  Here is what we woke up to:

In spite of the 3-4" of snow around the feeder, we also saw this today:  

These 3 are Gary, Jerry and Larry.  

And then, there's Matilda and Hershal:  

Matilda and Hershal almost always visit together.  Sometimes one will be ahead of the other, but he keeps a pretty close eye on her.  She is a little more skittish than he is, but she seems to decide when it is time to eat and when it is time to leave.  All of these photos were taken from New House.  We are used to getting ducks at Old House in the spring, but so far we haven't seen them there yet - perhaps because of our proximity to the creek now?  

Well, that's it for today.  Thanks for reading, and don't forget to feed the fish!


Sunday, March 3, 2013

The Remodeling Continues

If you are a regular reader of this blog, you know that last spring we did a major remodeling of our new house.  (Look back to my blog entries from April and May of 2012.)  We have now added one more "project" to the list of areas remodeled.  On Friday, February 22, we had a tub-to-shower conversion done in the master bathroom.  Today I am going to talk about and share photos of the process.

Our process actually began in about 2009 or 2010, the first time I was seriously considering having knee replacement surgery.  This was long before we even thought about having a new house.  The first company we contacted shall remain nameless, but it is a company that advertises on TV a great deal and is known for their tub-to-shower conversions.  It is probably the first name you think of on this topic.  I called and asked about a ball-park figure for this conversion.  The person on the phone refused to give me anything more than a broad range and said that they would have to look at our site before they could really give an estimate.  So, I scheduled a "free estimate".  That "free estimate" cost us 2 hours of our lives that we will never get back, but I suppose we did learn some things.  That estimate experience also turned us off to the entire job until January of this year when I decided to "go there again".  The worst part of that estimate process was the high-pressure expectation by the salesman.  Towards the end of the conversation, when he was trying to seal the deal, we said we would think about it, and we wanted to get more estimates.  (Obviously, this is an expensive decision and not one to be taken lightly.)  He turned on us when we said that. He went from being very nice and funny and friendly to being surly and almost mean.  He let us know that he would not get a commission if we made our decision after he left the house (what kind of company does THAT to their salesmen?).  That was the turn-off.  Any company that discourages their potential customers from getting other estimates and expects them to make snap decisions without even seeing a real sample of the product is very fishy.  And so, we stopped looking.  About a month or so after that estimate, a man called from the company asking if we had made a decision.  I was very honest with him about what turned us off.  He thanked me for my comments, but I have no idea if it made any difference to them at all.

In December 2012, my right knee went out on me.  For about a month, I was heavily dependent on Hubs to help me get in and out of the shower.  While we now have 4 bathrooms in the 2 houses, the showers are all the same: 1970s style standard tubs.  When we remodeled the new house, I did have a grab bar installed in the hall bath that I use most often, and that is very helpful, but I still needed help getting in and out after my knee went out.  So, for me, a big part of the need for the tub-to-shower conversion was about safety and independence.  The fact is, both my knees are unstable, and even after my first surgery, the other one is still going to be unstable.  The other issue during that recovery period was my inability to stand long enough to take my shower and wash my hair, so for about 2 weeks, I had to get my hair washed at a salon.  While that can be a nice luxury, it was hard for me to spend $ on something that I was used to doing myself.

In January, I started talking about this job again.  Hubs was hesitant, but I persisted.  I did a lot of online research, and I came up with 3 companies that I wanted to get estimates from.  2 companies only do bathroom remodeling and the 3rd is a general contractor who specializes in remodeling, especially bathrooms.

Our first estimate was from the general contractor.  The sales woman was very good - we liked her, and we were impressed by the products she showed us.  She introduced us to a product called The Onyx Collection.  It is a company in Kansas that manufactures the product used for the shower base, walls, sinks, etc...  She also offered us an acrylic material which is very common in shower installations.  If you have ever stayed in a hotel that has remodeled the bathrooms, then you have probably seen an acrylic product.  With her we picked out an acrylic color that we liked - she suggested that as a lower cost alternative to the Onyx.  She gave us a lot of good information, and when she left we had an estimate written on the back of a business card.  She also gave us info about having the entire bathroom redone, including the vanity and flooring (we did ask about it - this wasn't her idea), and we had looked at some flooring options.  We are going to need at least 1 bathroom done in the old house before we ever try to sell it, so that is why we asked about the whole bathroom job.

Our second estimate was by a local company that only does bathroom remodeling called SimpleBath (used with permission).  The company is owned by a married couple, Dick Ransom and Mary Rubin, and it is not a franchise of something bigger.  Dick came do our estimate, and we really liked him.  In addition to being very informative, he was also very personable and very "real".  We felt we could really trust him.  Throughout our estimate process, he filled out a formal estimate sheet.  Without knowing the first estimate we got, he gave us an estimate that was less than the first - and it was for an all-Onyx unit, where as the first estimate was an Onyx base and acrylic walls.  He also encouraged us to come to his showroom to see the products in person.  A couple of days later, we visited the showroom, and as soon as I saw the complete Onyx unit, I was sold.  There we spoke to Mary, who looked at our estimate and gave us more information.  She also offered us a discount if we could have the job done on one of 3 days in February that they didn't have any installations on the calendar.  (Their installers are on salary, not paid hourly or by the job.)

Once we left the showroom, the decision was really a no-brainer.  We had had to cancel the 3rd estimate because of a meeting at school, and after seeing the samples in the showroom, we decided to go with the 2nd company without even getting a 3rd estimate.  We contacted our man and set the date for Feb 22.  We had to pay 1/2 when we scheduled and 1/2 when the job was done.

Our 2 installers arrived about 9:45 on a very icy morning (ironically, all the schools in the area were closed!).  While Mike got started on demo, Chaz went to a nearby hardware store to get some salt because the driveway was a skating rink.

Here are some "before shots".

Mike started by using a box-cutter to score around the outside edge of the tile, then he use a putty knife to pry off the outside edge of tiles.  Bye-Bye Blue Tile !!!

I grabbed one souvenir piece of that edge.  All the rest went into the tub.  I have to add here that both workers were extremely tolerant of me and my camera.  I'm sure there were times when I was in their way, but they never complained (at least not to me).

Once the outer edge was off, he started taking down large sections of the tile walls.  Some of it was chipped off into the tub, but he also cut out large sections of wall-board.    

Once the walls were off, I was thrilled to see how clean things were inside.  No mold, no mouse-droppings, no little critters running around, etc...  

After cleaning up the tile mess, they took the tub out.  I'm not sure exactly how they did it, but the process was VERY loud and the floor shook at times.  I never saw them carry the tub out, but I did see it on the truck later.  Once the tub was out, I could see the tub in the other bathroom through the wall, and the cement slab that the house is built on was exposed.  

Next, came the plumbing work.  After turning off the water, Chaz went to work taking out the old pipes and putting in new pipes and fittings.  There is no need for the old bathtub nozzle, and all its parts.   Here is the new fitting for the shower valve.

While Chaz was doing plumbing, Mike was working in the garage on the new pieces of Onyx.  Here is the shower pan.  

He also had to trim the wall pieces to fit exactly in the space.  Once the shower pan was in place, they next worked on getting the largest wall piece into place.  That was their biggest struggle of the day.  To get it through the bedroom and bathroom doors, they had to turn it 90 degrees from its upright-installation direction, and then they had to turn it back once they got it in the room.  They caught the corner on the ceiling twice and made a couple of small gouges.  Then they decided to take the bathroom door off.  I left at that point because I was sure they weren't appreciating my watching their struggle.  It took awhile, but they finally got it turned and in.  On the walls where there was to be a grab bar and a seat installed, they reinforced the wall behind the Onyx with plywood and also 2x6 blocks, so they would have more to drill into.  

The Onyx color/pattern we chose is called Tiramisu and is the most popular color.  (All the color options can be seen on the website I linked to above.)  One of the things we liked about this product was how solid it is. The acrylic product is thinner and flimsier.  This feels like a piece of stone.  There is a slight flexibility to it before installation, but it doesn't really bend like acrylic does.    

Next, the front wall went in and then the fixtures when on.  Last was the back wall.  At that point, they asked me to come in and tell them where I wanted all the bars, the corner shelf and the seat.  They put marks on the walls based on my requests and then they put those items in.  

Lastly, they caulked all the seams.  

Ok... are you ready for the big final reveal???  Here we go.....

There is MUCH about this new unit that I am impressed with, but probably the biggest thing is how solid and sturdy it all feels.  It is BIGGER than the old shower unit.  Many customers have glass doors put on this, but we chose the shower-curtain option.  Glass doors can always be added later, but they can't be taken off.  

The only negative we experienced was the odor left by the adhesive they used and/or the caulk.  That odor was very strong for the first few days.  We had to open bedroom windows and have a fan blowing in the bathroom for the first 2 days. It was tolerable to sleep in the bedroom, but only when the bathroom door was closed.   After a week, we can still smell it when we walk in the house, but it is very faint.  

The first time I used the shower, I didn't even want to get out - so I just washed everything 2 or 3 times to have an excuse to stay in!!!!   :)

So that's it for today!  As always, thanks for reading, and don't forget to feed the fish!