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Tear It Down

As the spring arrived this year, the twins and I started to spend more time outside in the backyard. My parents got them an awesome water table for Christmas that they loved playing with. I set it up on our deck and we spent a lot of time out there. Although the twins were already walking, when they went used the stairs, on the deck, they needed to crawl up or down them. We also had a play date with other twin friends who were not walking yet and the failings of our deck quickly became apparent. The deck’s wood was in bad shape. There were splinters (or potential for splinters) everywhere. Some of the boards were popping out which made for prime tripping hazards. There were also some nails that no longer laid flat against the wood which was another safety issue.  Jim and I had already talked about how the deck needed to be replaced at some point but it now seemed like the right time to undertake this task.

The old deck - view from the yard

The old deck – view from the yard

 

Another view

Another view

 

Third view

Third view

 

The side stairs - you can see the stains on the deck and just the overall not good shape it is in

The side stairs – you can see the stains on the deck and just the overall bad quality

 

Look closely for the board sticking out

Look closely for boards sticking out

 

Close-up of the splinter maker

Close-up of the splinter maker

As you know from our previous projects, Jim and I normally do our big house projects together. Jim often is the mastermind behind the project (he makes the designs…with my input, researches the how-to, and plans out the steps) but I am there every step of the way to help and get my hands dirty. We knew that the deck project could not work out this way. Although we started talking about redoing the deck in the spring, the project did not get under way until the summer. In addition to having to watch the twins, I was already pregnant with baby number 3 before the project began. Therefore, I had zero energy to help when the twins were sleeping. Jim was going to do this project 100% solo.  Part of the reason it took so long to decide to undertake the deck remodel was because of the time commitment it required. Jim would only be able to work on the weekends and after the twins went to bed on the weeknights. I would also be watching the twins by myself almost 100% of the time.  It was a lot to consider but in the end, we decided it was better to do it now before the third baby came.

The original plan (or “pitch”) that Jim presented involved only replacing the decking boards and the railings.  We would keep the frame of the deck and therefore, it would not take very long to replace the decking board with new boards (we decided to use Trex boards). Jim also pitched expanding the deck and adding a built-in bench. I worried how much more time this would add to the project (a.k.a. how many more weekends will I be without him to help me with the twins). He designed the plans and figured it would only require him adding 2-3 new support posts which wouldn’t add much time to the project at all. I (hesitantly) agreed. As “d-day” (demo-day) started to approach, the plans started to shift. Jim looked at the current foundation of the deck and questioned whether it followed code. There was more overhang per post than there should be.  He also wasn’t even sure if the current posts were in cement. It may be a better idea to just demo the whole deck and start over…

This is a common theme in our DIY projects.  So many of them start with simple plans that won’t take long or cost too much.  Then Jim (who I love so much and appreciate all that he does) takes a closer look and changes the plan. He is a perfectionist and working off of someone’s else’s work doesn’t fly for him most of the time. It is better to blow it up and start over so it can be perfect from the bottom up. I know that every project we have done is quality because of this, but man does it take extra time.  Jim still framed the deck tear down in a way that it wouldn’t add too much time to the project. He could rent a two-person auger (fancy term for a hole digging machine) and get a friend to help him dig the holes for the posts. The two-person auger could create bigger holes which meant larger posts and therefore fewer posts would be needed.

Well, plans don’t always go as…planned.  D-day began Fourth of July weekend. Jim started taking down the deck on Friday. The hope was to have it completely demoed by the end of the day. He also needed to set up a bunch of strings to figure out the exact locations of the posts. He hoped to have the strings set up by the end of Friday as well.  Jim’s friend Andrew was coming to help out on Saturday, so they could get the two-person auger and dig the holes if everything was set in place by the time he got there.  By the end of Friday, the deck was not gone.  A lot of it was demoed, but nowhere near all of it. The nails on the boards were rusted and didn’t come up easily. Jim had to cut some of the boards with a saw just to take it apart. None of the deck just “came apart” easily.  Andrew came over on Saturday and helped Jim complete the demo of the deck.  They also moved the old stairs of the deck over to the back door, so we could still let our dog out in the back yard. Sunday, Jim started working on the strings.  There were no holes in sight.

Mid demo - Jim took this picture to show how rusted the nails were which made demo so much harder

Mid demo – Jim took this picture to show how rusted the nails were. This made demo so much harder. (Without me to take pictures…there are a lot fewer pictures than previous projects. I tried to stick my head out and remind him to take pictures every now and then but it wasn’t on the top of Jim’s to-do list)

 

Some of the demoed deck (there was more that couldn't fit in the dumpster bag)

Some of the demoed deck all packed up and ready to go (there was more that couldn’t fit in the dumpster bag)

 

The string set-up (and no more deck)

The string set-up (and no more deck)

Unfortunately, Jim was unable to recruit another person to help him dig the holes. That meant renting a one-person auger. A one-person auger meant smaller holes and smaller posts. This also meant more holes and posts were needed. I think the number of posts required went from 7 posts needed to 11 posts. The holes were not easy to dig. There were rocks and tree roots that the auger had to fight through. The auger could only go to deep and so wide, and Jim had to shovel the rest of the holes himself. Three of the holes had cement from the old posts (they were in cement) that Jim had to jackhammer through.  The holes needed to be 2 feet deep and about a foot wide. The depth of the holes was very important because it had to be below the point the earth would freeze in the winter. If the cement was above the freezing point, when the earth froze, the cement could shift. This could cause the posts to shift and therefore cause the deck to be unsteady. The cement needed to be deeper than the freezing point so that there was no risk in it shifting.

Holes

Holes

 

Close-up of how deep they were

Close-up of how deep they were

After a long time and a lot of hard work, Jim had all the holes dug. Jim then put all the strings up again so he could determine the extra location the posts should be secured in the holes.  He added the cement to the holes and placed screws in the exact locations determined by the strings. Once the cement dried, he screwed brackets into the screws.  He was finally ready to add some posts.

Some of the holes with cement finished

Some of the holes with cement finished

 

Cement in place!

Cement in place!

 

Ready for posts!

Ready for posts!

The holes being completed was something Jim had hoped to finish the first weekend. This took about two weeks to complete.  We were in for the long haul.

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Long Time No Write

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Oh, hello there, Internet. Nice to see you again.  It has been over TWO YEARS since I last posted. I know, it is pathetic.  To be fair, I have been a little busy for the last 22 months raising twins.  In that time, Jim and I have also been slacking a little bit on home projects.  But I am back, which can only mean one thing…a new project!

Before I get into the nitty-gritty of our new project (I’m using “our” loosely here, Jim is doing the work 100% solo while I watch the kids), I will tell you about the small projects we have completed over the past two years.

The Nursery

The first small project was the twins’ room.  You may remember when we painted our bedroom, we had to add a header to our closet. The old closet doors went from the floor to ceiling and we would have to get custom-made closet doors for that size. Instead, we added a header and got normal closet doors.  We ended up needing to do the same thing in the twins’ room (and we will need to do it again for the other three rooms on the second floor).  Since I was pregnant and huge – Jim did all of the work on his own.  After some of the other projects we have done, this was pretty simple.  He needed to build the frame of the header, install it in place and then add the drywall.  Once the drywall was in place, he needed to apply the spackle, wait for it to dry and sand it. Then the header was done! Jim also added molding for a more finished look but first, he painted the room.

A few pictures of the room before it became the nursery

 

View from the doorway

 

 

The closet before...

The closet before…

 

The header in place (without the spacke and paint)

The header in place (without the spackle and paint)

I had picked out a gray and white nursery color scheme with touches of pink and blue. I had a very specific theme in my head. Jim and I went through our swatches and picked out a gray color for the room. Since we have painted so many rooms, we have a pretty good system down for dividing and conquering any paint job but since I was pregnant, Jim painted solo. He also closed the door to keep the fumes out of the house (so sweet).  The problem with that is when he opened the door (and was 95% done), I saw the color and hated it.  It was a shade of gray (I guess)…but it had a blue undertone to it. When I looked at it, it looked like a bluish gray.  I almost cried.  Actually, I think I did cry. This was my one crazy pregnant lady experience. It was not the gray I wanted and I wasn’t going to be happy until it was. Needless to say, Jim thought this was ridiculous and he was not pleased.  Luckily, he indulged me and we found a REAL gray to paint over the blue-gray.  It was so much better.  The nursery could become what I had imagined.

The first paint job...see how it is a greenish/blue grey? Not what I had imagined...

The first paint job…see how it is a bluish gray?

 

Another view of the first paint job

Another view of the first paint job

 

Last one...look how blue it is in this!

Last one…look how blue it is in this!

 

The final paint job! A beautiful grey!

The final paint job! A beautiful gray! (looks a little darker in this picture since it was taken at night)

 

The header all spackled and painted!

The header all spackled and painted GRAY!

 

Jim working on the molding

Jim working on the molding

 

Jim had to cut out some of the old molding to add the new molding around the closet

Jim had to cut out some of the old molding to add the new molding around the closet

Closet completed (with pink and blue handles)!

Closet completed (with pink and blue handles)!

 

Cribs all set up and in place - the letters to their names hang from the knobs glued above the cribs

Cribs all set up and in place – the letters to their names hang from the knobs glued above the cribs

 

Not the next picture with lighting, but another view with the glider and ottoman

Not the best picture with lighting, but another view with the glider and ottoman

 

View of the double glider, ottoman, and dresser

View of the double glider, ottoman, and dresser

 

Closet completed (with pink and blue handles)!

Closet completed (with pink and blue handles)!

 

We added a decal to the wall also!

We added a decal to the wall also!

Nursery Crafts

I did some little DIY crafts for the nursery as well.  I got letters to spell out the twins’ names and painted them white with zig zag stripes (pink for Amelia’s and blue for Austin’s). I tied ribbon around the letters and we glued knobs to the wall to hang the letters by.

I also made some size dividers for the clothing in the closet.  A little paint and glue and I ended up with these:

These were door knob signs so I had to cut them a little so they would fit like a hanger

These were door knob signs so I had to cut them a little so they would fit like a hanger

All painted gray

All painted gray

Finished!

Finished!

Close-up View

I thought they were cute but after having infants, I would say they aren’t really necessary. You go through sizes relatively fast and I took out the small outfits as the babies grew. But still…cute.

Knobs and Levers

Another little project I did by myself involved the upstairs hallway bathroom. This is the one bathroom we haven’t redone yet and I hate it. It needs some serious updating. We aren’t ready to tackle another bathroom yet, so it is not on the immediate to-do list.  One thing that was really bad about the bathroom was the shower knob. It is the kind that you have to pull out from the wall and then you twist it right or left to adjust the water temperature. It is the sweet old fashioned kind that looks like it is trying to be a crystal ball or something.  Exhibit A:

I forgot to take a picture of the original knob…it was a worse version of this

The ugliness of the shower knob is not the problem (the rest of the bathroom isn’t cute either, so I just have to suck it up and deal until we…er Jim…wants to redo that bathroom). The problem was that it was incredibly hard to pull the knob from the wall to turn on the shower.  This bathroom is our guest bathroom, so we often had guests try to turn on the shower for a while before calling for our help. Many were fearful they would pull the knob from the wall because they had to pull so hard.  If we tightened the screw in the knob, it would get better but still not be good and would loosen again. I decided to replace the knob. I figured this was a job I could do on my own and surprise Jim with my DIY skills.  I went to Home Depot and got two kinds of shower knobs; another crystal ball type one and one that was a lever.  I took the old knob off and cleaned the area behind it. I saw that the piping had been pushed back a little which was contributing to the problem with the old knob. The piping must have shifted when we were redoing our master bathroom. The two bathrooms share a wall and all of the plumbing. I pulled the piping up a bit and put the new lever on but when I pulled the piping up, the tub faucet’s piping pulled up and caused it to poke out from the wall. I knew this was a problem, but I thought we could fix it with some silicon for waterproofing between the space and the wall. Once the new lever was on, I tested it by trying to turn on the water. No water came out of the faucet. The problem with the lever was that it could not be pulled out  from the wall to turn on the water and it only twisted back and forth to control the temperature. Terrified I broke the shower, I quickly un-did the new lever and put on the new crystal ball knob I bought.  Luckily, it worked!  I was so relieved. It was a lot easier to use the knob and I figured the problem was solved!

After taking the old knob off, I realized I should take a picture!

After taking the old knob off, I realized I should take a picture!

 

Jim was somewhat impressed I fixed the knob situation but not so impressed that I caused the tub faucet to stick out from the wall. He was able to fix the problem by taking off the faucet and cutting back part of the piping and then reattaching the faucet. He then added silicon for waterproofing. A little bit more complicated than the just add silicon solution I had thought of, but luckily it was fixed!

New knob! Not super different than the old one in the looks department, but at least it works better now (also a whale cover over the faucet...not a permanent addition!)

New knob! Not super different than the old one in the looks department, but at least it works better now (also a whale cover over the faucet…not a permanent addition!)

Stair Banister:

As the twins became mobile, it was clear we needed to think about baby proofing. My biggest fear had to do with falls that would lead to serious injuries. This led me to the stairs.  The stairs that lead to our second floor had an opening overlooking the living room without any banister. Even when we bought the house, we knew this was not the safest set-up. Being grown adults who know how to walk up and down stairs, fixing it was not our number one project. Now it was. Without a banister, there was also nothing to attach to a baby gate. This meant that not only could the twins try to go up the stairs on their own, they could also fall off the side opening of the stairs while attempting to crawl up the stairs.  Jim had already installed a banister on the basement stairs when we redid the basement. It was a very similar procedure to add the banister to the first floor stairs. He had to undo some of what was already in place in order to make the banister work. He did an awesome job and we were able to install a baby gate at the bottom of the stairs!  This baby gate is seriously a life saver keeping the twins on the (baby proofed) first floor.

Stairs before railing and banister (see the big opening at the bottom of the stairs)?

Stairs before railing and banister (see the big opening at the bottom of the stairs)?

 

 

 

 

Unpainted banister!

Unpainted railing in place!

Finished railing!

Finished railing!

Finished banister!

Finished banister!

Another view

Another view

One more with more of the stairs

One more with more of the stairs

Basement Permit:

Another project we (uh, Jim) completed had to do with the basement. We had previously tried to close our permit for the work on the basement with one last inspection from the county. Unfortunately, we failed this inspection because we needed to install a GFCI outlet by the washer and dryer  (that type of outlet automatically shuts off if exposed to water) and because we had to drywall under the stairs. The GFCI outlet was a simple fix that I did myself within a week of failing the inspection. Drywalling under the stairs was going to be time-consuming so it got put off…for a while.  Drywalling can be annoying because of the need to cut all the pieces perfectly and then spackle and then sand the dried spackle and then sometimes need to repeat the spackling and sanding. Drywalling is even more annoying if it is for an area that is going to be used as a storage closet and it has an angled ceiling.  After months and months of ignoring the open permit, Jim finally decided to get the drywall up and close the permit. He also decided to add some nice floor padding (we didn’t finish the floors under the stairs) and really spruce up the storage area. It was similar to any other drywalling effort though and we passed the inspection without issue. Permit closed.  We still have a few more things we need to do to truly “finish” the laundry room, but that will come with time.

Drywall all completed for the closet under the stairs!

Drywall all completed for the closet under the stairs!

Trying to get a picture of the nice floor Jim put down (it was already covered by a bunch of things and I didn't feel like cleaning it out...)

Trying to get a picture of the nice floor Jim put down (it was already covered by a bunch of things and I didn’t feel like cleaning it out…)

Ceiling Fans and Lights:

When we first moved into the house, we painted all the rooms on the second floor, added in new carpets, and updated two of the four ceiling fans. The two ceiling fans we replaced we really old and did not have lights on them. So we added modern ones with lights. The ceiling fan in our room was new with lights, so we left it alone.  The reason we did not update the last ceiling fan was because it was not connected to the light switch and therefore it didn’t seem to make sense to add a ceiling fan with lights. It was also in a room we weren’t using as a main guest room, so we figured down the line we would come back to it.  Well it is down the line.

On a side note – when the twins were 3 months old, the air conditioning broke.  We discovered this during a random heat wave in April. Our whole A/C unit needed to be replaced. With better A/C, it was much more noticeable how poorly it worked on the second floor.  In order to remedy this situation, it was suggested to add more insulation in our attic (which is basically just a crawl space). You may remember our attic is a nightmare to go up to from when Jim installed the ceiling fan and overhead lights in our master bathroom. Therefore, we decided before we put more insulation in the attic, we would do anything we could think of that might require Jim going into the attic. This encouraged us to install a new fan that was attached to the light switch in one room and also had a ceiling fan with lights to the room in the office.  Outside of having to go up into the attic, these weren’t too complicated of projects.  Jim had to cut some dry wall out-of-place by the light switches so he could connect the new wire to the light switch and feed it up through the ceiling. For the old fan, he ran the new wire to where the old fan’s wires were and hooked everything up.  We have installed new fans before and if the wiring is in place, it is pretty easy-peasy.  For the new fan, Jim also had to cut a hole in the ceiling and feed the wires in addition to installing the new fan.  The fan in the office first made some burning smell and we decided to bring it back and exchange it for a new fan. With the exchange, the problem was fixed.  Now every room on the second floor as a ceiling fan with lights that is controlled by a light switch!

Old fan in the extra bedroom

Old fan in the extra bedroom

The new fan to replace the old fan (lights on)

The new fan to replace the old fan (lights on)

Same fan with the lights off!

Same fan with the lights off

No fan or overhead light in the office

No fan or overhead light in the office

New fan with lights in the office (lights on)!

New fan with lights in the office (lights on)!

Same fan - lights off

Same fan – lights off

In addition to adding the fans in the ceiling, another ceiling project we wanted finished before adding the extra insulation in the attic involved the upstairs hallway bathroom.  The only light fixture in that bathroom was above the sink.  Whenever you took a shower in that bathroom and pulled the shower curtain closed, it got incredibly dark in the shower.  We wanted to add ceiling lights above the bathroom so brighten up the room (especially for showers).  Jim had to cut the holes in the ceiling as well as run the wiring from the existing light fixture to connect over the bathtub. In also had to install housing for the lights before hooking up the actually lights.  The first lights he ordered ended up being way too bright, so he exchanged them for ones that were softer on the eyes.  The lights are great and really help for bathtime with the twins and whenever someone showers in the bathroom! (It also helps me see all the imperfections of this bathroom better…we really need to get on redoing it…)

Holes in the ceiling with the wires coming out (Apparently I was really bad at taking before pictures during all of these renovations…)

 

New lights over the bathtub (lights on)!

The new lights over the bathtub (lights on)!

 

Same lights with them off (you can see we need to fix the drywall...but that is not a "priority" right now)

Same lights with them off (you can see we need to fix the drywall…but that is not a “priority” right now)

I *think* those are all the projects we have done in the past two years.  There may be a post where I throw something else in I remember later on…but I doubt it. These were the pictures I had and all I can remember!  Now on to that new project…

Maibe is having TWO Babies!

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That’s right everyone, your favorite DIYing couple (we’re your favorite right? We’re totally cooler than the Young House Love couple…) is expecting…TWINS.

Our pregnancy annoucement

Our pregnancy announcement

 

When we went in for our first ultrasound and the technician said, “heartbeat….and heartbeat,” we didn’t realize she wasn’t just repeating herself, but that there were two heartbeats.  We were thrilled.  We feel doubly blessed to be expecting twins.

Although twin pregnancies are more common nowadays, they still come with some scary risks.  Pre-term labor, gestational diabetes, preclampsia are just some of the fun complications that you are at an increased risk for with twins.  Not to mention the increased weight gain adding pressure to your back and joints.  Luckily, I am pregnant with dichorionic/diamniotic (often shortened to di/di) twins.  This means that my twins are in their own amniotic sacs and have their own placentas.  Di/di twins are the least risky type of twins.  They are also the only kind of twins that can be fraternal (70% of di/di are fraternal, while 30% are identical) and therefore the most common. The other types of twins are monochorionic/dicamniotic  (mono/di – two separate sacs, one placenta) and monochorionic/monoamniotic (mono/mono – one sac and one placenta, the riskiest type of twin pregnancy). Mono/di and mono/mono twins are always identical.

Ultrasound at 19 weeks - I love seeing my babies!

Ultrasound at 19 weeks – I love seeing my babies!

Starting at 20 weeks, I started seeing a maternal fetal medicine (MFM) doctor for ultrasound scans.  The extra monitoring is to try to catch pre-term labor before it happens and any other complications that may arise.  At my last appointment, they told me I could be the poster child for twin pregnancy.  Both babies are growing on track (for singletons!) and my cervix is the length of a singleton pregnancy – woohoo!

Although my babies and cervix are measuring at the singleton status, my baby bump (or officially “fundal height”) is definitely not. At 21 weeks, I was measuring as a 28 week singleton pregnancy. A whole 7 weeks ahead.  My doctor told me that I will be having all the same aches and pains that someone who was 28 weeks pregnant with a singleton would feel.  So basically, I just entered the “third trimester” early and will be in it for a long, long time! (That is the hope at least…I want these babies to stay cooking for a lot longer)

I just recently hit 24 weeks pregnant which is a huge milestone since it is the point of viability.  If I was to go into labor now, my babies would have a 50% chance of surviving.  Before this point they would not have been able to survive outside of the womb. In addition to it being the viability point, it is also when my OBs have started to be restrictions on me… no more exercise and no travel.  Since the risk of pre-term labor is so much higher with twins, they don’t want you doing anything that can cause contractions and trigger labor.  The no traveling is mainly because if you go into labor out-of-town, your babies will be in the NICU in that place until they can be released – which could be weeks or months.  I am going out of town this weekend at 25 weeks but it will be my last trip before being banished to Virginia until the twins are born. No holiday travel for the Maibes.
Another unique thing about twin pregnancy is that my doctors will not let me go past 38 weeks.  If I have not already had the babies at 38 weeks, they will induce me or schedule a c-section (depending on the babies positions – both have to be head down for a vaginal delivery).  This is the standard practice with twins because the degradation of the placentas happens earlier and more rapidly in twin pregnancies (mono/di and mono/mono twin pregnancies go even earlier).  On average, twins are born at 35 1/2 weeks gestation.  For me, that happens to be Christmas Eve/Christmas Day.  I’m hoping to make it past the holidays but the most important thing is for the twins to be healthy.

 

Now that you have had your full on medical information about the twins, I will get to the fun stuff. We found out we were having one girl and one boy about 5 weeks ago (at 19 1/2 weeks pregnant)!  We did not have the technician tell us, but instead had her write it down and put it in an envelope.  My sister-in-law was staying with us that evening and bought some unfrosted cupcakes on the way home from work.  We gave her the envelope and she got to work.  She made pink and blue frosting and put it inside the cupcakes.  She frosted the tops white.  Jim and I each had a cupcake for Baby A and Baby B.  We took a bite of the cupcakes together – there was pink for Baby A and blue for Baby B!

 

Gender reveal - one girl and one boy!!

Gender reveal – one girl and one boy!!

We are currently working on names, but those will be a surprise until the twins are born.  We’ve also planned out the nursery but haven’t started working on it yet (we had a basement to finish).  My mother-in-law threw a fabulous surprise baby shower for me last weekend.  Our house is filling up with baby gear and I am loving every minute of it.

For our loyal readers, don’t worry, this DIY Blog is not going to all of a sudden turn into a pregnancy blog.  I will be updating the blog with remodeling of the nursery, etc as well as some updates about the pregnancy and twins. Since we have babies on the way, we will not be starting any big home projects soon, so I will post about what I can.  This whole baby-making thing is a project in itself, just a little different then tearing down a few walls and rebuilding a room from scratch. I am just growing two lives from scratch…well scratch and DNA…and it is amazing.

Basement Reveal!!

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Here is another overdue post.  The basement has been fully functional since July.  There were some finishing touches that we only recently completed, so I was waiting for that before doing the “reveal” post.  We have been using the basement regularly since July though and I can tell you, it is awesome.

In my last post, we had just completed putting the lament wood floors down.  We needed to complete the moulding in the laundry room.  We did that next before installing the utility sink in the laundry room.  A little plumbing was needed to hook everything up, but all in all, it went smoothly.

Molding in the laundry room

Molding in the laundry room

The supply line and drain pipes waiting for the sink to be installed

The supply line and drain pipes waiting for the sink to be installed

Jim installing the sink!

Jim installing the sink!

 

After the sink was installed, the majority of the basement was complete.  We had the carpet guys come and install the carpet in the second half of the basement.  We already had the TV hooked up and a new couch.  We went to IKEA and got a media stand that Jim figured out how to install against the wall (so it is “floating”).  Jim also worked on installing his heavy punching bag to hang from the ceiling so that it would be as quiet as possible while he worked out.  Once all of these things were finished, we took a few months off.

The finishing touches had to do with the railing and guard rail by the stairs.  We needed to install a railing on one side and guard rail on the half wall.  Jim didn’t want nails to show on the railing and it took some time to figure out the best way to install the guard rail.  This is part of the reason we didn’t finish it right away – the other part was the laziness of summer.  Installing the long railing wasn’t too difficult and just required a lot of measuring and some painting.

Railing before the paint

Railing before the paint (sneak preview of the carpet too!)

After much debate, Jim decided to use screws to install the guard rail.  He decided to drill a large hole before the screw, so that he could cover up the screw by placing a wood cover over the hole.  It worked even better than we could have imagined.  The guard rail went up securely and there were no visible screws anywhere.

Two of the holes where the screws secured the railling

Two of the holes where the screws secured the railling

The other hole for another screw

The other hole for another screw

Railing in place

Railing in place

Full view of the guard rail

Full view of the guard rail

Wood covers in place and painted - no screws in sight!

Wood covers in place and painted – no screws in sight!

Hole be gone!

Hole be gone!

Posts up and painted - it was Jim's idea to use the dark gray for the posts - looks amazing of course!

Posts up and painted – it was Jim’s idea to use the dark gray for the posts – looks amazing of course!

 

Now what you have all been waiting for…the reveal!!

 

From the top of the stairs, looking down the tunnel to the basement

The old stairway looking from the top of the stairs into basement

New view from the top of the stairs - a lot brighter! (Not to mention the less squeaky, more secure stairs underneath the carpet)

New view from the top of the stairs – a lot brighter! (Not to mention the less squeaky, more secure stairs underneath the carpet)

The original stairs, take note of the carpet on the sides

Old view from the bottom of the stairs – notice the ugly carpet

New view from the bottom of the stairs!

New view from the bottom of the stairs!

Another view - we created the half wall which opens up the space a lot more

Another view – we created the half wall which opens up the space a lot more

It also allows for the amazing new railing

It also allows for the amazing new railing

The hallway leading towards the laundry room

Old  hallway leading towards the laundry room – we completely got rid of these walls to open up the space

View 2 of room #1

The basement used to be split up into two rooms – this was a view from the first one from the hallway

Room #2

This was a view of the second one from the hallway

Doors to the laundry room and room #2

This was the end of the hallway to the laundry room – now all completely different!

This is the old "first room" - now the lounging area of the basement

This is the old “first room” – now the lounging area of the basement

View of the "second room" - still from the bottom of the stairs. Without the hallway, the whole room is open. This is our gym section of the basement

View of the “second room” – still from the bottom of the stairs. Without the hallway, the whole room is open. This is our gym section of the basement

A view from the gym

A view from the gym

Another view

Another view

The new doorway to the laundry room

The new doorway to the laundry room

View into the laundry room

View into the laundry room

The basement is bright, new, and a place you want to spend time in now!  I did not do a full reveal of the laundry room because there are still things we need to finish in there that are not high priority (drop ceiling, closet doors, closet racks, etc).  Once we get around to it, I will do a new post just for the laundry room.  I also want to give credit where credit is due – in May, Jim became very motivated to finish the basement. This was about the same time that we found out I was pregnant.  While I struggled through first trimester exhaustion and nausea, Jim spent many hours working alone in the basement.  We are a team through our DIY projects but Jim really picked up all of my slack towards the end of this project.  He is so talented and amazing, it is not surprising we ended up with such an incredible result!

A Long Overdue Update

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This is a long overdue post.  There were some reasons for my delay in posting, one was that we went on an amazing trip to Australia in April which took up a lot of that month. Then we had to wait a while before we got the right people in to spackle the drywall so it would be finished and seamless.  It wasn’t until May before we really started making progress again…but now we’ve made a LOT of progress so we have a lot to catch up on.

Once the walls and ceiling were spackled, we were able to start painting.  We needed to prime every, thing before painting, so it took some time.  We pick a gray color for the main room and a yellowish white for the laundry room.  After painting, we saw a lot of little areas that needed some retouching with the spackling.  It took time to spackle all the areas, let it dry, sand it smooth and repaint.  Once it was all done though, the rooms both turned out great.

The painted walls

The painted walls

I took pictures of the different angles

I took pictures of the different angles

Another

Another

A few more of the main room...

A few more of the main room…

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The laundry room (this is bad lighting and makes the wall looks more yellow than it is)

The laundry room (this is bad lighting and makes the wall looks more yellow than it is)

More laundry room

More laundry room

Last one

Last one

After the painting, moulding needed to be added along the walls, door frames, and the post.  This meant measuring each moulding exactly right, nailing it in place, covering the nails with spackle, and then painting the finished product.  We plan to put moulding in the laundry room, but focused on the main room for now.  Moulding also needed to be put along the stairs.  This had to be custom-made for our custom-made steps.  Jim took all the measurements and planned carefully for the mouldings.  It came out perfectly. It fits snug up against the stairs and helps to finish the look.

The stairway with the unpainted moulding

The stairway with the unpainted moulding

Close-up of the moulding

Close-up of the moulding

The other side

The other side

One more full view

One more full view

The moulding along the walls

The moulding along the walls

More moulding

More moulding

Crown moulding along the post

Crown moulding along the post

We also needed to install the new door and door frame between the main room and the laundry room.  This was not as easy as it should have been.  When we would make one adjustment to line up the door, a corner would pop out or the door wouldn’t shut correctly.  After a lot of frustration and tries, Jim was able to maneuver the door in a way that made it fit perfectly.  After the door and moulding, Jim installed the staircase post (actually known as a newel).  He needed to drill into the cement in order to securely attach the newel to the ground.  He also secured the newel to the staircase using creative means.  It is very sturdy and looks like it has always been there.  Once the newel was in place, Jim added a finished board to the top of the half wall we cut out in the stairs. This helped finish the stairway as well as lays the foundation for stair posts and a railing.  Some other finishing touches included putting new vent covers on the a/c vents and installing a new vent for the dryer.

The door installed

The door installed

 

Close-up

Close-up

The newel with the finished board on the half wall

The newel with the finished board on the half wall (and painted moulding)!

 

The biggest update of all has to do with the floor.  Half of the basement is going to be the gym area and the other half is going to be for lounging and hanging out.  We decided to do different flooring for the two sections.  The gym and laundry room would both have lament wood flooring while the lounging and stairway would have carpeting.  On Memorial Day, we went to Lumber Liquidators and picked up some awesome flooring.  That week, we started looking on getting it installed.  The type of boards we bought were what is known as, “floating.” This means there is no nailing or gluing to install the floor boards. The boards “float” over the subfloor and connect to each other by interlocking the pieces.  Before putting down the floor boards, we needed to put down a moisture barrier that would protect the floor boards from moisture and mold. We got a thicker kind that would also help even out the floor if there were any imperfections (like where we couldn’t get the old vinyl floor up in the laundry room.  The moisture barrier went down pretty smoothly other than the fact that it rolled out the opposite direction it was supposed to be installed.  We figured it out though and were ready to start the floors.

Moisture barrier in place

Moisture barrier in place

Another view

Another view

Jim decided to get the flooring done as soon as possible. I was going out-of-town for my niece’s first birthday, so Jim stayed home and did the floors solo.  When I got home, I was amazed at how awesome it looked.  He had started the flooring before I went out-of-town and was having some trouble with the boards interlocking straight.  He got half of the gym floor done before undoing it all to make sure everything was interlocked perfectly so he wouldn’t have trouble later down the line.  He figure out a method of using a laser from one of the levels to determine if the boards were straight.  Although it was time-consuming, it worked and the floors turned out awesome. Jim needed to leave a space between the walls and the floor boards in order to allow for fluctuation in the size of the boards.  To cover up that space, he added quarter moulding along the floors to give an extra finished look.

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The start of the flooring

The gym section

Finished! The gym section

More of the gym

More of the gym

A shot of the finished door with the finished floors

A shot of the finished door with the finished floors

Showing how well it closes

Showing how well it closes

The laundry room

The laundry room

More laundry room - please excuse the unused mouldings

More laundry room – please excuse the unused mouldings

Threshold moulding (not sure if that's the real name...but it looks good either way, right?)

Threshold moulding (not sure if that’s the real name…but it looks good either way, right?)

The main section of the basement is almost complete.  We even mounted our new television and set up the new couch. Those pictures can wait for the big reveal.

 

One Step at a Time…Literally

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The steps to the basement were carpeted before we started the demolition.  We plan to keep the stairs carpeted, but we wanted to change how the carpet looked.  Here is a picture of the original staircase:

The original stairs, take note of the carpet on the sides

The original stairs, take note of the carpet on the sides

You can see that the carpet goes up on the sides of the stairs.  This is very unusual.  Jim absolutely hated it. I didn’t like it, but never really thought much of it.  On top of the weird carpet, the stairs were very creaky.  Jim figured he would take the carpet off and fix some of the creaks but adding some new nails and making it more sturdy.  Well, when the carpet came off the stairs, we saw that the stairs were no good.

The steps without carpet

The steps without carpet

Close-up to get a better idea of what bad shape they were in

Close-up to get a better idea of what bad shape they were in

These are not finished stairs.  These stairs were installed when the basement was unfinished and the look of the stairs didn’t matter.  Instead of having normal stringers to hold the stairs in place, these stringers had grooves in them to slide the stairs in.  These meant that the sides of the stairs that are normally uncovered would have grooves and be unfinished.  Jim and I brainstormed the many different ways we may be able to fix this problem.  Jim’s first thought was to re-do the stairs completely.  I came up with many different options that unfortunately would not look as good.  In the end, Jim won.  We were going to learn how to build some stairs.

Jim figured out all the measurements to make the steps work.  He had to work around the support beam in the basement which is located right at the very first step of the stairs. He also had to make the stairs end before the door to the tool closet at the base of the stairs.  He had a design and measurements worked out.  On one of our March snow days (because we did have more than one), we decided to start working on the stringers.

The wood all ready to be cut

The wood all ready to be cut

Jim's design

Jim’s design

The stringers are the skeleton of the staircase. It holds everything in place.  The cuts on the stringers are the most important part to getting the stairs to be even and level.  After measuring out what needed to be cut on the stringers, Jim used a circular saw to cut each step in the stringer.  Unfortunately, circular saws do not all the way through because they are, well, circular.  So after doing all the cuts on one side, we flipped the wood on to its other side to cut out the stairs there.  Then a little piece was left that we needed to use a hand saw to get rid of.  It took some time.  Once we had one stringer done, we used it has a stencil for the next two stringers.

The outlines drawn on the wood

The outlines drawn on the wood

One of the finished stringers!

One of the finished stringers!

Using the finished stringer as a stencil

Using the finished stringer as a stencil

Two weekends ago, Jim decided to tackle the stairs.  I had been sick that week and unfortunately was no help (outside of taking pictures and handing Jim things no and then).  He tore down the old staircase and got started on the new one.  He put a ladder in place so he could still come upstairs when he needed to.

The view from upstairs

The view from upstairs

View from downstairs...Derby was really upset the stairs were gone and that Jim was stuck down there

View from downstairs…Derby was really upset the stairs were gone and that Jim was stuck down there

Jim got to work figuring out where the stringers would go and also installing the support beams for the stringers.  Jim quickly realized some of his original calculations were off.  The stringers fit in place, but the stairs were incredibly slanted.  He had to rework all of his calculations and that took a lot of time.  He eventually ended up taking away one of the stairs and increased the height of the platform at the end of the stairs so that everything would be level and even.  Luckily, he did not have to do completely new stringers and just altered the ones we already cut.  Once all the measurements were corrected, Jim attached the stringers at the base and the top and then put them in place. Jim also had the foresight to add drywall to the sections of the wall that had been previously covered by the old stairs that would no longer be covered by the new stairs.  He saved us a lot of time from cutting out triangles of drywall to install.

 

The new wood on the platform step to increase its height

The new wood on the platform step to increase its height

Support beams in place, Derby still uneasy about the missing stairs

Support beams in place, Derby still uneasy about the missing stairs

Jim moving the stringers in place

Jim moving the stringers in place

Stringers in place!

Stringers in place!

The next step was to add the risers and the treads.  Treads are the part of stairs you step on while the risers are the vertical part that rests between the treads. Risers prevent you from putting your foot through the stairs and they add support to the treads you walk on.  Luckily, we were able to order finished treads and risers. The treads have round edges which make them look really nice.  Jim add wood glue and hammered them into place.  Before you know it, we had a brand new staircase!

Before the top step was put in

Before the top step was put in

All done!

All done!

With the staircase finally in place, we were able to build the half wall by the end of the stairs.  The stairs originally were tunneled in to the end of the staircase but we decided to open it up.  We needed to build a wall frame for the new half wall.  Jim was checking his measurements and had me figure out some of it as well.  We were building the wall frame with an angle in it, so we had to pull out our cosine, sine, and tangent knowledge.  I even searched for my high school graphing calculator, which unfortunately, was no longer working.  The math was done and the measurements worked out.  We also finished the last of the drywall and we are ready for the drywall guys to come in and finish the seams.  The basement is getting so close to being complete!

Using a string to help with measurements

Using a string to help with measurements

The wall frame in place!

The wall frame in place!

Beautiful stairs

Beautiful stairs

Last one of the amazing stairs

Last one of the amazing stairs

From the Windows to the Walls…

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It has been over a month since the last update and we have been busy at work.  There has been a few huge (for Virginia) snow storms during that time that kept us inside and working on the basement.  With the wall insulation done, we started adding drywall.  Installing drywall is always a very exciting step. It helps you really see the room come together.  We had a good system in place in which I would measure and cut most of the drywall while Jim hung up the pieces that I cut.  There were two sections of the main area of the basement in which the wall frames were shorter than the wall frames next to it. This meant that once drywall went up, the wall would either not be level or there would be a weird bumped out edge in the middle of the wall.  Jim caught the problem before we ordered drywall and planned to attach two layers of drywall to the shorter wall frames.  This actually worked perfectly. The first layer of drywall made it so the wall was lined up with the rest of the wall frames.  It took a little bit of extra time, but it was worth it to have a seamless wall. Most of the drywall for the main area of the basement went on without a hitch but when adding drywall around the post in the middle of the room, Jim encountered some problems. The wood we used to frame the post was warped. Therefore, the drywall would not lay flat against the wood.  Jim chiseled away enough wood in order to make the wood posts level. This took a lot of effort. Later, when doing the rest of the beam, Jim decided to use wood shims instead. This worked out easier and just as well for leveling the drywall.

The beginnings of the drywall

The beginnings of the drywall

In the laundry room, it was a little more challenging. We had to work around pipes while also moving the washer and dryer out of the way. We planned to close off the water heater and a/c unit behind a closet which meant Jim needed to build some wall frames and bulkheads for the closet doors and support beam.  There was a lot of creative calculation at work  in order to ensure the wall was parallel to the other wall.   Once all the framing was in place, we were able to easily finish the drywall.  There were some places are waiting to drywall (near the door to the laundry room, around the stairway, around one of the windows) due to additional steps we have not yet completed.  All and all, the walls weren’t too bad.

The wood after Jim chiseled away at it

The wood after Jim chiseled away at it

Next came the ceiling.  We decided to “sound proof” the basement to the best of our ability.  We will have a treadmill in the basement as well as surround sound for TV/movie watching, so we thought it may be beneficial in the long run. Jim looked into a variety of sound proofing and decided we would do two things: 1) Use insulation designed to minimize sound (it is called Safe and Sound) 2) Use Quiet Rock drywall which is supposed to supply the sound proofing of 8 sheets of drywall in one sheet. Before we could install the drywall on the ceiling, we had to install the sound proofing insulation.  This wasn’t difficult, just annoying at times. The insulation crumbled really easily.  We had to be very careful picking it up and stuffing it in between the beams. Also, gravity was working against us and all of the little shredding of insulation were falling into our faces. On top of that, the Safe and Sound insulation as smelled really bad. I got used to it after a while, but it was pretty gross at first.

The "Safe and Sound" insulation in the ceiling

The Safe and Sound insulation in the ceiling

More safe and sound

More Safe and Sound

Last one

Last one

Once the insulation was complete, we were ready for the drywall. We rented a drywall lift (we rented one in the past when remodeling the kitchen).  We wanted to try to get this done in one day because we needed to rent equipment. We thought this was doable since we bought a cool tool that easily cut out holes for recessed lighting, outlets, etc.  We had a system in place from installing drywall on the walls, so this should be easy-peasy. Right?  No, not right.  The Quiet Rock drywall sheets look like two thin pieces of drywall stuck together.  We assumed cutting the Quiet Rock would be the same as cutting regular drywall. It wasn’t. With regular drywall, you can measure and trace out your cuts. With a utility knife, you cut into the line you marked. You won’t be able to get all the way through the drywall easily, but that is ok because after you start the cut, you can bend the drywall and it breaks smoothly along where you cut.  Quiet Rock does not do that. It is thicker and does not break.  After trial and error, a hand saw meant for drywall was our best bet.  That meant we had to physically saw each piece. The pieces are 8 feet by 4 feet long. Imagine sawing line that are 8 feet long…over and over again.  You get the picture?  It was exhausting and time-consuming.  We worked all day but by 9 pm, it was clear we weren’t going to finish.  This was the Sunday before President’s Day. I had to work the next day (stupid snow day make-ups), but Jim had off.  We decided to call it a night and Jim would finish most of the ceiling the next day.  We ended up renting the lift for two days and got 90% of the ceiling done during that time. We had smaller pieces that we finished later without the lift.  We completed the bulkhead with the Quiet Rock as well since it is also part of the ceiling.  Before we could install the drywall there, we had to fix the air vents.  Previously, there were just holes in the ducts without a connection to the registers on the ceiling. These could result in a lot of air loss.  We went to Home Depot and searched for possibilities to attach the duct to the register. We came up with a solution that works nicely.  After this past weekend, the drywall is completed everywhere it can be (not in the places we still have to do other work) and we have the beginnings of our basement.

Drywalling (almost) complete

Drywall (almost) complete

View of the ceiling

Another view of the ceiling

Beam complete

Beam complete

Bulkhead complete

Bulkhead complete

The laundry room closed off by drywall

The laundry room now its own separate room

Drywall in the laundry room coming together

Drywall in the laundry room coming together

Another view

Water heater and a/c unit before the wall frames

One frame is up!

One frame is up!

The other frame!

The other frame!

Framing all drywalled

Framing all drywalled

Another shot

Another shot

Closet in the laundry room all drywalled!

Closet in the laundry room all drywalled!

Drywall around the utility box

Drywall around the utility box

Now to the windows.  Our basement had two small 14 by 32 inch windows.  They were up high and in pretty bad shape. We decided we would replace them with new windows with removable window panes. With the window panes removable, people could escape in case of an emergency.  We were all set to do this until the inspector came for the insulation inspection.  Even though this was the third time we had an inspector out to the basement, it was the first time anyone mentioned an “egress window.”  Egress windows are windows designed to be large enough for a firefighter to climb in or a person to climb out of in an emergency.  Code requires the window opening to be no more than 44 inches off of the inside ground.  It also has to have a much larger opening than 14 by 32 inches.  Luckily, code only requires there be one window. Our yard slopes downward so one of windows was actually pretty high above ground and adding in egress window there wouldn’t require too much digging underground. To install an egress, we would still need to dig a well on the outside of the window as well as cut a hole in the side of the house.  We called some contractors to get estimates. The estimates ranged from $2,400-3,600. This was going to cost a pretty penny that we did not include in the budget.  Jim researched everything required to complete the project and decided we could do it ourselves.  I was worried.  Mainly, I didn’t want a big hole in the side of the house without us being able to fix it.  Jim estimated that if we did it ourselves, it would only cost about $800. This was a significant saving in cost.  Jim knows he can always convince me of something if it is going to save us money, so I was (cautiously) sold on the idea. We replaced the one window with a new window of the same size and then prepared for installing the egress window.

Old window - not cute or easy to open

Old window – not cute or easy to open

Old window removed

Old window removed

Jim installing the new window

Jim installing the new window

New window - nice, clean, and easy to open!

New window – nice, clean, and easy to open!

The other weekend, we had unusually warm weather predicted.  No rain in the forecast with highs in the 50’s and 60’s.  This seemed to be the perfect opportunity to work on the window.  We prepped as much as we could on Friday. We had to take down the insulation and framing we had already completed.  We also set up plastic sheeting around the window to try to contain the dust produced from cutting into the cinder blocks. Jim also read we should create a barrier on the floor to prevent the water used with the saw from spreading everywhere.

This is the window we planned to replace with the egress

This is the window before we started working

Framing and insulation all gone

Framing and insulation all gone

Prep for the cutting - the plastic sheeting, very "Dexter"

Prep for the cutting – the plastic sheeting, very “Dexter”

Our foam barrier for water collection

Our foam barrier for water collection

Saturday was the day for digging the well.  Parts of the ground were still frozen and we had to chip around the first inch or so before we could dig.  We needed to dig a well that was 3 ft by 3 ft and 16 inches deep.  The side of the well furthest from the house also needed a trench, 6 inches deeper, to help with drainage of rain water.  The worst part about digging was the mud.  The ground was so muddy from the snow. Our shoes had inches of mud caked on them. It felt like you were walking in some sort of clown shoes. It was also hard to get good footing because the mud was slippery. Neither of us fell face first into the mud, although I came close a few times.  We needed to make sure the well was sloped away from the house towards the trench to help with drainage. You don’t want to go to all this trouble to have rain water just sit at the bottom of the well with nowhere to go but into the house.  We were able to get the well dug out and with the right slope in about 2 1/2 hours.  Once the well was dug, we needed to add landscaping fabric along the sides as well as gravel to help with drainage. After a few tiring and muddy hours, the trench was complete.  We also decided to drill holes at the corner points of the new window.  This was to help Jim when he was sawing through the cinder block to make sure each side was lined up.  Since we had some more time on Saturday, we decided to rent that drill and complete this Saturday.  You could say this day went well. (See what I did there?)

The window from the outside - before the well.

The window from the outside – before the well.

Our well!

Our well!

Another view of the well

Another view of the well

The landscaping fabric in place

The landscaping fabric in place

Gravel all done

Gravel all done

The lines drawn and holes drilled

The lines drawn and holes drilled

On Sunday, we rented the saw we needed to cut through the cinder block.  The biggest blade they had was 16 inches. This was a circular saw, so it would cut about 7 inches into the cinder block.  Jim had to cut on the inside of the house and then on the outside of the house to get through the whole 12 inch cinder block.  As with anytime you cut into brick, you need to add water to the saw (like the wet saw we have used in the past) to help with the friction.  My job was to spray the saw with water while Jim cut.  He had carefully measured where to cut.  The saw was big and heavy. It was not easy to hold up against a wall and cut. Luckily, I have a super strong man who could manage this job. Jim took his time cutting along the lines.  There were a few scary moments when the saw would jump up out-of-place. We think it was probably because the cinder blocks were hollow, so the change between hollow space and block would throw the saw off.  Jim had incredible control and nerves.  I kept praying for Jim to finish and for both of us to have all limbs attached when he was done.  Outside of the scary moments, the cutting went smoothly.  Jim knocked in the cinder blocks and we had officially had a hole in our wall!

Cinder blocks gone!

Cinder blocks gone!

Another view with less sunlight in the way

Another view with less sunlight in the way

The next steps involved adding new cement on the cinder blocks that were exposed to help strengthen them.  We then needed to add a 2 by 6 as a window sill and put the window frame in place. We removed the window panes before putting the window frame in place.  Jim worked on leveling the window and waterproofing it from the outside.  We were finishing up the window, so I went on an errand.  I came back 45 minutes to find Jim just finishing with the window panes.  Apparently, the window frame bowed out in the middle when we installed it without the panes.  When Jim tried to put in the panes, he could not get the window to close.  He had to undo the whole frame, put the panes in the frame and re-install it.  All of his waterproofing work was undone.  Since it was already late at this point, Jim put up a tarp for the night and fixed the waterproofing the next day.  Since that weekend, the weather has gone downhill – including another big snow storm yesterday.  We are glad the window is in and we can keep rolling with new projects.

The end of Sunday night - window in place!

The end of Sunday night – window in place!

This past weekend, Jim rebuilt the wall frames around the egress window.  We needed to redo the insulation (foam and fiberglass batts).  The window adds a lot of natural light into the room and is overall a great addition.

After the amazing framing job - looks like a pretty fine window to me!

After the amazing framing job – looks like a pretty fine window to me!

Window with all the insulation done as well!

Window with all the insulation done as well!

Another ceiling picture that I didn't put in earlier because you can see the new window in this picture!

Another ceiling picture that I didn’t put in earlier because you can see the new window in this picture!