Palmer House

Renovating and Restoring Our 1880 Folk Victorian

Well this post has been a long time coming (This post has actually taken me five days to write…newborns are not very patient)! I think I have been saying that I was going to post this nursery tour for over a month, but you know how it is when you are 9 months pregnant…getting up in the morning is a task, so the thought of taking pictures and then sitting down to post up a tour was overwhelming.

Since then, we have been blessed with a gorgeous baby boy, and we spend quite a bit of time in this little room.

If you are wondering if this room looks familiar, you would be right! This is the Little Blue Room aka The Sitting Room, which is now the temporary nursery! Michael’s permanent room will be the back bedroom, which has seemingly become the catch-all room at the moment. We were expecting to have the roof over that room repaired for leaks that were occurring, but now that little boy is here, our priorities have shifted. The roof is no longer leaking – and although that is due to a temporary, band-aid type of fix, it is working for now, so other fixes have become a priority.

So, for now, this little guy is staying in a temporary nursery set up in the Sitting Room. As you stand in the doorway, you can see the crib, the rocker and the makeshift changing table:

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It’s a little room, but it’s cozy! So let’s walk around the room:

As you step in the door, to the left the first thing you’ll see is our ironing board hidden inside a cupboard. Ok, not exactly what you would expect to find in a nursery, but it was there before this room was given its newest purpose, and we weren’t about to move it. So one could argue the room is multi-functional!

I put a small, quiet fan atop the ironing board cupboard to help with air circulation. Luckily, when we moved in, someone had already put central air in this 138-year-old house, and included this tiny room and the upstairs bathroom in the mix. So the fan is there to help push around the cool air coming out from that beautiful cast-iron reproduction duct (House of Antique Hardware). Having a fan in the room to help with temperature control and air circulation has been known to help prevent Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), so it was important to me to find a quiet fan for in the nursery.

Next is my last anniversary gift from my husband – that gorgeous wooden Betsy Ross flag.

Wood. History. Patriotism. The man knows the way to my heart!

The crib came from Wayfair.com in grey and it was super easy to assemble! I purposely didn’t want a convertible crib because we already have an entire twin bed set that my father made for me when I was young, so when the time comes, Michael will transition into that twin bed with side rails attached.

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The mobile was a gift from my Aunt and my cousin (The Peanutshell Farmhouse Sheep Musical Mobile in Grey). A word to the wise for those mama’s out there registering for baby items: make sure items like your mobile fit in between the slats of the crib you buy. This guy did, but just barely, and of course at the time I had ripped open and threw away all the packaging to the mobile, so if it hadn’t fit I wouldn’t have been able to exchange it! Micheal still has yet to actually sleep in his crib as he is in a basinet in our bedroom, but we made sure that we invested in a good quality mattress (Sealy FlexCool 2-Stage Airy Crib Mattress) and that all our sheets were very soft (Hello Spud Organic Cotton Jersey Fitted Crib Sheet).

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At the end of the crib, we have the “built-in bookcase”. I put that in quotes because this bookcase, at one time, was actually a doorway. Someone converted it at some point to create a crooked, very shallow built-in. I’m not complaining! There is something very sweet about it. Michael received quite a few books at his baby shower, but almost all of them were too long for the shelves in this shallow bookcase.

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So, I kept all of my late Uncle’s books on the shelves and placed Michael’s in the Hungry Hungry Caterpillar tote on the floor. Turns out those cloth totes are my jam – they hold a ton and they don’t scratch the wood floors! You will see quite a few of them in this room! Other items on the bookcase include Michael’s marquee bear night light (NoJo Bear Shaped Standing Marquee Light), a picture of his great grandfather (One of his namesake’s), and various other vintage and antique family items. The bear bean bag creates a little reading nook in the room, and it came from Pottery Barn Kids.

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Behold! The only window in this room! Before this room became the nursery, I purposely kept curtains off this window because I wanted as much light as I could get in this room for as long as possible during the day. This window and one small window in the stairwell are the only ways to get natural light in the upstairs hallway, and I wanted it streaming in! But when it comes to putting a little one down for a nap during the day, we have to tamper the light at least a little bit. So I found these curtains that I LOVE and want to put throughout the entire house! The are from Bed, Bath & Beyond ‘s new farmhouse line, Bee & Willow. They are simple white cotton curtains with tiny perforations in them to allow for airflow. Because they are a light, breathable cotton, they also allow for some light to pass through while blocking out any harsh, early morning sun this easterly side of the house gets. The rocker and ottoman were a hand-me-downs from my grandmother. The ottoman makes the room feel a bit cramped, but I am always thankful for it during those early-morning feedings!

More totes! The two larger totes hold all of the stuffed animals that Michael has been given so far. Life hack for moms: When you get those bath time gift sets at your baby shower – you know the ones that have the baby wash, shampoo, and lotion sitting in a little cloth basket with a bunch of straw filler on the bottom – don’t get rid of the cloth basket! The smallest purple cloth basket with all of the small and loose toys came from an Aveeno bath time gift set! I have two other similar bags from similar gift sets in the hall closet holding onto various small items like pacifiers and bath toys! They keep everything together and organized.

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On the opposite wall of the crib is our makeshift changing table. I am the first to admit that before I had a baby I didn’t get changing tables. I thought they were a waste of money – why drop hundreds of dollars on a changing table when you can just change your baby on the floor or on your bed? Because when you are running on three to four hours of sleep and have a screaming baby at 2 AM in a dirty diaper and are recovering from the birthing process yourself, the idea of bending over to change a baby on the floor is downright tear-provoking! That being said, we had no room for a changing table – not in this tiny room! We had a hand-me-down desk, again, from my grandmother that was already in the room and we had nowhere else to put the desk in the house. Therefore – presto – changing table! It used to live on the opposite wall under my Betsy Ross flag, but we swapped sides because I wanted to be able to see Michael in the crib from the hallway. I got a changing pad, applied non-skid matting to the bottom (the kind you would put in your kitchen drawer to keep things from sliding around) and put a diaper caddy next to it stocked with diapers, wipes, baby lotion, pacifiers and diaper cream. Stick a diaper pail next to the lot and it made as good a changing table as I have ever seen!

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Adventure certainly does await! (Michael was photo bombing from the womb! Changing Pad Cover)

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The next challenge was to figure out what to do with all of Michael’s clothing since we didn’t have a dresser. But I did have desk drawers and a hall closet! So in the top drawer, I placed all of the clothes that were newborn and 0-3 month size.

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The next drawer down was 3-6 month clothing…

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And the last drawer was 6 month and above. How did I get it all to fit? Google how to Marie Kondo your baby clothes!

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On the left side of the desk, the top drawer holds large muslin swaddling blankets and (not pictured) burp cloths. This is the drawer closest to the rocker, so having these two types of items close at hand is convenient.

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The next drawer down also holds swaddling blankets, but of the fleece variety, which I don’t plan on using during the summer months.

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Last is a drawer filled with swaddle sacks of various sizes and materials for different ages and times of the year.

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The last piece of the room is the “nightstand” next to the desk created out of old Drambuie liquor crates. These were in the room before and were simply re-purposed (I put felt furniture coasters on the bottom of the box to protect the wood floors!) The baby camera sits on top of these boxes along with a small desk lamp and a plush animal stacker from Pottery Barn Kids.

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Isn’t that the cutest toy you have ever seen??

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Some detail shots…

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So that concludes this nursery tour! I hope you found some inspiration or at least some enjoyment reading this post…I always like to see how people organize their homes! Until next time…

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Hey, hey, hey! Lookie, lookie! We actually made some progress! Let’s rewind and explain this whole process, because like any home repair, renovation or restoration, there is always more than meets the eye!

Here is where we left the roof last fall:

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A large piece of sheet aluminum was shoved under the damage done to the roof during some bad weather this past October to prevent leaking:

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We found a wonderful contractor that was super knowledgeable, fair, stayed in touch with us and made time for us when we needed his advice. We hired him immediately, and made plans on how to tackle this roof problem.

 

Here is what we decided:

The new construction that was done by the last (terrible) contractor was sixteen-on-center and solid, we just had no visible rafter tails and no support for the edge of the roof on that side of the house. Luckily, this past winter in Upstate NY was a milder one, with only two significant storms. In between, it would warm up enough that any ice jams would melt and didn’t cause more severe problems like leaks. However, the precipitation was spaced out in such a way that the work wasn’t able to be done over the winter like we hoped. We planned on removing the bottom two to three feet of shingles, soffits and facia board. New tails made out of wood would be attached to and extended from the newer construction that already existed, and a steel bar would be affixed to the entire structure for reinforcement. New shingles, soffits and facia board, done! Our contractor estimated he could get it done in two days.

Oh my, oh my. How foolish to think it would be that simple. Here is what we found when the roof was removed:

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So what are we looking at? Well, the dark pieces of wood that extend past the exterior wall are the 138-year-old rafter tails. These aren’t attached to anything anymore, they are just floating there, and almost all of them were broken after years of heavy snow and ice jams. The lighter wood is the newer construction done by the last contractor that pulled a fast one on the previous owners. Some of these pieces didn’t even touch the exterior wall – they were just floating in mid-air, a good inch above where they should be! To boot, there is no insulation in all of those cavities between the rafters. NONE. My contractor said he could stuff his entire arm – up to his shoulder – into each of those cavities and he couldn’t feel a bit of insulation. No WONDER we were having such ice jam and icicle problems on this side of the house during the winter! We were loosing all our heat! To boot, the soffits that were in place? Yeah…those were “just for show” – my contractor’s words, not mine. Turns out the soffits – the white, perforated plastic or aluminum sheets that are under the eves of your house to allow circulation of air through your insulation/attic space (the insulation that we’re missing…THAT insulation), was attached to plywood boards, so there was no air circulation whatsoever.

What. The. Heck. Learn from us, people. Learn from us. Get a contractor that will educate you, advocate for you, and treat you fairly. So new tails were made…

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Insulation was added into every cavity (That yellow insulation was blown-in insulation, which is useless and a waste of time and money, because it essentially deflates over time and leaves the big empty spaces that you see, allowing heat to virtually pour out of your house).

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And a steel bar was added along each new tail for extra support.

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New shingles and soffits were color matched and put back, and the roof was done! The grand total, with the delay in time and extra materials added in? Eight thousand dollars. I tell you this because, remember – according to the invoice we found from the previous contractor, half of a brand-new roof construction and an entirely new shingled roof cost only three thousand dollars. DO YOUR RESEARCH PEOPLE!

In the end, we only had one extra day added on to the entire job. My contractor stayed until 8:30 pm one night to make sure that the roof was weather-proofed, as it was going to rain the next day, and gifted us about six hundred dollars off the final price as a baby gift! Amazing. His work ethic and the quality of the final product alone would have kept us as customers, but the fact that he picked up the renovation debris in our yard, was willing to work with our insurance company, and was gracious enough to make a very generous gift to us, means that he has earned lifelong customers!

So here is the final product. I have to squint to see any mismatch in the shingle colors. I’ll be curious to see if we notice a difference in the heat in the bedroom and the icicles next winter.

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Next up: Our side entrance steps. They were ripped out last fall because they were such a hazard. Now we need to have them rebuilt. Hopefully, the back roof will be replaced in the late summer or fall, after which we will finally be able to tackle the nursery. The baby is due at the end of June, so he probably won’t be in his permanent room until Christmas. That’s ok though. He won’t mind.

“Patience is the calm acceptance that things can happen in a different order than the one you have in mind.” – David G. Allen

This is going to be a very short post, but hopefully it will be the first of many in the coming weeks!

We finally have a plan for our main roof! We chose our contractor and signed a contract back in January. He is local, and just completed a MAJOR, historically correct roofing job down the street from us. He has worked on old homes for the majority of his career, and felt very confident that he could fix our roof without having to tear the whole side off.

I heard from him yesterday, and he is planning on getting the building permits this week and starting work next week! He estimates that this job should only take about a week, provided the weather here in Upstate New York stays dry. After this job, the next task will be to be tackle a different portion of roof at the back of the house. That job will probably happen closer to the end of the summer, and will be much more involved as we will have to take that entire roof off, down to the studs. We also anticipate finding mold and rot issues, as this roof has evidence of leaking that has been going on a lot longer than we have been in the house! After that, we can finally start work on the nursery and main upstairs bathroom. *sigh*. I need to win the lottery.

In the meantime, now that this semester of school is over, I should be able to be more active on the blog and on the Instagram account (@palmerhouseonline). Our small sitting room/bedroom is going to become a temporary nursery until we can get that back bedroom done.

It’s going to be awhile…

But we love our home and we are willing to wait in order to have something we will adore for the rest of our lives that will be historically sympathetic to this old girl who has had much of her historical features stripped away over the years. I hope you will all continue to stay tuned!

Yes, yes, I’m here! It has been a crazy four months…first an emergency surgery on Halloween with a month of at home recovery, then getting back in the swing of things at work, all while dealing with this thing called pregnancy (Yes! We did it!!).

I am currently 16 weeks pregnant, and so far it hasn’t been too bad (except for the whole loosing a third of an organ part. Yeah. Except for that). The hardest part so far has been the positively crippling amount of fatigue and lack of motivation to do ANYTHING. Those two symptoms can be deadly to a blog, a renovation, or even cooking and cleaning up the house!

I have been very blessed in that I haven’t had any nausea…if anything it’s the opposite – I’m hungry all day er’y day! But the lack of energy and motivation to cook means that I’m grabbing snacks and pre-prepared meals (So not my usual!). But what kills me is how this fatigue has impacted the house.

I am THAT person. Which one is it? Type A? Type B? Whatever. I’m that person that wants everything in it’s place and everything to have a purpose. I haven’t touched you in six months? Bye, Felicia. I want my house in order or else I cannot function. So as much as I love renovating the house, the chaos that necessarily ensues is only tolerated for so long before I have a mental breakdown. However…secretly…I’m in love with the process and I love the results.

But currently the house is a mess. It is January 13th and our Christmas tree is still up. I only just de-Christmased the rest of the house yesterday! My bathroom was finally cleaned after two months (Gross, I know. But give me a little bit of a break…one of those months was spent on the couch in excruciating post-op pain), I have at least three loads of laundry to wash with two folded in the baskets just chillin’ on my couch. There is a pile of hand-me-down maternity clothes on my guest bedroom bed and I have to keep the door closed to the room so the kitten doesn’t go in there an destroy them during one of her zoomies. I AM A PRODUCTIVE PERSON! WHYYYYYYYYY???!!! (Picture me on my knees with my hands in the air, head thrown back to the sky, with tears dramatically running down my face). So anyways…the struggle continues.

So what’s going on with Palmer House? The short answer: nothing. We are in a holding pattern. The next item to be tackled is a big one…our roof. Two out of the four of them! Here is the situation:

Back on October 5th, hubby was up on our flat family room roof and was cleaning off leaves and debris in preparation for winter. He looked up toward the main part of the house and saw this:

And this is what it looked like from ground level:

That white strip you see is a piece of sheet aluminum that hubs and my dad shoved under the shingles in an attempt to create a drip edge…we found this the day before a forecast of tree days of heavy rain!

Now, we had noticed and pointed out this dip in the roof to the home inspector when we were in the process of buying the house. He had been in the attic and found some mold, which was taken care of before we bought, but he otherwise didn’t see any structural damage to the house. So we were told it was just aesthetic and not to pay for an entire new roof for aesthetic reasons. Made sense at the time.

Turns out you SHOULD listen to your gut when it comes to old homes! Who knew? *Insert eye roll*

So this is the story:

In 2015, the previous owners had had work done on the main roof. As you walk up the stairs to the attic, you can see that the entire left side of the roof was replaced with modern, sixteen-on-center construction. Plywood was put over top and the entire roof was re-shingled. I don’t know why this was done, but no matter, it was done. And it was done bad.

Thankfully, the actual construction of the rafters of the roof were was done well. However, after reporting this issue to the insurance company and interviewing several roofing contractors (i.e. being schooled in roofing practices), we figured out what the problem is. Picture this: When you make a roof, you put rafters up. Those rafters are supposed to extend past the exterior wall of your house and create an overhang for water to drip off. The underside of those tails are covered with soffits, facia board, and aluminum to keep the wood from getting wet and rotting. Plywood goes over the rafters, tarpaper goes over that, shingles go down, boom you’re done. Well, when whatever yahoo’s got ahold of this roof (and apparently pulled a fast one of the previous owners)didn’t do that. Oh, they put up new rafters, sure. But they stopped them AT the exterior wall and left the old, 138-year-old tails just floating there. They then fastened the soffits to them, somehow floated in aluminum with no facia board, laid down plywood and then shingled in the most janky, uneven way possible. The cost, you may ask? We found the invoice – the grand total was a little over $3,000. Just putting new shingles on your roof costs somewhere around $20,000! Unbelievable. Luckily, there has been no leaking…with this roof…

Enter our back roof. This roof has been leaking for quite awhile – unbeknownst to us when we bought the house.

So our back roof was part of an addition that was put on (we think) in the 90’s. It consists of our main upstairs bathroom and a beautiful bedroom. This addition was one of those things where you scratch your head and go “What?”. I get the addition of an upstairs bathroom, and even adding on one more bedroom – what I don’t get is why did they put a flat rubber roof on this addition?? Flat roofs, if done correctly (key word: correctly), are wonderful and can last for a really long time. This is not the case with our back roof.

So here is the deal with THIS roof:

This roof is flat. And I mean flat. A “flat” roof is not actually flat if done correctly. The rough rule of thumb is that there is a 1/2″ to 2″ pitch for every 12′ of roof. This allows for water to drain off of the roof and away from the house. Since our roof has no pitch whatsoever, there isn’t good water runoff, so whenever we get heavy rain we always end up with a leak.

As best we can tell, there are at least three layers on this roof. This was the answer to all of the previous leaks by previous owners, but again, it wasn’t done correctly. The leaks, since we have been in the house, have all been in the same general area: where the new addition meets the old house. The leak has moved over the three years we have been here because hubby has been using roof “goo” as a temporary band-aid, but it has essentially stayed in the same spot. Here is the reason we think the roof is leaking, but it’s going to require you picturing the set up we have right now: The roof on the main part of the house (where we are having the first roof issue) is shingled and pitched like a normal roof. This flat roof is lower than the pitched roof, and butts up against the backside of the house on the second story, against the aluminum siding (Yes, I shudder at the thought of aluminum siding on a 138-year-old house, too). Come to find out, there was major leaking in the center of the bedroom at one point as evidenced by all the bad patching done in the middle of the room. The “solution” that was thought up was to put another layer of roof on…except they didn’t pull the aluminum siding off when they did it. The rubber roofing material needs to be placed under the siding on the main house, almost like you are going to use it instead of siding. So basically, we now have a seam where the flat roof meets the main house and the water is just sliding through the layers of roof and down into the house via the seam.

So here’s the plan and here is what we are waiting on right now: We meet with yet another contractor this Tuesday who I really, really like! He knows what he is talking about, is insured, was willing to provide references, has worked on historic homes, and gave me a very fair price. The best part – providing the weather here in Upstate NY stays precipitation-free, he can do the work on the main, shingled roof this winter! Yay!

The back roof is a little more complicated. No matter what, we are taking all three layers of roof off and going down to studs. We need to see how much damage was left behind from years of leaks…mold…rot…bad insulation…who knows! We have one major clue as to what we are up against though: the bathroom and that bedroom are freezing! We are loosing all of our heat through this roof, probably because any insulation that was there likely got wet and is no good anymore. Next, and ideally, we are going to pitch this roof. The question is: do we do another rubber roof with a proper pitch or do we tie into the existing roofline of the main house and shingle it? My vote is the second option. Why? Higher R factor. What’s that? R-factor is a rating on insulation. The higher the R-factor, the more heat you’ll retain. I. Want. Heat. If we raise the roof (*smirk*), pitch it, and add in new insulation with a decent R-factor, we will virtually stop the heat loss at the back of the house. Plus, tying into the original roof line will make the addition look like it’s always been there, and not this awkward box at the back of the house. The catch? This roof needs to wait for good weather. We can’t have a snowstorm falling into our bathroom! So this part of the house will not be done until spring at the earliest. Since this back bedroom was going to be gutted and become the nursery, that plan is also going to be on hold because there is no point in renovating a bedroom to have the roof torn off it and have it get all dirty and beat up.

So that’s where we sit. Doing a whole bunch of nothing right now. Plans are in the works, but there is nothing we can do which makes for a boring renovation blog. To boot, a new 8-week semester of school starts tomorrow, so I will have even less time to post than normal. Oh well. At least it’s only 8 weeks and we should have some progress to report by then. Fingers crossed!

“The time to repair the roof is when the sun is shining” – John F. Kennedy

EDIT: Well, blame it on the pregnancy brain, but this post was never published on time! This post was written three months ago and was just sitting here…in my drafts folder waiting for me to release it. *Face palm*. So I’m now seven months along, and the roof is done, which will be the next post you read!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

DISCLAIMER: This isn’t going to be the usual home improvement post…more an explanation as to why it isn’t a home improvement post . So if you came looking for before and after photo’s of a bathroom or living room or something, and talk of surgery and body parts makes you queasy, skip this post and head to the next one!

Oh my goodness it has been a minute since I posted anything! To put not too fine a point on it…I had a combination of writers block, no time, and honestly – a lack of desire. But at the moment I have a PLETHORA of time! I am currently home for two weeks on a strict “no lifting, no driving” protocol after emergency surgery on Halloween night.

Oh my gosh that sounds so dramatic and somehow cliche…

But seriously, it was quite the day, and it seriously disturbed my plans for the blog in that I wasn’t able to post about one of my favorite Palmer House holidays! I was so looking forward to doing an in-depth blog post on Halloween around here – what I decorate with, how I decorate, my DIY projects…all the deets! I had started the night before by getting the porch 80% of the way decorated. I had planned the day before Halloween, Halloween itself, and most of the day after Halloween to be off from work – all for the purposes of decorating, cleaning up, and getting an awesome post up. That morning at 5 AM, one of the cats woke me and I noted that I had some pain in the lower right quadrant of my abdomen (forgive me, the nursing language is going to come out a bit here, but I’ll try my best to keep it easy to understand!). Hubby was just getting home from work at that time – I told him about the pain and he told me to try to go back to sleep and that it was probably just gas pain. Well, at 5 AM I wasn’t about to get out of bed and argue the point! I found relief by pulling my knees up to my chest and went back to sleep.

The next time I woke up was around 8 AM. I got up and started getting ready for the day. As I was about to get into the shower, I noticed the pain had quickly come back, was slightly worse and that I wanted to sit down. So I went downstairs to sit in my PJ’s for a few hours, ate some breakfast, and the pain went away. At this point, I thought that it probably was gas pain as it was coming and going. Once I felt better, I got up and started going about my day again. I got through a shower just fine, but the minute I got out, the pain came back even stronger. On a scale of one to ten, with ten being the worst pain you could ever feel, this was probably an eight. I was doubled over on our bed (Chris was up by now), and I told him that I thought we needed to go to the emergency room for me to get checked out. I had texted some of my nursing friends and even called a doctor friend of mine and they all agreed – minus the coming and going of the pain, it sounded like appendicitis. Chris and I were torn on where to go – we didn’t want to waste hours with me in pain in an ER waiting room, but the Emurgent Care that we really liked was about 45 minutes away. Upon the urging of my ER nurse friend, we decided to drive to the ER. Chris jumped in the shower quickly and I stayed in bed in pain. Finally, the pain escalated to the point of causing nausea. I ran to the bathroom, knelt in front of the porcelain throne – and the pain left. Poof. Gone. Quicker than it came.

What the heck was going on? My (neonatal) nurse brain couldn’t understand what was going on in my adult body. I made up my mind that if the pain came back, we were going to the ER no matter what. We both went back into the family room and sat down for another few hours. By this time it was lunchtime and I had something to eat – still no pain. So we both finally got up with plans to go visit our newest kitten, Millie, in quarantine for an upper respiratory infection in our upstairs bedroom and then to finish decorating for Halloween. I think we were in the bedroom with the kitten for a total of ten minutes before the pain came on – raging! Ten out of ten! I am talking doubled over, moaning in pain with a dash of screams anytime I needed to vomit. This time, there was no “driving” to the ER – we called the ambulance. Something was wrong. Very wrong. And I knew it. And I needed pain control.

The ambulance came and I could barely answer the EMT’s questions due to the pain. I couldn’t move. I couldn’t walk. I could barley talk. The rebound pain when I let go of the pressure over that right lower quadrant was unbearable. They had to carry me out of the house in a special chair lift and physically put me onto the stretcher. I got two doses of morphine en route to the hospital which did nothing for my pain. Didn’t touch it. The only slight measure of relief I had was keeping myself in a fetal position with my knees to my chest.

At the hospital, I went two hours without pain control. The reason? There was no doctor assigned to me, therefore the nurse had no orders. Two. Hours! At a pain of ten out of ten. Me moaning – begging! – someone, anyone to give me some sort of pain relief. Well finally my knight in shining armor – the hubs – pulled my nurse out of our little curtained cubicle and told her that if she didn’t have a doctor looking at me in ten minutes, he was going to take me and leave. I had orders within five minutes! An ultrasound was ordered and “a dilauded for the road.” Now, if you have never had the pleasure of  being in enough pain to need narcotics, you probably have never heard of dilauded. But I would bet that you have heard of morphine! Well, dilauded is seven time more powerful than morphine and still did nothing to ease my pain.

No. That was not a typo.

That was the most agonizing ultrasound of my life. First an external ultrasound to look at the “surface” structures in my pelvis, and then an internal ultrasound to look at the organs that were deeper (i.e. my uterus, et.). I give that little ultrasound tech and my husband credit. The ultrasound tech – because she was positively methodical. She took tons of images and dealt with my squirming and yelling at the same time. Poor girl…at one point during the internal part of the ultrasound I yelled at her “GET OFF THAT SPOT ALREADY!!”.

I am a nurse. I don’t yell at my interdisciplinary colleges when they are just trying to do their job. I apologized, don’t worry.

And poor Chris got the life squeezed out of his hand throughout that ultrasound. He helped move me from stretcher to table to bathroom (to pee…which I couldn’t do at the time (morphine can cause urine retention)) back to the table and back onto the stretcher at the end. All while keeping my vomit bag close.

knew something was wrong at the end of that ultrasound when the tech looked at Chris and said “Can you get her back on the stretcher? I need to take these to the radiologist to read.” In case you don’t know how a hospital works, it’s basically a “first come first served” type of environment – unless you have a condition that moves you up in the pack. Therefore, the sicker you are, the quicker you’re served. So the next time you are in the ER and you have to wait for hours, be comforted in the knowledge that your problem isn’t urgent enough (ie loss of life and limb always outranks everything else) to be seen emergently. The fact that this tech had to leave before she even got me back on the stretcher safely said that something was very, very wrong. Little did I know I was about to fall under that “loss of life and limb” category.

Chris got me back on the stretcher in the hallway outside of the ultrasound exam room and the radiologist was there almost immediately (Another good thing to point out…an ultrasound tech/radiology tech performs the test. In order to do that, they need to know how to recognize the anatomy on the screen (of course). However, the radiologist interprets the ultrasound images). Again, first come first serve in the line of images, and the radiologist had read my images in the ten or so minutes it took Chris to get me from point A in the ultrasound exam room to point B in the hallway. He asked me if I was using medication for IVF therapy. I told him yes, that I had taken injections the past month and that I was currently on progesterone. He said that often, the follicles in the ovary (the little chambers that hold the egg) can become “irritated” by the hormone therapy. I had no idea what that meant, and at the time, I didn’t care. The pain was still excruciating.

The transporter came to my waiting spot in the hallway of the radiology department and took me back to my bay in the ER. About fifteen minutes later an ER resident came in and said that the ultrasound images didn’t make sense…that my anatomy wasn’t in the correct area.

WHAT?!

He said that the radiologist read the images as a possible ovarian torsion and that the gynocoligical surgical team had been called. Translation: My ovary might have twisted around itself, cutting off blood to the organ and I might be going to emergency surgery to try and save the organ – if possible.

In the meantime, I got another dose of dilauded that finally brought the pain from a ten to a nine. Not a big difference, but at this point I had been in pain for hours, so any relief was welcome relief. The labor & delivery (L&D) attending and her team showed up just in time for the effects of the dilauded to kick in – which was wonderful because it took enough of the pain away that I could focus on what they were telling me, give consent for surgery and ask questions regarding the surgery. They. Were. Wonderful. I will always sing the praises of the people who took care of me from this moment in this story on. The attending (aka, the head honcho on the labor and delivery floor that night) explained that her team had to call the surgeon in from home, and that they had initiated a conversation with my IVF doctor to try and figure out what the best course of action would be. Do we go to surgery? Nothing on the ultrasound confirmed a torsed ovary, but my anatomy wasn’t correct on the ultrasound either so something was going on. So should do we wait and just work on pain control? The L&D attending explained that she doesn’t do the gynocological surgeries…just C-sections, so until the surgical attending showed up, she wasn’t 100% sure of a plan.

That changed when her chief resident (also an amazing person – anyone who will hold my hand while I am crying in pain is an amazing caregiver) bumped my bed and I screamed in agony. The attending looked at me and said “Have you gotten any pain medication?” Through tears I answered “Yes. Two boluses of morphine en route and now two doses of dilauded.” “What is your pain on a scale of one to ten?” “TEN!!” She looked at her chief resident and said “We’re going to the OR. Get the consents ready.” Two minutes later I was signing paperwork and the surgical attending showed up at my bedside. The procedure was explained to me along with all the risks – the biggest being hemorrhage, infection, and loss of my ovary.

Terrifying.

I signed the paperwork and they had an OR ready and me rolling in fifteen minutes. The danger now was that every minute we delayed, my ovary was potentially being starved of a blood supply, which meant it could die.

Right before I went into the OR, I met the anesthesiologist and signed consent for them to put me to sleep. I had never been under general anesthesia before, I remember trying to crack a joke through the tears and told him “Just don’t break my teeth!” (Yes, that is an actual risk when being intubated. Translation: when the breathing tube is put in, the metal tool, called a speculum, that both opens your airway and helps guide the breathing tube in, can break your teeth!). He laughed and said that he didn’t anticipate any problems.

I remember being rolled into the OR with my little blue hair net on, an oxygen mask being put over my face, and getting really light headed and sleepy. I remember looking at the IV in my left arm and seeing that the medication to put me to sleep was being put in.

Next thing I knew I was in the recovery room being gently woken up by the post-op nurse. The time is foggy in my memory, but I remember feeling great! The pain that I had from the three incisions (one near each hip and one in my belly button – this was done laparoscopically, thankfully!) was maybe a four out of ten. Maybe. I remember knowing that I was feeling the effects of pain medication and the anesthesia, but I had almost no pain! It. Was. Amazing. Chris was there, and I was (apparently) very chatty as I woke up – not my usual. Traditionally, coming out of anesthesia I cry. I could be laughing up a storm, but there would be tears streaming down my cheeks. Not this time! I think this time having relief was so wonderful that there was no way I could cry! Other memories from this time was that my throat was sore and dry from the breathing tube and that cranberry juice never tasted so good. I also remember the nurse putting chapstick on my lips for me when I complained they were dry – something that moved me to tears later on…so maybe I got my tears out after all. I know that Chris and the nurse told me what happened during the surgery, but I don’t have a concrete memory of that until the next day.

I was transported upstairs to the observation/post-surgical unit for labor and delivery. Since this was a gynocological surgery, that is where I was slated to stay for the next few days. The surgery went from approximately 10 PM to midnight, and I was up on the floor by 2 AM. By the time my admission assessment, vital signs, pain management protocol and walk around the nurses station (Yup. That’s right. My fantastic nurse, Donna, got me up out of bed just a few hours after surgery and walked me in a loop around the unit while the pain meds were going strong!), it was 4 AM. If you have ever gone through surgery and wondered why the nurses want to get you up out of bed so soon, it’s because sitting/laying in bed does a few things to you that you don’t want post surgery: 1. You become a high pneumonia risk because you don’t move your lung secretions like you should. 2. Anesthesia and narcotics basically shut off your intestines. When you have had surgery, particularly abdominal or pelvic surgery, the last thing you want is to have a hard time bearing down to have a BM. Pain! Pain! Pain! 3. Within three days of sitting/laying in bed or on a couch, you will have muscle wasting. That’s right. In just three days, you will start loosing muscle mass. So the sooner you get up and move, the better! It hurt to get up and walk, but I was so thankful my nurses pushed me to do it. (PS, I still ended up with a cold when I got home because I didn’t move enough and coughing HURT!).

I got two hours of sleep that night before I had a little gremlin, aka a second-year resident, wake me up to do an assessment. Now, this hospital is the hospital that I work at in the NICU. I’m used to dealing with residents, and this one got on my nerves quickly. I was not 24-hours post op…I wasn’t even 12-hours post up, and this little dingus had the gall to look at me in the face and say “Well we’ll send you home later on today.” I remember looking at her and saying “Are you serious? I can’t even get to the bathroom by myself, let alone lower myself down onto the toilet – and that bathroom is three steps away from my hospital bed! Do you know how far away my bathroom is in my house? At least four times that distance! Who is going to help me to the bathroom when I am at home? My husband has to work! I’m having urinary retention from the dilauded I’m on and my pain is nowhere near under control. There is no way on God’s green earth that I am going to agree to or sign any discharge paperwork this morning.”

Yes, you CAN say this to your “doctor”. You are allowed to advocate for yourself.

I put doctor in quotes because the residents don’t have an actual say whether I can go home or not – they are at the hospital to gain clinical experience and finish their education. Yes they are “doctors” – they have completed medical school and earned their MD, but a second-year resident (residencies are different depending on the specialty they choose to go into) is nowhere near competent enough to make a call like that – only an attending can decide if a patient is ready to go  home. So often, it falls to the nurse to get the resident to lift their heads out of the black and white – the lab results, the x-ray results, the vital signs, the textbooks, et. and get them to realize the reality of the situation. Now, in a perfect, textbook world…yes, I would go home “the day after a laproscopic surgery.” This resident wasn’t there overnight to see me roll up on the unit four hours earlier, so to her, it was the next day. So, understandably, she was working from the textbook. But we all know that not every patient – in fact, MOST patients – are not textbook.

Luckily my surgical attending, who performed the surgery, agreed with me and said I could stay as long as I needed. A perk to being a nurse is that the doctors trust your educated judgement enough to say such a thing…some people would take advantage of that and treat it like a vacation. “Free” food, “free” clean clothes, warm “free” bed…yeah…some people definitely look at a hospital stay like a vacation.

When my attending came and spoke with me the next day, she showed me the pictures she took of the inside of me during surgery (SO. COOL!). The long and short of it: When the team got into my abdomen, they found a half of a liter of blood and clot just chilling in my pelvic cavity. This can cause a lot of irritation and probably had a hand in the amount of pain I was having. My right ovary was indeed twisted – one and a half times, to be exact. The reason my pain kept coming and going throughout the day was because my ovary was literally twisting and un-twisting itself throughout the day. What was making the ovary move? A cyst the size of a baseball. To give you further idea of the size of this thing, it stretched from my belly button to my right hip bone – essentially, the entire right side of my pelvis. This made my ovary “top heavy”, which caused it to twist on itself. The most distal (farthest away) third of my ovary from the blood supply had already begun to die, so the surgeon needed to remove that part of my ovary.

The question I have had from many family and friends was “What caused the cyst?”

Anatomy time! The IVF meds did. The whole point of the medication you take before an IVF cycle is to stimulate your ovaries to make lots of eggs. More eggs = more chances to conceive. In a woman’s normal cycle, one ovary releases one egg every cycle and the ovaries usually take turns – one egg from one ovary this month, one egg from the other ovary the next month. When you are on IVF meds – all hell breaks loose! The medications force the ovaries to produce more than one egg and they are not discriminatory! So both ovaries will turn out several eggs at once. You think you have bad PMS now? Oh boy…wait until you’re on IVF meds! The egg develops in a little house in the ovary called a follicle. Each month you have multiple follicles, but usually one big boss follicle takes the lead and releases an egg. With IVF meds, you make multiple follicles at once before the eggs bust out of each of them and leave the ovary to meet the sperm in the fallopian tube to make a baby. Once the eggs leave, those follicles don’t just go away. They basically shrivel up and become a hormone factory, pumping out progesterone to maintain a pregnancy, should one occur. If one doesn’t, you get your period, the follicles stop producing the hormones for pregnancy and your cycle starts all over again. Being on a supplemental progesterone as part of IVF therapy can stave off your period and keep those little hormone factories running. Mine basically got out of control. At some point, a vessel popped and started bleeding into the cyst (actually, once the egg leaves the follicle the correct term for that little hormone factory is, in fact, “cyst”) and it didn’t stop growing. Eventually the cyst started to leak into my pelvis, hence the free blood in my abdomen. The fact that they found clots in the blood in my pelvis suggests that this had been bleeding for some time.

Now, if you have had the luck to never need help from an IVF clinic, you wouldn’t know that ultrasounds are part of routine care throughout the cycle. However, between your IVF procedure (ours ended up being an IUI procedure – aka, the “turkey baster” method with five eggs released), there is no point in having a ultrasound to look at anything because, quite simply, there is nothing to look at! Between your procedure and the seven week mark, you won’t see anything “baby-wise” on an ultrasound, so you don’t get any ultrasound. So, no – before you ask – there was no way to catch this before it happened. My ultrasound of my follicles before our IUI procedure were all a healthy, normal size – nothing out of the ordinary. It’s no ones fault. Very luckily, I walked away with most of my ovary.

So that’s the way my Halloween ended. Four days in the hospital and two weeks of no lifting and no driving. Hopefully, I’ll be cleared by my surgeon in a few days and back to work shortly. I never through I would miss going to work, but I am going positively stir crazy and I am ready to get out of the house and back to normal life!

Hope you forgive me for the lack of a Halloween post…I guess we will have to wait until next year!

“Always believe something wonderful is about to happen” – Unknown

 

Well hello there! It’s been awhile since I’ve been able to write! I know…shame on me. It’s been a crazy month! School started at the end of August and at the end of this semester, I’ll be two years away from completing my bachelor’s degree in nursing that never seems to end! We went on a fantastic vacation to visit our friends out in Portland, Oregon, we went to an awesome wedding, and went camping with our cousins for a weekend. And my body has finally decided to wave the white flag…I am sitting here on my couch, home early from work…with a stomach bug. So I figured that I would hop on here and use my free time to finish up this post about the wood floors. Lord knows I’m not going to clean!

Honestly, I have been dreading this post. I’ve been avoiding it. That’s how much I hated this entire process. When we left off, I had just gotten home and found my dining room like this, after we made the difficult decision to replace the original maple wood floors which were too far gone to save:

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And we found all of those glorious newspapers had been sitting under my dining room floors for over a hundred years!

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The square-head nails in the hemlock sub-floor made me smile!

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So, let’s continue with this story that I can say, for sure, was the most frustrating and infuriating situation I have ever had the misfortune to be part of. Yes, dramatic. But it’s true.

So the next day Fred and his workers didn’t get to Palmer House until almost 10:00 am. Now, I know I’m a nurse and that I work long hours that start early in the day, but 10:00 am was quite late in my book. It would have been one thing if I had at least gotten a phone call from Fred letting me know they wouldn’t be starting until then, but I wasn’t given that courtesy. Interesting…since I was the one paying for his services.

So Fred came with his guys and started laying down new, two-and-a-half inch maple floors. Now, one thing that I forgot to mention in the previous post was that we made one very specific request of Fred when we spoke about restoring the floors: We wanted FLAT floors. Not necessarily level. It’s an old house…nothing is level! But FLAT. I mentioned in the last post that the floor seemed to be almost ducking underneath the dining room floor, with the result being that you felt crooked walking into the kitchen. It was the one thing that Chris wanted to correct out of everything! I was the one with the rest of the demands. He only wanted flat floors. Not an unreasonable request and Fred assured us that he could fix the problem so that we wouldn’t have that feeling walking into the kitchen by the time it was done. When Chris came home that night, I was still at work and I got this picture sent to my phone:

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That. Is. Not. Flat. And that was exactly what Chris planned on telling them. Except that it would have to wait because after their 10:00 am start time, they “finished” their day at 3:00 pm. Five-hour work days must be nice, huh?

When I came home at 8:00 pm, this is what I saw:

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Yep. You got it. The wood floor guys had their tools all over my original wood floors in the formal living room. They set their dirty equipment all over my uncovered furniture, set their red bull on my built-ins with no coaster to be seen, rested their brooms next to my breakable family heirlooms and antiques, and put their tools and trash all over my antique built-in hutch without a drop cloth!! They never laid down one drop cloth! Not one. Everything you see in these photo’s belonged to and was put down by me. I was dumbfounded. Fred knew that my father was a contractor. We had told him during our first meeting. We may have never worked with anyone besides my father before, but I knew enough about the business to know that we had hired someone with absolutely no professionalism. But at this point, he had got us. We had given Fred a down payment and the floor was half torn up. However, if we were going to deal with these yahoos, we were going to make sure they did the job right!

That evening, I sent those pictures you just saw to Chris along with expletive-filled comments about how nothing in the house better be damaged or stained. Chris called Fred and told him point-blank: The floor isn’t flat. You told us you would make it flat and it’s not. Start over.

This didn’t make Fred happy. It would increase the cost, he told us. We didn’t care. He was going to do it right, but he wasn’t going to see penny of that extra cost until he was done.

Now, you have to remember that while all this is going on, Chris, myself and the two cats have been relegated to our bedroom – along with everything else it takes to take care of two cats. This includes water and food bowls and yes…the litter boxes. We had to keep the poor kitties locked up during the entire catastrophe. We couldn’t risk the workers letting them out accidentally, and once the stain and poly went down they couldn’t walk on the floor. If you have never been cooped up in one room with two animals before, it’s terrible. They kept me awake all night – for a week. Can you see how all this lack of sleep, frustration and pure disgust was building up to a blow up?

Fred came back the next day (again, at 10:00 am), and they started looking at the floor they set down and how NOT flat it was. Luckily, (very luckily, because I would have screamed at someone), Chris was there to lay down the law. He repeated what he told Fred on the phone – it’s not flat, fix it. But Fred didn’t want to fix it. So his solution was, naturally, to dodge the situation and try and get us to do something else. His first solution was that we needed to jack up the floor from the basement below. When Chris told me this later on that evening I almost lost it! Jack up the floor? With plaster walls in the house? When YOU told us that the ceiling the basement looked fine and was level everywhere? When YOU said that you could fix this issue to begin with?! I was disgusted. When Chris shot down that suggestion and again repeated to Fred that he needed to fix the floor, Fred then recommended that once he and his crew ripped out the floor they just laid that we use leveling cement to level the floor. Picture me face palming right now. Chris finally spelled it out for him – he was going to rip up the floor he just laid down and layer plywood underneath the floor until it was level, and then lay down the maple again. Fred wasn’t pleased that we laid down the law, but he did was he was told.

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Do you remember in the last post how Fred had told us that he had a venting system that would practically eliminate the dust issue when they sanded? Do you want to know what that venting system was? A fan. It was a fan. The face palms are never ending. So we finally made it to the point of picking out stain. I wanted to try to match the color of the original wood floors in the formal living room as close as possible. Fred laid down several different colors for me to choose from, and we ended up choosing a red mahogany stain by Minwax.

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The stain went down, and I went to bed for the night. What I didn’t know, was that there were severe thunderstorms on their way, and our original wood flooring was still sitting on our front porch covered by a tarp. Do you want to know what my amazing, loving, caring husband did for me? He came home from work late, around 12:30 am, and stayed awake until almost 2:00 am sorting through all that wood, and storing it in the garage for safekeeping.

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I love, love, love this man and how he is growing to love the quirks and intricacies that makes Palmer House so special.

The next day was the day I almost lost my mind. Throughout all of this, we had allowed the workers to keep their tools at the house. As it was, they were starting their day at 10:00 am and leaving at 3:00 pm – we didn’t want to give them an excuse to shorten their day (Like needing to go get their tools from wherever). So we tolerated it and asked them to keep their tools off the uncovered furniture and off the wood floor in the formal living room. For the most part they honored our request, but when I came home that day, I found a giant scratch in the floor.

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As you can see by the picture, their saw was sitting on our floor, and one of them slid it across the floor, leaving a scratch in (thank God!) the finish in the floor. I immediately took a picture and sent it to my dad in a panic, wondering if there was an easy fix for this. Thankfully, there was! We just needed to take a Q-Tip and some polyurethane and touch it up. Phew! Now that the panic was gone, the pure rage set it. I was done. I was sleep-deprived. I was frustrated. I was ready to fire these guys the second they walked in the door. Floor be damned! We could find someone else to put on the polyurethane and finish the floor! I told Chris that unless he wanted me to not only fire Fred but to throw his guys’ tools on the side of the road, he needed to address this. I knew that even though he was just as livid as I was, he would be the level-headed one out of the two of us. I had to physically remove myself from the situation and go sit upstairs in the bedroom when the guys showed up. Chris pointed out the damage, and the employee offered to fix it. Chris politely but firmly told him no thank you, that the damage would be fixed by us, and that all the tools needed to be removed tonight. They took everything with them that afternoon, and we repeated the mantra “It’s only three more days. It’s only three more days.”

Or so we thought. No one was at our house by 10:30 am the next morning. By 11:00 am, we got a text from Fred saying that he was having car trouble and wouldn’t be able to get there until noon. I looked at Chris and said “He’s going to text us at noon and say he’s not coming.” I was wrong…by three minutes. So we had a day alone, and some time to re-group. We decided that the way we wanted to decompress was to DUST! We went through (I kid you not) three cans of bulk-store size lemon Pledge. The upside was the house smelled wonderful. The downside was that we knew that the screening in-between the polyurethane coats was going to cause a mess again. But we had to do it…we had to feel some sort of control over this ridiculous situation.

Over the next few days, the polyurethane went on, and the floor came alive.

The floor was gorgeous. It was such a shame that we had such a terrible experience. Fred wasn’t lying to us when he said that he had experience…just not with business. I was very happy with how the floor came out, but to go through all of that was not worth it.

Oh, you thought we were done? That that was the end? Oh my darlings, no! We still had one more issue to discuss with Fred…like all the damage done to my moldings while they were sanding.

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As you can see by these pictures, these were taken before the floor was stained. What these pictures don’t show you is the sloppy, stained mess they also left on the base moldings. To top it off, the quarter-round that was at the bottom of the base molding – the one that they ripped off in order to do the floor in the first place – was no where to be seen. Now at this point, Chris and I had had enough of these guys and we just wanted them out. However, we wanted to see just how honorable Fred would be about the quarter round. Chris asked him if he would be replacing it since he and his team had to tear it off to begin with, and they pulled it off and broke it into pieces. Per Chris’s report, Fred’s face looked exasperated. He told Chris that if he went and picked up the materials and called him at a later date, he would come and shoot it in for us. Yeah, OK Fred! We’ll be in touch! (Picture an eye roll so large that one might just fall off their chair). We dismissed Fred, and “for the trouble”, he only charged us the original quote he gave us, which was $1,300. Good thing. Because there was no way I was going to give him any more money.

Fred and his guys left, and we will never, ever recommend them to anyone – ever. We called my hero of a father, and went to Home Depot to pick out some quarter round. This part we were doing ourselves! Once bought, I sanded, primed and painted the quarter round and stained one to run along the hutch. Three coats of polyurethane later, and we were ready to install! Dad came over and gave Chris a lesson in cutting and coping edges, and taught him how to use an air nailer. He even gave him one of his old nailers to keep!

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This room was inching closer to being done! Last thing to do after the quarter round was installed was for me to paint the base molding over again to cover up the sloppy mess and damage that the workers left.

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As much as I hated that my base moldings were damaged in this process, I have to say that now that everything is touched up, I like that the dings show the story of the house. Don’t get me wrong, if I had my choice I would have my perfect base moldings back. However, I can live with what’s left behind.

In the end, I loved the results. Would I do it again? Not on your life! Do we need to do wood floor restoration and installation in other parts of the house? Yes. Am I looking forward to it? …Unknown. One thing is for sure, we won’t be using Fred again, we won’t use a home contractor search site to find a business, and we will educate ourselves very, very thoroughly before we hire anyone. However, I think we have found our happy place in these floors.

 

Update: So all of this work was done in April of 2018. It is now September of 2018 and we are already having issues with the floor. We were told by Fred’s crew that when you put in your very last board in your tongue and groove, you need to cut off the tongue to get it in. The cut was done so badly on this tongue that the guys needed to use wood filler to fill in and repair what they did. They sanded it smooth, and once it was stained you couldn’t see a thing. Now, however, that filler is buckling and basically being pushed out of place by the wood swelling in the summer heat. To boot, the boards on either side of the filler are lifting with the filler, creating a little hill of sorts. Of course, this section has to be right in the path that we take to the kitchen, so we step on it and notice it every day. This is the most frustrating thing ever. Nothing is worse than paying for and suffering through a renovation only to have it turn into something less than perfect only months later. Needless to say, it’s salt in the wound, and another thing to add to the list of things to do.

“When you fall, I will be there. With love, from the floor.” (Laugh a little!)

 

Ugh…so maybe the title is more dramatic then what it ultimately ended up being, but that’s exactly what this whole project felt like – hell.

loved my floors! Original, two-inch maple that was colored, aged, and worn so gorgeously that I never, ever wanted them to leave this house. So much of the original features of this house have been stripped away over the years that I was determined to keep these floors with this house.

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This is the best and only picture I have the shows how beautiful our wood floors were when we moved in!

When we moved in, I noticed that there was a patch of the floor in the dining room that had begun to sink, almost like it was ducking under the wall. I had asked my dad what he thought could be causing it and he wondered if the sub-floor could be bad. We went into the basement with a level and held it up against the ceiling in various places. It was completely level. No changes anywhere. We just couldn’t understand why there was this mysterious dip in the floor. And it was getting worse.

wish that I had a before picture so you could see exactly what I was talking about! The floor was not only appearing to dip under the wall, but over time the wood was starting to split, cup and come apart. If we were going to save the floor, we would need to act fast.

Let’s be clear: The plan was to restore the wood floors and not replace them. So I started my search for someone to restore the floors. Mistake number one: using a home contractor search site instead of asking around to find someone who knew old floors and would be able to restore them.

So we met the new owner of this wood floor business. We’ll call him Fred. This is a classy blog, and I’m not going to use it to smear anyone’s business (no matter how mad they made me). But let this be a warning of what NOT to do for those of you out there looking for contractors! So anyways, Fred came to Palmer House with one of his employees, and the first red flag should have been this: He showed up in a rusty, hole-filled Toyota. Not a vehicle with the business name on it. Not even a nice car, nope. A rust bucket of a vehicle that certainly didn’t scream “professional”. But the business profile on the website said that he had experience in old homes restoring floors. He got great reviews on price and quality of work, and he had pictures and videos to back those claims up. Second red flag: There was no actual business website. Just a Facebook business site set up. Now, I know how hard it is to get a business going and that running a website can sometimes be expensive and time consuming, right? Right?? Agree with me please…

So needless to say, that red flag was brushed to one side as well. He came in, looked at the floors, and oiled us up like any good salesman would by telling us everything we wanted to hear. We took him downstairs into the basement and let him inspect everything downstairs (Which made it seem really legit, right?). By this time, I had discovered that the stairs had been, at one point, rotated 90 degrees within the house. I told him that my theory was that the opening for the bottom of the stairs likely opened into the dining room…right were the problem spot was. When the stairs were turned, the staircase into the basement was moved as well, and a giant chuck of what I am sure is a load-bearing beam was cut out to make head room. This wasn’t a possibility, he assured me. And even if that was the case, the house was “done settling” and there wouldn’t be any more issues with the floor once they were finished.

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This was the location of the old staircase.

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You can see where a significant chunk of the beam was cut out at the center of the picture…and yes, those are spider webs. It’s an old basement, what do you want from me?!

We went back upstairs, and he said that the area of the floor we were concerned about would, at worst, need to be patched in, along with another small area in the doorway to the formal living room. Otherwise, his exact words were “Oh yeah, we can definitely do this.” He told us that he could get the job done in a week, with minimal dust, stating that they had a venting system that they put in the windows and that they would place plastic in the doorway to the kitchen and the living room. We were told that there would be some dust that would inevitably escape into the other rooms, but that it would be minor. We asked him a bit about his background and he told us that he had just taken over the business from his father, who had owned the business for several decades. He said that he has been around the business or doing the work since he was thirteen. In the end, he quoted us at $1,300.00. A steal, in our books, for restored original flooring. Red flag number three…and yet we booked him then and there.

Several weeks later, Chris and I emptied out the dining room into the formal living room in prep for Fred and his crew to show up the next day. They came, and luckily Chris was home to supervise, as I had a wake to go to. I got a call on the way home from Chris that broke my heart…the floors couldn’t be saved. They had taken up one piece of wood from the problem area that was going to be patched, and discovered that there was nothing left of the wood. It had been sanded and re-finished so many times, that there was just no material left to work with! If they tried to sand the floor to re-stain and finish it, the nails would end up poking through the material.

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Original wood floor on top, new wood floor on the bottom. You can see how thick the floor should have been, but due to years of refinishing over and and over, there was just nothing left. I would be lying if I said I didn’t shed a tear.

So we had to make a decision…either they could hand-sand the floors, re-stain and poly (but it wouldn’t fix any of the problems that would continue to get worse) or we could pull the floor up and put down new. It was the most rotten, nasty, terrible choice. I didn’t want to loose my floors! But I couldn’t leave the problems cover them up with a pretty new stain-and-poly job…the floors would have to be replaced. I gave Chris strict instructions to save every piece of wood possible. It was not leaving this house. We would find somewhere to put it where it could still shine. I also gave strict instruction that the species of the wood and the size of the wood must be the same. Unfortunately, I was told, there is no such thing as two-inch maple wood floors and the closest thing we could get was two and a half inch. I gave the go-ahead, and the crew started tearing up the floor.

The only silver lining to the entire situation throughout, was what they found when they pulled up the floors! Newspapers. Hundreds and hundreds of newspapers from just a few weeks before WWI broke out. I told Chris to save as many as possible and to have the flooring crew put them aside.

I couldn’t wait to get home and see what the newspapers were like and what the sub-floor looked like! By this time, Chris had left for work and the crew was finishing up. I got a call from Fred when I was almost home, saying that they were done for the day. Interesting, because it was only 3 pm…

He told me that they had finished tearing up the floors and had left the pieces on the front porch. Then he asked me if it would be ok if the crew left their tools there for the night. I was a little taken aback by the request…I didn’t want to be responsible for their tools. But then again, it’s not like I was going to be touching them or anything. And they were going to be back the next day. So why not? I told Fred it was ok, but that I didn’t want them anywhere where they would be tripped over, and I definitely didn’t want them on the carpets in the living room. To that I heard “Oh…*Fred turns to this crew* Hey guys, we need to move all this stuff into the other room for tonight”. Wow. Really? Guess I’m glad I said something…

When I got home, this was the bittersweet sight I walked into. The sub-floor was a beautiful hemlock (and completely level, I might add!). The newspapers had been crammed into industrial-size garbage bags. Rude. But I was happy to have them!

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It’s such a pity this was the sub-floor! These gorgeous hemlock boards were covered with newspapers from as early at 1911 – perfectly preserved! They were laid down over a layer of burlap and some sort of glue as insulation.

Are you ready for this? I really don’t know if you are…

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Piles. And piles. And piles of newspapers! Some of them still stuck to the floors!

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But the best, most amazing piece that I managed to salvage, was a woman’s magazine that was in color! Not only that, but I managed to get out the entire thing, including the pieces that were ripped from the front!

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I immediately put that gorgeous thing under glass and framed it, making sure that it was touched as little as possible. I was high as a kite! I started rummaging through the papers and buying up frames to put them in. I still have a huge bag full of articles waiting for me to go through them. I can’t bear to throw them away, so my plan is to frame articles and sell them to history lovers in the Village during the annual village-wide garage sale. Whatever doesn’t get taken home to be loved, I plan on giving to the village archives.

For now, let’s leave it here. On a happy note. Part two will be coming soon in which I go into the horror story of how business was conducted in Palmer House over these wood floors…and what the future might hold for them!

To be continued…