January 31, 2013

Things Are Finally Heating Up

We've been doing a whole lot of yacking about getting started on the Family Room lately, but not a whole lot of working.  And in a surprise change of events, the Hubs has been the one that's itching to start swinging a sledgehammer again, while I'd prefer to cuddle on the couch with my babies.  Part of our hold up is that we don't really know what we're getting into.  After nearly two years of living with the big wooden feature above the fireplace downstairs, we've finally made the executive decision that this doesn't work with our lifestyle. 

We've been pondering the dilemma since just a few months after moving in, when we bought a TV and had no where to put it.  Since then we've been playing Hide the Fireplace.


But it's colder than a witch's milk machine down there, and we could really use the additional heat source.  So yes, we're not huge fans of the TV above a fireplace, but in our set up, it just won't work any other way.  And while we liked how the rounded wood element tied into the fireplace directly above it:

 it's something we're willing to give up.  Especially since painting our kitchen cupboards upstairs brought the kitchen from a golden oak museum:

 to a bright and modern happy place:

and we're itching to do the same thing downstairs.  So after talking about it for ages, we finally decided that the only way we're going to know what we're dealing with, is to just start taking things down.  Cue the Hubs and his sledgehammer:

Which quickly left us with this:

And that's where things have stalled.  We've found that what we assumed was a typical masonry fireplace, is actually just a wood burning fire insert, that vents through a 8" vent tube through the chimney.  I mean who bothers to build a chimney, that's a pretty major focal point of the home:

but the chimney is really just made out of wood with a metal pipe in it?  It's crazy town I tell you.  We've been all over the interwebs and to a handful of fireplace stores trying to figure out what to do next.  Our options at this point are:

A. Stick with the old, dated wood burning fireplace.  But it's not exactly easy to use for a quick heat source, or kid friendly.  Plus, we've been told that our ancient insert could malfunction, and we'd waste all the money we are going to spend putting in new rock/tile when we eventually have to tear it out.
B.  Tear out the whole thing, and replace it with a new gas burning fireplace.  The benefit here is that we can start from scratch and get exactly what we want, but it's not going to be cheap. 
C. Place a gas insert into the existing wood burning insert that vents through the existing chimney.  We have fewer choices here, but it could save us a load of cash.  

So that's where we are right now, and hopefully by the end of the week we'll make our decision on how to move forward.  Then it's time for a lot more demo.   It's all I can do at this point to hold the Hubs and "The Persuader" back, so I have a feeling we'll be adding to the dumpster pile this weekend.  Wish us luck!

January 16, 2013

My Year Long Project

Here's a project almost a year in the making, and spoiler alert- it's not done yet.  I figured that if I blogged about it though, it was get my tush moving and hold me accountable to finally complete it.  It started with me swooning over this West Elm Natural Tree Stump Side Table:

And then nearly fainting over the price:

 200 Dollars?  For a tree stump?  I've lived in Minnesota too long to pay 200 bones for something you could find discarded in a forest or someone's log pile.  So I put my Dad on the hunt, and a few months later- he came through- big time.

Please forgive the green sled in the background- I really need to work on my garage shots.
  My photo records say I shot this on March 4, 2012.  Not quite a year, but I'm pushing it.  I don't want to give you the wrong impression and say that this was totally easy.  My Dad had to do some fancy chain saw cutting to get a flat top and bottom to make this bad boy level.  I was pregnant at the time, so choose not to participate in the chain saw fun.  Pregnancy= not the best time to learn how to wield a chain saw.  The log also has a pretty deep hole in the center of the top- but I think I can handle that one down the road.

So step #1- time for some made sanding to get the 30+ years of dirt and grime off the sides.  I used a combination of my hand palm sander:

 And my Dremel Multi Max sanding tip to get into all the curves and divots.  The Dremel may be my favorite tool in garage by the way... well maybe my table saw, or my new router... but this Dremel is one amazing little tool that can do just about anything. 

So yes, that is my gloved hand, outside in the snow, sanding down the trunk.  And herein lies the problem of why this project has nearly taken me a year.  It needs a lot of sanding.  A lot.  When we first brought it home we were just getting started on our Insane Home Improvement of 2012: Two bathroom guts, 600+ square feet of wood floors, refacing & finishing six sets of steps, creating a Nursery, etc... So I spent a little time sanding it down, but it mostly hung out in the garage waiting for me to have more time to spend with it.  I kept thinking I would get to it soon, but the projects kept stacking up, and before we knew it I looked like I was smuggling a basketball. 

When our little DIY project showed up a couple weeks early, I actually thought for a moment that I was going to have some time while on maternity leave to work on projects.  With both an infant and a four year old at home.  Yep, I'm nothing if not optimistic.  But of course it didn't happen.  Since sanding is so messy, I had to do it outside, and since it's so cold I couldn't bring the boys out with me.  Which meant I had to wait until they were both sleeping, and if that little miracle ever happened, the last thing I wanted to do was run loud tools that could wake them up. 

So I've only had a few occasions to get out there an work on this bad boy, and it's taking a long time.  For example, it took about 40 minutes to turn just this side from this:

To this:

You'll see that I got rid of a lot of the darker black color which was my goal, but picked up some new brown color in that streak in the center.  I think its going to look okay though, natural, but not dirty.  While the before and after both look pretty nice now as raw wood, when I finish this piece up with poly those dark black spots get really dark and splotchy looking, so it's worth it now to take them down rather than regret it later.

So here I am, officially on notice to get this little side table finished up before March 4, 2013- the one year mark.  Let's hope I get it done sooner than that, because the Hubs is chomping at the bit to get started with the Family Room.  How about you guys- am I the only one that has a nagging project that's been on the list for forever?  Anyone else like to sand outside in Minnesota in the middle of January?  My timing isn't great on this one, but it will have to do.