Welcome To Our Little Big House On The Prairie

Sunday, July 31, 2011


I know I sound like we haven't done anything to this house at all.  Well, that's not necessarily true.  Its just that all the stuff that has gotten done, isn't the cool stuff.  Its the things that you have to do.  Where's the fun in that, I ask ya?

Here's all the boring stuff we've accomplished:

1.  Installed a boiler system.  

Uninsulated house + 2,400 heated square feet + Iowa winters = $$$

We installed this Heatmor boiler system in Fall 2008.  Being the hubs has a tree service, we have a pretty much unlimited supply of wood.  Now we no longer have $500/month propane bills.  And that was 3 years ago.  I would hate to know the cost of propane now.  We The hubs loads it twice a day, once in the morning and once in the evening during the winter.  It heats our house and our water.  The only thing I would change is its location.  I was bound and determined not to have a monstrous pile of wood right outside our house, so I insisted it be installed in farthest point of the back yard, next to the barn.  Yeah, bad stupid idea.  Even on normal cold winter day, its terrible having to walk out that far to load it.  During one of the epic blizzards we get usually two or three times a winter, its just plain dangerous having to go out that far.  But, we love it.  It keeps the house toasty warm and even in the coldest spells, we can have the heat cranked as high as we want it.  It was well worth the investment and it'll be paid for in the money we've saved on propane by the end of next year.  I highly recommend getting a boiler.

2.  Applied urethane insulation on the exterior of the basement.

One of the first things we did was have urethan insulation sprayed on the exterior of the basement.  Not knowing all the technical jargon to explain it, it looks like yellow gook that they spray on and then it expands filling all the cracks and holes that develop overtime in old basements.  The rocks that make up our basement were quarried from the field across the street.  After over a hundred years of weathering and the house settling, we had some nice size cracks.  Not to mention it just looked nasty.  They sprayed urethane insulation on and then covered it with fine granules for a finished look.  Not only does it look a whole lot better, it also protects the basement from wind driven rain and snow, it keeps our basement warmer, and acts as a deterrent for mice and insects.  A really good investment.

If you live in or around Waterloo, Iowa, I highly recommend contacting  Weber Urethane.  They really do great work at a reasonable price.  



3.  Replaced all the windows in the house.  

Every.  Single.  One.  That would be 28 replacement windows, including five picture windows, as well as 8 new construction windows for the cupola and center dormer at the top of the house.  Somewhere overtime, someone took out and sided over the windows on the 3rd floor.



Unfortunately, the slate siding could not be easily taken off and replaced.  In fact, they had to break it off.  Now we're left with unsightly exposed lap board until we can afford to insulate and side this monstrosity.  But I luh-ove the new windows on the 3rd floor.  Its super cool to go up there during a nighttime thunderstorm and look at the lightening - and a little spooky.

There's also a lesson in this.  Even though we are self-employed and we always tell people you get what you pay for when we're giving bids, we didn't heed our own advice.  We went with the contractor with the lowest bid and well, we got what we paid for.  Its been almost 3 years since he installed the windows and he still has not come back to trim out any of the windows, so I'm dealing with exposed 2x4s on five picture windows.  Could we trim them out ourselves?  Probably.  But if you've paid someone for something, wouldn't you expect them to finish the job?  I guess that's where I screwed up.  I paid him before he completely finished the job, trusting him to come back.  He also never put the wrap on the exterior part of the windows.  We've made multiple phone calls in the last two and a half years and have heard promises to come back that the contractor never kept.  Something tells me we might as well suck it up and do it ourselves.  Great.

4.   Installed a 85 gallon Marathon hot water heater.  

Even with seven people taking a bath, we'll never run out of hot water.  

We don't get our electricity through an electric company, instead we're part of a rural electric cooperative.  At the time we bought our house, our REC was offering instant customer rebates if you installed a Marathon hot water heater in your home.  

Regular Price:  $915.00
Instant Rebate Amount:  $516.00
REC Member Cost:  $399.00

With savings like that, why not get a big one?

5.  Installed a Hellenbrand Water Softener.

6.  Installed Central Air Conditioning.

Ahhhhh....  Air conditioning.  How often do you take yours for granted?  I did too.  When I had it before, that is.  I grew up in the south.  Pretty much every house has an air conditioner, so I never really thought too much about one.  Its just one of those things in life that you don't really pay much attention to - kind of like breathing.  LOL  And then when you don't have one...  Oh.  My.  God.  We have gone four years with window units in our bedrooms only.  During heat waves, we would literally hibernate in our bedrooms.  Finally, two weeks ago, we had central air installed.  Oh my.  It's wonderful!  

Unfortunately, I can't give away those windows units yet.  Since we're dealing with an old house here, we can only have central air in the downstairs of the house.  There are no air return vents installed in the upstairs and that was one expense we just weren't prepared to pay for during this luh-ovely economy.  So, for now its central air downstairs with window units upstairs until we can have split-minis installed.  But I am still so thankful for it - at least until we get our first electricity bill.  :)  However,  I will never take air conditioning for granted again.  Ever.

So, since we've now pretty much done everything that is a necessity, now we can get to the fun stuff.  You know like redoing the hardwood floors, installing tile, painting, decorating...  The siding is going to have to wait until this economy improves.  Although the hubs says that we might be able to at least get the siding off and the house wrap on before the snow flies.  I'll have a pink house for Christmas!  LOL!  We only pay for things as we can afford them, so it's a long, slow process.  But we'd rather do it that way than have a mountain of debt.  

For now, I'm just excited that we can get things moving on the interior.  Now I'm getting pumped up!  We've already started on Little Miss's room and while we're waiting on the drywall compound to set, I'm starting to do some work in the boys' room.  I'm so looking forward to see all the transformations begin!

Tomorrow I'll post pictures of what we've done so far.  Its going to be a top to bottom transformation!  

Until tomorrow...


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