Brand-New House, Here We Come!

If you want to read my musings on my sadness due to not being able to host friends for Easter but don’t want a bunch of house/construction pictures, feel free to skip way down to the end of this post!

Asbestos flooring tiles used to cover our entire upstairs and our whole basement (which is large, extending almost the whole footprint of our house).  We put up with them for 10 years but recently had to admit that they were starting to break at an alarming rate and needed to be removed. You’ll see in the pictures below where we had duct-taped some of them down but even that method was starting to fail. Also, as at some point our kids will want to sleep in a room other than ours, we needed to get those bedrooms ready for them.

current sewing room (800x533) 009 (1280x853)both sides of my current sewing room

The tiles themselves were in great shape for being 63 years old (makes you understand why they used asbestos in them, toxicity aside) but the glue underneath had started to fail and so they cracked when they shifted.

005 (1280x853) (2)also note the problems with the ceiling tiles (from a roof leak, pre-new-roof in 2012)

bedroom with bath (1280x853) both sides of our other bedroom (currently our storage/guest room)

Back in January, we had to admit we couldn’t put it off any longer so we contracted with an asbestos removal company (more on them at the bottom of this post). They came over a period of three days to remove the tile.  They did side #1 of the basement one day, the upstairs the 2nd day, and basement side #2 the third day.  This plan allowed us to shift all our stuff from one side of the basement to the other. Thankfully, they finished just as the first flakes of Winter Storm Jonas were descending on us.

006 (1280x853) (3) 007 (1280x853)unfinished half of basement (from both sides)

001 (1280x853)finished half (picture taken, obviously when all the stuff was shifted to the other side)

Once the asbestos tile is gone, of course you have to put down new flooring.  But before you do flooring, it makes sense to paint right, before the floor goes in? And if we’re going to put new flooring, we also probably should redo both bathrooms while we’re at it since they’re so old (and non-functional in the basement). And we need new ceilings because of that roof leak, which means we need new light fixtures because the old ones aren’t salvageable. And, so, all of a sudden, we had a full-fledged two-thirds-of-the-house renovation project on our hands.  We knew this going in of course but still, the reality didn’t really set in until after the tile was gone.

003 (1280x853) 002 (1280x853)basement bathroom/laundry room (sink/toilet non-functional, shower works fine)

half bath in guest roomupstairs half-bath (all original to the house as far as we can tell, 1953)

We are contracting out much of the work but Nik is doing all the painting of the upstairs rooms. Winter Storm Jonas turned out to be have been a HUGE blessing to us because Nik was able to get an immense amount of work done in our upstairs.  The wood paneling took so much time to prep and prime, just to get to the point of being able to paint.  Imagine over sixty years of tape to be scraped off, holes to filled, gaps to be caulked and you’ll get an idea of the tedious work he had to do. He worked many long days up there.  We had to laugh because our frantic storm prep was making lists and going to Home Depot for supplies!

It’s been almost two months since we got the tile taken out.  We have one closet upstairs that didn’t have tile in it.  So I filled that one to its limit with boxes and linens.  The rest of our upstairs stuff, plus my sewing room, has been in our living room ever since. Our basement still has everything on one side.

007 (1280x853) (2)

021 (1280x853)I have loved having my sewing room on our main floor – I get way more sewing done!

We’re going slowly, which is fine.  We have new ceilings upstairs and Nik is almost completely finished painting my sewing room.  We FINALLY decided on paint colors for the other bedroom and the bathroom and so over spring break next week, he should be able to get the rest of the paining done. We also have tile (our flooring of choice for the basement) on the unfinished side of the basement.

008 (1280x853)grouted but not quite finished…006 (1280x853) (2)That pile is our new laminate flooring, waiting to be installed!

004 (1280x853) 005 (1280x853) (3)(old sink still to be removed)

And so, finally, here is my mammoth “before” and “update” post about what’s been consuming us for the last two months! It’s the decisions that have felt most all-consuming – quick, choose: paint colors (many of them), what to paint/what not to paint, light fixtures, two different sinks, two toilets, flooring, tile for basement, tile for upstairs bath, baseboard trim, other trim for a section of the upstairs ceiling, a new door for the basement, faucets, [and I’m sure there’s more to come].

We have guests coming from the other side of the world (literally) to stay with us exactly one month from today.  So we do have a deadline to at least get the upstairs mostly finished, and I’m glad for that!


One unexpectedly sad consequence of this house renovation has been our inability to host friends in any large number.  Every Easter, I love hosting friends and family for brunch after church and this year we won’t be able to do that. Every couple months, we also like to have a  “just for fun” brunch on a Saturday morning for friends and we haven’t been able to do that either. I hadn’t realized how much large-scale hospitality was part of the way I had defined myself as a stay-at-home mom until I couldn’t do it anymore.  We have definitely had friends come over for dinner but I miss being able to broadcast the “eat with us” invitation far and wide, particularly in the hopes of helping those who are lonely find a place to be welcomed.

One benefit of hosting something yourself is that you never have to wonder what you’re going to do yourselves. I had to find the courage to invite ourselves over to another friend’s house for Easter dinner.  They graciously said yes and we’re looking forward to celebrating Easter with them.  That experience was a good reminder to me for the future – to be sensitive to the needs of others, especially on big holidays when it’s easy to feel like everyone has a place to go but that’s probably not the case.


If you have asbestos tile and you’re in the Baltimore region, I highly recommend A&I Environmental Services.  Sadly, we’ve needed their services twice (the first time for vermiculite/asbestos insulation removal in 2014) and the same crew came both times.  They were reasonably-priced, quick, on-schedule, efficient, and cleaned up perfectly.

008 (853x1280)not something you ever hope to see in your own home but I’m grateful for the care they took to keep our home safe

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