Ranch Redux: A Ranch Done Wright

The End of My Rope | July 10, 2011

Planning and executing a major remodel is like planning for an expedition through hostile territory.  Tim looks at it like a military campaign, but I see it more like a long complicated, mountaineering adventure.  We trek through mountain passes, climb heights and then have to belay down them.  Tim is unfazed by all the setbacks we have had.  He manages to put a positive spin on everything.  I am not always so optimistic.  I often find myself near the end of my rope.

Starting this project I had coils and coils of fine cord ready for action.  I was looking forward to this adventure with zeal even.  Along the trail there were times when things were so difficult I felt the rope slipping through my fingers at a pretty rapid pace.  Like the morning when I woke up on our 27th wedding anniversary to find the inside trenches filled with water.  Luckily Corrina and Sam came in the next couple of days filling me with joy and replenishing my line.  I saw the end of my rope close at hand the day we found out our car was stolen, but the kindness of our friends and family kept me from reaching the end.

Two weeks ago we had a serious setback where my line was slipping so fast through my hands it gave me rope burn and had me clinging desperately to the last frayed end.  The back room which in turns we have used as a dining room, Tim’s shop, and our den had to be torn down because it was so poorly constructed.   We knew the room was built on a patio slab rather than a proper foundation, and that we would have to retrofit it,  but we didn’t know just how bad it was until Tim and J began to frame the opening for the new sliding glass door.  The room had a three foot high brick base with wood framed walls above it.  We always assumed there would be some anchoring of the bricks to the slab.  What Tim and J found was that there were no anchor bolts, or rebar, not even wooden dowels holding the bricks in place.  The only things keeping the walls upright were the drywall and the roof.

Up until then I was always fond of the previous owner of the house, Ted.  Ted was a colonel in the marines and was the original owner.  He was at the house when Tim, the kids, and I toured it for the first time.  Corrina and Sam went through the house picking out which bedroom they wanted.  They were particularly charming that day, no bickering and no fights.  Ted showed us around taking us through the dining room.  I remember asking if the room was permitted and Ted saying yes. Pants on fire Ted!  He showed us the playhouse that he had built for his grandchildren.  He seemed like such a lovely older gentleman.  Later when we were all moved in we heard from neighbors that he accepted our offer, even though ours was not the highest, because he wanted to sell to a nice family. Yes we always liked the colonel.

At some point Ted decided to remodel the kitchen and add a formal dining room to the house for his beloved wife.  We knew after living in his dream kitchen for thirteen years that he was one to pinch the pennies.  The range was weak and the pull-out drawers in the cabinets were pathetic, but we didn’t know how cheap he was until we started demolishing the back room.  J. and Charlie started the demo by taking off the roof.  Once that was done, they literally pushed the walls over.  Ted spared every expense in the building of that room.

I was very upset about the extra time and money it will take to rebuild the back room.  Really it is less about the money.  My dad always said that any problem you can solve with money can’t be that bad.  What really bugs me is the ridiculous waste.  We spent hours in that room, eating meals, watching T.V., playing scrabble, and generally enjoying life.  For less than $100 Ted could have made that room safe to occupy, but instead he created what, in a bad earthquake, could have been a death trap.

So there I was at the bitter end when three things happened in rapid succession to add to my store of rope.  First, Tim found a salvaged maple top for our kitchen island.  There is a secret place in Orange County where Tim has found wonderful salvaged tools and shop furniture.  He won’t let me put the name of the place in my blog, but suffice to say it is a hidden jewel.  The four and a half by seven foot maple top was originally in a school library.  It came fully loaded with gum on the bottom and graffiti on the top.  Tim plans to refinish it to make it look new, but in the meanwhile I am thoroughly enjoying it, rough as it is.

I immediately started looking for counter stools on the internet.  All of the stools I wanted were beautifully mid-century and outrageously expensive.  I came upon a website for school supplies (http://www.nationalpublicseating.com/science_lab_stools.htm) and found some pretty good looking counter stools for only $75.00 apiece. We ended up buying four counter stools.  When they arrived, they were heavy duty with that post-industrial look.  It really got me thinking about what other things I can get at school supply stores.

The second good thing was when Tim and Rich started grinding the cement floors.  We knew we wanted to keep our cement floors, but I didn’t want it to look like the floors at Home Depot or Trader Joes.  I wanted a shiny, finished product.  To achieve this effect it took a huge amount of effort.  I have bad allergies and hate carpet, so we ripped up all the carpet and painted the cement floors as soon as we moved in.  So now we had to scrape up all of that paint.  What a hassle that was!

Then Rich and Tim rented a cement grinder to start the grinding process.  It looked pretty good, clean and flat, but it wasn’t the look I was hoping for.  So they rented a polishing system that went through progressively finer grits until the cement is shiny and smooth like a granite counter top.   It is a beautiful floor treatment, but it is not for the faint of heart.  The grinding is loud and extremely dusty.  At first we were really worried that the finish could be scratched so we walked in bare feet and obsessively cleaned the floor.  After a few days we realized that the floor is concrete for god’s sake!  It is super tough.



The last good thing that has happened in the past week is that Tim, J, and Charlie began framing.  I left the house on Wednesday at 9:00 a.m. and there were no interior walls and came back at 5:00 p.m. and the downstairs had a definite structure!  I love framing.  It is fast and very satisfying to see the progress.

We still have weeks of framing to go, and we still have to rebuild the back room, what will be our dining room.  There are months of finish work to go.  We really are nowhere near the end of our expedition, more like the middle, but I my supply of rope has been replenished and I am ready to continue the trek.









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  1. Love going through this with you…..on this end!

    Love you,


    Comment by Lynn — July 10, 2011 @ 3:04 pm

    • thanks Lynn. Believe me you are better off on your end!

      Comment by T Laine — July 20, 2011 @ 2:26 pm

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We are embarking on an adventure turning a boring little ranch house into a modern style remodel.







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