The Domino Effect

One of the interesting things about living in an old house is that very few changes are simple. There’s always a cascading To Do list that results from trying to make a single modification.

For example, in the spring, we finally found a light fixture for the foyer. Up until now, it’s had what Mr. Math calls “a construction chandelier”, which is the single bulb wired in with a gizmo you can buy at the hardware store. It works but it’s not pretty. I couldn’t quite decide what kind of fixture I wanted, then we couldn’t find one of the right size, etc., then we did find one but it was too expensive. A few months ago, Mr. Math (who is a psychic shopper) suggested we go back to that lighting store and see what else they had. Surprise! The fixture I had liked was 50% off because it was the last one available, so we brought it home.

We decided after getting it here that it would look better in the upstairs foyer – which had a hideous cheap light fixture, not significantly better than a construction chandelier. That was when the domino effect began – because it only made sense to paint the ceiling medallion before hanging the light fixture. Once the big ladder was in that foyer, it was clear that it would smack into the new fixture very easily – which has a lovely large glass bowl – so I decided to paint the rest of the ceiling and the moulding first. Another tap of the dominoes had me deciding to paint the walls (while I’m there, and also because the big ladder would be needed for painting the line where the wall and moulding meet) and thus the trim. So, hanging one light fixture cascaded into a painting project that will extend into the fall. (But the foyer looks really good!)

Similarly, this summer, we decided that we would get air conditioning installed before next summer. (There’s a post here called Phew! about that.) We knew this wouldn’t be simple and expected another domino effect – which is exactly what we got. Partly that’s because the Diva House doesn’t have ducts and forced air heating: she has hot water radiators. Hot water radiators are terrific for providing steady heat and are economical – plus the big rads are pretty – but they make the addition of air conditioning a bit more challenging. It turns out that the best solution is to put a unit in the attic which will distribute the cool air, to add ducts into the ceilings of the upstairs rooms, and to have a companion unit outside to create the cool air and push it up to the attic through copper pipes that will tuck neatly into a corner on the outside of the house. Mr. Math wasn’t surprised by this suggestion because he’d done his homework. The air conditioner guy suggested that the units be installed in the spring, when the attic will be cool. Fair enough.

But here come the dominoes. One easily anticipated requirement is that there needs to be a concrete slab poured for that outside unit to sit on. The preferred location is adjacent to an existing concrete slab – outside a door – which has cracked since it wasn’t poured correctly in the first place. Mr. Math has been wanting to have it redone ever since the crack appeared, so there will be two new concrete slabs there – and some drilling to break up the broken one – probably this fall. That’s easy.

It also turns out that there has to be a staircase to the attic for the attic unit to be installed and serviced. Right now, there’s a trapdoor in the ceiling of the one room upstairs that isn’t renovated, and you need a big ladder to get up there. (Then you squeeeeeeeeeeze through the trapdoor.) The attic is tall enough that you can stand up there, but there’s nothing there except vents and insulation because it’s not particularly accessible. You have to walk on the joists. So, they will have to build a floor or platform for the attic unit, and we will have to have stairs installed to get it up there. The opening will have to be bigger, too.

The room that isn’t renovated used to be a kitchen, and there’s a wall-full of cabinets where the staircase will have to go. The cabinets were destined to leave at some future point in time, but now we have a reason to get rid of them sooner rather than later. Also, Mr. Math is talking about renovating that room while everything is in uproar. That makes sense. It’s demolition time – or it will be in January. (We must have a civilized Christmas!) There’s not much to be done in that room once the cabinets are ripped out – some new drywall and probably a new floor. It won’t be that big of a deal. Right now, though, those cabinets are full of my yarn stash and my copies of my backlist books, all of which will have to be repacked and relocated while this is underway. (There are a lot of cabinets. Ugh.)

I am excited, though. When all is said and done, there will be A/C, there will be stairs to the attic, there will be attic storage, AND there will be a spare room for guests. This is all good and it will happen by May. It might even be that the mice that cavort in the attic find it less welcoming once the unit is installed. (I can dream.) It is possible that the laundry room off that new spare bedroom will get reorganized, too, and that the ancient washer and dryer that came with the house will be replaced with new ones that work on more than one cycle. (I’m not getting my hopes up on that just yet.) We’ll gauge our renovation tolerance (and budget) once things get rolling in the new year.

What about you? Do you find that one thing leads to another whenever you take on a new project?

2 thoughts on “The Domino Effect

  1. Holy cow Deb! I know the end result will be great but facing any deconstruction these days gives me the heebie jeebies. Remembering camping in the front porch for the kitchen reno…..
    The question I have is did you find a light fixture for the downstairs foyer in the end?


    • But Terri – the trauma passes. In a year or so, you’ll be ready for more. 😉

      No light fixture for downstairs. It’ll likely be a couple of years now as I don’t dare push another line of dominos just yet…



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