Today in ‘struction

For the last 6+ months a regular feature on my social media feeds has been “Today in ‘struction” – where I’d post all the latest pictures of our attic renovation project. Heaven only knows just how many people unfollowed/blocked/muted me. Thanks to everyone who’s still putting up with me.

The project was a very big one, which we knew from the beginning. We thought it might be a 3 month project, but that was optimistic by half. We had a very good general contractor (Ken Menesale of Menesale Builders – happy to provide reference and/or contact info! He did a great job!), but with such a hot market it’s hard to get contractors or subcontractors on a quick schedule. The plan, drafted by one of the partners of SV Design was to take our finished but unheated attic and make it into a master suite, with a super fancy bathroom, walk in closet and this amazing innovation called “insulation”. That extra bath moves our house from 1.5 baths to 2.5 baths – a critical 21st century addition for a 19th century house.

And on Thursday of this week, we’ll be done with this project as scoped. There’s still stuff to do (like moving stuff and curtains etc. etc. etc.). We also need to replace the carpet (that was part of the plan). But for the project as quoted and scoped? Done.

I thought it would be fun to go through and talk a little about each of the rooms and show you the before, down to studs, and the current 99.99% done state!

You can go through full album of all the work here.

The new laundry room
So one of our genius ideas (ok, it was probably Tobin’s – I don’t remember) was to move the laundry from the basement to the 2nd floor, where the laundry is mostly generated. We had this really deep linen closet that ran right next to the plumbing, which is perfect for the job. This room didn’t get pulled down to studs/insulated like the rest. My plan is – once we figure out HOW to get our washer and dryer to the correct floor and hooked up – is to have everyone be responsible for their own laundry. Liberation looms! Thane will never have clean clothes again!

Linen closet before
Laundry room after

The stairs up
One of the additions we made to the project from the initial quote was pulling all this down to the studs in order to insulate it. Not only was it probably the only time that would be possible, we were also worried about ice dams forming from inconsistent temperatures. We also replaced ALL windows in the attic with new construction windows, including this one. There wasn’t previously a light at the base of these stairs – this is much nicer!

Originally

Looking up the stairs

Looking down – I never got around to replacing that valence

To Studs

Looking up

Closeup of the landing
Looking down
Watch your step

Final Version

Looking up

Looking down
From the top – there’s a closet on the left that wasn’t there before

Bedroom
The layout of the bedroom changed a wee bit, but not much. Where there had previously been a weird sink only type bathroom and closet, there is now a wall. That space belongs to the bathroom now. The biggest unknown going in had been in what the ceiling would look like. It was, um, exciting how they’d chosen to rebuild that roof after the fire in the ’40s. There’s a whole roof that was just built over the top of, and there’s this amazing convergence of beams. We were thrilled though to be able to bring the ceiling all the way up to the roof line and add a chandelier. We took out half the beams – the rest are structural. This room gets amazing light and beautiful views.

Before

From the doorway – I actually rather liked the colors in this room

Halogen lamp & entrance to the weird bathroom thingy
The weird bathroom thingy – those are a full closet on the left. Remember this, because it was truly transformed.
School classroom ceiling

To studs

The walls were all uninsulated lathe and plaster

Looking through the walls to what will become the bathroom
The architectural marvel of the roof
Easier to see with the new strapping

There were a total of 5 rats nests found in this attic:

All vermin are now uninvited

Finished

Those windows still take up a whole wall – but now they’re insulated

Head of the bed – the access for the steam shower unit is the small panel on the right
As though I was lying in bed – the globes got broken and I just got new ones. We added hard wired fire alarms to all bedrooms. And the high panel on the right is access to the separate HVAC system we put in the attic & 2nd floor.
Looking at the closet door

Walk in Closet
This is one of my favorite spaces in the house, which was previously entirely unfinished. It’s now a walk in closet, although the height means that dress-length hangers will need to go in the hall closet instead.

Before

There were GIGANTIC nails unprotected in the ceiling and I was always afraid I’d split my skull on one

Adam’s in the weird bathroom
Little doors like this were in a bunch of spots in the crawlspaces – we left one in place in the spot we hid our time capsule in

Finished

Hard to believe it’s the same room

Looking back to the bedroom

Hall closets
This will have my dresses to the right, photo albums & memory boxes in shelves on the left (we’ll be doing all the closet inserts either ourselves or by buying Ikea stuff). The door on the right is one of the last things to be done, and that gives us access to storage space where we can put our big bulky stuff we don’t need often (luggage, Christmas crap etc.)

Surprisingly unuseful closet
I always thought it was weird that there was a light and a switch for this section. It also had the sharp nail issue.

Studs
It’s surprisingly hard to identify what is what in all the pictures of rooms at the stud phase.

Can you make it out?

Finished

This is a lot of closet for New England

No light any more – this looks pretty similar
Goodbye wasted space!

Bathroom
Now for the super exciting transformation. With this bathroom, we moved in a wall (we needed clearance), popped up the ceiling over the bathtub and added in an amazing shower. The shower fills the cavity that was previously that weird pseudo bathroom. To be clear, though, we put in an entirely new plumbing stack from the basement. In fact, the attic has its own power box, water & sewer & HVAC systems – which the laundry room borrows. Anyway, that shower is really hard to photograph, so since it’s not super clear it includes a very large bench, which is heated and long enough to lie down on. In addition to the “regular” shower, there’s also a steam unit which can fill the entire shower full of steam in less than a minute. Finally, the door is tightly sealed so that the steam lingers. Since it’s all also now well insulated, this room will stay warm.

The bathtub overlooks a beautiful borrowed view. It’s about 5 stories above ground level for any neighbors because of how our house is built on the hill. When I’m in it, I can watch the moon rise over my feet.

The vanity was a story. We ordered 7 feet of vanity and our contractor had the old version of our plans that only had six feet. So we were plumbed and set up all wrong for the additional foot. We finally figured that out, then our architect had the genius idea of turning the extra piece into a built in! I’m astonished at the transformation of this room.

Before

This room had no heat

Hard to see, but there’s a little access door to the left of the window

During

The chimney explains that weird bump out

This door was bizarre. Not even Thane was small enough to reach it. This is where we left the time capsule.
What we found in these walls…
That’s the only tiny bit of wall remaining – it’s interior.
We called it the murder shower at this stage

Now – you can’t get me out of there!

We moved in the first possible moment
6 foot vanity…
The shower is really hard to photograph
I’m in love with that backsplash tile

So that’s it! This is the end of ‘struction for this project, and hopefully for our family for a while (well, except for the floors). You may now unmute me and I will return to obsessing about plums and complaining that my kids grow too fast!