Jobsite, day 1

This was the exciting sight that greeted me this morning:

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That long piece is the beam that will open up the wall to my new living room!

Control freak that I am, I couldn’t resist stopping by the apartment on the way home from work today to see what progress was made. The first thing I saw was a completely full container, so that’s a good sign. Unfortunately or fortunately, depending on how you look at it, they had killed all the electricity to the place, so I couldn’t turn on any lights. Even so I snapped a couple of pictures just to document that this is really happening. Bathroom, now stripped of most of its offending inventory:

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And ditto kitchen:

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I love this archaeological phase, and wish that there had been enough light to have inspected all the layers of colors and tiles that were revealed. Oh well, onward!

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Ashes to ashes

What kind of flooring to use has been a major concern in the planning for this project. I am a lifelong fan of wood floors, and there was no way I was going to go with anything other than wood. At the same time, a really major factor in the planning is sound insulation because of the open conflict with my downstairs neighbor over noise, so I needed to be sure that I would be making the problem better, not worse.

My contractor assures me that they will be able to ameliorate the situation by blowing in insulation between the floor joists and adding an extra flooring layer (or two). He also strongly recommended what in Norwegian is called varmefolie, radiant heating without the tubes and water. Because of the radiant heating, I’m pretty much limited to engineered wood flooring rather than solid wood. At first I was disappointed, but in checking out what’s available in stores, I’m pretty impressed with how far engineered wood floors have come. At the higher end it’s nothing like the ticky-tack laminates that one often sees.

So I came to terms with the idea of engineered wood flooring pretty early in the planning process, but not with the limited choices in types of wood. I would guess that something like 75% of the engineered wood floors available in this market are oak. Now, for whatever reason, I got it into my head that I do not want oak floors. In fact, I don’t want any oak in my apartment, if I can help it. It bothers me that oak has taken over the status that pine had here in Norway in the 1980s and 1990s; it’s everywhere and it’s going to start looking very dated soon, if it isn’t already. I also can’t help but wonder what is happening to all the oak trees. I live in a place known for having some of the northernmost oak forests in Europe, and I guess irrationally I think oak trees are somehow just a little bit sacred.

My self imposed ban on oak essentially limited me to two options, pine and ash. I got some samples and lived with them for only a few days before it came totally clear what I wanted to use:

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These samples are all ash, placed against the existing pine floor. I have become a huge fan of ash! As a friend of mine pointed out, it’s traditionally at least as sacred as oak (hello, Yggdrasil anyone?), but that’s not stopping me. Unlike oak, it’s a relatively fast-growing tree, almost a weed, so in my mind that makes it slightly more sustainable. Ash is really wild in its growth pattern and coloration, so narrow (3-plank) floors tend to look really mottled, almost like camouflage. In my opinion, for ash to work well you really need the broader 1-plank floors. That way you get to see the patterns more fully, without them getting all broken up. Left to right, these samples are A) white-oiled 1-plank ash, B) oiled 3-plank ash, and C) my favorite, matte white-finished 1-plank ash. I’m definitely going with C!

This will be the flooring for the entire apartment except the bathroom. I’ve also asked the contractor to do doors without thresholds, so things will be a lot tidier visually.

The “before” tour

Here we go, room-by-room. The more you look, the more you see shoddy, outdated and broken finishes and fixtures. I loved the light and the view (and the fact that I could afford it), when I bought the place, but over the past three years I kept discovering more things that weren’t functioning right. I kept adding items to my list of things to fix or replace until I finally realized that the only rational thing to do is to tear the whole place back to the studs and start over. It seems extravagant, but it’s mostly going to be basic maintenance to keep the place from falling apart.

Hallway (ugly, cracked tile, oddly lowered ceiling in an apartment that already has low ceilings to start with):

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Bathroom (a disaster; tiny, cramped, three different kinds of mismatched tiles, non-compliant with housing regulations):

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Kitchen (fine, but the cabinets are falling apart, the tiles are ugly, and the electrical outlets appear to be hanging by a thread; this and the bathroom are currently the only rooms with a view of the fjord):

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Living room (fine, if shabby; all the surfaces are worn and the finishes are shoddy):

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Largest bedroom (a good sized room of about 3.5×5 m, soon to become the living room; the flooring is original, so sound really carries here):

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Smaller bedroom (this is a nothing little room of 2.25x3m, just big enough for a 120x200cm bed and a wardrobe):

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Smallest bedroom (at 2x3m this room was so small that I basically used it as a storage closet; it also has the original flooring, though it has been refinished):

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Ugh, all those different floor surfaces drive me batty. But that’s it, other than storage in the basement and attic. The two storage units in the basement are now full of my stuff.

Gearing Up

After nearly three years of living in what may well be the last place I ever own, I am about to embark on a major renovation, a gut job really. When I bought it, it was the only place available in the location I needed that I could afford post-divorce. Consequently, it was pretty run down, though it has some potential. This is sort of a “pop-up” blog that I’ll use to document the renovation process.

The apartment is just under 70 square meters and is one of four in a wooden building built in 1957. As far as I can tell, it has virtually no insulation, and one of the things I’m hoping to do with the renovation is reduce how much sound carries considerably. Unfortunately, I have a running conflict with a neighbor that I’m hoping to mitigate in the long run through the miracles of modern insulation (short term will be tough; renovations are noisy!).

I’ve spent the last week emptying the place out so that renovation can commence on Halloween. It’s slated to take about 8 weeks and I’ll be living in the mother-in-law apartment in my ex-husband’s house (what could possibly go wrong…?).

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The picture above is looking southeast from the living room toward the largest of three bedrooms. The wall between the two rooms will be replaced with a beam and what was once the bedroom will be a new living room. I’ll add a window in the east wall (visible through the doorway) too, since that’s where the view of the Oslo fjord is (well, actually Bunnefjorden, an arm of the Oslo fjord). I’ll steal a corner from the living room to expand the footprint of the two smaller bedrooms. The blue tape on the floor marks the corner of what will be the second bedroom; the area to the right of that wall will be the dining room.

The kitchen and bath will be gutted too, and here again I’ll steal a corner, this time from the kitchen in order to create a shower niche in the (minuscule) bathroom.

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This is the sketch I gave the contractor. Here’s hoping it all works out!