We replaced the original windows in our house in the summer of 2014. When we first started working on the house, we swore that we would never replace our windows because new windows are just not as beautiful as the old ones and the energy savings really aren’t there. You don’t get a return on your investment with energy savings, only maybe with resale value. We had restored the windows in the bedrooms by reglazing them, removing the lead paint, replacing the sash cords, installing metal weather stripping and insulating the sash weight boxes. We had fixed the upper sash in place at the time  too because we felt we could eliminate drafts by only having one moving sash. We also installed insulating roman shades with sides that could clamp down. It was a way to make the room feel warmer and eliminate drafts. On really cold nights we would have a lot of condensation on the cold glass in the morning but it wasn’t really that bad while we still had the forced air heat. The condensation got worse when we switched to the radiant floor heat and a well insulated roof. This is because the forced air furnace really dried out the air in our house which the radiant heat doesn’t do. I couldn’t keep up with the wiping the moisture off the windows and over time, the paint started peeling and we would get black mold growing on the windows. As our plan for insulating the house evolved over time, we also realized we would need to replace the windows.

Replacing the windows also included removal of the lead paint siding, replacing sheething for structural strength at the corners, dense packing the walls with cellulose and connecting the wood structure to the concrete foundation. Did you know that old houses just rest on their foundation and not tied to it all? This could shift your house of it’s foundation in a strong weather event, such as a tornado

Installing plywood at the corners for structural sheer strength

The rectangular plate connects the sill plate to the foundation. The strap connects the stud wall framing to the foundation.


Installing the windows

Our new windows are new construction windows from Marvin. Phase 1 is their first try at the New Generation Ultimate Clad Double Hung. We bought them with the primed pine interior and aluminum clad exterior. We really wanted the New Generation because of the automatic lock function and the 4″ vent function. The New Generation also doesn’t have a crazy upcharge for triple pane glass which we went with, because they don’t have to do special millwork for it anymore like they used to for their older series.



This picture shows the window buck. We insulated the exterior wall with an additional 4″ of polystyrene insulation. The windows will sit at the plane in line with the siding

After the window bucks were installed, we covered the walls in Ice&Watershield and flashed in the window buck. The window is then also flashed in. Then we added the 4″ of foam board insulation which is held in place by 2x4s that are the furring strips to provide venting and drainage behind the siding. My husband did a lot of learning and math to calculate what insulation system would work. He mostly referred to Joe Lstiburek and the Building Science Corporation in his research.

We managed to install the foam board insulation and furring strips before winter hit but the exterior of this side of the house didn’t get fully finished until Fall of 2016. The interior trim is still missing around most of the windows now.






It’s been over 4 years since I have added anything to my blog. It’s pretty hard to believe that it has been 4 years but more so in the way that my son just turned 4 years old. Four is not a toddler or a baby, four is a real kid. We are past the blissful but exhausting first year, the kinda easy but still exhausting second year, the “wow my kid has his own mind” 3rd year or “Terrible Twos” as some call that age, and then the Threenage year (thankfully past us). Even as a young 4 I can already see more ability to control emotions and maybe even consider the emotions of others. I am already enjoying more fun times not bogged down by a constant power struggle. And the creativity is pretty amazing. But I digress, this blog is about our house projects. The kid could be a whole other blog.

Here’s a quick list what we have gotten done on the house:

  • Replaced all windows on the first floor in two stages, 3 years apart
  • Finished insulating and siding the north and back wall
  • Finished painting the siding on the north and back wall
  • Framed the partition walls upstairs
  • Updated the plumbing in the downstairs bathroom in preparation for installing the rough plumbing for the upstairs bath
  • Installed a new toilet and sink in the downstairs bath
  • Installed a dishwasher, cabinet and counter in our kitchen (what a life changer!)
  • Turned our office into the kid’s room, patched walls, installed trim and installed a cool tree platform
  • Built and rebuilt the chicken coop
  • Started installing ductwork for an ERV (Energy Recovery Ventilator)
  • Installed bathroom fans in both bathrooms

The list what we still need to get done is very long but the broad goals are:

  • Finish the upstairs space with bedroom, bathroom, hallway and office space
  • Rebuilt the stairway from the first to second floor and patch downstairs walls
  • Patch walls and install trim on downstairs windows
  • Finish remodeling downstairs bathroom
  • Refinish walls in our current bedroom which includes removing the American Clay Plaster
  • Finish insulating and siding and painting the exterior
  • Finish installing the ERV

We plan to hire out some of this work, like plaster and finish carpentry because we do not want to be a slave to our house for that much longer. Having to spend most of our free time working on the house, is getting old and affecting our happiness as a family.

I plan to catch the blog up with individual projects for the next few months so stay tuned.



When we found put that we were expecting a little human addition, we agreed that we wouldn’t take on any major projects to try to finish before the baby came. I didn’t want to be stressed out about house projects but also wanted to make a little progress on the house. We agreed that we would have some plaster work done in the hallway which allowed us to get our air conditioning installed. The hallway project also included installing a lining closet. And while we had the plasterer hired, we decided to also have him do the wall between the kitchen and dining room, mostly so we can get a door installed there to keep the cats off the kitchen counter.

Of course neither of these projects are completely done but the remaining work is minor and can be tackled when we find ourselves with extra time on any winter day.

The hallway. We plan to install picture rail where the two paint colors meet so we can easily swap out artwork without damaging the walls.

The hallway. We plan to install picture rail where the two paint colors meet so we can easily swap out artwork without damaging the walls.

Daiken mini split air conditioniner. It is installed directly across the door to the dining/living room side of the house. With a small fan placed in the doorway it cools our house nicely. At nighttime we can shut the door and direct the cool air to the bedrooms. It works very well.

Daiken mini split air conditioniner. It is installed directly across the door to the dining/living room side of the house. With a small fan placed in the doorway it cools our house nicely. At nighttime we can shut the door and direct the cool air to the bedrooms. It works very well.

Hallway linen closet. We decided to line it with cedar which smells awesome. With five shelves installed it houses our sheets, towels, bathroom stuff and sleeping bags.

Hallway linen closet. We decided to line it with cedar which smells awesome. With five shelves installed it houses our sheets, towels, bathroom stuff and sleeping bags.

The linen closet will have a door to match the rest of our doors. For now it just has a curtain. We are also postponing installing the trim on the two bedroom doors and dining room doors as all need adjustments to the frame in order to shut correctly. In the case of the dining room door, we actually plan to flip the whole thing around so it opens into the doorway. A few pieces also need to be refinished.

The other plaster projects in the dining room involved a new wall and patching the hole in the ceiling from when we installed the beam during the roof construction.

This is the scratch coat on top of blue board.

This is the scratch coat on top of blue board.

Painting the finish coat.

Painting the finish coat.

All painted.

All painted.

Getting these two projects to this point was our goal so now the baby can come. I do feel like I am going to be pregnant forever but even if it doesn’t want to come out on its own, it will only be two more weeks at the most. So until it shows up, I will keep busy with the garden harvest, sewing and knitting, cooking and cleaning.

The plasterer finished on Monday and it looks great. Now that the plaster is dry, it’s time for primer and paint. We also have the A/C guy lined up for next week but it has been unseasonably cold here, especially this weekend. The high on Saturday was 61. I made soup and baked bread and don’t remember if I have have done that in July. I’m sure we’ll still get some hot weather so I’m not complaining for now.

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Catch-up post

Here’s a short catch-up post to show you that we haven’t been completely lazy and unproductive. This year has actually been eventful and this summer is super busy. During the winter months, we worked on the upstairs. We framed out the knee walls anD hung dry wall to the rafters behind the kneewall for fire blocking:


We also ordered Warmboard for the radiant floor and installed most of it. Then Spring came and it was time to head out into the garden and also shift gears to finishing the hallway so we can install the mini split air conditioner. We decided to take down the ceiling in the hallway because it was in rough shape and really loose, not really adhering to the lath anymore. Originally, we had planned to do the plasterwork ourselves but I didn’t have faith in my plastering skills and frankly just didn’t want to do it. We got a quote from a local guy and it was reasonable so we went ahead and hired it out. We still had a lot of prep work on the hallway, like sistering some more floor joists in an effort to level out a bit more to get our doors shut, scraping and washing the walls and prepping for the A/C unit. We also cut in an opening to make a linen closet and shrink the bedroom closet. The plasterer started today and thinks he will finish up on Monday.



The plaster should dry for 7 days before we prime and paint so we should be able to get the A/C hooked up within 1.5 -2 weeks. If we have another hot spell like we did this last week, i will be really happy about that. The excessive heat and I just don’t do well together and it makes me horribly unproductive and cranky. I am excited to pick out a paint color for the hallway and paint. It seems like in all our house remodeling we are always so far away from getting something to the final finish stage. The hallway, which has definitely been the ugliest room ever since we moved in will be the prettiest room when it is all done.

We have had one of the wettest beginning of the year on record this year. Which is ironic considering last year we were in a full on drought. We got so much rain that once again out backyard flooded. This time the damage wasn’t as bad as I have more soil in the raised beds but the water was close to the top edge of the beds, so about 6.5 inches. We pumped it out this time just with our neighbors small sump pump but it worked. Now it is crispy again and I am having to water the raised beds.


February Already

It’s been a while since I last wrote about our house projects so here’s a quick update:

We got as much work done on the dormer as we wanted to. We left the top of the gable wall for now because we need to install the bathroom fan outlet so we are waiting until we know where it will come out.

We went to Germany for the Holidays and relaxed while also having a lot of family gatherings and little trips.


Christmas Eve


Ready for the adventure mine


Delicious wedding cake I made for my sister and her groom.

Since our return, Winter is in full swing, minus the occasional 50s day in January (thanks to climate change), and we have hibernated a bit and are taking it easy. We started work on the upstairs and started framing the kneewalls. Next we will install dry wall to the rafters behind the kneewalls and then we’ll finish framing up the walls. After that, the plan is to install the radiant floor and then we’ll see. By then it might be nice enough outside again for us to shift our projects back to the outdoors. We aren’t really in a hurry to finish the upstairs as we have enough space for now with the two bedrooms downstairs but I think we are hoping to get that done within 2 years or so. It really depends on time and money and our siding project is a bit more urgent as the siding is in bad shape and probably leaking water to the sheathing.

We are also spending a lot of time talking about all of our different projects, our goals and timelines. We find ourselves reconsidering ideas we once had and changing the plan if it makes more sense. For example, we originally planned to put the shower in front of the window in the upstairs bathroom. From a use of space perspective this makes a lot of sense but from a water proofing perspective it would be difficult. After reconsidering the bathroom layout and being honest with ourselves about our needs and preferences, we have come up with some other ideas. We are also reconsidering our windows. While we really like our old windows and believe that they are superior to modern replacement windows we are finding more and more that our old windows have a lot of drawbacks when being used with a super insulated house with radiant heat. The issue during the winter is warm air leaking through and then condensing and freezing on the exterior storm. Then when it warms up a bit, the water melts and refreezes on the exterior sill. So while other’s have icicles on their roof, we have them on our window sills. We also have a lot of condensation on the interior window when we close the shades but closing the shades helps with the cold off the windows at night. I try to wipe off the wet windows in the morning but it is soaking into the wood and peeling the paint. We also don’t know how to address the detail of extending the exterior window jams when we add 6″ to the wall thickness with insulating, airspace and siding but we know how to install a new window with window bucks. Extending the interior jams also seems a bit easier as we would not be dealing with water on the interior. We will probably go with a triple glazed Marvin window that matches our existing 3 over 1 style. It will give us the chance to reduce air leakage during winter and radiant heat gain during the summer. We hope to spread out the cost while we only work on one side of the house at a time and be able to afford it that way.

Some progress news

We got a little bit of work done on the gable dormer siding and the root cellar last weekend. A. installed most of the straight pieces of the siding on the dormer. He had precut all the pieces and I had primed the cuts and touched up the paint a couple of weekends ago.

The easy part of the siding on the dormer is done

I have also been working on building a root cellar/cold closet in the basement. I framed up the walls last weekend. This was my first framing project and I think I did alright, especially with a horribly uneven concrete floor. Over the week I cut foam board insulation to fit in between the joists and yesterday we installed the door. We got a new exterior door from Menards that is Energy Star rated. I checked the local ReStore for a door we could use but nothing in the size I need and insulated. I would never buy this kind of door as my front door but for a root cellar it is a good enough. Installing the door was quite a challenge. The floor is so uneven that the sill was hard to even out but in the end we did a good enough job. The door opens and closes without problem and looks mostly plumb and square.

Root cellar walls

Half insulated ceiling in root cellar

Root cellar with door

We still need to cut the hole(s) for the outside ventilation, install the other half of the ceiling insulation and foam all seams. I hope I can finish this up this week.

A. also worked on the new wood rack yesterday and got it more or less finished. He still needs to rip down some plywood for shelves and install all the shelf brackets. After that I can work on moving all the wood from its current rack to the new rack and start rebuilding my studio space. This is also a project I hope to work on this week. I didn’t need to work in the studio last week as I was bisque firing and glazing but now I am getting nervous about not having my space set up. I guess that’s a good motivator.

Rack for sheet goods and dimensional lumber.

Sheet goods will be stored in between the two stud walls and the dimenionsional lumber, trim etc will be on shelves that are supported by the metal brackets you see in the front.

This weekend was a rainy one. We had pouring rain all day Saturday and most of Sunday. We can’t remember a weekend since this spring that we have had this much rain which also means that most of our attention has been on outdoor projects, saving interior, especially basement work for a rainy day. So here it was, the rainy day(s). We finally finished all the work on the beam project which included nailing in one last hanger and installing cross blocking.

Then we got talking about a root cellar, which I have been wanting to build for weeks now. I had a good potato crop, squash and carrot crop this year and I don’t know how to store these things in a warmish basement. Last year my potatoes grew roots and got all pruny and the carrots just get moldy in the fridge. Originally we thought the space underneath the basement stair landing would be a good spot and then we realized that the air vent piping would get in the way of a future addition out the back. So after considering all the corners in the basement we realized that the only logical space would be the corner of my studio. This also meant that my studio would have to move and we decided that the front corner on the driveway side was logical. Now we have to move a rack that we keep our wood on but A. welcomed the idea since he didn’t like the design anyway and since he wants to create a space for sheet goods as well. So now here we are totally rearranging the basement. It makes total sense and we are wondering why we didn’t think of this sooner. Unfortunately this is going to be a lot of work and will interrupt my studio for some time but maybe a bit of a break won’t be the end of the world either.

So A. started building a wall underneath the beam on the studio side of the basement today. This wall will support the new wood rack.


I ended up spending the day canning. I still have a ton of green tomatoes and made a green tomato salsa recipe along with another batch of tomato sauce.


Now that the leaves are getting crunchy under my feet, the nights are getting cool and the days are getting shorter, we  are thinking, talking and doing more house projects. The summer was hot and sticky here and often we had no motivation to work on any of our projects. We were also busy with baseball (that’s A. and the As) and art shows and pottery. We made some slow progress on some of our projects and the garden, of course, keeps me busy. The last couple of weekends we seemed to have found a bit of motivation again so I have been working on stripping the window casings of two of the basement windows and finished repainting them today. A. has started the dormer siding project. It took us forever to decide how we want to place and secure the ladders to work on the sides and then we kept getting delayed by swarms of wasps building their nests on our roof. Progress also seems slow but it the nature of doing detail trim work.

Starting siding installation on the dormer, freeze board is newly installed.

Much of the lower US is currently experiencing very hot weather. In some states temps are forecast in the triple digits. Here in Wisconsin, mid to upper 90s are forecast for much of the week. If you have air conditioning, you are probably tempted to turn it up, or leave it running continuously to stay cool and escape the heat. It is during these hot days that our electric power grid experiences peak demand, a phenomenon the utilities like to refer to when they tell us that they need to build another nuclear or coal fired power plant. There are a few things you can do and be conscious off during hot weather spells to minimize your load on the grid and to avoid contributing to peak demand:

  • Turn the temp on your AC up as high as you can handle, 78 is recommended but you might find that you are comfortable at 80 if you are just sitting around and watching TV or reading a book.
  • Minimize the work your AC has to do by lowering your shades to keep direct sunlight from heating up your house.
  • If nights are cool and humidity is low, turn off your AC and open your windows. Use window fans too draw in the cool air on the lower level and let hot air escape through higher windows or skylights.
  • Turn up the temp on your AC if you are going to be at work all day. Many healthy pets will do just fine if it is a little warmer. They mostly sleep while you are away anyway.
  • Don’t use your dryer during hot days, dry your clothes outside. It takes the same amount of time.
  • Shift other electric loads to night time, when the grid experiences less load, like washing laundry or baking.
  • If your water heater is electric, turn down the temp. Last thing you want on a hot day is a nice hot shower.

Our house doesn’t have air conditioning so we do some of these things to just keep the house cooler. We shut all windows during the day and lower the shades. We open up the house during the night with fans in 3 windows on the first floor and open the skylights. So far the highest interior temperature we’ve reached is 84 which is still at least 10 degrees cooler than the daily high. During the night we have been able to drop down to 76 – 78 degrees. If we had air conditioning, it wouldn’t have to work very hard to get down to 80 or even 78.

Roofing material and insulation are really big contributors to how cool your house stays. We have a metal roof, which reflects much of the sun and the wall insulation keeps the heat on the exterior.