Terrific Broth

The life of two scientists, creating a small home, in big mountains

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New Egress Window in The Master

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Egress window came to our minds when we decided to move our master bedroom into the basement. Colorado weather is dry and each summer our city issues fire warning for several months. Adding an egress in our basement bedroom not only improves fire safety, but also brings our house to code for future resale.

We also want a bigger window in the basement for better ventilation. The summer nights here are cool and it is more comfortable to sleep with windows open than using air conditioning. For maximum privacy, we decided to install the new egress in place of the existing bedroom window facing the backyard.

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Above was what the east side of the bedroom looked like on last Tuesday, and below was the same angle on Saturday! You have to see it in person to appreciate how much difference the new window makes.

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As expected, the new egress brings much more light into the bedroom. The light color window well also helps to reflect light inside.

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We did not DIY the egress ourselves. Instead, we hired DesignCrew, who specializes in egress windows and have done work in our neighborhood on similar houses. Egress installation involves cutting into concrete foundation, which we have neither tools nor skill for.

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The foundation cutting was done from the outside of the house. The window closer to the downspout in the picture above is the one we replaced with egress. When grading around the foundation we put down 6-mil plastic and gravel around the foundation, both of which had to be removed for the window replacement.

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Egress window has many codes and regulations due to fire safety. We went with standard dimensions and location, with only one customization: lower the window well as much as possible so we can see the backyard. We never like standard window wells, especially the look from the inside. Since our backyard slopes down from the house, we have the option of installing the new well a few inches below the old level to get a better view of the garden.

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Several codes dictate where the egress window shall be installed. First, the window has to be less than 44″ from the floor of the bedroom. Second,  the window opening – not necessarily the size of the window – needs to be at least 5.7 sqft. Our current window is 32″ wide. So we chose a 32″ x 48″ casement window to satisfy these requirements.

DesignCrew moved fast. On the first day, a back hoe drove in (through our walk gate!) to excavate the soil around the window.

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It was sad to see the window well we installed gone. But the demo contractor said that we did a great job installing it. So there is that.

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Another worker came over the second day to cut the window opening with a diamond blade saw. On the third day, the concrete block was pulled out and the window well was installed.

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You can see the new window opening on the foundation from the picture below. The framing and drywall inside were cut away later. After installing the window well, the soil was backfilled and packed down around the well and the foundation.

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The bottom of the well was graded so the soil base slopes away from the house. Pea gravel was applied on top to facilitate the drainage.

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This was the look from the inside right before the drywall was cut and the window was installed. The old window opening looked so small! It was only 18″ tall and we could not see any part of the backyard from the old window.

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On the fifth day we welcomed window installation. The plywood was removed and the drywall behind the new opening was cut off:

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Before any part of the window going in, the concrete opening was polished to create a smooth surface to which the window sill plate and jamb could be glued down.  The aggregates in concrete looked so pretty!

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The sill plates went in next. It was cut to size on site using pre-treated lumber.

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Everything was screwed to the studs. From the picture below you can see the well was installed a few inches below the window sill, which prevents water penetration during rain storms. The well was cut short according to our request, so no ladder is needed inside of the wall for an adult person to escape (by code).

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After securing the new window onto the sill and jamb on each side, the gaps around the window casing was filled and window trims were installed. We picked the simplest design of the trim to match the existing ones around the doorways.

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The egress can be opened from the top like a hopper window to let cool air in. We plan to put our bed against this wall we can see the night sky from our bed. 🙂

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Below is what the window looks like from the inside today. The soil behind the window well is leftover from the backfill. We will be relocating it to a future garden bed. Once it is out of the way we should be able to see more of the backyard.

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The window casing outside is also finished nicely. We picked white color to match the existing basement windows.

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The new metal cover is strong enough for me to walk on it:

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We would like to scrape the soil around both window wells a bit lower and layer the plastic and gravel back around the foundation. You can tell from the picture below that the new well was installed much lower than bathroom window well.

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Speaking of the bathroom window, we now have a new one! Remember how bad it was? We had a hard time replacing it ourselves due to its non-standard size. DesignCrew custom-made one for us and installed it with the egress window:

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It might not look impressive from the outside because of our rusted window sill. But it is the perfect window for this small bathroom. It is tempered for safety, obscured for privacy, and a hopper style so we can open it from the top to let moisture out. We are very happy with the result:

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Much better from the old window:

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It is so nice to cross the basement window work off our to-do list. We are also very pleased with the professional work our contractor did. This is the first time any contractor moved faster than I could anticipate, which was scary but exciting at the same time. We signed the contract on Jan 11th and by the 19th, all the work was completed. It is pretty impressive given that the excavation, foundation cutting, window well installation, and window installation was done by four different teams of contractors, plus a custom-made window. If you live in Denver area and wanted to do some window/door work, I highly recommend DesignCrew.

With the egress window installed and bathroom window replaced, we are moving onto the next phrase of the future master suite construction. Plumbing, electrical, and new insulation float to the top of the priority list. Cannot wait to show you our progress in the next post!

 

What is Coming to Our Garden in 2019

We have been having dusting of snow and gray days since New Year. I cannot help but craving color, sunshine, and warmer temperatures so I can work in my garden again.

Fortunately planning for next year’s garden can take place inside. New to gardening, it is easy to just pile plants into the landscape. I thought long and hard about how I want the backyard to look eventually, and what I want to get out of the garden besides the view.

To be honest, I started gardening for the edibles. The first things we planted on our property were fruit trees, and our second project was a vegetable garden. Enjoying fresh produce during the summer months I was impressed by how juicy and tasty every was. Right off the vine, our vegetables were cooked with only a dash of salt and still tasted great. We have already decided to expand the vegetable garden next summer. But for long-term, we would like to add more edible and perennial shrubs and trees to our yard.

After discussing with Slav I decided to focus on berry bushes and nut trees for 2019. And here are what’re coming to our garden next Spring:

Raspberry collection

Raspberry Plants Collection

Raspberry Plants Collection

Raspberry Plants Collection

Raspberry is an easy choice for us. We love fresh berries. During warmer months I drink berry smoothie daily, and in winter we make berry pancakes a lot. Berries are expensive and perishable which make them the best candidate for organic home growing. I chose to get a rainbow of raspberries of gold, red and purple fruit, that matures at different time of the summer, so we can enjoy fresh raspberries from summer to fall. The collection I ordered includes 15 plants, 5 each of Prelude—an early red; Anne—a sweet and golden everbearing; and Royalty— a summer bearing type that can be enjoyed at the red or later, purple stage.

Blackberry

In addition to raspberries I also ordered a type pf blackberry called Prime-Ark Freedom. It is thornless and produces blackberries on its first year of growth. It also offers high disease resistance to rust and strong cold-hardiness, which are perfect for our climate. I ordered 5 blackberry bushes, which will be planted with the raspberries in our backyard and protected from birds and squirrels.

Seascape Strawberry Plants

Seascape Strawberry Plants

We planted 6 strawberries in 2018 in our veggie garden, without knowing anything about the growth habit of strawberries. I did not even know that they are perennials in our climate! It was a nice surprise when I saw them spreading vigorously like mints. By the end of the growing season the 6 strawberry plants multiplied into 20 plants and occupied 4 x 8 sqft space. I decided to add another 25 in the next Spring so we can have enough fresh strawberries for summer.

Hazelnuts

Hazelnuts

Gardening is my task in this house, but I make sure to include Slav’s favorite into the garden as well. So far he seems to be interested in plants/trees growing in his childhood home, including hazelnuts. Hazelnut needs cross pollination so you need at least two varieties to produce, especially since there is no other hazelnut trees in our neighborhood. I ordered two bare root dwarf hazelnuts trees and they will be added to our backyard.

Hellebore

The last category of plants I ordered was hellebore, namely Christmas rose. I did not know about them until a few years ago, when I got a cutting from a friend. I planted the cutting in the most unfriendly soil and shade spot under a big pine tree, but the cutting multiplied and gave out the most beautiful flower at the most unexpected time – early January. Being in Zone 5 I am dying to add some winter color and interest, and Hellebore makes the perfect candidate.  Another rare trait of hellebore is that it grows in full shade, which allows me to plant it in more protected area such as under our crabapple tree.

I prefer white, pink, purple to red flowers, so here are the ones I ordered:

Picotee Pearl

Plant-Picotee Pearl Hellebore

Fire & Ice

Plant-Fire & Ice Hellebore

Blue Diamond

Plant-Blue Diamond Hellebore

Phoenix

Hellebore, Phoenix , , large

Painted Doubles

Hellebore, Painted Doubles, , large

Wedding Party Confetti Cake

Hellebore, Wedding Party Confetti Cake , , large

Wedding Party Bridesmaid

Hellebore, Wedding Party Bridesmaid , , large

Wedding Party Dark and Handsome

Hellebore, Wedding Party Dark and Handsome, , large

Aren’t they pretty? To stay within budget I ordered only one for each variety. Hopefully they all survive the curiosity of the dogs and bloom next Christmas.

Among two nut trees, twenty berry bushes, eight winter blooming flowers, and a regular veggie garden, I think I have plenty of work cut out for myself in the new year. Expanding the edible garden and having a steady streams of cut flowers is my garden goal for 2019. Are you thinking about gardening already? What is your gardening goal for 2019?

2019, Set, Go!

It is 2019! The year I’ve been looking forward to. This is not only the year I turn 40, which I feel giddy with anticipation, but also our second full year living in this beautiful State of Colorado. Moving to the place we chose and buying our first house here granted me a sense of belonging that I’ve never experienced since moving to the States. It feels nice to have a place to call home again.

2019 also marks the second year we live in our ranch. We adore this little house and the land it sits on. It is a responsibility. It is work. But it is also joy. We can change it anyway we want and we are doing just that. The process of making it ours is liberating and electrifying.

So what is in store for this cute little gem in 2019? Basement, basement, and basement. Basement renovation is our top priority this year, and saying that we are pumped is an understatement. It is amazing to think that merely a month ago, we were still clueless on what to do with this space. We were too intimated to even start demoing! But as soon as we discovered the I-beam, it is like a torch leading us out of darkness. Combining the two bedrooms and the decision to make it our master bedroom solidified our plans for the basement, and the rest became natural from there.

But there is renovation and there is renovation. To which point do we call it done? Our basement already has a very functional layout, especially after we connected the two bedrooms. We do not wish to tear it down to the studs or switch to fancy finishes, rather aim to create a comfortable nest to curl up in. It is already a big enough undertaking as every single room needs some upgrade. To make the process less stressful, I always look at such project in smaller chunks. And here they are:

1. Egress window and new bathroom windows

Sleeping in the basement makes fire safety the top priority of this renovation. We have gotten quotes from egress window contractors and are very close to committing to the installation. In short, a big window with a walk-out window well will be installed in our bedroom, likely on the wall facing the backyard. It costs around $4000, including cutting into the foundation. At the mean time, we will likely to ask the contractor to replace the broken bathroom window.

2. Sound proofing the bedroom ceiling

Our new bedroom will be directly beneath the future guest bedroom. To add privacy we would like to dampen the sound transfer between the main floor and the basement. A combination of sound-proof insulation between floor joints and resilient channels under the basement ceiling has been shown to be effective. And we are gonna give it a try. Such upgrade is not particularly expensive but rather labor-intensive since it involves removing the existing bedroom ceiling and re-drywall.

3. Can lights + new electrical

Since soundproofing requires the removal of basement bedroom ceiling, we will use this opportunity to run new electrical for recessed lights. The ceiling height in our basemen is 7 1/2 feet, so every inch of headroom counts. Eliminating ceiling lights and adding more can lights will make the basement feeling less like a closed box.

4. Water-proof laminate flooring

in 2018 we have removed all the basement flooring and exposed the concrete slab. Fortunately, the slab is in excellent shape – dry and flat. Wanting something warm and comfortable under our feet, we will likely install water-proof laminate wood flooring over the slab. It shall cover the entire basement including the utility room. We estimate to spend ~$2000 on material and install the flooring ourselves

5. Bath vanity, storage cabinet, and fixtures

Due to water damage we had to toss both medicine cabinet and vanity in the bathroom. They will be replaced with new ones with slim profile and sufficient storage. We will also upgrade all the shower fixtures. Bathroom fixture choices are enormous. We will sure run into analysis paralysis so just wait for it.

6. Wardrobe system, furniture, paint, etc

Being completely empty this basement needs furnishing, starting with wardrobe closets. Slav and I are swinging back and forth between wardrobe cabinets such as IKEA PAX and Elfa system in framed closets. The second chuck of furnishing is for the basement living room, which will be turned into a projector-centered media room with a dedicated reading corner. A deep love seat for late night movies and soft rugs for dogs to nap on will be ideal. Last but not the least is paint. The living room are covered in dark paneling and all the existing drywall and ceilings have seen better days. Smoothing out the wall textures and painting the whole downstairs a brighter color is a must.

Above concludes the first phase of the basement renovation, which grants us a private master suite and a quiet sitting/media room separated from the main floor. Down the road, we would love to add a kitchenette in the utility room, and eventually turn it into a dry kitchen. But first we are gonna focus on getting us moved down here.

In addition to the basement, I also have plans to expand our edible garden in the new year. Nut trees and new planting beds for edible perennial shrubs will be added to the backyard. Site prepping and hardscape will likely to happen in early Spring, which will surely keep us away from the basement reno for a few weeks. I am looking forward to all the exciting changes happening inside and outside of our ranch. Are you?

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