Holy Mackerel!!

On Saturday we had our Real Estate Agent Philip DeFrancesco owner of Dapper Crown Real Estate come over for a tour of the place. Philip is a great guy, so if you are looking for a Real Estate Agent, give him a call. He also has a lot of “Holy….” sayings. I was cracking up by his reaction and outbursts by the end of the tour.

Philip mentioned that he drives by all the time and wonders if anything is happening at the house. When he walked in I think we heard, “Holy Cannoli!” It might look like nothing is happening on the outside, but we are moving along on the inside. We explained to him the floor plan that we are drawing, showed him all the supplies we’ve already stockpiled, stories about the supplies we’ve stockpiled, and we talked a little business. Since we are so in the weeds, we don’t realize the transformation that has happened already. It was fun to show someone who saw it from the beginning and hasn’t seen it in a while.
Once Philip left, we started to really look into the one bathroom in the house. The plumbing is all going, so we need to get to the pipes to see what exactly Dr. Seuss did. I think I’ve mentioned the plywood under the drywall (shake my head), so that’s what had to come down.


The Plywood Under the Drywall


It involved a drill, a sledge hammer, the demolition hammer, and Nick acting like a crazy person…again. Wait?! Did I say demolition hammer? Why I sure did…you see, Dr. Seuss in all his construction wisdom seemed to have framed before he poured concrete. I don’t pretend to be an expert, but that just sounds wrong. So, Nick (I was going to say we, but who am I kidding – I can barely lift the damn thing) took the demolition hammer to break up the concrete that was holding the plywood hostage. Then he pulled on it. A lot. And with a lot of, we’ll say, vigor.

It finally came loose and we were able to get into the wall to see the (leaking) pipes. It was a lot of work to just get the wall down. I’d almost take another pink bathroom over all this. Almost.


Broken up concrete that was poured after framing


Plumbing behind the Throne


One of my favorite things we found in the wall by the shower is this light focused on a [leaking] pipe. I was so confused why it was there, so Nick informed me it was to keep the pipe from freezing. Creative – I’ll giver hem that. Not to code, but creative.


Light Keeps the Pipes from Freezing



Even More Demo

Just when you all thought there was nothing more to rip out of the house, we start to focus on the addition. Previously, we did not touch too much of it, so now it’s all coming down. It’s been more difficult to remove everything in this part of house (yes, harder than the plaster and lathe we encountered before) because the majority of the drywall is over plywood. Yup, plywood. Please don’t ask us why because we ask ourselves that. There is no good answer…we have theories, but that’s all.

We have now ripped out the two showers that were in the 2 bathrooms. We’ve also started on the ceramic tile, too. Once I realized the tile would basically pop off with the swing of a sledge hammer, I went to town. I LOVE easy!!

Here is Nick going to town on the fiberglass shower. He ended up breaking it down so it would fit into our garbage can. No joke – we threw a shower out in the garbage.

As you can see, Nick is using a shiny new sledge hammer. He was just showing off using both ends of the tool. Don’t mind me videoing in the mirror!

We will be spending more time at the house again this weekend, so I’ll have better pictures of the actual progress next week.



Throw Back Thursday: “Thank You for Taking Him Away from Us”

Nick and I were reminiscing the other day about when we were renovating the house I used to own in Plainfield. There is one day in particular that stands out in my mind. In fact, I’m shocked that we still ended up married after this incident. 

Nick did not like the way I painted the upstairs hallway, so he instructed (told) me to do it again. It needed to be done more in line with his expectations. So, I re-painted the walls and ceiling in the upstairs hallway taking his constructive criticism into account. Well, I did not complete the task in accordance to Nick’s  expectations. 

Yay me! So, I suffered the rath. He yelled at me, and while I can’t remember exactly what he said, it was enough to enduce tears. It also made me want to leave the house for awhile to cool off. You know, so I didn’t say something I would regret like calling off the wedding. As I was trying to make my escape to Home Depot (I figured it was a safe place to flee to), Nick stopped me by telling me we needed nothing from Home Depot and to get back to work. needed something from Home Depot – my space. 

Nick’s parents and brother happened to be there helping us that day and witnessed the entire exchange. When I retreated to the upper level of the house his mother hugged me while saying, “Thank you for taking him away from us!”

Yeah, that totally made me feel better about the situation and marrying this asshole guy. Then his brother said, “Don’t worry, Amanda, we’ve all been there.” Well, F- me. 

I’m actually not sure the point of reminding ourselves about this day other than trying to give Nick a guilt trip. Those of you who know him know that’s not gonna happen. So, maybe I just like to give him a hard time. Just so he might feel bad about it. Please don’t tell me it’s not going to work…


A Piece of Chicago History

Nick always uses unconventional materials when he’s designing something. He especially likes to use commercial materials in the residential world. I always get chills when I hear the words, “I’ve been thinking” or “Do you know what I was just thinking?” Scares the hell out of me because NO I do not know what you just thought about or what crazy scheme you have just come up with and my part in it…

Which brings me to the latest item Nick found to add to the house. He’s been talking about a skylight above the kitchen for quite some time now, but I had no idea he would find what he found!

First, a little Chicago history and architectural lesson – there are four 1920s buildings that are the corner stones of the Michigan Avenue Bridge. These buildings are the Wrigley Building, Tribune Tower, 333 North Michigan Avenue, and the London Guarantee Building (formerly the Stone Container Building). I am going to focus on the London Guarantee Building for our purposes. It stands on the site of Fort Dearborn and is a historic landmarked building. Within the last several years, the building was sold to a hotel developer that wants to do fancy things to it. Or rather around and above it since they can’t do too much to the actually building itself.

I’m sure some of you can see where I am going here.

The London Guarantee Building had 2 10×10 skylights installed on the roof when construction began. We are now the proud owners of one of these skylights.

How is that possible, you ask?

I’ll tell you since you asked so nicely. Nick found the skylight for sale on Craig’s list and was interested in it because of the size (really?!) and that it was a commercial skylight. He talked to the guy selling it and even went to see it before deciding for sure that it would work for us. When he went to see it, he asked the guy where he got it. That’s where he first heard the story:

This guy was the foreman for a building downtown that was being renovated (London Guarantee). He had to pay for the equipment to take the skylight and that was it. There were actually 2 of the same skylight, but the other was broken and not usable. So, basically this guy got the skylight for the cost of the crane (~$1k). After consulting an architect, he realized there would be major changes needed to his house in order to actually use it, so he decided to sell it for what it cost him.

Since the house is being opened up it makes it easier for us to incorporate the skylight. So it’s ours.

We were even able to document it coming off the building – Nick found an article with this picture of it loaded on the truck in front of the London Gurantee Building.


Loading of the Skylight in front of London Guarantee Building


Nick, his dad, and I went to pick this thing up. It’s surprisingly light when there aren’t any glass panels installed, so it was not really that bad. It was a bit after Nick did the chainsaw number to his leg, so he was moving a little slower. Not much, but some.


Loading the Glass Panels into the Truck



Glass Panels


Towing the Skylight


So, I guess this baby is being incorporated into the plans. God help me.


Scratch B Gone

As I mentioned in my previous post, we’ve been working on cleaning up the condo before we pull the trigger on selling it. We have A LOT of stainless in the condo – penny tile, stair banisters, appliances, and an apron farmhouse sink. It’s a loft, so the Industrial look really works with the exposed ductwork and brick walls. What’s the worst part about stainless? The scratches, of course. (I’d even go so far as to say the finger prints are a very close second)

Our apron sink is huge and great, but it’s taken a beating! The top has a ton of gouges and scratches that make it look more than lived-in – beat up is probably closer.   

Stainless Steal Sink -Before

See – it looks like poop. Not a cool kids, “I live in a proper loft” pretty. But it sure was when it was installed all those years ago!

Enter Scratch-B-Gone! 

Full disclosure: I had never heard about this kit until Nick bought a ton (and I mean a ton) of them for resale. He’s been selling them with great reviews from people, but we are just now getting around to trying it for ourselves. 

The kit comes with a bunch of fun abrasive things to take your anger out on your appliances buff out the scratches on your appliances. First, you have to test your stainless to make sure it isn’t coated with a finish product. You do this by using the white pad in the kit. Just rub it on the item in question and if it turns black, you are good to go. 


Black = Good

Next you are supposed to evaluate the scratches you want to remove. There are several levels of abrasive pads you can choose from to remove the scratches. I started out on the light end and quickly realized I needed the heavy duty sand paper that was intended for the deepest scratches. I think it’s partially that sinks are a much harder stainless than most appliances. 

Sanding the Scratches

The instructions then tell you to use the lightest buff pad with the special solution to even it all out. I took the woodworker’s thought process and stepped it down gradually. I used the next lower buff pad and continued to the lowest to blend it all in. Guess what – it turned out great! I was really impressed with the finished product. 

Scratches-R-Gone (After)

Don’t get me wrong, it takes some elbow grease, but the sink looks practically new now. Pay no attention to the bowl! 

I also got some really depp scratches out of the refrigerator, too. That took less work, but looks just as great. 

**this only works on brushed stainless. It will mare polished stainless. 

Shameless Plug:  Purchase Scratch-B-Gone here


The first of many disasters

***Warning: if you have a weak stomach there are some graphic pictures in this post.

It’s been quiet on the Frankenhouse blog as of late, and there is a reason for it. A couple Saturdays ago there was an accident with a ladder, an apple tree, a chainsaw, and a dumbass in a pair of shorts. Before I get to explaining that statement, let’s step back a few feet…

We are in process of having our plans drawn up all professionally in CAD, so there is not a lot of actual work that can happen at good old Frankie while the plans are being drawn and permits are being pulled. We are legit folks – permits are the way to go. In the meantime, we need to get the condo ready to go for sale. We have some outstanding projects that need to get finished up, a lot of cleaning, and staging that need to happen before we pull the trigger on getting out of the city. Some of those projects require power tools that are at the house. Nick and his dad were supposed to be working on those projects while I cleaned up the garage to make room for a materials delivery.

A little background about Nick – he can get distracted easily with shiny things. Or, if you will, it’s like a dog that sees a squirrel and drops everything for that distraction. The backyard became his ‘squirrel’ on this particular Saturday. I don’t know why since it’s been a disaster for a while now, but he decided we needed to start chopping down some more trees (weeds?) in the brush we call our backyard, so he grabbed the chainsaw and went to work.

We cut down quite a few trees that seemed to be unintentional. As in the seeds fell there and started growing…I have a feeling this is what happened to most of the yard. Anyway, it was going pretty well until Nick started trimming some of the actual trees in the yard. For some reason almost every ‘real’ tree has metal in them. Nails or railroad spikes or who hell knows what is in these trees. I feel as if the backyard was some weird science experiement that made no sense. So the chain started to get dull after hitting all that metal. But that didn’t stop him even though it should have.

We have a large old apple tree in the yard that has seen better days. Half of it is dead, and that half is high up in the air. Nick got one of the many ladders lying around the yard and climbed up into the tree to cut off a particularly large dead branch. He even made sure his dad and I were out of the way because he knew it would swing a weird way. And swing it did. I was pulling weeds, so I wasn’t really paying attention to the cutting. Not until the saw made a weird noise, and Nick threw it to the ground (still on, but the chain was not running). Then I knew something was wrong…

He came down the ladder holding his leg together. His dad came over as I realized that his leg was cut open. I also realized at this point that I needed to keep it together and my lunch down because I would have to get him to a hospital (which I had no idea where the nearest one was). I’m not one for blood. I also firmly believe all inside things are inside for a reason. No need for me to see them on the outside…

Nick’s dad told me to go get some clean towels. Yeah, right. Have you seen this place?! Luckily I had a bag of clean rags ready to go. I ran to get those,  and by the time I had them they were already to the garage. Nick refused the towels, but requested duct tape. I finally found the roll (I was trying to hurry because I had no idea how much blood he was losing) and he taped up his leg. I honestly thought to myself, “I’m shocked he didn’t ask for super glue.” Which we later found out would have been a worse idea.

Nick was taped up and wanted to clean himself off with the hose. His dad and I looked at each other and both said no at the same time. Are you kidding me?! The entire time I was trying to keep my lunch down. Remember, all things inside should be kept inside?! Ugh. To complicate everything, Nick’s dad was trying to get us out of there before Nick’s mom decided to emerge from her work in the basement. She would have been a bit more upset than we were….

We hopped into the car and set off for a hospital. I was told there is one on Biesterfield, so I had Siri lead me there. At one point I told Nick that I hoped we would get pulled over so the cop would just escort us to the damn place. I seriously had no idea where I was going. I even pulled into the wrong parking lot and had to do a U-turn to get to the Emergency Room. During all this the duct tape came loose and blood was running down his leg while I’m yelling about not getting blood all over my car. Priorities, ya know?

At the hospital they said it actually wasn’t a bad cut considering it was a chain saw. He cut through the skin and fat layer of his leg and missed all important stuff. We pretty much figure they are used to seeing barely attached limbs in this sort of situation. All in all there were 21 stitches total – 6 internal and 15 external. I watched not one minute of it. There was a pre-season Bears/Colts game on the tv that had my full attention.


The Dumbass Patient

Once he was all stitched up, I could look at it and take a picture for everyone else to see. All inside stuff was back inside!


All Sewn Up


Needless to say, not much physically has been happening at Frankenhouse. Nick had been healing, and I’ve been enjoying not being at the house. Nick is also in process of getting some life insurance. I’m not getting stuck with that house and no way to complete it if something even worse happens!

What a way to spend a Saturday night!

Nick also conceded that he knew better – he never should have been pushing a dull blade (don’t “they” say most accidents happen with dull blades?) and he will always wear jeans when using the chainsaw.
**Big Thanks to the doctors and nurses at AMITA Emergency Room!!!

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Moving forward…

July and now August are going to be slow work months for us. We have birthday parties, weddings, bachelor parties, and work trips getting in the way with forward progress. Nick thinks we are always moving backwards by taking things apart, but I count it as moving forward. It has to be taken apart before it can be put back together they way we want it. 

I finally finished removing all the studs from the hall closets, bathroom, and donated closet that will be the new bathroom. Even though we had framing around the general area, it all needs to be removed to accommodate some new design elements. At this point there are a few ceiling studs that I’m not going to be able to get down, the tub, and the chimney that needs to be removed. I say check it off my list and hand it over to Nick. 


Viewn from old master bedroom


View from second bedroom


Studs pulled from bathroom

Meanwhile, Nick’s brother Danny was working on tearing down walls in the new part of the house. Calling this task a challenge would be an understatement. Almost all the walls were drywall on plywood. I have no idea the reasoning behind this, but the sheer number of screws and nails alone have made it more than difficult. Danny managed to get most of the hallway down, so he’s a Rockstar! 

New part – open hallway

Nickwas working on a change to some masonry work for a window. He took out the original kitchen window and started work to brick up a portion of it. 


Closing up a window


We are all about safety here (don’t do this at home!)


Inside view of window hole

In other news, we bought some tile for the bathroom. We found this limestone tile for $3/tile at the Lake County ReStore. We bought 100 16×16 squares for $300. We found something similar at $11.50/sq. ft! Now we just need to figure out what is going to be done with the walls. 


Tag found on tile


Closeup of Tile


100 Tiles



I’ll sweat myself thin

So I went to work at Frankenhouse on Saturday. It was probably the hottest, most humid day of the year so far! Oh good lord! My clothes were soaking wet after 10 minutes. And I wasn’t even doing anything!!

Anyway, because I was not going to be able to work at the house on Sunday I worked my ass off. That is both literal and figurative. 

My task was to start taking down the studs in the future bathroom. That means the two hall closets needed to be no more. After analyzing the order I needed to take these out, I was able to get 2 out before I got stuck. Seriously. 

After some thinking, prying, and pulling I was able to pretty much get those two closets and the original door gone. Nick even commented that I did more than he expected. Then this Delicate Flower wilted! 

 Nick has taken out some of the old pipes in this picture so that I can take the original walls down. We need to reframe those walls for a pocket door, so it all needs to go. But you can see what it’ll look like. 

That is a BIG bathroom

While I was working on the bathroom, Nick was pulling up the den floor and taking down the studs between the kitchen and the den. 

It’s an open floorplan


Starting to take shape

I’m only human. And I am almost totally sick of all the demo work we have to do on this house. AND this is only the original part of the house. Don’t get me started on the addition where drywall was put over plywood. Do you know how hard it is to get that stuff down?! Ugh.

BUT – things are starting to take shape. I can start to see how the old part of the house is going to layout as we start taking more apart.

So, this weekend we did not get a ton done at the house because there are other more high priority projects that needed to be completed before we made it over to Frankie. With that in mind, it doesn’t look like we made a lot of progress, but we maximized our time.

  1. Nick started to cut out the old plumbing. Good buy Cast Iron pipes filled with rust! I didn’t take a picture of the one pipe he cut out of the kitchen, but I have no idea how water got to where it needed to go.
  2. I pulled up the hardwood floor and sleepers of the parts of the house that will be donated to the bathroom- closet in one bedroom, 2 hall closets, and hallway.
  3. Nick’s mom pulled out nails from the hardwood floor that was pulled up.
  4. Nick’s dad helped to pull up some of the other floors that need to come up and the sleepers.

It was all about getting the floors up. Did I mention that I miss just dealing with carpet?


Wood Floor is up in hallway and closet being donated to the bathroom. Sleepers and tar paper is still down.


Closet and Hallway after removing Sleepers and tar paper.


Old Laundry Room after Floor and Sleepers removed. Still has Tar Paper.


Old Laundry room after Tar Paper is removed.


Kitchen after floor, sleepers, and tar paper removed.

As you can see in the last picture, the Den still has floor down, but in the upper left hand corner you can see the Sleepers from floor that has already been removed. Best part? After removing the plywood floors, we hammered out all the nails. It’s like whack-a-mole. We plan on reusing the plywood to cut down on waste and to make the total job that much cheaper. Reduce, Reuse, Recycle!

Wondering why we did not take up all the hardwood? The plan is to do radiant heat floors, but while I was sweating and hunched over (carefully) ripping out the hardwood in the hall and closets, I decided it was going to add WAY too much time to the project to rip out, put down the heating elements, and relay the floor. Luckily, Nick has some alternative ways to install radiant heat for the 3 rooms that we are not touching the floor. The rest of the house will all be radiant heat. Luckily the addition already has the pipes run, so that’s one less part to do! And who wants to rip up concrete? I certainly do NOT!


Plans, Plans, Plans (and it’s all about me)

I hope everyone had a great 4th of July weekend! Nick and I did not take a break and continued to work on the house. We are working on the new floor plan! So there are not a lot of progress pictures, but I do have one that is very important. I took a picture of it since it’s written in pencil and can be erased at any moment:


 I think that says it all…

While we were working on the plans we had some discussions about some seemingly frivolous items being added to the house, but we (maybe me only?) deem them necessary. I told Nick, “We are doing it this way  [sacrificing, working hard, etc.] so we can add those items we really want no matter if they seem frivolous to others or not.”  We are building our dream house.

Tell me what frivolous items you would love in your house in the comments! I need more ideas (lol)!