Mid-Century Modern(ization)

Redefining modern for a family-friendly home


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Kitchen Floor Inspiration

Confession:  We’ve lived in this house for 7 months and I’ve never mopped the kitchen floors.

I know, I know.  It’s disgusting, and I can’t believe I just shared that little tid-bit of shame with the masses, but it’s the only way I can communicate to you just how much I hate our kitchen floors.  I don’t want to even look at them, let alone stare at them long enough to scrub them.  That’s not to say we live in squalor.  After all, we do have a 22 month old that routinely gives Hansel and Gretel a run for their money with his survivor skills so, as  a compromise, I spot clean and sweep several times a week.  The area beneath the high chair is probably the cleanest place in the kitchen.  So. Many. Crumbs.

Tell me you wouldn’t hate them too.

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You might remember that I took a butter knife to them back in August and scrapped most of this crud out.  That was enough for me.  I’ve pretty much ignored them since then.

But then we started making some progress in the kitchen and the floors started grating on my nerves again.  With the wallpaper down, the walls primed white and the pretty new table and chairs in place, the orangey flooring (paired with the orangey cabinets and the orange chairs) are making me want to scream.

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That’s a lot of orange, y’all.  And yes, that’s why this is the first picture of these awesome new chairs that I’ve shared on the blog.  As great as they are, they are looking pretty crappy in our kitchen right now.  I feel like I’m standing on the surface of the sun every time I go in there.

Now, don’t get me wrong.  I love our original cabinets and our new orange and grey chairs.  The chairs are the perfect size for this table — it’s so much easier to get in and out of our seats now that we have a dining set that’s not bumping against all the walls! And I really think that once we get some paint on the wall (it’s been purchased!!!) the contrast will be really great.

But the floors have GOT to GO.  And when I saw this photo at Retro Renovation, well, it was love at first sight.

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The powder coated blue cabinets are nothing like ours, but those floors?  Hell to the yes!

My love for them is three-fold: 1) They are vinyl composition tile (VCT) which is an ideal mid-century era material — you may remember it from your old elementary school cafeteria; 2) The Armstrong Striations line has a couple light gray colors that could be perfect alongside our wood toned cabinets — and I find the variations in the tiles really appealing; and 3) The  unique 12″ x 24″ size opens up some fancy layout options like this snazzy herringbone pattern.  It really elevates the look of standard ol’ VCT don’t you think?

And they’re low maintenance.  We can’t forget that.

Also, VCT is relatively inexpensive and we need nearly 400Sf to cover the kitchen, the eat-in area, the hall to the garage, the laundry room and the half bath (everything that’s currently decked out in that horrible faux wood vinyl shown above).  I’ve mentioned before that we’re hesitant to put a lot of money into the floors because we’ve talked about completely changing up the kitchen/laundry room layout down the line.  So spending a little less dinero on a product that seems so spot on for our application seems like a no-brainer.  I’ve already ordered samples.

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As I mentioned above, there are a few ways to lay 12″ x 24″ tile so we’re currently debating our options.  We can set them square…

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Or in a brick pattern.

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This is also a brick pattern although I know it’s hard to see.  I mainly included it because the layout and colors are so similar to our own kitchen.

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We can lay them on a diagonal…

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Or in a herringbone pattern like my inspiration photo…

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Or in a dozen other ways.  Which is kind of a shame — you guys know how I am when given too many choices.  It’s no bueno.

One thing we’re having to consider is waste materials.  The more cuts we need to make to complete our pattern, the more excess we’ll need to account for when we make our purchase.  Some patterns require you purchase up to 20% excess materials and that kind of negates the perk of having fallen for such an inexpensive material.

Here’s a little rendering I whipped up when deciding on colors for the floors, walls and chairs.  This photo was obviously taken before the chairs arrived, and the inset photo was whipped up before we talked about painting the front wall navy too.

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I can’t wait to see it all come together!

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Refinishing A Dinette Set

In order to offset the cost of our new mid-century kitchen table and chairs, we decided to list our old table on craigslist.  But, as it usually goes, we had some work to do first.

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When we were looking for our first kitchen table, we wanted something that was simple and something that was cheap.  The discovery of these chairs on Craigslist (which were not only the exactly same chairs as our dining room set but were also paired with a decent $75 dining set) sealed the deal.  We have a large extended family and always have to ask guests to bring their own chairs when we host everyone for holiday dinners.  We both thought that it would be pretty cool if we could pull in matching chairs from the kitchen when we needed them. So we drove over an hour to grab them from their Craigslist seller before they were gone.

We shouldn’t have been surprised that the table was in pretty rough cosmetic shape.  It’s sturdy as hell, but the owner had a large dog and — judging from the large claw marks and scratches on every surface — he apparently liked to eat his meals at the dining room table, too.  These pictures are very forgiving, but trust me,  the chairs were a mess.

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But you guys know me by now right?  “Oh, I can refinish that!” I said.  Right.

Well, six months went by and I never got around to it.  But then we bought this new mid-century table and chairs and we wanted to list this old set to try and recoup some money.  It seemed like  good idea to put a little bit of effort into refinishing it in hopes of actually making some money on its sale so one day I grabbed a sanding block and away I went.

Fixing up the chairs went pretty smoothly.  I won’t go as far as to say that I refinished them, but I certainly gave them a nice refresher.  I scuffed them up with the sanding block and wiped on a dark stain I found in the garage that looked to match their existing color well enough.  The chair below has been lightly sanded and you can see I’ve started to wipe on fresh stain along the back.

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The scratches aren’t 100% gone now, but that wasn’t my intent on this project.  I just wanted to diminish them the best I could with only moderate effort.  After all, even though they match our dining room table, we don’t really have a place to store these chairs so we’re planning to sell them with the table.

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Look how they shine now!

Unfortunately, I didn’t examine the table very closely before making the decision to attack it, too, with sandpaper.  It was soon apparent that refinishing the table wouldn’t be so easy. For one, the table top is not real wood.  I don’t even think it’s veneer.  Although, I have to say, it’s a really nice looking faux wood table.  Totally fooled me.  Truth be told, I still don’t know what it is…faux plastic veneer maybe?  All I do know is that when I took a sander to it to try and buff out some of Logan’s fork stabing marks, the area turned completely white.

Oh boy.

I didn’t take a photo of this disaster because I was in full on panic mode.  Instead I quickly grabbed a quart of dark stain and slathered it on thick.  Then I left it alone for a week and let it cure.  I figured if someone could make this plastic table look like real wood once, than I could damn well make it look like wood again!

Side note: Only crazy people stain furniture over white carpet.  Now you know which camp I’m in.

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Once it dried, the once white spot looked like this.   Now, I know this looks bad, but I wasn’t panicking anymore.   Once I knew that the stain would adhere to the table top I knew I was in the clear.  Yes, this spot is a bit darker than the rest of the table, but that was my intention.  There was no way I could have repaired the damage on the first go so my pan was to go back and blend, blend, blend.  One more coat of stain and another week to cure and we had this.

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A shining gleaming table ready for resale.  Is it perfect?  No, but it’s pretty.  Hell, I’ll even go as far as to say that it’s even nicer than when I bought it.  Which is why I have no qualms listing it for a bit more than $75.

Boo yah.


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Finally, a Living Room for …Living

Monday’s post made me realize that I never debuted our living room after the couch arrived and we made it all cozy with cute pillows and throws.  Let’s quickly travel back through the last six months, shall we?

When we first toured the home, the living room/dining room looked pretty rough.  Too  much (oversized) furniture, heavy drapes, and a partition that really broke up the space in an odd way.
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Clear of all that furniture it was certainly looking larger, if not dirtier.

The day we got the keys I ripped out all the carpet.
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And on Day Two we scrapped the curtains and laid new flooring.IMG_0550

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For months, we saved our pennies for a couch large enough to fit the space and in the meantime the living room served as a play room more than anything.  I did paint that cool bicycle canvas for the dining room though.  Love that thing!
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We even became proud owners of a huge triceratops, but even Cera couldn’t fill this giant space!

On Thanksgiving we pulled in the furniture from the den just so our guests would have a place to sit.  It was fun to see the space actually looking like a living room! New curtains also helped immensely.
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A few weeks later our couch finally arrived and here it is today.  It’s comprised of six reconfigurable pieces which is neat because we can switch up the layout if it gets old.

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We have a coffee table that’s in storage.  It’s an old factory cart that needs refinishing.  I can’t wait to bring it in here, but the weather needs to warm up so I have space to work on it.

I went with a navy/teal/yellow color scheme for the couch.  I thought it was bold and fun without getting too crazy.  I want the room to be playful and mature at the same time.  …Is that even possible?

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Behind the couch we turned our old Ikea shelves on their sides.  The are the perfect height for setting down drinks and work great for hiding toy bins and Logan’s books!

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On the list of things we still need to do:

1) Paint the walls.  Especially the wall where the previous owner painted around an enormous cabinet! (EDIT: Done!)
2) Scrap the brass fireplace insert (EDIT: we painted it matte black instead. Read about that here!)
3) Do away with the dated track lighting in the dining room
4) Hem and line those embarrassingly long curtains!
5) Paint the beams and the window trim (ugh! not looking forward to this AT ALL)
6) Find a couple cute mid-century chairs to bring some color onto that wood paneled wall. Or maybe just a bench?
7) Figure out the space above the fireplace.  Maybe paint the wall a contrasting color? Hang some new art? Embrace the existing art? (EDIT: we painted a Bermuda Blue feature wall surrounding the fireplace all the way up to the ceiling.  You can check it out here!)

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I’ve been trying to research this metal sculpture we inherited.  I’m not sure if it’s worth anything, but it might be.  The signature says “Levitt” but I’ve not been able to find anything on him using the Google machine.  Might paint it, donate it…not sure.
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Now, here’s something I’m really proud of.  I wanted to make sure we didn’t buy this awesome couch and never sit on it (since we also have a den right next door where we’ve happily snuggled and watched TV for the last 6 months), so I made a simple change that would ensure we would use this room to the max: I swapped the cable boxes.  It sounds silly, but I think this might have been my most ingenious idea to date!

See, we have standard cable in the master and the den, but with the main cable box in here this room now gets about triple the channels than the others.  It also is the only room with the ability to record programs and, since we watch most of our TV after it airs (so that we can fast forward through commercials) this works like a charm!

Also, I’m loving the light that comes in these windows — even with the curtains closed they are thin enough to keep the room nice and bright while still maintaining a warm and cozy feel.  Check out this light we get in the late afternoon.
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Swoon.  (also, Cera still resides here…can you spot her?)

So, I’m excited to report that we’re now spending a lot of time in this room which makes me really happy.  Nothing worse than buying a house with rooms you never use, right?

Ok, one more before and after for posterity.

BEFORE:

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AFTER:

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Still a ways to go, but so much progress is happening here! YAY!


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Rigging a Flat Screen TV Mount

When we first moved in we weren’t quite sure where we were going to put the TV in the great room.

Our neighbors across the street have theirs hardwired and mounted right into their brick wall between the fireplace and the doorway to the hall, but (lucky ducks that they are) this was all done by their previous owners before they moved in.  We were not so fortunate.  All our sellers left us was a bunch of defunct stereo wires creeping out from beneath some dirty carpet.

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Awesome.

Since word has it that our neighbors’ mounting job cost about $1k, we knew that option was off the table for us.  At least for now.  We did have a standard TV stand like this that I purchased back in 2002, but the size was all wrong — it was too deep and too narrow to fill the space.  Besides,  it wasn’t intended to secure a flat screen TV and flat screen perched on a low table with a rambunctious toddler running around?  I don’t think so.

I was actually visiting my mom when we saw this free-standing flat screen mount at a consignment shop.  It was in great shape — no scratches to the glass and the wood was a nice compliment to our paneled wall.  The $100 price wasn’t outstanding (that included the 15% off you see on the tag), but it was certainly cheaper than a new one. Side note: I should have snagged a couple of those vases too — they are too fun!

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I took this photo and texted it to Kirk.  He said go for it, so we did.  It wasn’t until I got it home that I realized it was missing some key pieces.  Like …the hardware that holds the TV.

Doh.

After a little Googling, I was able to identify the manufacturer.  This is the AvistaUSA Innovate by Milano which retails for $250 (marked down from $470!).  And do you see those two vertical supports?  Those are what we were missing.

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Our best guess is that the previous owners of the stand decided to mount their TV directly to the wall and used the mounting hardware from the stand rather than buy a new kit.  I had noticed a sign near the register at the consignment shop stating their policy against accepting anything missing pieces, so I’m sure if I pressed it, they probably would have refunded me my money…but I hate to be an ass since it really wasn’t their fault, and really…where’s the fun in that?

Truth:  I was too lazy to disassemble it, squeeze it into my car, and haul it back an hour north.

Since I knew I didn’t want to scrap the whole thing and be out $100, I was determined to find a way to make it work using what we had.  I’m sure you can guess where this is going.  Resolute, I sent an email to the manufacturer to see if we could buy (or they might send for free?!) the missing pieces, but they never wrote me back. Lame.

Next I went to HH Gregg to look at their wall mount kits.  I was sure that if we drilled a couple of holes through the existing frame we could screw the mounting kit right onto it and be done with it.  Easy right? Not quite.

The first guy I talked to said it couldn’t be done. He insisted that the added weight would tip the whole thing over.  Try as I might, I couldn’t convince him that there was no added weight — I was simply replacing missing pieces!  Arg.

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A store manager witnessed my struggle and interjected himself into our conversation.  He thought the plan would work fine and even sold me the $80 (!!) kit for $43.  Why?  I didn’t question the man,  he offered me a discount and I took it!

That weekend, Kirk took a half hour and affixed the mount to the stand with the help of a power drill and a few sturdy screws.  Sure, we probably could have purchased a brand new TV stand for near what this ended up costing us, but like I said… where’s the fun in that?

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It became immediately apparent that we now need a larger TV, but that’s a post for anther day.  I’ll tell you what though… When the time comes for a new TV you can bet you’ll find me at HH Gregg batting my eyelashes at that store manager!

(Writing this post reminded me that it’s been a long while since I updated the status of living room on the blog.  Wide angle shots coming soon!)


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Shredded.

It’s been a pretty eventful winter around here — but then, I’m from California, so do with that proclamation as you will.  However, an ice storm, a polar vortex or two, and an epic number of snow falls have made for a white wonderland that’s lasted for far longer than I’ve ever know it to.  Like paper shreddings as far as the eye could see.

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Like my little guy, I started off a bit unsure of all this white stuff, but for the most part, I think this Cali girl has adapted pretty well.  I drive just fine in the snow, I go out without a coat when it’s over 50° just like the locals, and I even made my first snowman (with help from g’ma).

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At some point, I even learned that snow wasn’t just for playing in.  It stuck around so long we had to live our lives in it — to run and exercise in it even.

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I finally realized that waiting for the snow to clear and the temperature to rise was like waiting for The Walking Dead to come back from hiatus, so on this beautiful, sunny day I ran 6 miles in 12° weather — shredding that winter weight and feeling more like an East Coaster than ever.

But I digress.

Whatever vindictive bastard’s been doing the snow dance must have slipped on some ice or something because last week the temps reached a balmy 47° and the snow melted.

And we were met with this.

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At some point over the last couple months a trash bag full of shredded receipts exploded all over our yard.  And then it snowed over all of it so we had no idea.

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And, no.  We don’t own a shredder.

So there I was, spending my cherished Saturday Morning Nap bitterly raking wet and frozen paper shreds into neat little piles.  I even did most of my neighbors yard — partly because I try to be a good neighbor, but mostly because I care way too much about what other people think of me.  <– must work on that.

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Much of the paper had blown so thinly across the grass that it was easier to ditch the rake and pick it up piece by piece with my hands.  That’s a lot of squats my friends — which I why I spent Logan’s Sunday Morning Nap with my quads on fire, my muscles positively …shredded.

Luckily, it dumped another 22″ on us yesterday so I guess I now have an excuse to rest up with some hot cocoa.


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When the Bough Breaks

If a tree falls on the roof above your head while you sleep, will you:  A) scream like a little girl; B) jump up and brace for impact; or C) die from fright?  If you’re me, you’ll come terrifyingly close to all three. And maybe you’ll also pee your pants a little for good measure.  Maybe.

The funny thing is, the branch that landed on the roof was one of the smallest branches we lost that night (though it certainly didn’t sound like it!).  But we did loose quite a few large branches from the pines around our house as the storm bore down, and in fact, throughout the next day we lost a lot more.

Looking out our bedroom window that morning it was pretty surprising to see all the tree branches weighted down by ice.  They were heavy to the point that they were touching the ground.  Two days later the tips of the branches have frozen to the Earth even though even ice has melted enough from their needles that they should have sprung back up by now.

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The ice shards falling from the trees looked like beds of diamonds.

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This is our neighbor to the right.  A few large limbs fell down that slope — one appears to have hit their house (it was touching their siding when Kirk dragged it away), but didn’t look to have caused any damage.

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Kirk hauled all the branches back into our property.  We’re going to try and get some family/friends to come help saw them up and haul them to the dump this weekend.  Any takers?

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This is our neighbor to the other side.  This large branch fell just 4 feet from her garage and living room.  It’s actually her tree which fell on her property, but we figure it would be nice and neighborly of us to take care of it for her while we tackle our own.

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Back on our property, a large number of branches fell on our (rotting, snake infested) wood pile.   We’ve been meaning to haul all of that to the dump, too.  Maybe we’ll get to that this weekend — we’ll see.   Note the giant limb tangled in the power lines.

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The first thing we did was get up on a ladder, lift it up and toss it forward into the yard.  It looked pretty easy from my vantage point, but Kirk was the one on the ladder and may have a different story to tell.

I know that in these photos below it looks like that heavy branch is still leaning on the power line — it’s not.  I just ran out and double checked because it really looks like  it, right?  Photos are strange.

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It’s a mess, but luckily no real damage was caused and no one was hurt.  At least not yet … the power tools won’t come out until next weekend.


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Fire and Ice

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Last week we noticed a little leak coming from our boiler room in the garage.  It started as a small pool of water halfway evaporated, but it turns out we probably should have thought more of it.  A lot more.

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But our minds were on other things.

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A gorgeous/gnarly ice storm hit the east coast last week and our little neighborhood was not overlooked.  Ice hung from every surface, knocked down a lot of trees, and disrupted power to quite a few homes in the area.

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Kirk braved the storm to tackle branches falling in the backyard.  They toppled mere feet away from our home and both of our next door neighbors.

Our neighbors across the street were one of the thousands that found themselves in cold darkness that first night, and we immediately invited them over to warm up and chow down.

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What’s ironic is that, little did we know, our heat wasn’t working either.  By bedtime it was undeniably chilly and by morning it was downright frigid.

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Our lack of heat had nothing to do with the storm though.  Instead, it was that pesky leak which had since sprung into a flowing river of, well, money down the drain.  At least that’s how I felt driving back to work after meeting with the service tech — roughly $9k poorer than when I had left the office that morning.

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The culprit.  Ugh.

The boiler wasn’t that old (only going back to 2000 and they say it has a 20-30 year expected life span) so it had a little bit of prorated warranty left in it.  Not much, but every little bit helps. To add insult to injury though, our integrated water heater (in the shadows back there) was on its last legs, too.  It was working, but at over 10 years old, it didn’t have a lot of life left.

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Since we would have to completely remove the new boiler to get to the water heater when it did inevitably fail — thereby costing us more money than if we did it now — and since we’ve already been through a disastrous water tank break in our last home, we just decided to bite the bullet and get both units replaced.

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We got a better look at it once it was hauled out to the curb and were glad we decided to replace it when we did.  Yikes!

We have a service plan with Carroll Home Services — we get our oil from them too.  They’re a family run company that has always been fantastic.  I called them at 6am to request a tech come out and identify the problem.  By 9 am they were at our door, by 9:08 they had delivered the good and the bad news (good news = a prorated warranty!), and by 11 they’d completed the sale, finalized the credit check, and scheduled a team to come out and install the new systems first thing the next morning.

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They immediately bumped us up to emergency status and it showed.  Carroll must have called me 10 times over those two days to keep me abreast of everything and make sure my family and I were comfortable.  Their Comfort Specialist, who followed on the heels of the service crew, even pulled towels out of his trunk and mopped up the inch of water in our utility closet.  Not our service technician, our Comfort Specialist.

So, obviously, I wholeheartedly recommend them if they service your area.  Their superb service really took some of the sting out of that $9k.  Really.

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And when they send out this many crews, well, you know you’re getting your money’s worth (I did some research before we gave Carroll the go-ahead and found their prices to be pretty competitive). Still though, ouch.

But at least we have a fancy new boiler and our toes are warm again.

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Sorry, but yes, those are my feet.  Two of my toes went completely white/numb they were so cold.

Ahh, homeownership… what a love/hate relationship I have with you!  But as I told our neighbor via text as this was all going down, “Worth the headache, I say.  I love these homes!”