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Apartment Therapy’s Small Cool 2013

26 May


Great News!

IBB was selected and posted yesterday to run in Apartment Therapy’s Small Cool Contest 2013! It’s a huge honor for me to have even made it to be posted as a contestant! As a part of the contest you are allowed to submit five photos and a floor plan of your home which is under 1,000 square feet. There are several divisions and mine is in the largest – Small. This division is for homes between 800-1,000 square feet.

I need your help! You can head over to my entry page and favorite my entry. You can only favorite once so no need to worry about me pestering you to do it incessantly until the 30th! To keep tabs on my progress you can see the leaderboard here. Or to learn more about the contest you can read about the rules here.

This is the link to my entry.


13 May

While working on laying out this project some friends have come across this Depave website which encourages the removal of products like concrete and asphalt. Reading it has been very helpful to me, I only wish I had found it sooner. At any rate, I wanted to share it with others who might wind up here looking for resources to do what I am doing now. You can find them at


10 May

I went to the Zoning Board of Appeals Meeting on May 6th and presented my case. Surprisingly, there were only a few questions and very little discussion. I think that a lot of the reason for that was because of the letters I had written. In addition to the fact that I had already met with the DPW Commissioner and the Conservation Board and gotten the thumbs up from them. Two of my neighbors came and spoke in favor of my plan. Most importantly, a representative from the Conservation Board presented.She was very enthusiastic and explained that MORE people should be putting in stone driveways and that I was a GOOD example.

The were a few stipulations though. I must install a concrete apron at the base of the driveway, the size of which must be worked out with the DPW. They are also requiring the use of geotextile fabric under the driveway to keep the stone from sinking into the ground and then four inches of large stone on top of that. On the very top I’ll need to lay about an inch and a half of washed, crushed stone. and then add the pavers to the edge.

I spent some time pricing this out and here is the basic budget.

$225.00 – 103 f t of US-220 Geotextile Fabric
$ 40.00  –  Shipping of Geotextile
$ 124.00 – Skidster rental 
$ 138.00 – Dump Trailer rental 
$    60.00 – Three loads of debris to town dump
$371.00 – 11 cubic yards of #2 stone (large)
$233.55- 5 cubic yards of #1A  stone (small)
$232.00 – 400 3.5×7 tumbled pavers
$   92.00 – 23 bags of Quickcrete (for apron)

The lowest quote I found for an asphalt driveway was $2,600 so this is a savings of $1,084.45

I am going to call to see if I can hire out the removal of the driveway. The cost of doing it myself is $322.00 If I can come close to that I’ll hire it out because that’s much safer than me running heavy machinery I have no idea how to run. I could also break it up by hand over the course of a few days and then only rent the dump trailer one day to remove it (If I’m a real penny pincher). I’m also going to get quotes to see what it will cost me to just hire someone  to do the who shebang. Just to see if doing it myself is really a savings of a significant measure. I also need to compare the price of the Quickcrete to that of getting a truck and I also want to see if I can get the geotextile fabric localy and less expensively.

I think that I will carry out the project in two phases to break up the costs even further. Phase One ($958) will  the removal of the old driveway. Then I’ll add the fabric and large stone. Phase Two ($556)will the addition of the concrete apron, pavers and small stone.

Eventually, I’ll replace the walk to the front porch with the same pavers and replace the garden edging (the old concrete from the sidewalk) with stacked flagstone. Then, I’m sticking a fork in the yard.

Variance Continued

25 Apr

I recived a copy of an internal memo from the town yesterday in the mail. From what I gather the Zoning Board asked the DPW if the crushed stone is permiable, to which  the DPW replied “Permiability and crushed stone contridict each other”. I’m guessing that this means that they do not think it is. The second concern that was raised in  this memo was that paver  and stone are not acceptable in the town right of way. The right of way into my property is 15 feet deep. So it looks like if they were to grant the variance, they would want 15 feet of the driveway to be asphalt or concrete. Thats about 1/4 of my drveway and frankly, I think that would look ridiculious. At any rate, I need to respond to the note before the hearing so I can give the board adequate time to think it over. Here is what I wrote:

 I am writing in order to provide more information as requested by the Commissioner of Public Works, XXXXX about the permeability of crushed stone and the materials to be used in the replacement of the driveway at XXXXX, specifically in the town right of way.

I would like to use approximately 6 inches of ¾ inch to 1 ½ inch angular crushed stone. With a border of 8×4 inch tumbled, beige pavers along the lawns held in place by a hidden plastic paver edging. I propose an apron of 2-3 feet constructed of pavers or concrete (whichever is more pleasing to the town) to protect the surface from damage by the plow and to keep the street clear of stones which become loose.

In terms of specifications about the permeable qualities of crushed stone I would like to reference a 2006 study done at the University of Connecticut by Gilbert and Clausen. In this study they conclude that crushed stone is the most permeable of three driveway materials studied (asphalt, permeable pavers and crushed stone). In fact, the study shows that a driveway constructed of crushed stone reduced storm water runoff by 98%. Furthermore, when the crushed stone driveway did discharge water it was not until 20 minutes after application as tested in the study from a perforated house placed at a distance of five meters. In comparison, the asphalt driveway discharged water within one minute of application, showing that a crushed stone driveway has a much greater water retention rate, reducing the quantity of water leaving the property and entering town sewers. Not only does the crushed stone driveway reduce storm water runoff but it helps to reduce the amount of pollution exported since the amount of water which is shed is much lower according to the study.

A second study published in Journal of the American Water Resources Association in 2007 by Hood, Clausen and Warner classifies crushed stone as a Low Impact Development technique. The researchers compared two neighborhoods in this study; one, a traditional neighborhood with asphalt driveways and the other, a Low Impact Development containing driveways comprised of crushed stone. Although other strategies to mitigate storm water runoff were included in this study such as swales and Bioretention Rain Gardens it is clear that crushed stone driveways were important components of this study leading to the reduced storm water run-off in the neighborhood.

Additionally, the State of Rode Island classifies crushed stone a permeable pavement in their Storm water Management Guidance literature. In this resource they encourage single family homeowners to use ¾ inch to 1 ½ inch washed, angular crushed stone to a minimum depth of 3 inches in their driveways.

A paper published in NEMO, or the Nonpoint Education for Municipal Officials by Jim Gibbons in 1990 classifies porous concrete and asphalt mixtures, paver blocks and brick set in sand,grass pavers, grid pavers, crushed stone and gravel as porous services  going as far to say that local regulations should permit their use.

 Locally, I have spoken to the Cornell Cooperative Extension where XXXXXX has helped me to locate information which can attest to the permeable qualities of crushed stone and its usefulness in preventing the entry of chemicals into storm sewers. I have also reached out to the EPA, DEC and Monroe County Soil and Water Conservation District officials regarding this plan and how best to complete it.

 In response to the issue with loose stone or pavers in the town right of way I would be happy to install a concrete apron at the base of the driveway 2-3 feet in depth. I am concerned that paving the driveway 15 feet into the property would look unpleasing, as if it were an unfinished project as well as severely impact the amount of storm water retention. I have seen many driveways in the town which are comprised of pavers and are within very close parameters if not immediately adjacent to the street. These driveways are all still in good repair. Town plows have not damaged them and they appear to have no issues. Examples include: example 1, example 2, example 3, example 4 example 5 and example 6. In addition, newer stone driveways are located at example 1 and example 2 (both have solid surface aprons which I am willing to I install).

 Thank you for your time and consideration,

If you have been reading my blog for a while you’ll know writing is not my strongest suit. This letter goes off tomorrow, if you catch anything stupid please comment. I’ve gotten to the point where I’ve seen this letter so much I can’t see them anymore. Additionally, any more studies would be great to include if you are aware of them, or if your town or city has coding to encourage this type of installation that would be helpful to point out to the board.


The Variance

8 Apr

I know I’ve mentioned the driveway before. Like here and here. Whelp, Its time to do something about it. I got/am getting a few quotes on new blacktop but I’m just not really feeling like paving half of my yard is an excellent idea nor is it cheap. So here I am applying for a variance. My town only allows asphalt or concrete for driveways and I’m campaigning for compacted crushed stone with a paver curb. The ladies at the Town Hall said that this was a first (someone asking to go from blacktop to stone) so they weren’t really sure what my chances are. As part of the process I needed to write a Letter of Intent and it spells out pretty clearly what I want to do and why so rather then writing about it again I’m just going to post it here. Its due tomorrow afternoon so I f anyone catches any typos or has additional points I can add to prove my case please chime in. In the mean time I have this ugly a** sign in my front yard alerting the neighbors that I am asking for a variance but they all already know and gave me the thumbs up since I had them sign my Letter of Intent to show they thought it was OK. I also included a few pictures to show the board and will get some samples of the stone and pavers I would l like to use.



April 5, 2013

Town of XXXX Zoning Board of Appeals
Rochester, NY XXXXX

I am writing in order to provide an explicit written statement as to the nature and intent of the variance being requested at the property located at XXXXXX, in XXXXXXXX, New York. The existing driveway at this location is in disrepair and in need of improvement. In many areas the asphalt has buckled and heaved making pulling in and out difficult for both myself and visitors. I would like to propose replacing the existing asphalt with compacted crushed stone or similar product including a paver curb and apron subject to approval by the Zoning Board of Appeals for the following reasons:

1.) To Promote Proper Drainage: The narrow driveway, house and garage sit slightly lower than the adjacent property at located at XXXXXXXXX which creates a drainage problem during heavy rains. Replacing the asphalt with compacted crushed stone would allow more water to penetrate the surface rather than running into the garage or the basement of my home. Additionally, this type of driveway would allow more rain and snow runoff to permeate and recharge ground water instead of running into already overloaded town sewers.

2.) A Green Solution: Many towns and cities like ours are encouraging their residents to replace imperious surface such as asphalt with pervious surfaces, not only in order to reduce storm water run-off as mentioned earlier, but to aid in other areas as well. For instance a product like crushed stone will not soak up as much heat from the sun during the summer and contribute to a “Heat Island” effect in our community during hot summer days. Additionally, crushed stone is a natural product, whereas asphalt is a product derived from nonrenewable resources like oil and requires consistent application of other chemical sealers to maintain. An asphalt or concrete driveway has a limited lifespan and will untimely need to be hauled away and disposed of whereas a driveway of compacted crushed stone can last as long as it is properly maintained.

3.) Historically Accurate: When searching for a home I looked specifically for an older house. XXXXXXX is an example of a very simple craftsman bungalow. I have read that the architects of these types of homes were reacting to the increased machination of the Industrial Revolution and as a result strived to create modest homes which reflected the work of skilled craftsman as well as the environment around them. As I have worked to renovate this house myself over the past two years I have kept this in mind and have worked, when appropriate, to make decisions in keeping with the original intentions of the style. Based on other homes that I have read about I understand that a crushed stone driveway would be in keeping with what would likely have been here in the early 1930’s and would complement the style of the house.

4.) Aesthetically Pleasing: In comparison to asphalt I find the crushed stone with a paver border and apron to be more aesthetically pleasing than a large expanse of concrete or asphalt. I understand that I could stamp and dye materials such as asphalt or concrete but I would not find it as historically accurate, green or cost efficient.

5.) Easily and Inexpensively Maintained, Installed or Modified: Although the crushed stone driveway will certainly not be maintenance free, I do believe that the repairs to it will be much more easily done. The paver border and apron will keep most stones in their place and out of lawns and streets. In addition, compacting the stone will create a hard surface helping to lock the stones in place, allowing, much easier snow removal and keeping dust to a minimum. A crushed stone drive will also be less expensive to install than concrete, asphalt or pavers. Of course, should the crushed stone cause any issues, or prove to be too great of an inconvenience it will serve as an excellent base and can easily be paved at a later time by myself or a latter homeowner.

Although it will be the only driveway of its type on the street I do not believe that the change will be unsightly. The proposed change should do little to change the character of the neighborhood as many of the homes in this area were likely to have been originally built with such driveways.

Alternative solutions which do not require a variance are asphalt or concrete but they will not address the drainage issue as well, as be green, or be historically accurate. Although attractive, pavers would be cost prohibitive for the area in question.

The driveway will not increase in size or layout, and would be a restoration, rather than a renovation. Therefore, I do not believe this variance to be substantial.

This variance will have an improved effect on physical and environmental conditions as it will reduce a drainage problem, address the uneven nature of the driveway, help keep the property from contributing to the already overloaded storm sewers and improve the curb appeal of the home.

I do not believe this situation to be self-created.

Thank you for your time and consideration,


Anyways, that’s what’s up. The hearing is May 6th. I’ll keep you posted.


The War on Crud

25 Mar

shiney floors

I now understand why people across this great nation once rejoiced when “no- wax” flooring came to the market. The linoleium tile I put in the kitchen needs wax about two to three times a year and its  not an easy job. Without the wax, the floor will begin to look dull and is difficult to keep clean. I’ve tried a lot of products in an effort to aviod this chore, but nothing really seems to give the shine and durrability that the wax gives. So this Sunday I spent a lot time in the kitchen with the Johnson’s Paste Wax agian.

One thing I did puchase to make the task a little  lot less arguous was the orbital buffer. That was 30 dollars well spent. Buffing the floor is one of the few times that I am very thankful that my kitchen is as small as it is, since the process takes several steps to complete. Starting with washing and drying the floor and removing any stuck-on crud. Then I use an old sock to wipe on the paste wax. Once the wax dries I used to have to use another clean sock to buff the floor until it shines. That was the worst thing ever. So this buffer makes my life a lot less awful during this task.

I can not stand crud, especially in the kitchen and my nasty old sink is not helping in  that respect. The porcelin is sratched and stained and in order to clean it I have to scrub, scrub, srub with Commet and then the very next time I use the sink the crud settles back into the scraches and its gross again. So In the very near future I’m heading up to Ikea in order to get the Domosjo Sink. Since its the only farmhouse sink I can afford. Then I’m going to put it in the attic for a while while I search out a new countertop.


The countertop I have now was red linoleum which I painted with the countertop transofrmations kit when I moved in. Thats held up very well. The issue is that it has that metal banding around the edges which it a great hangout for more crud. So if the sink is replaced, I’m going to need to change the countertop as well.The good news about it is the counter is small, so I won’t need much of whatever I get so I’m thinking I would like Soapstone, but thats too pricey Butcherblock it is.

There is still one more place crud hangs out though, its on the top of the cabinet doors. When I added the moulding to the door faces it left a small seam on the sides of the doors and created increased surface area for things to get stuck. So I’d like to eliminate that by making new shaker style doors which sit inside the styles of the cabinets.

So to wrap up I’ll outline the plan for the War On Crud in the kitchen:

1.) Purchase sink from Ikea ($180.00)
2.) Price out countertop options. (budget – $300.00) 
       Install Phase One:
                  1.) Switch Sink 
                  2.) Add garbage  disposal and dishwasher hook up ($100.00)
                  3.) Install new Countertop
          Install Phase Two:
                  1.) Install 18 inch Danby dishwasher in white (~ $350.00)
                  2.) Purchase a router with a table
                  3.) Make 8 new, inset doors for the kitchen cabinets. ($300.00)

Total budget for The War On Crud is going to be about $1,500 but will be a major improvement in kitchen convience and my ability to keep it sparkling at all times.

Its Alive

5 Mar


My father came out on Sunday and hooked up the gas line, and just like that we’re in business. I’ve had the fireplace on for a little while the past two nights after work it it heats up the space magnificently.Within about 15 minutes it raises the temperature of the entire house about five degrees and leaves no trace of a chill in any corners. After about an hour or so I had to turn it down and by bedtime it was so warm in the house I needed to shut it off. Even after turning it off I kept the blower running which continued to push hot air off the warm logs.

Feels great to have this project complete!

Now I’m going to focus on saving up some money for my driveway which is in very poor shape. However, the estimate for repair is going to be by far the most amount of money I’ve ever spent at one time on my house ($2,300). My school district gives teachers a payment for time spent in extra Professional Development Classes after school at the end of the year which should be about $1,600 which I would like to use to help fund this project leaving me with a total of 700 bucks to sock away. I know that doesn’t seem like much, but if 700 bucks was not a lot of money to me this wouldn’t be a Do-It-Yourself Blog – Trust me.

The thing about the driveway is that the town calls for a “dust free” surface. Currently I have rather ratty looking asphalt and I would like to replace it with gravel edged in stone pavers, like the picture below. The reasons being: I prefer the look, it will me much cheaper, and it will be a permeable surface which will discourage storm water runoff. However, the town says gravel is a no go. I would also like concrete but that’s way to expensive and of course all pavers would be the best but obviously even more pricey.





They also sell these plastic thingies that can be used to keep the gravel from moving around. Which are not cheap BTW.



As for the winter…I’ve read that you can still snowblow a gravel drive as long as your snow blower is set to an appropriate height, or if you prefer you can add a small guard to the front to keep the blower up and away from the stones. I’m wondering if anybody out there has had experience with replacing a driveway on a budget, with a gravel drive, getting a gravel drive installed in an urban setting, or with snow removal from one in the winter. Any thoughts would be very helpful.


25 Feb

I found the fireplace. I owe all of you a lot of thanks for dissuading me from getting the gel fireplace because you were right, I’m going to be much happier with this in the long run. Although it is still not exactly what I wanted I think I made a great compromise. To begin with, it is not a vented model. I wish it was, but they were simply out of the budget. If I could have, I would have, but I can’t. As an unvented fireplace it burns cleanly enough to not require a flue pipe. Which does have some positives. One of which is that all of the heat stays inside the house rather than going out the chimney. I read some mixed reviews online about them but it seems as though, as with anything, if used sensibly will be quite safe and very efficient. Nevertheless, I will be installing an extra C02 detector just to be safe and drilling a vent in the storm window to crack open while it is being used. The instruction manual claims that the fireplace puts out about 26,000 BTUS and can heat about 1,200 square feet (almost double the size of the whole house).It is also equipped with a blower to help circulate the air.

This model is a few years old, but buying it used saved me over $800 dollars and it is exactly the same as what I saw in the showroom. So far I have spent $400 for the unit itself and $75 for the materials I needed to construct the new mantle.

So this is where we are at currently. I built the new mantle from 3/4 inch Oak Veneer Plywood which I had cut to size at The Home Depot. I then screwed it together on a a simple 2×4 frame which I will show you another time. All the screws and the seams and the plywood look will be covered with decorative moldings and stained later. Here’s the general concept:


I’ll also spray paint the brass with the Rustoleum High Heat Spray paint to make them black. And yes, that is a mock-up of the TV on top (because there is nowhere else for it). However, I do have plan for that that I spied online today at Remodelaholic.



Cool right?

My father will be coming up on Sunday to install the gas line. Because that is not for amateur hour.

This Happened.

24 Feb


I got the fireplace today. Its used off Craigslist and was waaay cheaper than a new one. Don’t worry, the brass is not staying. I’m posting from my phone since the internet was tied up in the old mantle. Standby for more updates.

It Snowed.

9 Feb



Rochester got quite a bit of snow overnight from a winter storm. The roads were a little dicey last night, but overall the storm wasn’t much more than business as usual for us. However, it did make the neighborhood look like a winter wonderland.


After I dug myself out, I took advantage of the day to install some weather-stripping around the front door. This is probably one of those projects that should have been done a long time ago. It only took about twenty minutes to install and I think it will go a long way to help keep out the drafts. You can see the gap near the lockset is pretty wide here.



After I was all done the seal was much better.