...because home doesn't happen overnight.

Remember what the Underdog’s garage looked like a month ago?  {For all the details on the numbered items, click here.}

Well, a month later, the garage itself doesn’t look any different but its contents have changed.  The stuff that was in the attic is gone along with the original carpet and padding.  Here’s what’s goin’ on in the garage now…

1 – The electric box now has power. Yippee!  Handy Hubby and a family friend upgraded and moved the original screw-in fuse box {from the laundry closet to the garage}.

{original fuse box}

{upgraded and relocated breaker box}

HH also buried the overhead service line and ran a new service line to the location of a future heat pump.  That’s a hint at what #3 is.

{freshly buried overhead service line and new line to future heat pump}

We had my Dad and Grandpa out to see the Underdog recently {they’re house men} and were surprised to learn that our heat pump will one day be living in a bed of rhubarb.  That is, if I can’t successfully transplant it elsewhere.

We’re still working to nail down lighting, switch plate and outlet placements.  Originally, we wanted to light the kitchen/living room area with lots of can lights but the future vaulted ceiling is posing a problem.  We’re having trouble finding can lights that will fit in the narrow space between the new ceiling and roof.  The new plan is to place can lights only along the recessed, flat section at the apex of the vaulted ceiling {the two slanted ceilings won’t meet each other at a sharp point to allow for a structural support, ductwork, and lighting} and have pendants above the island and sink.  We hope to add under/overhead cabinet lights as task lighting.

2 – Handy Hubby has a new-ish nose. Last Wednesday, HH had surgery to correct a severely deviated septum.  He took Thursday and Friday off of work ‘to heal’ but was truly thinking he’d use that time to work on the Underdog.  Well, shame on us.  Septoplasty is nothing to sneeze at.  HH was pretty much in bed until Friday and took pain pills until Sunday.  Thanks to everyone who left him words of encouragement on the blog last week.  I know he felt better hearing from people who had gone through the same thing.  His splints were removed yesterday and he happily started breathing through his nose and tasting food again.  Still, doctor’s orders are to avoid exercise and heavy lifting.  That means projects at the Underdog are on hold until HH is fully recovered.  It’s slow going over here.  Nothing like life getting in the way of a good reno!

3 – Before Handy Hubby went under the knife, he scored this heat pump on Craigslist. The Underdog has no central air and we’ve had a few people come out to give us quotes on adding A/C. The quotes were coming in at right around the $3,000 mark.  After talking to a co-worker {HH is an engineer and works with other engineers who know a lot about house stuff so he likes to bounce ideas off them}, HH decided that a DIY installation of a heat pump would work just as well and cost $1,000’s less than having central air installed by a professional.  He says it doesn’t sound all that difficult.  I’ll believe it when I see it!  I keep telling him he doesn’t have to DIY everything but he insists on cutting costs wherever possible.

The heat pump cost us $500 off Craigslist.  From what I understand {after asking HH a bunch of annoying questions}, the biggest difference between a heat pump versus a central A/C unit is that the heat pump can actually move heat into AND out of the house…essentially acting as A/C and heat in one unit.  We plan on keeping the existing furnace for backup during the winters.  While I’m thinking of it, do any of you heat/cool your home with a heat pump?

4 – This is our IKEA kitchen-in-a-box minus the dishwasher and hood. I can’t believe it all fits into this small pile of boxes.  We haven’t sorted through everything yet.  We have 90 days from the date of purchase to make returns/changes.

{IKEA kitchen in boxes}

{disregard the old microwave and camping grill on the floor to the left of the fridge}

The dishwasher and hood were the two items that weren’t available from the warehouse to ship, so we picked them up at our local IKEA store ourselves and for now they’re living quietly in our current basement.  The few other miscellaneous items {a couple of drawer fronts in various sizes} that weren’t available at the warehouse or our local store finally got restocked last week, so I quickly picked them up before they sold ’em all.  {They are included in the kitchen pile above.} Apparently, the black-brown RAMSJÖ base cabinets with drawers are all the rage!

5 – The boys have their own workshop in the garage to keep them occupied. Thanks to Black & Decker, Layne and Everett have something safe to play with at the Underdog.  Although the real stuff will always be tempting.

So that’s where things stand with the Underdog so far.  Progress is slow and probably will be over the next few weeks while Handy Hubby continues to heal and travels overseas for his real job.  I’ll be sharing some pictures of the entire ceiling in the kitchen/living room removed a little later on.  I can already tell that vaulting the ceiling is going to make such a difference in the small space!

A few of you have asked about our reno timeline.  I’m sorry to disappoint, but we really don’t have that much of a timeline in mind.  Ideally, I’d like for our current home to sell and for the Underdog to be livable by September so Layne can start the school year at his new school.  However, realistically, I can totally see that not happening.  Even though we’ve had a lot of traffic through our home, many potential buyers who are interested in our home are in a situation where they need their current homes to sell first before they can make an offer on our home.  For their sake and ours, I’m hoping things start to pick up.  It’s definitely not easy living in a ready-to-show house with two kids day in and day out.  Luckily, the weather is nice enough that we’re able to spend a lot of time outside.  And I do wake up nearly every morning wondering, “Will today be the day?”  It’s not healthy, so I’m trying very hard to focus my attention elsewhere.  Like on Pinterest.  Now, that’s healthy stuff right there.

images:  all Dana Miller for House*Tweaking



Hope your house sells really soon – living in limbo isn’t fun! I am also addicted to Pintrest – once I get into a Pinning session I just can’t stop!


Currently living in a “ready-to-show” at a moment’s notice house with FIVE kids and a hubby who travels frequently. Feel. Your. Pain. Also wanting to downsize, and wishing we had the money to buy a small fixer-upper to get started on while we try to sell our 4500 square foot house. Envious of that IKEA kitchen sitting in boxes and your “new” downsize. Congrats.

Timelines are dangerous anyway. It’s so disappointing when you don’t meet them and even if you met them enough to be satisfied, other people point out the things you had originally wanted to get done but had to sacrifice for other things, like a place to live. So much better to just leave your timeline all up in the air.

We used to have a kitchen almost identical to yours! ;) (It all comes together SO easy.)


we had a Trane heat pump installed in our last house. It was *great* for air conditioning, kept things really cool, and was fairly energy efficient for cooling. For heating, however, it’s not like a traditional furnace–the air coming out never really feels warm, and for a cold-blooded person like me, it wasn’t as comfortable as traditional forced-air heat. The colder it is, the less efficient it is as a heater, too, I think. In our case, once it got below a certain temp, the ’emergency heat’ kicked in (an electric furnace within the air handler itself.) The heat pump (and inside air handler with the emergency electric heat unit) was our only heat/cool source, and it sounds like you’re intending to keep your furnace, too, so it might be quite different.


We have the same issue. The heat pump cools well but lacks in the heating department. In the winter (and ours are very mild) it just blows cool air. To get it to blow warm air you have to set the temp up a few degrees higher than the current temp to get the additional heater to kick in – then it’s warm. Be sure not to forget to turn it down again once the house has warmed up or it will run forever! Love reading about the Underdog!!


I’ve had heat pumps in our homes in South Dakota and Washington. Both homes were older and the insulation was not up to today’s standards but the heat pump kept up just fine. They do a great job with air conditioning and will keep the house comfortably warm during the winter. When the outside temperature drop to below 20 degrees your axillary heat will kick in. Like Carole mentioned the air coming out of the heat register is not as warm as a traditional forced-air. It does well for keeping the house warm but if you like to sit by the register to warm up you will be disappointed. Since I love sitting by a heat source my husband bought me a little electric fireplace that I can curl up next to in my office.


Carole – Thanks for the heat pump review! Sounds like cooling shouldn’t be a problem. We do intend to keep the furnace and will also have a wood-burning fireplace {that we’d like to convert to gas at some point} as secondary means to heat during the colder months.


Tina – Forget the ready-to-show house. How do you handle 5 kids while your hubby travels?!!! Kudos to you, Super Mom.


The Underdog is looking good – so exciting. At least you have somewhere to stay while you work on the new home. Hoping the whole economy picks up soon and your house sells in time for school to start at the new home. All your posts are so interesting, even all the technical stuff – love how it is all coming together! Pinterest is SO dangerous and distracting and time-consuming and I LOVE IT SO MUCH!


Hi Dana!
We have a heat pump too– they are pretty common in the south, or at least in VA where I live. Anyways, to be honest… not a fan. Like the previous commenter said, it has a different way of heating, so the air coming out of the vents does NOT feel warm. We usually use our old electric radiators in the winter. If I could choose, I would have a gas heater. So I would definitely agree that it’s a good plan for you to keep your existing furnace, as you may need it. Good luck with the rest of the renovation!


I totally understand the difficulties of having 2 young kids and trying to live in the same house you are trying to sell!! That happened to us a year ago when we put our condo on the market. Lots of interest, lots of showing, flaky buyers. But thankfully, after 5 months, we sold. But MY GOSH– carrying a 6-month old on your hip while trying to wax the floor 5 minutes before a showing, while your 4 year old runs wild over the clean floor. WOW…….So happy THAT’S over! Good luck on the house!!!


First time commenting, love the blog. We have 2 heat pumps for our 3 story (100 year old) house and heating in the winter is poor at best. We live in Indiana so our climates are similar and I’d be hard pressed to recommend a heat pump for anyone above the Mason-Dixon line who actually enjoys being warm in winter. We’ll probably have to switch to a traditional furnace (or dare we wish–geo-thermal) sometime in the next few years as the “emergency” electric heat pack that Lisa mentioned quadruples the electric bill from November to March. The heat pump is more cost efficient up front, but you definitely pay for it in the long run. Oh and reading about your downsize on Apartment Therapy is what brought me to your blog and your writing keeps me coming back. :) Good luck with Reno!


We had a heat pump and new gas furnace installed a few years ago when our previous furnace finally gave in. I like the heat pump for the A/C…I keep it set at 76 in the summer and our house really does feel comfortable. The gas furnace was usually what was on over the winter. Even in NC it was too cold most of the time to rely on just the heat pump. Our system was set up to automatically switch to the gas furnace if it got below 40 degrees outside. I’m happy with it. We kept the thermostat on 72 during the day in the winter and only occassionally would I bump it up to 74 to give us a good boost of heat. BTW, $500 is a STEAL. Our heat pump/furnace combo cost well over $10K (we got an air cleaner with it). That price tag sucked (especially since my dad has been an HVAC professional for the past 30 years – he was living in Colorado at the time ours blew up and couldn’t be here to fix it for us). Luckily we got a tax credit on the upgrade. Definitely go for a fancy digital thermostat that you can program for day/night/away. Saves quite a bit in electric/gas costs.


Thank you so much for sharing all the details of your reno with us. I think my confidence in buying a “diamond in the rough” has increased 100-fold since reading all your posts. It is definitely making me feel braver! I can’t wait to see the vaulted ceiling progress!


Stephanie – What a lot of good info! Thanks! HH has already mentioned installing a programmable thermostat thingy that will do exactly what your system does…use the furnace to heat when the outside temp drops below a certain degree. We’ll also have a fireplace which is wood-burning at the moment but we’d like to convert it to gas someday. Hopefully, along with the furnace and fireplace and some insulation improvements as well, our inexpensive heat pump will keep the Underdog cool in the summer and warm in the winter.


Nothing at all to do with heat pumps…

I don’t want to start on Pinterest because I’ve heard it is so addicting! I’m afraid it will be another fun time-suck. I tend to get caught in the facebook vortex and emerge, fuzzy-brained, 45 minutes later. I can’t add another thing like that to my life!

I mean, I say that- but I’ll probably start it next week:)

Dana, we did not have as many reno’s as you guys, but trying to stick to a schedule is completely hard to do and we had contractors doing the bigger work. lol! We learn early on that schedules are meant to be broken and even the little “you-think-one-day-project” actually takes a lot longer because something else happens or you run into a problem. So if you think it’s 2 weeks, make it 4 weeks in your head and if you finish sooner then everyone is happy. ;-) Love the updates. Here’s to everything working out for the best in the end with both of your houses. I can’t wait to see that kitchen of yours. Love Ikea!!! :-)


We love our heat pump!!


I just wanted to repeat what others said about the heat pump….great for summers & air conditioning, but not so much with the heat in the winter. We “invested” in a $35 portable oil heater for the living room to save money off the electric bill (which took off about $35/month off the electric bill). The heat pump sucks up $$ in the winter if you try to use it for your sole source of heat.

I ran into these adorable crocheted tools: http://donkey-products.com/shop/de/kids/robert-b-haekelobjekt and immediatly I had to think about your boys Black & Decker set. Layne and Everett are probably a little too old for these, but I couldn’t resist sharing with you!


Maartje – Those are waaaaay adorable!


Rhubarb plants transplant so easily, they can survive almost anything! When our A/C was put in last fall, the guys installing it ripped the poor root in half, I thought it was gone. This spring, 2 plants came up. So move them to your hearts content!


Teresa – That’s great news about the rhubarb as I’ve never transplanted anything in my life!


We just got a heat pump installed at our house. They installed the unit right on top of our current furnace and then installed the condensing unit outside. We plan to use the heat pump for cooling in the summer but use our gas furnace for heat in the winter. But we liked having the option to run the heat pump for heat if we ever needed to. Also, we made sure to get a programmable thermostat so that we can completely turn off the furnace, the heat pump or the fan, if we needed/wanted to.