Dehumidifier: why didn’t we get one earlier?!


When we moved into our house 4 years ago, the inspector told us that because of the way it was constructed and vented, we should always expect to have high humidity levels in our hours. No worries, we thought. That was something that doesn’t bother us as much. However, this summer it was  getting almost unbearable. It rained sooo much this summer – we’re on track for having one of the wettest years on record. Needless to say, we were feeling the effects of that in the humidity level in our house.

So, I started researching dehumidifiers. I tried to get one off Craigslist but was unsuccessful. There just weren’t many listed, and the ones I did contact never got back to me. I price-shopped online and went to several discount appliance stores only to find they weren’t in stock, and finally just ended up getting it at Home Depot. I went with a 50-pint size, which seemed to be the best size for our room. (I found this article really helpful for figuring out what size was best.) We got it in the evening and set it up in the den. When we woke up the next morning (about 11 hours later), the unit had automatically shut off because the tray was full of water. It ran all day and shut off about 12 hours later. Wow! We have run it continuously for about a month now, and have noticed a huge difference in our house. The average humidity level according to a thermometer/humidity gauge we have in our dining room, used to be around 60-70%, and perhaps higher if it was raining. Now, our levels are closer to 40%! We still empty it every 18 hours or so, but it hasn’t been too bad.


The den especially feels more comfortable. That room has so much potential but looking back I’ve realized that the humidity in the room was really affecting how much time I wanted to spend there.

We one we purchased was a GE 50 Pint Capacity dehumidifier. They got good reviews from my online research, and it was the capacity we needed. (And I’m glad we didn’t go any smaller in capacity!) So far, we haven’t had any complaints. It does a great job, beeps and automatically shuts off when the tray is full, and is easy to empty. The only downside is it’s a little noisy. I can hear it humming even from upstairs. I’ve mostly gotten used to it, but sometimes when we’re in the den playing, I turn it off just to reduce some of the noise. We also think it does increase the temperature of the room slightly – we’ve noticed that we’ve been turning on a fan more frequently than we did before, but it doesn’t make the room hot or anything.

This has been a real help and I wish we’d gotten one long ago!


Changes to the den

I haven’t been writing here much. Mostly, it’s because we really haven’t done anything to the house! I keep saying I’m going to have a small project every week that I write about, as sort of a way to force myself to actually do it. It works in theory, but I have been so busy lately that just keeping the house clean has become a challenge.

We did do one thing this weekend. One of the reasons for my busyness is that I have taken on some freelance work. I have really been enjoying it, but I do find myself spending long hours on the computer, working on a design or trying to get emails out. I was sitting on the couch to do all this, but I realized that it was killing my back. I needed some sort of table to work, preferably in a room where I can keep an eye on my daughter playing. I didn’t want anything fancy because I didn’t want the temptation for clutter, but I wanted something big enough for my laptop and a notebook to jot down notes.

We looked at Office Depot where I got my computer desk 6 years ago, but apparently they don’t sell inexpensive, simple computer desks anymore. So we went to the next logical thing – Ikea! Of course they had the exact thing I was looking for, and only $20. We headed down there to check it out. Unfortunately, my timing was all wrong as it’s back-to-school time here in Georgia, and they were completely out of the $20 desk. I decided to pop into the As-Is section to check it out before giving up. I did find a desk – or rather, a table? I am not sure what it was originally supposed to be, but it was perfect. The best part? It was already put together!

It didn’t take long to find a spot for it, and I am really happy. I can easily see the entire room, and I am next to a 3-prong plug with a grounded outlet (which isn’t always a given in our house). I may switch out this new desk for the table I’m using for my sewing machine in the guest room, since this desk is prettier, but for now it’s working out pretty well.


our den – finished!

Originally posted at twentysixcats.com

The den was a HUGE project in our house. It was on our list to finish when we moved into the house last fall, but it seemed silly to spend the money on that when there were lots more immediate things. My plan for the room was to make an area that was 100% kid safe and child proofed. I hope to see it become the playroom (with the toys contained downstairs!). We don’t really have furniture for it right now, but in the future I envision getting something like a sectional with a hide-a-bed for slumber parties and overnight guests (after we have more kids and the guest room becomes just a bedroom). One thing I love is that it is only a few steps down from the kitchen, so I can keep an eye on the kids while cooking dinner. We still need to get baby gates; hopefully soon.

After trying to make an office area work upstairs, I gave up and decided to move it down to one corner of the den. It’s not exactly kid-proof, so I hope to get some of those playyard baby gates or something to section off the area. I’ve been scouring Craigslist for them, so whenever I find some at a good price I’ll snatch them up. :-)

Here is a picture of one side of the den from when we bought the house:
Family room

The carpet was the first to go – it was damp and smelled horrible. It became a sort of junk room for about 6 months when, in March, my sister came down for a week and helped us paint. It took 4 coats of paint to cover the dark paneling! We put 2 coats of Kilz on it to help with the mustiness and possible mildew in the room. The room definitely had a basement feel to it. We then put on a few coats of the same yellow we used throughout the house.

Painting our den - first coat

We also ripped out the fake fireplace, and hope to put a pantry in there. That’s Paul’s project, and will be nice for storing stuff since we don’t have a pantry in the kitchen. I had originally thought I wouldn’t worry too much about the built-in shelves, but when I pulled out the white paint I thought I’d just go ahead and give them a nice coat. I’m glad I did! I didn’t realize how disgusting those shelves were! I washed them, too (before painting), and they look so much better. I wish I’d gotten a picture of a shelf half painted so you could see how gross they were!

After painting, we waited another few months until we had the money to put in carpet. That became an adventure in of itself! We finally got the carpet in, and so far we have been loving it! We also replaced all the baseboards (in an attempt to remove everything with cat pee).

Pulling up asbestos tiles

Hard at work

We also did a few other smaller things: we replaced all the plugs in the room, because the old ones were brown (to match the paneling). There was an A/C vent and an air return that we got covers for – the return was a different size than I guess they make now, because getting a cover for it was really hard! I ended up having to buy one a few inches too big but it works. Little things like that really help finish a room!

Installed Nov. 1968

I took out the accordion door that went from the den to the laundry room. Once the room was painted, the brown door looked a little weird. Also it made it impossible to put a baby gate in the door way, and the door itself wouldn’t latch. I looked into other types of doors and decided our best bet was to just leave it open, even though now you can see the laundry area.

We replaced the ceiling light and ceiling fan. The old lights were mismatched and outdated, and the fan was too small for the room. So, I picked up something that looked nicer and have been pretty happy. However, I will say, I think it might be worth paying more for a nicer ceiling fan. We bought the cheapest we could find and I definitely notice a difference between this fan and the ones upstairs in our bedrooms (that came with the house). Fans are just so expensive, though!

As you can see we have learned a lot about houses from this room alone! A year ago, we did not know anything about carpet, tiles, sealing cement floors, tree roots, replacing electrical outlets, replacing lights and fans, and baseboards.

And now for some pictures!
Our den/playroom

Our den/playroom

Our den/playroom

As you can see, we’re still figuring out the arrangement but I like all the space to play on the floor. The only other thing I want to do is do something with the curtains. These are kind of ugly, but I’m not really sure what to replace them with. The windows are very close to the top of the room because of this part of the house being partially underground, so I think the normal panel curtains look a little silly. I don’t want curtains that go to the floor because of it being a playroom. Perhaps blinds? I’m still thinking about it. In the meantime, I’m really happy with how this room has turned out! And the living room looks much better now that we moved some of the furniture downstairs.

Next up: finalize room layouts and hang pictures throughout the house!


new carpet!

Originally posted at twentysixcats.com

So the carpet guys just left and I’m so excited!!

Our den looks great. Man, it makes SUCH a difference getting carpet down there. It really feels like a room now. I totally ran and jumped around like a little girl.

Up next: Getting new baseboards and putting them up. That won’t be a pain, right, nailing up 60 feet of baseboard, right?

Also I need to replace the light fixtures and the fan. The fan that’s there has a lot to be desired in terms of usefulness and sound. I’ve been scouting fans at Lowe’s and Home Depot, and think I’m about ready to make my selection. We actually replaced the fan in our living room yesterday (the one that was there broke), so now we can add “basic electrical work” to our list of experiences.

As soon as the baseboards are up, I’ll put up pictures. You’re going to be amazed! :-)


asbestos not to touch to the tiles

Originally posted at twentysixcats.com

I’ll start my story when we left off in the last paragraph of a previous post. We were supposed to get our carpet installed in our den today. So on Thursday, we mopped the whole room with a heavy-duty cleaner and degreaser. There was carpet down when we bought the house, but it smelled bad so we ripped it up last September. Underneath we found floor tiles on top of cement. Not only were the tiles all dirty, but my cats had peed down there multiple times and so the whole place really stank. (More about them later. Grrr!)

We were hoping the cleaner that we used on Thursday would get rid of the cat smell. On Friday, after everything was dry, I walked down there and realized that you could still smell it. I didn’t know what to do, and didn’t have any way to do it before we left Friday afternoon for my sister’s college graduation in North Carolina. (I will write a post about that trip later, too.) While we were up there, we asked my relatives what they would suggest to fix the smell before the carpet guys came Monday afternoon. Molly suggested we install a sort of vapor barrier – like they put underneath hardwood or laminate flooring. We thought that was a pretty good idea, and stopped at Lowe’s before we left Asheville to pick up the necessary ingredients.

We got back to Atlanta around 5 on Sunday (yesterday). We didn’t even unload the car – we immediately set to work. Paul pulled up one of the tiles and brought it up to me. It was absolutely soaked in cat pee. He started pulling up the tiles to find it pooled underneath. We ended up pulling up all the tiles in the 270+ square foot room. That took several hours. In the meantime, I went to Subway to get dinner. We took a short break for dinner, and then I went downstairs to finish the tiles. The ones in the middle of the room were not too hard, but the ones along the edge were impossible to get up without breaking them up into small pieces. We realized that the worst of the smell was around the perimeter of the room. So, we decided to get rid of all the baseboards and hope that the smell hadn’t gotten into the walls. (Though I would LOVE to gut the room and replace all the paneling with drywall… BUT… that’s not exactly a project you tackle by yourself on Sunday night…)

One of the baseboards had a date written behind it: “Installed Nov. 1968”. We had wondered when they finished the downstairs – we could tell that it was finished later, and this confirms that it was 8 years after the house was built.

As I was hacking away at the tiles, I had a sudden thought. Then a sinking feeling. Um, aren’t floor tiles one of the things that are often full of asbestos? I did a quick Google search and then called my dad. He said he guessed there was a 50 percent chance that the floor tiles were asbestos. Since we were almost done, we decided to just finish. I found a face mask and tried to be more careful about smashing the tiles to smithereens. After I got them all off the floor, I carefully swept the entire room, and then we mopped everywhere to make sure all the dust was gone.

So hopefully this brief exposure doesn’t spell an early death for either of us! According to some helpful internet forums, we’re probably okay.

While we were working on the tiles, we realized that one part of the floor is just slightly raised. I don’t think we would have noticed it if we hadn’t been on the floor, but once we could see it, it seemed obvious. We brainstormed the possible causes. There is a HUGE magnolia tree right next to the house, and when we glanced out the window we realized that it was in the perfect position to have a root that is affecting the floor of our den. (This is the opposite side of the house with the foundation issues.) We’re actually a little sad – we like that tree, but it will need to come down sooner than later so that the problem doesn’t get worse.

We went over the cement with the same cleaner that we’d used on Thursday. Then we both took showers and went to bed around 3am. That means we worked 10 hours straight on that den!

It was sooo hard to drag myself out of bed when Savannah woke me up at 9 this morning. I got dressed and went downstairs to check out the den. The cat smell is almost completely gone. Yay! However, I noticed a trail of water near where the floor is slightly raised. (I sniffed it – it was definitely water!) I thought we had just missed a part when we were cleaning the floor last night, but Paul was more concerned.

After careful inspection, Paul noticed a small crack in the cement. He could tell that the water was coming in there. I knew this would take some time to fix so I called and cancelled the carpet installation – I hope we’ll be able to get it installed soon! We called my dad again this morning and the current plan is to get some crack sealer, and then put a cement sealer over the entire room. Then we’ll lay the plastic down, THEN we can get the carpet installed.

Also we need to find room in our budget to remove a tree.

Anyways, so that’s our adventure for today. We’re both exhausted. Stayed tuned for whatever happens next!

(I am glad to find the source of the dampness that I’ve always felt was present down in the den. Also, I’m glad all the asbestos tile is gone. If we hadn’t removed it, we would never noticed the crack. So I guess it’s a good thing.)


one down, two to go! (or maybe three…)

Originally posted at twentysixcats.com

My wonderful sister Amy is visiting this week. It’s spring break for her, and so she decided a trip to Atlanta to see her favorite niece sounded like fun. I, of course, welcome her visit and her company. (Free babysitter!) Also, my sister is very handy and loves to be helpful, and asked to be put to work. So I made a list.

Number one on that list was to get the den painted. Second is getting the half-bath downstairs finished.

Here is what we’re tackling with the den (picture taken before we moved in):
Family room

And the half-bath that’s off the den:
Half bathroom

Today, we started on the painting. I handled the part by the steps that had to be done with the brush, while Amy figured out the paint sprayer that my parents gave us. Paul tackled the bathroom. (And Savannah took a nap!) Amy got the paint sprayer working, but it was super loud. So, she painted with the roller until Savannah woke up from her nap. Then Amy and Paul put in some ear plugs, and I took Savannah and went to Home Depot to kill time until they were done. It took them about an hour and a half to do the entire den. The paint sprayer had mixed results – it was much faster than just using the roller, but the result was an uneven coat of paint.

On my part, it was really fun to wander around Home Depot for an hour and a half! Especially because I actually could buy some stuff. :-) I got a new faucet for the half-bath, plus a toilet paper holder and a towel rod. I also picked up white outlet and lightswitch covers for the den – the current ones are brown to match the dark paneling, but we’re painting the walls a light color. I also priced new overhead lights for the den, and curtains/blinds for the windows. I’m really excited about the possibilities! It reminded me how much fun a fixer-upper can be.

Tomorrow will be coat #2 of the den. I really hope we only need one more coat of the Kilz paint to cover the dark before we put a third coat of the light yellow that’s in the rest of the house. (Reference the title of this post.) I am so excited about how this is going to look when we’re done!! I will definitely upload pictures. :-)