I figured it was time for an update, only about 3 years later and 4 years after the inaugural post. The project has been complete for quite some time and did take far too long, but I did learn a million and one new things.
1) Maintaining/renovating a home is no joke.
, they give some good advice. 6 months or so after finishing up the entire job, I parked in the garage one rainy day and noticed water coming into the garage. Through the second floor right along the cinder block chimney, into the first floor garage. I periodically check heavy rainstorms after that, & sure enough water is getting into the house from the flashing around the chimney. That has to be why the insulation was black around the chimney. Since then, we have fixed the flashing, which appears to have fixed the moisture issue, but we didn't replace the new insulation we put in and we still need to repair some 2x4's around the floor and wall of the chimney. I assume the original issue had been going on since the build 30 years ago. I read that if I fix the moisture issue mold should not continue to grow, so I'm hoping the little damage under the sheet rock that may have been done in the year or so since installation will eventually die without moisture.
3) Never 'enjoy' a project until its complete...or it will take at least 10x longer to completely finish it.
4) Crown molding is wayyy harder than it looks...why are walls and ceilings not right angles?!?!
Here are some final pictures with crown molding. Please ignore the hdmi cable running along the wall! I was going to remove the cable and can't remove the cable from the TV because of the ultra-slim mount, so I need to take the TV off the mount and the wife is pregnant, so no help with that!
I've upgraded the receiver to Yamaha RX675, which I love. Its fantastic for 2 zones, and the Yamaha app is great! I also upgraded to Polk Audio R70's and Polk PSW505, and I also highly recommend both. Home movies are awesome and we can really jam out with these speakers and sub. We've also renovated our outdoor living area to a bluestone patio, with hopes of putting a projector out there to go with the already installed Polk outdoor speakers!
Once again, many thanks to all those that helped throughout the process.