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January 30, 2006

The five to seven year plan

The goal is to sell this place for a profit in 7-10 years. It's also my goal to gain valuable home-improvement skills that will help in future houses.

The house isn't in -bad- shape.. it does suffer from a lot of half-assedness, deferred maintenance and sheer stupidity. I want to tone down the stupidity.

Besides, a goal list is fun to refer back to. A good way to gauge your progress.

1. Bathroom remodel
- remove flooring and reset toilet with new wax seal
- replace galvanized pipes
- replace tile in tub
- remove backside of bedroom closet & convert into linen closet
- move vanity/sink to other side of room
- (opt)replace and resize window (12x60 transom)

2. Northeast bedroom remodel
- Refinish floor
- Fix electrical/phone
- Fix mold problem
- Replace window #4

3. Garage
- Fix garage leak
- Paint

4. Add workshop to back yard

5. Kitchen remodel
- Move water heater onto back porch or into lost-space in ex-closet
- remove back-side of bedroom closet.
- Widen kitchen/dining room door (add light switches to left of entry)
- Add can light over sink
- remove walls between kitchen/laundry area
- replace back door with a door that lets in more light
- Add drain under washer, recess water faucets, add fuse for dryer, down box for dryer
- move current exhaust fan switch into laundry area (move exhaust opening into laundry area)
- wrap kitchen counter around from stove-side into laundry area
- Add kitchen-style sink in laundry area
- update kitchen/laundry cabinets
- Add hood over oven
- Add dishwasher next to current sink
- Add under-cabinet lights and electrical outlets

6. Backyard
- Add taller fence around yard
- enclose dog run (1/2 covered)
- Add doggy-door from living room

7. Remedy house moisture problems
- Vent dryer to house exterior
- Add exhaust fan/light combo over shower
- Regrade around house to get water to drain away(esp. west side)
- Add gutter to back of the house
- Add on-site drain system to move gutter water away from crawlspace
- Add 6-mil polyethylene (plastic sheeting) vapor barrier to crawlspace (staple barrier to mudsill)

8. Replace/repair siding

9. Front fascade
- Replace front with door I can see out of
- Fix front porch(make it less slippery, add hand rail, make steps less horrible)
- Update front porch to more resemble bungalow
- Add Bougainvilla next to dining room window (balance out front)
- Eliminate pathetic trees

10. Living room/dining room
- Add sealed-combustion direct-vent fireplace to livingroom
- Trim doors/windows to resemble bungalow
- Add plate rail around dining room
- Update dining room light
- Remove tile & backer Refinish hardwood floors
- Replace Humphrey the cranky furnace

11. Northwest bedroom
- remove carpet
- refinish hardwood floor

January 27, 2006

Ticking the progress bar

Finally I can up two of the progress bars from 0 to something.

We are able to mark items 1A (treat for termites), 1B (remove wood from under house), and 3H (wood rot, crawl space door) off of the pest report. We still have quite a bit to go but it's a start. I ticked this progress bar up to 30% done.

sm_bedroom_ne.jpgI ticked the progress bar for the northeastern bedroom up to 12%. This bedroom (the one we've been sleeping in) has hardwood floors. It looks like at some point it probably had carpet in it.. and the carpet got wet and moldy. The carpet was then removed leaving us with a hardwood floor that is absolutely nasty. In places it's moldy black and splotchy. Just horrible. Add to that, the bedroom is painted in a drepressing muddy beige color with mold spots on the wall. It's just a depressing room. It makes me really glad that the light's off most of the time when I'm in the room.

In the picture, you can see the stellar job Mr. O, previous owner, did on painting the room. The patch on the right-hand wall makes me think that he contemplated adding a second coat of paint to the room... but half-assedness won out in the end. So now we have a splotchy hardwood floor.. and a splotchy muddy beige room. Way to go Mr. O. At the bottom of the picture you can see the hardwood floor. This is clean-swept. The blotchiness is from the stains. (my camera is still missing so no better pics of the floor are available).

The last time Rolf came to visit he said he though we could save the hardwood floor (it's 3/4 inch oak). So we had him come back on Thursday and start on it.

Rolf and Marc rented an orbital sander. After about an hour with this they went back to the rental place and got a drum sander as well. The water damage in the bedroom had caused the boards to cup. The orbital sander just wasn't going fast enough.

After a couple passes with the drum sander we're starting to see some real progress. The floor still is blochy. I don't think we're ever going to be able to get that to go away. At least now it's smooth with a blochy stain.

Today Marc is finishing up with the orbital sander. The plan is to sand it smooth today then sweep up all the sawdust. Then we'll wipe it down with mineral oil. The goal is to be able to apply the stain on Monday. Hopefully we'll be able to get the blochy stain on the floor and the stain color to match close enough that the floor looks reasonable. As it is, the floor looks 90% better than it did.

After we get the closet in this room closed off (as part of the bathroom remodel) we'll be priming the room and painting it. I'm thinking a nice yellow color with red tones. Not orange.. more of a golden yellow. I want a color that counteracts the cool tones we're getting because this is a northern room.

January 23, 2006

Busy.. but unproductive

I'm utterly jealous of other homebloggers I read where they've stripped trim, resized door openings, moved electrical panels, reroofed the ugly 70's addition and gotten a manicure all in the same weekend. I feel like an utter sluff. I got nothing done on the house this weekend. Marc installed the dog door. I'd include pictures.. but I can't find the camera.. obviously it's in a box.. the question is, which box?

A couple of friends came down from Sacramento for the weekend. His excellency Nathir(hehe) came by and made a silk banner. Mike and Catherine hung out for the weekend. Edith came by, went on a raid (World of Warcrack) and then offered Heraldry advice. Then we all went out to dinner and a movie (Underworld - Evolutions Skip it, not worth the price of the popcorn).

On Sunday, Mike, Catherine, Marc and I went into San Francisco to the Shire Cloondara fighter practice. After practice Marc and I went out for sushi at Kitaro for D's surprise going away/birthday party.

It was a very busy weekend.. but not very productive.

January 19, 2006

Bathroom Remodel

Anthony's coming on Friday morning to take measurements for our design. My number one goal is the bathroom remodel.

As part of the pest report we were given $2000 to fix the bathroom floor. The toilet has leaked for a while and has caused wood rot. Rather than actually fix this, Mr. O put down new tile. So now we have to pull up the tile and fix the underlayment.

Since we were in there anyway we decided to go through with the rest of the changes at the same time.

Here's the bathroom layout now:

Marc says he can't stand in front of the toilet and pee into the toilet. The bathroom is the most awkward room in the house so it's highest on the list of things to fix.

Here's the new plan

- change bedroom closet into smaller linen closet with door into hallway instead of into bedroom
- move vanity/light/medicine cabinet into now-empty space (possibly also get bigger vanity, new light fixture and new tub hardware)
- replace bathroom galvanized pipes with copper pipes
- reseat toilet with functional wax ring
- retile bathroom floor with smaller white tiles (still looking for perfect pattern)
- retile bathtub with decent tiles (yet another project Mr. O tackled that he should have left alone... the tub looks like it was tiled in the dark by a monkey who caulked with mold. Don't get me started about what kind of nitwit puts a wood frame around a window in a shower. It's official we hates Mr. O)
- Add exhaust fan/light combo over tub with a twist timer

All-in-all I think this will make our bathroom much better. We're losing a closet.. but gaining a functional bathroom. The current plan is to add a free-standing armoire to the bedroom. Not optimal.. but probably what we can afford.

BTB: anyone know why I'm not getting any excerpt text at houseblogs.net feed? I'm not terribly worried about it.. but it does seem to be missing.

January 17, 2006

Struck down by the plague

Yes.. we are down.. and mostly wiped-out. The plague is here and it's not pretty. The only thing I hate worse than being sick is being sick over a three-day weekend. A whole weekend wasted. Blegh.

We're slowly making progress though. Marc arranged for designers to visit with us on Monday and Tuesday. The guy on Monday was named "Anthony". I think we're going to go with him (not just because he's named Anthony). The second designer was an older guy... he never really talked to me. It reminded me of the first time I bought a car. I was buying but the salesperson was selling to my Dad. In this case, the designer was selling to Marc. Marc says that at one point while I was out of the room the designer asked Marc if I was on the papers for the house. Funny thing to ask.. especially when I'm the -only- name on the papers. Blegh. Hopefully I'm this crabby because of the plague.

Everytime we talk to someone the estimate for the changes jumps by $2000. I swear I just want to stop talking to people.

$2000 for actual changes to bathroom
$2000 for permits/inspections
$2000 for design
$2000 for survey to figure out where shop can be placed

I'm fast running out of money on a project we haven't even started.

January 12, 2006

Stretching the Kitchen

1 day without an ant swarm

I think the one thing I'll miss about the rental was the kitchen. It had a -huge- kitchen. Lots of counter space and tons of cupboards (granted, it was poorly laid out, the oven exhaust fan didn't exhaust to the exterior of the house, poorly lit and about 1/2 the counter space was awkward to use.. but it was still big). Our new kitchen is small. If you measure from wall to wall it's about 8' x 8'. That's not a lot of anything. It has about 1/3 as many cupboards as the rental. Time and money willing, there's a kitchen remodel in our future that will widen the diningroom/kitchen door and combine the kitchen and laundry area (more cupboards, more counter space, a second sink).

In the meantime, I can dream.

I stumbled across the following while cruising the net:

Blum drawerBlum U-shaped drawer
A cool way to utilize the space directly around the underside of the kitchen sink basin more effectively. I can't imagine why no one thought of this earlier. The website I saw this on (linked on the title) suggested this little bitty drawer is good for storing cleaning stuff (soap, scrubbies, etc).

offset_plumbing_drawers.jpgOffset Plumbing Trap
Depending on local code, if you can offset the plumbing trap (and don't have a garbage disposal) you can re-gain a large part of the cabinet space under the sink. When you're talking about regaining what amounts to 1/4 of the lower cabinet space.. you're talking about a big win here. (possibly even enough of a win to consider adding a dishwasher in the remodel)

Undermount sink with extended work surface

I -love- the idea of using wood counter tops. I also -love- the idea shown here of undermounting the sink and having a wood insert to extend the counter space. I think it might also be nice if this could somehow be over a double sink such that you could leave 1/2 covered while using the other half. Something to think about.

Believe me.. in a -tiny- kitchen, inches make a difference.

January 11, 2006

It's not just me

I stumbled across the Hillsdale House Blog today. It a blog of the "The long and strange journey to transform our 1942 war cottage style house into a (circa) 1914 Craftsman bungalow, without going completely nutz." So I'm not the only one. I was reassured even further when they quoted a friend in their Back Story as saying “Just add some built-ins, extent the roofline, pop out some dormers, enlarge the front porch, and pretty soon you could have a nice Craftsman. Besides, you don’t have to worry about ruining its authenticity; it never had any.”

Happy sigh.


Turns out I spoke too soon. We still have ants swarming the kitchen. Marc's called the pest company -again- this morning. Hopefully they can treat for ants soon. We are madly trying to move out of the rental and can't just hang around the house waiting for the pest company to show up. (Edit: Marc says they'll be out within the hour.. so they'll be able to treat the ants today. YEAH!)

I think we'll be finished moving out of the rental tonight. Well, to be completely exact, I think we'll have all of our belongings out of the rental tonight. We're still patching nail holes, painting and a little bit of repair, but we're almost done. I'm turning the keys over to the landlord on Saturday morning at 9:30. So we better be done soon.

As part of the closing, the POs were required to clear the city report and the pest report. Part of clearing the city report required them to install four windows (3 to replace the bedroom windows that had been replaced with smaller windows, and 1 to install safety glass in the bathtub) and upgrade the electrical panel from 90 amps to 125 amps. To do this work the PO hired "Fernando".

At sometime before we closed on the house, Fernando installed the new 125 amp panel on the side of the house. This is right next to the old 90 amp box. It passed the city's electrical inspection but when PG&E came out they wouldn't cut-over the service because the new box is too close to the gas hookup.

About 3 days before we left for vacation I was working at home and I heard someone out in my side yard. I peeked my head out the door and saw Fernando and crew poking at the electrical box. I introduced myself and was told by Fernando that Mr. O, the owner of the house, had told Fernando that the house was "empty" and would be empty for the next month and that Fernando and crew could come over and finish their work whenever. It took a while to explain to Fernando that Mr. O was now the -previous- owner and that I was now the owner.. and that Mr. O had no authority to allow Fernando to do work on my house, and no, the house wasn't empty. Finally Fernando agreed that we should call him after we returned from vacation to schedule his work.

This morning I finally got a hold of Fernando. He says depending on weather, he'll plan to be out next week to fix the electrical and install the windows. (YEAH)

January 10, 2006

Transitioning from livable to comfortable

At last I think we're making progress (or at least back up to the level I hoped to be at when we moved into the house)

  • We have heat coming out of Humphrey*
  • We have both hot and cold running water in the kitchen
  • We have both hot and cold running water in the bathroom (scaldingly hot showers are heavensent)
  • We don't have ants (or at least we're no longer being swarmed)
  • The fridge is putting out both ice and filtered water**

Now we can move on to the stuff to make the house comfortable as well as livable. The only "make it liveable" project outstanding is to fix the garage roof. It leaks abysmally.

Oh, that and we actually have to finish moving in. We're neck deep in boxes at the moment. Too much stuff.. not enough storage.

*I read on another blog that if you name your furnace you have a better relationship with it. Humphrey lives in our living room and takes up half of the north wall. He tick, booms and hisses at us. He's fussy, noisy and in general reminds me of a grumpy old man. Humphrey seems to be the most appropriate name.

**After the kitchen water fiasco we figured that rust had clogged up the fridge's ice/water mechanism. Marc met with the Sears guy and after looking over the situation the Sears guy declared that the fridge/freezer was set too cold. I didn't set it, Marc didn't set it... but somehow the fridge and freezer were set to "7" where the factory recommendation is "4". It turns out that the frosty setting on the freezer caused the water/ice lines to freeze over. Marc turned the fridge down to "4" and we're now getting both ice and water from the fridge.

Priority projects:

  • Bathroom remodel
  • Fix garage roof and sheetrock
  • Add backyard workshop
  • Refinish bedrooms and add closets
  • Kitchen/laundry remodel

On Thursday Rolf, our contractor and Marc's Knight, came down to review the changes we want to make to the house. He says it looks like it's good to go. We will need to submit plans and apply for the permits but everything looks doable.

Marc checked with the city and they recommended having the plans created by a designer familiar with the city of San Pablo's codes. We're waiting on a call back from a designer so we can get started.

It looks like the bathroom remodel is going to be about $1300 for the plan approval and the permits. I can't wait to get started.

January 5, 2006

My Big Fat Greek House

windex.jpgThe ants come marching two by two, hurrah, hurrah
The ants come marching two by two, hurrah, hurrah...

The pest guy came back today. Marc met him (I'm at work). Marc says the the pest guy "baited" the ants. He warned me that the ant problem looks worse but it's actually getting better. I'm not sure how it could be worse but I'm sure I'll find out when I get home. The pest guy said that the best way to kill the stray scouter ants is with Windex. Who'da'thunk. Windex really -is- a cure-all.. I guess this means that we have to buy Windex tonight.

Marc says he's already cleaned the ant carcasses out of the freezer. I'm so glad. I really wasn't looking forward to doing that. I do wish we'd gotten a picture of it first. That seems like the kind of thing one should post pictures of in ones blog. Ah well.. I'm sure there are plenty of future picture opportunities.

I think the camera is still at the rental. Hopefully we'll get that moved tonight. I really want to be out of there.

It's a good thing we don't plan to move again for another 7-10 years. We really suck at this. Through a combination of unwillingness, procrastination and overcommitment we only packed a few boxes. All along we said, "it'll be no problem, we'll just move it by the car load after the house closes". We didn't factor in the "new house sucking sound of death curse™".

You know. Here we have a new-to-us house. It seems reasonable that the last people lived here so it should be... well .. livable. We're two weeks into this and we're still having daily visits from one repair man or another. Pests, plummers, and heating mostly. But honestly. Marc spends most of his time at the house waiting for some workman or another to show up. It's not unusually to have 2-3 scheduled for the same time slot and yet have them show up in serial.. so he ends up tied to the house all day instead of packing crap from the old house into the car and transporting it to the new house.

The plumbers report that the house still has some of its original galvanized pipes. For those of you who, like me, are without clue, this means that the pipes are made of metal that rusts (a bloody useless thing for water pipes if you ask me (who thought of this bright idea?)). Our pipes are rusted. A lot. To the point where the kitchen sink wasn't getting any cold water because the galvanized cold water pipes were completely obstructed by rust. Plumber #4 (didn't get his name) replaced a pipe under the sink ($160). Last night we had cold water to the kitchen sink (yeah!). We still didn't have water out of the fridge though. Anthony #2 came out to the house today and at this point we have water coming out of the water feed tube for the fridge.. but no water out of the fridge. Marc is calling Sears. Hopefully this is covered by the fridge warranty.

There is a light though. The home warranty folks sent out a contractor (Rising Star Heating), John, yesterday about the heating problems. As is usual when you call an expert, the heat started working about 30 minutes before he arrived. I figured this was yet another circle of hell in the "new house ... curse™". When John arrived I explained the whole situation to him. He commented that the heater shouldn't behave so erratically and started checking things. I swear he crawled under the house about 20 times. By the end of it all he determined that the wire from the heater to the thermostat had a short in it (which explained why cursing at the heater and stomping on it caused the heat to start). He fixed the wire and we now have dependable (for the last day and night anyway) glorious man-made heat. It's a thing of beauty.

January 3, 2006

Holiday Hub-Bub

Whirlwind tour of Montana. Christmas, uncle's birthday, New Years, aunt's wedding. I definately OD'd on family time. Sometimes it nice to be near family.. sometimes it's nice to go back to California where most of the family is several hundred miles away. We spotted 211 deer in one 2 hour car ride. Marc's planning to go back next year during hunting season.

My parents are building a lovely victorian house down by the Yellowstone river (I'm trying to get them to start a blog.. we'll see how that goes). I have house envy. *sigh*. They don't have to deal with "what were they thinking" or "Yet another thing they hid from us". It must be nice.

Came back to the house. Half tempted to start calling it "The Pit".

On the day we flew out to MT we had the PG&E guy and Anthony #2 in the house.

The PG&E guy was in to re-light the furnace pilot light. He crawled under the house and then said that the pilot was lit but the burners weren't firing. He cleaned something off and we had heat (glorious man-made heat). According to our house/dog-sitter, this lasted for about 2-3 days. Then, no heat. I called the home warranty guys this morning and they're sending a contractor to look at it tomorrow.

Anthony #2 (works for the same plumbing company as Anthony #1 but much more experience) was in to fix the problems Anthony #1 created.

After Anthony #1 left I noticed that the bathtub faucet was dripping. I figured, "not too bad, I'll wait and call them when we get back from vacation". The next day I was in the kitchen and I tried to get water from the fridge. No water coming out of the fridge. So I tried to get cold water from the kitchen sink. The kitchen sink would make hot water.. but no cold water. I thought "AHHH! This is bad". I had visions of burst cold-water pipes under the house flooding our crawlspace. So we called the plumbing company and they promised to send someone to fix it within the hour. Enter Anthony #2.

Anthony #2 asked if Anthony #1 had checked any of his work before he left. Not a good sign. Anthony #2 worked for several hours.. then as he was starting to call in reinforcements we told him we had to leave to catch a plane. He's not allowed to work with no one there. So work stopped. He did say that he didn't see anything leaking and burst below the house. Anthony #2 set an appointment with our house/dog-sitter on Thursday to finish fixing the problems. House/Dog-sitter reports that Eric showed up to finish fixing the problems. Since Eric is yet another plumber, he didn't know what problems had been created by Anthony#1 nor was he as up-to-date as Anthony #2. House/Dog-sitter didn't know exactly what problems he'd been called in for so no work was accomplished. Marc called the plumbing company this morning and got an appointment with Anthony #2 to come in and finish fixing the problems.

When we returned our house/dog-sitter also reported that our kitchen had been swarmed by ants. There are frozen little ant carcases in the freezer. Not good since we'd been treated for ants 2-3 days before we left. I called the Pest guys. They'll be back out on Thursday.

So when we returned from Montana we had no heat, ants in the kitchen and no cold water in the kitchen. It's almost like we never left.

On the plus side, I had a scaldingly hot shower this morning. It was heaven. Almost made me forget all the rest. Until I stepped out into the frosty cold house. *brrrr*