Monday, April 26, 2010

Better Homes and Gardens

This week we took our redneck living a step further. We now have a stove in our truck in the garage and two in the basement – none of them are hooked up.

The two stoves in the basement originated in the main and upper levels of the house. The one in the main level kitchen is in such bad shape – there is only one burner that works (we think) and the oven is non-operational. The other stove came from the upstairs kitchenette – it is so old that it still has the really wide heating coils and we don’t know if that one works either.

The stove in our truck was an impulse purchase on Tuesday. We went into Lowe’s to get a couple plumbing fittings for the kitchen sink and we ended up walking away with a brand new stove. We have been looking at the “scratch and dent” appliances every time we’re in the store in case there is a good deal that has a scratch in a hidden location. On this trip, the stove we found only had one flaw – it was missing a box. The model was already reduced $100 and because of the missing box, they took off another $100. It’s still sitting in the truck because we have a couple more cabinets to install and it will be easier to complete the work without the stove in the way.

The rest of the week was dedicated to preparing our garden plot and starting the planting. We started all of our plants from seeds this year and they are getting to the point that if they aren’t planted soon then they will not survive. Because of the amount of plants we are going to grow and the very sunny locations in the yard, we are planting two plots – one is 30’ x 25’ and the other is 20’ x 20’.

The location for the larger plot was where the previous owner had made a huge pile of branches and vines. The grass and weeds in this area were well over a foot tall and it was very challenging to remove the debris before we could start tilling. The first pass with the tiller only removed the grass and weeds. In order to get deep into the soil, we have been hand turning the soil before tilling a second time. It is a very labor intensive endeavor and we only have about three-quarters of the big plot complete. Friday night we did some planting – peas (they were already a foot tall), lettuce (3 types), spinach, beets, eggplant, artichokes, Brussels sprouts, and carrots.

This weekend we traveled up to PA to go to the wedding of a family friend. It was actually very nice to have a whole weekend off! This coming week we hope to finish installing the kitchen cabinets so that we can order our countertops (and have a working kitchen before the end of May!).

Monday, April 19, 2010

Leaks and Bounds...

After many delays (blizzards, contractor payment issues, etc.) the roof was replaced. Initially it was supposed to take two days to remove the old shingles, replace any bad boards, and install the new shingles. However, the entire roof was replaced last Wednesday. The roofers removed two attic fans and installed a ridge vent but it doesn’t seem that this will be enough ventilation for the attic. We are trying to determine the right path forward – especially for a house without air conditioning!

After the roof was installed it rained and we found two leaks in the attic. The roofer came out to inspect the areas on Monday but he did not find anything unusual – we just have to wait and see if they continue to leak.

Monday was a very busy day at the house. The roofer was here, the windows were replaced, the contractors installed a light tube, and the Skocik’s helped with many tasks (cutting trees, planting bushes, removing blinds, and cleaning up the condo).

The window installation was one of the things we’ve been looking forward to for a long time. The installers were Polish and the three of them were able to complete all the window removal, installation and trim work for 30 windows in about seven hours. It was amazing to see how fast they completed the job. We think they make the house look so much better – even our neighbors stopped by to comment on them.

Tuesday we finally had our gutters installed. It has been about two months since we’ve had gutters but even the old gutters did not do the job they were supposed to do. Having functional gutters and downspouts plays a big part in solving the basement excess moisture problem. The house also looks much more complete with them installed.

The rest of the week was filled with last minute condo work. There was a lot of caulking, painting, cleaning, and hanging fixtures. Tom and Celia, our tenants, signed the lease and moved in on Saturday. It will be very nice to have one of the mortgages paid for by someone else!

We have been spending so much time inside that on Saturday we needed a change of pace. We spent a lot of the day working on the landscaping. We had received some bushes, grasses, and lilies from a guy on Freecycle the week before and we needed to plant them all before they died. They don’t exactly fit in the places that we planted them but it is a very good (and free!) temporary solution.

Now that spring has sprung, we are surprised to find some of the plants the previous owners had growing. There are some pretty (but neglected) azaleas, hostas, and rhododendron plants. We’ll have to wait until the fall to try to prune them into shape.

Even though I hadn’t run at all for six months, I had signed up for the Clyde’s 10K race. On Sunday morning, it was 34 degrees when we woke up and I was extremely tempted to stay in bed. However, I knew that if I didn’t race that I would find it very difficult to motivate myself to start training. I lined up in the very back of the pack and was just hoping to finish the race (running or walking – I didn’t care!). Shortly after the start, a girl named Michelle started running with me. We ran together for five miles – it was great to have someone to talk to during the race – she definitely motivated me to run the entire distance. I think Chris and I were both surprised that I didn’t walk at all on such a hilly course! And of course, the after race brunch was delicious!

We decided to spend the rest of the day relaxing. We did get some work accomplished including installing downspout extensions and emptying the garbage cans the last owner left for us (incredibly smelly – dirty diapers, old food, etc.). Chris also cut down some branches in the back yard. While he was doing this, he stumbled across a 3 ½ foot long slumbering black snake. To prevent Tucker from finding it, Chris hopped over the fence and gave it a new home in the open space behind the house.

Monday, April 12, 2010

We Will Soon Be Landlords…

We made a ton of progress this week! Most of the work we accomplished was at the condo (the roof at the house was installed – more on this next week).

In order to rent the condo, we need to get a rental permit and to have the condo inspected by the county. They had already given us the list of items that they look for in their inspections – working plumbing, electrical, heating, general cleanliness, functional windows and doors, working chimney, etc.

At the end of last week, we had two completely non-functional bathrooms. I’m now happy to announce that both bathrooms are (almost) fully functional and leak free!

We would have been finished sooner if it hadn’t been for Murphy’s Law. Chris had to install the toilet in the large bathroom three separate times. He had installed it the first time on Friday night, Saturday morning there was a leak (we thought it was the wax ring), Saturday afternoon it was re-installed, Saturday night there was another leak, Sunday afternoon we found that it was the lower flange (set in concrete) that was the source of the leak. The third time was the charm – the flange was repaired and we used a reinforced wax ring – no more leaks!

Another example of Murphy at work was the GFI outlet in the kitchen. The outlet I was changing to a GFI was in a gang box with a switch. First, while removing the old outlet, the screw holding it in the box snapped, leaving half of it stuck in the box. After finally removing the old outlet and making all the proper connections for the new switch and GFI outlet, the gang box fell apart (and every time thereafter). I had to disconnect all the wires in both the switch and GFI, open up the drywall, remove the old box, install a new box, set the conduit properly, make the connections, install them in the box, add drywall, apply drywall compound three times, sand, and paint. The end result was not pretty but it was functional!

After installing the vanities, the faucets had to be switched on the sink tops – one didn’t fit on the sink top. The plumbing connections in each bathroom were also very difficult because new vanities are different widths.

Both bathrooms are now functional and look much better than the originals!

Chris’ parents drove down on Sunday to help us at the condo – it was great having them here to help clean, pack, plumb and caulk! They helped move a lot of the additional items to the house and helped me plant some lilies, bushes, and cut down some branches today.

This afternoon was the rental inspection. The inspector was impressed with the state of the condo and said that he wished all rental inspections were that easy. We still have some small things to finish up – installing medicine cabinet, mirror, toilet paper holders, towel racks, touching up paint, etc. Our tenants move in on Saturday – having extra rental income will be so nice (those two mortgage payments were hurting!).

Stick around next week for our first pictures of the house with a new roof, windows, and gutters!

Monday, April 5, 2010

Preparing the condo…

Our condo rental inspection is one week away and we still have a lot left to do. On Thursday, we began with what seemed like an infinite list of large and small items. Who better to help than Ron and Jan Bennett.

We got about half of the list crossed off over the weekend. The big jobs that we completed were installing the kitchen floor, tiling and grouting the large bathroom floor, replacing a lot of the outlets and switches, and a ton of small tasks (touch up paint, clean, patch walls, etc.). I wasn’t very good at taking pictures of the work this week but hopefully I will have good ones when the condo is complete.

During the week, our contractor installed the new tub and surround in the large bathroom on Tuesday and they re-glazed the small bathroom tub on Wednesday. By Friday, the drywall work in the large bathroom was complete and we promptly started laying out the tile. The tile was set by Saturday afternoon, but it was a bit of a challenge to get them to look good. The bare concrete floors of these building are far from flat. We also found some size irregularities in the $0.48 tile from Lowe’s. Grouting was unnecessarily challenging for this floor, too.

The small bathroom demolition began on Saturday. However, we left the one functioning toilet alone until the new one is installed. Some of the old tile were saved, meticulously scraped, and set near where the new vanity is to be installed. The slight size difference with the vanity really caused a lot of extra work. The tile was also set for the shower surround. With a little paint and a little grout it should look like new.

For Easter, we went to 6:30 mass (there was no music which made it rather depressing), had brunch, and then spent the next 16 hours working on the condo. Today we’re both pretty tired and sore but we can’t stop to rest yet – we now have two condo bathrooms that are unusable!

On house news, Tuesday was the mold inspection of the basement. We passed and the report satisfied the mortgage company. This means that today they are finally paying the contractors and hopefully we’ll get a new roof this week…I’m keeping my fingers crossed!