Monday, August 30, 2010

Our House is Shrinking!

During the last couple weeks, it felt like our house was starting to come together. Now we’re living in complete disarray again. Fortunately this is only temporary and we have to keep reminding ourselves of that.

The week started off with the final sanding in the living room, dining room and small bedroom. This was with the big beast “U-Sand”er. We were so happy to take that back to the rental place for the last time!

The rest of the week (with a couple exceptions) we kept busy with staining and applying polyurethane.

Tuesday: stained the den
Wednesday: polyed (yes, I made up that word) the den and stained the small bedroom
Thursday: polyed the small bedroom
Saturday: put the second coat of poly on the den and small bedrooms and stained the dining room
Sunday: put the final coat of poly on the den, the first coat on the dining room, and stained the living room

Whew! I’m tired and dizzy just writing about it (the fumes definitely got to me!)!

One big accomplishment this week was Chris finishing the threshold in the foyer/living room. Back in February, yes, February, we had removed the floorboards in the foyer because it looked like this:

Yuck! It smelled like dog urine too…

Anyway, we had replaced a lot of the boards and because we were having trouble lining up the boards from the hallway to the living room, we decided to put in a perpendicular threshold. For the past six months, we have had to step over the big gap in the floor (for some reason I don’t have a picture of it).

The big reasons that this was put off (besides focusing on other tasks), was that we didn’t have the necessary tools and Chris was still not sure of the right way to go about it. Wednesday night he worked on it a lot and Thursday night it was finally installed. I think it looks great (and smells much better!). Sorry, these aren’t the best pictures of it…especially because of the half stained area.

So now I’ll tell you why it feels like our house is shrinking. Because we’re working on the den, dining room, living room, and small bedroom all at the same time, we have had to do some rearranging. Our medium bedroom is packed to the gills (see last week’s entry), we have a ton of extra stuff in our bedroom, our hallway is being used for tool storage, the foyer is housing the living room chair and we had to move our couch into the kitchen. So in a big house like this, we are now living in two rooms – our bedroom and the kitchen.

On one last (disgusting) note, we finally found out what has been eating some of our tomato and pepper plants. The biggest worms we have ever seen! This thing tried to eat Chris’ finger – check out those fangs!

This week we hope to finish up the floors…then it’s on to painting – yay!

Monday, August 23, 2010

Floors and Furniture

The small bedroom floor had a lot of black stains on part of the floor. Unfortunately, this was caused by cat pee so it was quite stinky too. In order to remove the odor, we had to remove part of the floor (Monday) and replace it (Tuesday).

On Wednesday, we cleaned up the whole house to get ready for our house appraisal. We are re-financing and this was hopefully the last step before the closing. The appraiser that came on Thursday had just about no personality – we hope that has no effect on her giving us a good appraisal!

I had jury duty on Thursday and we were let out a little early. Before Chris came home, I transformed the nice new medium bedroom to a storage room (it only took a few hours and a lot of sweat). We needed to move everything out of the den, dining room, living room, and small bedroom so that we can finish the hardwood floors. I’m glad I inherited my dad’s packing skills – there are definitely boxes stacked within 6 – 12” from the ceiling!

We had reserved the floor sander for Friday afternoon but we got there 2 minutes late and they had already locked up. Instead, we bleached the stains on the dining room floor. The stains were not completely removed but they were lightened quite a bit. We also started looking for a nice big rug to cover them up!

Saturday was extremely busy. Earlier in the week we found our bedroom furniture on Craigslist for $600. We went to see it (and pick up a couple pieces) on Tuesday and picked up the rest on Saturday. The furniture was in Towson and we were fortunate to get it all into one load (car and truck). We plan to refinish the furniture eventually since it’s about the same shade as our floors.

We also got a large rug on Saturday afternoon – once again on Craigslist. It’s not our favorite but it is definitely large enough for our dining room table.

We picked up the sander Saturday afternoon and started sanding, sanding, sanding. We finished sanding the den (with 36, 60, and 80 grits) that night.

Sunday, after church, we finished installing the floor boards in the small bedroom (the ones that need to be top nailed) and we sanded the dining room and small bedroom floors with 36 and 60 grit. We patched the holes and dents in the floors so that we’ll be ready to finish sanding those rooms tonight.

It’s amazing how such a big job can be turned into such a small statement – we sanded the floor. It makes us look like slackers but if you’ve ever done this type of work you know that it couldn’t be farther from the truth!

One interesting thing from this week was noticing all the mushrooms in the backyard that seem to grow so fast that you could watch them pop up from the ground. It started as a couple mushrooms and then Chris cut the grass. It is now a very large figure 8 because he did a good job of running over the original mushrooms and spreading the spores.

Our plan for this next week is to completely finish the living room floor.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Small Projects Week

We focused this week on trying to finish the medium bedroom. Unfortunately, we fell a little short. The remaining work shouldn’t take very long (but will be slightly delayed).

The work we completed in the bedroom included touching up paint, installing trim and the door. We ran out of time for painting the closet, installing closet doors, and painting trim. And just like the master bedroom we had issues with the radiator.

Before we bought the house, the previous owner had a friend from a heating company come in and cheaply fix the heating system so that it was functional. So instead of this friend doing things properly, he cut a lot of corners (sometimes literally).

On Friday night, we started installing the back portion of the radiator covers and discovered the problem. When the guy fixed a leak in this radiator plumbing, he ended up removing about 2 inches of the pipe. The radiator in this room is a large “L” shape and this 2” removal pulled the corner of the pipe toward the middle of the room. This means that the front part of the radiator cover would never be able to be put in place. So now we will have to do some more plumbing work before this room will be truly finished.

My parents came down for the weekend and since they needed a place to sleep we moved some of the furniture in prematurely (the walls are actually a green color – the picture isn’t great).

One thing that we accomplished this week has been hanging over our heads for months and bothering us every single day. We finally installed the knobs on all of our kitchen cabinets and drawers. While the actual installation was pretty quick, making the templates so that they all line up properly was rather tedious. It’s amazing what a difference this made in the functionality of the kitchen (i.e. no more getting frustrated and cursing while trying to open a drawer)!

On Wednesday night, Chris’ brother Matt and his family stopped by on their way to the beach. We gave them the tour of the house and I’m pretty sure they think that we’re in over our heads! Of course when my parents arrived on Friday, they were amazed at how great the bedrooms looked and how much progress we’ve made (of course they were in the house when it was a true “pee pee soaked heck hole!”). It just goes to show that it’s all about the perspective.

On Thursday, we had a really heavy rain with some high winds. Around 11:00 p.m. there was a light drizzle with no wind and that was when a huge branch from the tree in the front yard fell. Chris and my dad cut it up and hauled it to the backyard on Saturday. We’re starting to wonder about the health of the two maples – one in front and one in back of the house. These two may need to be removed this winter before they fall on the house.

On Friday, we had a company come out to clean our chimneys. We have three flues – one for the boiler and one for each fireplace. The report we got is not good. The boiler flue needs to be completely replaced – they collected about 2 gallons of tile that came out of the chimney liner. The other two need to be relined because they’re in bad shape as well. Also, the work our contractor did (fixing the crown and adding chimney caps) was sub-par and it needs to be re-done. The company is estimating that to do all that work will be about $4500. We could probably wait a few years before we would have a problem but we need to decide when we want to take care of this.

While my parents were here we focused on passing our plumbing and electrical inspections. The plumbing inspector had already come out and failed us because our contractor had closed up the wall before they could inspect the work (can you tell yet that we weren’t happy with them?). So my dad opened up the wall in the half bathroom and the ceiling in the basement so that all the plumbing is visible. What he found was not good (we had already assumed this based on our experience with them).

The “braces” that the contractor put up to support the plumbing was awful. My dad removed that and did it properly.

When he opened up the ceiling in the basement, we saw what we had expected all the time – the plumber cut a big hole and another big notch in the joist. This is a huge problem since it compromises the integrity of the structure. We will now have to re-enforce this joist. No wonder he covered this stuff up before the inspection!

To prepare for the electrical inspection, there was one glaring item that we know doesn’t meet code. Back in February, we had removed the linen closet in the hallway in order to fix the hardwood floor in that area (we were planning ahead for moving the bathroom wall later). At the time, we moved the light switch from one wall to another and just left it in that configuration.

In order to meet code we had a few things to do. The first was to disconnect the wire, feed it up into the attic (actually this was below the upstairs floor which made it quite challenging), move it about 6 inches (so that it would be in the correct wall), and try (many times) to fish the line back down to a new box. Second was to remove the remaining parts of the original walls, cut and place drywall, and add a TON of drywall compound.

One big reason this job was not quick and easy is because our walls are made of plaster. This means that each corner contains a big, thick wire mesh that is quite sharp and difficult to remove without removing the whole wall (which we kind of did in this case). Also, if you remember our insulation work earlier this year, you know that the plaster is not a consistent thickness. In the closet’s case, the thickest plaster was about an inch and a quarter and the thinnest was about a half inch.

After piecing in our half inch drywall, we had a LOT of drywall compound to apply (in some places making up 3/4”). The after picture below is following the first coat.

A few other things we did this weekend – we went to a party for a co-worker, met our Ragnar Relay team (6 weeks left - we really need to start training!), and tried to buy furniture (long story short – we drove 2 hours to find that it wasn’t what was advertised).

The next project on our extremely long list is to prepare to sand the remaining floors next weekend (this will require a lot of moving boxes, installing some flooring, and living in complete disarray for awhile!).

Monday, August 9, 2010

A Champagne Toast for Our First “Finished” Room

Well, it’s finally here. We have successfully finished and moved into our first room. We worked all week on getting the master bedroom finished and now we are able to say “Goodbye!” to the dining room sleeping quarters.

Much of the week was dedicated to painting – Monday was trim and the medium bedroom ceiling, Tuesday was the medium bedroom walls, Thursday was touch ups and more trim, Friday was priming closet doors, Saturday and Sunday were both painting doors and finishing touch ups. We started using the medium bedroom as our paint shop for the doors – it worked quite well.

On Wednesday we installed our new ceiling fan (a necessity since we don’t have central air conditioning!). The old fan in the master bedroom was disgusting – I don’t think it was ever dusted. Below you can see the edge of one of the blades – there was about an eighth inch layer of dirt on each one.

One of the bigger projects to finish before moving in was the radiators. The radiator covers were never able to fit in this room because the previous owner had the line repaired with steel pipe into an “L” shape. In the picture below, my finger shows where the radiator cover is supposed to run.

Chris quickly figured out why they had done this. In the basement, the heating lines are all behind the joist when they come down and a “C” bend was made in the tubing to bring it out into the room. This made it a big headache to fix. Using a complex series of elbows and bends (and adding a bleeder valve), Chris was able to make the radiator work perfectly.

While Chris worked on the plumbing, I took on a very boring task – straightening the radiator fins. So many of the fins were bent before we bought the house but we have also had our fair share of bending them. It wasn’t fun but someone had to do it!

Several months ago, my dad took all the radiator covers home. He removed the multiple layers of paint with a grinder and primed and painted them to look like new. This was no small task – the master bedroom alone had 8 long pieces and 9 small pieces. Since he brought them back, they’ve been sitting in our den waiting to be re-installed. Finally we were able to do just that.

One of the last things we did was installed the closet doors – we are reusing the originals but with a fresh coat of paint and new hardware. Installing the doors took way more time than it should! For some reason, we couldn’t get the right hardware on the right door or figure out the order in which to install them. Finally, with doors installed, Chris took a break looking very relieved!

And now, the moment you’ve all been waiting for (haha!)…the ”reveal” of the master bedroom. Below are the pictures of the room before, during (the highlights), and after.

And to celebrate our first finished room…popping the housewarming gift from our old neighbors. Cheers!

Monday, August 2, 2010

Painting and Furniture Shopping

We have been sleeping in the dining room for the last four months and we are very anxious to finally have a bedroom to sleep in. We focused early this week on getting the master bedroom ready. Monday night we painted the ceiling and Tuesday night we painted the walls. We continued painting on Sunday – priming the medium bedroom and attempting to paint the trim in the master bedroom (we need to change paint colors because it looked too dingy).

We were hoping to have new bedroom furniture before we move into the room (plus neither of us has ever had new furniture). We went furniture shopping three nights in a row and were unsuccessful. We don’t like most of the styles that are out now (still don’t know why leather headboards are all the rage now…) and the ones that we do like are way above our price range. So I guess we’ll have to live with what we have for the time being.

We had a very exciting morning on Thursday. Chris let Tucker out in the yard to go to the bathroom and as soon as he got out of the house he took off at a sprint – directly towards a deer that was eating some of our grass. The deer was startled and tried to jump over the fence – she was so startled that she could quite make it all the way. Tucker kept ignoring Chris and was chasing the deer and the deer kept trying to (unsuccessfully) jump the fence. The previous owner had put a strand of barbed wire on the top of the fence because she had really mean dogs. The deer kept running into it and by the time she was able to find a way out of the yard her head and neck were a bloody mess.

We thought that was a bad way to start the day but unfortunately the bad stuff wasn’t over yet. We got ready for work and went out to my car. As soon as I opened the door I knew that someone had been in my car the night before – the glove box and console were opened and the contents were strewn about. The same thing happened in Chris’ car. We don’t keep our cars locked in our driveway because we don’t keep anything valuable in there but it still makes you feel violated. We think it was the teenaged kid that lives on the next street – we reported it but they can’t do much if nothing is stolen.

On Saturday we got a visitor – our friend’s dog, Ginger. This year we are swapping dog sitting duties for vacation. We’ll have her for the week and we think Tucker enjoys having another dog around – I think we’ll have to add another dog to our family soon!

Saturday was also my branch picnic. We have it every year at a co-worker’s house on a river near the bay. He has a big catamaran that took us all out for a ride. This was the first branch picnic that I have been to that wasn’t rainy or really hot.

We don’t have much more to finish in the master bedroom – paint and install trim, install ceiling fan, and install radiator covers. Hopefully by next weekend we’ll be all moved into the master bedroom.