Friday, March 26, 2010

Going down and taking everyone with it

A neighbor on my block must really love this neighborhood. Mainly because his (and his wife's) house is under construction for the 2nd... 3rd time? I lost count, but they've must have put in more money than the house is worth. The previous fixes have been mainly minor and one major thing. There was something dealing with poor drainage that plagued them for the longest. Well the current venture has them gutting the house. They didn't intend to gut the house, but when you start to pull up floors and knock away old plaster you discover fresh heart sinking, bank busting horrors, like I did when I had my house renovated.
One of the horrors discovered was a combo pack of a poor electrical, mixed with bad brick, which under the right conditions could take out 1/3 of the block in a house fire collapse situation. Okay maybe 1/8th of the block trusting that at least one connecting house was renovated well enough to block disaster. Yes. There are supposed to be fire blocks between these old row houses, but 'supposed to be' and 'actually is' aren't the same thing. Pulling away the drywall and plaster revealed failing brick load bearing walls, party and exterior walls with failed (questionable if brick was there in the 1st place) portions. Add these failed portions to an electrical system that came in contact with a leak and lint filled jerry rigged dryer vent, and we have the higher risk for fire. If the fire didn't come then the failing brick wall, if it fell, would definitely have taken the neighboring house with it.
A former TC resident once told me that you never really know what you have until you get down to the brick and the joists.

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Saturday, December 13, 2008

Chef, Church, Contractor, Coffee

This posting is for stuff on the backburner I'd been meaning to post. So, going in alphabetical order

Chef
Chef Jean Claude LeLan that is. About a week ago I took my 3rd or 4th class with him and they are always wonderful learning and eating experiences. His classes tend to be on Sunday mornings at 10 at his home in Mt. Vernon Sq., so even after having a rich meal and a good deal of wine, I can toddle or waddle back home for a good nap. The next class he's having is the sauce class January 11th. I've taken it and it is well worth it because Chef Jean-Claude is a hoot, you get to take some sauces home and the after class meal is brunch. I also recommend that you take good notes and ask questions because the handouts are general and some steps are not mentioned or can be adjusted or are estimates or there are ideas that come out of the class.
Chef Jean Claude also offers catering and cooking classes in your home. I am tempted to have him cater, but a cooking class would not work. My kitchen is tiny.

Church
Church of the Immaculate Conception at 8th and N NW is one of two Roman Catholic Churches in Shaw, the other is St. Augustine. The pastor of Immaculate Conception, Rev. Msgr. James Watkins resides in Shaw, so he is a part of the community. Mass is as follows- Saturday 5:30 (29 minutes or less or your next mass is free); Sunday 9AM (1 hour), 11AM (about 1.5 hours), 6PM (Latin. Fr. Watkins' Latin is lovely, everybody else....eh). And don't bother with the website, it is stuck in Dec 2006.

Coffee
Not exactly in Shaw, but close, and they asked nice, and I needed another 'C'...
Hi,
I'm Ongisa and we just opened up CocoLibre at 786 Harvard St. NW. It's a Fair Trade Cafe' that specializes in certified tea, coffee, and chocolate- plus your typical coffee shop fare like paninis and pastries. I know we aren't exactly in Shaw, but we're close. If you could give us a shout-out or something, that would be great. Check us out on the web- www.cocolibre.com. Feel free to hype us up and stop in for some great organic (and ethical) tea! Thanks.


Contractor
Some of y'all wanted my contractor's contact info. Well my 2007 big renovation job and my 2002-2003 kitchen job were done by David of Something Different Contracting, 2/321-6416. I do recommend him for your big house projects (things that may require permits). David is very communicative, and lives close, in Frozen Tropic land (Old City 1). He has worked with older homes and will work with you to salvage any old beauty that may still exist in your home. You can email me at mari at inshaw daht com if you have questions you want to ask.

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Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Money and renovation

I feel a need to talk numbers. However, finances are a very personal topic, itís sort of like talking about the details of your last doctorís appointment. Yet, without numbers the topic remains vague.
In 2007 I documented the renovation of my house. Prior to that in 2003 the kitchen was done. Both jobs were done by David of Something Different, and Iím quite happy with Davidís work and his work ethic. The kitchen cost about $17,000 and the main renovation was around $100K (hello big fat 2nd mortgage), counting the work done before and after with heating and cooling. The house is a little over 1,000 sq feet, not counting the cellar. So those are the numbers.
So when I hear others say that a renovation for a certain house of roughly the same size would be $200K to $300K to renovate, I'm not totally convinced. Not that you canít spend that much, but it seems you can spend less. People with more building daring have spent less, being their own general contractor, saving $40K, working with the same sq. footage as my house. From my own experience, I know I could have saved some money by cutting out some luxuries. Such as the heated floor in the kitchen, the tile from Expo, the fancy bathroom with the claw foot tub, the separate heating and cooling systems. Of course there are some things I did and didnít do that would have bumped the price up. I didnít replace the section 8 windows, they work, the eco-building guy said they were acceptable, Iíll replace them later. I used low VOC paint, which costs more than regular Home Depot paint. On the other hand, some wonderful volunteer helpers and I painted the house, saving on labor.
Labor, that was a majority of my expenses. David bills by labor and materials. If I wanted we could have come up with a single bid price for the whole job but it would have been more. But with Davidís way I saw what I was paying for, and man are men expensive, even the unskilled ones.
Lastly, a thing that I think really helped in price was I was renovating the house for me, not some unknown buyer whose tastes and preferences are unknown. I donít need stainless steel anythings, so I wonít pay top dollar. I prefer Corian to granite, Formica would have been acceptable too. I am okay with used items, like the tub and the radiators. Also okay with the low end barber carpet. I like IKEA, and we hacked them a bit and gave them a non-IKEA look. My tastes were not an unknown factor, so then money could be targeted towards things I actually cared about or whatever David convincingly talked me into, like the heart pine floors.

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Monday, October 20, 2008

DI4Y (Do It For Yourself)

I can't say this weekend was quiet. The folks across the alley and over a few doors are putting a deck up. So this was a weekend of hammering and guys yelling at each other.
They sort of had a small deck-like thing, a legacy from before they bought the house. It was grey warped wood with splotches of moss and mold. It was also small, just big enough for 2 guys to sit out on it to smoke. The deck they are getting would allow for a table, where two-four-six guys can sit, smoke and maybe have a few beers. Considering how much use the old deck got, new one will get used often.
I'm thinking of some home improvements as well for 2009. The 1st floor was to have a shower, but I didn't have the money for it in the renovation. I'm thinking I'll save up some money, talk to David my contractor, get a figure from him, and add 30% on top of that. Also scheduled for 2009 is repainting the house. With the colors B &IT have for their house and the color of the house next to me, the color I'm choosing will make the three houses my alma mater's school colors. Though the neighboring house's color is a little on the pastel side to truly be a fighting school colors. Eh, close enough.
I think there is something special about home improvements people do for themselves, and not to just try to sell the house. Considering the cost, the hassle of dust and discomfort of strangers tromping through your house (if paying someone else to do it), it pretty much keeps improvements down to things that are needed. Also the improvements are truly 'custom' to the way the residents live.

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Friday, May 09, 2008

Renovation 2007: Air Conditioning

If I haven't mentioned it, Phase II of my house renovations is 99.99 complete. Phase I was the kitchen, Phase II was the big monster budget killing renovation, Phase III will be the cellar. But Phase II is 99.99% complete, the .01% is some touch up painting I need to get around to doing with the doors and where the wall meets the ceiling.
Anyway, I have AC, and the system that I have is the Space Pak. We've had a few warm days, and so far my feelings are mixed. First off, where I work there are spots where it is 60F and I have to bundle up, so I don't want to freeze at home. And so I've had the AC on and turned it off because I thought it was too chilly. The 1st floor does get nice and cool and the 2nd floor, where the heat rises, is iffy. It isn't hot, just noticeably warmer. This can be dealt with the ceiling fans.
I do like the look of it. No boxy ducts.
When Summer comes I'll give another review.

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Thursday, November 29, 2007

Foreclosure, probably not that great of a deal

I live next door to a foreclosed house.
The story, from what I can piece together is that long time ago, say 15-20 years ago, some Ethiopian guy bought the house as an investment property. According to a neighbor on the block, he did rent it out but left it vacant for about 7 years. Then for about a year or two he rented to some Ethiopian sisters, one of whom got married and they all moved away. Then the Ethiopian owner sold it to another Ethiopian for way too much at the top of the market. This new Ethiopian owner rented to an Ethiopian family who stayed for a few months, and then the house sat empty. And then it went into foreclosure and the bank owns it. The bank tried to sell it for close to what the guy paid for it, and it sat. Then about every 1.5 months they would decrease the price. It remains unsold.
A friendly Vietnamese couple looked at the house and were very interested. So much so that one day they brought an inspector with them. I'd like the house to sell, but I also want any future owners to be aware that there are some busted pipes in the house, as the pipes failed last winter sending water into my basement. So the couple took in that information and went around with the inspector. They spent an awful lot of time looking at the rear kitchen portion of the house, which if anything like mine, is structurally crappy. The stucco is cracked and red brick dust seeps through. The layout of the 2nd floor is, challenging. Anyway, they didn't buy it. I'm sure the numbers just didn't work out. The amount the house was selling for, plus the amount to fix the busted piping (which would mean taking up portions of the floor and possibly finding mold) just to make it suitable for human habitation, was more than likely far above it's market value. That's not even addressing the structural and mechanical issues, nor is the price of making it 'nice' as opposed to 'not condemned'.
Let me throw in some numbers. The house at the time the couple looked at it was $310,000. This is for a townhouse of about 1,000-1,200 sf. nothing fancy, aged AC unit, blown in heat, busted pipes, electrical systems a big unknown, weedy front and back yards, and appliances over 10 years old. Plumbers cost money. So say there isn't any mold under the house and you just need to fix/ replace the pipes, and it can be done from a crawlspace hatch, so there is no replacing the floor? Well that's over $3K, based on how much I've paid to have a 'simple' plumbing job done in an easy to access area. But there could be mold, and the floor might need to be taken up. And while you're doing that you might as well gut the whole thing. When I asked how much someone, doing it all themselves spent to gut and fix their own house, which is similar in size to mine, the amount was about $60K. I paid well over that, let's just say my contract had a $80K limit, we hit the limit and there was still stuff (like installing heat and AC) that needed to be done when I ran out of money. That amount doesn't include the paint, the tub, and other materials I bought myself.
The houses on the block, sans basements, are assessed for around $350K. I'm somewhat doubting that whoever buys the house is willing to put into it more than its market worth. The bank may have to knock the price down to the high to mid $200K range before anyone bites.

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Monday, July 09, 2007

BACA & Paint

There is a BACA meeting tonight but I will not be in attendance as I have some pressing paint duties. I've been painting my house for what seems like a month. I have formed these big nasty callouses all on my hands and I want them gone.
I have told myself I need to finish all my paint jobs by the end of this week, or else I'll go nuts. First thing that needs to be done tonight (thus not going to the BACA meeting) is the bathroom ceiling needs a coat of paint. There are only so many times you can shower without damaging the ceiling. I hope it is not too late as there are some funny looking marks up there already.
After the bathroom everything else is whenever but I got to end this painting. The baseboards on the 1st floor need a coat, because the paint I put on was damaged by the floor guy's sander. Also on the first floor I need to paint over the ceiling paint that hit the wall and the doorway between the kitchen and dining area. Upstairs I have to decide if I'm painting the bedroom ceilings or just leaving it primer white. Sections of the brick wall need caulking and painting. The top part of the 2nd floor baseboards need a lick of paint. The top of the wall near the ceilings in both bedrooms and the hallway need paint.
Then once I'm done painting, there is the cleaning.

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Friday, July 06, 2007

Moving back in

100_0519Well this week I've moved back into the house. The upside of giving away most of your earthly possessions prior to renovation is they aren't covered in several layers of dust. Nor are they water damaged. The downside is the stuff you did keep stored requires cleaning or replacing and you can't find half of it anyway.
I was crazy mad trying to put together a bookcase with rudimentary hand tools because I cannot find either one of my drills. The cordless I think may have grown legs. The corded one, it's down in the cellar somewhere. Can't find any of my pliers. Tools, I learned from Nathan & BL who had work done on their house, can accidentally get picked up during the rush to leave the work site.
Most of the work has been done and there are just a few things that are left to do. Painting the ceilings, getting the tops of the walls near the ceiling, hooking up the cable/phone wires, hooking up the radiators and then hooking up the AC. These things aren't required for me moving in.
The place looks nice and very sparse. I put out a call to friends to give me (or loan me) furniture to help fill it out. One friend has been trying to pawn off a few wood table pieces on me for years. Another is preparing to move next year to Chicago and is willing to part with things not worth moving. Though I have my limits, I will not take anything the dog has peed on. I do have some of my own furniture that I couldn't find homes for before the move but I have yet to see if it has survived unprotected storage.
Lastly, I want to thank Scott and Matt for keeping a roof over my head for the past 3 months during the renovations. They were wonderful hosts. Because of them I was able to live a short distance from my house, so I could see the changes and address other issues that came up, quickly. Also since I wasn't living in the house, the work went faster, and I was saner.

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Sunday, July 01, 2007

Renovation 2007: Floor value


New-Old Floor 2
Originally uploaded by In Shaw
I'm so easily influenced by other people....
My contractor couldn't believe my assessment of the floors as being 'okay'. I pointed out concerns I had with the floor such as the rough hewn boards that already snagged a sock. He told me that wears down after use and it shouldn't be a problem, but if it continues to be a problem he'd address it.
I was over at my house, painting, as usual, and had some neighbors drop by while my contractor was popping in and out. They loved the floor. Now I don't want to be one of those people who does things to impress the neighbors, but their opinion began to change my mind about the floor. Or maybe it was the contractor and the neighbors going on about the floor that did it.
Then a carpet salesman showed up to show samples. Maybe he was trying to get a feel for my price range or maybe it was his honest impression, but he said my floors cost a fortune. He basically repeated the same things my contractor had been saying... they don't make these anymore... can't get the character anywhere else, etc, etc.
Okay, I get it.
I got the rare thing early, which is why I horded some boards bound for the dump. I figured if something happened to one of the boards I'd have a replacement. I may have horded a few boards too many. Anyone else with a heart pine floor need a board or two?
Lastly, I think this is a point when having my contractor be the guy he is with what he knows being the biggest value. I wouldn't have recognized these floors as something valuable to keep in their dirtied form. David (the contractor) has worked in a bunch of old houses in DC so he knows about the quirks and was able to recognize what kind of flooring I had.

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Friday, June 29, 2007

Renovation 2007: Next station, Broke

I'm now officially broke.
This Summer I get to save up money for the plumber to put the radiators in. I should be able to rustle up the $2000 needed to do so by October. I'm not even going to think about what's left of the SpacePak till I can stabilize my financial situation. The carpet, I might be able to scrounge up something for that. And I think I will still end up owing my contractor money.
Yup. Broke. Brokie-broke-broke-broke.

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Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Renovation 2007: Recycled floor


New-Old Floor 3
Originally uploaded by In Shaw
Well this is my new floor. Which actually is my old floor. Just that my old floor was covered with carpet, fake wood tiles, and ick.
If I were to buy a new floor I would have gone with a lighter color. But do like the fact that the floor is one of the several things I kept from the original house (besides the toilets, the sink, & radiators). My contractor tells me that the floor is heart pine and it is very pricey. Um, okay, I'm happy it could be reused. There was some cost savings to keeping the floor, storing the floor, cleaning the floor and having it sanded and finished over going out and buying a new-new floor.
My contractor is also keen on pointing out the 'character' of these old floors. Honestly, my feelings towards the varied widths, the knots, nail holes, varied shades and other unique features can be summed up as 'eh'. They're nice and they do add to the house's overall character, which I do care greatly about.

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Monday, June 25, 2007

Three who improved my Sunday

Let's start with Peter. I made a 2nd run over to the Bloomingdale farmer's market to pick up snacks for the weekend painting. While I was there I noticed some guy in front of the Big Bear playing guitar. His back was to the market, facing the R Street entrance of the Bear, but I knew who it was, it was Peter, a neighbor. He and his wife live a block from my house and it was great to see very local talent. The thing that made me feel good was, I asked Peter to play some blues to enhance my shopping experience, he did, and that made me happy.
Right after leaving the market with a bag of cherries, I ran into another neighbor and gave him a house tour. He validated some of my decisions about painting the brick and the new layout which made the place unique. If you count the kitchen that was done several years back, the renovations have been quite customized and geared towards pleasing me and not so much a future buyer. I don't/won't have the stainless steel, granite countertop, oak/maple floor, CAC, bricky exposed brick, standard tub, marble tile set up that has become quite common in many renovations. There is nothing wrong in liking and wanting those things, but they don't reflect me and my desires. I like my counter tops to be forgiving with china and glass. I love my heated floors and I love my radiators. The living rm floors were recycled from what was under the carpet. The tub, a used and now repainted clawfoot, promises me some soaking enjoyment with showering utility. The house has character, now hopefully, the good kind.
Then later that day I met up with a colleague at a mixer (the American Library Association was in town, did you notice?). We were talking, and I mentioned this blog that I'm going to semi-retire and spin off something else that excites me, neighborhood history. Then he and I got to talking about historic districts and preservation and realized we were of the same mind. I can't explain this joy that rushed over me, to encounter someone with a strong academic background in history and a true understanding that not every d*mn thing can be preserved. Then he mentioned that somewhere out there there is some data that recently shows that houses in historic districts do less well in the real estate market because of the restrictions. He also explained the difference between antiquarians and historians.

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Renovation 2007: Brick

I painted the exposed brick white. It looks lovely when the light from the outside streams in and bounces off the semi-gloss white. The problem, or more so a problem because it is interior, is the brick gets dusty. The brick that makes up my house has a lot of small holes, gouges, and was not laid evenly. This makes it hard to paint the exposed surfaces and what doesn't get painted sloughs off brick dust.
The big gouges mostly have gotten touched with some caulk. In some spots that has worked out okay. In other spots I see that so much caulk was squeezed into the cavity that it is beginning to shrink and separate from the brick.
It's white paint on white primer so that wall has gotten 2-3 coats. I can't tell because it is hard to see where I painted before. Yet the strong tell tale signs that I missed a spot is a thin layer of brick dust that shows up quite well on a white surface. The number of small holes in the brick is more than I can sanely fill with caulk, so I'm going to have to accept a layer of dust.

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Friday, June 22, 2007

Renovation 2007: I have toilet!

toilet and tub
Bathroom tub and toilet
Originally uploaded by In Shaw
On one side is a toilet, and I flushed it! On the other is a claw foot tub. The tub has a very generic shower head, which I will replace as soon as I am able to with something more fun.
The tub is dirty. So is the toilet, but I don't care. Ooh! Look! The toilet sits on top of the tile this time. Not in the tile liek the crack heads who 'renovated' the house did.
Technically I could move back into my house, but the contractor probably wouldn't be too happy if I did. I still have to paint the walls in the bathroom (that part above the tile), and paint the ceiling, because I was told, flat ceiling paint in the bathroom is a no.
The day when I can walk into LUSH and actually buy a bath bomb to throw in my bath is close at hand.

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Renovation 2007: Light at the end of the tunnel

I'm writing this between trips to the Home Despot and I'm really tired of running around. But what I am happy about is the sign of plumbers hooking up the toilets. Yay! Also David, my contractor, had me show his guy what to paint. He said that he really needed something for one of his guys to do, but I think he really hates the paint job I and my friends did. And the guy painting is saying I didn't have enough paint.
Speaking of paint, which I need to go grab after posting this. I still can't decide on the color for the living room. I had a paint fiasco, sort of with the Community Forklift eco-paint. As it was explained, they had some trouble with the color mixer and it is alright now. Anyway I wound up with two different colors of pink. I sort of liked one, and hated the other and didn't like the one I did like enough to go out of my way to match that color. So I'm looking at other pinkish reds. The goal is to have a red in the room, but not be overpowered with red. So I'm looking for a dark pink or a washed out red.
Anyway, the end is looking close. Once the toilets and bathtub are in, I just need to get carpet in and have the 1st floor sanded. Oh, and the heating needs to be hooked up. Then I get to save my pennies to get the AC hooked up next summer. And if I save a lot of pennies, maybe get that extra shower.

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Friday, June 15, 2007

The bathroom that might brake my bank


100_0427
Originally uploaded by In Shaw
This bathroom, still incomplete, because it needs the tub, toilet, sink and lights installed. They are things I already had or have been bought already. It's the labor that concerns me.
I knew that this bathroom would be expensive simply because of the tile. Tile and the labor to put in the tile. Tile is something I could do but because of the order of how the bathroom needs to be complete, some things couldn't wait for me. Because the toilet, tub and sink (things I can't install myself) go on top of the hexagon tile, which goes in after the tile baseboard (black tile). The space will be tight when the tub comes in so the walls go in before the tub.
What's left in the coffers is in the low teens and there are some important things that are still left to be done. Finishing this bathroom is one. And I can't help but wonder if I had gone with something more simpler if there would be more wiggle room in the building budget.

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Monday, June 11, 2007

Renovation 2007: Paint values

You know the values you have when you keep them even when they are at their most inconvenient. Thatís what I was thinking when I wandered over to the Home Depot looking getting painting supplies and noticed how much was the cheap paint. Well, the really cheap stuff was around $20 or less, but the higher quality paints were in the mid to high twenties. The eco-friendly low to no VOC paint, $30-$40.
When I was hit with the $40 price tag at Benjamin Moore for their semi-gloss low-VOC paint I started looking elsewhere. Community Forklift carries the American Pride brand of paint, selling between $29-$33 a can, depending on the finish. Cheaper but not as cheap as regular paint.
It would be easier on me if I just went with the regular old paint you find at Home Depot. And I went into the idea of painting the house myself (with the help of friends) to save some money . This paint is not money saving paint, but I guess saving the most money is not my highest value right nowÖ.. Weíll see if I can keep it up through this week.

PS-- I reserve the right to use whatever paint already my basement from previous paint experiments.
PPS- I want to publicly thank Cerise, Dr. So N Soh, and Elizabeth for helping me paint this weekend.

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Friday, June 08, 2007

Renovation 2007: Gone for broke

A number of people have mentioned that this renovation must be stressing me out. Up until last night it was just annoying.... now I'm stressed. Last night I got the latest bill. If this keeps up I'll run out of money in two weeks.
Completely tapped out. No other reasonable sources of money. Savings, wiped out. Stock, just selling the last bits today. Piggy bank, that was raided early, it no longer exists. I maxed out on the 2nd mortgage. Relatives, the older ones are still working because they can't afford to retire, the younger ones are young and broke. There is a 'do not exceed' amount in the contract, but I swear he doesn't believe me when I tell him once he hits that amount there is no more money. None. Zip. That's it. Pack up and go home. No, dude, really, I got nothing.
The end is sort of in sight but the problem is there are three things not in the house that is stressing me out. Toilet, bath tub and radiators. I was hoping to maybe have some money for AC as the stuff behind the walls have been put in, but now I'd be happy if I get my 3 plumbing needs.

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Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Renovation 2007: Paint

Today we are going to pick up tile I dislike. The sooner I get this over with the sooner I'm back in my house.
I am homesick. The that's what the writing on the wall says. Of course you need a flashlight to see that writing because I wrote out my frustrations on my flat white wall.... with white semi-gloss paint. Low VOC semi-gloss paint.
I did go over to Monarch Paints to grab a gallon of their eco-friendly paint. The negative to that paint, besides being $40 a gallon, is it only comes in the lighter colors and no hi-gloss. So maybe half the house will be done with this paint.
Picking paint isn't easy. I took two samples and tried them out and they were too dark. The first floor may wind up with 3 or four paint colors and they sort of have to work with each other and the very neutral color in the kitchen. The brick wall will be white.
I really want a nice dark blue, somewhere but I don't know where that won't be overwhelming. I was thinking the 1/2 bath, but when I put a sample in there it just seemed too blue. Really, really blue. Blue. Maybe if I had a lot of white shelves and the white sink and white toilet and white towels that would balance out the BLUE!
By the end of this week I will need to know what colors I'm painting the house. So far I know it is some combination of black, white, red, blue, brown and shades of gray. No purple, no lavender, and no peach. Though I really like peach, but all the peach samples I showed to co-workers look pink to them.

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Monday, June 04, 2007

Renovation 2007: Good news, Bad news

Okay first the bad news. Whilst chatting with the contractor about tile, he mentioned with happiness and glee that my house should be completely white because they put the primer down.
Me: Oh, okay. Except that one wall upstairs in the bedroom?
Contractor: Oh, sh*t.
Then he quickly got off the phone to see if he could stop the painters. Alas, he was too late.
I know everyone and their grandma has the red brick exposed in all of its red brick glory. I wanted to be different but then thought, it might be nice to leave one wall unpainted. So much for that idea.
When we got back in contact with each other he then mentioned maybe I could paint my walls this weekend. Huh? Wha? Paint? Now? So some of you, my dear, dear, friends, have received an email calling for a paint crew. I know I will need people next weekend, as I still haven't settled on a tile still and was planning on picking a tile this week. The contractor would like me to paint before the carpet goes in, and it would be even better if I could get to it before the wood floor comes back (HA!). I haven't picked out a paint color for any part of the house, except the brick wall, which will be a white egg-shell or semi-gloss. Worse yet, I want to use a low voc paint, and honestly I know of two places in car-accessible Maryland where I can get it. Please if anyone knows where I can get metro-accessible eco-friendly paint inside the city that can customize the color, tell me.
The good news? As soon as the tile goes in, the toilet goes in, and I get closer to moving back into my house.

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Saturday, June 02, 2007

Not so lazy Saturday

I took a nap and ate something so I'm not as grumpy as I was Friday. Anyway here's how today went.
Florida Avenue Market
Maybe it was because I went earlier than usual time. Maybe it was because the market has been receiving extra attention. I don't know, but the people who work there seemed.... friendlier. I was greeted, there was smiling. What's up with that?

Tile Shopping
Well my tile shopping has been more complicated than it really needs to be. I have gotten tile for the upstairs bathroom and the foyer, from two different places. The tile place I went to today, I should have gone to before and saved myself the headache. Morris Tile is in PG County and requires 3 buses to get to from the TC. I thought I would stay 20-30 minutes, but it was over an hour. My contractor said (more like suggested) the 1/2 bath tile should match the kitchen tile. Problem is I like my kitchen tile for the kitchen. The bathroom? Not so much. I found a 12x12 match for my 6x6 sample. But looking at it, I honestly wasn't too keen on it. If the kitchen tile wasn't an issue I'd pick small 4x4 or 2x2 mosaic and go for the subway tile look. The other problem was I haven't given any thought to the 1/2 bathroom's colors. I don't know what color I'm painting the wall. I haven't decided if I'm tiling the wall (more tile shopping, whoo-hoo!) or what color tile I'd use if I did.
After hemming and hawing for a while I picked a small 3x3 tile that matched and had a really cool pattern. When I went to ask how much it was $18 per sq foot. Yeah, a little rich for my blood. I need 47 sq feet plus 15-20% more to cover mistakes, waste, whatever reason my contractor gave me. The same color, but regular 12x12 size, just $3 per sq ft. I just didn't feel good about ordering a tile that did not make me happy. So after all the time I spent at the tile place, I left. The $3 tile is in stock, so if worse comes to worse, I'll have the contractor pick up that and suck it up.

100_0395.JPGMt. Rainier
After one bus back, on my three bus trip back home, I got off in Mt. Rainier, MD. I didn't see a bus to take me to Rhode Island Avenue so I wandered over to The Glut, a funky little all-natural co-op, round the corner and up the hill a ways from the Mt. Rainier Route 1 Circle of Doom. The Glut is one of those things that makes Mt. Rainier, funky. Just on the Route 1 Circle of Doom is a new (within the last year) coffee shop that opened up, the Artmosphere Cafe. And dangit, it's artsy. There was the prerequisite "local artist" type art on the walls and in the windows, announcements music lessons and other local arts activities, as well as the usual looking for roommates flyer on the bulletin board. Playing to an audience you could count on both hands, was a jazz guitarist. It had a nice laid back vibe, but not lazy 'laid back' as I've encountered in other places. I had lunch there, and it was quite good. I would go there again, and I did suggest to a friend about stopping by there for a bite the next time we go by.

Jimbo moves close to the TC
Well after two bus rides back to the TC and taking a nap, I ventured over to the new Jimbo digs. Lucky him, he's not next to the, um, how should I say it?... gathering of fellows that haunt the block. However he is close enough to the TC to hear the mosque's call to prayer. It will be interesting to see how Jim makes the place look once everything is tidied up.

I was wrong
I'm wrong about a number of things, but anyway. I had announced that there wasn't going to be a BACA garden walk, aka Flower Power. I was mistaken. According to Jim Berry's meeting announcement (this Monday, 7 or 7:30pm basement of Mt. Sinai Baptist on 3rd & Q), one of the topics will be Flower Power, so I guess it is on. My bad.

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Monday, May 28, 2007

Renovation 2007: Gardening is a pain


100_0359.JPG
Originally uploaded by In Shaw
Everyone says this renovation thing must be driving me crazy. Well, not crazy. Concerned. Concerned about staying on budget. I'm almost resigned to the idea that I won't have enough to hook up the AC. But the thing that is nearing crazy is not being in my garden.
Some plants are hanging in there. Watering is a problem, mainly when your contractor turns off the water, and somehow decides the pipe going to your backyard spigot was not really used for anything. It got worse as the weather warmed up. The plants in the smaller pots dried out faster and I think the dryness caused the cilantro and the onions to bolt. There are a bunch of alpine strawberries in an old DC recycling bin that have gotten along just fine without me.

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Sunday, May 27, 2007

Memorial Weekend Grab Bag

Lots of stuff all under one posting.
Shiloh- Well I spent some quality time picking up tile with my aunt, a long time member of Shiloh, and she briefly brought up the thing with the vacant properties. There was a meeting, at first she heard it was 3 houses, now it's 4, and May 30th isn't enough time. We'll see.

Speaking of vacant properties, Si K over in Mt. Vernon went all out and surveyed the vacant properties in the MVSQ region and found 100 properties, and 61 of them are taxed at the wrong rate. Read the report, with pictures here. This is the type of thing the city 'should' be doing.

Speaking of reports, in NE at the Florida Avenue Market Frozen Tropics has the Florida Avenue Market Study (PDF) that was presented, at one of the several information meetings about its general development, not the New Towns fiasco. Check of FT and Rebuilding Space's blog about the Florida Avenue Market.

As a housekeeping measure, I'm disabling comments for 2003-2004 posts.

Speaking of house. Renovation is going along nicely. I need to put up some more pictures at the Flickr site because the walls have been mudded and there is a ceiling. What I've been told, is that the trim and the stair railing will be next and that's going to take a while.

Hope you have a good weekend. I'm hanging out in the hood, while it seems everyone else left the city. If you are some of the few who haven't left the TC or MVSQ or central Shaw, drop me a line.

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Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Renovation 2007: Whoo, hoo, drywall and insulation


I went back to the house Monday to pick up an ingredient from the kitchen* and noticed there was something a little different. Hey, insulation! Work continues, despite waiting on the plumbing inspector. The electrical inspection was fine so there was no need to keep the wires exposed, however I noticed that the piping for plumbing was still visible.
So there looks like R-15 insulation along the problem party wall. So hopefully that will deal with any exotic smells and noise. When I ventured upstairs to see if they did anything up there, I saw the crawlspace with insulation, and lots of drywall in place.
It is now amazing to see the rooms with drywall . I can see how small the 2nd bedroom/ study/ walk-in closet/ whatever is going to be. I had planned to have made it smaller, and I'm glad my contractor convinced me otherwise.
This project is moving along quite quickly. Well, it has been going in fits and starts. Last week was a lot of nothing, waiting on the inspector and letting the plumber do his thing. At some point I'll be getting my pine floor back. It will need to be sanded, so another layer of dust on top of the dust that already covered the kitchen.

*Almost everything is covered in a thick layer of dust or dirt in the one room I thought they wouldn't need to touch.

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Monday, May 21, 2007

Renovation 2007: Radiators

I am keeping my radiators. I love my radiators.
During this renovation the radiators have been moved around and are no longer sitting right up on the walls. I figured this was an excellent time to remove the several layers of paint on them. So I spent an afternoon stripping the paint off of them with a heat gun and a metal scrapper.
I know the top layer of paint was good old latex paint, as it was the same color of paint that covered the whole house. However, that bottom layer, the layer above the rust colored metal.... I don't know what the heck that was, and it was a pain to get off. The latex bubbled a little but the paint under it just had to be burned off. Which then made me wonder if taking a flaming torch to the blasted thing would make my job easier. However, the risk of burning down the house, greater.
While I was scraping I was wondering about the history of the radiators in the house. Wondering when were they put in, were they painted then? Were they new or some old used ones the landlord dug up from somewhere? Then who put on the first coat of paint, and did that paint have lead? That's the question that made me hunt the job site for a facial mask.

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Friday, May 18, 2007

Renovation 2007: Inspections & Miss. Cel Lany

Well my contractor called and said that the electrical inspection passed. Yay. And because they can't do anything until the plumbing inspection there has been a lull in the amount of work they are doing at the house. Meaning, no one is around when say the plumbing inspector drops by. So there was a big red sticker (not orange but red) on the door saying that the plumbing inspector was by and there was no one to let him in. So that holds back the work until sometime next week when the contractor will wait around the house for the city inspector to come by and look at the plumbing.
The plumbing looks, interesting. He's using plastic or pvc or whatever the heck that is, instead of copper in some spots. I guess that saves me money, considering the price of copper. The radiator lines do have copper.
Once the plumbing inspection goes through then they will begin the dizzying fast paced work of insulating and sticking up drywall. That's when the walls will seem more real and I get closer to moving back into my house.
****
On the TC front it looks like the grant for the Hanover Civic people and their Truxton Circle confirming beautification project will go through. I say, looks like. Given that the city already calls the area Truxton Circle and the Hanover people need the money and a few of us sent letters in support of the Hanover grant, I think we should be good.
****
In the Shaw history research area I went to look for Shaw, Washington's premier Black neighborhood : an examination of the origins and development of a Black business movement, 1880-1920 by Michael Fitzpatrick at the MLK and it is lost. It might be misfiled but it wasn't behind the desk, like it was supposed to be. Nor was it on the shelf in the Washingtonia room. Confronted with this problem, I decided to leave the MLK, hop on the yellow line and go to VA to buy shoes. Cloth flats totally make up for a disappointing research outing.

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Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Renovation 2007: Bathroom flooring

I've run the idea of using linoleum (the eco-stuff) by my contractor twice. And on the second try he gave a strong 'no' and "I'm not putting that in". I'm not going to battle with him over the bathroom flooring as we have other disagreements I'd rather spend time winning.
Worse comes to worse I have tile options picked out already at Home Depot and Lowe's, but they aren't the kind of patterns I have in my head that I want. They are close enough. I know I want a black and white pattern for the floor and a white subway or field tile for the walls.

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Tuesday, May 15, 2007

BACA meeting, TC happy hour & etc

The lousy meeting notes from last week's BACA meeting are up at the super secret site. Okay user name is 'thismeeting' pswd: 'neverhappened'.
Also check out the TruxtonCircle dot Org discussion board as there is a TC happy hour in the works for June. I expect Eckington people to crash it. It's okay, we like you NoFlo people anyways.
Oh, other random things that I'm not bothering to link to because the links require 3 extra more steps than I care to take right now:
There were meetings about the Florida Market this week. (See Frozen Tropics and Rebuilding Space)
Arrests in the Montgomery schoolyard and rocks get thrown at Fox5 cameraman. (ANC2C)
The BACA website is not working for me. (DCBACA.ORG)
Big Bear Cafe said somewhere (probably on the Eckington listserv) that their aiming for a June opening. They open, when they open.
Soil samples are the new thing going on with the EC-12 firehouse.
As far as my renovation... waiting on inspections and I'm looking for the perfect tile. If you know where I can get a hold of a nice checkerboard black and white pattern for the bathroom, email me.

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Thursday, May 03, 2007

Renovation 2007: Community Forklift

I'm shopping for stuff for the house. Not furnishings but things like the tub, sinks, tile, etc. Things that reflect my tastes and budget. And that means running around to Home Despot, Lowes, and IKEA for some things and the Brass Knob and Community Forklift for older home items.
For things like clawfoot tubs and radiators I compared Brass Knob and Community Forklift. Brass Knob wins the beauty contest, but with my budget I'm looking at CF. 100_0142Clawfoots at the BK start at $450 for the ones sitting outside and at $850 for the nice re-glazed ones. At CF all the tubs sit outside and range from $200-$400 depending on how dinged up they are and if they have feet. The one pictured here had $400 taped on it and came with feet. It didn't have any dings in the tubby part of the tub, the feet weren't rusty and really there wasn't a lot the tub needed. There was another tub that had a ding or two on the lip and had rusty feet and it was listed as $250 with feet.
It has been a while since I priced radiators at the BK. Off the top of my head they were something like $9 a fin. I did get a price from CF which was like 1/2 that depending on size. Plain was @ 19" high $4 per fin, then 26" $5 per fin and 36" $6 per fin and the fancy just add $4.50 per fin over the plain price.
Unlike BK, CF had insulation, the denim kind. If you need more the fellow working there said he had more in the back.
100_0182

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Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Renovation 2007: Phone line in the loo

My contractor has one of those smart phone things, so he can be overly communicative in various ways. He sends me text messages, email and will call, a lot. The problem is, I don't think he reads the email till later. He'll give voice mail and texts an immediate response, so if I've emailed him on something and then he later calls about the same subject, there is a chance he hasn't read it.
The subject in this case, wiring. Electrical wires, phone wires, cable wires, and Ethernet wires. In the email, I said I wanted one bedroom to have several electrical outlets, phone, cable and Ethernet and the other bedroom to just have electrical and phone. Nope, the 2nd bedroom is getting cable and Ethernet 'cause he thinks it's best. Okay, whatever. Then on the phone he says something about running a phone line in the 1/2 bath. Um. Something seems oh so wrong about that.
I had a bit of a struggle with him on the Ethernet. He mentioned how everything is going wireless. Well, yes, but I want it hard wired, because these houses are small and thin and I really don't want to have a neighbor's wireless dohicky interfering with my wireless doohicky.

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Friday, April 27, 2007

Renovation 2007: I've got framing

The floors are now level.
The exact layout of the upper floor has been figured out.
There is framing.
All is right with the world.

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Monday, April 23, 2007

Monday Miscellany

Well the dinner honoring Our Great Leader Jim James Jimmy Berry, former ANC for the TC, this weekend was successful. A fair number of mucky-mucks, like David Catania, showed up to honor Jim. Some of us learned a lot about Jim that we didn't know. Like, hey he got married 4 months ago and she's quite pretty. But the main thing was Jim's leadership, not just with the ANC but in his professional and personal life. He is a humble man who serves, and his leadership was for all, newbies, old timers, all races, everyone. He was what was right with the ANC system.
Mentioning the ANC system, I'm a little fuzzy on aspects of the history of ANCs in the District, but I gather they came in with Home Rule (I dunno) and did what the various civic and citizens associations were trying to do. I will post a "Fun with ProQuest: Truxton Circle pt II", but while trying to figure out what was going on with the citizen's association covering the area that can be now described as the TC, I learned a little (just enough to be dangerous) about the neighborhood associations. I knew, because of B.'s research on DC stadiums, that citizen's associations were the white groups and the civic associations were the African-American groups. Whatever citizen or civic association held sway over the area, so far what I've found are really dull names, North Capitol Citizens(?), Northwest Civic, Central Civic, and Central Northwest Civic Associations. So, I'm going back to searching just Truxton Circle.
If you are just dying for me to mention something about the house, well Sunday we taped out the layout of the upper floor. It appears that I might have an extra foot that I didn't think I had. When I was measuring I had to employ my poor math skills. So the plans I drew up were more of a guide, because I'm using that extra foot for the small bedroom. Looking at the 2nd floor with no walls made me realize how friggin small these houses are and every inch is valuable. Which is why I nixed (along with financial concerns) the contractor's idea to make the stairs normal sized. The stairwell is less than 3 feet wide, and probably is a little over 2.5 feet. He mentioned widening the stairwell would make it easier to get furniture and other bulky things upstairs. Um, bulky stuff don't belong upstairs, because that whole not having a whole lot of space to begin with thing.

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Sunday, April 22, 2007

Renovation 2007: If I were a rich man, ha deedle deedle

....bubba bubba deedle deedle dum.
Got my first bill from the contractor. Yikes!! We are going with the system of labor and materials and labor was a majority of the expense. Because they kept finding crap. Crackhead crap that had to be addressed. Like the window sill whatever thing that was dry stinking rotted because it had a slight tilt that when it rained, water was led towards the house. The wood to replace the dry rotted stuff, pennies. The guy to fix it, not so cheap. The nasty hole in the wall. Bricks, got 'em all over the place, no problem. The mason to fix it... yeah. The contractor has a small crew of guys, guys who have to be paid.
So maybe the week coming up we will get to the fun part, designing and framing. I haven't given much thought to the fun part or designing the bathrooms. All I know is I like the tiny white tile for the floor. And I really, really need to get out to the various building supply places to pick out what I want before it gets chosen for me.
This would be more fun if I had a bigger budget. Which I don't have. I have to figure out what can be changed out later for higher quality stuff and what is more permanent, where I have to do it right the first time around.
No new pictures this week till I get batteries for the camera.

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Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Renovation 2007: 3/4 bath bites the dust


Joists- Front of house
Originally uploaded by In Shaw.
In my renovation plans and drawings I'd planned to put in a shower. Well that's bit the dust.
Mainly because I'm really concerned about keeping the costs down and all these hidden surprises cost money to address. The new find, located under what was my main bathroom floor, joists that were seriously gouged. One of the joists looked as if there was just 1 inch of wood keeping it together.
So, I've decided is to keep enough space, in what was to be the 3/4 baths, to put in a shower later. Yes, I know I will save money by putting it in now. However, in the here and now where I only have X amount of dollars and when I run out of X amount, that's it. No 3rd mortgage. No selling of the kidneys. So I'm cutting out the shower and before this is over I'm sure it won't be the only thing cut out of the plans.

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Good bones is a f*ing lie


I'd been thinking about what Justin B. said to me some time ago and he restated it again when I emailed him yesterday in response to his mass "we're OK" email. He said that you don't know if your house really has good bones until you've gone through your crawlspace and looked at them. Basically, the line 'these houses have good bones' is a crock unless those bones have been examined. Don't assume that just because your house has been standing for 100 years it isn't itching to self destruct in the next few years.
I'm now afraid to get calls from my contractor. I swear every time he calls, he's telling me he's found some fresh new horror. And we're just starting. Yesterday's find was more missing brick behind drywall. He's amazed at how whoever did it chose to hide the problems rather than fix them. Then later he says we need to 'talk' about the windows.
I just wanted to move the bathrooms around. Maybe have a nice wood floor, that's all. Some insulation here. A new door there, and I'm done. Instead I'm addressing whatever emergency endangering the structure of the house because in the 130 years the blasted thing has been standing, it hasn't occurred to anyone to do more than the odd crappy patch job. Bathroom floor rotting? Cover it with tile! Massive hole in walls? Cover with drywall! Sagging joists? Water damage? Cracked plaster? Hide 'em all with drywall.
Yeah, I'm bitter.

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Monday, April 16, 2007

Renovation 2007: So I have a crap house


The contractor is concerned about the party walls. I'm not too keen on them either, as it seems I could remove the mortar with a toothbrush it's so sandy. The walls won't be a problem he guessed in the next 20-30 years. But after that, who knows. How the heck do you fix a wall you share?
I really don't believe this house was built that well to start with. There have been a couple of problems I found that I'm not sharing on the blog, for various reasons, that relate to the fact that mine was built for poor laborers by a single landlord. There were shortcuts made evident when walls were exposed. There are other things that make me wonder if the 1870ish landlord got these houses built fast and cheap.

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Friday, April 13, 2007

Renovation 2007: Shock & OMG

On an intellectual level I knew he was going to take out the walls and investigate what was up with my house. I was not prepared on an emotional level for what I saw. Now the contractor was as giddy as a schoolgirl and very proud of the work done, when showing me the results. Work, that seems to me went a little, ok very overboard.
Weren't we keeping the plaster, and that other thing, and what the hell did you do with my ceiling?
On an intellectual level I see the importance of taking out the drywall of a wall. A wall that was hiding the fact that the upper portion of my stairs were not supported by anything. Sort of like the hole in the wall that wasn't supported. You can see the hole, or better the chunk of wall ready to fall through the floor, in the back of the room near the doorway. There was other crap hidden under stuff, like the bathroom floor was near rotted.
On an emotional level. Different story. Which is why my renovation eye-witness may be spotty in the future. What I felt standing alone in a gutted room I was not prepared for the weight of all that just happened and what is to be, sinking in. That and the sound of the wall chunk shifting.
I just don't want to see my house until it is in a more hopeful state. I don't think I want to even go near it, but I have to because the mail forwarding hasn't kicked in yet.

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Thursday, April 12, 2007

Renovation 2007: Morality and floors

Well I was planning on a whole angst-ridden piece about what kind of floors I was looking to put in for Friday's posting. The problem or the source of angst was one of the moral quandaries I had with my choice of flooring. I thought I was being all good and wonderful by choosing bamboo flooring. Then I read a Treehugger article about how bamboo is filled with formaldehyde, made under poor working conditions, isn't local and thus requires a fair amount energy to get to the East coast, etc, etc, etc. And despite my desire to do right and and go for the more expensive cleaner (working conditions, older farms that don't deforest, etc) bamboo flooring, I just can't afford it. And there is a lot I can't afford, where doing the right thing just falls to the wayside because simply put, I don't have the money for it, particularly when crap like the hole in the wall appears, sucking money from one thing to fix this other thing. Good Lord knows what else I may find that is a budget killer.
Well the floors may be a non-issue. Apparently, I have some heart pine floors. Heart pine, that can be kept, buffed up and made nice. Maybe. It was a small portion of the floor. When the whole of the floor has been revealed, then maybe, hopefully, keep your fingers crossed & pray, the whole thing will be worth saving and I don't have to worry about bamboo floors. If not, maybe maple from the USA.

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Monday, April 09, 2007

Other opinions on the hole

I have shown the hole, the one in the load bearing wall, to a few folks.
Auntie, who came by with the camera to take pictures that she can't seem to email to me, just said, "Oh."
IT looked at the hole as well as a lot of brick I exposed and he expressed concern about the mortar in the party walls, remarking that there was lots of sandy mortar. Sandy, sandy mortar.
Lastly, I was able to get a contractor to look at it. After a string of cursing and tearing away the hanging plaster, he expressed disbelief in the idea that someone thought they could get away with hiding this. Well it's gonna add to my construction costs. Lucky enough, there was a steel beam that could support the wall already supporting the floor of the kitchen. However, walls and part of the ceiling in the basement may need to be exposed to deal with the problem. And maybe a wall in the kitchen. Two places I thought would be free from construction, so I didn't bother packing up those rooms. Now I have to.

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Friday, April 06, 2007

Renovation 2007: Thou shalt not kill

Forgive me, O Lord, for the sinful thoughts that welled up in my heart, for desiring to hire a hit man to deal with a certain Nigerian contractor, and place in my renovation budget. May the murderous anger that fills me be replaced by charity and forgiveness. And I ask, may I not find any more like surprises that trigger these thoughts in the first place. Amen.

I haven't mentioned him in a while because dang it, I moved on, and I just attributed many of these things to nameless 'crackheads.' Yet, I am going to say, and warn all who read this posting, if you meet up with a Nigerian contractor named Sunny, don't let him anywhere near your house. If you buy a house that was recently 'fixed' or 'renovated' by this man, tear everything down to the party walls and the joists. Why? Because this man's 'work' is dangerous.
I've begun part of the demo in the house and while whacking away at sections of drywall I discovered something that makes me afraid to sleep in my house. Sunny, being the contractor who 'renovated' the house for sale had a false wall near the part of the house that meets up with the kitchen.
I had gathered that the false wall was built to hide the radiator pipes. Yes, that and something else. There was a big crack hidden behind the wall that I'd seen the top of and figured I would fix in this renovation. This week I pulled back more of the drywall and discovered that big crack jagged down to an enormous sized hole about 2 feet wide and 1.5 feet from the floor. This hole continues through the floor revealing the joists and the drywall for the ceiling of the cellar.
Unfortunately I haven't gotten a real camera yet and my Palm camera can't get the lighting right so I'll have to describe this. Start about 4 feet from the ground with a crack in the plaster. Go down about 1.5 feet and increase the size of the crack creating a 1/2 gap in the crack. Three feet, make the gap 1 inch. Then from there open up a big hole, where near the top you see a brick hanging loosely. Behind most of the plaster surrounding the hole, nothing. At the bottom of the hole you will see joists, wires, and three bricks sitting on the ceiling of the basement.
The reason for the murderous thoughts was what the big hole meant. Above the wall that sits between the 1 floor kitchen and the main structure is an exterior brick wall. I've always wondered what was keeping up that brick wall seeing that the basement didn't continue that wall..... Apparently, nothing! Nothing is keeping up that wall! That wall being my bedroom wall, the wall that my bed leans on. Sunny's cheap ass slap dash crackhead work put the structure of my house and possibly my life in danger. I. Was. Livid!
I can forgive the superglued plumbing, the unsecured plumbing, the wiring that makes no sense, the toilet encased in tile, the poor paint job, the crooked windows, and the nasty textured paint, but this, no.

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Wednesday, March 28, 2007

B is for Building permit

Well I got one friggin expensive building permit in my hot little hands. Two percent of labor plus $30. Not good when you guessed high on construction costs.
It wasn't that bad, but not that good. I'm still reeling over the sticker shock. I was thinking it might cost $200 maybe $300 dollars in all. Nope. More. Considering some of the tales I've heard about the permit process I guess I should just shut up about the price and be happy.
DCRA has a section for homeowners to deal with permits. It took three visits, mainly because I had no clue. First visit, I really didn't have my drawings all right. I drew only part of the house, apparently, I needed to draw the whole house. And I needed to draw in the electrical, the mechanical and the plumbing and the drawings have to be bigger than your standard 8x11 piece of paper. I got the vibe that they would have really preferred if I had real architectural drawings drawn by a real live architect or other building professional with a clue. Not my equivalent of a random idea drawn on the back of a cocktail napkin.
So I go back home, and ask IT for help. He was kind enough to try to give me a crash course in architecture. Three years of architecture school boiled down to an hour or two, but just the diagrams-good-enough-for-the-permit-office part. Have I ever mentioned what a great guy, a great neighbor, IT is?
Anyway, I get some larger lined graph paper. Redraw my house, all floors, with everything. I have diagrams showing the house as it is now, the house as I hope it will be, diagrams to show plugs and lights and some other drawings to show how many things in the house use the pipes. I made copies at Kinkos, because the drawings can't be in pencil, and I go back to the Homeowner's Center. The guy checking the diagrams and my permit application, pointed out that some things were missing/ not to code, etc. He was nice enough to hint at what I needed to do to make it fit code, keyword, hint. 'X' needed to be fixed, well now I know that X was wrong and needs fixing, but it's up to me to figure out how to make X fit code.
So back to the drawing board. I fix X and some other stuff that I noticed he missed. Then back to Kinkos for three copies. Then over to DCRA. After about what seems to have been an hour of questions about my diagrams, my application, and what I was planning to do, I got a permit.

ADDENDUM
I believe and I really wasn't paying that much attention but on the door of the Homeowner's Service Center was a 8X11 sign saying that they did not handle properties in Historic Districts. There are other things the office does not deal with. Porches. I was told early on that if I wanted a permit to improve my stairs, which work but need to be a foot bigger, I'd have to deal with public space since your front yard is not your front yard, it's public space. Except when there is a problem with water pipes, and WASA tells you that the land in front of your house is yours. So the porch falls under, stuff to do if I have any money left.
There is a PDF file DCRA has charting where some jobs fall in the system and what can go through the Homeowner's Center. The Homeowner's Center's goal is to serve within 2 visits. I might have been able to do 2 visits if I had some clue about building codes, and had complete plans.

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Monday, March 26, 2007

Contagious construction

When I first moved into the house I was excited to do a little fixing here, a little fixing there. Then I hit what I called the 3rd year slump, which basically boils down to "I'm tired. I don't want to do this anymore." And that's why I'm paying people to come into my house and fix it.
Well this weekend I helped a gal from my church (and reader of this blog) do some demo work in her new house. She's recently come from a church sponsored trip to New Orleans where the group demoed some houses damaged by Katrina. Everyone I've spoken to who have come back from there raves about the work and seemed to be energized by it. So that same post-New Orleans energy was in the air, as well as lots of dust, as we whacked at her walls, knocking down Sheetrock and plaster.
With the right tools and extra hands, this knocking at walls business seems, dare I say it, fun. Also the brick behind the drywall and plaster looked beautiful. I know the case is not the same back at my house. We got a workout swinging the hammer, chiseling the plaster and whatever that stuff under the plaster happens to be. The process took me back to the new homeowner excitement of trying to imagine the space as something wonderful, once all the demo and construction has been done.
She's saving some money by doing the demo work herself. I could save money by doing my own demo as well. When I came home after knocking the plaster off her dining room wall, I felt the desire to demo something in my house. So I pulled up a little carpet. But then I realized I didn't know where's my crow bar and my utility knife is a bit broken, and I needed to shower, and I wanted to take a nap too. But I still got a little of the demo-your-house bug. I want to take apart carpet and demo some walls, the easy stuff, before the serious work of building and fixing starts.

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Monday, March 12, 2007

Sick and moving

I think got whatever headachey, muscle ache, toss yer cookies virus that's floating around. It was bad last week, and then I thought I was well, but then I went out with some friends and quickly discovered, no, I wasn't well. This weekend, same thing, I thought I was over it, and was proven wrong.
Part of me wonders if I really am sick or just anxious about the whole renovation, move out the house project. I've been packing and the house looks naked. Wall hangings have been taken down, most furniture has been given away, promised away, stored away, thrown away, or set in the big honking "Goodwill" pile. Having to figure out which of my worldly possessions goes into which category, has been challenging. Half of what is in the Goodwill and give away categories, I'd keep if I wasn't desperate to cut down on the amount I need to put in storage.
Then there is the issue of where am I going to live. I do have options outside of the borders of Shaw and I am really thankful for those who have opened their homes to me. However, they are not "in Shaw", nor close to the TC, so to answer Dr. Soh N. So's question of am I going to blog while I'm gone, the answer is I don't know. Probably not as much, which means I'll be putting pressure on Truxtonian to blog. If a suitable short term rental pops up in my hood, then I'll look into it.

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Monday, March 05, 2007

Update on last two posts

How to keep a parking space clear, crazy lady failed to keep moving. After I typed up the posts I got ready to head out and just kept hearing her, expecting the loud incoherent babble to die down as she moved down the sidewalk. When I got outside, she had parked herself on B & IT's porch to smoke a cigarette. B&IT were out so I gathered it was up to me to remove this interloper from their property.
I asked her to to move. Nicely. Babble, babble, "call the police then." I responded, "OK, I'll do that," and went inside to call 311. I described the woman as mentally ill to the dispatcher. Maybe 'crazy' would have been a better word as I am not a psychologist, never took a psych class, so it was just my layman's opinion. The dispatcher questioned me about the 'mentally ill'..... Anyway, I described how the woman was acting, yelling at people and so on.
I waited about 5 minutes, keeping an eye on the woman from my 2nd floor window. She looked up at me and more babbling. I saw a police cruiser come down the street and when I saw him, she finished her cigarette and got up from the porch. I figured I could leave now. The officer stopped the woman and talked to her. When I came out, I asked the officer if he needed me. He asked if I had called it in, I said yes, and he said no. I went my merry way and prayed that the crazy lady would get the help that she needed to be less crazy.

On Renovation 2007: Postpone? I am going to move forward. I picked contractor #1 as we found a way to make it more affordable and he said he could do the project later in fall. But he'd really, really, really, would like to start as soon as possible. Really. Electric and plumbing permits, as far I understand it are up to the plumbers and the electricians. I'm not putting in new outlets. The newest electric thing would be the AC. The contractor also suggested reusing some things like my toilets (provided you can get the one encased in tile out without breaking it) and one bathroom sink to cut down on costs and keep things out of the landfills. Keeping the bedroom light fixtures, the radiators, and we'll go around later to pick out what stays. The carpet goes.

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Saturday, March 03, 2007

Renovation 2007: Postpone?

As of this morning I'm thinking of postponing the project till Fall. Maybe during Spring and Summer I can deal with the permits, getting rid of stuff, some demo so that certain things won't be a complete surprise, and work on the garden. I am determined to do this project this year, that's the one thing I'm certain of, even if I'm getting cold feet about a bunch of other things. One of the reasons I'm mentioning the renovation and my thoughts on the blog is so that I have some pressure outside myself to get this thing going. But I woke up this morning and I just did not feel good about my choices, where I am in the planning, and a bunch of other things. I can't postpone too long as I can hear the house moving and slowly falling apart and that needs to be addressed soon.
Let's see what I feel like tomorrow, after a good night's sleep and church.

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Friday, March 02, 2007

Well that's depressing

My choices of contractor are disorganized and expensive, or shall I say beyond my budget. Disorganized is within my budget, and has refs, and a very, very positive attitude, but the disorganized demeanor is maddeningly off putting. Beyond budget did my kitchen so there is already a relationship there. But the price quoted was above what I took out as a 2nd mortgage, and short of working a 2nd job I can't see where else I can come up with the extra cash. I'm beating myself up for not interviewing more, and I'm wondering if I should postpone the project so I can try to raise more money or interview more contractors.
Another issue is housing during construction. I want to do the project before the Summer intern invasion, so I'd have choices. Plan A is find a place via Craigslist or the City Paper and stay there for 3 months (or hop from one temp situation to another) while the house is under renovation. Plan B, stay with Aunt in Hyattsville (all other area relatives are so non-metro I won't even consider them) and commute back into the city via bus and train. I would prefer to stay in Shaw, or places that are Shaw-adjacent, or right on the Green line*, so I can closely monitor the work. I can't monitor jack in Hyattsville. So if you know anyone renting out a small cheap-cheap room, nothing fancy, 'cause really all I need is a bed, a shower, and a microwave, in Shaw or a Shaw adjacent place. If you know of such a place available in April shoot me an email mari @inshaw

*When I say right on the green line, I mean, 5-10 mins walking (not driving or biking) from the station entrance.

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Thursday, February 22, 2007

Holes in the wall

I've been putting holes in my walls. Just to see how much wiggle room I have in creating a new space.
Well, now I know. And now I know why I can hear things so well. There was like an inch or two between my drywall and the party wall. With no insulation.
When I get insulation I see that I'm going to lose some floorspace and some square footage. I don't know how I feel about that. It's has yet to really sink in. I want quiet. I like space.

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Saturday, February 10, 2007

I'm at the starting line and I want to quit

Okay I've talked to DCRA about permits and two contractors. I'm tired.
First contractors. I've talked to contractor #1 who did my kitchen. He's offered a free used boiler he pulled out from his last job (but labor will cost me) and I'm taking him up on it. The reason being is I called the eco-guy and he said if I could keep something out of the landfill and get 5-10 more years out of it, it would be a good thing. So contractor #1 will have scored brownie points. Those points will be awarded when I get some actual heat. Contractor #2 was unavailable. So contractor #3 became contractor #2. I had him over, he seemed to have really wanted architect designed plans. What I had was okay, but.... ya know. He did had a really can do, let's get on this attitude. I got the number for a contractor #3 from Blagden Alley (thanks) but right now, I don't wanna talk to anyone else.
It's moments like this where I see being single has its negatives. It would be great to have another person with just as strong as an interest in the project. Or at least someone else to take on the contractor talking to bit.
Next, DCRA. I talked to someone at their Homeowner's Center. The person at the other end was helpful and pointed out some things that would have to go through the regular permit process. The fence and front stoop are on "public space", so that will have to go through the regular process. Getting rid of my unused chimney and flue, needs a structural engineer to sign off on it. They can handle the moving of the two bathrooms. Unfortunately I haven't settled on what kind of air conditioning to get. They want plans for that. But I can't get plans for that because I don't know what the eco-guy is going to recommend, as it really doesn't take that much to cool the house. Three window units did the trick last summer. Who knows, maybe a big honking through the wall unit in the back of the house will go there. And the gas fireplace will need a diagram. I may just throw that into a phase II project.
The major work on the house is Phase I. The basement and all the other little stuff that can get done on its own, Phase II. There is a Phase III, but I'm not even thinking that far ahead.
I've drawn up plans, with my little hands and talking with several people there are things I have left out. DCRA wants to know where the lines are going. I have no idea where the lines are now. I need to show where the doors swing. I need to show closets and electrical outlets and lights. Feh! I may need to hire IT to draw up plans after all.
I'm tired and I want my mommy.

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Friday, February 09, 2007

Renovation 2007: Resale repeated

I've heard 'resale value' so many times now that I want to make a drinking game out of it, if it weren't so disrespectful of those speaking, who I know mean well. I have gotten so good pointers and have been challenged, in a good way. But still there is that value that I keeps getting repeated that just seems to undermine my status as a homeowner. Every time someone says something about resale I take it as "hey you are just a renter with a mortgage."
One of the joys I looked forward to as a homeowner is the possibility of customizing the house to me(without violating any major laws or codes). That drywall, I can tear that out. You know why? 'Cause I own it. So now I'm all prepped to customize a good portion of the house based on my wants and desires and (most important) budget and I'm supposed to think about some future buyer. The house was designed by crackheads, they didn't give a rat's ass about me, why extend the same? What I will do for future owners is do my best to make sure the house is structurally sound. That's it.
I don't care about the money. I have too much equity. Because of my income I can only tap into part of the equity. I'd have to sell the house to get the rest. And that is as the house exists now, with no air conditioning, a busted boiler, crappy carpeting, warped floors, and crackadelic design.
One sin against the creed of resale I'm planning is getting rid of the closet in one of the bedrooms. I've heard that a bedroom needs to have a closet to legally be called a bedroom. Ok. Stick an armoire in it.
There were a couple anti-resale moves I considered, but decided that the generic solution could be worked around or was more economical. At some point I did play with the idea of not having a single tub in the house and just have a really cool shower. Then I also looked at ductless AC. Decided that if the ducts are on one side the house they can get camouflaged with a certain decorative idea I might do if I can afford it.

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Wednesday, February 07, 2007

The best laid plans are probably in a pile somewhere

Today I mailed off a list of what I wanted done for the house and a rough drawing of the desired layout to Contractor #1. I was going to show the plans or the simple layout I had drawn up to IT and also drop off a copy at Contractor #2's house. But dang it, can't find them. I remember writing them up and photocopying them but I'm clueless as to their current location. I looked in the usual piles of paper, where graph paper and penciled writing lay, but not the final draft. Early drafts showing the house as it is laid out now, I can find copies of those. Drawings pondering slight adjustments, radical, kooky, and odd adjustments, yup I can find those too.
Worse comes to worse I'll redraw them. Start with a rectangle-ish shape representing 14'x26'x15' (house is widens). Throw in some stairs. A bathroom here, a half bath there, remove a wall and done.
I'll probably have something for Contractor #2 in a few days and will call Contractor #3 tomorrow.

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Sunday, February 04, 2007

Furnace saga continues

Well Lem did check out my chimney and there really wasn't anything blocking it. Then he looked at the furnace. Now here is the part were I accept all responsibility for my heating woes. He noticed that it was gunked up with black stuff. Apparently I failed to clean it for the past 5 years. The last guy I had come in to cleaned offended me so badly I refused to bother with anyone else. So I've learned my lesson. And for a short while the broiler worked. The radiators got all warm and I got happy and then the Carbon Monoxide alarm went off. And I turned the heat off. Then the radiators got cold and I got sad.
Now I am keeping the place warm with a bunch of heater fans and I'm planning to go out and find other heating sources because I give up. I planned to get rid of that broiler anyway and I really don't want to throw anymore money at it. Also talking about my heating woes to any poor slump who'd listen, I was told to look into a gas fireplace by a few people. They swear those things put out a lot of heat and can work during a power failure.
So in 2 weeks I'll have my list. Well now I do have a list of the major things it's just the thousand little things, like doorbells, that I need to write up.

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Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Renovation 2007: Ruba dub dub, I still wanna tub

Problem: I gotta small house.
Problem #2: I want a nice little soaking tub for the occasional soak.

I've looked at the tubs out there. If I lived in the UK this would be easier because the tubs over there I swear are more bathing friendly. Also I found some tubs that would be the right side and the right depth on the wrong side of the pond. This project will not involve US Customs.

I made a chart of the different bathtubs that I liked. I listed their price, length, width, outside depth and soaking depth. Then played out various scenarios with having a soaking tub upstairs, a soaking tub and shower upstairs, or a soaking tub downstairs and a shower or tub shower combo upstairs. Then trying to fit the various tubs in those scenarios. And please, no comments about what is needed for resale value. I've got so much friggin equity in this house, I could trash it and still make a profit. Besides, this is for me, not the next set of owners. My only obligation to them is to maintain the house so it may continue to stand.

Then the other thing I have to consider is that I MUST move my upstairs bathroom. The waste pipe for the upper bathroom currently blocks the front door from opening all the way. I know. My house was designed by crackheads. And this is the same bathroom with the toilet encased in the floor.

Right now I've got a lot of options, but I don't know if any of them will work.

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Monday, September 27, 2004

Or I could move

My architect neighbor, who I admire and adore, and his partner came over for dinner. The purpose besides neighborliness was to talk about possible additions to our homes. These additions would not show up until well into the future (ie when we pay off our second mortgages).
We were talking and though it I believed I heard their concerns. From what I heard I understand it would be preferred if I didn't build to the property line. Ok. Well I guess I have to scratch a certain idea. Oh well.
The thing that got me was the ballpark figure given for what I'd like to do, with smaller footprint. $300,000. Dang. For that amount of money I could move. If it does cost that amount I would move into something newer and roomier. I was thinking $100,000 and that's taking in cost overruns and working around the kitchen. The price I heard for some other neighbors to put on their addition, $35K, maybe I could do it in my range.
He did suggest something I will take into consideration, doing one side of the house. The additions I want would be for the back of the house. He suggested doing what I need to do to the front of the house first. Fixing the windows and doors and expanding the space of the bathroom. Ok. That sounds do-able.

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Tuesday, June 08, 2004

House P-rn

Note: The title was changed as it kept attracting questionable searches. 6/17/08

Not Penthouse but This Old House.
Stuff that excites, titillates, but has no resemblance to your reality. This is house porn or decorator porn. Face it you don't have the money, time, or skill (in my case a lack of skill and money) to get the same look that you saw on HGTV.

Ah, HGTV. The good reason I don't have cable. When I am in a hotel or visiting a place with cable I am glued to HGTV. It is the Playboy channel for me. My mother, the worst homemaker in the world (but I love her anyways) did not really understand this whole business of wanting to go through the trouble of painting and pasting and building just to change the "look" of a room.

I have a whole bunch of decorating DIY magazines littering the house, some stuffed under my bed so I can go to sleep with house fantasies in my head. I need to weed my house of these things 'cause the truth with house porn, as with most porn, it ain't gonna happen. I am not putting on addition anytime soon. The spiral stair idea is not right for my house. Open space, well I'm going to hire people to do that and I'll need the $$$$$. Kitchen, done, can't do no more. Bathroom, see open space. Can't even do some of the garden ideas due to lack of space and sun.

Like most porn, it just leaves you frustrated.

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