Thursday, August 31, 2006

Exterior Before and After (and more pics!)

OK! I finally got some more pictures up on the website to complete the gallery (so far) of rooms. I added the basement, 3rd floor, bathroom and miscellaneous other pictures that I have been meaning to put up for a couple of weeks now.

I'm most excited to finally have some exterior before and after pics. We have the two main exterior projects done- the roofing and the painting. Can you believe it's the same house?!

Getting rid of that awful green roof was such a relief!
Who would have thought choosing an exterior color scheme could be such a process... We wanted to keep some color, but also be classy... Tans and Browns were in the running for a long time, but it seems like so many people are doing that, and we wanted to be a little more original. So we went with blue. And I think we're both happy with the results. There will be some dark red trim highlights one of these days!

Monday, August 28, 2006

Housewarming Day

well, the housewarming was an overwhelming success, and my anxiety attack is officially over. no one thought we were crazy, and everyone loved the house. we worked our tails off getting it ready... i think i swept up another two dog's worth of fur. but it was worth it... everything is clean (*for now*)!
the day was gorgeous, the food was good, and the company was awesome. sean and i fell asleep saturday night talking about how blessed we feel to have so many people around us that care and support us.
we got some really cool housewarming gifts too- for anyone looking for something unique to give consider:

A basket of fresh veggies from the local farmer's market! YUM!
A photo album for house pictures
A "garden angel"
Candel holders that spell that word "H-O-M-E"
A subscription to "This Old House" magazine

Sunday we took what we thought was a well-deserved break from the house and went to the state fair... the great Minnesota get-together! Mmmmm cheese curds.....

Sunday, August 27, 2006

How a ceiling project turned to plumbing...

We didn't realize we inherited a plumbing project when we bought this house...
We just thought we had an ugly dining room ceiling. According to the p.o.'s, the tub in the upstairs bathroom overflowed and leaked down throught the plaster ceiling. But, rather than fix the plaster ceiling properly, they installed a dropped ceiling a'la 1970 to cover the holes.
When we walked through the house the first time, we lifted up the dropped ceiling tiles to see what was underneath, so we knew there were issues, but we couldn't see the plumbing- just the lathe where the plaster had come down.
So, on day 1 after closing, we tore the ceiling down (which was in the plans all along), happy to replace it with drywall, close it up and be on our way to other adventures.
Instead, the open ceiling revealed lead drains where leaks had been fixed with more lead solder, galvanized supply pipes up to the bathroom, connected to copper down below.
(cue the big long "sigh".)

For those who aren't plumbing-savvy out there, mixing copper and galvanized pipes is a recipe for corroded pipes and lousy water pressure.
lead- well, lead ain't great either.
so now we had an open ceiling and pipes that, though not immediate issues, would need to be replaced soon enough.
plumbers are expensive- which I'm sure isn't news to anyone out there. (enter random curse words).
so, we did what made the most sense at the time...
we left that project, tried to pretend the gaping ceiling hole didn't exist, and went on to another project we could hear calling our name.
This was about two months ago...
i looked at the dining room ceiling again today.
guess what- the hole's still there.
( i keep hoping a home improvement fairy will visit us in the night and we'll come down one day to find it all closed up, plumbing done and all.)
but in case that doesn't happen, we've started making our game plan.
it involves PEX tubing, which, by all accounts is the best thing to happen to plumbing since, well, ever.
hopefully we will start the project this week.
but i might say that next week too.
i'll keep you posted.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Housewarming Count-Down

In approximately 12 hours, Sean and I are going to open our house and our chaos for all the world to see. (Ok, well, anyone in the world that we've invited to come see it.)
I don't know why I feel a little apprehensive about this... We've told them all that the house isn't done yet- there is plenty of "work-in-progress."
But there's a little voice inside my head that worries, "I hope they don't think we're crazy..."
Even though it's probably true that we, along with most other old-house-afficianados, are a touch on the certifiable side.
So, we're going to mow the lawn and clean up the yard (the best space for people to hang out in) and hope they overlook the fact that there is a gaping hole in our dining room ceiling, or that we still have plumbing hardware all over our basement waiting for us to get to that pipe replacement project.
I'm sure it will be fun. Maybe I'll put up a checklist next to the various paint samples on walls all over the house and have them all vote on their favorites.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Surprise! Rotten Rim Joist

We learned the hard way that paint can hide a multitude of structural problems. When we started scraping at this 20-year-old paint job, we found the back rim joist of the house rotted beyond repair. We're lucky Sean is a carpenter and could fix this himself!

Monday, August 21, 2006

God Bless the Invention of the Roof Nailer

Ah, back to the real world this Monday morning. We had a fabulous and productive weekend. The weather was PERFECT after a steady stream of heat and humidity that made outdoor project work miserable. The best news of all: THE GARAGE ROOF IS DONE!!!!!!!!!
Sean gets all the credit for that. Ok, I helped nail a few shingles and did some layout. We started by hand-nailing, and then after we finished one of the four sides, we broke down and when to Home Depot to rent the roofing nailer. The rest of the roof went about ten times faster.

Two of the 3 porch columns are painted too. And the master bedroom window finally opens!!!

The painter painted all of the windows shut (which is apparently what you do when you paint a house), except that he left to study abroad in Chile before he had time to pop them all so they would open. So we have had NO windows that will open in our entire house until now. We will be popping more very soon.
More on the painting horror stories to come... I have a little blogging catch-up to do!

Sunday, August 20, 2006

To roof or to paint? The exterior's saga- Part 2

The roofing bids came in all over the place... our top bid was upwards of $15K (For that price they better use gold shingles!)... our low bid- which was from the union shop we wanted!- was about $6,500. We were ecstatic that the company we wanted actually gave us the best price. We chose our Timberline 30 Yr architechtural shingles, scheduled the date, and were on our way!

The painting.... well, that's a different story.
I knew someone who had worked for student painters for three years, and he was looking for work to do throughout half the summer- he was going to study abroad mid-summer and a painting company wouldn't hire him to work for just part of the season. It seemed like a perfect match. We needed someone that could do it for a really reasonable price- he needed a big job to keep him working and earning some quick $$$... Except that I don't think he realized what a huge job painting this house would be. He gave us a good bid- an hourly rate, which included all the prep work and priming, and little things like taking off the storms, re-putty-ing the windows that needed it, etc.
I could help with whatever I felt like I could do, but the major work would be his responsibility.

2 months later we are regretting that decision... while we are still painting the things that he "didn't have a chance to finish" before he left.
As of today, we still have to:
1) Clean up all the stray paint on the windows, pop them back open, and put the storms back on (once we figure out where each of them go- he didn't leave a map and the masking tape on each window faded with the first rain.)
2) Paint the porch
3) Paint some trim boards left undone
4) Touch up some random places on the siding that we have found unfinished
5) Put our downspouts back up
6) Paint the downspouts
7) Fix all of the other random things we find everyday that went undone in the painting process.

To his credit, he worked his ass off scraping the entire house- and it needed it. And he did it almost all by himself. But we really needed someone who could finish the job.

So, lesson learned: It's a real gamble to hire someone out and pay them for time and materials- better to get a written estimate for the entire job and an all-inclusive total, especially for the big stuff!!

To roof or to paint? The exterior's saga- Part 1

When we saw the house the first time, it was a given that it needed to be painted. Grey-blue flakes were chipping off on every side- the forest green trim and baby pink front porch weren't any better. (Grey blue, forest green, and baby pink- what were they thinking?!)

It had been at least 20 years since the house had seen a decent paint job. Our new neighbors told us that the previous family had tried to paint the house one side at a time, but did each side several years apart... which explained the slight color difference from one side to the next. To get the house ready to sell, they tried to patch up some of the rougher spots. So, the new paint patches stuck out sore thumbs against the faded grey-blue siding. Our home insurance company had insured us with the understanding that the house would get new paint before fall, so we were sort of locked into that agreement.

And we also needed a new roof. NEEDED. As in, we put buckets in the attic during the first hard rain. A handyman had patched the roof with new shingles nailed UPWARD over old shingles. Not a pretty sight.

So this was a dilemma from the start.

When my association painted my condo's house (similar in size and structure), it was nearly $8K, and that house was in MUCH better shape. With estimates like that, there was no way we could afford to hire a contractor to paint AND a contractor to roof. We had a budget of $10K to do both projects this year. So, it was likely we would have to do one of the big projects ourselves.

Sean was pretty sure he could do the roof. I was not so keen on that idea. Ok, he's a carpenter, yes, but this is a three story house with dormers and hips and all kinds of chaos. I didn't want our first months of homeownership bliss marred by a quick 3-story fall.
Since I had two months of the summer off, I was pretty sure I could paint, with help. I've done a decent amount of painting, and I like to do it. He started looking for roofers. I started looking for bargain painters.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

to-do or not to-do

I've thrown the "to-do" lists out the window. Next Saturday, we are supposed to be having a housewarming party, and of course, there are a thousand things we were "supposed to" get done by the time we actually had people over.
These were not lofty goals.
They were simple things, like: Finish painting the porch. Finish painting the guest room. Finish painting the upstairs hall. Finish painting the spots on the exterior where the moron student painter didn't quite get. (Can you see there's a lot of painting left to do?)
Nevermind the "finish replacing the old galvanized pipes to the upstairs bathroom and get the ceiling closed up in the dining room" or "Finish tearing out the nasty faux brick paneling in the kitchen and re-drywall the whole darn room."
Now I think we'll be lucky if we just get the yard cleaned up a little so the kiddos can hang out OUTSIDE.
It seem that our progress has slowed to a crawl since I went back to work full time. (Is summer really almost over?!) Sean is also working 10 hour days, so we are just beat on the weekdays and most of our work is confined to the weekends. In my head, I know things take about ten times longer than you think they will. But when I imagine what we will "have done next week," I go back to fairy-land and forget the real world of jobs and dogs and surprises like leaking kitchen sinks and talkative neighbors that wonder if you could "just help them with that one little thing..."
The project this weekend: Finish fixing the wood-rot in the window sills so that CAN actually get painted!

Enter Blog-land

So, here I am in blog-land. I'm a newbie at the blog thing. And at the whole house-restoration thing. But I hope I've got a steep learning curve, because we've jumped in the deep end with both feet.
I've been addicted to old houses since I lived in Ann Arbor, MN. I worked in a great old house at the University of Michigan- the best office I'll ever know- it was the former library of the old Madelon Pound House. Think original shelves, bay window, ceramic tile fireplace... yes, in my office.
Fast forward a few years and a thousand miles or so to St. Paul, MN, where I live now- a mecca for great old homes. I knew I loved old houses when I moved here, but I knew NOTHING about caring for a home. Heck, I didn't even know how to mow a lawn. I was 23 years old and single, without any family within a thousand miles to help me. But I knew I needed to live in a place with history... with character... with a story. As corny as it may sound, the need to own a old home was something I felt in my blood... I couldn't be happy with modern fixtures, new lines, attached garages, carpet (GASP!)...
I bought a condo in a converted mansion. I figured that I could work on the inside, but I wouldn't have to do anything to the outside... yet.
The condo is a story all in itself- but the long and the short of it is that, in the five years I owned the condo by myself, I learned how to paint (the no-brainer of all home improvement), re-tile floor, replace plumbing, drain radiators, re-finish cabinets, use a closet full of power tools, and yes, mow a lawn. (Thanks to all the kind souls who had the patience to teach me a thing or two!) I also met a boy that shared my passion for home projects, and we quickly outgrew the condo space.
So, Sean and I now have ourselves a monster four-square... and a set of projects that could last us the next 30 years!

Friday, August 11, 2006

"Just Looking"

Shortly after Sean and I decided to buy a house together, we started "just looking" to see what we would both like together. Our tastes in homes were decidedly different- He imagined himself in a ranch; I hate ranches and have always lived in two-story homes. He liked more modern lines. I have always been attracted to older homes with antique features.

Sean, a carpenter, had been thinking about building a home before we met, so he was excited about buying a home that would have "projects" for us to work on. This is one area where we agreed- it would be great to work on a home and make it ours together. Be careful what you wish for! In our "just looking" phase, we came across an open house for an old four-square. It was reasonably priced for the size, so we decided to take a look to see just what was "wrong" with it. And we fell in love on our first walk through. This was in March.

The house haunted us as we looked at others. It kept coming up in our conversations..."You know that house on Randolph..." as we made comparisons to other homes. So we got a realtor and looked at it again. And again. The 3rd time we saw it, we spent a long night at a local pub talking about our options, and we finally made our offer- May 2, 2006. It was lower than asking price, and with a couple concessions... the house needed a new roof and new paint ASAP- two MAJOR expenses right up front. We weren't sure how it would be received.

But the next day, we got the call- Our realator asked excitedly, "So, do you wanna buy this house?!" She accepts! With a mix of shock and excitement, and a little fear, I think we both admit, we said YES! We closed on June 9th...