Thursday, July 31, 2008

Slowly but surely

I have been working on patching the holes in the kitchen wall in fits and starts. I got the first coat on all the walls tonight and Thom will be tackling the taping and first coat of mud on the ceiling this weekend. It would be great if we could have it all painted and get the lights up by next weekend. After that, I'll be working on sanding, priming, and painting the cabinets. I'm honestly a bit nervous about it but I have the trusty guide from last month's This Old House to assist me.

In the meantime, the tax man cameth but did not taketh all my money this month so I was able to order the countertop from Ikea (and almost gagged when I saw they charged over $100 for shipping up to the boondocks up here!), get the paint (where they asked me, "Are you still painting?"), the rest of the lights from Lowe's, and we'll get the new stove hood/vent from Sears and the cork floor tomorrow. We were going to get the floor from Lumber Liquidators but we also saw over $100 for shipping and said forget it. We found the kind we wanted at Home Depot for a bit less and they will ship it to the store so we can just pick it up and save that money. It's coming along!

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Patching the holes

We took a couple days off to celebrate our first wedding anniversary down in Portland. It was our first trip down there, despite the fact that it's only 2 hours away. It's very hip and cool and we would highly recommend it for good food and lots of fun hippie action. We had dinner at a fabulous restaurant called 555 where they made us this beautiful dessert.

Anyway, on to house stuff -- after our taping lesson from Paul the other day, we've been working a bit on patching up some of the holes in the wall (from the electrician, the crown molding, and the drop ceiling grid). It's a slow process and I admittedly am not very good at it. I've got about half the room done though and then we'll start taping the ceiling, which I have a feeling will not be so much fun. One thing at a time, though, right? After that we can get it primed, painted, and put some lights back in our kitchen!

On a related note, does anyone know where I can find a new doorbell cover? We have an old nasty plastic one that covered the actual bell in the kitchen and I can't seem to find a new one anywhere.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

A home improvement haiku - dedicated to Paul

I dedicate this home improvement haiku to Paul, who generously donated his time yet again today to teach us how to tape drywall. We're not so good at it yet (admittedly Thom is better than I am, however) but we're learning. It's already starting to look better with many of the gaping holes now fixed. Anyway, this is for our super friend, Paul:

Ye who knows a lot
And passes on this knowledge
Is a friend indeed

Thanks, Paul!

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Never put up drywall before = really sore

This was our first drywall experience - putting it on our ceiling no less. All I have to say is, man, those suckers are heavy! Did you ever see the scene in "Death Becomes Her" when Goldie Hawn hits Meryl Street on the top of the head with a shovel? That's how my neck felt: like it was being pounded down into my chest. But, it's up. And that's all that matters. Many thanks to our fantastic friends - Nuri who lent some wonderful muscle and Paul - oh, Paul...he does so much for us. Three cheers for Paul!

Hopefully we'll do some taping tomorrow and maybe later this week or next week we can finish it up. Then on to the countertops and painting the cabinets...

Friday, July 25, 2008

I'm so ready to be done with this project

No pictures to show you because things haven't noticeably changed but it's amazing how much work goes into getting ready to do drywall. Since we're doing a bit of a patch job - using the old furring strips from what looks to have been the second ceiling of tiles - it's been shoring up some of them, reinforcing some others, pounding in nails, and just making sure things are relatively level (no such thing as really level in this old house). Anyway, a lot of work this week doing those minor things that surprisingly seem to suck up so much time.

So, yeah, we're ready to be done with this part of the kitchen. It will be nice to have a ceiling up tomorrow - even if just not to have wool insulation falling on our heads (and into our food) 24-7. We won't really have it all done and the final layers of joint compound on until probably next weekend but at least we'll have a solid surface back up there again. Here we go - bright and early tomorrow morning!

Monday, July 21, 2008

Those pesky gender roles

Those of you who know me know that I'm a staunch feminist. In fact, I even teach a women's studies class from time to time. Perhaps that's why I get such a kick from doing all this home improvement stuff. Not only do I enjoy it for the extrinsic satisfaction of seeing something go from ugly to nice, but I think I also get some level of satisfaction from knowing that I, a woman, did it and I did it well. It's a pretty groovy feeling.

But, not all in the Bangor Foursquare feel the same way about this stuff (although I'm not sure which way our cat, Mancha, falls on this issue). Thom and I had several chats about this stuff this past weekend. Unlike me, Thom doesn't get a great deal of satisfaction from being sore and bruised, and from getting dirty and sweaty (go figure). However, I know he really struggles with being a man who is not interested in doing home improvement, especially when I am doing the work on my own. I keep telling him that I'll ask him if I need help. Of course I enjoy doing this stuff more when we do it together but I also know it's not his bag and I'm totally okay with that. Too bad the rest of the world isn't as okay with it.

In fact, when I was teaching the women's studies class last month for summer session, we talked about gender roles in class many times. Several of the students protested, saying that they didn't think gender roles really existed as much as they used to. So it was funny to tell them about being outside painting my garage when my neighbor walked by and said to me, "You're always working on the house. You should have been a man." Or the neighbor on the other side, when seeing me working outside, will say to me, "Where's your husband? Why isn't he doing this?"

Anyway, my point is this: I think we need to get away from labeling people based upon their genitalia. If Thom doesn't enjoy re-wiring the kitchen, that should be totally fine, just as it should be totally fine that I do enjoy it, despite the fact that I have ovaries. There should be no guilt, no obligation, and no prescribed way for feeling anything about what was traditionally "a man's job" or "a woman's job." Phooey on that. Why can't we just have "people's jobs," huh?

And that's all I have to say about that.

An ode to home improvement

I don't know about you other home improvement types, but I really get an immense feeing of satisfaction doing this stuff. Really. As in, really and truly. Like I could do it all day long and never get tired of it. I enjoy the work that I actually get paid for, of course, but there is this deep, earthy feeling of wholeness that I get when I do any sort of work on our house.

Case in point: re-wiring the kitchen. Doing any kind of wiring used to scare the heck out of me. I was really, really freaked out about doing this part of the kitchen renovation. I suppose it's the fear of the unknown but it really made me feel uneasy. Now, not only knowing how to do it but even to feel comfortable doing it is really satisfying. And it just feels like a real sense accomplishment. I'm not sure if other women feel this way doing this stuff, but I think it's really empowering to know that I could do it. But it's really about knowng that I've gone from something like this:

To something like this:

Now, don't get me wrong. It's not all butterflies, puffy stickers, and rainbows; it's hard work. I don't think I've sweat as much as I have in the past three days. I also am not sure what kind of allergic reaction I'm having to the mounds of old blown-in wool insulation that keeps falling all over me, but it's red and it's itchy. I have more bumps and bruises, scrapes, and sore muscles than I have ever had in my life, and we seem to be living in perpetual dust. But, you know what? It's still awesome. Three cheers for hard labor!

Sunday, July 20, 2008

An Open Letter to our Kitchen's Prior Contractors

Dear Lazy-Ass Contractors:

What were you thinking? My husband and I have spent the entire weekend fixing your unbelievably shoddy and ridiculous work. Whether it was removing eight nails from a small piece of molding, re-running wiring that was incorrectly installed, or pulling down the the falling plaster that was hastily smashed out. Seriously, what were you thinking?

With all our loathe,
The New Owners of the Bangor Foursquare

As we were just eating dinner I said to Thom, "I feel more exhausted than I did yesterday but what did we do today? We spent 9 hours working on the kitchen and I'm not sure what we have to show for it." What did we do today? Thom finished taking down the old crown molding (admittedly the only nice surprise hiding under that drop ceiling) as he is much more patient and gingerly about it than I am. Then we spent the rest of the day pulling wire over the old lath on the ceiling and trying to repair the mess they made of the wiring. I think the most frustrating part of the whole re-wiring saga is the fact that the electrician hired to do this did so as part of the conditions of the sale. In other words, this work was done for us just a few months ago. Knowing he was not only a lazy ass hat but that, more or less, we paid for cruddy work, it's enfuriating to have to redo it all over again.

Thank goodness, once again, for our friend Paul. We got to a point today where we felt we did all we could within our comfort range. I think that was the first time I felt really unhappy and a bit freaked out. The thought crossed my mind: What did we do? Why did we pull all this down? Did we just make a huge tiny mistake?

So, it was so cool to have Paul come over and in 30 minutes explain what we needed to do and then demonstrate it. I was able to re-wire the last bit without any problem after his marvelous demonstration. The most upsetting thing is that Thom and I are horrified that our new, wonderful friends think we're total moochers who only call them when we need something. What a terrible thing. We have decided that after this project, we're not going to do anything for a long time so we don't have to call them for anything other than to see if they want to hang out. What amazingly nice and generous friends they are and we are so lucky to have stumbled upon them.

Anyway, a few pictures to show you what's what. Believe me, it was a lot more work than it looks.

The only nice thing under the drop ceiling: the old crown molding

The eight bajillion nails that are clearly needed to put up this small piece of molding

More lovely surprises behind the soffits (random drywall?)

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Take this job and soffit

Way before
(like before we bought it) The first strike
All soffits removed

Does this count as before and after? As in:

BEFORE: looks not so bad.

AFTER: looks like a crack house.

They do say it's always darkest before the dawn, right?

Lots of work today. We're pretty tired. We pulled down the rest of the drop ceiling metal framing on the walls and then tackled pulling down the soffits over the cabinets. It really opens up the room and we think it will look great once the cabinets are painted. Much lighter and brighter. Of course, we did find some surprises (it wouldn't be renovation in an old house without surprises).

Lots of holes in the plaster - so there will be patching this week - and lots of weird wiring - which we'll be re-routing tomorrow. We're excited, however, that we're going to get Paul's (loyal readers should need no description of Paul, super friend/awesome dude) help next weekend to get the drywall up on the ceiling.

Thom also spent an hour gingerly removing some the beautiful crown molding we found under the drop ceiling. It doesn't go all the way around the room, however, so we'll have to see if we can find something similar at a local home store and then we can put it all up after the drywall is up.

So, all in all: Huge mess, lots of dust, but it's looking better and bigger everyday.

(You better believe we're entering the contest - we need the gift card to buy some more hepa filters for the shopvac)

Friday, July 18, 2008

Beware of the Craigslist Scammers

Thom and I got our first dose of wise-the-hell-up this week. We have been trying to literally give away this wheelchair ramp to no avail. We have called everyone and their non-profit brother to donate it to a needy individual and we haven't been able to get any takers. In our desperation to ditch the thing, we posted it on craigslist this past weekend just to sell it and get it over with.

I got several responses - one from a man who was extremely interested immediately (we were asking $500 for it based on others for sale on the list). He wanted a photo, which I found odd since there were already two on the ad. Then he wrote back saying he wanted it, that he was going to send us a check, and that he would arrange for it be picked up - all very plausible. It's 26 feet long and quite a monster - if the guy's in a wheelchair, he couldn't pick it up, right? I say, sure, here's our address and phone number to arrange for it to be picked up.

Then I get this email from him:

"Yeah i got your information..i will like to inform you that my assistant have mailed the payment to the address you gave me..So when you get it just take it to your bank and have it cashed then you will deduct your money and you will send the remaining balance to my shipper because the payment is made in excess just to make sure it covers shippment. I will provide you my shipping company info immediately you notify me that you've recieved the payment so that you can send the balance to them via money gram transfer..they will come over to your place with thier shipping truck to pick-up the item immediately they recieve the balance from you. Let me know if you're alright with this and i promise you will get the payment soonest.
Thanks for your understanding and patience."

I know, I know - it probably seems glaringly obvious to you that this was a scam but not only did he sound like he had a disability, he also didn't appear to speak English all that well (by the way, my 5th Grade Spelling Bee Championship implores that I mention that this is the exact email copied and pasted above - I would never use that grammar nor spell that atrociously). On top of all of this, this was our first time trying to sell something on craigslist and we were just plain naive about the whole thing.

After much hemming and hawing and multiple emails between Thom and me about this situation, I finally checked on craigslist and found this to be a very common scam that we very nearly fell for. I'm still waiting for this "check" to show up; it should be interesting. In the meantime, I contacted the Federal Trade Commission and reported it and forwarded his email (not that it was a real name or email address) but I feel better nonetheless.

So...anyone need a wheelchair ramp?

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Tale of Four Ceilings

We did some heavy duty work today on the kitchen ceiling. We pulled out the ugly tiles, did a bit of de-wiring and pulling out the existing fluorescent lights and the pendant, and then pulled down the metal track for the ceiling. We found that there was the original plaster, at some point pulled down, then covered by a tile ceiling, those were then pulled down and the drop ceiling was put up, we pulled that down and will be putting up drywall.

This was before - note the beautiful fluorescent lights.

This was midway - ceiling tiles down but not lights.

Here's what it looks like now.

I got sick of trying to pull down the metal ceiling frame that was nailed to our beautiful plaster and gave up. What a mess!

It's going to be a lot of work though. We're going to need to pull down some of the mess - don't know how much. We're considering putting up some 2x4s and going from there - it will drop the ceiling down a bit but it might be better than dealing with the big mess we have up there.

I'm tired. I am going to get a hot fudge sundae.

Friday, July 11, 2008

First kitchen mini-reno purchase

With the $300 we received from escrow on our painting, we decided to buy at least one item for the mini-renovation we're going to do on the kitchen this summer. This beautiful track light from Lowe's. (although ours is oil-rubbed bronze with champagne glass shades):

Believe me, we really agonized over this lighting thing but I think it will serve our needs best and is very affordable. Discovering the wiring nightmare under the drop ceiling also necessitated something easy and simple.

I'm thinking we can do this thing for about $1500. With new IKEA birch countertops ($170), a new cork floor from Lumber Liquidators ($800), painted cabinets ($60), new hardware ($50), a microwave cabinet and bookshelves from IKEA ($180), a new coat of paint ($30), a mini tile backsplash ($100), and another new pendant light ($30). We're thinking we might start doing a bit of the work, including taking down the ceiling and rearranging the wiring, as well as starting to paint the cabinets. We'll figure out drywall for the ceiling later (when our awesome friend Paul can help).

Monday, July 7, 2008

Little projects



Since I am barred from doing work at the office this week due to construction, I tried to work at home today. Unfortunately, I didn't get much done in regard to work but I did paint the woodwork in the entryway and stairway. That's something, right? It's not a huge change but before it was this dingy cream and now it's a nice, crisp white.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

The official beverage of the Bangor Foursquare

If I haven't shared this with you yet, Santa brought Thom a brewkit last December and he has been furiously brewing away ever since we moved in. He named his first homemade creation (i.e., he created the recipe, toasted the grains, etc.) after our house. It's pretty tasty, if I do say so myself. He even designed the label. Groovy!

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Painting done

Hooray! The painting is complete on the north side of the house as well as the garage (which I did) so we can get our whopping $300 back from escrow. Of course, this doesn't nearly cover what we paid the painters but it will be nice to have all the FHA mortgage stipulations taken care of and done with. Maybe I'll use the $300 to buy paint for the cabinets in the kitchen and a new light.

I'm also including a photo of some flowers that just bloomed on the side of the garage. I figure I better take as many photos as I can before some loser comes by and picks those too.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Progress on north side of house

It has FINALLY stopped raining so we can get our house painted - at least the one side. They primed about a third of it today and it's starting to look less like a crack house and more like a nice house. Progress!