Saturday, October 29, 2011

Brightening it up

When I first walked into this home back in August, I thought to myself that if I got this house, I couldn't wait to rip off the valance over the sliding glass door, and do something to that horrid little fireplace.  It's such an awkward setup - the fireplace in the corner, and with it being all dark and brick, it was just a black hole!  So today, I got out the leftover tan paint from the walls (it was freshly painted - not my first choice of color, but it will do for now), and painted the fireplace.  Tedious work - but what a difference!
Now it blends into the rest of the room, and suddenly, arranging the furniture doesn't seem so complicated.  Also, getting rid of that curtain valance really cleans up the room.  I've got a set of nice, neutral curtains that I am going to hang tomorrow; a LOT of sun comes in during the late afternoon.
I know some people aren't thrilled with painted brick - but this was not pretty brick, my friends.  We are planning to eventually drywall over this, add a nice mantel and tile later, but this free update really freshens it up.  And, as I was cleaning the junk away from the corner (American flag, some random dowels), I see on the floor a gas valve -- what?  We have a gas fireplace?  We were told this was a wood-burning fireplace.  There was so much soot and ash left in the fireplace, you can't even see the gas pipes.  I shoveled all the ash out, found the hatch for the cleanout and discovered the gas pipes, which look pretty rusty.  They'd need to be replaced, but at least the gas is run.

Well, in other news, it looks like we won't have the bathroom finished before we move in.  That's not totally unexpected, random plumbing and electrical issues took up more time than we'd hoped for.  We are hoping to get the shower functional during this next week, but we have to move in tomorrow so we can vacate our rental by Monday.  We may have to live with a plywood floor for a week or so, but nothing we can't handle.  The first house we remodeled together didn't have a functional bathroom for well over a month, and we managed.  The hardest part will be keeping our troublesome cats out of there, it's a veritable playground for the naughty kitties!

Friday, October 28, 2011

Sometimes it's the small things

Above, on the left, the original light fixture for the entry.  Hilariously old, but really I still have a secret attachment to it, so it may end up somewhere else (after being cleaned up and brought back to a tarnish-free finish).  On the right, the new hall fixture.  Sigh. I hate the ceiling tiles, but that job has to wait its turn on the ever-lengthening list. 

Today, we continue work on the bathroom - most of the plumbing is done, but we have to finish electrical before we can get the drywall going.  Here's a look at the change so far:
Before and after looking from the doorway - we removed the shower and the built-in closet.

And of the view from the back wall by the window looking towards the hall.  We took out the tub and tiles. We're changing out the door to a pocket door since the room is so small - having a swinging door either blocks where we will put the vanity or the toilet - so a pocket door is just the solution.  I love pocket doors - this house has several, so it's consistent with the rest of the house. I took down the original panel door, removed the laminate and I'm sanding/refinishing the door to use in the pocket.

We have to move in this weekend, finished bathroom or not.  So we better be getting busy!

Monday, October 24, 2011

Oh, Rubbish...

The pile of trash is growing...

If our yard was even remotely attractive, I would have rented a dumpster to get the demolition trash out of the way.  A lovely pink tub, piles of plaster and broken tile, plus a lot of old wood full of nails -- yep, that's the view from the living room right now.

On the bright side, demolition seems to be pretty much done, and tonight we got started on the plumbing: new hookups for the laundry area in the garage (although I have to buy a washer and dryer still), and the drain system in the house got roughed in. 

I also changed out the light fixture in the front entry, but forgot light bulbs, so I didn't take a picture.  Meanwhile, I'm also getting stuff moved over bit by bit.  The weekend will be here before I know it and we'll have to move all the big stuff, too!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Progress -- still demolishing!

One of the things you find out when you do any kind of renovations is that no matter what you gear yourself up for, there's always something else that unfolds along the way, making everything more complicated.  For us, it was finding that there was a 2 1/2" mortar bed under the tile floor and an equally hard mortar bed behind the tiles around the tub.  Getting these broken up was a back-breaking job - enough for Dale to get his back strained so that Friday night, he was very stiff and in a lot of pain.  So we took one night off, then got back to work on Saturday. 

This morning, we picked up a jackhammer so he could make quick work of breaking up the floor.  Within 45 minutes, it was broken up into small pieces that I could carry out, and he was on his way bringing the jackhammer back to the tool rental place.  When he got back, I was just sweeping up, and now the bathroom is a nice, blank slate.

You can see the floor is two different levels -- higher by an inch on the right in the picture above, where the tub and the linen closet were.  We then took off the subfloor in this area - we need the floor to be all one level, so we are dropping the higher section down and bringing the lower section up, each by 3/4" - which will work just fine.  Taking up the subfloor also allowed us to get a good look at the existing plumbing, so we can see how we are going to run the new plumbing.  On the right here, the existing tub/shower will be split into two runs, one for the sink to the far right, and the second shower head near the back of the wall shown above.

On the picture on the left, the existing sink plumbing will be moved to the right and higher for the other shower.  At least we're leaving the toilet plumbing completely alone!  You can also see in the picture to the left, the old wall heater, which was totally rusted out, but the wiring was still live.  When we went to check out the breakers, we were lucky enough to see the bathroom ones labeled.  So we flipped that breaker and disconnected the wiring there and another box that had been closed up.  And since we were still working in the area, we just left the breaker off.

So - while we still had a rental truck, we went to the home improvement store and bought our long list of supplies; wallboard, cement board, plywood, lumber, plumbing and electrical supplies, insulation, vent fans and a window, among other things!  Our goal is to keep the remodel around $2000, and we spent about half that today.  We drove back up to the place to unload the truck and store everything in the garage - and none of our lights would work! We thought it was because we had put in a work order to change the electric and gas utilities over, and we ended up unloading everything in the dark.  It wasn't until I went through the house getting things locked up to leave that I noticed Dale's circular saw had it's powerlight on - glowing in the middle of the dark house.  Wait a minute....I flipped a few switches, and found one light that worked -- it turned out that one of the breakers we flipped had to have nearly 3/4 of the circuits on it -- whoa, we need to check into that.  But we felt pretty silly stumbling around in the dark, when all we had to do was flip the breaker to get light back on!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Demolition begins on the bathroom

Got the keys this afternoon, and Dale and I grabbed a bite to eat and headed over to the house to tear some stuff up.

The vanity was a real trip to pull out - it goes against my nature to break things up if someone else could use them - on home improvement shows they always show people bustin' stuff up with sledgehammers, when you can usually just unscrew things and take them out in one piece.  Well, that is not the way it worked with this ugly vanity - we had to break the whole thing up into bits.  For such an ugly thing, it was sure built to last!

The walls and ceiling were covered with a smooth laminate - it was contact cemented to the walls, so that was a lot of work to rip out.  We had to break it off in small pieces to fit in the trash, too -- it was brittle and sharp.  And don't the walls look fabulous with the dried glue all over them?!  It actually looks worse now!  All this will be covered with nice fresh greenboard.

My job was to dismantle the built in linen cabinets - this has to go so we can put a shower in.  Again - built to last, and I had to dismantle the whole thing with a sledgehammer and pry bar.  I did save all the drawers - we can use them for storage and I've got a few design ideas they might come in handy for.
So at the end of the first night (and we actually don't officially own the house until tomorrow!), our bathroom looks ten times worse than it did when we started - but we're on the way.  We did find that there was some extra-strong construction that would normally be great, except when you're trying to take it out:  the floor has a 2" thick cement slab (which made us wonder why it cracked) that will need to be jack-hammered out, and the tub surround also has a one-inch thick mortar bed which also needs to be jack-hammered out.

Since it was getting late and we don't want our neighbors to be mad at us before we even move in, we finished up for the night by dragging all the trash out to the curb.  Tomorrow Dale will get an earlier start on hammering out the concrete floors and walls. I've got to work late, so he'll be working solo for a bit.

We also bought a new lockset for the front door - this place had been a rental and who knows what keys are out there floating around, so that's the first thing he'll do tomorrow!


I picked up the key this afternoon!  Yipee!

Demolition begins tonight - hope Dale doesn't have to work late.  I also scheduled a truck for the weekend so I can get a bunch of stuff moved over, even though we hope to get the bathroom 99% finished before the final load gets moved.  Since we have to pick up supplies - lumber, drywall, etc, it will be handy to have a truck to zip across the way to Lowe's or Home Depot.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Getting closer to closing!

We met at the escrow company last Thursday to sign a pile of papers, looks like we may close on Tuesday.  We did the last walk-through on Friday (to be sure it's in the same condition as when we agreed to buy the house), and got some last-minute paperwork signed and forwarded.  So hopefully we are in the final stretch.

One of the things we will have to do a lot is get the back yard looking decent.  The plants that are there are overgrown and not all that attractive, the grass is dead and the trees are a mess.  So I know I want to do some work to get the yard looking good, but I don't want to spend a fortune on plants.  I'm a big fan of Freecycle, a web service to get rid of things without throwing them away - I've gotten some great plants from both there and on the 'free' section of craigslist.  

These succulents were a craigslist score, and the cannas and the phormium were from Freecycle.  We've also got a bucket of horsetail that I've culled from the overgrown beds here at the rental house we are in - there was a straggler tree that needed to be cut down and in order to do that, I had to clear out some of the overgrown plants.  I ran out of pots and so it's in an old stucco bucket! On the front porch, I've got some taro plants, more succulents and a rhododendron.  We also picked up some rose bushes, but they're looking a little less than healthy right now - they might have been dug up earlier than they should have by the people we got them from.

Someone listed some agapanthus this week, which is one of my favorite plants, but I have no where to put it right now!  But I'm going to contact them later this week to see if they still have some left --
One of the best things about living here in California is that plants grow beautifully -- and I should be able to get my yard landscaped for next to nothing.  Too bad we weren't already moved in - last week, someone posted 3000 sq feet of brand new sod that they'd used for an event - it was placed in the morning and they needed someone to come pick it up that night at the end of their event! Hoping that I can make a good score like that when I'm ready for it!

Saturday, October 08, 2011

....still waiting.....

Well, I'm trying to be patient, but I am really anxious to get the closing done with so we can get started! We spent the evening at the new place last week, while the heater guy was getting the burner replaced.  We got a chance to wander through the yard, check out all the drawers in the garage, put light bulbs in all the overhead light fixtures so we could check out the rooms -- we just want to get started!

One of the things that we'd like to take advantage of, however, is a grant program that targets folks buying their first home in California.  It's $10K, worth working towards since it'll pay our closing costs and part of a down payment, but it turns out that we make just a bit too much money together, so our lending agent restructured the loan so it's just taking my income into account, so that added another week or so to the process.  I was hoping to get closed at the end of this coming week, but I don't think that's going to happen, so there goes another weekend!

I did get these really cute end tables on craigslist this weekend - $40 for the pair. I have a fun project in mind for them, so maybe tomorrow is a good day to get that started.  One of the things we've discovered in the past couple of years is that modern furniture styles just aren't our thing  -- so I'm looking for more traditional pieces, and these fit the bill.  Terrible picture, but it'll only make them look so much cooler when I take pictures when they're done!
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