Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Week Five, Day Three

It would seem that my house has reached just the level of livability that I don't quite feel pressured to do regular home improvement. That, or I have reached my stress threshold and have exhausted my work reservoir. At any rate, there are clearly still things to do but these last couple of days I have had a hard time getting my energy levels up. I think this is just a slow point in terms of house stuff, as I'm very overloaded with school work, and I anticipate getting back on the wagon very soon. In the meantime, I will try to accomplish some small task each day, even if its just pulling a few nails out of the hallway floor.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Week Four, Weekend

Well, there are times when having a more intimate (read: family/friends) following for your blog is a good thing. One such time is when you have set some very laudable but perhaps slightly unrealistic goals which were subsequently lost in the hustle. This weekend was one such time in what will likely be a steady flow of goals belatedly obtained (but nonetheless obtained!).

All that is just saying that I was not quite able to reach my four weekend goals. In fact, I would give myself a scanty 75% on just one of the goals. I managed to get most of the living room painted--just one more wall needs one more coat, then I will be taking my painting party up the stairwell. I also got much of the furniture arranged in a semi-pleasing arrangement. I picked out a new shower curtain rod that isn't ridiculously small and got my curtain up (must cherish any accomplishment these days).

As I like to say, last week I was "big" and was able to set some large goals. I wasn't so very big this weekend, but I still did something and was able to cut myself some slack. I did get a plant diagnostician (aka boyfriend of a friend) to take a look at my plants on Saturday, which revealed that my apples are shot for the season due to a fungus, but it seems that I am "lucky" that my fruit trees are separated by a house, as the peaches and pears are flourishing. Those are exactly my kinds of plants--low maintenance yet high achieving. A new metaphor for life!

Let's hope I grow in psychological stature this week...much to be done, and only a thirty year mortgage to get it done in...

Friday, July 23, 2010

Week Four, Day Five

In order that this weekend could be jam-packed with house repair fun, I took this evening off to work on a project about achievement assessment. Tomorrow I will be having a local expert examine my fruit trees/grape arbor/blackberry bush to determine if their bounty can be salvaged somehow. More pictures coming soon!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Week Four, Day Four

I will get to my cliff hanger, but first: this is my bathroom one month ago and today. The drywall was ripped up from someone tearing out all the fixtures before I bought the house. There was a sickening bluish green wallpaper of the walls, which blended well with the vomit I spewed every time I had to climb over the piles of rubble to get to the duct taped toilet. Clearly, this bathroom needed some work.

The repairs to this bathroom were to lay a new floor (vinyl), replace and repair the drywall, paint, purchase three light fixtures, buy a new special-order square toilet seat, and add install the vanity. The floor was around $50 including glue, the drywall was free because we already had it, although we did spend about $30 on various goops and powders needed to fix the walls, paint was $30, the light fixtures were about $50 all together from Walmart, the toilet seat $40, and the vanity free because my dad had it extra, with the plumbing and faucet about $50 all together. So adding this together, the bathroom roughly cost about $250. Add in the little things I'm not remembering right now, and it probably was less than $300 tops.

Although this is a very reasonable price, I would like to set the bar ever-higher and refurbish the upstairs bathroom for a fraction of the cost of the downstairs. This will be quite a feat, as the upstairs bathroom is in shambles even more than the downstairs was. To make the upstairs acceptable, I would need to replace some subflooring where someone left a candle to burn (THROUGH the carpet, THROUGH the padding, and INTO the subfloor...how did the house not burn down?), get a new sink and toilet, do something about the hole-filled paneling on the walls, fence in the outside balcony that opens off the bathroom, and lay a new floor. This is besides the inordinate amount of cleaning that I will need to do to make it passable. Anyway, here is my big idea: I would like to conduct a little experiment to see if I can fix the upstairs bathroom for less than $50. I realize that this might be crazy. But I have the time to give it a try, and magnanimous as Obama is, he did not in fact give me a bottomless pit of money from which to make home repairs. So I plan on scouring the "free" ads over the next few weeks and months to see how this goes...I am anticipating success. Here's some pics of the upstairs:

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Week Four, Day Three

Another successful day! I am beginning to overcome my compulsive desire to know how to do (and personally implement) all things "house". This was mainly accomplished as I noticed my total lack of frustration and dread as I entered the house to find my bathroom sink largely installed. I observed in myself that not doing any work is surprisingly relaxing...

Two trips to the hardware store today. Once was a walk-through to buy more rollers (my new secret weapon to painting is avoiding sub-par tools...or at least replace sub-par tools frequently) and to pick out more sample baseboard. This now constitutes a fun after-work activity, so lives do change. The second was a rushed trip with my brother and the generous friend of my mom's who is helping me. We purchased new faucet handles for the clothes washer...exciting. It was rather fulfilling to get the washer working, though.

As my FIRST EVER cupcakes prepared in the new house were fluffing up in the oven, I spent a few minutes edging and painting in the bathroom. I completed one wall and enjoyed myself thoroughly using the most adorable mini-roller of all time. The ridiculousness of using another brush to "paint" the paint onto the roller was even offset by how much fun tiny things are. I find that when painting alone, a girl must take some joy where she can find it.

While painting, I took a moment to develop the following weekend goals:
1. Lay the dining room floor.
2. Finish painting the living room, no matter how tiresome this becomes.
3. Lay the baseboard trim in the sun room.
4. Invite guests over for Sunday dinner!

This thinking-while-painting thing is very effective. One of my greatest ideas in recent days (which is still saying a lot, as I tend to develop many creative ideas each day that are easily strewn aside/given up on/otherwise rejected) is to...

...since it is a great plot device, I will live this cliff hanger until tomorrow.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Week Four, Day Two

And on the slothful day, she rested.

At least, that is very nearly true. The only house work that I did today was (shocker!) painting. I added a coat of my favorite sunny yellow paint before leaving for school.

This brief hiatus from new home information calls for a flashback.

Picture it: having spent months searching for the right house, I had finally found "the one". This I could say with utter certainty from the very first moment (this, incidentally, is both a blessing and a curse, as I tend to form immediate, strong opinions that are rarely swayed with new information. On this particular occasion, it was a blessing.) The battle that ensued to actually obtain the house was an unexpected battle to keep my sanity. Problem after problem occurred, with most of them centering around the poor planning and inefficiency of my bank. I was not aided by the seller's lackluster approach to salesmanship. My whole experience could be summed up in the adage "hurry up and wait". I would rush to get my earnest money to the seller, having been informed that it was needed that day literally minutes before the bank would close, then wait days and days to even hear a response. The banker's utter lack of interest in the whole affair meant a trying four or five weeks from offer to actual transfer of the deed.

I could go on for quite a while about the fiasco which was my home purchase (exception: my realtor was charming throughout), but I am told that I have a tendency toward negative fantasy and slight rumination, so I will cap myself here. Tomorrow, I am back from the dredges of schoolwork and into bathroom repair.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Week Four, Day One

Working out the balance between student/paraprofessional and part-time home contractor has proven tricky indeed. Today was a prime example: I woke up at the reasonable hour of seven thirty to prepare hash browns and coffee. This was after a night of clutching a spray bottle full of water aimed at my ever-pouncing kitten's face (I'm allowed to say this without it being deemed kitten torture--I'm vegan). Of course, housing projects wait for no potatoes, so in the interludes between cooking and eating, I did edging and rolling of "prairie willow" green paint in the bathroom. I was hurrying to get it painted so that I could install the vanity later in the evening. This proved to be a mistake, and leads to my listing some things that I learned today:

1. It takes considerably longer to spot-remove paint with noxious paint remover than it does to paint correctly the first time. Lesson: do not paint in a hurry.
2. That being said, wall patch is an excellent cure-all for most minor house problems. It is duct-tape's cute but unremarkable cousin. Lesson: if you must hurry, plaster will help to cover the areas where you ripped off bits of paint in frustration.
3. Big Lots has paint rollers for 75 cents each. Lesson: don't reuse the same roller countless times. Lumps of roller fuzz smashed under the paint cannot be passed off as a decorative finish. I have tried it. No one is convinced.

My fourth lesson of the day occurred on my now-daily visit to the hardware store. Having finally settled on a store that I found to be moderately acceptable, my hopes were high that the sales associates would be able to telepathically determine the pipes that I would need to do the set-up of the bathroom vanity. This was not the case. Of course, this did not deter me from purchasing a small array of pipes, none of which fit properly. I think my referring to the drain plug as a "trap" was incredibly upsetting to the sales person, who continually corrected me and demanded that I magically determine the width of the unmeasured pipe through some sort of information osmosis. The whole conversation was permeated with the vague sense that young, unknowledgeable women need not attempt plumbing work, or set foot into the hardware store for that matter. His incredulous "you are going to install this?" was impetus enough for me to decide that my hands only would install that sink.

By the time I got home and determined that a 1.25 to 1.5 converter was needed to complete the job, some of my vehement anger about gender roles had worn off. Sometimes even the most competent of women needs some assistance. Thus, I have come full circle today: I need not be the sole laborer in home-repair nor do I need to be the "perfect" graduate student. Tomorrow, sloth!

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Week Three, Weekend!

Weekend Update:
This has been a big weekend, definitely not without its emotional ups and downs. My productivity level has skyrocketed in the last few days. Let's hope this lasts a while...

Friday I arrived early to clean up and get ready for painting. I had a small crew of four friends (with one self-appointed foreman...ah, gender stereotypes) help to prep and paint the sunroom and an "accent wall" of the living room. I can state with authority that it is infinitely more satisfying to paint colors than it is to paint primer. And, I would definitely say that it is more fun to paint with friends! We had a good time and got a lot done. Later in the day, I had been planning to continue work on the floor, but I ended up working on more painting (a large cabinet and trim work) and applying plaster, which is a new favorite hobby. I spent the evening out to get my mind of housework, although I must say that I ended up frantically shoving paint chips under my dining partner's nose, demanding to know if the colors "went".

Saturday was the final real moving day. I got my piano, washer, dryer, and other miscellany over to the house. This was real undertaking, and fortunately I functioned as foreman and cheerleader of this operation rather than actual mover. The afternoon was spent moving my brother's furniture up to his new room. More painting ensued. I also took a drive around with the guy who is helping with a variety of handyman jobs, to search for some boring but necessary pipes for the gas stove. This led to a discussion of the comparative costs of gas and electric stoves. Ultimately, I realized that at a $150 plus a day's labor, the old gas stove that I received free from a friend was probably not going to miraculously become a great stove. So, much to the chagrin of the handyman who had already taken measurements, I deemed it appropriate to buy a new stove.

Sunday was an incredibly successful day, as I was both able to purchase bathroom paint (a frothy light green) AND pick out my new stove all in one decidedly un-fell swoop. The stove thrilled me, in particular, because it was originally priced at around $900, and I was able to get it for a mere $400, including free delivery. My love/hate relationship with Lowe's is definitely on an upswing. Thank you to the Lowe's store for a marvelous experience--we'll see if they can maintain a positive or at best neutral stance in the future. Anyway, I also painted the bathroom (as a side note, you'd think with all this practice I would be quite a painter by now, yet to the contrary, I return to already-painted rooms to find even bigger splatters of paint on the floor than before, with little tears of paint sliding down the walls in conspicuous places). I also posted an ad on Craig's list trying to get my miniature horse, Quickie, moved. Surprise of all surprises, I was successful! A lovely family from my native Randolph offered to move him with all his accoutrement for a very reasonable rate. He is now blissfully stowed away in his one-acre pasture. I just await the morning when he demands his breakfast by pressing his oblong head into my dining room window.

Changes are happening quickly. And most importantly, I am finally truly living at the house now that my brother is here to live with me. Thank god for siblings! The saga of the house anxiety is finally over. It's only up from here....

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Week Three, Day Four

I decided to mostly take a night off tonight--just patched a few holes in the wall, checked the concrete goop that I spackled onto the floor, and picked up paint at the Hartville Hardware store. Tomorrow I'll be taking the day off work to focus on the house, so I figured I needed a night off. Tomorrow will be a big day--I have friends coming over to help with the painting, then floor laying all afternoon. Hopefully by tomorrow night I will have a gorgeous dining room floor and cheerful sunshine and hayloft walls. We'll see!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Week Three, Day Three

Today was a "light" day at the house: after working a full day at school (ok, with a fair amount of sitting around gossiping behind closed doors), I arrived at the house around 5:30. An insurance guy came out to the house to make sure they weren't insuring a total wreck of a house, which gave me yet another forum to brag about my house. After kindly agreeing that the house only has some "minor repairs" left to do, the insurance guy left, leaving me to work on my least favorite necessary task: priming. I have an extreme aversion to priming, mainly because it involves meticulously coating a pure-white wall with pure-white paint: it's the ultimate game of Where's Waldo as I press my nose up against the wet wall trying to determine where I have already painted. How can anything that ends up being invisible possibly be important? Nonetheless, I did finish the priming of the bathroom and also patched up some areas of the dining room floor with some cement-like goop.

More excitingly, I got soome new furniture, including a cute little country-style rocking chair, an end table to match the other one next to the couch, and an adorable little hutch for in the kitchen. My mom was definitely on a roll with the furniture today. Finally, we picked out the paint colors for the living room and sun room, which are called "sunray" and "hayloft", respectively.

Things are really shaping up! Big plans for Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. Stay tuned!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

The Pre-House Era: Flashback

I originally decided to look for a house in October of 2009. This was a decision that was fraught with hidden meanings and symbolic separation—but that’s a different story. I knew from the beginning exactly what I wanted, and surprisingly, the house itself was pretty low on the priority list. I was looking for a place where I could bring my horse and regain my country-minded sanity: a scenic, beautiful, multi-acre mini-farm with a big old fashioned barn, fences, and, as a side note, some place for me to live. I spent hours, days, weeks, and months combing the listings. And, I went to see a lot of crummy houses, places that were in greater disrepair than I ever could have imagined a house to be. Besides being a lesson in patience and perseverance, searching for the house involved a lot of emotional ups and downs that I would never have guessed. Afternoons were filled with drives to distant places, places I truly never could have driven to and from on a daily places. Every drive was full of hope and unrealized promise, and every time it ended with a “We’ll keep looking” from my ever-enduring realtor.
Several times, for non-house reasons, I gave up on the search. What’s deigned to be, though, is what will happen, and god knows I was going to get a house. So every time I stopped I managed to start again, until one Friday afternoon, I was jammed into the frame of my door, tilting my computer to catch a free wi-fi signal, looking at crap house after crap house, when I saw a big white farm house with two acres and those key words that sent chills through my spine: horse property. My pessimistic side attempted to shake the chills off and immediately assumed that the house would be a bust. Somehow, though, I managed to work it up in my mind (so much for the eastern philosophy of no expectations) to the extent that I felt OK about begging my realtor to meet me there on Friday night. [Ok, she needed no begging, as she was always extremely willing to show me houses, even after 6 months.] An hour later, I called my mom and told her I’d found my house. As they say, the rest in history!

Monday, July 12, 2010

Week Three, Day One

After having owned the house for three weeks now, it is finally beginning to feel like home. My biggest accomplishment of late has been completing two floors! The interesting thing is that these floors were completed in two very different ways. First of all, the first floor of the house turned out to be a cop-out: the hardwood that we observed under the carpet during the intial showing turned out to only extend 2 feet from the wall--it was entirely inset with subfloor. So, I unexpectedly have had to decide what to do with all these floors. Here's what I decided to do:

Living room: we painted the subfloor (a risky move, I know) dark brown. (Of course, I'm sparing the details of how the floor was prepped for painting, which was a massive undertaking of carpet stripping, nail removal, rusty-staple wrestling, and endless repetitions of wash-rinse-repeat). Subsequently, we used tape to create a large lighter brown diamong over the dark brown surface. I realize that it's a little hard to picture this---I will post a photo ASAP. For now, picture a country-look dance floor with a contemporary twist. My mom calls my house "French Country" style; take this as you may.

Sun room: this is my crowning achievement for the weekend, and I am 100% not above bragging about it. I actually layed a real floor and I accomplished this by myself! All of the carpenters of the world are no doubt snickering at this, and, I have to admit, I would have been among those who belied the skills needed to complete this task. Nonetheless, I was able to lay a beautiful laminant floor with a very convincing wood look (at least to the amateur eye) with nary a problem. And I learned to use a Miter saw and a jigsaw, to boot!

On other floor news: my mom discovered an excellent product for paint removal which she has great faith will restore my second-floor hardwood to its original splendor. The nauseating work of painstakingly dabbing the floor with potent neurotoxins will have to be undertaken slowly--even my cat Little Cat got a little woozy as he careened past the fumes. As is my anthem these days, nothing is too difficult for the first time homebuyer to undertake!

Financial front: got great deals on fixing up the floors. Dining room (this week's project) and sun room together were $400, including tongue-and-groove flooring and underlayment. Paint for the subfloor was about $75 and some surplus vinyl flooring for the bathroom was only $50, so the whole first floor flooring project came in just over $500. Not bad!