Archive for the ‘Renovations’ Category

Leaky Radiator!

This past December, we took mom to Barcelona, Zaragoza, Dublin and Edinburgh for her 75th Birthday.  I turned the heat down to 65F, to just, well – not heat an empty house.

When we got back, we cranked it up again, and mom’s radiator just wasn’t heating up all the way up.  So I wiggled the little valve hoping to increase water flow.  Well, I did just that.

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Such that it leaked…and overnight, the water damage was apparent on the ceiling downstairs.  And it took almost a full week to get someone to come into fix it!

This picture wasn’t the worst of it, but it the only picture that I managed to take. I couldn’t schedule a plumber!!!  I contacted FIVE companies about this, a realtor and a contractor. Some didn’t have open appointments, others just didn’t want to touch pipes from 1925. Two didn’t even bother to respond.

But James J. Madden replied!  And I am now a loyal customer.  And infuriatingly enough, the guy came, and turned the lower valve about a quarter turn and VOILA.  All that water damage for such a small adjustment.  Lesson LEARNED.

Thankfully, the plumber went around the whole house double checking the radiators. Probably to feel better about charging us for such a minor act…but hey, education is expensive.  And peace of mind and a dry house aren’t things so readily bought anyways.

Sergio and Tony came by and did the cosmetic repairs, and now you can barely tell anything happened.  All back up and running –  and since we strategically placed plants under the leaking ceiling, some plants even got some extra iron.  🙂

I’m afraid I haven’t been keeping up with this blog – but one day soon, I promise to post about going solar!  That was the largest project to date…and I should be getting my first SREC check soon, so stay tuned!

My Children Did It: Parking Pad Edition

So some of you may know about the parking pad saga.  Let’s start with a quick refresher:

  • No off street parking, so Mike pulled out the dying boxwood, tore down the chainlink fencing, et voila! Off street parking.
  • Neighbors on both sides of me put in non-pervious pavers, basically cement, directing all run off towards my property.
  • I’ve kept it bare/grass to encourage drainage, and it is only really a problem one week out of the year.

Enter my brother. My amazing brother who always seems up to some ridiculous housing project when he’s in town.  How hard could it be? What could possibly go wrong?  So off we were to get materials to dig a whole and lay brick pavers.

Step one – get brick.  Thanks, Craigslist!  And Steve…and Alisha…and Stu…who helped me collect these!

  
Step two – dig a hole.  I don’t recommend doing it on the hottest day of the year, but how were we to know the weather gods would be so cruel?

  
Step three – lay fancy fabric stuff to prevent sinkage, we also used edging to “lock” the pad in place.

  

Step four – put the paver base in, even it out and tamp/pound it as flat and even as you can.  Not as simple as it sounds, but a fairly forgiving process.

  
Step five – lay the brick!  Surprisingly the easiest part of it all.

 
We decided to do most of this at night…so it’d be cooler and because it was going to start raining.   

Step six – pour fine sand into the cracks to help bind the whole pad together.  About that…I just haven’t gotten around to it.  I know, no excuse now, it’s been a couple of months, but it’s functioning fine.  Maybe I’ll do it this fall before the first snow.

I wanted it to be as porous and non-invasive as possible.  Almost like it’s always been there.  So here is the semi-final product!

  

I overheard my neighbor tell my mom that she thinks it looks great.  My mom just kind smiled and said, “My children did that.”  Which communicates two things, to me: parental pride and resignation.  I don’t think it’s what she had in mind, but in the end, it’s functional, and it was done by her two crazy kids.  Just like that ash tray I made her in kindergarten.  Except for the fact that she doesn’t smoke, I know she was amused by the effort and product.  And I now have a parking pad!

 

Spring!

So I’m actually home for more than a 72 hour stretch in April – so what do I do?  Aggressively take on the backyard.

 

This is a before shot.  Stay tuned for the after!  Sneak peek of what’s to come: Heirloom Watermelon, Sugar Snap Peas, Carrots, Cherry Tomatoes, Zucchini, Cucumbers and Squash. 

Grapevines are pruned and ready to go – mom beat me to the chainlinked fence, or I would have snuck some corn in there.

 

Even moved Ricky and Lucy, our from seed avocado trees, back outside!

 

 

About to embark on another round of house projects, including parking pad, maybe bathroom upgrades, patio resurfacing.  It never ends! 

Custom Made Radiator Covers!

Sure it’ll cost more to heat the place, but at least now mom will stop bugging me about it.

This in the sunroom. Hopefully it can withstand the weight of the various plants we have in there.

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And this one in the dining room. There have been threats of putting her Lladros on display.

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L’Histoire de Mancave: Chapter 1

They say home ownership is a never ending series of projects and improvements.  Exhibit A: the Mancave.  This will be a long post, I actually had to strengthen my resolve in order to blog about this, traumatizing as it was!  So grab some tea, and let’s get to it:

L’Histoire de Mancave.  Chapter 1.  During the house inspection, it was quickly made evident that the previous owner was a bit of a hoarder.  It was packed with boxes and clothes hanging from the exposed pipes.  Wading through the basement was akin to walking through Prof. Kirke’s wardrobe, I was half expecting to bump into Mr. Tumnus when I got out on the other side!  We had to delay in signing the contract TWICE because it took them so long to clear it out.  But finally, closing day came and here’s a look at the basement before I moved in from January 2012:

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With so many other things in the house needing more immediate attention (READ: I had to sleep in the dining room for a week until the floors upstairs were done!)  We moved everything into the basement and started working on the house from the top down.  The Mancave had a dividing wall between the finished/carpeted “living area” and the washer and dryer room.  Here is a shot from April 2012:

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The worst day of home ownership for me actually involves the basement.  I don’t think I posted about it because it was too raw and painful of an experience.  The goal was to move the washer and dryer next to each other.  Simple enough, right?  WRONG.  One by one, the water pipes started to burst, from the back of the basement, literally to the main water line.  It. Was. Horrible.  I counted 10+ visits to both Home Depot or Annie’s Ace Hardware to get the right sized pipe, tool, connecting part it was a very cruel welcome to the DIY world.  12+ hours later, we still had leaks and my friend Will STILL had to come back the next day to do one final correction/connection and we were officially SEALED.

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But in the end, I basically got plumbing 101 certification.  They say education is expensive, and at the time I was cursing my stubbornness (and cheapness), but in hindsight, one day of hard labor to know my pipes are now all basically new and sealed is worth it.  That said, the only other times I’ve used that blowtorch was to make creme brulee, and I prefer it that way.  With this task done, I was adamant that NOTHING major be done to the basement, until further notice.  I needed time to regroup, save and plot.  So even discussion of basement renovation was tabled until a later date.

Fast forward to June and in order to get ready for Crabfeast 2012, I ripped out the carpet, painted the floors black, took out all the old telephone wiring – relatively small cosmetic projects in the grand scheme of things – and voila!  The first iteration of the Mancave was created:

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Within only one year of occupancy, the Mancave has served as the venue to countless movie marathons, award show parties, karaoke fests, guest accommodations, and extended stay housing for my nomadic friends.  GOOD TIMES.

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So why mess with a good thing?  Well, good question!  As with so many things in my life, the basement remodel became victim to escalation.  It started with installing overhead lighting.  Then electrical sockets.  Then – let’s paint the ceiling black!  Then, you know what else would be great?  Let’s add a bathroom.  More on that in a previous post.

And if you’re going to add a bathroom, you may as well redo the floors.  But if you’re going to redo the floors, then you may as well paint the whole space.  Next thing you know, and $9K+ later, as Fawkes rises from his ashes, a newer, brighter version of the Mancave is born:

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The wall that separated the washer and dryer room was taken down to accommodate the bathroom addition, and the room got a fresh coat of paint on all surfaces.

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Still toying around with room set up.  But have decided that TV stays on the biggest wall.  And I’m not getting new furniture, at least not immediately.  So there will still be a bit of the Mancave spirit in this new calypso iteration.

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If I’m ever home long enough one of these weekends, I’ll start restocking the bar and sorting through all the stuff that was moved upstairs that doesn’t need to be moved back downstairs.  Georgia Avenue Thriftshop is going to get a sizeable donation from me soon!

And there you have it friends.  I hope this space continues its mission of facilitating epic events of Mancave worthiness.  A launch party for is scheduled for Veteran’s Day Weekend, in conjunction with my annual themed potluck of “Food From Countries We’ve Invaded.”  We are also rolling out a new karaoke machine and surround sound.  Hope you can make it.

Basement Bathroom Bonanza!

Part One of the Great Basement Remodel is underway.  And it included the addition of a 3/4 bath.  So we begin this journey with tearing up the concrete flooring and laying down the drainage for the shower, sink and toilet:

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Drama ensued when the contractor I was working let the plumbing work determine where the toilet should go, instead of basic function:

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Who wants to walk into a bathroom, right on top of the toilet?  What if you just wanted to wash your hands?  And the real deal breaker: given the fact it’s a pocket door, I wanted to provide a better level of privacy for guests.  SO – another day or so of labor was added and I finally got the layout I wanted, with the toilet up against the wall.  And since the pipes were exposed, we decided to paint them black so they can somewhat “blend” and not stand out so much:

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The shower worked out great – we are adding shelves to the foot or so space between the wall and the shower for towels…per mom’s request:

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The washer and dryer were moved and hooked up 90 degrees in order to be flush against the new wall as well:

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So NOW what?  Well, the fabulous flooring adventure of 2013, of course.  Everything has been cleared out of the basement and we are going to epoxy the floor and paint all the walls.  The place already feels roomier and more spacious.  The Miami Sound Machine inspired colors are going to brighten up the mancave so much, we may just need to come up with a new name for it.