Nightmare on Elm St.

The journey of turning the nightmare we bought on Elm St. into our dream home...

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Sunday, October 30, 2005

Who be throwin' bricks at me?

A good friend of mine, J__, tells this hilarious story about a friend of hers who lives in SE DC. This friend went to the grocery store one day, and was in the checkout line with several other people. A middle-aged woman wearing a large mumu was in the line also. She stepped up to the belt to put her items on, and a whole ham rolled out from under her dress. Everyone in the line froze to see how she would react- she slowly turned around to face the other people in line, and said "Who be throwin' HAMS at me?", turned back around and checked out as if nothing had happened. Any time J__ is persuaded to tell this story at a party, people say it to each other for hours. The story is much better when J__ tells it, but you get the gist.

Anyway, I was tasked with letting Aaron know when he had banged the basement windowsill in far enough. It was a pretty tight fit, and he had to bang pretty hard. He was banging away, and suddenly, the brick under the window started to give way, and shot 3/4 of the way out of the wall. The only thing that held it back was the two coats of elastomeric masonry paint I had slapped on there last month! It was pretty good I had done that, b/c I would have had a brick to the head otherwise! As we were replacing the brick (thanks to a neighbor for all of those tuck-pointing and masonry tips), Aaron picked up the brick and said "Who be throwin' bricks at me?", thus the name of the post for you housebloggers. Here is a picture of the basement sill. Aaron ended up banging it in a little farther after I took the picture (with me carefully holding in the brick), but you get the general idea.


Aaron found that he had to do some epoxy wood repair on the area over our bedroom window, so he completed that and will try to finish up the rest of the repair while he waits on the fridge tomorrow afternoon. 3.5/4 ain't bad for the weekend, especially with me fighting a cold.

Gettin' Nasty with the Basement

You may remember about a month ago, we decided to set up Aaron's workshop and try to get better organized. If not, go here. Well, we've worked on that in fits and starts ever since, but since we need to move the old fridge down there, this morning we worked down there for a few hours and finished up most of the organization and got ready to start demo again. We've got a few things that still need to go up to the attic, but we've made a LOT of progress.
Here is one view of the workshop about an hour ago-


And another view of the workshop-


We're almost done with the workshop area. All that remains in there is to redo the electrical, work out a better storage solution for the long pieces of wood, and put in the windowsill.

Here is a view of the living room area of the basement. We got all of the stuff that can't be moved out during the demo shifted to the middle of the room and covered. We've got to demo the ceiling, the paneling off the red wall, and the yellow back wall in here, then box in our utilities closet, put a partition wall up to separate the shop, and add studs to the outside wall. Then we'll drywall and put down new carpet. Hopefully this will be enough to refinance and finish the space off nicely.


Here is the picture of the laundry area. This area will need a lot of work. The bulk of the work for the utility closet will be in here, the laundry sink has to be demo-ed, the dryer needs to be moved next to the washer, and we have to relocate an old sewer pipe that is sticking up 3' out of the floor. Then the floor has to be leveled. Then we need walls and sheetrock before the refinance. After the refi, this room will get nice cabinetry and we'll use the granite countertop that we bought in here to made a laundry/wet bar combo area. One day...


Stay tuned for an update as Aaron races to finish the exterior trim before sunset. Isn't it fitting that things are so busy at Nightmare on Elm St. right before Halloween???

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Kitchen cabinet sideways shuffle

After a long, hard day, Aaron & I finally got the cabinets moved over the requisite 3" for the new refrigerator.
First, Aaron ripped out a lot of the old wall studs and replaced them and readjusted them for the shift to the right:


We plan to eventually redo this entire wall, sheetrock it on the other side (right now it's just unfinished beadboard paneling from Lowes), and tie it in more effectively and attractively into the ceiling. Since we don't want to start any more projects right now, Aaron did the minimum necessary to the wall for the meantime.

We hit one small snag, though- about 5:30, when we thought we were done, we realized that we forgot to account for the little 1/2 flange-thing on the front of the cabinets, we made the fridge opening too small. This meant we had to pull down and rehang the cabinets! I'm surprised that our supervisor didn't catch this. She must have been off napping somewhere when we made the measurements.


We went to the grocery store for a break, and then came back and started over. This time, things went much more smoothly, and no one, for example, got hit in the shoulder with a cabinet. (Ahem!) We've ordered spacers that match the cabinet, but they aren't in yet, so we're using temporary blocks of wood for now. Hopefully, we can unscrew the cabinets and bang the wood out, then slide the new piece in, but that's probably a story for another day. Here is Aaron replacing the doors on the above-fridge cabinet.


According to the other project managers, the work seems satisfactory!


We're very happy to have this project behind us, but tomorrow will be a busy day, with trying to fix the trim over the bedroom window, and putting storm windows back on the house. It should be a nice day to work outside, though, with a high of around 66 degrees, much nicer than today's windy 54!

Technical Difficulty

I've got some technical difficulties with the photo sizes. The "medium" size from Flickr is too large and moves all my sidebar links to the bottom of the blog page. The "small" size distorts the pictures. Please comment below if you know how to fix this, and in the meantime, please click on the pictures to see them properly.
Thanks for your patience!

Today's Projects

After the painter finished there, we noticed some sagging in the trim over our bedroom windows. We tried (unsuccessfully) to get a carpenter to give us an estimate, so the painter, Tom, said that he would take a look this week. He pulled off the old trim and found evidence of old ice dams. (the primary cause of rot on this house) He recommended that Aaron take a closer look at it this weekend and see if he can fix it. Tom also recommended a different hardware store, way out in Woodsboro, MD that would have more of the odd cuts of lumber, etc. that we need with this house. We went there this morning and were very happy to find that they had everything that we needed, and they were friendly and helpful. Here are some pictures of the progress on the porch and exterior trim repair, stripping, and painting.

Here is the corner that Aaron worked SOOO hard to repair all summer, with its final coat of "Kryponite" as Tom calls it. Tom said that in the "annals of painting" our house will be known as the "green house" because he's filled so much of it with his fiberglass-epoxy wood filler. In many cases, it was the only way to save our 90 year old exterior trim. He said that a bucket of the green stuff usually lasts him a year, but he's now on his 2nd bucket, just for our house.

corner repair

Here is the final, finished column base, no longer rotten, but very much composed out of the Kryptonite. There is almost no wood left on this side, but it looks great. Tom is not only a painter, but a sculptor as well.


Here is a picture of the side of the house, which is pretty much done- it looks wonderful!

side of house

The front, not so much- here is the huge hole over our bedroom window:


Hopefully, that will be gone by the end of the day! Stay tuned...

Friday, October 28, 2005

DDP, oh how we love thee, let us count the ways...

We started moving the cabinets tonight to accomodate the fun, frivolous fridge. Why we thought DDP* wouldn't throw us a curve ball, I do not know. Will we ever learn?

Ways that we love DDP... in his words...
1. Drilling is for suckas! I hate my nice Kraftmaid maple cabinets that I paid a ton of money for! To ruin them, and make them impossible to get apart, I shall cast my drill bits aside and simple fasten them together with 3" long drywall screws, driven directly into the maple!! Ha Ha, this is genius and such a timesaver! Who cares if I split the wood? Who cares if it's nearly impossible to back the screws back out? Why would anyone want to do that? I am DDP and my craftsmanship is of such high quality that no one will. ever. want. to. change it. ever.

2. Why cut this stud to fit? I can simply notch the other studs to accomodate this one. Ha ha, these people who measure and cut are so stupid! I will show them with my fabulous craftsmanship.

3. What, I need to screw the bottom of the cabinet to the base? Ha ha, the drill bits again? Didn't you learn that I don't need those? Ha ha, you silly, silly people! I will show you! So what if I split the front cabinet support? I DON'T NEED THAT ONE! No, the load will be distributed over the other three. Didn't you people take physics? Why do I have to work with such idiots?cabinetddp4

4. Phone line? You want a phone line in the kitchen? Oh you silly, silly Americans! Why would you want that? I guess that I'll have to get the drill bits out now. Since you HAVE to have this phone line and all. I know- I will just drill through one of my nicely notched studs and pull the wires around through the back of the cabinet. Yes, that will work wonderfully! Plan ahead, ha! What are you people thinking? I am such a genius.


5. Oh, you want the wall of heavy pantry cabinets stablized? Why the hell would I do that? Hmmm. I know! I'll just run this one stud to the ceiling. I didn't want to cut it anyway. No one will notice it up there. They'll just think that it's part of the tin ceiling. No, we don't need to paint it or trim it or anything? Why would we do that? Ha! Ha! You make me laugh with your "finish carpentry" and your "paint". What are these things of which you speak?

Stay tuned to see how we conquer DDPs fabulous craftsmanship.

So, yes, we love you DDP! You make every task worth tackling! Can we have the 25k we've put into the house back now? Oh, what? You took that and went to Florida? Oh well... I hope that you have fun ruining another house down there! At least we know that the next owner down there won't pull old nasty rugs out of the rotten trim over their bedroom window placed there to stop the ice dams? BUT, that's a subject for another day...

*The previous owner, if you haven't followed earlier posts.

I finally learned how to use Flickr

Here is a nice picture of our new fence-

Here are two pictures of Aaron busting out the old basement windowsill


And finally, here is the granite countertop we bought from Craigslist for the basement remodel. Granite is HEAVY. Do not attempt to remove granite from the second story of a row house in DC if it's just you and your husband. It's NOT a good idea!!!!!!!! We got it home, though!


Floor pictures, as long promised

WAAAAAYYYY back in September, we had the floors refinished, and they look AMAZING! I am finally getting around to posting pictures of the gorgeous new floors. I remembered to take a few before shots-

First, the living room before

close-up before- it really makes the floors look SOOOOO much better than they actually are

Living room after

Dining room after

Kitchen after

Closeup after

We're really, really happy with how everything turned out. And doing the entire first floor (while a very dusty, dirty, and smelly proposition that required one night in the hotel and a lot of time in the backyard for the pooches) was cheaper than replacing just the first floor. We used Olde Towne Hardwood Floors in Walkersville, MD and we couldn't be happier with the final result. We have seen some dog-nail scratches over the past month, but we're getting more used to it. We used an oil-based finish, which we were told is being discontinued, but looks MUCH better than the old water based finish, and is supposed to be much more durable than the water-based finish. The kitchen, which gets the most traffic, had absolutely no finish remaining on the floor when we refinished it. Now, it looks like a totally different room!

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Rain, rain go away...

Maryland has more than made up for our dry September. It rained again all day Fri. and Sat. and again Sunday night, Monday, and Tuesday. It has also cooled off in a major way now. All the rain has some pluses and minuses-
1. We got the porch trim totally finished Sunday but we didn't get the last piece of lattice done. That's not a big deal, though, we can do it at any time.
2. The painter hasn't been able to come by since last Wed. or Thurs., I can't remember which. It's supposed to frost tonight, so we're rapidly approaching "too cold to paint" land. I hope we can beat Mother Nature to the finish.
3. We ARE ready to reinstall the storm windows, and boy oh boy, I couldn't be happier. Last night the inside of the house was at 61 degrees, and it was cold! Even the dogs seemed cold, but we all enjoyed snuggling up together to try to get warm. We're holding out on turning on the heat (Washington gas said that we should see a 20-32% increase in prices this winter, and I had them adjust our budget payment for the 32% increase) b/c the old windows are still pretty leaky and we'll just be paying to heat the outside. So, this weekend we'll be washing and repairing lots of storm windows.
4. We FINALLY picked up our new basement windowsill from the mill shop. Tom (the painter) is supposed to prime it for us this week, and we'll install it on Saturday (too rainy last weekend to deal with it).
5. The basement isn't leaking, but one of the new gutters is either leaking or has already stopped up. We haven't had many leaves fall yet (just pinecones), but we don't know what the culprit is.
6. The fun frivolous fridge will be delivered on Monday. In preparation, we have to move two cabinets over to make the fridge opening bigger. I JUST KNOW that this will lead to some other project. Hopefully nothing will go majorly wrong and we can rig up something that will work.
7. We're hard at work on planning the basement and hope to have lots to show you over the next few weeks! I'd love to have significant progress down there before Thanksgiving.
I've got another test on the 2nd, so posts will be sporadic between now and then.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Reason 8,999,999 why the house hasn't been getting much love lately...

The weekend before that, we spent getting soaked in 7" of rain with Mike (see previous posts) and his race car, the Meatball... Here's a great picture of the Meatball before it blew the radiator...

Reason 9 million why the house hasn't been getting much love lately...

Last weekend we made some new friends and participated in the Walk for Diabetes with Aaron's former coworker, Tom, and his wife Smitha. Last week, we hadn't raised much money for the walk, so Tom had the idea of getting people at Aaron's former workplace to pay $2/pound for Aaron to carry a backpack during the walk. Before we knew it, the backpack's weight got up to 100 pounds!!!!!!! Fortunately, we have plenty of construction materials at the house, and we had 100 pounds of mortar and sand to fill up a backpack.

After walking 3 mi with 100 pounds on his back, Aaron came home and hung trim on the house for 2 hours. He's my hero!!!!!!!! (Yes, that's me with the hair in my face.)

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Today's post was brought to you by the letter "F"

The following is an email correspondence that I had with my friend (and neighbor) the other day:

Me: I'm so sorry that we missed Happy Hour on Friday night. I got stuck at work until 7 only to come home to a fridge on the fritz. We ended up spending the evening at Sears picking out a new one. Fortunately, ours is intermittently working, so we'll be okay until the new one comes on Oct. 31. I hate that we missed the good time! Hopefully we'll be able to make it next time!

Her: You guys have all the luck. Did you get a fancy fun fridge or did you get just a functional fridge???? Today is "F" day at school, can you tell? (My friend is a teacher) We missed you Friday and hopefully we can catch up with our friends the F___s (our last name starts with F) very soon:) Beth
P.S. We just bought a Subaru Forester isn't that freakin funny??? Shut me off

Me: It's a fancy fun fridge, not a functional fridge. We fought for a furlong about the frivolous fridge, but at the finish, we thought we would have more fun with the frivolous fridge. So Halloween is now freaky fridge day for the F____s! And yes, we have all the f-ing luck.

So, yeah, after we promised our firstborn to the painter, we've now promised our second-born to Sears for a new Kenmore Elite side by side. If we just replace the dishwasher, we'll have replaced or done a major repair on every appliance in the entire house. Yeah, nightmare!!!!!!

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Quick update

I'm trying to conquer my off-the-blog guilt by posting a quick (no picture) update. I have been putting pressure on myself to get good pictures, but it's making my postings less frequent... anyway, here we go...
1. Two weekends ago the open house on the beautiful rehab down the street went on the market-- they're asking 725k! For a duplex! I'll be surprised if it sells for that, especially with all the talk of the DC bubble deflating, but we'll see... I'll keep you posted.
2. No resolution on the dogs barking issue. We haven't had any other complaints, but we haven't been out of town for the whole weekend again yet, either. (We've only had complaints when we were out of town for the weekend, not just during the day when we're at work or trips to the store or something.)
3. The painter is still hard at work on the exterior. It looks beautiful! Unfortunately, our long spell of dry weather has come to a screeching halt. We had 7" of rain over the weekend, and it's been raining on and off all week! The good news is that the new gutters and the basement waterproofing have been successful investments, and the basement is nice and dry! The bad news is that we're also rapidly approaching "El Broke-o" status. AND I don't forsee any free (this weekend was free, next two are not) and dry (wet again this weekend) weekends until it's too cold to paint. So we may have to keep the Legend Alive and bite the bullet to pay the painter to paint the porch for us. AARGGGHH! I just want the porch to be done! I know everyone gets to this point, but we've been there for awhile now.
4. Porch update- after seeing the painter's awesome skills with what he calls "Kryptonite" this green fiberglass filler stuff, we paid him to fix the rotten column base. It's looking really good! And Aaron is almost done with the trim on the porch! He's only got about 4 more feet of quarter round to trim everything out with and then it's on to putty and caulk. As we've heard, "A little putty, and a little paint, makes the carpenter what he ain't!". Seriously, though, I'm just kidding. The trim looks great, but Aaron is (as usual) being hard on himself. Hopefully, we'll get a quote from the painter this week that won't be tooooooo painful and we can put the exterior work behind us for the year.
5. The aforementioned 7" of rain beat my beautiful zinnias to the ground. I found a few things out about these remarkable flowers when I ripped them out on Monday:
a. The seeds that they make sprout from the flower heads, then the flower heads fall off and the seeds take root that way. When I was a kid, my grandmother and I used to save the spent flower heads for seeds to spread the next summer, (I actually did that again this year) but I'd never noticed this behavior before! We'll see how many of these little guys come back next year.
b. The zinnias really attract centipedes. Centipedes (anything with more than 4 legs, actually) really, really freak me out. They move too fast or something, and they're the same color as a cockroach, and they look like they can sting me. I beat several of them up with a hoe, but there were just way too many to kill. We had a lot of (gloved) contact as I planted 8 big pansies, 64 grape hyacinth, 20 jumbo daffodils, and 36 crocus in that bed! Does anyone know anything about the small centipedes that are native to central Maryland? Are they harmful? They probably are good for the dirt like earthworms, but the earthworms look much more friendly to me.
6. Other garden news, the lantana that I bought to fill out the perennial bed in front in its first year has gone totally insane! I keep cutting it back and using it as filler with the roses for cut flowers in the house, but it's still taken over. The plus is that the neighbors like it. I've had a lot of compliments from people walking by. I hope that it doesn't choke out my perennials, but my rule is that if it doesn't come back, it didn't pass the test and it doesn't get replaced.
7. Two other reasons that I've been off the blog are that I had a test in solid state physics (I got it back, a B+, not perfect but I'll take it); and my husband's good friend Mike finally got his Volvo P1800 ready for it's first SCCA race. This is a project that would be good fodder for another blog, and I'm trying to convince him to start one. We were at Summit Point in West Virginia with him (crew!) almost all of last weekend. Aaron has many, many hours of work in on that car so it was a thrill for both of us to see it run (even in the 7" of rain that soaked all 3 of us to the bone!). It was so rainy on Saturday for qualifying (and Mike, also El-Broke-o didn't have rain tires) that Mike couldn't see and didn't push the car very hard. On Sunday, for the race it was much drier, but he blew something (probably the radiator) on the 5th lap and was not able to finish the race. Does that sound like an old house to you? Did to me, too! We're just so glad that it finally made it to the track and are really, really excited for next year.

Well, that's it for now. Maybe I'll just do a picture post over the weekend.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

The bark is actually worse than the bite...

This weekend hasn't been very productive, as we went to Western Maryland for my best friend's wedding. Congratulations, Erin and Frank! We returned today and Aaron got back to work on the porch while I studied for my first test in 3.5 years or so on Wednesday. Yikes, this school stuff is hard. Anyway, we had a petsitter while we were gone, but unfortunately, the dogs must have barked a lot while we were gone, b/c the other half of the duplex neighbors complained and said that we must do something about the dogs barking while we're away. The dogs have also terrorized the painter (barking, jumping at windows, painter was afraid that they would bite him, and/or break the window) to the point that they have to be locked in the basement bathroom during the day (only room in house with no windows) while he's here. They're very sweet dogs, a miniature schnauzer, Ansley, a lab, Sandy, and a golden/bloodhound mix, Chester. They would never hurt anyone, they just bark (especially when Aaron's not here) at the slightest noise. We're considering a couple of options but welcome any suggestions. Here is what we've thought of-
1. Kennel the dogs while we're away. The drawback here is expense (at least $100/day around here for the three of them), availability (most kennels aren't open Sundays and have difficult hours for us to deal with), and stress. All three of the dogs hate to be kenneled. Sandy has chipped 2 teeth (one had to be removed) chewing on the kennel gates trying to get out, and they usually end up with severe gastrointestinal distress for a few days after we get home.
2. Bark collars. We borrowed a friend's citronella one for Ansley for awhile, but they're expensive and she hated it. It might be easier if all the dogs had one. I do worry about the collar getting off and one of the dogs chomping on it, which wouldn't be a first. There is always the shock variety, but both Sandy and Chester ignore an invisible fence, so I'm not convinced that it would work on them. Has anyone used these before?
3. Soundproofing the basement and keeping them in there while we're gone. We're doing all this work on the basement anyway, maybe we could incorporate this into the plan. How much is sound deadening material? Could we use some sort of home-theater setup for this? It might be cheaper just to kennel the dogs, but at least this solution would allow us some enjoyment from the expense!

This isn't the first dispute that we've had with our neighbors about noise. Restoring the house isn't quiet, and we're young without kids, so we have been know to have the occasional party. We've been good about stopping loud work after 7 pm, and have minded every request to keep it down, but I hate having conflict with people that I see every day, so it's important to me to find a good solution to this problem. Thanks for your help!