Monday, July 30, 2007

Roofing, Part Deux

In part one, we learned that our hero (me) was getting ready to re-roof his house. Well, that original plan was pushed back a week and we're now going to start the fun this coming Wednesday. Good timing, as things turned out, since this past Wednesday (which was the original start date) was the first day in a month which we saw rain. Today I went and got the material ordered and scheduled for delivery Wednesday afternoon. My original quote from Menards for $50 delivery plus $.75 per bundle for rooftop delivery-by-boom is now a no-go. I thought I had a great deal with that, but it actually got better. Now the $50 delivery includes a forklift instead of the boom to lift the pallet to the roof where I unload it. Either way I had to unload the material, now I just have to walk a few feet per bundle. I can live with that! I had also expected to use my Home Depot pocket-peeler to save 10% per bundle on the shingles, but they're on sale at a price which saves me $.50/bundle off of the price I expected to pay, which almost pays for the delivery charge! Yay for me! Menards must be having a sale on roofing, because only the felt and shingle starter strips weren't on sale. Material cost: $1240.50 with tax and shipping. I expect to have to purchase some additional misc material like flashing for the chimney, but hopefully I'll find no surprises as the old roof is removed and the decking is exposed for the first time in 45 years. Considering the good luck I've had with the material costs, I'm probably screwed.

Friday, July 27, 2007

People Still Buy Wood Paneling?

So I'm going through the local Menard's, minding my own business, getting prices on shingles and roofing. Heading past the checkout lines, I made room for a guy carrying what I thought was a 4 x 8 sheet of plywood. Figuring it was heavy, I gave him the right-of-way. After he passed, I looked back and saw that it wasn't plywood, but two sheets of paneling, and I was looking at the back of it. This wasn't just your everyday run of the mill paneling though. This guy was taking the Express Train to hell by buying fake brick paneling. Yes, paneling made to look like bricks. Gray bricks. Ugly gray bricks. 64 square feet of ass-ugly fake gray brick paneling. What could possibly be so hideous as to look BETTER by putting this crap over it? The guy wasn't old enough to have that as an alibi. I was tempted to grab a hammer and put him out of his misery. It's all downhill from here for him, his mind is gone.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Our Water Sucks, Part XIIV

Anybody who's bored enough to have read most of this blog knows that I've been fighting excess iron in our water system since we moved in. I like to think I'm winning, but there are days I'm not so sure. I've installed a whole-house filter to catch the iron & rust particles before they clog the water softener, I've found some great (and many not-so-great) cleaning products, and learned more than I ever wanted to know about rust in wells. What still surprises me is how fast (and sneaky) rust can be. This is a typical work shirt for me. I wore it about a week ago and threw it in the wash a few days later. It was washed and dried, and then hung up. I noticed that it was looking a little dingy, but when I looked more closely, I found that there was some pretty large rust-staining on the back. Luckily I found it before wearing the shirt again - it was on the back, so I probably wouldn't have noticed until my co-workers pointed it out.

Again with my blowing kisses and smoochy-talk about Iron Out. I ran a small load of whites with Iron Out instead of detergent, and let the whites soak for about 10 minutes. Then I drained the water and ran the wash with regular detergent, resulting in a much more presentable shirt. Perfect? No, but the shirt is a few years old and I don't expect miracles. I'm going to do a little experimenting to see if I can just throw in a little Iron Out with the soap and get the same results. If so, I'll just make sure to do that when I wash lighter color clothes.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Pimp my Toyshelf

Or, as my son call it, his "Flaming Green Toyshelf of Death". My father-in-law made this for him a few years back and I finally got around to painting it. As you can see, I watch too many car shows. Chip Foose makes painting flames so easy, I had to try it. For a first effort, it wasn't bad. Two-tone green, with blue pinstriped flames.


If all goes as planned, I should have a new roof installed about a week, including the tear-off of two layers of existing shingles. Based on my public high school math calculations, I'll need 20 square, or 60 bundles of 3-tab for a 2,000 square foot roof (size is rounded up and includes some extra material to be safe, plus it accounts for the pitch of the roof). Including the roofing felt, starter strip, and ice & water shield I'm expecting to spend around $1,300-1,500 on materials. I found that the local Menard's will also accept the "10% off on up to $500" peel-off coupons I have for Home Depot. Suck it, HD, I'm not buying from you unless I have to! The coupons are only good for orders up to $500, but the guy I am working with at Menard's will do multiple $500 receipts for me allowing me to save more. Those savings will pay for the delivery charge (I'm having the shingles delivered directly to the roof) and the building permit. Yeah, I actually have to pay $50.00 to the city for the privilege of re-roofing my house. The following picture sucks, but the Owens Corning Skyview 25 Year shingles in Sienna look to be a good color match for our house. From a short distance, they look very much like the more expensive shingles. Having a new roof on the place will really be a load off of my shoulders, and should help boost the value of the house at the same time.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Product Testimonial

It all comes back, full circle to the toilet. Today was the day to do some housecleaning, which includes the previously mentioned toilets. Well, I'm not one to shirk my cleaning duties for more than a month or two, so I jumped in and cleaned the already-renovated half-bath. In a previous post, I had mentioned how well Super Iron Out worked at cleaning rust stains out of the toilet, the basement laundry sink, the water softener, etc. It was time to put it to the test again in cleaning the toilet. For your viewing pleasure, I've included pictures of the drained tank before and after pouring in about 1/2 cup of Super Iron Out. The "during" picture is about 2 minutes after pouring in the powder and you can see how much rust it's dissolved in that short time. Mind you, the final result picture is after only pouring in the powder and letting it sit for 10 minutes. No scrubbing, no effort beyond flushing after it sat and worked.

Before - this is what I have after not cleaning the tank for about 45 days. I did have one of those bleach tablets in there which doesn't appear to have done anything. Then again, maybe this would have been much worse without it?

Two minutes after adding the powder the tank is pretty clean. I assume the powder "eats" the rust or dissolves it somehow, as there is little to no residue in the bottom of the tank.

Ahhh, sweet, sweet, clean-tank goodness. How I've missed ye.

On a completely unrelated note, my wife and I took a walk to an open house about a block from us. Well, actually we drove. We didn't want to look like neighbors just stopping in to see what the house looked like. The place was priced $35K more than we paid for ours four months ago, but it is in better cosmetic shape. It does need some updating to make it shine, but it is mostly cosmetic work like painting, replacing carpet, etc. I'm guessing they will have to drop at least $15K to sell it any time soon though. For their asking price I think buyers could find better. My house had a much heavier case of "ugly" than the other one, but our lot is larger, the location better, and the layout is a little nicer (my wife disagrees on that last point, but she's not running this blog...). I've been keeping an eye on what has been selling in the area (I need a new hobby) and would bet that if they spent $5,000 on carpet, paint, new storm doors, and a few other little details that they could get their asking price.

What really stood out during this open house was just how completely freakin' lame the realtor was who was "selling" this place. They had a one hour window for the open house and we were there right at the beginning (11:00). Nobody else was there the entire 15 minutes we looked it over. Never once did she ask us anything about what we were looking for in a house, she didn't ask if we had kids (the fenced back yard would have been a great selling point for kids or pets), she didn't ask if we were selling a house (hey, maybe we'd need a realtor for that, too!), she didn't point out any other positive features of the house like a newer roof, new driveway, or maintenance free windows. In fact she only pointed out a small sunken area of the back patio which she said should be mud-jacked and some outdated fake beams in the living room. Nice... I'm sure the current owners would be happy with your work, realtor-lady. She didn't even offer us a business card. I'll admit, my experience with realtors has been limited, but I know lame when I see it.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Countertop Quandary

Solid surface, granite, or granite tile... I'm still far from needing to have a decision on this, but I figure if I write down my options it might help me make a choice.

Granite slab has been a very popular choice recently for counter tops, and I really like the look. I've installed granite tile tops and like how they look too. For me, tile would substantially cheaper than slab (since I can do all the work myself and don't need to hire a fabricator) but I don't like the finished appearance quite as much as a slab installation. It's still darn good looking - don't get me wrong - but I'm a little worried about the long-term life of the grout lines and the potential for staining. Then there's the whole issue with cleanability, regular sealing of the surface, chipping, etc. With two kids in the house, there are good odds that juice or other staining liquids will be left on the top. The dark granite we are looking at would help hide that, and as long as I seal the surface regularly I should be reasonably safe.

The other option which is really starting to look good is going with a solid surface. The main brand everybody seems to know is Corian, by DuPont. Typically this is also expensive, as you need to work with a fabricator for measurements, fabrication, and installation. The company I work for recently acquired a company which makes solid surface (basically the same stuff as Corian, but with our own color palette), so I can buy at a pretty decent discount. 70 colors to work with, and I'm confident in my abilities when it comes to measuring for and installing the pre-fabricated pieces. I just don't know if I'm sold on the looks of solid surface compared to granite yet. The stuff would be great for durability and cleanability, but I'm still torn. I'll probably bring a box of color samples home next week to see if I can convince myself one way or the other. Considering I sell the solid surface now as part of my job, I probably shouldn't be having this mental conflict.

As long as my boss doesn't read this, I'll still be employed on Monday.

Trying for 100%

As you can see on my Project Tracker bars, I've got three rooms (the 1/2 bath and two of the three bedrooms) at 99% done. All three rooms have a minor task or two which needs to be finished, and I think I've put those tasks off long enough. The toilet in the 1/2 bath needs the flange bolts cut down to size so the caps can be installed, my son's bedroom window screen needs to be replaced, and a little paint touch-up is needed in my daughter's room. All minor stuff, and since I don't have any other projects lined up right now (I'm getting ready to do the roof.... yay.) I might as well finish some stuff off.

Oh, I also updated the style of the blog. The previous grey color scheme was getting a little boring.

Saturday, July 7, 2007

Is "Ceiling White" Really "White"??

One of the guys at Sherwin Williams needs to quit and go to work for Home Depot. I've never had reason to watch these guys before to make sure they didn't screw up, but I guess there is a first time for everything. Typically, "Ceiling White" has a very light tint of blue to it. This donkey didn't get the memo and I didn't watch to make sure he added the tint. I used about 3/4 of a gallon without tint on my daughter's bedroom ceiling and didn't notice until I opened another can purchased for my son's room (which had the tint added). Not a huge problem, since they're separate rooms and I was able to mix the two together before starting my son's room. Lesson learned: trust, but verify. His walls are textured, primed, and the ceiling is painted. Next up were the walls which were painted Celery by Sherwin Williams. An accent wall was done in Ryegrass. He's psyched to see it done, as am I. Tomorrow, he sleeps in his "new" room.

One gallon of paint was just enough to finish the three lighter "Celery" walls, while a quart of the darker green was plenty when rolled on the remaining wall. I was surprised at how smoothly it rolled - almost smooth enough to make me think twice about spraying smaller rooms. Naaah, the sprayer is still easier and provides a better finish.

You Think You've Got it Bad? (Part 4)

Technically, the condo was built as a 1 bedroom, 1 den, 1-3/4 bathroom. Before my dad bought it to use as a rental, the PO closed off a wall and turned the "den" into a 2nd bedroom. This is really the way I think the place should have been laid out, as it flowed well and the design made sense. Another technicality, it wasn't a "true" 2 bedroom place while he had it because the 2nd bedroom didn't have a closet. We added one to make it official. Bi-fold doors used to keep the design consistent.

The master bath wasn't huge, but it was made MUCH nicer than how we found it. We did have to gut a shower stall to the studs to replace all the tiling, floor pan, and drain which were rotted and hadn't been used in at least 5 years. The vanities and counter tops were replaced. We used a lighter granite tile than was used in the kitchen. New sink, new faucet, new mirror, new electrical outlets, etc., etc., etc.

A closet door was added to the hall closet. Oh, there wasn't a door there to begin with. Who knows why it was removed... Actually, all four closets had missing doors.

From inside the master bedroom, you have access to the hallway (left door) or walk-thru closet and master bath (right door). Everything you see in this picture was either replaced, painted, or changed. In fact, the only things we kept from the condo we started with were the kitchen faucet, the electronic thermostat, the toilets (although they needed a MAJOR scrubbing), and the tiling in the 2nd bathroom. Everything else got updated.

Was it all worth it? Sort-of. My buddy and I didn't get rich by any means doing this work - maybe $6,500 each for our labor. We did end up with some very useful tools out of the project, and learned a lot at the same time. We had originally guessed that we could do the job for $5-6,000 in materials plus appliances. We ended up at $11,000 total, which includes about $1,300 for appliances. We went overboard on a number of areas like the granite tile countertops (about $2,000 for tile, grout, mastic, and plywood for the base) and doors (all doors being replaced added about $1,000), but those extra costs were worth it. We could have done the job for the original estimate, but the resulting condo would have been nowhere as nice as it turned out and it wouldn't have commanded the price we got.

The average selling price for condos in this complex was about $95-105,000. We listed at $124,900 and ended up selling for about $119,000 - almost exactly what we expected it to sell for. It sold during the Spring and was on the market for a month. The buyer's home inspector only found the sliding door to the balcony as a problem, as the seals were shot and it didn't seal properly. We took off $1,200 and let the buyer take care of that himself.

While this unit was for sale, there were 2-3 others in the complex for sale. We looked at them and were very comfortable with our asking price. We had potential buyers look at all of them as well, and without exception this was the stand-out. The final sell price was the highest price paid for any of those units to date, by almost $15,000. If the work had not been done, we estimate the place would have generated interest only from people looking to flip the property, and the selling price would have been under $80,000.00 since it was almost unlivable.

You Think You've Got it Bad? (Part 3)

Sorry about the crappy picture quality, the camera I was using was having "issues".

In this "After" picture of the kitchen, you can see how we got creative on the entrance to the kitchen. It's a small galley kitchen and felt very small, so we opened up the entrance a bit on the sides and top. Overall, the sides were opened about 6" each and the top was raised about 4". This made the kitchen feel much larger when you're in it. We had to relocate the electrical switches, which was the worst part of the job. Well worth the effort, and I'm glad I didn't listen to my dad who said not to bother. Come to think of it, I didn't listen to him on this project much at all. He lives 3 hours away and wasn't there to stop me - sucks to be him.

The faucet in the kitchen was the only item which wasn't replaced or changed. Well, we chipped a layer of crud off it, but it's still the same faucet. New sink, new granite tile countertops, painted cabinets, new flooring, new lights, new doors, new crown molding, new outlets & switches, new baseboard heaters, etc, etc ,etc.

From inside the kitchen, the wider opening gives you a much better view to where the dining table would be. New 6-panel doors were installed everywhere (except the main entrance door which we couldn't replace due to condo regulations). Matching bi-fold doors were added to the closets. The flooring here is a Pergo-style laminate which covers the front entrance, hallway, kitchen, and dining area. Much better than 40 year old linoleum and shit-brown carpet.

Since the kitchen was small, we didn't want to take up any unnecessary room for a microwave. we raised the cabinet above the stove to add a microwave. Crown molding across the tops of the cabinets tie the look in with the rest of the place where we added it as well. All appliances were new and matching. They also weren't coated with gunk like the old ones which we threw out. Plain black cabinet hardware stands out against the white cabinets. We did learn something important about painting cabinets - using a roller sucks. We rolled on two layers of primer and still couldn't get what we liked for a finish. When we got the sprayer, we tried it and it worked perfectly with one coat.

The hallway looks much nicer without the brown carpet. All trim was painted white to match the cabinets. The walls were all painted Kilem Beige by Sherwin Williams. Ceilings were painted ceiling white. All electrical outlets and baseboard heaters were white. It was a very good color combination, and very neutral.

You Think You've Got it Bad? (Part 2)

Put a bullet in my head, I was actually pumped to get going when this picture was taken. Must have been the cat piss fumes. All this crap was shoved into the garage and the PO carted it away. We weren't delicate with the stuff, as anger and disgust became the emotions of the day. I threw out the gloves I used to pull up the carpet. They ended up with what I assume to be a layer of cat piss on 'em. They stunk and felt oily.

Another view of all the crap.

The kitchen cabinets were solid and in decent shape. Looking back, we should have ripped them out and replaced them. We ended up pulling off the hardware, de-greasing them (that was fun...), sanding them, and painting them. WAY too much work - replacing them would have saved a LOT of time.

You Think You Got it Bad (Part 1)

I was reading another home renovation blog this morning: The Dread House and it gave me flashbacks to a renovation I did a year or two ago. A friend of mine and I got a chance to renovate the place on the owner's dime - we just put all our labor and design ideas into it and then got paid once it sold. Typically a risky proposition, but the place was owned by my dad so I wasn't too worried about getting shafted on the deal. No, he didn't live there - it was a property he owned and rented. The people living there were there for about 10 years and put NO effort into keeping it in good shape, as you'll see from the "Before" pictures.

Like any good House of Horrors, you have no idea what hides behind each door. From the outside, the place is a somewhat generic looking condo (top right of the building). Well maintained exterior, although a little dated.

Step on in and visit Satan's Garage Sale. All this crap was waiting for us on day one of the renovation, the day we wanted to remove the cat piss stained carpet and other misc items which were getting replaced, including the bathroom vanities, counter tops, etc. Here, my buddy and his wife (who was VERY lucky to suffer from cat allergies so she couldn't stay and help) survey the mess.

The carpet is skid-mark brown, almost the same shade as the carpet in my current house. I hated it in the condo, I hate it in my house.

I still haven't figured out who's cleaning supplies these were. The PO sure never used them. Cigarette burns on the cultured marble vanity tops - classy.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Renovating Bedroom #2

My son has been extremely patient with our schedule in renovating the house. A week ago, we did our daughter's room and now it's time to take care of his room. His room is slightly smaller and also has a smaller closet. Luckily, he has a lot less crap in his room than she had. The morning of July 4, we emptied his room and got ready to renovate it. His room had the original hardwood floor already exposed, and it's in good enough condition that we don't want to mess it up. The original closet bar and shelving was removed, along with the doors and electrical plates. Dig the horrible blue paint in the closet. It's bad in the closet, but it must have been worse on the walls of the room. Yes, all the walls were at one time painted this shade of blue!

Here's a minor irritation for me. The outlets in the house are all grounded outlets, but there are at least two different styles in use. The thing which really gets me is that some outlets have the grounding plug towards the bottom of the outlet, but most are what I consider upside-down. I'm guessing that these were installed for some reason by the previous owner because they are installed with the wires shoved into the push clamps on the back of the outlet. I'd think that most qualified electricians would go "old-school" on it and bend the wire to use the standard screw lug. I used to use the push-clamps until I found the wires slipping out during the installation. No thanks, I'll take the extra time to do it right. (The previous statement was in no means meant to infer that I actually do things right at any given time on any given project)

I'm damn-well afraid of screwing up the existing hardwood floors with paint and texture spraying, so I went overboard to protect them. First was a large paper drop-cloth, followed by the tape and paper edging to protect the base molding and trim. The trim paper was taped down on all seams onto the main paper drop cloth. On top of this I placed a plastic drop cloth, and taped it down around the edges. Yeah, I know paper and plastic drop cloths aren't extremely sturdy. Since I'm the only one who goes into the room until it's painted, I'm not too worried. If I had people in there to help, it'd be covered with a heavier drop cloth. Either way, it's now completely covered.

Not only was the floor covered tightly, the door frame and window molding were also covered in a way that would make sure they were safe. During this process I came to a conclusion regarding painter's tape. BUY GOOD QUALITY TAPE. The blue tape in these pictures is the standard 3M tape you can get at HD, Menards, etc. The stuff works well and sticks until you want to remove it. No surprises, no mess. The purple stuff is tape that isn't worth it's weight in goat carp. This stuff is sold under the "Pro Painter's Plus" name, and was cheap (yeah, I'll admit it). It works OK in taping down the flat seams of paper on the floor, but even on something simple like taping the perimeter of the window frame it shows how bad the quality sucks. The ends won't stick down and the edges keep lifting. As I type this, I throw out the remaining rolls of this crap.

Part of the incentive we gave the kids when it came time to leave the only house they had ever known to move into a fixer-upper was that we would allow them to pick their own room paint colors. Well, we told them that they could pick the color, but we got to pick the shade of that color. That explains the color in my daughter's room. No matter what shade we picked, I'd hate it. Oh well, I don't have to look at it every day. When it comes time to sell this house, we'll paint over it. My son had originally wanted blue for his room, but then changed his mind and picked green. I'm good with that, as we wanted more "earth tones" for the house anyway. He asked for what I consider a lime-green color, which I just couldn't bring myself to allowing. I asked him if he'd rather have more of an "army green" instead, which he loved the idea of (he's 6, so that was almost a given). I have a couple of large color rings from Sherwin Williams and we settled on a couple of different shades. We'll do an accent wall in a slightly darker color than the main room. Which shades? I don't know yet. I'll know when I go to the paint store Friday night. For people choosing a number of different colors for a renovation, I strongly recommend spending $20-30 or so to get these color rings. It really makes picking colors less of a gamble.