Monday, April 28, 2014

Upstate Update - Back Deck Progress

Jeff sent me these photos over the weekend.

This is the new framing for the back deck.  In case I haven't explained, the real reason we are doing the back deck right now is that we need the egress from the back door in order to get a Certificate of Occupancy and we need a CofO to rent or sell.  Apparently they care about things like "egress".  

The problem is that we don't want to dedicate the resources right now to re-building the whole deck, but we also don't want to waste money building a deck that we are going to have to tear down later in order to build a full size deck.  Jeff came up with a fairly simple shape that will allow him to just pull off the railing and extend the deck out to the full original size later when we are ready to finish it up (that might be quite some time though).  In any case, this will be good enough to rent or sell it.

And these photos are of the exterior view of the sill plate that was exposed for the first time after Jeff pulled the deck off.  He repaired it and is re-covering it with marine plywood before the deck gets re-built over it. 

So far, so good.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Upstate Update - Pray for Progress

It has been a really long time since I have had the stomach to post an "Upstate Update".  (I haven't checked, but I think I usually reserve that post title for posts about updates I receive from third parties about the work they have accomplished up there in my absence.) Truth be told, I have been (and remain) thoroughly depressed by our recent experiences trying to get this house renovated - especially since money is running out.  We NEED to rent of sell this monster before it takes us down with it.

Our last contractor is in jail, again, this time for a long stretch.  No work has been done on the house in four months.  And some of the work I examined during my three days working up at the house a couple weekends ago started me thinking that we're further from done than previously thought. 

But Thursday brought a little good news. Our new contractor (this is our fifth) started work on Wednesday. He is a straightforward guy and he is being sensitive: he knows we've been hurt before and are afraid of jumping in too fast with someone new. So, to get things going, he suggested that we start off slow and pick one or two discreet tasks for him to begin with so that we can evaluate his work and his attitude before getting too tied up. Plus, this has the benefit of being a CofO (i.e., rental/resale) condition.

The first job I picked is removing the old back deck and then building a new smaller one to get us through the next inspection. The back deck, where the fire that put this house on the market and into our price range started, was the last completely untouched area of total fire damage devastation remaining. There are plenty of char marks on boards around the exterior of the house (mostly over windows), and a few charred edges still visible on the inside, but the back deck was an unmitigated hazard of charred and rotted boards.

Here is what it looked like when B and I were up there a couple weeks ago.

So, the new guy, who I will call Jeff because his name is Jeff, spent a couple days taking down the old deck and replacing the supports that go from the cement piers to the upper deck. Looky.

In case you're wondering, that big cement pad in the middle is what the hot tub sets on.  We might even keep the dream alive of someday installing a hottub - but only if insurance allows and only if local RE agents tell us it will add to our revenue from rental or resale. (Because, if you'll recall, we have one of those sitting out in the driveway -

And here are the new posts supporting the upper deck.  It is hard to explain why the old posts had to go, but suffice it to say that the posts that were there seemed to have been cobbled together by an idiot some dozens of years ago when the decks were built.  At least now it is done right I'm told.

Obviously we have a long way to go here.  We need a new deck built and steps down off the side.  But it looks a whole lot better.  Oh, and that reminds me, I need to get a dumpster delivered up there.  There was already a ton of debris in the driveway from the cleanout B and I did when we stayed up there and there's even more now with all the old decking ready to go.

Camping In - Part IV - The Door in the Window!

I have always supposed the the best thing about doing regular progress posts and mentioning all sorts of ideas is that you get to do this:

Remember this? (

And this?
Well, guess what!

B totally got what I had in mind.  And he is a regular whiz with power tools and measuring things.  So, on our last afternoon up at the house, he hauled a couple saw horses out into the side yard and made a workbench with some leftover plywood from the storage area wall he had re-covered earlier that day and he got to work on making that old door fit the window hole.

First, we removed all manner of nails and screws and weird old metal hardware, including, inter alia, doorknob escutcheons, sliding lock mechanisms, steel plates along the edges, hinges, curtain hooks, and more.

Then we chopped the ends off.  To be fair, what happened was that B did all the measurements and I helped clamp the saw guide to the door and then I did the sawing.  It wasn't very fair of me to make him do the boring stuff and then let me do the fun sawing bit, but I can be a petulant little turd and I wanted to saw my own door.  Sorry B.

Here is where a big escutcheon covered a void in the door.  When I took off the escutcheon, a heap of old gum wrappers and cigarette butts and other forty year-old awfulness fell out of the door.  It seems folks had been stuffing their little tiny garbage into the keyhole for decades.

As I was sawing the long edge of the door, every so often, the saw would slow and sparks would fly as I cut through a nail or screw. 

At a certain point, I bored of helping and went off to walk in my woods while B kept at it, taking careful measurements and trimming the size down to just right.

And when I got back from my walk, he was still at it!!  That is the full moon, FYI.

Here are the door trimmings.

AND!!!  Here is the window, mocked up into the rough opening.  Obviously the sheet rock needs to be trimmed back to the framing and the door needs to be sanded a little and repainted, but this is the general idea.  I can already see RE agents taking pix of this for their listings.  It's gonna be an exciting little detail to point out - reclaimed door as a window!!

I am pretty darn happy with how it looks - and how I am now confident it is going to look when finished.

Hooray for B!!!

Camping In - Part III - About a Closet - UM

I mentioned in my prior post that despicable contractor number three had left a lot of debris in a storage area downstairs and we want to use that space as a large closet. Well, once we got everything out of there we could see there was some smoke discoloration on the wall and it just wasn't very pretty.  So, I came up with the idea that it would be good to cover the closet wall with pretty new plywood sheets. So that is what we did. Not very exciting, but B did a great job of it.

Here is what it looked like before:

And here it is after:

I will try to make the next post more interesting.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Camping In - Part II - Taking out the Trash

Since we only had one demo-hammer, while one of us was battering away at the tiles, the other one was dragging construction debris and demo waste up to the driveway.  There was a ton (literally) of sheetrock remnants heaped in the livingroom that had to go and more than 20 garbage bags full of other garbage - all of it piled or strewn around the house. 

But most upsetting was the immense heap of garbage left behind by our 3rd contractor, that hateful jerk.  He just dumped all his waste in a downstairs storage area.  Among other things, after pulling up that maple floor he had put down so uglified, he piled the naily floorboards in the storage area.  I can hardly think about that idiot without getting angry.

So, in case anyone ever wonders what happened to all this great 4.25" pre-finished, hard maple flooring that I spent weeks collecting from a dumpster and then rented a van to bring up...

Well, I hired a lying, scumbag idiot to install it and now here it is...

It is a little cathartic to get rid of this stuff -- but not enough.  I'm still impossibly angry about it.

Camping In - Part I - Making Camp & Breaking Tile

I got pretty down and desperate last month.  Nothing was moving forward on our project and I wasn't seeing any signs of that changing soon.  In hopes of jumpstarting things up there, I called my lifelong best friend, B, out in California and we made plans for him to fly out for a few weeks to consult on the disaster and try to do as much work as he could. 

B flew in on a Tuesday and I took a couple days off work and we headed up there on Thursday morning for a three day weekend.  

When we arrived we set up camp in the master bedroom.  We spent the first afternoon just sweeping and shop-vacking the campsite.

The next morning we got down to work.  We went into town and rented a Hilti Demo-Hammer to put the hurt on those crazy stubborn kitchen floor tiles.  You might recall that I spent a long day upstate back in November during which I wrecked my back hammering at the old kitchen tiles. Happily, where my mini-sledge hammer and big chisel had been slow and painful, the Demo-Hammer was fun and relatively low-impact on our backs and finished the job in time to return it and grab the half-day rate.

I'm not saying I want to buy my own little jack-hammer, but it really was pretty fun to use - although the earplugs and respirator were essential.  The job was done in under 4 hours.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Industrial Chandelier - new armature

I am back to thinking about industrial chandeliers.  I have posted a few times before about them:


and here:

But I was never quite convinced I was on the right path.  The big pulley I already had was just too big, but I think I have found a perfect gear wheel to use as the armature for my chandelier.  (By the way, I really like the word "armature" - it belongs in poetry or, at the very least, metaphor.)  

And here is a sketch of what I have in mind:
Happily, I picked up a heap of old chandelier crystals at the Santa Cruz flea market last summer.  

Now I just need to figure out how to drill holes in the cast iron pulley so that I can attach the wire loops.