Saturday, May 30, 2009

Paiting = Lots of work

Just last night I finished prep work on the walls and ceilings in the master bedroom. After days of spackling, sanding, spackling, sanding and adding texture, it was finally time to prime!

I spend EIGHT hours priming today. Yes, eight. That included a little more prep work of masking off the windows and removing the sashes from the windows, but other than was all priming. The master is the only room in the house that still had original wood trim on two doors and the windows. Unfortunately, the room is missing half the base boards and a door frame of trim, so rather than try to match new wood replacements we decided to do the unthinkable and cover up the last remaining wood. Plus, we thought it may look a little odd if tht room was the only one with wood trim and the rest of the house has white.

Here's a before pic:
Here are some highlights of the room that had to be dealt with...
Crack in ceiling that turned into this big hole:

Art drawn directly on the wall (so long bizarre sharpie drawing, you won't be missed):

So many areas of the wall required repair that I'll probably have to do a second coat of primer on all the trim and the ceiling of the room. Since the wall color is so light, it will require two coats of paint so that should be enough over one coat of prime.

Here's the wall by the windows repaired and ready for primer.

After one coat of primer:

On the docket for tomorrow is coat #2 of primer on the trim and windows in the master. Then I'll mask off and paint the ceiling with the ceiling paint! I'm looking forward of adding a coat of paint that is final and will actually be seen. Painting primer that's just going to be painted over again is not the favorite. And this is just ONE room!! I may never be done painting.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Driveway & Garage & Landscaping, Oh My!

After meeting with a few architects, we finally found one that came highly recommended and fit our budget! This is our biggest and most exciting remodel project. We originally planned to just pour a driveway this year and do the garage next year, but overall cost for building materials, labor and contractors is so low right now we're going to try and complete it all this summer/fall.

Our general plan is to:
1. Build a 2-car garage with a roof deck on top
2. Have access from inside the garage to our basement
3. Have access from the roof deck to the main level of the house (either through the current laundry room or the current pantry)
4. Have access from the rooftop deck down to a garden area on the South side of the property
5. Adjust grade of the driveway
6. Adjust grade/level of the garden area and possible add retaining walls

Our architect stopped by to take measurements last night, and we have more ideas than we know what to do with. The biggest decision we have to make right now is whether to do an attached or detached garage. Each comes with it's own challenges:
Detached - We lose more square footage of the lot to space between structures and we may have to move one side of our current retaining wall in order for a car to access one of the garage bays. The door to the main level from the roof deck will be at a different location than the door to the garage below which could look odd.
Attached - Would be a more complicated build to attach to the house and may require additional engineering tests and drawings. We would have to dig down (at least a few feet) to inspect our current foundation to see if it could support another structure. There are a few possible ways to keep most of the weight from the garage from falling on the house, but all may be more expensive to build than a detached structure.

Decisions, Decisions.

Here is how the backyard looks now:

Paint Prep Progress

After a month of house projects, planning and research, we needed a few days off! Wanting to get as far away from houses as we could, we headed out on a backpacking adventure with some friends.

Now that we're back we're hitting the ground running and getting closer to painting! Over the last few days we've bought more paint supplies and application tools than I knew existed. We have four 5-gallon buckets of primer, ceiling paint and trim paint ready to get on our walls!

Somehow we thought once we finished spackling we were pretty close to ready to paint but every day we keep finding more preparations that need to be done. We have the master and guest bedroom floors masked and covered with plastic. We've removed most everything that was applied to the walls except for the cable wall plates which are on so tight I don't know how we'll get them off. We removed an original cast-iron (read heavy) vent cover that some genius decided to caulk and seal onto the wall. Then we discovered we had to fix cracks, spot prime and re-texture many areas on the ceiling and walls. Then the (incredibly ugly) light fixtures have to be removed. This is a battle I started last night and still haven't won. There is currently one stubborn fixture dangling by wires from the ceiling with two screws that refuse to come out. Now that the blood has returned to my arms, I can try again tonight.

The color picking process began by painting boards I found in the basement with our sample colors. I took six colors I love from Restoration (rip-off) Hardware to Lowe's and had them match it. Four warm color options for downstairs, and two cool greens for upstairs. After doing a lot of research, I decided on a very sublte green for the rooms upstairs and a slightly darker green for the stairs and hallway. Green is opposite (aka complimentary) orange on the color wheel and with so much orange in our Douglas Fir floors I think green walls will be the perfect option. Judging from the color sample boards that still need one final coat of paint (you can still see a little dark wood through the paint), the green colors are going to be perfect! We are doing 'Ultra White' trim and doors which will help make the subtle color of the bedrooms pop. Can't wait to see the finished product!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Expect The Unexpected

We knew from tests our home inspector conducted that our HVAC system was working, but air flow was restricted if not completely shut off to a few rooms, most notably the master bedroom. As the HVAC system is covered under our home warranty, we weren't too concerned about this issue and it wasn't as pressing as other repairs so it has been left as-is. We were reminded of our HVAC issues when we realized the entire HVAC system should be cleaned since lead paint dust probably made it into the system while the floors were being redone. This prompted us to begin talking about scheduling a pro to come out and investigate the airflow issues.

Last night as we continued our quest to prep the walls for painting, I began removing all the various electrical hardware, switch plates and air duct vents. When I got to the master bedroom and removed the vent cover I discovered why there was no air flow to the room. What I saw was not an empty vent but I was staring at a pair of freaking Levi's jeans crammed into the vent. A PAIR OF LOW RISE BOOT CUT 34W JEANS!?! Someone went to the trouble of removing the vent cover, stuffing the jeans down the vent to cut off all air flow and screwing the vent cover back into place. Really? REALLY? What the hell!?!

After the shock wore off, the jeans were successfully removed from the vent and no bones/other creepy items were found rolled up in them, we were in the clear and the air flow mystery had been solved. We couldn't stop laughing as it dawned on us that we were going to call in a repair guy to fix our flow problem. Ha! Dave started running through all the various ways the HVAC guy would broke the news of our problem to us. One word: JEANS.

Now we just have to remember which other vent had a flow issue and see what hidden treasures we can find in it! A petty coat? A vintage curtain? I'm holding out hope for a wad of cash wrapped in a gun holster...

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Historical Fun Facts: Part I

We came across this recently and no matter how many times I look at it, the sticker price is still a shocker. While our house was not a 'kit' home, the style is very similar and the old ads are pretty entertaining. Both these ads ran from 1908-1914 in the Sears Modern Homes Mail Order Catalog.

Most like our house in terms of size:

Most like our house in terms of exterior style:

We Nailed It!

Last night our preparation of the walls began on the second story. The painting phase is coming up soon and I can't wait to see these walls with a fresh coat (well, actually 3-4 coats by the time we get done, but who's counting).

We removed tacks, nails, screws, push-pins, picture hangers and hooks from walls, window frames, doors and ceilings. I even found two pieces of foam stuffed into a 1" diamter hole that went all the way through the plaster. We removed blind hardware, old curtain rods and plastic strips (from old window sealing kits) from the windows . It was quite shocking to see how full our bag of reclaimed wall-goodies was by the end.

The sick part of all this....I LOVED IT! I compare removing and fixing holes in the wall to my obsession with using Photoshop. I have this sick need to fix every blemish, scratch or imperfection in photos and will sit in from of my computer ALL DAY doing this without ever getting bored (luckily I do it for a living). Alas, I was kind of sad last night when phase one of the hole repair was complete. I seriously could have stayed up all night pulling stuff out of the walls and covering the holes back up again.

Tonight we begin phase two of spackling and plastering. There may even be some sanding and texturing tonight. Yippie! Here are a few choice areas in need of a weeeee bit of attention.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Blinded By The Light

Our kitchen faces West and even though it's on the main floor of the house, the kitchen window towers over the street below. This is a nice feature when you want to have a view out the kitchen during the day. However, at dusk you are blinded by the setting sun making cooking or doing dishes a constant battle. At night, when the lights are on inside, it sends out a beacon of light into the street that attracts the gaze/stare of all walking and driving by. You're pretty much on display for the world to see which is not cool. And of course, there are no window treatments at all on the windows. Project time!


Rewinds a few days: David was really gung-ho about getting cheap 1" vinyl temporary blinds until we remodel the kitchen. Finding just the right size blinds at Lowe's was easy. 28" blinds will fit our 28 1/2" opening juuuuuust right. We got home, opened the packaging and were shocked to see that our 28" blinds were not 28"....they were 27 1/2". Fast forward to a closer inspection of the packaging box and we notice in small print it says 'blinds are 1/2" size smaller than stated size to allow for hardware installation'. Basically, the blind people thought it would be a good idea to idiot-proof their blinds for people who don't know you need to allow a 1/4" space on either side of the window and we are stuck with blinds 1/2" too small! Just enough so that the blinds won't work. Grrrr....

Fast forward back to today: As I was preparing to return the ill-fitting blinds, I decided not only am I fed up with these annoyingly cheap and idiot-proof blinds, but I didn't want to have to look at another set of them which are 1/2" bigger until we remodel. If I'm going to go through the process of installing blinds, why not just get ones that we can use forever? I have always been a big fan of the 2" faux-wood blinds (they look like wood but are easy to clean and care for) and decided that was the way to go. Since David is out of town he doesn't get a vote. I win!

Back to Lowe's I went armed with a 10% off coupon I found online (I'm obsessed with finding discounts on everything I buy). I had my fancy new 2" white blinds cut to the CORRECT size of 28" and brought those suckers home. It only took me me an hour and a half to install hardware, adjust the length by removing slats, adjust the five million cords, adjust the stop-motion plastic thingys and adjusting the final length of the entire set-up. And that was just for the first blind. It took me a solid two and a half hours to install these 'quick and easy installation' blinds. It was quite a task but they look fabulous and fit perfectly!!


I just realized you can also see the old kitchen faucet in the before pic and the new one David installed in the after pics. The kitchen faucet didn't work at all when we got the house and it was one of the first projects we did when we moved in (pre-blog). We found this faucet with a sprayer that fit into the old holes of the sink for $45 at a going-out-of-business sale at a local plumbing store by David's office. Score!

Friday, May 15, 2009

Our Not-So-Fair(rah) Faucet

Soon after we started using the downstairs bathroom on a daily basis, we discovered the old, busted faucet leaked and was damaged beyond repair. If you wanted to wash your hands you had to be prepared to wash the (pink, plastic, ugly) counter afterward with the river of water that leaked out the side.

So we embarked on a search for a new faucet only to discover that the ugly ones are cheap and the nice ones are not so cheap. There were some good looking 'reasonably priced' faucets, but we plan to remodel the bathroom soon and thought we might want to replace this faucet again at that point and really wanted to keep the costs down. Luckily, my new online shopping BFF came to the rescue. We found a super cute historicalish faucet with a nice high arch for only $34.99 (now sold out)! It looked pretty gold in the photos online which I'm not a fan of, but we decided to get it anyway because it was a solid design for cheap. When the faucet arrived last week we were stoked to see only brushed silver brilliance, no gold in sight. We like it so much, I think we'll keep it even when we remodel! David installed it like a champ and now there is no more leaking. Whoo hoo!

Invisible Lead Dust Monsters

Since the paint we had sanded off the upstairs floors last week tested positive for lead, the project for this week was lead abatement. The Romanian floor dudes used a HEPA dust collection bag as they sanded, so we followed up with a HEPA vacuum pass, TSP wash and another HEPA vacuum pass to remove any lingering dust (aka Method 4). The 'TSP wash' meant scrubbing every square inch of surface on the second floor FOUR times. One pass with the TSP solution using vertical strokes and one pass using horizontal. Then one more pass in each direction with the rinse water. This process was pretty miserable, especially since we couldn't actually see the progress we were making. We just had to trust it was working. I lost track of how long the entire process took us but I'd guess around 6 hours.

What we COULD see was years and years of dirt and grime washing off the walls. Our clean rinse water would only last for a few scrubs of the wall before it would turn brown and filthy. This isn't too surprising considering the previous tenants didn't clean anything. Why would the walls be any different?

Poof was in charge of final inspections:

Friday, May 8, 2009


Priority #1 upon moving in to the house was the upstairs floors. Part dog pee stained carpet, part carpet over vinyl tile, part painted wood, the floors upstairs were not livable. We were holding out hope that the 'fir floors underneath' signs posted throughout the house when we bought it were true.

The stairs had been painted brown at some point but the traffic had worn through the paint in many places. The hallway was carpet over vinyl tile. The master bedroom was wood painted gray and the other two rooms were painted wood of various colors underneath a layer of carpet.

For the past three weeks we've set up camp downstairs sleeping in the living room and using the dining room as our closet while the floors were in progress. David ripped out carpet and painstakingly chipped off the vinyl tile that had been adhered to the wood below with a solid coat of old, mastic black glue
. A SOLID COAT. During this process the glue managed to get all over the house including the bathroom, entryway tile and the couch. None of the glue has yet to come off any of these surfaces. Not good. (Please note: David's opinion is that the glue did not get all over the house.)

After the glue incident, we got another special surprise...the layer of paint that was hiding below the carpet in the bedrooms was lead paint. Lovely. David managed to find a band of three Romanian dudes (none taller than 5' 3") to refinish all the upstairs floors and stairs despite the glue and lead issues. (
We're also pretty sure they practiced gymnastics on their breaks). The Romanians worked miracles. And by miracles I mean the really HUGE kind that make you cry. Yes, you can cry over least when they start out as ugly and dirty and stinky as ours and end up so beautiful. Don't laugh, you didn't have to live with the piss carpet smell.

The photos speak for themselves. Our Old Growth Douglas Fir floors first harvested in 1911 are exposed again! No staining required. Just sanded, sealed and delivered.

Stair Treds:
Upstairs Hallway:
Master Bedroom:
Bedroom 2 (Office):
Bedroom 3 (Guest Room):
Looking down the staircase to the landing:

Home Sweet Home

After a nail-biting, three-month process of offers, counter offers, sewage line replacement, an offer to buy a mantle from the sellers, the offer to buy the mantle revoked, jumping through short sale hoops, last-minute deal-blocking liens, sky-high piles of paperwork and the replacement of the leaky hot water heater, we managed to buy this 1911 Old Portland Foursquare. It's a 3-bedroom, 3-bath house with full basement and attic, wrap-around front porch, second-story porch off the master bedroom, pantry, laundry room and a good size back yard.

The house has been a rental for the past 5+ years and we have learned a lot about these renters since we moved in. They never cleaned ANYTHING, thought constant dog pee smell was 'liveable' and didn't require clean-up, thought a kitchen sink that dispensed water was overrated, didn't mind a river of water leaking out the side of the bathroom faucet, enjoyed swimming in the lake created by the leaky hot water heater and they occasionally fell through the attic floor (while tending to their pot plants) putting holes in the ceiling below. Oh, and they were in a band called 'Black Pussy', but that is a story for another post.

Enter David and Kelly. All the above problems are now ours. It was not pretty when we got the keys. But the house has good bones with lots of potential, and we're ready to bust out some serious work on this place.

These are the days of our remodel...