Tuesday, December 29, 2009

There's critters in them thar walls.

I think I'd prefer gold in the hills.

Got home from Mom's to the sound of something wandering around in my kitchen chimney. At least, I thought it was in the chimney - until it wandered over the cabinets. And this morning it wandered over to above the bathroom door frame. I know I run a hostel - but for two legged guests, not uninvited four legged ones! So I called the exterminator, who told me that unless I chopped a hole in the wall or found where it got in, there wasn't much they could do. Not amused. If anyone sees Superman, please ask him if I can borrow his xray vision...

On the plus side, my new dining room table and chairs look great, and the gas guy just replaced the meter with one that can be read from outside, so they'll stop wringing my doorbell on random mornings.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Toilet fixed!

After only an additional 10 min or so, some silicon stuff, and more determination to get the nut threaded on straight, the toilet works, isn't leaking (at least at the moment) and the water is back on! Yay!

And thanks to Casey for reassuring me that the gasket would mold to the bowl and it would stop being all weebly.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Adventures in plumbing

Alternate title: only a little person could fix this toilet, and how come universal doesn't mean universal?

Earlier this week, the upstairs toilet began leaking. From the tank, so it was not the gross disaster it could have been, but no fun nonetheless. Interestingly enough, it turned out that that toilet doesn't have a shut off valve of its own, so I had to turn off the cold water to the entire bathroom (given that it was 11pm and I wasn't attempting toilet repair). So, on Wed, I gathered up my "universal" toilet innard replacement kit, some tools, some patience, and set to work.

I thought it would take me a half hour. 1.5 hours later, the bowl and toilet were reunited. But the water is still off. Why? Well - because it is now leaking from joint between the input tube to the water valve. I will buy the magic plumbers paste stuff and try again. But here's the big question - why on earth would you use a fixed length pipe as the input tube instead of the braided steel one that has give and can adjust height easily? Inquiring minds (and sore fingers) want to know.

Things I learned:
1. The "universal" replacement kit contains pieces that are in fact too big for my toilet. Therefore the tank no longer rests snugly on the bowl. Know what? I don't care. As long as it stops leaking.
2. There's also a lot of grease in the tank. How come? No idea. But there's still grease on my hands.
3. Sometimes it's a good thing I'm small. Because I'm pretty sure the plumber that installed it originally was my size or had eyes in his fingers. 'Cause there's not much room for maneuvering to the bolts!

Now, it never actually occurred to me to simply call the plumber to fix the leak. No, I have to try to fix it first (thanks for that, Dad, Mom and Bumpa). But, um, is the time it's taking me to fix it worth the money I saved on the plumber? I dunno. I guess I'll find out if the downstairs toilet starts doing the same thing - hopefully I'll be able to fix it faster next time ;)

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Not-so-small small wins

Well, I've owned this house for about a year and 8 months, living in it almost that whole time. And guess what - I finally hung some shelves and the mirror in my bedroom! It's starting to actually look like a room, not just the place where I sleep and change clothes... If nothing else, it's nice to actually have the shelves off the floor.

I also spent several hours on Sat hooking up the actual outlets in the dining room and replacing the light switch. Now, that sounds like (and actually is) a small win in my trend lately of small project completions to make small wins. However, consider the history of that project -
--We created the space for the new outlets and ran the wire in Feb 2008 when we replaced the plaster in that room with drywall.
--R2's electrician dad very kindly hooked up the new wire to the circuit box a couple weeks ago.
--On Sat (with phone assistance from both dads ;) ) I hooked up the new outlets. And replaced the old light switch/outlet with just a switch (the outlet had blown).

So after almost a year and 8 months - no more looking at wires sticking out of my dining room walls! This small win feels pretty big.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Ok, so I failed at the goals.

Oops. I forgot to ban myself from regular hanging out with my friends. And know what? I'm not gonna. Take that, house.

I did rearrange the goals a bit due to a swap in roommates. Wish Erin luck as she tests out life in artist-heavy Bushwick - and welcome R2! Moving Erin's stuff out and keeping some time to repaint her pink room to a normal color also gave a little window of time to finish up some nagging projects in her room. So after working really hard last weekend, I have finished the cabinet Dad started a zillion years ago (until R2 decides she wants shelves), finished the floor where the sink cabinet was, and almost finished the door between our rooms.

In typical Sarah-style, many things were learned. Like - I really shouldn't have worked so hard on patching the nail holes, b/c the wood fill took the stain completely differently from the rest of the wood and now instead of hiding the holes it shouts, "look! There was some patching done here!". So someday I sense that cabinet will be painted...

And I continue the trend of purchasing the wrong things at Lowe's, and Lowe's not having everything I need. Oh well. At least it's right by a nice restaurant.

I also found time to finally spray foam around the basement windows, which will hopefully reduce the number of waterbugs. As of this morning - not much of a reduction. But still I hope. Dad, no comments on my terrible foam job. Apparently I'm not so good at foam aesthetics. Interestingly enough the obnoxious feral cats outside decided to investigate while I was spraying and scared the daylights out of me - why can they not head the bugs off before they come in instead?

Stained cabinet:

From 2009_09_23

Poly'd floor:

From 2009_09_23

Less bugged windows:
From 2009_09_23

Friday, August 7, 2009

New Couch!

Terrible picture, but new couch!

Thursday, August 6, 2009

I hate the floor guys.

I really do.
I scheduled them. I emptied (with help, thanks all) the living and dining rooms. Max picked up the old couch. Then at 11 pm, they called in sick. Ok. So we lived with empty rooms for a week. Then on Tues - the rescheduled date - they didn't show. Or call. Or answer my calls. Or return my voicemail. Or contact me ever again.

Clearly fired. However, it was nicely scheduled to be done before the new couch arrived - and now that's out the window. So I'm crossing that off the goal list for end of summer - it's going to be delayed. It'll take me extra time to find new guys, get estimates, etc. Annoying!!! Contractors 2, Sarah 0.

On the plus side, I did complete the hanging of the speakers, so that's a goal completed. Some of the speaker wire still needs to be painted, but I'll handle that the next time I have the ceiling paint out.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

The sky is falling!

Real life version of Chicken Little, right here.

Sunday night I thought the house was falling down. Turns out it was just paint falling off the tin ceiling. And last night some fell off the hallway ceiling. Thank you humidity, yes I promise to get back to work.

In other news, saw a mouse on Fri night, causing me to spend $40 on anti-rodent accoutrements. The mouse was captured and killed by Stiletto (Erin's cat) last night. Animals 2, Sarah 0. But thank you kitty!

Actually scheduled the floor guys. Spent two evenings, and borrowed muscle power, to empty the dining and living rooms so the guys could come today. Last night they called in sick. Living in a shambles of a house until next Tues now. Contractors 1, Sarah 0. I get a discount now though, so maybe we'll come out even...

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

The Lambchop Fence

When my siblings were growing up, there was a popular children's show called (or about) Lambchop (a lamb puppet). Lambchop had a very annoying song which sticks in your head forever - "this is the song that never ends,
yes it goes on and on, my friends.
some people - started singing it not knowing what it was
and they'll continue singing it forever just because
this is the song that never ends...."

Anyone else remember that? Well - I have the fence that never ends. Two weekends ago, I was determined to finish the fence and get the rest of the plants in. There were three panels remaining, and the brackets had to be driven into the concrete. At the end of a rather hot and exhausting Sunday, I had all the plants in (once again thanks
only to Hobs!), and two panels up. And the two panels only made it due to the reinforcements (thanks ladies!) that showed up at the end of the day and helped finish. Drilling those holes into concrete took HOURS. Even keeping the drillbit wet. Lesson learned - next time (may there not be one), I will simply plan in advance for once and rent a hammer drill, it would be worth it!

Last Sun I was going to finish the one panel, plant one new plant, repot the tomatoes, and do some weeding. After an exhausting rugby day on Sat it didn't quite work out that way - I did plant the new big plant, did some weeding, and repotted the tomatoes - but then I got hot and decided I didn't want to play outside anymore. So one panel still to go...

Pics -
(note the bench from scrap lumber that will hold the tomato plants - and probably a cat or two, realistically) -
From Fence Continues
And lovely garden!

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Goals - got 'em

Not sure if you've noticed, but it's July already. I have no idea how that happened. And looking at my summer plans, I also have no idea when I thought I was actually going to work on the house! Sounds like it might be time for me to set some (hopefully realistic) goals. I always seem to do better when I have something firm to aim for...

By the end of the summer (end of Labor Day weekend) I will have the following completed:
Hallway, which includes
--Finishing the paste removal

--Patching the walls
Refinishing the living and dining room floors (I'm hiring that one out)
Caulking/installing shoe molding in living and dining room
Erin's floor and sink
Finish the speaker hanging

Spray foam the gaps in the back basement window
Weatherstrip the hobbit door

I'd also like to:
Get a good chunk of the kitchen planning done
Clean the very gross windows in the front of the house, possibly including curtain washing
Build the outdoor garbage container
Actually mat, frame and hang pics in the dining room
Maybe even hang the mirror and shelves in my bedroom...

Clearly I'll be doing some work in the evenings. I am officially banning myself from regular tv viewing. But it's good to have goals!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Fencing in the rain

Ok, I haven't posted much. Not because stuff hasn't been going on, but because it's been pretty small gains for a bit. Some planting, lots of weeding and "mowing" (actually-weedwhacking the grass), and some fencing attempts. But when Dad was here last he pointed out that I should really put in horizontals to reinforce the fence so the lattice wouldn't sag in anymore. Then he started the project, bought some of the stuff I'd need, and gave me instructions on how to finish (note - Dad, when estimating timeframes, at this point I think you should just multiply however long it took you by at least a factor of 3...). And a seriously large amount of plants arrived to go in the back.

So this weekend - despite the fact that it's been raining for what feels like months - I really really wanted to finish the fence. Max came to help on Sat, and my unpaid landscape designer started figuring out where the plants would go. We worked through the rain (ok, we did go inside once when it was really pouring), and got all the braces put in to the existing fence panels! Major lesson learned - besides the obvious of needing to build the panels properly to start with - include things like drillbits not being at all resistant to rust, remembering put down newspaper before you track mud through the whole house, and that the ability of my brother to make me laugh at the most frustrating things can turn an incredibly painful project into an amusing adventure.

On Sun the sun actually came out! So off we went to Lowe's for the rest of the supplies, and I got going on the panels that go on the concrete while Hobs (previously mentioned landscape designer ;) ) finished prepping the garden and started planting. It rained. Again. But we persevered. Baja came out to help with the fence, and after some severe frustrations, we got the three panels on the left up! Only the right side to go... And the garden is looking great! Lessons learned from Sun - actually, making both horizontals the same length and the same height down from each 4x4 does not in fact guarantee that said 4x4's will be level. My measurements will be off. Gaps will appear in random places. Severe use of sledgehammer may be required. My house seems to be held up by air, since the lag bolts didn't sink into anything. And - it looks a million times better than the fence that was there.

So - probably one more day of work and the fence will be totally complete! But now at least enough materials have been used that we can actually use the backyard for a bbq if it ever stops raining...

In case you've forgotten, we started here:
From Sun in backyard

Went to here:
From Fence day 2

And are currently here!:
From Fence Again

Also - I had no idea of the amount of work truly required to put in plants. Somehow I kind of thought one could just dig holes and stick the plants in. I should know better, but I guess I always missed the garden prep, just caught the planting - and Dad uses a tiller anyway... Amazing!

Slideshow of the work:

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Anyone have kitchen ideas?

The past few weekends have been filled with rugby (and some rain) so I haven't done anything large. I did finally hang most of the speakers for the surround sound though, that was pretty exciting. Still have to hang the very back one, and paint the speaker wire.

But - before I embarked on the backyard work, I did finally finish making a kitchen plan. My kitchen is lacking in the most basic and useful of things - counter space - and definitely needs some upgrading! It does have a lot of doorways in it though, so I could definitely use some advice and ideas. Anyone? Bueller?

Friday, April 24, 2009

And the fencing continues

Funny, it took me less time to build the fence then to blog about it... It's been a busy week ;) So - last Sat was gorgeous, so I planned to get as much fencing done as I could. Those grapes really wanted to be planted! And after putting up one side of the fence last week, I knew what I was doing (sort of...) and figured I could just power through it.

After a bit of a struggle moving the relatively full composter, I was off and running. Dug the holes (burying a mouse carcass as part of that, ew) - took a food break. Cut the 4x4's and nailed in the first lattice sheet - took a food break. Cut the lattice for the filler portion - took a - you get the idea ;) I now know why construction workers always seem to be on break and eating! I got one side of the fence totally done, and then it was time to figure out how to raise the fence off the ground. Last week I had 3 friends to help, but this week only Erin was around. Luckily, we're pretty used to figuring out how to do things by ourselves - and Erin was feeling pretty smart. We raised one side of the fence, then Erin held it while I went from post to post in the middle, raising them and propping them on a sawhorse, chair and a shovel to keep them up. Then we inched them higher, moving the everything again to hold them up. Finally we had it high enough that it dropped into the holes, and Erin held it while I packed the holes in. Done!

The back wall was slightly trickier as we couldn't build it in pieces and drop it in as we did on the side. After digging out a rather large piece of slate/flagstone, I sunk the middle pole, and Erin held the lattice while I got the edges attached. All this with a rapt audience of 2 little boys from the house behind us - I am pretty excited not to have them staring at me everytime I'm in the yard now!

I shifted the composter to the back corner, moved the lilacs to a sunnier part of the yard - and collapsed into a chair with a beer. And it was good ;)

On Sun we did get the grapes in the ground - whew! Now just the top part of the right fence to go, and the part the goes along the concrete. Not so much looking forward to drilling the holes for the brackets...

I'm not sure I really like the way the lattice bows and separates where the pieces fit together.
Should I try something to attach the pieces together better? What do you all think? (And yeah Dad, I figured out how to cut it - but cutting an 8' length when you are rather short not so easy... Esp when there are staples in the wood...).

So from here:
From Fence day 2

To here:
From Fence day 2

Slideshow (yeah, I know I'm bad at taking pics while working):

Monday, April 13, 2009

Yay for immediate gratification!

I know you all thought I was just slacking, but really I was just planning. (Ok, and slightly slacking). But with the arrival of my birthday present of grape plants (thanks Dad), it was time to kick the backyard fence plan into high gear, so those grape plants can be planted! Luckily, as part of the "planning" period, I had already measured the backyard. So I whipped up a quick plan, and headed off to Lowe's on Sun to gather supplies.

As per usual, several lessons were learned. 1. If planning on renting a truck on Easter, it might behoove you to actually verify the rental place is open. 2. When buying enough lumber to make a fence, additional helpers to carry the lumber might also be a good idea (thank heavens no burpees were required yesterday!). 3. No, you definitely didn't do the math right. But what is a project unless you have to return to Lowe's at some point for more supplies?

But no matter, the materials were secured, and two good friends appeared, bringing both muscles and much more brain power than I had left. And look - we went from nothing to 3/4 of a fence, in really only a couple hours of actual working time! H did a great job digging 20" holes while I cut the posts, and all 3 of us attached the lattice (2 legs not required to use a hammer...). The addition of a third friend allowed us to actually get the fence upright and set. Super exciting! Yes, it's slightly crooked in spots, and certainly not flawless, but really - so am I, so it's just a reflection of my personality, really ;) And it looks SO much better than what was there before!

From Fence day 1
From Fence day 1

And now time for a little advice from those who are slightly more experienced (Dad? Dave?); I need to cut the lattice lengthwise to fill the top gaps. But it doesn't sit flat on the sawhorses, it's not sturdy enough, it bows and kind of flops around. So what's the best way to cut it? Thoughts?

Looks like Saturday will be sunny and nice - anyone up for phase 2 on fence work?


Thursday, March 5, 2009

I should have learned to love the wallpaper.

That would be - what, 907? - on the list of things I wish I knew before buying a house... Those involved in/sucked into the house since its purchase might remember that the hallway came wallpapered, in a mildly unattractive (though could have been worse) floral pattern. I of course did not like said wallpaper, and when we discovered during initial renovations how easily it came off, my crew of marvelous helpers yanked it all down.

You know what's under wallpaper? A sh*tton of paste. And cracks in the plaster, bad plaster patch jobs, and crumbly plaster. So before I can repaint the hallway, I have to a) finish removing the paste, b) fix the plaster, and c) take care of the spots on the ceiling with peeling paint. Last weekend I finally spent some time removing wallpaper paste. On a great note, it comes off quite well with the aid of water with vinegar, a scraper and a sponge. On a depressing note, I think 2 hrs gave me about a 5' x 5' area of clean wall. Um - and tedious jobs like washing walls are not my favorite things to do. I prefer things requiring brain power... At my current rate of progress, it may be July before the walls are ready!

Moral - perhaps I should have learned to like the wallpaper...

Thursday, February 12, 2009

We continue the trend of tiny projects...

I managed to get the outlet/switch into the wall in the bathroom! And shockingly, it did not require another trip to the hardware store. Just some tape (thanks for the hint Casey), a chisel, hammer, vacuum, googles - and an exercise in patience. Note - my patience muscle is now really sore. But it's in and attached, even if not a perfect vertical. But honestly, I really do want to redo that bathroom at some point, so I wasn't going to spend too much time trying to make it less crooked... It works and it sort of looks normal!

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Joys of home ownership

The frustrating part for me is when I plan to do a project, and end up completely derailed because something else in the house goes awry and requires immediate and time-sucking repair. Case in point - last weekend I broke the light switch in the downstairs bathroom. How? I tried to turn it on. Oops. These things happen, old house...

Luckily I had a spare, so I started the replacement process. 30 min later, with a little help from Dad, the new switch and outlet was attached and working - and hanging out of the wall, as it's too big to fit in the hole in the tile made for the original outlet! Therefore, I will be spending part of this weekend with a hammer and chisel, trying to make the outlet go into the wall without destroying the surrounding tile. (Sidenote - I hate the downstairs bathroom anyway, why must it keep having issues that require my time when I just want it to survive until I can destroy it and replace with something better?) That was so not on my project list for the weekend! Anyone want to bet on how long this little task takes?

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

The holidays are busy. And then I was tired.

Well - I was. So I took a rather long (and rather needed) break from home repair. Slowly trying to work my way back in though. Last weekend I had goals of hanging the curtain rods I finally bought for the living room - which were to replace the ugly ones that came with the house - and working on stripping more wallpaper paste off the hallway walls. With typical Sarah time estimation skills, the curtain rod hanging took much too long (don't ask. let's just say going up and down ladders after working out does not make for speedy home repair), so there was no paste stripping. But I'm back on the horse, look for more work done - or started - soon!