Disclaimer: we aren't professionals

Thanks for reading our silly little blog! As the disclaimer says, we aren't professionals in either blogging or house stuff, but we try. This is mostly to let our friends and family know what we've destroyed so far in the house. We post irregularly and usually forget to take pictures, so thanks for your patience, and please feel free to comment with your thoughts and suggestions!

Monday, March 29, 2010

Garage Door Tension

One of the small tasks that dad wanted to address while he was there was adding tension to the garage door assist springs. *Caution* - this is actually a fairly dangerous task and can land you with a broken arm/wrist if you aren't careful.

We started by cutting some handles out of rebar and using the cut-off saw to shape down the tip so that it would fit into the holes located at the end of the spring. The shaping was similar to how you would carve a pencil.

In the picture above, dad is using the cut-off saw to narrow the tip of the rebar. The following picture shows dad using the rebar to hold tension on the spring while he loosens the set-screw that holds the spring to the central shaft attached to the door.

The objective is to loosen the set-screw, twist the spring clockwise as far as you can, tighten the set-screw, move the rebar to the next hole and repeat. We didn't get it quite tight enough, but we will probably fix it the next time dad drops by. The whole operation takes less than 30 minutes. According to my inspector, you can have this done for less than $50 and avoid the risk of hurting yourself.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

New Mailbox

Annie wanted to replace the old mailbox and mailbox post because she felt that it was an eye sore and that it was an easy way to let the neighborhood we were moving in and we intended to take care of the house. The next picture is of the old mailbox - what a mess...

The mailbox had the hollow post that was placed over a pipe that was driven into the ground. I couldn't get the pipe loose so I drove it deeper into the ground with a 5lb sledge hammer. I'll probably end up digging it out some day.

We forgot to snap shots of Annie digging the post hole for the 4x4 mailbox post, but she dug the hole about 18 inches deep and large enough in diameter to allow at least 3 inches on any one side of the post. I mixed a 60 lb bag of Quickrete (actually about 2/3 of the bag) in my new True Temper Ames 6c.f. wheel barrow (I really like this wheel barrow so far; 84.95 from Home Depot). I poured about an eighth of the concrete in without the post to set the post on and then half of what was left around the post. I moved the post in a circular motion to let the concrete settle. I followed up with some dirt that I packed in around the post. Finally I poured the rest of the concrete until it came up about 2 inches above the ground. I sloped the concrete away from the treated post so that water would not accumulate against the post. This helps avoid premature rotting, even with a pressure treated post. The following picture shows the post after all of these steps and leveling. I believe Annie told me the center of the post had to be roughly 22" back from the roadway according to Cobb code.

Next, Annie mounted the plywood mailbox board onto the post and mounted the mailbox to that. You can save some money by making the mailbox post on your own (you'll need a wood chisel, hammer, mitre saw, circular saw, 8' of treated 4x4 and some rust resistant screws), but most of the purchases were probably the cheapest option. Annie also planted some annuals around the base of the mailbox to accent it a bit more. They were in Georgia Tech colors too =)

The entire project from start to finish took less than 2 hours (it may have been closer to 1 hour). Not counting the tool purchases (post hole digger, shovel, cordless drill, wheel barrow), the total cost was right at $50 and required the following items:
  • Mailbox post - $22
  • Concrete - $2.50
  • Mailbox mount - $3.00
  • Mailbox - $13.00
  • Flowers - $10.00

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Corner Rebuild (day 4) - stud replacement

After finishing out the floor joist replacement and sheeting the floor, the temporary floor support was removed. I was alone during the stud replacement work due to dad working for Numed to do some preventative maintenance at his Atlanta accounts.

I did not get a chance to snap shots of putting this together, but I started by cutting and measuring the floor pieces of 2x4 that the studs sit on. I had to put the stud replacement pieces on the floor plates in the room because it was too large to fit through the doors. After some awkward juggling with the assembly and the nail gun, I had it all together. I cut the bottom plates a little short so that the whole thing would slide into place. The following picture shows it all in place.

I had to slide the exterior sheeting in before the studs were in place because the entire assembly would not have made it into place with the sheeting on. I nailed the splicing pieces on next to ensure the studs mated appropriately.

I finished by drilling the holes to rerun the wiring. I refined the sheet rock edges to prepare for dad and Annie putting up the sheet rock on Wednesday.

I also learned to remove wood flooring more efficiently. You start by drilling two holes at the end of the board and cutting two lines down the length of the board to meet the holes. You then knock the center piece out with a wood chisel. You can follow up by prying out the boards without damaging the adjacent boards.

Corner Rebuild (day 3) - removing rot and replacing the floor joists

The previous post on the corner rebuild included the supporting of the floor joists and the trusses to prepare for cutting out the rotted sections of wood. Unfortunately, I forgot a camera the morning of the tear out so the first picture that I have of the removal is at the point where we had removed the rotted exterior black board, the rotted wall stud sections, the rotted floor joists and seal plates.

You can see the cap blocks from the foundation, the exposed brick where we cut away the ruined exterior sheeting, the removed floor joist sections and the removed wall stud sections. There was a lot of expert Sawsall operating in order to cut out the seal plates and joists running along the tops of the cap blocks. We used dad's new Rotozip tool (Dremel on steroids) to get to a few locations that we couldn't get the Sawsall. After a lot of sweating, bleeding and swearing, dad and I had all of the rot and debris out of our way. My new Ridgid 12 gallon wet/dry vac performed wonderfully to pull all the small debris and mold out.

The next step was to build the replacement piece complete with seal plates, cap joists and extending floor joists. We built the entire segment in the garage and transported it into the room because we would not be able nail the joists on once we got it into place. We even put strips of the exterior sheeting along the backside because we would not be able to slide the sheeting into place at a later time. This picture shows dad measuring joist lengths for the seal plate and cap joist assembly.

The following image shows us starting to move the section into place.

I had to get under the assembly and chip away some excess mortar on the bricks because we couldn't get it to slide into place. Getting it into place was a painful experience. You can also see a trail of F26 adhesive on the block that was used to seal and adhere the section against the block. The seal plate was made of a treated 2x6 to ensure rot resistance in the future in this corner.

Dad is passing materials down to me in this picture for "scabbing" the old and new sections of floor joists together. We used the construction adhesive on all of these operations to ensure full strength in the joist rebuild. We also used a lot of nails. It was a pain moving the framing nailer around in those tight places. This next image shows the finished product of our work.

No more flimsy, sinking flooring! The next image shows the floor decking in place.

Finally, we finished out the day by squaring off the exterior sheeting and measuring/cutting out the new exterior sheeting pieces. Dad had to work the next day for Numed so I took charge of replacing the stud sections. That will be the subject of the next post.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Corner Rebuild (day 2) - supporting the floor joists and the trusses

My last post on the rotted corner showed the damage that dad and I found after opening up the wall. The rot had progressed along the seal plates and joists about 36" in both directions from the corner. It also made its way about 32" up several of the wall studs near the corner.

The work in this post took place on the Saturday before our spring break at GT. My dad got there about two in the afternoon, so we were limited on the amount of time we would have to work that afternoon. Logan also came along to help out.

Our main focus was getting the floor joists and the trusses supported so that we would not have any issues with sag when we cut the wall studs and the floor joists out to remove the rot. Dad started by removing some more of the wood floor strips and then cut out the 1/2" decking that they used for sub-floor. The following two pictures show me moving supporting materials to crawlspace to support the floor joists.

Dad had already done most of the heavy work while Logan and I were gone to Home Depot to get supplies for rebuilding the floor. He had moved 4 or 5 concrete blocks and a 20 ton bottle jack to the crawlspace. The next picture shows the location of the gas line and how it was really close to being in the way of our work. Always be careful using a Sawsall in close proximity to electrical wire or gas lines.

Dad used a combination of the blocks, the foundation blocks, 4x4s and the bottle jack to support the joists.

The next image was taken after dad had already used the jack to put force on the cross brace. We used a stack of block and wood with wood shims to make sure the third supported joist had equal force supporting it as well.

While we were working on supporting the joists, Logan and Annie put together a false wall that would be used to support the trusses so that they would not sink after we removed the wall studs in the corner. It only took them about 20 minutes to put it together. They also christened my dad's new framing nailer.

The last step was to squeeze it through the door to the room and wedge it into place.

We were finished and had the tools locked up by 6:30. We also got the Home Depot trip out of the way for getting the building materials. I do wish I would have prepared more for Logan to do because he did not always have an active job. Sorry Logan, I will be more prepared next time.

The next corner rebuild post will go into details of removing the rotted sections and replacing the floor joist section.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Corner Rebuild (day 1) - assessing the rot damage in the corner of the house

Dad was in town this weekend for some preventive maintenance for Numed and we stopped by the apartment to pick up the rest of my furniture. We moved that over to the house and took some time to tear into the corner of the house to identify the rot damage and what kind of tools we will need for the week after next for fixing that. You can see where we tore out the sheetrock as well as the mold growth in the following pictures.

I will post the renovation work starting this next weekend.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Master bath design plan

I seriously need some more creative titles.

I've always been amazed that someone "flipped" our house but didn't do anything to the kitchen or what they call the master bath (except to poorly install cheap ceramic tile in the kitchen).  Traditionally, those are the two places where upgrades provide the most bang for your buck. Pretty much anything we do to either of those rooms will be an improvement. The flipper probably ran out of money; that's ok, because if we can redo the two spaces ourselves, we can really increase the value of the house for down the road.

I've gone over the kitchen layout and the bathroom layout, and the living room design, so here's the color scheme and furniture kinda thing I want to do with the master bath. As always, I will make sure Chris is ok with everything before subjecting him to pink walls or fuzzy comforters or whatever other awesome design ideas I come up with.
Adding an Elvis-style Jungle Room is an example of how to increase the value of your home, from an HGTV blog here: http://blog.hgtv.com/design/2009/04/01/how-to-add-value-to-your-home/
I think a lot of those are really sound ideas. :)


Just kidding. The master bedroom/master bath will have a contemporary, mostly masculine feel, with gray and blue colors, and dark "espresso"-stained woods. Here's a bathroom pic:

NATURLIG laundry basket (16 x 16 x 27) - $39.99
MOLGER mirror (or similar) painted black - $30ish
Target Braxton Trestle Desk in black - $149.99
Overstock.com Vitreous China vessel sink - $129.99
Target Midnight Wall Cabinet (black) - $69.99
West Elm Pleated-Top Cotton Shower Curtain in gray or cream – sale $34.99
Blik Anise wall decals - $65
Soaking tub: $400ish
Ikea KOMPLEMENT woven baskets

Annnnd there's a cabinet that I wanted to get for storage, since all we really have are the open shelves on the desk and maybe the wall cabinet. We're going to block the door to the hall with the cabinet, in order to make it accessible only by the master bedroom without walling it off permanently (it's all back to resale). The only thing is, the cabinet I like is expensive and chocolate brown, not black like the desk. I guess it's not as big a deal since it's not going to be permanent, but I am going to keep looking. But for now, here's the plan:

Ikea Bjursta glass-door cabinet in brown/black w/ frosted glass doors:

What's great about this is that it's narrow and shallow enough to fit in the space in front of the door, and it will provide tons of storage without seeming too heavy (because of the glass doors, which are conveniently frosted so they'll still hide our stuff).

Width: 31 1/2 "
Depth: 15 3/4 "
Height: 74 3/4 "

So I think I'll go to Ikea today, replace the glass I broke in the dishwasher, and scout for cheaper options.

Edit: Ikea is a zoo. I hate going there on Saturdays. Also, the showroom is under renovation. With so many people struggling to find their way through, it was a confusing maze (more so than usual). I couldn't find the cabinet so I just picked up the broken glass (after freaking out that they discontinued it, but then I found it), some candles, a tray, and a really pretty turquoise blue glass bowl. Isn't turquoise the color of the year? Why yes, it is.

Anyway, I was on the way to checkout (the lines were at least 20 people long each) and I FOUND IT!!! The expensive cabinet, that is. It is actually perfect. The construction is still cheapo particleboard, but at least it's ash veneer with lacquer instead of laminate (if it's not dark enough we could fix it). We'll need to seal it again for extra waterproofness, if we get it. The frosted glass hides stuff well, too; the doors are funky though because you have to press at the top of the door for the clicky mechanism to open the door. There's that skinny drawer, too; I envision jewelry storage or something there, because there will be a medicine cabinet for toothpaste and deodorant and stuff. 

Friday, March 12, 2010

Living room decorating ideas

I should be studying for a test but I'm not. =)

This is kind of the feel the living room might have. I already have the couch and the black chair frame. I might not buy all the stuff listed (uhhh expensive!!!) but something that looks like this is the goal. I still don't know what color to paint the walls; beige works for now. Dunno about curtains, either. The ones here are pretty cheapo Ikea ones.

(click to embiggen)

Ikea KARLSTAD sofa – already have in Korndal green; chaise add-on unit in Korndal green $349
POANG chair – have in black/brown and Korndal blue; leather cushion in robust off-white $139
CB2 – citrus vases $8-$10 ea
Corner gel fuel fireplace – Target - $299
Loren console table BB&B - $159.99 or smaller Harrison Black Accent Table $79.99
CB2 – makoda coffee table - $299 http://www.cb2.com/family.aspx?c=114&f=5619
RUTBO floor lamp - $59.99
Black Etagere floor lamb BB&B - $59.99
Spiral wall sconce – Target, $26
KAJSA pair of curtains w/ grommets $29.99
BRANAS storage basket $7.99, EMU tin box w/ lid, 2 for $6.99, KASSETT box w/ lid 2 for $4.99

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

New Bath Layout

Since I'm on a posting roll, here is the new bathroom layout for the "master" bath.

Current layout:

  • Wasted space where the hallway is
  • Ugly vanity
  • Awkward door opening into the vanity
  • Chipped cast-iron tub that's already been reglazed
  • Chipped toilet
  • Old ceiling leak that should be fixed (the ceiling; I think the leak is ok?) 
  • 24" doors 
New layout: 
  • Bigger soaker tub (the trendy spa feel without fancy/expensive whirlpools or anything)
  • Remove the extra wall and move the toilet to the corner
  • Put the vanity against the hall wall, next to the toilet
Because Chris and eventually Chris and I won't be using the door to the hall, we wanted to block it off and gain that extra wall space. Sheila said that was a bad idea for resale, but the instructor at my interior design workshop came up with the perfect solution. We can close and lock that door and put storage in front of it, and then remove that storage when we put the house on the market and replace it with a bookcase or something by the tub (between the master bedroom door and the tub wall). This way, Chris doesn't have to install a pocket door to save space, and we don't have to make any changes really to the existing doors. We can even fit the new tub in through the doors, as long as it goes straight in and we don't have to tilt it (the tub will probably be only 20" deep or so, tops). 

Anyway, without further ado, here is the proposed layout:

(click to enlarge)

I'll cover the color scheme, the wall decals, tile, and what we're planning to put in for the vanity and the storage dresser in a later post. 

New Kitchen Layout

For the past few weeks (ever since I was able to measure the kitchen), I've been wracking my brain trying to think of the best new layout for the kitchen - one that maximizes storage space, has high efficiency, keeps the all-important ~work triangle~, and of course will work for future buyers.

Soooo what was wrong with the old kitchen:

  • The cabinets (kinda obvious), especially the corner base cabinet that you couldn't access
  • The lack of a pantry (unless that closet across the hallway was the pantry)
  • The range positioned right next to the refrigerator
  • The lack of microwave or place for a microwave to go
  • The awkward open space next to the window to the living room
  • The cracked grout and the terrible, terrible cheapo ceramic tile where they didn't bother to rotate the pattern so you get 3 tiles in a row that are exactly the same and facing the exact same way
What we will fix with the new kitchen layout: 
  • Move the range so you can put a microwave above it and a vent to the outside
  • Move the sink to across from the range so you get a work triangle
  • Move the dishwasher with the sink, so it's across from where all the eating utensils will be stored
  • Add a high cabinet next to the fridge, so the cold food and the pantry food is all in one place
  • A corner base cabinet with a lazy susan built in (so that corner space is not wasted)
  • A pot rack above/in front of the window, so the light isn't blocked but we don't lose wall storage space
Here is my proposed new layout, with the prices of each stock cabinet piece included. I've also included the price of the side panels, but not trim pieces like what will frame the dishwasher. We'll need plywood or something and an oak end panel there to encase it. 

(click to enlarge)

The total price of cabinets comes out to $1500, plus stain, anything needed to assemble, faucets, sink, etc. etc. I'd also like to get a new fridge and we'll have to buy a microwave, and those aren't included in the cabinet cost. At least we'll take the fridge with us when we move, and we can sell the old one on craigslist. 

The ceilings are 8 feet high, so there will be a 1-foot gap above the cabinets. We can simply add some crown molding, and then put some cheap Ikea lights up there or something. I have yet to investigate that thoroughly, but I will. Don't worry. I <3 internet research. 

Welcome to the Jungle

The neighbors told Chris that the house used to be a jungle, and that the flipper who cut down everything to stumps actually made it look a lot better. We'll have to put in some shrubs (azaleas and nandenas (sp?) and whatnot) but here's a view of the house before the flipper. Thanks, Google Maps!

And check it out! They had a trampoline! Not fair! (I was never allowed to have one when I was a kid)

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Floor plan: as it is now

This is not completely to scale, and the bedrooms have some additional corners and such, but it's basically what we're working with. Some room dimensions:
Master bedroom: 11'3" x 11'6"
Master bathroom: 9.5' wide x 8' deep
Kitchen: 22' x 8' (counter is 12' long)
Living room: 26' x 15'

(click to enlarge)

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Picking a cabinet stain

If we're going to redo the kitchen, we're going to have to put in new cabinets cheaply. Therefore, it is logical to use the stock cabinets available at both Lowe's and Home Depot. They are unfinished oak, and are less than $100 each except for special pieces like drawers and corner cabinets with lazy susans built in. For as small as the kitchen is, and for the price range that this house is in, anything nicer would be improving beyond what is required, and semi-custom or custom pre-finished cabinets plus installation would definitely not be cost-effective.

So, my color scheme is going to be medium brown, red, yellow, and green. Nice and sunshiney and cheerful! I'll post on my design plans later, but for now, I shall explain how I'm trying to pick a cabinet stain and find out how long it should sit.

We picked up an end panel for wall cabinets at Lowe's for $7.00, a 1/2 pint of Minwax wood finish, a super-cheap 2" brush, and some rags.
I should have sanded this before beginning, but didn't. I did draw boxes in sharpie so I could tell exactly which part had stain on for exactly how long. 
First I coated the whole thing:
The top row will be for 1 coat, and the bottom row will get a 2nd coat.

After 5 minutes I wiped the first square off. It was definitely too light. 

I continued at 5 minutes intervals up to 15 minutes, then let it dry. I applied a second coat to the bottom. The bottom's first coat sat for 15 minutes total, and then on the 2nd go around for 5, 10, and 15 minutes as shown. 

The differences are hard to tell here, but if you tilt the panel sideways it's clearer.

I don't like that where two planks are joined, there is a clear line, but maybe sanding will help that. I think that 2 coats are definitely required, probably for 15-20 minutes each. I do like the color; it's not too red, not too dark, and it'll go well with stock countertops. I also like that it shows the wood grain. Although it's not as modern and contemporary as my personal style is, or as the Ikea cabinets I liked are, this color and style is pretty and mostly clean-lined and should work with almost anyone's kitchen style. Ultimately, it's all about the resale value! The time for customization will come later.

The House: as we purchased it

These pictures were taken during the home inspection, just after it snowed 1 - 3". They are a quick tour of the house. A floor plan is coming soon! In the meantime, click on a picture to see the high-res version.
That guy on the right is Mike Frank. He was our inspector, and was incredibly helpful. His wife and I took measurements and checked the outlets inside while Chris followed him all over the house, crawl space, and attic. 

The view of one side of the living room, from the  front door. There's a coat closet, and on the right is the hallway leading to the bedrooms.

Here's the door again. There are two of these big windows along this wall. The room is 26 feet wide and 15 feet from the front door to the kitchen/breakfast area.

The ceiling fan is pretty nice; it'll probably stay. The blinds throughout the house are also very nice.

This bathroom is right off the living room. Weird place, huh? They probably added it as an afterthought. Anyway, it's been renovated fairly recently; the tub is nice, the tile is new, and the yellow tile isn't too bad. Unfortunately, it doesn't reach all the way up to the shower faucet. 

So that bathroom is right on the other side of this wall. The breakfast area has 2 french doors leading to the patio, and a big opening to the living room. 

Turning around, we see the kitchen. Original cabinetry, but relatively new appliances. There is a window cutout to the living room, as well as a door to the hallway. There is a linen closet opposite that doorway which must have been the pantry. The cabinets go all the way from 12" above the countertops to the 8' ceiling. The hardware isn't too bad, but they need to be torn out. The appliance placement is funky too; we'll fix that :)

There is no microwave; just a vent hood that probably goes nowhere. They painted the corner cabinet there black. The tiny door to the left of the sink opens to that huge back area, which is totally wasted space. We'll fix that too. 

The sink is decent; it's standard, but a bit banged up. We'll keep the garbage disposal. The faucet is currently broken. The countertop has holes in the laminate to the left of the sink, too. The window doesn't function. Lots of work to do!

We move on down the hall to the bedrooms/bathrooms. The bedrooms are nothing special... 1 or 2 windows, hardwood floors, tiny closets. This is the bathroom in the hall. It was probably expanded; that's the only way the funky layout could have been spawned. Anyway, here is the toilet and cast iron tub, in all its almond glory. The tub has been reglazed, but is chipping around the drain. The toilet can probably be saved? I'm not an expert here. Also the tile drives me nuts. Hexagonal is ok, but this does not have equal sides! It's a squashed hexagon! And many are chipped or cracked, the grout is dirty... yuck. 

This doorway is next to the toilet. It leads to the vanity and the door to the master bedroom. It's basically wasted space. Also, the wall that houses the plumbing is 8" thick! It's funky. 
By the way, the total bathroom dimensions are 8' deep (door to tub wall) and 9.5' wide (from behind the camera to the wall in front of us)

Here's that vanity. Note the 24" door that barely clears, the mirror that is not actually mounted to the wall, and the awkward spacing all around. That sucker is so gone. 

So that's the quick preview of what we're dealing with! There will certainly be more close-ups as we do work in each area. For example, see Chris' post about gutters above, and then mine about cabinet stain colors.