Friday, July 20, 2007

Compare and Contrast

Normally I wouldn't be too thrilled to live in a tract house with four clones on the same block, but in this case it gives me a chance to see, roughly, how the front of our house should/could look. All 5 houses are built in an L shape; all are brick and stucco and have 3 gables..except for ours, which is the only house with only 2 gables, one in the back and one on the garage. I suspect our house was built first (we've been told it used to be a 'model home'), then the builders realized it looked like crap without a gable in the front and subsequently altered the design for the rest.

Over the years, people have made a few changes to the houses, primarily to the garage/entryway areas. The house with the most extreme modification is ours (of course), where the POs converted the open front area (I don't know what it's called) into an enclosed room and altered the front of the garage. The second most extreme is the house down the road where they added a bay window to the front of the garage, surrounded it with yellow vinyl siding, and covered the stucco sides of the house with matching siding (which looks as weird as it sounds).

A few weeks ago, I surreptitiously snapped some photos of our neighbor's house to compare them with ours.

Here's his house:

Here's ours (gawd):

(While it's the least of our worries at the moment, you might notice we're missing a cap on our chimney. I wish these photos were taken from the same angle, but I obviously can't go into his living room to take a picture of our house.)

After I found those old photos in the attic, one of which looked like it might be our once-upon-a-time front door, I looked again at the photo I took of the neighbor's door,

and compared it to the door in the picture:

It does indeed seem as though that's what our front door used to look like.

Here's what it looks like now:

Note that we have to go through a pair of sliding glass doors and through the addition just to reach it. A number of people, including M when he first toured the house, have mistaken the garage door for our front door.

The reason for this post is that in order to have the roof replaced*, we're going to have to tear down the addition so that we're not roofing something we don't want in the first place. The question is...what goes in its place? Do we just leave it as a covered patio? There's a seam in the concrete and a ceiling beam in the addition that makes me think there used to be something there...but what? This would be easier if I could just go and have a tour of the other houses...

The neighbor has this:

If that's a little room, I'm not entirely sure how it would be accessed (in our house there are two windows, one in the dining room, and the other in the utility room, that look out into the addition)**. One or two of the other houses have something similar, only there's a door in the center and it's set back a bit further. The seam and beam in the addition would place our former 'something' in the same place as the neighbor's low wall and windows. I wonder if M would be willing to go next door and ask the neighbor if he knows what our house looked like before the addition... (Even if I weren't shy, I'd still be too embarrassed by the sorry state of our lawn and yard to do so.)

*I forgot to mention that M and I went up into the attic after leaky Wednesday to check it out.. We found a roof beam so damaged by water that 2-3 feet of it is moldy and rotted. Fabulous! (I won't mention how M unwisely decided to walk around on the roof, which I believe is supposed to be left up to people who know what they're doing so that one doesn't inadvertantly cause even more damage. Nope, I won't mention that at all.)

**Now I feel stupid. We drove past his house the other day and I noticed that there is a door into that room, right next to the garage; it's just not visible in the picture.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

When It Rains In Dreadville

Looks like that whole moving-in, buying paint, and thinking we could wait a year or so before demolishing the PO's additions and replacing the near-the-end-of-its-lifespan roof thing was foolishly optimistic. This will mostly be a photo post because I'm too effing depressed and full of hatred for the POs and this squat, ugly, borked up house to bother writing much.

Addition #1 (PO's Foyer/Mudroom/2nd TV Room):

Addition #2 (PO's Family Room/Dog Room/3rd TV Room):

How PO butchered roof in order to build Addition #1:

Our dining room ceiling, leaking and bubbling (maybe more water is reaching it since we removed stuff in the attic?):

Just for fun, our flooded road (that nice-looking front lawn belongs to our neighbor, not us):

Monday, July 16, 2007

I'm no expert, but...

...I suspect that the way the POs converted the bath into a shower is not the correct way to do it. Destruction is usually pretty satisfying, so I decided to take on the task of dismantling their handiwork this week.

Here's the bathroom as photographed by M when he toured the house for the first time:

(No, I don't know why they had shower doors and a shower curtain up.) I took the shower doors out weeks ago to open the space up a bit.

After I took the doors out, I was able to examine the shower more closely and thus learn How Not To Build A Shower:

  • Screw strips of wood into walls over existing wallpaper. Don't bother sealing that or anything else against moisture.

  • Nail unevenly cut pieces of tileboard to top two feet of wood, disregarding instructions on back of said tileboard telling you explicitly not to do any such thing.

  • Glue unevenly cut pieces of hard plastic sheeting to the rest of the wood and to the existing tile below. The more glue the better.

  • Caulk? What's that?

  • Nail pieces of wooden molding up around shower edges so as to hide uneven edges and hold shower doors in place.

Fortunately(?), the examination also showed that what was visible of the original tile seemed to be intact. And indeed, after pulling down the plastic, all of the tile except for an area that appears to have once had a built-in soap dish is intact. I consider it a dubious fortune because it's all a hideous, repellent shade of pink. I suspect that the bathroom at one time had a matching pink sink and toilet to go with the pink floor, walls and tub.

21 pieces of wood, 52 screws, and one bandage later (helpful hint: if you think you should be wearing work gloves but are too lazy to find them, find them anyway)...

...destruction phase 1 was complete.

Now to scrape off all that glue and wallpaper backing...

Two Painted Rooms! Two!

No, we haven't been buried alive by piles of Stuff, never to see the light of day again. The combination of weather in the high 90s and the return of my allergies (probably because the cat is pulling out her fur again) has led to a severe drop in my energy levels. While this is good in that the rest has helped my back recover - I haven't needed my muscle relaxer in a week! - it's less good for housey progress.

I did accomplish two things last week. One, I put together my cheap!desk from Target and yoinked out the old 'counter'. Two, I painted the master bedroom.

I have conflicting feelings on painting, especially when it comes to that room. One day, we're going to have to do some work on the trim in that room, as well as install a pocket door for the bathroom, which is going to mean the room will need to be repainted. The trim along one side of the bathroom door and the bottom of the wall between that and the closet door is odd... It's not wood which was cut to be trim; it's just wood that the PO slapped up and painted, so it's wider than the rest of the trim in the room. I should have just pulled it down along with the rest of the baseboards, but it was hot enough last week that I wasn't thinking clearly, illustrated by the fact that I climbed up my stepstool, trim brush in hand, and nearly started painting before I realized I hadn't taped the ceiling.

(Somewhere in my amnesiac madness, I apparently taped the cat as well and turned her into a crazy-eyed demon.)

Thusly, 'Painting with no air-conditioner when it's 95F INSIDE' joins my list of Things I Shall Never Do Again (only as of yesterday do we finally have an air-conditioner in that bedroom, due to delays caused by badly-timed wasps). Unfortunately, this whole angst-ridden event was unavoidable. Here is why:

That is what the bedroom looked like as painted by the POs. Keep in mind that this is a fairly small room and we have exceptionally low (7.5') ceilings. It is not, therefore, a room that could ever look good painted the color of the interior of Dracula's grandmother's coffin. The POs also didn't use enough coats of paint (I've heard you have to use a LOT when you paint something red) to get the color even AND it looks like they used a satin or gloss finish. At any rate, it was disturbingly ugly and not something we could live in.

We used two layers of primer to cover it up before we moved in and lived with that until last week. Then on Saturday and Sunday of the junk-removal weekend, M and I primed and painted the ceiling (rather than just getting a standard Ceiling White, we got the 'white' shades for each of the different colors we chose for the this ceiling is 'Mild Mint' to match the 'Morning Breeze' of the walls). On Monday and Tuesday, I mustered up enough fortitude to paint despite the heat and this is what the walls look like now:

I am really embarrassed about the sad state of that 'after' picture, both in terms of photo quality (the ceiling really isn't that uneven! I swear!) and our mess of a bedroom, but I got tired of trying to get a good shot and I don't see the point in doing up the room nicely until we actually have floors and curtains and such. We also need to get a smaller bed so that things can be arranged properly... it wouldn't be such a problem if it weren't for, say, needing to be able to get to the bathroom door. (Our current bed is actually 'beds'. M and his dad built these stacking twin beds that can be stacked (duh) or put together to make one king bed. My half has a 3" memory foam mattress over top of it, which is why it's so uneven looking - I tossed our winter blanket over it all to attempt to disguise this, but it was unsuccessful. Our plan is to get a queen-sized bed for that room and distribute the stacking beds to the other bedrooms.)

Monday, July 9, 2007


We had another productive weekend on the junk removal front. N & A (actually a different N & A than the ones we've mentioned before) came over and hauled stuff (some of it very heavy, including two cedar chests and a sewing machine) down the rickety steps and out onto the side lawn for sorting.

Firstly and most importantly (to me), we found this, the reason for the title of my post:

The red vase is one I've had for over a decade. I got it from my great-grandfather's house after he passed away. The green one? Was in a box in the attic of this house. Neat, huh? I realize they're not anything really special, but I'm pretty stoked about my newly matched (and Yule-ish) pair of little vases.

Back to the lawn --

-- where we sorted things into junk, nifty, and possible sale/salvage piles. Being a bit of a magpie myself (uh-oh), I had to save a few things from being junked, like the ice skates, a little wooden tray, and a strange metal clock-lamp shaped like the hull of a ship. (I did not keep the wig.)

It was really difficult for me to allow the tons of vintage curtains to go...but neat as they are, they're not at all to my taste and I would never consider using them. A woman stopped by and claimed some of them along with a few 50s style chairs and about 10 cans of Zud.

I can only hope the rest of it wll be taken before the next storm, as I don't think little rivers of Zud flowing down the street will endear us to the neighbors.

Some of the really nifty things we found were a couple of old pictures that had our house in them. So we have a small shot of what the front of our house used to look like before the POs added their strange little room, one of our side yard, and one of our cherry tree 23 years ago when it was still only 4 feet tall.

This is how our attic looked at the end of the day:

Admittedly, I'm not posting a photo of the other end of the attic, which still has a big box pile and the 4 foot stuffed Snoopy... but this is nonetheless amazing when compared with the attic before. :D Now we can actually check out the insulation and wiring up there and look for water damage from the previously leaky roof.

And then! A man stopped by this evening and took away all of our dirty, stinky baseboard heater covers! Wow!

Friday, July 6, 2007


Sometimes I think of our PO as a benign (but considerably less genius) version of Bloody Stupid Johnson.

Don't have cable television in all rooms of the house, including the additions? Just make holes in all the exterior and interior walls and run yards more cable through!

Can't pay for the alarm system anymore? Hey, why not just cut the wire and shove it under the carpet?

Family members don't appreciate your scintillating sense of humor? Scrawl, in permanent marker, 'the queen is a lezbo!' on the inside of your workshop cabinet and get a secret chuckle every time you open it. (Seriously, what!?)

Dining room not deadly enough? Bust a socket of your low-hanging light fixture and leave bare live wire sticking out. Make rowdy houseguests run the Electric Gauntlet.

Don't feel like moving entertainment stand to install new carpet? Don't bother -- carpet can be cut around your furniture.

Front door keeps denting baseboard heater? Install a doorstop...

...inside the heater.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

It Came From The Attic

Long ago, in those halcyon days when we were still blissfully ignorant of the just how much work this house needed, we had the requisite house inspection. The inspector, frequently thwarted in his task by the POs' furniture filling every spare inch of space, still managed to present us with a Binder Of Ill Tidings about hazardous carpets, damaged walls, extension cords, unsecured toilets, etc. Scattered among these items and others was the frequent observation of, "Due to the cluttered conditions of $AREA, a complete visual inspection was not possible." When it came to the attic, "cluttered" was upgraded to "extremely cluttered", and he was unable to enter at all.

Lulled into believing that the month between inspection and closing would give the POs enough time to move all of their crap out, we were unprepared for The Stuff. (I was completely unprepared, living two hours away and not setting foot into the house until after closing.)

Closing time came and went; M generously gave the POs several more days to move The Stuff; they put a bit of money in an escrow account should it arise that The Stuff was not completely removed. It seemed like a reasonable amount of money, given what was left on the property and the complete and utter naive belief that normal people have - to wit, that other people are good and kind and don't leave heaps and heaps of filthy, flea-ridden shit behind for the rest of us to clean up. (I don't think I've mentioned the fleas before...)

However...both M and the real estate agent somehow managed to forget about the attic - the attic filled floor to rafter with what turned out to be the leavings not only of the POs but of the PPOs as well.

The escrow fund will not cover us renting more than the one dumpster already filled and taken away, so M has been hauling a bit out at a time and putting it by the curb. (Unsurprisingly, the agent has been unable to get the POs to sign the necessary form for the money for the dumpster to be transferred.) Occasionally, some crazy great people stop by and give our piles of crap glorious attic items a new home.

Here are some of our finds that are not old holiday crap, broken glasses, knives, encyclopedias, beer, old mail and tax returns, curtains, curtains, curtains, more curtains, or ancient vacuums:

Accordion. Might work - I attempted to play it and it made horrid, soul-killing, neighborhood-scaring sounds. I believe this is normal. Complete with hokey velvet-lined case.

Car clock. Classy!

One of several ice skates. This one is lined with fake fur.

A rather nice little sidetable. Currently occupied by some of my plants.

Lovely (um) vintage lamp and one of two blue mystery barrels.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Profiles in Crap

I ordered a cheap rolling desk from Target today to replace this.

Crappy Counter

This 'counter' - another craptastic PO DIY job - sits in the kitchen corner. I attempted to remove it when I was ripping out the kitchen carpet (yes...the KITCHEN carpet - a green, filthy horror stained with cat piss and god only knows what else) by unscrewing all the metal supports from the walls and removing two legs. Imagine my dismay when I discovered that it was also glued to the wall. The original intent was to dispose of it in our long-gone dumpster, but it proved too difficult and we had too many other things to worry about at the time.

(Here's a reminder of how filthy the kitchen carpet was..this is a picture of it sitting in the dining room, rolled up and ready to be disposed of.

Kitchen Carpet - Rolled

Note the contrast between the somewhat stained parts and the pure brown parts. There's a lingering, immovable stain on the concrete in the kitchen from the pure brown parts. I've no idea what it is, but it is impossible to clean.)

Much to my chagrin, the ghetto counter has been very useful over the last month. As you can see, it is in use as a phone and laptop stand. (We have very, very little counterspace in the kitchen.) However, in the last month the glue holding the counter top to the backsplash has come loose and the table is only being held up by its one remaining leg and by its leaning against the backsplash in the corner. It wobbled fiercesomely yesterday when the cat jumped up on it, so I consider it bordering on dangerous to keep around and in use (it's quite heavy despite being only particleboard with a laminate top). It also once gave me a rip in a new pair of pants when the cheap wood trim on the front came loose and left a nail exposed, so I'm quite hostile towards it anyway.

I really hate furniture with wheels, but I think they give the above desk a neutral sort of look that means it won't be too out of place in a kitchen...and I can put my cookbooks (as soon as I figure out where they're packed) on the shelves on the side.