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Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Craigslist - What a Wonderful Thing!

Absolute genius. Having the ability to search and find items you need and get rid of items you don't. I am continually amazed at how well it works.

Here's the list so far,
Sold:
  • Full size electric range $25 
  • Small bathroom vanity $20
  • Oak stained and poly'd trim $25
  • Washer/Dryer $300
Bought:
  • Apartment size electric range $50 -- In perfect condition, a new one is priced over $300
  • Daltile porcelain mosaic tile for bathroom floor $38 
  • 10' iron railing $15 -- A wonderful 70s style with wood handrail, a cheaper new wrought iron is about $200  for 4' -- it needs a little sanding and paint 
I still have several other items listed such as the cast iron radiators, medicine cabinet, doors and kitchen cabinets. More than anything I hate throwing anything usable away and more importantly we really have no where to store the excess on this property.

Surprises

Another hot day in WI. This is the day we started tearing down the garage ceiling to make the joist area accessible to the plumber and electrician. It has been extremely hot and humid this summer. Luckily upstairs in the apartment where we've been working there is an air conditioner to make the work bearable. No such luck today working in the garage area.

The plan was to tear down just the areas where access was needed. Pulling down a ceiling is somewhat easier than walls as you have the weight of the drywall to help you. Also in our favor, most of the drywall was screwed instead of nailed unlike upstairs. 


Things were going quite well until we pulled down a section that clearly exhibited mold. We were surprised because there was no evidence of water damage on the floors or walls upstairs. Hmmm, we'd have to think this over a bit before continuing. Luckily for us we had a dinner engagement and the moldy drywall was contained withing a poly vapor barrier.

First we figured we should find out how to deal with the problem. I found a mold remediation specialist located in a town not too far away and gave him a call the next morning. He came by Monday afternoon to inspect, and indeed there was mold - a level 1 or 2 problem. Regulations say this level of contamination can be handled by the DIY homeowner, however I react to mold and didn't think we wanted to take this on.


The mold specialist said it would be pricey for him to take care of it; but on pressing him for a price he quoted me $500. Guess what? I had a $500 allowance for unknowns in our budget. We talked it over and he said he could come the next day and tear down the rest of the ceiling, pull out the  contaminated insulation and bag it up. All we had to do was find a way to haul it away. 
The mold specialist came back the next day at 8:30 am., and worked until about 2 pm. By 2:30, all the drywall and insulation were in neat piles on our driveway and the floors swept. By far, paying someone to do this job was totally worth the cost. It would have taken us at least two days to do what the specialist had done and more importantly it kept our project on schedule.

Upon completion and further inspection I was told that the event that caused the mold was many years ago and not a continuing problem. The mold had been removed and was really only on the papered part of the fiberglass insulation. Excellent news!


Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Tear Down Continues

We've made great progress and are on schedule for starting the rebuild in another two weeks. No huge surprises as we've been tearing down the kitchen, bathroomwalls. On the whole the place was built very well, the remodeler that made changes several years ago we can't be as complementary.

Our renter complained about how slow the water drained from the sinks. I think we may have found out why. The vent stack in the kitchen was not attached - it seems in the previous remodel when they put a new sink and cabinet in they broke the seal and the vent pipe separated. How do we know this you may ask? Well, when we took the cabinet out we saw a bunch of insulation stuffed into the hole around the drain pipe. Hmmm . . . when we tore the wall down we saw that the vent had clearly separated and the insulation was stuffed around the separation in hopes to fix it.

So far we've removed the kitchen, bathroom vanity and toilet,  several walls and made five trips to the dump. We've got one more wall to remove and then we attack the wiring and plumbing that remains.

Last weekend we drained and disconnected the radiators and moved them to the garage. We are very thankful that my son (Matt) is extremely strong and came over to help. Without him we would never have gotten the radiators out of there.

When I called to see when he was coming I told him to wear old clothes and to wear sneakers (not the flip flops he normally wears) because he was going to have to work hard. He did his classic, "yeah mom, I'm just going to move a couple of heavy things." After relaying this comment to my husband, he decided to call him back and emphasize the radiators were at minimum 200 pounds and it wasn't going to be easy to get them down the stairs.

The first radiator, the small one, he probably could have just carried out of there. It was probably only 100 - 150 pounds. The others were difficult to even push over to the staircase.

Todd had done some research on YouTube to see how to get them out so we had a plan on how to accomplish this. We couldn't just slide the radiators down the stairs as in some videos -  there is a wall about three feet from the bottom of the stairs and it wouldn't be good to break it.

We tied a rope through the radiator, with Matt on the downside guiding it and working it down the stairs. Todd was at the top of the stairs applying resistance with heavy gloves and the rope wrapped around his back. I was backup to Todd holding rope in case it slipped. Without the resistance the radiator would have easily done damage to my boy.


Two more weekends and we will be ready to build.
Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Would You Believe...

This is about an hour after I swept up
the first batch of ants.
I woke up and walked into the kitchen for my morning coffee this morning and saw a big pile of ants that fell from the ceiling?

Well I did.

After sweeping up the first batch, I went online and search for ant identification. What I found was that they were probably carpenter ants.

About two months ago, we had hundreds making their way down the wall from the corner of the ceiling so we put out three Terro containers on the kitchen counter. Two and a half were eaten by the ants by the morning. Within a day the ants were gone. We thought- problem solved. It appears that was not the case as we been seeing more and more ants wandering throughout the house over the past few weeks. I was going to buy a new package of Terro but hadn't gotten to it yet.

After the online research I called my DH and said I was calling an exterminator as this was way beyond my call of duty to take care of. A quick call to Orkin and an appointment was made after discussion about all the ants, spiders and mice they would be willing to deal with for me with a small (or should I say reasonable) fee.

Ants continued to fall throughout the day until the Orkin man arrived after 6 pm. I kept DH informed as the ants multiplied throughout the day. He commented that there must be a massive battle going on up there. Once the Orkin man arrived he seemed  a little puzzled and said they must be pushing dead ants out of the colony. By this time there were winged ants and larvae in the pile. As we talked they were still falling from the ceiling. After he saw the hundreds of dead ants I swept up their sad little carcasses and threw them outside.

He went right to work looking for entry points and then brought out the poisons. Several layers aimed directly at eliminating the problem. It may take up to two weeks to know if all the ants were killed or bait taken back to the colony to kill it off. For now they have pretty much stopped dropping from the ceiling, I fell a bit more secure in my home and hope that there isn't much damage from the ants and the problem has been solved.

Never did get breakfast or my morning coffee.

First Steps To A Successful Remodel


As a repeat do it yourself remodeler I have found that planning and budgeting are critical to the success of a project. One of the first steps is to figure out a scope for the project by figuring out what is really important to you.

Questions to ask yourself and partner/spouse:

  • How much work are you willing to do yourselves? Are you willing to do the tear down and removal of walls, carpeting or other flooring. Or is the finish work your forte? You can save a lot of money if you are willing to invest some sweat equity. Likewise, decide which items are better off left to a qualified electrician, plumber, drywall installer/taper, or other professional.
  • Return On Investment (ROI) should be always be considered especially if you are considering selling in the nearer rather than farther off future. Some improvement projects offer great return while others don't. Research the ROI in your area  by talking with a local real estate professional. 
  • Figure out what items matter to you the most. Is it top of the line stainless steel appliances? Hardwood floors? Whirlpool tub? High end glass or stone tile? Or is there some other item that will make the difference of a successful project or not?  Rank these items as you did when you were shopping for your dream home. 
  • Are your "must" items the same as your spouse's? If not, you may have to bargain or compromise on the big ticket items. Remodeling always has surprises and unknown costs and if budgets are tight and it pays to be flexible in order to complete the project.
Discuss, research and discuss again making sure you know what is important and what needs to be done. Next you can start putting a budget together.
Monday, July 9, 2012

Tuscan Steak

The other night we took a break from our remodeling project and made an amazing dinner. I had picked up a couple of ribeye steaks the day before knowing we would be ravenous after long days working in the apartment.
This is a very simple and extremely tasty recipe I found somewhere on the internet years ago. What is interesting about this recipe is that you marinate the meat after you cook it.
Well season steak with salt and pepper. The original recipe called for a large porterhouse steak that would be cut into thin slices for serving. We have used a thick family steak, t-bones, ribeyes and even chuck steak for this recipe. 


Snip fresh herbs of your choice into a shallow bowl or glass baking dish. I recommend tarragon, oregano, rosemary, chives and minced garlic. Add enough extra-virgin olive oil to mostly cover the herbs.

Grill the steak to a little before your preferred doneness. The steak will continue to cook as it marinates in the herbed oil.

Add the steak to the marinade, wait a minute and flip  over. Spoon some of the marinade and herbs over the top of the steak. Let it rest for a couple minutes. You can flip again if you wish, but spoon the marinade and herbs on top again.

Serve either by slicing thinly or serve whole steaks. Be sure to use the marinade as a topping for baked potatoes or mix into cooked pasta. Sprinkle the potatoes or pasta with a little Parmesan or Romano cheese.
Thursday, July 5, 2012

Remodeling The Garage Apartment Part 1 - The Problems

In April we decided it was time to remodel our modified a-frame garage apartment. This is something we wanted to do for a while. We bought the property in December of 2009 and inherited the renter that was there previously.

Our renter moved out at the end of May and at that time we finally got a really good look at what kind of shape it was in, and quite frankly we were aghast at the condition and various safety issues we found.

We knew or quite some time that the stairway into the unit was unsafe as the treads were not deep enough and the risers too tall, which are a concern for me as I have a bit of arthritis and found them very difficult to navigate in the hard soled shoes that I often wear when my feet are giving me problems. The carpeting was in dire need of replacing as you can see in the photos.

As we went through the place, not only was there a very inefficient layout we noticed that the wiring (Romex) to the kitchen peninsula ran along the  base board from under the sink to the range. Scary!

The bathroom space is over-sized for the tiny fixtures that were used. A 36 inch shower stall, a massive medicine oak cabinet and light, the tiniest vanity I've ever seen, a small radiator and toilet. Oh, and there was a 7 1/2 inch kitchen cabinet sitting next to the toilet.
At this point we knew we'd need to do more than just a little clean up.

Here are the pictures we took of our 450 SF apartment. 
Stairs from the garage to the apartment - very steep.

 
View from the top of the stairs towards the living space. Notice how big the hot water radiators are and how far from the wall they needed to be placed. They sure wasted a lot of usable space.

Midway view of the living space showing the lack of clothes closet and meager living space. At least there's a reasonably new air conditioner.

Kitchen area with peninsula with full size range, double sink and 23 inch refrigerator. None of the cabinets in the kitchen match. And my favorite part - the door to the bathroom through the kitchen.