Monday, December 19, 2005

Long Time Gone

If anybody is checking this you will see a big gap over the last couple of months. It's been a crazy time in the house but not for construction. We got the house to a livable level and have been trying finish school and plan the rest of our lives. Other than school we have been filling our days with job, school and fellowship applications. I took a week long trip to China and Hong Kong. Two very cool places. I learned that I really don't want to call myself a Taoist. Even that relegion is fucked up in practise.

Now that school is out (almost) we have returned our focus to the house. We gave up an opportunity to sail down to Florida to finish up. Kind of sad, but we got to do it some time.

So far we are finishing up a few last areas of tile that were not done before: the entrance way, a window sill and some holes in the wall where you can see the old brick.

We'll post pictures when we actually finish something.

Friday, September 16, 2005


Our bed, with no privacy. Posted by Picasa

A good picture of our lights. Posted by Picasa

So civilized, even espresso. Posted by Picasa

Annie and Paulette talking at our table. Posted by Picasa

This is the tub where we take our showers. Posted by Picasa

Our nice tile shower we have yet to use. We still need to buy the glass doors. Posted by Picasa

Thursday, August 18, 2005


The downstairs at 8 pm. Posted by Picasa

The downstairs at 7 am. Posted by Picasa

Remaking the First Floor

Today was a long day that changed the first floor dramatically. Yesturday we pulled down the old stairs. We have been using the old stairs as temporary work stairs. They did not meet code so we had new ones made. While the stairs where out we sanded down the floor. The result is that the downstairs is very close to finished now. We do not have treads in the stairs yet so we use a lader to get up and down. That is the next task, shoping for and buying new treads. The downstairs floor looks dramatically different. It was a long day of sanding (12 hours). The floor still has imperfections, but we expected that. The grain of the wood is very nice.

Monday, August 08, 2005

Busy Workers, Lazy Posters

Just because we have not written in a while does not mean that we have not been busy at the house. A whole lot has changed. Where to start? We painted, we layed flooring, tiled, built cabinets and a whole lot more.

The painting was quick and made a huge difference. Keith came through with some cut out skills. Unfortunatley we were not really ready for his help and we still have a lot of cut out left to do at some point.

We tiled the bathrooms, the kitchen and the washer closet. Tiling the bathroom was difficult. Tiling on walls is tedious because you can only do a couple of rows a day. It now looks great and should last a long time. The shower is still not done, we have to pay someone to build glass doors. For now we are putting off that expense while we shower in the bathtub.

We tiled the kitchen with black tiles in a very complicated pattern. It looks great and it is almost impossible to identify the pattern in the floor. Talya came out and helped with this. She learned how to tile with us.

For the upstairs floor we went with cheap Ikea laminant flooring. It is really easy to work with and looks great. I was really suprised at how much lighter the house became with finished floors. The floors reflect so much light.

Tomorrow should be a huge day we are getting the appliances delivered. I am so excited. I can't wait to have a full size fridge. (We have being living with a mini.) Unfortunatley we will not be able to hook up the rest of the appliances until we get the counter top built. Hopefully that should not take too long. We are also getting measured for tomorrow. With a little bit of luck the new counter top could be delivered in a few weeks. At which point the plumbing for the house will be complete.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Drywall!

Things are really starting to fall into place. Last week Juan Carrillo hung and finished drywall in the whole house. It looks great. The mexican crew really worked hard and finished the house well.

Not to say there was not some excitement. We did not pass our inspection like we had planned on the previous Friday. We had to move a drain line at the last minute. To hide the drain we added a closet downstairs. Nobody will be able to tell there is a pipe sticking out into the room. We even started to prime the house. It looks really good all dressed in white. Hopefully we will be able to paint this weekend.

With a little bit of luck the upstairs bath will be done in about two weeks. We still have a fair bit of tiling to do. Building a tile shower is a show process when you are new to tilling.

Monday, June 27, 2005

Things are moving fast again. It is amazing what we can get done when Annie and I only have 20 hours a week of other commitments. Last Wednesday the windows finally came. When they did they broke one screen, but that is minor and we will get that sorted out. That afternoon and the following day we finished the last of the insulation. We even had enough left over to do the whole bedroom.

Then we started cleaning and emptying the house. According to the city we cannot live in the house until there are things like a smoke detector, heat, and a toilet. So before the inspector came we had to move all of our living stuff into storage. Since we did not have much it was a pretty quick process.

Friday we got our insulation inspection. I had hoped the inspector could verify we had fixed a problem between the plumber and electrician. Unfortunately the inspector just laughed at our solution and told we needed to call another inspector the next week. I talked to him today and he did not believe we had a good solution to the problem. I hope this can be solved soon.

The drywallers did start today. They decided to deliver the sheetrock by hand. I think the will start hanging today. I told them not to do the part around the problem pipes. I hope that we can get this problem resolved this week so they can close up all the walls. I am so happy to see what the house looks like with drywall.

We have a bunch of new pics, that I will publish soon.

Monday, June 13, 2005

To Hang Drywall

Hanging drywall is a goal that we cannot seem to attain. It seemed so much simpler when we started this project. Now there are so many different things that must get hidden in the walls it is daunting. We are getting very close but I feel like I have been saying that for a long time. Every day we go to the house there is another large project to tackle and of course, we cannot hang drywall until that task is complete.

I know that there is a finite set of tasks that must be complete before drywall is hung. So if we continue to execute those tasks we should be able to hang drywall. It just seems that we discover things that need to be done faster than we can actually finish the other tasks. So the list of things that needs to be done seems to grow overtime rather than shrink.

Enough of my bitching. Over the last week we finished (almost) the V-channel. There are a few little spots that need to be leveled, but nothing too hard. We poured leveling compound in the kitchen. That is some really weird stuff. It has the consistency of milk when wet, and concrete when set. The stuff will seek level which is great if your surface is sealed. We had problems closing all of the holes in the floor. As a result we lost a significant of the leveler right through the floor. After quit a bit of messy frustration we have a floor that is almost level. Close enough for laying concrete board and tiles. The floor was off level by almost an inch in places!

We also started hanging cement board. All I can say is that I am glad that we are hiring drywallers. Just putting up a few small sheets is hard. We have not even started the taping and sanding. I don’t want to think of how long that will take.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Parental Help

Well I have been very lazy about writing. Finals got to crazy to think about much else. I know I got one A, but that was from an easy class. I don’t know all of my grades, but I know that I did get one B. It means that I will have to retake at least one class if I want to get a PhD. I really did not think UMBC would be this hard.

The house was effectively put on hold during finals. We are still without drywall. There are a few little bits of framing left to do, but the main thing holding up the house is windows. We are waiting on Baltimore Window factory. They said they could make the windows in a little over a week. It is now 9 weeks later and we still don’t have our windows.

My parents came out over the weekend to help out. We were able to get a lot done. We finished almost all of the framing. We also installed insulation, and V-channel. V-channel is sheet metal formed into long pieces that have ‘V’ like profile. We installed the channel because our roof is too unusual to hang drywall on. The channel is up, but we now have the monumental task of trying to create a level, or a least flat surface. That is the task for next weekend.

We also started the construction of a trap door. We got a trap door cut and supports installed. The door has recycled old floor boards so it matches the rest of the house. We have not figured out the hard part which is how to hinge it. We are trying to find the system that would make it very easy to access and hardly shows from above. We have discussed different hinges, wheels, tracks, springs, hydraulic lifts and all sorts of other things. I don’t know how much time we will spend on the hinges right away. There are so many other things, it might just have to wait.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Annie's Thoughts

Well as some of you know I'm not much of a blog fan but since no one is really reading this anymore, I'm going to use it as a therapeutic release. We are living in our house now which is crazy and dusty but sort of romantic. My last blog I said "this has been an experience I hope never to forget" as if I could possibly forget this experience. The hardest part of all of this work is the sub-contractors. They are all trying to do the least amount of work and pass the buck on someone else. I have such a hard time understanding a field of work that is so dishonest. In my line of work if I make a mess I clean it up, it's just that simple. Anyway, I guess that dishonesty is just becoming part of the American way, from our politicians to our sub-contractors. On a good note, the house is really coming together and hopefully we will have drywall within the month.

Monday, April 25, 2005

Moving In

Well, it is now no longer the work site, it is our house. We moved in! It’s been a rocky ride but we now live in our new house. There is not much in the house to make it cozy. There are the bare essentials, a sink, toilet and heat.

We found out last week that there is a problem with the plumbing and electricity. The plumber put a drain line right above the breaker box. This does not meet code so it’s needs to be changed. Our options are either move the drain line way out into the living room or move the electrical box. The electrician wants $700-800 to move the box. I have not talked to the plumber yet. The electrician thinks that we should get it paid by the plumber. I really dread the resolution. That said we need to resolve it because it is holding back the house.

I have fallen behind in all of my classes, so the house is going to be put almost on hold until after the end of the semester. I will do some work, but I do not want any more C’s this semester.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Roughed in

The house is really starting to come together. We got the plumbing and HVAC roughed in and inspected. There were a few hiccups along the way. Working with a HVAC guy doing this on the side saved us a bunch of money, but we still paid for it. He didn’t start on time. When he did we had to cut some of the brand new plumbing out. He pissed off the neighbors by working too late at night. When he finally did finish some of the work didn’t pass inspection. I guess you get what you paid for.

On the plus side we got the few items we decided we needed to move in: heat, sink and toilet. There are no walls, so there is no privacy, but we can move in. It works out well because our land lady really wants us out.

I’m personally getting to the point where I don’t feel the fire under me quit as bad. I want to work, but I really have to concentrate on doing well in school so the house is not as urgent as it once was. I may reconsider when I start trying to live without a stove or a shower.

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Mechanical Work

A lot has happened since I last wrote. It’s funny I actually write less the more work we do. I only get around to posting here when I am not working. Last week was spring break which meant no break on the house.

The week started interesting, our HVAC did not start on time. The plumber’s started work, before the HVAC. This of course is not the way it is supposed to work. When the HVAC did finally start we had to cut some pipes to make way for the duct work. The duct work is now proceeding and should be done at the end of the week. At that point the plumber will come back and fix the things we had to break. I hope they are not too unhappy with us.

The house is starting to come together. We got the form stone removed from the front of the house. They washed off the lead paint below with a caustic soda. Finally the repointed the bricks to make it look nice and new. In the back of the house we have a new door and new windows.

We are now looking at drywall crews to hang and finish the drywall. There are a lot of little details that need to be sorted out before we can call them in. We need all the new windows and doors installed. Any electrical lines we want to pull need to be put in. We want to put speakers into the ceiling and possible install a security system before the walls are closed. Basically went the drywall is up, it is move in time.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Archeological Dig

We are trying to get the house ready for the tradesman. It is a bit hard because we really don’t know what they need or want. We mostly did little jobs to get ready for the electrician coming at the end of the week. We put up one wall in the kitchen that we build a long time ago. We also did some last minute demolition work pulling out some pipe left in the house.

We also dug out some space in the kitchen. The funny thing is we kept pulling out old bottles, some broken some not. We tried to keep the unbroken bottles. There must have been a drinker who tried to hide their habit by throwing the bottles under the house.

The coming weeks will be very exciting. At the end of this week we will have a new service line, electric panel and back door opening. Soon after the plumbers and HVAC will come in.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Washing the Bricks

It is really getting stressful to try to get the house ready for the contractors. We are trying to get all the little things in place and in order. Of course there are some issues that are holding up the entire project. We are still trying to sort out the back door. That has really become our nemesis. We must get an electrician in to work on that before any other work can go forward. Of course that has to be the one contractor we have not settled on. Hopefully this week will see all of that settled.

We did not do any major work this week. We spent a bit of time framing and replacing joists. We ordered our cabinets from IKIA. We will not need them for a while, but it is nice to get that out of the way. We will just put them in storage. It was good to get it done, that way our kitchen layout is set.

Yesterday we rented a power washer and washed down the bricks. It was amazing, the house looks so much better. It is the first surface that looks good. It was fairly easy, but very messy. Before starting I covered everything in the house in plastic, tools, lumbar, everything. Our next door neighbor David has noticed a smell on his side of the wall. I can imagine that some water went through the wall. I hope that it is not much and goes away soon. There was no water damage so I think it should be ok. The other problem is the furnace gave out. I don’t know if we will get it working again. We are heating the house and drying it out with an electric heater. Hopefully with a little time the furnace will decide to start again.

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Helping Hands

We started the weekend by taking down a chimney on Friday. It was very messy work; think about being a chimney sweep. It was also very heavy work. We had to haul a lot of bricks out of the house, along with a lot of mortar. We were originally afraid to take it down, but our neighbor Frank said he did it with no problem, so we followed his lead. We are all very happy that we did. It was taking up about 2 square feet upstairs and down. Not much but it is significant to us.

On Saturday we got lucky. A friend of ours Joe who is training to take over his step-dads construction company came over and gave us a hand. His help was very useful. We got a lot of work knocked out with his help. He gave us some hints on how to work efficiently, but most of the help was just the fact that he was there. We stopped working when we ran out of lumber. Annie and I ran out and bought another 80 studs so we had something to do on Sunday.

Sunday we got some help too. Meekins came by and lent a hand for a while. Even though he is not a pro, he was very helpful. After a hard weekend we have basically finished framing the upstairs! We have not framed around the windows yet, but we have to wait for the windows to come in to do that. Four more walls downstairs and that too will be all framed. Woot!

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Framing in the Kitchen

Well as you can see out across the street neighbor, Matt Butcher is rehabbing his house too. It is a bit of a controversy on the block because he wants to add a full third floor and some people think that would kill the view for people on our side of the block. I have not made up my mind on the matter. I don't want to tell him what to do, but I don't want to lose $10k or more if our precious “water view” goes away. I don’t know what will happen. If too many people say nay, he can’t build it. Right now I have too many things on my plate to try to bother with it.

As far as our house is concerned … We spent much of the weekend trying to sort out the kitchen and back wall. The last joist in the house was totally shot, so we pulled it out. We have not put a new one back just yet. We spent a lot of time fixing holes in the wall. It is a tedious process of finding bricks that match, then mortaring them in.

We also started to replace the back window. We took out the old window, but that caused the cinder blocks on top of it to fall in. We had to rebuild the cinder blocks so that we could install the new window. The cinder blocks have been replaced, but we have not replaced the window just yet.

The biggest issue now is doors. The city inspector has insisted that one door has to be at least 36 inches wide and all other doors are 32 inches wide. Currently the back door is 29 inches and the front is 30 inches. It won’t be too hard to change the front to 32, but changing the back to 36 will not be easy. I don’t like it but just want to do so we can move on. I have been talking with a neighbor who just did the same thing. It is not very reassuring, because my biggest fear, that the wall will fall down, happened to him. I friend of mine, Joe came up with a scheme that should work to keep it from falling in. The only real problem now is that we need to move the electrical box, before we do the work. I think we will try to get the electrical contractor to move the box ASAP. The only problem is we don’t know who that will be.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Framing the Bathrooms

Over this past weekend we got most of the framing done. It feels great to actually see some result of our work. The upstairs master bathroom is framed in. I am very happy with how it came out so far. It is very large, but still leaves plenty of room in the rest of the house. We also framed in the downstairs bathroom. That was easy by comparison. All the walls are rectangles, that makes life so much easier. We really should have done that first. We also started framing in the kitchen. We built one of the walls. We made a hole in the wall so that we could show some brick through it. It should make a nice little storage area behind the stove

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Learning To Frame

We really started the construction this weekend. We started with framing the upstairs bathroom. We decided to follow the slanted roof line for the ceiling. This made all of the construction much harder. Only some of the measurements were square. Annie and I worked all day on Saturday to complete one wall. We would build the wall erect it and find some problem. Drop the wall try to rectify the problem and start over. I don’t know how many times we tried to put up the wall before it was good.

On Sunday we had more luck. We also had David’s help to guide us. We got almost 3 walls built. It also helped that we worked out some of the bugs of building a slanted wall. We were not able to finish the wall however because we underestimated how much lumber we would use. We started with 42 studs. The next time I will get twice as many at least. We have done a lot of the framing, but there is still a lot to do.

With a little bit of luck we might be able to have most of the framing done by next week. Perhaps even get the plumbers, electricians and HVAC in by next week.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Annie is Learning

So it has been an amazing process working on our first home. I have been having a great time learning about construction and power tools :) Last weekend I learned how to use a skill saw, I was nervous but it was not that difficult and a lot of fun. This whole experience will be one I hope to never forget.

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Starting the Construction

This weekend we started the construction. There was no definite end to the demolition. In fact there is still more to do. Basically we got to the point that almost the entire demo was done and we were ready to do the construction.

After creating 13 floor plans with two bedrooms and two baths upstairs we decided to scrap all that and start with a new idea all together. Two bed 2 bath is what almost everybody does here. We are going to make a loft space out of the house. With the skylight and no walls there is very good light in the house. We are going to try to keep that. We are going to put one large bathroom upstairs and a half bath upstairs. There will be no walls separating the bedrooms. It will be a very unconventional space. We will build in such a way that it could easily be converted into a convention 2 bedroom house.

As for the actual work being done… We got one very high bid for framing, so we decided to embark on it our selves. There were two main tasks we are working on now. One is fixing the sag in the second story floor. This involved jacking up the floor and then securing a new joist in place. This was rather hard work because it involved bending 2x6 joists and moving the entire upstairs. This task is almost complete.

The second is laying a new sub-floor upstairs. We decided to lay 1/2" plywood on the second floor. The original wood flooring is in bad shape. It has lots of holes and it has a lot of give to it. This is fairly easy work. Cut the 4x8 sheets down to fit the joists, then glue, nail and screw them into place. This also is mostly done. We need to finish fixing the sag before we can finish laying the sub-floor.

Thursday, January 27, 2005

Emerald the Work Cat

I tried to bring Emerald with me to the work house yesterday. It did not go to well. It started fine. I loaded my car full with a bunch of trash. I grabbed Emerald and drove to the dump. She was a little spooked by the dump but did ok.

When I went back to the house I closed both doors and let her free in the house. I started doing some demolition work. She really did not like this. I opened a window to get fresh air into the house. I also open the way to the basement. Emerald cried for a while, then disappeared. I worked for a while not thinking about it. After about an hour of not seeing her I got worried. I returned home to get tuna for her. I put some tuna inside and out. I had to run some errands, so we did not see her again until around 4. She simply showed up like it was no big deal. She must have jumped out of second story window. When we continued to work, she disappeared again. She did not show up again until 6:30. In the 5 minute ride back to our other house she shat in my car.

Emerald has made it pretty clear that she does not like the new house. I wonder how long it will take her to come around to this place.

As far as the construction is concerned, we are still finishing the demolition. We are trying to decide how to remove an old chimeny that is no longer used.

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Stair Moving

Ralph is moving the stairs today. He brought in one other carpenter. I think the two of them will get the job done today. If they do it should be good money at $820 for 16 hours of work and lumber. I consider it money well spent since the cost of doing it wrong could be much worse.

We got the bill and weight back from the dumpster company. Annie, some helpers and I carried 6.68 tons from the house into that dumpster.

Monday, January 24, 2005

Tub On Belay

Yesterday was a big day. Jared came over and helped move some big stuff. There were two main things to move, the stairs and the old tub.

First we moved the tub. Annie and Jared were in favor of smashing the tub and bringing it down in pieces. I convinced them that a belay system could make the job reasonable. I set up a simple belay with some cheap hardware. Annie worked the belay and Jared and I hauled the tub. The belay system put most of the weight onto the house, not us.

The second big item was the stairs. We removed the old stairs so that we can move them into a different place. We will get new stairs in a little while, but we needed to move these so we could frame the upstairs. The stairs took less gadgetry. We supported the stairs on a jack, then cut them free. To our suprise they were supported much better than we thought. Several times we cut them free only to watch them continue to hold on. When we finally cut them free we lowered the stairs down with no rope assist.

Today I am going to the dump on my lunch break. Our backyard has turned into a lumberyard. We continue to pull more and more stuff out of this house. The demolition is very close to done, but I know there will still be more to come.

Sunday, January 23, 2005

Dump Subaru

Yesterday we continued the demo, but did not finish. We took down the final original ceiling. To our suprise what we thought was just drywall, was actually drywall over plaster and lattice.

We made two trips to the dump, one in a bad snow storm. The subaru is turning out to be a good snow dump truck. :)

Today we will take down the stairs and hopefully finish the demolition. The trash will not be out for a while, but the destruction should be done today.

Friday, January 21, 2005

Sawzall Rocks

We put in a big day of demo. We pulled out the rafters for the ceiling in the front bedroom. This will give us another 2 feet of room height in that room.

I played with the sawzall for the first time. Cool tool. The coolness of cutting through solid pipe wears off quickly.

With the help of the sawzall almost all the plumbing and electric is out.

We took our first trip to the dump with my subaru. I think they were very surpirsed to see a car pull up to the dump. (instead of a truck)

Hopefully the demo is almost done and we can start fixing the sagging floor. Maybe tomorrow will be the last day of demolition.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Still Demoing

We met with a contractor who told us we definitely need to pull down the tin ceiling in the kitchen. We needed to get into the floor to straighten the floor of the second floor.

So we pulled down the tin ceiling. The plaster underneath had already fallen apart. There was some leaking from the bathroom above.

Also the dumpster was taken away today. I look forward to getting the weight back from the dumpster company. I want to know how much we pulled out. Already we have a lot more trash. We may have to get another dumpster.

Monday, January 17, 2005

Demo Progress

We continued the demo today. Most of the bulk work is done so we have started to do some of the slower stuff, like pulling out the electrical wiring. The dumpster is so full now that we cannot place any large items in it. We finished exposing the brick we plan to expose.

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Closing

We closed on the house today. The stuff was supposed to be out by now, but no love. Annie, Jared and Sandor started to demolish the house. We were breaking down the house around the old furniture.

We get the promise of Jerry that the old stuff will be out tomorrow.