Saturday, October 17, 2009

Uses for an undead boyfriend

I've been reading the Twilight series recently. I never got around to reading the fourth book, so I reread the first three.  If you've been living in a cave, the Twilight series is a tweener juggernaut about a vampire boy in love with a human girl, written by Stephenie Meyer.  She's a terrible writer but the underlying story is fun and addictive.  In her mythology vampires don't sleep during the day and can basically pass as human most of the time.

And you guys, her vampires are made of glitter.  GLITTER!

Ms. Meyer could write a lecture series on Knowing Your Target Audience.  The only way preteen girls could eat up the story more is if Edward (lead vampire boyfriend) rode in on Zac Efron.  Actually, that might be a very different story, one that a mormon like Ms. Meyer probably wouldn't write. 

But better than the whole glitter thing I found myself thinking about what I could do with an undead boyfriend.  While I was getting my beauty sleep and otherwise preparing myself to be a productive member of society, my undead boyfriend/husband could be priming the basement for me.  What else is he going to do--watch me sleep?  That's creepy.


Because painting a basement? It sucks eggs.  There's just no venting it sufficiently. Vampires don't breathe, so there would be no reason to worry about wearing a mask or risk of cancer.  While he took care of the basement I could address more important activities like getting a haircut and eating cookies. 

I was at work this week, waiting for my oatmeal to cook and flipping through the Sunday ads, when I saw that drywall primer was on sale.  I took this as a sign from the universe that I should prime this weekend.  I should have ignored the universe and watched movies instead.  First coat:

Second coat:


I still need to paint the ceiling, the edges, and throw on a third coat to the walls.  Then I need to finish all the edges where the drywall meets and basically fill in the cracks and gaps that are EVERYWHERE in the basement.  And then deal with the flooring.  I sort of want to throw up my hands because I'm not a babysteps kind of girl.  I like staying awake for 48 hours straight, working on nothing by coffee and granola bars, and getting shit done.  Not only do I lack the funds to finish the basement anytime soon, but there's so much labor to be put in.

Universe, get on that vampire boyfriend!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

My house has a good personality, apparently.

The other day I was returning from work and there was someone sort of parked in the middle of the street, in front of my house.  I pulled into the driveway and started to head into my kitchen.  I heard someone behind me, on the driveway, calling, "Excuse me? Miss!"  I don't know why, but I hightailed it inside. I wasn't in the mood for whatever they were selling.  And it freaks me out when people I don't know come to the side door.

Then I remembered that car in the middle of the road and the driver that looked lost.  I opened my front door and a woman came running.  It turns out she was a realtor looking for comps for a client who was selling their house in the vicinity.  She handed me her card, so she obviously wasn't a murderer.

"Is your house in decent shape on the inside?"
"Um, yeah?  It was a foreclosure, so it had some problems."
"But it has wood floors?"
"Great.  I'm selling a house for a client and I wanted to show him other houses that are nice inside but look crappy from the outside."

So glad to be of service! Me and my ugly house are going to put on sweatpants and eat some ice cream.

Monday, October 12, 2009

The dining room, or how I spent my labor day weekend.

My dining room is odd.  When I bought the house the trim was missing from an entire wall where there had clearly been water damage at some point.  I figured I'd have to spend the next year visiting The Rebuilding Center looking for matching trim.  Then there's the half carpet situation.  The wood floor actually extends underneath and beyond where the carpet ends, but only by 8 inches.

I have a theory about this.  My realtor thinks I'm crazy.

In Portland Maps, under the section where they break down the square footage, there's a carport that measures 140 square feet.  I don't have a carport.  I think this section of the dining room used to be the carport. 

It would explain why I have an electrical panel in the dining room. It would explain why there's wood flooring only in half the room. 

Anyhoosy, the dining room was a bit of a mess.  Paint that didn't meet the corners, missing trim, electrical outlets hanging out of the wall.  That first week I was working on the house my electrician friend Josh came and took care of all the safety hazards.  He cleaned up the bad wiring in the attic, anchored the electrical outlets properly, and did a once-over to make sure I didn't go up in smoke.  One day I was home, recovering from dental work, when I noticed some boards high on a shelf in my garage.

The missing trim! It was all there!  Once I got that up I was motivated to paint the trim.

Once the trim was painted I got the bug to paint the whole room.  I had originally wanted to paint the dining room a steel blue and the living room a deep warm orange.  But I sort of liked having the rooftop painting against the green . . . it made parts of the painting pop in a way I didn't think they would on a blue wall.  So I put some paint samples up and found a pale green I liked.

A funny thing happened at the Home Depot.  The color swatch I put on the wall was a Glidden paint sample.  When I went to purchase a full gallon I asked for it to be put in a Behr base. I figured they'd grab the color coding from the Glidden paint and just put it in the Behr base.  Instead they used the color matching computer program.  The resulting paint did NOT match the paint sample I put on the wall.  It had a sick fluorescent tinge to it.

It was the color of toothpaste!  Seriously:

It made me crazy, so crazy I couldn't stand it.  The next day I went and bought more paint samples.  Two days later, Labor Day, I went back to Home Depot and got a new paint color.  It wasn't as gray as I wanted, but I could live with it.  It's very pretty in the morning light.  At night it almost has a metallic sheen.



Soon I'll reupholster the chairs with a more vibrant pattern in an orange or yellow tone.  Someday I'll have the floors refinished and extended so I can get rid of that crazy zigzag carpet.  For now the paint demons have been quieted, though I'm sure they'll start screaming again soon.  I never though I was compulsive until I bought a house; now I'm pretty sure I could paint trim for a millennium and I don't know if I'd be in heaven or hell.  I'm learning so much about myself, mainly that there's a lot of crazy in here.  Or maybe that's the paint fumes talking.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

The arbor vitae

The former owner's lady friend decided to plant eleven arbor vitae in front of the house, along the parking strip.  They were about a foot tall when she planted them, according to my next door neighbor.  They're a little bigger now.

It was impossible to see when I backed out the driveway, and it made it difficult to see if there was oncoming traffic when you came around the corner.  A lot of people plant arbor vitae in their side or back yards to create privacy but I rarely see them in the front yard.  I hated them.

My friend David is a farmer/landscaper/savior who volunteered to remove the arbor vitae.  All eleven of them.  For free.  He's amazing.

He started by sawing down the main body.  He was really fast at it.

Once most of it had been removed he very laboriously popped the stump and root system.  He used a long pry bar and a whole lot of muscle.  While he worked to remove the stumps I would chop down the next tree.

It took all day.  I'm really slow with an axe.








I felt oddly naked inside the house now.  I was so used to being hidden behind those overgrown shrubs.  So many of my neighbors stopped by to say how happy they were to see them gone.  And now I can back out of my driveway without getting sideswiped.  David came the day we pulled out the furnace to yank out the last three stumps, finished in record time, then helped us pull out the furnace.  Such a badass.  His fiancee is a lucky lady.

Monday, October 5, 2009

The new furnace

I don't know why, but hiring professionals to do things makes me nervous.  The crew at Jacobs did a fantastic job on my furnace, but having to be present in the house while they installed got me all amped up.  What was that noise?  Does the fact that he asked X question mean that he doesn't know what he's doing? 

I would hate to work for me.  I'm particular, I ask too many questions, and I get my panties in a bunch at the drop of a hat.  The young man they sent over asked a lot of questions about where ducts should go, where venting should come out of the side of my house . . . things I felt he should know.  It turned out this is normal for them, that they like to arrange these things with the customer.  But at the time it seemed odd, and I came down after the first day to see the furnace looking like this:

With the white PVC ducting crossing in front of the furnace it looked . . . homemade. Like something I would build.  It really bothered me.  I suspected it would bother me for the next 25 years.  I started to worry that they had sent me an installer who didn't know what he was doing.  I called the company that morning and voiced my concerns.  They sent out a manager the next morning to smooth things over.

The installer agreed to redo the PVC exhaust so it would run behind the unit.  The manager was really nice, he assured me that everything was going well.  I was feeling better.  Then he told me, "Relax."

Have you ever had a contractor or repairman tell you to relax?  It makes me do the opposite.  It makes me angry; it's so dismissive.  Should a contractor ever stumble across this blog, DO NOT TELL WOMEN TO RELAX.

 In the end they redid the ducting and I'm very happy with everything.  The new furnace is so quiet you can barely hear it running.  I would use them again in a heartbeat, even if my blood still boils a little when I think about that stupid five letter word: relax.  Grrr.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Removing the furnace

One of the things that kept me tossing and turning the night before I put a bid on my house was the furnace.  It was original, it was huge, it was most likely not in working order.  It would probably cost between $3000-5000 to replace.

Fun little aside: when you buy a house people will walk through your house, pointing out things that need fixing.  Then they pick a number out of thin air and tell you that's how much it will cost to fix.  It doesn't matter if they own a house or not, whether they have actually completed the project in question, they will have a figure for you.  They'll sound like they know what they're talking about.

I always nod and then double the amount they say in my head.  This has worked almost every time.

But back to the furnace.  I knew it was going to be expensive, I just didn't know exactly how expensive.  I really grappled with whether to buy a house that needed a new furnace right out the gate.  I called two sets of friends, both couples who had bought a house in the last five years and had done a lot of fixing and remodeling.  They both assured me that this was not a deal breaker, that most houses in Portland would need a new furnace soon.  They totally talked me off the cliff and I so appreciated it.

I brought in a few bids for the furnace.  The first one was really expensive.  The second one was from Jacobs and they created a bid for a high efficiency furnace, as well as a standard 80% efficiency one.  With the current tax refunds, I could get  $1500 back from the federal government, $350 from Oregon, and $100 from the Energy Trust if I bought the high efficiency furnace.  Conveniently, the high efficiency furnace was about $1900 more than the 80% furnace, all of which I could recoup with the tax rebates.  I decided to do six-months-same-as-cash financing so I could put the set-aside furnace money in savings to earn a little interest.  This also gave me a cash reserve, should something catastrophic happen with the house. *knock on wood*

Once I had that figured out I scheduled to have the new one put in.  I opted to remove the old furnace myself because this would save between $500 and $1000.  By "remove it myself" I mean "call the guys."

The guys, they are amazing, beautiful friends.  But let's look first at the old furnace.  It was sort of beautiful in that I'm-from-1939 kind of way.

Are these guys still in business? I doubt it.


I made a huge breakfast, I bought a lot of beer, and I borrowed two sawzalls, an angle grinder, and a sledgehammer.  I also bought safety goggles and work gloves.  I made vague promises of destruction and demolition.

Unfortunately for the guys, they didn't get to use the sledgehammer.  They mostly got to use wrenches and screwdrivers.  We needed to keep the shell of the furnace intact so the ductwork wouldn't collapse, so they mainly labored on removing 70 year old bolts.

And oh my god, you guys, there were approximately 90 million bolts on this thing.

Stephen was SO AMPED to use the power tools.  Whenever a bolt was especially difficult to remove he would ask, "Should we use the angle grinder?"  I think they did actually use it twice, which was about 1000 times less than they would have liked.

I'm not going to lie.  My basement smelled like a locker room.


Once they got the door (which I kept) off  the front, they had to deal with the main burner.  Is it a burner?  The big heavy thingee.

We estimated this thing weighed about 750 pounds. I started to sweat about how we were going to get this thing out of the basement.

We got this flask-y looking thing off the back (more wrenching) and called a scrap metal collector from Craigslist.  He jetted over with a truck and a heavy duty dolly.

The six of them hauled that monstrosity up the narrow basement stairs, which was the most terrifying thing I've had to endure in a long time.  There is nothing worse than having to watch people do something dangerous when you can't help in any way, save from yelling, "Be careful!"

These sweet men labored all morning removing this thing and they were still so cautious about my new kitchen floors.  Scholars and gentlemen, every one of them.

Z ran 13 MILES before he came over to help and he still had strength to play air guitar.  Badass.

They looked like this all over.


Aren't they beautiful?

The whole process probably took about two and half hours, start to finish.  If I had to do it all over again I would not have asked my friends to do this.  The burner *did* end up containing asbestos and we were not wearing masks.  I will feel guilty about this forever and ever.

Now it was all ready for the new furnace to be installed.