Friday, October 31, 2014

Everything Else Notes

Unlike August and September, October hasn't been completely all about the house. We've also managed to sneak in a little fun. We took our annual trip Lakeview Farms Pumpkin Patch which was an enormous hit with both girls this year.
We also each took the girls to the Oregon Zoo. I met up with some high school friends on a Sunday afternoon and Kyle took advantage of a break in the rain during the week.

Ellen is big enough to walk around at the zoo now, which makes it more of a family outing. It is a little tricky when the girls want to go opposite directions, but we find we can temporarily solve that problem by getting them to hold hands. Even just five minutes of sibling harmony is worth gold.
This is also our first year we'll celebrate Halloween since becoming parents. Our philosophy has been that we'll celebrate when they're old enough to ask for it. And this year Rosie asked to be a blue dragon.
I took two days of vacation so I could visit Rosie's preschool and see the costume parade yesterday and so I could help get her ready to go out trick-or-treating today. We're pretty sure she has no clue what we're talking about when we try to describe trick-or-treating, so this should be fun -- especially since candy is such an incredibly rare treat for her.

Earlier this month Kyle and I celebrated 12 years since our first date with beers at a brand new taproom, just blocks from our house, followed by bowling and dessert.
So that was October. (With a healthy dose of work, gardening, canning, cooking and chores mixed in.)

Here's to less time with the house and more time with the family in November!

Thursday, October 30, 2014

House Notes

Halloween is upon us! The past four months have been such a rush, it seems like it was just Independence Day a few days ago. Thankfully the biggest, most stressful house projects are wrapped up. We got the last coat of red paint on the house just hours before the start of fall storms.

Even though the paint scraping project was almost unbearable, I think we're both super pleased with how nice the siding looks now.  All things considered, the change in our front yard since we bought our house is remarkable. It's hard to believe it's been five years sine we closed on the house and started plotting what to do about all of those boxwood hedges!

Since 2009 we have:
  • Removed 100 linear feet of hedges
  • Added the picket fence
  • Replaced three windows on the house, including the big front window
  • Built 10 garden beds
  • Added the grape arbor
  • Planted two trees (apple and cherry)
  • Fenced in the back yard
  • Rebuilt the front porch
  • And of course, scraped and repainted the front of the house
Over the next few months we're hoping to add decorative/functional lattice to the bottom of the porch. It should pretty things up and deter animals from burrowing under the porch and then under the house.

We're also planning to replace our front door. Hopefully with one we bought at the Habitat ReStore two years ago!

I'd also like to add wider wooden steps to the front and side of the porch. The new porch doesn't quite line up with the old steps the way the old one did and they're not super welcoming -- big gray hunk of concrete. The side steps will lead encourage use of the front door from the side gate. (There's a bunch of projects on the list for that side of the house as well.)

We're also hoping to fully replace all of the gutters. Like everything at our house, the current gutters are a diy job and the lengths of the roof  really necessitate custom gutters.

We've also got our attention tuned to the bigger, longer term and critically necessary project of a new roof.
And we're not done painting. Boo! We've still got a lot more to go on this project, but at least the most essential part is handled. We do want to paint the peak trim white as soon as the weather is dry and warm again. Why is it red? We have no idea. We wanted to paint it white this go-around, but circumstances prevailed.

Beyond the front of the house we've got some side porch repair to do, along with giving the side door some attention and fully killing that darn tree of heaven!

We're also hoping to build a hearth and install our wood stove, but the more pressing matter is getting our furnace to fire up! Kyle recently worked magic on our drier and fixed it himself, but the furnace diagnosis has been more challenging. For now we're enduring the chill with socks, sweaters and extra blankets.

Our 2014-2105 list of projects has 35 entries ranging from small plumbing tasks to bigger, more expensive and time consuming jobs.

Here's to five years of adventures in home ownership and all the years yet to come.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Return to Red

Our list of things we want to do when we're not tearing our hair out in the name of home improvement grows daily. Unfortunately the list of tasks we need to complete before we can enter home improvement hibernation seems to grow in proportion. We are getting closer to hope of finishing.

The best news is that our house is now red again! It's short a finishing coat, but at least it's covered!  Here it is from the beginning ...

 August 14
 August 24
 August 31
 September 1
 September 14
 September 21
 October 8
 October 11
 October 12
 October 12
We need one more coat of red -- Behr Spiced Wine to be exact -- and white paint on the windows and trim, but for now it is covered well enough to weather the storm if absolutely necessary.

We also got a couple coats of primer on the porch deck.
I didn't get a photo, but we added the baseboard trim at the close of work today. Now we just need a few coats of porch paint and we can put the rest of the porch project on hold while we remind our poor girls what their parents look like.

Here's to the light at the end of the tunnel ... even though it feels like we've got miles to go before we sleep.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Paint Scraping Update

With the exception of a family bike ride to a birthday party nearly every minute of this weekend was spent in various aspects of Project Scrape Paint. Today we rented a ladder to get us (by us I mean Kyle) to the top of the house. We also tried a new chemical stripper which seems to work better than the other two we've tried. Progress is still slow, but we're getting closer.
Today we got optimistic about actually getting to the part where new paint goes on. We purchased a whole slew of products for the next few steps, including primer. Our goal is to at least get the primer up before the rain starts. But first we have to remove everything red, white or pinkish from the front of the house. And it is astounding how insanely difficult that is!

At Home Depot when we told the paint counter clerk that we are hand scraping down to bare wood she looked at us with the most truly empathetic look I've every seen. I thought she was going to cry for us. Goodness knows I've cried for myself about this project. Now it's time to cry for Kyle. Tomorrow is the first of 20 straight days of work for me, so I'm handing over my putty knife and hoping Kyle can find the time to see this thing through to the finish primer.

Here's to racing the rain.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Weekend Notes

So, I haven't quite figured out how to set the blog to private just yet. It's totally on my list of things to do when I have a free moment.

I don't know when that free moment will manifest though. Every spare moment these days is spent in a seemingly endless effort to remove every bit of paint from the front of the house. We're making some progress though ...
Kyle has taken to using a camp chair on the lower parts where he is literally chiseling off the paint with a chisel and a mallet. We might have gotten a little further over the weekend but we got a bit sidetracked with the kitchen sink. Here's what our sink looked like Sunday morning.
What can't be seen in this photo is the streams of water that poured out of the taps when the water was turned on. Not out of the faucet, but out of the taps themselves. Also, the sprayer broke late last week and the faucet was never securely attached. What really can't be seen in this shot is our water bill.

After the house rot scare of 2014 we did some serious belt-tightening in order to fix our house without taking on debt or totally blowing our savings. Some of that included trying to use less water. We went to some really heroic efforts to conserve in July and August only to be hit with water bill that was $20 higher than the previous billing cycle. Plus the upward trend is a bit scary, especially knowing our rates are going to increase soon.
When we finally crawled into a dark, dirty, cob web infested corner of the cellar we figured out why. There was a steady stream of  water pouring out of the hot water pipe. Thankfully the "floor" in that part of the cellar is literally dirt, so there wasn't any damage done -- just a few anemic weeds sucking up the water.

Kyle spent the entire afternoon (and four trips to Home Depot and one to Harbor Freight) replacing the entire hot water line from the hot water heater to the sink. We've still got some plumbing work to do, but we're losing way less water and the sink now looks like this!
Ahh! So nice. But of course we couldn't stop there!

We've also realized both of our toilets are running and wasting water. Toilets are shockingly easy to fix, so replacing the fill valve on one of them was a snap. The other one still needs work, but that's what next weekend is for, right? Oh, and scraping paint because that project isn't going anywhere!

The other good news about all of those trips back and forth to Home Depot was that we spotted a bike trailer at a yard sale. We just about fell over when the guy told us he wanted $10 for it! This trailer goes for nearly $200 new.
It was Rosie's idea to hook it up to her bike. Adorable, right?

We ended up having to purchase a $15 replacement part, but it still a smoking deal.

We've always been a little wary of trailers, but we've recently convinced ourselves that they are no more dangerous than many other spots we can stick our kids and certainly no more dangerous than automobiles. With the trailer Kyle can drop Rosie at school and then go grocery shopping with Ellen or at the very least he can get Rosie to school a lot faster than walking.

So that rambling post was our weekend.

Here's to next weekend and all our next adventures in home ownership.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

A New Porch and More

This summer was meant to be the year we came out of home-improvement hibernation and started handling some of our deferred projects. And it has been, but not with our a fair amount of stress. Over the July 4 weekend we decided to tackle our rotting front porch.
This porch actually should have been repaired before we bought the house. The inspector caught the rot and it was part of the bank-mandated pre-sale repairs. Unfortunately the seller (another bank since the house was a foreclosure) simply didn't make the repair. In our pre-closing giddiness we didn't challenge it. Now we see the error of our ways. Can we chalk it up to being eager first time home buyers?
So, over the past 4+ years the porch continued to rot. The porch (and the gutters) were near the top of the improvement list for this 105-year-old wonder, but it is a long list.
As stressful as the summer has been, it sure feels good to know we're past the stage where our house looks like this.
 Demolishing the porch deck started out kind of fun. We pulled up the plywood that was the first layer.
Under the plywood we found evidence of a previous cheap-o repair job. That time the rot was cut away and covered with plywood.
 But they weren't thorough enough ...
Shortly after this we discovered the rot on the support beams. This extended nearly the entire length of the porch as well as the front of the house.
 I didn't get photos of the porch, but here's the front of the house.
And a close-up. It makes me shudder to think this was holding up our house!
Since these beams carried a huge amount of weight and we didn't have a clue where to start we decided this one wasn't a DIY matter. We hired a local contractor to make the repairs.

In addition to replacing the beams, he added some extra insulation in some areas. The rotting beams were actually creating a gap and allowing air to leak into the house, so I think simply replacing the beams will make the house warmer, but the insulation will make it even better.

Our contractor also decided to frame out the deck for us as a motivator for Kyle to finish the job -- from on dad to another. (His words.) I don't think he understood how desperately motivated we were to finish this project, but we'll take it! He provided and installed all but two of the joists to support the porch.
The new support beams are treated wood and they're oriented the correct way. That old porch structure was a sight to be seen! The new porch deck is absolutely awesome and so wonderfully solid.
According to the super helpful paint expert at the Home Depot, we need to let the thing sit for a month before we paint it.

We're also pondering what to do around the edges. The old porch rails are in pretty sorry shape, but they could theoretically be put back. Our neighbor suggested planter boxes instead of railing around the edges, which is kind of appealing.

I really want to widen the front steps and add steps on the far end to connect the side gate with the front porch. We also need to figure out a good way to prevent animals from burrowing under the porch. We added some poultry netting, but we're pretty sure it will only deter the slacker skunks and racoons.

So that's the new porch. Kyle and I sat out there the night he finished laying the decking and drank our beers (and got eaten up by mosquitoes), but otherwise we haven't really been able to enjoy it due to the massive pile of paint scrapings in the front yard.
If we hadn't blown the 2014 home improvement budget (and then some) on the rot project, we would have so outsourced the paint removal. Scraping paint off a house is a horrible job.

At first we spent about an hour on it each night after the girls went to bed. Then last weekend we accidentally discovered it is much faster in the heat of day. The paint is much more pliable when it's 95 degrees outside. Oh, goodie!
We've made decent progress, but we'll have to use chemicals (and rent an extra tall ladder) to finish the job. More on that when there's more to say. We're pretty sure the shoddy paint job likely contributed to some of the rot, so it's important to get this done soon. The rains are coming!

Here's to home improvement. Even the not fun kind.

(Truth be told I'd like to fast forward to the part where we're drinking beers on our fully finished porch by in front of our fully repainted house.)

p.s. This will be our last public post before we switch to a private blog. Give us a call or send us an email if you need help figuring out how to follow.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Going Private

Red House Tales is about to go private.

Starting sometime in the next week or so, we are going to change our blog to a private blog viewable only to "followers."

We've been thinking about is for a while, but we didn't want to make it too difficult for our families to keep with our news. But, we find ourselves continually drawing and re-drawing lines in the sand as we ponder personal privacy in this age of life lived online. After many months (years) of internal debate we've decided to change this blog to be readable only to our friends and family.

To become a "follower," please follow the steps below.
  1. Click on the "join this site" button at the right of the page. 
  2. Then select "follow privately." 
  3. If you book mark our blog on your personal computer or device you might need to log in before viewing the blog.
  4. If you have our blog linked on your site or in an otherwise public fashion, please delete that link.
  5. Let us know if you have trouble becoming a "follower." (Kinds of sounds like we're starting a cult, doesn't it?)
But, wait, that's not all! We've started a new blog, which will be focused on our mission to center our lives around healthy locally and home-grown food and to lessen our impact on the planet. Grown in Suburbia will chronicle our efforts to achieve these goals while Red House Tales will focus on our family life.

Also, we're hoping to start post more often on both blogs. Now that I've said that, I guess we'll have to be accountable for that goal too.

Here are some adorable  photos to enjoy until our next real post.
 Here's to change!