Sunday, November 16, 2014

Demo Day

Last Sunday we woke up with a hankering to tackle a new project. We mulled over a bunch of small projects before we suddenly found ourselves starting demo on our side porch. This is the same porch that was damaged by the tree of heaven we cut down on mother's day.

Sidebar:  If ever you find yourself the owner of a tree of heaven -- do not cut it down and expect to be done. Cut it down, grind it out and pour herbicide on it right away. I did a ton of reading on tree of heaven after ours came back with a vengeance throughout the summer and the best quote I found was, "cutting down a tree of heaven is like pouring gasoline on a fire." That pretty much sums it up.

This porch seemed liked it was in decent shape, except for the tree having caused one of the posts to sink and causing a small amount of rot on that corner.
This project was meant to be simple -- we were planning to replace the outer beams of the porch and then re-lay some of the old decking. I wanted to salvage as much as we could. Best laid plans, right?

The home remodel reality shows always make demo look like it takes about five minutes. Oh, boy how true that is not! 

The porch deck was attached with what appeared to be drywall screws. Half of them came up nicely -- rusted and broken, but they came out. The other half could not be wrenched from the wood. So that meant we had tor rip out everything.
Kyle was able to salvage one section of decking totally intact. We're hoping to reclaim it to make a playhouse for the girls.
Once the decking was up we had to rent a stump grinder to take care of the stump. I grabbed a shovel to try and dig out some of the saplings while Kyle went to rent the grinder. He asked me to clear some of the dirt around the stump while I was at it.

Um, yeah, this thing was big!
While I manged the girls and cooked dinner, Kyle ground out as much as he could before the grinder broke and he had to take it back. We ended up getting a free rental, but it still delayed the project.
We wrapped up last weekend hopeful the project was well underway and we'd soon have a new porch.

On Monday Kyle went out to survey the scene. The old porch deck had been attached directly the siding. Since this didn't seem super secure Kyle decided to remove the siding so we could attach the new porch directly to the house and he found ... drum roll please ...


Almost the entire beam was rotted out as was one of the vertical beams supporting the door -- now we know why that door never closes right.

We spent Monday doing a fair amount of wailing and gnashing of teeth before Kyle stated with a good amount of confidence that he could replace the beam himself.

I was home Wednesday for Ellen's 18-month appointment (more on Ellen at 18 months another day) so I spent the day reading and cuddling with the girls who were smarting from vaccines and blood draws while Kyle and an awesome friend crawled around under the house. Kyle could provide all the dirty details, but as I understand it they prepped the site for the new beam.
Friday morning Kyle got up before the sun to meet the lumber truck at the store and pick up our custom ordered barn-cut, treated 6x6 beam. By Saturday morning the beam was in and ready to be secured before I headed off to work (hooray for football season!). 
Saturday afternoon I played with the girls and cooked dinner while Kyle ground out the rest of the stump (along with a few others on the property) and shopped for materials.

Finally, one week after getting stared, the porch construction started today! Kyle worked all day and got some help in the afternoon from our fantastic brother-in-law, and as a result, we should have a new porch and photos to prove it by next weekend. (Kyle's sister Annie was equally awesome at watching the girls while I cooked dinner.*)

Here's to the incredible help of friends and family. I may love this house again yet.

*In case you're counting that makes three dinners in one week -- that's got to be a record!

Saturday, November 8, 2014

No Sweat Small Stuff

In the months leading up to the purchase of our house I spent a lot of time watching home improvement shows. Kyle and I worked opposite schedules back then so all of this diy television was a solitary activity. In addition to the tv shows, I also studied a ton of home improvement blogs and with all of this knowledge I created a long list of projects. And until recently we hadn't really talked about those lists.

A few weeks ago, likely inspired by our summer and fall home improvement successes, Kyle discovered an awesome show called Rehab Addict. The host of this show manages to transform old houses in much worse shape than ours. What more inspiration could we need? (As I type Kyle is outside taking advantage of some sunshine to scrape the porch posts so we can get them primed and protected.)

My favorite recent project was one on my list from day one. The transformation of our outdoor sconces. They were once a shiny brassy chrome. Not my favorite look to begin with, but the finish had pretty well deteriorated and they were covered in cobwebs and dirt.
 Kyle removed them from the wall and took them into the kitchen for a good scrubbing.
 He carefully took apart each one (there are three) and washed them with soap and water. Then he lightly sanded all the parts.
He picked an oil rubbed bronze spray paint we had in the shop from a previous project and gave each one a couple coats of fresh paint.
 Once the paint dried he put the lamps back together.
The "after" is such a nice refresh! Especially considering we spent exactly zero dollars to make our new front porch look even nicer!
Every night at dinner Kyle shares his latest home improvement adventures with these small projects. Multiple days were spent crawling under the house to repair the ducts. That had to have been significantly less fun and way less photo-worthy than the sconces.

Here's to tackling a long list of small jobs.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

The Joy of Bills

Over the past several months, since the great house rot terror of 2014, I've gotten pretty hooked on managing our budget. Without going into too many details, I'll say we've done a pretty good job of dealing with some big house expenses, including most recently a significant bill for furnace repair, without draining our savings or going in to debt.

In fact, I think when everything is tallied up, we may have invested more in our house this year than any year since we bought it and we've managed to fund those improvements largely from super frugal attention to our spending.

The unintended consequence of this is that I get unusually excited when our utility bills arrive. Somehow lower utility bills feel like a reward for all of our great efforts. They even come with nice little pats on the back. Check out this month's water bill!
I have been known to geek out for hours on a good chart, so it's no surprise that I love this part of the bill, but this one is just particularly validating. It makes those five trips we took getting supplies to replace the faucet totally worth it. Unfortunately our rates went up so the bill, while lower than last month, doesn't quite reflect that awesome drop on the chart.

Our electric bill also arrived today and came with some great validation as well. This highlight compares this year against last year.
Our electric company website is like candy for a geeky conservationist. There are charts and graphs to measure use in all kinds of way -- including time of day, weather, compare to average user. It even has a little widget to explain how you're using your power -- in our case laundry is a big one.

We're hoping we can continue this downward trend and keep funneling those extra dollars toward the house. The project list doesn't get any shorter and, thanks to a recent fixation with home improvement shows, our ambition is only increasing.

Here's to saving money! Who doesn't love that, right?

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Weekend Joys

In no particular order. A gorgeous rainbow we spotted on our Halloween walk around town. Rosie with her jack-o-lantern carved from the pumpkin she picked out at the pumpkin patch. The 34th (at least!) reading of Clip Clop, a new favorite book. Cashew pesto ingredients ready to be turned into pesto pizza sauce.

Here's to all the joys found in a four day weekend.

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.