Tuesday, January 30, 2007

We've got a ceiling again

Some ceilings we don't want. As a woman, I'm not in favor of the glass ceilings in some segments of corporate America. I believe our new Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi said she broke through the "marble ceiling" just recently.
But here at the 2-flat, our ceilings are of a much more mundane nature. We like them where they belong without holes. I have to admit that living without a ceiling is easier to me than living with holes in walls- most certainly because one doesn't look up all the time.
Anyway, we got our ceiling back today. The best part was we didn't have to do it ourselves. Our contractors are doing it since the plumbing issue was their fault. They'll be back soon for the next few steps of taping and painting and we'll be good as new.
The only bonus to this is that when we originally drywalled the ceiling, Steve cut the hole for the light too big and we had to add a decorative plaster ring to hide it. Now, we won't have to have that.
Chicago 2-flat adage:
The one benefit to doing anything over again is usually you do it better the second time around.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Scary basement getting less scary

Steve got to work plastering the holes in the basement ceiling today. Plastering is sure a messy job- especially when it's a ceiling.

First, he applied the Plaster Weld (otherwise known to us as "the pink stuff")to the existing edges for better bonding. Steve is a firm believer in taking extra steps.

Then he mixed up the plaster.

He added sand as an aggregate so the plaster would match the textured look of our existing basement ceiling.

Here he is getting ready to apply the first batch.
He mixed it almost to the consistency of peanut butter.
And here's the first application going up.

It took a few layers to get it leveled out and quite a few hours, but it looks pretty good now.

Here's what it looked like with just the lathe up last weekend. And what did I do while Steve was plastering away all day? Rest assured I was pulling my weight. I was at the laundromat washing our comforters and other bulky items and I cleaned the house. I was going to SPR the den door, but I decided it would feel better to have a clean house this weekend.
Next weekend will be a stripping weekend.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Nostalgia...well, not quite

It's getting to be tax time, so Steve and I spent a few hours Sunday categorizing and sorting through all the receipts and invoices from the work that we did in 2006. Suffice it to say, there was ALOT of paper to sort through. Fortunately, we had managed to keep a level or organization through the process so we were not bad off at all.

Looking over all the invoices since paid and done with, I was reminded of just how much work we had done last year. It was alot. It was exciting. It was exhausting. It was, of course, more work than we thought it would be. Nerves frayed and tempers flared at times, but we survived to tell the tale.

And I found myself reliving some of the excitement and gratification that comes from big projects like we had going on last summmer. I found myself getting just a little hungry for the next big project.

The wheels starting turning about how much I want our basement finished off. Of course, the fact that Steve and I basically spent all day Saturday down there -him installing lathe and me weatherstripping 4 windows and cleaning out cobwebs- didn't help ease my growing urges.

I even started thinking that most dangerous of thoughts, "What can I do to move this project forward?" Now, I knew I was in trouble. I'm now scheming how I can come up with the funds to have the asbestos down there abated as soon as possible.

Now really, this is a good thing. For if Steve and I are to start working on anything down there on a regular basis, removing that dangerous element from the basement seems a wise move and one we will probably make.

But as for a total overhaul of our basement, there is only one thing that can save an obsessive project monger/house restorer such as myself from my own self. Lack of cash.

We will not be up for a big expense like that for a while, unless something dramatically changes in our finances.

In the meantime, we can do things little by little and bit by bit. Steve is repairing the plaster ceilings in a few places to make the rooms solvent. We don't need to live with holes in the ceiling for 5 years after all.

And we'll have the asbestos properly abated and I can work on things in the basement and not worry about cancer so much.

Otherwise, here are the projects we are planning to work on for the rest of winter:

Stripping the den/basement door and refinishing, Building out the pantry, correcting our swinging door installation, installing a few threshholds.

Furniture-wise, Steve is planning to make some new bed rails for a headboard my Mom bought. He's making them out of walnut to match the headboard. He is also going to make a stand to hold a large model boat for my Dad. And then, after he's done woodworking for others, the next item up is (for now) a plate rack for our kitchen.

This should keep us busy enough for a while...

Friday, January 19, 2007

Okay, Plumbing Gods, are you happy now?

On Tuesday, Steve cut a hole in the wall of the 2nd bedroom upstairs so the plumber could have access to fix the leak. His findings? The leak was coming from the shower head connection inside the wall.

It was good to have a licensed plumber confirm that "the plumbing work looks good," but not so good to hear that if our contractor had fully tightened the shower head arm to the water supply, there would have been NO leak at all. It took 2-3 more turns for it to be tightened and stop leaking.

I'd say this falls under Stupid Contractor Tricks, wouldn't you? Price of carelessness? Twenty minutes, $85.00 and half a ceiling missing and a large portion of wall gone. We haven't called our contractor yet to fix it because we are "drying out".

The plumber said that this little "boo boo" was nothing compared to the dumb and incompetent things he's encountered in his career. One story he told was about a homeowner that hired an unscrupulous contractor to put a bathroom in a basement. The toilet was installed but the drain was never connected to the sewer pipe. It was a seldom used bathroom, but eventually the toilet was not working and they removed it. What did they find? A toilet draining into the dirt under their concrete floor directly underneath their home!

Our little problem didn't even make his Top 10, but he said it was a stupid mistake and if our contractor had tested it before he sealed up the wall, it would have been abundantly clear.

But why didn't he test it??? Sleep deprivation? Bad mood? Stubborn arrogance? Could be any of those. I know he isn't incompetent, but he must be watched carefully, which Steve did for the most part.

Anyway, the happy ending part is that the problem wasn't in the kitchen or worse than it was. Now, back to business. Tomorrow, we're planning to weather strip some windows in the basement and start the work patching and repairing the plaster ceiling in the basement where it was damaged with the post replacement last year. First step is the lathe...

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

It's cold in Chicago tonight

So cold that even squabbling siblings can see past their differences and snuggle up.

Sorry, but I couldn't resist a gratuitous pet photo in this instance.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Dishing "the Dirt"

Okay, Greg you asked for it, so here it goes...

1. I have unusual parents. Both my parents were anti-war activists in the 1960's and very involved in the Men's and Women's Movements. They attended rap groups and delved into things. As a result, my Dad realized he was gay and my parents got divorced. I feel pretty certain that having a gay Dad has made me empathize with minorities and oppressed groups more than I might have otherwise. I've always identified with the underdog. And let's face it, when it's your Dad and someone makes a homophobic comment, it's personal.

2. Steve and I are going to try and swing getting engaged and married this year! We've been together going on 6 years now and I cannot believe how the time has flown by. From the very beginning, we both have felt very set on each other. It's kind of a formality to us and I am not sure how we are going to do it as we aren't church-goers but then I'm not too keen on Vegas either.

3. I love reading memoirs and plan to write my own someday. I've actually started one, but I have a long way to go. Also, I was an English Major and studied Creative Writing in College. I was particularly adept at Poetry, although I don't really write it anymore.

4. I used to have a drinking problem and I do not drink anymore. I haven't had a drink for over 15 years now. It's a long story, but suffice it to say I didn't play nice when drinking and I don't want to revisit that again so I don't drink anymore.

5. Some of you may know this already, but I am pretty politically oriented. I come from a liberal background, many of my Mother's best friends were all activists and are incredible role models. I care alot about neighborhood politics and am prone to "getting involved" in local causes. I pick up the litter on my block regularly, attend community meetings and CAPs, and am planning to start a Block Club and send letters this year to owners that do not pick up the litter.

I hope we can all still be friends now :)

and now Tag you're it!(if you have time- no pressure)
Pigeon Point, Folksy Lady, Hillsdale House, Brooklyn Row House, and This Old Chicago 2-Flat

Sunday, January 14, 2007

The mysterious drip uncovered

So, as promised we cut open the ceiling on Saturday. Rather Steve did, while I was out canvasing for our local Aldermanic election. He cut to the left, thinking it was the radiator or toe kick in the kitchen, but didn't find anything.

So he cut to the right and things got decidedly damp and wet. Until, the realization dawned. It was the shower. The brand new and newly run shower piping was leaking. Good news in that we do not have to rip out the kitchen cabinets, but bad news in that half our bathroom ceiling is gone and we have to cut a large hole in our tenants bedroom.
The culprit? Our favorite contractor, Miro. We're hoping he'll come back and repair the ceiling and wall but we won't be having him do the plumbing again. Rather, we'll be calling in a licensed plumber. Live and learn. Sometimes it hurts a little.

Here's a close up of the leaking. Sigh.

Oh, and we decided after one night's disrupted sleep, that we are putting wall to wall carpeting in the bedroom over ours. Our tenant has a desk and chair in there and the sound of the chair scraping on the bare wood floors at 11pm prevents sleep. We need our sleep to deal with our life ya know.

Kind of a bummer of a start to the year having to spend our money and time on this stuff.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

The mysterious drip (a poem)

Still it's dripping, albeit intermittently.
We know not whence it came.

We ponder the drip.
Is it the kitchen drain, could it be the toe-kick, or the radiator?
We hope it's the radiator. We hope.

The water- it's color is that of rust.
This leads us to believe- to hope it is indeed from
the radiator pipes. We hope.

At night, we close the door so not to hear
the drip (long pause) drip (long pause) drip (and so on).
We sleep, but not terribly peacefully.

The drip- it's the proverbial pea under the mattress,
the grit in one's eye while squinting in the bright sunlight,
the dog doo you stepped in - left there by some lazy person
who didn't do the job they should have.

Saturday, we'll cut a hole in the ceiling
(oh joy oh joy oh joy)
and hopefully we'll solve the mystery
(oh joy oh joy oh joy).
Till then, we'll try not to listen too hard to
the drip (long pause) drip (long pause) drip (and so on).

Poem by Jocelyn who doesn't believe poems need to rhyme and believes in finding poetry in the mundane and everyday stuff of life.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

little dogs BIG DOGS

This week, we've got both! Taking care of our two and my Dad's two border collies is keeping us busy.

Just thought I'd share...

It came from above

It seems the plumbing Gods didn't like me having a little joke at their expense the other day. They are currently exacting their revenge.

Last night, ready for bed, I went into the bathroom and saw a puddle of water on the floor. What could that be? I looked up and saw a drip come down from above. Uh oh.

I told Steve there was water coming from upstairs, and he said,"Are you serious??" We called the tenants to see if their bathtub had overflowed or any such disaster. They said no and invited Steve up to take a look around. Nothing seemed out of order.

So, since it was after 10pm and not much we could do, we made a "quiet" bucket (bucket with a towel in it)and went to bed. No surprise that we didn't sleep too well. After about 20 minutes Steve got up and shut off the valves in the basement for the toe kick heater upstairs, convinced that was the cause of the water leak and worried it might explode in the night.

In the morning, the dripping was still going and we pulled the pan away from the wall. We saw there was a good amount of water being suspended inside it. So, we drilled a few holes in the ceiling to see if we could get it to drain. This technique has worked for us before.

Historically, all but one water leakage issue in our building has been caused by our heating system or the ineptitude of those working with it (not us).

We removed the pan and released the water that was behind it. As you can see from the condition of the drywall, there was in fact some water pooling.

We set up trays to catch the water.

Today, Steve went upstairs to check that dastardly toe kick heater. It was bone dry. This means we do not know what is causing the leak, which is quite worrisome.

If it's work that our contractor did upstairs in the kitchen (sink drain, dishwaher) or the bathroom (shower, sink) then his warranty says he has to repair it. If it's the pipes in the wall for the toe kick, our heating guy is responsible.

I should probably be more upset about this than I am. I am really just annoyed. I know we'll get it sorted. This is where renovation experience helps. This is really minor compared with other things we've been through.

I will however, feel better when I know what it is and how we can get it repaired. But God help me if they have to cut another hole in my kitchen walls or ceiling.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Assume the position

And just what is the position, you might ask? And what exactly does it entail? Why I can only be referring to the worship of the plumbing gods of course.

In this case, we had the typical holiday time clogged drain. It is my belief that if a sink or toilet isn't backing up during the holidays once in a while, something is terribly wrong.

Last year, you may recall it was the upstairs toilet.

I have a little organizational tip that helps us in times like this. We three hole punch all our warranties and appliance manuals and put them in large binders. Then, when we need them, we know exactly where they are. In this case, we needed to look at the faucet specs to recall how to disassemble it and clear the drain. The 2nd floor has it's own binder too.

And the cause of the clog? Long brown hair. In our house, I am the cause of all clogged drains.

It's working like a charm now though.

At certain times I like to look back to the exact date the previous year or years and see what was going on at the time.

I happened to do so this morning and last year's post on January 2nd made me laugh. And it relates to plumbing too. Ah, the memories...

Monday, January 01, 2007

Press Coverage for Houseblogs

Looks like Chicago 2-flat and some other houseblog friends have gotten some coverage on the Dallas NBC station online. The article is called "Don't Do It Alone: Home Renovation Blogs" and Kristin from 1902 Victorian and Mindy from Fixer Upper were quoted as well as myself.

I found it when I was looking at my site stats and "came from" links. The article has links to Houseblogs, House in Progress and the above mentioned blogs.

It's always kind of jarring to find your name and self quoted when you're not exactly expecting it. I was interviewed for it, but I didn't know exactly what it was for or when it would be published. Now I know.

I mentioned the fact that we as a group tend to make jokes about "stripping".

This is something that seems to be universally funny when I bring it up. Especially when I tell people about the fact that google searches for "woman stripping" bring up my post about stripping wood work. There have been times when my site is the number one return for this keyword search. To think a renovation blog beating out a porn site. Now that's something.

A very special holiday this year

You may have wondered where we've been. The photo at left of Tower Bridge should clue you in.

Yes, we went to England for Christmas!!!

For a pair of old house enthusiasts and admirers of great architecture and history, visiting London was pure heaven. We lapped it up like honey. I'll be sure and post photos on Flickr and a link when I get them organized.

The main reason for the trip was to visit my 93 year old Grandmother, who lives in Reading.

This was truly a very special Christmas for my family. My Mom, sister Kimberley and her husband Sean as well as my nephew Ciaran all made the trip.

We stayed in Reading thru Boxing Day (day after x-mas) and then Steve and I headed to London.

This is the first trip I've taken where I did not miss our dogs. I am evidently pretty codependant on my dogs. They seem to encourage this though, don't you think?
(Photo taken while packing for trip)

If you read the blog the past year, I'm sure you can imagine how overdue we were for a vacation. I am happy to say that I did not think about my job or tenants the entire trip. And I did not log onto a computer for 10 whole days.

I am hoping to make the warm and fuzzy feeling from all the great experiences with family and the amazing history and culture of London last until Spring!

Lesson Learned: Vacations are an absolute good.

New Year's Resolution: We will have more of them.

Looking forward to a great 2008 in houseblogging and otherwise! Happy New Year to all!