Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Giving this a try

In researching tile or something (can't even remember right now), I ran across some blogs from some other people that really intrigued me... they were struggling with some of the same "old house" issues I struggle with. And they were real people with normal incomes trying to fix up other sadly damaged houses. So I wanted to write my story too. We're several years into our project, but the work will never end, so I'm sure I'll always have something to write about.

On Christmas Eve Eve of 2003, I signed the papers on this little fixer upper in the western suburbs of Boston. Nothing too terribly fancy, but it had what I saw as major "potential"... and I couldn't wait to start working on it. Fast forward 4 years, and it has been an adventure. I love seeing things change. Sometimes I get discouraged thinking what I've done doesn't look so good - I think it often looks like a "DIY-er" did it, but then I have to pull out my old pictures and remember what it USED to look like. And each time I work on something, I get a little better at it - for instance, I see the uneven grout lines on my mosaic tile in the bathroom every morning and kind of want to tear it out... but that would be ridiculous, particularly since I also installed electric heating wires under the tiles, and - oh yeah - the rest of the bathroom is pretty much done and functional and I'm getting a little lazy or busy or something... But I can say that the next tile job I did turned out much better, and that amateur mosaic tile job looks a lot better than the weird linoleum/plywood patched/towel covered dirty mess that some old lady stepped onto after she took a shower.

Somewhere along the line I decided that working full time and fixing up the house were not enough to occupy my time, but that I also needed to go back to school for an MBA. So now, I literally have zero free time. We go to visit Jim's parents in New Hampshire so that we are forced to not work. Otherwise we have a strange guilty feeling. The worst part about this is that I have a neighbor who has perfected the art of relaxation. He has created a relaxation shanty/deck that he lays out on on the weekends (actually, he's probably there all week), listening to Barry White and telling me I really should learn to take it easy.

Anyway, I'm sure we're a real curiosity to my neighbors. They've been watching and commenting here and there... some went through the same thing, others are contractors hoping to get my business, and others just like what is happening, and still others have better ideas for me (like "why don't you put on vinyl siding" - yuck!) Then I decided to paint the outside a deep shade of pink. Not very New England of me... But I like it.

So the current big project is the exterior. We've spent 2 summers on it so far.

Year 1 of the Exterior:
-Asbestos siding removal (this I fortunately agreed to let a contractor do)

-Demo on the glassed-in porch

-Experimenting with various paint removal techniques. Settled on the "Silent Paint Remover" for this year

-Worked at a snail's pace removing paint from the porch and 1st floor bay window

Year 2 of the Exterior:

-Decided to bite the bullit and buy another expensive paint removal tool - the Paint Shaver Pro - this was the best decision I've made in a long time, and beats the Silent Paint Remover for speed by a long shot

-Replaced damaged clapboards

-Learned to deal with my fear of heights and frequently climbed a ladder

-Chiseled out the rot on corner post (an effect of old wood gutters covered by asbestos siding)

-Finished a good chunk of painting

I'd have to say there is at least a couple more to get the woodwork how I want it. And I can't wait to replace woodwork on the porch. mmmm.... But fortunately for my school work, it's too cold to do anything outside for at least another 2 1/2 months or so.