Thursday, February 28, 2008

Down to the Wire

So back in early February when they scheduled the stove installation for March 6th, I thought that was a LONG time away... now that it's the end of February, and we still have not gotten that hearth pad made, it doesn't seem like such a long time!

The tiles are still sitting on the floor in the pattern posted a while earlier. Tuesday at lunch I went and picked the stove up. I also got 20 bags of pellets.

Last weekend I had school all day Saturday. Then a test in my Finance class (most difficult one I've had) on Monday night, so that weekend was shot.

Then this weekend I actually decided to take a vacation! So I'm in San Diego visiting my parents and Katie & Angela. Meanwhile, Jim's work decided to put him on rotating Saturdays, with this Saturday being the first of his... it's also his shop's winter party, so you can imagine how happy he is about having to work. And I'm sure he'll be really excited to put a hearth together too... (side note: this is yet another good reason for him to take the other job!)

Nonetheless, between now and next Thursday morning, we have to get some fireproof material on the floor! Not sure how it's going to happen. I'm crossing my fingers that Jim gets something built while I'm gone. Maybe I can stay home on Monday and tile? or maybe I can do that on Wednesday night? There really is not enough time to do everything!!!

Thursday, February 21, 2008

What's my Home Worth?

We're currently in the process of re-financing the house. When I bought it 4 years ago, I got a 5 year adjustable rate, not really knowing how long I'd be in the house. Now with the current state of the mortgage industry, my loan adjusting in a year, and knowing I'll be here for a while, I decided to take advantage of refinancing now, while the gettin's good. I did a bunch of shopping around, and ended up with a Wachovia referral from Lending Tree (I highly recommend using them, if for nothing else but to get several comparable offers).

Today was the appraisal. Living in a fixer-upper, the appraisal makes me kinda nervous. The guy said at the end that usually he likes to give an approximation while he's at the house, but he didn't really know what to give me; he'd have to investigate more first!

We do have some good points going for us with all the upgrades
-Electricity up to 200 Amps
-Wood floors refinished
-bathrooms gutted and remodeled
-New gutters & facia
-Icynene insulation added to the walls
-new kitchen countertop
-the attic spaces he referred to as "expansion potential"

-it's still mid-repair for the exterior (this is the biggest mystery factor)
-the house layout is weird - the room behind the bathroom can't be counted as a bedroom
-oh, and there's that medium sized tree that fell down into our yard over the weekend

He did mention that it looked like we were really trying to do a quality job with the renovations, and not just purchasing cheap stuff from Home Depot.

So still nervous about the results, I did a little investigation on to try and find out if my initial estimates were anywhere near the mark.
I think from checking these places out, I'm in a general ballpark, but the "unfinished" factor could be perhaps a 25,000 to 50,000 difference... or more???

Monday, February 18, 2008

Two More Random Projects

There's a couple of other random projects I've been working on. A year or two ago I went to Brimfield (a gigantic flea market that happens 3 times a year in Connecticut) and bought some things that I thought were pretty cool looking.

Item 1: an little old metal cabinet - probably used in a doctor's office. It had some rust & peeling paint and inoperable wheels on the bottom. I originally bought it as a sink stand for the vessel sink in the 1/2 bath downstairs - the dimensions were near perfect. But I decided that it was a little too unusual to cut up for the bathroom. So instead it became the tv stand for the mini tv from college. When we moved the big tv upstairs to make room for the bigger tv, I thought it was time to redo that piece.

Unfortunately, I don't have "before" pictures. But I did some sanding and spray painting, Jim took the locked up wheels off with his sawzall and replaced them with some new ones from Homer, and this is what it's looking like:

The plan is to put it back upstairs in the master bedroom, only it will now become the nightstand, and the chinzy little wooden piece purchased from an Ames (kinda like Kmart but was local to New England) going out of business sale will be trashed.

Item 2: the Dentist Lamp! This was a very odd piece, and I'm not really sure why I bought it. By the time Candice and I lugged it to the car seemingly a mile away, I REALLY didn't understand why I bought it! It actually works though, and it's kinda crazy looking. I thought it would make an unusual reading lamp. But it also was rusty and in need of cosmetic repair.

I've done some sanding on it. Most of it is fine; however, the base is seriously rusted. My 60-grit disks just weren't doing the job. So bought a couple of other stripper tools, and I'm going to try them. One is a 3M product on a course non-woven. When I was a summer intern, I actually worked on abrasive materials like this. I've got high hopes for it. But since I'm not sure if it will be too aggressive, I also bought a Black & Decker wire wheel. But my personal experience with most of the Black & Decker stuff is that they're pretty wimpy. Both of products attach to a drill chuck. Hopefully my rechargeable drill gun will work fine. Otherwise, I'll have to pull out one of Jim's monster drills.

So now that I've finished my homework, and I don't have class for another 4 hours (it's President's Day, so I'm off work), I'm going to go exercise a little bit and then see what I can do about the dentist's lamp!

I'm no Norm Abram...

but I've been working in my own little New Yankee Workshop the past couple of weeks. Though you could probably call it the Ghetto Yankee Workshop, from the looks of what I've made!

Here's the set up: I've been irritated for probably the last 6 months with this little closet in my kitchen. It is sort of a cleaning supplies and pet food stash all, but with horrible space utilization. I think when I first bought the house, there was a shelf in the closet, but I'm sure it was off-square and disgusting (this is either where she kept her kitchen trash can, or she just would splatter dirtiness and filth around for no apparent reason), so it was cleared during the early kitchen demo. Every so often I'll go to the Container Store or Ikea and marvel at the closet organization products. I love the idea of having a totally organized pantry. Once I went so far as to gather the materials to perfectly organize the closet with those wire shelf systems. Then I realized I was quickly getting up to $200 in closet shelving, and decided it was a ridiculous idea (and probably I wanted shoes or jeans or something more than shelving parts) Nevertheless, the closet remained an irritation.

There's also a wire shelf outside of the closet - a Target purchase that worked as a microwave stand in my Jamaica Plain apartment, but doesn't really fit the space in the house. It ends up holding a bunch of stuff and looks kinda messy.

Picking up Materials: last Saturday I decided to avoid homework at all costs, and headed out to do some errands. While at Homer, I priced out 1x3's and plain shelf planks. The planks were $7 each (I picked up 2) and the 1x3's were something like $5 total. While perusing the planks, I found a little shelf that would fit inside the closet but still leave room brooms & mops, so I decided to buy that too ($12). $31 total. Not bad. Although I do recognize that my items were not top quality. But since my "ultimate kitchen" plan includes getting rid of that closet in the long run, I figure that it won't really matter... Here's a picture of my materials:
Production: The good: I was very careful to make sure that everything was level and that I screwed the 1x3's into studs. The bad: I didn't predrill the 1x3's, so I split them at every screw point. And the drywall screws are all exposed (pretty), and I just used exra drywall screws for mop & broom hooks (so very fancy). But - I have to say that I like the new setup much better than the original. Take a look:
Jim suggested that in the spring we move the wire rack into the garage and use it as a potting bench. I thought that was a good idea. (We might have to move some cars out of the way).
The other random project kitchen project I want to do is to put a radiator cover on the 2 radiators in the kitchen. All the other radiators in the house are much fancier and aesthetically pleasing. But since the kitchen is part of an addition, I think these radiators were added later when the interior design as an afterthought. Anyway, they're ugly. But the engineer in me says that covering them would almost surely take away some efficiencies, and since the kitchen is the coldest room in the house, I'll wait until the pellet stove is installed to do that. (Scheduled for March 6th, by the way)

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Home is where the Hearth is

While the majority of this weekend was spent doing (or casually avoiding) homework, we did get in a trip to Home Depot Saturday evening - ah yes, once upon a time I used to spend my weekends dancing the night away, and now I spend them at giant big box stores for home renovators! Their selection of trim tiles was not very fantastic, but they had some white cove tiles in stock. I unfortunately forgot to bring a sample of the subway tiles I had, but decided it would be better to just buy the tiles and hope that they matched. (turns out they were a "close enough" match) The interesting thing is that Homer now carries a subway tile in stock, an option that did not exist 3 years ago when I was buying mine. I suppose they have become home mainstream again now. I will say, though, that they are inferior to the DalTile special order subway tiles that I have.

The rest of the evening was spent trying to lay the tile out into a configuration that would work for the stove. This is where the best and the worst of working together comes out. Luckily, while Jim and I approach things differently, the collaboration generally makes the plan better.

This is what we laid out:

The blue tape is the outline of the stove. This size meets all the requirements, and hopefully is not too intrusive in the room. I will have to say that working in the herringbone pattern makes things a lot more confusing than working on the square. We were trying to figure out the angles for the corners, so of course I took on a mini engineering project to figure it out. I'm sure that a high school junior could have figured it out in a fraction of the time, but my geometry skills are a little rusty....... it took me the longest time to figure out that my calculator and Excel default arctangent calculations to radians. And then it wasn't until this morning that I realized that we should make all the angles 135 degrees (instead of one at 131 and the other at 139) to be in line with the layout of the tile. If I've lost you with my math ramblings, just remember that my mind was rambling around this for an hour last night.

That's pretty much as far as we got. I left today open for church and struggling with advanced financial WACC calculations. But now I think we're ready to draw and cut out the platform on the next free day.

Friday, February 1, 2008

Happy Birthday to Me

It's my birthday today, and I have the great pleasure of spending it in the airport... Somehow it seems like every time I fly, there are storms raging across the country. I was in Milwaukee yesterday for work and a little visit to my college roomate, Lynne. Usually I fly a direct flight there, but I was late scheduling it, and couldn't very well justify the $500 difference. So today I'll probably spend 12 hours in airports and on airplanes.

I have a little house project that I've been obsessing about lately. That's usually how my projects go - I get really obsessed and learn everything I possibly can over the internet and talking to people... and I can never really get satisfied until I try to do it. Although Jim will tell you that I only get about 80% done before I get obsessed with the next thing. Hence I have things like mostly complete bathrooms without crown molding to cover the gap between the walls and the ceiling. Or there is also a quilt I started late last year - that's totally pieced, but not done with the quilting and binding. And then there is the tv stand that I was hell bent on making that was going to use an inexpensive IKEA console and a motorized telescoping lift to take the tv up and down through the top of the console to hide it out of sight when we weren't watching it. Ya.... finally I finished putting all the drawers together because I realized that the contraption wouldn't get made any time soon, and I was tired of IKEA flat box components all over my dining room.

Right now my current obsession is pellet stoves. For those not living in New England and unfamiliar with old drafty houses, we spend about 6 months of the year paying astonomical prices for oil to heat our house to a slightly uncomfortable 65. You get kinda used to it, but you have to wear lots of fleece and wool socks and hide under lap blankets. I hate the cold. And even more I hate paying $500 a month for oil. So when my last bill was at $3.50 a gallon, I had had enough, and started on a search to make changes. I covered all my windows with plastic - only helps a little. I looked at a bunch of websites for replacement windows - too much money right now. (Note that I have a internal conflict with replacing my windows. Some of the ones that I have are the old polished glass, and I'd hate to lose that charater.... but they are also really pretty crappy & energy inefficient at this point - and I have worked on reglazing and repairing 2, to only mediocre success) Anyway, I came to the conclusion that at a somewhat reasonable price point, we'd be able to buy a pellet stove and it should pay for itself in two winter seasons.

The model we chose is the Lopi Leydon in the "oxford" brown porcelain enamel. It's pretty. One of my friends called it room jewlery. I just can't wait to have warmth in the house again.

There are a ton of requirements on the venting, so it's probably going to create some weird piping situation on the back of the house. But that's in the area that I eventually want to add a mudroom (wish list dream-sometime in the future kind of thing...) and switch the doorway etc, so one day it might look ok. It will come out of the dining room between the back door to the kitchen and the window and go up to the roof line. Anyway, you can't see it from the street.

The stove just came in this week. And in an effort to NOT make this a 90% done job, we're actually going to have the stove shop do the installation. So that is supposed to happen sometime mid February.

Our responsibilities in this process will be to pick the stove up (save myself sales tax, since we bought it in New Hampshire) and have it in the room. We also have to get the appropriate permit & inspection from the town.

The other thing we have to do is put together a fire proof floor pad. As you can imagine, the ones available through retail are kind of hideous, and getting one made out of a stone slab is kind of out of the price range I want to spend after shelling out all the money for the stove. So first I went hunting around on the internet for Victorian hearths to see what kind of look might be appropriate. I found this website with some pretty cool tile jobs (I especially like the Victorian Kerbed Hearths) But of course, these are out of the UK, and buying the beautiful kerb tiles would probably cost more than a stone slab. But it is still good inspiration. I also like the herringbone look.

So I went hunting around in the basement and found several boxes of the left-over subway tiles from the kitchen and bathroom (word of advice - 30% extra is more than you need). Hopefully when I get home this weekend (this flight just got delayed again) Jim & I can head to Homer and get the rest of the supplies - plywood, 2x4s, and some cement board. The only 10% danger I foresee is that I don't have edge tiles... which means either ordering them or buying what Homer has in stock (which is never really a good option)