Post-Inspection Report; aka 5-year (Possibly 10-year) Plan

Front room, looking in from the foyer. A knee wall (or higher) and some columns are, I think called for.

First-floor front room, looking in from the foyer. A knee wall (or higher) and some columns are, I think called for in that large opening.

This afternoon, I spent an educational three+ hours with the home inspector as we went through my long-term project room by room and utility by utility. And my HVAC guy joined us to plan out a heating and cooling solution – the current furnaces work well, but not at all efficiently…and they’re almost the size of my first apartment – plus there’s no central a/c.

There was but one unexpected revelation…but not altogether surprising, because I couldn’t see the roof from the yard. It turns out there are an unfortunate number of popped nails and a passel of missing three-tab asphalt shingles (plus some of the wood shingles on the sides of the dormer windows need to be replaced with some alacrity). But the inspector says with those issues addressed, “the roof still has some life in it.” Does that mean a year? Two years? He wouldn’t say.

So I need to get my roof guy over to take a look (and address the problems). I was hoping to not write him another check for a couple years when I’ll need to have the roof replaced, but…

And many of the windows need replacing, too (I knew that already). They don’t stay open (but I know how to make a stick to combat that) and some of the seals are breached. But new windows will just have to wait.

Beyond that stuff (for which I have to hire out), there’s plenty to do. This is going to be a long-term project. I’ll start with the big stuff before my knees and energy further deteriorate.

First is to redo the second-floor bath…because ick. Been there, done that before. It’s all fun, except for the grouting. Grouting bites.

Then, I’ll figure out how the front stairs used to look, take out the wall that was erected to make it a two family, and put the stairs back to rights. I am hopeful that the original balustrade is hidden between the two sides of the drywall…but I doubt I’ll get that lucky. And I’ll have to un-remuddle one of the rooms on the second floor, wherein the hall balustrade clearly used to reside.

There’s another kitchen in my future. And another bathroom (or two). A laundry room. A knee wall and columns in the foyer. Lots of painting (after plaster fixes).

But of course, before all of the above comes the shop.

So, lots of fun in my future (assuming nothing happens between now and the closing)!

Here are too many pictures, should you care to look.

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Well If it’s in Chaucer & Shakespeare…


Monday, the appraiser came. I’ve heard neither yea or nay, but I’m not too worried – the ‘hood is hot right now and the price of this place is more than reasonable. (OK, I’m a little worried…because worry is what I do. But I’m trying to stuff it down.)

Next Monday, I have the inspection. I feel certain the inspector will hate me; I am annoyingly inquisitive (and yes, if he climbs onto the roof, I’ll be right behind, thank you very much). About the inspection, I’m really not worried; I pretty much know what I’m getting into (expect the complete renovation reveal in…2020 at the earliest).

If When when the house is mine (May 29th – fingers crossed), I’ll show actual pictures thereof.

In the meantime, let’s talk about the tree that’s covering it.

It’s a dogwood (I believe Cornus florida), but also goes by other names.

“Dagwood” is among them, from “dag” or “dagger,” because this hardwood is very strong and broken-off bits make an excellent weapon (I’m a single woman in the mean city…). It was also used for arrows and tools handles, among other things.

Legend has it that the cross on which Christ was crucified was made of dogwood – and that its current gnarled shape is thanks to, following resurrection, his twisting the branches so the dogwood could never again be used for such a purpose. And the flowers are said to represent the four corners of the cross, with the red fruit representing his blood.

“Whipple-tree” or “whippeltree” is another moniker, and it’s mentioned by Chaucer in “The Knight’s Tale:”
But hoe the fyr was maked upon highte
Ne eek the names that the trees  highte
As ook, firre, birch, aspe, alder, holm, popler,
Wylugh, elm, plane, assh, box, chastyen, lynde, laurer
Mapul, thorn, bech, hasel, ew, whippeltree–
How they weren feld shal nat be toold for me; (2919-24)

A pyre for a god – Arcite – apparently requires a great many species.

But my favorite dogwood tree association is found in Shakespeare…of course. That’s the character of Dogberry (the dogwood’s fruit) in “Much Ado About Nothing” – which is among my top-five favorites plays (No. 1 is a moving target).

Dogberry is a delightful idiot, known for his pretentions and malapropisms (a favorite is, “O villian! thou wilt be condemned into everlasting redemption for this!”).

So, not only will a be able to cobble together a great shop in my new basement, I’ll be able to practice MAAN lines. I shall sit on my new porch (hidden behind the dogwood tree) and yell at passersby: “Away! you are an ass, you are an ass.” It’s the late-16th-century version of “get off my lawn.”

When I get tired of that, I’ll trim the tree. And perhaps cast some daggers.

“She speaks poniards, and every word stabs.”

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Miles of Moulding

miterboxGiven that I’m currently staying at a friend’s house, you might think I’d be (if but temporarily) out of the home improvement business. Nope.

My friend’s 1940 Cape Cod is in nice shape, with hardwood floors throughout and most of the original trim intact. But not all of it. When carpet was installed however many years ago (which my friend ripped out), the fool who put it in took out the cloverleaf toe moulding in the two hallways, living room and dining room. miters

So yesterday, I bought about 200 feet of red oak moulding (yes I know that’s a bit short of even one mile). Today, I set up my little Millers Falls miter box on the dining room table, and cut miters for a few hours.

There are lots of corners in the affected areas, with lots of teensy returns. A chop saw could not safely do much of this work. Still, I managed to hurt myself, sort of. I sawed for so long that I have a blister on my thumb…on my off hand, from holding the work against the fence. Wah.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to buy pre-stained trim … unless I was willing to use MDF with what appeared to be contact paper over it, or some other kind of termite-barf product with a printed wood-grain surface. I was not.

So, after laboriously marking what goes where, I also had to stain and apply polyurethane to the many bits and pieces. They’re drying on the enclosed porch right now, out of reach of the cats. Everything should be dry enough to install in another half-hour or so. But it’ll have to wait until Tuesday* after work.

Although I planned ahead and brought a nail gun (sue me) and compressor with me to the crash pad, I didn’t think to bring an extension cord. stainI know in exactly what box I packed those. But that box is on the moving truck for at least the near future. So I’ll buy another tomorrow (they’re like clamps – can’t have too many).

*Why Tuesday instead of tomorrow? Tomorrow evening, I’m looking at a house that might just be The One. It’s a 1906 brick house with a large, dry basement that has 7′ of head room, plus there’s a garage. And, it’s exactly where I want to be – and almost affordable. Let’s hope it has a decent roof, HVAC and running water, and no portals to hell in the attic. It is safe to assume, however, that it will need at least little bit of moulding installed.

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Nothing Left but the Curtains

JJ & Viola, co-existing quietly in the same room since July 2014. A moving miracle. (Possum is still hiding.)

JJ & Viola, co-existing quietly in the same room for the first time since July 2014. A moving miracle. (Possum is still hiding.)

Yesterday at 1 p.m., I began signing the closing documents. At about 1:15 p.m., I teared up as I signed over the deed. Then I met my realtor to look at a place that simply won’t do (it had a visible compound lean and lots of rotted siding – funny how that kind of thing never shows in the listing photos). And last night, I slept for more than four hours for the first time in three weeks. (Good thing, because today, I had to help clear space for the Lie-Nielsen show at work this weekend, and set up workbenches. I’m always moving furniture somewhere!)

While the movers got the majority of my stuff onto the truck last Saturday (a lot of late nights and early mornings packing that!), I still had a lot of work to do in the house before 8:30 a.m. yesterday (the latest I can leave for work and make it on time). I was there every night until well after 11 p.m. and by every morning by around 5 a.m. for the last five days.

Now, there is nothing left but the curtains, and perhaps a little sawdust. I’ll retrieve the curtains after the new owners buy some and get them hung. The sawdust is theirs to keep.

Currently, I’m staying in a house a friend owns a few miles away from the old ‘hood; it’s for sale, so I have to keep it neat, and vacate for showings when necessary. I’m going to install shoe moulding for her in three rooms while I’m there, and do my best to keep the grass cut nicely (I’ve not mowed grass since I was 16). If she goes under contract before June 16, I have to be out by the end of that month.

I’m in a hurry to find a permanent home; I don’t want to move again unless it’s into it. But I’ll hold out for the right one.

In the meantime, while I’m sad to leave the house into which I poured years of hard work and money, the place I’m staying is magic: JJ and Viola cats, who have been fighting violently since last July, are now getting along – well enough, anyway.

So much for every single one of Jackson Galaxy‘s recommendations. The real key to feline felicity is apparently to spend tons of money on roofs, sewers and moving, redo six rooms at high material and personal cost, then experience emotional distress at giving up the first-ever house you’ve owned, with niggling worries that you’ll ed up on the street. In other words, fear and dislocation. Seems reasonable.

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An Incredible Mess (Me & the House)

SHopDuring the last week of March, I was given one day’s notice that the appraisal would be (finally) be happening. Concurrently, I had plumbers scheduled to clean the sewer line, and a roofer lined up…if ever the rain would stop for two days in a row.

But the closing has long been scheduled for April 15 – I had been awaiting the appraisal to start packing…but I ran out of time. All of my non-house tools (read: the good ones) are now in the shop at work. If only I knew what was where in the many boxes, bins and chests…a project for later this month, perhaps.

And my Petite Roubo and Anarchist’s Tool Chest are also at work (thank you Christopher Schwarz for your help in moving them).

This is no way to live.

This is no way to live.

Thank the gods that I “passed” the appraisal; I’d have been apoplectic had I to move them right back home.

The sewer is clean (relatively speaking), and the work that should eventually be done needn’t be done immediately – so the buyers are saving up for that (I presume…and it will be a lot less costly than expected – whew!).

The roof is only half-done; we’ve had torrential rain all week. It’s supposed to be clear on Saturday and Sunday, so (I hope) the roofers will return to finish. But the movers are showing up Saturday morning. I hope the ladders won’t be in their way.

So every night since the appraisal, I’ve been frantically packing and sorting all my stuff  …wow do I have a lot of stuff crap. (Thank you Michele Griegel-McCord for your help with that…and for storing my pictures…and for making me realize it’s OK to put non-like things in the same box – though I’m still having trouble with that one.)

So...this is maybe one-sixth of the books packed.

So…this is maybe one-sixth of the books packed.

I’m be staying for at least six weeks at a friend’s house that is on the market, and has been empty for a while. So I rented a panel van and took a few (small) furniture pieces over there last night to “stage” the house and make it look more homey/less vacant. (Thank you David Manktelow for your help with that.)

And, I’m going to replace some missing trim work and a few other fixes while I’m there (because I am very bad at doing nothing). But if that house is under contact by June 15, I’ll have to find a new temporary home and move the stuff (and myself and the cats) again by the end of the month (or before her closing – whichever comes first).

The bulk of my stuff will be loaded onto a truck, where it will stay for the near future. (The non-regulated temps will be a good test of my wood choices, wood prep and joinery. I hope to not be sharing inadvertent furniture-explosion tests with you in a few months.)

Sure wish I'd not packed quite all of the silverware. Oops.

Sure wish I’d not packed quite all of the silverware. Oops.

So my hope is that in the next two weeks I can find the place I want to buy (and die in, so that I never have to go through this again). That would give me a month to get the inspection done, finances sorted, etc.

But I don’t expect that will happen. Little else recently has, after all, gone what I’d call smoothly.

So I made a point of putting my tent and sleeping bag in the back of my car, just in case I’m truly homeless in six weeks. The cats? Well, I’ll guess they’d have to learn to hunt.

I’m off work tomorrow to finish packing…and to herd the cats into the hated carriers to move them. Then, I’m calling 1-800-got-junk. I’ve done as much hithering and yonning to donate stuff as I can stand, and none of the charities that do pick-up are interested in 40 half-used gallon cans of paint or three broken sawhorses.

But of course, until we all sign the closing documents (next Wednesday), I suppose things could still go ass over teakettle.

So fingers crossed a) it stops raining b) my cats don’t scratch me and leave me to bleed out c) no one develops crippling carpel tunnel syndrome (until after 2 p.m. Wednesday) d) I find the “perfect” home and shop in the next two weeks.

Oh – and e) I get over this painful seller’s remorse soon. I almost never cry. But I’ve wept every night for the last week. Sure, it might have something to do with the large number of large checks I’ve had to write lately. But more likely, it’s the saying goodbye to the first (and so far only) house I’ve ever owned. I’m looking forward to tears of joy when I walk into the next one.

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The Price of Nostalgia


For the last couple weeks, I’ve been making a desultory effort to literally lighten my load – the moving company charges by weight for storage, and the less to pack, the better. Like most people, I suspect, I’ve for years been hanging on to too much I’ll never again listen to, fit into or use. Some of it, such as my grandmother’s costume jewelry and beaded party sweater, I simply can’t bear to let go.

But I’ve made great headway into cleaning out my closet. Yesterday, I donated to Dress for Success (a non-profit that helps women entering or re-entering the workforce with appropriate clothing and coaching, among other things) a backseat full of business clothes that I hope will help make a newly employed (or soon to be employed) woman feel at least a little bit empowered.

I, on the other hand, feel empowered by saying goodbye to those eight suits, 34 pairs of dress pants and 15 or so skirts, silk blouses, twin sets and other business non-casual items I hope I’ll never have to wear again (I did keep the only suit that still fits, just in case).

But here’s the depressing (and rather shocking) thing: I added up the cost. I’m claiming $4,000 on the donation form (that I’ll no doubt lose before tax time next year). The actual amount I paid for those items over the years is probably closer to $6,000.

Shelves1Today, I began to tackle “the room where things go to die” (chock-full of stuff I should get rid of, 50 percent of which I likely won’t).

On our local online bulletin board this morning, I posted a couple of free-for-the-taking items, including a barely used NordicTrack ($500), the lovely L-bracket “joinery” pine shelves I built in 1988 or so (the first piece of functional furniture I ever made, actually…still standing – priceless!), a microwave and a few other ridiculous things that for some reason I carried to the third floor instead of giving them away initially (a Mickey Mouse waffle iron, for example – I don’t even like Mickey Mouse. I’m more of a Looney Tunes girl.) They’re all already claimed, and some are already out of the house.

Then, I boxed up my cassettes, both the commercial ones and the little-heard (and not worth hearing) ones of me playing the piano and singing in a school musical. Not to mention the 20 or so tapes I recorded while listening to Kasey Kasem’s Top 40 Countdown (or is it Kountdown?) on Sunday mornings. I sure liked Chicago. Total cost (for the commercial ones): around $3,000. I’m sending those off to GreenDisk tomorrow for recycling.

CDTowerThen there’s the CDs. Holy Cats did I drop a lot of cash on CDs (most of which are now on my computer and/or an external hard drive).

That CD case at left is only about half of them; I have seven 100-slot CD wallets full, too. On the commercial ones alone, I spent enough to cover the cost of the new roof.

Do stores still buy/sell used CDs? I hear vinyl is the hot new thing (unfortunately, those I unloaded prior to my last move). I’ve made a list of the ones in decent shape; perhaps I’ll shop it around.

I’m not complaining, mind you – merely stating fact. I enjoyed wearing those clothes (for a while); it was (and still is) rewarding to finally have a professional job after a decade as a sales clerk, barista and bartender. And I had a great many great evenings and road trips listening to that music (yes, even the Chicago) – I wouldn’t trade any of that.

I have the memories; I no longer need the physical manifestations thereof. Still, it’s difficult to let them go.

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Painted Cabinets & Shiny Hardware


Colin asked me to comment on painting my kitchen cabinets. I started to simply respond, but I figured why not just post it (and I’m surprised I haven’t already written about it!).

So: The why, how and what of my kitchen cabinet finishes:

I built the cabinets intending to paint them. I simply prefer the more casual look of painted kitchens to clear-finished wood, at least in a “workingman’s Victorian.” Were this an Arts & Crafts home (or a fancier, high-style place), I’d likely have chosen oak or another appropriate hardwood.

I used 3/4″ maple plywood that was factory-finished on one side – that became the interior cabinet surfaces – with a paint-grade reverse. The boxes are simply rabbeted and screwed. All the plywood shelves (which are adjustable, of course) are edged with a 1″ x 1″ strip of hard maple. That edging is finished with Formby’s Tung Oil Finish (low gloss, 3 coats), which is the same finish I used on the beech countertops (7 coats for those…or maybe it was 8).

After filling the screw holes with Durham’s Rock-Hard Water Putty and sanding those areas smooth and flush, I painted the exteriors using a brush for the edges at the wall and a smooth roller on most of the surfaces. Sure, it would have been easier to paint them before installation…but I was too eager to get them hung and build/apply the poplar face frames so I could get started on the door and drawers. It also would have been faster to spray them (before installation), but I don’t have paint-spraying equipment – plus the late autumn/early winter weather precluding setting up for that in the backyard (also known as my spray booth).

With the cabinets installed and painted, I hung and fit all the doors, then removed them and painted them with brushes and rollers. The drawer fronts were painted in place; I just had to remember to not shut them as the paint dried. (That was difficult; there is little that bugs me more about furniture than doors and drawers not in their proper positions.)

For the paint, I decided on the same as is on my interior trim work – Valspar Reserve (semi-gloss) in…I have no idea what color – some sort of slightly antique white. It is theoretically “one coat, stain-blocking Paint + Primer” that holds up to scrubbing/washing (which it really does!), has “super adhesion,” “maximum hiding, anti-fade formula” and is “mildew-resistant.” Also, it doesn’t smell bad during application, which is a plus.

It is not, however, one coat on a fresh surface (nor over existing paint on walls, for that matter). I applied two coats on the plywood, and three coats on the face frames and doors/drawers. Had I not been wanting to match the trim, I’d have probably gone with Valspar’s “Chalky Finish” paint, because I like that dead-flat, milk-paint vintage look.

I know a lot of folks who swear by Benjamin Moore’s Aura paint for interior work, but it costs about one-third more than the Valspar Reserve, and I’ve found it more difficult to apply, and with no better coverage – though I can’t comment on long-term durability/fading differences. I used Aura in my dining room, but only 4 years or so ago. The yellow in my kitchen is Valspar flat, and it was painted at about the same time. Neither has faded, and both have been scrubbed in areas a few times, with no adverse effects.

The “Mission Bin Pulls” with a brushed-nickel finish are from Rejuvenation, which also offers an amazing array of very well-made period reproduction lighting. I love those bin pulls – I used them on the cherry coffee table and bookcase I built for the living room. But I will say I liked the company a lot more when it was privately owned (it was bought in 2011 by Williams-Sonoma). I’ve been less-than-impressed with the customer service in recent years – but their product is good enough that I suffer it.

The “Classic Kitchen Knobs” and “Non-Mortised Hinges” (I think of it as “efficient” rather than “lazy” in this application) are from the family-owned company Horton Brasses. I quite like the company’s cabinet hardware – it’s what I and others use for a lot of the furniture pieces you see in Popular Woodworking Magazine, and their customer service is unfailingly friendly and fast. Heck – the owner himself (Orion Henderson) often gets back to you. You really can’t ask for more!

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