Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Habitat for Me

Nava and I painted our living room over the weekend. About 18 months later than we planned. We had decided to paint the interior of our house in the October of 2004. Nothing fancy - off white on most walls, and a wall of color in each room to make it a bit more interesting. Should take just 6-8 weekends. It’s a small house, so shouldn’t be too bad, and doing it ourselves should cost just $1000-$2000.

That's was the theory. Now, almost a year and a half later, and we're almost finished. Or not.

We worked our way through the bedrooms, then the hallway, guest bath, and kitchen last year. Got to the smaller closet in the 3rd bedroom, and found water damage from a leak in the roof. Not very surprising – our neighbor across the street just had her roof replaced, and told me ours had been put on at the same time. Ok – need to start looking at shingle styles, and find a roofer. And might as well get the outside painted (by someone else), as that’s probably 20 years old as well.

Painting is easy. Picking the primary color went pretty smooth for us – even if there are 1000 choices in off-white, only took us about 7 samples to pick the one we liked, but then there’s the accent wall. In every room. Some of the companies have 2oz samples now, which is cheaper / less wasteful than get a quart mixed, but they have only 10% of the colors in samples. Picking the accent color dragged the 2-3 month project on longer, and made for 10x the number of trips to the paint stores. As I said, painting is easy. Everything else you need to do to prep / finish is hard. If you live in the house, you need to pretty much empty the room out. And then cover / mask whatever you don’t want paint on. When you’re done, you need to move everything back, and unless you’re fastidious about cleaning regularly, it probably involves cleaning everything before it goes back. Being a Yekke (Hebrew slang for being a typical German perfectionist), I can’t just put the stuff back in. Need to sort through it, organize it, and get rid of excess clutter. Not the regular clutter, just the *really* useless stuff. Being married to an artist means not only does it need to be organized, but it also has to look nice / interesting / asymmetric. Bottom line – lots of running around (finding the right paint), then the actual painting, and then more time to sort, drop off box loads at Good Will, and then arrange.

But the bedrooms are done, so we keep painting – hallway, guest bath, and the kitchen. Ah - the kitchen. Where we found the termites. Well, at first it was just some woody sand like stuff behind the fridge, which got vacuumed up. Which reappeared the next day. Tip #1 – woody sand stuff if never good news. Take a closer look, and there are insects crawling behind the baseboard. Joy. Get woken up that night by the Hugs and Kisses to find out that the kitchen floor is covered by black winged insects. I already knew we had termites, so what’s the big deal? Big deal is that the not only do we have termites, but they’ve done good enough to send out mating pairs. At least it was a cool night, and a sprits of Windex kept them from flying, so I could just wipe them up. And wipe and wipe. Nasty little buggers that can eat wood crumble apart, and get into every little nook and cranny of the linoleum, so you have to wipe 3 times to get all the body parts.

Get the termite inspector out the two days later. He checks out the house, the crawl space, attic – everywhere but the garage (“too much stuff”). Verdict - subterranean termites. Now, instead of finishing the interior painting before my mom visits, we need to juggle the termite work, emptying out the garage so that can be inspected as well, and get started on the exterior painting before summer comes, and they get to busy.

Rented a POD to empty the garage into. PODs are great – they come, drop-off a big container in your drive, and then you fill it. You can either leave it there for a while (remodeling), have it shipped off and stored (emptying the house to sell it), or moved cross country. I just enjoyed watching the truck come and drop it off, and then pick it up later. Fun for boys of all ages. Next time I might sell tickets, as a few guys in the neighborhood managed to wander by as well!

Emptied the garage. Since it was now empty, and everything else was getting repainted, might as well paint it as well. And it wouldn’t take much longer to stain the garage floor as well, to practice for when we do something the back patio concrete, so what the heck. And the POD was the same price for 2 wks or 3-4, so why not.

Get the subterranean termite treatment, and the inspector back out to check the garage. Found wood-dwelling termites there. Where? In the frame for the garage door, which was the one part of the garage he had access to the first time, but never checked. Frack. Find out that he just needed the stuff moved away from the walls, not the entire garage emptied. Can either get a microwave treatment in that area, but no confidence if that’ll get them all, or go for the full tenting. With the microwave treatment, you need to make sure the neighbors, and any pets, are out of the way, as you don’t want to cook them. They’re about the same price, so we decide to go for the full tenting.

Need to stall the exterior painters, as the termite crew tends to bump around a lot of tarps, etc. Ever see those houses tented in pretty colors? Nice combos of yellow and blue. None of those houses were ours. Dirty blue was the color of our tent. More looks from the neighbors – not only did we have to be tented, but then the tent wasn’t even nice to look at. They say there are only 2 kinds of home owners in California – those who know they have termites, and those who don’t know yet.

Once the tent was off, and we could move back in, need to scramble around, and clean up the outside for the painters. Tip #2 – if you have an old, single piece garage door, don’t get it power-washed. If you do, don’t try to have the garage door opening lift it for a few days. Unless you wanted a new garage door and garage door opener. Never liked those big, clunky, dangerous doors anyway.

Since it took us 5-10 tries to pick an accent color on the inside, we told the outside painters to not do the trim – we’d do it ourselves. And since the garage door was going to be replaced, don’t worry about masking it. Same thing on the gutters / roof – they’re coming off, so just paint away. Come home on painting day to a house that’s basically one color. It’s called “Chivalry Copper”, kind of in the terra-cotta family. Nice color, but when it’s everywhere, including the trim, and a 6” band on the garage door, it’s a bit much. Start picking a trim color that evening, so Nava could start repairing our image with the neighbors.

Call the garage door folks and roofers, and get them lined up. The garage door folks have it figured out. One guy and a small pickup w/ a frame on the back can do everything. Get everything out of the way of the old door, back the pickup into the garage, and just drop it down. Drive it out, cut it up, and move it aside. Install tracks for a rolling door, drop in and attach the sections, put in a new opener, and cart off the old junk. A man, a plan, and less than a day. Of course, he was one of the hardest working guys I’ve ever seen!

And then the roof – found a very highly rated roofer, Eastman Contracting, San Jose>. Stopped by their place, as they had a showroom, so we could see what the various options looked like in person. Start looking around, and someone comes out of the office, introduces himself as Jim, and asks if we had any questions. I ask him if they can install solar attic fans with a new roof for me, as I really want solar attic fans. Says he can’t tell me if they can put in a solar attic fan in my house. They can put in solar attic fans, they know how, just don’t know if it’d work for me. Would need to do the math on air flow in my attic to see how much it had / needed, etc. Loved it – I’d been talking to the guy for 2 minutes, when he basically said told me to be sit down and shut-up, as I really didn’t know what I was talking about. But in a very nice, and professional way. Find out he's Jim Eastman, the owner of the company. Decide on the spot that we’re going with them. The customer is *not* always right, and is quite often an idiot. He may be 6’ 4”, frequently referred to as Chewie (Chewbacca), and known to threaten people with ripping their arms off and beating them to a pulp, but still an idiot. Being able to deal with that, and insist on doing the right thing is a skill. Doing that with an area full of engineers, who do lots of internet research, but are still idiots, is an art!

New paint, garage door and roof – now the 30 year old skylights look like crap. Get the roofers to track down replacements – and less obtrusive flat glass ones than the old plastic domes. Low-E glass, with anti-UV coating. Definitely worth it, but I’m starting to wonder if anything’s going to not result in yet another fix / replacement / upgrade.

Neighbors were sure we were about to sell, as we were putting so much work into the house. Where’s the logic in that? I can see touching up a house to try to sell it, but spending that kind of money, and effort, you’d better be doing it for you, and not for the next people living in your house!

After the ~2-3 month “repaint the interior walls” project ended up taking all winter, spring and summer, the outside of the house was painted, with a new roof, skylights and garage door, but the inside was only 85% done, with the living room left. Which is how the story started – decided to finish up the living room over the long 4th of July weekend. Got busy Saturday morning – boxing up stuff, moving out the sofa, 2 arm chairs, book shelves, etc. Lot’s of etc. Never new we had 8 boxes of etc. in the living room. Got everything out except for the 36” TV – not an LCD or Plasma screen, one of those CRT systems kids born today may never know about. Had illusions that Nava and I could pick it up and move it 5 feet to the center of the room. Hah – 250lbs. Bothered Bret across the street for “a little bit of help”. Bret’s almost my height, but not quite as stocky as me. We moved it, but barely. Only had to go 5’, but almost dropped it, and then mashed our fingers trying to set it down before we dropped it a second time. But, it was out of the way, and we could finally get down to painting.

Right. Next we find out that (a) we don’t have enough tarps to cover the whole living room, and (b) will 5 gallons of paint be enough for the living room? It should be, but we’ve already used 25 gallons in the rest of the house, so it’ll be close. Let’s get 5 more gallons, since the store will be closed by the time we find out, and it’s the same paint we used through-out most of the house, so having some extra won’t hurt.

Off to the paint store to get another tarp, more paint, and some odds and ends. Close up the existing 5 gallon bucket we’d just opened, to see if they’ll mix it up for me. Zip out of the drive way, and down the street. Hmmm – what’s that thump? Roll around the corner, and there’s more thumping in the trunk. Damn – it’s the 5 gallons of paint in the trunk, rolling around. Not supposed to do that when I put it in upright. Pull over quickly, and open up the trunk. Amazing, I didn’t have a trunk full of paint, as the lid had stayed on tight. Get to the paint store – chat with the owner, get him to start the make the new 5 gallon bucket of paint, and ask him if they can mix the old one. He says yeah if the lid’s on tight, so he gets to hear the thumping around in the trunk story. He checks out the label on the existing 5 gallon buck, and find’s out I’m now buying my seventh 5 gallon bucket of paint. Then he remembers me and all the trips from last year, so gives me the contractor’s discount, like he did last year. Want cheap paint, go to one of the giant stores. Want good paint, and extra service, tips, advice, and even a discount if you’re a good customer, go to a local paint shop (like California Paint Company).

I bought only 1 tarp at paint store, as I forgot the hold one was short in 2 directions, so still not enough tarp. We cobble together a layer of plastic, with some card board and old blankets on top, and start painting. I start on the ceiling, Nava on the walls. I must have developed some ceiling painting muscles last year, which have atrophied since, and the living room is 50% bigger than the other rooms, and my arms were much more tired this year. Probably didn’t help having the 3’ x 6’ obstacle (the TV / stand) in the middle of the room to paint above. 1st coat goes on as usual – the walls are really try, so you need to really load up the brush / roller to make have it end up in the same vicinity as the color you want. But we’d learned that already, and despite the 3 gallons of paint we used, it ended up mostly on the walls / ceilings. I used to end up w/ about 25% of the paint on either me or the floor. I think I’m down to about 5% now. Nava really likes painting, and you can tell, as she gets about twice as much on her! Finish the 2nd coat that evening, just as it’s getting dark. Break out the shop light to check the job, what do you know, we’ve gotten pretty good at painting, and there’s just a drip or two to roll-in.

It’s a year and a half after we started our little project, and almost $20k later, the house looks much better. Still have to finalize on the accent color in the living, and paint one wall with it, but that’ll go pretty quick (knock on wood). Kitchen cabinets are worn, and I never did like them, the tile countertops and old linoleum. Carpets are pretty dirty / spotted in the living room, the tile in the hallway / guest bath is boring, and Nava’s never like carpets. Sounds like there will be a sequel to this story, but hopefully not as convoluted, or long, I’m sure some of you are saying!

Kind of a “MasterCard – for when you want to remodel” story -
* What you think it’ll cost - $2,000
• What it actually cost - $20,000
• Having the house start to look how you want it to - Priceless

Or, as I say “I used to do Habitat for Humanity, now I do Habitat for Me.”


CherkyB said...

Whoa! Pace yourself there, cowboy. I had to read this thing in three sittings.

Your statcounter doesn't seem to be working. It says zero visitors. You didn't just copy the code out of someone else's webpage, right? You signed up with statcounter, right?

CherkyB said...

Oh, hey, now it says 1. I'm honored to be your first, and possibly only, reader.

CherkyB said...

Wow. It's up to 4 already. I'm not sure all of them were even me, though I did have to reboot and I got a new IP address as a result.

How long do you have your "uniqueness" timer set for? I use 6 hours.

I see you finally got some non-PSA's up there. Money money money.

FYI, the "search this blog" function in the google search box doesn't work with blogger. The main page is dynamically built when viewed, and this seems to mess up the google search crawler.

CherkyB said...

You know, sometimes it's nice to post a little something just to keep readers coming back.

Mr. Garage Door said...

If he couldn't check the garage, there are probably some in there....