Sunday, June 7, 2009

Just like Lewis and Clark, only with slightly less scenery and a lot more wallpaper

So, renovating our new old house has turned out to be quite the voyage of discovery, and not in a good way, most of the time. I keep waiting for the "wow, look at this Antiques Roadshow type ancient vase full of gold bullion that was hidden in the eaves for decades" type discovery, but ours have been more of the "oh crap, that's going to cost a lot more money and time to renovate than we'd thought" variety.

For example, the other night, I was having a grand old time stripping in the downstairs bathroom. Stripping wallpaper, that is, ahem. I hunched down to remove the last of the How Did This Seem Like a Good Decorative Idea Even in the Mid-60s?!?!? purple, floral print from under the sink and had discovery #1: the drain pipe under the sink was little more than a collection of rust molecules, held together with a bit of corrosion. Egads. I promptly summoned Hubby to corroborate my find, and he made discovery #2: there is no water shut-off valve on the sink. Double egads. This led to discovery #3 the next morning, when Hubby called me from work because it had occurred to him that perhaps that wasn't the only sink without a water shut-off valve and had me run around the house and check all the sinks: yep, there are no shut-off valves on any of the five sinks in the house. Quintuple egads! This meant that as soon as Kiddo had brushed her teeth and was headed off to bed last night, Hubby had to shut off all the water to the whole house in order to replace the corroded, rusted drain pipe and install a shut-off valve.

Now, I must digress for a moment here and give some major props to my husband. He has already done way more house-repair type things than any one person who isn't a professional plumber, electrician or contractor should ever have to even know how to do, from running wires from the basement up to all the rooms of the house to plumbing to replacing outlets to installing linoleum flooring to cutting humongous holes in the ceiling to allow duct repair work and then repairing the ceiling so you can't even tell there was a hole there. Hubby is not, for the record, a professional handyman or construction worker or anything of the sort - he's a financial advisor, for Pete's sake. Seriously, he is amazing. Thank heavens, too, because if he were "game to try but generally clueless and inept" like I am, we'd be totally screwed.

Back to the tales of discovery... Of course, within five seconds of Hubby announcing he'd shut off the water, I was overtaken with the simultaneous need to get a drink of water, pee, wash my hands, run a load of laundry and run the garbage disposal. (Which, by the way, I manage to turn on at least three times a day thinking it is the switch for the over-the-sink light. Which it isn't, no matter how many times I flip it on. How long do you think we'll live here before I remember that the first time I reach for the switch, rather than the fourth?) And here Hubby thought he was being smart waiting until after Kiddo was in bed.... he should've waited until I was sound asleep, too. Fortunately, he managed to get everything fixed and the water back on in short order.

Other discoveries we've made include the fact that 99% of the painted surfaces in the house (trim, crown molding, baseboards, wainscoting) are oil-based paint which requires a LOT more preparation to paint over than latex-based paint, and the above-mentioned duct repairs, which we realized we needed when we had our HVAC dude over to give us an estimate on sucking 44 years' worth of Oldster Dust-n-Such out of the air ducts and he quickly noticed that the air return ducts didn't actually connect to anything. Apparently the previous owners lived in this house for 44 years without having any air actually drawn back out of any rooms, but rather were getting their "fresh" air drawn from the spaces between the joists in the ceilings/floors (um, depending on whether you're talking about the upstairs or the downstairs rooms).

Another digression: yes, yes I am very impressed with my newfound ability to bandy about words like "joists" and "spackle" and "GFCI outlet" and "Shop Vac" with assurance and ease. This does not actually translate to any real-world expertise, as evidenced by my complete inability to relay the two things the HVAC dude told me to tell Hubby to him accurately, clearly or in a way that made any sense. (Me: "Um, so Rob said that we have to shave off 3/4 of an inch from the basement door when they put the carpeting down in the family room unless they do that automatically, and then he can cut a hole in the floor since the registers in the family room now don't go to anything." Hubby: "Huh?!?!" Me: "*big dramatic sigh* Rob said the door has to be taller and we can put the grill back on the register or cover it up but he can cut another hole to make a register that goes somewhere....?" Hubby: "Um, that makes no sense." Me: "Rob says call him.") I do love saying the words, though, especially spackle. It's a great word to say, you really should try it. Seriously - say it now, a few times, so you see what I mean. Spackle. Spackle. Spaaaaaackle. Isn't that great? And if anyone says "Um, why are you repeating 'spackle' over and over to your computer screen?" you can just say "Oh, I'm reading Heather's blog." No further explanation necessary.

Back to the list of discoveries (hey, did Sacagawea just walk by my window? - or maybe Norm Abrams?) we've made in the past three weeks... The bathroom sinks and Kiddo's bathtub are all cast iron. For Kiddo, this means she can't take any of her patented 45-minute-to-an-hour-long baths without needing me to run up to the bathroom and reheat the water twelve times because the cast iron sucks the warm right out of the H2O molecules. For Hubby, this means that when he is trying to remove the sink from the downstairs bathroom in order to put down the new linoleum floor, the sink will simply fall through the hole and go crashing to the ground, where it will sit as though made of gravity* until he has practically ripped his back and arm muscles out in order to move it out of the bathroom. Also, we appear to have a family of chipmunks living inside the walls of the house. Well, hopefully just the walls, and not the attic as well, especially with all the holes Hubby has to keep cutting into the ceilings - we may wind up with some new pets for Kiddo, and not of the canine variety she so desperately desires. I discovered the Chip and Dale invasion while standing on the back patio the other morning, and seeing Chip - or was it Dale? I never can tell those two apart - scamper across the patio, pause at the back of the house, and then shimmy his little chipmunk butt and tail right up into the teensiest, tiniest of holes above the basement window and disappear underneath the siding. This last discovery we are pretending we haven't found yet, as we won't have time to freak out about wild rodents dwelling in our walls for at least another week.

One other potentially devastating discovery has been the humidity problem in the family room. This is the room with the wood paneling that we've painstakingly painted over in Garden Moss Green with Bright White (yes, there are in fact eleventy million shades of "white" by the way) trim. Well, last week we were painting away - I believe this was the shellac primer layer necessary to get the wood paneling surface ready for actual paint primer (remember, I have no idea what the hey I'm talking about most of the time here) - and it was rather fumetastic, so we opened the windows to the family room. The same windows that appeared not have been opened since they were installed, judging from both what the previous owners told us ("we kept the windows closed - we're more AC than fresh breeze people") and from the archeological nature of the layers of cobwebs, dust and dead bugs found within the stuck-closed storm windows and stuck-open screens. Well, it was a relatively hot and humid afternoon and within a matter of two hours, instead of fresh air in the family room, we had puddles of condensation soaking the icky, asbestos tile floor. This resulted in the constant running of fans for over a week, various other "get the musty smell" out strategies being employed (Hubby's strategy: buy a volcanic rock/negative ionizer thingy at the hardware store, my strategy: buy an electric oil air freshener from Yankee Candle) and the purchase of a new, super-quiet, high-efficiency room dehumidifier that has been running constantly (and thankfully really *is* super-quiet, as we're going to be living with it in the family room for the foreseeable future). Can't exactly carpet over damp tile, you know...

So, yep, that's us, Hubby and Me aka Lewis and Clark. (Though I'd rather be Sacagawea - she was a veritable babe!) I'll leave you with one, final discovery, made by Hubby and photographed by me earlier this morning as we stood on the lanai (oh, and by the way, I find it utterly hilarious that Kiddo now uses the word "lanai" when speaking of the back porch. Cracks me up every, single time!) and gazed at the back yard:



Sorry about the maximized zoom = grainy, pixelated photography. That was the best my camera could do from inside the house. Yep, that's a woodpecker perched on the back fence (which actually belongs to the neighbor behind us, as do the lovely, flowering bushes you see and the neatly manicured lawn. Our yard is a mass of green: green hedgerows, green shrubs, green grass, green pachysandra - nary a colorfully flowering speck to be seen, except for my pansies and petunias on the front porch.) With our luck, he's gearing up for a summerlong feast upon bright yellow, cedar shingles...

So, what discoveries have you made recently in your neck of the woods?

* I wish I could take credit for the "sink made of gravity" line, but alas, I merely read it in a posting on Craigslist a week or two ago. It was a listing for a utility sink in someone's basement and the owner described it as being "made of gravity, I think, because I cannot lift it" or something to that effect. It cracked me up, so I had to borrow the phrase when the opportunity presented itself!

8 comments:

Cristin said...

I always thought renovating an old house would be fun... My hubby is in fact a contractor... and he assures me that NO FUN would be involved... good luck...

Nora said...

but you love your new house right?? right??
amazing the discoveries you can make.
Now Heather, that humungous woodpecker is in fact a pileated woodpecker. You are so lucky to have him visiting. I'll come sometime with my good camera to photograph him!

Smoochiefrog said...

I told you on Twitter, we've lived here for almost 2 years and I still get the light and garbage disposal switches mixed up. :)

Hot Tub Lizzy said...

Oh sweetie... I'm just a few steps behind you... we call our new house the Grab Bag of houses - cause you just DO NO KNOW what you're going to get!

Givinya De Elba said...

Oooo, I see the woodpecker! Wow! We don't got those here.

Haven't made many discoveries here recently due to the ElbaPlague, but we love our back gate out into the nature reserve. Kids and dog like walking out there.

Sorry I've been out of range recently my dear. ElbaPlague has pretty much taken care of my computer-time too.

Ronnica said...

Sounds like quite the adventure. I'm impressed with your drive, though. Makes me wonder what you ever did before the move (well, before the packing!)!

nikkicrumpet said...

You are soooo lucky the hubby is so dang handy. The expense of bringing in that many subcontractors would have been enormous...not to mention how long it would have taken! And I love that big old woodpecker...and what a great view off the porch...errrrr.....lanai!

Femina said...

For some time now I've been wondering just what a lanai is... now I know!

Thankfully as a long-term renter I have missed the joys of replacing rusty pipes and scraping off other people's crud... but then again, it also means I have to live with some 'interesting' home decorating choices so perhaps you're on to something here.