December 23, 2009

Split Focus

For almost as long as Pete and I have been together we've had to split our focus between multiple houses. There has never been only one project to tackle for us. I guess you could call us a combo of over ambitious mixed with a little bit of attention deficit. Because of that we tend to be all over the place sometimes when it comes to progress and what is coming up next. There are always a few things waiting in the wings.

Pete's first house, which I consider the first door, is now a college rental a half block from our Alma Matter. Funny side note, we have both lived there- but never while officially living there together. He had roommates until moving out for the Wtown house, which is when I then rented it with my girlfriends for my junior year of college. At first it was just being a landlord and having the fixer upper...

As the Wtown house plunged deeper into renovations we started to talk about how much we loved the house and what it was becoming. All our hypothetical plans revolved around keeping the house forever. In those future plans was the long term goal to get a place at the beach.

A few years later that goal got realized when Pete made settlement on a small one bedroom condo down the shore. And with that we walked on through the third door, which is on the third floor of 123 street. The condo greeted us with the wonderfulness that is older generation beach house decor. Think lots of fake plants, lighthouses and fish statues.

There we were, busy with life in general while balancing rentals and renovations on the house front. So what do we do? Simplify? No. We go out and buy the cheapest, biggest POS house in the whole county with the idea of 'flipping' it. Time goes on and while we're talking about all our flipping renovation plans it slowly start to dawn on us that we love the new crappy house. and that house is where our future really lies.

and that my friends is the (very condensed) story of how we got to the now. Which is a current gut renovation on an unlivable house, a home on the worst selling market in recent memory, tenants that have illegal cats and who painted the living room in leopard spots and a retreat that got hit the hardest when the real estate market crashed.

December 21, 2009

Snowy House Bound Weekend

This weekend Philadelphia and the surrounding area got slammed with a late fall storm. Highest recorded amount December snow fall ever! Our area of South Jersey was documenting amounts in the 2 foot range. As a lover of all things snow, this weekend was fantastic for me! Waking up to the snow falling Saturday morning I was like a kid again. I woke up early, which is unheard of for me on the weekends and just stared out the window watching the snow fall. Energized by the snow and my giant cup of coffee I buzzed around the house, cooking and cleaning for the rest of the morning.

At noon we decided to get bundled up and play outside for a little bit. Unfortunately there aren't any great sledding hills that we know of around us, so no sledding was to be had. There is a little hill in our backyard, but it leads directly into the stream and my tuck and roll off the sled technique hasn't been practiced in many years. So I'd be afraid my behind would end up taking a little dip if I attempted to sled down the hill. (Plus we don't have a sled)

Nala had a freaking blast running around the backyard in the snow! She was having level 10 amounts of fun.
Late at night we suited up again to check out the snow and nab some pictures of the house snow covered. It was around 10pm and the snow was still coming down pretty hard.

Moi, standing in the street. For reference I'm 5'6" and the snow was at my knees. It was even higher in the drifts! I tried to make a snow angel and could barely move. Pete called it a lovely snow blob.

Sunday morning my car was pretty much completely buried. It still looks like that. Only the SUV got dug out completely. We're going to be driving the SUV until the roads get cleared around us. Living out in the sticks means roads that stay yucky until a few days of sun later. There just aren't enough people driving over them to get anything but the main roads clear.

Sunday evening we drove to the Wee house to make sure it was ok. There was some concern about the crap shed in the backyard collapsing under the weight of the snow. Plus we needed to make sure the sidewalk was shoveled. Which it was thanks to our lovely and amazing neighbor! They definitely earned the cookies I spent all day baking.

The sunset looks so pretty reflecting off our abandoned Wee house.

December 16, 2009

Showing # 19

Yesterday we received a request for a showing! Exciting! The screeching halt of the real estate market hitting the winter season was and is being felt with our house. I don't really mind though. Like I've mentioned before, in order for one to sell their house it must be on the market and available for showings. The appointments have been pretty rare, so the inconvenience for us is very minimal aside from one or two showing ready cleanings.

Staying positive about ever selling the house is really important. If I don't work at being optimistic about every showing, I'll quickly feel defeated by the housing market and downward spiral into a pretty crappy funk. A deep funk that not even ice cream, beer and Star Wars can bring me out of. While cleaning last night I kept reminding myself that the house will eventually sell. It has to. It will. Even if this person isn't THE buyer, then at the very least we don't have to clean the house again this weekend.

Sigh. This house selling stuff. I'm not sold on it yet.

December 10, 2009

What I want...

... out of this renovation. Is simply to have a home that oozes livability.

December 8, 2009

Second Open House

Friday night our town had its Annual Christmas Tour. Which is one of the major events in our relatively small, South Jersey town. A few select homes in town open their doors up for the masses and welcome every last person in. All with tales about the home, notable past owners and showing off unique offering that the house has. Proceeds from the tour go toward our town's historical preservation society.

Our house was not on the tour.

However, Pete and I thought that given the amount of traffic that goes through the town during the tour that maybe it would be a good idea to have an open house. Get our visibility on the market up. Our realtor agreed to host the open house for two hours on Friday night. Over the course of the week we cleaned. We scrubbed. We swept. Every last holiday decoration got put up and plugged in. Cookies went into the oven and hot cider was simmering on the counter.

Not a person showed up.

Neither of us really expected anyone to stop by, but both of us were hoping that maybe someone would. Since we're not in the middle of town walking area we knew there would be no "oh I just was strolling by" foot traffic. But I was hoping that pure curiosity would get someone to come in.

After we stopped bashing our heads into the wall, we ate the cookies and talked. Now we're just happy that the house got sparkling clean and is completely decorated for the Holidays. We can relax a little bit and enjoy the next few crazy weeks fully.

December 7, 2009

Cans for Comments! Donated!

Thanks to all the readers who made a comment during the Cans for Comments drive! Overall I donated 29 cans of food to the 93.3 Preston and Steve Camp out for Hunger last week. With all the food collectively donated at the Camp out going towards Philabundance, a Philly area food bank.

Dropping of my giant tote bag full of food. This guy was so nice and very sincere in thanking us for the donation.
Me and all the food! That shopping cart full of food was all thanks to everyone who commented!We hung out inside the broadcast tent for a little while, but had leave to get to work on time.

Thank you again everyone who commented! I was so happy to do this. Hopefully next year I can raise even more cans!

December 3, 2009

Termite Damage

There are a variety of reasons why we decided to tear out all the walls and take most of the house down to studs. One of those very important reasons was so we could see and evaluate the condition of the house's bones. While everything looked to be on the up and up, you just never know about what is hiding behind the walls.

An inspection of the house revealed old termite damage and neither of us were really surprised to hear that. It's an old house, and old wood is very tasty to munching bugs. Thankfully there is currently no active damage and the damage isn't too extensive.

One of the first rooms to get the walls torn off was the future dining room. And. Well. It wasn't pretty. I'm telling you right now that this room has it firmly in its mind to be the problem child of the whole stinking house. Not only did I throw up (in my mouth) the first day that I worked on the room, but also its the only room (so far) that has presented us with any amount of termite damage on the beams.

The subtle blue arrows point to the damage.

Its pretty funny to see how only one or a few certain beams can get affected. Why only that one piece of wood? A lot of the damage in this room is very centralized in certain spots. Which makes it easier to fix. So, overall this damage isn't much of a surprise or a problem.

If we made the decision to not tear out the walls would I be worried? No. Not really. I'm of the school of thought that if an old home is still standing strong today, then its going to keep standing strong for a looonnnggg time. Despite the damage you would not believe how solid the room is still. Pretty crazy how they used to build houses back in the day.

Termite damage is fug.

December 2, 2009


Twenty eight equals the number of cans I just purchased for the food drive! I'm so excited to get to the Camp Out tomorrow to drop them off.


Cleaning up Lath (and the death of our fridge)

The day that I'm done with cleaning up the living room, I'm popping open a bottle of champagne. My goal is to have the room broom clean by the end of December. Which is fitting if I can get the timing right with the Champagne.

This last weekend was a massive throw out effort because no dump trips were done in November at all! Time spent in November at the Wee house hasn't been as much as previous months. Because of that we focused on doing as much demo as possible during our shorter visits.

Continued on with the plaster and lath clean up.

While I was bundling up the lath I got a potentially killer idea about how to re-use it! We're going to need flooring for the two front rooms. Since those rooms are made from a converted front porch they just have a slab with fug carpet. Hunting down matching or period hardwoods for those rooms could be really tough and expensive. Laying tile would likely be the easiest flooring, but sometimes that can be so cold and I'd rather have a warmer feel that goes throughout the entire downstairs. Well... lath is already trimmed and cut to size. It's old wood. Why not see if it can be laid down, stained and poly'd as our front room floor?! I'm going to do a test area over the winter to see if this idea can work. If it does work then I'll start stock piling all the lath we'll need.

Every single bucked we owned was full, all 60 something of them. Loading them into the trailer took I learned from my past mistake and ditched the two at a time in favor of being able to move the next day.

Then, a miracle occurred. Pete decided that we should throw out the fridge! I've been campaigning against the Wee house fridge since we bought the freaking house. He's been really resistant about getting rid of it. Saying its helpful to have extra fridges or he could put it in the garage as a beer fridge. You know me. I love beer and I prefer to spiff stuff up to keep it out of landfills. But this fridge. This fridge is past spiffing and I don't want my beer in that! It was old (not energy efficient in the least) and has been growing mold for years. I don't want to even talk about the smell because it makes me gag just thinking about it.

First we find out that the fridge can't fit through the front door. So Pete takes the fast route of sledge hammering off the doors. Then the door hinges won't fit through, so he sledges the fridge more. Now the fridge is just fitting through the door frame, but only after taking out one of our screen doors. It was like survival of strongest between the door and the fridge. Poor door never stood a chance.

At this point I'm on the outside of the house trying to pull the flipping thing out, Pete is pushing it from the inside and all I have visions of is this giant fridge falling on me. I'm looking around for cushy spot that are clean of debris so I can land and roll out of the way to avoid being crushed.

There are no pictures of this. Sorry. We were both a little preoccupied.

Eventually the fridge is outside. I'm just thankful it didn't fall on me.

Don't forget about Cans for Comments!

December 1, 2009

Second Chance Inc. Baltimore, MD

Two years ago my chatty cathy husband was purchasing a doorknob from a antique dealer in Berlin, MD (super cute town btw), and somehow the topic of architectural salvage came up. The dealer told Pete about these great salvage warehouses in Baltimore that we should check out. Explaining that they are open to the public and packed full of unique salvaged items and antiques. After leaving both of us promptly forgot the name of the warehouses.

A few months go by and we decide to take our annual Black Friday road trip south. Thank goodness for Google, because Second Chance, Inc popped up on the top search results.

Our area of SJ is about an hour and a half from Baltimore with no traffic, so we planned our Black Friday 2007 around visiting Second Chance. It. was. awesome. There was no buying anything, just the two of us wandering around in a happy daze, pointing out all the cool stuff.

Now we're back to present day.

It has been two years since our last visit to Second Chance and the annual Black Friday shopping road trip was approaching. Last year we went North and ended up at Macy's Herald Square (so much fun!), so we decided to again head down to Baltimore to see what Second Chance had in store for us.

Inside of Warehouse 4:

The entire place is stocked with loose cabinets of all sizes and finishes. There are complete kitchens that are available for purchase, countertops and all. You can really score a deal here on cabinets, but its going to take time and exact measurements to get everything right. But what bargain hunter doesn't mind the leg work and digging to save big?

These columns are perfect for what we have in mind for the living room area. With built in glass storage area at the bottom...
Warehouse 1 is my favorite! I can't help it. Everything is so interesting and fun to look at. All the salvaged house bits just inspire me to work harder on our renovation so we can get to actually SHOP here for needed elements. Instead of just looking and imaging.

Need some stair spindles? Or matching Newel Posts? Can't wait to knock out the wall by the stairs and open everything up. Definitely coming back to pick out what we want when that happens.
There are just a few shutters....

Why hello Corbels. You are my new obsession.

I adore these wood burning stoves. They are exactly what I want for our living room- someday.

Antique painted and chipping tin ceiling. I would love to get a sheet of this to put on the wall as an art piece.

Fantastic chippy mantle. I love it, even though I feel like I get lead poisoning just from looking at it.

I can't wait to get back there when we have a better idea of what the Wee house is going to need!

Don't forget about Cans for Comments!

November 30, 2009

Long Weekends are the best.

Over the oh so wonderful extended weekend Pete and I managed to get a massive amount of stuff done! I love having the time to get everything and visiting everyone in, four day weekends should be a mandatory once a month happening.

Quick run down of our weekend:
Thursday- Thanksgiving! Included all of our families, the customary different Lunch/Dinner locals and required five hours of driving.

Friday- Sleep in and Black Friday shop a thon. Except we don't do the normal door buster shopping. The name of the game on Black Friday is to go on a mini road trip to shopping areas and to hit a new mall. What can we say? We're from Jersey, Malls are in our blood. This year we headed south and shopped for home improvement supplies.

Saturday- Worked on the Wee house. Which included two trips to the dump. Got to the Tree farm and picked up our Christmas tree!

Sunday- Cleaned the house, cleared out my DVR while ironing/folding laundry.

...and now its back to the daily grind.

November 25, 2009

Cans for Comments

I'm not sure how many of my readers (all 5 of you!) are local to the Philly/ South Jersey area but, I'm addicted to the Preston and Steve Show on 93.3 WMMR. Their morning show gets me through my 40 mile commutes and the podcasts are a huge reason why I can make it through an entire day of working on the house without high crank levels.

Every year Preston and Steve host a week long food drive called Camp Out for Hunger. All the food collected goes Philabundance to help stock area pantry shelves and feed those in need.

I've been meaning (the best of intentions) to get there and donate for years now, but never have. Usually I go the easier route and bring my canned goods into work, where they also go to Philabundance. This year I've decided to participate in Cans for Comments in order to make sure I get my butt out there!

Cans for Comments is simple, for every comment I get on the blog between now and Wednesday December 2, I'll match it with one can donated to the camp out*. You can comment on any post, old or new. Even a simple "Hi!" counts! I'm definitely going to get out there and donate anyway, but I just thought this would be a fun way to potentially up the donated amount.

* and because I have to be realistic about my own wallet, I'm going to have to cap this at 400. which is kind of a ridiculous goal anyway.

November 23, 2009

Rotted Floor board. Not that bad!

This weekend I continued on with the removal of the plaster from the floor of the living room. While tackling one of the last corners of the room, I pulled up a carpet tack strip and noticed that I could see sunlight streaming from under the floor. Ugh. Not a good sign at all.

Probing further with the crowbar I jabbed at the edge of the floor coverings, peeling back the layers only to reveal that there is indeed a gap between the wall and the floor. The floor gives way as I put the crowbar through to the basement. Flip me. Now I'm really starting to freak out, because this could mean a lot of significant damage to the original floors. The same floors I was just really hopeful about getting spared because of all the covering layers.

Since the living room is still covered with lath, plaster and multiple layers there is no way I can see the extent of the damage from above. So I go right to the basement to check everything out from below. Let it be known that at 26 I'm still more than a little freaked out by basements. So I rarely go down into either of ours. Once in the basement it is not that hard to spot the damage. Right in the corner, by one of our basement windows (hence the sunlight that I could see) is a plank of wood that is completely rotted away and I can see right up into the living room.

However there is also some really good news, because from underneath I can not see another plank with that level of rot. In fact, the rest of the floor looks awesome from the underside! Gives me back the hope that we really will be able to refurbish the original floors eventually.

Cross your fingers for us! But please don't hold your breath, refinishing the floors will be one of the last things we're going to do in the house.

November 20, 2009

Hope for the original floors!

When we bought the Wee house the living rooms had the worst flooring in the whole house by far. I've mentioned the condition of the carpets in previous posts but to quickly recap they were dog pee soaked and extremely worn. The first thing we did after buying was rip the carpets and (what was left of) the padding up. Bet you didn't know that padding could essentially disintegrate? Well padding can wear away over time and it can also merge itself to be one with the carpet backing.

There were two big reasons we got the carpet up ASAP. The main reason was the smell. It was the kind of smell that makes you not want to breathe and had made permanent home in the carpet. No amount of airing out the house was going to get rid of it. Second reason was the floor underneath. You can see from the basement that the house has the original random width pine flooring. We were afraid of the damage that could have been cause by the wet carpets and wanted to get them off the wood immediately.

The thing about renovating an old house that rings true for everyone and every project is that one never knows what surprises they'll find out after uncovering things. Our carpets were no exception.

Sitting under the carpet on one side of the room was a layer of vinyl tiles that can only be described as the same ones my elementary school bathroom had. Head scratchingly odd right? Underneath those tiles there is a layer of a thin floor leveling type sheet. I only know this because I peeled away the soggy tile to see if they were attached to the floor or not.

We think these are the same tiles, except in our attic landing area. You can see the dry version of the under layer here, which hopefully has helped to save our floors from all the moisture.

On the other side of the room the carpet removal revealed an extra top layer of floor leveling stuff. Except it is not installed well and has high bumps all over it, so the floor moves around as you walk. Fun times.

Since tearing out the room lead to reclaiming the original shape I was able to see a tiny bit of the real floor that missed all the layers because of a beam that was placed there. Which lead to the discovery that there is a layer of 1/2" plywood down underneath the tiles and thin layer. The arrow is pointing towards the end of the plywood and you can see a tiny smudge mark where I tried to see the actual floor. Quick little spit shine.

Another layer of flooring! I was afraid that the wee had leaked below the under layment to the real floor because in some of the areas the tiles are still soaked and peeling up. I guess that means the underfloor does a good job of keeping moisture on the surface and not below it, but you never know. Left arrow is pointing out tiles I've accidentally scraped up, right arrow is showing a still damp area, despite having moisture sucking plaster dust on top of it for months...

The best part of all these layer of flooring? The act as the best shield between my plaster shoveling and the real floor that I could ever ask for. I don't have to worry at all as I scrape my shovel along the bottom scooping up dust. If we didn't have this protection I can tell you the job of removing all the plaster from this room would 10 times harder. I'd be a total freak about not messing up the floors!

November 19, 2009

Daytrip to DC.

I have a case of writers block/hating what I wrote. I'm also tired of complaining about our house being on the market. So I decided that I'm going to deviate from the house talk a little and write about something that inspired me earlier in the year.

This past February we decided to celebrate our 7th Valentines day together by taking a little road trip south to spend the day in Washington DC. And it was the best day ever.

Started out with the Smithsonian Natural History Museum, which was mobbed. But that didn't matter since we weren't in a rush. To escape the crowds a bit we visited some of the less popular exhibits such as the soil one (which is really cool!). We also hung out in the hallways just looking at the architecture of the building.

After a few hours of being jostled by children we left and decided to walk to the Library of Congress. Despite going on vacation to DC for my entire childhood I had never been there!

Consulting the map on the Mall to figure out the best walking route to the Library of Congress. Which is not as close as it seems on the map. Well worth the walk if you have the time and the weather is nice.

What an amazing building. It was relatively empty so we were really about to take in the grandeur and magnitude of the area as we walked around it.

Then we entered the Library of Congress. And I pretty much died of happiness right away. I can't even describe to you how amazing the building is. There is something to see and marvel at in every single square inch of the space. You could stare at the stairs alone all day long and still notice something new every minute.

The whole building just felt amazing to me. I snuck a peek inside the actual library and vowed that I would get in there some day. They keep the library off limits to the general public, so you have to get special permission to access it or be part of a special tour. Everyday tours can see the library from above, but I want to be in the middle of it.

The Library closed at 5, so headed back over to the Smithsonian just in time to see all people pour out and the tour buses pull away. There were special extended hours on the Natural History Museum until 7, so we went back in and enjoyed the practically empty museum. All the really popular exhibits were so empty! It was fabulous. Except I lost my hat. Which was not so fabulous.

Jumped on the metro and headed over to our waiting romantic dinner local.

It was a wonderful dinner to end such a great day.

Sometimes you just need a break from everyday life. Even a day getaway can be enough to recharge your batteries and fill up on inspiration.

November 18, 2009

The never ending plaster clean up.

Half of the living room all spiffed up after a trip to the dump. During which said trip to the dump I grossly over estimated my upper body strength while loading the plaster buckets onto the trailer. Somehow I thought I should carry two buckets outside at a time, instead of my usual one, in the name of saving time. The buckets are a good million pounds each. I am not strong enough to carry two million pounds at a time and paid for my impatience dearly the next morning when I could barely get out of bed.

The good thing about that though, is the muscle fatigue doesn't kick in until much much later. So I could spend the rest of the day shoveling more plaster off the floor!

With the foyer mostly cleaned of plaster chunks and still shag carpeted, I turned my attention to the other side of the room.

The plaster lays in high high piles over there. With the stacked planks in the middle of the room creating a sort of barrier that cause plaster/lath drifts. The usual method of removing and stacking the lath first comes into play here, because it is way easier to shovel up the plaster bits without lath mixed in. Just trust me on this one, a stuck piece of lath will cause many BLEEPS to come out when you are trying to get your plaster shoveling on.
Because of how high everything was piled up, it caused me some serious time delays. Took me over two hours to clear out just the smaller side of the room. I started on the other side of the room, but unfortunately lost the daylight and my motivation shortly afterwards.
Looks... better? I guess...

Lesson learned- I am not as strong as I think I am. Thankful for ben-gay back rubs.