June 30, 2011

Rubber Gloves Required

Here is a little peak into what our lives are like when we’re working on 57.

The first Saturday we got the keys back:

8 am: head out door

Buy much needed iced coffee at mcdonalds.

8:20- arrive at 57 braced for worst. Take a brief tour of the place mentally calculating damages and making notes of items that need to be replaced. Snap picture of the cabinets and measure them while jotting down the sizes on an old “how to compost” leaflet fished out of giant purse.

8:45 head off into Philly for a Habitat for Humanity RE-Store garage sale. Cheap prices plus 25%?! Yes please.

9:15 arrive at the garage sale which started a mere 15 minutes ago. The place is mobbed already.

9:20 Call dibs on a matching stainless stove and microwave set for the beach house.

9:25 Dibs again on a sink base.

9:45- I get in a long line with the tickets and my 6 free books and wait while Pete goes to snag a parking spot by the door. While waiting in line I watch multiple fights over a table set and grill happen. Also, lament that I can’t purchase the amazing French provincial buffet for uber cheap because of lack of space in house/trusty SUV.

10am- Buy all the items for… $146. Load the SUV where everything fits snuggly inside, curtsy of creative arranging. Amen for our large car. I’ve said it before but we could not do what we do with these houses without an SUV. It is essential to the way we do home renovations.

10:30- Go to Wal-Mart, pick up heavy duty cleaning supplies and some snack food to keep at 57.

11:30- Head over to Lowe’s for a few items for 57. Buy the exact model of dishwasher we’ve been eyeballing for the beach house on clearance for $200. Somehow, despite meaning to we’ve just bought the remaining appliances for the beach house. Squick.Have to leave dishwasher there for later pick up due to lack of SUV cargo space.

1pm- Picnic lunch in the shade outside of 57 on our scrap rug from the trunk, 57 smells too bad to eat in there.

1:30- Start scrubbing down the walls and bathroom floor. Sister-In-Law, Janet, comes over. Get almost the entire downstairs scrubbed with her help. Janet rocks. Go through a half gallon of bleach and heavy duty de-greaser.

7:00- Call it a night and head home

8:00- Head out the house showered and cleaned up for a quick trip to another Lowe’s to price out cabinets and get dinner.

8:30- Price out stock cabinets.

9:30- Ordering beer and nachos at a favorite bar to discuss the day and make a tentative budget for the place. Budget also gets written on scrap composting pamphlet.

11pm- Home. Crash into bed.

Busy and especially expensive Saturday, although, we got so much accomplished that I fell into bed feeling really good about the day. Which is really, the best way to feel when you're falling asleep.

June 29, 2011

The Draining Month Begins

Since 2004, this mid-june to mid-july has the potential to be my least favorite time of the year. It is when we get the keys back in hand from our college rental unit and have a scarce four weeks to make it habitable for the next group of renters. Every year we hope like crazy that our renters will want or can stay for an extra year (come on fifth year seniors!) Which means no clean out, no repairs and another year’s lease is signed with ease.

In the off years between renters the unit is an unholy mess and gargantuan effort to get the place in inspection passable condition, all in the short four week down time. When we have to deal with 57 – what I call the townhouse- it eats a giant amount of our summer work schedule right up that leaves us and our wallets drained.

This year 57 might just be the death of me.

We’d been getting reports from our property management company, first year for them btw and it has been so worth it, about the condo and how was everything was in deplorable condition for a long while now. When the heater broke our HVAC guy gave us the skinny on the damage to the place and said he went right home and jumped in the shower after working on the unit because it was so gross. When we got the notice that the renters would not be returning for the next year we felt relief, these guys were trouble and the sooner they left our lives the better. However, in the meantime the unit was having trouble renting and we were getting feedback from the agents that all people they brought through got hassled by the current renters and that everyone was so appalled by the filth they wouldn’t consider renting it.

After a few really stressful months something AMAZING happened, the agent brought through a bunch of girls and a father to see the place. The girls got hassled and at that point the father gave the renter a piece of his mind about his actions and the condition that the place was kept in. (points to that dad) Amazingly, the girls signed the rental contract with us a week later!!! Angels sang down from the clouds.

All that happend in the spring, flash forward to the first week of June and our contract was now up with the current tenants. The moved out on Friday, we stopped by early Saturday morning to check the place out, opening the door we braced for the worst being that there was already visible damage to the outside of the place. I was expecting Camden. What we got was bad. Really bad. The worst we’ve ever gotten back and this was the only time we’ve ever had tenants for just a year.

However it wasn’t the bombed out crack house that I was expecting. It was more a beer soaked, dirt slimed, graffitti’d party den that was a bit of cross between a Frat house and a dive bar off of route 95. I also counted no less than 18 not-very-graphic-or anatomically correct man parts drawn on the wall. Everywhere I looked something was wrong. There were hand prints on the ceiling, vomit on floors, tons of giant holes in the walls and someone tried (and succeeded) to kick the front door in.

Here is a good part to mention that both Pete and I lived at this place, separately, for over three years. NOTHING LIKE THAT EVERY HAPPENED WHEN WE LIVED THERE. Pete will even tell you about the most epic party ever that he threw where the 5 surrounding towns had to bring in their police to break it up, and yet… nothing like this damage. The worst thing that ever happened was we caught someone peeing on Pete’s car.

Let me lay out a picture of what was broken:

- Dryer

- Stove

- A/c

- Hot water heater

- Downstairs vanity

- Four doors

- Every wall in the dining room

- All but one ceiling light is broken

- The light in the bathroom

- Upstairs medicine cabinet

- 3 yr old Carpet was shot

- All the walls in the living room have graffiti on them

- Fire Alarms ripped off the ceiling

- Upstairs window

- Front porch

- Walls in downstairs bathroom

- Every closet door is missing a handle

- And there are random bits of trim missing

- Shelves in closets

- Paint, can paint be broken? Cause this paint was up the creek bad.

The next month is just going to be splendid.

June 27, 2011

Upgrading the microwave cart

Let's go back about a month ago...

Eva: I'm going to throw this old microwave cart away. It's just getting in the way, taking up space and we have no use for it now.

Pete: Are you sure? Did you take a picture of it yet?

Eva: I'm positive I snapped a pic of it. There is no way I didn't.

The conversation ends with me bringing the 80's era wood paneled microwave cart out to the dumpster in bits. Last night I just checked my entire library of pictures. There is not one single picture of this horribly ugly wood sticker paneled thing anywhere hiding on my computer.

Blogging fail.

Unfortunately the before would have been helpful at just how far we were able to rejuvenate a little corner of the beach house for $110. Use your imagination and rest assured this microwave cart was just as horribly outdated as the rest of the condo.

Originally sitting in this little corner was hip height mdf wonder of a "wood look" cabinet that sat on wobbly plastic wheels. One of the doors sat a precarious angel, always threatening to fall off if you closed the door with too much force. On top of the doors sat one drawer that we shoved every take out menu and spare trash bag into. Topping off this whole shebang was the matching wood look microwave. Don't you wish you had a wood paneled microwave also?!

Since a full kitchen renovation is on the books for the future, but not anytime soon, we knew that we'd be keeping the stand alone micowave until the point of the gut reno. It really is wicked handy to have around and we're sure that our renters appreciate us having one. However, that flipping ugly cart had to go, it was bringing down the whole look of the stairs right back into the 80's. Putting the microwave on the counter was out as a solution. Our counter space in that kitchen is almost nil. There is really no room for a microwave on the counter at all.

We did some combing of craigslist but nothing struck our eye as working well for a new microwave cart. Falling back to ye old faithful for the beach house, the two of us planned an Ikea trip after work. It's not exactly a "trip" so much as there is an Ikea about 15 min from where we work, but we did make plans to hit up our fave non-shore pizza spot beforehand for some cheesy saucy goodness. The budget was "as low as we could get it", but we definitely didn't want to spend more than $100.

Surprisingly that amount of money doesn't give as many options as you might think.

After combing the aisles and displays in Ikea we settled on the Bekvam, a nice solid wood kitchen rack for $60. It was a nice and small option that didn't break the break and fit the space. The nicely compact box of parts fit neatly into the back of our sedan and we drove away with the mission accomplished.

A few days after buying the cart we found ourselves at Home Depot, which isn't that strange since we're there all.the.time, and while bringing up our cartload we walked out the store right by a bathroom fixture display. There was stopping on our part admiring the really good deals to be had and we both zero'd in on this one vanity cabinet w/ a soft gray/ ivory washed color that had clean shaker lines. For $99 it came with a stone top and under mounted sink, the quality of the piece was pretty damn good considering it's recession-friendly price tag.

Then I opened my big trap and " Wouldn't this look nice as the microwave cabinet?" came tumbling out before I could stop myself. Damn it Eva! I always make things more complicated. We already had a very nice cart purchased and this one was more expensive. This one was clearly nicer, and it would fill that awkward space under the stairs better. So we bought it and shoved the giant and unyielding box into the back of our SUV.

The next week, we journeyed back to Ikea to return the other cart and while browsing the fantastic "As-Is" section I snagged a large door/ side panel (?) in a black color for $3.50 to use as a protective extra counter on top of the sink vanity. The new counter also keeps the microwave from falling into the sink, we just assumed that the giagantor microwave would cover the smaller sink completely and it does... but almost doesn't. Which leaves the potential for a microwave-in-the-sink disaster at threat level red. We also didn't realize this until after the sink counter was glued down. Hence the new topper counter top!

Sink Vanity turned Microwave Cabinet: $99

Appliance Spray Paint- $6

Ikea Counter- $3.50

We're really happy with the new microwave cabinet, it fits in with our whole modernization effort of the beach house perfectly!

June 6, 2011

Opperation Staircase- Completed!

All throughout the month of May we had a deadline looming with the approaching Memorial Day holiday. That unofficial kick off of summer meant our beach condo rental season of the beach condo was gearing up to take off. Call me crazy, but I think our renters would be expecting stairs in a two floor condo. Which meant we had to find the time in the jam packed month to rock out the final steps to finishing up the stairs and hallway.

Desperate to not have a repeat of last years ridiculously stressful final project wrap up and pre-season cleaning, we made a realistic time line of what tasks were left. Being honest with ourselves and how much actual work was left made all the difference this year! Instead of stuffing everything into one workfest of a weekend we decided to stretch the time and break our project list into two weekends.

The To-Do list looked something like this:

- Install steps

- Poly and silica coat steps

-Install handrail

- Switch out Microwave cabinet

-Paint "new" media cabinet

- Hang wall art

- Uber deep clean

- Pack up all "our stuff" and put rental items out

- Get burned on beach

In case you don't remember, we decided to make our winter/spring project in the beach condo the staircase and hallway. The staircase was a beat up blue carpeted nightmare topped with a plastic tube as a handrail. Ever since we replaced the hallway/upstairs landing blue carpet with the same laminate wood flooring as downstairs it wasn't a huge project to freshen up the space, but one that was really needed!

Where did I leave off with the stairs...ah yes. I was pissing and moaning about staining the wood steps and how despite my best efforts I couldn't get the stain to absorb evenly. Sigh. Such is a nature of pine and light stains, you can apparently condition the wood all you want but it will still absorb the stain with varying degree. Either that or I just plain suck at one the easiest diy tasks one can do. The great news is that after applying three coats of brush on poly the steps looked 75% than they did when simply stained. Perfectly acceptable for something that is only going to get stepped on IMO.

A big thorn in our sides during this project was wtf to do for the handrail. We checked out every single availible option and debated at length about what to do. Finally, it got down to two weeks left before Memorial day and we needed to pull the trigger on something. As luck would have it, we drive right by the showroom and warehouse of one of the biggest suppliers of sprial staircases in the USA on our way to work. We stopped in on way home and talked to a super nice sales guy about our options. At first he showed us this gorgous custom oak banister that I was drooling over, but it was $900. So I kindly cut the sales chase and said "That's gorgeous, but we're looking for something much more economical and in the DIY range. What do you offer?"

Which is how we ended up with a $300 brushed stainless coil in the back of our car as we pulled away 20 minutes later. It was the cheapest option that looked the best and that we could DIY. A black factory powder coat was availible for an extra $150, which I would have loved to get but could not justify opening the wallet even further for. Even though the railing was way more than we wanted to spend it was justifiable in the fact that we could not find a-n-y-t-h-i-n-g else that work. And rather than continually spend money here and there for experimental items we bit the bullet and bought the item for full blown retail.

Then, by the end of the weekend we had this:

The stairs are complete and I LOVE THEM.

Want to see what we started with? Check out the first post of Opperation Staircase HERE.