Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Staircase Showdown

June 2012

Our major project before we refinanced was to completely renovate the stairwell of our house.  We had the stairs refinished when we did all the floors back in May 2010.  Since then we hadn't done much else.  The plaster walls were all cracked and crumbling, the paint on the ceiling was peeling from some past water damage, and there was one dim light for the entire space  It was a hot mess.  I haven't even talked about the faux wood panelling, fabric wall covering, ceiling hatches, and Asian inspired wallpaper that were throughout the space.

We got several quotes to replaster the room to get rid of the cracks and cover the peeling paint, however the amount of damage was intensive.  Most of the contractors recommended we chip out all the damaged areas and start fresh, or else cover the entire room in drywall and texture it to look like plaster.  Either way it was going to be about a thousand dollars and would involve us doing a large about of demo and not to mention all the dust.

We decided to go ahead and bead board the walls identical to what we did in the mud room.   We felt this would keep the house consistent and allow us to have the best overall product without any demo needed.  We called in the same friend/carpenter Gordon who did the mudroom to install the panelling in the space.  He said it would be about the same cost as the plaster work, with no demo required.

Josh and I, worked to come up with a design for the space.  We added a chair rail in the space.  This was for two reason: one it broke up the expanse of space, two it allowed us to fit all the runs in with a standard 4' x 8' sheet without any awkward joints.  The first day Gordon removed the ceiling fan, the lone light, wood panelling, and one of our attic hatches.  In two days he had panelled most of the room.  It was a huge change and we were super excited. Bye bye scary staircase.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Changing Priorities

May 2012

So I haven't written in over a week because my next post should be more about our depave efforts and the work on the driveway.  But honestly, I can't get motivated to blog about gravel and digging.  Also, I am currently STILL dealing with this project so motivation is low until I can truly cross it off my list.  Luckily, we never stop remodeling so there is always another project to talk about. 

We had big plans for house in the spring and summer, all of which had to do with us working in the yard.  We wanted to build a back patio cover, enclose our patio into a screen in porch, add raised beds, install fences and gates, and put in a fire pit.  All of these things were exciting, but we knew that none of these things would really help our resale value. They would be nice additions to our house.  The problem is.... we really need to think about the resale value of the house and make some priorities. 

Before you get too nervous, we are not planning on selling our house.  I hate a half-finished project and could never turn my back on the Castle now.  However, several houses in our neighborhood started going up for sale and selling for above asking price.  It appears that the Portland real estate scene is back and our neighborhood is a hot place to live! Yay!  That coupled with even lower interest rates then when we bought two years ago made us think about refinancing.  We started talking our mortgage broker who was great!  If you live in the Portland area Gary Boyer is where it's at, and he encouraged us to think about it as well.  The goal was that we could refinance and actually have a mortgage that is lower then what we used to pay in rent in downtown.

The problem I saw was that there were a few GLARING issues in the house that might make an appraiser a little nervous about the house.  These were not big deals to us, but I know to an outsider they showed some red flags.  1. The stains in the basement from a few small but persistent winter water leaks, 2. Small outstanding issues from past work, missing trim, unpainted windows, etc.  and last but not least.... The staircase.  This is one of the worst parts of it all.  Just to give you a reminder see pictures below... Scary!

There was no way anyone was going to give us a positive appraisal with the current state of our blue trimmed, cracking plaster, water stained ceiling, poorly lit stairwell.  It looks like we had a new project and it was a big one.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Depave Chain Gang

May 2012

The weekend of our Depave, Josh and I took the Friday before off and worked to pre-cut the concrete, prepare the house and ready our yards for the work.  Everyone showed up on a chilly Saturday and we spent the first part of the morning explaining how and why we depave.  We were the experts, we then gave everyone a trial on the concrete saw.  It was about this time that we started realizing the concrete was thicker then we thought.

We had assumed for about 2-3 inches thick, which is standard for non-structural walkways and driveways.  It turned out our concrete had not been poured on an even surface.  They poured the concrete unevenly onto rock. In some areas it was 6 inches thick.  It was rough.  We had to rent a jack hammer and our volunteers diligently worked with pry bars, jack hammers, and sledge hammers to remove the concrete. In many ways it looked less like a workshop and more like a chain gang.  We had 30 people working their butts off and we were making progress at a back breaking snail's pace.

The good news, everyone was amazing! Hard working and determined to at least get our driveway strip completed before the end of the day.  When they left we were had only removed about 250 sqft of the 1500 sqft we had planned.  But the bigger issue was that the slabs of concrete did not come out as slabs.  Since we used the jack hammer and sledgehammers, we had made rubble.  Josh and I had originally planned to use the nicely cut concrete slabs as stepping stones, we had no use for the rubble.  So in the short term we dumped all the concrete on our patio and ordered up a dumpster for us to recycle it.  Here is a great picture of our rubble pile at night from the kitchen.  We joked our back yard now had a 'derelict" look to it, a la Zoolander. Nothing like turning your backyard into a third world war zone to really spruce up your curb appeal.

On Sunday, we decided to divide and conquer.  Josh continued to jack hammer the strip and areas along our patio, while my neighbor Mary and I came out and dug out the drive way strip.  We added new soil, planted our ground cover and installed a pea gravel top.  I felt a little better by the end of the day. But we had only done about 1/8th of the work we had hoped to achieve.  This was the first real 'what were we thinking' project and we knew we had about 4 weekends worth of work to go. Gulp.