Tuesday, January 21, 2014

What Was That??

August 2013
When a tree falls in your backyard...you hear it.  While working in my kitchen I heard a huge crash and rushed to our back porch.  Laying across half our backyard was a huge branch from our pine tree.  It was a miracle it didn't hit: our fence, our neighbors garage, our new porch, or any of our new landscaping.  So for that, happy dance. Everything else about this story will be a crushing defeat.

The only clear picture I have of the pine tree. 
Background: Since 2010 the large ponderosa pine tree in the far corner of our backyard had been dropping large limbs and tons of sap.  This was no prized specimen; instead it had a listless tilt and an affection for dropping large sharp needles and small deadly pinceones. But, for all it's quasimodo qualities it blocked unsightlier things: our neighbors horrible cinder block garage wall, our other neighbors large sea foam green addition and provided a nice amount of shade for part of the year.  I will also add, that we had used it's huge bushiness (I am making that a word) to hide a bunch of stuff that we had been hoarding since we cleared out the South side of the house.  There were branches, stones, pots and even a large rotting railroad tie.

Note its lovely bend and now bare open midsection
The timing of the branch fall was poor.  We had just finished our porch, we had a large house party scheduled in a little over a month, and we were exhausted. I called out a couple tree companies and the agreement was the tree had to go.  It was about 40 years old which is the average life span for a ponderosa pine.  I was told it would most likely continue to drop large limbs to the danger of structures, humans, and wildlife. I thought about leaving the tree, until after our house party and then taking it down in the fall. That would have worked except I am a worry wart.  I knew everytime it got windy or rainy or anything other then perfect weather I would imagine the tree uprooting and taking out my house, killing Gus, and causing my neighbors to sue me.
We got a quote to remove the tree for $400, as a bonus they were willing to remove the horrible juniper tree in the corner of the front yard and grind out the stump. Deal.  So three weeks after 'the event' I came home to this in my backyard.  

Well hello sea foam house... have you always been there?
Good god was my neighbors house that BIG? Did all their windows look right at us? Was that cinderblock wall really that ugly before? It was about 90 degrees and the backyard was sweltering hot. There were tears, there were regrets. But the tree was gone and now I owned this delicious piece of backyard real estate... now what?

This is the big gray monster, Portland's answer to Boston.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Guest Room Embarrassments

August 2013

As the summer wound down we were rushing to complete a few glaring projects throughout our house. The worst offender: the three windows in the guest room. Back in 2011, we replaced all the double hung windows in the space. While the outside of the wood windows were painted with the exterior the interior remained unpainted. To our defense: we had a roommate living in the room so access to paint them was non existent. Fast forward TWO YEARS and we still hadn't painted the windows. Fail. I can come up with a lot of excuses, it needed to be warm to paint, we had a lot of patching on the woodwork due to some damage when it was removed to install the windows. yada yada yada. The truth is: it's a room we rarely use and divided lite windows are some of the worst things to paint. Josh and I spent two weeks patching, sanding and repatching before we decided to call it repaired enough and start to paint.

It took a weekend to three coat the window and trim. The longest time was spent taping all the window panes. We already had the paint and the brush so it cost us nothing. It looked a lot better.  Although now the dark wood paneling seemed to bother me more than ever.  Probably because this was the longest time I had spent in the room since 2012.

The other obvious issue in the room was the wall light in the corner. I am not sure you can call it a light fixture when it is only a bare bulb sticking out of the wall on a metal hook. Ghetto is truly the only word I had for it. It happened to be the only hardwired light in the entire room and we figured we should keep it. Does it have a purpose? Not really. But, it seemed to be original and that is often one of the fun things about old houses, sometimes there are lights, trim, built-ins for no obvious purpose. We bit the bullet and went to School House Electric to get a new period reproduction light. They had a sale so we were able to score a cheap clear globe for the wall light. Unfortunately, due to fact we needed it to have a switch in the style and color we wanted we had to custom order it. A few weeks later it had been made (here in Portland!) and I took it home.
This was the wonderful time in 2012 when we lived in the guest room during our master remodel.  Shabby chic right?

That weekend Josh removed the existing janky light and and did a fair amount of patching since the new light was smaller. The plaster gave up a fight but eventually we got the new light installed and removed one of the last horrible 1970's lights in the house. At this point, we have updated or replaced every light, fan, or fixture in our house except for the office. It has been a slow process, but it feels so good to check this one off our list. Of course, we have yet to paint the patching from the new light, but let's ignore that for now.


Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Garage- A Horrible Building That Stole My Money

 January 2013

This is back in 2011 the blue doors are our garage, the white ones are the neighbors
 I'm jumping back in time to cover some unexciting work that took place back in early 2013. When we first purchased our home we couldn't help but notice that our garage was less then conventional. We have what can only be called a garage duplex. Our neighbor next door owns a 1909 traditional Portland craftsman, in 1923 the family that owned the house (The Mensinger's) decided to divide their lot and build a house for their children (our house). Because this lot was never 'sold,' the boundary is 'squidgy.' We share a driveway and somewhere inside of it lies our property line. At the end of the driveway is an adhoc structure that includes two garage bays for my neighbor and one for us. The building appears to have grown overtime in a motley unorganized way. This led to a goofy saw tooth roof line which left two large valleys.

2011 we are still painting, if only we had picked a brighter blue we could have matched the tarp!
In 2011, our neighbor informed us that the roof in her garage was leaking. She asked if we wanted to reroof the structure. Unfortunately, we were in the middle of our costly exterior remodel and the thought of any additional funds going anywhere was just too much. At the time our garage was ugly, but still water tight. She agreed to wait and had a contractor replace some structural rot on her side and install a tarp to the roof. By 2012, our roof was leaking and we agreed something needed to be done. We all realized that the design of the roof led to the leaks. Even if we replaced the shingles we would still have issues with leaf build up and poor drainage. In a frustrating no win situation we realized we had to restructure the roof. This was not cheap. Honestly, I still cringe thinking about the cost we spent, on a garage.

It rained everyday that they worked on the garage.  Worst job ever.
Just to harp on the subject more, this is barely even a garage, probably more of a large shed. It's too small for our car (probably any car), has no power, no plumbing, barely any light. It is the place that things we don't know what to do with go to die. But, it does hold our bikes, and our lawn mower, and thus it has a purpose and is a selling feature of the home. So, in order to keep our asset and not let it fall down on our watch. We hired a contractor to come out and replace the roof. We designed one large hip roof to cover all three garages. This require reframing, resheathing and shingling.

Don't get me wrong it looks a million times better. However, I think about all the things I would have liked to spend that money on and get sad. As a cost comparison, our back porch addition was cheaper and we use it far more. Anyway... GET OVER IT. The good news was it rained throughout the winter and not a drop of water entered our garages. Also, we can now take a picture of the front of our house without photoshopping out the bright blue tarp. Win.