House Tag

Tuesday, 8 September 2009

So far I’ve spent my sec­ond day of fur­lough catch­ing up on var­i­ous items around the house. I need to get back into the habit of writ­ing here a bit more fre­quently. I keep think­ing of things that are worth post­ing, but never ac­tu­ally sit­ting down to do so.

A bunch of ex­te­rior work is be­ing done on my home right now.

  • Chimney caps, tuck-point­ing and new flash­ing;
  • Rotten sid­ing re­place­ment;
  • Glass block win­dows added to the base­ment;
  • Gutter re­pair; and
  • Some patches to the foun­da­tion.

Our reg­u­lar guy doesn’t do ex­te­rior work, so I had to track some­one else down. Since you can find any­thing on Craigslist, I put up an ad. I got a bunch of re­sponses, with the usual range of gram­mat­i­cal er­rors and pro­fes­sion­al­ism. I re­sponded to a few of the like­li­est and only heard back from one.

The guy came out to take a look at things, with two of his bud­dies. They were all wear­ing ragged and torn clothes, and one of the guys was more in­ter­ested in eat­ing as many peaches as he could from my tree. Main dude said he’d get back to me with an es­ti­mate within three days. He kept try­ing to get me to tell him how much I’d be will­ing to pay, which is a huge red flag. Ten days later, af­ter one unan­nounced re­turn trip and fur­ther phone calls where he kept try­ing to find out how much I wanted to spend and kept try­ing to give me prices piece-meal, he fi­nally emailed me his es­ti­mate. This es­ti­mate only cov­ered the cost of ma­te­ri­als for one of the items on the above list. Needless to say he didn’t get the job.

Meanwhile, I re­ceived a re­sponse from a gal around my age who just moved from Portland, OR. She came out, took a look at things, some mea­sure­ments and pho­tos, and got me an es­ti­mate within a cou­ple of days. She’s done his­tor­i­cal restora­tion work and has the nec­es­sary tools to get the job done. My chim­neys are re­paired and the foun­da­tion patched, the glass block has been or­dered and from what I’ve seen so far, she works both ef­fi­ciently and ef­fec­tively.

Inside I’ve been paint­ing the new doors we got a cou­ple of months ago and touch­ing-up var­i­ous Bram-smears.

My ten­ant up­stairs is mov­ing out this month. This means I’ll be out the sup­ple­men­tary $450/​month that was quite a help. Thankfully Debbie’s now a full-time teacher, so her ad­di­tional in­come will help off­set that. Her brother might move in up­stairs and just pay for util­i­ties, and I plan on work­ing with him to tear off the wall­pa­per and do a lit­tle bit more ren­o­va­tion up there as well. Once it is painted, the elec­tri­cal is up­graded and there’s new car­pet, I’ll prob­a­bly be able to get at least an­other $50/​month on the rental price. It’s a 2 bed­room, so $500 is a pretty good price, I think. I could prob­a­bly do bet­ter than that if the bath­room wasn’t the size of a mouse turd.

Speaking of which, I’ve killed 4 in the last 24 hours.

Second Arson & Neighborhood Still Good

Friday, 1 May 2009

While I was watch­ing the Celtics/​Bulls game, some­one set fire to the aban­doned build­ing just cater­corner from me on Holmden Court (the al­ley be­hind my house). Either the fire started back up around 3am or the ar­son­ist came back to fin­ish the job be­cause the street was clogged with fire trucks. This is the sec­ond ar­son less than a block from me in two months, and the fifth (that I know of) within half a square mile from me in the last 2 years.

These last two were both “aban­doned” houses with squat­ters in them. Rumor has it that the bank who owned the house be­hind me (which was slated for de­mo­li­tion) had the house set aflame so they could re­coup as much from the prop­erty as pos­si­ble. Rumor also holds that some kids set the fire, or, less likely, some­one set fire to keep warm.

The house had been aban­doned since I moved into the neigh­bor­hood and over the course of two years it was peeled like an onion and pit­ted like an av­o­cado. By the time whomever set fire to the place set fire to the place, all that was left in­side the struc­ture was some crazy-look­ing linoleum.

Now, there are quite a few se­ri­ous prob­lems that are touched on di­rectly or tan­gen­tially in this post:

  • Habitual Arson
  • Foreclosed Homes
  • Squatters
  • Folks steal­ing sid­ing, wiring and any­thing of value from aban­doned prop­er­ties
  • Crazy Linoleum

and one very good thing. Thank you Cleveland Fire Department, you guys are great.

While the ar­sons are trou­bling, there is much that is great on my street and in my neigh­bor­hood. I have new neigh­bors who are ren­o­vat­ing the home next door to me, and the chil­dren who ap­pear to own the house cater­corner from me on Holmden Avenue are fix­ing the place up quite nicely.

The new Buhrer Elementary school one block away is near­ing com­ple­tion, and I just found out, will be re­main­ing a Dual Language School. Now if only Debbie could get a job as an art teacher there, all would be set. However, find­ing an open po­si­tion in the CMSD isn’t the eas­i­est.

Two Days

Saturday, 25 April 2009

The last cou­ple of days have been great. Good weather af­ter a seem­ingly end­less win­ter does that, I guess. Friday I got to work from home for the ma­jor­ity of the day since we were shoot­ing a video for the Solid Waste District about the proper ways to dis­pose of la­tex paint. The night be­fore, my new neigh­bor needed to bor­row some elec­tric­ity and ended up giv­ing me a whole bunch of an­cient paint to use for the PSA. The la­bels on the cans are pretty cool:

Ancient Paint Cans with Cool Labels

The shoot went well and I ended up hav­ing to bust ass back to work in or­der to give a pre­sen­ta­tion to a bunch of folks about us­ing our Content Management System. Slept with the heat off and the win­dow open for the first time in seven months.

This morn­ing Abraham woke us up at 6:30 and af­ter he’d had a bit to drink we watched the sun­rise and learned about out­side. He loves touch­ing trees and look­ing at how huge they are. He doesn’t like grass; it is too prickly.

I spent most of the day shirt­less in the back­yard. I tore up a cou­ple of peach trees us­ing my bare hands:

Peach Trees I uprooted with my bare hands.

I also cleaned out the shed, turned the soil over my tiny gar­den, and got every­thing planted. The all-toma­toes-all-the-time patch last sum­mer has been re­duced to two plants. The rest of the space is oc­cu­pied by a bell pep­per, basil, chives, oregano and cilantro.

My garden

I had beans & rice for din­ner on the porch, and af­ter the lit­tle guy goes down for the night, I’m go­ing to eat some choco­late-peanut-but­ter ice cream on the porch.

My porch still needs a rail-mounted beer-bot­tle opener. Speaking of that, here’s a list of other things that I need to do around the house (in no par­tic­u­lar or­der):

  • Remodel Kitchen
  • Till & re­sow back­yard
  • Dig up one more peach tree and re­place it with some­thing that will provide shade
  • Replace rot­ten sid­ing
  • New gut­ters
  • Paint the ex­te­rior of the house
  • Finish bath­room
  • Get cov­ers on roof & chim­ney & get the flash­ing checked out.
  • Fix base­ment plumb­ing
  • Get a cover for the AC & get it hooked back up to the fur­nace.
  • Get new screen doors
  • Refinish front door
  • Bring wiring up to code
  • New win­dows
  • Doors re­hung

Refinancing… or Not

Wednesday, 17 December 2008

A month or so ago I stopped into the down­town Fifth Third to in­quire about the pos­si­bil­ity of re­fi­nanc­ing my mort­gage. Now that rates have dropped I fig­ured it was a good time to test the wa­ters. I was told that I’d have to pay into the mort­gage a bit more be­fore I was el­i­gi­ble, but that I’d get a call when it was time. A few weeks later I get a call from a Fifth Third branch of­fice about com­ing in to re­fi­nance my mort­gage. The per­son who called me proved im­pos­si­ble to meet with. We played phone tag for a bit, and when I fi­nally sched­uled an ap­point­ment, I showed up to dis­cover that she’d just sat down with some­one else, and could I please come back in an hour or so.

I ended up sched­ul­ing an ap­point­ment with a fel­low down­town and met with him the other day to fi­nally talk about re­fi­nanc­ing. Turns out it is a $350 ap­pli­ca­tion fee crap shoot. With the way hous­ing prices have tum­bled in Cleveland, it could cost me sev­eral thou­sand dol­lars, up front, to re­fi­nance. My house could be worth 20% less than what I paid for it. Zillow es­ti­mates that my house is worth $7k less than what I paid for it, which would mean I would need to pay 5 or 6 grand to re­fi­nance to a lower rate.

The up­side to this is that it will take me a bit to save up that kind of cash, and in that time, rates might fall even fur­ther. The new mort­gage will likely have mort­gage in­sur­ance though, so fig­ur­ing out how much money I’m re­ally go­ing to save in the long run is go­ing to be quite com­pli­cated.


Sunday, 3 August 2008

With all of the stuff I’ve been up to lately, do­ing a bit of writ­ing has fal­len by the wayside. Work on the house is still in­com­plete, but has slowed down be­cause what re­mains isn’t crit­i­cal quite yet. Once all of the paint­ing is com­plete, and I’ve man­aged to get all of the doors re­hung, there will be pic­tures.

I’ve gone to see The Dark Knight, which was the first time since Abraham graced us with his pres­ence that Debbie and I man­aged to get out alone. I went to the zoo, where the boy and I be­came an ex­hibit to all of the women around when Debbie went to the re­stroom. I went to Whiskey Island on Friday af­ter­noon for a pic­nic, took a walk by my­self to get some alone time with na­ture, watched swal­low bug-catch­ing, a swal­low-heck­ling ori­ole, and played with a ground­hog for a lit­tle while.

Last Monday my of­fice was one of the three County of­fices raided by the FBI and IRS-CID as a part of their in­ves­ti­ga­tion into cor­rup­tion by County of­fi­cials. Apparently they came over the in­ter­com and told folks to go to the can­teen [which is what every­where else is called a lunch room]. The de­sign room keeps the over­head speaker turned off be­cause we’d rather not lis­ten to the best in soft rock from the 80s, 90s and now, so I didn’t hear the an­nounce­ment. I hap­pened to be both on my com­puter and on the phone, both no-nos, when the FBI knocked on the door. I’d al­ready man­aged to tell Debbie every­thing she needed to know to get the scan­ner at home work­ing though, so it was no big deal.

I went to the can­teen, where every­one else was, and filled out a sheet that asked for ba­sic in­for­ma­tion and job du­ties, and then got to take the rest of the day off.

Abraham's TreeWhen my mom rolled up here for the 4th of July, we planted a tree for Abraham. I had a tree planted for me when I was born as well. I even wrote about it for Young Authors, so you can read that here. Although that pic­ture is from a month ago, Abraham is al­ready much big­ger, I’d say near 12 pounds. He’s started smil­ing and chuck­ling a lit­tle, and I can ac­tu­ally sort of play with him now. The only rough part is that when I’m at work he’s in his best mood, so when I come home I get to in­ter­act with him for the part of the day when he’s at his worst. It gets frus­trat­ing at times.

I got sea­son tick­ets to the Notre Dame foot­ball games this year, blessed be my mono­gram. I don’t know that I’ll be able to get to more than one of them, how­ever.

The weather has been won­der­ful, and to­day looks as if it will con­tinue that pat­tern. Dinner is a daily choice be­tween eat­ing on the porch or watch­ing some old school Muppet Show episodes. I re­cently dis­cov­ered that I can get Mr. Wizard on DVD as well. Abraham’s go­ing to talk to folks at school about these crazy shows that aren’t on TV any­more and no-one is go­ing to know what he’s talk­ing about ex­cept his teach­ers.

I haven’t been to a rock and roll show in forever. It hurts.

Home Updates

Thursday, 19 June 2008

Although I’ve taken the last two weeks off of work to spend time with Abraham, I’ve also been do­ing [and hav­ing done] a lot of work on the house. I’ve been work­ing on the room that you en­ter from the front door. For lack of a bet­ter term, I call it the par­lor. Here are some pho­tos:
Parlor Painted.
Parlor Painted

I painted, put down quar­ter-round, re­placed a pane in the doors to the bed­room, and painted those too. The plas­ter needed some se­ri­ous patch­ing but that was done awhile ago. I’m hav­ing quite a bit of con­tracted work done on the bath­room and get­ting a closet ex­panded. One of the small rooms is dis­ap­pear­ing to make this hap­pen, but it is cer­tainly worth it. During this process we’ve found some painted-over hand-made fix­ture gems. Here are some hinges:
Stripped of their paint [and orig­i­nal black enamel, un­for­tu­nately]:
Stripped Hinges
And re­stored [thanks to Rustoleum]:
Restored Hinges
The win­dow sashes have sim­i­lar paint-en­crusted met­al­work, and I’m still work­ing on restor­ing the orig­i­nal door­bell [you can see the paint-en­crusted ver­sion and the empty spot in the pho­tos above]. The door it­self is prob­a­bly go­ing to take a week or two of work it­self. I’m not look­ing for­ward on the con­stant re­mov­ing and re­hang­ing of it.

There will be pic­tures of the bath­room and closet when they are fin­ished.

Rationed Space

Thursday, 5 June 2008

I’ve lived in this house for al­most a year and I’m still not moved in. The work on fix­ing the place up con­tin­ues, and to­mor­row the em­biggen­ing of the bath­room and closet [to the dearth of the tini­est bed­room] be­gins. Since we’re in the process of paint­ing the en­try room, this means that 4 of the rooms can’t have any­thing in them right now. It will be 5 if we don’t man­age to com­plete the paint­ing and quar­ter-round­ing of the en­try room by the time the big room by the kitchen is ready to have the floor­ing put down.

We’re pretty stressed and cramped, liv­ing in two rooms with the floors cov­ered in crap from the other rooms, and the kitchen. We’ll have to go up­stairs for most of the bath­room needs. Plus, an im­mi­nent em­i­nent like a thief in the night baby on the way. Compared to the hec­tac­u­lar hec­tic­ness of our cur­rent lives, be­ing set­tled in with a fin­ished house and a fin­ished baby seems pos­i­tively cro­mu­lent.