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.