Monday, March 26, 2007

Other Provo Bungalows in my Neighborhood

I thought all of you mysterious souls out there might enjoy seeing some of the incredible bungalows in my Provo neighborhood, called the Joaquin neighborhood. Almost all were built between 1910 and 1925, and vary a somewhat in size and features.

My neighborhood has suffered from being too close to Brigham Young University, which has made it the object of developers who prefer to tear down, and landlords who don't care.

The last 7 years have been different though. A beautiful revitalization is spreading throughout the neighborhood, with historic homes being repainted, more owner occupants returning, and things improving. Take a look, especially if you'd like to join us!

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Sidewalk Delight

Tired of tripping on your own sidewalk? I was. And so were my kids, and everyone else who wandered down our side of the street. It was probably 60 years old, and was suffering from all sorts of problems. One of them was the "heaving" caused by the enormous, unhealthy Sycamore tree between the sidewalk and the street.

The sidewalk leading to the house was worse, cracks every few inches. Provo City has a nice program to replace the regular sidewalks which basically is just the homeowner paying the cost of the materials, the City providing the labor. Great program, and my next door neighbor decided to jump in on the deal too.

I had to hire a separate concrette man to do the other work. He also put in curbing around all the flower beds.

Believe it or not, the change was great. The sidewalks looked clean, it added to the houses curb appeal, and the "defined" flower beds were a big plus. The only negative was that the city took down the Sycamore tree, which was rotting from the base up, had been topped long ago, and by their standards, needed to go.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Thinking back to our roof job...

When we moved in our roof, especially on the street side, looked terrible. Old asphalt shingles, very deteriorated, were revealing the worst in their character. The other sides weren't as bad, but it was scary to look at. What it was showing us was a roof that had inadequate ventilation, and too many layers of shingles on it.
On a bungalow like ours, the hipped roof is really visible, and prominent. If it looks bad, you could fiddle with everything else, and the house would still look bad. By fall, I was ready to fix things. But, not myself. I wasn't as brave as some who might do their own roof. Plus I didn't have time. I had a home equity line of credit, and needed a professional. Looking back, it was the right decision. I got at least 4 bids for someone to remove all the layers (2 asphalt and 2 wood), put a layer of plywood down over the old skip-sheathing, and then put down 30 year architectural style shingles. They varied by as much as $4,000. I chose a contractor who had done a house for my mother, who also had the lowest price, around $7500. Were the others just trying to price themselves out of this kind of work? Probably so.
When they came to work the noise, dust and dirt began. They quickly created Mt. Shingle on the south side of the house, consisting of ancient shingles from the previous layers. The strip off took days. The plywood went down in a day, then on went the shingles in a couple days.
I chose a color of shingles that would look good with the earth tones in the brick. The change was dramatic, and quick, and I'm sure glad I didn't have to do that work. It was bad enough picking up the shingle chunks they missed.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

It wasn't the Attic from Little Women, but it sure proved useful

When we moved into our home, our attic was a mystery. The only access panel was a 14 by 14 inch panel tucked into the hallway. A person could put their head in it, but thats about it. I couldn't see anything, because there was no lighting, and couldn't tell whether or not any real insulation was up there. I suppose I could have stuffed one of my daughters up that hole with a flash light, but I never tried it.

After a couple of years, I had a client/carpenter friend of mine cut out a much larger hole in the ceiling of that hallway and put in a pull down ladder. Messy project, but it opened up a whole new realm up there. By then we had had our roof redone, and the entire space was covered in chunks of wood shingles and black soot, everywhere. What a mess.

The next time the attic entered our consciousness was when we were in preparation for putting in air conditioning. We had to upgrade the electrical lines that ran up there, and an electrician got to spend 2 weeks crawling around up there. He left each day looking so dirty it was unbelievable. When finished, the attic, and house was much safer. Then I myself got to play up there, building a platform on the joists for the air handler to sit on. The hvac contractor came in, and went to work, and made our house much more habitable, turning the attic into a jungle of flexible ductwork.

Last year, I built a walkway of platforms out of 2 by 8's and plywood to walk around on, filled them with insulation, then had the rest of the attic properly insulated. Now it mostly just sits there, happily quiet and empty. No kids play room, or anything fun, just a well wired, well insulated, and properly lit attic.

Basement Bathrooms, pest problems

When we recovered half of our basement from rental use, we were immediately thrilled to go from 1 to 3 bathrooms. For some reason, two bathrooms, both small, had been put into the basement right next to eachother. One was toilet, tub and sink, the other was toilet, shower, and sink. The flooring was gross, the paint was the same, and there wasn't much to recommend them, but they pulled two growing girls out of Mom and Dad's bathroom.

It has now been long enough that I can't even remember why I dug into that wall, but I did. And as soon as I did I thought of the movie line---"Houston, we have a problem." The problem was that every one of the studs in the walls down there were consumed by rot and insect damage from the concrete floor up about 18 inches, minimum. I thought it was termites, but I was wrong. It was carpenter ants. Just as hungry, easier to solve.

The gutting began. All the from about 4 feet high and below came off those studs. The old vinyl flooring was taken off. The toilets and sinks were removed. Fortunately, none of these walls were load bearing, so I started cutting off the rotten portions of each stud. I also had to pull out the board that ran underneath all of them. That was like pulling out mush. Bathrooms in basements make great habitat for carpenter ants. I discovered lots of reasons why. First of all, these "bottom boards" were half buried in concrete. Underneath them I found several holes in the concrete floor leading down into dirt. Perfect pathways for entry and exit of the bugs.

So, after demolition, I filled the holes with concrete, then had to put new wood in, sistering new studs onto the good portion of the old, which was still holding up the top half of the plaster walls. Then I used some nice plywood, followed by MDF beadboard wainscoting to cover the bottom half of the walls. Of course, new vinyl flooring and paint, as well as vanity/sinks followed.

A long project, but magnificent results for two teenage daughters. A plumber had to do some of the reinstallation for me because of pipe problems, but most of it I was able to handle on my own.

Beware of holes and cracks in your foundations in moist areas. They can lead to trouble with bugs.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Was the result worth it?

The pictures you see here are from our houses SW bedroom, occupied by our oldest daughter. It wasn't my first project in the house, and its a good thing. It was torture.
The floor was covered in industrial carpet, the walls were layer upon layer of paint covered wallpaper, and underneath, deteriorating paint. And of course, the woodwork had all been painted. Plus, it wasn't originally a bedroom. It was probably a ladies sewing room, or something along those lines. This part of the house is an addition, and it has a door connecting it to the kitchen area, and had an archway connecting it to a hallway leading to other parts of the house. It had a fold-down ironing board tucked into the wall behind a cute little door. What it didn't have was a closet. With 4 kids, we needed bedrooms, not sewing rooms, and this was a reasonable choice. With the help of a finish carpenter, we fixed the door and closet issue.
The house had too many doors--I stole one that closed off the kitchen from the hall (it was just getting in the way) and one came from the basement. It was smaller, and was better for closets. The carpenter had both of them put in door jambs, and then installed them. Fortunately, the closet was there, I just had to cut a hole into one of its walls to get to it. It serves two bedrooms, thank heavens it is large.
Once the doors were done, I started on the hideous wallpaper. It came off in its usual manner, but then underneath was flaky, deteriorating paint. Lead paint. It couldn't stay. I had to either get it off, or gut the room and sheet rock everything. Hindsight tells me I probably should have taken the opportunity to gut the room and put in insulation in those walls. But--this room wasn't cold, and I wasn't wanting to lose the plaster walls. So, a great product came to the rescue. It is called Peel Away. You can buy it at Sherwin Williams. Its like a mud, you plaster it on, cover it with a wax like paper that comes with it, and let it sit for 24 hours or more. It chemically bonds with the paint, and just destroys the paints ability to stick to walls or brick or wood. After the 24 hours, you use a spatula or large putty knife, and pull it off, scraping the mud off the wall, with the paint too. It works amazingly well, though you have to wash off the surface quite a bit afterwards. That can be messy on a ceiling especially. This process took weeks. I only did one "bucket" or so a day, and it takes quite a few buckets to do every bit of plaster in an entire room. When I was done, there wasn't any paint left on that plaster. It was the first time I ever had a glimpse of what a room looked like just after the plasterers had finished their task.
Once finished, the woodwork was stripped, (heat guns that time) and refinished, and then I refinished the fir floor. The results were incredible, and of course, my daughter loves it. Oh, and yes, I did repaint the walls and ceiling.