Hanley’s Old House, Episode 2
We’ve had an eventful week at Hanley’s Old House. The estimate to repair the water damage I featured in my prior post came in, and it’s around $2500. Since we’re planning to add an air conditioner, and because I hate paying lots of money for things I can do myself, I’m going to do the work myself. I’ll post on that when I get around to doing it, which will be within the next couple of weeks.
Meanwhile, I decided to hit some of the items on my summer to-do list (which is now two summers old). One of my priorities was simply to clean out the utility room, which had become such an overloaded storage place for random odds and ends that it was difficult to get in to do the laundry.
Johanna and I had discussed putting carpet tiles down, in place of the vile brick-patterned vinyl sheet flooring the room had. Discovering that the carpet tiles would only cost $70, we decided this was the time to do it. Then she suggested we paint the room….and this is how projects grow.
The utility room is a 3-season room, an aluminum add-on built in the late ’90s. It was plain white, the exterior house wall to which it was attached was plain white, and the window trim on that wall was plain white. Remember that the former owners painted this Victorian home white and two shades of gray–they obviously had a fear and loathing of color.
I’ll show no picture of the mess, because I’m easily embarrassed, but in these pictures you can how sterile the room looked.
Cleaning out and figuring out what to throw away, and where else to store what we were going to keep, took about 1/2 a day. Because we still needed some storage, we bought a very solidly made (home-made) bench-seat/storage box at the Habitat for Humanity Resale store, which we repainted and reupholstered. I also planned to build a narrow cabinet for the one corner, but we stumbled across some wooden crates at a Giant-Retailer-That-Shall-Not-Be-Named, and decided they’d be perfect for the room, so I screwed several together into a tower to make a cabinet for hanging a few gardening tools and other odd and ends.
The next day was dedicated to caulking (the room leaked around the foundation) and painting. With the walls being more window than wall, taping took as much time as actual painting. The next day was the final painting and the laying of the carpet tile. The room then looked so nice that we brought back (from the front porch) the garden table and chairs that used to be in it. So in 2 1/2 days the room was transformed from an ugly, utilitarian, and junk-filled room, to a room that’s a delight to sit in, and feel the cool breeze blow through. It’s on the East side of the house, so when the living room is hot in late afternoon and early evening, this room has had time to cool down.
Johanna’s parents are coming for a couple of weeks next month, and this will be a very welcome area for them to sit and relax. I’ve sat out there until late night every day since we finished.
Cost: $70 for carpet tiles, $50 for paint, ~$15 for tape and new electrical outlets, $60 for the bench seat, $40 for the crates, and $5 at the resale store for an antique light that we haven’t yet decided whether we’re going to use or not. Total cost, under $250.
Last year we repainted our kitchen, pulling off some dull and nicotine-stained wallpaper, and painting it nacho cheese color. I kid you not. Johanna had a hard time persuading me to go so wild on that one, but as always, her color vision turned out to be impeccable, as it transformed the kitchen from a dull dim place to one that feels full of light. A room I used to hate to go into has become one of my favorite rooms in the house, particularly on winter mornings when the sky is leaden and the room feels warm, vibrant, and inviting. (I’ll post pictures of that room as soon as we get the slate backsplash completed–hopefully before her parents come to visit.)
But while prepping that room, we took the blades off the ceiling fan to wash. Some distraction occurred–neither of us remember what–and all but one of them got left in a sink full of soapy water, and being mere pressboard expanded to an unreasonable size and shape. It’s an odd fan. It’s the only fixture in the house I haven’t replaced, because it’s ideal for the kitchen, and we literally cannot find one of its size and low profile. But it’s a non-name brand. As in, I can’t find a speck of brand information on the damn thing, and I’ve had it down from the ceiling and disconnected when I replaced the wiring. So we can’t order new blades, and we haven’t been able to find a match.
Fortunately we had one blade left, that I could use as a pattern. So, hitting another item on my to-do list, I bought a piece of 1/4″ by 2 x 2 finish quality plywood, and cut out new blades. Here you can see me playing craftsman, and the resulting blades, ready for paint.
There’s only one problem…we can’t find the hardware that attaches the blade to the fan housing. We know we saved it, but we don’t know where we stored it. So now we’re looking at buying a new fan anyway, but we still can’t find one that’s as suited to the space as this off-brand one. And I’m reluctant to spend the money, superstitiously sure that as soon as I install a new fan we’ll stumble across the hardware for the old one.
I also finally put up our hammock. We’ve had this hammock for the better part of two decades. It’s the hammock on which I famously fell flat on my back on our (concrete) porch), with my infant daughter #1 on top of me, when the hook pulled out of the house. One of the best photos we have of our kids is the three of them, ages 2-7, sitting in the hammock on a summer day, looking as content as a person in a hammock on a summer day ought to be. But in our new home, I’d just never gotten around to installing posts to hang it from (despite putting in at least 20 posts to repair the wooden fence around the yard), mostly because I could never figure out just where to put it.
But three or four years ago I build a bike shed, and as it’s right under a tree, and the shed itself blocks the late afternoon sun, I decided to attach one end to the shed, and put a post to attach the other end into my hosta bed (behind the landscape timber, so I wouldn’t have to mow around it). Several summers later, I finally got around to this simple 1-hour job.
I had a 7 1/2 foot long 6×6 left over from repairing a rotted porch post, and that had been laying behind my shed for years because I could not begin to fathom any use for it. It’s overkill for hanging a hammock, but using it meant I didn’t have to buy another post, and I got to “get rid” of that massive hunk of lumber that was just laying around. And it’s big enough that it actually works as a focal point in the yard, so I think I’ll have my kids decorate it. They can each have one side that is their own to decorate, and Johanna can do the fourth side. I don’t need to decorate a side myself–I don’t do decoration well, and was smart enough to marry an excellent graphic artist so that I don’t have to. If we get that done, I’ll post pictures of that as well.
So, to get ready for the in-law’s visit in four weeks, I have to do slate backsplashes behind the kitchen sink and stove, hopefully refinish the countertops in the kitchen, fix the rotted lumber in the entry hall, get the ceiling insulated, get the walls and ceiling drywalled, and reinstall the woodwork and tile the floor, and repaint, refloor, and rewire the pantry. And before next winter, I also need to reroof my front porch, beginning with entirely new wood sheathing, and re-side the south wall under our living room window so I can insulate it and stop the frigid winter drafts that swirl around our feet.
Of course I’ve been saying this for the last 4 years. And that’s less than half of my summer to-do list.