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Love At First Site

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What I Learned About Tiling

It’s not that tiling is all that complicated, but if Glenno wasn’t there to show me what to do, I think this blog post would be written very differently…for you newbies to tiling, here are some tips I learned along the way:

  1. Whether or not you want them to be, natural stone tiles tend to be uneven (tip — swearing at the tiles won’t straighten them out).  So, even if you yell at everyone around you to use spacers — not that I did this (yes I did), it’s super important to use your eye, and a level, to make sure you’re laying the tile right.
  2. You will likely embarrass yourself if you tell experienced people how to do stuff, when you yourself don’t know what you’re talking about (see note 1).
  3. If you love a bargain as much as I do then check out your local tile stores for remnants – these are extra tiles left over from other jobs.  We were able get our tiles at a 50% discount.
  4. When ordering your tile, keep in mind that you may or may not cut a few pieces wrong, drop a brand new box and shatter some tiles, measure a few wrong (but be happy that you cut them the right size)…  So, make sure to order enough so that you have some leftover.
  5. The prep work can be exhausting, which you may or may not realize until 2 days later when you are so sore you feel like a truck hit you.
  6. Don’t be scared to incorporate a simple design into your tile work!  As long as you plan it in advance, it’s not super complicated and will make a big difference with the finished product.

first time using a tile cutter = success!

design only cost an extra $20

prep work included gutting the bathroom and putting up new “green board” and hardiboard down

easy even tiles 🙂

Breakfast is the Most Important Meal of the Day

To the laborer who showed up at 10:00 am (when you were supposed to be there at 8:30 am), complaining that you were hungry:

  1. I’m not your mother, your wife or your friend — and you’re a grown man, so feed yourself
  2. Seriously, think next time before you complain about the food that someone so nicely buys for you
  3. You’re fired

How Love Turned to Hate – A Tale of Sheetrocking WRONG

There are quite a few things that I love – some more typical than others (don’t get me started on why broccoli is the best vegetable ever, and you already know how I feel about dirt).  Well to make myself sound even more normal, I’ve also always loved sheetrock.  I can remember being on the job sites when I was younger and playing with little chunks for hours (cause isn’t this how every little girl spends her summers?).  

Anyhow, this love quickly turned into HATE when our normal sheetrocker — at the last-minute — decided that he couldn’t commit to a start date.  And, then almost as soon as our back-up sheetrocker began to work, it became obvious that with a little bit of guidance (and let’s not lie, a few more pounds of muscle) I would have been able to do a better job.  So, let me share with you what I learned from this experience:

  • How to kick someone of the job (and yes, it’s awkward)
  • The value of having a father who can fix just about anything (Glenno re-did and finished it all)

  • And I also learned that it’s not a good sign when:
    • It takes the guys an hour to hang one sheet cause they are trying to figure out where the holes for the recessed lights need to be
    • Even after they’ve spent said hour, they still cover up one of the lights
    • They try to fix a bubble under the tape (which you pointed out to them in the first place) by putting more joint compound over it rather than cutting it out
    • The sand created from sanding the joint compound creates so much dust that it breaks the shop vac

Let there be light!

Okay, so after the fact I realized that it wasn’t quite as dramatic as the Genesis, but you would have had a hard time of convincing me otherwise when we re-wired (ah-hem, created light) and fixed up the plumbing at Bunker Hill.

you can’t see Glenno — but he’s in the background yelling at me to stop messing around and load the truck

First, we tackled was the lower level.  Keep in mind, that this space was once filled with refrigerators (b/c who doesn’t need five of them?), bags of clothes, pianos, etc.  But now that it was cleared out and the framing was done, our soon to be family room, bathroom and laundry room were taking shape.  And, the wiring/plumbing was pretty straight forward — this is what we did:

  • Added recessed lighting
  • Hardwired a carbon monoxide/fire detector
  • Installed vanity lights and an overhead light/fan in the bathroom
  • Included outlets throughout per code
  • Hooked up plumbing for the toilet, shower, sink, washer/dryer

Throughout the whole house we:

  • Replaced the copper pipes that had been stolen/cut (if you remember, this happened on my birthday …)

  • Fixed up the wiring/plumbing
  • Replaced old light fixtures with new ones
  • Updated the heat to a new hot water heating system power vented via new baseboard.  Of note, the system came with a defect from the factory – which neither the store we bought it from, or the company representative that came out was able to identify.  Luckily, Glenno figured out the issue and we were able to get resolved.

Learning to Frame

Framing walls is a pretty straightforward process, but just like anything, it’s easy to mess up.  And let me tell you – our framer, Marty, was not shy about pointing out every little thing that I did wrong while “helping” to frame the lower level at Bunker Hill.  So, now I’ll let you learn from my mistakes:

  1. Inspect the straightness of the 2-by-4  before cutting to make sure they aren’t warped – clearly I had too much trust in Home Depot
  2. You don’t actually need to write down the multiples of 16 to mark where the studs should go.  Almost all tape measures have small red lines on them that indicate the spacing between wall studs.
  3. And about those red lines, they indicate the center of where the stud should be placed — not the right or left of where the stud goes
  4. Snapping a chalk line to indicate where the plate should go is much easier than marking the floor every foot with a pencil (not that I did that…)
  5. Make sure to measure the height of each wall stud prior to cutting the wood – just because the wall should be straight doesn’t mean that it will be

Also hold back your damn the man attitude – the studs really do need to be 16 inch on center as this lines up with the width of insulation, the length of sheetrock, etc.

Loser Loved to Weed

Growing up, we had the best cat named Loser — yes that was his name, but that story is for another time. The one weird thing about him (other than his name) was that when we were pulling weeds in the garden, he would walk right in front of us and “mark his territory.”

And, while it may be a stretch to call what we had at Bunker Hill gardens, and even more of a stretch to call what we needed to do weeding, it did bring back these memories of Loser. 

Anyhow, I digress … here are some pictures of what the front and side yards looked like:

And, here was the backyard:

Removing the trees and bushes was quiet the process. First, we had to lasso the top of the trees with a heavy strap that Neil and I pulled on while my Dad cut the base of the tree (you know b/c we didn’t want it to fall into the living room). Then we had to lug this huge metal chain to wrap around the bushes and hook to the excavator so we could pull the stumps out. Let me tell you, all this pulling and lugging felt like it should be a crossfit WOD (and I can say that bc I’ve officially taken 3 classes).

But after just a couple of days, we had ourselves a space that even Loser would have been happy to mark:

Demo Days

When some people are angry they break stuff.  When I’m angry, I storm off to the bedroom, and slam the door – but the truth is, it’s really just an excuse to take a nap.

So, it’s fair to say that it really isn’t my nature to break things.  But since Bunker Hill had been cleared out (everything was officially donated, trashed, scrapped or sold), the next step was the demo.

It’s amazing how fast the demo goes — within 8 hours over two days, our house was a blank slate:

  • the kitchen cabinets and floors were gone
  • the upstairs bathroom was gutted, and the built in cabinet was placed in the living room for painting
  • the wallpaper was removed
  • all of the rotted sheetrock had been cut out

The tools we used to get the demo done included: a hammer, sledge hammer, screwdriver, crowbar, sawzall, sheetrock knife and wall paper removing solution.

Charlie and I were pretty pleased with the results — even she smiled for the picture:

One important thing to note is that while we were clearing out the house we got the permit for the roof and had it replaced.  This way we ensured that all of the interior improvements wouldn’t be ruined by a leaking roof.

Hoarder’s Paradise

Everyone has a default song — for me it’s always been “When the Saints Go Marching in.”  I sing one particular stanza over and over again until I realize what I’m doing and then inevitably have the internal conversation re: why that’s my default song.

So, you can imagine my internal dialogue when as we were clearing out Bunker Hill my default song switched to “Gangsta’s Paradise.”  Then it clicked — I’d been talking about how this house was a hoarder’s paradise for days, hoarder’s paradise = Gangsta’s Paradise = new default song:

As I walk through the valley of the shadow of death a hoarder … I take a look at my life and realize there’s nuthin’ too much left … like:

1.  A dead squirrel in one of the bedrooms

2.  1,000’s of books, including porn from the 70’s (who knew porn came in book format?), and some books that I’m sure we can all relate to:

3.  Mouse droppings all over the house

4.  5 refrigerators filled with canned food

5.  Disgust that resulted in noticing that all the canned food dated back to at least the 80’s

6.  Rocks

7.  Disappointment from the realization that my life is not like an episode of CSI when after clearing the rocks I did not find a skeleton

8.  Further disappointment when I realize that the old homeowner’s life WAS like an episode from CSI after finding letters written to him from prison

9.  An ad that read “I didn’t want to lose him, so I lost 59 pounds”

10.  Over 5,000 pounds of metal (this is Neil and I in the dump truck on our way to the scrap yard)

“Happy” Birthday?

Working in PR in Manhattan, you always hoped, and kind of expected, that the last-minute urgent team meeting called on your birthday was really happily screaming women and birthday cake.  I mean, who wouldn’t want to be surprised by these lovely ladies?  This was just a few of us posing for a holiday picture one year.

And this was us at an event with Ty Pennington of “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” little did he know I was jonesing for his job…

So, even though I switched careers and cities, I knew I’d get a surprise this year — I just had to, right?  Sure my new team was a bit different (see for yourself):

But, I did have one particularly loyal employee:

However, this year instead of a card and cake, my work birthday involved someone breaking into my new house, the police, stolen copper pipes and me almost crying (but then not, because if an office isn’t an appropriate place to cry, a construction site REALLY isn’t).

So, here’s the takeaway:

1.  Copper can be scrapped for over $3/lb

2.  It’s very common for these pipes to be stolen out of vacant houses, so invest in a security system 🙂

3.  Make sure you fix ALL the locks on the house, and don’t be shocked if a window is broken into (it happened to us twice, but more on that later)

The Wonderful World of Scrapping

I’m a little OCD about germs (okay, a lot).  But if you remember, I also love to get a good deal.  So, it only makes sense that it came as a pleasant (this is probably the first time I’m using this word to describe trash) surprise to learn that a whole world of metal scrapping exists.

It also ended up being a pleasant (again, strange use of this word) surprise that the previous Bunker Hill home owner was a hoarder — refrigerators, stoves, metal desks — who worked as a machinist = lots of heavy metals.

And so came my introduction to the wonderful world of scrapping.  First we piled a dump truck up with all of the metal and then came the waiting, or was it weighting?

  • You wait in line to have your truck weighed
  • You wait to dump all of the weight out of your truck
  • And then you get your truck weighed again after waiting in another line

And some of these places are actually pretty nice, hmm, or maybe it was just nice that I went there with trash and walked away with cash?

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