Sunday, October 28, 2007

Better, better bath

You know you're making progress when the toilet is back in the bathroom.
The vanity, faucets, lights and stool went in over the weekend.

Remember when ....


Blair the contractor got the basement stairs reconfigured this weekend. Wow.

If you recall, at 5-foot-6, I had to seriously duck to get downstairs.



Now a six-footer can walk down without bonking his noggin.

This project has taken about $600 and a little brainpower to get stuff out of the way:

  • I removed old heat duct and relocated it during bathroom remodeling.

  • Scott the plumber ran pipes tight to the ceiling and relocated the washer hookup when basement got new copper pipes.

  • Contractor ran bathtub drain line closer to ceiling.

In the end, the basement seems much more user-friendly, and hopefully that will be worth the rather modest expense. Yay.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Small retaining wall work

This stacked limestone retaining wall in the back yard collapsed during the rainstorms in May, before the house was mine.

My contractor's wife's cousin (follow that?) put it back together again in a half day this week.

For retaining walls and more, call:
Mike, 402-208-6521

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Kitchen color combo

A hint of what's to come in the kitchen (does that make it a "flip-tease"?).

The splurges:

Cabinets: Aristokraft Avalon in maple with rouge finish: $3,100

Countertop: WilsonArt Terra Roca, "a combination of bronze and chocolate with flecks of green:" $600 The green flecks don't show well on this computerized image, but it pulls in the color of the tile below.

The bargains:
Floor: Refinish original yellow pine floor: $325 (Photo above is finished floor in my house.)

Backsplash: DalTile's Semi-gloss 6x6-inch in Cypress. Two boxes from Habitat ReStore: $20, third box from DalTile: $40.

Knobs: Brushed copper from Marie in west omaha, via Craig's List: $30

They match two copper "bin pull" drawer handles salvaged from a random drawer in the flip basement: $0

Saturday night flipping fever

The Saturday slate of "flip this house" shows has become a well-timed ego boost.

Inevitably, I've spent my day sanding plaster or driving to every home-improvement store in the metro.

Then I get to watch these fools.

In last night's episodes:
  • One flip had roaches, termites, rats, ants and a snake. In one house.
  • In arguably the best flipping videotape to date, a crew cutting down a tree uncaps an enormous hive of Africanized bees that attack the poor dude in the cherry picker, then chases the crew all the way down the street to their trucks.
  • A newlywed couple blows through $55,000 of their $60,000 budget in the first week before leaving for a two-week honeymoon in Italy.
  • First-time flippers were 50 to 300 percent over budget.
I, however, am within budget. My flip has one slender snake who may have an upcoming date with a weed-whacker. Feeling pretty good right now ...

Property Ladder
Flip That House
Real Estate Pros
Flip This House
Flipping Out

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Hello, kitchen cabinets

June 2007: Kitchen, view from entry door

Now: Kitchen, view from entry door

Lesson: Old house kitchen=custom=$$$.

I thought I had been blessed with a larger than average kitchen for an older home at 11 1/2 by 13 feet. But my floor plan was more unusual than I expected.

The south wall bumps out one foot in two locations, as if you could mount a king-size Murphy bed on the wall. To get variety in cabinet sizes, I had to go up in price.

As much as I dig Menards, their kitchen staff was stumped and cobbled together what looked like something from a hideous college rental.

Cabinets Factory Outlet Plus designs on the spot and did a great job quickly at a decent price. However, I got the best price and design from Leah at Consolidated Kitchens and Baths.

The cabinets cost $3,100, about $1,000 more than I initially budgeted for a modest Menards line. What I got in return was good design with a lot of forethought.

There is no extra charge for the design service. During the planning stages, you can take computer sketches home, but you have to put down a deposit to get the plans with detailed measurements (about $300).

Leah works there because she loves to design kitchens. It turns out that she has flipped a few houses of her own. She was both style- and price-conscious.

Little things along the way told me a designer was the way to go. Like accounting for a protruding window sill in a cabinet door's path -- seems silly, but it was something I know I would have missed.

The designer comes to the home to do the final measure, which is a nice touch rather than having some peon do it.
  • Take careful measurements of the floor plan, including ceiling height, with you on your first trip. Let the designer know about any price parameters.
  • At CKF, you consult with a designer then make a followup appointment to see the plans.
  • The odd thing: The store has no prices on anything, so you're kind of floating blind, but be honest if cost is an issue and they will guide you.
  • CKF carries gorgeous stone and Corian countertops, but a tiny choice for laminate countertops if the budget is tight. Cabinet Factory Outlet Plus carries a wide line of laminates.
  • Bargains: Consolidated Kitchens has a bargain room in back -- a great place to shop for a bath vanity. Cabinet Factory Outlet has unfinished cabinets in stock and bargain countertops.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Evolution of a kitchen

Before, Aug. 16

Cabinets had a wood-grain Formica, interiors unfinished, odd kitchen layout

After cabinet removal, 8-26

Stripped to the bone, 9-13

Ready for cabinets, 10-17
Drywalled on left, patched and primed on right

Monday, October 15, 2007

Over and over

Posts have been few because recent work consists of:


I'm pushing to finish that work in the kitchen, because kitchen cabinets arrive Tuesday and installation is scheduled to start this week.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Creepy-awesome toilet tip

How is this for bizarre ... I'm sitting in the stripped-down kitchen of a vacant house, under the harsh glare of work lights, scrubbing an unhooked toilet with denture cleaner.

But let me start at the beginning ...

The toilet is a relatively newer model (well, for a 100-year-old house), but had a few rust stains. I consulted my friend Val, who cleans houses on the side. She said:


Browsing the denture products, I found a Sea-Bond Denture Brightening Cleanser, which came in a bottle with little brush on the lid rather than a tablet to soak.

It's pink gel?

I am going to let this one stand uncaptioned.


The stains are gone! In 30 seconds! (although somehow I managed to mess up the lighting enough that the toilet looks yellow in the picture. Take my word for it.)

Getting primed

Dining room before

This weekend, half of the main floor (living room, dining room, bonus room and entry) were primed and the ceilings painted.

Dining room now

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Renovation supplies

My mom passed along this company's great catalog: Renovator's, Reproduction Antique Hardware and Restoration Hardware-Plumbing-Lighting by Renovator's Supply, Inc.

It has lots of interesting old-fashioned-style items (copper push-button switchplates, transom latches) and a few horrifyingly tacky things (a toilet shaped like a mermaid? Aw, Mom, how did you know? :)

Scrap happens

Got scrap?

Call Bob at L&K Scrap Metal. He's a crusty ol' fella who can heave a cast-iron sink better than a pup a third of his age.

Corroded interior of cast-iron drain pipe

Be ready to roll before you call.

Today I called him to pick up beat-up metal cabinets, sinks, screen doors and all the old plumbing pipe.

He shot back something in his particular mumble-holler.

"What?" I said.

Then, over the phone, I could hear the ding-ding-ding of his truck door opening, and I translated: "Be right there." Sure enough. Now that's service.

A bush called Sweetums

I have been trimming this monstrosity of a bush for years now.

The previous owner, "Aunt June," didn't leave her house anymore, so she asked me to tidy her flower beds.

This beast shoots out sprouts daily. Or at least it feels like it.

Its overgrown shape reminds me of this Muppet
(who I have now learned is named Sweetums and has its own wiki page. Ah, the Internet knows no bounds).

Yesterday my dad came with his trusty chainsaw and rid me of the beast.

(No Muppets were harmed in the making of this blog.)

That flower bed has lots of spring-blooming peonies, so I'll fill in with some low-maintenance, summer-blooming flowers instead of a six-foot bush that blocks the sidewalk every six weeks.

Tile that makes you smile

This week, Blair the contractor got the bathroom tiled. Wow.

The bathroom had only a tub before. We added a shower and used subway tile from Lowe's. This photo was before the white grout went in.
The floor are sheets of 3/4 inch square unglazed ceramic tile.
  • Advice from Blair: If the homeowner is crazy enough to want a square pattern in an old house where nothing is level, create your own starting point to lay the tile rather than using the walls as a guide. This will make your lines even.
  • More advice from Blair: Pale-colored grout on floors shows every speck of dirt.
  • Unglazed tile is good for wet areas because they are not slick like glazed. The color also is the same throughout the tile so if some moron chips the tile, it should be less noticeable.
  • Seal light-colored unglazed tile before grouting with darker colors to prevent stains.

When I told a neighbor touring the house about the floor tile, she said, "I was about to ask if it was the original floor." Could there be a better compliment?

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Clean slate

After demo 9-13-07

It's easy to forget how far we've come until I look at the old pictures and see they were taken only a few weeks ago.

The first mortgage payment was Monday. It's been six weeks since closing.

Since then, all the estate leftovers have been sold or donated. Demo is done. New plumbing and new furnace have been added. A roof leak was repaired, a bath exhaust fan installed. New plants are in the ground. The lawn has been power-raked and reseeded (thanks, Brit!). Lighting, paint and bathroom fixtures and tile have been purchased. Kitchen cabinets are in town, awaiting delivery.

Blair the contractor is nearly done drywalling, which included the main floor ceilings, entire bathroom and part of the kitchen.

And I'm nearly done with plaster patching on the main floor.

Not bad.