Monthly Archives: September 2008

forward and back again

The good news:

We got our trial box of wood flooring in. I actually like the oak much better than I liked the sample. Or else I’m just happy to have anything that looks remotely like progress (check out the finished outlet). Especially given exhibit two.

The bad news:

This is what our freshly painted master bedroom ceiling looked like on Friday night. Joe’s dad had called me at work earlier in disgust to tell me what you can plainly see: the primer and coat of white paint he had painstakingly applied (ceiling work is always a bitch) were peeling right off. The ceilings were the only thing we didn’t replace on the entire south side of the house. And naturally, that was a mistake. We suspected the primer, but it turned out to be the ceiling itself. Whatever it had been previously treated with had zero adherence and came off with a little water. The guys spent all day Saturday stripping and scrubbing away 50 years of old ceiling paint, until they were down to the drywall. Sigh. Nothing I like better than undoing work we’ve already done.

To complete the day, the box of hardwood we got was completely opened. And while nothing appeared to be damaged, we were missing three square feet. Heads are gonna roll Monday.


knock, knock

I’m feeling bitter today.

We got the quote for our interior doors, and it was three times what we were expecting. It would seem I haven’t lost my knack for picking the most expensive option available. The two-panel doors I finally brought Joe around on cost a crapload more than traditional six-panels we were quoted.

I was so depressed when Joe told me that I refused to even discuss it. I think for the first time in almost a year of battles, he actually felt sorry for me. I mean, I relented on the shower doors, settling for clear glass over the antique I really wanted (and which earned me a compliment on my good taste). Now I have to get boring, unattractive doors everywhere else too?

I mean, what is the point of building a house from the ground up if you can’t do a single thing you want? Here’s a list of things we haven’t been able to do so far. Amazingly, Joe can be blamed for none of this:

  • add a laundry room, because the cost of running plumbing was exorbitant
  • add a second bath or half-bath, for the same reason
  • have both a full size tub and washer/dryer because space is too tight
  • have real hardwood floors, because we’re on a slab
  • recess anything because the walls are 2-by-3 construction

This list is nowhere near complete, and it’s only for phase I. I don’t even want to think about what I’ll have to give up in the kitchen.

the final four

Floors. Doors. Paint. Trim.

This is my new mantra. These four things are all that’s left on The List before we can move in. And gee, after only one year of mortgage payments.

Nevermind that those four things might take an eternity. Or that, strictly speaking, there are more than four if you break it down into real tasks (order doors, sand doors, stain doors, hang doors, etc.) or add up the roughly billion hours Joe and I will spend fighting over each of them.

No, ignore those troubling bits of reality and repeat after me:

Floors. Doors. Paint. Trim.

the next big thing

You can tell fall is here. There are no denying the signs: Pumpkin Spice lattes are back on the Starbucks menu, I suddenly need chapstick again, and I’m back to attic work.

Now that temperatures are more bearable, I have to finish sucking the blown-in insulation out of the attic. I stopped with one back corner to go. The stuff is packed under the eaves and fills up the shop vac quickly, so having Joe there to empty it saves me from wriggling out of that awkward position every time.

It’s still tedious, but at least it’s a nice break from leveling and re-levelling the floors, which was a nice break from drywall. In a renovation, things are almost fun the first time you do them, but get more and more hated each consecutive time. Which is why, seven pours of self-leveller later, I can’t even stand to mix mashed potatoes.

But, for right now anyway, the attic holds the promise of satisfaction and accomplishment. Plus insulation, dirt, and an alarming amount of roofing nails.

orders of magnitude

The vague lack-of-progress feeling I mentioned last week continues. I’m sure a lot of it is just my impatience, because this week alone we accomplished two coups: We ordered our first box of Mannington hardwood so we can test out our newly levelled floors, and we ordered a medicine cabinet (yes, finally. finally, finally!).

This morning, we went to see a man about some doors. And talk about coups—it’s taken months, but I wore Joe down from traditional six-panel interior doors to the more stylish two-panel. His dad, an HGTV fanatic, helped. In fact, I’m sure it was his opinion, not mine, that swung the vote, even though, as I often remind Joe, he’s not going to be living with us. Once he finally gets us out of his house, he won’t even want to visit too often.

But ordering stuff isn’t the same as taking it home and installing it. Ordering is even a little depressing because we are getting to the big-ticket items, and even order placed is more money out of our bank account. A lot more money.

But if I think back to the 26 bags of self-leveller we bought, I guess I can at least be grateful that we’re now spending money on things we’ll actually see.

ah, insulation. we meet again.

I think it was a comment Roy made about us having a month to get the attic insulated that lit a fire under Joe because suddenly, he had to buy it. This, after months of me mentioning it on ever Lowes trip. Typical.

Because of prior commitments by all and the unforeseen, ungodly heat, we decided to make that our day’s work. Our local Lowes hadn’t had enough rolls but said the store closer to Joe’s parents had more than a hundred. Lucky thing we went there, because it was on closeout and we got it for a little over $15 roll. I didn’t even need a coupon.

The only problem was transporting it. We just barely fit the 19 rolls into Joe’s Blazer and my Toyota, and then, when it was all crammed in there for the 20-minute ride to the house, we discovered a horrible truth: It stunk. Literally.

As soon as we pulled into the drive, Joe asked me, “Does this smell like cat piss to you?” I had noticed a faint odor in the car, enough for me to crank the window, but when I sniffed one of his rolls I recoiled. It was a match for Boo’s litterbox. But damned if I was going to return it now. We stacked the rolls in the living room, in the space recently vacated by the last of our drywall.

Later, researching it, I read that this smell can happen when there’s too much of a certain chemical in the binder. Supposedly, it dissipates over time. I sure hope so. Or maybe I just invest in a dozen bottles of Febreeze?


When we pulled up to the house at the very contractorly time of 11 a.m., there was a red pickup truck parked out front. My heart leapt—Roy was here.

We hadn’t communicated with our contractor in months, but on Monday, I made the call. He was going to meet us Thursday night, but had to cancel at the last minute (Roy is one of the good ones, and it still takes at least two tries to set up a meeting).

We walked him through our progress and discussed the bathroom work, which he said he could get to in about two weeks. Two weeks! My excitement is barely containable. And it’s nice to be excited again, because finishing the electric was so anti-climactic. It always seems like there is just one more thing, and then one more, but none of it ever adds up to progress.

Although we did put the final pieces of drywall in the hall, so I can’t say no progress. But we are what, six months without a toilet that doesn’t wobble when you sit on it?

During Roy’s visit, the subject of Phase II was broached quite often, and I am frankly terrified of it. At a minimum, that’s a total kitchen re-do, and replacing the entire ceiling in the living room. I need a long break before I—and my bank account—are up to that.