Monday, August 29, 2011

Retaining Wall: Yep. We're those neighbors. all started out pretty innocently. "Hey, let's pull weeds in the front yard" leads to "Hey, let's mow the lawn" leads to "Hey, why not replant the lawn?" and finally "Hey, let's dig out half the lawn and replace it with an over-engineered, cantilevered footing and retaining wall made of concrete masonry units!" Yeah! Sounded like such a great, poorly planned out idea. Not that it didn't need to happen, but a 60' long, 30" tall wall is not exactly an afternoon project. So yeah. We became "those neighbors" as seen in the picture. Dirt piles. Caution tape. Rebar sticking up from the ground. Yep. That's us. For 4 months now.

OK. So it's not all our fault. We're not just sitting on our butts waiting for the wall to build itself. But we've got the funds and have been working double time. The husband ends up really enjoying digging holes.

I know you're probably wondering where those famous step-by-step instructions are. Well don't you worry your pretty little heads. I've got 'em.

Step 1: Get an idea of what you're getting into. We didn't. We now have an unexpected water feature along side our sidewalk.

Step 2: Draw it out. If you just so happen to be taking architectural record exams, well then you'll want to over-engineer that bad boy enough to hold back a 50' high wall. After all, what better way to study?

Step 3: Dig.

Step 4: Dig.

Step 5: Dig more.

Step 6: Lay down your rebar and steel mesh to keep the foundation solid.

Step 7: Go to Home Depot and get 15 bags of cement because you're an idiot and think that will be enough for your footing. Then go back 6 more times to get more cement, because no matter how much you get, it is NEVER enough. Then, learn your lesson and order a truck for the next batch of footing because mixing cement is the biggest pain in the ass ever.

Step 8: Let it dry.

Step 9: Start laying CMU (concrete masonry unit aka cinder block) as if you know what you're doing; even though you haven't a bloody clue.

Step 10: Have a century-year-old neighbor stop by who just so happens to be an ex-mason. Have him/her look at your work. Laugh at your feeble display of workmanship. Then show you up and sling mud like one BAMF. Hang your head in shame. Learn. Rinse. Repeat.

Step 11: Finish the first 20' feet or so. Fill unnecessarily with concrete in every other CMU cell to further the "over-engineered" mega wall theme. Stop all work for several weeks, just to see how long your neighbors will take this new eyesore before telling you off at the local homeowners' association meeting. Also, be sure to keep dangerous rebar sticking up out of the ground to increase the level of white trash while simultaneously leaving you liable when (not if) the neighbors' cat impales itself one evening while on patrol.

Note to reader: the yellow caution tape really adds to the white trash mystique you have constructed.

As usual, I'll have to say: stay tuned. We're not done. But we will be. God help me and the neighbors. We will be soon.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Where the Magic happens...

No. We didn't die. Our house wasn't blown away in some freak storm. Rather, we got lazy and haven't updated the blog. Good news is, you haven't missed much. Like everyone, the economy hit which has tightened our belts and slowed process, but we're back baby. We're working on new projects and cutting costs by cutting corners and doing shoddy work! I jest. We're just pacing ourselves. Note to readers: one thing that's changed since last we chatted, Kenny and I got married. There was a wedding, a cake and a gigantic squirrel! (not pictured)

Okay, so today we're gonna talk about that special place where aaaaall the magic happens. Awwwww yeah. That's right kids. It's our master bedroom. The master of all bedrooms. Bow, chicka wow wow. Yeah. Okay, I'm done with the sexual innuendos. So we're nearing completion of this room, but before I show you where we're at, I'd like to show you where it started. Ya see, we're pretty sure that this space used to be a make-shift geriatric dungeon. There was a hookup in the corner of the room up high where a tv was mounted, a button for the ambulance, and that telltale musty smell of moth balls, mildew and ribbon candy. It could only be one thing. Yep. Old people. Now I know what you're thinkin'. Leslie--how can any magic, softly serenaded by my man Barry White singing "Can't Get Enough of Your Love Baby?" possibly occur in pad doused with grandma-scented febreze? C'mon guys. Trust me. We're gettin it there.

It didn't come easy though. In fact, the first time we tried to do any minor updating in there was the first time we realized what a major job we had ahead of us. Note to reader: there are NO QUICK JOBS in a hundred-year-old home. NONE. Still wanna take on your own hundred year project. As always, I'd like to offer you some simple step-by-step instructions:

Phase I - For most intensive bed-rockin adventures above, ensure highest level of foundation structural integrity below.

Step 1: Try to clean out a closet, have your foot drop through the floor (which you later find out was constructed of rotten joists and old carpet), and end up having to rip out all the plaster and replace the flooring.

Step 2: You don't think that floor disintegrated on its own do ya? Now you have to replace some joists under your house in a 14" high crawl space. Can't fit under there? No worries, send your smaller, cuter significant other in there to build new brick peers and jack up a 6 x 8 beam to support your sagging floor. What's really fun is, right when s/he's about to lose her sh*t b/c of a sudden case of claustrophobia, refuse to help her crawl completely out until AFTER taking a picture of her. Don't worry. I'm sure she'll see the humor of it all when you explain to her that she looked a lot like a witch with a house on top of her while she desperately tried to claw her way out from the depths of your home. Yeah. She'll really think it's freakin' hilarious. Call her the "Wicked Witch of Westview".

Now that you have the floor steady and ready to support some serious live load (awww yeah), you're ready to hit the inside. What comes next? Stay tuned...

An additional note: We had the foundation repair quoted to us by a various professionals and if memory serves, they varied wildly from $4K-$20K for a 15' stretch of repointing/relaying of brick. That did not include the extra piers we chose to lay underneath. While you may not be comfortable doing it yourself, definitely do your research and go on a SOLID recommendation. It seems to me that there are a lot of people out there that don't know what they're doing (ridiculously lowball offers) and a lot of guys out there who would love to take advantage of any job with the word "foundation" in it (ridiculously high ball offers). On the bright side, masonry underneath your house doesn't have to be pretty...just sound. And now I can say I know how to lay brick.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Kitchen Reno: One and a half years and counting...

I know what you're thinking. And honestly, I don't know how you've lasted this long without one of our awesome and extremely informative house blogs. Well, no worries, cause here it is. The continuation of our seemingly never-ending kitchen reno has really earned a special place in our hearts. Seriously. There's nothing better than having a half-finished, half-functioning, highly utilized space. Awesome.

So let's see. Where were we? Oh yes. Culinary awesomeness. Melting faces. The concrete! So we closed up the wall on the exterior, through up some ick-ea (Ikea) cabinet frames and poured our own concrete countertops. Not as easy as you may think. Thankfully, we had the Yoda of concrete helping us for our first time. Oh, and when I say "us", I mean Kenny. Although we had several pictures of this process, someone skeeved my computer, and alas, I have lost the physical memory. But let us try and recreate the process. There was Nate (concrete Yoda) and Kenny in rural, humid, Florida pouring 100 pound per linear foot slabs of quickcrete. What might that have looked like?

I guess we'll never know. Anyway, the concrete turned out great. Kenny and Yoda hauled it all the way up from Florida on a trailor (busted three tires under the weight, I believe). Then we hoisted them up on top of the cabinets, sealed them with epoxy and added in some kickin florida cypress detailing. I admit, Kenny had to sell me on it, but I really love it. Who knew two architects could come up with a design for their kitchen without killing each other?

Next step was to build and install the florida cypress plank doors, Ick-ea glass doors and handles, and all of our new appliances. Needless to say, the kitchen has come a long way since the old yeti-infested gnome cave it was a year back. We still have a way to go, but it should be pretty freakin awesome when we finish up.

Now, back to you. How can you melt your friends' faces via an awesome reno? Well, get yourself a concrete yoda. Concrete not your thing? K. Perhaps a marble buddha, or a granite dalai lama. Regardless, it's good to have some reliable guidance in areas of construction when you may not know what the bleep you're doing. Got a tight budget? We do too. We saved money by using Ick-ea where you don't see it and spending on nice wood that was visible. We bought 12 x 12 tile for $5/sf and cut it down to 2 x 12 rather than spend $26/sf on the same style tile that was already cut down to the trendy 2 x 12. Looking for other ways? How about saving on the appliances. I have found that if you go far out enough from the perimeter of Atlanta, you can easily find low priced appliances in the yards of trailor parks, farm houses, and other delightful country dwellings. You may even get a tireless Chevelle out of the deal!

Come for the appliances.... ...leave with a hot rod!

Happy building! Until next time...

Thursday, February 5, 2009

When we first moved in, as previously stated, there was virtually no kitchen. This was a situation in need of remedy. Unfortunately, we're poor, so bringing in Candice Olsen was not an option. Fortunately, Kenny can bust a chop saw in the shop, and I can mud, sand, and epoxy concrete like a crazy mofo.

Thinking of remodeling your kitchen? Well do we have the thing for you! Follow these simple step-by-step instructions and you too can create a fierce culinary explosion of awesomeness that will melt your friends faces off from the sheer heat of its design spectacularity!!!!! (or at least you can tell everyone that it does and get a lot of cool points)

Step 1: Take a good look at what you've got and decide if it's in your best interest to start from scratch. We decided it was for us because of a couple of reasons...

Exhibit A: The existing space was infested with evil, miniature yetis. Cute and ferocious as they may be, these little guys just aren't very sanitary. They shed.

Also, you may notice that the cabinets were installed upside down. That's right...upside down.

And of course we've discussed the sink in the middle of the floor thing.

Exhibit B: The evil gnome door had us a bit concerned. Although we never actually saw any gnomes emerge from this door, we really didn't want to chance it. So we sealed it up.

Step 2: Okay, so you've decided to destroy your existing kitchen. Congratulations! So did we. The next step is to demolish as many exterior walls as possible. We did this at first because we thought it would be fun. It ended up being a good thing because we got to switch our exterior door to the other side of the wall for better traffic flow, and we got to insulate the wall (something you old house dwellers all covet). We also discovered that the studs in the existing wall were literally hanging from the roof. There was no sill plate. The wall was literally swinging in the breeze. Again, a special thanks goes out to the previous contractors' work. Bravissimi.

Note to homeowner: If you live in a "transitional" neighborhood, for security sakes, you might wanna make sure that this part of the demo/rebuild is completed within 24 to 48 hours. Securing the house with one wall missing has its obstacles. If you can't do this, try to collect as many random dogs as possible and line them up in front of the open space to deter any opportunistic punk who wants a taste of that culinary explosion of awesomeness we discussed (see above).

This sad pair of pups, who look like they came straight out of a Sarah McLachlan SPCA ad, are Gus the boxer and Tailspin the doberman. Don't they just reek of ferocity?

After we sealed the wall back up, things warmed up a lot. Then we were ready to start pouring our concrete counter tops. How did we accomplish such a feat you ask? Perhaps you should wait on the edge of your seat for the next awesome installment of kickass kitchen reno, also known as Step 3 (insert hard core fade out music).

Friday, January 30, 2009

Very, very, very fine house...

In October 2007 Kenny and I moved into our new house in Westview. In the words of an early 90's upstate New York youth: it was wicked cool. Not only does it have around 1600 SF of 90 year-old craftsmen bungalow awesomeness downstairs, but 1000SF of potentially habitable space upstairs.

As you see from the original pictures here, there is little to no kitchen, save a sink in the middle of the floor. Thank you idiot flippers who don't know what they're doing. Besides that, the house remained relatively untouched whereas many houses in the area have been broken up and turned into multi-family units over the decades.

Although we got a great deal on the house and it's extremely close to the beltline, it's still what the cobbers would refer to as a "transitional neighborhood". In other words, it's up and coming. I'm not so worried about someone busting a cap in my ass as much as I am concerned about the gang problems. That's right, we've got chipmunk gang issues. We got rid of a tree in the backyard which ended up being the 'munk mecca, and now I think they've got it in for us. More to come on that...

Anyway, take a look at the pictures of where we started and I'll follow up with some pictures showing the progress of our new kitchen!

I think our kitchen would have made Rachel Ray slit her wrists.

Our bathroom. Sleek, huh?

Extremely scary half bath that I have entered twice in the
year and a half we've lived here.

Dining Room
Living RoomMaster bedroom...aka attic
This is the extra lot on the east side of the house that we purchased.
Gus approves of this investment.