Friday, April 27, 2012

All it needed was some work.

I met one of our new neighbors today. He said that he and his sweetie checked in on the house we are working on while it sat abandoned a year ago, and that they both came away with the same impression--one we have heard from just about everybody who has come by the place. "It looked like it was really nice at one time, and it could be again, but it would take a year or two of full time work."

Day to day, I get frustrated at the pace of things: drywall mud takes too long to dry, the paint sprayer has a conniption that takes an hour and a half to fix, some shoddy carpentry that saved the builders a half hour costs me two days, and so on. But, making these problems took years. Why should fixing them take a week?  At the same time, I experience a feeling that I first encountered when I published my first scientific paper:  I remember reading a single short sentence, ending with "data not shown," explaining that a particular control had been performed and confirmed the expected result, and thinking, "that sentence took six weeks of hard work."

Here's some photos of one room, starting in December and ending today.

This is the room we purchased. The carpet was not in much better shape than the wallpaper.
A lot has been done, but it's hard to see. New windows have been installed--the leaky, single-paned originals swapped for double-paned, easily-moved new windows. Also, harder to see, the room has been rewired; there are two new outlets, and the existing outlet had been replaced and all properly grounded. The carpet was easy to remove; the wallpaper considerably less so.
The general consensus is that there was a square of linoleum or carpet that had been anchored down here; the floor underneath had never, ever been finished. A new light fixture has been installed to replace the kind of industrial fluorescent tubes. A two-inch hole has been drilled in the space between every stud, and cellulose insulation has been blown in. So, each hole needed to be patched with a wood plug, tape, two layers of drywall mud and one layer of finishing mud.
Skilled professionals did the sanding. The same skilled professionals did the varnishing. The only traces of this room's former ugly floor are a few hard-to-see-unless-you-know-they're-there tack holes from the carpet. The fir just glows.A drop cloth covers the now-very-expensive floor.  The holes in the wall are patched; they've been painted over with a primer with grit in it to match the texture of the original lath-and-plaster walls. A great deal of caulk has been applied (such is life with 80-year-old plaster; even the tiniest crack benefits from some flexy caulk).  The ceiling has been primed and painted (Benjamin Moore "Calming Cream"). The windows and trim have been masked, and the walls primed and painted with two coats (PPG "Sorbete de Melone")--enough to hide the original pukey color.
The walls are all masked so that all the trim can be painted. It takes two coats of primer and two coats of paint (Benjamin Moore "Antiquity") to hide the hideous pink and green.

All the trim has been painted, and where the masking tape either leaked or tore off the existing paint, the touching-up has been finished. There is still more to do--paint the switch and plug plates, paint and install the 1/4 round of wood that goes between the baseboard and the floor, paint and hang the doors, install shelving in the closet--not to mention furnish the thing. But, it's still useful to step back and look at how far we've come. GAAAAGH! CHANGE IT BACK! NOW!!!!
Much better.


  1. I hope you intend to stay in the house forever with the amount of work you are doing. Will you both have time to 'do' Claremona this year?

  2. Kira--I don't really want to stay there forever, just a long time. I'm becoming aware that there will definitely be a point at which I won't be able to maintain the property the way it deserves to be looked after. The previous owner had long passed this point, but I feel like I owe it to the place.

    We're definitely going to Claremona, wouldn't miss it for the world. I won't be as prepared as I should be, but it will be a nice break. Hey--would you like I learn some piano accompaniment for y'all?