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Friday, March 27, 2015

Gas Meter BADLY located....well, let's move it!

Imagine if you will...the meter was between those posts.
This property had a gas meter that, in my opinion, was so poorly located on the property, it was a potential danger. However, the family thought I was wasting money.  They were just used to it being right to the house EMBEDDED IN A NARROW DRIVEWAY where a car could easily hit it.  The meter was SO poorly located that when my mother-in-law moved out of the house and renters moved in, my husband did have concrete pillars installed on either side of it to try to protect it. Yeah, good thing because the pillars were hit more than once.

Like many things, I had a fight on my hands.  But it was a fight I was not going to lose.  Because if I lost it, we could die.  It MUST move.  And MOVE it did.

Now, to move a gas meter, you have to solicit the help of your local gas utility company.  This is NOT a DIY proposition.  Call the professionals.  Pay the money.  Just do it.  I believe I got lucky with my request.  I was charged under $1000 to have this done.  Granted, I was installing all gas appliances, 2 gas furnaces etc., so I was a great risk since I was a good gas customer.

From the images below, you can see it was a BFD. Not only did the gas meter have to move, but in order to move it, they had to change the tap across the street.  That was where the main trunk line to our house began.  There was something about changing the black pipe out because of new codes...I'm not sure.  I was all for the change so we wouldn't blow up.  In addition to all of this, the gas service had to run to the opposite side of the house because our upstairs furnace would need access to it. Lucky for us, my in-laws had run gas over there to a fireplace that exists on that side of the house.  So the HVAC contractors just had to tap the line on that side.

The guys in the picture below are standing over the meter in its old location.  Those two windows to the left of them are the windows to the carport shed where the furnace for the downstairs area was to be located.  Remember, this is a split level house.  There are two attics.  The attic seen here, then the elevated attic on the other side of the house.

There is some coordination with the HVAC company installing the new system.  The HVAC system can be installed, so waiting for the meter to move didn't hold them up.  But completion can be delayed if you don't coordinate this right.

So....To sum up....if your gas meter is a potential hazard....move it.  But if you do, do it in the beginning of the project.
Nice hole in the ground!

See all those trucks?
They were all there for my little gas meter move.

My neighbors just LOVE me!
That is the dig to get to the main tap across the street.

Voila!  A whole lot of people.  A whole lot of work.  But it is done!

Friday, March 20, 2015

You need a trustworthy HVAC contractor - Total Comfort Systems

When you need HVAC repair or want to change your whole system, call Total Comfort Systems.  Eric Givens has a staff of professionals that go above and beyond.
One of the first things we did was replace the old, huge all-in-one unit. It was past its prime.  And it was HUGE.  It took up way too much real estate on the back patio.

Behold.....the big ass HVAC unit/real estate hog......

The big ass, ugly, loud HVAC unit

It's gone!  It's gone!
Thanks to TCS who hauled it away.
The way the back of the house is configured, eliminating this monster of a HVAC unit would allow for a patio area.  It would also allow for an easier access door for the crawl space.

Since we replaced the system, we moved the outside units (it is a split level, so we had 2 units installed.  One for downstairs.  One for upstairs.) to the left side of the house, away from sight and makes it easier to service.
The new home for the 2 HVAC units.
Now, having said all this, you have to understand, we are talking about a home built in 1968 that always had floor vents, only 1 inefficient HVAC unit, and inefficient ductwork.  When you improve the current set up and re-orient all vents and ducts as well as the outside units, you need a professional who knows how to do this.  You need a TEAM of people to do this.  And, most importantly, you need to do this when your house is gutted.  I can't imagine trying to do this while living in the property.  As a matter of fact, I'm not sure you could.  The amount of debris alone would make this nearly impossible.  Since the whole house was about to be gutted anyway, we chose to have this done in the beginning of the remodeling project.  I highly recommend this.  It makes a BIG ASS mess.  But in the end, it is VERY worthwhile.

Here are a few pictures of the project during.  They aren't sexy, but hey....if you took the time to read this far into the post, you must be thinking about doing this to your house.

This is the downstairs coat closet (entryway) before demo.
This was where the old return was.

This is the downstairs coat closet in the entry after demo.
This where the original return was located.
We chose this as the location of the new return as well.

This is the ceiling in the downstairs bathroom.  It is
directly behind the coat closet (separated by a wall & a shower).
This is the beginning of the new ductwork.
The duct work, supply line, condensation pipe, and main
electrical trunk had to be tucked in the ceiling of the downstairs
bedroom.  This will be boxed in later by drywall. This room is directly
across from the bathroom in the previous picture.
Standing in the same room, looking left, that is an exterior wall.
Actually, it is THE exterior wall in the picture posted above (from the outside).
This is where all those tubes, pipes and wires hanging against the brick
originate.  At this point in the project, I can stand in this room and see daylight through the
conduit.  This room is slightly below grade about 3 feet.
This is the master bathroom before.  This vent was in the wall.  Other than the basement/den
area, there were few wall vents.  Most all the other vents were in the floors.

This is the shed at the front of the carport.  The downstairs heating system went
in this shed (to the right).  This is a shot of all the ducts and insulation before installation.

Seriously...People in the Construction Arts RETURN YOUR PHONE CALLS AND SHOW UP WHEN YOU SAY YOU WILL

Let me say this about that......
In this remodeling project, I have learned one truth.  Few people who work in the construction arts like the telephone.  They don't like returning phone calls.  They aren't known for their love of email. Promptness isn't always a priority.  And many don't show up at all.  Unreliability is more common than many would like to admit. that is more than one truth.

Of course, this isn't true of all of them....THANK GOD!  Those contractors who do follow-up, return calls, return texts, return emails, and do their best to be where they are supposed to be at the time they promise, will make a great living.  These professionals are like the white unicorn farting rainbows in the forest of candy houses.

I have an excellent contractor.  I found other tradespeople through Angie's list and word of mouth. My suggestion to everyone who is attempting to build, repair or remodel a house: do your homework. And if someone doesn't call you back or show up.....move on.  There are only so many second chances in life.....and in construction.
That is all.
Carry on.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

So, you need to buy appliances?

Samsung 5600 5 Burner Gas Range
Appliances, you love them, you need them, you are indifferent about them....yada, yada, yada.  One thing is fo' sho', buying them is a pain in the ass.

We needed just 5 appliances for the new/old house.  We need a gas range, dishwasher, range vent hood, washer and a dryer.

Being good consumers, Mr. I and I looked at every review we could find on Amazon, Google, and Consumer Reports.  For every top rated Bosch dishwasher rating I found on Consumer Reports, I found a big number of people who hate it on Amazon, Home Depot and other sites. It stinks inside.  It broke the first week.  Their customer service get the idea.  Who do we believe? Used to be that CR was the be all and end all of unbiased testing.  And their information is still very important, but so are the reviews of actual owners.  And there are times when the CR reviews are in direct opposition to the reviews of owners. Confused, much?

When it comes to reviews, I rarely read the good ones.  Of course, I look at the over view and count the stars that they receive, but I figure it is more informational to just skip to the bad reviews.  You can get a good idea if the problem the reviewer has is "operator error" or true consistent problems for the brand.  We all know that the good reviews are just that, good.

I'm just here to tell you, this is stressful.  Did we get the best deal?  The best value?  The best warranty?  The best ratings?  Hell, at the end of the day, you do your best, buy what you can afford and just move the fuck on.  At least that is what I'm telling myself.......Self, you have how many buying decisions to make with this move and you and Mr. I are worrying over $200 on a dishwasher?
Self, move the fuck on.

So, we ended up with the Samsung 5600 5 burner gas range and a KitchenAid Midrange Architect Series KDTE104DSS dishwasher.  We bought them both at Home Depot.  They were on sale, of course.  But we added a warranty (don't get me started about the mixed feelings I have about those) so the cost was raised the range by $135 and the dishwasher $112.50.  It is a 5 year warranty from Home Depot (a company they hire, anyway), which we have never used before.  Sears extended warranties are the only ones we have historically had luck with, but we are going to try the HD warranty.

As you can tell through this blog, I will give you prices when I can.  I just don't see the point in trying to hide the prices.  We all want to know what things cost.  Remodeling a house is difficult at best. Let's just all talk and write about it honestly.

That is all.
Carry on.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

The Carport Chronicles: Converting a Carport to a Garage

When deciding to downsize and remodel this house, Mr. I and I knew we were going to miss many things about our old house.  The lot, the views, the privacy, and the 2 car oversized garage.  Our new place has a carport.  Now, it is an attached carport, which is very nice.  When funds will allow, we plan on enclosing it.

We will install a door that leads inside the house from the carport.  We will also install a door that closes off the breezeway/front porch at the front of the carport.  We did this for security and to keep our dogs in the Invisible Fencing (more on that later) that is laid out in a figure 8 formation so that the dogs can only go in the front if we invite them.

The other trick for this idea to come together is preserving the beautiful brick wall.  This house was built in 1967 and the wall is a Mid-Century lattice type brick installation.  You can see from the picture that the bricks are spaced in such a way it allows breezes to blow in.  But with the breeze, comes the rain, the birds and the other critters that can inhabit the space.  We love the wall.  It is one of our favorite parts of the house.  So, we are thinking about how to meet the challenge that it presents.

Ideas include, but are not limited to, another brick wall, glass (clear or stained glass) cut for each of the open squares, wood framing with exterior siding that rests up against the brick/lattice, glass blocks in the open holes, large sheets of acrylic attached to block the weather, but still allow light in....the ideas are there, but the money...not so much.  Each idea presents challenges.  It will be awhile before we do anything.  However, I have to start thinking about it.  That is just what I do.

The first idea is the one I actually took the time and energy to collect estimates on.  I contacted a company we have used before for foundation repair on another property.  Pro-Lift is a great foundation repair company.  They employ dedicated workers who work both quickly and efficiently. They are creative with solutions and reasonably priced.  Johnny Spies, owner of Pro-Lift, recommended a place to search for brick, Southland Brick and Block.  We have to purchase a similar brick to the existing brick, if we want to do this both correctly and aesthetically pleasing.  We want to honor the wall, and the house.  If we do this, we would have the wall built in a solid style just inside the current carport wall.  Hopefully, this wall would compliment the lattice style, yet keep the elements out of the garage.

Although Johnny was busy, he recommended a friend of his, Craig Smith, to come out and measure. We needed to get someone who could give us an idea if the idea could even work.  One of Craig's first concerns was water getting trapped between the walls.  There is room for drainage, but this could be a problem.

One of the best brick masons I've ever seen is employed by Johnny.  Paco.  Excellent work.  Paco came out and gave us an estimate.  It was a fair price, $3500, but it was more than we could spend on that part of the house right now.

Stay tuned for more pictures.  I would have posted them here, but I'll be damned if I can find them.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Southeastern Salvage, how I love thee. Let me count the ways.

Do you like funky furnishings?  Do you like shtuff that is well priced, plentiful and makes you stop in your tracks, slap yourself on the forehead and shout, "Why haven't I been shopping here every week to support my hoarding habits?" Hang on to your fedoras, because I have the store for you.  If you live in the Nashville area, travel to the Nashville area, know where the Nashville area is on a map, or know how to call Nashville, do yourself a favor and go to Southeastern Salvage (address below).

I have visited several times back when they first opened.  However, at the time, I didn't find anything noteworthy.  Times, they be a changin'.  All I can say is W.O.W.  You need kitchen cabinets?  Tile? Flooring?  Dog beds?  A big ass coffee table made from a recycled oil drum? Knick Knacks and Paddywhacks? You name it, you can probably find it here.  My contractor suggested I visit the place again.  I finally took his advice.  Glad I did.

I found the best liquor cabinet with a colorful distressed finish that is solid wood.  The colors are going to match the color treatment I will be putting on the wood paneling in the den.  Stay tuned for that unveiling.

We also found some great butcher block counters and shelves at a great price.  Two of the slabs of butcher block will be joined together and I plan on begging a talented friend to cut out a teardrop shaped table height attachment to our island/peninsula.  We will also use one of the slabs to make a "raised bar" area attached to our stainless steel counter on the open area between the kitchen and the living room.  It sounds weird, but I think it is going to be neat once I get it out of my head, off the graph paper and see it in real life.  Stay tuned.....

Butcher Block shelves $18
Butcher Block counters $145

Distressed Liquor Cabinet $689
Southeastern Salvage Address and phone number: Address: 2728 Eugenia Ave #109, Nashville, TN 37211

Friday, March 13, 2015

Countertops - Oh The Choices

I want a really groovy, funky, fun kitchen.  I don't want to pay an arm and a leg for it or sacrifice my retirement.  After all, part of our 10 year plan (Yeah....apparently I was supposed to have these throughout my life.  Oops.) was to get out of debt as quickly as possible.  Hence the downsizing to a smaller home.  The fact that this home has been part of the family for 47 years and we are buying it from the family - bonus.  The fact that this puppy needs upwards of $60K in INFRASTRUCTURE alone, BEFORE we even touch a remodel on all the rooms, well, that was a surprise-ish.  Wait...what was my point?

Oh, I want a really groovy, funky, fun kitchen.  I don't want to pay an arm and a leg for it or sacrifice my retirement......

Part of this kitchen plan that Mr. I and I have thought up (design is such a fancy pants word), was something really different for the counters of the island/peninsula that coordinates with the other counters, but doesn't match.  We ran through many ideas.  One of the many was to have an under-lit counter with L.E.D. lights and a translucent top.  Oh, the ideas that ran through my head.  Mr. I thought this would be really cool.  I did to.  But, the materials to make this happen, well....actually I found many sites that talk about this.  There is glass, acrylic, Corian, quartz and many other translucent materials that would make it work.  However, how much money can you afford?  Take a gander at some of the products I found just through the magic of Pintrest and Google (I have linked the images from whence they came for both your convenience and to send these fine companies business):

Corian Under Lighting and Illumination
Corian by Dupont

Glass Counters with Illumination Under Glow

Back to cost.

Corian: the translucent and solid surface can cost upwards of $120 per square foot.
Glass: Tempered to be used as counters (the thicker the more expensive) is upwards of $200 - $250 per square foot.
Avonite: Acrylic engineered translucent solid surface around $50 per square foot
Quartz: $120 - 175 per square foot
Compare that to granite which is anywhere from $30 - $300 per square foot depending on the grade, design, thickness....yada, yada, yada. (Note to reader, I'm not a fan of granite, however, there are a few pieces that have stopped me in my tracks.  But to turn my head, it usually cost my wallet dearly.  Read on for details.)

Needless to say, all of this stuff is EXPENSIVE.  I know there is a creative way to accomplish this effect, and I haven't given up on it, but I think I will start small.  A small bathroom vanity top or even a DIY side table or coffee table would be a good place to start to experiment with this idea.  Probably a better idea than trying to do a counter first.

I visited Creative Countertop Solutions in Nashville today.  This is the place in Nashville to find the most creative and luxurious countertop materials.  They had their front counter in under-lit Corian.  They had a beautiful quartzite bar with under mounted lighting.  They sell glass counter tops, recycled glass countertops, counters made of everything from Avonite to  amethyst.  Prices from $50 per square foot to $700 per square foot or more.  If you want something different, you have a nice healthy budget, and you need some ideas for residential or commercial applications, visit their showroom.  Ask for Don Gill.  He's quite the renaissance man who tells great stories and shares wonderful ideas and a few pictures of his past art adventures.  Although we went a more affordable know that damn 10 year plan and all....if I had the money, I'd just go let Don sell me all the gorgeous counter solutions that money could buy.  And they have more WOW stuff than you can shake a stick at.  But.....I have to be practical.  I don't need to go down with the black Aphrodite granite strapped to my back.  I want to live to be debt free.  But DAMN are there some beautiful solutions up in there.

So, we'll see how my cost effective solutions make my kitchen unique, comfortable and user friendly. Won't be long now before we start the project.

Kitchen Designers: I'm not one and I don't even play one on TV

A rainy Friday the 13th. What wisdom do I have to impart today? Glad you asked.

I think a good designer can save you money. They can open your eyes to colors, styles and ideas that you might have never known enough to know you didn't know you might like. And when it comes to the details that are involved in a kitchen remodel, many people should take sage advice from many other people and hire a designer.

Having said that, I didn't hire one.  Saving money?  Professional drawings?  Professional design practicalities?  What fun is that? Why in the world would I want that when I can risk fucking it up royally to begin with?  I mean really.....

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Replacement Windows - The New Aluminum Siding

Remember in the 50's and 60's when the salesmen called Tin Men pushed aluminum siding down the throats of many an unsuspecting homeowner?  Hell, they even made a movie about them.   Yeah, even if you are too young to actually have been alive during their heyday, surely you have heard of them.  Well, let me just say, replacement windows and many of the people who sell them, remind me of the siding salesmen of days gone by.

What a freaking racket.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Construction Arts

Here's what I believe is the truth about many people working in the construction arts:

1.) I have had both good luck and bad luck hiring people in this chosen profession. If you have hired, or tried to hire, anyone to do repair work or construction projects, I'm sure you have your own stories, both good and bad.  I'll leave it at that. 
2.) Only a chosen few understand business etiquette including, but not limited to, returning calls, showing up when they are scheduled. And apologizing when they stand you up.
3.) Warranties, from many that we have hired, are simply sales tools and mean ABSOLUTELY nothing. Don't spend extra money for them.  If they offer it as part of their service, of course you need to take it.  Hopefully, they will honor it.  Cross your fingers.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Ice Damming

Result of Ice Damming (really it is DAMNING) on a ceiling.
Please... Someone see ‪#‎Jesus‬ in my water damage
so I can sell tickets and pay to fix it. 
This is what Ice Damming....damn it.... looks like the day after.
Dearest Fellow Nashvillians.... And anyone dealing with ice damming.... In the rain after the icepocalypse,
Here's what I learned:
  1. Call your roofer. Make sure you are one of the first calls in his voice mail. I say this because it is Saturday. Your roofer is not going to call you back.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Embarking on a new "Adventure"

Things are about to change.  There, I said it.  I wrote it.  I accept it.....well, some days are better than others.

We are about to downsize.  As much as we like our house, it is time to move on.  We have our reasons for doing this.  I won't bore you with the excuses, right now anyway.  I also won't bore you with the past 2 or 3 months worth of roller coaster emotions involved in a decision of this magnitude. Suffice it to say, although I swore I wouldn't move again, we are moving.  Not far, just a few minutes away from our current neighborhood.  But for us, it may has well be another state.

What can I say?  We have become very rooted people.  We stay put.  We've decided to change that.

So, I might as well get on with it.