Monday, November 29, 2010

Thanksgiving Whirlwind

Thanksgiving this weekend equaled more time spent in the car than at the dinner table. This year I gave thanks for my This American Life Iphone app. We woke in the morning on Thanksgiving day, watched a little Macy's parade and headed up to Philadephia. What should have been two and a half hours, turned into four hours. Before we got to the relatives we stopped by the river to take in the view and have that awkward i've-been-in-the-car-for-four-hours stretch. When I looked down I saw this:

An actual message in a bottle! After some handy work we fished it out of the river's edge. I could see that there was an actual message in there, but there was also water in the bottle and some of the writing had worn off. It also looked like it was nonsense writing - or just some sort of script I couldn't understand. Either way, it was awesome but it ended up in the recycling bin.

After we stuffed our bellies with too much turkey and pie we drove up to New York City for the weekend and were lucky enough to have our 3-year-old niece to take care of for the weekend. So, you can imagine how time flew by!

Seven hours in the car to ride home to DC Rowhouse ended the weekend. Anyway, this was a long way of saying: Sorry, no updates on the house!

Monday, November 22, 2010


About two months ago, I went to turn off the hot water in the shower (we have a three handle system) and it just spun and spun. A little finagling and I managed to shut it off, but after a few times of that, it was done. There was no more grip. I popped the access panel and shut off the water. Since we have two full baths upstairs (a serious luxury in the city) I just started using the other one. No biggie. But, you can only let something sit for so long. Finally, I called a plumber. He came by and fixed it enough so I was able to use it, but the new handles I wanted would have to be special ordered. In the meantime, something was bugging me. . .

The tile behind the hot water trim had been cut too large . . . and there was a small hole exposed.  Since I had a little time, I decided to try and fix it myself. So, at first I had to remove the old trim. The hot water handle trim came out very easy since it was just replaced. The others, not so much. It took a hammer drill to get the stripped screw out of the diverter (the handle that changes the water from the tub to shower and vice versa), but the cold water trim wasn't budging.

I organized all my friends:

After removing the screw with great difficulty, I could not get the trim off the stem. It was rusted on there. I sprayed it with WD-40 and tried to use a wrench to pry it off. After about three times of this, it finally worked. But the stem broke off with the trim. No big deal since it was going to be replaced anyway. I have no idea if this is how you're suppose to do it - but it worked for me!

I broke out the second tile. It's always such a strange feeling to break things in your own house. This was especially disconcerting since it could break the tile next to it and cause more problems.

Thankfully, it didn't and I was able to replace the two tiles.

Then, I was able to grout:

And, make a parts graveyard:

Then, the pros came back and finished it off.

Looks good right?

Later on, we'll have to re-grout the whole shower (something I expected to do a while back). But for now, at least we have an actual working shower.

*We used O'Neill Plumbing, 703-655-0071. They specialize in emergency work. Last year they came out on pretty short notice when we couldn't get the main water connection to shut off. You can see their great Yelp reviews HERE.

** As always, DC Rowhouse was not paid or perked by the service provider. I get lots of inquiries on who we hire and I'm happy to recommend the ones who we like.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Those are some mighty big boards you have. . .

One of the next projects is to replace the deck boards, and build new railings/privacy walls.  Two years ago we took the yard from this:

To this:

But, we didn't replace the deck boards at the time. We had already gone over budget on the project and this seemed like one of those things we could do ourselves that just didn't need to done all at once. But, here we are, two years later and they still look like this:

So, what's the problem? Well, our deck is about 16' long, and it would be best to put down 16' boards. And, we would only need about 15-20 boards. No big deal. The problem is getting the boards to the house. When we purchased our car, we (and by "we" I mean "me") failed to thoroughly check out it's hauling capability. We came to find out a week or so later that our trunk looked like this:

See that small door way in there? That little door allows you to put skis in your trunk. But, the seats don't fold down. So. . . no way 16' boards are fitting at all. Unless, I plan to have 12' hanging out of the trunk and I think DC police would have a small problem with that.

Next option? Delivery. Home Depot charges a flat fee of $75 for delivery. Which, just seemed a little annoying considering that would be about 25% of the material cost. Frager's (which, if you haven't been there, you should go) would charge $35.

Second option: Zipcar. Now, I've have my share of annoyances with Zipcar. But, you really can't beat the convenience. So, for about $12, I can rent an SUV or pick-up for an hour. Now, I understand that a 16' board is not going to fit in the 6' bed of a pick-up. But, I think we can figure out a way to get them in an SUV with a red flag hanging on the back.*

You can see how this simple project has been put off for so long. But, the goal is to finish it in the next few weeks - or, at least before it starts to snow.

*The last time I did this didn't work out so well. I was transporting a ladder back to the house (the ladder was bright red and was about 3 feet out of the trunk, but no flag on it) and a woman rear-ended me THREE times in a row at two stop signs. She kept hitting the ladder which would rock my car back and forth. I actually had to get out of the car and give her a clue . . .I'll admit it wasn't my finest moment. But, really? Who doesn't notice when they hit something with their car? I let it go the first time . . . but by the third time it was a teensy bit irritating.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Working with Contractors

I think everyone feels a little bit uneasy allow a virtual stranger (unless you've worked with them on many projects) into your home to simultaneously break things and fix them. All the while leaving you wondering if the work is being done well and if your being robbed blind.  Or, let's face it, if they are peeking in your medicine cabinet or judging you for not putting that plate in the dishwasher. Just me? OK then.  In the past two weeks we've had a few guys in my house for different jobs or quotes. It got me thinking about how many times I've done that.

To date, DC Rowhouse has hired 15 different contractors (this doesn't include all the quotes and surveying work) of one variety or another to work on our precious abode. I have to tell you, it's exhausting. In the beginning I interviewed several general contractors so we wouldn't have to hassle with finding a different person each task (and sometimes it takes 3 people for one project), but they were all either odd or really expensive. What's really expensive, one guy quoted us $120k for all the work we wanted. Um, no thanks. So I try to do any work I can and contract out things that are harder (plumbing, electric, physically demanding labor that my poor weak muscles cannot handle). Even if this means there have been more work boots on our floors than one could count.

But, having someone doing work means that progress is being made. Or, so you hope, right? So, I'll leave you with that . . . the anticipation of what's to come next.

Injuries Obtained

  • Sprained Toe/Foot: 1
  • Blood Blisters: 2
  • Splinters under fingernail: 1
  • Bird Shit on me: 1
  • Eye Injuries: 3
  • Burns: 0
  • Falls off ladder: 0 (this is because we don't have a ladder yet)
  • Headaches: too many to itemize
  • Broken Bones: 0
  • Bandages Needed: 5
  • Electric Shocks: 2
  • Stiches: 0
  • Bruises: way too many