Saturday, September 29, 2007

Don't Let Me Cuss!!

In his office, my Architecture school dean kept a drawing done by one of his small children. It was a passable portrait of himself, and in the speech balloon was written the plea, "Don't let me cuss!" Seems he tended to let it rip in front of the kids, and his son had drawn the picture to remind him not to.

Me, I don't have any kids to shelter from my bad language. But I don't want to cuss in front of myself, because that'd put me in a cussed state of mind and things are cussed enough as it is.

Though, under the circumstances--!!!

Here I have this appraiser coming. And the basement bathroom didn't look so good, especially not the shower. I don't know about you, this appraiser, or anyone else, but when I'm looking at a house, a dirty, scabby basement bathroom is a prime turn-off.

Here's the basement bathroom shower pan just before I moved in:*

Here's how nice it looked after I painted the concrete floor:*

But alas, here's how the shower looked four years later. I did my best in 2003 to prepare the surface, but under ongoing wet conditions the floor paint hasn't adhered 100%.
And then there were the rust stains on the grout. Disgusting.

So this evening I tackled the job. I intended only to clean off the iron stains and mold and touch up the bare spots after. I used a rust-removing cleaner on the grout joints. And I sprayed the tile down with a high-powered hose nozzle I bought this afternoon.

The tile now looks pretty good.

But the painted floor is a disaster. The reactive cleaner and the high-powered spray between them lifted most of the rest of the paint off, in some places down to the bare concrete.

Damn! Looks like something died on it, doesn't it?

Wouldn't be so awful if the paint were all gone, or if it were all stable. But it's not. A lot of what remains is loose underneath but I can't get it up with the wire brush or the scraper. Only spray, spray, and more spray does it, and I was already soaking wet and the bathroom and basement floor was getting flooded and my dear POs (whichever set of them it was that built this bathroom enclosure) didn't bring the wall tile all the way down to the concrete floor in the bathroom proper, and the standing water was already wicking up that half inch of exposed drywall and right up the wall. So I gave up for the night.

I hate it, but I think this calls for a half-assed, stop-gap job. Once the shower floor's dry, run over it one more time with the wire brush and the shop vac, then slam down a coat of primer and a couple coats of floor paint, just so it looks good. And hope the appraiser doesn't go stand in the shower, since this floor paint can't be walked on with shoes for seven days after.

Stop-gap is really what's called for. My plan is to put in unglazed ceramic mosaic. But I can't do that until something's done about the moisture that's seeping through the outside walls. I have an appointment with a waterproofing company rep on the 9th. The ironic thing is, if I can get the house appraised higher, I can get a bigger line of credit and I could swing getting the waterproofing done right away. But if the house looks in too much need of work, the line will be lower and I won't be able to do it!

(Did I cuss a couple of times up there? Yeah, guess I did. Damn.)________________________________________

*I forgot. I took those photos with the 35mm. I'll have to remember where I put the prints and scan them in.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Putting the Fear of God into Me

That is, if the god in question is Mammon.

But more on that anon.

I was going along, accomplishing a thing or two, but nothing ambitious or blog-worthy. Tied up the quince bush in the back garden so it wouldn't impale me on its thorns. Rigged up an arrangement with a bungee cord and a rock to keep the dog out of the Kitten Room while letting them come and go. Plodded along and finally, last Sunday, finished my file cataloguing and paperwork filing. Got the study dusted and vacuumed and put in order, hooray.

So did I immediately get back to woodwork stripping and other useful house renovation projects?

No. I made and canned tomato sauce (well, the fruit would have gone bad if I'd left it longer!). I spent a day or two trying to clean boot the operating system on my little laptop. I tabbed hanging file folders that needed it. I went to a lot of unavoidable meetings. I played with the kittens. I watched reruns of Rescue 911 on YouTube.

Anything but do anything significant to the house and grounds.

Until last night.

You see, yesterday morning I got a call from an appraiser. He's coming to look at the house this coming Thursday afternoon.

Panic in the streets!! The appraiser is coming in six days and my house is a falling-apart, torn-up mess!!

OK, Kate, think sensibly. There's no way the woodwork is getting stripped and refinished by Thursday afternoon. No way there will be new wallpaper up or decent tile or something down to replace the shabby vinyl on the kitchen and hallway floor. But there's a lot that can be and should be and must be done by then.

Like vacuum the blankets of pet hair and dust off the ceiling fans.

Check, did it last night.

And scrape the little tags of half-dissolved paint off the living room window and get the dirty drop cloth, etc,. cleared away.

Check, ditto.

And address curb appeal deficiencies. For example:

Today's task was edging the lawn, front and back. And yes, it was a lot faster and easier to do it this time, having undertaken the eight-hour marathon in June or whenever. And the Neutron edger attachment worked fine: once I'd put in a new string reel, I didn't have to stop and rethread broken edger string even once.

This is pretty, though I say it myself:

The Herbacious Border of the Future edged and semi-weeded:

I'd hoped to tackle my crazy bushes before nightfall. But sweeping up after always takes longer than you think, especially when you're working on cobblestone paving. Gotta get to those bushes before Thursday. And do something about the piles of landscape rock and fabric sticking up out of the front border. And clear the brush piles in the back away to the borough dump.

Why the sudden advent of an Appraiser? Not because I'm planning to put the house on the market; at least, not any time soon.

No, it's because my bank was eaten up by another bank, effective this past Monday. And I didn't like some of the new bank's terms and conditions.

So my checking account and I jumped ship to another financial institution. I also investigated transferring my home equity line of credit to said institution, since their ordinary interest rate is a good deal lower than what I'm paying now.

Buuuh-uht . . . ! If I can qualify, I can get 1% under current Prime, fixed. (Whoo-whoo!!) But going by the book, the value of the Sow's Ear falls short by a few thousand. The new bank is paying for the appraiser to come and see if the value might be scootched up higher.

Agreeing to that sure seemed like a good idea earlier in the week when I was on the phone with the loan officer. Now the appointment is made, I'm not so sure. There is so blinking much that screams out for attention around here. I think I'll be lucky if they don't appraise the house under the book rate, and refuse to transfer the line at all!

Whatever I can do to prevent that, I have to do. So for the next few days, I'll be sacrificing myself, my sweat, my muscles, and a great deal of money I don't really have to the great greedy god Mammon.

"Oh, great god Mammon, we bow before you! Grant us the blessing of a below-Prime interest rate! Salaamy, salaamy, baloney!"

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

There Goes the Neighborhood

About a month ago, my next-door neighbor casually mentioned that they were planning to put aluminum siding on their perfectly good (and recently-painted) wood-sided house.

Nothing happened for over two weeks. And I began to hope that maybe he was just joking. Or had thought better of it. Or something.

But no. The reprieve was due only to the steady rain we had all through the first two or three weeks of August. And two weeks ago, the sun came out and the vandals arrived, in the person of a crew from a nationally-advertised aluminum siding company. They proceeded over the next week and a half to hack off window mouldings, corner boards, and gable-end barge boards and brackets. They covered over storey-line trim, rafter-ends, and fish-scale shingles. Everything that made the neighbors' house interesting, distinctive, and even charming was gone, either destroyed or hidden from view.

I was shocked at how hard I took it. It made me physically ill to awaken at 7:00 AM to the sound of the workmen's pry bars and hammers. It was heart-wrenchingly painful to look out my stair hall window and see the desecrating strips of metal rise higher and higher in my field of view (They started on the side facing my house. Wasn't I lucky).

And what a joy (*rolls eyes*) it is to look out my kitchen window and be confronted with bad butt joints in the aluminum siding and inept mitre joints at the alumimum window trim, where before I'd seen the lively texture of the line and profile of the wood siding. And have you ever noticed how aluminum siding manufacturers press this ersatz wood texture on their product? It looks like something that's come unsanded straight from the mill, that no self-respecting old-time finish carpenter would ever allow to be seen on his work. Damn it, if you're going to engulf your dwelling with tin, make it smooth and sleek like tin and get it over with!

I wanted to vent my frustration in blogdom while the deed was being done, but I needed a telling After shot to make the point. And I wasn't able to get that until today. Didn't have the nerve to do it while the workmen were still there. Did not want to be asked what I thought of their job. Much less did I want the same question put to me by the neighbors.

But I got out with my camera this afternoon. Here's the exhibits in the case.

Front of house, Before:
Front of house, After:
From the rear, Before:
From the rear, (almost) After:

So here you have it. What can my neighbors have been thinking?

By now my distress has flattened out towards dull, fatalistic acceptance. It helps if I keep my glasses off while I'm on that side of my house-- I don't notice the tacky workmanship quite so much. And I tell myself that if my otherwise sane, sensible neighbors wanted to renounce their cute house with its character and live in a boring metal box just like every other metal box up and down this wide land of ours, that's their business and their loss.

It's my loss, too. But here's one bright spot, I suppose: I no longer have the ugliest house on the block.