Saturday, July 31, 2010

It's Curtains For You!

Okay, this post is going to be a little bit different....its all about curtains, drapes, window treatments what have you....


In a desperate attempt to get our daughter to sleep past 5:30am we surmised that maybe its the morning sunlight streaming into her room that is waking her up? Her room used to be a sun porch ya know. What if we could get 'blackout' curtains for her room? If it was dark would she stay asleep?

Off I head to our local Bed Bath& Beyond store.....now, I've never really ever in my life thought about curtains and it turns out I had A LOT to learn....luckily a kindly store employee took pity on me and helped me figure things out. Did you know that a curtain needs to be at least twice as wide as the window?



One thing I gotta say......'Holy Friggen Mackerel Curtains Are Expensive!!!' I guess that's why the standard window treatment in the ghetto is the ole 'tumb tacked bed sheet to the window trim'.


After what seemed like 30hrs staring at the clearance section this is what I came home with. Curtains for Tasha's room and for our room. The box of candy wasn't on sale but it was necessary none the less...as was the large mocha I was sipping in the store...without that caffeine I think I woulda strangled somebody...



This was an interesting find I thought. Curtain rods that are hinged to swing away from the window. I thought it would be the perfect thing to replace the curtain that we are using as the door to the nursery.



Here's the curtain that we're replacing.



And the new double layer curtain-door thingy.



Here's a shot of the 'door' open. One side blocks the light from the window on the door and that's not ideal...But we like how the other side blocks the view of all the ugly crap on the open shelf.



Here's what the old doorway looked like on a bright sunny day.



Here's what it looks like now! Success I'd say...



Here's what the original curtains looked like.




Here are the blackout curtains I bought to replace them. I should have another panel here as these are kinda stretched thin.



Here's a shot of the curtain rod I installed and the curtains open to prove what a lovely day it was.



Here's a shot with the curtains closed. The room really is, a lot darker now. But will it be darker enough?



Here's a shot of the original curtains in our bedroom. This is in the later afternoon so there's direct sunlight shinning through them. I didn't buy fancy curtain rods for in here...we're going to try to make due with just the tension rods.



Here's what it looks like with a double layer of 'light reducing' curtains....Its markedly better for sure but there is still a lot of light streaming in around the edges.






Wow, I spent almost an entire Saturday dealing with curtains!...

Will it work? Will the rooms be dark enough to keep the baby asleep for longer?

Update:
It appears to of worked!! The baby woke up at 5:30am and put herself back to sleep until the friggen cat woke her up. Irene scooped her up and brought her back to bed and fed her. Our newly darkened room appears to be dark enough as the baby went back to sleep and slept until....8:30am!!! Wooooooo-Hooooooooooooooo!!! Could this be the answer? Have we missed out on countless hours of sleep for the lack of correct window treatments?

Update to the Update:
Dang, Monday morning and the baby was up for good at 6:30am......maybe yesterday we just got lucky? I guess time will tell...

Thursday, July 29, 2010

I'm Not Stringing Ya Along...Stair Building Pt. 2

Or maybe I should of titled this post, 'Your Carriage is Here.' (Framing Humor)

Okay, so, after the deconstruction now I have to turn this pile of wood into a set of stairs...




I double checked my measurements after the area was clear and got the same measurements (whew). I set the stair buttons on my framing square to 10" and 7 3/8" and started drawing some lines...then I noticed something...the edges of lumber are pretty rounded..which means I had to kinda guess at the intersection between the previous line and the square...I found that my estimating was not so good...I was getting a systematic error... I needed to figure out a better way...



Enter my rule from one of my machine squares. I could line this up on the previous line and extend it down so that I had the square intersecting with the correct extension of my rise/run lines. I guess pros just 'eyeball' it?



Skipping a bunch of steps...I used my sidewinder to cut the treads then my jigsaw to finish the edges...and look what we have, a sorta finished stringer.



I was trying to figure out how to attach this stringer to the dropped rim joist and came upon this conundrum. The stringer, being at an angle doesn't fit into the fracking joist hanger? All the books I have show the stringers being attached with joist hangers and since the stringers are always on an angle this has to ALWAYS be a problem right? This can't be good can it with the stinger not bearing on the hanger correctly?



I decided that what I am going to do is cut a little wedge from the bottom of these offcuts and glue it to the stringer with some super-fab Elmer's nano-glue. That way the stringer will be in contact 100% with the hanger. Should work right?



In mucking about with the joist hangers I got to collecting all our Simpson hardware.....dang, we have a lot of it...



Even more hardware....look at that bin of bolts....that's left over from when we did the deck at our last house! Why did I think I needed 8" lag bolts?



Here's what I decided to do about the dropped rim joist. I used two Simpson brackets and their structural screws to attach it to the 6by6 joist. I also sunk 3 screws into the joist on the edge that you can just see the bottom of here. It feels pretty solid but maybe the left side has a bit more flexion than I'd like. Once I decide where the joist hangers are going to go exactly I might add another bracket on the left hand side.

Watch that first step! Here's a shot of the 2by4 kicker bolted in place.



And voila the stringer fits!!!!



Some how I F'd up the notch for the kicker...I mean I really got it wrong....I'll have to add some wood back in on the left hand side to stabilize the stringer. I plan on attaching the stringers to the kicker with Simpson brackets also.



Buuuuuuut, check this out. The fricken stringer is basically perfectly level!! Woo-Hooooooo!!!



Next up is to trace this one good stringer onto the other two (not including the messed up notch for the kicker) and hopefully be able to replicate it pretty closely. Then glue my little wedges into the top edges of all three. While the glue is drying I'll cut all the treads@ 44" wide.

I still haven't exactly figured out where the posts are going to go but I'm working on it....

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Realtor Shenanigans???

Okay, Okay I admit I'm probably more than a little bit aggravated right now....cause...

Our bid wasn't accepted....the sellers choose a different bid....

Does this seem fishy to you?
We bid on a house that has been on the market for like uh, 3 months, the price started at $819k, went to $799k and has been at $759k for over a month...with no bids that I am aware of.

We put in our bid and all of a sudden there are 2 other bids! Bids that we are led to believe are higher than ours...

Is it out of line to ask to see the other bids? To prove that they exist and to see if we can beat them? I don't think so. If its the Realtors job to get the most money for their clients and they are presented with this option, I'm pulling my bid or you can let me look at the other bids to see if I can/want to beat it. Wouldn't they then HAVE to show me the bids? Or is this just a total B.S. tactic to try to force us to increase the amount of our bid?

I am constantly hearing from Realtors that its a breach of their fiduciary responsibility to say or do this or its a breach of their 'ethics' to say that or do this..... Who all thinks ethics and Realtors go together like oil and water?

Fiduci-what-now?
First, I want all Realtors and readers to read what the actual definition of a fiduciary is. Its absolutely anathema to the concept of fiduciary responsibility to be paid by a commission based on how high a house sells for.... Well not exactly for the sellers Realtor.....but for the buyers...holy crap what an obvious conflict of interest...

Here's what I suggest 'buyers Realtors' do.
They get paid a straight fee for their services with a bonus based on how much lower than the asking price they can get the sellers to agree too. The bonus should also be based partly on time...find a house and get into contract less than the agreed upon time and get a bonus, take longer, and get a negative bonus. Now, THAT would have 'buyers Realtors' really working for the buyers.

What is this ethics thing I'm always hearing from Realtors?
Is there some nationwide Realtor ethics code they're all sworn to uphold? If there is, I bet its written by Realtors to protect only the Realtors....same with a 'code of conduct'. Every time I get the 'ethics' excuse its because a Realtor does not want to reveal a piece of information that they think will reflect badly on the house.....

Craig's List Shenanigans
In an attempt to get the word out and jump start what I'm fearing will be a lengthy sales process I posted what basically amounts to a coming soon add for our house in the Craig's List Realty for sale section.

Some douche-bag flagged it! This wasn't like 20 people who thought my add violated the CL terms of service its one person who went out of their way to have my post taken down....

How much you wanna bet it was a Realtor whom I've written about and who posts adds to CL all the time?

Okay Rant Over, I'm going to leave the CL add up just in case the 1st place offer falls through.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Bye-Bye Old Scary Stairs

Its Time for a Deconstruction.

Okay, Today's the day to deconstruct the rear stairs....I've been trying to put it off as long as possible but they are getting more and more unstable and I feel veering towards being officially unsafe soooo.....

Just to remind everyone, here's the stairs...with the super slippery unsafe ramp that I slapped on a couple years ago...



Here are all the tools I think that I'm going to need to do the deconstruction. I'm using the term deconstruct instead of demo because I'm not going to be smashing things with 20# sledges. I'll be unscrewing and cutting nails to take the rear stairs apart.
Yes, on the left is a super-fab $20 Harbor Fright sawzall...at that price, its pretty much disposable...I did put a decent demo blade on it and I'm hoping it will last thru this project and the siding project.



After removing the ramp I was treated to this scary sight. The wing-dings that built this stair used untreated plywood as a spacer and it is mostly turned back to dust now.



A couple of taps from the 5# sledge loosened things up enough that I could slide the sawzall in and slice the nails off the railings.



I rigged up the ryobi impact drill to remove the big honking lag bolts holding the posts to the rim board. The lags where a pain to remove with a wrench but with the impact driver they just zipped right out...highly recommend one.
Here's a shot of the right side stringer after I removed the top step. its not nailed to the rim joist its nailed to the post! The post which I just un-bolted! Luckily the post was also nailed in place from behind through the rim joist.



Here's a shot after all the treads had been removed. That left side stringer wasn't even toe nailed to that piece of wood supporting it. It was just sitting on top! Also, see the top right side next to the post? Those pieces of 2by12 nailed to the wall? I can't figure out what the heck they where for. They where not structural at all...I think they were just put there to fill up space...and they nailed the heck outta them...



This piece of wood gave me the most trouble. This is the 'dropped rim joist' and a 2by6 nailer behind it. I'll have to use a dropped rim joist also as the last riser will be this framing but I'm thinking that I can figure out a better way to do this.
Anywho I wrestled with this and it finally swung free...



But it got away from me slightly and smacked the bottle of 'blood vodka' off the top of the bar...man that stuff stinks and the red dye is probably going to stain the patio...



Here's a shot of the demo complete and cleaned up with the wood stacked. It only took me 2 hrs to do which I think is pretty good for a chubby-hubby non-pro with a bad back.



the wood. Most of it looks like all-heart redwood. I'm hoping I can get a Craig's List scavenger to take it away for me.



Next up, I have to lay out and cut the stringers....hope I don't screw up as I didn't buy any extras....

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

We Might Be Selling The Chez.....

It is with a heavy heart and mixed emotions that I bring you, dear readers this news...There is a very slim chance that we'll be selling the Chez..... We sorta put an offer on a house and we're waiting for the sellers to come to their senses and agree to it.....

In the meantime, we gotta figure out how in the heck you sell a house that's mid project....we were totally down in the dumps about the prospects of selling such a 'unique' property. We figured that real estate investors with their all cash offers would be our only option until we learned about this newish HUD loan called a 203k.

The 203K Loan
I just learned about it but it seems to be just the ticket for our situation.
Its a government backed loan where you get to roll the cost of the house, the cost to fix up the house AND the first six months of the mortgage payments into the loan and being an FHA loan they only require a 3.5% down payment.

Here's a good article from sfgate that explains it better than I can.
Here's a link to the HUD website that also explains the 203k program.
Here's a link to the HUD website where you can search for a local lender experienced with the 203k loan process.

The 203k is an FHA loan so there is some additional hoops the buyer has to jump through of course.

I spoke to several different local 203k loan experts and I got the best vibe from this guy.

Luis C. Munoz
Renovation Loan Specialist
Mason-McDuffie Mortgage Corp
6472 Moraga Ave
Oakland, CA 94611
1 510 825-0300 Cell
1 866 958-1869 E-Fax
www.luiscmunoz.com

This is not an endorsement exactly, but Luis offered to make a house call to help me figure out how to best sell this place through the 203k program and I thought that was going above and beyond. If after reading the info above you are seriously interested in the 203k program I suggest you call Luis as he's local, knows the market, and seemed very knowledgeable on the subject. Tell Luis, Chez Neumansky sent you.

Why the 203k Program Seems So Great
Its a program for moderate income folks, to give them a chance to move to a house/neighborhood that they couldn't afford otherwise.
With this loan, you only have to come up with the 3.5% down payment and then when the first mortgage payment is due after the first six months, you rent out the bottom 1000sq ft apartment. That's gotta take a decent bite outta the mortgage no?
You get a 2000sq ft 3bed 2 bath house to live in and a 1000sq ft apartment to help pay your expenses.

Why You Should Want the Chez!

Its a super-cool interesting looking house.
Its in a good neighborhood 4 houses down from Little John park.
It's in the Franklin school district.
Its a legal 3000sq ft triplex. You can keep it as a triplex, or, do what we were going to do and turn the top 2 floors into a single family home and rent out the bottom floor apartment, or, turn the entire place into a giant 3000sq ft single family residence.
The foundation-slab-earthquake retro-fitting are already done!
Electrical service upgrade to 200amps with 100amp sub-panels on each floor.
Upgraded the gas service also and re-piped the gas lines.
And on, and on, and on, really, just be prepared to kill several hours and read this blog.



Its got a super fab radiant heating system installed on the bottom two floors.



The coolest outdoor entertaining area with built in fire pit!






Readers
If you know of anyone who wants to do the 'move to Alameda and restore an old Victorian and raise their kids in a safe environment with good schools' thing, please, please forward this post to them. They have to qualify for the FHA loan remember.

Realtors
I know a bunch of Alameda based Realtors read this blog.
C'mon, I bet you have a couple of clients who might be interested in the Chez. Forward em this post. Its a win-win, we get to sell the house AND if we buy a new place I don't have any need to keep doing my real estate reviews that you love so much, I'm talking about you Alain Pinel Realty.

What's it Going to Cost?
That's the question on every bodies minds isn't it.....
Short answer...we don't have any idea yet....
We do know it will be priced lower than what we paid for it in March '07 AND it will be literally several hundred thousand dollars less than we have into the place....HURRAY!!!

If you are interested in knowing more.
Please email the Madscientist at the link provided on the blog.

Remember the house is not for sale at this time!
We are just trying to gauge interest with this posting.

Thanks,
D&I

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Garden Report July 18th-We have Tomatoes!

So, another super exciting Garden Report...cause I wanna be just like Casa Decrepit!


This is a pure case of garden jealously. My neighbor, who has tomatoes planted in the exact same kind of pot, has cherry tomatoes that are like 7' tall! In this pic you can see them right at the edge of the garage. This is the view I see from our front porch...her tomatoes, taunting me!!!





The neighbor is super cool and told me her secret.....worm castings! Which I think is just a fancy term for worm poop? Anywho, she took pity on me and my pathetic tomatoes and left some on my doorstep.

I was afraid to open the bag but it just sorta smelt like steer manure to me.



I split the castings evenly between my four pots and worked them into the soil. The castings left a yellowish stain on my hands that washed off with soap. Here's what the Sun Sugar looks like now. Maybe 3' tall at most....and my plants get WAY more sun than the neighbors...





The Zebra is doing well with several tomatoes growing.





The Pineapple still looks the sickliest...but its finally got a bunch of flowers so hopefully we'll have a decent amount of em.





The basil-pepper pot looks pretty good. If you look closely you can see that we have two jalapeno peppers already.





The tomatoes are starting to grow through the deck railings...I probably shoulda put cages on em as its a lot harder to train these things than I thought... they're not super bendy are they...





Here's our cat Squirty checking out the pineapple.





And of course, what ever Squirty does Henrietta has to do...such a little sister.





We got our first 'harvest' from the sun sugars....they tasted pretty good but where not as juicy as I expected? I think I'm watering the plants really well but maybe I'm doing that incorrectly?





One thing Tasha and I do every evening is 'inspect the tomatoes' I bring her out there when I turn the watering on and we look at each plant. When I say, its time to inspect the tomatoes she runs to the back door and slaps it and says, 'Na-do's'. On one of our inspection rounds I gave her a little piece of basil to chew on. Now she demands some every time. She also likes the cherry tomatoes. Here Irene was teaching her about the amazing combo of fresh tomato and basil.





And here's just a cute shot of everybody on the porch, just for the heck of it. The cats are indoor only cats so when we let them out (or when they sneak out) on the balcony its a big deal...