Monday, July 25, 2011

KnifeCatching 1330 Clinton Ave.

Read This:The following review is just my opinion and only my opinion I am not a professional house appraiser or inspector and I am not a structural engineer. The opinions expressed in this review are based on my own inspection of the property, the publicly available facts from aggregator sites such as Redfin and Zillow and the online permit database for the city of Alameda. I am not responsible for incorrect or missing data that appears in these sources. In fact, its probably best that you just ignore everything you read here as the lunatic ravings of an unbalanced mind.

KnifeCatching 1330 Clinton Ave.
Up for review today is 1330 Clinton Ave. which has the official specs of being a 3-2.5 of 1631 sq ft on a 6750 sq ft lot built in 1946 on sale for $815k.

Sorry for the Google street view shot, my camera phone stopped focusing. I've been interested in this house for a while as I pass it on Clinton every day and have been sorta tracking the work done on it.
Lots of pics at the Redfin page for it. At least in the verbiage the listing agent calls the weird quarter bath off the kitchen a quarter bath and not a half bath. The story from the listing agent is that the original owner passed away and his sons have fixed up the house for sale.

The Good
Before the weird conversation with the Realtor I remember thinking...'Wow, they've actually done just about everything I advocate for when trying to sell a house for top dollar.'

They attached a sheet to the glossy handout stating all the work recently done on the house.
The grounds were nice and well groomed.
The house was freshly painted inside and out.
The floors were redone.
They freshened the kitchen by replacing the flooring and cabinet handles and repainting the cabinets. The kitchen was very nice.
Pull-down ladder and storage in the attic.
The house is in a great neighborhood like three blocks from Franklin School/Park.
Great front yard for Halloween and nice street trees!

The house literally gleamed it was super pretty. I wish that I had my camera with me as the shower stall in the master bath had this hilarious nautical theme.

There is a cute little balcony off the master bedroom that I bet is nice to relax at.

Two full baths on the second floor so you don't have to share with the kids.

Large backyard area and good sized garage-workshop. There were a couple of super cool looking old woodworking tools in there that looked like industrial art. Lots of old cracking asphalt in this area that looks fugly to me. What I thought was funny is that they had taped pictures of what the wood shop could look like if it was turned into living space on the walls. I hadn't seen this before except we did it when we where selling Chez 2.0.  It honestly looks like they borrowed that idea from us.

They had a binder of inspections and estimates for work needed.

Overall I was very impressed with the house. It's a completely original vintage 1940's home. The listing agent calling it a jewel box does not seem out of line to me.

What The Permit Record Tells Me
There are only two entries to the permit record!!
One from 1946 which is an electrical permit for adding outlets and switches and fixtures-finaled!
A permit from 1991 for sidewalk and driveway.
It looks like there is no weirdness with the permit record vs. work done.

The Bad
Its a completely original 1940s home..that can either be cute or the kitchen and baths are going to look horribly outdated to some people.

Okay, the house is TINY!!! 1631 sq ft. I'm sure this house was fine for 1940 but now...I don't know. It's sorta like the house is 3/4 scale or something like that. All three of the bedrooms are not what you'd call, generous. The kitchen is teeny by modern standards - definitely not an eat-in thing.

Vintage 1940's wiring-fuses on the upper floor.

The Roof
It looks to me like the house still has its original wood shake roof from the 40s!!! From what I could see it looks like its in pretty rough shape. I pulled down the attic ladder to peep at the underside of it and I could see daylight through cracks in the shakes in several places and what looked like water staining on the underside of the shingles. The listing agent said the roof was water tight so I don't know... The handout said the roof had been cleaned?? So maybe they pressure washed it and forced some water up under the shingles...
There was an estimate from a roofing contractor there for $7500...but I read it twice and I really couldn't figure out what it was for exactly.
The roof needs a complete tear off, sheeting the roof deck and new shingles. My experience with roofing estimates leads me to believe that doing it right is going to cost more than $7500.

Just to prove that I'm not the only person who thinks this way I'll report on what I heard other people saying. I eavesdropped on three couples conversations that all went exactly like this.

   Him, 'Man, it sure is small.'
   Her, 'Yes but its soooo cute!'

My fave overheard was from someone who said, 'Wow every time I come here I feel more claustrophobic!!'

I'm really impressed with the house and the preparation that went into it before they put it on the market. I wish more sellers would do that. The house is super pretty, in what looks to be super great shape (except the roof), in a super great neighborhood.

Okay I haven't talked about it yet but now's the time....

I don't understand how they came up with that price?
$815k...for 1631 sq ft???  1304 Morton is almost twice that size on sale for $75k more...
another house sold in that neighborhood for that exact same amount yet it is more than twice the size.
Like, what are the comps they used? Does it have an ice cube's chance in hell of appraising for that amount?

I don't understand who the target market is for this house.
Honestly, the house seems too small for a modern family. A couple parents and one kid, and use the other bedroom as a home office? Even then the place is basically packed. You'll have to use the dining room as a dining room and that just leaves the decent-sized fireplace room as the family, living, do everything else room. It seems like though once the kids hit teenagerdom the place would be too small.

So, is it a $815k starter house? If the new owners don't absolutely love the house as is, any remodeling of the baths-kitchens is going to push the money sunk in vs. what the house will sell for ratio way the wrong way....

Then I thought, well, it could be a good 'retirement home' to somebody who wants to live closer to their grandkids...Older couples don't typically have the acres of crap modern families do...the house could be right sized for that with a room for the grandkids to sleep in when they are visiting. But then there's stairs....old folks and stairs go together like sardines and mint-chip ice cream.

Honestly, it seems like it a great $650k house.....
I suppose the carrying costs of the place are very small so the heirs can afford to let it sit on the market?

I think that this is the most times I've used cute and super in a review.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Had an Odd Conversation With A Realtor Today....

Maybe I should subtitle this post as...

The Great Satan of House Reviews is Back!!!! Muuu-Ha-ha-ha!!!!

Man, did I have the oddest conversation with a Realtor today....I'm still puzzled by it...

Cause honestly, I can't tell if the Realtor was just clueless or if they where very cleverly F'ing with me...

I'll tell the story and let you guys decide.

I went and looked at 1330 Clinton today.  When I was looking through the binder of inspections (good for them) the Realtor was chatting with me off and on as she was greeting people coming in the front door.

I told her that I lived around the corner on Sherman and then she got. I thought, sorta strangely interested in WHICH SPECIFIC HOUSE I lived in.
   I said something like,  'the big ugly white one with the ugly fence.'
   She said, 'The one where all the work is going on?'
  I said, 'No, I'm not that crazy.'

  And then she kinda launched into this odd diatribe.

  'That's the house where the guy lives who writes all those horrible things on his BLOG about houses for sale in Alameda.' She said blog like it was drenched in sewage.

  So now I stop trying to make sense of the roofing estimate and look at her...and say, 'There's somebody who reviews houses? And you think that's a bad thing?' Honestly, I'm looking at her and I can't tell if she's messing with me...

  'Yes, he says horrible, personal things about people.'

  'Does he say untrue things about the houses?'

  'Yes, its all untrue...I don't know why he feels like he needs to write such nasty things about people...but I guess some people just feel the know...'


   'And that's why no realtor will touch his house.'

   'How do you mean?'

   'No Realtor wants to show his house because of all the horrible things he says on his BLOG.'

Then she went off to talk to someone else and I finished reading the reports and left. She left me with the distinct impression that she thinks that I am some sort of mental defective with a strong nasty streak. Like I should have horns on my head and a tale....

I just can't tell if she was screwing with me or not? If she was screwing with me its a super clever way to do it. Right in front of a crowd of people she basically called me an F'ing A-hole and told me to stop writing reviews in such a way that I couldn't really respond in kind.

First off, it really seems like she's never read any of my house reviews. And that stuff about no Realtor will touch his house...she doesn't know that Chez 2.0 is already sold? Weeks ago? She seems to think that I live in the big white house with the columns (I wish, I could afford that place...its like a palace that sold for $1.1M and the new owners immediately launched into a multi-hundred thousand redo) and that I'm trying to sell it?

It really seems like this particular Realtor got all her info about me from some bizarre game of telephone that went on too long and where all the different messages have been intermixed and reshuffled.  Like all the folks who where pissed off about the 'pink feather ladies' at the 4th of July parade who didn't actually see them!!!

I haven't reread every single review I've written but honestly where does that 'I write horrible nasty personal things about the home owners' come from???

Ruminations On Realtors
This odd exchange got me to thinking about all the other exchanges I've had with Realtors since I've been doing my reviews. There seem to be several common threads to what Realtors think of me.

They just can't seem to understand why in the world I would feel the need to do this.
I mean really, trying to comprehend my motivations seems to cause a lot of mental gears to be stripped. This is going to sound ridiculous I know but...Like I'm completely challenging their world view and their place in it.

Demonization is easier than self introspection.
Most Realtors refuse to admit that there is even a spec of truth in what I write. They prefer to think of me as some 'nasty little man' who has some sort of evil 'hidden agenda' who is quite possibly 'mentally deficient and or unstable.' One of my favorites was the Realtor who asked me why I hated Alameda so much?? Basically, what ever they can do in their minds to be able to discount everything I say. Such as believing that all I do is write nasty personal things about people.

So, here goes, another attempt to explain why I do this.

Why I Review Houses
It's pretty much as simple at this.

I believe that the deck is so completely stacked against house buyers (especially 1st time buyers) that there is hardly any chance that they won't get screwed.

The buyers and sellers agents get paid based on how much the house sells for. C'mon folks do you really think that that simple truth doesn't effect the actions of both agents? That they are not, at least, subconsciously motivated to get the house sold as quickly as possible for as much money as possible? I'm not saying that all Realtors are crooked....just most of them.  

Then you say, 'The buyer has inspectors.' Please...the inspectors are almost always referred by the Realtors. The inspectors know that if they don't 'play the game' they won't get referrals from Realtors and will essentially be out of a job. I'm not saying that there are not good inspectors out there..they just won't be the one the Realtors refer you to and they will cost about twice what the hacks charge.

This situation is not alright to me. I just can't seem to ignore this basically institutionalized theft.

Does it make sense to anyone that there are not independent reviews of houses for sale?
Its the most expensive purchase just about everyone makes..yet there are no independent sources of info.

You want to buy a new car, you read Road and Track reviews or Consumer Reports.
You want to buy a new motorcycle, you read the reviews of the different models in magazines like CycleWorld.
You want to buy a new flat screen TV, you read the reviews at CNET or Consumer Reports and hell, the reviews on Amazon.
Looking for a new Restaurant to try? You check the Yelp reviews.
Hell, just about any kind of service business you can check reviews on Yelp.

Yet nothing like that exists for houses? Why is that exactly?

In this modern world where you can get reviews of anything on the internets, why no reviews of houses??

Why Not?
As one commentor here said, 'Looking at open houses on Sundays is Alamedas Fav pastime.'
It really seems to be a hobby of peoples to looky-loo open houses and then make snarky comments to each other about it. Am I evil cause I choose to share my thoughts?

Honestly, am I not doing what any intelligent potential house buyer would do? Am I evil cause I choose to share a process that other people are most likely already doing? And if they are not already looking at houses the way I do and I save them some grief is that a bad thing?
So Much Real Estate Info Is Online
I can go on Zillow, Movoto, Redfin and see when and how much a house was sold for..what all the price changes are for a house that is still on the market, what the legal definition of the house is, what other similar houses sold for in the same area. Movoto even tells you who the legal owner of the house is. I can go to the cities website and print out the permit history of any house I'm interested in.

Now I know that the average age for Alameda Realtors is like 102 so maybe they are not as Internet savvy as your average person.

Hey Alameda Realtors, you probably don't need to worry about this interwebs thing...I'm sure its just a passing fad. I bet lickety-split that people will be back to relying solely on you for all their information on the house they are interested in and the local housing market....

So, in a first I am dedicating this post to D of Bayside Real Estate....for either being super clever or super clueless.

A Kinder Gentler KnifeCatcher....

Okay so I've started reviewing houses again....already heard through the grape vine that the local Realtor community is super happy about it...

Here's what I will try to do in my reviews from here on out.

I will strive to use language that is uh, as mild as possible but still gets my point across.

I will still comment on the overall condition of the house and its livability.
I will still comment on the work done vs. permits pulled issues.
I will still comment on the work I think the house needs and what the costs are going to look like.
I will still comment on any safety issues I see.
I will still comment on the relative 'safeness' of the neighborhood and the quality of the local school.
I will still comment on things that 'just don't make sense to me' as in, 'what where they thinking' or, 'they want HOW much money for that???'

I'm only going to review houses that are personally interesting to me. So everybody selling ranchers in Bay Farm is 'safe' from one of my reviews unless someone commissions one.

I no longer have a Realtor that I'm working with (so haters stop calling him an F'ing a-hole behind his back) so I'll be touring the houses of interest during their open houses. That also means that I will only review houses that I have personally toured.

I don't have time anymore to do the big picture-riffic reviews I'll probably just snap a pic of the front of the house.
Next Up
I'm working on reviews for;
1336 Sherman St.
1063 San Antonio Ave.
1330 Clinton Ave.

Now, Realtors I know that most of you have set google alerts to alert you when someone posts online about one of your properties. Here's your chance to contact me and get your side of the story included in my review.  Act fast though I'll post my reviews as soon as they're done.

I'll try to give advance notice from now on about properties I am planning on reviewing so the listing agent can contact me to get their side of the story published.

I feel that that's about as fair to the listing agents as I could possibly be and still keep my integrity and provide what I consider to be a valuable community service.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

We Have A Home Theater Room!

Mrs. MadMadScientist is Soooooooooooooooo awesome.
This entire home theater thing was her idea! Really!!! Honest!!! She was super worried about our big 'ol tube TV perched precariously on a box in a room where all the kids play....

Now because I'm super we-todd-did I somehow managed to delete all the making of shots...some of them were quite good, of Mrs. MadMadScientist crawling around in the dropped ceiling to fish wires and to drill through the tops plates so we could fish wires through.

First off this post marks the debut of our new rugged camera.

We've managed to kill uh, three other cameras documenting the dusty, dirty work of remodeling a Victorian....we have higher hopes for this Panasonic Lumix which already takes pictures about a million times better than our old supposedly water-dust proof Olympus.

Here's the big old TV.

For the all-important WAF (that's wife approval factor) we had to go with speakers that are hidden.
After some searching we went with these as they were on sale and a fraction of the price of other models.

Actually, I can agree with the hide-the-speakers-in-the-ceiling idea. That would seem to be the most kid-proof option.

We set up a 7.1 surround sound system but I couldn't bare to not use our Klipsch center channel speaker.

Because of the smallness of the room and our desire to keep the expensive toys away from the kids as long as possible, we had to mount the stereo stuff on one wall and the TV on the other. That meant fishing a metric F-ton of wires through the dropped ceiling.

Here's a shot of the four rear speakers and the cool glass shelf wall mounted stereo stand we picked up on Amazon.

Closer-up Shot.

Holy-Moly modern stereos require 37 million cables-wires.
Just look at 'em all!!


I was able to hide most of the wires beside the one power cord and signal cord to the sub-woofer.

Check out our cool new antenna!! Does that look atomic age or what?

Here is of course the all-important TV shot.

You can also see the front surround speakers in the ceiling above it. We decided to go with the newest model Vizio 47" 3D TV. The price dropped below $1k so we broke down and bought one. Everything I read said that because of the distance to the TV 47" is as big as we should go....I have to admit the first time we sat down to watch something on it (last season of True Blood on Netflix) I was like, dang, we shoulda gone bigger...I mean its big enough for sure but I wasn't blown away with its bigness like I was expecting to be...

I've looked and looked and looked and I can't seem to find a good solution for mounting a center channel speaker to a LCD TV on an articulating wall here's my ghetto solution.

Anybody have any good ideas?

Here's a shot of the room now. Look at all that room now! This is a major path here between the kitchen and the kids play room/ the back deck.

The TV is 4' off the ground so we're hoping that that will keep it out of kid range....

Henrietta likes all the space too!

We haven't watched anything in 3D yet so we can't comment on that...but WOW HD pictures are just crazy better than standard def.

Another thing that blows me over the air HD programing! (that's what the crazy antenna is for). I can now watch my 2.5 Men reruns in HD AND 5.1 surround!!! Because you know, that's important.....oh and HD digital radio rules! Almost no commercials and it's CD quality sound AND it's free! Super lame-o corporate radio Live105 has an all 80s channel that we listen to mostly.

So overall, we're super happy with how the system looks, sounds and how hopefully kidproof its going to be.....we'll see I guess.

Hey did y'all notice the new addition in the background in one of the above pictures???

Yay!! Tiny's Back Home!

Yep, we finally got tiny back from Chez 2.0!! We conned some neighbors into helping us move her over to Chez is that a horrible experience...first you have to take out just about all the gravel cause it weighs a metric f-ton.

Then drain the water down enough so tiny isn't very mobile. Then ala the old flipper TV shows you wrap a cloth sling around her and transfer her as fast as possible to a big tub of tank water...Then you drain all the water out of the tank and then you and a couple of other unlucky suckers get to carry it all down and up flights of stairs and do it all over again in reverse! I'm so glad we don't have to do that ever, ever, ever again!!!

Friday, July 22, 2011

Permits Update

This post should be subtitled,

We're Okay, no wait we're super screwed!!!! no wait, we're okay again....

Still Waiting To Hear About The Code Enforcement Permits...
When last we met, we were still waiting to hear back from the cities plan checker on the permits I submitted for the pre-existing code enforcement issues.

We hustled our butts to make their permitting deadline and now we're waiting....still waiting....

We were freaked because it was explained to us that code enforcement cases have a very strict one year deadline...we submitted the permits back on April 11th... and we still haven't heard anything back yet...well it turns out the one year clock doesn't start until after the city issues the I guess theres no rush???

Remodeling Permits Fall Into Code Enforcement Black Hole....
We also recently submitted permits to combine the two studio apartments into one apartment and to move one of the units into the basement.

When you file a regular permit they give you a due date about 4 weeks out....well it had been over two weeks past the deadline and I still hadn't heard anything from the city..Annnd I'd been calling like every three days...

FINALLY, someone said, 'Oh, this is a code enforcement case. those stay on the bottom of the pile!'...Nothing I could do could convince this person that, that was not the case...Even though the permit number starts with a CB which means Combo Building permit and code enforcement permits start with an X!!

I had to get the code enforcement officer to talk to them and set them straight.

After he did that I got the comments back in the mail like 4 days later!!!! Hurray!!!

We're Screwed
The plan check engineer just had some minor comments mostly about clarifying things that were all just minor edits.

The fire code plan checker on the other hand...Insisted that the existing windows in our pre-1942 house would HAVE to be upgraded to modern egress standards!

That would mean removing all the original double hung windows and replacing them with fully opening out swing casement windows that adhere to the cities design guide...That would of added thousands of dollars to the remodel cost and lots of man hours...maybe effectively blowing us out of the water....

We're Okay
But the cities engineer said the exact opposite! 'Theres Hope!!', I thought.
Going straight to the top I sent the cities building official an email outlining the situation and he sided with the engineer!! Waa-Hoooo!!!!

As I've said before his word is law and that means that nobody else down there should screw with me about keeping the original windows.

One thing that is going to be a kinda PITA is that I have to 1hr fire rate the joist bays where I am venting the two furnaces and tankless water heater.

I've already finished the changes and should be ready to turn in this revised set of plans Monday morning!! Maybe they'll even issue the plans shortly afterword? That is, if they don't find something else super wrong...which is always a possibility...

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

KnifeCatching 1304 Morton St.......AGAIN!!!!

Read This:The following review is just my opinion and only my opinion I am not a professional house appraiser or inspector and I am not a structural engineer. The opinions expressed in this review are based on my own inspection of the property, the publicly available facts from aggregator sites such as Redfin and Zillow and the online permit database for the city of Alameda. I am not responsible for incorrect or missing data that appears in these sources. In fact, its probably best that you just ignore everything you read here as the lunatic ravings of an unbalanced mind.

It's baaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaack!!!!! again, and again, and again and again....

KnifeCatching 1304 Morton St. Revisited.

My initial review of 1304 Morton St. can be found here.

Up for review today is 1304 Morton St. which has the official specs of being a 4-0 of 2064sq ft on a nice sized 5513 sq ft lot built in 1895 on sale for.....wait for it.......$899k!!!!!

Holy Mackerel they lowered the price from $1.3M down to $899k!!!

Could it be that a homeowner has actually come down to reality???  Please read my previous review for an in-depth look at the house.

Some Odd Things About The House:

Real Estate Agent Musical Chairs?
Does anybody else think it's super odd that a big ticket fancy house like this has gone through, I think three different realty companies? Intero, Sothebys and now apparently they are using Better Homes and Gardens Realty? What would have to happen to have a place like Sotheby's give up on the commission on a $1.3M house?

Dishonest Description:
The county still has the house as a 4-0 of 2064 sq ft... yet the ad copy from the Realtor clearly states that the house is a 4-2.5 of 3100sq ft... They appear to be counting the illegal work done in the basement and apparently there is now a bedroom down there?

Here's the add copy from the Zip Realty Site.
Rare Painted Lady Victorian - Like a page out of BETTER HOMES & GARDENS MAGAZINE! Was on the market at $1.3M+ now priced 4 quick sale! TURN-KEY condition! Full basemnt & Garage converted to game room/wine cellar & can easily be converted back. Gourmet Remod kitchen with sub zero fridge & viking stove. Stumptous "Eastlake" decor down to the door knobs. Walk 2 shops, park & Franklin School.

Uh, no mention of all that fab stuff being 'unwarrented'???

Still Has Unpermitted Work Issues:
So yes, it appears that someone narc'd on the homeowner for the unpermitted work in what was the basement... (wasn't me honest). Luckily the HO was already talking to the city about getting the work permitted so they dodged the whole code enforcement super expensive bullet but the work still has to be 'normalized'.

A quick check of the building dept records is encouraging. The owner got planning approval to officially convert the house back to a single family and got the planning okay for the work already done in the basement area.

The records show that the HO has entered into the amnesty program and paid the fees to start that. What that gets you is an inspection by a building inspector who will tell you what needs to be done to legalize the space.

The inspector came out and this is what he said.
City of Alameda Inter-office Memorandum Date: April 28, 2011 To: Permit Expeditor From: Building Inspection Subject: Inspection at 1304 Morton St. Permit #B11-0283 A Joint Inspection for the Amnesty Program Inspection at the above address revealed that the basement area was converted to a home theater and a recording studio. Requirements: 1. Have a licensed electrical contractor verify circuit loads for the lighting and recording components of all circuits in the basement area to determine adequate circuit breaker and wiring sizes. Many of the outlet boxes are recessed too deep from the combustible wall finishes. 2. A permit is required for the above work. 3. Drawings are also required for electrical and outlet locations. Inspection time: 1 hour.

That's not too bad actually....well....maybe...

Point 1. could be either no problem our a HUGE PITA...If it's determined that the in-wall wiring is not of the correct gauge then, well, you're going to have to tear it all out and replace it....or more likely just jigger the loads to match the wiring gauge.
The boxes being too deep isn't that big of a deal as it can usually be fixed with a 'mud ring'.

Now remember the HO hasn't done any of the above yet (as of this writing according to the city's online data base). Which means the new owner is going to have to go through and do all that AND pay the permit fees...which since we've recently paid fee's on a similar project I can guestimate that they will be around $8k.

Maybe the HO is not planning on doing any of this work and that's why they are selling it so cheap?

Yes folks, it had to happen sometime....I actually think that this place is reasonably priced and worth the money.

You probably could not recreate this work for anywhere near the asking price.
If you go through and get the basement legalized you'll have a legal 3100sq ft 4-2.5 which is a good sized house in a great neighborhood for $900kish.

I prognosticate that they will receive multiple offers and that the house will not stay on the market very long. As long as there are enough people who are okay with the house's 'odd' layout.

Next Up:
There are several more houses for sale in the Gold Cost that I'll be reporting on soon....

Monday, July 18, 2011

Kitchen Space Ideas

Our kitchen is super tiny...I'm not talking about wanting a super big eat-in show place kitchen...this kitchen is not even big enough for all of our stuff...Or as we affectionately call this project,

Trying to fit 10 pounds of cr@p in a 5 pound sack.

Its not that the kitchen isn't nice, its nice enough....its just not big enough. We've never not had an eat in kitchen...that was a weird thing to get used to...HAVING to use the dining room....

Here's a shot of the sink wall.

Like the missing door on the sink cabinet.  I've got a theory on that...usually when you get cabinets on the inside of one of the sink doors is a sticker that shows the manf, the style and color for in case you want to order new cabinets to match...ours is missing...I've checked all over the kitchen for the manf sticker and there is none...I bet the PO's took it outta spite? I mean they appear to of taken the wall outlets when they left???

How do you get matching cabinets when you have no idea what you already own???

That space between our humoungous microwave and the dish drain is our main prep area! At least I got the knives up and out of the way.

Take a look at the lower cabinet door to the right of the dishwasher. Its a huge blind corner cabinet that is completely useless!!!

But we added these super cool multi-action sliding shelf things that let you access stuff waaaay in the back.

Because of the need for the shelves to clear the small door opening we have a net loss of space...but the space we do have we can use completely.

Now lets look at the West wall of the kitchen.

Believe it or not I think they actually did one thing right on this section.
The lower corner cabinet has a lazy susan!

We can actually use all that space.

Here's a weird thing about this section..

Its a weird corner-angled cabinet with no shelf that we've just sorta piled stuff into...not really a good use of this space...cept, I can't figure what would be a good use for it???

Here's the stove wall.

Little tight right?? It gets even better...

We want to remove the current stove and actually install our stove..

Problem is, its a 36" stove and the current stove is maybe 30"...we're going to have to remove that bank of drawers on the right and but in a skinnier unit...which actually works out for us as we don't have drawers for two of the bays anyways...

But that's a net loss of storage space...

A quick trip to IKEA yielded a pot/pan shelf which we put in over the doorway.

It's a little high but I can reach it okay.

So, even with the pot shelf and the cool sliding shelves we're already using all the space we got...

Well, except for....

This blind upper cabinet.

How can we use this space more intelligently? There is like 12" to the left of the door that's just completely useless...whoever designed this kitchen was really asleep on the job. A real corner cabinet with a lazy susan would of made this space actually useful...

This uh, nook?

Right now we put the recycling in it and the garbage next to it..and it looks kinda fugly....
What we'd like to do is turn this space into some kind of fabulous pull out pantry type of thing. I would love to get the garbage and recycling inside it AND have room for other things.

Anybody have any ideas on how to use this big tall space please let us know.

Cause we still would like to fit all of this stuff into the kitchen proper.

Our baking supplies.

The rest of our random appliances

oh, and the beer and soda too....

I'm having the suspicion that the cabinets came from one of the several uh, shady cabinet places in know, the kind of places where every things written in Chinese and they only accept cash??? I might just pull off the other sink door and take it around to all the cabinet places and see if they have a match.

And no we don't have any budget to 'blow out walls' and expand the size of the kitchen....

I also replaced the bad, bad, incandescent ceiling light.

With a good, good CFL model..

Wow, big change right?? Nope, The new model only uses 40W and it is slightly brighter than the old one.  With that and the addition of the under counter fluorescent lights I believe the kitchen is now title 24 compliant. I just need to change out the exhaust fan duct with rigid smooth wall ducting and I think all the code issues with the kitchen will be taken care of...

Why didn't they have the cabinets go all the way to the ceiling? In a kitchen this small every inch counts...

Friday, July 15, 2011

Happy Bday, Happy 4th, Happy End of Escrow, Happy House Warming


So, we had a ton of reasons to celebrate over the 4th of July weekend so we decided to have a big ole cook-out. We where celebrating a birthday, the 4th of July, the end of escrow on Chez 2.0 and well, we hadn't officially had a house warming party yet....annnnnd it was decided that I should finally get a 'grown-up' hair cut....

First Off, Check Out The Menu!!

Yummmmm, Tasty!

It was about a million degrees outside. Or at least it felt that way with me working the BBQ all day...
You can just see me in the corner at the grill...

Lots of ice water was drank.

We borrowed several pop-ups for shade for the food, and people.

There were cakes.

and cool kids...

And the main event...

It seems like we have 50 million good friends who are professional hair know the type that work in fancy saloons and it costs like a million  dollars to get your hairs cut? Well, they've all been vying for the honor of whacking my 'do for a while now...cept that all of them were out of town for the holidays except she got stuck doing it...I was really hoping for like a cage match to determine the winner but no dice.

Looks like someone cut off a horses tail or something...

Baby madmadscientist doesn't know what to make of daddy's new hair do.

I was completely prepared to have my head shaved clean but after the big whack was made all the woman in attendance liked the new 'do so much it was decided to just clean it up and go with it...

Couple thoughts on the new 'do. I feel so much lighter!! Showers go much quicker!! And I'm hardly going to use any shampoo...

Women have this irresistible need to play with it.. ;)

Anywho, good turn out for our first big party. Lots of people, and cute kids and cute babies...and lots of people who think we're absolutely barking mad for buying this place with all its many, serious issues....

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

We Have Tree!!

And it looks super healthy!
Y'all might remember when we were first looking at Chez 3.0 we were pretty worried about the huge, huge tree in the yard that looked dead?
Here's a shot
Looks pretty horrible don't it?

Well Take a look at it now!!

It does in fact appear to be a black walnut tree. The squirrels are having a field day eating the little proto walnuts...wonder if they are safe to eat for humans?

I just wish that the lower limbs weren't hacked off....those big branches are pretty high up for a tree house...we'll have to see what we can come up with.

There are several little girls who recently moved into the 'hood and who are our back fence neighbors, about the same age as baby madmadscientist, I'd love to do some sort of group family tree house thing.....hmmmmmmm

Ya I know, a post about a tree...but look how healthy it looks!!!!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

We Need An Exterior Paint Job Badly...

Let's face facts...the exterior of our house is looking kinda fugly...

Well, not the entire exterior of the house but the South and West sides are looking fugly.

One the South side the paint is peeling off like its, its job. It's peeling off right down to the bare wood which seems kinda odd to me. I would think the old lead based paint wouldn't be budging...

Long shot of the south side of the house.

Closer up view.

See? Right down to the wood.

South front of the house.
This is the front corner from the house that everybody can see from the street...nice!

Here's what the window sill looks like in the front of the house.

But hey, check out the new curtains Mrs. Madmadscientist put up.

I forgot to take pictures of the garage doors but they look just as bad...

So far we've had one painting contractor come out and give us a bid on repainting the house....

How Not To Impress Us.
1. Miss the first appt.
2. Miss the 2nd appt.
3. Show up 2hrs late for 3rd appt.

4.Then walk around the house with me constantly trying to down sell me on the type of paint job I want done. 'You don't really need 3 colors do you??'  You don't really want me to scrape off all the old paint do you?? 'Restore the trim?? It'd be a lot faster/cheaper just to remove it!'

5. Take a phone call while I'm with you and proceed to argue about not paying a bill to a supplier for like 10 minutes!!!

6. Spend all of 5 minutes actually looking at the house..don't measure anything...and then come up with a price right there on the spot!?!?!?!?

Argh!! I swear the dude just pulled the biggest number out of his ass that he thought he could get away with... When he said it he even kinda looked at me sideways to see if I blinked... Like he was calculating in his head what the up charge would be because we're in a fancy neighborhood....

Any who, we will not be using this contractor. We need to find someone who is respectful of old Victorians and their special needs.

If anyone knows of a good, quality local painter I'd appreciate hearing about it.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

We Need A New Roof!!!

And Now For Something Completely Different.

An entire post about roofs!

We've been talking with roofers recently about getting Chez 3.0 re-roofed....
Here's the situation.

The roof on the garage looks totally shot to us and you can even see where the cap shingles have disintegrated....

We've had two roofers come out so far and look at the house and they both said that the garage roof is completely shot. That the roof was most likely a cheapo 20yr 3 tab shingle that got cooked to death by the lack of venting. I have to admit the garages are SUPER freaking hot even when its not really hot outside.

Here's some shots of the roof of our house from space (don't you just love google!)

The West or front side of the house.

I didn't realize our roof line was so asymmetrical.
Do you see on the front of the house on the second floor between the two sets of bay windows what looks like a flat walkway? It's odd it a little flat roof that is tongue and groove!! Like a floor! Here's a pic.
It doesn't appear to be leaking now but wow, how to insure that it lasts a long time and still looks good?

Also, if you look closer at the little roof over the porch on the left hand side of the picture above you see some more interesting issues.

The north side is quite mossy.

The metal drip-rake edge is put on wrong. Its not supposed to be on top!

Here's you can see the built-up layers of roofing against the fish scale shingles. With no flashing in between. If water runs down that wall where's it going to go???

Here's another shot of the porch roof showing the condition of the shingles.

The East or back side of the house.

Looking out the little window in the gable you can see the shed roof. Which looks like this.
You can also see in the above the weird little flat roof the PO put on the house in the lower left corner. They enclosed an exterior stair well.
Here's a shot of the flat roof from the deck.

Here's a shot through the window.

Both roofers who have seen this say that its a piss-poor job and they are surprised that it doesn't leak.
One issue with fixing this roof is how close it comes to the existing window. Figuring out a way to flash this is going to be difficult I bet.

The North side of the house.

The South side of the house.

An odd thing about the south side of the roof. there is this little ledge that is covered in seriously deteriorated metal. Here's a shot of it through the window.

We've met with two roofers so far and have gotten back proposals from each...

Wow, getting this roof done right is going to cost a pretty penny.

I've got one more roofer scheduled to come by and quote the job but so far the two bids are about 10k apart.

The cheaper bid is from an older established roofer using what I think are old fashioned and slightly substandard materials and methods. The higher bid is from a younger guy and he appears to be using modern materials and methods that are more in line with what my research is telling me a quality roofing job should entail.

I told both roofers that I wanted a quality job that would look nice and be in character for the house/neighborhood and would last at least 40yrs.

Even though its more expensive I got a much better vibe from the younger guy. One thing I liked also about the younger guy was he thought the roofs on the house had a couple of years left in them...the garage shingles are dead he said but the house roof wasn't in super horrible shape.

What might possibly happen if we can't swing the roof is we'll band aid the garage roof through another rainy season and hopefully get the entire place re-roofed next spring.

We'll see what the third guy comes up with.