Thursday, August 6, 2009

Things Learned the Hard Way: hiring an electrician (also known as down in FRONT)

Finding an electrician to do the rewire and knob and tube removal of our house has been a bit of a fiasco. What it has taught me is this: just because someone comes recommended does not mean that you should not ask for references or check them out with the BBB, and more importantly, BE CLEAR, you may think you are being clear, but I mean speaking slowly with illustrations for 5 year olds clear. Here is why:

We had an electrician recommended to us who knew a family member of ours quite well and would likely give us a really good price. His prices were great, and it seemed like we were on our way when he called to let us know that he had to pull out of the job because of a bad back. He did, however, recommend someone that he said was very good. We called a few others and either had no response or they could not do the job and so we agreed to work with Rudy. Things seemed okay. He complained a lot about how hard it was going to be to remove the knob and tube, and about how much work the whole project would be but otherwise seemed fine.

The first thing we had to have done was the installation of new service. I walked around the home with Rudy, and when we were talking about the service we stood at the front corner of the house on the west facing side and discussed putting the service box there. On the front corner of the house. I asked specifically if he could put it there, the front corner, despite the windows there and he said he could. He wrote us a brief estimate, and we agreed to start the work.

So along comes Wednesday. Rudy has been at the house while we were at work installing the new service. And there it is...on the FRONT of my house...a big ugly silver service box and pipe. no, not the front corner as I have been emphasizing, but the front front! We walked down the block and not a single other house has this monstrosity on the front of their home. So we called Rudy to ask to have it moved. This is where things get murky.

Rudy told Gary that I knew it was going on the front of the house. When I spoke with him I told him I recalled specifically talking about the front corner, on the side, where we had stood together. So then he said that we knew because he had written it in the estimate. I checked. It said at "front of house".

So here is the thing: if you have had a 20 minute conversation about a specific spot, if you stood in that spot during that conversation, if you gestured at that spot, and the brief estimate's wording resembled the spot (front of house versus front side or front corner) would you not assume that the spot that you spent all that time referring to was still the spot he was referring to? Moreover, if you had never seen or heard of anyone putting a hideous service box on the face of their home, and the existing service box is not on the face of the home, would you not assume that your electrician would not possibly mean the FRONT of your home! (...and yes, I know what happens when you assume...)

So we asked him to change it. He wanted $1000.00 to do it. So we asked him to split the difference and change it for $500.00. He hung up on Gary, and called me to tell me how my husband was "abusive", and "cruel" and how he "can't work under these conditions". And he quit. When he quit he gave us two options. 1. keep the service and pay the cost ($800) or 2. have him remove the service at no cost.

Ummm. what would you choose? So we told him to take it away, since our new electrician has some issues with how it was installed anyway, and now he emails me a rude, whining email, then an apologetic email for the rude email, then a phone call asking us to leave our house unlocked and unattended while we are at work so that he can come and take it down. Then when I say no he hangs up on me (again).

So, things learned the hard way:
1.communicate with your tradespeople, even if you think it borders on rediculous how specific you are being.
2. don't hire the crazies.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Floor is Finally Finished!!!

all done! (the floor anyway)

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Things learned the hard way: removing lino from hardwood

As you can see from some of the pictures in previous posts, the front half of the house has its original hardwood flooring: this was a huge selling feature for us. However, the kitchen and larger bedroom on the north end of the house have hardwood covered up by some very unfortunate looking linoleum. I thought the best plan would be to remove the lino from the bedroom before we moved in to the home, imagining that the whole process would only take a weekend. HA! To the entertainment of Susannah (our wood wizard as explained previously) and my mother I arrived armed with a paint scraper and some work gloves. Neither of these items helped too much.

Day One:
First we ripped the lino up, which came off in large pieces and was fairly easy to do but it left almost the entire floor covered in a paper/plaster type surface. To remove this we got on our hands and knees and painstakingly chiseled it off bit by bit.
My mum went to home depot and bought some adhesive remover made specifically for these sorts of jobs, which we tried applying and met with limited success. While the product did loosen the glue left behind after we chiseled the harder material off, it did little to penetrate the actual material itself. After 9 hours of work we called it a day, having only removed about a quarter of the lino backing left behind on the wood.

Day Two:

On day two Susannah went to the house to find herself locked out. Someone had latched it from the inside. Our only option was to break the door down, which we did. Paul (step-father-in-law) came by to fix it while we got started on the floor.
Suzy brought a heat gun from her workplace, and we set to work. We discovered two things:
1. after being exposed to the air for several days chiseling the lino backing up was slightly easier.
2.when removing lino backing/glue from hardwood a heat gun is your best friend.

Suzy held the heat gun about 1-2 inches from the surface and slid a thin scraper under the surface. Not only did it lift easily and smoothly, but it left behind no dried glue like the chiseling did, and it got all of the white paper/plaster like stuff off. When we do the kitchen floor the first thing I am going to do is get my hands on a heat gun or two.

We worked for about 4 hours and when we left we had uncovered about 3/4 of the wood. Much better than the previous day's work.

Day Three:

So. sick. of. this. floor. Chisled, drank some beer (okay, I had lame girl coolers...) and chisled some more.

Day Four:

Today we rented a drum sander from Home Depot, as well as an orbital sander and a little palm sander. We worked our way up from 60 grit sandpaper to 100 on the drum sander and finished with 120 and then 150 on the hand held sanders. This left the floor almost perfectly smooth and light. Ready to stain! (Thanks again to Susannah, who was a champion sander!)

Day Five:

The floor is stained and it looks so so good. We did a medium dark stain (Mission Oak), and it is looking fantastic. I had to go in the next day with a rag and touch up a few areas but it is officially ready to seal. We are using a high gloss seal to make it bright and glassy looking, to seal the small splinters down and to make an effective gliding surface to really mess with the cat (kidding).

Next post: Finished pictures--stained and glossed floor-- up by the weekend I promise.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Demolition Men (and women)

Things are really getting rolling. Yesterday we got a lot done in only a few hours. Paul fixed our toilet, our kitchen sink, we removed the sink and concrete laundry basin from the basement, and we demolished our awful shed. See the pile of rubble!

My mum, Gary's mum and step-dad and two of Gary's friends worked all day. Neighbors walking by nodded in approval as we worked, some smiled, and one even said they were glad to see we took care of the neighborhood eyesore! The best part is that the trees that were coming through the shed seem to have survived the demo.

Now we just have to load up the second of two dumpsters and the yard will be clear of debris and ready to excavate for drain tile.

Now that we are moved out of the old apartment, sleeping in the new house, and really tearing things apart it is starting to set in that I really own this thing. Gary and I were sitting on our front stoop last night after working hard all day, and all I could think was "wow, my very own stoop".

Next post... The epic battle: Susannah and I versus the linoleum floor.

Friday, June 26, 2009

The First Few Weeks

A lot has happened since we took possession on June 16th. Some of it good and some of it stressful. Our amazing friend Susannah (wood wizard extraordinaire) has been helping us lift the linoleum from the bedroom floor and scrape the glue. Eventually with her help we will refinish the floor in there. (more on this to come in it's own post).

My step-father-in-law / contractor has begun taking out the flooring in the basement, which has given us an extra two inches of headroom down there! Plans are being drawn up and checked over by the city, and once we find a solution for the single problematic beam down there we should be almost ready to finish demo and begin framing the basement walls.

This weekend we are going to move in to the house and with some help from our parents the wood paneling in the basement should be completely removed.

In other news, the price for our drain tile has doubled so we are working out some solutions (including adding more demo to our to do list) to save us some money. Our electrician has hurt his back and is now unable to do the job for us, so I am waiting to hear back from another electrician who was referred by my mother.

I am a bit all over the place this week as we try to get things sorted. My future posts will be much more organized, focused and hopefully better than the last few.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

The Good, The bad, The Exrcutiatingly Ugly

Here are some pictures that I took on the day we took possession of the house. The things that I love about the home are still wonderful, the things that need work, unfortunately, did not magically disappear while we were waiting. Here are, to employ a useful cliche, the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

One Week To Go

One week until we take possession. There will be more photos and plenty more posting then! Hope you will pop by every once and a while to check our progress.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Closing the purchase...

We are closing the purchase of our home this weekend. We have started packing and organizing our current place. I wish I could fast forward this week so that I could own the house already! This past Saturday we took a huge load of stuff to the Salvation Army. We successfully got rid of plenty of books, 2 dressers, a huge bundle of clothing, and various odds and ends. We did not successfully pass on my husband's giant box of original nintendo games. (he was about to give them over to the the Sally Ann when he declared that he's just not ready to give them up yet). I not-so-secretly prefer old nintendo anyway. I digress...
I have emailed the contractor's to confirm our appointments on the day we take possession and the lawyers are expecting us. The money for completion costs is in the bank (yikes!). And despite being as prepared as I can possibly be, I still feel completely disorganized and unprepared. It feels a lot like the weeks before your wedding, where you can't do anymore except wait until the day comes and hope it all goes according to plan. What I am learning with life's big events is that the best that you can hope for is the guts to dive right in.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Our possession date has officially moved up to June 16th. I have taken that day off of work and have made arrangements for an eco-retrofit inspection that day to assess our house's energy use (and waste) and to determine upgrades we should make. This also makes us eligible for the provincial and federal eco-retrofit grants for doing things we need to do anyway, like buy a new furnace. The contractor doing our drain tile and excavation on the outside will be coming that day as well. He is also going to take a look at the plumbing work we need done which would be very convenient if he could do. George the furnace man will be there to gives us a quote on a new high efficiency furnace. And hopefully an electrician will be coming that day--still waiting to hear on that. I am definitely feeling anxious now. But also really really excited. Just a few weeks to go...

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Our First House

So I very nearly own a house. The contracts are signed, the deposit is paid, the mortgage is approved. Now we just need to take possession. When this will be is still slightly up in the air, although we are hoping to get it sooner than later. (Mid-June is the soonest we can possibly get possession. Cross your fingers for us).

On the off-chance that someone who does not know me will stumble on to my humble blog, let me explain how we ended up with this dilapidated old house in the first place:

My husband and I decided that with the foundering economy and the dip in the Vancouver house market (the most expensive in the country) that this was our chance to own a home. So we found a realtor--who was fantastic--and set out on our very first house hunt. I admit, at first, things looked a bit grim. Even in the winter, even in this wavering economy and sinking market, our price ceiling was very limiting. We looked at houses that were definitely NOT for us. And then we saw our little house on Ferndale. There were no photos on the mls listing and from the outside it looked like another hopeless case. A chain link fence, a decrepit shed, and an odd lean on the outside corners. But when we stepped inside it was so clearly our future home. It was not well taken care of and the house desperately needs some serious work. After a low offer was accepted and an inspection had taken place my husband and I, nervous and weary, walked away from the deal. It was too much. We don't know anything about this stuff. We were scared. So we looked at more houses for more money and hated them all. Eventually we decided that we couldn't let go of the little house on Ferndale that was still on our minds. So we went back with a laughably, unrealistically low offer and my lovely, hard-working realtor got it accepted. And here we are. We have a house, a little money and a lot to do. The advantage to this house, having almost never been updated in its 96 years, is that many of the character features remain in tact. The disadvantage is that it has almost never been update in its 96 years. So I have decided to blog it all as we go along, to record the process, to relieve the stress and hopefully to connect to people who are in the same boat or who one day hope to be.

Coming up: A list of the improvements that need to be done, and the improvements we hope to do.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Welcome to Reckless Nesting

Reckless nesting will be coming shortly. Stay tuned.