Thursday, August 21, 2008

Glass Block Windows (Double Hung)

We'd been holding off on installing a bathroom window on the first floor. We weren't sure if we wanted glass block, fixed frame, or what. Hubby was concerned about security (the neighboring house is a rental that turns over about every other month, so we never know who's in there) and I was pretty sure I didn't want the same double hung windows we had installed in the rest of the house from Window City.

We have an answer ( I think-- we haven't got a price on this yet, but I'm hoping it's within our range.) Modern Builders Supply just sent us a pdf of their double hung glass block window line.

If the price is right, I want it.

View for yourself the whole PDF here: US Block.pdf

UPDATE: Cost was $367 for the double hung.
We're gonna pass.

Framing in the HVAC on the first floor

Chaos I tell ya... just chaos.

"Let's just frame it in like two boxes. It'll be easy" he said, matter-of-factly, as if by saying it, the framing just built itself.

"But I want a cubby with shelves to put my keys on and maybe a phone charger, so as soon as I walk i the door, I can set them in the same place." She said, knowing that as soon as she said it he washed his hands of it.

"You're nuts."

Yeah, but aren't all rehabbers?

OK, I just hate wasting space. I see all that space in between the HVAC ducts and I just hate it. Apparently the joists under the floor dictated where these beauties would have to go, and there's not much we could do about that. So we got lemons... let's make meringue.

I got started about three weeks ago in order to get the electric switch boxes in place for the kitchen and the living room, but then I kinda just stalled on the whole project.

It's not like there wasn't anything ELSE to do. Humph.

Anyway, since I decided I wanted an area - shelves, whatever-- to be in the space between the ducts, I'd been kinda stumped. It's kinda why it's taken three weeks to get going, I guess.

I started getting my brain back wrapped around the whole mess this week and I finally got it. Had that "Eureka moment" in the shower. Since I was trying to conserve space in my new cubby, I wanted all of the 2x4's to be flat. Furring against the back wall wouldn't be a problem, but sooner or later I was going to have some stability problems. I mean, I couldn't just build the whole thing with flat 2x4's and toenailing them together. Seriously, I suck at toenailing 2x4's together. It's a weakness.

I started by putting in OSB over the holes that the HVAC guy cut out of our floor. I think he overdid it on the cutting, and we may have some minor problem with a final finish getting some of the original wood flooring back in there, but that's another problem we'll have to address down the road. Anyway, we had to install a couple of 2x4 braces with joist hangers to support the OSB -- which btw was an unholy b*tch to cut out around the ducts. In the end, it looked like a cut out of the Loch Ness Monster. And there were 2 of them (2 1/2" sheets of OSB to bring the floor level with the original wood floor).

Once those were cut and in place, I started forming a 2x4 rig for the floor so I could determine where the walls could go using the least amount of space. That's in the picture above. That's where it stayed for 3 weeks.

But progress progresses.

The inspiration came in the form of nail plates and the realization that I could fit a full 2x4 framed section at the corner. The secondary Aha moment was when I realized I could support where the 'thin' frame section met the 'full' framed section supported with a 2x4 attached to the wall in between the ducts.

I was worried that I'd have a weak spot (in the picture here, on the right side of the framing where the 2 mismatched walls met in the middle where it says 'support from the wall'. An easy place to have drywall crack is right where 2 unsupported wall sections meet in the middle.

So I decided to nail a premeasured 2x4 at a 90 degree angle to a tall 2x4, about elbow height, and squeezed it between the ductwork and tapconned the rig to the wall.
What I ended up with was an 11" support arm pre-nailed in place to the 4' 2x4 attached to the wall that holds the weak joint in place. You can only see the small arm in this picture, but it's doing its job.

The other big help was the nail plates. Instead of trying to toenail the two frame sections together (remember, I really suck at that) I used a couple of angle brackets at the top and bottom of the thin frame and used nail plates on the back and front of each connection. Then once it was in place, I just nail gunned the regular 2x4 frame into it.

And if you're noticing that the horizontal framing pieces aren't evenly matched up on that last thick 2x4 ladder piece, well, that's my fault too. The other frame sections I measured 16" OC from the floor up. This last section was measured the same way, but from the top down. I've started marking the words "top" on 2x4's so I remember which end is up now. I'll get over it.

So, besides a few measuring mishaps, the bulk of the job is done. Now all I need to do is finish up the top of the left side of this puppy with some more nail plates, and four 2x4 horizontal pieces (at 16"OC from the ground up.. heh heh) and I can move on to, well... everything else.

Starting with installing the bathroom vent fans. Ugh.

Oh yeah, and there's the second floor laundry room HVAC duct work directly above this mess that has been stalled for oh, I dunno... about three weeks?

A quick nail-pulling trick.

To many of you, this is so obvious it's gonna be painful, but until I learned it a while back, I was pulling nails the hard way. You gotta learn sometime, this might just be it.

Way back when, after we got our first cat's paw (tool for digging out nails embedded in wood, like after that time we had to move the entire wetwall 4" over in the kitchen... ah, memories..... :-) well, I realized that once you get the head of a 4" nail 'above-ground' so you can get at it with a crowbar or hammer, but once you got the nail about halfway out, it was just pure muscle trying to squeak it out the rest of the way.

The the hubby showed me a trick: Leverage.

Pulling out nails is so easy now. Of course, I've had LOTS of practice.

1> You get the nail halfway out. You get stuck.

2> You reach down and find a block of 2x4. They're everywhere.

Stick the block of wood next to the nail, and put the hammer on top and pull the nail using this block as the pressure surface.

3> Nail pulls out SOOO easily.


OK, lesson over.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Windows Done

"Somehow" the guys found another window in their warehouse that fits our door-to-window hole.

They came by this afternoon and installed it and I made them go around and foam any windows not tightly in place.

At this point, I'm reasonably pleased.

I've got to get 4 more small windows ordered, however, and I'm a bit honked off that my vendor didn't bother calling me back to take my order.

Tomorrow: Fire Alarms, Fans and later in the day, we go cut out a wrought iron fence given to us by the city. It's sooner than I'm ready for, but we can chain it up or store it in the basement, even until we're in.

We'll likely have pictures of the salvage process to post too.


Sunday, August 17, 2008

Windows done-- almost.

Grrr. The door we turned into a window isn't installed yet.

It was measured incorrectly and came an inch too wide. For everyone who's thinking of bricking up a door into a window: when the installer/measurement associate comes to measure the width of a door, make sure they do it from the OPEN doorway and not just measure the door width from the inside.

So we have to wait another week while they place another window order. Good news is that we weren't broken into this weekend. Yeah. Bring on out the party hats. Harumpfh.

Friday, August 15, 2008

New Windows Arriving Today.

Preface by DH: We had originally intended to restore the old windows and replace a couple of front windows with true divided light wood windows. Then reality hit as we blew out the budget on more repairs than we expected, a better HVAC system than originally planned, and a few other items that added up. When wood is $400 per, plus $75 installation, it adds up quickly and that means that we couldn't afford to replace all the bad windows with wood. Then there were 6 windows that had already been replaced with vinyl, and they'd need to be replaced regardless, and it was going to be tough to get things to match. It became abundantly clear that we had to drop back and punt. With fuel costs rising fast, we need efficient windows. With a mortgage and rent and banks and city deadlines, we need speed, too. Soooo....

Window City is where we ended up buying our windows from. For $1000 down and the rest on a 12 months-same-as-cash financing, it was definitely the way to go. I think we got Nu-sash vinyl windows (in white- ugh) for about $220 a piece, custom measurements, tilt in cleaning and the whole e-glass shebang -- including installation. Pretty nice windows, really.

(I'm sure DH will jump in here and edit in all of the details about the windows... my main point is hopefully new windows will deter the %$#@*& crackheads from breaking in and stealing my NIN and entire 80's music collection all over again. Yeah, still steamed about that. And I still have a spike.)

Anyway, the plan is to use the new Sherwin Williams vinyl paint and paint the exterior of the windows a light brown. We already picked out the colour and it's called "Fishing Cabin". It may take a few weeks to get them painted the way I want, but the key to these windows is that I can remove the entire sashes, bring them inside the house, paint them, and then reinstall them. That means no more climbing ladders to paint the windows.

Ah- and the house exterior is almost finished being painted. That should be done next week, too.

And the electric should be finished next week, so we're getting ready for our framing and electric inspection. Once that is cleared, we'll plan out our central vac system, run extra conduit and be set for the spray foam insulation.

Then the drywall.

I can't believe it. The house is starting to feel like a house instead of just a project.

Gotta go. The window crew should be arriving in about 30 minutes and the plan is to get all the windows installed in one day.

Thank lumber it's not raining.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Rehabbing an Old House Step 4: Financing

Rehabbing an Old House Step 4: Financing

This follows Rehabber Manual Parts 1, 2, and 3

Probably the trickiest part of doing a rehab is financing. It's tricky because you're essentially financing the future value of the home. There's a lot of risk in that. After all, you're likely buying a property that's in pretty rough shape. Maybe even a derelict. Many will view it as worth more torn down. Not us, but you know what I mean.

Who's going to loan you $100,000-$200,000 to turn that into home sweet home?

Well, a lot of places, actually, but not without a lot of strings.

The typical loan is a construction loan, or some sort of convertible construction-to-traditional mortgage. They aren't going to just give you $100k and say, "There you go, now go to work!"

The way it works is you give them a point by point estimate of what you intend to do, they get an appraisal based upon that, then as you do work, they hold back whatever it will take to complete the job and give you the rest.

What that means is that in addition to coming up with a down payment, you're also going to have to finance significant chunks of materials and labor before you get cash from the bank. If you've got that type of cash, great. You're set. Many of us are doing rehabs in the first place because we're not quite that flush, however. Sure we've got reserve funds, but coming up with $10,000 on the fly really eats into one's liquidity.

There are work-arounds, however.

First, thing to do is clean up your credit. You need pristine credit. Get your credit report. Sign up to get regular reports from at least one of the reporting agencies. Dispute anything you don't know or do think is accurate. EVERYTHING matters. Lates, delinquents, defaults, inaccurate information about you. There's lots of resources for leaning how to clean up your credit report. This outfit, the Credit Info Center has a ton of stuff.

Once you have a great credit score, it's time to arrange for you loan. Once you get approved, then you will want to add a bit of low interest credit if reasonable (check with your banker about what's OK to do and what may interfere with your pending mortgage--this is not financial advice--double check everything with a trusted pro). This is what we did. 0-2% card offers are plentiful these days and that can really make things work easier when you're at Home Depot buying $1000 worth of lumber. Also, various vendors will open up accounts for you. If you can finance, say, your windows or your roof for "12 months, same as cash", then you've got some breathing room and can then get a draw from the bank which you can then use to pay, say, your plumber or your HVAC guy.

In addition to these methods, don't forget to check with your local municipality regarding financing incentives and grants to do renovations (historic and otherwise). Often there are tax credits available too. Many cities are trying to get properties fixed up and are willing to give you low or no interest loans, or even cash grants just to live in a place for 5 years.

When you're in the process of looking for a good candidate, make sure you call the housing departments in the areas that you're interested in. Ask them if they have any programs or incentives for rehabbers.

In some cases, city financing can be subordinated to bank financing which makes a bank feel a whole lot better about putting money into a project. In fact, in some case it can make the deal.

Take your time and make sure you understand all the contingencies and workings of any financing deal you do. Take great notes and keep good records. You'll be referring to them all as you go through the process. If you do your homework, and take your time, you won't have to worry about predatory lending or emotional manipulation. If a financing deal doesn't make sense, ignore any pressure tactics and be ready to walk. Nothing is so urgent that you have to close a loan "right now".

Wifely edit: Also know that many municipalities are buying up derelict properties (or confiscating them for delinquent taxes.) They have a vested interest in getting these properties back onto the "I pay my real estate taxes" side of the city ledger. I have known city owned buildings to sell for $1. No, not a typo. $1. The first thing to do is find them. Contact your local Housing Development Department and ask about city owned properties. They'll likely have a list you can take on the road for a self-guided tour.

Back to Step 3

On to Step 5

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

How to carry Plywood.

Now where was this six months ago, Huh???

Saturday, August 9, 2008

We've been "crackified"

Walking into the house this morning started off the day on the wrong foot, and ended it with me wanting someone's head on a spike.

We'd been 'crackified' -- a term coined, as far as I know, by our neighbors. What this means is that our home was broken into and used as a crack house for the night.

The first thing I noticed on setting foot in our dining room was the lit candle on the floor. The WOOD floor. Next to all of the paint cans.

At this point in the story I am reminded that things could have been worse. They could have burned the house back to brick and undone nine months worth of work. As it stands, we blew out the candle and proceeded into the kitchen, and then into the living room, where our back door was wide open and we found glass all over the floor from where the villains broke a window to climb in.

So they didn't burn down the house, but they did steal our tools. Out in the back yard I found a bundle of 12-2 wire that they apparently dropped on their way out. They were also thinking of stealing our ladder, but must've found it too burdensome, because they left it in the middle of the living room.

They also stole our stereo & speakers... and my CD collection. That's what really chews on me. They'll turn around and try to sell all of those CDs for a quarter a piece.

I'll tell you what, you miserable bastages, you come back to my house tonight with my tools, my stereo and my CDs and I promise to not hunt you down like a diseased animal.

I'll made it quick. You see, I have this spike....

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Finishing up the electric on the second floor

Still pulling wires, still cutting holes, still gettin' splinters.

BUT, we've finished the 2nd floor bathroom with can lights, exhaust fan, and GFI outlets. The laundry room is next, along with installing the can lights in the bedroom.

Then the third floor should be a breeze... at this pace we could be done by the weekend!!