Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Catch-22, No Closing For You!!!

So, it all gets more complicated. One of the stipulations to my FHA mortgage from hell is that, because my cosigner (thanks Dad!) is not living in the property, I can't purchase a multi-unit house. I was unaware of this when I made my offer, so now after the appraisal, everyone's freaking out about this duplex that isn't even supposed to be a duplex!

Basically, the house counts as a duplex because it has two kitchens. One will be my bedroom, but try telling that to my bank! So herein lies the catch-22: I can't close until I remove the kitchen, but I can't remove the kitchen until I close! Grrr...

I talked with the listing agent to see how we could fix this situation so I can FINALLY close on the dang house. I said that I would be able to do all the work necessary to seal the deal if the seller would allow it, I'd just need access to the house. Luckily, the seller was OK with this and tomorrow morning I'm doing the necessary changes for my loan to go through. I need to remove the oven (it's a mini apartment stove, about 2.5 ft. wide) and the kitchen sink, essentially rendering the kitchen unusable. All I have to do after that is take some photos to email to the appraisal company. The underwriters come next, then closing. Hopefully Friday. Better be Friday!

I looked up Mr. Somes' obituary at the library while I was on campus today to see what it said. Yeah, I'm a creeper but I'm interested about the history of the house! There was a picture in his obituary, which was really interesting to see. You don't usually get to have an image of someone who lived in your house over fifty years ago. The paper said that he served in WWII, how cool is that? As it turns out Mr. Somes was very involved in many community organizations including the American Legion, Elks club, Eagles club, Boy Scouts, Veterans of Foreign Wars, and some sort of business organization. A man after my own heart; I'm in a handfull of student organizations, we must both be prone to joining organizations! He was the branch manager of some sort of business I haven't researched yet. Most impressive though, was that he and his wife managed to raise 6 kids in my 1350 sq. foot 4 bedroom house. Mind you, the second bathroom wasn't added until 1984! I have a lot of respect for Mr. Somes & I'm excited to fix up his house!

Monday, July 30, 2007

Yay City Records!

Today I took a little trip down to the city inspections department and inquired about my house's history. The fanstastic woman at the counter pulled out my block's information and let me thumb through permits and assessments dating back to the 60's. I found the building permit from 1984 when the PO converted the house into a duplex. (grrr...) I also found out that my ugly white steel siding was installed in June of 1975. I also found that all of the houses on the block were built between 1898 and 1908. Mine's from 1928... what's with that? My house is the only one on the north side of 9th ave. on my block that's not from the 1890's. Strange, huh?

A gigantic smile slipped across my face when I found the last piece of paper that pertained to my house. It's a 1968 real estate assessment record that has lots of information and one faint picture. Mind you, this picture is prior-gross white steel siding. I especially like the little vent in the attic that has the trim around it. I've always felt that something should be up there, not just the vast expanse of siding that sits there now. I may have to go digging for that... we'll see how adventurous I get. The owners at the time were listed as Ernest D and Barbara F Somes, who purchased the house in 1955. I'll have to google them later to see what I can find.

The back side of this sheet had general information about the house. The report says that the house has 'pine or fir' trim throughout the house, but it also has the 'painted' box checked, so how would they know? I'm still hoping for oak. The first knothole I find may bring tears.
I ran over to the public library and asked if they would have any information in their archives about my house. The gentleman there referred me to a book I already own, given to me by my Grampa who has lived in the Fargo area since the 1950's. (except for ten years living out at the lake. I miss that lake!) My house, because it is not a substantial contribution to Fargo's historic architecture, was not featured in the book. The man then said I should contact the author of the book because he is extremely knowledgeable about Fargo's history. The author turned out to be one of my favorite Architecture professors! I had no idea, and I've owned his book for years! I took two Architecture History courses from him, so I'll have to see if he has any advice for me.
Closing soon. Salivating over upcoming demo. Hurry up underwriters!!!

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Scoping Out the Neighbor's Place

I think I'm going to try for 30 posts in 30 days, just like all of the other cool bloggers. Lets see if I can get that done. That will force me to keep on progressing, if nothing else!

While reading the newspaper yesterday, I noticed that the house directly behind mine would be having an open house this afternoon. I couldn't help myself. I popped by before work today to take a peek around and see what the condition of the house was. The house is probably the best maintained house in the neighborhood on the outside, and much to my amusement the inside followed suit. The whole house featured its original, unpainted oak woodwork. 6 panel doors, stained glass and beveled glass windows in almost every room, a beautiful staircase, hardwood floors throughout, clawfoot tub, amazing pocket doors, hardwood floors, butlers pantry, and the only original porch on that block. In case you haven't figured it out yet, that's the house in the photo. In the foyer there was a photo from the early 1900's of the house and I promptly scrambled to see if my house was visible in the background. Nope, just the neighbors to the West's back side. Booo! It made me wonder if I could find an old picture of my house anywhere. I'll have to check around sometime to see what I can find in the library's archives. Oh, if you're interested, 1903, 3bed, 2bath, $141,900. The pictures below are of the dining room, the stairwell, and the landing of the stairwell with the oval stained glass window.

Sure, it's a beautiful house, but it's all done. Now, where's the fun in that? I'll take mine crappy, please!!!
A coworker of mine lives just around the corner from my house in an apartment conversion of a 1899 victorian that would be great if restored. Well, she mentioned that because the building just sold she has to move out of her apartment. Too bad, she'd make a good neighbor, but maybe someone's restoring the house! I'll keep you posted if this happens, 'cause you know I'll be there to welcome them with some neighborly brownies, sledge hammer, and my 'flame thrower' (aka heat gun)!
Just waiting for closing still. Waiting, waiting, waiting...

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Pissed at: Appraisal Companies, Chemical Strippers

I'm so upset right now! My closing date got pushed back because my home appraisal, which has taken 10+ days to get back, won't be on my lender's desk until Monday. Yeah, the day I was supposed to close. After that it goes to the underwriters in Sioux Falls, SD, then I can close. Probably Wednesday. For those who are keeping track, that's two unexpected days I have to wait to bust down walls and rip out fake wood paneling. It wouldn't be such a big deal, but I have roommates who need to move in before classes begin August 20th. One roommate needs to be out of her place by Aug 1, but she luckily has a place to stay in the meantime. See the urgency?

I used a chemical stripper to try to get the remaining paint residue off from one of the salvaged doors, and all that happened was the paint stayed in the cracks and the door became covered in a sticky flamable snot. Fantastic... I'm going to try giving it a light sanding next to see if that would give me a better shot at refinishing. At least these aren't my real doors yet! I don't mind messing up on some salvaged doors that will most likey end up in a closet.

I had a dream about the doors and how they would work being hung in a closet. I need a life.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Stripping Progress, More Pictures

Well, I finished stripping the majority of the paint off of the second salvaged door, although the interior of this door was much more difficult to strip. The door was originally hung in a bathroom, so the interior had many more layers of paint than the exterior. This wouldn't have been such a problem, but the bottom layer of paint turned to a super sticky glue from hell. You can see this paint on the bottom layer of the scrapings in the photo. I couldn't get as much of this putty-colored crap up as I would have liked, but I'm hoping it will cooperate with the chemical stripper I'm using tonight. Wish me luck.

I took a little trip over to the house to take a couple photos now that my camera is working. I've included here a photo of the porch, the arts and crafts door I have high hopes for once it's refinished, and a sad little attempt at catching an interior image. That's me in the glare.

Here are a couple photos of the exterior. The first photo is with the refurbished basement window leaning up on the porch. Now imageine all of the trim that color. Something about that picture makes me like the white trim, but I suppose that is because it looks so clean. In real life? No, yuck. I've also included photos of the side entry and the back of the house. Look at that weird roof situation in the back! Why would you do that? I guess it's kinda funky & cool; it's definatelly the only roof like that on the block!

In other news, there's a light at the end of the tunnel. Well, more like another, much longer tunnel at the end of the tunnel. But anyways, I'M CLOSING ON MONDAY!!! Yes! I can finally get that 'Before' album started. Good times!

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Pictures, Pictures, Pictures!

I figured out how to use my camera, even though the LCD screen is broken. That one was a little alcohol+game involving movement+pavement+camera issue... I learned my lesson.

The good news is that I took pictures of everything I've written about but been unable to show you. I'll start off with the salvaged basement window I cleaned up, put new glazing compound on, and painted green.
I'll have to go the house and prop it up on the porch so you can see what the color looks like in it's proper application. Taking pictures from the middle of the street I guess; just more weird behavior in front of the neighbors. They'll have to start expecting it at some point.

Here's a photo of the one of the doorknobs I got from my 'parts house' (Rest In Pieces!). Check it out, 3 bags full! They've just been riding around in my trunk with me for the last couple weeks.
I read that if you put hardware like this in a crock pot full of water overnight, the paint comes right off. I'll try it sometime before we start working on the house, just in case these get called into play

I worked for three more hours on the first salvaged door, removing all of the paint with the heat gun. I'll probably use a chemical stripper to remove the stubborn paint from from the cracks and crevaces. That should take care of the rest of the varnish too. I'm a little concerned about the stripper because I've never tried anything like it before. I should be able to manage if everyone else can. Anyone have any suggestions on which one to use?

Before I get to that I need to attack the second door. Oh, picture provided! Yes! We have door #1 on the left and door #2 on the right. We also have about five hours of heat gun and scraper on the right. Boo!

Did I fail to mention that Fargo hit 100 degrees today and is really humid? Just the perfect temperature to spend a few hours with a gun blasting out 950 degree air. Fantastic idea. Ranks right up there with wearing shorts and flip-flops with searing-hot sticky paint chips dropping to the ground. I felt the heat on that one a couple times! I also inadvertantly bumped the hot tip of the gun with my thimb. Ouch! It was quick enough though that I didn't burn it really. No blister at least! It's still my favorite tool.

That's about it for now.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Salvaged Supplies = Hours of Restoration

Well, I finally got around to paining the basement window I salvaged and reglazed. As I was applying the green color to the sash, my friend Andy walked out of the house and commented on how he can create that color after a long night of drinking. Thanks. Luckily, once it dried, it looked less like pea soup and came closer to the sage green I was hoping for. As an Architecture student I like to think I can make a good color selection, but this trim color made me second guess my skills! So far so good though.

I drove over to the house and leaned the newly painted window against the siding so I could stand in the street like a crazy person and evaluate the color choice I made for the house I don't even own yet. I think the neighbors must already think I'm crazy. I walked around the house with my little window and looked at it in different lighting conditions and in different areas of the house. How's it work with the brick? How about the shingles? How's it in the shade vs. in the light?

Last night I had my buddy Andy help me pick up two doors from my 'parts house' that's going down today. They match my house's doors EXACTLY! I whipped out my heat gun last night and got to work stripping off layers of white paint. I only finished the one side of one door, but I'll be doing some more work tonight. The original finish of the door I started last night must have had some sort of waxy varnish because the paint was barely bubbling under the heat, but this varnish became the consistancy of honey (just as sticky) and smelled like crayons. If anyone has any ideas about what this is, let me know! It worked out well because the varnish liquified and the paint just came off in sheets (after I got my technique down). I'm not sure what kind of wood the door's made of, but I think it may be oak. All of the upstairs trim is painted right now anyways, so I don't have much to compare it to. As long as I can get the stain to match across the board, I'll be fine!

My camera is broken, so I unfortunatelly don't have any pictures to share, but hopefully I can get it fixed soon so those who read blogs like I do (skimming through pictures, reading where the pictures are interesting) will have more to look at! I definatelly will have a camera by the time I close!

Take care, fellow bloggers

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Progress! Yes!!!

For those who read my last post, I got in touch with the owner of the houses about to be torn down. This fantastic person told me I could salvage whatever I could use for my house. Yes! You can now find a house near NDSU that is missing two basement windows, three storm windows, and every doorknob that it ever held! I hope I can get back sometime this week to salvage two double-panel doors before the house gets torn down on Monday. We'll see!

I started the first of many, many projects yesterday. I took one of the basement windows that I salvaged and used it as my test subject for the restoration that all of my windows need. I used my heat gun (new favorite tool) to loosen up the old, cracked glazing compound around the panes of glass. After I removed the old glazing compound, I used the heat gun to strip off all of the old layers of paint from the window. I put on the new glazing compound now I just need to wait for it to harden so I can paint it. I chose a green color that I'll be using on the exterior of the windows and on the trim. What!?! Not white!?! Color on my house!?! NO WAY!!!

I talked to the seller yesterday and the house is completely vacant right now, allowing me to hurry al0ng the closing. I met with my lender today and he said we would be able to close a little earlier. I hope to get most of the work undoing the duplex conversion done before classes start, so the earlier we close, the better. I'm just really excited to get moving on this project!

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

I'm a Vulture... I'm not proud.

I have become a salvage vulture, encircling pending house demolitions, waiting to pick apart vintage bits for my own home's sustenance.

There are a few redevelopment projects going on around the University, and six houses between 1910 and 1932 are coming down. I have decided that free fits well into my budget, so I've swallowed any bit of pride and have begun essentially dumpster-diving for vintage building supplies! You can find me peering into the windows of vacant, neglected houses wondering "what did my trim look like again?" and "how many more doorknobs do I need?"

I was a little too late for two of the houses which have already come down to make room for a new three level apartment complex with some much needed retail across the street from campus. I had been inside each of these houses before when friends lived in them, so I knew what was salvagable in them. House #1, affectionatelly known to NDSU students as the 'Fiesta House' had a pretty nice staircase and three beveled glass windows (each had cracked panes) but much of the woodwork was either painted with gold spray paint (what?) or missing. House #2 was actually originally built as a 6 unit apartment building. The house had 1.5" oak hardwood floors and some nice radiators. The house had at least 18-20 pristine light oak 5-panel doors. Try to hold back the tears, fellow bloggers. I know I've read that some of you have been searching for those. There were two leaded-glass windows and about a dozen original art deco light fixtures and wall sconces. There was one nice entry door with a large beveled glass window that would have worked in my house, but other than that the rest wouldn't have worked for me. I have two panel doors. It just sucks that most of that ended up in a scrap pile of wood splinters. I could have grabbed some of those storm windows too.

There are four houses that are about to meet the same fate, and I'm thinking I need to get moving! I've included a photo so you can get an idea of the types of places I've been 'casing'. I, ashamedly, have done some window peeping and found that at least one of the houses has my same windows, doors, trim, and doorknobs. Score! I paid a visit today to the development company that owns the buildings, but their office was closed. I'm going back tomorrow to try again, but it might come down to a little 'secret salvage' if they aren't around their office the next couple days! I can see it now in the headlines "Catburglar Nabbed in Doorknob Heist". My parents will be proud.

I checked up on the sinks at Lowes a couple days ago, and there's a little bad, but mostly good news. The $25 Kohler self-rimming sink retails for $230, and the $30 American Standard pedistal sink top retails for $200. Bad news... This requires me to special order in the $160 pedistal leg! Aaah!!! I could have bought a whole bargain pedistal sink for less. But, as my Dad put it, buyers will pay more for the high-end fixtures. I love the sink though, so I suppose it will be ok. I've decided to do white wainscoting on the bottom half of the walls and white hex-tile on the floor in the powder room, and that sink is just going to rock. It's the first thing you see as you enter the room, so it's kind of the focal point.

I just want to hurry up closing and get started already! I have my roommates all lined up already and they all want to get moving in as soon as possible. All I'm thinking about is how long it's going to take to get the house ready for them to move in. I'm going to be so embarrassed if they have to move in and it's still a gigantic dump-hole.

For now I'll just continue being a scavanger!

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Building Bargains!!!

Let me tell you about one of the best places to purchase materials while on a tight budget. ReStore in Moorhead, MN! I love that store! The store is run by Habitat for Humanity volunteers who take donated new and used building materials and sell them to raise money for local Habitat building projects. The items are in good condition, often appearing brand new, and are at very low prices. As I remove some of the materials from my house during the renovations I plan to donate most of the usable materials to ReStore. Gotta think green, right? Just like we learned in elementary school: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle!

I purchased a kohler sink for my upstairs bathroom last week for $25, and today I bought an American Standard pedistal sink (missing the base) for $30! I've included a picture of the sink so you can get an idea of how nice it will look in a 1920's house. All I have to do now is find the base at Home Depot or Menards; I'm not sure which one carries American Standard. I have to make a trip out to Menards anyways because they have a porch swing on sale for $30 and I really want a hanging porch swing just like in my Aunt's craftsman bungalow she used to own. I'm looking forward to the five nice days Fargo's weather will allow me to use the porch and what could be better than a porch swing?

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

The Mugshot

Here is a photo of my house. Bland and white. She's got potential though!

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Where I'm at right now...

Well, I will be living in Fargo for 3 more years to finish my Architecture degree, so I decided to purchase a fixer-upper home that I could live in and renovate instead of paying rent. I figure I'll significantly refurbish a house and sell it after college to, hopefully, make a little money for a down-payment on a post-college house. In the mean time I will be having some roommates to help pay the mortgage since I only work part time. I hope they won't mind dust/fumes/demo!

I found this 1928 house that is conveniently located, large, and cosmetically challenged. That seemed to be a pretty good investment for my first house, so I put in an offer (which was accepted) a few weeks ago. I'm now extremely excited for closing because I want to start working on the house as soon as possible! I have to wait until mid-august to close because the home is currently rented out and the tenents needed some time to find new lodging.

The house was bought by the previous owner in 1984 as a forclosure, then converted into a duplex which has been rented out for the last 23 years. You can about imagine how well it's been taken care of! I will be converting the house back to a single family home which, after some light construction, will feature four bedrooms and two bathrooms. It's somewhere between 1300 and 1400 square feet, but laid out well. The foundation is perfect and the house is structurally sound, she just needs a little cosmetic TLC to make her shine again.

I have begun planning the renovations that need to take place as soon as I take possession. These changes need to happen to make the house ready for my friends and I to live in. They are as follows:

  • removal of 2nd story kitchen
  • removal of extra wall dividing the livingroom from the entry
  • removal of closets in living room and dining room
  • replacement of wall separating master bedroom from hallway upstairs
  • replacement of kitchen appliances. I got some that are about 5 years old from a friend'suncle for cheap, so all I need to do is get them into the house. My back hurts thinking about it!
  • CLEAN CLEAN CLEAN!!! My house is gross now.

After those issues have been tackled, my list for future projets so far is:

  • bathrooms: upstairs needs tile on the floor and tub surround, new sink/vanity, some sublfoor work. basically everything. downstairs needs floor tile, shower stall, new toilet, and because of space issues I'm thinking pedistal sink. I'm hoping that money falls from the sky for these projects, 'cause it won't be cheap!
  • windows all need new glazing, some have cracked glass.
  • refinish wood floors throughout house
  • strip paint from banister and 2nd floor woodwork and refinish. (just got a heat gun on sale, really excited!)
  • update kitchen cabinets somehow. I'm thinking paint and hardware because that's all I can afford!
  • tile in the kitchen, looking into how to replace the counters.
  • replace some wood trim outside on the soffits, bargeboard, etc. then paint. The house has white aluminum siding, so that has to stay, but every available wood surface will be painted because I can't stand how bland the house looks in all white!
  • replace light fixtures throughout the house (will happen as sales present themselves! I'm not paying sticker price for anything!)
  • repairing cracked plaster in bedrooms upstairs. There are some really weird texture issues!

I have been scouting through salvage shops for some of the items needed for the projects and so far have only found a sink. Hey, it's a start! I'm also watching enough HGTV to make a person's head explode. I'm excited to try my hand at tiling, paint stripping, floor refinishing, and demo. I've done some work in the past, so hopefully it will serve me well.

I think that's about it for now. Future posts will feature photos, but I can't get in there to take them until August!

Here we go!

Welcome to my blog! Through this blog I will be chronicling my adventures rennovating the 1928 2-story home I just purchased in Fargo, ND. I'm most likely in way over my head, but lets see what happens!