Monday, February 19, 2007

What we saw this weekend

Here is what we saw when we went in 2/18. Only days three after we closed escrow, the plaster was off the walls.

Upstairs, west-facing bedroom.

Upstairs front bedroom
The lower living room. Jim fell in love with the tiles in here -- until we found out they were made of ASBESTOS. I'm hoping to restore these floors to polished concrete.

Lower living room

The "out" sign below means that wall is scheduled for demo.

Upper living room

The man below is Louie, our trusty contractor. He has become a pretty important person in our lives. These walls are pretty interesting. This is the old "lathe and plaster" style of construction. Before there was drywall, this is how it was done.


You can see more of the pictures from 2/18 by clicking here.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Starting from the Ground Up

We close escrow tomorrow.

But being in escrow hasn't kept us from going into the house and getting estimates on everything from security systems — well almost getting, since the guy from ADT security never did turn in a bid — to heating and cooling.

The process of receiving and comparing proposals from all these various contractors is a pretty mind-bending experience. Take for example our foundation. When our stellar inspector, Lisa Yetter, took a look under the house, she pointed out that there did appear to be some crumbling around the perimeter of the foundation. There also appeared to be a badly cracked beam running across the center. "It's not urgent, it's not a huge amount of work," Lisa told us. "But get to it when you can."

Now, I don't purport to know anything about foundations, but I trust Lisa. I also have relied heavily on Lisa's Roladex full of contractors over the years. She threw out two names of local foundation specialists for me to call.

The first specialist I'll give the bloggy name "Stone." This wasn't my first encounter with Stone. I'd hired him about four years ago to inspect a foundation of another house I'd put a bid on, and he'd come back with a proposal that I'd found respectable. He was able to pinpoint the exact problems with the existing foundation and also nail down a price for adding a finished winecellar to the extisting basement (just a crawlspace, really). He seemed to really know what he was doing. Thus, out of the two names Lisa gave me, I called him first.

Stone's bid for the foundation on the Jewel of Hollywood came back at $40,000 — a figure that stopped me cold. How could Lisa have been so wrong? When he told me, I experienced the cartoon effect of thought bubbles over my head filled with images of new kitchen appliances and bathroom and tile fixtures popping one by one. We haven't really nailed down an exact budget, but whatever it is, I knew $40K would be a heaping chunk of it. So I asked Stone if there was anything we could put off for later.

"Oh, so you want to do the cosmetic stuff first?" he asked indignantly. "I turn down jobs from people who do the cosmetic stuff first."

A pretty saucy answer, I thought, from somebody looking to take more money from me than it cost to fund my entire graduate school education. But my heart was still with Stone. I'd paid him for the inspection, and by increments I was working through the denial phase and into the phase of accepting the economic realities of a remodel. I believed what everyone has been telling us — that you've got to budget 20% more than you expected to spend. It always costs more.

But then, I had the number of this other foundation specialist. At $150 a pop, just the inspections for things like this can start to get expensive. But Jim reassured me that paying for a second opinion would be money well spent.

We'll call this second contractor "Seismic Shazam!" They came. They inspected. They proposed. And their bid was $9,780.

Suddenly, I felt as though I'd just made 30 grand.

Sunday, February 4, 2007

Um ... Hello? Is this thing on?

Well, here it is. My very first post. Looking forward, I have no idea where this is going to go. I don't even really know why people write blogs, but the words narcissism and exhibitionism come to mind.

It's just that I find myself at the beginning of a lot of big projects -- a family, a new house -- and I guess I just feel the need to document the changes.

For today, let's start with the house.

Can't wait to take down this sign:

Century 21 Sign

Here is the lovely exterior as it looked when first I saw it:

House as seen from the street

The house was originally built in 1916, though only the back rooms. The front part is an addition that was made in the 50s.

Below is the lovely interior. This is what we call the "Lower Living Room." This is the part that was built in the 50s. The most telling detail is the stone fire place barely visible to the very far left in this picture. An incredible mid-century wood-burner that appears never to have been used.

Lower Living Room

Did I mention that it's a fixer?

You can see more of the house in all its glory on Flickr.