Monday, September 21, 2009

Ikea floor and stupid dog

So this is the floor we got and installed in the kitchen and new bathroom. During the installation (and I assumed until the baseboard was in) ikea suggests putting in the black spacers between the wall and the floorboard. Well our stupid dog Brutus has been picking up the spacers and is now recovering in hospital after surgery to remove one from his stomach!! This is his second surgery to have something removed from his insides in the last 6 months. In his defense he is half pug and pugs apparently will eat anything and everything and will even eat until it kills them. Now how did this breed survive?


I know I said I would post pictures but I couldn't find the camera. Well, I found the camera, took new pictures and then I couldn't find the cable to download the pictures. But now I have both, so here are a couple of pictures of our kitchen. It is 90% complete and only needs under-cabinet lights and some drywall on the ceiling! These pictures were taken when we started the remodel so it is a little messy....

The kitchen before: All the counter space we had is in the middle picture can see all the counter space we had (it is right next to the window). The picture on the right was taken after the plumber was done putting the waste stack into the wall.

The kitchen now. We still have to paint and are going to do a greenish tile for a backsplash. We filled in the missing pieces from the reuse center cabinets with ikea sheves and wine rack, and are going to paint all the cabinets white.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

The Kitchen remodel.

I have to apologize, I took pictures of different stages of the plumbing an kitchen demo to post and with the mess the house is in, I can't find the cord to download the pictures to my computer. I promise to post them as soon as I find the cord though.

The electrical and plumbing rough-in inspections should be completed tomorrow. After that we can put in the kitchen cabinets and start to drywall. Last weekend, I put in the new floor for the kitchen and new bathroom. It is an Ikea floor with a black and white pattern on it, which looks really good. So things are progressing, but not fast enough. What is worse, is that we have to get a lot done by the wednesday before labor day. Seth's parents are coming up to visit for the long weekend! I hope we will have some semblance of normalcy by then.

When we were looking for kitchen cabinets we went to Menards and Ikea and used their design program and figured that the Ikea cabinets would work best cost-wise. Then a couple of weekends ago, we went to the reuse center to looking for something completely unrelated, and they had a complete oak kitchen set which fitted our kitchen almost perfectly! So we ended up buying it the next day. We also fortuitously found that all the appliances we picked out were available at the Sears outlet in NE minneapolis and we got a great deal on those. So with all the money we have saved so far we may even be able to get more stuff done around the house.

Fired the contractor

We fired the contractor about a week or so into getting things started. It just wasn't working out. Insisted that the plumber finished before he would send in his guys, but the plumber needed the contractor to do several things so he could put in the plumbing. So, we (and by we I mean Bill mainly), ended up tearing out the kitchen and everything else that the plumber needed. Finally it got to he point where Bill was going to put in the new cabinets and we are getting custom concrete counter tops so all the contractor had to do was sister 4 joists in our kitchen ceiling before all the plumbing could be finished. well, then he said he would show up on 2 separate occasions - once to check on how many joists he needed and the second to actually do the work. The first time he said he had too much to do, and the second time after telling him I had to be at work at 9, he called at 8:40 telling me he was still a half hour away and had to stop to talk to someone on the way. With that, he brought the firing on himself......

Turned out though that I also fired the plumber. After the ceiling joists were fixed, I called the plumber asking him why he had not shown up and he told me that he had a contract to work for us with the contractor and not with us. Sigh, set us back a couple of days, but we got a new contract with him and now have our rough-in inspection tomorrow!!!! He is a great plumber, did a ton of work - tore out everything, and put in new water lines, gas lines and waste and vents for 2 bathrooms and the kitchen. Anyway, we hope we will be done with the plumbing sometime next week!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

The people helping.....

With the demise of our 203k loan application, we decided to use our savings to fix up as much of the house as we could. We decided that redoing the existing bathroom and kitchen were our top priorities for now, and we nixed the new bathroom and figured we could work on other areas one at a time. But we decided that it would be easier if we had some help getting things done. So here are the people we have (or had).....

The General Contractor: Our general contractor for the 203k loan was still around and we felt really bad for him, because he hung around for so long only to end up out of a big job. so we really wanted to give him something to do. It was very obvious from the get-go that the contractor was not as into the project anymore. We told him what our priorities were and asked for a new bid. So he haphazardly pulled out some relevant bits from his original estimate and sent it to me, insisted on getting a new plumber to turn in a bid and threw in a general figure for electrical. It was clear though that we were not going to be able to afford doing the plumbing and all the priorities we had set, so after a lot of back and forth, we decided that the contractor would do a complete kitchen remodel, which included supporting and leveling the sagging ceiling (which is also the bathroom floor).

The Plumber: We ended up asking for the first of 2 plumbers that the contractor had turn in estimates - the new plumber came in a little bit higher than the first, but his bid only included redoing the existing bathroom and not putting in a new one. So we asked for the 1st guy and decided to put in the new bathroom.

The Electricians: We ended up getting a local company to come in and do the electrical. It basically included everything we wanted in the loan and they came up with a very reasonable estimate. In fact they just called me to tell me that they were done with rough-in and were going to schedule an appointment for the inspection tomorrow.

Our friend Bill: Born and brought up on a farm in Nebraska, Bill has been a great handyman. Although he prefers to to frame and hang drywall, he will probably do anything construction related. Unfortunately Bill got a job that started Monday, so we don't know when we are going to see him next. It was great when he would come over do some stuff during the day when we were at work and suddenly we had new walls, ceilings and plaster ripped out, a leveled kitchen ceiling.

In spite of all the help, we have still been busy ourselves, but it all seems more manageable. Although Bill got rid of old hanging cabinets in the kitchen, Seth and I tore out the rest. We then put down a new IKEA floor in the new bathroom and in the kitchen and are the general clean up crew. I even cut up our old cast iron bathtub and we hauled it downstairs to the dumpster. We will probably be putting in kitchen cabinets this weekend!!

RIP 203k

I took a little bit of a hiatus from the blog, but I'm now back! We have had a lot going on recently but things are definitely moving, but I will probably fill you in with short posts, rather than one long, boring one. After waiting for a long, long time for our FHA loan, the company we were using quit the 203k program and denied our loan. We tried resurrecting it with other companies, but unfortunately found another problem with the appraisal. Our appraiser the "as is" value of our house way below its current value. He apparently took our purchase price of the house and then took into account depreciation in the neighborhood and the number of months we have owned the home to come up with the current value our house. So according to the appraisal we owe more than it is worth. The bottom line is that if we pursued the 203k further, we wouldn't be able to get everything done.

So we are now back to doing things ourselves, with a little bit of help.....

Monday, June 29, 2009


I need to vent. We still have not yet gotten our rehab loan. The underwriter is apparently still working on it. So we are playing the waiting game, but it has been a long, frustrating process. We did get the house to appraise for the amount we need, which is great! I may post more about the loan process after we close, for anyone trying to decide if they want to try getting a rehab loan. In the meantime, we received a letter from our mortgage company saying that they were informed that our home owners policy had been terminated. Now, I knew this was coming, but it was not supposed to happen until the middle of July.

When we bought the house last year, our insurance company came up with a list of things that they wanted us to do - paint the house, fix the cracks under the porch, fix the garage door and window. When I talked to them last year, the person told me that I had a year from that day to finish it, which was the middle of July last year. But instead they cancelled our policy from the day we bought the house.

What is really surprising is that we got nothing from them. There was no letter, no email, phone call, nothing - to say our policy was not going to be renewed. Anyway, we were forced to find a new insurance company in a panic to make sure we had coverage. I am pissed with the previous company for not informing us or we would not have known had the mortgage company not contacted us. I called them to tell them so and got the runaround, but someone is supposed to call me back in 24 hours.....

Friday, May 8, 2009

Cedar Ave

Cedar Ave is one of the main streets in South Minneapolis.  Unfortunately, over the years, it has become a main alternate route for people to drive into the city as well as to the MOA.  As a result, the traffic is horrendous, it is also unsafe in some areas, not bike or pedestrian friendly. Here is a group of residents in the South Minneapolis that are working with the county and city to correct these problems and also to promote local businesses in the area.  If you live in any of the neighborhoods adjacent to Cedar, I urge you to go check out CAU.  You can find more information at and .

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Not much happening....

We have not had much happen on the home front.  I'm itching to get started with the work, but instead learning how to be patient  We were told last week that it would probably be 4-6 weeks before we closed on the loan!!!  Our contractor didn't sound too happy, but was OK with the time frame.  In the meantime, I keep looking around to see if there is anything I can do to start work.  We did the MS walk this morning and I'm a little sore.  I know I'm going to be hurting tomorrow. So starting next weekend I'm going to start by stripping off the ugly stick on tiles in our foyer and remove the old heating vent to the bathroom.  Then I may start moving some of the outlets and light fixtures upstairs to where we want them, but I may be getting a little ahead of myself.  

Sunday, April 19, 2009

The Beasts in the Yard

Minneapolis has had some really nice weather this last week.  All our animals love being outside. Here are some pictures of them enjoying the warm weather.

New Blog Name?

If we don't start work on our house soon I may have to change the name of this blog to "the Ghetto House." Last week we came home to find the bottom of our screen door had fallen off. The Byerly's deliver guy laughed and asked if it was a new doggie door.  I thought about changing it, but our plan is to open up the porch, in which case we will not need a screen door there, so I don't want to have to buy one now if it is only going to be for a couple of weeks.  

Our neighbors who have all seen the inside of the house at some time all realize how much work we have to do, so hopefully they won't complain to the city.  

As far as getting our loan, we just sent the plans to the loan officer and are waiting for an appraisal.  We decided to have the floor of the tuck-under garage dug out so that the whole space meets the height requirements for a bedroom.   So this way we get appraised as a 3 bed/2 bath house instead of a 2/2.  

In the picture is Buster warming himself up this winter.  It was one of his favorite spots when it got really cold outside.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Spring is here

Our lilac bushes have buds on them and everywhere else I look there are signs of spring. Finally!! Seth has started working on the garden.  He has his own blog with his progress at  He is planting all kinds of plants; tomatoes, beans, peas, onions, garlic, herbs, chili peppers, rhubarb, carrots, radish, celery, broccoli.....and that is all I can remember.  At least we are not doing the CSA again this year.  If all goes well we may have to distribute stuff to other people, because there is no way that the two of us will be able to eat all those veggies.

We are slowly making other progress toward fixing up the house.  We have a contractor with a really decent estimate.  Now we are waiting for th
e FHA guy (not completely sure what to call him) to finish his write up and then off we go to the loan officer and appraiser!  We are keeping our fingers crossed that we get the amount we want.  Then I really will have a lot to blog about as things start moving.  

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Restore or Rebuild?

Now we have had three different contractors tell us that for the amount we are willing to pay to rehab our house, we could build a nice new-construction house of the similar size and with everything we want in our home.  Additionally, the last person to see it today noticed that the southeast corner of the house was settling and brought up concerns with it.  So we are trying to decide what to do.  

The pros of rebuilding are; we get a brand new house, we can adjust the floor plan to what we would like, we won't have to worry about fixing things or sudden problems.  
The cons are; it is a new house and would lack the charm of an old house, we have to find a place to live while we are rebuilding and we may have to jump through hoops getting the neighborhood and city to agree.  We would like to keep to an older arts and crafts style house if we were to rebuild. 

The pros to renovating; we get the house to look the way we want it too, we have very little to do and can add/change/fix things as they come along, we still have a cool old house in the city, it will still probably be cheaper overall.
The cons; dealing with settling, unexpected problems with the house, constantly having to fix something.


Last of the Contractors

I think we have had the last contractor come through the house.  I'm fed up of showing people around and telling them what we want done.  I know at least one guy realized it, but it was "early" in the morning for me and I had not yet finished my cup of coffee.  The guy before that though was a little bit of a jackass and refused to stick to the list and kept arguing with me.  We didn't even go upstairs, when I said that we wouldn't be using his company and thank you for coming. Hopefully we will start getting some numbers in next week and can make a decision.

Friday, March 20, 2009


Ok.  So we have started getting bids back for the house and the first one came back at a whopping 300k.  Now I know that we have a lot going on, but 73k for a 2 car detached garage is absurd.  The other parts of the bid were also extremely high.  I sent an email back to the contractor asking him if I was reading the estimate wrong and pointed out that if I was reading it correctly, 73k for a detached garage was insane.  I tried to be as polite as possible without coming out and asking him if he was on crack.  I also asked if he would like a chance to redo the bid or if he had no interest in the project to let me know rather than making up numbers.  

The second bid however was a lot more reasonable.  They even came out twice so that they didn't miss anything.  Overall the bid is a little on the high side, but I'm sure we could work things out and prioritize as needed.   Also the PM and even the second guy he brought with him were cute :)

After the crazy first bid though, I called another contractor, we have subs for the third guy visiting next week and we have another pm looking over the work to see if she would be interested in taking on a side project!  

Now its back to the mortgage people.

Monday, March 2, 2009

House Plans

We had an FHA evaluator come out and draw up plans for the house last week.  He came up with a big list of things to had to be done and others that we would like done.   The final construction total was higher than we hoped and now we have to go back to the mortgage agent to do comps to see if our house would appraise for that amount after we are finished with the work.  

On the first floor he has us taking out one of the two entrance doors (which is great!), taking out two kitchen windows and taking down the wall between the kitchen and dining room.  The other two we figured are optional and while it would be nice to open up the kitchen/dining room, we can live with it the way it is.  The major renovations on the first floor are adding the bathroom, redoing the kitchen and redoing the back bedroom. 

On the second floor, which is our master bedroom, we have to finish the new bathroom, most of which is already in place, fix the floors, and put in the closet.  

The rest of the work not shown in his renderings is adding a detached garage, fixing our failing foundation under the front porch, fixing the front porch, painting inside and outside, fixing the stairs and redoing the floors.  

I contacted three contractors today and they are all coming out this week to give me estimates and thank you to the guys in the 1928 northrup bungalow for recommending their contractor, who is coming out to see the house on Friday (which I guess was 2 weeks ago, since I forgot to actually publish the post!!).

Monday, February 16, 2009

No activity

When I finished all the electrical work in the house, I really have not felt like doing very much work on the house.   We talked about it last week and decided that should look into home loans to fix the house up and that way we can put in a fireplace or wood stove, redo the kitchen and have someone finish everything we started.  

Our house is not very big and we also talked about extending the back so that we can have two bedrooms, a pantry and bathroom on the first floor.  That way we could also extend the single tuck-under garage and convert it into a two car garage.  

We finally got all our paperwork together yesterday and sent it to our mortgage guy today.  So we are keeping our fingers crossed and will see what happens.

House Insulation

I was just reading another house blog that talked about the lack of insulation in the attic.  We had the same problem - we don't even have insulation in any of the exterior walls.  Our heating bills this winter have been quite high.  I insulated the attic with fiberglass rolls of R-30 in January.  I know that is not optimal for Minnesota, but I figured something was better than nothing.   Our Jan heating bill did come down a very little bit, but considering how cold January was - when the temperature was at -24 and and the house would not heat up beyond 62, . I'm glad I got the insulation put in!

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

More electrical

And then there was light!  I have some of the lights back on downstairs with only the porch light and the one in the front of the house to connect.  I should have been done last weekend, but Seth wanted to put a ceiling fan in the living room.  We picked one out this weekend, and every day since then I have attached a new fixture.  

I did my best not to make too make the holes in our ceiling very big, but the harder I tried, the larger the hole became.   I guess I have my next project.
Here are pictures of some of the holes in the ceiling.  The last one I had to make to run new romex down the wall for a new switch.

Having done very little electrical work, and no real training with wiring, I kept having these scary thoughts that when I finally turned everything on, the whole house was going to go up in flames.  But we finally have lights downstairs and the fan and all the lights work. 

Monday, January 19, 2009

Knob And Tube

Although our house was rewired two years ago, we found that all the lighting on the first floor was on an old circuit with knob and tube wiring. So I decided that it was time to rewire, thinking it would only take me a few hours......
Well over a week later I have most of the wires in place. The reason it took so long was that the wires from the living room ceiling light went out into the porch, then under the floor of the upstairs bedroom, then behind the baseboard and finally back down to the switch right by the front door. The porch light and the foyer light were all spliced into this circuit behind the baseboard upstairs. So, I had to make holes in the ceiling inside the front door and then take off the baseboard upstairs to run the new wires. I really didn't want to do it because that is the only wall which still had plaster (all the other walls upstairs have exposed lath with very little plaster - most of it was like that when we moved in).
Anyway, I now have to put in new electrical boxes in the ceiling and then attach the new fixtures. I'm hoping to finish everything this week but then I thought I would be finished last weekend! I even added a new light outside which was painful because it was really cold and after a few minutes my fingers would go numb. People in our neighborhood thought that we were either really brave or completely crazy to have bought the house, so after my little stint in the cold trying to drill holes through the front of the house and fishing wires and putting up the light, I think I have convinced them of the latter!
Well, I will hopefully post some pictures of the mess I created soon.

Handyman - this economy sucks

So, I have to finish the plumbing for the master bathroom by the middle of February, so that we can get it inspected for the truth in housing (we have already gotten a couple of extensions and I just want to get it over with).  Because both of us a really busy and the work is going really slowly, I put an ad on craigslist for a handyman to help me finish the plumbing.  In less than 24 hours I got over 50 responses.  

Some of them were over qualified, some wanted me to pay more, some wanted to do it all themselves.  I am now trying to narrow down the list and get in touch with some of them.  I was just surprised though how many contractors didn't have enough work to do and were willing to help me for less than half of what they would normally make.  Some guys wanted more money and wanted to do all the work themselves.  There were others that just came right out and said that they didn't have any work at all or were unemployed.  This economy sucks and I feel really bad for them.  But at the same time, I can't hire them all as we also have a limited amount of money to spend at this time.

I really don't know what to do.

Monday, January 12, 2009

List of house projects!

When we moved into the house, we came up with a list of things that we need to do based on the truth in housing from the city, things our insurance company wanted us to fix and other improvements that we needed to make.  S's parents were going to come up to help in November as they knew what they were doing.  So here is the first thing on our ambitious list of things to get done.

Renovate and extend the bathroom.  

The original bathroom in the house was on the second floor.  It was small and the old clawfoot bathtub was placed under the slope of the roof, so it did not have a shower.  I could not find a picture of the bathroom and this was the best I had.  The ceiling was a horrible purple and the wall paper had big blue and purple flowers.
We did put in a makeshift shower at some point until S's parents came up to help with the projects.

So far we have extend the bathroom taking away some space from the bedroom, installed a new tub and sink and also moved the laundry into this bathroom from the basement (to get around a truth in housing problem). While we were doing this, we ran new PVC pipes for the waste that would eventually replace the cast iron (which I have not finished yet) and PEX tubing for the water supply.  

But we still have to finish the framing for the bathtub which is sitting on 2x4's and frame the walls.  In the meantime, we have a tarp hung from the ceiling where the wall will be eventually!

Saturday, January 10, 2009

The house and yard

The House...

The Yard....

And this is a picture from the other end of the yard.  The house is all the way in the front.  It used to take me about 2 hours to mow the lawn.


Last year we started to look for a house with a yard for our dog Buster.  In June we found the perfect house in south minneapolis with a huge yard that was a third of an acre.  The house is a hundred years old and needs updating and quite a bit of work.   The huge yard and the original wood work were the redeeming qualities off the house and we figured that we were up to the challenge of renovating the house.  

I started this blog to chronicle our progress with the house and yard and also to motivate me to keep going.  I will also post before, during and after pictures of our different projects.  While we hope to be finished at some point, I doubt that we will ever be really done and will always have something to fix or do.....