Our Home Improvement Category

Sep. 2011 8


Our house was built in the 1950’s; which is fine. The foundation is sturdy, the DC earthquake did nothing to it; the lot is large; and it has a certain charm that most new houses just couldn’t pull off. The big problem with a 1950’s house is that everything is old, and I’m not talking décor. Our current headache (as I’ve mentioned before) is our plumbing.

The day we moved in we noticed a running water sound, as if someone was taking a shower. Which wouldn’t be weird except all the taps were turned off. We wrote it off as the hot water heater filling for the first time. When it was still running the next day, we called the plumber. Come to find out, the old copper pipes under our house had cracked, causing a leak under the slab. It took me a while to under stand what exactly was going on, so I drew a diagram for you.

Red = Hot water

Blue = Cold water

Gray = Stuff under the slab.

So we figured out the leak was in the hot water line, somewhere between the kitchen and the first bathroom. We had 3 choices of how to fix the problem:

  1. Bust of the slab in the kitchen, carport, heater room, and possibly the living room; lay new  copper pipe; relay the slab with fresh concrete, re-put our lives back together
  2. Run brand new pipes through the attic above the main house, then the attic above the carport/heating room (separate from main house) and then down into the heating room. Insulate all the piping and pray it doesn’t freeze in the cold Virginia winters
  3. Run brand new pipes around the ceiling (but on the interior of the house) of the kitchen and living room; drill a hole in the living room wall and feed the pipes out to the heating room.

Number one would have broken my heart. I just spent weeks redoing the floors and cabinets. And on top of that, the problem might have reoccurred in a number of years. And number two would have me panicking all winter. So, although it’s the most unattractive option, we went with 3. Which looks like this:

All the piping is in the overhead (for the most part)

So the plumbers came and hung new pipes, it took about 13 hours.

Once they were done we called Manuel to come take a look. We decided to build a soffit that went all the way around from the washer/dryer closet to the end of the living room. We wanted it to look like it was “meant to be there”, so we didn’t stop the soffit in the middle of the living room wall (where the pipes stopped).

I’ve never dealt with drywall before, so this whole process was new to me. Thank goodness for Manuel!

Start building a metal "box" for the drywall to hang on

Hey look! It's Manuel!

Then you cover the box

Then cover the hole

And this afternoon we are sanding it all down. Then we’ll do 2 coats of primer and then paint. I’ll keep ya posted!

Sep. 2011 2

Gardening & Gutters

My last name is Gardner, so I should be awesome at gardening, right?? Yea…maybe not so much. I remember gardening with my mom when I was younger. One year I planted strawberries in the side yard. We got maybe 3 out of the batch and the bunnies ate the rest. My flower of chose was always Impatiens or Snap Dragons because they are so easy to take care of.

I have huge yard now, which it made up of about 90% weeds. And the bushes aren’t much better. The last owners let the plants run wild. The other day I went to trim the bush that is next to our carport only to find that it was almost 50% weeds. I looked it up on http://www.invasive.org/eastern/ (which by the way was super easy to use) and figured out that the bushes were being attached by Amur Peppervine. It took me over an hour to get it all out. It’s a bit sad because the amur peppervine killed most of the existing bush. So what looked full before looks a little sparse now. I’ll have to do some pruning to encourage the bush to grow back. But hopefully we’ve seen the last of that dumb spiky vine.

Stupid spiky vine...killing my plants...

The clippings

And while we are on the subject of weeds…I must mention my gutters. So my gutters have never drained. Everything just sits in them. Turns out it’s because they were jam-packed full of dirt, leaves and plants. Last week, before the hurricane came through, I thought it might be a good time to clean out the gutters. The last thing I wanted was for the hurricane to rip them right off our house with such heavy rains. My mom was nice enough to help. I think she just enjoyed making fun of all the stuff we found (like a belt in the tree). Particularly what was in the stretch of gutter over the master bed room, which happens to be under a big tree. We found little trees starting to grow. At least 5 of them. Here’s the biggest one my mom pulled out:

Aug. 2011 10

Home Improvement

So as you know, Vlad and I recently closed on a house! Hooray! Well that excitement was short lived because we have a ton of work to do before we can move in. As in, there were no working toilets, the floor was warped, the kitchen cabinets were down right disgusting, the previous tenants stole the door knobs…and the list goes on.

Thankfully Vlad knows everyone. He knows the handyman, Manuel, from a restaurant he used to work at. And Manuel has been a life saver. He’s replaced the toilets, faucets, fans, disposal and lights. He even brought in his cousins for the flooring. It’s been amazing. But there still is a lot to do. It’s been 2 weeks since we closed, and 1 more week before we move in for real. Here’s a sneak peak at the projects I’ve been working on:

First of all, pay no attention to the powder blue toilet sitting in our front yard. I’m just happy it’s no longer in our bathroom.

Secondly, there is something hidden under the grass on the side of our house. I would have never noticed except I was roaming about while on a phone call and I noticed a odd patch of grass…

So I had the genius idea to refurbish the fireplace because it had giant rust patches. And in the process of taking off the doors to refurbish the frame, I dropped the fastening nut down into the frame and end up having to take the whole thing out of the wall! Insulation and soot when everywhere. What a mess, but so worth it.

The kitchen cabinets after almost 7 hours of labor stripping the previous paint job. This went from a little project to the bane of my existence really quick. I curse you cabinets!!!!

So stay tuned to see the grand reveal of all the finished projects!