Saturday, February 25, 2006

My Favorite Salvage Place

Wow. Bauer Brothers' Salvage has a new website. I love that place. Really, really love that place.

If you visit.....wear comfortable shoes......bring gloves because it is barely heated......and plan on spending at least an afternoon.

And wave hi to the pink bathroon sink, toilet and tub I desperately wanted to buy but had no place for.

Friday, February 24, 2006

When Life Interrupts

I'm going through a split from my business partner of 5 yrs. We have decided to set up our own individual companies. Its a good thing and I should have done it a year or so ago.

But holy cow, it does take a lot of running around to get a new gig up and running. I've been filing company paperwork; designing new business cards, letterhead, brochures, website, getting printing done, setting up new email, completing all of my existing work...and the list goes on. Amazingly, I think its coming together to be mostly done by the end of next week. Whew!

Occassionally I've read other HouseBloggers that post about how changes in work result in their house projects coming to a screaching halt. Boy I can relate :-) Its amazing how little time it leaves for anything else in your life when work gets stressful.

But next week watch for a post & pictures of the items I had replated for my bathroom :-)

Monday, February 20, 2006

Everyday Drudgery

Not all of the work one does in restoring their old house is glitz and glamour. Sure, there are days that you get to post photos of your newly glazed windows and the amazing wood you found once your old doors were stripped of their 63 layers of paint. And on those days, you get "oohs and ahhs."

Most days, however, are filled with small, dreary, little projects that in the long run will make your house more livable. But they are of little or no interest to anyone other than you.

I've made it a point to try to accomplish one house task (no matter how small) every day. I figure at the end of a year, 365 small - and sometimes large - tasks will make my house a better place to live. Besides, psychologically it just makes you feel like you are keeping things moving.

So in that spirit, this past week I spent a few hours removing the impossible-to-remove glue that the former owner put on the edge of the 1920's wall sink in the kitchen to hold up her sink "curtain" with velcro. I also painstakingly pulled apart and cleaned each piece of the "innards" of the stove left to my by the same previous owner. Let's just say, this had not been done in a good while....and was done in preparation for the day I get to sell it and buy the stove of my dreams.

Probably not post worthy, but part of old house ownership.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Standing Ovation

My bathroom has black and white tile. As I restore the bathroom, my dream has been to find black ceramic accessories to hold towels, soap, tp, etc.

A few months ago, I spotted a black ceramic towel ring on clearance at Rejuvenation. I had wanted vintage pieces, but I know that towel rings are a newer thing, so I decided to order it. When I got to the ordering page of the website, it indicated that only a brushed nickel ring was available. I wanted shiny. So, I experimented to see what would happen if I submitted an order for the shiny nickel/black ceramic towel ring. Worst that could happen is that I'd get a disappointing note telling me they were out of stock.

Well, I was quite pleased a few days later when my black ceramic towel ring arrived.....with a shiny nickel ring. Score one for Rejuvenation.

Fast forward a few weeks and you find me at an antiques store in LaCrosse, WI. I had just purchased an entire set of vintage black ceramic bathroom fixtures. A tp holder, two towel bars, a soap holder and a cup holder. Yippie! They were missing their hardware, but how hard could that be to find. Right?

Turns out, that the old wall fasteners are very hard to find. As a last ditch solution, my local hardware store had sold me metal plates that I needed to cut down with a hacksaw before attaching to the wall.

Then it dawned on me. Would the hardware from the Rejuvenation fixtures fit my vintage set? Yup, they did.

So, I called Rejuvenation and told them my tale of woe. The Customer Service person contacted the Hardware guy and he hunted down some hardware for me. The Customer Service person called me back to tell me that they were sending out 2 sets of hardware to me free of charge. Then if I needed more....and they were the correct size.....I could just give them the product number when I called back to order more.

In this day and age where customer service has virtually disappeared.....and we often find ourselves to be the only one saying "thank you" (my pet peeve) at the cash register.......when we receive good customer service it deserves to be recognized and applauded.

These Rejuvenation folks are no fools. They know that good customer service will have them on the short list when it comes time for me to buy my bathroom, bedroom and front doorstep lights (I already bought my diningroom light from them).

Anyway....round of applause for Rejuvenation.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Calculating Concrete Costs

Well, its been a busy week. Having to sort through the piles of Valentines I received.....laying on my couch willing my Olympic athletes to win.....and learning all of the judging rules to sports that up to this point I couldn't have cared less even existed. Yes, I am exhausted.

That said, I received the first bid for replacing my front door step. Drum roll please.

To remove the existing concrete, install rigid insulation & wire mesh and repair the foundation hole (take that you mice), and then pour a tinted, exposed aggregate step would be $2100. Keep in mind this is a big step (40" x 8.8')

If I want to add a 2 foot tall 10" thick "curb" on either side of the top step add $1075.

To have said curb run down the length of the new and existing stairs on either side add $975.

I actually think this is a pretty good bid (although I'm surprised at how much contrete work costs). This company has an excellent reputation and the owner (who came out to bid) seemed to be very knowledgable, trustworthy and easy to work with. I have a strong suspicion that this bid is right in the ballpark.

I still have some time before they can actually do the work (it's 9 degrees here today), so I'll probably get one more bid. I also still have to ask my neighbors if I can get a copy of an old photo they have of the front of my house (their aunt lived across the street many years ago) to see what the entryway looked like originally.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Let's Make a Deal

I'm one of those girls. The kind sometimes cited in scientific literature, but rarely seen in the wild.

A girl who does not like to shop. Not for groceries, not for clothes, not even for shoes.

I don't mind buying all of the above. I just don't like to shop for them. At all.

There is one caveat to this statement. I love to bargain. I should have been born in a country where no prices are set and what you pay is determined by how hard of a bargain you are able to drive.

To sum it up: I hate to shop, but I love to bargain, and I don't mind buying.

This sets the scene for a few Saturdays ago when I was driving on my way to get my routine latte to start out my weekend. I was stopped at a traffic light when I spotted a sign - Rug Sale Today. It was outside of a rug cleaning company. I had used this company in the past to clean an oriental rug I dragged home from a trip to China. I knew they were respectable and knew their stuff. I smelled a deal to be had. And, I've been needing a rug for my living room.

So, I parked my car and went on inside. It was a warehouse type building. Inside there were a couple of salesmen and a bunch of piles of rugs. I know enough about rugs to keep myself out of trouble, so I started going through the piles. A salesman spotted me and came over with two assistants.....and the games began.

I found a few rugs that I liked. The assistants pulled them out of the pile and brought them out to the parking lot to show me the colors. I asked questions. The salesman answered them. I asked the price. He told me. I asked what his best price was. He accommodated me. Then he showed me a slightly higher priced rug and sold me on the better workmanship. We debated price. I told him I wasn't sure of the colors and hadn't intended on buying a rug that day. I acted unimpressed. He assured me the colors were perfect and gave me a better price. A small crowd gathered. I knew he was right and the deal was a good one. It was great fun. I bought the rug (and smiled sweetly to get him to throw in a rug pad for free).

I got the rug home and the salesman was right. The green works with my paint and my couch....the red with my chair.....and my leather chair blends. It was perfect. A 5'X8' Indian, wool, herati rug. Tighly hand knotted. A herati motif has a fish (carp) surrounding a rosette design - if you look closely, you can see them in the center. My kind of shopping.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Get the Lead Out

The Wall Street Journal made brief mention today of new proposed regulations from the Environmental Protection Agency that address contractor work in houses built before 1978 that may involve lead.

It's an interesting read. The Cliff Notes version is that they would like to require contractors to be specifically trained & accredited in lead removal techniques. They would also require certain steps to take place in the process of work that may involve disturbing lead paint.

I suppose we have all seen contractors that know about lead paint and take the (admitedly pretty easy) steps to protect themselves, their workers and the homeowner......and some contractors that throw caution to the wind and just do the work. I think a lot of homeowners (me included) just assume there is always lead present and take the necessary precautions.

My guess is that if this regulation becomes final, as is, we would start to see a line item amount on contractors bids/bills specifically for lead abatement. The WSJ article has one of the home builder's associations saying it could add as much as 25% to the cost of contractor work. This cost seems high to me, but it would seem that if they say this now....this is what will probably be charged later.

One thing to note as that the regulations are in their proposed state (and not finalized yet). The EPA now will take comments from homeowners, industry folk, medical profession, etc. until April 10, 2006. If you are so inclined to give them your views of the new rules, the link above also provides information on how to go about submitting your comments. Don't be timid, it's an easy thing to do (no I'm not affiliated witht he EPA, but see this stuff in my line of work). Explain who you are, your connection to the topic and what you specifically think of the proposed rule.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Looking Over My Shoulder

Every now and then, usually when I am really bored, I'll pull up the crime reports for my neighborhood. I like to see where the most recent smashed car window, etc. is happening.

Much to my surprise when I pulled up the crime alerts, there was one outlining a number of armed hold ups in my neighborhood. Armed hold ups! One of these "incidents" happened on a block not far where there are a bunch of little kids play outside almost every day. Evidently, young men (15-20 yrs) pull guns on people as they enter their house from the street and demand money. They say the victims may have been followed (my guess is from a nearby gas station or our scary Cub & Target which I no longer frequent).

This neighborhood is generally safe...middle class....a nice mix of older folks that have lived in their houses for years and mostly younger singles or families. We have garage breakins and smashed car windows.....but not violent crimes. I take walks, ride my bike and work in my garden and so do my neighbors. Having said that, there are parts of the city not that far away that are somewhat scary. Seems like they are venturing to our little corner.

There has been much discussion about the money that was pulled away from the Police under the current Mayor. There has also been much discussion about how, under past administrations, a "New York City approach" was taken putting emphasis on snuffing out the "little" crime and as a result eliminating the bigger crimes. The approach now differs significantly (see past posts about my identity theft and garage break in). It seems to me that I am now seeing the effects of this. Yikes.

I will admit to you, that today while shoveling snow.....I watched each car that passed by hoping it wasn't a dark, late model SUV with tinted windows. Not a good feeling.

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