Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Kitchen: Before & After Photos

I've finally finished the backsplash, except for the grout, but hey, the project is 95% done, so it's time to move on to something that's 0% done.

So let's compare the almost final product. Before:


Total price tag for this minor facelift, including the carpenter, plumber, dishwasher, disposal, fridge, sink, faucet, tile, tile polishing, new knobs was a little under $4500. Time that this project took me, including shopping for materials (from appliances and fixtures to tile and grout), tiling the counter, grouting, attaching new knobs & pulls, and coordinating carpenter & plumber = 45 hours. How DO those Fix-n-Flip people do it???

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Return to Good Karma?

We know Bad Things happen in threes. We’ve had a plumbing disaster and news of Impending Job Move. I’ve been anxiously awaiting Bad Thing #3, and am rather relieved that I just wrecked the car. $5000 in damage. I picked a fight with an F150 and I lost. What a shocker.

Recap: The Past 8 years

In 1999, Martin rented out his condo and I rented out my house, and we moved in to an apartment in Belltown together. I vaguely remember the Happy Carefree Lifestyle of being a renter.

7 months later, we purchased a condo in the same Vintage 1989 building. We scraped the popcorn ceiling and had it, and the cracked drywall, retextured while living there (at one point we were down to a 300 sq ft living area). We changed the outlets, light switches and heaters from icky yellowing almond to bright white. We replaced the carpet, linoleum, dishwasher, microwave, sink/faucet/disposal, tore out a kitchen closet to accommodate a larger fridge and plumbed it for filtered water and ice to accommodate our lifestyle.

Soon after closing on the Belltown condo, we learned that Martin’s Capitol Hill condo building had significant water damage and was scheduled to be shrouded in plastic for water damage repair. Shortly after the Building Condom went on, the tenant moved out. Imagine.

Being unable to afford the vacancy, we rented out our Belltown condo and moved to the Capitol Hill condo. Lucky us. Living under plastic wrap is quite depressing really, with no exterior view other than scaffolding and the occasional contractor. And believe me, these were not the contractors from the Diet Coke commercial.

Of course we could always walk outside, but when you can’t see what the weather looks like, you have absolutely no idea whether you want to.

During the 2.5 yrs we lived there, we replaced the fridge, added a wine rack above the fridge, and repainted. Lame, I know, but the Shrink Wrap Year took its toll on our initiative, and these were trying Job Years for me.
After 2.5 years, my house became vacant, and we moved to Ballardia Classic. And Classic it was. In 2 years, I tore out the kitchen and completely renovated it, finished the basement, added a second bathroom, replaced the galvanized plumbing, retiled the original bathroom and mudroom, expanded the patio, and installed a new lawn.

And now here we are in Ballardia II, and may have to move to Orange County. That will be 6 moves in 8 years! SIX!!!

I have this strong instinct to settle somewhere and nest. I mean build one, decorate it, and live in it, not populate it with Young.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Breaking News Flash

The company which employs Martin merged with another company a couple of months ago. Up until today, we thought Martin was going to work at an office across the street from his current location. Today, Martin’s boss pulled him into his office, and informed him of an “exciting new opportunity” for him – In Irvine. English Translation: “the merger has left the company overstaffed in Seattle, and you can remain employed if you move.”

My job is mobile, requiring only that I live in a major Metro area near a major airport, so we have no piddly excuses like ‘Rebecca can’t move because of her job’. And yes, I have a Day Job. Remodeling is but a Perverse Hobby.

On the plus side, most of our possessions are still in boxes since we just moved FIVE MINUTES AGO.

Injustice for All

After Mr Rooter fixed our side sewer, he informed me that sewer repairs required a permit, and I was supposed to file an emergency permit with the City of Seattle. There was what seemed to be a wink and an unspoken “but who’s to know if you just shovel the dirt back in” following his obligatory informational statement.

Because I have a folder full of Dorothy’s receipts, I happened to know that in January of 2003, Dorothy had an exterior sewer cleanout installed (instead of the prior one in the basement – again, ewwwww), which also required a side sewer permit, and for which the City of Seattle charged her $65 (and there’s no mention of a senior discount).

With this in mind, I decided to follow the law and marched myself down to the City of Seattle Department of Planning and Development for my side sewer permit. Only my permit was $280.

From 1/9/2003 until 12/18/2006, we apparently had 330% inflation in the cost of side sewer permits? And let me get this straight – for my entirely discretionary choice of upgrading my woefully inadequate electrical service, I had to pay a mere $239, but for ridding my neighborhood of a public health hazard I had to cough up $41 MORE?

Sunday, December 17, 2006

A very long day spending quality time with bleach and rubber gloves.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Roto Rooting

Roto Rooter has arrived, and their Rooter tool got stuck 4 feet into our side sewer. Hmmm. Mr Rooter’s professional opinion was that we should have them return with a camera (on Monday, as apparently the camera doesn’t work weekends) to diagnose the issue.

Having already been without plumbing for 1.5 days, we’d already scouted out all of the best public restrooms in our general area, and had absolutely no desire to continue ripening over the weekend. So Martin proposed plan “B”; dig a hole where the Rooter was stuck, and find the problem. Apparently common sense DOES require an engineering degree.

Several hours and one big hole later, Mr. Rooter found the problem – a fist-sized hole in our side sewer. It seems our entire side yard has been functioning as a septic drain field for who knows how long. Ewwwwww.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Power for the Prepared

It seems all of Seattle has no power, except us. Our power barely even flickered during the windstorm, thanks to our insurance policy, The Trusty Fisher Wood Stove (Vintage 1976, a fine year for wood stoves).

Too bad we don't have a backup sewer line.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Lake Cesspool

Between 4 & 5 pm on Thursday, Dec 14th, Seattle received a record .86” of rain, on top of the 16” we’d received in November.
At 6pm, when I discovered the new lake in our basement, everyone else had found theirs hours earlier and had already scheduled an emergency appointment with Roto Rooter, so we are out plumbing until the first available appointment – on Saturday.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Let There Be Light Fixtures

In Seattle, where the Winter brings 7 hours of Daylight with no actual Sunlight, lighting is very important. Therefore of course, Ballardia II didn't have any to speak of.

The basement lighting has issues. It’s the pull-string kind, where the pull strings have vanished or simply no longer work. Some of them have energy-efficient light bulbs in them, so we can twist them off. Others, though, have regular light bulbs, and after having made the mistake of turning them on, an oven mitt is needed to turn them off. This may be a long term project.

The living room is devoid of all lighting. The adjacent dining room has a great art deco tiered light fixture - which supported ONE sixty watt bulb. It has to go.

Ballardia Classic had come with its own original 1930s Chevron Slipper Shade Chandelier, which was both gorgeous and functional, with a full 300 watts for the ceiling fixture, plus 60 EACH in the matching sconces. It was Lighting Paradise.

It would be fabulous to replace the dining room fixture in Ballardia II with something similar, but a quick check of antique lighting prices showed a price tag of about $1000 for that same Chevron Slipper Shade Chandelier. Sigh. I should've swiped it from Ballardia Classic before closing; what was I thinking!!!???

Well, since Antique doesn't match the budget (Shoe String), More Shopping was necessary. After a check of the market, Rejuvenation has a great reproduction in a similar style, the Nicolai, which was about 1/2 the cost of Antique. I ordered it with the Bronze Gilt finish and Velvet shade.

Had to wait 8 weeks for delivery, but it was worth the wait.

Installation Tools: Charm and Good Looks (Martin did it).

Friday, December 8, 2006

Back in the Kitchen Business

The plumber has arrived and hooked up the sink, faucet, disposal, dishwasher, and ice line for the fridge, so we are back in business with our not-quite-finished kitchen:

I still have the backsplash to finish up, as well as a knob replacement.

Tuesday, December 5, 2006


I’m not sure why it takes me 2x the time to grout than it does to tile. Perhaps it’s because I am not a Tile Professional.
Because I only do a small section at a time, I mix the grout in a Ziploc Freezer bag - it allows me to mix it with my fingers, and cleanup consists of throwing away the baggie.
Materials: grout, water, Ziploc Freezer bags
Tools: grout float, kitchen sponge (I find it easier to use than a regular grout sponge)

Sunday, December 3, 2006

Tiling the Kitchen Continues....

Tiling the kitchen counters continues. No, that's not a working sink - I just put it in to make me feel like there's progress.

And now, it's time for a little Tile Math.

Materials for this project, not including my Trusty Tile Saw, totalled around $25 per square foot, and this was for a fairly inexpensive (< $10/sq ft) granite colour. Which raises the question - is it cost effective to use granite tile?. Had I paid for labour, I suspect that the cost would have been quite close to an entry level granite slab cost.