Our New Old House

1918 Bungalow


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OMG… just… OMG… (Demolition day 1)

Wow. I’m exhausted. It’s been a helluva day.

Left work at 3:00. Brandon got a tetanus shot at 3:45. We met up with our realtor at the mortgage office at 4:30 to do the closing. Our mortgage person said closings usually take 20 minutes to half an hour, but the four of us are chatty people and we were actually there till 6:00!!! It was really fun, we got good information, and ended up with a house!

My mom called while we were there wanting to know when we were going to be at the house and what we wanted for supper. While I drove us back to the east side, Brandon ordered a pizza to be delivered to the new house. We picked up a few things at mom’s and then went over to our new old house. Before long, we received our very first pizza delivery at our new house!

Mom and her boyfriend, Craig, showed up with a pickup truck full of tools.
They took some pictures of us with our new house.
Craig helped Brandon fix the front storm door.
We set up a table in the house and sat down to eat supper.
Then we got to work!

First we pulled up the carpet. The padding underneath the living room/dining room carpet has crystallized under its fabric topside and has adhered lightly (more like crusted itself) to the wood floor underneath. Rather than spend the time to start scraping that mess up today we decided to leave the padding on the floors until the heavy work is done. Free drop cloths! The padding is actually really well intact and doesn’t pose a hazard for tripping over or anything, so it’s kind of a blessing in disguise. The padding in the back bedroom is another story. That carpet had its own padding attached to the back of the carpet. It was foam padding once. Now it is crunchy and brittle and pulverizes into fine yellow dust under our feet. The good news is that it was never tacked or glued down. We just lifted the corners it and folded right over. The bad news is that we were left with a very messy bedroom floor. You can see the back side of that carpet in the third photo here (the one with Brandon standing over the flipped over carpet looking somewhat incredulous.) The last picture in this group is a shot of some of the tack strips my mom tenaciously removed after we got the carpet pulled up.

Then we started pulling down paneling. Whoever installed it had added additional wood trim at the bottom that I had to remove from every wall before we could take down that section of paneling. Brandon said, “I can’t fault them for shoddy work. It was well constructed paneling at least.” I nodded and said, “Uh huh,” as I stuck a wonder bar under the side and wrenched it loose.


Here’s a picture of mom supervising.

I got tired of her staring at me so I turned her to face the wall and carried on with my work. 😉

There was a lot of paneling.
When Brandon removed the paneling over the fireplace he found a big hole in the wall, so naturally I took a bunch of pictures of it. There was insulation inside similar to the kind of insulation in between the joists in the crawlspace in the attic. I have no idea what this material is made of. I don’t know if it’s flammable and whether or not it should be used around fireplaces. If anybody has seen this kind of insulation and knows what it is, please get in touch with me because I have no idea what I’m dealing with here.

Here’s a cool picture of the back of the wall and the chimney. I stuck my camera inside the hole, facing the ceiling, and this is what I got.
We revealed some interesting patterns of wallpaper by uncovering the walls. But what we revealed about the shapes of the painted vs. wallpapered areas has presented more questions than answers. For example, was there a chair rail in the dining room? What was hung over the fireplace that had to be wallpapered around? Same question around the dining room windows. Those areas look like there might have been something decorative or furniture-like attached to the walls there. Furthermore, to the right of the front door in the living room the whole corner was painted white on top of the wall paper. They put a strip of 2 inch wide masking tape on the wallpaper level with the top of the doorway, painted the tape and everything below it white, and left the tape up. I’m wondering if there was maybe a make-shift coat closet built there, but the walls don’t show any evidence of having had anything nailed to them there to hold up the walls. When we reveal the floor completely maybe that will give us a clue.
There were once wall sconces on either side of the dining room windows. Here’s the footprint of one:
Some parting questions for today:

  • What is the brown color on the plaster walls? Is that some kind of surfacing material or old fashioned primer/sealer? It was never painted over when first installed and while parts of it have wall paper over it, the wallpaper doesn’t look like it could be original to the house.
  • Is it worth it to repair the broken wall over the fireplace or will it keep destabilizing? Should we tear out that section of wall and drywall it?

And here’s the collection of little knick knacks that my mom and I found:

[tags]carpet, chair rail, closets, garbage, paneling, photos, wall sconce, wallpaper[/tags]

General pre-closing update

This week has felt really busy but I can’t for the life of me figure out what the hell I did besides work. I have been putting in a few hours of overtime this week to make up some of the scratch I overspent last weekend up at the lake.

Last night, however, I did go to the library and do a few searches in their catalog to get a feel for where info on my house and neighborhood might be. My house sits in sort of a black hole between neighborhoods, as far as historical information goes. It’s not technically close enough to Union Park to claim the Union Park neighborhood. It’s too far north to count as Capitol Park. The plat it’s on is part of the “Union Addition” but that’s pretty meaningless to me at this point. The houses in the area are very middle class, built between 1905 and 1945. I found a few books on general Des Moines history, but one book I found right before closing is exactly what I want to read. It’s called Historical Residential Architecture in Des Moines, 1905-1940. SCORE!!! Unfortunately, it’s in the closed stacks of the library so I can’t take it home with me and pore over it repeatedly. I’ll just have to be content to visit it in the library and take notes and copies of relevant information. But the book is so great because it focuses specifically on two house types: bungalows and four-squares. I’ll be sure to share the exciting bits!

Brandon and I have a plan for the first few days of ownership. Here’s how it goes, sing along if you know the words:

Friday, Aug. 17 we close escrow and take ownership. We immediately begin clawing at the walls and floors like frantic badgers, ripping out carpet, pulling down paneling, and generally causing mayhem and destruction.

Saturday, Aug. 18 we borrow someone’s pickup truck and haul away the heap of trash we will build on Friday. (More about waste removal in a minute.)

Sunday, Aug. 19 we do additional cleanup on the place and make bundles to put out on the curb for garbage pick up.

Monday, Aug. 20 my grandma will hire the cleaning ladies to wipe everything down and give it their best on the kitchen and bathroom.

Tuesday, Aug. 21 we’ll start the tiny bit of moving in that we’re going to do: a bed and a dresser. We’re basically going to just live in the front bedroom, since that room needs the least amount of work and we need the rest of the house clear to give space to work on the woodwork and walls and everything.

And so on and so on.

So, about the waste removal thing:

When we bought my grandparents’ house in Clear Lake it was left to us to clean out all of the stuff Grandma and Grandpa didn’t need to take with them to their assisted living apartment. This amounted to 25 years’ worth of accumulated odds and ends saved fastiduously by my depression-era grandparents. We had like, five garage sales and for whatever was left that we couldn’t sell or donate somewhere, we called the local garbage company and they brought us a dumpster to fill up. It was a nice industrial sized thing that they let us keep for about a week. I think it was like $30 for the dumpster delivery and pickup, and $15 to dump it if it was under a certain weight. So like $50 max when all was said and done.

Since I’m new to Des Moines I decided to call around to see what rubbish haulers charge for their services around here. The first place I called quoted me $270. The second place said $390. I began contemplating buying a 30 cent book of matches and just setting fire to the looming pile of garbage.

Then I had an epiphany. Well, I wish it was that dramatic. It was more that I just saw the answer staring me in the face after having looked at it for weeks and weeks. As I pulled my mom’s garbage can up from the curb, I realized I was probably calling the wrong people about getting my garbage hauled away. I needed to be calling the Metro Waste Authority. Or rather, I needed to Google them. Anyway, I found out that they sell $5 stickers that you can attach to bundles of carpet and other oversized items that don’t fit in the regular garbage cans. So that’s certainly an option for us. ALSO, the landfill east of town accepts pick-up truck loads of garbage for like $16-30. So that’s what we’re going to do.

Now, tonight I have plans with two coworkers of mine, my uncle, my uncle’s pick-up truck, and a brand new dolly that my husband is going to buy after work today. My small collection of friends, relatives, and tools are going to move the washer and dryer from my other uncle’s new house to my new old house. I’ll report later on whether my plan actually functioned as it was intended.

Next Tuesday we go another round with the contractors, this time getting a quote from a big name electrician and another chimney inspection for a second opinion.

[tags]carpet, chimney, contractors, dryer, electricity, fireplace, garbage, landfill, neighborhood history, paneling, washing machine[/tags]

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