Our New Old House

1918 Bungalow


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My weekend: solo

While Brandon is in San Antonio for two weeks training for his job, I’m making a lot of little steps of progress that will hopefully amount to a lot of transformation by the time he comes back.

On Friday after work I drove up to Clear Lake to take care of some cleaning, check on the state of the yard, and swap many of my summer clothes for winter ones. I’d been listening to the weather report all week and when they told me it was supposed to get down into the low 30s at night I decided it was time to light the furnace. Most people don’t like the smell the furnace puts out the first time it’s lit for the season. But for me, it’s got some sort of nostalgic quality. I dug a frozen pizza out of the freezer and settled in for the night.

I got a lot done there and got a good night’s sleep. In the morning I drove back to Des Moines to fulfill the commitment I made to volunteer for Habitat for Humanity that afternoon. One of the attorneys I work for babysits for a single mom who has two kids. She’s trying to qualify to receive a Habitat for Humanity home. The program requires that anyone receiving a home put in a certain number of hours’ worth of sweat equity. They will accept volunteer hours done on that person’s behalf to go toward the quota, so this attorney put out a call for people to volunteer on the woman’s behalf. Since they already had enough help working on construction projects, they sent me to the local ReStore, the Habitat for Humanity version of a Goodwill, St. Vincent DePaul, or Salvation Army thrift store. If you’re a house rehabber, or if you’re just doing some small jobs around your house, it really pays to find your nearest ReStore. They receive donations of both new and used home improvement items ranging from antique doorknobs to professional kitchen ranges. It also pays to check back with the ReStore every couple of weeks or so because they’re constantly changing their stock. The location near my house even keeps a log of special requests customers are looking for. If there’s something you really need and they don’t have it in stock, you can sign up and leave your phone number and if they get a donation that fits what you need, they’ll give you a call. When I arrived, the volunteer coordinator put me right to work cleaning the grease and dust off a professional stove, grill, and steamer that had been torn out of a huge home out on the west side. When I was done with that, she had me dust and find the shelves for a fourteen foot tall book shelf that came out of the same house. I put in 3 hours of work and then grabbed a cart and did some shopping. I found a shower extender for a clawfoot tub, EXACTLY what I need, for a dollar! Yes you read that right, the thing I’d budgeted $200 for cost me one little greenback dollar. I do need to find a connector piece for it, but I figure it shouldn’t be too tough to ask the local hardware store for something to attach a 3/8 inch fixture to a 1/2 inch faucet. In addition to that little gem I found two 24″ bathroom towel bars and matching washcloth hooks and a robe hook for the door. All those cost me $40. So my total purchases were $41. I was expecting to spend $80 on the towel stuff, so I was just as happy as a pig in slop over my little adventure! Additionally, I scoped out their selection of pedestal sinks (one top half was only $15!), their cabinetry (I’ll definitely take measurements and check back for upper cabinets for my kitchen), and asked about the likelihood of finding landscaping materials. Holy cow, it was an awesome adventure!

I pretty much called it a night after that. Today I got up late, took a leisurely shower, and drove out to Johnston to have a birthday lunch with my Grandma, the original east sider of the family (along with Grandpa, who grew up in Highland Park). It was great to catch up with the family, and after the party was all cleaned up I headed back to our new old house to unload my car and tackle a couple of projects I’d assigned myself for the weekend.

One was to hook up the washing machine to make sure it and our plumbing work. I’d never hooked up a washing machine before, but everything went pretty smoothly. I do have one leaky spigot, but it’s convenient enough for me to turn it off when it’s not in use and turn it on when I need to run a load of laundry. Check that off the list!

Next I wanted to see how far I could get with scraping the wallpaper in the front bedroom. If you’ll remember, there is a layer of paint over that wallpaper, which makes a seal that the Downy/water spray can’t really penetrate. So I have to sort of hack away at the paint layer first and then use the Downy on the remaining wallpaper residue. It’s rather laborious, but luckily for me I have another Grandma right down the street who makes these kinds of tasks go much faster. She called me just as I was sitting down to start scraping above the baseboard and told me she’d seen me drive by and could she come over and work on the dining room wallpaper? When she sets her mind to finishing something, by golly she gets it done, and I could tell it had just been bugging her that she hadn’t finished a room before she left for New York on an American Legion trip. So I set her loose in the dining room while I tackled the bedroom. We both made a ton of progress despite my breaking two razor blades and slicing my finger open on the second broken one. Once I stopped the bleeding, I took a trip to the grocery store to buy band-aids, Neosporin, and more Downy. Grandma and I worked on the wallpaper until 8pm.

Tomorrow my goal is to get down to Menard’s and take care of two things: 1) the fixture to attach the shower unit, and 2) find pieces of pipe and the necessary mounting brackets to make a full sized shower curtain rack. All the pre-made kits I find are just big enough to enclose half the clawfoot tub in a circle. I want a shower curtain around the WHOLE tub so I’m going to have to build one myself. Thanks to the $50 gift card from Menards and the $25 one from Home Depot that my super generous friends gave me as housewarming gifts, I’ll have that project covered as a freebie!

I’m off to a well-earned shower now. Pictures soon!

A little pizza and beer gets you a lot of labor in this town!

Last night I planned to meet up with my Uncle Phillip who has a pickup truck, and two guys that I work with to move the washer and dryer that my Uncle Matt is giving us. We all met at my Grandparents’ house, which is about four doors down from my new old house. When we got there, my Uncle Michael was there and said he’d come along and help too. So with all those guys, plus my husband, Brandon, we had six of us to move two large appliances. Grandma had snagged the local church’s industrial strength dolly, and Brandon swung by Home Depot after work to pick up a standard issue dolly.

When we were all assembled around the truck, I couldn’t help but feel like it was maybe a bit of overkill, but more than that, I felt supremely grateful for having such awesome friends and family.

When we arrived at my Uncle Matt’s new (gorgeous!) house we were greeted at the door by my cousin Pam, who’s my age. I looked over her shoulder and saw that the house was teeming with children. A familiar sight among my family, but it was still pretty amusing. Uncle Matt’s seven kids were there with Pam’s two younger brothers, and Pam’s two little boys. That makes thirteen children between the ages of 2 and 14. I love my big family.

So anyway, we located the washer and dryer (the two they were keeping were already whirring with the laundry of a seven child household.) The five guys took turns taking one end of each appliance and pretty quickly loaded them both in the pickup. We drove back to the east side, I jumped out and unlocked the front door to gain access to the back door, and they pulled the truck around to the back. The basement stairs were a little tricky, but with an extra person standing at the bottom, they got them down with no trouble at all. The move was a success! No broken backs, no cuts or bruises, no smashed toes.

Dinner afterward at La Pizza House was awesome, as it always is, and now we will have a washer and dryer when we move in!

[tags]dryer, washing machine[/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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