Wednesday, May 11, 2011

The last few months in review, part 2, or Fun with old pipes!!

The other huge issue we've been dealing with over the last 2 months has involved plumbing. Hopefully, as of last night, everything has been resolved, but it took a lot of time, money, and we saw a little more than we'd like to of our plumber. Not to say that he's not a nice guy (he's actually great, and has tons of funny stories) but generally the plumber isn't someone you want to be a frequent guest.

March 26: This entire ordeal began with a really bad clog in the kitchen sink. I noticed it had been backing up frequently, taking forever to drain... finally one day it refused to go down entirely. So Adam and I decided to attempt to fix it by removing the existing corroded old p-trap and rodding it out. Easy enough, right? Haha, nothing is ever easy at Bungalow4865. When trying to loosen a super tight connection on the old trap, Adam ended up cracking the corroded trap on the J part of the p-trap, so it was off to Lowes.

At the hardware store, in addition to a new trap, I also bought one of those big rodding reels that attaches to a power drill. So after some serious rodding out of the pipe going to the drain, we put on the new trap and hoped for the best. Nope, still clogged. Gah! Time to call the plumber.

March 27: Matt the Plumber came the next afternoon and rodded out twice before he got it to clear. Finally! $95 and about an hour's work, not too bad. But not 5 minutes after he left, I happened to go down into the basement and noticed water dripping into the utility sink from directly above:

Apparently when he rodded out the pipes, he knocked all the gunk loose that was apparently plugging yet another leak in a pipe that went down into the basement ceiling and into the main drain. This began my theory that our entire house is held together by Polish cooking grease. I called him and he came right back, and promised to come out the next day. The plan was to create a new set of pipes going down from the kitchen sink to the main drain with PVC, leaving the old iron pipe in the wall (highlighted in red) so we could just leave it or drywall over it.

March 28: $500 later, Matt replaced all of the pipes coming from the kitchen sink, making sure the replacement pipes were properly pitched, which would increase the flow and prevent it from backing up in the future. It was almost back pitched, which probably was the biggest contributor to the backup. He also installed a pseudo-vent under the sink, which should have been vented in the first place. That would stop the drain from gurgling as well. It worked great, and we had no problems, at least for a month.

April 26: I had gone to bed, and Adam was in the basement finishing up some laundry. All of a sudden I hear yelling and the words "Oh no!! Flood!!" In my half-sleep delirium I went downstairs, and saw that the stupid P-trap under the utility sink had come undone. It came undone at the slip nut I had fixed months ago, which I had finally cemented with PVC cement. I had noticed that the laundry room utility sink seemed to be backing up more than usual when we did laundry. The washing machine "out" basically dumps a large quantity of water into the utility sink very quickly, and it must have finally come undone with the weight of the backed-up hot water. I told Adam I'd fix it the next day.

April 27: When I got home from work, I steeled myself to re-cement the stupid P-trap once and for all. Maybe it was the fumes of the cement, maybe it was fate, but something caused me to look over at the area where the PVC coming from the P-trap connected to the iron pipe to the main drain, and it had cracked:

It must have been the heavy weight from the backed-up water sitting in the pipes under the utility I am regretting not spending the money initially not to just get everything redone. Thankfully, I quickly realized that fixing this was beyond my meager plumbing capabilities. So we called Matt (again) to fix the cracked pipe and rod out whatever was causing the backup, and he came out the next day.

April 28: Matt replaces the pipe under the sink. It was $115, not too shabby. Unfortunately, I was on a conference call and Matt spoke mostly to Adam. Matt thought the sink was draining properly, but I guess he didn't test it with the large quantity of water we get when the washing machine empties into the sink.

(A few days later): I notice the utility sink is still completely backing up when we do laundry, and it's still coming up in both sinks. I call Matt again to see what we need to do to fix it - either put the washing machine "out" its own pipe going directly down to the drain, or modifying the existing pipes so the washing machine / utility sink pipe went directly down into the drain rather than the "T" fitting.

May 10: Finally, to the tune of $300, Matt comes out and gives the washing machine its own dedicated "out" pipe going to the main drain:

While Matt was here, he also fixed slow drains in both bathroom sinks. He also replaced the iron (galvanized steel?) pipes under the basement sink so that it's easier for me to fix on my own if necessary.

So all of this plumbing was quite an ordeal. I sincerely hope we can close the books on this. I just hope the rest of the pipes in the house manage to stay together for awhile... I've REALLY seen enough of Matt the Plumber for awhile.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

The last few months in review - part 1

Since I haven't posted here in eons, here's a brief synopsis of the last few months at Bungalow 4865.

1. Had fancy energy-saving blinds installed in the living room and dining room.
I had been wanting to replace the yucky, yellowed broken blinds for a long time, and ended up getting new blinds in December. We chose Hunter Douglas's Duette Architella honeycomb shades. They definitely weren't cheap, but did qualify for an energy-saving tax credit on my 2010 federal taxes, which was pretty cool. We opted for the top-down, bottom-up lift control system, which gives the blinds a super neat, streamlined look without hardware or cords. As part of the tax credit, they had to be professionally installed, but that was fine with me, since I seem to have issues with the whole "measure twice, cut once" thing.

Since it was a fairly cold winter overall, it has been difficult to measure the actual savings in heating costs. But when Adam measured inside and outside the closed blinds with an infrared thermometer, it was about a 12 degree difference, which is huge. It made sitting by the living room window noticeably much more pleasant - when the wind blows hard in the winter, we could usually feel a pretty nasty draft on the back of our necks. So we're pretty happy with them overall, even though Adam's a little disappointed that I didn't opt for the remote controlled lifting system.

2. Painted in the living room and dining room.
Before the blinds were installed, we painted both rooms and did considerable patching. After much discussion and color sampling, we went with two complimentary beige/taupe/khaki shades from Behr. We also painted all the trim and molding a much brighter white. I'm very happy with how it turned out - especially the way it looks against the crisp white trim.

3. Finished patching the ceiling in the basement bathroom, painted the walls, and added some new hardware.
Drywalling upside down proved to be pretty challenging, but it managed to come out pretty well. We also took the opportunity to paint the ceiling with a couple of coats of mildew-resistant paint. Prior to painting the walls, we also used the same mildew-resistant stuff as a primer. The color was a light brown (heh - sensing a theme here?) and looks really nice with the shower curtain. Yes, the entire bathroom design is based on a shower curtain I purchased from Target that I am sure is no longer in production and will eventually need to be tossed.

The bathroom facelift also gave me the opportunity to try my hand at some electrical work. I purchased the new sconces on either side of the mirrored cabinet and installed them, which involved relocating the holes for the previous fixtures. This was straightforward enough, meaning no one got electrocuted and no major damage was done to the house. Of course, nothing's ever easy at Bungalow 4865 - the walls are not at 90 degree angles so it took some effort to get the sconces to lay flush against the wall. There were also some issues with the walls, which may or may not have involved drilling into conduit in an attempt to hang a towel rack, but we abandoned that and moved it to a new location.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Message in a Bottle

Time capsule in place
Originally uploaded by sweetlenny
As I've been ignoring the giant gaping hole in the basement bathroom ceiling for nearly 2 months now, Adam finally decided to take matters into his own hands. I'm pretty happy about that, as you can probably imagine. However, I am offering assistance by occasionally holding drywall for him as he screws it into the joists.

But I had this idea to leave a time capsule of sorts, as I found an old whiskey bottle from 1936 in the ceiling when I tore down the moldy drywall a few months ago. It was unfortunately empty, as is the bottle of Maker's I'm putting up there, but I went one step further and wrote a note.

Hi there!

If you found this, it means you're digging around in the guts of the house probably due to some badness involving a toilet leak, or maybe you're gutting the bathroom. That's how I happened to find an old whiskey bottle that the previous owners, maybe even the original owners, left in the ceiling. The toilet in the bathroom upstairs had a leak and I had to tear out the drywall. When I removed the yucky, moldy drywall, I got up and looked in the ceiling, and found a little bit of treasure. Well, maybe not treasure, but it was pretty cool. The bottle I found was from 1936 - at least I'm pretty sure. I still have it - I tried to sell it on eBay but to no avail. I wonder if eBay will still be around when you find this.

My name is Laura, and my longtime partner is Adam. We bought the house as our first home in 2008. We're 35 and 36, and we love the house and the neighborhood. I work in advertising at Leo Burnett as a User Experience/Interactive Designer, and Adam is an attorney. We don't have kids, but we do have a Jack Russell Terrier named Peanut. We both grew up near Chicago and were thrilled to purchase a Chicago Bungalow. I hope you love the house as much as we do. We're also Cubs fans - I really, really, really hope the Cubs finally win a world series by the time you find this. But as a true Cubs fan, I am used to the disappointment.

Today is November 20, 2010, and Adam is going to finally patch up the drywall, while I supervise. I thought it would be fun to leave a little treasure in for someone to find, or maybe not find, someday. The reason I put this message in a bourbon bottle is because I love Maker's Mark. "Message in a Bottle" is also one of my favorite Police songs. Do people still listen to the Police? We saw them play live at Wrigley Field on July 6, 2007. (See, it all comes together!)

Anyway, good luck with whatever project you're doing that resulted in finding our little time capsule. And please take good care of Bungalow 4865.

Laura, Adam and Peanut

PS - the Maker's Mark has the black and red wax because the Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup earlier this year. Maybe you can sell it on eBay. That way it really all comes together.

Monday, October 25, 2010

What I did while the rest of Chicago was watching football

Fall yard cleanup
Originally uploaded by sweetlenny
I took advantage of the unseasonably warm weather yesterday to finally raze the overgrown garden plot in back. It was overrun with weeds and mutantly overgrown tomato and mint. From all of the biomass I cleared out of there, I probably could have made a salad to feed 300 people.

Part of the cleanup involved a final mowing that helped clear a bunch of dead leaves out of the front lawn. I seriously hate raking leaves, and have somehow managed to avoid it this fall. Our neighbor to the south has a tree in their front yard with obnoxious super-tiny leaves that get EVERYWHERE, so I doubt it will stay clear for too long. Especially considering they're predicting a huge windstorm tomorrow with 60 mph winds. Ah well, maybe all of the leaves will blow away or back onto my neighbor's lawn.

We also emptied and stored the containers that had dying annuals. I pretty much just gave up on watering them after a certain point and let them die.

I almost didn't raze the back garden, but I'm glad I did, if only to spend a few hours in the beautiful warm weather. It will also mean we don't have to look at the ugly dying garden all winter, and hopefully saved us some work next year. Starting next spring, as part of our massive landscaping project, we're planning to tear up the entire back plot and replace it with 3 or 4 raised beds. I haven't posted all the details about this project yet, but I will soon.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

My office, a year and a half later. Or wait... is this thing still on?

My office
Originally uploaded by sweetlenny
So you know how you can avoid something for so long that it pretty much drops off your mental radar, and it ends up getting filed under "procrastinate indefinitely" and finally goes away? That's pretty much what happened to this blog, at least until tonight. I happened upon the "Blog This" feature in Flickr and was then reminded that I actually still possess a blog...and then realized I might actually miss it after I re-read a few old posts. And lo and behold, just 4 posts down are photos of my newly refinished office from a year and a half ago. Obviously this is before it became a refugee camp for houseplants in various stages of distress. Looking back on the old pics now, my office looked so empty and devoid of life. I guess a year and a half makes a pretty big difference.

For the most part, my blogging avoidance can be attributed to the fact that I felt inadequate as a "house blogger". Inadequate for not completing as many projects on the house that I thought I would, and feeling like I wasn't offering anything of value to anyone reading. But one thing I've come to learn over the last 2 years is that not every home improvement effort can be summed up in a post with perfect before and after pics, detailed DIY instructions, and amusing anecdotes on how I bumbled through it and made mistakes but learned from the experience, yadda yadda yadda.

The reality of DIY and home improvement is that it's messy and frustrating. Or at least that's what MY reality feels like most of the time. Reality is making too many trips back and forth to the hardware store because I don't know exactly what tools I need. Reality is getting paint in my hair, scuffing the walls, and removing the threads from screws. It's having to call my dad to have him explain what seem like very simple concepts that I should inerently just *know*, and then having to call him again after emailing him a picture of my failed attempt. Reality is the giant hole in my bathroom ceiling that I need to patch up but of course my first drywall project involves a ceiling.

But I'm still trying and doing and learning and enjoying, and I guess that's all that matters. I just haven't felt much up to writing about it, because I don't want to just gloss over the bad parts, nor do I want to document every failed effort. Just know that I call my dad a lot. And I'm forever amazed that he knows so much and grateful that he's willing to patiently explain how to do things, sometimes over and over again. And I hope he's proud when I finally send him an "after" pic.

Aside from bumbling through a bunch of random projects that I'll sum up in another post.... The photo I took yesterday morning of my office actually sums up what I've been up to in the last year and a half pretty well. I've been enjoying having the space and time for hobbies and creative pursuits. Plants, terrariums, making jewelry... I've been busy living life, as opposed to constantly trying to make everything better. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Zdressers have Zarrived, after a bit of Zstress

New dressers
Originally uploaded by sweetlenny
Finally, the dressers for the master bedroom that I ordered in April from ZGallerie arrived. I was at work when they called and asked if they could swing by a day early and deliver them. Thankfully Adam was home recuperating from surgery. I then got a call a about a half an hour later: "They don't fit up the stairs." Son of a...godd(@*#&@(*&...

I feared this might be an issue when I ordered them and learned that they'd be arriving already assembled. After some cursing, Adam and I decided to tell them to just put them back on the truck. I got on the phone with ZGallerie and began processing the return, grumbling when I learned I had to eat the delivery fee PLUS a 10% restocking fee. But then I got a text message..."Success!! We found a way!!" whew. I promptly cancelled the cancel.

I love them, they're well made and super study, and fit in the space perfectly. I need to push them close together but they're really freaking heavy and I may need assistance from a gentleman caller, as Adam's currently incapacitated for the time being.

We've had the not-fitting issue with various other pieces of furniture before, but I maintain that the delivery people just need to think a little more creatively. I'm sure other bungalow owners have to deal with this a lot, with our narrow stairs and what not. What do you do, just measure, pray, and tip handsomely?

Sunday, May 24, 2009

The plot thickens

Garden plot
Originally uploaded by sweetlenny
We planted more in the vegetable plot on Friday afternoon: cilantro, chives, basil, and finally the asparagus bulbs. To get the flickr photo with notes that explain what everything is, just click the pic.

So there is still about half the plot to fill up - so I'm thinking zucchini and butternut squash? I'm not sure how much room all of this is going to take up. I am probably going to have to spread some of it out once the plants get bigger. And there are the irises coming up in the back of the plot closest to the alley that I am probably going to dig up and relocate, but I'll wait until they bloom and see if it's worth the effort.