The Time Capsule

Yesterday a neighbor offered me some original sidelites (glass side window panels) for the front door, which he had recycled from a house on the next block. I was really excited to get them as my house was missing them and had been filled in with wood. When I was putting them in today I discovered something of a time capsule. Stenciled inside the wall of the house near the front door was what appeared to be shipping labels from Fort Snelling, Minnesota to Fort Sam Houston, Texas. Additionally it clearly states the name of the original owner of the house, which is Lt. Col. W.J. Henry. I am not sure if the house was shipped in panels or if the wall was made from a crate which some of his belongings arrived in. In any case it was pretty cool to pull out a piece of wood that hadn’t been touched since 1920 and see who the original owner was. I think I’ll permanently affix them somewhere in the attic to assure they stay with the house for future owners.

Rain, Rain, Go Away!

Rain, rain, go away! Arrrgh! While the floors were getting sanded today I had my stucco guys re-doing the fireplace. Now the inside is just about complete and I am ready to start prepping the outside for paint, but wouldn’t you know that it has been raining for 4 days. The rain actually washed half of the first brown coat of stucco away yesterday so upon finishing today we covered it in plastic. Once the floors are stained and sealed I can install the kitchen appliances. When the weather cooperates, I’ll start painting the exterior, I can’t wait to pick some fun colors for this eclectic neighborhood. As you can see I’ve started outside by replacing a lot of the damaged wood trim to get ready. Besides the exterior paint, my last big project is building the rear deck. I’ve already got the design done and it will measure 20 x 16 and have two access points with stairs down to the backyard and driveway. I thought that the giant deck was an important feature for that indoor/outdoor lifestyle that’s so important to today’s buyer.

Two local Realtors stopped by today, one of them is a really nice guy who actually represented the buyers on our last rehab “The Craigslist House”. He is very active in Mahncke Park and was impressed with what we’ve done. We talked for a while and he wants to bring some clients through before we put it in MLS. We are still totally on budget and excited to get it finished. I also have been negotiating a potential deal that’s very close to this project, it’s amazing how you can discover hidden treasures once you are working on your flip and start networking with the neighbors.

Gettin’ there

 

The interior is nearing completion. I finished the trim carpentry this week, hanging doors for the pantry and laundry & putting in the kitchen baseboards to match the existing ones. Inside the kitchen pantry I made some custom shelves as well. The baseboards are 1 x 8 pine with a shoe molding. All the original trims had to be sanded and primed with oil base, as they were originally oil-based paint. If you’ve ever tried to paint oil based trim in an old house with latex, you know how it will just peel right off. I like the Zinnser oil based primer product better than Kilz. It’s extremely difficult to work with, you have to slop it on, move fast smoothing it out and don’t go back over old work. All that’s left now are all the windows and casements which are extremely flaky, this is going to take a lot of prep work this week to smooth them out and get them in primer. I just passed the 8-week mark for this project, looks like about 1-2 more weeks and the inside will be done. I’m still on track with the budget however I’m expecting to go a little over on landscaping and the rear deck. I’m not too worried though as the neighborhood comps are showing that my original sales target price was conservative a bit so I’ll list now for $19,000 higher than initially planned.

4 days later, tile done

A 4-day tile project ate up my week! I’ve done my fair share of tile jobs but never all the bathroom walls; it was like doing one giant shower. I used a white ceramic 3×5 subway tile pattern changing to diagonal 4” at the top and separated by a sage green glass liner. The tile job seemed to go on forever. I also mixed in a few green glass accent tiles in the octagon white ceramic floor pattern. The sage green glass accent ties into the kitchen color while the original 1920 bathroom pedestal sink matches the farmhouse kitchen sink. You just couldn’t have gone into this bathroom with the typical travertine and had it flow right. I haven’t used white ceramic on a remodel in a long time; while it’s not the common choice these days, for this project it really captured the period feel we are after. I’ll set the toilet and original pedestal sink in on Monday and it will all be done. The bathroom is really cool; it reminds me of a grandma’s house but in an updated, fresh way. Ah, to feel those octagon tiles on your bare feet after getting out of the Jacuzzi tub.

We’ve had a group of ladies stop by the house twice now. They noticed the rehab in progress and came up and knocked last week. One lady seems really into what we are doing, it would be nice to have someone interested before it’s finished but my philosophy is not to show your product or advertise it until its 100% complete so I am not that anxious to impress them. I know another investor that starts the rehab and then lines up his buyers and lets them make changes along the way. IMO, working with buyers nitpicking colors and changing things isn’t worth the drama. That’s why I am not a general contractor! I would rather use my own creativity, build a unique product, and then throw it out there into the marketplace. After all, that’s why I enjoy doing this anyway.

Cool iPort Docking Station

We reached some important milestones this week. The A/C is on, big deal in this 98 degree Texas heat! I finished all the cabinets as well as installed the granite slab countertops. I get the pre-bullnosed 8’ slabs fabricated in China and cut the dog-ears myself to seam them. This is the best way to go for rehabbers because it’s very cost effective and highly desirable for resale. We wanted to go dark to give some contrast to the white cabinets so I picked Uba Tuba green. I dropped in a farmhouse style kitchen sink that’s very popular right now and furthermore mimics the original kitchen but in an updated version. All the light fixtures and ceiling fans are up now and we are waiting for both the electrical and HVAC final inspections this week.

We broke out the big guns this week and unleashed our secret weapon – it’s an iPort in-wall dock for your iPod or iPhone. Flush-mounted in the wall just inside the front door, this device allows you to play your favorite music through the whole house surround sound system. You can also send images directly to your flat screen TV. My pre-wire included HDMI and an 110v outlet above the fireplace for easy TV installation. The iPort is connected using a cat5 wire from the dock location to your media center (on this house I selected a closet). You can also dock your iPhone, as it will charge either device. Studies have shown that buyers today are looking for smart wiring and tech goodies. This neighborhood attracts young, hip first time buyers so chances are good that they will be iPod savvy. I felt the minimal cost of $200 for adding this cool feature was a good investment for this house.

Sage Green Kitchen!

We got the A/C roughed in this week, it has all new ducts and we relocated the furnace up into the attic. After a couple of tries we also nailed down the paint color for the kitchen. It’s a Benjamin Moore color called Spring Valley but we went to Home Depot and had them match it in Behr because we would never pay $50 for a gallon of paint. As we said before, we really want to do something different with this house since it’s a 1920s bungalow. By using green in the kitchen it gives it a more authentic 20’s feel and the color turned out exactly as we’d hoped. We went with the white cabinets that have some glass front doors and fluted lines. We got most of the upper cabinets hung on the wall and started on the lowers as you can see in the picture, it’s starting to look really cool. Keep in mind that we’re going to refinish the original long leaf pine floors in the kitchen. We’re thinking of using black granite on the countertops and stainless appliances. White appliances would probably look really good and more period-correct but most buyers today are still looking for stainless.

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Spa Tub Install

This week I spent a lot of time sanding and mudding to get the drywall ready for texture. After taping the baseboards and door casings off yesterday I sprayed a light pattern of orange peel texture with my hopper on the entire interior of the house, walls and ceiling. We’re ready tomorrow to go in there and spray a good coat of primer on everything and then spray the ceilings only with flat white ceiling paint. I’ll use a brush and roller for all the rest of the interior walls a little later in the project.

I also put a lot of work into the bathroom this week. I started out by putting in a new plywood subfloor and a toilet ring. I also framed out a box for the new jetted tub. This tub requires a designated 110 circuit so we pulled a wire from under the house into the tub box. Code calls for a GFI protection but you don’t want to use a receptacle underneath the tub where the motor plugs in becuase if it trips you won’t be able to get in there to reset it. We’ll obtain our protection from a GFCI breaker on the panel instead. I had to go under the house to remove the old lead drum trap and change the system over to PVC with a P-trap.

After tying in the plumbing I mixed up 2 bags of mortar and dumped it into the tub box as a big blob.  I then dropped in the tub and while doing so I pushed down gently and it squeezed the mortar bed out to a perfect thickness to fill the gap between the bottom of the tub and the subfloor.  This is really important so when you’re standing in the tub and using it as a shower the bottom won’t flex and all the weight of the water and the person isn’t supported by the outer rim of the tub.  This is the correct way to install a jetted tub as per the manufacturer’s instructions. I’ve seen other people use spray foam as a fill but it doesn’t provide as much support.  I dropped in the tub unit and used hardibacker for the surround as well as the floor. For the walls in the bathroom I used blueboard tile backer since these aren’t in direct wet areas. Now the bathroom is completely ready for tile.

TubTub2

Some Tape and Float Action

We passed our electrical rough-in inspection on Tuesday.  My helper Nacho and I started right away hanging the drywall and we finished the tape and float on Friday. You can really start to see how the new kitchen is going to look and it’s exciting. All the “old house smells” are now gone as the walls are all sealed up. Additionally, I put in a new back door on the kitchen and a new subfloor in the bath. My A/C guy is coming Tuesday to start running all the ductwork and install the furnace in the attic for new central air conditioning.  I originally planned to place the compressor on the side of the house so I had the electrician run the power there, but after pulling the permit we were advised that since we are in a historic neighborhood we couldn’t have the equipment visable from the street so I decided to put it in the backyard. Another neighbor stopped by today to tell me how happy she was to see someone finally doing something with this old house.

More Dead Raccoons

This week we roughed in all the plumbing as we had to relocate supply and drainage for the kitchen sink and the new washer & dryer location. One nice thing about pier & beam homes is that it’s relatively simple to relocate appliances because there’s more room underneath the house to crawl around and move any lines. On Friday and Saturday we handled the roof. It was a 2 day project because we had to tear off 2 layers which included the original cedar shake shingle below. We found one more dead raccoon when we took off the old roof bringing the count to 5! After redecking the roof with plywood I chose a 30-year dimensional shingle in the color Estate Grey. It’s always good to do the roof before you start any of your drywall repair, that way you won’t have any surprises on your new tape and float job after a rain. You’ll notice from the photo below that I also retrimmed the windows. The electrical inspection is set for Tuesday so once that’s clear we can start hanging the drywall.

The Siding Experience

We had a good first week. Outside I trimmed up the landscaping so you can actually see the house now and also removed all the asbestos siding to expose the original waterfall siding. Inside we took care of all the demo which included a complete kitchen and bath gut as well as a makeshift rear addition that was on the back of the house. We filled up a dumpster and a half with all of that. Upon tearing out the kitchen cabinets we discovered what the horrible smell was that we had originally thought might be a dead rat in the wall…there were dead raccoons above the cabinets as well as in the attic. After the demo we tackled the foundation. Since there was a previous foundation job done on the house which included 45 concrete piers we only had to use steel shims to lift it 2″ max in some areas.

KitchenAll the framing also went really smoothly. As planned, we opened up the kitchen to the dining room and the dining room to the living room with two dramatic arches. Inside the kitchen we firred out a wall to accomodate a stacked washer & dryer as well as a food pantry. We also closed up the 2nd front door to the house and installed a pull-down attic ladder. Additionally, the electrical is now all roughed in including flat-screen, surround sound and cat-5 wiring throughout.

My Swedish Friend

After taking exact measurements of the kitchen space and window locations, I went to my Swedish friend’s website to get an easy look in 3-D at how my kitchen would look. We were able to play around with different configurations until we got the best use of our space. Since cabinet boxes come in standard sizes this tool is a good way to lay out your options whether you end up buying the cabinets from there or not.

New Historic Rehab, “The Craftsman Bungalow”

I bought this 1920’s Craftsman bungalow from the caretaker of the original owner. She inherited the home and did not want it. The house had been sitting vacant for 18 years, except for 35 cats which the caretaker was being paid to feed. We are once again the hero for all the existing neighbors as you can imagine.There is an addition on the rear of the home that served as a feline master suite. This will have to be removed as it’s poorly constructed. This house will get new central heat/air, ductwork, roof, complete electrical, kitchen, bath, hardwood refinishing, foundation leveling, remove exterior asbestos siding to expose original waterfall siding as well as paint in and out. Additionally I plan to reframe a new gable and columns at the porch area to give it more curb appeal, close off the second front door and add a porch swing.

KitchenAs far as floorplan changes, the kitchen will be opened up to the dining room with an arched pass-through but I don’t want to change too much to disturb the period feel of the home. All the original interior and exterior doors will be refurbished and kept in place as well as the original sashed windows will remain. I plan to use different materials on this home than our usual materials which are travertine, cherry cabinets and granite. This one may get some white ceramic tile in the bath with a subway pattern. This historical San Antonio neighborhood called Mahncke Park is seeing a huge revitalization push with its proximity to Alamo Heights, Witte Museum, Downtown and the Riverwalk Extension Project.