Thursday, October 30, 2008

Stopping the leaks

We are going top join the people at Tiny Old House to stop the leaks.

I know this will mean a lot of work for us. We are missing many storm windows, and the ones we do have are in sad shape. Many of our windows are drafty, and you can feel wind coming under the doors.

I bought a programmable thermostat to save energy. Right now we are keeping the house at 65 deg F when we are awake and home, and 62 deg F when at work or sleeping. I figure the dogs and cats have fur, so can handle 62 just fine. This won;t be worth much, though, if we don't get the leaks sealed!

So thanks to Tiny Old House for helping us get the jump on this.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

From Step Repair to Step Rebuild

I took advantage of one of the last warm weekends in Chicago for the year and repaired the front step.  However, as I brushed away the lose debris, more and more of the steps came loose. 

Started with this
Then so much loose debris came out that I broke through to under the front porch.  Now under that porch is our root cellar but that only accounted for about half of the space.  Until now we had no idea what the walled off area contained.  
Here is a picture of the cavern below the porch

So, this little project turned into a rebuild of the bottom two steps.  However, it was neat to see what was under there. 
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Sunday, September 14, 2008

No, Carlos Does Not Live Here...

CPD's Ford Crown Victoria Police Interceptor.Image via Wikipedia Warning to new homeowners:
If you happen to receive mail addressed to the former tenent, and the letters are from lawyers and probation officers, be concerned. 

Now I admit Nicole was correct when she though that we ought to let people know that Carlos does not live here. Nicole envisioned the police busting in, shooting our dogs, and saying "oops, wrong house". 

I did not anticipate that the Chicago Police would be knocking on our door for him.  I mean that is the sort of thing that happens to small town mayors...not us  That was until tonight; luckily the Chicago Police only rang the door bell, but they did warn that others are looking for Mr. Carlos Curtis, and that we might get future visitors.

The fun never ends here at the Freedman House!

Unrelated Note About the Rain: found a leak in the roof but otherwise we lucked out.  Hope the fellow Chicagoland housebloggers fared as well or better.  

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Saturday, September 6, 2008

Lead Paint Abatement Begins

We have finally settled on the licenced lead abatement contractor for our job.  He was nice enough to have some of the work started before our next hearing with the city on September 9th.

We were pleasantly suprised to find out that the wood underneath is actually in really good shape.  Here are two pictures of our front porch windows from yesterday.  Once they get sanded they will look even better.  Now we have to think about either staining them and keeping the wood look outside or painting the windows back to white.  Thoughts? Opinions?


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Monday, September 1, 2008

Great Deal on Antique Bookcases

Our latest great find on Ebay has been these two antique bookcases.  True to the period our house was built, these are from Circa 1910.  Got the two of them for $65.00.  

In particular, I like the mini-rail along the top shelves of these.  

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Lead Paint Woes Continue

If you recall a while back we posted about our City troubles. Well, the City of Chicago in all its infinite wisdom and benevolence did not take pity on us poor unknowing new homeowners. Rather, the City attorneys said that we bought the problem when we bought the house and that we had 60 days to comply with the lead paint mitigation plan. Oh, and if we want any of the documents that were sent to the origional owners when this whole mess started, we would have to file a FOIA. It is little wonder why these older homes are left to rot and contribute to decaying neighborhoods. Who wants to deal with all this?

So, we are now collecting job quotes and passing them on to the original owner (who failed to disclose any of this to us at the time of sale) through the attorney we used at the closing. The first quote we received is from DPB Abatement Services for about $7,500 to abate the paint from exterior windows, soffits, and the walls of our full bath. Don from DPB has been very helpful in understanding the city and how this process works. Thus far his quote is the lowest.

Today, Colfax Corporation came by and did a survey and will send us a quote soon after they get in touch with our court appointed inspector Pamela Kimble. Every contractor has been astonished at the level of action being requiered by the city in this case, especially given that there are no children at risk.

If anyone has used either of these companies, let us know what you thought. Our next hearing is set for September 9th so stay tuned for the next segment in our continuing saga.

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Monday, July 7, 2008

Finally Getting to the Landscaping

Finally, this Fourth of July weekend I got to do some work on our awful front yard. Since we removed the pine tree from the front, we could not get any grass to grow. Sick of looking at the weeds I had to do something and I was not into the idea of paying for sod. I don't mind mowing when grass is already there, but to pay to put in something that means that much more work for me.

Here is the before:

The After:
We hope to add some landscaping stones and we just planted some lily bulbs along the foundation that should be coming up in a month.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

City Troubles

As I discussed in previous posts, we had intended to rehab our windows. We planned to do a lot of it ourselves, and move along a bit slowly.

Well, this Saturday, we got in the mail a summons to go to a hearing. Apparently the Chicago Department of Public Health cited our property as having lead paint violations on every window and all soffits. The property was cited on June 21st, 2007, and re-inspected in September of 2007. We bought it in February of 2008.

No disclosures were made regarding the lead paint by the seller, our inspector didn't find it, our appraiser didn't mention it, and the title search did not come up with the citation.

Now we have to go to a hearing on July 8th (so we only got 2 weeks notice essentially, since it arrived on a Saturday) to answer why the violations were not fixed according to a Mitigation Plan that we did not know existed!!!

Worse, the violations are subject to a $500 per day, per violation fine!!

We contacted the attorney who helped us with the closing, and will be working on this.
We will keep you posted.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

2 Dead Birds in My Yard

I found 2 dead birds in my yard today when I took the dogs out. I am working on recovering from being a bit sick, so I didn't go out there yesterday, but I know for sure neither dead bird was there this weekend.

The dead birds were about 1.5 feet apart. I am pretty sure both were Starlings. Two dead so close together is strange. I hope this is not an indicator that West Nile is making a resurgence in Chicago.

One of them looked like some of it had been eaten by one of the dogs. My vet says that dogs can carry West Nile Virus, but are rarely made ill by it.

Time to break out the mosquito spray!!

Sunday, May 18, 2008

New Bistro Table for our porch

We found a very cute Bistro Table and Chairs on Craigslist.
This house has a beautiful covered porch, and now we have a pretty table and chairs set so we can eat out on our porch!

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Countertop is in

The countertop is in!!
We went with 'tan brown' granite.

I think it looks really good.

We went with a darker color to ground the kitchen, since the kitchen has light cabinets, light walls, and light floors, we felt we needed something a bit darker in a countertop to tie it all together.

We also put in a light fixture. Thanks so much to my dad for the electrical work.

All we need now is plates on the outlets, trim on the windows, and baseboards and the kitchen is good to go.

Let us know what you think.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Our Windows

We have 26 windows.
9 of those are 3, 3 window spreads.
8 are single upstairs windows
8 are single basement windows
1 is a stained glass window, which was rehabbed by Goodwood Studios
I am including a few pictures that provide an overview, but not all windows
We would like to rehab the windows, and leave them as a stained wood, rather than painted white.

I hope this is possible, but right now I can't even get someone out to look at the windows at all.
I want to do a lot of it myself, and really want a contractor around to rebuild what I cannot rehab (it will be extensive), and help make sure I am on the right path. But maybe I should just start on myown, and see what I can do.

Living Room

inside outside

Dining Room




There are 3 different types of window in the basement. One basement window is completely missing.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Just Sashes tomorrow

John from Just Sashes comes to tell me if rehabbing our wooden windows is a do-able thing tomorrow.


He didn't make it last Wednesday, so we rescheduled for today (5/12) at 7:00 am. It is now 8:00, and I haven't heard anything yet. I really hope he calls back.


He never called back. I have called every day since Monday. It is Saturday now. I hope nothing happened to them.

I am also beginning to worry that it is me. Does he just not want to work with me, so he blows off 2 appointments without calling to turn me off without him just saying "I don't want the job"

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Continuing the kitchen

Thursday my dad and I worked on wiring the cooktop, oven and dishwasher in the kitchen.
This was quite a project. It was fun though.
We called the city to see what we could do ourselves, and what we needed an electrician for, and decided that we were okay doing this by ourselves.

My dad and Rob ran the greenfield through the cabinet (we paid all this money for these beautiful cabinets and then cut HOLES in them), through the floor, and into the electrical box. My dad and I ran the wires through the greenfield. My dad ran a "pull wire" through, then we soldered the actual wires to the pull wire, and wrapped the joined end in electrical tape., then he went downstairs, and called me on his cell phone, and we both put our phones on speaker to keep in contact while threading our wires through. This worked out very well. My dad did all of the actuall connecting.

We also ran gas to the cooktop. My poor dad toured 5 hardware stores looking for a 3/8" black pipe union, and could not find one, so we had to go with 1/2" and use a reducing nipple. It worked out well. The cooktop works, and looks very nice so far. Although it is just resting ion the cabinet since we do not have a countertop yet. I am hoping the countertop will come in next week.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

I can't go in the attic

A bit of history. I am very allergic to rats and sheep.

I know about the rat allergy because I had a pet rat, that nearly killed me. As my allergy worsened, I actually stopped breathing one day when I tried to play with her.

I know about the sheep allergy because I spent 2 weeks on a sheep farm in Wales while I was an undergrad. I also know about the sheep allergy because I also react to wool, cashmere, merino, etc. (I even swell if lamb meat or mutton touches my bare skin.)
If I come too close to either rats or wool, I tend to get very red, my face swells a bit, and I wheeze.

I made an attempt to go up into our attic, and all of these things happened.

So this tells us that there is either wool, or rats in the attic.

It could be wool insulation. I wouldn't be surprised if the insulation was never touched up there.

But then again, when we came to look at the house the first time, our friend poked his head up into the attic and saw a raccoon (who has since moved into the attic of the house next door), so a rat could have moved in.

Either one is not good.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Why wooden windows?

I love the windows in this house. They are old, and some don't open, but I love wood, and wood work, so I couldn't imagine removing them for vinyl replacements.

We are itching to get started on the bathroom remodel, despite still being neck deep in the kitchen. (today was wiring electric to the cooktop, stove and dishwasher, and measuring for the countertops). The bathroom rehab has to wait until until the window is removed, stripped, repaired, and reinstalled, since once the marble tiling we have planned is up, we won't be able to remove the window.This will be a lot of work. The bottom pane is separated from the wood, and does not match the textured glass in the upper pane. Paint is thick on the upper textured glass pane, there is definitely some wood rot.

Everyone I talk to keeps telling me I am crazy to want to keep the wood. They tell me I will spend an arm and a leg, with little return on my investment. I really don;t want to believe that. Please, anyone who reads this, and has rehabbed wooden windows, please tell me it is worth it. I really want to believe that it is worth it. Even if I can only do one window every few months, I want to think it is worth it. Let me know what you think?

Update: John from "Just Sashes" called me back today, and is coming to look at our windows next Wednesday. I'll keep you posted.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Kitchen from H*ll

Our kitchen was a nightmare when we bought this house.

The pictures do not even begin to relate all of the nastiness.
The countertops, shelves and all of the cabinet surfaces were sticky with some unknown substance.
The walls were covered in this awful panelling that was little more than cardboard, and hideous. There were grease stains seeped into the walls, and the plaster behind the panelling was just dust. We gutted the kitchen down to the lath. We wanted to plaster to keep the original character of the house, but plastering seems to be a dying art. Plastering all 4 walls and ceiling was almost $12,000!!! Drywalling was less than 1/10th that amount. So we had to bite the bullet and drywall.

We chose a light yellow color for the walls.We bought new cabinets in knotty alder, to keep a bit of the rustic feel of the house. We got white appliances second-hand. We thought stainless steel would be too modern, but we can't afford to go with period appliances, and our we couldn't survive without a dishwasher.
We are in the process of hanging the cabinets, and will keep you posted.

Our Stained Glass Window

We didn't know the house had a stained glass window until we were at the closing. The seller had boarded it from the outside, and had put up black plastic covering it on the inside.

When we removed the boards, we were quite impressed. It was a 2' x 3' window. That is pretty nice for a house our size. It was broken in several spots and had a few panes missing. We thought it was one of the nicest things about the home though, so we made it a priority to fix it.

We had Richard Diens from Goodwood Studios fix the window. We are delighted with the result. We discussed preserving as much of the original glass as possible, even if it meant filling a crack or 2 with silicone and leaving it there. What had to be replaced, he replaced with the most exact matches he could, and we love the result.

I wish we had remembered to take a "before" picture, because the transformation is pretty striking.

Richard explained to us that our window is in the Art Noveau style, and a bit of the history of the MacIntosh Roses in the corners. He is fairly sure this window is original, which is exciting.

A bit of history

Robert and I have been married for 6 years. We just bought this house February 12th, 2008. This is our first house. We also have 2 dogs and 3 cats. The cats are staying with my parents for now, until we buy screens.

We bought this house, in the Chicago Lawn neighborhood of Chicago, because we wanted to be in the city, but we wanted to have a yard for the dogs, and because rent with 5 pets is much more expensive than just buying outright.

We have so far found out that our house was built in 1916. The Architect was Andrew F. Hughes. The construction company is listed as Berglund. There is a Berglund Construction still in Chicago, and I would be willing to bet they are one and the same.

This house has been very neglected, and has fallen into serious disrepair. We hope to restore it to as much of its former glory as we can.

Wish us luck!