06 October, 2009

The Roof or will Horrors never end

Well I have been putting this off because it is such a painful subject to me but I guess I need to tell the tale of woe that is my roof job! When we bought the house we knew it needed a roof...no surprise there. I have never bought a house that didn't need a roof or a heating system for that matter. Fortunately for us but unfortunately for the State of NC the first summer was one of the worst droughts on record. We were trying to sell our house in Charlotte and the money from that was to go for the new roof. Flash forward a year and a half and we finally sell the house at half price, so no extra roof money! I know there are a lot of people out there going through this. I had owned my other house for 15 years. I wasn't trying to flip it. I just wanted to move to a smaller city with less taxes, crime, traffic, etc. etc. I put it on the market at $100,000 less than the house next door had sold for a month earlier and 3 days later the news about the sub prime loan market broke. We are lucky we got rid of it even if I did have to come out of pocket to pay the realtor. By this time my husband had patched what he could and we had saved a bit so we hired a roofer(that we knew and had worked for others in our area) He asked for a $1000.00 deposit for supplies and we paid him. Never saw him or our money again. His father called us about a week later looking for him so apparently he ran out on his family as well. I'm guessing when he comes down from whatever he is on he'll show backup at his home...I hope we never see him again! Now we had to find another roofer. This time we hired one of our best friend's contractor. He had finished out his basement and done a nice job. He came out and gave us an estimate, wrote up a very professional proposal and "seemed" really competent. Things are not always as they seem. The job was laid out in three main parts. Part one was reinforcing and rotten wood repair, part two the actual roof shingling and flashing and part three was the back porch roof which is a standing seam metal roof. A total of 70% was to be paid in advance, the next to be paid after the main roof was completed and we were satisfied with the work and then the last payment when the job was completed and we were satisfied. The total cost $19,000.00.(We had to borrow this money at a terrible interest rate)We paid for the first part of the job which was to reinforce the roof with" troughing", eave and rafter tail replacement, shingles, flashing and the labor. About three weeks later when he and his son finally showed up they got to work. They finished the reinforcing, not in record time but it seemed okay and then they started on the rotten boards in the eaves and rafter tails. Well this is where things started to go bad. We have 3 inch thick end rafters. He showed up with 2 inch thick boards and stood in the driveway and told me and my husband that you couldn't get three inch thick boards anymore.(We had paid for 3 inch lumber on the invoice) At this point in time there was a large storm front headed towards us and we both had to go to work. My husband told him that the 2 inch was not acceptable but when we got home they had already put it up. My husband came home with a quote from Lowe's showing the exact price for 3 inch lumber in about 6 different kinds of wood! Our contractor assured us that it would have to be milled just for us and by the time it came we would have water running down our walls(He had been on our job over 1 month by this time) We told him that he had shorted us about $1000.00 by buying thinner wood! The relationship was strained.
His son mostly talked on his cell phone. So much so that I had to ask him not to pace in our front yard while he talked because he was wearing a path in our grass.(Apparently he had a house he was flipping and things were not going well) The eave and rafter tail replacement was proceeding but they seemed to be skipping some that needed to be done. I pointed this out on many
occasions and was assured that they would be gotten to. Quite a few of the cuts were very sloppy and two of the corners were not cut in properly. All this lead to much arguing and I was extremely stressed by now. The contractor now tells me that the job has turned out to be bigger than he thought and if he was going to be able to get it done he needed to hire some more roofers. I reply that I told him in the beginning that overruns were his concern and that he wasn't going to get anymore than the original quote, he had agreed to this. So the next day the crew of Spanish speaking roofers arrive. Our contractor and the head of the Mexican crew have a long discussion in the front yard. There is much pointing and some raised voices. My contractor then tells me that the roofing crew wants $1000.00 more than they had quoted him because my roof is too high. I informed my contractor that that is not at all what they said( I understand enough Spanish to get by) but they did want $1000.00 extra to cover the carpentry work on the eaves and rafter tails because that was not part of the shingle job. I also pointed out that I had already paid for the rafter tail and eave work he simple had not finished it himself. The relationship becomes more strained.
The contractor comes to me, hat in hand, and tells me that cost overruns have just been too much and he needs an advance on the last 30% to get the roof finished. What do I do! I have half a roof, a crazy crew throwing hunks of my house into my garden, did I mention that they fell through the roof not once but twice into my stair well, I have to get these people finished and off my roof. So I agree to give him some more money. I know I am an idiot. The main roof got shingled and I have to admit that the Mexican crew did a fairly good job other than falling through the ceiling, but accidents happen(sometimes twice) and we breathed a sigh of relief...now to the flashing. Our contractor disappears...we call him...he calls back...we call him...he calls back. This goes on for about 2 weeks meanwhile we have no flashing and THREE chimneys. He and his son finally show up and do some flashing across the front porch. It looks fine. We had ordered a black baked on finish flashing to match the grey shingles. About a week later they show up again to work on the flashing and I notice that it looks different...not sure why. The contractor asks me for the remainder of the money to get the material for the metal roof for the back porch. I explain to him that he has not finished the eave repair, he has not finished the flashing, he has not replaced the 2 inch wood, he has not fixed the two corners his son cut too short, he has not repaired the two holes in our ceiling were the roofers fell through and the last payment is not due until the entire job is finished. At this point in time we only owe him about 2000.00 more on the whole job(and he actually owes us back 1000.00 for the under size wood so we actually only owe 1000 more on the 19,000 dollar total) so the material for the metal roof has already been paid for.The total cost on the original proposal for the back porch roof was 5200.00 we only owe 1000.00 more...you do the math. He leaves angry and does no more work that day.
He finally shows back up about a week later and I notice that they are spray painting plain metal black in our back yard...so
much for our baked on finish flashing! My husband comes home and I tell him about the spray paint. He goes up on the roof to confirm this and finds some really bad flashing. We have to make a decision at this point. My husband and I decide that they have spent our money and not bought our supplies, there is no metal roofing and we would have to pay them another 2 grand to even get the back porch roof started and what are the chances that we would even get the material we paid for. We fire the contractor. The next day the company that sent the Mexican roofing crew calls us to say that the contractor told them we didn't pay him so they should collect their money from us. Fortunately I keep really good records and it didn't take much to show them that we had paid but the nerve of this guy!
Believe it or not there are many things I have left out, they ran out of lumber and had to use some my husband had bought for another project, had to borrow my husbands ladders, tools, saw horses, etc. They had no nail magnet...what kind of roofers have no nail magnet! They broke things..flowers pots for example and instead of telling me they tried to stick it back together like I wouldn't notice. They drug the dumpster down our driveway with their pickup and created a huge hole. Believe me I could go on for days but the bottom line is they took us for atleast 3500.00 dollars. We do have a main roof that does not leak although I don't give it more than 5 or 6 years...they cut too many corners. My husband will do the back porch roof himself(we found out the total for supplies will run us about 800.00) and it will be done right. He just couldn't do the main roof by himself or he would have done it. He has been fixing the eaves and rafter tails that they skipped so we will recover but it was one bad experience. If you are in the Charlotte/Lancaster area and you want to know the name of this contractor please email me and I will be happy to not recommend him.

23 September, 2009

Preservation North Carolina - Web Links

Preservation North Carolina - Web Links

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We bought our house through Preservation NC. They are a great organization doing a wonderful job saving many of North Carolina's historic properties. Check out their website regularly to see the great properties that are available as well as seminars, articles and news about historic preservation in North Carolina. You can find them at www.presnc.org or click above to their link page.

Announcing Old House Blogger Contest

Announcing Old House Blogger Contest
house restoration

Old House Blogger contest.

Please visit the Old House Blogger Contest. here are some great house blogs to see...add your own. Please vote for me I need the money for a new shower ring! Thanks for your support.http://www.oldhouseweb.com/blog/announcing-old-house-blogger-contest/
I kept telling my husband, "you need to get up on the roof and trim that big oak limb back from the chimney. Something bad is going to happen". Well something bad did happen. We had a pretty heavy thunderstorm and the wind pulled back the limb and whacked one of our chimneys. Now to my husbands defense the roof is really high and I wasn't about to go up there myself so it wasn't really his fault...I'm just saying it could have been avoided. I'm sure you have all heard this before, but procrastination aside the limb really whacked us into action.

As it turns out all three of the chimneys needed to be re pointed and repaired around the tops. Over the years the heat had made the bricks brittle and in a way the limb just slapped us with the reality of the whole situation. I could have done without the bricks going through the roof into the attic but we were getting ready to put on a new roof anyway! The broken chimney felt like a jagged tooth and it was hard to look at it. We were very fortunate in finding a fantastic mason and if anyone in the central NC area needs his name I will be happy to recommend him. As you can see from the pictures we have very unusual bricks. The whole house is made from these bricks which we have been told were made on site. They are concrete and fit together in an interlocking pattern as you can see from the cross section of the chimney.

Ricky, the mason searched for replacements for the broken and brittle bricks but no luck. We have a back staircase that settled years ago and the original owners put a wood staircase over it. Of course eventually this all has to be torn out and redone so Ricky had the idea to salvage bricks from the old sunken staircase. He and his crew worked a extra day doing this but they managed to get enough bricks that were in good shape to fix all three chimneys. It is had to find craftsmen like Ricky anymore, people who can creatively approach and solve a problem...not just order something and assemble it.

Ricky disassembled the chimneys down to where they were no longer stable and rebuilt them. We have two four flue and one single flue. As it turns out the broken chimney had probably been broken at some time before because it was not the same height as the others. Ricky pointed this out to us. We would have never noticed and he rebuilt the chimney back to the proper height.(He only charged us what he had originally quoted us even though he did run into some extra issues) So many people give up on their fireplaces. When ever I go into an older home and see a covered fireplace it makes me feel like the room is dead, as if a living portion of the house is gone. I completely understand putting in gas logs but for me there is no way to replace a real wood fire. Call me a purist. Yes it is dirty, more trouble, less efficient and perhaps a little more dangerous but nothing invokes the craftsman ideal of home and hearth more than a warm inviting fire. Our last house had a huge fireplace in the den that we enjoyed for years. When we put the house on the market people seemed confused by a real fireplace. One woman asked how you turned it on and one lady turned to the realtor and asked why the room smelled like smoke. Fire is a real connection to our past. We have gathered around our home fires for thousands of years and I guess I am just not ready to turn that over to the gas company. Dining by an open fire, playing cards in the living hall beside a toasty blaze, cuddled up in the bed watching the embers...no gas fireplace will ever replace the real thing. Mark my word in 10 years Realtors showing houses will be pointing out real fireplaces as a positive because they will be very rare. Just like original windows, radiators and tubs, fireplaces are an integral part of the overall design of a house and should be preserved in working order whenever possible.

08 September, 2009

The Maids Room

Well if you count the sleeping porch our "little bungalow" has 6 bedrooms. We believe that this must have been the maids room for several reasons. First all the other bedrooms, with the exception of the nursery have nice tile fireplaces but this room had a wood stove. Each of the other bedrooms have large closets quite unusual for this age house but this room has two very small closets. The room is very plain and smaller than the other bedrooms with room enough for two single beds and a small dresser and chair. The floor had been painted many years ago in a light brown color which we decided not to change. This room really didn't need much more than some plaster repair and new paint to bring it back.

It had never been wall papered so
we got to skip that step(Thank
You can see that we had our electrician
run the new electrical in
conduit. We
decided that we preferred that to tearing out the original
plaster and by painting and hiding the conduit next to trim it
really is barely noticeable. It is also much easier to change if we need new outlets. The upstairs of the house was not originally wired for electricity except for the overhead lights
so we had a lot of electrical to do in the upstairs. The wood work in the bedrooms seemed to have always been painted so we decided to keep it that way. The hall trim was stained though so we plan to start our stripping there and work our way to the downstairs. My mother has Alzheimer's and she lives with us so this is her room now. We tried to keep it light, cheerful and simple. Most of the pictures are photos of her family from when she was young and she still remembers them so that makes her happy. This room has a great view of the back yard and beautiful sunsets.

She can sit and look out and see the mountains in the distance and there is usually a good breeze coming from the west. Even though it is the smallest room in the house we think it turned out nice and cozy! Who knows maybe one day we can put another wood stove in.

04 September, 2009

The Chicken Coop and the bungalow garden

While researching Arts and Crafts style gardens I learned that a part of the yard was set aside for a family vegetable garden,herb garden, berry patch, orchard and chicken coop.

I love birds and had always wanted chickens so after checking with our local authorities my clever husband built me a beautiful coop. We have 20 hens,one rooster named Prissy and 3 Guinea hens. We get about 1 doz eggs a day and my 10 year old son sells our extras to the neighbors for pocket money. We use the chicken poop to fertilize the garden and I must say our tomato crop this year was overwhelming. I am slowly setting up the garden as a series of raised beds. I figure I can do two new ones every year. We already have 3 done so I have one more to do this year. One is our blueberry/herb garden, one is for tomatoes and okra and I used the third one for pepper, squash, eggplant and cucumbers this year. I plan to put in cold weather lettuce, cabbage, kale and collards soon to replace the summer veggies. We have to put up netting to keep the hens out but they sure take care of the bugs. The house came with two mature apple trees, one peach, one pear, and two mulberries. I planted a cherry tree this year so we should have cherries in about 5 years. I estimate that in the summer we manage to produce between 25 and 40 percent of the food we eat. With the economy the way it has been the garden has been a real help this year and its a great family activity. The chickens require some work, about 20 minutes a days and a couple of hours every 2 months to clean the coop but all in all its a great hobby and once you have fresh eggs you really can't eat store bought eggs. I like the feeling of self sufficient and knowing what my kids are eating. I am lucky that both my neighbors are practically deaf though because a rooster does make some noise. If you do plan on doing the chicken thing not having a rooster might be a good idea. The guineas I got just for fun and because they look pretty(except for their faces, don't look at their faces) but they are a lot harder to handle than the chickens. For one they can fly. I had to chase them back home with an umbrella at 6:00 in the morning down the main street in our town about a week ago. Something had frightened them and they flew out of their pen. They also have an un-natural attraction to Prissy the rooster and they cannot stand it when he is out of their sight, they honk until they know where he is. Strange birds those guineas! Well that's my Bungalow garden.

03 September, 2009

A quick tour of the Worth-Knox House

We have been working on our house for a little over two years now but I just started my blog about the process yesterday. I though that perhaps I should give a short tour of some of the highlights of the house before I dove back into the renovations. I read that a well designed bungalow should make you fall in love with it as soon as you walk in the front door and that was so true when we first looked at this house. Actually I think I was sold in the driveway but I am easy. The porch entry is a large arch with the same arch repeated in the front door frame. The front windows are also arched.

The back of the house has a Tudor influence while the front is more like an Italian Villa(I said it was eclectic.)The four windows to the left are at the top of the stair and are the best place in the house to view the sunset. The dining room to the right shows the beautiful leaded glass fireplace and
painted woodwork! Yes we have our work cut out for us and if anyone out there has some miracle stripping techniques please don't hesitate to tell me. The living hall is a large room with the center feature being the inglenook. The stairs go up and around the chimney(More stripping!) If anyone has any advise on getting the paint off the bricks I would love to know the best way to go about it. Our front light is original to the house and is vaseline glass. It has a small chip and I would love any info the possibility of having it repaired.

This is our front porch and one of the next pictures shows what it looked like when we first saw the house. It is a great extention of the living space and the whole family spends a lot of time on the porch. The last two photos are of the front of the house in spring.

Well up until now its been mostly about stripping wallpaper and painting so lets get to some real remodeling! The upstairs bath was technically fully functional but cosmetically it was beat up. Once we took down the concealing wall paper all the water damage, cracks and swelling in the plaster became visible. We were unable to keep the plaster wall in this room. We tore it out to the studs. The original wood floor was removed and saved for future use or repairs. We insulated the walls and then put up water resistant hardy board. The floor was also torn out to the joists and a new sub floor put in. The original plumbing to the sink had been altered sometime in the 70's. The bathroom originally had a sink that hung on the wall. We could see the old mark in the plaster. We purchased a pedestal sink from a 1918 Bungalow that the owners was redoing the bath in. Their loss, our gain! The tub is original to the house and the toilet is new. We installed under floor heating and laid thumbprint tile on the floor. The walls are done in subway tile up to the new red oak rail. We tried to save the original rail but it was too badly water damaged. The plaster ceiling was also removed and a new sheet rock ceiling put in. There was a squirrel nest the size of a basketball above the ceiling and squirrel droppings and urine had ruined the ceiling. It looked like they had lived there a long time. Most of the accessories are either original or antique purchases. The toilet paper holder and clothes hooks are original to the bath. The soap dish, toothbrush holder and glass holder are period pieces I purchased. The mirror,towel ring, rack and shelf are period reproductions. The WC tile above the toilet is original to the bath. It was hanging over the door when we moved in. My husband restored the tub. The inner enamel was in great shape so he sanded and painted the outside surface and the feet. The really hard part was getting the tub down the stairs! You can see our new electrical going up to the attic through the bath room wall. Since the walls were in such bad shape in this room our electrician used this area to go into the attic and that way we didn't have to tear up any good walls. We hope to add a ring shower when we save up the money to. My very patient husband has had to take baths for two years...he misses a shower! The mural of iris was done by me is very muted purples and greens. We called a plumber to reinstall the tub but he wanted 900.00 so my ever resourceful husband did some research and did it himself for about 42.00 dolloars in parts. He did a beautiful job with some customized copper pipes. The bathroom took about 4 months and cost us less than 3000.00. Not bad for a new tile bath!