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Tudorks Has Moved!

No, no, not the house!

The site has moved to: Tudorks.com

Please adjust your bookmarks and RSS feeds accordingly.

We’re excited about the new freedom we have with our new host, and we look forward to seeing you there.

Thanks, and Happy New Year!

-David and Victoria

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If  you’ve spent more than 20 minutes in the paint section of  a big box hardware store lately, you know what this post is about.  There are about ten million paint gadgets out there aimed at separating you from your money by convincing you that they can make painting easier.

Some of them can.  Most of them will actually slow you down.  Take the Wagner Paintstick:

Sucks.

Sucks.

It was recommended to me by a neighbor.  A nice, well meaning neighbor who said that she had good luck painting a ceiling with it.  I made it through about 20 minutes of assembly and attempting to get the paint onto the roller evenly before I started rolling.  And paint went everywhere because I did it wrong.  Then it started bending and developing little white plastic cracks.  One use and it was in the contractor bag.

Cheap sprayers are another stupid idea.  If you’ve never used a sprayer, you can rest assured that you’ll get the hang of it.  After you’ve got your whole house done.  Even the entry level “pro” airless sprayers would probably waste more of the average amateur’s time than they save.  I shouldn’t even have to tell you, knowledgeable reader that you are, that a paint sprayer with plastic on it anywhere was made to sell to ladies.

I learned the most about painting from going to my local Benjamin Moore store.  Not because the guy who runs it claims he was a champion luchador.  Because while he was telling me about the totally awesome women’s wrestling league he manages, I got to watch people who paint for a living buy their stuff.  Here’s what I learned:

1.  Quality is worth the money you’ll pay for it.  Better brushes lay paint on better, faster.  Don’t even think about those foam things.

2.  Get a paint grid and buy a 5 gallon bucket for big jobs.  The grid is so much easier to cleanup.  You don’t waste much paint, and because you press it into the roller, you’ll get to lay more paint without reloading.

3.  Painter’s Comb:  They’re under $5, and they will make cleaning up your brushes much, much easier.

4. Extending pole:  You shouldn’t stand right underneath the ceiling as you paint it.  Duh.  I found myself using it when I didn’t even have to.  This is why you don’t need a powered roller.

5.  Contractor Paper/Resin Paper:  For $10 and some masking tape, you can prep a few rooms.  Don’t even think about trying to use old sheets, plastic tarp things, newspapers, etc.  You’ll tangle them up in your feet and ruin the job.

6.  Paint Shield:  You can get one for under $15 and they will save you so much taping, and ensure that your trim/detail work doesn’t get screwed up when you do that last touch-up.

Believe it or not, after painting thousands of square feet, that’s all we learned.  Painting is work, and no silly plastic thing is going to make it easier.  Most things marketed to the do it yourself painter are garbage.  The tried and true methods work.

As far as color choice goes, I defer to the lady of the house- but we used mistints on every room except the one we haven’t started yet.  Something tells me we’ll bump into that color when we need it.

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This week is hell.  It’s 100 degrees outside and we have to move our stuff into the storage hooverville that smells like an outhouse.

Here’s the factors we are currently juggling in our sale:

1.  The underwriter is slow.  Once took 30 days to tell me that I botched a form.  Failed on promised closing date once already.

2. The broker has apparently never done this before and has not given the best advice.  Has told us we might close any day now for about 6 weeks.  No idea what is happening over there.

3.  The seller is about to get foreclosed out of the house for nonpayment of property tax for 5 years.

4.  We have no place to live after Friday because our current landlords are kicking us out to try and find a leasing renter.

5. The seller had to get all of his stuff out of his house as a condition of the sale, now lives in a completely empty house.

6.  The seller has no money and is getting chased by collections people.  He needs the money to pay them off or run away to Canada.  Oh and he lost his job, and his cat won’t eat, etc etc.

7.  The seller appears to be borrowing money from the selling agent.  This could get ugly.

8.  No news on where we are with the underwriter.  All documents were delivered this morning, and the file has now been in their hands 30 days.

9.  It’s a rehab house, and not especially livable until we get a plumbing in there at LEAST.

10.  It’s super hot, and no one here in the Pacific Northwest has air conditioning.

11.  We’re not especially getting along with our brokerage or our seller right now.  The brokerage is angry because I called the lender directly and got told my loan didn’t exist, then freaked out on them.  I’m mad at the brokerage because they accused me of fraud for screwing up a sheet that they told me to do (that I was not even supposed to be handling in the first place.)

Storage is $200/month.  The hotel we’ll have to get as of  Saturday is at least $89/night.  So in other words, if the lender can’t get this together by Monday of next week, this deal is completely and totally flushed- after 90+ days of hard, hard work.  We cannot believe we got into this stupid situation.  We were prequal’d for double the purchase price of this house, the seller wants to sell it to us, we want to buy it, everybody wants it to happen fast.  Except the bank- that being the entity that stands to make 100 times the money off of the deal that everyone else does.

So it’s gonna be a tense week, and the blog might be offline for a short while during the transition.  It might also end entirely because we don’t get the house, Victoria gives up, and forces me to go rent again.

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So after 90 days, I called my lender today.  Not my broker, my lender.  I wanted to see what my lender would say their average underwriting time is.  I fully expected to hear a generic response like “we don’t talk directly to borrowers.” or “14 days but sometimes a lot more.”  Something that useful.

Instead, I got connected to a really nice, helpful human being almost immediately.  I told him about our situation- we were going to be homeless and we desparately needed them to get the lead out and get this done.  He was really nice about it, and totally understanding about how real the threat of homelessness is.

Then he went to look up our loan, and couldn’t find it.  He was so sure he couldn’t find it that after double checking, he referred me to the WA Office of Financial Institution’s office.

At this stage, I came completely unglued.  I called my realtor and told her we were all the victims of fraud, and that this loan had been strung out for ages on complete lies.  My realtor called my broker and asked them about it- they denied it and called the lender to chew out whoever it was who told us that.

Then we got a letter in the mail from the title people disclosing a pending foreclosure against the house.

Then we got an email saying that we need to go to the office and sign two things that we signed as PDFs in Photoshop- the contractors are reinvolved, the consultant is reinvolved- this sucks.  Now I have to go wake my sleeping wife and rush to Belfair to sign something I have already signed.

It’s been a great day.  I wish I was dead.

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Since we’ve been “closing” on this house for nearly 60 days now, we’ve had a lot of time to draw up a detailed list of what we’re going to be doing for ourselves in the house, in addition to the work that contractors will be doing.  Since the losers down at our property management office have just evicted us as of July 31st, it looks like I had better get going if or when our mortgage brokerage is able to close the loan.

  • Destroy the deck: Should be fun.  I’m renting a 30 yard dumpster.  Gonna be a day or two with a sawzall and a spartanbar.  Possible a sledgehammer- if only because I can listen to that song while I use it.  Can’t wait to get the new deck put in and start enjoying the tiny Olympic mountain view.  (You have no idea how exciting a view is unless you have spent 20 years in a place without mountains or ocean.)

    The deck stringers are rotten at the base.

    The deck stringers are rotten at the base.

  • Tear out the entire basement:
    The paneling is so ugly I would have ripped it out anyways.

    The paneling is so ugly I would have ripped it out anyways.

    super nasty mold issues in the basement from years of neglected downspouts. All the drywall has to go, and the ceiling is a funny paperboard with a fake pine paneling veneer.  I plan on leaving the built-ins where I can because they’re anchored to the framing.  That’s assuming I am even able to keep the framing on the floating wall.  It’s amazing how little damage actually happened, when you consider that no water/drain management was happening for at least 10 years.  I chalk that one up to well thought design, and living at the top of a hill.  I’ll tear out 100% of the drywall/paperboard, then scrub everything down with a 10:1 bleach solution.  This is the part where I get to wear a breather and a hazmat suit all day.

  • Paint the entire interior: We’re trying to do the whole thing with mistints.  It’s eco-friendly, since Lowe’s procedures for paint disposal include dumping it down the throats of the whitest baby seals, and then strangling fish with the labels.  Oh, and it’s half the cost.  If you’re really looking for mistints though, go to Wal-Mart.  Those morons screw up more colors than they sell.  But I hesitate to buy theirs, because they screw up so bad sometimes that the paint is mixed wrong.  Lowe’s also has a “contractor paint” that’s only $76 for a 5 gal. bucket.  Since we get tired of colors quickly, not a big deal if it doesn’t hold up for 15 years.  The current paint on the walls has been there at least 50 YEARS, literally.  Victoria is in charge of color choice- not looking forward to having to paint all these ceilings though.  The whole place needs primed because of a heavy smoker- or a lot of incense. Hard to tell with this house!
  • Refinish the floors: I’ve never done this before, but it can’t be that complicated.  At least youtube makes it look easy.  Victoria hopes that I screw one room up so she can have a white painted floor.  I’m pretty sure I can do that.  This will be costly, but floor guys charge a ton for it.  The sander rental is about $35/day, plus the pads, stain, and coating.  I’m planning on almost $1000 for the project because its at least 1500 sq. ft. of quartersawn white oak floor.  I hope I come in way under, but the chemicals are expensive and it’s difficult for me to judge their actual rate of coverage.  They are made of ground up eagle shells and powdered rhino horns, hence the $60/gal pricetag for Varathane products.
  • Remove the awesome wallpaper: It’s a real shame that it’s got to go, because it’s so nice.  But the house really needs a thorough cleanup, and I want to check for mold issues and unseen plaster cracking.  We’re hoping we can salvage and frame some of it.  It’s that cool- wait till we get in an produce the photo gallery.  Hoping it comes off easily and without the rental of a steamer.
  • Defuzz the cabinets and doors: The doors and cabinets are both faux fur covered.  Wow.  I am hoping that the stuff I grabbed is a representative sample- the blue fur was attached to masonite and then glued on.  That means the work will just be me and a contractor pad of rough sanding pads.  I’ll try the chemical approach, but without knowing what the adhesive is, I can’t speculate on what solvent I might need.
  • Plaster repair: Plaster’s not rocket science, but the estimates were really high for the cost of getting it done.  I’m guessing thats because of the time required to let it dry a few times.  The house has been through 3-5 major earthquakes in its life, so it’s actually held up really well.  Still, if I’m gonna paint throughout, I should go ahead and take care of this.  The texture will be imperfect, but it’s an old house.  There’s a big bucket of joint compound waiting for me.  I have not seen behind the wallpaper yet, but I haven’t noticed any sagging plaster yet.  I’m sure it’s here, just haven’t found it.  I think I can handle fixing it, though.  Once again, youtube to the rescue.
  • Downspouts: Seriously, how can someone be so lazy as to not put a $3 elbow on the end of their downspouts?  I know that life is complex, and that there might be a good reason.  I’m hoping I can manage almost all of the issues with just that kind of work.  There’s some pooling around a window from one though, and I’m concerned that it might be more complicated to solve, or require a trencher.  The lack of downspouts on the East side of the house has starting a nice garden of bulb flowers that I have to dig up completely.  Worst case scenario on this side is building a french drain to the back yard.  I would like a way to route the water from this drain pipe down the hill and into the church behind us, so that when it rains every morning, it hoses whoever it is that shows up to play the Star Spangled Banner on the pipe organ of doom every morning at 8AM.
  • Replace Lighting Fixtures: The current combination of bare lightbulbs and Huskies Tiffany swag lamps just isn’t cutting it for Victoria.  We’ve apparently got pretty cheap taste in lighting, if retail is any judge.  We plan on putting the cheapest stuff in everywhere but the dining room, and then buying a nice sputnik.
  • Silicone all over the place: Lots of leaking places around the outside could just a blob, or a whole tube.  Oh and that one BB whole right in the middle of a $1500 window.  Damned kids- I am keeping that frisbee.
  • Find a new front door, or Repair the one in place: That decision is really going to depend on the condition we find the door in after we get all of the crap off of it.  I’d prefer to refinish the door, and install new hardware.  But the thing has a funny opening that’s either a small speakeasy or a large peephole, and I predict finding a match could be complicated.
  • Remove Tree on the front of the house: I hate it that I have to remove such a nice old tree, but it’s cracked the foundation.  The realtor and the contractors told me I could sell it to a nursery because its a 75 year old dwarf red Japanese maple.  The nurseries thought it was hilarious that they might pay me to pick up a 700lb. root ball.  Lesson learned: just because someone is “experienced” does not mean that they always know what they’re talking about.
  • Install a railing to the basement: Never done this before, but it’s apparently a codes requirement.  I have no idea how much codes involvement to expect with this project, because I don’t understand the level of involvement to expect from the FHA.  Not hard to do, but I will be trying hard to find a second hand rail.  Railing can be so expensive, even for the simplest ugliest thing.
  • Install a new mailbox: we like the kind that mounts on the porch wall.
  • New house numbers: Home Depot has these great brushed nickel deco/early 20th century modern numbers.
  • Run CAT5e: This will depend on where the TV and the computer and cable modem go.  The house is super dense, and even 802.11n will have a hard time providing the bandwidth we need across the house.  We use a PS3 as an HTPC- it connects to our desktop as a media server.  That’s gotta be a pretty robust connection to stream video.
  • Seal and paint the porch: Hoping to use a terra cotta colored porch paint.  Once again, moisture proofing is the priority because of the Pacific Northwestern climate’s 180 rainy days a year.
  • Tile the kitchen:  We are going to try and work with our 50’s countertop and fixtures and go with a black and white checkered kitchen floor.  We like Marmoleum, but at 5-20% of the cost, vinyl composition tile is a much more attractive option.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to get back to what will be my last weekend as a free man.

-David

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While there were a lot of surprises during the purchase/closing process, nothing really surprised me as much as the contractor ordeal.  Because we’re using an FHA 203(k) loan to finance remodeling, I had to have a licensed, bonded, insured, AKC certified contractor to do the work for me. The process was exacerbated by the difficulty in scheduling time with the house, since the previous owner was a night worker.

So I looked up the BBB and called a few to come out and make a bid.  And one of them did.  He came out (45 minutes late) for about 10 minutes, didn’t make eye contact, insulted the house repeatedly (like I was the one who chose blue fur for cabinet facing) and then told me he had to go pick up his car from the dealership.  Never called back.  One of the three called back the next day and said he was in town and wanted to make a bid.  He was 18 hours late for the appointment.  The third one was a no call no show.  The next morning I had an appointment with an exterior contractor.  He showed up on time, and proceeded to talk my face off for  four hours. About spray on siding, synthetic decks, super duper windows, and how everything every other contractor would tell me would be wrong, all of their materials inferior, and all of their workers inexperienced people who didn’t speak english.  I ended up telling him I had an emergency so I could escape the blabbering.  His bid came in at $22,000 for just the exterior.  At this point I just about gave up on the project.

So I put up a craigslist ad for the work.  I got over 150 different contractors.  One of them had 8 children and wanted to park his trailer (and family)on my lot while he did the work.  While that would have made a great reality TV show, it kind of sounded like a nightmare.  I filtered through the responses, removed the ones with cracks about “speaking english” and those without licenses, and chose 10 to come out an make a bid in one day.

Some of these people came from hours away just to throw a sheet at me that said “Deck: $1000.”  Like I am going to trust that kind of attention to detail with FHA paperwork…  One of them seemed great, spent a lot of time with me, then I called him back and his voicemail message sounded totally drunk- he later left me a couple more semi-drunk sounding messages.  The next Monday I emailed them all and let them know that they needed a complete bid submitted to me by 11:30 that Friday.  On that Friday, I had one bid in my hands in time to go meet my broker.  Luckily, that bid was fair and with the only contractor who actually responded to email.   During the “contractor party” I had, a neighbor came over to tell me about what a great job the contractor had done, and showed me some of his work later on when I knocked on her door.  That was a deal-maker by itself.

The qualities I needed in a contractor:

  • Have a smartphone and know how to use it: answer my emailed in under 3 days.  I’ll be working during a lot of the project, and I need an easy and non-timeconsuming way to deal with my contractor and keep functioning at my job.
  • Understanding that this was not a “marble bathtub” kind of remodel.  I’m not planning on flipping the house, but it would be good to know that I could.
  • Ability to read through the FHA paperwork.
  • Ability to perform any kind of work in a timely manner and work with a deadline.
  • Experienced and networked in the area: the in state contractors always “know a guy” and the out of state guys would probably be calling Home Depot.
  • Smart.

After the contractor knew that he was the guy I had chosen, he still answers my email quickly.  Since the 203(k) relies heavily on the contractor being able to get managerial work done, that’s super reassuring.  I was terrified and amazed at the fact that out of more than 100 contractors I dealt with by email, and the 13 I dealt with in person, only one was able to get a bid to me that had the required level of detail, and was even close to on time.

-David

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