Saturday, October 29, 2016

OK, No Deck. Now What?

Do I sound like a broken record yet? We should have done this a long time ago.

On his initial survey, Dan (the contractor) took one look at the deck in back and declared, “I’d get rid of it.” The wood was bad, and over the years, the surface had settled in the middle. We agreed, but he couldn’t recommend what to do in its place until he literally saw the lay of the land underneath. If at all possible, we wanted to avoid the expense of completely replacing the deck (and so did he).

Of all the projects undertaken (and to be undertaken), this deck replacement stressed me the most. I had no idea what he would recommend, how much it would cost, or what it would look like. I put a guesstimate in my budget spreadsheet, but who knew?

Demolishing the deck.

Gary and Rueben quickly mowed through the wood (making a significant amount of racket in the process with their crowbars, circular saws, and sledgehammers; and making for a very nervous beagle). The hardest work was removing the concrete feet at ground level.  Fortunately, no bodies (or buried treasure for that matter) were discovered; only random bits of flotsam like a garden glove or hose quick release.

Dan recommended leveling the area as much as possible, then installing gravel to keep the dirt from washing away. (During a good rain, water flows from left to right, then out to the front yard, so loose dirt would all wash away pronto. I’ve tried laying mulch back there before, only to see it all flow out under the fence at the next rain.) He also suggested landscape fabric underneath to keep down weeds, and a garden border at the two edges to further help keep everything together.

The old deck and its replacement in progress

Best news: the cost was lower than expected and feared! Huge relief.

They removed a rail to let gravity do the work (note the open back gate)

The very next day, the guys arrived with wood, gravel, Quik-Crete, landscape fabric, flagstones, and garden border. They hauled in the gravel from the gate to the back alley (did you even know we had a gate back there?) and dumped it over the railroad ties onto the surface below. They also installed a very sturdy set of steps from the porch to the ground. Plus, they laid (and countersunk) some flagstones to make a path.

The beautiful results

We are thrilled with the result. (Katie the Beagle was snooting around so much that her nose was white.) It’s easy to walk on, and (bonus!) the grill no longer sits on a wood surface. Katie can easily hop off the porch onto the ground with little trouble (for whatever reason, she won’t use the stairs). The ice cream table and chairs now on the porch are (obviously) a work in progress but will look fabulous when done. And I promise we’ll move the firepit away from the house while in use.

Next up: sweat equity while we wait for Phase II (interior painting), to begin after Thanksgiving.




Thursday, October 27, 2016

Spiffing Up the Exterior

With all the dirt washed away, time to address issues on the exterior.

Den window: before, during (see old wood on ground), and after

The wood trim really needed replacing in many places (more than we thought), and all of it needed a good paint (even after the power wash, some areas looked a little dim). 

Front porch before and after

Fortunately, the siding is HardiPlank and has held up well over the years, so no repairs needed there. They left us the paint remaining in the two 5-gal buckets, for touch-ups and for the new owners. We kept the same color scheme so as not to run afoul of our homeowners association.

West corner before and after

These guys are much braver on those tall ladders than I ever would be (and they’re working way up there). Some of the trim was a real challenge to remove, judging from the loud banging echoing through the house.

The last step: removing the deck. The wood wasn’t in good shape, and the whole thing sagged in the middle, so no way to salvage it. (Even if they’d power washed it, it would still have been a saggy deck and not a good selling point.)

I am very glad they have access to a dump site; it would have been a challenge for us to remove all this debris.

Working the front porch; Nathan on the circular saw; and that's not all the trash

We’re thrilled with the results, and once again, saying “We should have done this a long time ago.”


Next up: So what replaces the deck?

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Washing Away 18 Years of Dirt

Surprise! (Not.) Our contractor recommended a thorough power wash as a first step, before starting any other exterior work. Frankly, we considered doing this even before the decision to sell, but just hadn’t gotten around to it. A colossal amount of dirt builds up over 18 years.
Back soffit before, during, and after cleaning.

Gary and Rueben did a fabulous job, even getting up on some pretty aggressive ladders to get the soffits on the upper level (which must be at least 20’ off the ground).

As they washed the back porch, they revealed a bit of what the deck actually looks like under all that dirt. But with deck removal soon to follow, they didn’t wash it.
Revealing what's underneath all that dirt on the deck.

Once the dirt washed away, we discovered more trim that either needed replacing or painting (or both).

And lest you think it doesn’t make a big difference:
Top: sidewalk not yet washed. Bottom: washed.

Side note: Katie the Beagle was not pleased. Between the water, the noise, and the unfamiliar people, she stayed close by my side all day. Bruce expressed it perfectly (in her “voice”) when he got home: “DAD!!! They put my house through a car wash!!”
Back porch before and after power washing.

Even without trim repair and painting, the house looks magnitudes better without all that dirt. And the neighbors have started to notice all the commotion about the house. I’ve told a couple of them of our decision, but not everyone knows yet. And once again we said, "We should have done this a long time ago."


Next up: trim repair and painting, plus painting the siding.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Finalist Again! Central Market's Apple Recipe Contest


We interrupt our normally scheduled "get the house ready to sell" programming for a cooking update. In October, Central Market sponsored an apple recipe contest; once again, we entered, and once again, we were finalists. (8 contests, 8 finals appearances; not bad.)

We worked on recipes over a weekend. Bruce prepped a sweet recipe (saving the idea for next year), and I modified my Frannie's cornbread dressing recipe (thanks for the idea, Robyn!). I added apples and mild Italian sausage to the recipe, and substituted apple cider for some of the chicken broth. They have changed the rules, so we were able to submit both recipes.

After a longer-than-expected wait, an email informed me they selected the dressing recipe as a finalist. Finals scheduled for two days hence. Scramble to rearrange Friday/Saturday schedule. At least we weren't out of town.

I did the bulk of the work on Friday; all I had to do on Saturday was cut up the apple, stir everything together, and pop into the oven. I plated at the store.
Frannie's Cornbread Dressing with Apples and Sausage


During preparation, we were all surprised when the Spurs Coyote showed up! He wasn't going to do much eating in that costume, but he was fun to have around, very interactive, and very generous with photos. (Kids at the store went berzerk.)
From left: Apple Quince Tart, Apple Cilantro Slaw, Vietnamese Summer Rolls, and Apple Bundt Cake

Four other finalists presented the pictured dishes (two savory, two sweet). As usual, we each presented to the panel of three judges (none of whom I recognized).

After several minutes of deliberation, they selected the apple-quince tart as the winner. (We learned during the Hatch contest that the judges have a predeliction for sweet dishes, although Bruce won once with a savory recipe.)
He tried to abscond with it after the photo.

It's always fun to participate, and as corny as it sounds, it was a lot of fun to meet the Spurs Coyote. 

Watching carefully for their next contest.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

First Step: Tree Removal/Trimming

Volunteer trees along back deck rail
Our first step: removing volunteer trees and several crepe myrtles sited too close to the house.

We’ve needed a trim for a while now. Windy storms would blow branches into several areas of the house. And the tree guys needed to finish before the “exterior work” guys arrived. The fewer trees they have to get around, the better. We’ll do another “cosmetic” trim closer to listing time.
Volunteers outside the music room window

When I walked around with the estimator, I asked him to get rid of every single volunteer tree/bush he found. I’ve hated those scraggly things for years, and I could never fully eliminate them. (The one along the deck rail in the back was particularly resilient.) After their removal, he suggested going around every couple of weeks with a bottle of Round-Up to squirt any new growth; after a few rounds, they’ll quit trying. I already have my bottle at the ready.

I happened to be in the music room when they felled the big volunteer tree. It was as if someone opened a dark curtain. I love how much more light reaches that room now. The outside isn’t much to look at now, but I have plans this winter for mulch, a simple border, and some kind of garden art. (*No* Weeping Angels allowed.)
Cutting the volunteers away


Taking out the two volunteers along the back deck rail opened things up and makes the upper backyard more visible.
Look, no more volunteers!


I was surprised at how much they hauled away. One guy had to cut branches with his chain saw and jump up and down on the pile so it would all fit in their trailer.
And no volunteers here either!

After seeing the end result, we both said, “We should have done this a *long* time ago.” I suspect we’ll be saying that a lot over the next few weeks. My sister keeps telling me, “You won’t want to move!” But unless they figure out a way to shave off the second story, we’ll be happy to leave, no matter how good it looks.
Full trailer

Next up: power washing away 18 years of dirt.