Monday, November 30, 2009

More House Stuff Done

So yesterday was day two of moving, and splorp! and I got going fairly early with two car loads of boxes.

His job was to install the curtains, while mine was to clean the bathrooms, caulk the hall bathtub, and then vacuum carpets and run the carpet cleaning machine over them.

splorp! had some difficulty with the curtains, never having hung them before yesterday. We bought blackout curtains, and they turned out very nice. Plus they do a LOT to block out the light and heat, making the bedroom much more comfortable.

The cleaning of the bathrooms went quickly. I think the house was professionally cleaned before it went on the market, but still, that was several months ago (back in late June), so there was dust and minor grime in the sinks and on the floor. And anyway, who knows how many people went through the house and what was on their shoes and what they may have tracked in from outside in that amount of time.

A small bit of excitement and swearing when I went to dump the mop water in a toilet. I was trying to tip the water out of the bucket and still hold the scrub brush and wash rag in the bucket, when all of a sudden the rag went right by my hand and into the toilet ... where it proceeded to go right down the drain with the rest of the water like it was regular toilet tissue!

splorp! came over to investigate why I was using such colorful language, and when I explained the rag went right down he asks if I can feel it at all. Nope. Cannot reach anything. Test flush on the liquid setting (small amount of water). Not backing up. Heavier flush, with the other setting (more water). Still not backing up. So, it's gone. It may come back to us later in the form of slow draining and a call to the plumber. We'll be watching that closely for quite a while.

After the excitement of the washrag episode I proceeded to caulking. I know the basics of how to do it, but have never actually done it. It's now done, but let's just say it was much messier than I expected, and now I want to buy one of those Pro Caulk thingys before I have to do it again (which may be sooner than I like, because I need to caulk the seam where the kitchen counter meets the backsplash).

On to vacuuming, which was not exciting. Then the carpet cleaning. The cleaner looks like a giant vacuum, but with more domed areas, and lots of plastic. Sort of like this thing I stuck in here to the right.

Anyway, my Aunt bought the cleaner thing a while ago, used it once, then hasn't touched it for a year. She said it worked well, cleaned great, and here's the instruction book, have fun.

I could not get the stupid thing to work! No matter what I did, the water would never reach the spinning brushes. The floor remained dry, if somewhat brushed.

I read the instructions carefully, read them again, took it apart at the water well and cleaning solution reservoir, put it back together, had splorp! read the directions and try it, and the stupid thing still just would. not. work.

We gave up and called it a day.

Today splorp! and Dad made two trips moving stuff to the house, and apparently after the first trip Dad just turned on the power switch and it worked perfectly. Perfectly! Like he had the magic touch or something.

I hate it when that happens. Makes me feel like a moron, but splorp! assures me it was just one of those things that happen. Promised Dad did nothing differently than we did, but somehow this time he got water to come out properly.

Whatever.

So splorp! cleaned the carpet in the main room, which is the main thing I wanted to tackle, and my bonus is that he did the cleaning, and I didn't have to.

For the next several days I will be packing boxes at night and packing splorp's car so he can drop off a load after work each day. He works only 2 miles from the house, while I am closer to 20 miles away, so we'll limit our moving to what he can do in the trunk of his car.

Until Saturday, which is the big move day.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

It's a start!

Today we loaded up my Honda Fit (lurve the Fit!) with boxes of books and misc crap stuff and husband splorp! and my dad loaded Dad's Tahoe with tools, and off we went to the new house.

I arrived first and discovered I have no clue how to back a car into a garage. Missed taking out the tool bench by about 2 inches (not kidding, really about 2 inches).

We unloaded my car, most of Dad's truck, took some measurements, and then all three of us piled into the front bench seat of the Tahoe and were off to Home Depot, where we proceeded to buy new locks and doorknobs, a water heater and 2 dual flush toilets. We all sat in the front because we took all the seats out of the back, so we could fit all those giant boxes into the truck.

Eleven hundred dollars later we were back at the house where the boys spent a very productive day installing the water heater and drip pan (yea! hot water!), locks, and 2 toilets. Somewhere in the middle of the day there was a second trip to Home Depot (I did not go along for that one) because they needed to buy new supply lines and wax rings for the toilets.

Let me just take a moment to say: When you go to install a toilet, DO NOT GROUT THE TOILET IN PLACE. Seriously. We went to take out one of the old toilets and discovered that instead of caulking around the base of the toilet where it meets the tile (like normal people) some owner somewhere along the line grouted it. To the floor. With black grout to match the grout lines on the tile floor.

My small part of the toilet installation involved a hammer and a screwdriver, and very carefully chiseling off the stupid grout lines from the surface of the lovely tile. Fortunately our new toilets have larger bases than the old toilets, and cover the remaining grout. You'd never know it was there.

All in all it was a very productive day. Now splorp! and I need to figure out how to dispose of 2 (grody) old toilets and a dead water heater. I think our best bet is to call the garbage people and arrange a pick up. My parents tell me you can usually get one free pickup of oversize or odd items in a year, and then other pickups are charged. Sounds like a good deal to me.

Worse comes to worse we'll put an ad out on the "free scrap metal" and smash the porcelain up and dispose of it in the trash.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Furnishing Plans

Two days from now we will have signed all our paperwork, and will hopefully get the keys later that day or the next day. Our appointment is 9 am Monday, so if all goes well we could move in over Thanksgiving.

We're not going to, but we could. There's still the little matter of needing a water heater before we move in, and toilets.

We're looking at these dual-flush low-flow toilets. A friend of ours recommended it. Apparently he installed one in his new house, and he says it passes the flush test with flying colors.

I like the fact they're dual-flush toilets. If you're not familiar with dual flush toilets it's a cool bit of technology helping us use less water (and, hello! Southern California has droughts all the freaking time). Basically it saves water in two ways: first, using the low-flow toilet technology it uses a combination of the traditional gravity-fed flush plus a motor to help the flush be more powerful with less water. Secondly, a dual-flush has two settings: a half-flush for when you just go number one, and a full flush for when you go number two.

But ultimately I'm leaving the purchasing of the water heater and the toilets to my dad and husband splorp! I'll offer input on the washer and dryer, but we'll probably go with a basic high efficiency top-loader washer and a gas dryer.

The front-loading washers just aren't for me. I think it's cool that they use less water and are more gentle on your clothes than a traditional washer's agitator, but I don't like the rubber "ring" gasket that seals the doors. They smell horrible, and the washers are prone to growing mold or algae or something around the rings, which in turn increases the smells. Ick.

We had a front-loader washer in our last apartment, and it was always smelling musty. I finally discovered I had to leave the washer door open so it could air out when not in use. That certainly is an easy solution, but in our new house the washer and dryer will be in the garage. I'm not leaving the washer and dryer open, what with all the dust and leaves that come in under garage doors. Plus, we're planning on parking in the garage. There will be car exhaust and junk in the air.

Well, if they boys are handling the appliances, I'm in charge of getting drapes for our bedroom. This is actually a very important thing, because our bedroom doesn't have a simple window, it has a sliding door that takes up one whole wall. There actually isn't a window at all, just the door.

So the curtains have to be black-out curtains, because otherwise we're going to have a lot of light in the bedroom. They have to be "insulating" type of curtains, because the door is the old single pane style, which will let in a lot of cold or heat, depending on the weather. Mostly heat (remember? Southern California). And the door faces the setting sun, so it will be really, really hot in the bedroom unless the insulating curtains work to cut the heat.

We have air conditioning and all, but let's be eco-friendly about this and just buy some curtains that have multiple uses and cut our heating/cooling bills.

The problem with buying curtains is that I've never done it before now. I went out to a couple of stores today, and learned that the hanging pole and brackets can pretty much be bought as a set. And I learned that the longer poles have more than the two end brackets (they have 3 or 4 brackets total), which is a load off my mind because I kept picturing he curtains sagging in the middle, what with the pole having to stretch 94" to cover the sliding door.

Also? I can't find curtains that I like.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Signing Soon!

We are expected to sign loan docs on Monday! Woo-hoo!

Since we have a date, today I gave our 30-day notice at our apartment complex. Boy, parting with that amount of money was not fun, but at least it is over. Our days of having someone walking tromping over our heads are nearly over! I'm so excited there is an end date in sight.

We expect to have our new house keys shortly after signing, maybe a day, hopefully right away. We are working with a direct lender, so that means we don't have to go through and around extra layers of middle management.

The first thing we do is probably re-key the house. It has been vacant for a long time, but we have no idea how many house keys the sellers handed out during their years there. Plus we know they rented (or attempted to rent) the house for a while, and there's no telling how many keys those people handed out.

After that we will have to quickly install a new water heater. The one currently in place is showing its age and was difficult to light during the inspection. That's ok, it's a good opportunity to get it set up correctly with a drip pan (there isn't one right now, and the wooden heater stand shows water damage) and drain line (the current one is not attached to the wall properly, and has sagged, creating a non-slope so water can't drain properly). We'll also insulate the water heater to maximize efficiency, and strap it for earthquake safety.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Termites

We got the termite report back yesterday.

Since we're in Southern California, it's pretty much a given there's going to be some termite activity. The questions are: how much damage, is it structural, and how expensive to fix?

There's not a whole lot of termite damage, and no it's not structural. It's actually mostly in the siding, and in the areas around windows. There is some fungus type of wood rot, which is also expected when you have no flashing on the edge of a roof, or faux beams that stick out beyond the roof lines. Also, when you have plants that have been creeping up and over and around and between boards because the house is vacant and no one hired a gardener.

What is nice is the areas the termite people identified are no different than the areas the house inspector listed in his report, so we feel pretty confident no one is trying to scam us.

Now the termite people will go in and do removal and repair of the affected areas, and probably tent the house. After that they will sign off and our loan should be OK to close.

The only difficulty will be painting the repaired spots - I have no idea when the house was last painted, but I'm going to guess a long time ago. And while there is leftover paint in the garage, the only thing I saw for sure was interior paint.

So, splorp! and I may have to consider painting the exterior of the house relatively soon. Ick.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Looking up!

It looks like we may be able to close on the house and move in before Thanksgiving! WOW, that is super fast!

Considering we just heard on Friday October 30th that the sellers' bank is OK-ing the short sale, it will make it right about 3 weeks to close. Our mortgage broker ROCKS!

Today was our inspection. The good news is that all the HVAC is in good shape. The bad news is the electrical is aluminum wiring. My dad (our resident expert on all things construction and electrical) wants us to upgrade the electrical panel to 200 amps (from 100) and consider the costs of the wiring (as in, SOON). I think he considers it a major fire hazard, so yeah, we'll probably do something about it in the near future.

The water heater is so old they couldn't get it lit at first due to the amount of rust. When they did get it lit they almost immediately turned it off. So that needs replaced (not a big deal).

The roof needs some patching. It is about 7 years old, so that is not too bad. We're around half its life expectancy right now. Add some flashing to exposed wood and pipe areas, and we're pretty good. A bit expensive, but good.

Oh, and the toilets need to be replaced. Yeah, they're 40 years old and original to the house. The surprising thing is that they were in good condition until recently - like when the water was shut off for months while it was on the market. But somehow I'm not ready to reach my hand in there and clean the thick brown grime that was in them. Plus the whole breathing in of the fumes, since you do have to get up close to clean. Just thinking about it makes me shudder. Yeesh!

All in all, a pretty good prognosis. You expect houses to have some problems, and these are all manageable. Since they're also within our budget at this time, we'll go ahead and take care of them soon. Well, in the case of the water heater, even before we move in. I happen to like hot showers, don't you?

I think the plan will be to file taxes next year ASAP, and then use the homebuyer's tax credit/rebate thingy ($8,000!) to replace the single pane windows with dual panes. We may even do it earlier and (gasp!) put it on a credit card and pay it off when the tax refunds come in.

Other than deferred maintenance stuff, the house is in good shape. The house was painted just before they put it on the market, and the carpets just need a good steam clean. The landscape is shot, since there has been no water for a while, but that's ok. I'm going to take advantage of the general deadness of the lawn and add some low-water or drought-tolerant planter beds. Also, in the garage I found some extra tiles for the floors and tile counter tops, so yea! If anything gets broken we have replacements.

Yea, I am excited!