By Way of Explanation …
The year was 2012. Kirsten & I still lived in Lakewood. Life was simpler then, albeit on the leading edge of the downswirl.
So let’s take a step back in time, and have a look-see.
I may not be Walter Cronkite, or even John Cameron Swaze, but I still can say: “All things are as they were, and you are there!”
We were looking to relocate and considered the possibility of moving to the great Northwest! Well, at least as far as southwestern Idaho.
We’ve heard it’s nice, and my wife’s dad owns a house there that he’s been renovating for a few years.
We chatted with Ken & Gayle about the possibility of helping out with the renovation on their property, in exchange for reduced rent for a while. Our thinking was that this would give us a reasonably priced place to live, and simultaneously help Ken finish what needed to be done on the house. And meanwhile, we’d continue to build our internet businesses to a sustainable level.
So the plan was we’d take a brief trip to see the house & its progress, and offer suggestions to help expedite the remodel.
My comments below regarding the property are unsolicited for the most part, and only intended to be helpful. They reflect my opinion of what could be done, or in many cases, what I would do if this were my project.
In our ‘debriefing’ with Ken & Gayle after our return, Gayle asked Ken point blank if he would prefer to have some help to finish the project, or if he’d rather just continue to plug along at his own pace. His response was, “Well, I think I’d prefer the latter.”
So the final upshot is that Kirsten & I will still most likely relocate to that area (it’s really very cool), and get an apartment or house to rent for a while. Ultimately we will find the farm of our dreams (more posts on that later). I sent a polite email to Ken which included:
“We reckon we’ll find a small affordable place to rent.
This will let us devote our time to our websites, and will also take pressure off of you so you don’t feel like there’s a time constraint on your remodeling efforts. Hope that eases your mind somewhat.”
So with all that said, let’s move on with the story!
So we took an exploratory trip to investigate the general area, and the house.
The trip to the Northwest was pleasant enough. First night, we bivouacked in Ogden UT at a god-forsaken roadside motel … but had a fantabulous dinner at a nearby Applebees, of all places. (Compliments of a Coupon !!).
Next morning, we headed north. We drove forever, but were soon at the UT/ID State Line. Shortly after crossing the border into Idaho we were greeted with what looked to be a homemade sign that read “Take Back Your Republic.” Beneath that was a Gadsden Flag.
I didn’t have a camera handy, so I can’t show you a picture. But in case you’re unfamiliar, here’s one rendition of the Gadsden Flag:
We expected to find the inside somewhat messy, a bit disheveled, in disarray. That’s what happens when you do remodeling, right?
So we explored further, venturing into the hallway and bedrooms.
Bedrooms have lots of closet space; that’s way cool.
I believe all the bedroom doors, save one which was replaced by a previous tenant, are solid core doors. They’re not the modern lightweight flimsy doors you’d find at home depot; they’re really nice doors.
But because I occasionally suffer from idiotitis, I don’t think I got any pix of them. I can only hope that no one ever paints them … they really are that nice.
The old windows were being prepped for installation of the new ones.
Here’s the hall bath
With a newly done shower/tub insert, and a few remaining tasks left to do. Ken had some stick-on floor tiles nearby. When we spoke with him after our return, we strongly suggested to not use those, but rather to use a linoleum that you roll out & cut to fit.
New toilet & sink would be in order also. And a new countertop for the vanity. The vanity cabinets are the same as the cabinetry in the kitchen: with some effort, they can be refinished, & they’d be beautiful.
And the Master Bath:
The shower insert is significantly bowed where it’s seamed (to the right of the faucets), and the ceiling above the shower may have some drywall issues. Not sure if the mold is from poor ventilation or perhaps from a leak in the roof? I couldn’t tell ‘cus I didn’t have access to a ladder to inspect the roof & flashing around the fan vent.
The rusty ceiling fan could also be an indication of a roof leak around its vent … again, couldn’t tell for sure.
Vanity looks really rough, but it’s the same material as hall bath & kitchen. Again, some sanding (okay, a lot of sanding), then stain & spar. New countertop of course, and new sink, would be in order.
The Kitchen is going to be a project no matter what.
We looked closely at the existing cabinets: inasmuch as they look hopeless, they’re quite salvageable. They’re constructed from three pieces of wood laminated together. They have swollen over the years, so they need a little planing for a good fit, but none of them were warped. Then, give them a really good sanding, staining & spar varnish: they could be very cool! They’d have that old cabin look. One or two of the pix in this slideshow show the inside of one of the cabinet doors, and you can see how nice it looks. Imagine the whole kitchen having cabinetry looking like that!
Kitchen definitely needs a new floor. A deeper double sink. A new cooktop; and a new in-the-wall oven (perhaps with a microwave built in as well). And needless to say, new countertops. I gave Ken a couple websites to look at for countertops:
I recommended not to go with a formica top, but rather a solid surface:
Solid surface is a bit more expensive than formica, but offers so much more value, longevity, durability. Especially these days with formica being wafer thin. And the formica countertops carry only a one year warranty; solid surface has 10 or 15 years warranty.
Ken has bought a new stove/oven (it’s in the living room; I didn’t get a picture of it, sorry — it’s my idiotitis again). We think he’s going to install it where the current cooktop is, and buy two cabinets to put around it (tearing out the old ones on that side). Not sure what he’s planning for where the existing wall oven is … and I really don’t know full details of his plans for the kitchen. He was somewhat reticent about the kitchen when we met after we returned.
When we met with the folks after our trip, I gave them my ‘suggestions’ as outlined above. Ken took notes, but didn’t say much. Hence my uncertainty of his plans. One thing’s for sure: he has purchased a conventional stovetop/oven. And I think he wants to use it. Which means cutting cabinets out & fitting the stove in. He said he had found two 15″ cabinets that could go on either side of the new stove …
The New Back Door
Ken installed a new back door and storm door off the kitchen, leading to the backyard. The door looked like a standard external door from home depot, and they’re hell to put in. There’s an art to installing them plumb, square & level, and still have them close flush and seal tightly all around. This one doesn’t.
And the storm door isn’t finished being installed, (I hope), cus when I closed it, the door passed through the framing and got stuck on the inside, so it couldn’t be opened. I got it unstuck and saw that the door frame needs to be secured to the opening & brickmolding.
The Exterior … Oh, the Exterior
When we took these outdoor pix, it was raining lightly, so we got to see the gutters in action. There are some drainage issues. After the rain stopped later in the day, we saw that there’s a drain into the sewer beneath the puddle (seen in the picture with the hose). Not sure how long it took for the puddle to drain, but during the light rain, the puddle was growing, so the drain probably needs some snaking.
The gutters don’t join well at their seams, and they’re not attached consistently. (The leaf-guards are all askew, and probably don’t help.) As the gutters pull away from the fascia, water drains behind the gutters, which helps warp the fascia more, which helps detach the gutters. The damage to the fascia is especially evident near the brick chimney … but it needs attention all the way around the house.
Soffits could use some attention … gravity is having its effect on them. I can’t recall if I saw any venting for the roof; I’d probably put some soffit vents in (but that comes later … after we talk about the roof, below).
More Exterior …
The external siding of the house is wood boards. or quite possibly MDF (medium density fiberboard), with metal wrapping at the corners. Along most of the house, the lower run of the siding has gotten mushy … wood needs to stay painted, and doesn’t like getting wet.
Which brings us to the roof, (and soffits and some window work):
When we first arrived, I honestly didn’t know what to think. I’ve been in Colorado a long time, and it’s pretty arid here. I had never seen stuff growing off of a roof before, so this freaked me right the fork out. The next morning I spoke with a couple contractors who calmed me down: no, it’s not mold, it’s moss. And it’s common in the damp environs of the Northwest. Okay, whew on that one!
But looking a bit closer at this mysterious moss, we see it’s growing on what appear to be wood slats above the roof decking but beneath the shingles. I had no ladder, but I was able to stand on a bench to reach up & pull a bit of this wood out. It was quite rotted and came out easily. My first thoughts were that there’s a shake-shingle roof beneath the two layers of asphalt shingles. (Please Please Please God tell me it ain’t so!)
In speaking with Ken later, apparently the wood slats are only 4-8 inches long, at the edge of the roof. He did not know why they were installed beneath the original shingles. And when he (and you guys helped I’m told) put a new roof on (in 1978 I believe) he laid them over the existing shingles, so the wood slats remained.
In my opinion, the house needs a new roof. It may or may not have leaks, especially around the flashing at vents and such; but either way, after 30 some years, it’s time. The shingles are showing age and curling; they may last another year (or two, or more), but there is nothing to be gained by waiting. And much to potentially lose.
I’d suggest a complete tear off, of course. (I don’t believe in layering shingles, ever.) Hopefully, the decking will be in good shape. If not, replace as needed. (Oh yeah, and remove the rotted cedar slats. Nah, leave those be, just for character. Only kidding.) Install new fascia where needed, new soffits where needed (with vents, as mentioned earlier); and new gutters all around (I’d use extruded seamless gutters for the horizontal runs).
Yep, it ain’t cheap. But it would be done. And dry. And there is value in knowing that all the work being done on the inside is protected. Oh yeah, and I’m gonna postulate that the price of a roof is not apt to get cheaper in the years to come. Remember FRAM oil filter commercials?
In our discussion with the folks after our return, Ken was pretty clear he had no intention of doing anything with the roof. Nuf said.
The chimney needs some attention, just a little tuck-point here & there …
Which may have something to do with the inside fireplace masonry:
The mantle and the brick on the right side has pulled away from the wall, perhaps 1/2 inch, maybe a bit more. And there’s a crack on the wall to the left of the fireplace. Dunno if these are related or not; maybe something shifted at some point in time. And the brass insert isn’t fitted (I didn’t try to see how tightly it was jammed in crooked).
And here’s a few miscellaneous shots of the exterior:
And my favorite: the punishment closet:
Apparently this is a door that a previous tenant (Dewie?) installed … (why?) This is the front closet, near the front door. Where you’d put your coats & umbrellas & boots & such.
There’s a vanity lock on the handle. Just in case. (Rebellious umbrellas? Mad overcoats? Boots bent on walkin’? Eeek! Don’t let them out!!)
Or … nope, don’t go there.
Please keep in mind, that this post was originally written (and photographed) in 2012.
As final notes, I’ll be blunt, but I do not mean to be unkind. My assessment of the situation is that at the moment the property is not an asset but a liability. My feeling is that Ken will never finish the project; I think he likes the ‘tinkering.’
According to Ken, his stated intention is to rent the house. But at the rate he’s going, and with the enormity of the projects yet to be completed, he’s a long way off. And unfortunately he does not want to spend any more money than absolutely necessary. Nor does he appear to want any help. So I fear many projects will not be really finished, but be just ‘good enough.’
When doing things like windows, plumbing, kitchen cabinetry & countertops, floors, (and roofs if that were in the cards), just “good enough” can lead to disaster a short way down the road. Or, at least a good case of ‘do-overs.’
For a very general idea of the real estate market in the area, see Zillow’s website:
It’s a schizophrenic market, with homes similar to Canal St. valued anywhere between $72,000 to $200,000 +. (The brick house diagonally across from Ken’s sold for, I think, about $180K. After FOUR YEARS on the market … And it was a very fine looking house.)
Anyway, I hope you enjoyed the tour. And don’t take my assessments as anything more than just passing along information (even though it is filtered through, well, me!).
Leave a comment below, or just gimme a shout if you wish!