Thursday, September 29, 2011

Shed Hardware

^ Not for the Einsel Shed ^
Last Sunday I drove 30 miles so that I would have more than one home improvement store to peruse for hardware for double shed doors.  Turns out I could have saved myself some time and just stayed home, because every store I went in had the same selection of generic T hinges as the local Lowe's.  Any size I could ask for, but all the same style - and not the style I had in mind.

So I came back home and after a few hours on the computer I found (and ordered) the following:

I can't wait for these to arrive!  Unfortunately, I'm going to have to be patient.  Despite being listed as "in stock" I got an email immediately after placing my order estimating that the hinges will ship in late October and the latch in mid November.  Disappointing to be sure, but not enough to send me back after those boring box store hinges.

Not much else to report here other than a few more salvage trips to the old Second Empire.  Tuesday I loaded the back of our little Ford Ranger down with bricks, and Wednesday (in the rain) my mom and I gave the truck another test by loading up four stone window lintels.  There's more rain tonight and Friday's already booked, but I want to get back this weekend for more bricks (and whatever else is too good to leave behind). 

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

A Milestone

Well, it only took two years and almost 200 posts, but I finally got my first spam comment.  (At least, the first one to make it past Blogger's spam filter.)

I deleted the comment, but just so no one feels cheated I'll include it below.  At 1:30 this morning from a server located in India "sell house fast" left the following comment on an eight month old post - "Hi, thanks for posting this i am looking for improve my home."

Ah, I feel like a real blogger now.

Sunday, September 25, 2011


Among my future plans for the Einsel House is an herb garden with a brick walk.  The garden won't happen until (at least) next summer, but I've already been stalking Craigslist for several months in case an opportunity for bricks presented itself.  Unfortunately, after at least 4 months of watching no such opportunity appeared.  But then last week my grandma gave me a call.

Remember this house?

Well, I've got a source of bricks now.

My grandma knew I was looking for bricks and when she called to tell me about the huge brick house she saw being torn down on the way to her sister's it didn't take long for me to realize I knew exactly what house she was talking about.  I called the owner last night and was given permission to take whatever I wanted.  ("At least you were kind enough to ask first," the owner's wife said.)  Two trailer loads came back today; mostly bricks but also one stone lintel and two large corbels that were not too damaged by the wrecking ball.  I plan to go back for more bricks as the weather permits.

I sensed back in December that this house would never see renovation, but the salvage trip today was still bittersweet.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

My Favorite Color

It must be red.  Because I'm usually happy when I'm painting, but I'm only ridiculously happy when I'm painting something red.

 So I've quite enjoyed my last couple weekends of work on the west side of the shed:

Getting the salvaged barn siding hung has been more time consuming than I expected but I'm thrilled with how it is looking.  (And honestly, by now I should realize that every job is more time consuming than expected.)  

First, each piece of siding was primed and cut to length.  I then caulked the existing nail holes and the most severe cracks.  The first coat of red paint went on before the boards were hung, and the second coat once the wall was finished.  It's ship-lap siding, and I don't want unpainted sections of wood to appear as the siding contracts or swells.  The wood has a lovely aged look to it, but it's definitely still got a lot of life left in it.  Every third board had to be notched at the top to fit around roof joists and this salvaged siding cuts much harder than any of the new lumber I used rebuilding the shed's awning.

There are three ugly sides of the shed still to go, but the view coming up the driveway is already 100 times better.  Because instead of this:

It's now this:

This weekend looks like it may be a washout, but as soon as I'm able I plan to start work on the shed's south side next.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Creative Financing

We’re approaching the two year anniversary of a very nerve-wracking period here. The earliest posts on this blog recount the whole story in detail, but I’ll give the cliff notes version here. Basically, to say we bought the  Einsel House in an unconventional manner is an understatement.

Thursday, August 27, 2009 – Charles and I are the only bidders for the Einsel House when it is sold at sheriff sale. Immediately after the sale we find out there was an attorney who was supposed to bid for the bank, but he basically wasn’t paying attention and never placed any bid.

August 27-September 19, 2009 – Charles and I wait anxiously for closing (which we are told takes 6-8 weeks)

September 20, 2009 – Our attorney gets a phone call from the office of the attorney who didn’t bid at the sale. That attorney offers us $ to rescind our bid. If we refuse he threatens to contest the sale.

A few days later I wrote here, “So in the end we are not that concerned about losing the Einsel House. The main difficulties have to do with time and money. And lack of sleep. I'll elaborate on the "time and money" stuff later…”. Well, it’s two years later, and we obviously did get the house, and it feels now like a good time to finally share some of the details I withheld back then.

Anyone who has read here regularly already knows that we owe my parents (particularly my mom) a huge thank you for all of the help they have provided at the EH, especially during those first nine months. But what regular readers here don’t realize is that we are indebted to my parents for more than just their time and labor. We also owe them innumerable thanks for their trust in Charles and me. That is because much of the money spent on the Einsel House during those first nine months was money borrowed in my parents’ names and borrowed against their house.

Charles and I have always been conservative financially. When we started looking at houses we went to the bank regarding preapproval for a loan. We told the loan officer how much we planned to borrow, he took our information, pulled our credit scores and immediately said, “That will be no problem!”. The bank loved Charles and I, but it turns out we were only half of the equation; the other half was the Einsel House. And the bank wasn’t nearly as enthusiastic about the EH. It made no difference how high our credit scores were; with a patchwork roof, peeling paint, crumbling drywall and no furnace there was no way the Einsel House would qualify for a conventional loan.

Our loan officer said we would probably qualify for a construction loan (portfolio loan I think he called it), but the extra hoops such a loan would require made Charles and me very cautious. As I understood it, with a construction loan the bank would have to review and approve everything we did to the house. We would have to provide the bank with documentation that all work was done by licensed, insured professionals and we would have to have quotes approved by the bank before any work could begin. Trying to renovate the house with a bank looking over our shoulder through the entire process did not sound fun at all.

Enter my parents - who had a house that would easily qualify for a conventional loan. When we brought the possibility up with our loan officer I think he was somewhat taken aback, but he said that from the bank’s perspective it would be no problem. If my parents’ house and personal credit both qualified, the bank really didn’t care how the money was spent. So my parents applied for a home equity line of credit in their names, and with their house on the line. The plan was to use the HELOC to make the repairs needed in order for the Einsel House to qualify for a conventional loan. Charles and I would be responsible for all fees and payments required on the HELOC, and once the Einsel House was up to par we would refinance it in our own names, using the proceeds to pay off the HELOC in my parents’ names.

The paperwork for the HELOC against my parents’ house went through without any complications, and on September 17, 2009 they signed their names opening the line of credit. We were all set for our closing on the Einsel House – until three days later when we suddenly had an attorney threatening to contest the sale.

This added a whole new set of complications to the situation. The line of credit through my parents was set up and ready to go, and from that front we were still able to close and start repairs. But the attorneys I work for cautioned us strongly against putting any money into the house with the possibility of litigation hanging over us. Although they felt that we stood a very good chance of keeping the house in a court battle, they said that if the sale was somehow reversed we would probably lose any funds invested in the building above the purchase price. The courts would say that any improvements we made to the house while it was the subject of ongoing litigation were a “known risk” and if we lost the house we would also lose any money spent on improvements. Legally, the safest thing would be to close on the house, but then not put any more money into it until we were sure we were not headed to court. But it was already late September, and the house in question had no furnace and needed obvious structural repairs. There was no way we wanted to let it sit empty through the approaching winter.

The loan officer at our bank had more bad news. The home equity line of credit through my parents was still there, and the bank still didn’t care how that money was spent. But our loan officer warned us that the bank would never approve a refinance on a property that was the subject of ongoing litigation. This meant that even if we took our chances and made the necessary repairs to the Einsel House we would not be able to refinance it until any possible litigation was resolved. This was concerning for two reasons. First, the HELOC had an adjustable interest rate and we wanted to be able to refinance as soon as possible to secure a fixed rate. Second, Charles and I were planning on a conventional 30 year loan when we refinanced; but the HELOC was based on a 10 year amortization. This meant that our monthly payments on the HELOC were more than double what they would be following a refinance. We were prepared to make those payments for awhile, but being tied to those payments indefinitely was very concerning – especially because it was technically my parents who were on the line.

The attorneys I work for were quite confident that if push came to shove case law would ultimately uphold our purchase of the Einsel House. But they warned that even if we ultimately prevailed in court, it could take a long time to get there. The attorney opposing the sale was the senior partner in a multiple member firm. Even if he knew he would lose, it would cost him nothing but time if he chose to be a thorn in our side (and we had no reason to doubt that he would).

In the end we bought the other attorney’s cooperation by paying him an amount equal to half of his malpractice insurance deductible in exchange for his signature on a "Covenant Not to Intervene or Interfere in Sale." Considering the alternatives it was a concession we felt we had to make. And in the end it did all work out. We closed without complications on the Einsel House on October 7, 2009. For eight months we made payments on the line of credit open in my parents’ names, and in June, 2010 we closed on the refinance of the Einsel House, paying off the HELOC and settling into a conventional fixed rate 30 year mortgage.

It’s a little bit surreal to recall the emotional highs and lows surrounding our purchase of the Einsel House.  If I were making the whole story up I don't think I could have put more twists and turns along the way.  Looking back, I remember the last advice my dad shared with me on the morning of the sheriff sale -  "Just relax," he said, "if it's meant to be it will be".  And in the end, I'm so glad that he was right.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Curiosity and the Cat

I've moved from roofing to siding. Labor Day was spent on the west side of the shed.  I took down the corner boards, then took out and framed in the old window.  My father-in-law helped me wrap that side in tar paper, and then we put up four rows of furring strips.  The existing siding is very rotted, so we'll rely on the furring strips (which are screwed into the shed's very solid framing) to hold on the new siding.

By mid afternoon we had the first three pieces of siding cut to size and the kidlets were set up with paint brushes and a pail of primer.  If you look carefully at the picture to the right you will see that Neil's attention is not on his paint brush but instead on a kitten who came to help.  I figured there would be curious kittens and had warned the kids to gently move any kitties that came too close.  Two kittens acted as I predicted, cautiously creeping up the project, sniffing curiously at the primer's strange smell. And Neil did an excellent job redirecting. 

But one kitten acted in a way I definitely did not predict.  Throwing caution to the wind, Maude's most adventurous kitten approached the kids at a full run and without pause jumped . . . . straight into the gallon of primer.  Poor Neil didn't even have a chance to intervene.  

The poor kitten jumped back out almost immediately, leaving a splat of primer on the grass.  It clearly wanted to escape, but rather than running it executed a series of quick sideways leaps, leaving more splats of primer on the grass.

The next 15-20 seconds were pandemonium.   I was attempting to catch the kitten, which was still pathetically jumping through the grass.  The kids were screaming and yelling, and my father-in-law was laughing out loud.

Meanwhile, there were several thoughts running through my head:
1 - we can't let this kitten try to lick itself until we wash off this primer
2 - Crap! We can't just wash this off, it's an oil based primer!
3 - I think I better call a vet and see what they suggest
4 - Crap!  It's Labor Day and I'm sure the vet's office is closed

With the kitten wrapped tightly in an old rag, I dialed our veterinary's phone number.  As I feared, I got a message that the office was closed, but I left a message explaining our predicament.  I then held the kitten while praying that the vet would call back before the primer completely dried.  Luckily, she did.  The vet said to go ahead and use paint thinner to wash off as much primer as possible, and to follow immediately by a thorough washing with dish soap in warm water. 

By this time the kitten had pretty much resigned itself to its fate.  Using a rag soaked with paint thinner I carefully rubbed down all four legs, and then turned my attention to the very round kitten belly which was also covered in primer.  Luckily, the kitten's head and back were mostly clean.  I then switched to a warm dishwater bath.  By the time I was done the kitten was a pathetic little sight.  And it was shivering.  The day was chilly, so we put our now very contrite kitten up in a small cage in the kitchen for the night.  Besides keeping the kitten warmer while its fur dried, I also wanted to keep the kitten isolated.  I had done my best on the two baths, but I was still worried that the kitten might get sick when it began trying to clean itself.  I also didn't want Maude to get herself sick trying to bathe her kitten.  The kitten sat shivering in a corner of the cage and gave a few mournful meows.  After a few minutes I coaxed it into eating and drinking a bit. 

The next morning I woke up a bit early and walked with some trepidition across the quiet kitchen.  But when I lifted the towel draped over the cage the kitten (now christened 'Primer') stood up, stretched and meowed.  I took her out of the cage and gave her another good combing - during which I realized with a smile that Primer is learning how to purr.  Apparently having nothing worse than a slightly matted coat to show for her adventure, later that morning I returned Primer to her siblings and mother in the barn.

Hopefully Primer has shared her lesson with all of our other kittens and we won't have a repeat performance when we break out the red paint this weekend.  : )

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Let It Rain

The shed roof is shingled!

Even without addressing the siding, it's already quite an improvement over what it looked like when we bought the place:

Up next will be giving new life to the stack of barn siding we salvaged a couple of weeks ago.  It makes a deceivingly small pile when neatly stacked, but I know how much area this siding covered on its old barn and I'm pretty confident we'll have enough here for our project.

And in one more "let it rain" bit of news, at right was the view out our bedroom window Thursday night. 

Previously, the sump pump and gutters were all tied into a 4" footer tile that empties into the creek near the springhouse.  While it did okay in a gentle rain, in downpours it quickly became overwhelmed causing water to come through the basement walls, particularly at the northwest corner of the house.  It also became a problem during the flooding at the end of February when the creek rose high enough to cover the outlet of the footer tile, meaning the sump pump and gutters could no long drain.

The new tile is a 6" solid tile  that is supposed to be impervious to blockage by tree roots.  It empties into the creek at a point about five feet higher than the footer tile (high enough that it would not have been submerged even in this spring's flooding).  The sump pump and all of the gutters from the stone part of the house are tied into the new tile.  The old footer tile is still in place, and the contractor we hired thinks that with the pump and roof water all now directed to the new tile, the old footer should again be able to handle its load. 

There's a chance of thunderstorms later this weekend, and I've got fingers crossed that the new roof and the new tile both pass their first test.