Posts tagged ‘reviving a neighborhood’

March 2, 2016

A Labor of Love aka ‘We can’t let shit go.’

Dealing with all the flooding caused by the City demolishing the house behind Hallie (the duplex we bought from the Landbank in Sept of 2013) had worn us out. I stopped posting about it because it seemed rather hopeless honestly. The more days that past, the more the hard work we had completed was getting ruined. The Land Bank stated we had to prove that they caused the damage and so with that and the fiery motivation that drives me, I set off to jump through some hoops.

After estimates, inspections, our insurance refusing to cover the damage (it was part of the process that was required) and SO MUCH PAPERWORK, we finally met with the City Attorney’s office in May of 2015. It was awkward coming face to face with the Head of the Land Bank, the villain of our story. He kind of reminded me of John Ritter from Three’s Company minus the humor , obviously due to the seriousness of the situation. Both Joel and I agreed though, it was hard to dislike the guy.

I had never felt so much like an adult as I did that day, spouting facts with a cool calmness while assuring the City Attorney that the building could still be saved once the water drained. It was exhilarating and completely freaky all rolled into one. In the end, an agreement was reached.

It was about a month before we received the deed to the adjoining parcel of land where the demolished house had backed up to the yard of the duplex. It was another month before a crew could come out dig up the yard and replace the pipes which did ultimately join the two properties. Another month, for all the water to drain out of the basement and for the house to dry out. Another month after that, dealing with all the electrical getting approved. You get the idea, a lot of time had to go by before it could be worked on again.

I cannot emphasize enough how much Joel completely busted his ass on the upstairs unit. I worked on it here and there, but mostly kept Cam from getting into everything. We did have some help for several weeks, when Joel’s friend, Geoff was in town and was looking to make a little extra money during his stay. (Shout out to you, Geoff!! I was glad I wasn’t helping carry out an original, extremely heavy clawfoot tub!) Our neighbor, Tim was also cool and helped Joel carry in the appliances. (Unfortunately, the new fridge didn’t work and I was helping carry the new one out and a replacement back in.) #agony

Without further ado, here’s the completed 2 bedroom, 1 bath upstairs unit of Hallie.

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January 9, 2014

Hallie-the-Duplex : Week 14 : Mimi comes to visit!

When Arden was small, she began calling Amy, my long-time friend of 20 years, ‘Mimi’ when she could first talk.
We go way back and have been friends since we were teens, working together at McDonald’s.
This week was very exciting because Amy drove up from Alabama, stopping off to visit us before heading to parent’s house near Cleveland.
Having once lived in Columbus too, (we both moved here in ’99, within a couple weeks of each other for completely unrelated reasons!) Joel and I are always petitioning her to move back. But you know there is that pesky business of having to get a new job and sell a house among other things.
I am forever optimistic though!

As a Hallie first, Amy awesomely went to work with us, ripping up floorboards in the upstairs bedroom.

Pile of wood copy

Pulling out nails is a tedious job, especially having to work by flashlight!

Amy pulling nails copy

Here’s the other bedroom I had already ripped up the boards in and then worked on pulling out nails.

Bedroom floor I ripped up and pulled nails out of copy

Under the painted thin hardwood of the upstairs, lies beautiful, golden brown original hardwood. Yes, it is scuffed and scratched, but none of the upstairs suffered water damage from the burst pipes. So fortunately, instead of having to completely replace everything like the first floor, we can instead just sand, stain and poly. It will save so much money and I can’t wait to see how amazing it will turn out.

The wood underneath copy

Meanwhile, Joel was laying cement board in the bathroom, so the tiling can begin.

Joel laying cement board copy

On Sunday, we waved goodbye to Amy and headed off to do more work at Hallie. It wasn’t all bad, since we enjoyed gloriously warm weather. It is always so much easier to work with the sun shining and not having to be bundled up to our noses. I worked on tiling while Joel was up on the roof doing some much needed repairs.

tile in shower upstairs copy

The day before, Arden was told by Amy that she shouldn’t help (because she was dropped off by her dad from a family holiday get together. She was still all dressed up and I forgot to bring her a change of clothing.) So the next day, Arden took it as a personal challenge that she too, could pull out nails.
And by golly, that’s what she did.

Arden bent over pulling nails copy

At first I would hear her in the bedroom grunting and groaning, followed by the sound of nails straining as they were ripped from the floor. It sounds super funny when you hear it , knowing it is such a little kid. After working awhile by herself, she came in the bathroom to show off her pile of nails. Honestly, I was impressed. I would have never guessed that she would have the arm strength to pull them out. Clearly, I had forgotten that she is indeed my girl, because stubbornness wins out.

Arden holds nail copy

I told her she could have 2 pieces of candy for her efforts, thinking she would be pleased and be done. After we came back from dropping off a load of trash and getting lunch, she went right back at it though. Seeing that I found her work valuable, we negotiated that she could earn 1 piece of candy for every 33 nails she pulled. That spunky kid went on to pull out an additional 139 more nails. When she declared that her back hurt and she was going to stop and go play, I couldn’t have been prouder.

arden standing sassy copy

December 10, 2013

Hallie-the-Duplex : Week 11

Here’s the long-awaited, semi-finalized bathroom. The floor is dirty and the tub still a mess, but we are all about keeping it real here. 🙂

finished bathroom photo copy

From the last time you saw it, here’s what we did.

1.) Finished tiling and grouted.
I was originally going to use a dark grey grout thinking it would look all creative and edgy. We used the cheapest (most boring) tile possible at $.12 a tile. Seeing the dark grey mortar show through though, the reality was it just really emphasized the flaws. This is only my 2nd time tiling (my first was the huge 2×3 tiles in our home bathroom shower) and while I’m getting better, it didn’t turn out as perfect as I would have liked. Fortunately, the white grout gave it a clean look that was desperately needed.

2.) Put in the sink/vanity unit.
A prefab unit is usually not my thing. I really enjoy finding a sturdy used piece and giving it a make-over. (Like Joel and I did in our own bathroom) As we discovered from renting out Joel’s previous house though, it doesn’t pay to invest heart and soul into a project. No one else is going to appreciate the amount of work that I put into it but me and since I’m not living there, it’s not worth it. $50 on this and done.

3.) Rebuilt the toilet.
So I thought it would be great to save some money and used the existing one. It turned out though that all the bolts that held it together were rusted out, so after Joel meticulously remounting it, it leaked in several spots. He got it up and running now.

4.) Snaking out all the drains.
Once all the pipes were in place and leak-free, it turned out all the sewage drains were clogged (of course!)
So I bit of time and some awful smells later, we are good in that department.

5.) Painted a free chrome light fixture grey.
It is the kind that has the large bulbs that stick out. It isn’t the coolest, but with the additional of spray paint, it really upped the visual appeal. Plus all it cost a can of spray paint. Much cheaper than a new light fixture.

6.) Painted the walls, ceiling and existing built-in shelf purple. I think it’s called Shadow Mauve, but it’s a pale lavender/grey. I picked it when we were painted the bathrooms at Joel’s house to rent, then we used it when we remodeled our own bathroom and now we are using it at Hallie. I find it to be a very relaxing color. Sort of neutral, but not just plain old boring white or beige.

7.) Stripped 4 coats of paint from the existing wooden trim, primed and reused it. This large trim makes quite a nice impact. It sucks to take the time to remove previous paint, but we would shell out a lot of money to replace it (as tall as it is) or using cheaper trim that isn’t quite as nice.

IMAG0716 copy

primed trim copy

8.) The most impressive part of the project by far is the tub. We have had to cut through a tub before to remove it and weren’t interested in doing that again. Instead, we stripped it (I have never used paint stripper in the house before (just outdoors) and the fumes are something, even through a mask. We had to flee the work area for a bit. Joel later stripped it and painted it (with special tub paint.) It turned out amazing!

side view of tub copy

tub inner copy

unnamed copy

All that is remaining in this room is to caulk and clean up a bit and we are onto the next project.

November 30, 2013

Hallie-the-Duplex : Week 10

In rehabbing, there is A LOT of dirty work. So many individual tasks that join forces to lead up to an actual completed project. Not really fun to do, let alone write about. They are often dull and mundane. One of these is emptying the house of debris. Vines, broken drywall, busted up flooring, a bevy of tires that resided in the basement, all of it must go in order to make room to start fresh. By doing so, we’ve loaded up and disposed of 10 trailer fulls so far. It is definitely the unglamorous side of rehabbing Hallie.

Trailer of trash copy

Another thankless task would be overhauling the sewage drain pipes in the basement. Unfortunately, a toilet doesn’t just get placed in a bathroom and Voilà = usable! There is this enormous cast-iron pipe in the basement, that was (of course) ripped out by scrappers. (Actually 2 of them were.) This one, similar to the water pipe line debacle, was broken off at floor level, making the task of replacing/fixing it a tremendous pain-in-the-ass.

Hallie the Duplex Week 9 sewer pipe copy

See that black square on the wall? It’s the crawl space. It’s dark and creepy and fairly uncomfortable, especially because Joel is not small. He has bravely climbed in there numerous times to repair leaks in that portion of the pipe. Once one was fixed, another one sprung. It’s a vicious cycle.
It’s fair to say that the bathroom we’ve been working on is almost complete, but we have had to keep you in suspense just a bit longer as all the kinks are worked out.

In the meantime, here are photos from the 1st floor living room.

Hallie week 10 living room copy

Halliie week 10 , windows and fireplace copy

You can ponder to yourselves how we will fix this monstrosity. The ceiling damage was caused by a previous burst water pipe, which caved in both this room and a bedroom on the other side of the wall. All the warped flooring (both original and a layer of laminate) has been removed from this room, as well as a small adjoining bedroom to the right and the dining room to the left. It is safe to say that it is already looking a bit better than what this pic shows since this was taken a few weeks ago. I’m really excited about the windows and fireplace in this room and plan on really making them pop. Until then, hope everyone has a great weekend!

November 22, 2013

Hallie-the-Duplex : Week 9 GOOD vs. EVIL

On the nights we don’t have Arden, after getting off work, we usually go out and work on the Duplex until 8:00 p.m. Tiring of working by dim lantern, I hooked up the trailer and brought out the borrowed generator. If you aren’t familiar with hitching a trailer to a vehicle, it’s not very complex, but there are many safety provisions in place to keep it attached to the automobile. The trailer hitch is slid into a fitted slot, which is held in place by a thick metal pin through the holes of the hitch. A metal clip goes over the end of the pin to keep it from sliding out. The trailer then gets hooked onto the hitch, with a clamp and a fitted pin that holds it in place. Finally, lights are plugged in and as an extra safety precaution, a super-thick chain is hooked from the trailer to the back of the hitch that is mounted to the vehicle.



The duplex isn’t located in the best of neighborhoods, though most of the time the streets are dead, especially as the colder weather rolls in. Last night was different though. About 8 guys, teens to men were milling about the sidewalk. Not necessarily together, but enough to notice because it’s uncommon. It didn’t bother me, because it seemed like we’d won people over with our hard work and dedication. Or so I thought. (Sidenote: There is also a fairly strong police presence there.) I turned onto the cobblestone street by the school and was fine. The trailer bumped along rather noisily, so I can’t hardly wait to make it to the main street of Livingston. I approached the intersection of Parsons and then it happened. The trailer made a strange noise and shook the Outlander. There was nowhere to pull over, so I just immediately hop out to investigate. I stare at it in disbelief. The trailer, hitch and all was sliding on the pavement. The only thing semi-holding it in place were the heavy chains.

A woman who works at the hospital, getting ready to cross through the crosswalk as I passed by, comes running down the sidewalk shouting waving her hand. I’m reassembling the hitch, confused about missing parts. A little out of breathe, she hands me the metal pin. It fell out as I drove by her. Which leaves the metal clip that fits over the pin to hold it in place missing. It was secure when I left my house on Walmar. It’s not one of those things that just slides off. It takes strength to push it on or remove it. It’s rounded on one side, so it securely fits over the pin, locking it in place. Which only leaves one verdict. Someone removed it. The lady is kind and reminds me to put my hazards on as cars line up behind me. She suggests using wire, as a temporary hold, but I don’t have any. She mentions that they have a food truck and have to deal with hitches, but I am in fix-the-problem mode and I forget to ask what the name of it is.

I decide on using a bungee cord, hooked and tightly wrapped around, as a temporary fix, just to get it out of the street. I thank her profusely, forgetting to even ask her name, as I hurried to find a place to get out of the way. I pull into Children’s Hospital, but there isn’t an actual lot, just a garage. I end up stopping in a turn lane just so I can give Joel a quick call. He was ahead of me and never knew anything was wrong. I then have to explained to a pissed of hospital security guard that drove up, that I am not just blocking the lane to idly chat on my phone. Thankfully, Joel arrives quickly. In his hand, a locking pin. As in, once it’s on the hitch, the only way it can be removed is with a key. He said that for some reason he felt like he should pick one up yesterday.

Chills much?

It could have been drastically worse. If I didn’t go over the cobblestone, then it wouldn’t have loosened, falling out when it did. Instead, it could have come undone when I was on the freeway. Dragging and swaying at much higher speeds and causing an accident. I’m always calm when shit hits the fan, but this time I can’t help but feel a little freaked out. There are some person(s) that either by a not-well-thought-out prank or sheer asshole-ness wished to cause me harm. Someone I don’t even know. And I’ve got to tell you, that’s very disturbing. On the other side of the coin, there’s the complete stranger, walking to her car after a long day. Being in the right place at the right time to offer her assistance. While I still felt sort-of on top of the situation it was very nice not to deal with it alone. It is times like these that I can’t help but picture the forces of Good and Evil dueling it out.

Well, after this drama, here’s what we’ve accomplished at Hallie.
I though the bathroom would go quick, but I forgot several things. When you are redoing a bathroom that has been completely gutted, you can’t just throw up some tile and call it a day. Up until this point, we were running a hose from the basement. Now, all new water pipes have to be ran. Lots and lots of pipe, because as you guessed it, they were previously ripped out. Charming.

Hallie the Duplex Week 9 pipes in basement copy

Hallie the Duplex Week 9 bathtub faucet copy

Hallie the Duplex Week 9  sink pipes copy

And the tile work I’ve done so far.

Hallie the Duplex Week 9 tile and window

It’s far from pretty, but hoping to pull in together next week when Joel has some time off work for the Thanksgiving.

November 15, 2013

Hallie-the-Duplex : Week 8

Our first project since moving to the inside, is to get a functioning bathroom. It would just make us feel a little more human and make the whole experience working there just a bit easier. So here we are with the first floor apartment bath. It’s a bit dirty and disheveled to say the least. The shower pipes and faucet were previous taken. The shower especially is a wreck, since they ripped a large hole in the wall (where you can see into the kitchen).

IMAG1144 copy

There’s a lot of mold and mildew in here, so most of the drywall has to go.
All the electrical is extremely old (as in not up to code) and has to be rewired.
We use this as an opportunity to put lights where we want them (like in the ceiling) as opposed to just the little sconces that were previously by the sink.

Hallie the Duplex, Week Joel putting up board copy

Over by the doorway on one strip of wall, there’s a random bit of metal, painted covered tile that has to be removed. We will probably end up mudding over the old, dry adhesive instead of attempting to sand it down.

Hallie the Duplex, Week 8 010 removing tile copy

Here’s the new moisture-resistant dry wall that went up. We will be tiling over it.

Hallie the Duplex, Week 8 0 green wall up copy

Here’s a view of the cement board that went on the floor before it also will get tiled.
There is hardwood through out the entire duplex. After previous owners bought it, they covered it all with cheap Pergo which looked terrible.
Unfortunately, both floorings were destroyed in the downstairs when the pipes burst wracking much of the havoc that you’ll see over the next few weeks. This info was provided by the water company and we are left to assume that the previous owners called it quits after that.

Finally, here’s the new tile that will go in for the bathroom floor. I super love it and it has a great subtle texture. Sort of looks like grey tweed. Getting to pick out the materials is the fun part for me! Seeing it come together is what makes it all so great!

Come back next week to see how it looks in the bathroom. 🙂

Bathroom grey floor tile copy

September 25, 2013

The Not-So-Fun-Facts about Hallie-the-Duplex

Joel and I were eager to start working as soon as we closed. Not because we think it’s fun, but because in our-little-plan-in-our-heads, we anticipated obtaining Hallie much more rapidly. In reality, due to all the technicalities of the process, it wasn’t possible. So now to put it bluntly, we basically need to haul-ass to get the outside up to code. We have 60 days from the date of sale. (We are given 6 months for the interior.) Since we are doing this as a side project, and there is only so much daylight after work, it really doesn’t leave us much time before it starts getting too cold for these kinds of shenanigans. 

NS FUN FACT #1: Climbing ivy is a enormous pain (in your entire body) to remove from brick. It is so well adhered to the sides of the house we both could swing on it. Seriously.

NS FUN FACT #2: When we originally toured Hallie, it was pretty obvious she was hard up for some good old-fashioned back-breaking work. Once vacated, scrappers wasted no time stripping her of a every last bit of dignity. Taking every appliance, the furnace and any copper wiring. This translates to = we have no electricity. Turns out a lovely $400 will have to be sadly parted with in order to obtain a permit from the City just to be able to rewire Hallie. *Gulp.*

NS FUN FACT #3: Hallie is haunted. Or so say the locals, who are endlessly entertained by us, as they stand in their yards or on the sidewalk to watch our labor. Stories vary from 1 to 4 men being executed in a drug-deal-gone-bad (Is there such a thing as a positive drug deal experience?) The lost souls are apparently trapped in the building, unable to find closure. When I point out that there had been a raccoon who had taken up residence in the 2nd floor (thus making noise and shuffling around) no one seems to make the correlation that it (or another animals in search of shelter) was the source of the ‘haunting’. Today, I calmly explained to a chatty fellow (who has lived in the neighborhood his entire life) that Hallie hasn’t given me any creepy feelings of doom when I’m working there, so I assume that the structure is at peace and happy now. (Who wouldn’t be excited at the very prospect of getting a make-over?!)

When Joel researched it, he did find that a previous occupant had died and the death was unsolved. It doesn’t say that it was in the house. (Insert spooooky music and WOO-ooo! That’s my ghost noise.)


Here’s what we’ve done so far:

Photo #1: Ivy ripped down from the front of the house.

Photo #2: New door installed and painted (still needs trim.) The vinyl to the left will also be removed and a 2nd door for the upstairs entry will be placed there.

Photo #3: Terrible shingle-type siding in the process of getting removed to expose the well-preserved wood underneath. This will be power-washed and painted the same blue as the door. Also, awesomely large brush pile we’ve acquired. Oh and a new door was put in back here by Joel.

Photo #4: Our new trailer! To haul away our awesomely large brush pile, bring us more doors, drywall, tubs, vanities and the lawnmower. An incredible time saver and a welcome relief to the Outlander, who is usually abused beyond belief.







Back view removing siding and brush 3 copy

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