Sunday, April 29, 2007

Plugging away at homeowning

Thanks to favorable scheduling at work -- I am grateful and perhaps indebted to my scheduling boss -- I've been able to help Casey at the house each of the past two weekends. Last week, we got our patio furniture and a dryer when her father and stepmother came out from Pennsylvania and, with the help of my parents on Saturday, five of us spent a weekend ripping up carpet, installing a bathroom cabinet and cleaning, cleaning, cleaning.

The carpet ordeal was taxing -- pulling carpet off of stairs is among Dante's circles of hell, if I'm not mistaken -- but rewarding in the end. Our living room -- the parlor, if you go by the notation left by the former owners on one of the window screens -- had hardwood installed beneath the carpet, we were told. However, our cursory inspections beneath two diagonal corners showed otherwise. All we saw was plain, regular plywood. Yet, once the carpet padding was ripped out last weekend, we found that those two corners were merely replacement planks from a previous remodeling. It turns out that our long, one-room living room/dining room space was once two separate rooms, and those two places we had peeked under the carpet just happened to be two spots where walls used to be. When they were taken out, the carpet was laid down, so there was no need to install hardwood flooring where the walls used to be.

The hardwood in the parlor was in pretty bad shape, but the pine planks we found upstairs in the third bedroom and foyer, in particular, were in really good shape. The other two bedrooms weren't too bad, either, and now that all the floors have been refinished, everything looks spectacular.

On Friday, when I finally reached the bottom of the stairs and yanked up the last section of faded green carpeting, I found that the step that reached from the end of the stairway to the front wall -- about three feet, forming a small landing -- was simple plywood. It turns out that the former owners, for some reason, had essentially extended the bottom step to fill in a corner of the front foyer. Why, I have no idea. Why I didn't think to take pictures of these things, I also don't know.

So on Saturday, when Casey's dad saw the unsightly step, he asked that our contractor tear it out and rebuild the bottom step for us, an he'd pay for it. By Sunday night, it was done, and an antique saw found encased in the added step and a stick of Wrigley's gum lodged along the wall. Those were the only real finds we've had -- no hidden treasures to be found in this house.

Which brings us to this weekend, and the painting. On Saturday, my dad came up, and with his help, we managed to paint a primer coat in about four rooms. The kitchen and our bedroom needed it on all walls, but the dining room, living room and guest bedroom only needed it in spots where wallpaper had been removed and plaster retouched. We got all that, plus a few other needs, taken care of in a solid six-and-a-half hours' work. Upon our return today, Casey and I worked for five hours and primed or painted three and a half whole rooms. She took the living/dining duplex and turned the walls blue, while I primed the half-bath and painted the guest room green. I don't remember the specific names of the colors, and we haven't taken photos yet, but I'll get those up soon enough.

With moving day next Saturday, the plan is to have everything painted before the movers arrive. We'll have another round of floor cleaning ahead of us, perhaps two -- one when the painting is done, but before the movers come in, and then another when they leave. Some rooms still have a fine coating of plaster dust that will only get tracked around the place until we thoroughly mop the floors.

The plan for this weekend is tentatively this: I'll try to get over there tomorrow to paint the half-bath, then team up with my sister on Tuesday morning for another room, before we each work in the evening. On Wednesday, when I'm off, I might allow myself a minor league baseball game in the morning, but then I can spend the afternoon painting and Casey can meet me after work. Thursday, my sister is free all day, though I'll have to work, but we might get a lot done with two of us. Friday could mean the same -- or could mean a cursory sweep of the floors. And I expect Casey plans to spend more than just Wednesday night over there.

With bare rooms and ongoing updates/improvements/construction, the house has yet to feel much like "ours," though now that refinished floors and fresh paint have removed any last hints of "old people smell," it at least doesn't feel like "theirs," or someone else's.

It'll be home soon enough.

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