It’s been a long winter. After the closing, we sort of meandered about, walking through the house with bewildered looks on our faces. When everything needs fixing, and everything is a project, you don’t know where to begin.
We had to break down the house into “10-year, 5-year, Major Now, Minor Now, and Maybe” projects. We don’t have much of a renovation budget; it’s really nerve-wracking when you read some of the other blogs and comments from people who are renovating Detroit homes and seem to have endless capital with which to renovate. Those people are not us. That joke that goes around, based on those ridiculous home renovation TV shows: “Meet Dave and Brittany. Dave is a professional shellfish polisher and Brittany is a part-time lettuce grower. Their budget is $9 million.” never hit closer to home.
In an ideal world, we’d just point every contractor to the house, hand over our debit cards, and say “do your thing”. Unfortunately we don’t have the financial situation to allow that sort of creative freedom.
It’s been quite a while since we’ve had an update here. Admittedly, a lot of it has to do with the slowdown on actual renovations of the Sullivan House; looking back, we did so much work so quickly that it becomes a blur. We accomplished an amazing amount of renovation in a very short time, and most of that was driven by necessity. However, once you no longer have an urgent need, momentum drops quickly. There hasn’t been much going on, therefore there hasn’t been much to write about.
We do, however, have some pretty big news for 2018.
The last unfinished area in the living space of the house was the dining room. I’ve taken to calling it “the pub,” and its full name (courtesy of its five sponsors) is the “Mighty Worriers Mead Hall.” I really like its position at the rear south corner of the house, out of the normal traffic flow between the front and rear doors. It has very heavy wood trim and crown molding (including wood beams across the ceiling) that immediately made me want to style it on a classic British pub.
When one buys an historic home in an historic district, one generally acquires certain materials that were used to build said home in the era in which it was produced. Those materials, as has been revealed by modern medical science, are listed now in this more enlightened era as “hazardous” materials. I speak of things like asbestos and lead.
It’s a downhill boulder now. Boxes are packed up at our old house, we’ve moved several things already, and contractors are at the house almost every day working on getting things ready.
Today we accepted delivery of a new stove, and a masonry contractor came out to give us a quote on chimney repairs. The Soley guys are just about finished installing the ultra high-tech condensing boiler system that makes our basement look even more like a mad scientist laboratory. They’ve also re-plumbed the hot water line in the house, replacing a bunch of useless old galvanized pipe, and removed the old water tank.
It’s getting down to the wire. Renovations are ramping up to a fever pitch. As of this moment, we have calls out to Comcast, a plumber, a scaffolding contractor, a masonry repair contractor, and a roofer. The new boiler system is halfway installed, and the majority of the interior has been primed with at least one coat of primer.
The problems we had with primer peeling off in massive sheets are gone, as oil-based primer has solved the issue. The last “frighteningly high-up” surfaces have been covered with primer, and the kitchen is nearing completion (paint is done, sink is installed, light fixtures are up, and fan is installed). Continue reading
For the last week or so, we’ve been sanding, prepping, spackling, and priming the front foyer and front main hallway of the house.
It took four days and nine coats of primer to turn the formerly pink plaster walls white:
It was exciting. The walls were old plaster, dyed pink from some previous wallpaper (most likely), and a bunch of us put a ton of work into patching, sanding, and priming them. It took nine coats of primer (two of PVA primer and seven of Killz) to get to these smooth white masterpieces, ready for painting.
The hallway complete, we started sanding and priming the round tower room in the front of the house yesterday. Perry and Kyle helped prime and we got one coat on the entire room.
Today Lincoln, Nicole, and I returned to continue priming. I poured the primer and got ready to apply a second coat to the foyer.
That’s when I noticed the blister.
The past week brought days of heavy rain in Detroit. It was gloomy and dark, and the cold came back.
The rain was significant. The backfill dropped six inches
This was a perfect opportunity to test out all the basement foundation repairs we made earlier in the month, though, so it’s not all bad. After two straight days of downpour, I went into the basement with bated breath.
Every area that we patched was dry.
Very soon after we closed on the house, my old friend Josh from Coca-Cola reached out to me and said he’d be happy to send the work crew along some VitaminWater and SmartWater to help keep us hydrated.
Little did I know he’d be sending cases of it out.
Thanks to the awesome sponsorship, all of our friends during the huge Icrontic week-long renovation adventure had drinks at the ready. And hey, since this March has been the freakiest hottest Michigan March I’ve ever lived through so far, they needed it.
Some of the crew take a break with delicious refreshment
We had bottles of VitaminWater Zero in three different flavors and SmartWater. Luckily, the fridge works so they were cold and available whenever anyone needed one. Our contractors and friends were all appreciative of Josh’s generosity.
Thank you Coca-Cola and Glaceau for the awesome sponsorship. Our house now contains a little piece of love from you guys!
Just some of the crew that showed up to help this week
This past week has been a blur, and it almost defies explanation to people who don’t know us or our friends yet.
If you haven’t seen it yet, you should check out our page “About IntoDetroit“. It explains a lot about where Lincoln and I come from and what the Icrontic community is.
The best way to say it is this:
The Icrontic community is the greatest group of friends that have ever formed up around a website.
One of the nice things about our other gig, Icrontic, is that it puts us in touch with a lot of high-tech companies. I usually go to the Consumer Electronics Show every January to cover it for the community as a member of the press.
This year, I got to take a good look at a very intriguing product called the Power2U by Newer Technology. The Power2U immediately struck my eye as something intensely useful for the modern homeowner: It’s a standard 15amp UL Listed power outlet, but it also has two 5V USB charging ports built in. That means you don’t need to take up outlets with wall-warts to charge your USB-based devices.
Remember back when we were testing the plumbing in the bathroom and said that the only “good” option was to raise the bathtub four inches?
Scratch that. We found a better option; we’ve re-designed the entire bathroom layout.
Our contractor, Andy, cursed and muttered under his breath, and had a few choice names for us (undoubtedly in cockney slang that we wouldn’t understand anyway), and then with a grin, shrugged and tore into re-plumbing the entire bathroom drainage system.
It took him a couple of hard days, but now we have an ideal bathroom layout.
This has been one of the warmest Michigan winters I can ever recall, but the days are still short, the nights still long, and the pace still slow.
The wiring is... less than classy. But it works.
Things are progressing, albeit slowly. We’re finding a new work/life/renovation balance; having this giant new project has understandably thrown us all for a bit of a loop and we’re all discovering a new rhythm.
Our electrician is still working on the upstairs outlets. I’m not extremely thrilled with the compromise that has to be made (essentially, we could either take walls down and make new runs or run external wire harnesses that look more appropriate for a corporate cubicle wall than a Victorian home). The cheap option had to win out; our renovation budget is not unlimited. For now, we’ll have to deal with ugly wiring in our bedrooms until such time as we can revisit the idea of doing electrical properly. Think 5+ years.
Ut eius anima requiem in pace
The plumbing project has had its ups and downs. With the help of our awesome contractor/plumber/handyman Andy Davis, we’ve gotten the core plumbing runs connected. We now have modern (and more importantly, not-worth-stealing) PEX pipe runs from the basement to the first floor bathroom and kitchen. We cut off some unnecessary galvanized pipes in the basement, capped off what we don’t need for now, and generally got a grip on the cold system to the point where if we need to run some water during construction, we can do that (although the drain isn’t fixed yet: Waiting on power for that).