Friday, September 21, 2007

Just one of those days...

An eventful day, but not necessarily in a good way. A quick summary: schedule snafus, broken items dropping like flies, and a violent attack.

We had our parade of contractors come in yesterday to give estimates and an exterminator. The way the day was supposed to work is (1) an exterminator was to come from 9-11 a.m. (a bit of a centipede problem compounded by minimal molding in our unit); (2) two chimney contractors to assess our water problem with the chimney and give an estimate for a liner. Both decide they want to come 12-2 p.m. The other little tasks I had planned for the day aren't really important.

8:05 a.m. I get a call from the exterminator-his truck has been towed so he will be late, but will put our house down first to get exterminated. Alrighty then. I hang up the phone then realize this could be a problem. I have visions of 2 chimney contractors, plus an exterminator arriving all at the same time. That wouldn't be good.

After I get a call from chimney guy number 1 saying he was en route (early) I call the exterminating company and push his visit back until 2. I get both estimates for the chimney work. (one calls for just a liner, the other calls for liner plus replacement of brick). Somehow, I'm able to sneak lunch in, then the exterminator shows up.

During the exterminator's movement around our unit, he moved some furniture around. At one point, I hear an "oh no" look over, and part of our futon has broken. The exterminator is extremely apologetic. (I think it already was broken-but he solidified this). Something for Glenn to fix at some point in the future.

We then proceed to the tenants apartment. They have a cat. The exterminator suggests we just close the cat in one room, and work on the rest of the apartment, then after the chemicals dry let the cat out. I head everywhere looking for this cat-looking under beds etc. The cat can not be found. One bedroom door is closed (the carpeted bedroom). I don't bother to look in there because one tenant sent an e-mail about how upsetting it was when I had inadvertently left the cat in one room with the door closed when we were in there last week. But, what would you know- the cat was in the carpeted bedroom- and ran out when we opened the door.

I end up closing the door to another bedroom to keep the cat at bay, and continue on.

Exterminator finally leaves. I head in to let the cat out of the one bedroom. (so he has access to food, water, and bathroom). Open the door. The cat comes over to me and looks like it wants attention. I feel bad for the thing being locked in a bedroom all day and try to show it some attention. I put my arm down, it slides up next to the wall, then comes over to me, then loops its paws around my arm. I tried to pet it, then it walks away, comes back, and BITES ME ON THE LEG! The bite did not break skin, so in retrospect we determined that it was probably trying to play with me. Its plan backfired though as I promptly shut the door and went back to our unit.

In our unit, I go to empty the dishwasher and notice that there's water in the bottom of our dishwasher that never drained after it was run. Another of the "we'll have to look at that." items.

My next simple task is to upload new software to my windows based treo. Should only take 35 minutes. Of course, 3 hours later, the software is finally uploaded, and treo is synching appropriately.

Poor Glenn has had an extremely busy week at work, so got to come home at 11 p.m. and be confronted with some of my travails for the day. If it wasn't 11 p.m. I think he would have turned around and left.

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Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Finding a contractor is like dating

Among the many other things we are doing now, we are trying to find a chimney person to inspect our chimney and give an estimate on repairs and possibly a chimney liner. I called a few places, and arranged for 2 estimates. One scheduled one tomorrow from 12-2. The other said "they'd just stop by and leave an estimate." (Odd, I thought, but it's their business). Well, the second person calls back a few hours later and says "I want to come by on Thursday (tomorrow) 12-2.

I like to space things out a bit. It just doesn't seem right to have 2 here at the same time. Of course, a contractor should know that a homeowner will call a couple places, but it still seems shady to confront them with it. Dating is the same- you might go on a date here and there with a few different people, but I don't know how much each person would want to know there's someone else. When I was dating, I was always uncomfortable going out with muliple people at once-even if it was just a first or second date. Contracting is no different. I've been burned too in the contracting world by contractors who promise to stop by, or give an estimate, or countless other promised. Hence, the need for calling multiple contractors.

What's the best way to handle this? I opted to just come clean and explain I have another estimate at the same time. I was just a bit flustered and both chimney people wanting the exact same time, what are the odds?

I suppose I should have just scheduled them at different times. This can either work out well-competiting for business etc., or both can just walk away.

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A slight hiccup with the gates

We now have lockable gates, but we haven't really locked them yet. The two gates (one for the side of the house, and the other for the front of the property) require 2 separate keys. This is just not practical-particularly with tenants. That would mean that we would have (1) front gate key (2) side gate key (3) front door key (4) 1st floor apartment key (5) first floor apartment skeleton key for some of the locks (6) 2nd floor apartment key (7) storeroom key (8) 2nd store room key. Doesn't that seem like a lot for one house?!? Of course, we don't carry all these around at once, but it is still a lot!

I didn't realize I needed to specify at installation that both gates should use the same key. I really don't feel like paying $100 for a locksmith to correct the problem. I'm now on the quasi hunt for somewhere to get them rekeyed. (yes, I know, a locksmith or home depot or something). The little wrinkle is that we upgraded to Baldwin locks. Home Depot is by far the cheapest option, but when I asked about Baldwin locks, the person said "they are the same as schlage." I have a bit more faith in a locksmith...

Besides for that, the gates have garnered a little attention. We have been here for 4 years (about). There's a woman who lives across the street who has never smiled at us, said hi, acknowledged our presence in any way. Odd. Wednesday, I'm getting in my car, and she says "do your gates lock now?" She follows with "my landlady said someone stole all your flower pots."


No, I don't think this woman was responsible for the pots or other stolen items-I just think it a bit odd that in 4 years now it's time to call out across the street.

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Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Mission Accomplished

After 4 years from the first time I contacted an iron worker for an estimate, WE HAVE GATES!!! They finished things up today.

Here they are:

We also had the workers paint the spokes on the concrete fence and insert some spokes where there were none. Each gate requires a different key to lock it, which we will need to fix. Sort of nice to know though that I can lock it. Of course, with the height of the fence, if anyone really wanted to get in the yard, he could. We weren't up to dismanteling a 100 year old fence though-and it adds some character. I'll be planting some thorny bushes to act as a bit of a deterrant, or at the least, to give any intruder a rough entry onto our property.
We had a fair amount of confusion with our contractors during this process. Overall, they were responsive, did good work, and got the job done. However, due to a death in the family, they originally sent out a dentist to perform the estimate. (yeah, I know) His estimate wasn't detailed enough and apparently was incorrect. Then, Glenn and the owner worked through a second estimate that was a lot more specific. Finally, I handled dealing with the actual project manager. The result was a lot of "who's on first" scenes. In Glenn's dealings, he said he wanted black locks, and paid for an upgrade in the locks. We ended up getting nickel locks.
I still think it looks nice.
Now onto painting the fence...

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Monday, September 17, 2007

Gates and More Gates

We've had a number of gate projects that we've been working on along with a variety of other activities. On a positive note, we have located and hired a gate contractor for the front gates! :D. Last I wrote, we had estimates brewing. One guy we just eliminated because he kept on telling us things than not following through. (ie. estimate tomorrow, then calling at 8 p.m. 5 days later on a Saturday night). Today, the gates should be installed! We are really excited. It took 3 separate visits to come up with the design and finalize the installation. I'm crossing my fingers that it comes off without a hitch.

Now, of more house-blog related interest, we spent labor day weekend and the following weekendthe building and installing a new back gate. We sort of had one-but it was extremely hard to open, and clearly in a whole bunch of disrepair.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

For the project, I was the painting queen. (I also happened to sell an old TV while I was in the back yard painting all the slabs-talk about efficient!) Glenn, on the other hand, handled the construction.

The play by play (sort of):
1. Glenn affixed a post support into the concrete. In the bottom right of the photo of the dilapidated gate, you can see the black post support. It is set back from the other gate because he needed the gate support next to the garage to be attached to a garage joist. If he tore down the gate, then put in the gate, we would have been without a gate for a period of time, which we didn't want.
2. Paint like a fiend. We used pressure treated lumber, and I furiously primed and painted everything. (I handled the painting, while Glen did the rest)
3. Build the gate "surround" Ie. A 2x4 along the garage (where the lock will go), the post in the post support on the other side, and a bar going across the top for added support.
4. Add in post support. (the angled 2X6 in the photo)
5. Construct the door with a gate making kit. We found ours at Menards I believe finally after looking for months, so it seemed. It came in a big yellow square box and had the hardward that would allow the user to construct the rectangular structure for the door.
6. Add the slats to the door. These were affixed to the gate structure from 5.
7. Hang the door. With this, there's a lot of finangling with a level. if the door is not hung right, with everything level, this will cause neverending issues with the door not closing properly.

We completed these first 7 tasks all in one long, drawn out exhausting day.

The next day, we worked on installing the locks and fine tuning the work from the day before.

I'll have to come back to add photos, as apparently, my memory card wasn't as complete as I thought. I'll try to get Glenn to revise this as well to be more accurate with the how tos.