Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Wouldn't You Like to be Our Neighbor?

Courtesy of Jen :)

The Back Blah Yard

Spring is Here!
70 degrees in Chicago today! Woot!

We can't wait to see what things will be sprouting around our new house. We've already noticed some tulip bulbs sprouting right next to the garage, and we think we have two lilac bushes screening us from our neighbors to the north. Can't wait till those bloom.

Unfortunately, we don't have much of a back yard right now. Apparently the PO's had dogs that liked to dig holes. Lots of holes. In fact, our yard could probably shame the suspension systems of several SUVs! In between feeding the Cellulose Blower, Jen took a stab at leveling this into a less dramatic landscape, pruning the bushes and trees, and figuring out what we had to work with.

We're thinking for this year we'll just rototill the yard and throw down some grass seed and hope for the best. As for next year though, we're not quite sure. The yard is almost the same length and slightly wider than the garage.. 24x33. We're toying with the idea of turning this space into a grass-less backyard with a nice patio, trellis, etc. next year, but we're not sure. Here's some more pix.. (the hose is for the blower). If you have any ideas or suggestions, let us know!

Monday, March 21, 2005

Blowing up the walls

In preparation for the massive work we can finally begin, Jay went and opened a new credit card at Menards, which was having a 0% until 2006 deal going on anything over $300. So it was the perfect time to buy lumber, house jacks, electrical conduit, and cellulose insulation (which is treated, recycled paper).

It looked like STUFFING!!

Menards has a program where if you buy the loose fill cellulose from them, they give you the blower free for one day. This blower is basically a large shop-vac that operates in reverse with a large hopper to feed the cellulose, and a really long tube. We actually kept the blower in the back yard and fed the tube through a second floor window, and then throughout the top floor to fill in our uninsulated walls.

Mark came over and did a lot of prep work to make sure the stuff didn't blow straight through to the basement, while Jay worked up in the attic blowing the cellulose down through each wall cavity. Later, we fished the hose into the basement and filled up any cavities that we missed, or were below windows. We had to drill 1-inch holes in the wall to do this, but they will patch (or be covered) nicely.

It took a full weekend to work all the away around the house. We decided not to do most of the north wall of our house, since that is where we plan to do our dormer addition (still pending zoning board appeal). But since we did it, we've already noticed benefits:
- house is warmer
- basement is much warmer
- furnace goes on less
- VERY big soundproofing improvement

In all, we used 15 bags, but at $5 bag (total $75.00) it was a great deal. And Mark's favorite part about using cellulose was that it didn't leave you itching and scratching for the next few days, unlike normal insulation! :)

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Condo for Sale

Vintage Oak Park Condo

Oak Park, IL 60302
MLS: 05044585

This 2BR / 1 BA condo unit is on the top floor with a sunny southern exposure.
Vintage Oak Park building was remodeled in 2000 featuring new fixtures, cabinets, appliances, in-unit washer/dryer, custom painting, beautiful light fixtures and more!
The 1300+ sq ft condo features a spacious (20x17) living room with striking fireplace flanked on each side with built in bookcases, and an enormous octagon bay window that catches the sunsets. The bedrooms are very quite large as well (12.5 x 13 and 10 x 2).
Other features include:

  • Vintage craftsmanship evident on mouldings, built-in book cases, etc.

  • Functional vent-free gas fireplace

  • One BR has tandem heated sun porch with view of Sears Tower

    (from one corner of the room, on a clear day, after the trees lose their leaves :-)

  • Refinished oak floors (maple in kitchen), ceramic tile in bathroom, and Berber carpet in sun porch.

  • Ceiling fans in bedrooms

  • Private balcony overlooking lush backyard with mature trees

  • Seller to pay 1 year's on-street parking permits

  • Assigned storage space in basement

  • Two Window air conditioning units included

  • Small self-managed condo association with strong reserves.

  • Located near Eisenhower, halfway between Green and Blue lines, police station is across the street.
    [view map]

Asking $229,900

Contact: Barbara Kohut, Prudential Premier Realty 708-386-4000
View Virtual Tour!

Permit Day

Last week was kind of a turning point. We had hired the structural engineer, whose gibberish meant precisely jack to me but I figured would answer all of our Plan Reviewer's questions, and had the completed report and the revised drawings (which jay did beautifully) in hand. On Tuesday, I headed over the VOP on my lunch break to hand-deliver the package and get a turnaround estimate. After waiting 20 minutes for our reviewer to be available, he informed me that it should take him about a day to review the plans - apparently, he needed someone else's help with it (his words, not mine) - and if I hadn't heard from him by Thursday morning, to give him a call.

So, that's just what I did. I called at 12:30 Thursday and left a message with the receptionist.

Then I called again at 3.

Once more at 4:30.

Then, it was Friday.

I called at 11:00. At 12:30. At 2:15. At 3:30. He was in a meeting, on the phone, away from his desk, washing his hair.

At four I decided to become a stalker.

Headed back to the village. Waited in line 10 minutes. Told the receptionist I was there to pick up my permits as I hadn't heard any information to the contrary. She spoke with our reviewer, who said he hadn't gotten them done yet. (I might mention that the way this office is set up, the office walls are only 4 feet high, and I witnessed this entire conversation). When she came back to relay the message (it was like when a girl at school gets mad at you and won't talk to you unless you have a go-between). I had decided that wasn't good enough, and told her I wouldn't bore her with the details, but I would sit and wait for our reviewer to become available.

4:15. 4:27. 4:40.

4:46 - He's finally available. And since I had forty minutes to plan out my complaint, I managed not to get too excited. He apologized over and over - "you're right, eight weeks is unacceptable" - "I do apologize for avoiding you" - and promised we'd have our permit Monday no matter what.

What do you think happened?

Yeah, that's what I thought too. But then, miracle of miracles ...

Well, here it is, at long last. Our work permit. And it only took two months and three days to receive - quite contrary to the VOP's stated "two to four weeks" for review.

I suppose now we'll have no excuse for not busting our assess every weekend. SIGH. At least maybe mine will get smaller with all the work - two birds with one hammer and all that. :)

- Jen

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Called in backup

Last week, we received word from Village Hall that our plans were inadequate. [official feedback] We needed to provide a structural bearing analysis including load calculations for the wall that we want to remove, and provide detailed specifications from the manufacturer of the replacement headers we intend to install to verify they will be able to carry the load.

Phew.. And that's the simplified version of our dilemma!

After doing some research on structural engineering, we realized this wasn't something we could accomplish by ourselves, so we hired an official structural engineer (one who has worked with the Village building department before) to specify the changes and perform the analysis and calculations requested. Ken from Ingenii Consulting (fellow U of I alumni!) came by last week to do a site visit and discuss the required changes we would need to make.

Sunday night, he delivered an 11-page report [download] with an insane amount of analysis and technical detail. When Jen read it aloud, it sounded like gibberish! More useful was a copy of our plans he took and marked up with red ink showing the changes we needed to make. Fortunately, there was nothing too major or surprising, but it was more specific than the original plans. Thanks Ken!

So today, Jen stopped by the Village Hall and dropped the plans in the hands of Dan the man who scans the plans. Should have a response tomorrow or Thursday..

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Take 2: Demolition Derby - 2nd Floor

Scary walls awaited our prybars
After clearing away basement lath and plaster for 4 hours (covering only 150 sq. ft!), Jay emerged from our dusty dungeon to discover what Jen and Ken had done upstairs. Assessing the state of the walls in the de-panelled future bedroom, I got a very creepy feeling. Underneath was a greenish fern/floral print on the ceiling and some kind of wavy yellow-brown organic pattern on the walls. It looked like a nightmare. Frankie later remarked that it looked like someone was trapped or held captive in the room. Remember that movie, People Under the Stairs? Yeah... Not at all encouraging. It begged to be destroyed.

So, late on Sunday night, we did just that. After removing the hideous drywall, we discovered yet another layer... old (and in nice condition) wood wainscotting installed horizontally [View Image]. Maybe this was part of the original attic? If not, someone really liked dark wood. While we won't be keeping this in our future bedroom, perhaps we can salvage it and install in the basement at somepoint (3, 4, 5 years from now...)

Is it live? we'll have to seeA few other interesting discoveries were made up here too. Such as a concealed electrical junction that was probably a light fixture at one time, leaving an eyeball-shaped design. We haven't gotten the circuit tester out to test this yet (project for a rainy day), but tracing the path of these wires will be interesting. We also discovered the remnants of an old closet in this room.

After two long days of work though, our mission was accomplished: We had completely filled a 10 cubic yard dumpster. Extra thanks to our Demo Team helpers, Ken and Frankie! Obviously, since it took 2 weeks to put these posts up, we took some much deserved rest. :)

Take 2: Demolition Derby - Kitchen

It's been awhile since an update here, but I wanted to wait until we got some photos developed. I know, I know. How can someone with a blog not have a digital camera, right? Well, we are accepting donations if you're interested.

Thanks Kenny!Anyway, after pleading with friends and family, we got some volunteers to help us do as much as possible to fill the dumpster we rented before they took it away. Kenny came up from Peoria, and helped us set to work on dismantling the kitchen and master bedroom, while Jay planned to finish tearing down the rest of the basement ceiling.

We found out that people can hide a lot of things with paneling! Once the paneling came off in the kitchen, we discovered that the standard 1920's subway tile we were hoping to find underneath had been removed in the past. Too bad. :( In the breakfast nook (behind Ken), we did find covered up electrical outlets (how safe!), and discovered that the nook was probably not an add-on as we originally suspected but original. The construction of this was lath and plaster, which wasn't used after the War (WWII).

We're missing some tiles...Also, when taking out the paneling behind the stove, Ken and Jen discovered an old flue for the the original stove that was tied into the chimney. When replacing the stove and paneling over this, someone had deftly covered this up with a.. Paint Can Lid! [View Closeup image]

Definitely going to keep the Paint Can Lid in our souvenirs box. :) Too bad it didn't have a Mfr or date stamped on it. I doubt we'll be able to use the flue for our new stove based on our plans, but it's good to know we have the option if we need it!