Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Unearthing Surprises

Wow, long time no update! I could almost feel guilty if we hadn't been so busy LOL In some ways it seems like nothing has changed enough to report on but in other ways it seems everything has changed. My 'job' of cleaning really hasn't progressed all that much, only the single room at the top of the stairs added to the done list. Not that I was slacking off but that Tom has been so busy I've spent more time as his clean up crew than playing janitor. First it was a few boards here and there and then it became whole walls LOL Lots of discoveries along the way too!

In reorganizing the mechanics so each apartment has it's own water heater and furnace Tom has been working in a closet off the east apartment shuffling things and making room. The adjoining area is the west apartment is a strange out-of-place type area so one day he decided to investigate. Removing a full length mirror on one wall he discovered the wall behind the mirror to be pretty much missing. Possibly punched or kicked out, hard telling. Beyond the damage to the wall he also discovered a doorway! At some point in time there was a hallway type passage between what is now the kitchen/bath area of the two spaces. We're not sure what the original floor plan was and can't guess as to it's use but it's been great fun popping in and out of each place using the passage. With all the cubby-holes, passageways and places Tom's been getting into with his repairs I actually resorted to yelling 'MARCO!' one evening just to find him LOL

Another surprise we had recently was our first experience in considering crime and the cauldron perhaps being a victim. A misplaced set of keys led to a flurry of lock changing and pointed out some glaring lapses in security on our part. While the keys were found safe and secure I got my own taste of being a victim at the same time. In my hurry to get to the cauldron and help with the lost key issue I neglected to make sure my front door was closed tightly and gave a thief the opportunity he was looking for. Luckily the loss was no more than my iPod and a few dollars but it was scary and unsettling and left me feeling both angry and foolish. Valuable lessons learned in both cases though and likely worth far more than any material loss. If any readers stop by for a visit to the cauldron though you'll now find you need to knock on the door and wait for it to be unlocked rather than just walk in (wink).

Our latest surprise came while Tom was working on the new bathroom fixtures in the east apartment. If you haven't noticed from the pictures both bathrooms and kitchens have decorative wall paneling. These are printed boards, or in some cases shiny plastic, held up by plastic strips. Either through settling of the building or possibly an installation problem the boards don't meet each other or the trim work and they're terribly marked up and dirty. My immediate solution was to rip them all out but reality, budgets and Tom required them to be kept if possible. Turns out it's not possible . . . hehehe Being an old building there's not a scrap of insulation in the walls and apparently Tom found damage or problems that need to be addressed behind the wall board so it all needs to go. That's actually probably the best news I've received so far this week LOL Not just in my wanting to get rid of the old stuff and the increase in cost isn't welcome but being able to insulate, especially in the bath, and having decent walls that are easy to maintain is really fortunate. At least in my warped mind LOL Insulation leads to more comfortable and happy tenants with lower utility bills and a happier me paying the bills until the place is occupied. And the maintenance thing is a huge plus!

I might be naive, probably am, but my thought is if we start out with something looking nice and we keep it nice that will encourage our tenants to do the same. I mean, if you rent an apartment and the walls are marred up, stained and all what exactly is the incentive to not cause further damage and dirt? LOL It seems logical that if a tenant is presented with a place where it is obvious that effort has been put into upkeep they will be encouraged to take pride in keeping it nice. Ok, quit laughing LOL I can just imagine the comments I'll get from experienced landlords out there! It's the pagan-ish way though - expect the best from people and you'll often get it. We'll see in the future how reality treats that belief . . .

Monday, February 7, 2011

A Pot to Piss In

It's been awhile between updates and we've made a ton of progress since the last post. We did go out that Saturday and had even more reason to celebrate. Finally, after many long hours Tom had the plumbing replaced enough to provide a working commode. He also surprised me with the news that he'd hooked up one of the old water heaters so we even had warm water for scrubbing! I think we were a bit giddy as we stayed out way too late acting silly and guzzling beers. Sorry to say I forgot the camera. Instead I've decided to treat you to a glimpse of Tom's world. The new slide show has some of the tangle of pipes he's been sorting through, views of the area between floors he crawls around in and even a few shots of the scary basement with it's assorted 'treasures'. Luckily this is as close as you and I will ever get to these places LOL

With water available the scrubbing began, first in the downstairs space we call the break room and offices. The camera-shy Julie and I spent days vanquishing cobwebs, washing down woodwork and driving out years of dust and dirt. The place fairly shines now! Of course we also added a few female touches - snacks, scented candles and crystals - and we did a bit of shifting of the furniture. A few bar stools from WalMart and some elbow grease turned the beat up counter into a great bar style seating area while moving the sofa across from the gas heater provided a cozy place to relax and watch the flames. Just ask Tom. The day after we'd finished the room he treated himself to a two hour nap on the couch! LOL

The huge snowstorm that hit most of us held progress up for a bit and brought more piles of snow as well as a short bout with frozen pipes but no real issues. Good thing since the plumbing work looks as if it will continue for awhile. At latest report we now have working plumbing in all areas of the west apartment but in the process lost almost all the fixtures. The showers all need replacing and to hear Tom tell it every drain in the place leaks. Well, almost every drain. There's one that doesn't leak but in that case the faucet leaks LOL Tomorrow's work crew will be busy carrying out the pieces of the gutted bathrooms. And yep, just in case you're wondering, the working toilet stayed. It'll be a bit lonesome in the bathroom until we get the other fixtures replaced but better a lonely commode than the bucket.

This past week we also began in earnest to make decisions on those areas where it's safe to begin renovation. Or at least not subject to water leaks and falling ceilings. The entrance hall will be the first to be redone and I'm finding the flooring issue to be frustrating. Not only don't we want to be typical landlords and use the cheapest materials possible but we both have unique styles and tastes and it doesn't seem this translates well. So far meetings with various flooring salesmen and installers have resulted in complete failure. Apparently the entire world is in love with ceramic tile, or at least the entire world except for us. Truthfully I'm really getting tired of being told what I should want or that I'm an idiot. Heads up flooring guys! Unless I'm making a bad choice for safety or durability reasons please keep your opinions to yourself. I'm the customer and if I want solid gold tiles that's my choice and it's your job to smile and nod and get the job done! Seriously, this is going to be a running theme during the renovation stage LOL

I'm not sure if it's just the natural arrogance of someone professional in their field or the fact that I'm a woman or what. I go to the home improvement store, explain carefully and with proper terms what I'm looking for and why only to be told I should want the exact opposite. And never a logical reason for their beliefs! The other night I got into a disagreement with a flooring expert over my desire for a slate floor in the entry. Tom and I ruled out sheet vinyl and vinyl tiles as being too easily damaged and hard to repair. I personally don't care for natural wood in an entry, especially a public one, as I find it hard to clean and very noisy. Carpet was also out for cleaning reasons leaving natural stone or ceramic tile as our remaining choices. While natural stone is more expensive to install it has the virtue of damage such as chips not being noticeable and well, it's natural. It's also cheaper than the fake stone look ceramics. But here's this expert, and I have no doubt that he is an expert, calling me an idiot over my choice! According to him ceramic is the only way to go for tile (of course, it's easier for him to install) and since this is ONLY a rental there's no sense putting in a nice floor to begin with (can we say slum lord?) And this is a man who's hoping to get my business? Calling me an idiot because I choose to remodel my building according to my taste and likes? ROFL

As it turned out though, he was right. I don't want slate. Not because of anything he said. Truthfully when asked why we didn't want slate he could give no reason at all. As a result of the disagreement though I felt insecure enough to double check my research and in the process I discovered what I truly wanted. Satillo Terra Cotta tile LOL As economical, durable and damage hiding as slate with the easy installation of ceramic tile and a natural product made in the same way as it's been done for centuries, by hand. The tie in with our interests though is what really did it for me. Tom and I have traveled to Mexico several times and I've long wanted to move there for the slower paced lifestyle and climate. To be able to incorporate a bit of ourselves and our interests into the building seems such a natural and wonderful thing that I'm not sure any other flooring would now work LOL We'll see though. We're finding out there's a lot of reality between us and some dreams and we have a long way to go before there's actually a new floor.