Everything In This Post Could Be Wrong

The Gingerbread Diaries

Does anyone else remember those sorts of disclaimers in tech manuals?

Direct link for the feed readers: Gingerbread Diaries 2.5: Downstairs Bath Renovation, Week 3

That was the lesson we learned as we took up the first half of the bathroom floor bright and early on Saturday morning. Turns out that the joist we were basing everything on, the one we uncovered as we opened up the 10″x8′ gap in our back hall, the one that had been “supporting” the existing bathroom wall, that one? Was the lowest point in all the bathroom joists.


Todd’s Wreck-It-Ralph overalls are getting some real use this week!

So, yes, that whole conversation about what level we were going to build up to, etc. was next to useless and the rest of the room is already that high. Okay then!

The new plan became to pick the most level joist in the bathroom itself and work to that. With said joist identified, we then had to adjust 3 others–one was too high, one was too low, and one was even lower than that! For the two low ones we bought 2″x1/4″ slats (for lack of a better term) to sit on top of the joists–one needed one, the other needed 2 stacked on top of each other, and for the third we would “take it down” about a quarter of an inch.

Take it down you say? Why, yes, we needed to remove some of the wood, and I was concerned that the method Todd first mentioned (planing) would have us in a too much, build it back up, too much again, etc. loop. So I asked if sanding would be a decent alternative (figuring it would make for less drastic changes per pass compared to a planer).

And that’s how we ended up with a belt sander.

Week 3, tool 3… I sense a trend, here.

Our Lowe's Haul (Week 3, trip 4)

Our Lowe’s Haul (Week 3, trip 4)

After a trip to Lowe’s for said sander and half the store’s complement of PVC elbow joints, Todd started in on the sanding. Even with the added power, it was still a tough, tedious job. I haven’t tried the sander for myself (I will when we get to the next half of the floor which will need similar treatment), but I did get to use the reciprocating saw this week!

We needed to build up the joist we’d put in the previous week, a task easily accomplished with a spare 2″x4″x8′, but there was a small section at the end that needed fitting in. I took it upon myself to notch out the bottom of the stud that was in the way (the sawzall is pretty cool!), trim an offcut of 2×4 to the right length (with the hand saw), and nail it into place.

My handiwork! (Considering the thought of powered blades sends chills down my spine, this is actually a pretty big accomplishment for me!)

My handiwork! (Considering the thought of powered blades sends chills down my spine, this is actually a pretty big accomplishment for me!)


Todd cut down the first sheet of plywood (3/4″, I believe) for the floor and I suggested going ahead and cutting both but we were a) losing the light fast and b) losing Todd–he was pretty wiped out by this point so we stuck with the single, got it into place, and called it a night.

The double box on the right will be for the lights and the fan vent. The single box on the left is for a GFI outlet.

The double box on the right will be for the lights (what is currently hanging in the middle of the room) and the fan vent. The single box on the left is for a GFI outlet.

Sunday brought with it a revision of our plumbing plan of attack (the new toilet location will be set up and hooked up before we remove the other half of the floor) and an overwhelming urge to nap. Not super productive, but super needed. The rest of the changes for this week are small by comparison.

  • Filled in some gaps in the clapboards and where the walls meet (from the original, inadequate build) with spray-foam. That stuff is awesome.
  • The removal of a kajillion square nails from the studs as well as removing the braces that once were–we’ll replace them with our own.
  • The building up of two exterior wall studs–they installed them flat to the wall rather than perpendicular, then placed a brace across them, rather than between.
  • Sistering the guide-joist of the bathroom after I noticed it had a crack radiating from a knot that became more visible when Todd leaned on it.
  • Determining the height of the light switch and outlets and installing the boxes for their eventual wiring-in.

Last night Todd tackled actually attaching the floor to the joists (couldn’t be done until the wall studs were in place, so I’m not ragging on him for the delay) and was employing a 2×4 as a lever to scootch it up as close to the wall as it could go, when I asked “Oh, is it raining again?”

Y’all, I wish I’d been recording that, because this would have been a scene just perfect for Renovation Reality (did anyone else see that show?). The lever had shifted a pipe under the house and what I heard as rain was actually it draining. Now, in Todd’s defense, he didn’t hit the pipe, he hit the cinder block-and-brick rigging that was holding it in place because the braintrust that last fixed it didn’t use the correct coupler to keep it in place on its own. And it’s one of the pipes that we’ll be moving soon, anyway, but still. Not something you want to do, much less have to rectify, at almost 10 pm!

But it wasn’t all sandpaper and rusty nails! While at Lowe’s we accomplished a couple of side quests by confirming what tile we’ll be using (the same one I snapped on my Pinterest board) and picked out our grout (a dark grey to coordinate with the faucet, etc. and it even has some glittery flecks in it to look shiny, not just dull and grey. Also, while browsing the lighting aisles to try and get an idea what we might want (because I seriously had no clue on this so far), we ended up finding and purchasing the most perfect light for this room–it echos the details on the sink and toilet we’ve picked out, came in brushed nickel, and was only $25 in store (website shows a higher price). Score!

Anyone want to place bets on what the week 4 tool purchase will be? I have a strong feeling a nail gun and compressor are now on the short list, but will we bite that bullet this week or wait a bit? Hmmm….


Painting the Dollhouse Pink!

The Gingerbread Diaries

Not to give away the ending or anything…

You guys, the contractor has removed his sign from the front yard and his ladders from the back: guess he thinks he’s done! Actually, I think he’s done, too. I know I’m ready for him to be done and gone and all that but we still have the final HUD inspection today, someone coming to look at the dryer, and Lowes delivering our new dishwasher all this morning.

And, yes, our windows now open.

The last chore of the bank-sponsored renovations was the exterior painting.

Now, for kicks and giggles, let’s go back to December and refresh our memory of what the house looked like when we first saw it:


Cute but a bit rundown. And it looks like it was pink, when, in this photo after we closed and first spent the weekend at the house, you can more accurately see the color is a sort of dingy mauve (faded from a who-knows-when coat of terracotta-ish red, judging from the back porch):


And a few weeks ago it got a coat of primer and looked frighteningly white:

House Photos 052

Backing up a bit, it should be noted that the primer step? Almost didn’t happen.

We were never given any sort of adequate explanation of why they did what they did, but more than a week before the primer picture, above, happened, this happened:

Peeling, cracking, and bubbling--not to mention the rough surface underneath--is not what you want to see on freshly-painted wood siding!

Peeling, cracking, and bubbling–not to mention the rough surface underneath–is not what you want to see on freshly-painted wood siding!

The  brain trust that thought this was a good idea also, later, thought it was smart to paint both the front and back porch floors at the end of the day, so take what you will from that. Needless to say we called them on the shenanigans of putting down the first coat of paint without sufficiently preparing the surface, so then they spent a full week doing what should have been done in the first place: fully prepping the entire surface of the house.

But now it’s just as it should be:


Tadaa! (Please ignore the ramp on the front stairs, we’re keeping it only until we finish moving things in, then it’s going away to reveal the brick steps underneath.)

Selecting paint colors was a bit of an ordeal. At first I wanted the keep the house pink because that’s how I always saw it in my head. But Todd wasn’t feeling the pink so much (or so it seemed), so I went on the hunt for alternatives and some way to keep the pink but in a lesser capacity. The front-runner was actually a doll’s house image I found at Once Upon a Fairlyland:

Both Todd and I could agree on the theory of a light green home with pink and ivory accents, but finding a paint color combo in reality was proving a bit more difficult. We knew we wanted a lighter color as the darker hues (I thought) would work against keeping the house cool year-round but the greens we liked in swatches we learned would look too washed out once on the house. Add to that my desire to stick to the paint colors approved by the National Trust for Historic Preservation, and I probably made things harder than they needed to be.

Finally I asked Todd if he really minded the idea of a pink house so much. Thankfully, he was okay with the peachier pinks (but not too orange), so we came up with this color combo:

My mock-up board of our paint colors

My mock-up board of our paint colors

From the Valspar/National Trust paint collaboration we chose:

  • 2001-6A Del Coronado Coastal Peach (main house color)
  • 2002-5A La Fonda Antique Red (inner window trim, other accents)
  • 5004-2C La Fonda Territory Green (eventual shutters, porch floors, other accents)

And, then, as a warm white for the trim and porch railings, CI203 Dogwood Petal.

When it’s all put together it reminds me of a rose bush, which is fitting as Thomasville is the Rose City (at least of Georgia). The inner trim of the windows painted a contrasting color was a detail I noticed in a lot of the Victorian home pictures I pinned while looking for inspiration (and eye candy… lots of eye candy) and I think it makes for a nice touch instead of just having the whole frame and trim white. Eventually, in addition to adding shutters (not super-common for Victorian homes but we can clearly see the fittings in the existing window frames so we’ll be reconstructing and installing them at some point) we’ll be using the green as well as the red to accent the gingerbread trim on the porch and in other areas yet to be determined.

But for now, we have our cotton-candy (so dubbed by one of our neighbors) pink house and we’re a few forms and a couple of co-signed checks away (*knock on wood*) from having this phase of the renovation done.

Now, if we could just find the time to unpack!

Two Steps Forward, One Step Back

The Gingerbread Diaries


Even though we’ve closed on the house, we’re still a far cry from being done with Wells Fargo and their various departments. Still, I was surprised to get a call (then an email) from their “Retail Deficiency Management Team” (and doesn’t that sound ominous). Apparently there was a signature missing from one of the addendums (addenda? addendi?) and, you know, that’s entirely possible. Until, that is, I saw exactly which addendum it was.

Y’all, I know for a fact that I signed this paper at the closing, and I know because I signed it twice!

See, there’s this HUD/VA Addendum that has various boxes to check, but only if certain other boxes apply (usually about previous or concurrent FHA/VA loans or if we intend to rent the place, etc.), and while I was trying to decipher said boxes at the closing table, the seller and the Realtor were chatting like magpies about old dogs and daughters off at college. And between that and the fact that I skipped lunch to go to the bank and still make closing on time, it was tough to concentrate and I checked the wrong box and signed it and had to ask the attorney to reprint that page when I realized my mistake.

Which is how I know that I signed that paper. Twice. Three times if you count the fact that it was part of the disclosure packet with the original application. And, now, four times.

If you thought the closing went off without a hitch, you obviously haven’t been paying attention.

In fact, it was touch-and-go right up til the last moment: I needed to leave the office by noon to get to the bank for the cashier’s check, then get to the house for a last walk-through at 1:30, and then the closing at 2 pm. You know what we didn’t have until 12:08 pm? The amount that the cashier’s check needed to be. And even then it wasn’t official, because the attorney’s numbers and the bank’s numbers kept coming up $9.80 off.

And then, at 2pm, the attorney’s office was still generating the paperwork and the seller still needed to take said paperwork to get her husband’s signature since he was tied up at the hospital saving people’s brains and whatnot. So after about 20 minutes of semi-awkward small talk we’re finally ushered into the conference room where we round-robin signature 4 copies of the Settlement document so Mrs. K could head off with them to get the Dr’s signatures while I started in on the rest of the paperwork.

Of course, at this point I have a feeling I might be resigning documents for the next 30 years, but we have the keys and that’s what counts. Enough of last month, how are things progressing this month?!

(Direct link for the feed readers: Gingerbread Diaries 1.3: Another Leak Down–I figured out of few things, video-wise, but I’m still learning as I go as far as editing and such)

So, yeah, rumors of us having hot water were a bit premature. The missing part has arrived, though we’re still debating if we’ll make it up to the house this Friday or not to try yet another fix because of in-town social engagements this weekend. Then again, we don’t want to lose our momentum, do we? Decisions, decisions!

We’ve also discovered that the dishwasher either has a water-supply issue or a motor-grinds-it-wheels issue, but it’s not currently working. Which is a bummer, but not the end of the world.

In an unexpected upturn, we do seem to have caught a break with the rigid duct-work and the fact that it appears sound. Thank goodness! We’re still considering having the vents blown out or whatever you do to them to make sure they’re operating at peak efficiency. At some point. Maybe if I find a Groupon. The other plus, and this is a big one, is the kitchen cabinets!

Ignoring the scary paint job, there, this kitchen is going to be awesome once I'm through with it! (photo from the Realtor.com listing)

Ignoring the scary paint job, there, this kitchen is going to be awesome once I’m through with it! (photo from the Realtor.com listing)

While exploring how big the vent pipe for the stove hood was (i.e. not big at all, actually nonexistent as the hood vents back into the face of the cook) I confirmed one of my bigger hopes for the kitchen: that the soffit above the upper cabinets is purely decorative! This means we can open it up and install regular-height, glass-front cabinets to house serving dishes, my grandmother’s china, and other pretty things. I can start collecting cake stands now–I’ll actually have some place to put them!

It’s the little victories, folks.

“Roughing It” on Gingerbread Lane

The Gingerbread Diaries

It started out as a joke, that we were going to “camp out” at the new house. Turned out to be a more accurate description that we expected. After all, we had lights, water, Internet access, and all that important stuff, right?


The first Friday night we spent up there (2 weeks ago), I dragged a car-load of gear with me: an air mattress, compressor, linens, pillows, a folding table and chairs, bath towels, and even the shower curtain from the hall bath in our current rental. If I could have reached it, I would have brought my camping cot, too, to serve as a makeshift sofa, but Todd had already brought the big ladder up to Thomasville. Furnishings might have been sparse, but we had more than the average hotel room in other respects, so it all evens out.

Wine but no wine glasses--obviously I didn't think that one through 100%

Wine but no wine glasses–obviously I didn’t think that one through 100%

Before we ate supper (Burgundy Beef in the slow cooker, that I’d also brought up from home) we headed off to Lowe’s to pick up lightbulbs, a thermocouple for the hot water heater (the pilot wasn’t wanting to light, and that’s the most common fix for it), a new toilet seat (no amount of bleach was getting the old one clean), new door knobs/locks, and other odds and ends.

We discovered a few things, that evening:

  • There’s a small leak in the downstairs bath, coming from the roof–we know it’s not a plumbing issue as the water was still turned off. At least this will be addressed when the contractor gets started.
  • Speaking of water, there’s a busted pipe under the water heater/laundry room area (more on that in a bit).
  • All of the downstairs faucets exist in some sort of leaking state.
  • The plaster and lathe walls, thanks to the metal mesh that provides their structure, impede wifi signal–between the router in the living room (temporary location) and the dining room (across the hall and one room back) the signal went from fabulous to almost nonexistent; we’ll work on that!

The burst pipe was, of course, the most pressing issue and not something we could easily remedy at 9pm, in the drizzly rain. So we went from “roughing it” to near-primitive camping pretty quick! Thankfully we’d picked up a 5-gallon bucket at Lowe’s, and that (filled before we shut off the water to the house) allowed us to manually refill the tank of the commode, so at least there was that. Everything else we used bottled water for (I’d brought up a case, figuring it’d be a good idea and I didn’t know how city water was up there.)

Those finials at the ends of the pin--swoon!

Those finials at the ends of the pin–swoon!

It wasn’t all bad, though! We found out most of the downstairs doors have these awesome hinges on them, which will look amazing once I get the paint, etc. off the metal. Plus the weather was nice and cool, even if drizzly, so the 5K walk we participated in on Saturday morning was relatively comfortable. The 10K run that went by our house the following weekend would not have been so cozy!

I feel like this picture needs a hazmat warning! Years of build-up *shudder* but it's gone now!

I feel like this picture needs a hazmat warning! Years of build-up *shudder* but it’s gone now!

At any rate, my plans to start cleaning the house were a bit hindered by the lack of hot running water. I managed to get most of the crud off the bannister using bottled water and Magic Erasers before we headed back to Tallahassee.

Weekend #2 started off with far less surprises, at least of the negative kind. The Rose Festival Parade was Friday night so we walked down to the parade route, then decided to scope out the downtown Chinese place (gotta find your basics, right?). Hun Yip won’t be our go-to spot for take-out, turns out, but we’ve got a few more options to check out. We came out of dinner to find the dance party in full swing at the intersection of Jackson and Broad, stayed for the live band and then the fireworks before walking back home. It was all very Stars Hollow and I love that we’ll be able to walk downtown for a dinner out (there are so many lovely restaurants in the area) once we get truly settled in!

(For pictures of the parade, etc., check out this Facebook album.)

Saturday was the day, though! We (read as: Todd) was going to fix the pipe, repair the leaking faucets, and once and for all get the water heater’s pilot light lit! Since there wasn’t much I could do until all of that was done, I decided this was as good a time as any to start making some videos to go along with these posts! I still need to work on my editing skills, etc. but it’s not a bad start.

(Direct link for the feed readers: Gingerbread Diaries 1.1: Bread and Pipes)

I also filmed the faucet repairs but I haven’t had time to edit those, yet. I’ll add them to the YouTube playlist when I do, though. (Note to self: the night before you want to post them is not the best time to take a crash course in a new editing software!)

So glad Todd is handy with this sort of thing! Of course, if he weren't we probably wouldn't have bought the Gingerbread Dollhouse in the first place!

So glad Todd is handy with this sort of thing! Of course, if he weren’t we probably wouldn’t have bought the Gingerbread Dollhouse in the first place!

I didn’t film the hot water heater repair as it was supposed to be a simple fix. Todd described it as a 2, going in, but after an hour declared it more of an 8.5! Basic rule of thumb, everything takes longer than expected, but he eventually got everything put back into place and, yes, the pilot light finally lit! By that point it was creeping into early afternoon and Todd had some errands to run in Tallahassee, so we packed up and headed back to our other home.

We still have some issues to work out with the bathroom faucet (they don’t leak, but they also have next to no water pressure, meanwhile the tub spout flows with no problem), but at least we can leave the water main on and the major leak is fixed. Hopefully this means hot water will be in good supply for next weekends clean-a-thon!

Until next time!

Welcome to the Gingerbread Diaries!

The Gingerbread Diaries

So, yeah, this happened:


After, of course, a lot of this:


(No, we didn’t sign that much paperwork at the closing, that stack happens to be the 7.5# of paperwork generated by the loan over the last 3 months, not counting the 140+ email threads in my House folder on gmail!)

I’d love to say we went straight to this:


But, alas, Todd had to head back to work for the rest of the afternoon and I had to go do super-fun things like set up our utilities account and arrange for the all-important Internet! (While it’s true we’re not moving in for another couple months, we’ll be spending time up there before then and there’s no way we’re surviving with just our cell phones.)

I will give the City of Thomasville credit, though: they make it very easy to start an account with them. No hideous deposits (unless you’re renting, then it’s a flat $125); one-stop-shopping for electric, gas, water, sewer, trash, cable, internet, and phone; and no “window” to meet the service rep–it’s an actual appointment time thankyouverymuch!

Of course, now that we have the home, I’m just itching to put some of these to use:


But I’m afraid they’re going to have to wait until these come into play:


The house has been empty a few months, but before that it was used as a personal care home. Ironic that they didn’t care, personally, for the home, but nothing to be done about it now! Except clean every inch of the place, that is. And while some surfaces really are kind of gross (banister, I’m looking at you), it’s really the smell that’s the worst–hence the mega bottles of Febreze. It’s our best option at the moment considering none of the windows open so we can’t let Mother Nature do the airing out for us.

Also on the early to-do list is to change the locks (as the Realtor put it, ‘who knows how many people have copies of these keys’–joy!). So off to the hardware store we’ll go this weekend to take care of that, then we can make copies for the people we need to give access (aka our contractor) so that the renovation work can begin!

Thus begins the ongoing saga (hopefully more of a comedy than a tragedy) of our adventures as homeowners and caretakers to a century home!