Gingerbread Diaries | Episode 2.1 No Drippy!

The Gingerbread Diaries

It’s somewhat fitting (if a little frustrating) that we begin our second year of home repairs with more plumbing issues. But that’s the way it goes, and it actually turned out better than it could have.

(Direct link for the feed readers: Gingerbread Diaries 2.1: No Drippy!)

The worst-case scenario in this situation involved cutting a large chunk out of the ceiling. The upside is that it would have forced the issue on redoing the back hallway (which sorely needs it). To refresh your memory, this is the part of the house that used to be porch and was later enclosed. It’s pretty obvious that most of the issues with this particular add-on are from shoddy work when it was enclosed. Most of the issues wouldn’t have been very big while it was still breezeway or what have you, but the exterior that’s now interior has some severe, long-term water damage that will require new drywall at the very least, and possibly more once we actually open up the walls.

And when we tackle the drywall on the bathroom side of the hall, then we might as well deal with the water damage in the bathroom, as well (that was due to the roof, roof, not roof but window casing ridiculousness). But my plan is to do more than just replace the ceiling and drywall in there, I want to completely overhaul that room. It happens to be the worst laid out bathroom I’ve ever seen, but it can be improved it we rearrange the fixtures to better use the small space (approx. 5.5’x9′) and it won’t even be horrific as far as the plumbing is concerned because I can reuse the hot and cold lines that currently run to the sink for the tub.


For the visual learners among us (myself included).

What’s not pictured is a window  in the center of the exterior wall. Yes, a window on a ground-floor bathroom that looks into the shower. The reset will put the window in line with the door for natural light (said window currently being blocked by a shower curtain) and a more appropriate placement.

Sure, it’ll mean moving the door as well as the pipes, but the current state of the downstairs bathroom door shows that it was, at some former time, forcibly opened. We can only presume that one of the patients of the personal care home that was found themselves on the wrong side of the door one way or another. But replacing it will not be much of a hardship. I think one of the upstairs closet doors is the right side, should we want to keep to the current diminutive stature (that is, barely 2′ wide and short enough that our tall guests have to duck).

Getting back to the point, I’m glad it wasn’t a worst case scenario for many reasons. Pretty high up on that list is the prospect of our annual Halloween party and not wanting the guest bath under construction with such a deadline looming. So the back hall and downstairs bath will continue in their functional if not optimal conditions while I work on a new project which just presented itself. (Hint: follow me on instagram to see what I’m up to over the next month.)

Honesty is the Best {Renovation} Policy

The Gingerbread Diaries

During one of our many trips to Lowes, I remembered our Brita pitcher had been flashing “change soon” the last few pours. But I had a dilemma: did I buy the single filter or the 3-pack? I waited for Todd to catch up to where I’d wandered and asked him:

Will you have the water filter installed in one filter’s lifespan or should I get the 3?

We got the three-pack.

It wasn’t that Todd was putting off the filter decision and installation on purpose, it was more than we had so many other things going on that using the filtered pitcher for drinking water bumped the whole-house filter down the list quite a ways. Plus, I appreciated his honesty.

I think this is one of those examples of why Todd and I have never fought in the 7 years we’ve been together: we ask questions and respect the answers. I could have just picked up the single pitcher filter with the expectation of him completing the larger task in the 1-2 months it would last and been frustrated when it wasn’t, that disappointment leading to an argument. He could have assured me that he’d get it done despite knowing that he probably wouldn’t, setting up yet another opportunity for drama. No, instead he was honest about the likelihood of getting to that line item, we got what we needed, and avoided that whole sitcom-level miscommunication bit that the media conditions us to expect.

And, for the record, he installed an under-sink filter in the kitchen during the second filter’s tenure.

Which brings up another lesson we’ve learned in the last few months:

Just because it's the right thing to do, doesn't mean it's the thing to do right now!

Just because it’s the right thing to do, doesn’t mean it’s the thing to do right now!

That bit of wisdom was realized during a leak issue that I’m not ready to talk about just yet, but it applies to the water filter decision, too. Originally the plan was to install a whole-house filter for particles, etc. and then an under-sink filter in the kitchen for taste. Todd bought the whole-house filter but when the time came to install it, he realized it wasn’t quite that simple.

Because of the way the house was built and then later added onto, we have 3 different supply lines running into the house. Basically, one for each of the bathrooms and one for the kitchen that has an offshoot to the water heater. This meant that a single access point to place the filter was not feasible. It also means that when we start the room-by-room renovations (of which the kitchen and bathrooms are foremost in importance) we’re going to be doing some rerouting of the pipes.

With the recent drop in temperatures we also realized that these 3 supply lines meant that we’d need to leave a faucet in each wet room running to prevent burst pipes during the overnight freeze warnings. The right thing to do is obvious: repipe the house. But it sure as hell isn’t the thing to do right now!

So we punted. Todd bought an under-sink filter for the kitchen and got it installed a few weeks ago. Of course, we’re so used to the Brita pitcher after the past few months that we haven’t gone back to our old habit of refilling water bottles to keep in the fridge, but at least now we can drink from the kitchen tap or fill a pot without worrying about how the water will affect the flavor of the meal. I’m also happy to report that the filter does not appear to slow the flow from the faucet at all (a big concern of mine with the under-sink option) and the actual filter will only need to be changed twice a year.

Of course, the filter is sitting perched on a plastic container inverted into another, larger, plastic container to keep it level and to catch any drips (just in case) because there’s no clear space to actually mount it to the wall under the sink thanks to the aforementioned creative plumbing solutions of the previous owners.

Again. Right thing versus right for now.

Something That Looks Strangely Like Progress

The Gingerbread Diaries

I’m happy to report that things are progressing well, over all, at the Gingerbread Dollhouse, even though we haven’t been up there in a couple of weeks (first missed weekend was spent at a convention, then the next one we just needed a quiet weekend at home to recover from the previous one!). Of course, when we were last there, we (and by we, I once again mean Todd) went for another round with the hot water heater (which I realize is rather redundant, and yet I seem to always default to that instead of just water heater–I’ll work on it).

[Direct link for feed readers: Gingerbread Diaries, Ep. 1.4: Todd vs the Hot Water Heater (redux)]

Look out, y’all! I found the speed controls and some background music; before you know it I’ll almost look like I know what I’m doing! But seriously, I’m making an effort to keep the videos rather short and single-topic, so this is the first part of “weekend 4” and there’s at least 1 more part to add to our Gingerbread Diaries Playlist on YouTube, so make sure you subscribe to not miss anything (not all of them will be embedded in posts).

While Todd was working on the water heater, I was taking care of another small chore that I’d been meaning to do since we bought the house: smudging.

You might think I’m a bit off, or maybe you agree with me, but with new spaces (and old houses especially), you just never know what kind of energy has been left behind. Between the 100+ years the house has stood and in light of the last 10 years or so spent as a personal care home, there’s bound to be some negative vibes hanging around that we could just do without. I actually don’t mind if the house is haunted–it might add some character, you never know–but I’d like only happy haunts if you don’t mind. To that end, I went room by room, window by window, and door by door, with a smoking bundle of sage and sweetgrass to help cleanse the area. If nothing else, it felt like a productive thing and gave me a bit more peace of mind when I went to sleep that night.

In fact, it might have been the first night I slept easily and soundly in that house!

We even slept in until 10am–almost unheard of for Todd–and only got up when the doorbell rang. It was a neighbor from down the street wanting to chit chat about the house and it was only after he’d left that I looked in the mirror and realized what a mess my hair was, not to mention the raccoon eyes and lack of bra. Great first impression that one. (At least I was wearing shorts and a long-sleeved tee instead of something more nighty-like!)

He wasn’t our only visitor this weekend, either! One of Todd’s former coworkers knocked on the door to take a peek inside the place and we were happy to show her around (despite the construction clutter). We haven’t even moved in yet and we’ve had more people stop by and say hello from the neighborhood than we have in the 3.5 years we’ve lived in our current home! Once again, Thomasville shows itself to be a true southern town.

The new flooring in the upstairs bath.

The new flooring in the upstairs bath.

Since that visit Todd’s been kind enough to drop by the house and take pictures of the progress so I don’t feel so out of the loop! In the last 2 weeks they’ve replaced the vinyl flooring that was in horrible shape with a rather nifty sheeting that looks like wood planks. Since I’d told them to find the cheapest replacement out there I was expecting plain white or brown flooring so this is an unexpected treat. We’ll be replacing it all as we do the room-by-room renovations (hence the request for cheap and serviceable) over the years but this’ll hold us better than expected while we decide what to do next.

They've repaired the brick pillars at the back (the culprits for our "structural" issues) and installed lattice skirting to enclose the crawlspace.

They’ve repaired the brick pillars at the back (the culprits for our “structural” issues) and installed lattice skirting to enclose the crawlspace.

There were almost enough recovered cut-work spindles to reassemble the railing on the side of the porch, looks like they only had to cut 1 new one.

There were almost enough recovered cut-work spindles to reassemble the railing on the side of the porch, looks like they only had to cut 1 new one.

And they've even built us new railings on the ramp/stairs (the ramp is staying until we get moved-in, we figured it might make things easier for moving furniture).

And they’ve even built us new railings on the ramp/stairs (the ramp is staying until we get moved-in, we figured it might make things easier for moving furniture).

Aside from a few odds and ends inside, the last big push is to get the exterior scraped and then the big finish: painting!

“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!