Archive for July, 2009

Living Room Progress

Monday, July 27th, 2009

I’m happy to report that progress is being made in the living room–slowly, but surely. Our living room is close to being ready for primer. This is due in large part to another home improvement product that is on mad’s side. Thanks to copious online research (including watching online reruns of “This Old House”) mad found Wally’s Plaster Magic (no, I didn’t made that name up). This product is designed for people with old plaster walls that have “slipped off the lath.” When this happens, your walls wiggle (which is not considered ideal). Through Wally’s multi-step process we were able to re-glue the plaster to the lath–and it worked! mad’s goal is to address things like this properly–without ripping all the character out of the house. We want to keep the sturdy, insulating, sound-proofing plaster rather than rip it down and put drywall up. Not only does it maintain the character of the house, but it is quite a bit more economical. Now that our walls don’t wiggle, we’ve been spackling and skimming with glee towards the glorious moment when we’ll be able to prime, and spirits willing, paint. mad is also trying to stick to our “one room at a time” philosophy. We quickly figured out that working through one room at a time until it’s finished is more our style–and allows us to embrace a little bit of organization in a life otherwise filled with chaos. What do we have left to do in the living room, you ask? Just a little:

  1. Scrape the loose paint off the ceiling and spackle
  2. Purchase and attach new moulding around the “fireplace”
  3. Prime the walls, ceilings, and mouldings
  4. Paint

We’ll post before and after pics when it’s done, which we’re hoping will be relatively (and I mean relatively) soon.

thank you Wally--though we think something called "magical" shouldn't require so much work

thank you Wally--though we think something called "magic" shouldn't require so much work

the little things help a lot

Thursday, July 23rd, 2009

Transitioning from a nicely apportioned, full-service apartment building to a 100-year-old house that needs a lot of work is an interesting experience.  We can accept that we’re only living in two rooms and can’t remember what it feels like to have a rug underfoot. But we cannot accept the pull-chain light in the bathroom. Allow me to explain. The bathroom upstairs has some “period” details. Like the claw-foot tub that if given the opportunity, Duckie the cat would spend all day and night hidden under. So we keep the door to said bathroom closed. This wouldn’t be a big deal if not for the pull-chain light. Do you remember these? Perhaps from when you visited your grandmother’s house in the 1970’s (because by now she’s updated it). It also wouldn’t be such a big deal if the pull-chain light was somewhere other than the middle of the room right over the shower rod. Or if we didn’t have 1,000 year old plaster walls that would infect us with typhus and destroy our humor if we tried to rip them up to install a light switch (you would have thought that Gerard the electrician saw a ghost dropping a hair dryer into a tub filled with water when we asked if he could install said switch). So by week two in the new mad maison, we were ready for one of those new-fangled geeky appliances known as a light switch. We had dreams of going into the bathroom in the middle of the night and not stubbing our toe and stumbling into the walls while keeping our legs crossed looking for the darn chain. Like Joan of Arc or Deborah from the Torah, I was motivated to act.

I saw a light emanating from my laptop. It led me to google. And the internet spoke to me. Through a fellow blogger who long since abandoned her post, I found out about the wireless light socket switch. I’ve seen (and used) similar devices for outlets, but did not know that you could get such a device for a light socket. And so, my friend fulfilled our needs and sent us the apparatus. Of course, we had to switch the light fixture out before we could use it–but once we had everything set up the fog lifted and the angels sang (or maybe that was just a cat meowing from outside the bathroom door). We can now walk into the bathroom and turn on the light with a flip of a switch. It might not be as good as an elevator, porter, and super on call, but it will placate us for a while, at least. Until we find the next little thing.

who knew this little device could inspire such prose?

who knew this little device could inspire such prose?

free at last. . .

Tuesday, July 21st, 2009
welcome to cell block maison

welcome to cell block maison

I’ve alluded to the gate on the front of the door. It was installed for reasons I’ve never been sure of–the neighborhood never warranted it. In addition to restricting light and making a lot of noise whenever someone came or went, it really set a non-mad tone for all who approached our door: “go away.” Not to mention that we felt like we were incarcerated.

It took us about 2.5 seconds to decide that it needed to come off. Of course, they call it a security gate for a reason. You can’t remove a gate like this with a screwdriver. Who did we call? The brother-man. Mi hermano is comfortable using all kinds of tools, including scary metal-cutting tools that generate crazy sparks. But with the right tool, it took him only about an hour to get the gate off.

the best door ever

the best door ever

Of course, much like Sean Connery in “The Rock” he had to wear some strange head gear and time his way under the flames just so. Needless to say, we were impressed. And while there’s still much to do (including painting the exterior of the house), getting that gate off has lightened the mood here at mad maison. We’re not sure if we’ll end up replacing the door, but right now we think it is the best door, ever.

our liberator. . . didn't anyone tell him he was already inducted into the mad hall of fame?

our liberator. . . didn't anyone tell him he was already inducted into the mad hall of fame?

checking things off

Tuesday, July 14th, 2009

OK, perhaps we’re grasping at straws, but mad is feeling pretty good today. We’ve been working hard over the past few weeks: scrubbing and scraping, and scrubbing some more. And while mad has finished tasks in the legal sense (scraping wallpaper off the living room walls, setting up our home network), today we completed something that doesn’t have another chapter. Our doorbell was broken. And when you live in a house with a scary metal gate over the front door (another task that’s almost complete), you realize having a doorbell helps. So today, thanks to spirit and wit (and a screwdriver), mad replaced the doorbell with one that actually works. Now, to say that mad completed this task is a little bit of a stretch. Mike is the member of mad that purchased the doorbell, he’s also the person who balanced himself at the top of the stepladder and removed the old, rusted doorbell, and he’s the one who installed the new doorbell. However, Mike says I participated in critical ways: the online research to diagnose the problem and suggest a remedy, reading the documentation, and handing Mike the screwdriver when he stood perched atop the stepladder. Of course, I also completed the test ringing of said bell. I admit, Mike is the real hero of mad today, but I’m happy to serve as witness and documentarian for this historic milestone.

Our completed doorbell project; please ignore the wallpaper, that's a different project.

Our completed doorbell project; please ignore the wallpaper, that's a different project.

One step forward. . .

Monday, July 13th, 2009

sometimes feels like two steps back. Such is the joy of fixing up an old house. Take our new Living Room, for example. After trying multiple methods, mad found that an over-the-counter wallpaper remover has worked best to remove the 1,000 year old wallpaper from our plaster walls. Of course, we’ve quickly realized (both through direct experience and extensive online research) that many folks back in the old days used wallpaper as a literal bandage over imperfect plaster walls. So our original plan to have the living room painted in a few days will have to wait until we receive the magic plaster repair glue. Until then, we’ll wash and spackle those parts of the wall that aren’t popping off the lath (I know, I sound just like someone on “This Old House”). And while the magic spray works wonders on that top layer of wallpaper, when there is more than one layer or ornery adhesive (or mystery substance, as in the case of our hallway), it all comes down to elbow grease. The good news is that getting all that wallpaper off in one little room gave us our first ray of hope that one day, we’ll live in the clean, organized, peaceful environment we had grown so accustomed to in Queens.

finally, a home repair resource that's on mad's side

finally, a home repair resource that's on mad's side

Back at it

Saturday, July 4th, 2009

Mad is back. While initially Mike and Denise were thrilled to have a house free of furniture to complete home improvement tasks in, we’re now happy to announce that our furniture arrived yesterday. There is no experience more sublime than sleeping in your bed, with your sheets, after over three weeks of hotel beds and air mattresses. Today, mad went beyond stripping wallpaper to removing a bunch (and by bunch I mean four) of interior doors on the main level of the house. It immediately opened the house up and made our furniture “fit” the house a little more. In addition, we’ve started the process of removing the intense security gate that my grandparents had installed (it’s a little overkill for the neighborhood). We’ve installed a piece of plexiglass over the large glass opening in the door to diffuse the light, increase privacy, and improve safety sans gate. When I find my camera under the boxes, I’ll share more. To follow up on our previous post, things have improved on the infrastructure front. We now have a fully-functional bathroom with a working shower and toilet, and the electrician has started to improve our power situation with more improvements slated for Tuesday (by which time we should even have a working doorbell). Happy fourth of July for everyone in the states!