Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Storage and more

We enjoyed the long weekend with plenty of socializing and cooking and shopping so it wasn't our most productive three day weekend but it was a good one.  And we did manage to tackle a few important projects around the house too, including making huge strides in the storage and organization departments.  The biggest advance (in my opinion, at least) was the addition of a shoe rack to the master closet.  It's 33" wide, which fits four pairs of Brian's shoes and five of mine, by 11.5" deep, with 6.5" between the top 8 shelves and 8.5" between the bottom two (for boots and taller shoes).  I have now claimed seven shelves and Brian will get three - which seems like the right distribution to me!  It's just 3/4" plywood with 1x2 trim but it looks great and adds so much usable space to the closet.  One tip if you're thinking of doing something similar - we primed the plywood after cutting it to size but before we assembled it, and then Brian used the paint sprayer to give it two coats of finish paint once it was built.  Pre-priming and then spraying was definitely better than attempting to hand paint or roll all those shelves.   

While we had the plywood out, we decided to build a shelf for the laundry closet too.  We now have two shelves to hold laundry baskets and a chopping block type countertop for storage.  The countertop is just an Ikea desktop repurposed and cut down to size - an easy and inexpensive way to get a finished look for the shelving unit.  The unit itself is freestanding and then screwed to the walls - so if we ever need to get behind the washer/dryer, we can just pull it out as one piece instead of having to disassemble the entire thing.

Other non-photogenic projects included cutting down some more tree limbs (a task that never seems to end), cleaning the gutters, and installing gutter guards after realizing that the overhanging trees were starting to create leaf dams.  In order to do that, we bought a new 26' multi-purpose ladder so we can reach the top of the house.  We're going to need to get the garage built soon to store our ever-increasing inventory of household tools!  

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Cleanup Continues

We spent the day working in the yard again, which is rapidly becoming one big construction zone.  The good news is that we wanted to kill off all the "grass" anyway - which was really just a mixture of crab grass and weeds - and driving the bobcat over it seems to be doing the trick.  The bad news, of course, is that our backyard is a construction zone!  I'm sure the neighbors are not impressed at the moment but hopefully the end product will be worth it.

We cleared out the remaining tree stumps, trimmed back a few more overhanging branches, moved some dirt around to level the yard, and staked out where the garage will go.  We submitted our revised plans to the county on Friday so we're crossing our fingers that we'll get our permits next week and can get started on construction soon thereafter.  You can see the orange painted stakes in the second picture showing the footprint - the garage is going to wind up being quite large and will have two stories (with a loft work space on the second floor) so it's going to take up a lot of room but I think the yard will still seem well organized once we get the patio and some landscaping in.  We'll find out once we get this project underway!

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Bobcat Required

We continue to work on getting the yard ready for garage foundation, driveway, and patio and the Bobcat continues to earn its keep.  We have (or had) two large tree stumps in the backyard - one old one from before we moved in and one from the tree we cut down the other week.  The old one was huge - a good two to three feet across and with gigantic roots.  I'm glad we didn't have to take that tree down ourselves but the stump was giving us plenty of trouble.  We finally settled on digging around the base, cutting the roots with the chainsaw, and then driving into it over and over with the Bobcat to try to knock it out of the ground.  I had a wedding shower to attend this afternoon and when I left, I wasn't sure this plan was going to succeed - we'd loosened the big stump quite a bit but it didn't look like it was going to come out.  When I got home, though, the Bobcat and Brian had prevailed!  The stump was by the curb and the hole had been filled in.  The newer stump then came out a bit more easily since it was smaller overall but there was still no way we could have removed it without mechanical assistance.  Another victory for the Bobcat!

Catching Up

With all the bobcat-related excitement around here, I forgot to post last weekend's other project - replacing the basement door.  As usual with an old house, there were a few complications getting the new door in, all stemming from the fact that the opening no longer was (or never had been) square.  But with a little chipping away at the brick and concrete, we got the new door to fit and trust that it will do a much better job keeping the heat in and cold out than the old wooden door used to do.  As an added bonus, we found that the old door had been insulated, in part, with newspaper stuffed around the frame.  The paper itself was dated December 11, 1955 and it looks like Calvert Liquor Shop was offering wines for $.59...we certainly could have stocked up at that price!  I wonder if that was the precursor to one of our favorite stores now, Calvert Woodley Wines.  I was tempted to add a little newspaper around the door frame as we installed this one for the next time the door is replaced but given the uncertain R-value of old paper, we opted for regular door foam instead.  Guess we'll just have to leave a time capsule somewhere else in the house...

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

So much fun

I was so excited to get home today since the weather cleared up. It was muddy out, but the Bobcat needed some exercise. There were a few things that needed moved around and a few tree stumps that were about to be owned. As you can see I did a good bit of damage. We now have a bunch of shovels and a wheelbarrow for sale... Definitely won't be using those anymore. I was thinking about renaming the blog "Shit I run over with the Bobcat." Catchy... Expect to see many Bobcat related photos and pictures of me playing in the mud the next couple of months.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

The biggest, baddest cat on the block

There is no way to say this without extra exclamation points and gratuitous capitalization - WE BOUGHT A BOBCAT!!!  Yes, it's an old model (circa 1970-something) but it's in great shape and it runs wonderfully and...oh, who am I kidding, I'd be excited about owning one even if it was a piece of junk (which it most decidedly is not). 

This all started when we decided to do the patio and yard grading ourselves (which later morphed into also doing the driveway ourselves).  We looked at renting a Bobcat - totally manageable at a few hundred dollars a weekend or several hundred per week - and then, of course, we checked out our old friend, Craigslist.  After a few weeks of browsing, we located this one, which was being sold by a guy who had done pretty much the same thing we're doing now (albeit on a much larger lot) and was finished with it.  We mulled it over, thought about how nice it would be to not be on a timeline, drove out on Saturday to see it, struck a deal, and he dropped it off this evening.  Presto, we are the proud owners of a new/old Bobcat 610!  And,  however smart (or not smart) the economics of buying a Bobcat to landscape a 7,000 sq. ft. lot may be, I'm just really, really happy to own it.  I may be a city/suburban girl now but there's something about owning farm equipment that pleases me to no end.  I'm pretty sure that Brian feels the same way because he's been driving it around out back since it arrived and is showing no sign of coming in anytime soon...

We also managed to be relatively productive around the house, finishing up some more small jobs and one big one - replacing the basement walk-out door - with pictures to follow later this week.  But without a doubt, the Bobcat is the big news of the weekend!

Tuesday, May 8, 2012


I'm a little late with this post since it's about our weekend work, but better late than never.  We added to our power tool collection on Saturday with a new 20" chainsaw and broke it in on Sunday by cutting down a big tree in the backyard.  Like so many DIY projects, we didn't think this one was going to be quite as big as it turned out to be (lesson of the day: trees look smaller while upright).  With some effort, though, we got the tree safely down and chopped up so we now have a good stack of logs for next winter, a big pile of brush for wood-chipping (thank you, Arlington, for your free brush pickup service), and some much-needed sunlight and space for two smaller trees that we planted last year.  And, with a new chainsaw in the house, we're suddenly looking forward to the next big storm.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

In order to create...

We didn't actually destroy this shed so the title reference may not be quite on point but we did manage to sell it on Craigslist to a very nice guy who proceeded to dismantle it bit by bit and take it away to be reassembled in his yard - which leaves us with room for our future garage to be built.  We originally thought the shed could be hauled away in one piece but after a little measuring, it became clear that the 8' x 8' shed would not fit through the 8' 4" opening between the house and our neighbor's fence once we accounted for the eaves.  Before we revised our ad posting and price, though, I learned that sheds are a hot commodity on Craigslist.  Our initial post practically incited a bidding war for it and a rather random email with the observation that the shed would be perfect for a chicken coop.  Having had some unpleasant childhood experiences with raising chickens (I now find them particularly delicious in barbecued form as a result), I vetoed that idea and we found someone nearby who was willing to put in a couple days of work to take the shed down and take it away.  So, in addition to getting a little cash for it, I'm happy that the shed is off to live another life because I hate throwing good material like that into a dumpster. No word yet on the new owner's chicken-raising plans.

Progress on the house has slowed down a bit over the past few weeks - as you may have noticed from the scarcity of blog posts - as we work on getting bids for the garage (generally frustrating) and have been spending a fair bit of time watching the Washington Capitals playoff run (generally fun).  On the garage, we decided to GC the project ourselves after the first round of bids came in much higher than expected.  We then had to locate subs for and bid out each part of work that we either don't want to handle or are a good cost/time benefit for us to sub out.  If all goes well, we'll sign the last contract this evening, submit for our permits next week, and get the project underway soon thereafter.  We decided to contract out the concrete work (footers, slab, driveway), framing, and roofing. We'll do the window/door/gutters installation, electrical work, siding, and all other finish work ourselves.  It'll be our first run at GC'ing a project so I'm glad we're trying this approach out on a garage first.  Without a deadline or an impact on our living area, the garage feels much lower-stakes than work on the house itself.  That's not to say, of course, that it won't be time-consuming and stressful and lead me to ask (many times) "why did this seem like a good idea??" but I'm sure it'll produce some good pictures and stories for future posts...