Saturday, May 12, 2012

Old House, New Home

Murphys, Ca -- We had been almost casually looking for a little house down the hill from our cabin home, a place we could escape to when the winter snows get too deep (as they did last year).

Our Realtor friend Carmela call on a Thursday, we looked at the property that Friday, made an offer that night and closed within 30 days. I think that was a month ago.

The pace has been fast ever since.

But first, a description:
House Number One (I'll explain that later) where we currently live with plans someday for adequate furniture, is a two story home built 80 years ago to house a doctor and his family, and maybe his office. The original house was built in the 1930s as part of a San Joaquin County Tuberculosis Sanatorium, a state-run place in the Golden Hills of California away from the miasma of the Valley winters and the heat of the summers. 
The house has been expanded through the years to about 2,200 square feet, a lot of fixups had been done, but it still has some interesting characteristics and challenges.  Murphys has transformed meanwhile into a tourist destination featuring more than 20 wine tasting rooms, several high end places to eat,  music somewhere every weekend night, and the world's best bakery about five blocks from our home.

We have polished oak floors in every room, white oak in the older part and red oak in the newer section.  The ceilings are coved, cabinets built in,  and  the walls are plaster over lathe.

The roof is nearly new.

The kitchen cabinets are all new, as are the polished concrete counter tops. The windows are new too. and everything had a fresh coat of paint (Real Estate Neutral for color).

The heating system was brand new.

The bathrooms had new fixtures and new sculptured concrete showers.

Best of all, there is a yard full of oaks and cedars and Catawba, lots of flowers, and a hundred foot tall Giant Sequoia right across the street in an undeveloped lot.

We have a three car detached garage, the biggest in our fairly long home-owning lives.

On the challenge side, you could add "but not completely finished" after every plus. For example, all appliances had been stripped out and the cabinets not completed. All light fixtures were gone, including ceiling lights and fans. When we opened the caps in the ceiling over the electrical wires, it spat sparks at us. The heat did not work because the gas pipes leaked like a sieve, and the air conditioning system  was never actually installed. The garage doors are stuck shut.

The plumbing had been hand tightened, so sinks leaked.

The lovely new stone patio was cracked from the concrete settling, and the shade cover was never installed, just footings in place.

The fancy heater insert made for the fireplace was missing.

The plants had not been cared for in two years or so, so we had a riot of greenery when Spring showed up.

And two days after we paid for a home inspection we had the biggest rain storm of the year, and the basement was slowly filling with water. Someone removed the sump pump.

 In other words, this is a handyman's dream and we are having the time of our lives.

With the exception of a few surprises, we knew what we were getting into: a great old house that needs a lot of love and care.

From Day One friends and family have helped with the important stuff.  My son-in-law spent every spare minute for a week chasing down every gas leak and fixing them all in time for us to have a working heat system on cool mornings. He also was on emergency call when the basement flooded, and helped with the pumping out chores. He has every skill needed, and I just regret he needs his day job to support his wife and my hungry grandchildren.

My cabin neighbor Dave showed up and fixed most of the electrical stuff, and various others have consulted, helped, or have signed up for next month's projects.

Our young friend Skip whom we've known since he was in high school in Modesto finished off the kitchen cabinetry, including amazing custom work.

Friends Emily and Judy showed up early with yard tools and high energy to help get the jungle outside under control. Mary came and loaned us lamps so we could have some light.
Kelly and Tracey and George and Andy were available to do a lot of the hard stuff, like making seven or eight trips to the dump with debris and garbage pulled out of the basement and and the yard, cleaning windows and polishing floors, fixing plumbing problems, and cleaning everything from top to bottom. Diana brought us a meal, and Dave and Meg gave us a plant.

Other friends provided endless support.

And we have met a lot of skilled contractors, eager to help.  We are on a first name basis with plumbers, electricians, air conditioning folk and a wood floor expert. 

We welcome almost daily the chance to take a break to give guided tours to neighbors and friends who drop by, curious to see what we are up to.

Pat and I have been busy working and buying and discovering stuff we need, and what we don't, for several weeks now.

I have changed every lock, installed sump pumps, sprayed bleach on mold, and found I am not too old to put on knee pads and crawl through the buggy crawl-space to see what I can discover. (Yes, I wear eye protection and a hepa-filter breathing mask when exploring the unknown.)
The final appliance (a built-in oven) is due to arrive next week, as is the tile man who will rework the bathroom floors.

We bought a new bed and dining table from a local furniture store, and have been haunting Craigslist, thrift stores (a sofa), yard sales (a like-new recliner), non-profit sales (side tables), and estate and garage sales.

I have researched French Drain Construction, wood restoration and stucco work. Pat has spent hours researching ratings on appliances, measuring toilet seats, planning her garden, and trying to figure out how to cover windows that are open to the street immediately in front of the house.  We have a budget (I'll let you know how THAT works out in six months.)

The cashiers at Lowes know us well, and we expect to be on a first-name basis by next week.

We entered a new phase this morning: Pat spent the day in Sonora returning items we purchased that did not fit, or work out. We've learned to keep receipts and packaging.

The kitchen works, The bed is in place. The windows are covered (temporarily), the plumbing works, and we have a place to sit and lights to read by. Oh yes, and the biggest TV in our lives and high speed internet.

Tomorrow, we are taking the day off.

Then Monday, it's back at it.

And the next blog will talk about House Number Two.