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Phase One – Patio

23rd May 2012


Our first project is to rehab the existing deck originally built about 25 years ago. The structure was sound but it did need a little TLC to bring back to peak condition. I decided to cut back on the size a bit and reclaim the wood to rebuild the pergola. Cutting back 6 feet along the entire length of the deck would give me enough lumber to extend the deck at the back and redesign the pergola into a cabana. The new footprint also provided a much wider path to the back yard.

The lumber I needed to buy were 4 x 4 posts for the railings, 4 x 6 posts for the cabana and just a few 2 x 4’s for the railings and cedar fencing for the skirt and 1 x 6 decking for the bench seat and railing cap. Lumber and hardware the total was less than $500.00 which was very close to what I expected, however the orignal budget would not survive much more into the reno.

For the most part the cabana was my design. Carri had the idea to extend the roof over the back of the deck so that she would have shade and shelter from rain when using the grill, so that was incorporated into the design. The hipped roof design was basically a remake of a sunroom I built for my brother many years ago. That design used plexi glass panels for the roof decking but the cost of doing this would have been out of line. I still had almost 5 gallons of oil based deck sealer that i used for the decking, but I sprung for a good quality acrylic for the cabana and railings so I could spray it on.

We considered a thatched roof, architectural shingles and cedar shake roofing; all of which were far outside budget considerations. I finally settled on remnant awning canvass which I got for under $70.00. It may not last more than 3 or 4 years but it is a very nice interim solution. We considered many options for the railing also. Originally, I thought I would rip the reclaimed decking into balusters. By the time I finished the cabana, there wasn’t much decking left. the next consideration was pvc lattice\, but that would have been too much like the old design. We tried reed fencing, but could find the right dimensions, so in the Carri won out and we we went with carbonized bamboo roll fencing. It was a budget buster but all in all the best choice. For skirting the deck I used cedar fencing of different widths. I created several removable panels so that we can store things under the deck.

As soon as I finished the bench and table, I turned the project over to Carri complete the design and decorating. We painted the old patio furniture and Carri bought a few plants and tables for a start. We will see where it goes from here.

Just Pics for Now

04th May 2012


We are just about ready to start our 2012 home renovation projects, but before we can begin we have a few projects to complete. We moved into our 2012 renovation the first part of October. The move was lengthy due to the fact we also had to re-establish a shop in the new place, but that is a story for a later date. Once we had moved out of our old home, we had a lot of work to do to get the place ready to rent.

The first task was to redo the cracks in the sheet rock and repaint. Once this was done it was time to redo the floor. We went with an inexpensive laminate floating floor from Lumber Liquidators. I’ve always said I would never use a fake wood flooring product, but in this case I couldn’t resist the low cost. We will see how it wears in a rental unit but I will have to say I am impressed with the ease of installation. It doesn’t look too bad either.

The field of floor took an afternoon to install. The snap and lock system is very easy to install. Trimming out the baseboards and transitions between the laminate and carpet or tile took another afternoon. I made the the transitions out of 1×4 oak flooring ripped into 3/8 x 4″ strips. I beveled the edges and finished with polyurethane. Using finish screw with plastic anchors installed into the concrete slab. Once again I made my own quarter round from flat stock poplar.

I used the sprayer to paint the ceiling so there was a lot of over spray on the soffit above the kitchen cabinets. Instead of repainting, I decided to cover them using 12×12 inch vinyl tiles. Another inexpensive easy way to dress up the place.

The final task was to install the closet doors. That was one project that we had intended to do for the last 4 years. We considered several different styles of doors but in the end we decided went with a sliding track and slab doors that match the rest of the doors in the house.


Except for some miscellaneous minor repairs the place was ready to put on the market right before Christmas. We put an ad in Craigslist to sell or rent the property but the only inquiries we had where from real estate agents. That wasn’t a surprise but we were disappointed with the few rental inquiries we got. The last 2 times we put a house on the rental market, they were rented the same day we made them available. The good news was that right after January first we began to get quite a few inquiries about renting the property.

Once again we opted to go with a Tulsa Housing Authority (THA) Section 8 Program. We will get about $125.00 a month less each month than a normal lease, but the peace of mind that we get the rent on time each month is priceless. Unfortunately getting a property to pass the THA inspection process can have a price. Once we had a rental prospect I went through the property carefully looking for anything that might cause the inspection to fail. I made sure I had the proper ventilation in the hot water furnace closet. I added ground fault interupts (GFI) near all sources of water, and tested each recepticle around the house for proper ground. I was confident the place would pass easily, but I was wrong.

The inspector arrive right on time and met me in the garage while I was sweeping the floor. She immediately stopped at the garage door and pulled out her note pade and began to make notes. She let me know that the garage door opener must have a dedicated outlet near the motor. The extension cord I was using would not be allowed, even though it was a 12 gauge cord. She then went to the utility closet. Once again she began to make notes. I assumed that she would tell me that I would have to raise the hot water heater an other inch off the floor, but instead she said that the PVC relief drain I was using needed to be changes to brass, copper or CPVC. It had something to do with the fire rating of schedule 10 PVC. I was a little disappointed at this stage but at least both of the were very simple fixes.

By this time the prospective renter had arrived and I left the inspector while she was checking outlets for ground, to greet the renter. I took here around the garage and explained the issues the inspector brought up. By the time I caught up with the inspector, she was once again making notes. She was standing by the master bedroom windows. She mentioned that the small window size bothered her. Even though these windows were the same size as the original windows, they were too small for todays code. Bedroom windows must be large enough that a typical adult can crawl out of them in case of a fire. She told me that it would have to be replaced. Now this was a huge surprise, but I immediately agreed to replace the window. I even told her that ti would be done the same day. Although I don’t think she believed my, nor did the tenant, the inspector agreed to come back the next morning to reinspect. I was on my way to Lowes while the inspector and tenant were still in the driveway.

I picked up a single stock sliding window that would closely match the opening of the two small windows I would be replacing. The sliding window was the same height but about 8 inches narrower that the existing opening. I stopped by our new house to get as many tools as I thought I would need and returned to the rental property. With in an hour I had the old window removed and the rough opening reframed with new window installed with 2 screws just too keep it from being blow out by the wind. I took inventory of any additional supplies and tools I would need and went back to Lowes and home to restock. Carri came by after work about 4 and helped clean up while worked on the hot water drain and outlet for the garage opener. By 8:00 that night I had the window intalled and trimmed and ready for paint the next morning. The inspector arrive just as I was cleaning the paint brushes the next morning. She compliment me on the job, and signed off on the inspection.

Looking at the picture it doesn’t really look like ther is much difference between the window sizes. However, there is a significant difference between the size of the opening when the window is open. It would have been very difficult for a normal adult to crawl though the original window in an emergency. In the end it was time and money well spent.

Well, the tenant has moved in, and I finally get a break. Or at least I can begin working on our new house. I can’t wait to start on it and begin the blogging process on the experience. This next project is going to be fun!

Wrap it Up … It’s taken

21st November 2011


We actually finished this project in May of this year, but due to an abrupt job/career change and life in general, I haven’t had much time to complete this project blogging. Since I have a little time during the Thanksgiving Holiday, I will bring this story to a close. WE ended up renting this house for several reasons. Firstly, the short term capital gains on selling this property would eat up too great a percentage of the profits. Secondly, we erroneously thought that the market would not support a sale at this time. I say erroneously since the property just down the street, that we had passed on, sold for a very handsome profit. Anyway the renter has already expressed the desire to buy the property so in the end we will come out of this in great shape.

Let’s start with the finished project and back-track to where I left off.

The last three interior finish projects where the den, laundry/pantry, and bath. Finishing the den simply involved laying carpet. Carri found another great deal at the Mill Creek bone yard on a remnant of industrial carpet. It was the perfect choice for this application.

The pantry required a great deal of time and effort. I made a few initial executive decisions with Carri’s input. First, I decide that the wall where too far gone to try and repair the plaster, so the plaster had to go. A secondary benefit was that the open wall cavities would allow me to re-frame the existing large drafty window with a smaller double pane energy efficient model, and the open wall cavities would make it easy insulate and re-plumb the laundry. It was a long dirty job, but in the long run, the right decision.

Carri overruled me on the pantry floor. I originally thought that vinyl sheet flooring would be the way to go, but Carri disagreed and rightfully so. The cost between vinyl and big box store ceramic tile, on a per square foot basis is negligible. Vinyl would install a little more quickly, but the durability and look of tile made this an easy about face.

The final results where worth the effort. In the end we had a spacious laundry/pantry area that included a re-purposed kitchen cabinet. I took the pantry unit and added a couple of pieces of hardboard that I painted with blackboard paint. The cost difference between masonite hardboard and a quart of chalkboard paint compared to cabinet grade oak veneer plywood was substantial. It looked great and was definitely functional.

The bath had been redone already but we were unhappy with the quality of the work done on the tile. We stripped the tile to the accent strip and re-tile from there on up including the ceiling. We also replaced the two porcelain soap dishes with a niche built into the front of the shower. This gave the bath surrround a much more finsihed look.

The final touch for this project was to insulate the attic. In the past I have always used blown cellulose in the attic. This time I decided to try blown fiberglass. I was pleasantly surprised with how easy it was to install. Cellulose tend to clog easily in the blower. A great deal of time is lost unclogging the machine. There was no problem with the fiberglass. We installed 30 bags in about 90 minutes. Even though it is slightly more expensive, I will definitely continue to use this in the future.

That wraps up the Denver Street project. It was a lot of work but a lot of fun. Now that we have had a few months rest we are already preparing for our 2012 project. We will be renting out our current residence, the 2007 project, but first we will install a floating floor in the living room and add sliding doors to the closets. Once rented, we will begin on our “Dream House”. Looking forward to blog on this new project.

The new den originally was a covered porch on the back of the house. The previous owner had closed it in, framed in a raised floor on top of the concrete slab but never completed the renovation. Raising the floor made the existing concrete steps too low and unusable. We decided to add a small deck on the back rather than just rebuild the steps from the door. I had a good idea of what I wanted to do with the deck, but as I began to dig the post holes, my plan began to change. The first two attempts at digging holes uncovered buried obstacles so I adjusted my plan at each obstacle. Before long I decided to just let the ground conditions, materials on hand, and my imagination dictate the shape of the deck.

Once I had the post set, I laid out a line on all post level with the top of the ledger board bolted onto the house. Using this line a a guide I notched out each post to accept the 2×6 joists around the perimeter.

Once the shell was built the decking went on quickly. The basic deck took less than an afteernoon to build. The steps and railing would take a little bit longer to complete.

The stairs consisted of a small deck landing one step down from the main deck. The stringer cut from 2 x 10’s were attached to the landing ti create the rest of the stair. The rail is constructed with 3/4 inch PVC and Pressure treated pine 2×4, with a cap made from the standard 1×4 decking. I extended the posts and wrapped them in decking to hid the joints. The entire project cost about $200.00. In the future I would like to add another level or 2 to the deck. But for now it is functional and useful.

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