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infinitenexus Reader
9/23/19 7:33 a.m.

Unfortunately we didn't get much done this weekend.  My wife is still recovering from Pneumonia.  We went and saw the new Rambo movie, which was awesome in that way only a Rambo movie can be.  We did hopefully fix our dying plants up front.  I pulled them up, dug the holes larger and added some nice new dirt and replanted them and watered them pretty heavily all weekend.  I think they'll make it.  Got a little bit done in the kitchen but not enough for pictures.  I'm working on finishing painting the fronts to the drawers and cabinets right now.  Them being so dark before, white paint doesn't cover them well.  I probably should have used a primer.  Oh well.  Hopefully I can get something done tonight.  We're getting to the point that we need to buy stuff to really make some progress, and we're broke so buying stuff isn't always an easy possibility.  One step at a time.

infinitenexus Reader
10/17/19 9:12 a.m.

Ouch, 3 weeks since my last update.  Haven't gotten a ton done in that time period unfortunately.  Got some more drywall up on the living room ceiling (I'll post pictures when it's done, it's awful right now) and FINALLY found the right gray for the living room.  I now have 5, yes 5 different grays on the walls.  Each one looked good in the store and horrible at home.  But you know what they say, fifth time is the charm.

I installed a new door knob and deadbolt on the front door.  The old ones were, well, old and loose and wobbly.  Pretty simple install, about $25 total for both and now they're nice and shiny brass.  I took some pictures but pictures of a doorknob aren't very exciting.

We've decided against a backsplash in the kitchen.  We can't decide on a tile that would look right so we'll just leave the wall there.  This weekend we'll start taking the upper cabinets down off the wall and shopping for some new ones on FB Marketplace or craigslist.  Once that's done and the paint touched up around it, all we'll need in the kitchen is a new fridge.  

The weather is getting nice and chilly!  Unfortunately I ran my heating oil tank dry last winter, because I was expecting to switch my furnace over to natural gas.  Well, I haven't had the money for that so now I just have no heat.  After work today we're picking up 5 gallons of diesel and we'll pick some more up each day so we can start turning the heat on.  Diesel is the same as heating oil - actually it's slightly more refined and burns cleaner - and it's cheaper, so win-win.  Getting it 5 gallons at a time kinda sucks though, but whatever.  I'm going to get those reflective barriers behind our radiators for this winter.  Any improvement in efficiency is welcomed.  

Also picked up a handful of new light switches that I need to replace and some electrical outlets.  I think the next thing I spend money on is going to be acquiring tile for the bathroom shower area.  

The crysanthemums up front are still struggling, but our rose bushes are making it.  I'm probably going to just pull up the mums and replace them with roses.  I like the roses better anyways.  I need to rake up all the mulch, lay down a barrier like a black trash bag or something, and then cover that with the mulch so little weeds will stop popping up.  

Another big goal, in about two weeks, is to rent a truck from Lowe's or Uhaul or something again and pick up the remaining drywall I need for the living room and haul a bunch of crap to the dump.  Slowly but steadily getting there.

Robbie UltimaDork
10/17/19 10:44 a.m.

wait did you know the staircase was there at all? like was it still useable? or did you find an extra totally hidden staircase in your house (not a small thing to hide). 

infinitenexus Reader
10/17/19 11:55 a.m.

The staircase was always there and usable, it was just sandwiched between a main, normal wall and an odd later addition wall that blocked off the living room strangely.  Now there's only the one main wall alongside the stairs and they're open to the living room, which looks awesome.  

Agent98 Reader
10/18/19 6:44 a.m.

I wonder if the siding can be power washed. Looks like Frankford/ Rosedale area...if so, that's not a bad part of B-town, relatively speaking....

84FSP SuperDork
10/18/19 6:53 a.m.

Looking good sir.  What's under all the drop ceilings?  Theoretically it could have some nice tall ceilings and maybe crown hiding under there?  This brings me back to the 1880's home I renovated over seven years, beautiful but poor life choice on my part.

infinitenexus Reader
10/18/19 1:43 p.m.
Agent98 said:

I wonder if the siding can be power washed. Looks like Frankford/ Rosedale area...if so, that's not a bad part of B-town, relatively speaking....

Very close, Overlea.  I wouldn't bother with powerwashing the siding, it's all faded from the sun.  It needs to be repainted but now that it's getting colder I don't know if I'll be able to.

infinitenexus Reader
10/18/19 2:00 p.m.
84FSP said:

Looking good sir.  What's under all the drop ceilings?  Theoretically it could have some nice tall ceilings and maybe crown hiding under there?  This brings me back to the 1880's home I renovated over seven years, beautiful but poor life choice on my part.

Oh this is the annoying thing.  The drop ceilings are inches below the plaster ceiling.  There's basically no reason for it to even be there.  I hate it.  Ceilings on the first floor are 9 feet tall, which is nice until I have to screw drywall up there.

I wasn't enjoying it being 62 degrees in the house so I grabbed my 5 gallon gas can and made two trips to the gas station and picked up some diesel.  I threw it in the tank and then went into the basement to try to figure out how to light the furnace.  Lighting my hot water heater wasn't hard so I figured this would be easy.  Well, I didn't see a single way to do it.  I grew up in Florida so heaters aren't exactly my specialty haha.  Finally I saw a little red button that said "reset" on it and pressed that and poof, it started right up!  I have to keep my thermostat way down until I get some more fuel in there.  So this weekend I'll make a few more trips and get 5 gallons each time.  The reason I just buy diesel 5 gallons at a time is because it burns cleaner and it's cheaper - $2.95/gallon at the nearby gas station, versus about $3.40/gallon if I had some heating oil delivered.  That times 240 gallons equals a good bit of savings, plus I'm able to pay $10 here, $20 there instead of getting a $600 bill after each delivery.

This weekend I should be plenty busy with the house.  Hopefully I'll be able to post a nice big update Monday morning.

BrianC72gt New Reader
10/18/19 2:35 p.m.

If you are going to drywall over the plaster ceilings, and there is no existing crown moulding to worry about here's a tip:  

Pick up a bundle of metal furring channel.    __/********\__     It's wherever they keep the framing studs.  Mount then perpendicular to the ceiling rafters (or joists) at 16" on center.  This way if you plan to install recessed lighting, you can run the BX wire across very easily.  It also gives you a chance to level things up, hide any structural sins, and line up nicely for screwing in the drywall.  If you are working solo, make a deadman to hold the sheetrock up while you wrestle with the screwgun.  Deadman is a letter "T"  maybe with a slightly wider foot that's as tall as the ceiling that you wedge underneath to hold up the board a bit while you do the same with your head while swearing at the screws you just dropped on the floor.  I think you can rent a holder-upper gizmo nowadays for pretty cheap.

Think about your layout.  You don't want tiny cuts in the corners.  You can always start 16" out from the wall and use a 16" filler.  lay it out on the floor or the wall and play around with it before you start hanging boards.  Stagger the 4'seams on the ends of the boards, the sides are tapered so they disappear.

Have fun.


wvumtnbkr UberDork
10/18/19 2:44 p.m.

Probably too late now, but maybe some knowledge for future use.....   


If you buy home heating oil in summer it can be WAY cheaper....

orthoxstice New Reader
10/19/19 9:28 a.m.

I bought a $10k house just outside of Pittsburgh that was built on a 45 degree slope by a Hungarian steelworker in 1900. Some day I'll tear out the drop ceiling and paneling, but I'm in grad school so that will have to wait. LUCKILY it got rewired in 1999, so no knob and tube or anything like that.

This thread is a nice, vicarious way for me to experience old home repair. 

infinitenexus Reader
10/21/19 7:18 a.m.

In reply to orthoxstice :

About half of my house is still old knob and tube wiring.  I'm not electrician and I can't afford to pay one, but I know a couple things so I'm replacing what I can.  Right now I'm slowly drywalling the living room ceiling and I'm at a pause because I have some wiring I have to redo before I cover it up with drywall.  Gotta figure out how I want to do it first.  That old wiring wasn't color coded or anything, so even replacing a light switch (most of my house still has the old push button light switches) can be tricky, in figuring out which wire is which.  

Today I'm going to finish painting a few details and installing them, then I should be able to snap a picture of the kitchen and post it.  Finally some progress.

My wife met a gentleman that flips houses for a living - most recently he bought one for 600K, renovated it, and is selling it for 1.3 million.  She told him about our house and he's very interested and is coming to see it next weekend.  My fingers are crossed super hard!  If he makes us an offer we can live with, we'll just drop everything and sell right away and move down to Florida.  I want to hurry up and finish some stuff to make the house look more presentable for him, but at the same time I know he'd do a total gut and rebuild so I also want to leave things as is, so it's less work for him and he can see the guts of the house better.  Either way I'll try to finish painting things.  I got most of the living room walls painted now, just waiting on the ceiling and then patching a ton of plaster to finish that.  

infinitenexus Reader
10/23/19 6:54 a.m.

Never worked with plaster before.  I mixed and applied about a gallon of the stuff and it gave me some respect for the guys that applied the original stuff.  I don't know how they got such smooth surfaces.  Finished painting the kitchen, all the little details and the backsplash area, and started removing those awful steel cabinets from the 1950s.  I took a picture but it's ugly and I need new blinds for the windows as well, because the current old ones are an eyesore.  Guy is coming over to see the house Thursday so we're just going to focus on cleaning everything for now.

classicJackets Dork
10/23/19 7:07 a.m.
infinitenexus said:

........ Finished painting the kitchen, all the little details and the backsplash area, and started removing those awful steel cabinets from the 1950s.  

To some extent, these are in again, if they're in good shape. They may not be ideal for the main kitchen cabinets, but for a bar station or something I see them re-painted and re-purposed pretty often, especially if they still have the early hardware.

infinitenexus Reader
10/25/19 8:00 a.m.

So hopefully some excellent news!  A realtor came over today, a guy that specializes in flipping houses.  He took a look at the house and loved it, all the quirks and old charm.  He believes it can sell as-is for $150K, which is our goal.  He told us to stop working on it and not to put any more money in it, just clean it out and in a week he'll put it up on the market.  So we're going to rent another pickup from uhaul and take a bunch of crap to the dump (old ceiling tiles and stuff like that) and start boxing up what we own.  Fingers crossed it won't be on the market very long and we'll be heading down to a new life in Florida soon.


So far I've kept pretty well to the challenge budget thing though.  Total cost so far is only in the hundreds.  Had I finished the wiring and drywall on the living room ceiling I would have hit just over $1,000 total.  

camaroz1985 HalfDork
10/25/19 9:47 a.m.

If your area is anything like up here in PA, it won't be on the market long.  Two family members recently sold their houses and neither was on the market for more than 4 days and both had multiple full price offers.  Good luck with your sale!

infinitenexus Reader
11/11/19 7:49 a.m.

Finally some pictures and real updates!  So we talked with this realtor that thinks we can sell it as-is and he gave us a week to clean everything up and then we would put it on the market.  Well, we started painting rooms just to make everything look nice, and I'm not entirely confident I can sell this house as-is for $150K so we continued painting and stripping wallpaper and removing ceiling tiles and now suddenly we're almost done with the house.  So here's some before and after photos!

Here's the bathroom when I bought the house:


And here's the bathroom now:

Total cost for the bathroom was about $180, because I'm good at getting things on sale hehe.

The kitchen when I bought the house:

and the kitchen now:

Total cost for the kitchen was about $250.  What you can't see in the after photo is that one of the window panes in the door leading out into the pub (door on the far left in the before photo) is broken, so we still have to replace the door.  Still need a new piece of trim up around the ceiling also, but that should only be a few bucks.

Spare bedroom before - and you can't really tell in the photo but it had 2 layers of wallpaper and a drop ceiling hung 4 inches below a crumbling plaster ceiling:


and the spare bedroom after:

Just need to polish up the floor and get a new light fixture.  Total cost for this room was about $70 total.  It was mostly labor.  


So today we'll move a few things around in the master bedroom and I'll snap some photos of that.  The MB needs some work done to the ceiling - prior owner, when they wired up the light in the ceiling just left the wiring hanging down, because it was hidden by the drop ceiling.  Now that I've removed the drop ceiling, the wiring leading into the overhead light literally just hangs down.  It's such an eyesore but I also don't want to rip into the ceiling plaster to fix it.  I may have to.  We'll see.  Hopefully I can snap a nice photo of the pub/washroom as well.  I just need one or two more floorboards in there along one edge, and some quarter round trim along the wall/floor junction on one wall and that room will be done.  Then I just need to finish painting my studio (which is just another spare bedroom).


The only real big project left is the living room.  I knocked down a wall and tore out the ceiling quite a while ago and installed insulation up there but we haven't finished the ceiling yet because of the old knob and tube wiring.  That's been the one room we haven't been able to finish, because I don't know enough about wiring to tackle that project.  Well, a good friend of mine and former boss is coming over next weekend and he's going to replace all the wiring in the living room area, and then we'll be able to finish the drywall and install the nice new ceiling fan.  Then the house will be officially done!  And then I can finally have the time to going back to learning programming so I can get a better job.



infinitenexus Reader
11/11/19 8:06 a.m.

Oh, and another fun update involving the furnace.  So as I described in a few posts above, I was tired of my house being cold so I dumped some diesel in the tank and finally found the "reset" button on the furnace.  I pushed it, the fan turned on, it made noises, so I thought it was okay.  I went back upstairs and from my wife and I working in the house, the temperature would rise a degree, so I thought it was turning on.  Then it got cold one night, so we threw another 10 gallons of diesel in the tank and figured we'd be fine.  In the morning the house was freezing - 55 inside!  We thought it ran out of fuel, so I put 10-15 more gallons in there and pushed reset again.  We were pretty pissed that it would run through $30 of fuel in one night; that's a whole new level of inefficiency!  So we just turned the heater completely off and used some portable oil-filled radiator heaters.  They're pretty efficient and they'll heat up a room, albeit slowly.  One in the bedroom and one on low in the pet room, next to our rats.  I put another 10 gallons of diesel in the tank because whenever someone came to look at the house, I wanted to crank the heat briefly to get it warm and toasty in there.  Fast forward to this past Saturday night, when it got pretty chilly up here.  33, I believe it was, and it was 49 inside my house on the first floor.  I decided to turn the heater on for an hour or so, just to warm the house up.  I went downstairs and pushed the reset button and it started right up.  I noticed the little vent flap wasn't moving, though.  And I never heard that "foomp" sound of when it actually lights.  I turned around and checked my heating oil tank, which was now 1/4 full (we ran it empty last winter on purpose because we wanted to change it over to natural gas).  Something was amiss!  It was never lighting.  So, having never touched a furnace because I grew up in Florida yet I'm a GRM member and cheap, I grabbed a screwdriver and started undoing things.  

The internals of a furnace are pretty neat.  It was a nice learning experience unbolting everything and checking it all out.  I still had no clue what I was doing though, and I was concerned that the electronic ignition module might need to be replaced.  I called the heating oil company and asked about a person coming out to check my furnace.  It would have been $119 just for him to come out, plus whatever fees for fixing things.  Fortunately a friend of mine saved the day and called me and had me find the bleed valve and bleed off the air in the line and about a cup of old nasty gunky fuel.  After that, I tightened everything back up and pushed the reset button and voila!  It actually lit and started right up.  I let it run for about an hour, where it took the house from 48-65, then shut it off to save fuel.  The house stayed warm all weekend, and is still only at 64 even with the heater off.  And I still have 1/4 tank left.  Today after work I'll throw another 5 gallons in the tank because it's supposed to be in the high 20s at night for the next 4 days.  I'm still going to run it minimally, because heating oil is just plain inefficient, dirty, and expensive, but it's nice having heat again.  And when those radiators get hot my cats love to lay on them.

yupididit UberDork
11/11/19 8:07 a.m.

Damn looking good. Especially that bathroom! 

infinitenexus Reader
11/11/19 9:31 a.m.

Night and day difference.  I still would like a proper shower stall but the next owner can worry about that.  

infinitenexus Reader
11/21/19 6:30 a.m.

BIg update!  So as you can see on the first page, when we knocked down that wall and tore out the ceiling in the living room we were left with some antiquated wires just hanging.  I would prefer not to mess with 100 year old wiring so it pretty much stayed like that for a year while we slowly finished the rest of the house.  This past weekend a good friend of mine was able to call in a favor and an electrician came over and took care of that wiring for free.  So now instead of those wires just danging down, we have two nice light switches next to the front door.  And we finally finished drywalling the living room ceiling the other day, and I taped, mudded, and sanded everything and last night tossed a quick coat of paint on it.  There's some gaping holes in the walls from where we knocked that wall down, one of the holes got filled and I'll try to tackle the other one today along with patching some crumbling plaster along the top edges of the living room walls.  Almost there, this is truly the home stretch and it's kinda exciting.  Realtor comes over today to check everything out and continue the paperwork to put it on the market.  With the living room done I feel much more confident we can get our asking price.  Maybe even a little more!


Oh and we also learned that every overhead light on the first and second floors, as well as the two outlets in the pub are all on one 15A breaker.  Yeah.  I'm glad I have all LED lights in there now so nothing draws much current but major yikes.  The house will need to be rewired at some point.

infinitenexus Reader
11/27/19 7:17 a.m.

Living room before:


Living room during:


Aaaaaaaand living room after!


The house goes on the market today.  Hopefully it won't stay on the market long, I'm ready to move and start prepping for the 2020 challenge.  And after watching Ford vs Ferrari, my wife is excited about building a race car as well.

bigeyedfish Reader
11/27/19 8:18 a.m.

Monster upgrade to that living room.  Did it have a tiny entry-way room before?  Was it a duplex in a previous life?

infinitenexus Reader
11/27/19 9:06 a.m.

Yeah there was an idiotic wall there, that was built (judging by how the paint, wallpaper, etc were done) immediately after the house was initially completed, which closed off the gorgeous stairs and blocked off the living room and made it sort of two-ish units.  It was never a duplex, just had this dumb wall.  I hated that damn wall.  It was a mess removing it but worth it.  

infinitenexus Reader
11/27/19 9:11 a.m.

Also, total cost for the house upgrades is sitting around $1,500 right now.  $1,700 if you count the trucks we rented from uhaul to haul stuff to the dump.  We did everything ourselves so that saved us massively.  The only money was spent on paint, drywall, a ceiling fan, counter top, and a few odds and ends.  I already had all the tools I needed, fortunately.  Oh, and a few bags of concrete for the basement but concrete is cheap.  It's amazing what a coat of paint will do. 

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