A Week of “Vacation”

Y’all. The house projects were stacking up. The kitchen and dining room were stuffed full of saws, tools, air compressors, random nails and screws, and more. (Pic below is after most of it was cleaned up!!) The living room had several stacks of wood in it. The back porch was so full of construction materials that it couldn’t be used as a porch. The front and back yards were both full of stacks of retaining wall blocks and sheets of cement siding panels. The outer walls of both dining/kitchen and master bedroom were ripped apart. There were new trees that needed to be planted before they died in their temporary pots.

In other words, the list of projects-in-progress had grown untenable, and the house had been taken over by construction supplies and partially accessible rooms. The chaos kept building until, in early February, I said enough was enough.

(I don’t handle chaos very well.)

Because of the pandemic and several canceled vacations over the last two years, Jason had an excess of vacation days built up. After some discussion, he asked for this last week of February off, with the intention of finishing as many of the projects as possible. Usually, we only have weekends to work on these things, and many of the projects had been in progress for months – and some for nearly a year! So we made a list and set up priorities for this week of “vacation.” Of course, we didn’t expect an insane snow-week to come the week before this “vacation,” causing some further construction-related issues. Sigh. So anyway, here’s what we managed to complete.

In my room, the wall was torn up from the window-replacement done in 2020 (top photo is from actual window replacement on 12/31). Most of the following work had been done over weekends in 2021, but was finished this week. Wainscoting went up over the damaged wall and the interior shelves between the two new windows was built. Eventually it was all painted a very pale blue. (Difficult to see via photo with the old walls still that ugly brown they were when we moved in.) I also got new curtains that weren’t blackout-style. Eventually, the rest of the walls will be repainted, but that’s luxury instead of necessity, so my room is done for now. (Not pictured: a couple more shelves added to that between-the-windows area.)

In the dining/kitchen, we used slat-board and tile to frame out the new windows and repair the walls. (Bonus: It covered up the really horrible yellow. It doesn’t show in photos, but the yellow paint was a single layer over some kind of dark color with no primer, and looked sickly and patchy in real life.) I’m highly sensitive to polyurethane, so we couldn’t poly the walls, and we were worried that I’d have the same reaction to highly chemical varnishes. Then Jason found this absolutely wonderful website about non-chemical finishes, and we used the info to shellac and wax up our wall to make it beautiful without paint! In the above photos, please ignore whatever mess was around – other parts of the house were still under construction, and the “after” photos were taken while still dealing with the boil-water notice – and the open light switch, which we can’t finish until after the outside work is done. Plus, the “before” photos are what I could cobble together from the last year living here! Eventually, we will do far more to this room (replace cabinets, counters, and florescent lights; paint the other walls, new light fixtures, etc), but once again, that’s luxury.

Outside, I finally built the wall around our tree and vinca as the next step of xeriscaping the front yard. I can’t do much more right now for lack of finances, but I’m glad to get that done. In the backyard, we’d previously bought two new trees to plant, a live oak and a nectarine. Thankfully, we hadn’t planted them before the Snowpocalypse came through! They stayed safe inside the house! This week, we planted them. The nectarine took longer than expected because we had to build up a retaining wall to give one of the trees more than a couple inches of topsoil! So much erosion in this neighborhood! Note: I was supposed to plant my giant aloe vera as well, but the spot we chose for a potential succulent garden 1) didn’t end up being a good spot, and 2) led us to discover one of two problems caused by the Snowpocalypse. More on this in a bit.

One of the other big projects we planned to do this week was finish the siding along the back wall, and potentially finish the porch railings and such. There was siding on about 2/3rds of the back wall, and house wrap on the rest. Jason got the rest of the siding up and caulked everything together. We began the painting as well. But then other more-urgent projects arose due to the Snowpocalypse, plus it began to rain. The rest of the painting, trimming, soffits, porch stuff, etc all became a much lower priority (at least that’s all outside!) while we worked with other things. Photos: The before photo is the realty photo taken before we bought the house, and includes the old (rotten, falling-down) porch as well as the moldy siding. The in-progress photo is current as of yesterday morning, though we hope to make more progress by the time J goes back to work next week. Assuming it ever stops raining. (As you can see, our yard is still FULL of construction supplies!)

Which leads us to the two WTF Snowpocalypse projects of the week. The first is hard to see in that photo to the left. When I went to find an exact spot to start my succulent garden, this entire area was water logged, and an external drain was pouring water as if a tap was turned on. Turns out, it was the water heater release drain – meant to drop only condensation from the a/c and heating unit, or to drain water from the water heater if it got too hot or was under too much pressure. None of those situations were applicable (the a/c and heating unit hadn’t even been on for days!). We spoke with the plumber who installed the water heater – who, btw, was swamped due to all the broken pipes from the sub-freezing temps – and he concluded that due to the low water pressure issue, it’s likely the pressure valve had gone bad. We picked up a new valve, and Jason installed it. Issue fixed. Just took time away from other things!

Then there was my bathroom vanity. That thing was old, cheap, and not particularly well-cared for by previous occupants. Over our winter-week, we had the sinks either filled to capacity (for washing use once we lost our water) or continually running (to prevent burst pipes). One of the two sinks sprung a leak through the porcelain itself. I mean WTF?? After multiple attempts to fix it with epoxy and more, plus attempts to improve the other sink (it was the worser of the two and generally didn’t get used), we realized we were just going to need to replace the whole thing. This was a project we were planning in the “eventually, once we have a lot more money” category. (The whole bathroom needs gutting and redoing.) So it was IKEA to the rescue! The final setup is definitely an in-progress photo because the walls and floors both need to be repaired/replaced, and I’d like to eventually get rid of the horrid lighting and mirror situation with a better solution. But like everything else, that’s luxury. For now, this will be fine, and at least I really like the setup!

So how’s that for “vacation?” Ha! And to think, we still have all these things as current in-progress projects that need to be finished before we can STOP doing house construction for a bit, aka things we’d planned to be done with during this “vacation:”

  • finish painting and trimming the siding, plus soffits, along the back wall
  • wiring the two porch lights (and indoor switch that goes with them)
  • more dirt/compost/mulch to both the nectarine area and vinca area
  • porch railings attached to the new siding, and railings finished (need interior rails)
  • porch stairs need a stable ground under the last step re: erosion
  • planting the aloe vera
  • replacing the baseboard in my bathroom
  • attaching one of the two bathroom cabinets pictured above to the wall (need to buy supplies to anchor it)
  • general construction supply cleanup, including many, many trips to the recycling center/dump

Some of that, we still plan to do today and over the weekend, depending on the rain situation. Hopefully, we’ll both get in a movie and/or a couple’s massage or something relaxing over the weekend as well, as a reward for all this insane work. We’re both sore and exhausted. Hauling 40+ concrete blocks, 22 lbs each – not to mention bags and bags of dirt, manure, peat moss, and mulch – across the property is no fun. Nor is tons of digging in ground that doesn’t exactly like to be dug out, or assembling furniture, or painting… And I didn’t even do any of the holding-up-concrete-siding-panels etc. Oy. But it does feel good to make progress, even if some of that progress was impeded by new emergency projects. One of these days, we’ll finish all this crap and take a nice, long break before we do anything more!!

About Amanda

Agender empty-nester filling my time with cats, books, fitness, and photography. She/they.
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3 Responses to A Week of “Vacation”

  1. Pingback: Sunday Coffee – January/February 2021 Wrap-up | The Zen Leaf

  2. Pingback: Sunday Coffee – Another Week of “Vacation” | The Zen Leaf

  3. Pingback: Sunday Coffee – the vacation that isn’t a vacation | The Zen Leaf

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