Wednesday, June 8, 2016

So the jackhammering came to a full.stop. because we discovered a bigger problem:

 the bricks were actually just stacked on top of the (improperly poured) concrete patios/porches. So not ONLY does the water drain up against the house, rot all the exterior doors, and can't be corrected without jackhammering up ALL OF THEM...

But now the bricks might fall off the house, so we had to stop and call a civil engineering firm to make a house call (that costs $500 here in Columbia, in case you were wondering, and does not include all the reports/plans and recommendations).

Today I had 3 of the contractors, 3 engineers, and 3 extra neighborhood kids here. While 6 kids swam off my dock (and I had to periodically shout at them to stop doing dangerous or destructive crap - seriously. wth is wrong with boys?), the crew of people here discussed the fate of my stupid ugly brick and patios.

Prince Charming is usually the calm one who does not worry about stuff. Strangely there has been a role reversal on this one. He's freaking out about the money and I'm like -- whatever. I built a beach house with less money than this, AND I lost my job and had to sell it. Frankly, I've been through the worst with A LOT CUTER HOUSE, so my senses are completely dulled now.

Rip all the bricks off the house or don't -  what do I care? They're all ugly and deserve to be ground up into parking gravel anyway. pffft. 

Babysitting kinda puts me in a bad mood. I was thinking I need to go back to work but it seems so impossible with everything going on right now. Oh and -- still plugging away on that closet. I post pics on instagram for that one. I'll do a "before and after post" when it's finished.  (@katmhaddad)
Posted by Katy On 8:01 PM 6 comments READ FULL POST

Friday, June 3, 2016

I want you to close your eyes and imagine yourself, as a person with plenty of money (note: not enough to live in California but enough to live like a king anywhere else.) and a strong desire to live on a beautiful lake. Pretend also that you are thinking of starting a kick-ass orphanage so you'll need a very large house, a dock, and multiple areas for TV watching etc. (JUST PRETEND OKAY??)  YOU, my friend, are on the hunt for a large luxury home on beautiful water, in the heat of the deep South. You like palm trees, jet skis, mint juleps, magnolias, and you don't mind large roaches. You are currently stuck in some God forsaken horrible climate like Chicago, and you are chomping at the bit to move here. Got it?
Ok...
You open up Zillow and start looking at listings. When you pull up the interior photos, this is what you see:



WHAT ARE THOSE BALLS ON THE RED RAG?
and I don't mean to focus on just one house -- there are a bunch like this.

Are you feeling the dream slip away just a little bit? Are you disappointed? Were you hoping for something a little more "Sarah Richardson"?  And you walked into Miami Vice instead? Does this look like something you'd happily pay close to a million dollars for? Yes I realize that these are not California prices, but we're talking about the South here. In this price range you expect a lot.

In my efforts to plan this renovation, I have been checking out my theoretical "competition" by cruising Zillow and looking at pictures of million-dollar-lake-homes. Just to get the lay of the land, if you will.  Yes, the economy has been crap for a long time and there simply aren't that many buyers in this price range. So you have to work even harder to sell luxury real estate.  After searching MLS listings for a week, I am feeling both depressed and also hopeful about my chances at burning the comps.

{One night as I was flipping through photos of yet another 900k house on nice water - Prince Charming was sitting beside me and we saw a photo of a den with a wet bar. Someone had tried to force a mini fridge to fit inside an off-the-rack cabinet, but it was too deep so they turned it sideways and cut a hole in the side of the cabinet... and took the knob off the front door. It was awesome and terrible at the same time and I was laughing so hard I couldn't breathe. PC said "that could be us if we had slightly less awareness. It's very MacGuyver". What he meant to say is that he would totally do something like that if I wasn't here to stop him. ;)}
Posted by Katy On 10:35 AM 3 comments READ FULL POST

Friday, May 20, 2016

I know that I am the last person on earth to join Instagram but honestly - I don't love facebook so why would I jump on yet another sharing platform?  The thing is though, Instagram seems a lot easier to use for sharing photos of works-in-progress without having to write a whole blog post about it.
I am thinking of using Instagram to document the jackhammering and general construction chaos around here, since this place was mostly my nuerotic freak-out journal. Which I am sure that i will still need, never fear. :)
So far I like it better than facebook. Maybe Facebook and Twitter are for people who like to chat a lot (or get into online food fights), and Pinterest and Instagram are for the more visual? I like that I can follow all my arty friends and see their paintings and such, and also follow my favorite magazines... it's like Pinterest, only more personal. ? What do you think, and if you're on Instagram (and especially if you make art!!) say hello. We'll see how this goes.

Also, the jackhammering crew never actually showed up this week (like they said they would - LOL!)  so I have to see what's up with that. Still building a closet, and getting ready for my first anniversary trip with Prince Charming - we're going to the Dominican and I'm excited.

And here are my boards I threw together - I sent these to some local real estate experts to determine if my renovation plans would fly here. There aren't any houses like this on this lake, and I was worried that I was doing something that wouldn't be popular. Imagine that all the houses here are done in a very "Tuscan country estate" vibe, with loads of heavy dark wood and earthy stone and brick. I was trying to figure out if there was a market for my Frenchy-European-coastal-living vibe. ;)

I guess we're going to find out!

Posted by Katy On 7:39 PM 5 comments READ FULL POST

Thursday, May 12, 2016

As if I have time for a hobby right?

wine making supplies (and granite that I want to rip out.)

Thankfully brewing wine in my bathtub doesn't actually require lots of work.

I took my herd of minions to the strawberry farm, where I ordered them to Pick Berries!! For Mommy's Wine Making!! They decided this was fun so my plan worked.
I do let them eat some of the berries of course. I have finally found a practical use for 4 pre-teens. (Other than lying in front of the TV and trashing the kitchen 8 times per day)
Next I will be taking my minions to the blueberry farm. Because I will make ALL THE FLAVORS!


Using a cooler for the "fermentation tank" was the easiest way for us to make multiple gallons without buying more buckets.

And since our creepy black bathtub is not used for anything but storage of paint supplies right now, AND it gets a lot of warm sunlight for toasty yeast production, it makes a good fermentation area.
After 5 days of fermenting, we tried to use the hydrometer to measure the alcohol but according to our reading (we might have screwed this up), we had rocket fuel so we racked it quickly:

It looked really cloudy at first but after 3 weeks:
it looks clear and we are getting ready to rack again.

I hope it works out. FINGERS CROSSED!
Posted by Katy On 12:38 PM 2 comments READ FULL POST

Tuesday, May 3, 2016


Jackhammering up the patios is, so far, a disaster. We are in the process of coming up with Plan B. The concrete must come up, but it will require a crew of people to get it done unless we want to spend a year doing it ourselves. :( This is where the "time vs. money" equation bites us in the butt, and I'm regularly dreaming about snakes slithering through the house. Subtle, no?

This took forever. We do not have the time for this. !!
Seriously after 8 years of a crap economy (and it looks like things won't be getting better anytime soon) this is truly the most ridiculous real estate venture I've ever touched, and that's really saying something.

Me and PC must have a death wish. (high stakes gambling with houses!!! Hit me again!! wooo!!) I guess we were made for each other.

In other news: the 90s are totally back. Since this monstrosity was built in 1997ish, I was thinking about the house that my parents built in 1990... and we had a teal front door and gray siding exactly like this:
I have no idea where this is from it was on Pinterest.

we had lots of gray tile and gray carpet and gray linoleum and teal and PEACH decor. Seriously how can this already be back in style??? It's only been 16 years since the 90s! right?  Doesn't it take longer for people to love certain colors all over again?
The color of every single bridesmaids' dress in the 90s!!!!
for crying out loud!
Now all I need is a peach toilet and countertop in the bathroom and I will be 15 years old again!
BHG
 well at least the toilets are still white. sigh.

OH! and BRASS is back too, followed closely by copper:
I have no idea where this came from either.
 I am not ready for all this to be back in style. It seems like we just finally got throttled with "midcentury modern" everything, (Jetsons' style furniture on every single shelter mag and blog), and that was the trend in the 50's... it seems like the cycles are speeding up?

and why don't the 70s ever get any love?

OH RIGHT.
Posted by Katy On 11:38 PM 3 comments READ FULL POST

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

I've upgraded to a tool that I'm not capable of using safely! I feel like this is a milestone of some sort, right?  Finally - I might need to call 911 if I turn this on. woo!

Before PC left for the airport (another work trip), he busted a hole in the side patio with a sledgehammer. Just to "Explore" the concrete, mind you.

His last words to me as he grabbed his laptop and headed out the door were: "Hey I need you to powerwash the dock so I can stain it this weekend - and buy a jackhammer, ok?"
 
side bacony/patio. Smallest area that needs to be removed so we are starting here. :/

I said "yeah ok". (I have bronchitis and 4 kids, no problem.) 

Later as he was boarding a plane somewhere, he texted me "did you get the jackhammer yet? :) "

And I said no, I'm still sitting here in my jammies, coughing up a lung.

I did finally get myself over to Northern Tool.

All I managed to do was haul the thing onto the patio, get half of it out of the box, and put the wheels on the cart. :/ IT'S SO HEAVY I CANNOT LIFT IT!

And we have miles acres entire vistas!!! of concrete to remove. ...... :(


... to be continued...


Posted by Katy On 2:00 PM 4 comments READ FULL POST

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

The irrigation system for this property is fed by the lake, which is the only reason we use it. If I had to pay for city water to keep this gigantic property green, it would be dead brown in a heartbeat. When I moved here last year I noticed that the sprinklers in the front yard appeared to be broken. According to PC, he believed that the cable guys had broken the pipe in one spot. Because his job/life demands were so ovewhelming after he bought this place, he had zero time for landscaping issues. We finally got around to fixing it this weekend.
Guess what? Both AT&T and Time Warner Cable had run cable here in the past, and both companies hit the irrigation pipes. We fixed the first one, then found the second one ---
when water burst out of the ground like a geyser. We fixed the second one, and then we found the THIRD spot ---


and this one pissed me off the most. Those jerks totally KNEW they destroyed the pipe, because an 18 inch section is completely missing and the cable runs right beside it. !!! We ended up digging way past dark in the mud, and I may or may not have been drinking and twisted my ankle when I fell in one of the holes. :)

So we fixed the third broken spot... turned the water on and waited for another geyser somewhere in the yard...
and discovered a couple of sprinkler heads we didn't know existed, when they suddenly shot out of the ground after years of lying useless.

We also cut down some more trees, and I'm still working on building the new closet. But I guess the biggest news is that PC and I have come to a decision on whether we are going to stay here and put the hard work and $$$ required into this Money Pit.

Honestly, I am tired, I have 4 kids who are still only one step above poop-throwing monkeys, and this house is gigantic and overwhelming. I voted to sell this wreck and buy something finished. PC vetoed this. He likes it here too much, and we've got 10 more years until all the kids are gone. I am making peace with this.. I am not excited but I don't have the energy to move again either. !!

I know that PC and I have the background and skills  - I'm just not sure if the energy/strength is going to hold out. This will be our final fixer-upper. The next place is going to be small and near a beach, but this time it will be much farther south than Tybee Island. :)
Posted by Katy On 10:12 AM 3 comments READ FULL POST

Thursday, April 7, 2016

The builder just left - he was here with 3 different subs to discuss how on EARTH they can fix all of our concrete disasters without spending the equivalent of the national budget of Guam. Bless it. I feel a little panicky.

I'm supposed to be building a new master closet. Kinda like this one:

Except this is the room we started with:
So far we've filled in the big loft "holes", relocated the attic access in the ceiling, relocated the ceiling lights and vent, patched ceiling, pulled up some of the floor, etc:
and now I'm building the base of the new closets, which are going to look somewhat like this:

I never bothered learning sketchup since I have CAD, but that means my drawings aren't as cool. :)

For almost a year now I've been living out of boxes because the gigantic "Dressing Room" located off the master bath is the only place to store the gym equipment (NOT MINE), and also store a lot of other crap. I have plans for this room to be flexible--
For those of you who know PC in real life, don't tell him I posted a picture of our messy closet online. lol. He doesn't read this blog so he won't know!

I do not need a dressing room this size. I rotate my yoga pants (home attire) with my jeans (public attire). We need this to be more flexible so that it can function as a second home office, a "gym", or maybe a sewing/work room. (ha.) I thought I would build storage in here so that someone else could use this as a dressing room if they wanted, but for me it's not practical. I need a place for all my various equipment (not gym equipment. such a waste of space I think but whatEVAH.)

OK. SO I've been staring at a pile of 2X4's, trying to find my motivation this week. I had Lasik surgery a month ago (yay!) but then I had a rare complication (of course I did - you know it) and so I'm on round-the-clock steroid drops until it corrects itself. sweet.
Hope y'all are getting through the pollen blast and have planted some fun veggies by now!


Posted by Katy On 12:21 PM 2 comments READ FULL POST

Monday, March 28, 2016

It took months after I moved in here to figure out the electrical system. For a while, we had no lights. Like, when it got dark, we were using flashlights.

That is because prior to the pipe bursting/flooding/ServePro events, this house was completely run with a system called "X 10".  No electrician I've talked to has ever heard of entire house like this being outfitted with X 10.
Basically, every single switch on the walls is capable of being programmed to operate ANY light fixture/fan ANYWHERE else in the house. Does this make sense? So if you are sitting on the toilet (where there is a cable modem installed - weird) you could throw the switch on the wall and turn the lights on in the kitchen.

Or, if you're in the kitchen, you could turn on the bedroom lights in one of the guest rooms.

Did I mention the man who built this house was a Lunatic?

So for a while, when we first started trying to re-program all the switches and organize everything properly, I would be in my closet getting dressed and the lights would go out.

Routinely I would yell at the kids to turn off lights and they would say "but we did! we swear!!" And sometimes the portico lights outside or the attic lights would come on, and we would try to figure out WHO had touched a switch and WHERE in the last 30 minutes. !?

It's like playing Clue, except if you guess the right relay, you still might not be able to make it work.

PC has programmed the foyer/kitchen/bedroom lights to the correct switches, but we are only about 70% of the way done.

Part of me finds this entertaining, because I bet Bob Vila never did any of THIS crap on tv
Posted by Katy On 12:28 PM 9 comments READ FULL POST

Saturday, March 26, 2016

***I wrote this post years ago when I was building the cottage on Tybee Island -- but since I'm now in the process of interviewing a contractor for this Lake house mess, I thought I would take this out of the draft folder. I re-read it and it still holds up, so I know it's good. :) ***

When you're trying to hire a guy to help you build something, you have to be picky. It's almost like picking a boyfriend -- if you get a bad one, he'll take your money and your self esteem.

After searching for a while, I did find one general contractor who didn't blow me off, didn't talk to me like I was Miss Daisy ready for the Alzheimer's Unit (EVEN IF I AM), and took me seriously when I said I wanted to do a lot of the work myself. Here are the things I would look for in a contractor, if I were starting all over: 

#1. Ask him if he has ever worked with a client who did some of the work himself.

My contractor had previous experience with framing a house and letting the client finish what he wanted, and he was prepared to let me do that. [the contractor I am considering for my current mess is going to let me jackhammer my own concrete to save my demolition costs.] Not all contractors like this. It depends on his comfort level with taking out a permit in his name and having everything pass inspections, if you're going to be doing the plumbing and electrical yourself, let's say. You need to ask. And beware the guy who says "yeah sure" - but then tries to intimidate you at every turn. (More on this below..)


#2. If you are worried about money and/or the scope of the work, be honest and note the response.

 Especially if it's something outside the norm (like building a tiny house that barely fits on the lot and will be highly problematic. ahem.) This doesn't mean give him all of your financial information. If you say "I'm trying to do this without a bank loan, so my budget is tight, can you work with me?" - Does he immediately say "oooh. you probably can't afford this". Or does he say "I'll work up a general line-item estimate to give you an idea of what you'll need" ? If he laughs at you, that's a good sign to move on as well. I asked one contractor to give me an ballpark estimate on what it cost to build a new house on Tybee Island (price per sq ft) and he actually replied: "How much money do you have?"  (don't pick that guy.) Depending on where you live, you may run into a very tightly-closed contractor community. It may even feel like you are dealing with the mob, because they are very intent on keeping any competition out. Just be aware of this before you go all Pollyanna into a contractor meeting so you don't feel like you got your ass handed to you afterward.

#3. Avoid the guy who uses scare tactics.

The first builder I called quoted me for demolition of the existing shack. I chose to go with someone else with a lower quote. I called the builder again afterward for an estimate on building the new house, and he was offended that I handled demolition on my own. "oooh but he's not local!! if he messes up the lot and causes it to drain on the neighbor's property that could be a huge expensive mess for you!" Basically he tried to scare the shit out of me (and almost succeeded) because I didn't hire his buddies. [I hired a licensed professional, The Sarge, who handled all the permits and he was awesome.  Find him here, if you need demo in the Savannah/Tybee area.]

If a contractor makes you feel intimidated, confused, hopeless, or stupid -- run away. I don't care if he's the most popular contractor in the area. That doesn't mean squat. If the thing you are trying to do really is outside of your budget, he can tell you that with respect.

I realize that a lot of this advice has to do with gaining confidence.  Hopefully this helps another woman out there who is thinking about building something BIG, but is too afraid to try! xo
Posted by Katy On 5:22 PM 1 comment READ FULL POST

Sunday, March 20, 2016

But first, a new painting from Cecilia Rosslee!

I was rearranging the great room trying to figure out if I like the dining table in front of the patio. This house has a desperately strange layout. Plus I was trying out white paint colors (behind the plant):

And this is where the fun stops. :(

Unfortunately we've gotten more bad news, and it all goes back to The Lunatic who built this house. His sons were well known to local police (which explains all the crack pipes we discovered in odd places. I am not posting pics of that.)

We heard more stories from the neighbors which also explains the extremely shoddy craftmanship in all the tile and exterior. Apparently the Lunatic didn't want to pay for any professionals so he let people stay in the house for free in return for (really poor) DIY construction work. (!)

The second paint quote came in at $36k, which is better than the previous $75k, but that is before the mason explained that all the windowsills were done incorrectly.

And nobody manufactures this kind of brick anymore so you cannot get anything that matches.
It's ugly anyway. The Lunatic used this crap because he found it practically free. Because nobody else wanted it.

And all the porches were poured concrete, and they were built wrong. They don't slope correctly which is why all the exterior doors and frames are rotted out.

Basically it will take $100k to fix the exterior and we will never get that money back. (assuming we had $100k to throw away on the exterior anyway.)

The alternatives are:

1.) We teach ourselves to be masons, rent a jackhammer, and rebuild everything ourselves. this will involve tool rental, concrete pouring, years of hard work, and probably have to hire help anyway because the steel structure under the concrete has to be lowered. I'm not confident that PC and I can rebuild the steel pans and studs ourselves. ?

2.) Or: We slap some paint on it, squat here for another 8 years til all the kids are gone, and then replace the rotten doors right before we sell. (this feels shady, of course. And doesn't take into account the possibility that it will need major emergency repairs in the next decade).

3.) Or: we sell this pile of crap, take a huge loss, and move into a new (much smaller) house with no issues.

Take a guess what I'm thinking. :/  Is the view really worth it?



Posted by Katy On 9:47 AM 11 comments READ FULL POST

About Me

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For many years I was a mechanical engineer and a single mom of 3. Suddenly I am now a married mom of 4 and I'm working full time on remodeling my latest gigantic project (lake house). I previously built a tiny house on Tybee Island that I sold in 2015, and I'm always designing and building the unexpected. Stop by for the house stuff, stay for the panic attacks. (kidding. maybe. ha. ha....)

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