Farewell sweet laundromat

March 8, 2010

This date represents the finale to my greatest nightmare: the laundromat. As of today, I have a washer and a dryer in the house. My two shiny warriors, who have waited ever so patiently in the basement since Black Friday, are at this very moment, happily humming away three weeks worth of grime. I feel serene.

I am grateful. What would we have done these past four months without Launderland and the ever so modest Elmwood Laundry? These being my mats of choice. I would hit up Launderland if I was feeling grouchy, it's closest to home and I could fool myself into thinking I could get it done quickly. It's proximity to Bakesale Betty is an alluring plus, although the line is usually longer than a wash. Elmwood was chosen if time was less of an issue—stopping by Nabolom Bakery in hopes of catching the jug band, or simply strolling down College Ave. to pretend I was having a leisurely Sunday.

Which couldn't be further from the truth. I was in hell. Absolute turmoil. Every single time. Ask Mike. I'd turn into a frown and a grumble all day until it was over, precious hours lost. I despise the laundromat, and there is little that I'll miss.

Except of course, the excuse to purchase a guilt-free Big Gulp at the adjoining 7-11.


We have a wall, people

It's been a long journey between myself and the fireplace, but man, we've come a long way. Of course you know about the leak, and the damage, and the ripping out of everything decorative exposing the naked chimney, so frail. This was traumatic.

After revealing all the issues and fixing the leak, but before Bob got started on the repairs, we had a fireplace guy give it the once-over. Verdict: sadly, but not unexpectedly, she's beyond repair. Due to cracking (via settling or a million tiny earthquakes) the fireplace box and face, including everything below, would need to be rebuilt in order to ever burn wood here. We would also need to line the flue with stainless and other what-not. He mentioned gas insert options, but these don't interest me. I consider gas fireplaces glorified space heaters and void of character. I'd actually prefer decorative. In reality, a complete rebuild is not that expensive, but we have other fish to fry (really BIG fish) and it's simply not in the cards.

As such we asked the guy, before closing up this wall what can we do to maintain the possibility of a rebuild in the future? I'd hate to make a beautiful wall only to win the lottery and tear it all down again. I mean, this could happen.

Since the chimney itself is in good shape (not pulling away from the house, flue tiles in tact), he suggested we mortor over the chimney inside, protecting the flue tile, preventing further crumbling of the brick and basically sealing up passageways for smoke. Uh, what? He assured us this could be done by us and for less than $20. He gave us the recipe and I ran off to Orchard Supply.

concrete bonding adhesive
one bag mason mix
one bag mortar mix
grout bag
big plastic tub (thanks Bob!)

After scraping all the loose bits off with a wire brush, we painted over the whole thing with a bonding adhesive, being sure to get in all the nooks and crannies. We picked up a cheap wide brush for this so we wouldn't feel bad going to town on it. It's all water-soluble for an easy cleanup.

While that dried a bit (you want it almost dry but don't wait too long!) we went outside to mix up the mortar.

We did half of each bag, eyeballing it. Concrete is not rocket science, perfect for me! Added water and mixed until we had something a little thicker than pancake batter. You should be able to hold your trowel at a 90 degree angle and it sticks.

Mike did all the application, it takes some real arm muscle and I lack that. But I got gusto! Anyway, first thing is to fill in all the cracks using the grout bag. This is instantly gratifying.

Next is applying the parge coat. This was ideal practice for the basement work we have coming up since we didn't need to worry about it being perfectly smooth. We did have to concern ourselves with making it too thick since Bob was going to drywall over this.

Mike rocked it out, Bob was impressed.

Once it was dry, Bob got started on finishing off the wall. We headed down to Long Beach for some family r&r and when we got home, we saw this. So clean! So WHITE! Look at that little outlet, total asset. Now all we have to do is rebuild the bookcases, the mantel and trim out the windows. Bonus, Bob is getting us custom plate rail to match the rest of the house, as a gift. We are some lucky ducks.


Progress! ...and a fireplace update

It's all happening, the buzz of saws and the slams of a hammer, music to my ears. This is a big week. We finally settled on a contractor for the dry rot. At this very moment, my new best friend Bob is down in the basement toiling away. Some things you just can't do yourself and anything structural qualifies. Bob's list of to dos:

1. replace dry rot in new laundry room, under old laundry room, above the fireplace and under the porch
2. repair main beam under old laundry room and replace single support post and wall with two new supports so room can remain open
3. repair subfloor in kitchen (he actually has a stockpile of the same wood planks so we don't have to use plywood)
4. remove all unused water and gas lines in old laundry room and cap off
5. remove old furnace under entry/dining room

All of this will take two weeks and immediately following, the plumber will install our tankless water heater, my refurbished vintage sink and, drumroll please, the washer and dryer.

What's this? Is the sun shining? Are birds singing?

Not only that but last week we met some great roofers who fixed our leaking chimney. Can you believe the flashing was NEVER done properly, not ever? It was a slow trickle over many, many years that caused that damage. If you can stomach the horror and are in need of a recap, go here.

Speaking of, I did a little more demo on the wall because I was noticing as contractors came through for bids, they were assuming the worst. As such, they're bids were high and the proposed work seriously invasive. I figured it best to remove all the wall and the bookcases down to the studs so we can really see what's going on. It was messy but totally worth it.

It was exciting to remove that 70s paneling and unearth the original beadboard. At first glance, I thought it was intact. Alas, that wasn't so. It was pretty crumbly and even cut up on the right side. I still plan to salvage these boards and try to make something small, a curio maybe, but their life surrounding a mantel is over.

Never in my life have I seen the guts of a fireplace and I had no idea how they are put together. Tomorrow a chimney expert is coming over to give it a once-over and educate us on the possibilities, if there are any. Right now we are thinking this burned coal, that it is heavily damaged and unless we spend thousands, it will never be more than decorative. But we'll see what the experts say.

Voila! See that angled 2x4 and how it's completely missing at the chimney? It directed water to flow to the left, leaving the entire right side intact. Really, not so bad!

Once we got this far, the windows literally begged to be stripped. I still can't fathom the intention here. Anyway, it was Valentine's Day and the sun was out so we went for it.

Two coats of Citristrip and some good scraping and it's a whole new world. Isn't that right, Orange?