A tale of 3 tubs

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He really, really wanted a bath!

In my lifetime, I have purchased 3 lovely iron claw foot tubs, for 3 different homes.  All of them, ALL of them, were via the internet. 

 Each time, I looked locally for an old tub from various antique places in the area and also looked at new reproduction tubs, iron and acrylic.

 Once, thinking I’d be uber-green and reuse the darn thing, I called a tub repair guy to see what it would cost to refurbish the tub that was in the bathroom of the 1906 Craftsman house that we bought and remodeled for our office/abode (and is now in my closet – yes, it’s a very big closet – we put a piece of plywood over it and a pretty tablecloth and it holds shelves for my sweaters.  Why, you ask, do I still have an old claw foot tub in my closet?  More on that in a bit.).

Anyway, the repair guy was kind of a pill.  He said that it would cost $1200 to refurbish the tub and that we had to do all the heavy lifting and turning of it so he could get to all sides.  Well, for that price, I got a lovely tub shipped to me from Pennsylvania!  And the sides were painted hunter green to match the accent in the mosaic floor tiles, so there!

Isn't that purdy?

So, why is this tub still in my house?  We tried to find someone to take it.  No antiques stores were interested and I finally found a salvage yard that would take it but they required that we pay the drivers for their time.  It’s on the second floor and harder than heck to get down the stairs!  And, anyway, getting it downstairs now means that we’d just be using it as a planter in the front yard. Which I thought would be fun, but my stick-in-the-mud hubby is more interested in appearances.  I wanted to put our HOMETEC Architecture sign in the tub, wouldn’t that be attractive?  No?  …well, whatever…

Not trailer-trashy at all! http://www.junkmarketstyle.com

Look at this metal tub used as a planter, it’s gorgeous.  If you want to do this yourself, here are the directions:  http://www.doityourself.com/stry/how-to-turn-an-old-clawfoot-bathtub-into-a-new-outdoor-planter

This could be lovely, in the right location.

And this one is not what you’d expect, either!  http://www.ceramousa.com   Maybe I could make this bathtub-as-planter idea work!   This one isn’t full-size, though.

This is a LITTLE tacky http://www.chicagotribune.com

The first claw foot tub I bought was the smallest tub they make, 5 feet.  Which was the pretty close to the exact size of the space it was going in – there was about ½” on each side as wiggle room.  We put the tub on a car jack and eased it into the space.  Easier said than done since the cabinets were already in place…probably not the best planning job we’ve ever done.  The poor plumber was on his back trying to get maneuver between the tub and the wainscoting we had on the wall, leaving him about 1/2” in which to work.  Looked fantastic, though – the tub, not the plumber 😉

 We bought the most recent tub from www.vintagetubs.com  I recommend buying the entire package, faucet and drain and all, so you don’t end up missing pieces.  They can help you decide what you need – with those cool circular shower curtain rods that hang from the ceiling, too.  FYI, you’ll need about 2.5 shower curtains to go around the rod, unless you buy one specially made for claw foot tubs.

 We also bought items from this company:  http://www.plumbingsupply.com 

Huge warehouse and lots of good sales, too!

Another fantastic place in our area to look for tubs is Tubz, in Fremont, CA.  www.tubz.net  They’ve have an incredible showroom filled with tubs you can actually get in and test (waterless, of course…and shoeless, I might add). 

Soaking tubs are popular, too.  You shower off first, then sit in the tub to soak.   Here are two cool pics of those:

 

 

Ahhh...tempting, isn't it...

And tubs can get very expensive!  This one at www.VintageTubs.com costs about $5,000!!!  You better be takin’ a LOT of baths – which reminds me…don’t forget to upgrade your water heater!  A friend of mine said that they couldn’t fill the tub all the way until they replaced the water heater to a larger size.  A tankless one might be the best thing for you.  It heats up the water on demand rather than continually heating up water that you aren’t even using.  Here’s a copy of one…the cheapest one on the Lowe’s website.  Prices ranged all the way up to about $1500.  You have lots of options depending on your usage needs.  And its so much more energy efficient than keeping a huge tank of water heated up all the time.  Win-win!  You get to be ‘green’ AND clean!

Here is a site with 6 uses for an old bathtub:  http://blisstree.com/live/6-uses-for-an-old-bathtub/?utm_source=blisstree&utm_medium=web&utm_campaign=b5hubs_migration

Any ideas of your own?  Send pictures!

Oh, don’t forget…please let a pro do the job!   www.diyfail.com     😉

TP holder is...where?!??!?!?

?!?!?

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Happy Thanksgiving!

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poster available at http://www.zazzle.com

Do you remember making Pilgrim hats and aprons in grade school?   Creating Native American headdresses?  Did you have a potluck in class, like we did?

It was  a great way to remember what brought about the first Thanksgiving.   The first Thanksgiving feast shared by the English colonists and the Wampanoag to celebrate the first successful harvest in 1621.  Ever wonder who came over on the Mayflower?  This site has a list of the passengers and crewmembers:
http://www.mayflowerhistory.com/   plus interesting info about Pilgrims and books about the voyage, the Native Americans, historic and modern Plymouth.

yay for toilet-paper-roll-crafts! http://www.dltk-holidays.com

partially built Pilgrim-style house

Think how brave these people were. Would you have the temerity to give up everything you know and travel 2 months by ship (and I don’t mean Royal Caribbean!) to a new land? Would you have the courage to greet and befriend newcomers to your land who dress and talk very differently than you? Not some random person walking up to you and asking for directions – someone who is setting up camp in your front yard!    Without the help of the Wampanoag, the colonists would not have survived.  

When the colonists built their homes they didn’t have the luxury of popping over to the local ACE Hardware store (ACE is the place with the helpful hardware…person).  They had to fell trees, plane wooden boards and forge their own nails.  If they broke something they either had to go without it, create a new one or find something that would do in its place. 

Don't gotta be pretty, just gotta work...

 For all the times we poke fun at the strange fixes shown on the website www.thereifixedit.com , there is a lot of ingenuity demonstrated in those pictures. 

I hope you are able to treat Thanksgiving with the reverence it deserves.  Look around you and see what is truly important – or, rather, who.

These past couple of years have removed a lot of a chaff from our lives. It doesn’t matter that our 401(k) was decimated and our savings drained when the economy tanked. We sold all our toys (and were thankful we had them to sell) in order to survive.  We are fortunate to have gas in the car, a roof over our heads, food in the fridge and the kids are healthy. 

Happy Thanksgiving  😉

The questions most on your mind…

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I know what with the holidays coming and all, the first thing on your brain are these kinds of questions: 

Air ducts exposed to the heat?!? Not very efficient...

Are my air ducts insulated? 

Is my attic? 

Should I replace my fridge?

nasty-looking fridge http://www.kpatrol.org

...but they're saving energy! http://www.diyfail.com

 

What’s the big deal about fluorescent bulbs?

Sucks up electricity!

What kinds of ovens are most efficient?  Should I buy electric again or go  with gas?

Kneeds repare or replaysing

I need a new washing machine…what types are most efficient?

How can I become more ‘green’?   Where can I find out about energy rebates? 

Who can help me?  Where can I turn?

 In an effort to give you a leg up in your quest for energy efficiency, here are some websites that can help provide answers:

Energy Star  http://www.energystar.gov/index.cfm?c=tax_credits.tx_index   

Energy Star with info for small businesses  http://www.energystar.gov/smallbiz 

U.S. Dept. of Energy Efficiency and Renewabl Energy http://www.energysavers.gov/   

Energy Savers Booklet you can dowload   http://www1.eere.energy.gov/consumer/tips/pdfs/energy_savers.pdf   

American Council for Energy Efficience with info, tips, lists of appliances and their efficiency data http://www.aceee.org/consumer  

Database of State Initiatives for Renewables & Efficiency has a comprehensive listing of incentives, rebates, tax breaks and utility programs  http://dsireusa.org/   

Build It Green:  What does it mean, how does it work?  Many cities are initiating green requirements for new homes, additions and remodel  http://www.builditgreen.org/ 

Would you like to take a more active role promoting ‘green’ in your community?  http://www.greendrinks.org/   

d'oh!

And…if you hire a professional to do upgrades or installation, remember you get what you pay for 😉

Thanks again to www.uglyhousephotos.com for their awesomeness in documenting ‘fail’.

Short Sales and REOs (Bank owned)

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I wish I had a fountain!

I went to two fascinating seminars recently – 1 put on by Wells Fargo regarding Short Sales (when the listing price/home value is less than the mortgage amount) and REOs (Real Estate Owned by banks) and another held by Century 21 regarding REOs.

The Wells Fargo seminar consisted of a panel of 4 of their VPs of REOs, Short Sales, Government Programs and Sales Manager, with about 400+ real estate agents and brokers attending.

We’ve all heard how home loans are hard to get and that banks are sitting on property so they can sell it later and make more money in a better market. 

True, home loans are harder to get.  Previously, the mortgage world was practically giving loans away:  no money down, no papework required to prove level of income, lowlowlow mortgage payments for a few years, then boom! higher payments than you can afford.

All of this helped create a large group of properties where the owner cannot possibly afford their homes.  It doesn’t matter if they try to get loan modifications, they still can’t – never could, no how, no way – afford their mortgages.

I feel for those people.  They were naive and, yes, some mortgage brokers took advantage of them.   I’m not talking about people who paid their mortgages up to now and have been laid off, but the ones who bought (were talked into) a larger mortgage than they should have. 

Some owners will be able to have the loans modified so they are more affordable, but others are simply unable to afford a home.  They are currently going through the loan mod process but, ultimately, will be forced out of their homes and back into renting a home.  If the loan is underwater then the  property will be listed as a Short Sale and, if it doesn’t sell, then it will become an REO.

Now, we have a great number of properties for sale and a lot fewer people looking to buy, so supply and demand requires that list prices get lower in order to attract buyers.  Luckily for buyers, interest prices are low, too, and expected to remain low for 6 more months or so although they might go up an itsy bit.

Believe it or not, I know someone who had a backyard like this!

Wells Fargo assures us that they aren’t holding properties until prices get better.  It costs them too much money to hold them.  One of the reasons they held the seminar was to help agents understand what was going on and what to expect when dealing with these properties.  Some of us have been reluctant to deal with those types of properties, that’s for sure.

You might think that you should hold off and not buy yet, because prices will go lower.  Well, if you pay attention to the list price vs the sale price, you will notice that many properties are selling for GREATER than the list price…yes, people are bidding on the properties, multiple offers being submitted for them.  You can wait, if you want to, but, don’t let moss grow under your feet.

What happens to a Short Sale offer?  It is analyzed by each party that has an interest ($$) in the property.  This takes awhile…every bit of the offer is analyzed by each party involved in the loan.  I’ve heard stories where the offer was made and close of escrow was 8 months later!  5 or 6 counteroffers, paperwork lost…  Buyers get tired of the runaround and the delay, they find another property and let this one go.  Poor underwater John Q Public is still waiting for his property to sell.  (FYI, if the property does sell as a Short Sale, John must wait 2 years before he can buy another piece of property.  Its better for John that it sell before it becomes an REO.)

Really...someone's home...

Is the loan holder waiting for a better offer?  Who can say?  No one is speaking for those guys.  The companies servicing the loans for those ‘other investors’ just say that it takes time and each investor has their own agenda/criteria.

If the mortgage is held by only one company, then it doesn’t take as long.  Wells Fargo said they take about 37 days to approve them.  Properties with mortgage insurance and/or other loans/liens on the it will means delays as each party inspects the offer and has their own counter-offer ideas.

REOs, on the other hand, are more straightforward.  Banks want to unload them, but won’t take a ridiculous price for it, well, unless the house should be scraped off the lot!  Wells Fargo said they aren’t delaying Short Sales to make them become REOs, supposedly they see a better return on the Short Sales.  Remember they aren’t getting all their money back (which is, I know, a relative term) in either type of sale.  Do I know for sure, no, but I try to think positively about people…Pollyanna that I am.

The bank'll fix this...

The bank'll fix this...

Banks sell REO ‘As-Is’, although certain types of repair will often be done to make a marginal property livable – like replacing broken windows, adding missing stoves or potties.  Items considered a safety or health issue, things like that.  Sometimes, they’ll spruce up a house or yard so that it isn’t a blight on the neighborhood – part of the National Community Stabilization Trust  http://stabilizationtrust.com

If you are considering an REO property then you can count on a couple things:

1.  Escrow can’t be less than about 35 days because of issues related to making sure the Title is clean.  So the fact that you are offering cash and can close in 12 days doesn’t matter to the bank, at the end of the deal they get cash anyway, don’t they…

2.  If the appraisal comes back less than the amount of the offer, you will be expected to make up the difference in cash, or you may walk away, often without loss of the security deposit – which was about 1% of the sale price.

3.  The bank holding the mortgage will probably require that all offers presented to them be pre-approved BY THEM.  Yes, you read this right.  You must be pre-approved by Wells Fargo or Bank of America or whomever, in order to make an offer for a property held by that bank.  The process is free, as simplified as possible, with quick TAT on their part and you don’t have to provide them with a bunch of documentation.  Go ahead and get pre-approved by a few banks, Wells Fargo and BofA being the most prevalent in this area, I’m told.  Have it done all at the same time and you’ll see a minimal hit on your credit score.

This mess is pretty similar to what I saw...

One most recent Short Sale home I was in looked as though the people had fled in the dark of the night.  Dishes in the kitchen, the master closet was still filled with clothing!  All the furniture was gone and one of those PODs was in the driveway, but there were still pictures of a baby on the fridge.  Luggage, clothing and tarps in a bedroom, makeup and toothbrushes in the bathroom, it was eerie.  Trash EVrywhere…someone was trying to clean up because the big recycling tote was in the kitchen.  Its so sad to be in these homes.

Those ‘in the know’ say that we are living the new ‘normal’.  Don’t buy property thinking you can make a killing in a couple years.  There’s a glut of property on the market, which depresses high hopes for quick fix-up and quick sale.  Buy for the longer haul – 10 years or more.   So put aside your ‘get rich quick’ schemes, they weren’t making you happy anyway, were they?  😉

Pictures from http://www.thereIfixedit.com and http://uglyhousephotos.com/wordpress/?cat=23

True Story

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True Story – where the guilty party and the location of the property must remain anonymous – from my hubby, Rick Hartman, Architect at his company HOMETEC Architecture.  He has lots of stories after having been in business for 23 years…here’s one:

 I received a phone call from a potential client, let’s call him Mr. Roche, saying “I just left the court and the judge said if I don’t get a permit for my building in 3 weeks, he’ll throw me in jail.”

 Obviously, this got my attention.

 Here’s how he described it:  A car ran into his building.  It actually ran into a non-permitted addition on the original permitted building.  Mr. Roche, did his repairs, rebuilding a wall and part of a roof, again without permits, he was caught and red-tagged by the Building Department (meaning that they noticed what he was doing and made him stop).  

Reversed into his neighbors house!

The Building Inspector (for structural and safety issues) came out and reviewed the work and said that the construction looked good and was all to code.  However, Mr. Roche, you will have to have Planning Department approval (for zoning and aesthetics).   So he went to the Planning Department who said “This is ugly, no way will we approve this.  Rebuild it and make it beautiful.”  “I can’t afford that”, says Mr. Roche.  “Too bad”, says Planning and he walks away.

The Planning Department was miffed that he walked off and referred the case to the City Attorney who sent letter after letter to our Mr. Roche.  Seeing that the letters were being ignored, the City Attorney filed a suite against Mr. Roche.  The Judge gave him several reprieves to address the situation but, seeing no faithful response from the owner, finally gave him an ultimatum – Get the permit or you are facing jail time!  That’s when Mr. Roche called me.

I hated that wall anyway...

So, I did a redesign for the addition, submitted the plans to the Planning Department and then received approval for the design, created the construction documents, submitted them and received approval from the Building Department.  The court case was terminated and the client was off the hook.  But, and here’s the fun part, Mr. Roche never actually built it.  Now, 15 years later, I drive by the property and see the same ugly addition built without permits on the side of his building (see why the story can’t name names?).

 So, Mr. Roche was not facing jail time because he built something unsafe, but because he built something that was ugly.  And, in the end, he paid fees and got a pretty design approved, which made Planning happy enough to leave him alone. 

Museum started up the train and off it went!

2 years later he gives me a call because he got busted again for building another addition illegally!  Some people just don’t learn.  Or maybe they do learn something, just not the right thing… 😉

All pictures from http://www.wreckedexotics.com/

Through a brick wall!

Now how does something like this even happen?

A perfect fit!

Amazing, really, that the rest of the mobile home is intact!

Somebody’s in big trouble!

Let’s talk about potties

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… potties…toilets…crappers…commodes

Note of interest:  Thomas Crapper might not have invented the toilet, but his plumbing company helped bring bathroom-type supplies out into the open – previously it wasn’t polite to discuss such a thing.  It seems that Mr. Crapper’s company was the first to open up a bathroom showroom on King’s Road, not a shabby side street, with an actual product sitting in the window right out in the open!  And Thomas Crapper invented some means of making potties more workable.

 It also seems that the name ‘Crapper’ is perfectly normal in England, only in America has it become a joke, thanks to WWI servicemen who saw the name.  However, there are Dutch, Latin and French versions of the word ‘crap’ meaning ‘refuse’, ‘siftings’, ‘to separate’, ‘chaff’…thanks to the venerable Wikipedia for that information.

 More on Mr. Crapper and available products here:  http://www.thomascrapper.co.uk/contents.htm 

So what kinds of water-saving potties are there?  Dual flush, composting, gray water and incinerator are those we will be explaining a bit more.

 High-efficiency means that they use less water than regular potties, sometimes by using less water with each flush (anyone here put a brick in the tank?  Or a gallon jug of water?)  and sometimes by giving you a choice as to how much water to use, as with ‘dual-flush’ potties.

Dual flush means that there are 2 buttons or 2 levers on the toilet tank; one when the need for water is low and the other when the need for an effective flush is high.  You’d think that would mean one for #1 and the other for #2.  But, not really.

 We bought 3 American Standard dual flush toilets a couple years ago to go in our spec project.  Each cost about $300 and used .8 gallons of water with a low-flow flush.  We discovered that one button was for when guys went #1 and the other was for everything else.  Either that or the low-flow button was getting pushed multiple times in order for any paper accompanying event #1 to be flushed.

I know there are dual-flush potties with a higher water per gallon value for the low-flow flush.  It’s not efficient when you have to keep pushing the button to get results.

Of course, there are kits to turn your existing potties into dual-flushers.  Don’t toss a perfectly good crapper.  This company has them for about $30.   www.twoflush.com   But I haven’t tested them (nor am I getting a kick-back) so do your own homework

 Our local city water company www.sjwater.com is giving rebates for high efficiency toilets, clothes washers and landscape/irrigation upgrades, check with your local water provider to see what’s available in your area.

 Composting toilets are just what you’d expect except that you don’t necessarily have to shlep the stuff out to a pile, like with household compost. 

The potty is above a chamber that processes the waste.  Some are small, with the composting bin right below the potty, some require an area such as basement or large crawlspace beneath in order to easily access the composting chamber and some systems come with 4 bins on a carousel and by the time your using the 4th bin, the 1st one is completely finished.  You add a peat moss or straw layer to the bin to help with the composting process. 

 The EPA says that most disadvantages to these systems (smell, mess) come from improper maintenance, not a problem with the system itself.  The sites I perused said that the average tank could hold 80-100 ‘events’.

Still you must be careful because the finished compost product (humanure!) might be harmful – those pesky pathogens – so you shouldn’t use it on top of the soil in your garden, but you could bury it 12” underground and then it’s considered ‘safe’. 

stand-alone unit

An interesting sidenote:  The urine is already considered to be sterile, so it is separated from the solids (eewww) and sent to a different bin or a leachfield and it can be discarded wherever it’s legal to do so…hmmm…

 More info:  Nature’s Head toilets http://www.sustainable-solutions.info/?gclid=CKnk9eaxkqUCFQg3gwodvH6XNg

 Incinerator Toilet is just like it sounds, using propane, diesel, natural gas or electricity, the waste is burned to a crisp, saving water but perhaps the smoke should be mitigated.  According to one website, it costs about $4000 to set up a propane-based incinerator toilet system.   It takes 10 minutes to incinerate  #1 and  #2 takes about a ½ hr.  The sterile ashes must be emptied every 3-6 months for a family of 4.

For more info:  www.incinolet.com  but there other types.

 There are 2 types of gray water systems.  One is with water collected at the sink and sent to the potty and the other is at the potty itself.

The first one requires a tank in the cabinet below the sink which becomes the supply for the toilet tank.  The water is filtered and disinfected before it is pumped to the toilet tank and any overflow is sent to the sewer.  This site by Aqus had lots of info on the idea:  http://www.watersavertech.com/ 

 The other idea is a sink on the toilet tank lid itself, which then drains directly into the toilet tank.

But, why discard a perfectly good potty in order to save water?  www.instructables.com  shows how you can build a sink toilet tank lid yourself.   And www.gaiam.com has a toilet tank lid with a sink and faucet that you can buy for $99-119.  www.sinkpositive.com has another product – AND it was featured on HGTV…oooh…

I think the concept is good, but awkward to use.  I can see this being more helpful in an RV or boat.

Gray water reclamation systems:   Check with your local city/county jurisdiction before trying to install a system at your house.  While anyone can use buckets, barrels and cisterns to collect rainwater, collecting gray water from dishwashers, sinks, tubs and clothing washers isn’t allowed everywhere.

 You may use gray water for landscaping but don’t spray directly on plants, run it below the surface – otherwise plants, dirt, rocks and groundcover will get a film on them, yeah, I know, yuck.    You’ll need to clean the filter every 3 weeks and add a chlorine tablet every 6, but they say that pool maintenance is more difficult than this.  Any overflow goes directly to the city sewer system (or your septic system leach field).   This site has more info on how the process works: http://science.howstuffworks.com/environmental/green-science/gray-water-reclamation3.htm

 Some time ago we talked with our local Department of Environmental Health about putting in a gray water reclamation system on a property we own in the foothills and they freaked!  We were at a meeting with a bunch of people from different departments at the County and we asked them about gray water systems and they practically turned white!  Started spouting all these worries and concerns.  We were, like, well, we’ll do it according to regulations and have it designed by a professional.  They were all sputter, sputter. 

 We were thinking that we’d do something environmentally helpful in a valley that promotes green, ecologically sound technology, but no.  We have to have a regular septic tank and leachfield…no composting or incinerator potties allowed!  Poohbah, no pun intended…  Well, we can’t afford to build that house of our dreams, yet, anyway.  Maybe by the time we can, our DEH will have been yanked into the 21st century.

hmmm, the family that expels waste together, stays together?

Hey, I got through that entire column without saying sh*t!  😉

Fun ‘FAIL’ pictures

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I love the site ‘There, I fixed it!’  www.thereifixedit.com  Its amazing what some people will do, the ingenuity they have to get the job done.  Sometimes, you wonder if its a form of genepool reduction since the fixes are hazardous, let alone uh-gly!

Bursting at the seams!

So, I’m wondering what these people have collected that would pop their house open like an edemame pod!

Central air fix...

Wouldn’t it be simpler to get a little fan?

I'm speechless!

Simply speechless!

Trashbags have multiple uses.

Whatever works!  As long as they can get clean!

Actually helpful.

When we installed our towel bars, the dust went all over the floor…this looks like a good idea, to me!

Star Wars homage

This is just creepy…not my favorite part of the movie!

So much work for such a little space!

Makes you wonder what people are thinking when they put stuff together like this.

Probably oughta check this guy's license.

Warning, if someone you hire does this…they aren’t qualified for the job!  And if YOU are doing this?!?  You aren’t either…

See, you can find unique uses for all sorts of things.

 

😉

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