Should I Say Timber? Or LOOK OUT!?

Caution – Falling Bricks!

Frankly, I had dreaded the task of demo’ing the brick off of the sides of Cottage East. DREADED it!

Part of me was certain we were going to get smashed by falling bricks. Another was sure we would NEVER get the intact, yet buckled wall on the east side down. And as I envisioned the project, I figured it would be weeks and weeks of work.

Instead, it was completed in just a few short hours. By noon on Saturday, both brick facade walls were down, leaving only the wood frame in place. Tool use – an eight foot long 2×4 that we placed behind the bricks and against the wood slats, was all we needed to bring swaths of bricks tumbling down.

We had a few close calls. And Dave blackened one of his thumbs and cut himself at one point, but the walls are DOWN. We now have to figure out how to cap the ends on the front and back, which still have bricks on them. Short of removing both the front and back porches in their entirety, something we do not want to do, the brick on the front and back must stay on the house, so we need to either figure out how to cut and mortar half-size bricks in place or hire a brick mason to do it.

We are now ready for the new roof, side windows and siding to be installed in a couple of weeks!

Airbnb Regulations in Kansas City?

I am keeping a close eye on the proposed regulations for Airbnb here in Kansas City.

This article gives a good summary of what is being discussed. I am in a historic neighborhood, one of the areas that are on the thumbs up list for these regulations, but for my neighbors and fellow entrepreneurs down in south KC, things might be different. Considering they are providing a much-needed service down there to the Cerner folks, that doesn’t seem like a very fair, or business-friendly, plan.

What it boils down to for me is the reminder that what we need is good stewardship by owners of these properties. I can imagine that one of my neighbors across the street has quite a few concerns. It probably goes something like this, “If they won’t even keep their lawn mowed, WHAT kind of people are they going to be letting stay in their Airbnb?!”

The answer is – the best guests possible. NO parties, NO drugs, NO problems. After all, I live in between the two properties we plan to Airbnb. And I’ll be damned if I’m renting to a group of teens wanting to party down and destroy crap. Those are not the kind of people I want to see visiting our home turf.

And by the time we open for business? We will have a lawn service because I’ll be darned if I want it looking shabby around here!

She Dreams of Airstream

This past weekend we worked our patoots off to get the yard as ready as possible for the Airstream. We have built approximately 120 feet of fence and have another 24-32 feet to go. We also have made space for two spacious driveway gates – driveway west near Cottage West and a wide driveway on the east edge of our house and side lot which butts up to Cottage East. This will enable us to park our vehicles in the western driveway if we so choose, and guests at Cottage East and the Airstream RV to park close to their respective destinations.

On Thursday afternoon we will receive a delivery of gravel that will serve as driveway and an adjacent RV pad. Later on, we will worry about paving the driveway to the west.

Along the way, as I’ve moved brush, dug up a cherry tree, and helped my husband build the fence, I’ve been dreaming of decorating the RV, both inside and out.

I am considering making, or possibly having made, a couple of murals to hang on the “dog fence” – the fence that separates the RV yard from the dog yard behind our house. It would be nicer than looking out to see a plain old boring fence and I’m hoping for a 50s vibe. Something retro, something that centers around camping, forests, and more. Think Jellystone Park, 50s glamour, mid-century cool.

A Couple of Murals Possibly

In any case, my mind is spinning with ideas. These little potholders gave me the perfect idea for a mural…

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And then I’m thinking about something like this one…

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Or this…

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Or this…

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What do you think?!

Counting the Days

I am so excited to get into the Airstream and assess it and what we will need to do with it. Just a few more days and it will be here!

It feels as if we have done little in the way of progress and accomplished a whole lot – all at the same time.

We have a long way to go. And plenty of work to make the Airstream ready for guests. It is our last major purchase for a while, but it will be the first to be put into service.

Making a List

So what do we need to do? Well, at the moment, without being able to get into it and down and dirty, I would say that it needs the following:

  • A concrete pad poured that will have water and power outlets
  • A 8’x24′ wood deck with open walls and a corrugated metal roof
  • Fixes to at least two windows and door (cracked glass, problems with leaks/seals need replacing)
  • Replace toilet with composting toilet
  • Fix gas stove that won’t close
  • Check gas and water lines
  • Check to see if furnace works
  • See if original refrigerator can be repaired
  • Curtains and bedding
  • Other decor, books, CDs, and furnishings
  • A picket fence and arbor at end of “RV yard”
  • Murals and decorations outside
  • Landscaping
  • Safety equipment – carbon monoxide sensor, fire extinguisher

But considering our luck? It will need more than that. Life is nothing if not unpredictable.

It is forward movement, however, so I’ll settle for that.

It’s Officially Official

The door handle for stepping up into the Airstream
The door handle for stepping up into the Airstream

Officially Official!!!

Our last purchase that I was dancing about and hinting at is officially ours. And I am over the moon. I LOVE Airstreams and I’m still in shock that I actually HAVE one!

This fridge is currently not working, but I'm dying to see if I can get it fixed. How awesome would that be?!
This fridge is currently not working, but I’m dying to see if I can get it fixed. How awesome would that be?!

Even if it is located elsewhere (soon to be moved).

This darling 1956 Flying Cloud 22-foot Airstream will soon be parked at the back of our property.

It has a couple of dings. We plan to buff it to a high shine once we have completed the necessary fixes. It is going to shine like new!
It has a couple of dings. We plan to buff it to a high shine once we have completed the necessary fixes. It is going to shine like new!

I discovered it at a local estate sale and envisioned it sitting in my backyard in a secluded spot, where guests could come and go via the alleyway and feel as if they were camping while still in the city.

The original gas stove and vent above it. The door won't stay closed, we will need to fix that.
The original gas stove and vent above it. The door won’t stay closed, we will need to fix that.

Think 50s…

Think retro…

It even has a built in screen door. SQUEEE!!!!
It even has a built in screen door. SQUEEE!!!!

“50s-Style Glamping in the City”

I want to limit this to couples only. While there is room for another bed to be made where the dinette and built-in seating is, I like the idea of it just being a space for a couple to go. I found this cute retro radio/CD player to put in the RV.

I’ll burn some CDs with 50s era music to complete the mood.

Inside the old Krefft refrigerator
Inside the old Krefft refrigerator

We will build a deck with a corrugated tin roof and painter’s tarp curtains and a couple of those old metal shell back chairs. There will even be a BBQ complete with a tin full of briquets in case someone wants to grill. The galley will contain a 3-in-1 breakfast center with toaster oven, coffeemaker and grill.

The dinette area. The seats lift up and display storage below.
The dinette area. The seats lift up and display storage below.

The bathroom will include a composting toilet (my bow to convention) and a shower.

Built in storage at the back between the dinette and bathroom
Built in storage at the back between the dinette and bathroom

I hope to figure out how to fix the vintage refrigerator and have it working again. It is adorable!

The shower with a fold down seat.
The shower with a fold down seat.

It isn’t parked in our yard yet. The seller needs to move a PODS container and we need to get moving on the privacy fence for the back. I hope to post an update in early August once we have moved it.

This will hopefully be our first piece of property to be put into service as an Airbnb. There are several fixes (windows, making sure all of the systems work, possibly adding solar) before we can put it into service. I am aiming for an “available” date of next April.I want to provide people with a rustic, private, and fun environment for their next visit to our fair city. Look out Airbnb guests, here we come!

My goal is to provide people with a retro, yet comfortable, private, and fun environment for their next visit to our fair city. Look out Airbnb guests, here we come!

Finally – Forward Momentum!

From my emergency trip to Panama to rescue my ill father, to tree removal, refrigerator troubles, and a host of other unexpected costs, moving forward on our future Airbnb projects has been riddled with stops and starts.

It seems that the tide is changing, however.

Cottage West is holding steady with her new roof and gutter, windows, paint job and front porch.

And Cottage East, which we have owned for all of three weeks, now has a green light for a new roof, vinyl siding on the east and west sides, and new windows on those two sides as well. After we have the walls up and intact, we will also have the electrician out to install a 200 amp box.

I should have listened to my husband when he suggested putting in a 200 amp box in the Cottage West. But I didn’t. And because of that, we can’t have an electric on-demand water heater installed. A 100 amp box just doesn’t give you that option. So I wasn’t going to repeat THAT mistake!

I just signed the contract with Champion for the roof, siding and windows and in approximately 8-10 weeks, Cottage East will have a facelift!

We have also acquired a unique Airbnb offering. I will sign on the dotted line on Wednesday, and we will transport it to our location in early August. I’m very excited about this project and we are busy planning and building the privacy fence along the back of our property as well as a cheery little picket fence and arbor that will give that section of our yard a private feel. I’ll be at liberty to tell you more in a few weeks!

So despite the crazy heat and swarms of mosquitoes, we are hard at work in the yard. First the fence, then we will need to remove the brick facade from Cottage East before the siding guys arrive.

It’s a lot of work – a dizzying array of projects – and we are doing our best to juggle priorities and keep up with mowing and more. But I finally feel as if we are moving forward. And that is so exciting, folks!

This weekend we spent some back breaking hours taming the yard – which is determined to grow into a jungle of weeds on us. I made the decision to mow down (and not use) our “crop garden” this year and probably next. We will return to it AFTER we have dealt with the renovation projects on our plates. And by that time, I plan on having a regular mowing/weed-whacking service handle the bulk of our weekly work so that I can focus on creating lush beds of flowers, herbs, and eventually crops again.

Strike While the Iron is Hot?

There is a quote by Richard Branson that I particularly like:

richard branson

And to that end, I have made a purchase that promises to fill the next few years with hard work, around $55,000 in repairs, and keep us jumping.

You may, or may not, have noticed that the header now reads “The Cottages.” As in, plural, not just one cottage but two!

This old dear is actually four years older than our own home, which sits squarely between The Cottages…

Cottage East - at time of purchase

And yes, that west wall is in terrible shape.

We have named this house Cottage East and renamed the other one (our first project) Cottage West.

On the short list for repairs needed:

  • New roof
  • New windows
  • New siding
  • Minor foundation repair

We also plan on:

  • Rebuilding the front porch
  • Tearing out the old porch and doubling it in depth
  • HVAC
  • New wiring and plumbing
  • Drywall and repairs to plaster throughout house
  • Removing linoleum and restoring the hardwood floors
  • Finishing a second full bathroom/utility room on the main floor
  • Upgrading the upstairs bathroom
  • Creating an English cottage courtyard in the backyard with the bricks we remove from the sides of the house

In other words? It’s a lot of work and a lot of money.

It will take time. It also slows us down exponentially for completing work on Cottage West since this is a dire issue that needs addressing NOW and we are limited in what we have up front and what we can get in financing.

Nothing worth doing comes easy, and this is never more evident than in the task in front of us. But I know we can do it. Each week we have measurable progress. I can’t wait to share it all with you!

 

Dreaming of Treehouses

Image result for airbnb treehouses

I woke up this morning dreaming of treehouses.

Air B’nB treehouses.

It will be a while until this dream is realized, but I’m envisioning a 1-2-3 punch…

  1. Get together the funds to bring down the enormous old cottonwood back behind The Cottage (it’s over 100 years old and it is dying – we have been crossing our fingers every time a major storm blows through that it won’t bite the big one.
  2. Use that wood to create a treehouse cabin in the “bee tree” (a maple tree we used to have the beehives sitting next to. Note: We no longer have beehives.)
  3. Air Bnb it, complete with a concrete parking pad in the back of the last lot we purchased. It will be accessed via the alleyway. The cabin itself will only be habitable in the spring, summer and fall. I doubt we could make it work during the winter (too icy and too cold).

There is a guy who builds treehouses and he is here in Kansas City! I sent an email to him and I’m hoping he will contact me back soon.

And when we don’t have AirBnB guests it will make a fantastic crash pad for the kiddo and her friends. They will have a GREAT time in it!

Meanwhile, if you are dying to stay in a treehouse AirBnB – check out these fun destinations: Top 20 Treehouses on AirBnB

In Other News

That’s kind of a teaser because all I’m going to say is, there are other news and developments that I will be at liberty to talk about soon, but not now.

Suffice it to say, while work is not progressing at this moment on The Cottage, it will be soon. And there’s more…that I will be at liberty to discuss in mid-July.

Renovations take time and we are in this for the long haul. We have learned a lot – about who to trust, and who to not trust. What questions we should have asked and so much more. It has been a learning experience. So even if you don’t see any progress or wonder if The Cottage will EVER be done, believe me when I say, “I have a plan.”

Keep checking in, things will be a’changing soon!

Graffiti Can’t Stop Me

A couple of weeks ago, while out and about, a neighbor contacted me on Facebook.

FB message

And I came home to this…

Tagger1

This was disheartening to say the least. Taggers tend to hit buildings that they think no one cares about.

Nevertheless, we had it cleaned up within 24 hours. And along the way, I decided that what needed to happen was MORE.

More signs that this property was being tended to, more evidence of daily involvement. More flowers. More color. More presence.

Taggers tend to hit buildings that they think no one cares about. And we care about this building just as much as the house we currently live in.

So I took a friend’s suggestion and painted the porch the same color as the house…

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And…

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and…

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And wow, I love the look of the green floorboards and more. It pulls the porch into the house and connects it all.

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But it is time to take it further. Stay tuned for an art project in the works, but also I’ve dialed up the barrage of plant transplants and wildflower seeds. I also added these hanging planters…

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I also have begun laying the bricks for a path that will cross into the rest of the properties and eventually diverge into a meandering path of flowering mini-gardens and natural pond. Those mini gardens and the pond are 1-4 years away, but I have the idea of them in my head now, and slowly (1-3 mini garden projects per year) they will be realized.

The Cottage is now outfitted with security lights and a burglar alarm and monitoring. This will act as a further deterrent to any ne’er do wells.

As for that art project?

Stay tuned!

Show Me Those Windows!

The front window
The front window – all wrapped. Yes, we have a little bit of brick repair to still do. We will tuckpoint, replace the brick and mortar it in place, and then do some spot painting.

 

Our original install date was set for November 30th, 2016. At the time we scheduled it, Window World asked, “If we have an earlier appointment opportunity, would you like it?”

Absolutely!

And when they called on November 10th and asked if I would like them to reschedule the installation to the 11th, I jumped at the chance. Windows installed earlier than expected? That sounded great to me!

And at 10:30, they arrived, their truck full of windows.

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Seeing them there, waiting to be unwrapped and installed was exciting. In some ways, it feels as if we have made so little progress on The Cottage, even though we have spent hundreds of hours there. Progress is often done at a crawl.

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Until you have huge leaps forward, like the painting and the windows.

The back porch ready for the new windows
The back porch ready for the new windows

 

These big leaps forward give us juice to move forward on the smaller, no-so-obvious things like wiring, plumbing, insulation and more.

Jay's wife Michelle came out to help with some of the painting we hadn't been able to finish last weekend.
Jay’s wife Michelle came out to help with some of the painting we hadn’t been able to finish last weekend.

 

The windows guys got to work pulling out the old windows. The two windows in the center of the photo above were going to be made into one single window. It saved us a couple of hundred dollars by just having it be one window instead of two.

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The windows came with an aluminum wrap which would cover the wood surrounding the window. This meant we would spend less time having to maintain the paint or the wood and hopefully not have to worry about wood rot or leaks.

A few from the inside. The only windows that were not replaced were the casement windows. One on the west side and two on the east side of the house.
A few from the inside. The only windows that were not replaced were the casement windows. One on the west side and two on the east side of the house.

 

Stepping back and looking at everything, I have to acknowledge, in the past three months there has been an extraordinary amount of work done on this house!

I decided on a long casement window on the back porch. The view is filled with a tree and gives a forest-like feel to the room. I'm busy hatching design plans for this room.
I decided on a long casement window on the back porch. The view is filled with a tree and gives a forest-like feel to the room. I’m busy hatching design plans for this room.

 

Here you can see the exposed wood frame of the house. This will be covered with vinyl siding very soon.
Here you can see the exposed wood frame of the house. This will be covered with vinyl siding very soon. And of course, we will finish the painting of the porch as well.

 

City codes had gotten us on missing windows (they had been shot out around New Year's Eve). I can see that we still need one more coat of paint on everything to make it look good - along with a couple of repairs.
City codes had gotten us on missing windows (they had been shot out around New Year’s Eve). I can see that we still need one more coat of paint on everything to make it look good – along with a couple of repairs.

 

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Progress! And just for perspective, this is how the side of the house looked when we first bought it…

Trees were growing along the foundation and up the roof.
Trees were growing along the foundation and up the roof.

 

What do you think?!

Porches, Paint and More

1940-tax-assessment-photo

The front porch in this 1940 photo is identical to the sagging, warped, and listing one that we ended up removing. If it was original to the house, it was close to 100 years old. It had a good run, but it was time for something new!

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For a couple of weeks we got by with a gangplank as Jay figured out just where the posts would go, dug the holes, and built the framework. Now that the floor is on, she will be working on the columns and railing. We are envisioning a Craftsman-like feel and appearance.

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And the first weekend in November had us hosting a painting party. We knew the weather wouldn’t hold forever and we were desperate to get some help painting the house so that it didn’t continue to get code violations from the city for peeling paint.

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The new color turned a plain white house into something rather spectacular…

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I was amazed at how many people saw it and said, “That is a gorgeous color!”

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We still had some painting left at the end of the day, but wow, we could not have done it without help. Thanks to some rather awesome friends and family, we were able to knock this out and give this old girl a real facelift.

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The day after the painting party, I found myself gravitating towards the back of The Cottage. A sharp incline has made accessing the back of The Cottage difficult and sometimes rather dangerous. The day before, a neighbor had come by and reminded me that she had some concrete blocks if I still wanted them.

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I walked them over six at a time in our wheelbarrow and began to cut into the hillside with my shovel. Between the shovel and a level, I was able to place the concrete blocks into place.

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In six months to a year, I will return to it, lay down some pea gravel and sand and re-seat them. For now, they will help shape the earth, making my job easier next year.

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I also planted a few iris. The plan is to absolutely FILL the hillside with perennial iris, daylilies, tulips and more. They will help control erosion and provide a profusion of blooms from early spring to late fall.

Demo This!

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I fought it, I really did. I liked the solid feel of lath and plaster and it seemed like such a huge job to pull it all out. And how would we dispose of it? The argument lasted for over a year before I finally capitulated. My husband Dave had made his case. We needed to:

  • Install all new electric wiring
  • Install new plumbing
  • Re-engineer HVAC to modern standards
  • Insulate all walls

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The plaster had to go.

And so I set the date. My daughter Em would be gone for two weeks visiting family in San Francisco. It was the perfect time for me to focus on demo’ing as much of the inside of The Cottage as I could.

The first three or four days was all me – Dave was working his new job – Dee (my eldest) was busy prepping for her first semester at UMKC. It got dirty, messy and cluttered real quick.

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We went back and forth about renting a dumpster. The prices were coming in at around $500 for one to be delivered and then picked up later. The problem with having a dumpster is that, once folks in the area know you have a dumpster, they are more than happy to help you fill it up!

I was afraid that we would rent it, turn around twice, and have a dumpster filled with other folks’ trash.

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Our neighbors offered to loan us their pickup truck and we gratefully accepted.

A pickup load, depending on how full we got it, and what all we were putting into it, cost anywhere from $25-$45 to dump. On a Saturday, with three of us working as fast as we could, we could manage to load, move, and dump three loads before the place shut down at noon.

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Over the next two months, we would make around 20 trips to the dump. All in all, it cost us slightly more than the rental and dump fee of one dumpster would have cost. Even if we didn’t have to compete with neighbors to load up the dumpster, we had over 12 tons of lath, plaster, and other debris that we removed from The Cottage.

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Once we were done, all the walls, and even the ceilings, were plaster and lath-free. The floors were cleared and the house was as empty as we could make it.

It was now time to turn our sights to other tasks. Wiring, the plumbing rough-in, and the front porch were next on the list.