Monday, January 12, 2009

Southern Sales Auction

On Saturday, Eric and I ventured to the Southern Sales Auction in Jessup, MD, which is a huge warehouse full of overstock building materials that companies apparently sell on consignment. We'd heard good things but didn't really know what we were in for. We wasted a lot of time looking at vanities that went for above retail prices - the auction mentality really tricks people sometimes - but we ended up buying 700 sf of really nice 6" x 24" porcelain tile (color pictured here) for the basement floor for under $1psf (versus $4psf we had in the budget and its retail price of $7 that we looked up online) and a $1200 GE Profile Dishwasher for $200! It took practically all day Saturday at the auction and all day Sunday picking up our wares, but we shaved about $2000 off our budget, so it was a weekend well spent! The auctions take place once a month so we're already making a shopping list for next time!

Thursday, January 8, 2009


Bad news, we've decided to fire Jerry and we need to get some money back from him (we violated rule #1 of home improvement: never let the payments get ahead of the work), so we may be on hold for a bit. The plus side is that we can now find another contractor (hopefully Sandro is available) who is more professional and competent. I partially dreaded this but am actually relieved by the decision, because dealing with Jerry had become beyond ridiculous. Another positive thing to share, check out this awesome Ferrante chandelier I found for the dining room (or it may go in the lounge upstairs)!

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Back wall progress!

Finally, the back wall is being rebuilt! They are using bricks that were previously cut out so there's not going to be an issue with matching or compatibility. We're going to have a 7'10" tall x 5'0" wide french door on the bottom with a 12" transom above and twin 6'0" windows of the same width in the room above. Part of this back wall reconstruction change order also involves replacing some bad rafters in the roof and re-sealing it. Eric supervised today from about 7am - 2pm to make sure everything was being done correctly. He thinks the crew knows more than Jerry but they speak Spanish so it's hard to communicate with them directly. We discussed Eric driving to work (rather than riding his bike) until this project is done so that he can drive back at lunch to check on the crew. Basically the more time Eric spends next door, the better the final product is going to be.

Friday, January 2, 2009


In retrospect, there are a lot of clauses I wish our contract with Jerry included, but one that we didn't forget to add, pertains to "treasures" found during excavation, demolition and construction. Eric LOVES these old relics and how he has a ton of them. Seems as if the contractors 100 years back were drinking a lot of beer while building our house, because they threw all of their bottles into the basement backfill! Lots of them are imprinted with the name of an Arlington brewery that's no longer in existence and they have a rainbowy finish, almost like dichroic glass, probably as a result of some chemical reaction underground. There are also milk bottles and really cool ornate "other" bottles and all of them are heavy and made of very thick glass. We're going to clean a few up to use for decorating our house but hopefully Eric won't make us save all of them! :) Other treasures we've saved from the house include 2 antique mantles made of Chesnut wood that we need to try to sell and a bunch of old decorative air vents (a few are pictured here).

Front View

Here's the before & after of the front. We chose Outerspace at 75% of pigment from Duron for the front facade color (they painted in late Nov. just before it got too cold). We also just purchased our Jeld-Wen Aluminum-Clad exterior windows and doors in Arctic Silver on 12/31 (lead time of 4 weeks). The gray-blue exterior and silver windows are going to look very modern and awesome together! I'm looking for the perfect (and cheap) Aluminum-colored exterior light fixture to go by the door and Eric is going to make us some house numbers to match too.

Work Resumes

We haven't posted since early December because no work happened 12/4 - 12/30! First Jerry was sick and in the hospital for 2 weeks and then MIA and not returning phone calls or emails, which became more frantic as time passed. This drove me near insanity because he has more of our money than the value of the work he has done to date. I spent about 5 hours of my holiday vacation at DCRA getting our permits (yay - finally) and researching all of our recourse against Jerry, which is good stuff to know. However, it turns out that recovering money and firing a contractor is rarely possible and the best bet is to get them to perform the work, assuming they are reasonably competent. I also learned that his license is expired and his good standing as a DC corporation was revoked for non-reporting in Nov-08, so I'm definitely not paying him the next payment until that is cleared up, not to mention he has a lot of work to do to get to the next payment milestone.

The picture attached is what the back of the house has looked like for about 1 month. Since Jerry missed at least 5 very warm temperate days just while he was MIA, wrapping the back wall with plasticand heating the space are going to be unavoidable to finish the brick and structural work left to do.

Work resumed on 12/30, finishing up the removal of type S mortar from the basement bricks, which is not appropriate for 101 year old bricks. Today repointing with the correct type O mortar should commence today. Eric is in the basement today with Jerry and his guys supervising this process. I've learned that Eric could most definitely have GC'ed this project, but didn't think he had the time due to his real job, although he has essentially been doing so anyway.