Friday, July 21, 2006

Flooring Shopping Spectactular

As I mentioned last week, I've been torn about what to do for flooring in the main living/dining/kitchen area. When I first looked at the house, I immediately wanted to do it in a terra-cotta look porcelein tile. After thinking more about the cost involved with installing 600+ square feet of tile, I reconsidered.

The old subfloors are solid, but would need a concrete board backing on top if we were going to put down tile. Laying, screwing down, and taping the concrete board would be labor intensive and have little room for error. Actually laying tile is the same only more so. Mr. Nola is good at detail work, but I'm more of a slap-a-coat-of-paint-on-and-forget-it sort of girl. Given the work load we've got going, self-install on tile was just not going to work. Flooring contractors quoted me around $7.50 sq ft installed price, plus the cost of installing the concrete board, for the cheapest tile they had. $5K+? Not worth it.

So I've been shopping laminates, with the thought that even if they aren't as durable, for the difference in cost I can replace it in 5-10 years and still come out ahead. Plus, floating laminates are a simple enough installation we could do it ourselves and not have to mess with the cost and hassle of lining up installers. Generally I'm a wood floor snob, and don't believe in fake wood. But as my mantra on this house goes: its-a-rental. Plus, it was built in the 50's, when if they had had laminates, they would surely have used them. It's my time-travel theory of architectural authenticity .

So how psyched am I to have found this laminate floor at Lumber Liquidators for $.59 a square foot? It's marked down because it has a slight bevel on the edge that makes the planks look more like real wood, IMO. It's an 8 mm laminate with 3 mm of foam backing already on it, so it's reasonably good quality. Honestly, it looks about as good as any other laminate I've seen, and did I mention it's $.59 a square foot? The entire project will cost less than $500! For that price, it could have jagged glass coming out of the edges for all I care.

It's not easy being green

I've been on an obsessive search for light fixtures for Maison Derriere that are 1) affordable, 2) not ugly, and 3) energy efficient. Even though this will be a rental after a while and thus the electric bills won't be my problem, I still feel obligated reduce fuel consumption where I can.

This being the South, we use ceiling fans. Happily what Southerners have always known about using fans to keep rooms comfortable bears itself out on the energy consumption front. The light fixtures on the fans, on the other hand, typically take about 240 watts of heat inducing incandescents to run. The fan winds up blowing that heat around the room. Bummer.

Halogen bulbs are better than incandescent, in general, in that they give off more light for the wattage used so you don't really need as much. They can burn HOT though, and the fluorescent fan lights I've found are still in the 100-200 watt range.

Now if you're willing to drop some money, there are some really sexy options out there for compact fluorescent lighting. American Fluorescent Lighting and Modern Fan are a few examples. Fluorescents don't have to be cold flickery noisy light anymore either. Better quality CF bulbs are pretty hard to tell from incandescents. They're more expensive, of course, but last for years and use about a tenth of the energy.

Eventually, I picked out this fan from the Home Despot. It meets my specifications for price and Energy Star compliance, and I thought they weren't that ugly. Mr. Nola begs to differ. He hates them. Well, I can see where he's coming from.

So I think we're going to wind up with a fan that uses regular light bulbs and just put our own compact fluorescent bulbs in it. The screw-in CF bulbs aren't AS efficient or long-lived as the pin-connection kind, but it's still a big improvement over incandescents. This is the most likely selection.

The process of choosing ceiling fans has involved multiple trips to Lowes and Home Depot, and many hours of internet research. It's a shopping compulsion I inherited from my mother. In meantime I've picked out sconces, mini-pendants, and track lighting without too much obsessing. Well, I did buy one track set and return it, but you kind of have to see stuff outside the store to get an idea what it really looks like, right? They're all either CF or halogen fixtures, so hopefully that will offset our 9 months a year of air conditioning consumption.

Well, at least it's something.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Voici Maison Derriere

We're closing tomorrow, the checks are written, and the insurance policies are in place, so I guess I can post some pics of the new project. I also have a question. The subfloor in the living area of the house has old diagonal timbers over beams. They're not butted tightly against each other, and they're not perfect and level. So do I need a second subfloor on top of the old one? Rigid foam insulation to block drafts? Concrete board?

The house will eventually be a rental, so I'm not looking to do anything high-end on flooring. Ideally we would do ceramic tiles, the most flood-resistant option, but for cost and ease of installation we might go with something we can "float" over the subfloor.

This is the living room. The walls are gutted about halfway up, but the flood level in here was probably about a foot above the floor. The old wood floors were removed, but the subfloor is solid, albeit not smooth and perfectly level.

This is the same space from the other direction. We're going to take out as much of the dividing walls as possible, just leaving a column and some beams, to open the whole space up into one big cooking/eating/living space.

Down a few steps from the living room, this was used as a family room by the previous owners. Since it's on ground level, we're not going to put anything down there we wouldn't want to get wet during a bad storm. We'll use it as a play room for the kiddo.

Utility room, also on the lower level

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Queue the Handel

Miracle of miracles, we've just received word that we are at the top of the list for the foundation contractor we've been waiting on since December. They've got four houses "up in the air" right now, and once they come down, we'll be the next up. Exciting! I've got to figure out if I could do some sort of time-lapse video to show the house getting lifted. That would rock. Then we can take pictures standing underneath our house. Ah, the possibilities.

Maybe we'll get to live in this house someday, who knows?

Survivor's Guilt

Annie's comment about my post yesterday asked if I've experienced "survivors guilt" about not having lost as much in Katrina as a lot of people did. Survivor's guilt is absolutely something that is going around in the area, generally among folks who lived in areas close to the river that were untouched by flooding. I know a lot of people have put a positive spin on that by volunteering or otherwise getting involved with the recovery efforts.

Personally, I am well aware that a lot of people are worse off that I am. That said, we were pretty well and truly screwed too. We are lucky in that Mr. Nola kept his job and that friends and family have come through for us in ways we never thought we'd have to ask. Still, we lost almost all of our furniture - the good family antique stuff too - and our house is damaged to the extent that the repairs will cost about as much as rebuilding altogether would have. We have to borrow money to pay for what the insurance doesn't cover, and that's almost as much as my original mortgage.

Since the initial shock wore off, we try to focus more on what to do now to try and recoup as much as we can and resume our lives. We'll be okay. It's inspiring to see the amount of work going on around us. More people are committed to this city than you would think. In the long run, it will be a better place. It's a very long run though.

Monday, July 10, 2006

I [heart] Craigslist!

Good news to our RL friends who read this blog: we bought a bed for our future guest room this weekend off Craigslist. I'm psyched because it's the exact bed that I adored years ago when it was in stores, but at that time (hell, at this time) I couldn't afford "real" furniture. Having it turn up on craigslist when I actually need furniture is such a stroke of luck.

Here's a pic. Now I've got to find a nightstand to go with it.

Crisis averted, for now

Well, we wound up moving back the closing on the little house. Due to ongoing shenanigans with the mortgage people, we're just giving up on doing the refi on the old place altogether and cashing in some other chips to buy the little house cash.

We're going to sell Chateau Danneel ASAP, so we're not over-invested in property in this area. Values for houses that didn't flood are up like 50% right now, and it's a good property to begin with (a large duplex) so I think it's a fair time to cash out. I kind of hope it doesn't actually sell until our tenants' leases are up, as I don't want them to be shut out. I'll have to find out how leases are handled when houses sell. I fully expect whoever buys it from us will convert the two units from 4 bed/1 bath to 3 bed/2 bath and resell them as condos with a big profit. Well, more power to them. I'm not doing it, I've got enough on my plate already.

God willing, we'll close on the little house this week and get started on repairing it right away. I'd really like to be back in town by the end of August. I just hate apartment living. Well, this apartment, anyway. It sucks.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Product Porn

You can tell a renovator by the way they get aroused by exotic flooring. Here are some super-sexy floors:

Enviroglas makes a terrazzo-like tile out of recycled bottles cast in acrylic. You can make up your own color recipe for a custom look, even with little flecks of mirror glass in them to bring out the disco in your home. At $20/sq ft, it's too rich for my blood, but I still think it's really cool. They also make a drool-worthy countertop.

In a totally different direction, but still incredibly cool, are these Jigsaw Puzzle Floors. Again, too expensive for me at $15/sq ft., but wouldn't they be fierce in a game room or study? I'd love to see it done alternating maple and cherry woods.

I also found a site for some really hot cabinet hardware. These guys only sell to the trade, but I might just have to get a contractor's license this stuff is so fabulous.

Another conundrum

I've griped before about my mortgage company holding my insurance settlement hostage without paying me interest. As it's worked out, I'm not making payments and my account is frozen so I'm not being charged interest, so I've come to terms with their holding the insurance money. The problem now is getting that money back so that I can actually use it.

So far I've received about 10% of the settlement. In order to give me any more, they want to send an inspector out to see that I've used that 10% wisely. That 10% isn't even enough to make the first payment on the foundation work that must be done before anything else can be repaired. The contractors want their money first, but the insurance-settlement-hostage-holding guy wants to see the work done first. I'd really like to knock their heads together a la "The Three Stooges."

Actually I'm so afraid my contractor will disappear that I have to treat him with kid gloves. They SO don't need my job, it's as if they're doing me a personal favor by taking my money. Provided I can pry the money to give them out of the mortgage guy, that is.

A local hair salon has an ad with a cartoon woman saying "With my new highlights, my contractor is bound to show up!" Hope springs eternal.