The Basement Before and After

I’ll do a separate post about the long, arduous process. There was a lot involved. The basement deserves two posts. At least two posts. Here’s one.

bsmt-before-bar-corner

basement-long-view

The main difference being that I turned the lights on. And that there were lights that could be turned on. And a ceiling. The before photo does a poor job of showing that there was, in fact, no ceiling.

Here’s the other view:

bsmt-before-theater-side

basement-screen-side

At least this side of the room makes the ceiling situation more obvious. The fluorescent fixtures didn’t totally work. Occasionally they would work, though usually only one at a time. They were vexing, then they were eliminated. Let that be a warning to future light fixtures.

And, yes, I know there’s still blue tape on the window.

More details in another post probably.

bkd

Concrete Block Retaining Wall; August Involved Sweating

It’s done enough.

At Move-In vs. Current:

So the cap blocks aren’t actually done yet. I just set them on top. They need cut so they don’t have those gaps on the face. We’ll see when it happens. And sorry the angle’s off. Never took a before-photo of that corner — probably because the telephone pole is in the way.

Okay so then here are a bunch of “during” photos.

Pre-groundbreaking (post-jungle):

Trench, dug (although once blocks started going down, a lot more digging commenced):

A literal ton of bricks (one of four):

The base course:

Second course, with some back-fill:

82 lbs. (the black plastic pins line the courses up at a 3/4-inch offset — they don’t really hold anything together):

Current view, other corner:

So there’s that.

Some notes I guess:

  • August was a humid month and warm.
  • Props out to Pratyush for helping me dig that one day.
  • I’ll put some sort of plants in that flat area behind the top of the wall. In the spring.
  • I underestimated how much backfill gravel I would need by about 75%. It’s not hard to acquire, but it’s also not all that easy to transport and then that one day when I asked the Home Depot cashier if she could get someone to help me haul 20 bags of it to my truck and load it and she called up some deaf senior citizen to do it and then I was like, trying to get him to stop, because, you know, wasn’t the strongest guy or the fastest moving and here, let me do that for you for me
  • I guess I’ll put rocks between the wall and the street. Gravel, the sort of roundish kind.
  • The wall uses Versa-Lok blocks; the color/style/pattern is called “Saratoga”.
  • Trying to get the first course level was also the worst thing ever.
  • Once the first course is done, it goes relatively fast, except that I ended up having to do more digging and leveling to extend the wall at the ends, so, you know. After the base course, probably 3-4 hours a course after that.
  • Overall, the project was simple, just a lot of work. OTOH, I think I lost weight in August. I should market this as a P90x competitor. Should have taken before-after photos of myself…
  • Progress on the project was often slowed by an older person walking or driving by and wanting to talk for an hour about my wall, their walls, other people’s walls that may have existed, shovels, the weight of concrete, etc. The last 58 minutes of these conversations were generally pretty dull.
  • My neighbor across the street helpfully donated four buckets of concrete from a concrete tub he’d taken out of his basement. Apparently he thought it would be easier for me to spend an hour crushing concrete against, I don’t know what, my driveway? in order to use it as backfill than it would be for me to go to the Home Depot and buy another bag of drainage rock for $3.28. I need to always only ever tell people “no”.
  • My neighbor across the other street has asked twice now whether I’m going to run the wall up the remaining 40 feet of the side yard, because, you know, that would look good.
  • Older blue-collar white people are well-meaning, but that doesn’t always carry a lot of weight — you know, the road to hell and so forth.

In conclusion, the retaining wall represents another project at the house that’s 95% done, but not 100. I remain consistent.

bkd

 

Fake Plastic Rocks

The basement was finished some time in the 1960s. I take it that odd things were in vogue in that time period. Plastic, for instance, was a miraculous victory of man over nature. Similar to TV dinners I imagine.

So the guy who owned this house before I did thought he would really Pittsburgh-up the basement by painting the fake plastic rocks in the basement game room until they looked like this:

It was pretty classy. He did a faux finish with gold and black. He used spray paint. It was pretty classy.

Then this is what they looked like after primer:

The Ikea box really dresses up the room.

Then a couple days of fake rock and grout painting later…

…and we’re back to 1960.

Painting the grout was irritating and sloppy. I need to still go back and touch up the rocks. The rocks are “white clay” and the grout is “chocolate sprinkle”. I don’t choose the colors by the names.

bkd

Side Hill Lie, or: How to Make Stuff Grow on a Vertical Slope

Which implies I’ve “made” something grow. I don’t think I have that kind of power to begin with. And anyway, I’m not sure any growth has actually happened on the vertical slope. And if the slope is purely vertical, is it still a “slope”?

Still working this angle, but wanted to at least get the names of plants written down somewhere.

Here are some before/after pics. The before is from when I moved in (almost two years ago), the after is from this morning. There were a few stages in-between. Mostly not pictured.

The side hill.

It’ll look better once it’s got mulch on it. The little green guys in the foreground are pachysandra. The guy at the nursery said they’d be great, but everyone online says that full sun will scorch them. We’ll see how it goes. I’m kind of holding off on buying any more flats until — I dunno. I don’t think this will get answered in the next few weeks. I should have gone with plumbago.

The established plants are privets even though they look like they’re just more box woods. In the before photo, they’re the plants that are 10 feet high or whatever. A couple of them got hacked down to stumps at some point and are now trying to come back. I wish them good luck. At the bottom of the two privets in the foreground is a “valley rose pieris”. When it gets bigger it will look less like a weed. And I still think adding bark will help.

Here’s looking at the back half of this side hill (if you’re bored already you can just stop reading — it’s fine).

The after photo is from the other angle. It’ll be okay. The thing that looks like a pile of sticks in the foreground is a butterfly bush; it will supposedly look better in a month. Then there’s another privet behind that, then another pieris, then those three other green guys are bird’s nest spruces. Swell. Up above those is one of the survivors from the yardpocalypse that preceded my arrival (it’s just a mature boxwood). I’m thinking I’ll try and fill in some of these blank spaces with more ground cover (either the pachysandra or the plumbago).

Just one more area. This is the side yard just above the side hill.

Stupid feral rose-of-sharon plants.

An in-between stage.

It’ll look better with mulch. And with the hose put away. From left to right, silver sword azalea, little business (¬Ņ) daylily, stella d’oro day lily, peppermint mountain laurel, stella d’oro day lily, little business (?) daylily, silver sword azalea. Which of course ignores the air conditioner in the one window well and the other window well that doesn’t have a well liner.

One of the missionaries in the bad ward told me one Sunday that the thing he missed most from home was being able to dig things. That’s who took care of the rose-of-sharon (continued thanks).

I’m hoping the a/c pushes into the house rather than out of the house. I’d have to dig if it’s out. Probably a lot.

bkd

PS, I also transplanted a hydrangea out of the front yard and into the back yard where there’s a little more shade. In its place I planted three new azaleas that were on sale for $5 each.

My New Address

Similar to the old address. This probably should have been further down in the priority list, but there was just that day when it seemed like it’d be fun to play with spray paint. Ergo:

(Not pictured: the coat of black paint, but then…:)

For instance, you might have thought I would have prioritized painting the trim around the garage door before re-painting the address. Nope.

bkd

Back of House (More Landscaping)

This isn’t done yet, but nothing ever is.

Before and after.

At move-in (May 2010).

This morning.

The gray things are what was in there for edging. They’re concrete¬†cylinders. They’ll be replaced, maybe just by (normal) bricks.Also: need to pick up another three violets and another Russian sage, I guess.

What’s in there:

  • 1x Wichita Blue juniper
  • 2x “Cascade” azalea
  • 2x “gold mop” (chamaecyparis pisifera, if you like that better)
  • 2x Russian sage
  • 2x violet

Then there are a couple of specimens left over from the yard apocalypse that I figure have earned the right to stay there (the hosta left of the grill and the laurel of unknown variety near the right edge). Also starting to think I’m going to be tearing up a lot of turf and re-sodding next spring. I don’t think all the weed-and-feed in the world is going to fix the lawn’s current problems. Or maybe the only real problem is my attitude.

And one day I’ll turn the gas on and see if the grill works.

bkd

Foundation Painting and Front Yard Planting: An Update

May 2010:

March 2011:

June 22, 2011:

Most notable, of course, is the primer that spilled onto the driveway. I’ll enjoy putting an asphalt patch on top of that.

Here’s an up-close of the side yard in case anyone cares:

How many differences can you find?

More to come — later.

bkd

Answers:

  1. Painted the masonry block foundation gray (= pressure washing, applying waterproofing primer (heavy stuff), and concrete paint).
  2. Painted the “trim” on the porch and stairs gray.
  3. Painted the porch railing.
  4. Planted a bunch of stuff.
  5. Mulched.
  6. And the dwarf Alberta spruce is bigger now (if you look close enough, you can sort of see it in the first photo).

Mostly for my own sake, here’s what I’ve planted…

East side front yard:

  • Azalea (some red variety)
  • Shasta daisies
  • Midnight Blue Salvia (x2)
  • Rhododendron (x2; one doesn’t seem prone to living)
  • Hydrangea (“endless summer” variety)
  • Lillies (3x)
  • Arbor vitae
  • Green mountain boxwood (along the driveway)
  • Weigala (a maroon variety)
  • Spirea (x3 — can’t see them, they’re off to the right)
  • Blue rug juniper (x5 or 6)
  • Blue pacific juniper (x2)
  • Bunch of weeds (x?)

West side front yard:

  • Common boxwood (2x, one on either side of the stairs leading into the back yard)
  • Hydrangea (a sort of purple variant)
  • Japonica (pieris?) — this is a cool plant
  • Boulevard pyramidal cypress (“broad, pyramidal, evergreen shrub with soft, silvery blue-green foliage that turns bluish-gray in the winter” — if you were wondering)
  • Day lillies (stella d’oro variet, 2x)
  • Korean spice vibernum (next to the steps going up from the driveway)

Painting and Carpeting the Front Porch

One of the other positive outcomes of my trip to Utah was having TB tell me, without prompting, that Brian P. had tried for weeks to get the many layers of old paint off of his front porch and eventually failed, gave up, and put a whole ‘nother coat of paint on top of it. So I didn’t bother trying to get all the old paint off in the first place. Saved much aggravation.

Before pic:

The railing really looked worse than it appears to in this photo. And the porch itself had trace amounts of glue (at one time there was astroturf pasted onto it) on top of green on top of red on top of gray. I think. The photo makes it look like the red might have been beneath the gray. Stupid photo. This is better of the railing:

Then:

  1. Scraped the railing with wire brush, drill attachment, and putty knife (you can’t see it in the photo, but half of those vertical posts are spirals, which makes fun surfaces to try and get paint off of).
  2. Primed (2x), then painted (2x) the railing.
  3. Swept, vacuumed, hosed off, then re-vacuumed the concrete.
  4. Painted the porch (with concrete paint “for porch and garage floor”).
  5. Applied carpet tiles.

I don’t know how you’re supposed to make a concrete porch look good — or if it’s even possible. It occurred to me at one point that, if it were a nicer house, maybe tile would be the answer. More to the point, though, if it were a nicer house, I wouldn’t be leaving design decisions like that entirely to someone like me. But it’s a 1958 ranch-style house in a blue-collar, suburban Pittsburgh neighborhood, so I guess I’m good with paint and carpet tiles.

Still to go (in this vicinity):

  • Repair the concrete around the stairs.
  • Paint the stairs (probably).

bkd

PS, FWIW the carpet tiles are purportedly “indoor/outdoor”. The reviews (I got them from the HomeDepot Web site) implied that people had successfully used them in fully outdoor applications, so maybe they’ll work out. OTOH, it rains *a lot* in Pgh.

The Things I Planted

When I moved in:

A month ago (April 2011):

Today:

Finally managed to get the garage door closed.

There’s more progress than is obvious; I have most of the plantings done (in this part of the yard), just that they need to grow in and I need to finish mulching. Mulch spreading speed is hampered by lack of available old newspapers (although the neighbors are helping in this regard). It’s also hampered by how crappy-steep that slope is.

Here’s what’s in there, if you want to get in on the front yard plant ghoul pool (strictly a “what dies first?” game; after the first fatality, we can reassess).

  • Some variety of arbor vitae.
  • Rhodedendron (x2, different varieties, can’t remember the names and it’s too hard to go outside and look even though I’ve left the tags on).
  • Azalea (x2, different varieties, can’t remember the names, etc.).
  • Asiatic Lily (x3, ibid.).
  • Sierra something or other (x1).
  • Hydrangea (x1, some variety, who knows?).
  • Salvia (x2, midnight something and some other blueish name).
  • Green Mountain boxwood (x5).
  • Blue Pacific juniper (x2).
  • Blue Rug juniper (x5).

My money is on the hydrangea dying first.

Still need one more blue rug and probably a couple other bushier junipers or similar to plant next to the hedge at street level. The corner between the driveway and the street I’m going to use for a little flower bed I guess (daylillies? exotic grass? low-rise clumpy flowering things? mal sehen).

Here, this angle makes it look like I’ve done something:

And, yeah.

bkd

PS, I also bought a lawn mower. I almost enjoy mowing the lawn so long as it’s *my* lawn.

Bathroom Update

Because every blog needs an occasional bathroom update. People need to know.

I think last time I posted the bathroom was gutted and mostly wall-less. A couple months ago my parents flew out and my dad put up new drywall for me:

That bleached red towel down there is stopping up the toilet drain. If you ever come stay at my house, you may want to think twice before using any bleached red towels after showering. Just saying.

Anyway, I don’t want to type, so here are a bunch of photos instead. They imply that putting the bathroom back together has required a few steps. They’re also chronological.

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