Sunday, February 28, 2010

Snow plow

It is now almost 72 hours since the storm started. We haven't had any precipitation for about 24 hours, and still no plow. We are very disappointed, bordering on angry. It is really upsetting to make a deal, and then have people back out, without notice. We even placed 3 calls to ask if he plans on coming. Just so we know to make other arrangements. Still nothing.

What is more, this person came highly recommended by a friend, and a fellow Montclair resident. Very sad.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Spring Landscaping

I know, with over a foot of snow I'm talking about landscaping. Well, one has to dream.

We decided when we bought the House that the landscaping was just atrocious. It's not only old-fashioned, as one of the landscape designers we talked to said, it just doesn't compliment the House. I mean, it's easy to maintain, to be sure, but definitely not what this House needs. So, we decided that this Spring we will demolish whatever is there, donate the removed trees and shrubs to the local parks, and start plating what we really think would compliment the House and the location.

Well, low and behold, the Mother Nature agrees with us. These are the juniper trees in the front yard that were the first things we wanted removed. Not only are they all scrawny since they are behind the weeping cherry tree, but their location makes absolutely no sense: they get no sun, there is no room to grow, no sense at all. I think someone just had 2 extra trees and decided to put them there. They would have been much better had they been planted as a fence, like the rest of the junipers. We'll try to move them. Hopefully, they'll take in the new location and thrive.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Your Old House Workshops - Part II: Interior - Canceled

Unfortunately, the weather didn't really cooperate, and the workshop is canceled. Which is a good thing, since we still didn't have our driveway cleaned.

Just to remind you, we finally found a truck with a snowplow, and struck a deal. He is to come whenever there is some serious accumulation of snow. We went outside and talked to some neighbors who were cleaning. One of them had an interesting comment: You have to be patient with them. I wasn't sure what he meant until this afternoon. We're a little more than 30 hours into the storm, and he is still not here. Patience.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Your Old House Workshops - Part II: Interior

Just wanted to remind all the readers that the second workshop in the Your Old House series will take place this Saturday, February 27 from 10 to 12 noon at 108 Orange Road, Montclair. This building is the Clark House, another one of the Montclair Historical Society buildings.

This week the work moves inside, and the panel will begin with a discussion of the difference between design bid vs design build. There will also be talk about the process and pitfalls of interior projects. Following that, the panel will talk about how to maintain the historic integrity of the home, while still achieving a house you and your family can live in. The audience will also get a peak at the design of kitchens and bathrooms throughout the 18th, 19th, and 20th century. In the end, there will be a lots of time to talk with the panel of experts and craftsmen about individual projects.

Co-sponsored by MHS and the Van Vleck House and Gardens, the workshops are designed to introduce you to the knowledge you need to plan and execute a restoration or remodeling of your older home. Upcoming workshops include Landscape and Grounds and The Exterior.

The cost is $10 per person per workshop. If you register for the remaining three workshops, the cost is $25, and includes an annual membership to the MHS. MHS members and Van Vleck House and Gardens members are always free. Send a note to mail@montclairhistorical.org if you'd like to register.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Heating Woes

The heating issues have now become heating woes. The furnace stops working at least once a week, without any warning or explanation. I start it back up, and by the time service crew shows up, everything looks fine.

Well, when it went out this morning, I've had just about enough, and I called everyone at our service company: account manager, supervisor, customer service - everybody. To their credit, they called me back really fast. Every conversation started of a little defensive, as in it's not such a big problem, you only called four times in the last four week, etc. By what definition calling your service company once a week four weeks in a row regarding a spanking new boiler is not a problem, I do not know, but I didn't want to be confrontational or adversarial or facetious. I just wanted it fixed. When they realized I am not laying any blame on anyone, and that I am not yelling or calling anybody names (very unusual for me, as those that know me will tell you), they were rather helpful and solution-driven.

So, tomorrow, we will have a new transformer and a check valve, which was apparently NOT installed when they put in the new tank in the basement.

Hopefully, that will work. And now, my rant is done. Thanks for reading.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Living Room Insulation, Part II

Well, due to yet another snow storm, the work will not start until Monday, March 1, which is a week later than we hoped. On the flip side, it's still so cold that we would be able to see instantly any benefit this project brings. If it doesn't, not sure where I would go for a refund...

Sunday, February 14, 2010

The deal is struck

We took one more meeting, shook hands, signed, and gave the deposit for the flat roof and terrace work. It will be performed by Jack Finn & Company Building Contractors, LLC, as the new sign coming up on the front lawn will state.

Now, those in town that had some work done on their houses all know Mr. Finn and of Mr. Finn. For the rest of you reading this, trust me, you are not missing much. Basically, during the last real estate heyday, Mr. Finn got a reputation of being pretty much out of the reach for those of us that have budgets. But, from the research I performed, it really wasn't that bad. It looks like he simply performed the best job he could, which at times was as near perfection as construction can be (within budget, no cutting corners, and on time), and was recommended a lot. Judging from the professional manner in which he negotiated with us, his candidness, and numerous unsolicited recommendations we received, we decided that to renovate the best House in town, we should get the best contractor in town.

And, believe it or not, he was not the highest bid we received.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Remember that leaky kitchen faucet?

Well, Thursday morning it reached a state of emergency, where no amount jiggling and probing could stop the leak. With almost a foot of snow outside, we knew the plumber would never make it up the driveway. So, we decided to do this on our own. It has to be said, surprisingly easy. We were coached by a friend who knows a thing or two about plumbing over the phone, but, again, pretty simple.

Here is a photo of the little man helping.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Snow falling on Cedars

Sorry, I had to... I kept thinking about it since it started snowing...

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Living Room Insulation

We got the proposal to insulate the basement ceiling or the Living Room floor, whichever you find easier. As of today, we are scheduled for the work to be finished by the end of February. This is a little later than we hoped for, but we've been dragging our feet on most of the things we have happening lately, so we can't blame the contractor for our indecisiveness.

The work calls for the existing basement ceiling to be ripped out, new insulation put it, all the holes plugged, finished off with waterproof Sheetrock and Spackle. It should be mentioned that prior to the large renovation in 1996, this basement room used to be a garage. When the House was renovated, a garage addition was built by the kitchen, this room was closed off, and a circular driveway was installed. As much as I like the driveway, and I really do because I hate backing out into traffic, today I was cursing everyone that had anything to do with it. The snow made it rather slippery, so when I went to pick up bagels this morning, I literally slid into the street. Scary. Especially since our snow blower died during the last storm.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Heating Issues

About a week ago, I went out with kids for a morning of their scheduled activities. When we came home, the temperature inside the House was 64 degrees. Immediately, I went down to the basement and reset the burner. Luckily, it went back on, and within one hour the temperature was up to 70 degrees, where we usually keep the thermostat during the day. Of course, it didn't help that it was one of those really cold days, but we lived. Since this never happened before, I called our service company to check it out. The technician came, saw, and left. Said everything was in a perfect working order and he had no idea why it decided to stop. This seemed a little strange, but we just shrugged it off as one of those things that happens some times. Especially since our furnace was of the 2008 vintage.

And it would have probably stayed that way, had not the same thing happened again today. I left the House to run some errands and left the kids to nap with the sitter. By the time I came back, the temperature in the House was 63 degrees. Again, I went down to the basement, and reset the burner. Called the service company again. The technician came within minutes, as he usually does. At this point, I got a bit worried. The furnace to stop working twice in two weeks - not good. He gave it a thorough check and said the problem was... a dirty filter. He replaced it and cleaned the nozzle, and said we should be good. So, holding our fingers crossed, as the big snow is approaching.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Finally, back on the proverbial horse

With the parents gone, operated foot partially healed, kids and House virus-free, baby sitter back from vacation, and work stuff out of the way, I now have time to get back to my schedule. For now, at least.

I owe you a recap of the January 23rd event at the Evergreens. Just to remind you, since it has been more than a week, the workshops are designed to introduce a homeowner to the knowledge they need to plan and execute a restoration or remodeling of an older home. The workshops are co-sponsored by Montclair Historical Society and the Van Vleck House and Gardens.

At the first workshop, titled "The Basics," the panelists tried to give us the information one needs to get started. Michael Margulies, AIA talked about how to identify the style of the house. Jeff Farrell and Chuck Baum helped with the definitions of preservation, restoration, or sensitive remodeling (and what are the differences). Jane Eliasof gave us some of the resources to help in the research of home's history. Patrick Hynes and Jane Eliasof also briefly discussed the Historical Commission approval process. In general, the panel tried to help the homeowners in the audience take first steps towards their projects. The panelists also circulated some really useful resource lists and other materials, which I'll try to scan and share.

After the completion of the panel discussion, we got the tour of the amazing Evergreens house. We also got an opportunity to network with our neighbors, which was probably the best part.

Joking aside, if you are at the beginning or in the middle of the project, this really is a place for you. I wish I knew this was in the works, because it would have saved me weeks of research.

The next panel is on Saturday, February 27, at the Clark House, 108 Orange Road, Montclair, NJ. Hope to see you there.