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Thadius856 08-16-2011 12:59 AM

Charming Central California Ranch Home
I've been lurking the site for quite a while. Recently registered to ask a few electrical code questions, and to try to answer a few myself (with mixed success). I've been enthralled reading Coco's story in BC - now up to page 40 - and decided I might like to start showcasing my own project.

I'm a California native, though not to the small Central Valley community where I now own. I was born in the San Francisco Bay Area, I've lived on a 36' Kris Kraft on the coast, moved around the Wine Country, survived in Reno, came back to the Sierra Nevada foothills, and then moved off to college in the Bay Area about 10 years ago. I had come full circle.

In 2009, I got married to my girlfriend of 5 years for all the wrong reasons and moved to Oregon to be closer to my wife's family. Much too close. I found myself shortly in North Carolina, staying with a friend. I must say that I'm not very fond of the weather in the Southeast, or the food of the South. Go figure.

I enlisted, was rushed off to Texas, then Mississippi, and by chance was stationed back in the Central Valley of California. It feels good to be home, less than 2 hours from every place I mentioned living when I grew up... though all in different directions.

While I was in North Carolina, I fell in love. I've since dragged her all the way back across the country. We both joke that we've driven the 3,000 mile moving trip for each other. It's been a couple of years now for both of us, and we're ready to give marriage another shot. Wish us luck!

One last thing before we start on the house: when I was growing up, always moving between apartments, rental homes, boats, RVs, campers, etc I set the goal of owning my first home by 25. I'm glad to say that I made it, but just barely, by about seven weeks. :cool:

Thadius856 08-16-2011 12:59 AM

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The House

I came across this home, of all places, online. Indeed, the images you're about to see are the ones that were listed on the MLS entry. I did not take these, nor do I feel there are enough to adequately show the "before" condition of the home. They're intent on showing the good side of the property, while I'll be focusing on a few of the negative aspects. All the same, I didn't take move-in photos, so they'll have to be enough, along with my words.

Built in 1958, this home was one of the first subdivisions that established this city. Originally a railroad-driven community, these homes were built economically for the working class. As a result, the entirety of my subdivision was built with flat roofs. In the last fifty years, most have been replaced with a sloped roof, including this one. Luckily, I have one of the few that was built on footings, as most of my neighbors "enjoy" slab-on-grade.

It was originally approximately 1200 sq ft, compared to the 950-1000 sq ft neighbors, but underwent a garage conversion some time in the last 10 years. At 1390 sq ft, there's certainly enough room for the two of us. In fact, we had enough space left over that I moved my father in. He's a career carpenter, so there's no lack of tools and construction expertise should I need it. Sometimes he swings a hammer around here, but mostly it's me doing the fiddling.

The entire home was originally stucco'd, in that horrible shade of avocado that can't be described, but is best seen on antique appliances. Over the years, the front was given vinyl siding, then vinyl dual-pane windows on all sides, and lastly the stone vaneer that you see here. In this weather, it looks like it's painted yellow, but it's not. No, the vinyl has slowly aged. In normal sunlight, the top of the vinyl appears this color yellow while the bottom appears bone white. The color scheme just doesn't work for me, though you'll notice that between the stone, roof and scant number of trim pieces, I'm fairly locked into at least half of it being earthy tones.

Thadius856 08-16-2011 01:00 AM

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The rear of the home isn't terribly different in appearance. Note that this picture was taken before the bank's contractor cleaned the place up. Unfortunately, that means they took the wood too, despite my offer being placed contingent on an as-is status, including the fencing material.

A keen eye will note that this covered patio was an addition, as was the one in front. Originally only a 12" overhang, we not have about 8' to work with in the rear. It's hard to say when it was done, but certainly the addition is older than the current roofing, as I can see the tail ends of wood shingles poking out where they overlap.

Of course, all that cleanup means that the area on the left was completely cleared, even of the split, stacked and dried firewood. Bah!

Thadius856 08-16-2011 01:01 AM

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Looking back at the front door, you'll notice that both the entry and den have a beatiful hardwood covering. This isn't some random pergo, no sir. It measures in at 3/4" all the way around, and appears to be tongue-and-groove. I wouldn't be surprised if it was original, as it has so much character and isn't matched like anything I've seen for sale today.

The piano, much like the fencing material, was expected to be included. Not only was it removed, but the hardwood was gouged when they removed it. :censored: I guess it's just as well... I wouldn't have had time to play it anyway.

You'll notice that the door frame is missing trim. In fact, about half of them are. Only two windows had any coverings at all: 1" white faux wood blinds. At least they're decent Levelors.

This room features six 6" cans in a 2x3 pattern with the ceiling fan in the middle. I haven't measured it, but suspect it to be approximately 48". You can see the interesting ceiling pattern going on here... a dark base coat of a stucco-like material with a lighter coat artistically troweled on over it. It's like this in all common areas of the home, except the garage conversion (to the right, not pictured).

Thadius856 08-16-2011 01:28 AM

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The converted garage area makes a great living room. Recessed approximately 12", it sits on the old garage slab. This is also the only room in the house where the hardwood is a laminate, though at least of high quality.

Only about half the length of the room is shown. At about 11'6" x 16', it's a fairly decently sized room. The 6" buildup for the wood stove is not a feature we ever liked, and the inspector warned against using it without sweeping out the chimney's creosote buildup anyway. We plan for it to go, but that will have to come some time down the road, as the stove is massive and wouldn't surprise me if it was over 500 lbs.

Note the odd heights of the receptacles, cable and phone. The receptacles were wired when the garage was unfinished, so they were framed out 12" up. The cable and phone were added at different times, at seemingly random heights. In fact, the cable hookup was a hole straight through from the exterior directly below the DirectTV dish without a box in the wall and using an indoor RadioShack cord. :huh:

Thadius856 08-16-2011 01:36 AM

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Ah, the bathroom. This one boggles the mind. As in the other common areas, the ceiling here is two-toned stucco. But two different tones of blue! And, unfortunately, it's cracking along one edge near the shower. I assume it's only a matter of time before it all falls, as it doesn't appear to be sealed in any way. Oh yeah, and all the walls are stucco too...

The tile is brand new, and fairly good quality. The sink and medicine cabinet are straight out of a box, and are the only light woods in the home. Suffice to say, they don't match well.

Notice the only outlet in the bathroom? Yeah, that's right, above the toilet paper holder. GFI? Pffft, nope. Decorator plate, though. Sigh.

One odd thing here is that the threshold between the tile and hardwood in the hallway here is about 2" tall. It feels really odd on the feet. I imagine that it was prompted by a toilet or bath tub flood going down the hall, but can't be certain. Also, somebody thought it would be a cool idea to chop 4" off this hollow-core door from each end, making for a rather odd look when it's closed up.

Thadius856 08-16-2011 01:44 AM

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And... the galley kitchen. My least favorite layout, plus it's rather small. However, I don't do too terribly much cooking and it didn't seem to bother her too much. I think she's just happy to have a place to call all her own!

This is probably the worst thought-out room in the house, and it hurt its valuation. The cabinetry is all out of a box, middle-of-the-road quality stuff. However, it leaves odd gaps here and there. There's less than 1" between the fridge and the cabinet when it's fully against the wall. Missing baseboards. Peeling sheet linoleum. Random spaces on either side of the fridge with nothing there.

These cabinets are in bad need of some TLC. A little oil will do them wonders. The alabaster ceiling light covers are one of the defining features when we decided on style, even though they're the 2/$20 ones from Lowes. Between that, the wood, and a few brushed nickel accents we're adding, there's not much need for ornamentation. Though we did wish they'd bought the alabaster/nickel ones, instead of the alabaster/white ones. But now I'm nitpicking. ;)

I'll probably let her go nuts with a few boxes of sticky tiles while I design and save up for new cabinetry, countertops and flooring. They'll just have to hold up while we pay off my credit cards and her car.

Thadius856 08-16-2011 01:51 AM

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Lastly, you see our little shed. Many of the neighbors have these, and I absolutely love this little bugger. It's ready to go, and has already saved plenty of headaches with regard to placement of tools and project materials. It's fairly new, and in great condition.

It has a small pathway, which passes right by our old oak. I'm not too fond of the slate-like rock which was placed there, recessed haphazardly into the grass. There's also no power to the shed, and that's something I'd like to have at night. :laughing:

Note that you don't get to see any pictures of our three bedrooms. The front one, as I mentioned, is our den. It's terribly messy right now with all my electronic goodies that I haven't gotten to setting up just yet. One fried motherboard waiting for warranty service from one computer, two bad sticks of RAM from another, and a jammed up printer are keeping me from setting everything up. It's about 9'10" x 11'0" if I remember correctly, meaning that my two 5'x5' L-shape computer desks just won't fit side-by-side (in a U-shape) the way I want them without blocking the closet. Ugh.

The master just got a nice dose of 9-piece bedroom set from the classifieds. We have a medium blue accent wall, which I'm not terribly fond of, and one of the 4 slightly different shades of taupe on each of the other walls. You guessed it, 3/4" hardwood.

The second bedroom was by far the worst. At some point, it looks like there was a roof leak. One corner has a small dark patch on the hardwood and a very slightly bubbling of the paint being dragged down the wall in the corner. We ran the hose on the area for an hour while watching in the room, in the crawlspace and in the attic. We haven't found any leaks yet, so I'm going to assume for now that it was repaired but that the room was never spruced back up.

This room has several colors of tan, sometimes multiple per wall, different by several shades. There was some of that really old avocado showing in one window casing, and some very splattered door trim, complete with drywall texture overspray.

Thadius856 08-16-2011 11:49 AM

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Now that I've shown you the move-in condition of the home, I'll catch you up to speed. I don't have pictures along the way, and most of the projects aren't interesting enough to solicit multiple images each anyway.

Just taken from the street, you can tell that we went a different direction with the color scheme. I let the little lady pick the colors, and she came back to me with this baby blue and sandy off-white trim. There's a rich brown ("mexican sand") accent, but we haven't cracked that can yet... it'll be mostly for the undersides of the overhangs and patio covering.

Took this picture in the mid-morning, and you can see the light exposure that the master bed gets on the north side. Definitely need some drapes. Just dug up and re-seeded the small patch of grass near the door. You can ignore the ladder... we were about to wash the van just off-frame. Also removed a brick border running from the front door to the North, which was causing water to pool and sit against the house when it rained.

Next we see the south side wall. Apparently there was a window before the garage was converted, which as very poorly stucco'd. I'll go back and fix it properly some time down the road. Note the odd RG-6 drop from the old satellite location, going straight through the stucco. I'll be re-running that drop through the attic later as well.

The rear is drastically different. The gutter slope had a few low spots, and that's been adjusted and cleaned out. Two outdoor ceiling fans were added, both remote controlled. The black bages are 30-40# of rock for the pathway, where we dug up the makeshift flagstone path. You can definitely see where the paint ran out, and we're waiting on another Sherwin sale. On the left is temporary storage for the flagstone, brick, borders, etc. that we removed.

The North side has not been painted yet, so not pictured. However, we did remove 3-4" of soil that was causing a drainage issue and touching the fence, as well as a 8' section of tree root.

Thadius856 08-16-2011 12:12 PM

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The entry looks much the same as before. Fresh paint (mauve?) in most rooms so far. New faux wood blinds. Cleaned up the floors a bit, added some orange oil.

Was troubleshooting the under-window receptacle not powering appliances. Pulled the receptacle, found no power on this leg of the circuit. Found the conductor abandoned inside the switch box for no apparent reason. Reconnected it, and replaced the receptacle for a decorator that matched the one on the left. Also found that the front patio light wasn't getting power, and traced it to a loose negative wagging around in the wire nut. Previous HO used one size too small for number of conductors. Also added grounds to both receptacles pictured from the crawlspace.

Patched the 4-5" diameter drywall hole (that was very poorly patched) where the door knob used to strike. Previous HO added a screw-in spring at the bottom of the door to stop it from recurring, but the rubber stopper fell off and so I was left with a sharp spring and a hole in the base board. :mad: Decided to go with a reinforcer instead, if/until I find a solution I'm happier with.

The recessed garage conversion, what I consider the living room, was very dark. In the center of the ceiling was a ceiling fan bracket w/ motor and single light kit, but no arms, blades or shrouds. It was ungrounded, without a ceiling box, with hot wire connected unswitched. Needless to say it was promptly removed and disconnected in the attic, though I've left the wiring where it was, and you can see the wire nuts faintly.

To solve the darkness problem, I've installed 5 pendants; 3 behind and above the seating and 2 along the far wall. Had wanted something less ornate, but stumbled upon these marked down from $55 to $11, less my discount. Wanted a sixth, but couldn't find another location that had them in stock AND on clearance. Go figure. There's room for a fan still, with about 4' to the nearest light, so even a 70" is possible... though I'm keeping an eye out for a 52-60" without light kit (8' ceilings) in a design I like.

Thadius856 08-16-2011 12:40 PM

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Ok, so the "entertainment center" is looking a bit like a pile of devices and wires. Well, it is. Had to take down all the speakers to paint a few days ago, and they haven't gone back up yet. I'm waiting until my new mounts come in from Monoprice. I'm ordering today, I promise this time! There will eventually be a banana plug wall plate beside each mount as well, with in-wall runs of the speaker wire. For now, thumbtacks will have to do. ;)

Being near-sighted, I figured a 60-65" TV at 8' was about what I wanted. The far-sighted one disagreed, leaning towards a 42". I ended up splitting the difference with a 50" 3D 1080p Smart TV (a great price point) and mounting it on one of the beefiest (and most expensive) mounts that Monoprice could offer. He thinks the TV is just the right size when against the wall, and when I'm alone I pull it 30" closer for a much more fulfilling experience.

Per Murphy's Law, the TV mount needed to bolt into two studs, and the TV ended up needing to be mounted 8" off center to either side of the room. Naturally, I chose away from the fireplace. I have plans for that area!

This is the seating, at nearly full recline. Even fully reclined, this set amazingly only needs about an additional 3" clearance to the rear as opposed to when seated upright. All 4 recline in the same manner, though one is currently blocked from being able to because of clearance.

Thadius856 08-16-2011 12:52 PM

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This stubby wall has been the hardest yet for me. While I easily patched numerous holes in other parts of the living room, I had difficulty here. I had to remove 3 pieces of this single drywall sheet to connect the new circuit - for the 3 receptacles I added in the wall behind the seating - to the pendants, dual dimmers and the new laundry room light. A keen eye may see the difference in texture in person, but I wouldn't have noticed it if I hadn't created it.

My first attempt failed miserably to match the texture. I looked at the can before realizing it was oil-based orange peel, not the knockdown I needed. After a thorough sanding and refinishing, it went on smoothly and uniformly. The second time I tried, that is. :laughing: Definitely a good lesson to buy the right product the first time.

And lastly, the stove. You can already tell from previous pictures that it's a good 8" or so raised, putting it somewhere between the height of the rest of the house and the living room. That, and the chimney needs work. Oh, and I don't paticularly care for wood stoves. And that the stone and tile is soooooo ugry! I'll need several large guys to move this beast of a stove, then remove the stone and knock down the tile for replacement closer to flush. I plan on building in a whole-wall custom bookshelf here and using the few extra feet to allow the last recliner to... well... recline. :)

More pics ready to go, but it's bed time.

Thadius856 08-16-2011 07:30 PM

Good morning!

Adding a new item to my to-do list: line my front lawn with 19 naked statues of David.

Thadius856 08-16-2011 07:54 PM

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On to the second bedroom! As I said before, this was by far the most beat up living space. I spend a good two days in this tiny room, just shy of 10'x11'.

Holes all around were filled and/or meshed, sanded, got two more layers of compound with sandings, textured, primed and painted. Two holes about 2" in diameter about 2 inches of the floor were the hardest - it looked like somebody had put them there while using a prybar to remove the baseboard. It was absolutely critical to feather the compound on these two holes well for a seamless look later on.

Errr, time for another haircuit. Brb.

Mmk, no where was I. Ah, the East-facing window had some issues on the casing where spots of the corners were missing down to the drywall backing paper. A genereous over-fill of compound, then sanded down about 1/16" below where the finished version would end, fiber mesh, more compound. Same rigamarole from here.

Again found that the one receptacle had no power in this room. Removing the device, I discovered why: the last one had cooked from the inside out. It looks like it had been arcing onto the plug, because there was definitely some black burn spots. Updated both receptacles and the switch to match the other decorators.

The room previous had a flush-mount light with a bronze ring. It never had a cover when I bought the house, just the two horizontal socks hanging there. It worked, but when I went to replace it, it took a bit of the paint and paper with it. In hindsight, it would have been a good idea to cut around the fixture delicately with a razor knife before removing it. :whistling2: Hint, hint. Luckily, the new fixture was about 3" larger. Installed a plate for the door handle backstop and called it a day.

A tip that might not be obvious: make sure central A/C is disabled before painting a ceiling or adjoining wall. While it was only set on 75F and I had turned the vent to blocked, it was still cooling the vent cover enough to form condensation and really stretch out my drying time.

Thadius856 08-16-2011 08:06 PM

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Next up, the hallway.

The switch on the right is to be replaced tomorrow. You see, about half of the switches and receptacles in the home are new decorator ones, by Cooper (aka Aspire) from Lowes. The other half are a mismatched jumble of randomness left over from 50 years of rolling upgrades.

Originally, I thought it a good idea to replace the older ones with the matching decoras. However, it seems to be the case that almost all of the decora switches "pop", and every decora device installed was done with backstabs, and even then poorly inserted. The result is that I could have really chosen any style I wanted at this point, because pretty much every device in the house has to be replaced, and in most cases, I'm having to clean up the connections with wire nuts and pigtails in each box as I go. The neighbor across the street told me of a massive surge that hit the town a few years back, so that may account for the popping.

All of the trim, with the exception of the frame for the door at the end of the hallway, received a fresh coat of white just a few hours ago while I was asleep. Quite a nice sight to wake up to.

I found the closet door in the laundry room a few weeks back, so it got re-hung last Friday. I got lucky that it was installed properly last time, as it's probably the smooth-operating door in the home at this point. :laughing:

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