Sunday, March 25, 2012

Another day, another dollar...

What a week it's been! I can't say that The Milton House feels like home yet, but I definitely realize that we own it! To start, despite the capture of mama opossum and her six babies, we had been suspicious that there was another, larger one lurking. Russell was convinced that the one that we caught was not as big as the one that he had seen, and since he *never exaggerates* I agreed that it was a good idea to set up the trap again. And low and behold, Saturday morning we discovered that indeed, dad was missing his family! And this means Russell was right... Sigh. Please tell me this is the last of them. I don't think I can handle the removal of more than 8 opossums - especially considering the fact that I ended up driving this one up Raccoon Mountain with the kids. In my car. By myself. Gross. One can only hope that he was able to find the rest of his family and is able to at least educate those baby opossums on how to cross the road. I mean, who would teach them how if not their own dad?
With the opossums behind us (we think?), the next major to do was the discovery that the exposed pipe in the foyer that was damaged had to be excavated until there was no more evidence of damage. Which meant that the wall next to the front door was removed, and then the ceiling, and then the floor in Hadley's room (crap! tough to patch original hardwoods!), and then, finally, the entire floor in Anderson's bathroom was ripped out. Good news - if you remove the entire pipe, there's nothing old left so you've definitely fixed the problem. Bad news - there goes the hardwood floor refinishing budget!!! Wah!!! On the bright side though, I am now getting to redo Anderson's bathroom, which had been on the "wait until later" list. I mean, what 2.5 year old doesn't need a brand new, carrara marble floored bath?
In all honesty though, I am nothing but pleased with the progress of the house (am I brain damaged from the flea bombs I set off in the basement last night?). Seriously though, a big shout out to Daniel Scearce, our amazing contractor, who not only gets to deal with the Milton House and all of her joys, but with me as well! He is doing amazing work and I am sure will have the house ready for us to move into on Friday. #inoveryourhead.
There is one little beacon of light that I have clung to over these past 48 hours or so however. The dining room is finished except for a new chandelier (taking donations at this point), and it look freaking amazing! I'm talking bring a tear to your eye, art gallery amazing. Breath taking, heart stopping amazing. Maybe that's why I keep finding myself in there, staring like a fool.

Monday, March 19, 2012

FIRE! And rodents and rain...Oh my!

Four days of demo down and it's been quite an adventure, to say the least. Day two started with the discovery that the house had sustained a substantial fire at some point in it's history. Amazing what you find when you rip the ceilings out! After a few hours of panic and phone calls and visions of the whole house budget going up in flames, we settled down and realized that the fire had taken place half a century ago and the damage was pretty much par for the course in a 97 year old home.
And then, just as the shock of the discovery of the fire was wearing off, one of the workers yelled up from the basement that there was something moving in the ceiling. What?!?! We ran downstairs to find a mama and a baby opossum hanging out in the rafters. Great. After a phone call to the city and an explanation that there is nothing "humane" about opossums, we phoned a few exterminators and learned that "that will be $350-$450, and I'd expect the upper range since it's a family".
Seriously? "And ma'am, you will need to treat the excrement, for an extra...." blah blah blah.
It wasn't until we removed the floor in the sunroom/soon to be bathroom and my (not so small) husband actually jumped in the room to demonstrate that we needed to add some support that I realized that we had, in fact, purchased The Money Pit. Standing in that room with Russell and our contractor Daniel, feeling the floor shake, I actually had feeling that we, along with the bathtub, would be sailing through the floor in our own little remake of the famed movie. After the floor stopped shaking and I realized we had indeed not fallen through the floor, I picked my stomach up off said floor and headed to Ferguson's to purchase a floor model bathtub (read: need deals! Discounts please!). Here's to hoping the bathtub does NOT end up falling through the floor!!! Check out the pic: what do you think? This is the payoff, right? Hold on to the vision. I mean, we might never get there, working on this money pit, but by God, at least we'll have this beautiful tub. It might end up sitting in the middle of an unfinished bathroom for two years, but I can promise you I'm going to sit in it either way!
And for some additional good news, Daniel - our contractor and close friend (at least he was before this project started - we might run him off!) set up a trap in the basement for the opossums, and it worked! Sunday afternoon he stopped by and found the trap had been activated and mama was safe inside. I'm so glad that we didn't agree to pay someone to come and remove them. I guess when you figure out that they were going in and out of the cat door that had been cut into the basement door (where they had entered and consumed a steady supply of cat food that was readily available in the basement), all you have to do is set the trap up there. Sure enough, mama and her SIX babies ended up being caught and relocated to Raccoon Mountain. Many, many thanks to my brave stepdad Rooster for facilitating the release. For a good story, ask him about how that went the next time you see him...
The last bit of good/bad news came on Friday afternoon as we were hit with a major thunderstorm. The good news part is that we had visualization of the entire roof since it was still exposed and there were NO LEAKS! Yay! At least, no leaks in the roof. The sunroom, on the other hand, was a veritable waterfall. We knew there was water damage to the wood in the corner of the sunroom, both upstairs and down, but we didn't know that it would rain in the corner of the house every time we had a storm. It's hard to understand why no one would have even attempted to fix the leak and just let the house rot for years and years, but that's all I'm going to say about that. The good news is, we are here to love this house and take it back to where it needs to be. We respect the 97 years that it has been around, and want to do everything possible to ensure it is standing and in good condition for 97 years to come. I truly feel like it is a privilege to own The Milton House, and Russell and I will do everything we can to make sure that we can to treat her right.
Perhaps it was a sign of welcome, or at least a nod to the fact that we are moving in, but the beautiful weeping cherries were in full bloom just as we started to work this week. It's been a beautiful gesture from the home that we are ripping apart. Almost as if to foreshadow what is to come.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Day One

Wow. Day one of Project Milton House in the books. I can't get over the fact that we actually own a new house and have sold our house. And that we have to move in to the oh so not renovated Milton House in TWO WEEKS! But, we love a challenge, so we are putting everything that we have into it.
I won't bore you with the full details of what we did today, but I will highlight a few. The popcorn/water damaged ceilings came down from the third floor, and we were not so surprised to find an actual hole in the 97 year old slate roof. Shocking. I guess that's where the water damage originated. The plan there is to fix the roof and then do a layer of spray foam insulation and then finish it off with sheetrock. It should look great when it's done, and hopefully we can at least slightly reduce what are sure to be astronomical utility bills.
My personal favorite moment came when we were standing in the basement with the plumber and Russell saw a cat coming down the outside stairs, headed for the cat door that had just been closed off (the previous owner was an avid cat lover). I gave the door a tap with my foot and the "cat" turned out to be an opposum! Apparently the basement was home to cats and opposums! Russell was at the house most of the day and saw the mom and baby opposums hanging out. Not the ideal pet scenario, to say the least. The real highlight of the day though was stopping by after work and seeing the green, flowered wall paper all primed and ready to be skim coated. It was my first glimpse of what the house is going to look like with white walls, and it was EXCITING!
Another exciting little nugget is the fact that the Chattanooga Times Free Press is going to be following us during this renovation and will do a story when we have finished the project (news flash, that might be never). Karen Nazor Hill, the reporter doing the story, asked me if it felt real, and I have to say that at this point it only feels surreal. This is the 7th house that Russell and I have renovated and while that previous experience prepared us for this task, I think that it has also made me have the approach of one foot in front of the other - get the task at hand done. Right now, the house is a list of projects, paint colors and need to do. I wonder if in two weeks it will feel like home? We'll probably still have a hundred things left to do, but I am confident that this will be home for a long, long time.
Before, during and after pics to come....

Saturday, February 4, 2012

A new idea for my blog

Wow - March 31st was my last post. I bet all three of you have been waiting with baited breath for this! I am happy to report, however, that I have a new topic about which to blog. Russell and I are doing ANOTHER renovation! That's right, after taking a little time off to have two kids, start a company and begin a new job, we finally got the itch to renovate again. It took us a while to work up to wanting to put all of that energy towards another project, but we finally realized that we were facing a once in a lifetime opportunity and we just had to grab it.
You'll understand why I wanted to write this blog after I tell you a little bit about the house's history. Also, because of the size of the house, it is going to be quite a big project, so I thought I'd put my ideas out here and garner feedback! This renovation will take a while and each decision that we make will be a big deal, so be honest! I look forward to documenting this process, and I hope that this forum will give friends and family who don't live nearby a chance to feel a part of this project.
Now, a little bit about the house! "The Milton House" was built in 1915 by George and Abby Milton in the ritziest neighborhood in town at the time - Fortwood, and is on the National Register of Historic Places. Prominent neighbors included T.C. Thompson - Mayor of Chattanooga from 1909-1915 and after whom TC Thompson Children's Hospital was named; Samuel Read - owner of The Read House, an important Chattanooga hotel; William G. McAdoo - a two time presidential contender and builder of New York City's Holland Tunnell (also known as the McAdoo Tunnell), and JP Smartt - a wholesale distributor of shoes and books. An exciting side note regarding the Smartt house - only two doors down from the Milton house - is that our very close friends just moved in last June! Hadley is very excited about this because her best friend Vivan - only 3 days older than she - will be her neighbor!
All of this being said, we feel honored to be able to become the next owners of The Milton House. I definitely feel a weight of responsibility to take care of the house and make its former owners proud. Heaven knows they could be still living there! Post on whether or not the house is haunted to come....
I will have to make a post about the various owners of the house at some point. There is actually a complete list of owners, and at one time it was even a bed and breakfast! Because of that, each room had an en-suite bath put in, so the house is very welcoming to visitors. This is really one of the main reasons that Russell and I decided to buy the house. We love to entertain and to have friends and family come and stay. Our little house on Jarnigan, no matter how beloved, just didn't allow us to have visitors like we would have liked, especially after having kids. Now we will have ample space for the grandmas (who have all chosen their rooms already) and friends alike (Boires, there is a whole floor for you). And oh yeah, there's a pool.
There will obviously be much more to come, but in closing check out the picture that I posted. It was taken around 1920 in front of the house, and the ladies who are in the car are part of a parade to drum up support for the women's suffrage movement. Perhaps one of the neatest things about this house is that Abby Crawford Milton was the president of the Tennessee Equal Suffrage League, and she was instrumental in getting the 19th amendment signed in 1920. Tennessee was the final state to ratify the amendment that gave women the right to vote, and we are going to live in the house that one of the most important people to that cause built. Wow! If its haunted, I hope its her!
Closing is tomorrow, and our "cavalry"- as our contractor like to call them - of workers will descend Tuesday to tear down wall paper, tear out ceilings, fix plumbing, tile bathroom floors, remove carpet, paint, refinish hardwood get the drift. The plan is to take Chattanooga's "decorator showcase house" from 1993 into the 21st century! Pic and details to follow. Until then, wish us luck!