Renovation #2- Down to the Bricks, part 1

Renovation #2 is the renovation I am most proud of. It is the renovation where I went down to the bricks and the joists. I replaced the floors, changed up some of the radiators, and completely changed the floorplan. Since it was such a big project, I’m dividing this into a couple of posts.

Let’s start with the permits. I was able to get the permit myself, with my own drawings. The poor Sikh gentleman at DCRA was patient with me, pointed out things I needed to correct and I think he really wished I had used an architect. But I sort of did. Ira, my architect neighbor, had given me a book on how to draw up plans and advice. This was 2007 so no Google Sketch-up, I hand drew the plans. So I got permit, and it cost me $1000. Just for the permit. All the permits are up on SCOUT, so anyone can look at them.

Then there was the money. I vaguely remember budgeting $87K for the project. It wound up costing around $100K. I had a sweet loan with Countrywide where the 30 year loan had a very low interest rate for the time because of the DC Housing Finance office. But for this project I refinanced with a bank and wound up with a higher rate. My mortgage went from $600 a month to over a thousand. It was worth it. I may explore in another post why I can dare to try  to sell a house I bought for $108K for $750K.

With any large project like this there were unfortunate discoveries made when all was demolished away. One scary thing were joists that at some point in the past had been hacked away to make room for plumbing. Or joists rotted from leaks in the bathroom. I had told our Realtor we didn’t mess with the joists, but looking back at construction photos, those were replaced. Another scary thing was the big hole in the load bearing wall, hidden by a false wall. Anyway, I fixed, or had things fixed and made decisions that made the costs creep up.

People would say old houses had good bones. Because of unhappy discoveries the contractor found hidden behind the walls and ceilings, that saying I found to be an annoying lie. You don’t know until you go down to the bricks and joists. The bones are now fine.

Renovation #1- Kitchen

I’m taking a look back at the renovations 1618 4th St NW has had over the years since it is up for sale and on the market. I bought the house in 2001 and the kitchen was not working for me. It had a foot of counter space and the corner was taken up by one of those little stacked washer dryer units.Kitchen01Yes, 1 foot. You see that little bit of space near the sink? That was all the counter space I had. I couldn’t put a little table between it and the stove if I ever wanted to open the under counter drawer and cabinet.

Through swing dance friends I met my contractor, David. David was the GC for all the renovations going forward. I had talked to his references and they all liked him, he was communicative but artistic. Artistic is a problem when you want to keep costs down.

I documented my renovation with several LiveJournal blog posts, which I can’t find. But I still have the Flickr pictures. And I could find only one InShaw blog post mentioning the kitchen renovation.

It seems almost pointless to really mention the kitchen renovation because so much was undone by a later renovation. Renovation #4 for some reason killed the heated floor. Man I loved that floor. Reno #4 also changed the layout, the entry, the insulation and the ceiling height. The microwave had to be replaced in Renovation #2. The stove got replaced when David said he was taking one out of another kitchen renovation. The Bosch dishwasher was a renovation #3 or #4 thing. New ceiling lights were also from reno #4. The cabinets, the Corian countertops (more forgiving than granite) and sink and the most of the tiles on the floor remain.

An old bill says this kitchen redo in 2003 cost a little under $8000. I vaguely remember taking out a second loan to cover the cost, and something tells me it was more than $8K, as I had bought the tile and the lights and a few other things. It may have been around $14K with everything involved with add ons and what not.

When I finished my bright shiny I turned around and looked at the rest of my house. And that had me planning for the big renovation #2.

 

 

Buy This House: The basement held up okay

I’m reminded of the flood of August 2001. I had just bought my house a few months before and my finished basement was a land of wet carpet and soggy walls. I pulled the carpet out, commiserated with my new neighbors, who had worse damage, and happily took cleaning supplies from the Red Cross.

This afternoon, while at the hairdresser, I got the blaring flood warning on my phone. I ignored it. Got a text from my landlord*, told myself I’d get to it later. Ignored voicemails from my husband. And then a neighbor came to the shop to tell me to contact my spouse because the unit below us flooded.

Like 2001, the units with basement bathrooms had water coming up through the pipes and water flooding in from the outside. I highly suspect the drains near the basement door sent water inside the units.

Our basement, did okay.

We got some dampness along the wall, thankfully. We are the first basement in the row and so ours is the first house water hits. Thankfully, the drain outside the basement door held and did not blow off due to water pressure shooting out of it like in 2001. The drain is the black dot in the photo. I should note, water from the gutter shot off the drain attachment.

I don’t want to brag because that’s just asking for the Fates to teach humility, but we’ve done several things to prevent a flooded basement like 2001. When we had the basement renovated we put in three French drains. Those catch the water coming up and divert it to the sump pump. On the advice from a neighbor we bumped up the horsepower of the sump pump. That has helped. Now the only problem is when we lose power. Without power the basement is up poop creek. Another big help is that we don’t have a basement bathroom. Water would have to come up 4+ feet through the washer drain for us to get something. We don’t have a laundry sink, so the washer is the only plumbing down there.

So the basement is just one example of where we put in all the unsexy but practical investments in the house. You won’t see the drains, or notice the sump pump, and the dehumidifier comes with the house. Upstairs there is unseen insulation and all the pipes and wires are all 21st Century. Unsexy and unseen.

Buy this house it’s worth it. Oh, and be awesome. The current residents are awesome and great and we need someone awesome to replace us.

*While our house is on the market we are renting.

Buy this house: The InShaw house going on the market this week

Photo on the day I bought 1618 in 2001.

It’s been a 19 year adventure but now it’s time to start a new chapter. I will leave to the new owner a dehumidifier, all the Ikea window treatments (maybe a 202 land line), and an awesome block in a great neighborhood if they can keep it up. I took this circa 1874 house from a semi-neglected pile of bricks to a well renovated, updated, much loved home.

I’m curious about how our Realtor will sum up the house in a paragraph. The house has been through 4 renovations, this latest $11K update (a list of minor things, painting, and fixing things that didn’t bother us) and a few major repairs and updates we’ve made over the past 2 years. All those renovations, were done with my comfort and happiness in mind, not to make a buck. I’ve gutted this thing down to the joists and brick and had it rebuilt with updated plumbing, wiring, and insulation. Only a few other houses on this block can boast the same thing. I’ll probably do a separate series of posts just recapping those updates.

Red ornament with snow on tree

It’s the people who make a neighborhood, the housing, the structures just do the sheltering. This block has some great neighbors and I know I’m bragging when I say we will be missed. Hopefully, the new people will pitch in for the annual decorating of the trees for Christmas, shoving the sidewalks with neighbors after a big snow, or help Brian keep the street and sidewalks clean. That’s what we did. And the only way to keep the block awesome is for the people who live here to be awesome. The 1600 block of 4th St has it’s own email list, with none of the crazy of Nextdoor. See Brian’s wife or the guy with the Dalmatian to join.

When I moved here nearly 2 decades ago the main things this place had going for it was being in walking distance to the Ghetto Giant and the Shaw metro. Now the Giant is a bit more gentrified, you can still walk to the metro and despite the pandemic there are a bunch of places to walk to that are open and operating. Today, I ran errands with Destructo-kid. We went to the post office to drop some mail in the box at NJ and FL Avenues. Then walked over to the UPS store on 7th to turn in the router for the FIOS (yes, the house is set up for FIOS). After that we walked over to Nicecream but the person had stepped away so we went to a small playground. Then we returned to Nicecream and had a melty cup of carbs at the corner of 8th and Florida. After that we ran into friends from Immaculate at Union Kitchen on 8th. A couple of days ago I went to the Bloomingdale Farmers Market and picked up some Dan Dan noodles (oh, so good) and later the Help got groceries from the new Whole Foods on Florida Avenue.

After a 2-3 week delay the contractors finally finished painting and fixing and replacing stuff. The cleaner has come in and worked a miracle cleaning the kitchen sink (something we really didn’t care about living here). And now that every vestige of our personality has been stripped from the premises, the stager has staged the house, and that place sure as heck doesn’t look like we ever lived there. Maybe Thursday or Friday the house will show up on the MLS and we’ll see what the world thinks it’s really worth.

So you may be wondering will I be keeping up the InShaw blog after this? Yes, but not as a resident. As far as I know I’m the world’s expert on Truxton Circle history, so there’s that. I’ll be keeping up this and at some point in the future updating TruxtonCircle.org.

Education Rock and Hard Place

Since my blogging at Citymoms is supposed to be more positive, I’m going to post here.

Virtual Pre-K

So we had a video session with Destructo’s new teacher and classmates. It did not go all that well. My spouse is a hopeful man and despite all the disastrous Zoom sessions with his daycare and Sunday school group, with kids he knew and liked, he thinks the virtual classroom thing is going to work going forward. I think trying to hold a wriggly and loud toddler still for a camera, 2 seconds after he’s lost interest, is an unnamed circle of Dante’s Inferno.

Virtual classroom learning is not for everyone. It is clearly not Destructo’s style. Have you ever taken a Lynda.com course? I highly recommend it and it’s free through the DC Library. However, I have to be very motivated to finish a full course, and I’m an adult. Destructo is a hands on boy who needs positive peer pressure with kids around his own age or older.

But he’s not going to be in a classroom anytime soon. My theory is things don’t get back to normal until 2022. I’m not going to force him to sit in front of a screen for any amount of time. Some Pre-K kids do well with the virtual environment, ours doesn’t. Until things get back to normal, we’re going to have to cobble together something. While in the middle of moving. I feel like I’m juggling sippy cups, not disastrous if something drops, but still a mess.

Schools between rock and a hard place

Teachers, school supers and boards have my sympathy. If this was actually temporary, this would have been a bump that could have been remedied with extra in school time. But we are where we are. Whatever the powers that be do, they are damned. They don’t open, lots of kids’ educations will suffer, educational inequality will get worse, special needs will not be met, and minors’ mental health will degrade. They do open, they will be blamed for spreading the virus, not keeping kids safe, endangering compromised staff and students, and be liable to possible lawsuits. They open partially, then they get all of the damnation and I’ve mentioned the problem with virtual learning.

Asking schools to have a good universal virtual learning programming for all grades for Fall is akin to expecting a mom and pop eatery to be a Michelin starred or bib gourmand listed within the first year. It could happen, but highly unlikely.  There are kinks to be worked out, lessons to be learned, and discoveries of what does and doesn’t work. Despite all the happy positive talk, I don’t expect DCPS, DC Charters or any school system to hit the ground running without falling face flat. I don’t expect students to get the same or better level of education they would have gotten in an in-person space.

Looking Forward

We have a bunch of balls in the air. We are in temporary digs. Like many, we’re working from home. We are trying to get our long time home on the market and later find new digs close to family and the Help’s church friends. The potty training and any decent education is on the side burner.

We keep saying to ourselves that once we get settled, we’ll see what we can do with Destructo’s Sunday school buddies. We’ll look into a nanny share or attempting to hire a nanny. Because of the age cut offs in Maryland vs DC, Destructo isn’t eligible to transfer to private MD Pre-K3 from his DCPS public school. Waiting lists are going to be crazy.

And because people like trying to send parents on guilt trips, don’t even. Unless you’re a child care provider offering hours of free care, keep it to yourself. Many parents all over this country are making hard decisions. Some have choices, some don’t and the availability of those choices change day by day. This pandemic has stolen options and removed safety nets.

No Longer Housing for the Poor

So another house on my block is up for sale, however it isn’t listed on the MLS. Zillow allows people to sell their homes without an agent, and so it is a for sale by owner (FSBO) thing going on.

tan-and-blue-townhomes

It’s the blue house and the owner has listed it at $760K, rounding up. Zillow tells me that with a 10% down payment, it would be less than $4,000 a month, 20% then $3216 a month. So one would need to be fairly middle class to afford to purchase this home on this lovely block. Whenever we can get our own house on the market the same would apply as the price point would be in the same neighborhood (get it?).

This was the house Drama Momma used to live in. I suspect when she was there it was a Section 8 house. The owner then was a Black man who owned another house that had a much better, more neighborly and quiet Section 8 tenant. However, 2008 happened and the real estate bubble burst and he was forced to sell the properties.

That owner sold the house to the current owner. Joe, the current owner, lived in the house for a little bit then rented it (market rate I think) to two wonderful neighbors, a married couple. They rented it for years and it was great having them on the block as they added to the awesomeness that is and was the 1600 block of 4th St. But they moved. [sad face]

It has been well over a decade since it was last poor people housing. The current economics and housing market means it won’t be poor people housing again any time soon. The approved rents DC Housing would cover for a 2 bedroom without utilities,would not cover the estimated monthly payments for the owner.

Now going back to the 1880 census, this was poor people housing. Check out TruxtonCircle.org for the data. In 1880 the house was occupied by William Tadd or Todd, a black Laborer, his wife a laundress and their 20 year old son. They lived there along with the Wheeler family, headed by another William, a carpenter. His wife did not work outside of the home as she was caring for their 5 year old son. In 1900 the house was no less crowded, with 8 residents, several laborers, but all one family. In 1910, the 6 occupants were one family with a male breadwinner, a porter, and his mother in law was a “domestic”. By 1920 the number is down to 5 people, but it is headed by a widowed charwoman, who with her nephew had three male roomers, whose jobs were listed as Helpers. But in 1930, the widow was married, but still head of a household of two. The young man listed as her 6 year old nephew became her 17 year old cousin. In 1940 he returns to being a nephew and she returns to being a widow (retired?) and they gain an unemployed female boarder. The nephew in 1940 was a doorman.

Knowing the general history of the neighborhood between 1940-2010, it was more than likely remaining housing for the working class and poor. All the residents between 1880-1940 were renters. So it’s been rental for well over 100 years, with the odd blip of Joe living in it.

From the Triangle Known as Truxton Circle files

This is not really from the exhibit, but part of the art piece I created called Frankenmap. This looks like the Son of Frankenmap, where it is just the parts of Truxton Circle along New Jersey Avenue. It looks like I’ve posted all the material fit to post and now I’m digging into the bottom of the barrel.

Oyster Oyster is sorta kinda open. Sorta.

So I just got my email from Tock so I can debate if I want to pick up food from the Dabney or pick things out of boxes and try to cook something. Anyway, I spotted an option from the soon- someday to open Oyster Oyster across the “street” from Giant. No oysters though. It’s a vegetarian menu.

Have you been to the new Whole Foods?

There is a new Whole Foods and it is in better* walking distance than the one at 14th and P NW. It’s over near Florida and Sherman (between 9th and 10th NW).

Streetview of 900blk of FL AVE NWI went early in the morning. No line. No crowds. Actually it seemed that the number of staff equaled the number of patrons in the store.

Salad in Store Meyer Lemons in Store The produce section was fine. I could find the things I wanted to find so it looks like a place that could serve my needs. There were some things there that I had zero interest in, what looked like fresh juice, I can’t say what they have special that the Logan Circle Whole Foods has or hasn’t. One thing that the Florida Ave location has that I haven’t seen at the Logan Circle one is self check out.

So my Bloomingdale, LeDroit Park and Truxton Circle neighbors rejoice, we have another choice in grocery shopping.

*Better meaning I don’t have to deal with Logan Circle. Better if coming from Truxton Circle or Bloomingdale.

 

The Triangle Known as Truxton Circle: Beans!

Back in 2017, I and two artist neighbors set up an exhibit at 410 GoodBuddy called The Triangle Known as Truxton Circle. I have a few things sitting on my computer from the exhibit that I’d like to share. Between no childcare and attempting to telework in less than ideal conditions, yes, I’m not posting much. But I can post this from the exhibit.

BEANS!
2016, Mixed Media

This picks up where Change 1880-1940 leaves off. Each bean represents a single person. Each container represents a census year. Each year is different.

Compare the different years.

What is going on here?

Why do you think some years have more people than others?

The neighborhood continues to transform.

So hopefully you’ve read the previous blog post Change 1880-1940, which were a set of maps showing patterns of households in Truxton Circle by race. Since the 1950 census wasn’t out (it will come out in a few years), I could not create a map. Brian Bakke, one of the artists in the show, suggested I show (somehow) what happened after 1940. I came up with Beans!

Triangle Known As Truxton Circle

I could figure out easily how to show Black and White individuals. Black beans and white Navy beans. For everyone else, that was a struggle. I had to find a bean that was around the same size as the other beans AND visually different from the Navy beans. That wound up being the Pinto bean.

Change 1880-1940 w BEANS 1950-2010Looking at the various containers of Beans! the neighborhood is almost exclusively African American in 1960. And you may notice the number of residents (each bean represents one person) from 1950 has decreased a little bit by 1960.  In 1970 the number goes down a bit more, but you might not notice. By 1980 the number of residents had significantly decreased in a noticeable way.

I remember being asked why was the population going down. There are various reasons, but the one I mentioned was the role of women changing. In 1950 African American kids were more likely to be raised in a two parent household than not, with mom at home. Here come the late 1960s and the Sexual Revolution and households got smaller. Women have less pressure to get married and have kids, or have kids at all.

There is also another change in the 1980s, a lot more other racial categories than Black or White show up. So more Pinto beans. By 2010 it is a whole bean soup mix melody.