living vicariously through the neighbors

Something like 15 years ago, a contractor bought a house across the street from our house. He decided to do a major flip/upgrade while he lived in it. He added a second story, turned the single car carport into a two-car garage, redid the siding, and added a mother-in-law suite. He completely gutted the interior of the house. However, as the economy went south, so did his money and he ended up losing the house to the bank before he could finish it. That happened a few months ago, and the house was bought by a mother and her grown daughter and son-in-law who are fixing it up to live in it. They have been hard at work finishing the house, and I’ve been watching excitedly. Since I can’t do all the things I want to do for my house, I am living vicariously through them.

When I say the house was gutted, I mean there was nothing inside except the studs for the walls. A short while ago, I cheered when a big truck came by and delivered sheetrock! There are now finished walls, and I spy many 5 gallon buckets of paint in the garage. Yesterday, they tore up the single car driveway and put in a new one that went all the way in front of the two car garage. The siding was missing from the very front of the house by the front door, and they just put in stone – beautiful!

Also in the garage, I spy a bunch of doors. I am not sure what else they are planning to do, but I can’t see a kitchen so I assume that still needs to be completely put in, and flooring. Also, the windows have been spray-painted with big X’s so I assume they’ll replace the windows too. They worked about a month or two inside the house where I couldn’t see anything so I assume they were doing the wiring and other smaller less-interesting tasks. I’m excited for them!

I have been told to come over whenever and take a tour, and I’m dying to do that, but I haven’t gotten a chance. I’m waiting for when I have time, Savannah is not taking a nap, and the owner is around and not looking busy talking to contractors. From what she told me, her son-in-law is doing a majority of the work himself. If that’s the case, I need to get to know him and pick his brain… especially if he knows about older houses. There are some things I would love to get advice on, from someone knowledgeable about older houses and not going to financially benefit. :-)


cutting corners

We live on a corner lot. I don’t think I’d buy a corner lot again, though it’s certainly not the worst thing about this house. My biggest annoyance is the people who cut across our yard. And it’s not kids or teenagers who are doing it, but rather adults – all women, sometimes with their young kids. I recognize the repeat offenders, but I’ve never seen them anywhere else but our yard (I’m assuming they do live in the neighborhood though). And because of the house being angled to the street, they actually walk right up along the house – it’s not like they’re only cutting across the corner.

I’ve been trying to brainstorm how to solve this problem. A fence seems like the obvious solution, but because this is a front yard I am hesitant to put up a fence. A nice white picket fence would definitely look the most neighborly. Again, though, the cost. My other concern about a fence is wondering about our property line. As you can see from the map, the property line (the red line on the map) is quite a ways away from the sidewalk/street. That would make it annoying to mow, if we had a fence so far from the sidewalk. I’m not sure what the fence laws are – something else to research I guess.

Another option is a split-rail fence. Both this and the picket fence idea are possibilities, but they’re both expensive so aren’t feasible right now. Plants, flowerbeds and shrubs, are good options but both cost money, require upkeep, and take time to grow. Maybe we’ll explore that idea more when we have the money to put towards something more permanent. In the meantime, though…

I saw a house in another neighborhood that solved the problem in a much cheaper way. They put up a bunch of tall wooden gardening stakes, and strung a bright rope in between them. It was definitely not the most visually appealing solution, but it didn’t look horrible either. And I priced the supplies at Home Depot yesterday – definitely doable. It would be high enough that people wouldn’t trip over it, but not so high that they’d be able to duck under it.

Today as I was researching online I had another idea. Instead of putting the rope/stakes around the perimeter of our yard, why not instead line the driveway? That would look the most neighborly, but also deter people, assuming that they would turn around and go back to the street once encountering the “fence”. And if I find people are simply hopping it, or going under, or taking it down, then I can move it and put it along the street. (I like that it’s easily movable. That also is nice since I don’t feel like researching fence laws. I have had enough of trying to decode our city and county’s laws when I was trying to figure out if we could move our shed to anywhere else in the yard.) It’s probably the best low-cost option right now. I think I’ll go measure the space right now so I can know how many stakes and rope to get. Maybe I can run by Home Depot tonight. :-)

Updated: Side benefit – we could like the “fence” with Christmas lights for some holiday decor!


this land is your land, this land is my land

We got our land surveyed yesterday! I’m so happy to know exactly where the property line is, and now we just need to figure out what to do about our fence.

The fence along the back (?) of our property is true to the line; we’ve never questioned that. The fence that runs up the side yard in between us and our neighbors is the one in question. From what the surveyor said, it starts out on the property line, and then slowly deviates. Not sure if this was intentional or just poor planning on the original owners’ part.

Our fence started deviating from the property line

From this picture, you can see the fence has moved to about a foot into our yard. (This is our fence, BTW – not the neighbor’s fence.)

The pink marks our property

By the time it gets past the house, it’s quite a bit off. The piece of fence that the pink thing is tied to belongs to our neighbor. Our fence is the post on the far right. I think you’d have to see it to understand what’s going on – it’s so hard to explain! But yeah, you can see how far over they are – and if we’re able to restore the fence to its correct position, it would really help with the water flow.

Today I turned in the permit to City Hall to demolish our porch. It was $250! I can’t believe I have to pay that much to take down something that’s not up to code anyways. They said they would call this week and set up an appointment for someone to come inspect it. I wasn’t expecting this, so now I’m paranoid that they’re not going to let us remove the porch for some reason. My dramatic-mind is going through all sorts of scenarios…


where is our property line?

We had another estimate today, and also my uncle came out to inspect the porch to see how hard it would be to have him take it down.

First, the estimate was with a company that deals with foundations and water damage. The guy was really, really nice. He didn’t criticize me for the condition of our property, or my inexperience with all this stuff. (As compared to the landscaper yesterday.) He took a careful look around and agreed that taking down the porch would be the best thing. He also went through our crawlspace and said that the main supporting beam was sound; it was the pieces that connect to it that need reinforcing. He recommended we find a general contractor to take care of that. His company mostly deals with the heavy duty reinforcing – much more than our house needs. So basically, to fix our problem wouldn’t really be something their company does. But he spent a lot of time explaining what he saw to me, and giving me ideas. I really appreciated that.

He made a good point that our fence probably doesn’t follow our property line, because it zig zags. Our best guess is previous owners put the fence up, and then our neighbors just attached their fence to ours. So the next step in this project is to figure out where our property line is, getting our land surveyed if necessary. We might need to take our land back!

This afternoon my uncle came over and was encouraging. It looks like they added the room on top of the siding of the house, so that’s very good! He told us that we could start dismantling minor things, especially if we want to sell them on Craigslist or something – like all the windows, which are in decent shape (not broken, though they are single pane), the doors, and the ceiling fans.

I’m excited to see things moving! Once we get this done, then we’ll be on our way to having a nice backyard!!