Seattle is defined in large part by its charming neighborhoods. Neighborhoods are full of homes that date mostly from the Victorian era through the 60s. Some are even new homes done in classic Craftsman style. My husband hates tract homes and loves old homes. In choosing a house, we appeased his horror of all things new and my desire to live in a house that was already livable (aka no major remodeling required). These competing interests nixed my husband’s first choice, a Dutch colonial in a swanky part of Madrona that needed at least $400,000 worth of remodeling (bad 80s remodels – black pedestal sink, anyone? – had corrupted the home) and that was so ridiculously large for the two of us, that absent the installation of an intercom, the endeavor of searching for each other would have required a flashlight and snacks.
Fortunately, the day I vetoed the Madrona house, we discovered our current home. Our house is to my mind the ideal size (my husband disagrees), and is on a street defined by homes built in the 1920s (except for one modern monstrosity thing at the end of the block – around a corner thank god – that is bright green no less). In fact, we are pretty sure, that our street and the surrounding streets were some type of 1920s tract home development (irony).
The layout of the home is perfect for entertaining, with a circular floorplan and decent sized backyard. The living room and dining room, except for some unfortunate paint selections and the sacrilege transformation of the fireplace into gas, were not altered by the prior owners and remain historically and beautifully intact. The kitchen, with the island that ate the world, the sloping floor (enclosure of a back porch poorly done), and no less than three different cabinet styles is another story. The same goes for the upstairs bath which is an 80s hell of yellow floor tiles, green tub and shower surround tiles and more recessed lights than you can count. Modern light fixtures abound and the wood floors upstairs have been covered with carpet. Although we would love to tackle these cosmetic issues, two years into our life here we have discovered more pressing needs – like insulation and a new furnace.
In the winter the house is cold, too cold for a So. Cal. girl like me. After the first winter of having to wear gloves and a coat while working, something needed to be done. We started with what we thought was the logical place – looking for new windows. Well, new windows became irrelevant when we discovered that the furnace was on its last leg (and we suspect leaking gas) and that as the house was built in 1922, it has zero, that’s right, zero insulation. Replacing the furnace was pretty straightforward and not too painful thanks to refunds, tax credits, and Angie’s List.
The insulation is another story. While installing the insulation is reasonable and pretty easy (they blow it into the walls), once the attic insulation is installed, rewiring of the upstairs becomes a monumental task. And guess what? Oh yes, our home still is primarily made up of knob & tube wiring (so fun to find an insurance co. that will actually insure your house with knob & tube). And did I mention that our entire upstairs is on one circuit breaker so if you use a space heater and a hair dryer at the same time and happen to turn on a light you blow the power?
So, this week, we are hosting a team of electricians who are rewiring our entire upstairs, bringing in new lines on new circuits, and adding electrical outlets in the vast expanses where there are none (we’ll be getting rid of some of those lovely modern light fixtures too). The electricians are professional, nice and accommodating. I have to admit though, that there is something unsettling about major holes being drilled into the walls while I work. And then there’s the drop cloths lining the halls, covering the furniture and covering my clothes. Not to mention the 8 am start time (I negotiated it up from 7). Still, if one week of displacement means I can blow dry my hair without causing a power outage, I’m thinking it’s worth it.
Filed under: So. Cal transplant adjusting to life in the Emerald City. | Tagged: electricians, knob and tube, Remodeling |