LumberJocks

'This Old Crack House'

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Blog series by Dusty updated 07-17-2007 03:59 AM 48 parts 105322 reads 561 comments total

Part 1: Introduction

02-18-2007 11:12 AM by Dusty | 9 comments »

She never liked me. I knew this. Somehow I needed to talk her into selling me her house. I had tried several times over the last three years to buy it from her. No luck with that.I was tired of the constant traffic that stopped in front of the house. The cars would slowly approach the house – then suddenly someone would jump out of the car and run up the front porch and hand cash through the missing screen window.It wasn’t uncommon to see two police squad cars out in front of the...

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Part 2: The lot

02-18-2007 07:40 PM by Dusty | 4 comments »

I never did anything that I can recall – or put my finger on – that would explain why she seemed to dislike me so much. Perhaps, it was because the city’s inspectors were constantly over there. For a period of time I wasn’t sure if the police and the city inspectors had opened a new office over there – or they just liked to visit with her. Maybe she thought it was me who was calling in complaining about the abandoned cars, and an old boat that had more holes in it ...

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Part 3: The cast of charaters

02-19-2007 01:29 AM by Dusty | 3 comments »

They say that time flies. I think that’s a fib. I don’t think it’s true when you live across the street from a nightmare. It now had become a ‘daymare’. I work split shifts and am home at least six hours a day during the daylight hours. I work in my woodshop during that time. I like having my garage door open. I leave it open so I can see what’s going on across the street and around the neighborhood. My workshop has become the neighborhood center point. We came to live in this neig...

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Part 4: The One handed Carpenter

02-21-2007 04:13 AM by Dusty | 25 comments »

Did I tell you I’m a one handed carpenter? Well, I have two hands but my left hand, although still attached, is pretty much worthless. In case I haven’t told you, I will briefly recap how this happened. The only reason I mention this is that it’s relevant to my story as a future carpenter and furniture builder.Several years ago when I was a heavy equipment operator, I had a bad accident. While working on a brand new back-hoe, digging-in a new electrical line, I noticed some leaking hyd...

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Part 5: Mz D the lunch lady

02-27-2007 09:03 PM by Dusty | 12 comments »

We were warned by the seller when we bought our first house, across the street from this old crack house, “Don’t pay any attention to the lady next door. She’s sloppy and doesn’t always keep her yard mowed or cleaned up. She’s not very friendly”. I though, oh good, what did we get into now? “How long have you known her and how long has she had lived there?” I asked. “Sixty plus years!” he responded. He went on to informed me that hers was the second house built on the block and that...

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Part 6: I’m the one wearing the stupid-shirt

03-01-2007 04:03 AM by Dusty | 8 comments »

We agreed he would start promptly at 7AM. After all, he is a professional carpenter and only does this on the side so he can buy more toys. That’s what he told me, if you remember. Its 7:45 AM. I am sure he’s stuck in traffic, I keep telling myself, even though its early Saturday morning and there is no traffic. 8:15AM. Third cup of coffee; I notice the hand jitters. I convince myself it’s just the excitement of beginning the new construction project. I also decide that he ...

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Part 7: My bruised ego

03-02-2007 06:43 PM by Dusty | 4 comments »

Two out of three lumberjocks surveyed say, they would rather have a sliver under there finger nail than get their ego bruised. Please pass the tweezers. I am an L.B.D. (learn by doing type of person). The carpenter I hired not only was temperamental and greedy; he certainly didn’t want me to learn anything from him. He called it “job security”. I called it short-sighted and shellfish under my breath. Right there I said to myself – if I ever was to learn woodworking I would ...

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Part 8: She’s not an axe murderer

03-02-2007 11:34 PM by Dusty | 9 comments »

A major cleanup was one of the things that really needed to be done when we bought our first house. I’m not just talking about mowing the grass and picking up some litter, I’m talking about it’s dumpster time. I called and ordered a ten-yard dumpster. I thought it was a bit high-priced. They charge $200.00 for one. That’s the cost; if you want one, you pay the asking price. Besides, I was sure that it would be sufficient for all the junk that I inherited with the house. I forget now...

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Part 9: How I learned the woodworking basics

03-03-2007 12:14 AM by Dusty | 7 comments »

My real day job is driving a 40 foot city Transit bus. It’s a part time position. It’s a government union job which pays me benefits and a decent wage. This has enabled me to spend a lot of time practicing my crafts. For that I shall always be grateful. In other words it pays enough to allow me -because of the split shifts- to be home for 6 hours a day and to be able to work in my shop or on a remodel job. My hours are rush hours Monday thru Friday. I have weekends off. This job ...

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Part 10: Bad allergies

03-03-2007 01:08 AM by Dusty | 5 comments »

Friendships are like woodworking projects in a lot of ways. For example, you have to start with the basics. You need an idea, plan, or some type of picture of what it is you want to build or end up with. You then measure, cut, fit, assemble, and so on, to end up with a finished project you can cherish for a long time. Sometimes you end up with something totally unexpected. In some cases you abandon the project or never bring it to a finished state. Once in a while you end up with a...

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Part 11: What happened to Ms. D

03-03-2007 05:00 AM by Dusty | 7 comments »

I could hardly sleep that night, from what I can remember. In fact sleeping was the last thing on my mind. I felt awaken. I had not felt that good since the accident. I felt alive. I was in so much pain. My hand was so swollen and painful the next morning I could hardly stand it. I never felt so good. I could hardly wait to see Ms. D and see how she like her newly cleaned up yard. I was so proud and excited. It had been close to a week, since I had heard or seen Ms. D. I was g...

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Part 12: There is movement next door

03-06-2007 09:15 PM by Dusty | 6 comments »

This was day six. No movement seen next door or any word from Ms. D. I was concerned. I decided if I didn’t hear from her by the end of the day I would call the police and have them check things out. In the mean time, I was keeping busy watering my roses and the new grass I had seeded in her yard after the major cleanup and lilac removal. I was walking between our houses when I heard what I thought was in a faint voice, someone calling my name. I looked around but didn’t see anyone. I k...

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Part 13: She planted the seed

03-06-2007 09:32 PM by Dusty | 6 comments »

Ms.D decided to go ahead with building the shed. I warned her about the carpenter but she said “I trust you will see I don’t get taken”. I was pleased that she trusted me but I wasn’t so sure about the carpenter. There was still something about him I couldn’t put my finger on other than, at times, he was a greedy shellfish jerk. That’s not a crime it’s his personality. Ms. D seemed so excited to have her shed built. She explained to me it was her mother’s dream to have an outdoor sh...

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Part 14: He called me a cripple

03-07-2007 06:30 PM by Dusty | 7 comments »

A friend who I met on my bus route, a master plumber and electrician, was, according to him, recently “sentenced” to a supervisory role, due a small series of strokes. He was no longer able to work directly in the field practicing his trades. Although grateful to at least still be able to go to work, it was evident he was struggling with not being able to do what he loved and had done for the past 30 years. He knew I was doing some remodeling on my house and had a few other projects in...

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Part 15: The new shop

03-09-2007 06:29 PM by Dusty | 3 comments »

I thought a lot about what Ms. D. had to say. I was uncomfortable with trading out work in exchange for her buying the tools. I though it might work out good for us if I bought the tools, built the projects and then just charged for the materials plus a small charge for overhead. This way I would gain some experience yet cover some of my costs while setting up my new shop. I was excited! I had been doing more and more with my hand. It still was very painful but I pretty much came to...

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Part 16: The pluged sink

03-09-2007 06:34 PM by Dusty | 5 comments »

Over the summer I worked hard on getting Ms. D’s yard in order. I installed a sprinkler system in her yard and garden. Her garden was her pride and joy. This was her connection to the past, her close relationship with her departed mother, her best friend. I came to find out that, other than some acquaintances from work, she was her only friend. Every day, I made it a point to take the dogs over to her house and have a cup of coffee with her. She really looked forward to this. She wou...

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Part 17: Do you have a flash light?

03-11-2007 04:28 AM by Dusty | 8 comments »

I had no idea where to begin. I was still in a state of disbelief. I was trying not to judge, but I admit it was hard. The overwhelming question in my mind was how anyone could live like this. I also wondered how it could get this bad. I decided that answers to these questions weren’t going to help me right now with the problem at hand. The sink was plugged. It was hard to only focus on this. The overwhelming conditions surrounding me made this next to impossible to do. I simply had...

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Part 18: The Plumber "cracked" me up... calling us the odd couple

03-13-2007 12:34 AM by Dusty | 10 comments »

Stopping short of tearing down the house there weren’t a lot of options. Ms. D couldn’t stay living in that house without a sink and water, not even considering the unlivable condition of the house. Although it was only a part of the problem, we needed to get the plumbing fixed and fast. Over time, the floor had rotted away from the slow but steady leak. Besides, this all was a moot point considering no plumber would even enter that house in the condition it was. In as non judgmental w...

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Part 19: Help Wanted...Carpenter...Start Immediately...Jerks need not apply

03-13-2007 02:29 AM by Dusty | 9 comments »

It seemed as if we had things under control for the time being. I am always hesitant to make comments like that because it just seems to jinx things. I had completed the interior demo of the wall between the kitchen and dining room. The carpet had been pulled up and staples removed and the floor sanding had been completed. All the interior painting, and plaster repair had been completed. I had picked up all the kitchen cabinets from a local home improvement store along with the custom ...

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Part 20: To be a carpenter or not to be… Chapter 20

03-16-2007 05:27 PM by Dusty | 14 comments »

(Ms D doing her day care with the shop hounds) My options were limited. I could run an ad for a carpenter, and risk the same experience I had with the last one. I wanted to go through this about as bad as I wanted to have my wisdom teeth pulled with a claw hammer. I pretty much gave up on the idea of hiring some handyman or contractor because of the added cost. I was the one that was responsible for the mess and it was me who gave him the advance. The way I saw it, it would be me who w...

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Part 21: How not to build and deliver a woodworking project…Life Lessons in woodworking…

03-17-2007 05:01 PM by Dusty | 6 comments »

Gaining too much self-confidence is the danger that results from having some success with ones first remodeling project. I think in my case, it’s more appropriate to call it false-confidence. There is no doubt my skill as a carpenter improved and I had learned a lot from the remodeling jobs I had taken on. I can even claim tremendous success in learning to use and overcome the severe limitations of my hand. That said, I am in no way making light of this achievement. I recognize tha...

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Part 22: I watched a three-way happen from her bedroom!.. Shots fired…

03-17-2007 05:39 PM by Dusty | 10 comments »

It never ceases to amaze me the lengths we will go, to make things so hard on ourselves. To start with, I am referring of course, to all the trouble I had with that six foot armoire that wouldn’t fit in my shop; then all the trouble we went through trying to get it upstairs at my buddies’ house. I realize that it would have been a lot easier, had I just taken the time to measure and plan the project before I built it. Live and learn. The trouble is, I’m not sure that I will live lon...

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Part 23: This Old Crack House…a short history lesson…her checkered past chapter

03-24-2007 11:35 AM by Dusty | 3 comments »

The previous occupants of The Old Crack House were only renters. According to Ms. D, they had lived there for over ten years. They knew the original owner and builder of the house who was a master carpenter. He built the house before this area became a city. Early records show that his grandfather had owned the land since the late 1890’s. He started building the house in 1920 and finished it in 1923. He had several acres and gave each of his daughters a lot and built them a house in wh...

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Part 24: This Old Crack House…Murder She wrote,...said the note… that was left on my car windshield.

03-24-2007 12:25 PM by Dusty | 13 comments »

From day one, when she moved in across the street, I knew this was going to be an interesting neighbor. Simple friendly gestures, such as a wave of the hand, were completely ignored. She was unresponsive to my attempts to engage her in friendly conversation from across the fence when she walked from her car to the front door. It was as though I didn’t exist. I tried several times to break the ice because we are a very tight-knit neighborhood and want everyone to feel welcome. We also w...

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Part 25: helecopters....TV crews and....

04-01-2007 02:05 PM by Dusty | 15 comments »

After the murder of her fiancée, the traffic from the drug dealing that had occurred across the street seemed to stop. Her mother, who frequently took care of her kids, had moved into the basement of the house. Another woman and her two children also moved in. From time-to-time, the mother would be sitting out front watching the younger children and would respond if you initiated the conversation. There was no doubt that she was a special-needs adult. She seemed to be mildly retarde...

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Part 26: The Plan was simple...

04-07-2007 02:25 PM by Dusty | 11 comments »

The plan was simple. I would buy the house and they would be gone forever. Now I just had to figure out how to do this. She never liked me and rarely had we spoken. Ever since the alleged kidnapping incident she virtually disappeared. I used to catch at least a glimpse of here coming and going, but now I never see her. She even started parking her car in the back of the house. I was unsure if this was to avoid me or just something new for her. I remember going to work on a ear...

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Part 27: They only liked me because of my money...

04-08-2007 01:20 PM by Dusty | 11 comments »

We had no more completed the tour and I was preparing to go home when her phone rang. It was her Realtor. She attempted to inform him of my interest in the house and ask questions about the listing she had just signed with him. This was a struggle and it was apparent that she was getting frustrated. I could only imagine what he felt like on the other end. I offered to talk to him. She handed the phone to me. I introduced myself and told him I was interested in buying the house “...

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Part 28: I mortgaged my soul and pawned my caddie…

04-09-2007 01:03 AM by Dusty | 19 comments »

I had 24 hours to come up with $9500.00 in order for the purchase agreement to be legally binding. I knew this wouldn’t be an easy task considering all the money I had spent on remodeling our house and had tied up with other jobs in progress. I didn’t want to go to the homeowners and get an advance on the work I was doing for them. I simply wouldn’t put someone in that position. I have been there before and got burned. I have always had my integrity in order and never wanted to be paid...

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Part 29: The OTHER shoe drops...

04-11-2007 03:06 AM by Dusty | 16 comments »

Closing on the house couldn’t come soon enough. The closing date had been moved to the first of June because the county had become involved with the family and the troubled kids and insisted they remain in school until they were let out for the summer. The sheriff’s auction was also scheduled for June 8th. The house had to close before then or I would have to start all over and wait for the redemption period to end before I could make an offer on the house again. I couldn’t be...

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Part 30: I bought a piece of Hell...on my way to heaven

04-11-2007 03:23 PM by Dusty | 15 comments »

The purchase agreement stated that we would take possession of the house at nine o’clock, Saturday morning, June the first. They had until twelve noon to vacate the property. Anything that was left after that time, we could dispose of at our will. It was 9:01 AM; everyone from across the street was sitting outside on the deck. I walked over to see what was going on. From what I could tell not a single load had been moved. I was right about that. I asked her brother what was go...

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Part 31: "Houston we have a problem..."

04-13-2007 02:03 PM by Dusty | 15 comments »

Ok, the party is over. Seventy-five of our friends and neighbors had attended this Ugly house open house. It was time to start the gutting out and total makeover of this old crack house. I was aware that the process was going to be extensive, but I had no idea how extensive. I was soon going to find out; in fact, even sooner than I had expected. I had been bothered by a strange foul-smelling odor coming from somewhere in the basement. I knew that it had been wet and that ther...

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Part 32: Let the credit card advances begin....

04-15-2007 02:07 PM by Dusty | 24 comments »

Obviously, all the plumbing had to be replaced. I had not planed to do this nor budgeted for it. This was a major setback for us. I had a strict budget to follow and not wiggle room for unexpected costs. The plan was to use credit cards and advances from my line of credit to fund the cost of remodeling. The first order of business was to call the credit card company and get a credit card advance. When I do this I feel like such an idiot. The mere idea of it; to think that I have t...

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Part 33: Any one can be a plumber... I thought

04-17-2007 11:21 PM by Dusty | 12 comments »

I called David’s wife every day to see how David was doing and if he came out of his coma. I felt so helpless. A lot of “what ifs” came and went with my thoughts. One was unthinkable. Reflection was routine. I was constantly, thinking about him and what happened. I was truly powerless. The worst part for me was that I had no control over any of it and I hated being in that situation. I had to move on. He would want that and I had no alternative. How? I knew more about ne...

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Part 34: Call 911 my ego had been mortally wounded…Plumbing 101 for dummies...

04-19-2007 05:22 PM by Dusty | 8 comments »

I was overwhelmed and things felt pretty hopeless at that point. Although making some small progress, my friend, David, wasn’t doing well. He was still in a coma. I had only one choice. Because I couldn’t afford to hire a plumber, I had to do it myself. The city plumbing inspector, who red tagged and failed my rough-in inspection, offered to help me. He said he couldn’t design the job for me but could and would help me with what I had to do. That also included showing me what would ...

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Part 35: "This wasn’t Martha Stewart’s Kitchen"…

04-19-2007 08:32 PM by Dusty | 15 comments »

The plan was to gut out all the areas of the house that were inhabitable and where repairing would not be feasible. The first priority was to find the smell in the basement. The source of the smell was the plumbing pipes located beneath the concrete. All the plumbing had been removed and reinstalled. The next step was to mix cement and repair the large sections of the floor that had been removed to gain access to the plumbing. I delayed repairing the basement floor for two re...

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Part 36: I needed to win the lottery … and see Dr Phil…

04-25-2007 05:39 PM by Dusty | 7 comments »

I discovered during the demo of the old kitchen that the sink had a slow leak that had been dripping water for quite some time, causing the subfloor and floor joists to rot. The plumbing had also been leaking in the walls for some time. This discovery caused me to open up the whole wall to access what needed to be done by exposing all of the old plumbing. As a result, I decided to tear out every inch of the plumbing and start over from scratch. I also had to repair and replace the old rot...

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Part 37: This was no stairway to heaven….

04-28-2007 02:30 PM by Dusty | 18 comments »

I knew that simply describing the upstairs to the house as needing a lot of work due to its very poor shape was an understatement. For starters, access to the children’s upstairs bedroom was gained by temporary stairs that had no railings. Fortunately, building a new railing to keep people from falling down the stairs was a no-brainier and relatively easy to fix. The leaking roof and the windows which had been broken out and left open had caused major damage to the walls and floors...

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Part 38: This Old Crack House...The house had all the curb appeal of a tent city

05-03-2007 06:18 PM by Dusty | 19 comments »

The curb appearance of the house was terrible. The yard had never really been taken care of and was overrun with weeds. In areas where the dog, old cars and other junk sat for long periods of time, the grass had died and large brown spots were left behind. The stucco was cracked, pieces broken out and long rust streaks ran down the side of the house. Most of the lower windows were no longer functional and all needed new caulking and glazing. Most had various pieces of the window...

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Part 39: Gentleman start your skill saws...Let the remodeling begin....

05-07-2007 11:44 PM by Dusty | 16 comments »

I went to work right away on the basement. The most logical place to start was the basement as I had already gutted it out replacing the plumbing and substantial sections of the cement floor. All the windows were replaced with glass block and I cut a hole in the wall and installed a outside egress window. This would make an allowance for a future legal bedroom and gave me the flexibility of either renting it out as a duplex or an apartment. I had to find a way to incorporate a laundry ...

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Part 40: Sale or no Sale?

05-13-2007 02:21 PM by Dusty | 15 comments »

I have always prided myself in doing a first class job regardless of who I was working for or what I was building. My personal motto has been to build the project like you were doing it for yourself. Still, there comes a time, especially when the budget is tight, when you have to compromise on this work ethic. I am not saying that the quality of the work should change but rather you have to become more realistic with your time, money and efforts, so you don’t bankrupt yourself during t...

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Part 41: Stair way to heaven...Day by Day...One step at a time...some times one foreward and two back

05-20-2007 05:28 PM by Dusty | 11 comments »

As my friend, with whom I had entered the intent to purchase agreement, had indicated his unlikelihood to complete, I had no choice but to finish the remodeling and sell the house. I had already begun putting the word out with close friends and business associates that the house would more than likely be coming up for sale in early October. Although progress had been made on several fronts of the remodeling project, there still was considerable work to be done. One major such project w...

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Part 42: The end was near...not just for the project

05-28-2007 03:49 PM by Dusty | 9 comments »

As each day went by, it became absolutely obvious to me that the chap to whom I had hoped to sell the house was not going to fulfill the intent-to-purchase agreement. I had already begun preparing for this eventuality. All I needed to do was to move forward with my plan. He referred a potential tenet to rent the mother-in-law apartment in the basement. I certainly could have used the rent to help offset the mortgage payment. However, I had to be careful that I didn’t get someone lo...

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Part 43: Restless and unsettled....

06-09-2007 06:26 PM by Dusty | 12 comments »

The house was finished and rented out, although I still remained unsettled about the whole deal, even though the immediate pressure was off. I had grown to like the house and I was very comfortable with the tenets. However, I was still unsettled. I am unsure exactly why I felt this way. As I reflect on it, I guess it was that I had poured my heart, soul and a lot of money into a project that I was no longer a part of. I really hadn’t let go of the house when it was rented o...

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Part 44: Build it and they will come...Show it off...in the show room house

06-24-2007 02:48 PM by Dusty | 8 comments »

All the time the house was rented, I felt that I should be living there. I had countless hours and a lot of money invested in its refurbishment. After all the work and trouble it just seemed wrong not to be able to enjoy the fruits of my labor. In reality, I was living in a recently and substantially remodeled home across the street. I owned this house jointly with my business partner and had invested a lot of money upgrading the existing woodworking shop. My business partne...

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Part 45: Are you sure your in the right class?

07-07-2007 02:00 PM by Dusty | 24 comments »

The only things that were keeping me from moving into “This Old Crack House” was $80,000, the estimated cost of the new addition, the sale of my existing house, approval to build on the vacant lot, and a design and plans that I could build from. Oh, and did I mention that I was headed for a strike and all indications were it would be a long one? No Problem, I thought to myself. However, it was a problem, but no more than anything else I had faced and tackled with the purchase an...

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Part 46: The Addition part one ...

07-15-2007 11:29 PM by Dusty | 7 comments »

Selling our existing house was the only major hurtle that had to be overcome before building an addition onto “This Old Crack House”. Coincidently, I’ve held a tool-sale every January in the stain shop. I would sell excess tools. These were refurnished tools that had been replaced with a newer model. Often various manufactures would ask me to test new models and give them feedback. For the most part, they would not expect the tool back at the end of the test and the tool was ours to d...

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Part 47: The Addiition part two...Build it and I am moving........

07-16-2007 02:59 AM by Dusty | 8 comments »

Part Two…. The overall building experience of the addition was rather uneventful. Common problems like material shortages, delays in delivery, and the routine problems with such things and poor quality lumber are just a given for any project. Certainly the missing special-order floor truss and gable end rafter was frustrating but predictable in the course of any construction project. The more building and remodeling I do, the more I expect and prepare for these events. Simply...

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Part 48: The Final Chapter... You cant judge a blog by its cover...Is a picture worth a thousand words?

07-17-2007 03:59 AM by Dusty | 53 comments »

In the end, I feel very strong that we won’t, nor should be; remembered or judged for our words, but rather the sum total of our actions and deeds. To this truth as I know and understand it, I will let the pictures of “This Old Crack House.” speak for them selves. Every piece of furniture was designed and built with my own hands, along with all the decorating, color choices, and room layouts, which are my own creations. You then can be the judge and come to your own conclusions. E...

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