Thursday, December 30, 2010

Fixing Up The Place To Sell

It's 4 AM and I am still in Augusta. I slept for three hours after we returned from dinner last night by way of the storage locker where Mums has been putting what little furniture remains to her (her condo is half the size of the house she is leaving), then popped awake. My brother just got up, and is driving back to Charleston in these wee hours, going to work, and then returning here this evening after he does laundry and takes a nap. I intend to drive to DC today with the "big wugga-wugga truck" (as I refer to Daddy's diesel), which is packed with the next-to-last load of my worldly possessions, those which are too big to fit into my amazing expanding Honda (so my friends claim, having seen how much I can stuff into it). Susan and Alan have invited me over for New Years, and I'd like to spend a couple of days straightening my apartment around these last pieces of furniture before turning around and heading back South to help Mums with further household fix-up chores.

Holy cow at the chores. My fingertips are raw from five hours of rubbing oiled steel wool over brass doorknobs, locks and handles, all of which were grossly tarnished and corroded from 26 years of exposure to the elements. The four or five real estate agents that Mums consulted (separately, so as to compare and contrast their recommendations for spiffing up the house to appeal to potential buyers) agreed that new locks ought to be installed, and so at great expense she had bought new ones and had them re-keyed. When my brother went to install them Tuesday night, however, he found that the maker had changed the design just slightly, yet significantly enough that the new locks wouldn't fit in the preexisting holes in the doors. After much tinkering, jiggling, swearing, and several trips to area hardware stores, it was determined that the best solution to this (latest) setback in house-prep was painstakingly polishing the old fixtures, and praying that the useless new ones could be returned to the store whence they came. Hence, both Bob and I were elbow-deep in teak oil, gun oil, metal polish, steel wool, and Dremel tool bits for hours. I've still got grey crud under my nails, despite two good showers.

The house has been repainted. A day or so after the painter left, a plumber and his apprentice arrived to fix a couple of irritating bathroom issues and install new faucets in the kitchen and laundry room. I overheard the senior man telling his acolyte that one had to sing or hum when installing faucets so they didn't develop leaks. He must not have chosen the right tune, because yesterday Mums found damp under the sink--they're going to have to come back to touch up the job. Purely coincidentally, after the plumbers left, the toilet in another bathroom upstairs started leaking, and the water made a spot on the ceiling of the downstairs bathroom, which means that not only will this be the third visit the plumbers have made in eight days, but also the ceiling has to be painted for the second time in ten!

This task will be done by the fellow who's been working on the outdoor paintwork (just the front porch and the doors--thank God the exterior is brick!). This fellow is a part-time firefighter and full-time good ol' boy who occasionally says, "I'm not trying to be a smart-butt." Given his Southern accent (even stronger than mine), he sits on the second part of the sanitized term, dividing it into semi-detached halves, like a Parker House roll: buh-uht. Does a great job painting, and can talk the hind legs off a billy goat.

Besides the painting, the plumbing, and the polishing, I've been caulking, cleaning, and drilling. The new hardware for the bathroom cabinets didn't fit exactly (never does, does it?), and so we had to fill, sand and paint over the old holes before installing the new hinges. I had to painstakingly grind out cracked grout from between bathroom and laundry room tiles--I am so glad Dremel makes an attachment for this!--so that Mums can re-grout. My brother put up new ceiling fans in the bedrooms, installed light fixtures in the bathrooms, and re-wired several things that Mums and I were just too frustrated to attempt. And let's not even mention the face-plates for the switches and plugs--those took a full day to re-attach all over the house.

There's still a lot to do--the cabinet doors still haven't been reinstalled, one of the fans in the bathrooms is making a loud noise, and the hardwood floors need buffing, and other such matters--but I think even Mums would agree that we have made a tremendous amount of progress and that the end of our work is in sight. We plan to list the house by February 1, and God willing, it will sell promptly. Mums' condo is framed (they poured the foundation ten days ago, and already have the bones of the building in place) and seems to be on target for its scheduled completion date of April 1. And then come the inevitable new house settling-in quirks!

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