Permits, Spermits

Acquiring a permit in the City of Omaha is not much different than the process of procreation. Count on it taking close to nine months, gaining 50 pounds, and losing hair density.

It pains me to say negative things about public workers on account of my love for Leslie Knope,* but OMG there is not a lazier, more inefficient, nor stricter lot of human beings alive. They thrive on taking people’s time, resources, sanity, and souls. The house we bought was literally falling apart at the seams – a gigantic crap heap – and all we’re trying to do is pour 1 million dollars into just the main floor and they’re like “no…we like houses within our city limits to be decaying, smoking piles of garbage. Please never fix up your house and if you insist then know that it will be done to our liking – including choosing from these three paint colors.”

We assumed getting a permit would be like it was in the small town I grew up in: enter the municipal building, walk up stairs because elevator is broken *again* (nope – was never fixed), ask for permit to “fix up yer house”, clerk hands permit. Expiration date – who needs one! In fact, please don’t call for an inspection – we still haven’t replaced the city inspector since he retired 5 years ago!

Omaha, the self-proclaimed “BIG O”, was like HECK NO. First, give me a lap dance. Second, pay me one million dollars. Third, create a miniature replica (to scale) of your remodel plans out of tooth picks, bring replica to clerk, watch clerk stomp on replica that is “all wrong”. For the grand finale, they will insist you hire an engineer to approve your plan. This involves dropping another million to said engineer to look at YOUR design, blow their nose on it, wipe it off, push out a morning turd, mindlessly put THEIR stamp on YOUR design, and then you can be on your way.

The Omaha clerk is a real charmer.**

After a few more months of rejection, modifying the plans, getting rejected, modifying again, getting rejected again, we finally got all of our permits (electrical, plumbing, building, mechanical, etc.) ..and were never approved for what we wanted to do or what we actually ended up doing.  The city planning office is full of people who find joy in nothing other than torturing others and watching older homes grossly decay because “just build out west”.***

Moral of the story…do everything you can off of a permit.

****

Pictured Below: A REAL – life permit…the city only hands out 6 of these per year.

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*I really should say “It pains me to say negative things about public workers on account of having a masters degree in public administration and I understand that these folks are public servants just trying to make the world a better place.” But, alas, that does not pain me.

** I am not going to mention his name even though everything in me wants to mention his name. Obviously, I looked him up on Facebook and was confused because his FB page made it look like he had a soul. I obvi don’t believe that.

***It is easier and oftentimes cheaper to build a new home in the suburbs west of downtown Omaha. BUT THEN WHAT ABOUT ALL OF THE HOUSES IN BETWEEN THE TWO?!?!?!?!?! DEATH…TERMITES…ABANDONMENT…??!!?!? YOU TELL ME CITY CLERK!

****I could write an actual novel about how much of a JOKE all of our interactions were with the clerk in the permit office and the city inspectors. They literally treated us like criminals for wanting to improve our house. I was flabbergasted and appalled!!! SOMEONE OUT THERE PLZ DO A DOCUMENTARY ON THIS.

 

INSPO

As with all “creativity” and “innovation” in this day and age of influencers – you just copy what someone has already done.

As we nestled into our new abode, we created plans for our house’s future: stealing a kitchen concept, copying a floor plan layout, altering a trademarked idea. There are ENDLESS OPPORTUNITIES to copy: Instagram, Pinterest, Houzz, paper magazines (what are those?), and, of course, Google. You can literally scroll until you die on Pinterest, tucking away “original” content.*

Why waste time dreaming up something original?!?! Walmart and Target are more successful than any specialty design/furniture store because they just COPY innovation.

Same goes with our remodel!

Away with this wall, this bathroom, this door, and then that wall too! In our Chip and Jo society, we prefer a large white box with no walls. And, if I must have a wall, it better be white G’DAMMIT. (Well, actually, while we were making plans, grey was the rage – so at the time we said “It better be grey!”)

As far as layout/floor plan goes, you’re only able to do so much with what you got. (Similar to my personal appearance.) Below are a couple of kitchens we liked.

********SOURCED FROM YER MOM*************

We created a lot of plans, with 98% being discarded along the way. Our goal was simple, try to manipulate our 1,200 square foot house into a 3,500 square foot home by removing every wall, post, and beam. We went into the remodel with nothing but the highest of expectations so our disappointment would only be greater. Below is the “before and after” blueprint of what we wanted the space to be.

Reflecting back and seeing the renderings below, it looks like we changed essentially nothing, yet, we spent 10 months of our lives on this remodel. This is another wonderful example of why you need to immediately abort your remodel mission. Slap your wrist, tell yourself you’re an idiot, and burn the house to the ground. It’s the only good solution to such an idea.

BEFORE:

Before!

AFTER:

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*Hindsight!!! – ALL of these searches were in vain until the very end because they really only help with design/decoration. Not – “Five quick ways to rewire your entire home” or “Three easy steps to frame a door jam”.

Lezzz juzzz move in

We had closed on the house with a homemade quit claim deed filled out incorrectly, convinced ourselves we were mature adults, and called ourselves homeowners.

With a gleam in our eye, we readied the house for our inhabitance, boldly claiming it was move in ready. “Move in ready” was self-diagnosed. No first time homebuyer has the authority, knowledge, nor decency to make such a claim.*

We worked to make the house as livable as possible, knowing we were going to remodel it soon. Below are some photos of the house with a few knick-knacks we threw at the place to pretend we weren’t living in crumbling heap.

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Here is a photo of us – cute, happy, delusional – with that first time homebuyer pride. Please rejoice in how thick Nathan’s hair was at this time. (Hard to believe he can lose so much in such a short time…hair, that is)

 

* Almost two years later, 50 g’s spent, and I still wouldn’t call our house “move in ready”

 

T^2: Texture & Tile

TEXTURE:

Before we moved into the shack, we were still dreadfully unemployed and had high hopes of completing just a couple of little projects. The first “quick” project was removing the texture from the ceilings in the bedrooms.

Textured ceilings was a genius idea from the ’80’s, ensuring all horrendous drywall jobs were perfectly disguised. The type of texture on our ceilings was in the same family as popcorn ceilings but more closely resembled a topographical map found in every elementary school’s library. Each bedroom had every rocky mountain peak represented at least 1000 different times.

Basically, it had to go.

Googling this issue, every blog said you need to REALLY wet the ceilings. I borrowed my dad’s poison-sprayer for weeds, you know, the one in the garage with the gallon jug and a little hose and you pump it. I rinsed it once, deciding to be a little risky, and filled it full of water. I laid down a sheet of plastic, hauled the world’s ricketiest ladder out of the basement, and got to work with nothing but hope and positivity!

You REALLY had to wet the ceiling, which in turn was a gentle shower that lasted for hours and into days. I was drenched. Once the texture was properly moistened, I scraped it off with a putty knife as it fell in gigantic diarrhea splats on my face, arms, shoes, and a little even managed to get on the plastic.

I did this in each bedroom by myself as Nathan started working (PTL AMIRIGHT?! we were down to just 100 smackers – meaning we spent our last 100 dollars on one hundred tubes of smackers chapstick – coca cola flavor).

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Rickety ladder and mountain-texture ceilings.

TILE:

Great Granny’s basement floors were tiled. Not just with any tile, but asbestos* tile! You could tell because almost every single tile had a crack in it and you could see the little asbestos-poison hairs sticking out of the cracks as they eagerly tried to crawl into your lungs and crystalize.

Google said the only good way to get the tile out was to shatter it with a hammer. Thank you google for a very “creative” solution.

My grandpa, Nathan, and I just whacked at the tile until it was a bunch of shards. A wonderful experience, indeed! I wore shorts (tempos, duh), and shorts go perfectly with remodeling** and so my legs ended up with roughly 1 million tiny cuts all over them. I could go into more detail about this, but it would turn into a horror blog, which the world does not need more of in light of today’s poverty rates*** but NOT TODAY.

We filled 5 heavy duty industrial size garbage bags full of the tile and the garbage-getters wouldn’t take them because they were too heavy. This was only the beginning of the garbage-getters being the Morgan-haters and never taking my trash.

After removing the tile there was a thick layer of oil-based black mastic – truly worse than mortar and I’m not being dramatic (WHICH IS SAYING SOMETHING). We tried scraping it off, which did nothing. We ended up trying 6 different kinds of chemicals to melt it away and the 6th one worked! It was basically battery acid and made me feel verrrrrrrrrrry whoozy. I poured $20 gallon after $20 gallon on the floor and pushed it around with a gigantic squeegee and then scrapped at it with a putty knife.

At this point – probably pretty high from all of the chemicals –  I was thinking maybe remodeling and homeownership isn’t going to complete my life…..maybe I’ve been lied to by Chip and Jo….maybe I should just build a Celebrity Home****. It was already too late tho, so we moved in.

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Photo of us in the basement with the tile.

 

*Google asbestos if you don’t know what it is. They say it is very dangerous, but only if it is broken or cracked. LOL OUR BASEMENT WAS JUST ONE GIGANTIC BROKEN ASBESTOS

**It’s NEVER the right choice.

***Shameless plug about my other life’s passion/interest – POVERTY!

**** Celebrity Homes are the creation of some white male, in some office building looking to make a dime. They are these gigantic, sprawling developments where they build houses in mass and CHEAP AF. You can build a brand new 3 bedroom, 2.5 bath house for like 170,000 bucks. Last year, Nebraska had a windstorm and it was bad, don’t get me wrong, but it wasn’t that bad and the roof literally just flew off of three of these homes. They’re made with popsicle sticks and meant to decay in like 15 years so then the white-office-man can just build a bunch more developments. People love these though.

 

THE BEFORE/AFTER PIX YOU’VE ALL BEEN WAITING FOR

GOTCHA YA S.O.B.! Tricked ya with the title. You probably thought you were getting before AND after photos, but alas, you are not. I know, you, my fans (hi mom) are disappointed! This is a post of just the before photos because I would have nothing else to write about if I just immediately showed ya the good stuff!

A fun fact about this hell hole is that it was very difficult to photograph: the rooms were chopped up, everything was on the red-brown color spectrum, and it had essentially been ransacked by my grandparents so there was no furniture to give dimension or a sense of space.

Below begins the photo montage!

There she is! This little nugget is nestled behind a ridiculously overgrown lawn, trees, bushes, and flowers! All of which managed to have thorns! WHY DO OLD PPL LOVE THORNY PLANTS?!  I call this house “the double-wide” because it looks exactly like a trailer park home, but I assure you this is firmly built into the ground. There is so much more to say about the exterior and we will get there! SO STOP ASKING! Be patient, you psychopath!

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You walk in the front door-BAM! Immediately overtaken by the 1970’s “neutral” color pallet, otherwise affectionately referred to as “if red, orange, and brown had a baby!” Quite reminiscent of basements where everything went on from post Thanksgiving wrestling matches with cousins to awkward make out sessions your high school boyfriend. It is the perfect backdrop to all such occasions! The second living room photo is from the other direction. (Side note: the entire house, other than the kitchen, had blue shag carpet. Unfortunately, my grandparents removed the gorgeous monstrosity. They found wood floors throughout the whole house that had been perfectly protected by the carpet. Magic!)

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Below is a picture of the master bedroom. The other two bedrooms look very similar so they are not photographed here. (Note: the drapes….to die for….)

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There is not a “master bath” in this little shanty, but there is a large bathroom and a small bathroom. Below is the large bathroom and it is easy to see this is not actually a “large bathroom”. #ammmmmiright?! This bathroom was also shag-carpet laden and so my grandparents removed it and put in cement board. #blessed. (Please note the curtains! They’re perfect for any Valentine’s day fantasy in a motel, heart shaped bathtub <3)

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Below is the smaller bathroom and the only remnant of the blue shag! SOAK IT IN PPL!

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The photo below captures the dining area and the transitional space between the living room and kitchen. (Please note the paper-thin, office building carpet in the dining area. It went really well with the blue shag!)

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Now…the kitchen! There are SO MANY things to highlight in this kitchen. For starters, the original appliances. They worked! Can you believe it? If we wanted an oven that was always the wrong temperature, we would have kept it. And of course there is the wide-gaping, I might lose my children in there, fridge hole. I love taking the food down to the “cellar” for cooling. Also, the fluorescent lighting. Nothing says home quite like having an oral-surgery-grade light fixture in the kitchen. And of course, the real star of the show: THE CURTAINS. Don’t worry, as sustainable remodelers, we were very intentional about saving things that could be reused or repurposed; we repurposed these into some sexy lingerie, a doily for the side table, and Pinterest inspired vintage pillowcase. Very handy!

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LAST PICTURE PTL BECAUSE I AM OUT OF CREATIVITY: SCREENED IN PORCH. You could get to the porch through the lace curtains and door in the kitchen. The porch’s blue ceiling definitely did make it feel like the open sky. Another excellent choice by granny!

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How we got where we are…

My husband and I dated quickly, got married quicker, moved to Denver from Seattle even quicker, rushed through grad school, a coding boot camp, and found ourselves in Nebraska after my great grandmother’s death. We are both TYPE A, high strung mofos.

During these times, my brother and sister-in-law were in the throes of remodeling their house and I thought “me too!”

I, too, want my life to be one of no free time, utter exhaustion, and dust embedded in to every square inch of my clothing and soul. I want my life to contain only conversation regarding remodel logistics. I want to plateau in my career!!!!! I want to perform half-assly at my job because I am working another FULL TIME JOB FOR NO PAY AND INVOLVES PHYSICAL LABOR! I want to have no time to spend with friends/family (WHO EVEN ARE THEY?! unless of course they offer to help with anything….then COME ON OVER FAMILY, FRIENDS, AND ENEMIES. I LOVE YOU AND YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL!!!).

Even with great advice from wise people the temptation of remodeling still managed to pull me in.

It entices you with the photos of Joanna wearing THE PERFECT anthro/madewell outfit  while DELICATELY tiptoeing through a construction site.

It entices you with CHIP’S SEASON 5 LONG HAIR.

It entices you with SUBWAY TILE and CHARCOAL GROAT and WHITE WALLS and HIGH CEILINGS (OH MY).

It tickles your fancies with the insta-perfect process of a couple giggling in flannels AND skinny jeans up against some 2 by 4’s in a gutted kitchen.

It drives your ambition with the ABILITY TO FLIP AN ENTIRE HOUSE IN ONE HOUR.

It convinces you that YOU TOO ARE A CARPENTER (never lifted a hammer in your life) AND YOU TOO ARE CREATIVE (failed high school art class) AND YOU TOO ARE AN INTERIOR DESIGNER (lol I love the Target home section).

Remodeling is the great temptation of today.

Ultimately, my husband and I moved to NE in August 2016. We bought my great grandmother’s house, found jobs, and lived in the house for four months before we started in on the remodel. Though, we had plenty of projects leading up to when we began in Jan. 2017.