Only halfway there, so time to start pulling some of the back wall

The Story of a Re-fi (or how the bank changed our plans)

I hadn’t yet managed to take my obligatory week “off” to work on the house, so I scheduled it for last week. On the Wednesday prior, I got a call from our mortgage broker saying that the underwriter at the bank was freaking out about our exposed plywood siding on the kitchen. They wouldn’t close the loan (scheduled for 6 days later) with it in that condition. I told him “no way,” that we were going to have to walk away from the deal, since finishing that was going to be a big, complicated mess that we weren’t prepared to do at this time. While it was ugly, the deep overhangs of our house did a really good job of protecting it from the weather, so I thought it was a ridiculous requirement. Anyway, after Stephanie and I talked it over that night, we decided that it made sense to go ahead and try to finish the siding, since we would be losing nearly $500 in our wasted appraisal, not to mention the $350 in extra interest that were were paying each month.

Now for some of the back story to help explain why we weren’t too excited about taking on this project and kept deferring it. First, here’s a picture (taken for my dad, so he could create our landscape plan), which shows the area in question. Yeah, exposed plywood isn’t the best idea, but it really doesn’t look bad considering that it’s been that way for 7 years!

One of these things is not like the others

OK, so we are only talking about about 200 square feet of siding, right? So what’s the big deal? Well, for starters we did not have enough siding to actually finish the wall. All we had was a pile of scraps in the garage that were the pieces pulled off when we re-framed the wall for the kitchen remodel. Every single door and window opening on both kitchen walls was moved, so much so that on the long wall only a single stud was not moved or replaced. That, of course, meant that we had a bunch of siding that had been cut for the old configuration, leaving us with a bunch of odd pieces that wouldn’t all be usable on the new wall. Our siding is also an unusual size that we have been unable to find at either lumber stores or at the Rebuilding Center or any other salvage shops.

Totally reconfigured

That left us with only two options…cover this wall with all new siding that wouldn’t match the rest of the house or remove the siding from the back wall and repurpose it on the kitchen wall. We had decided a couple of years ago that we would consolidate the siding and redo the back wall with cedar shingles, since the difference in material wouldn’t be as jarring there as it would be if it were next to the original siding. And while this had been our plan for some time, we did not appreciate being forced by the bank to do it at a moment’s notice.

Siding just waiting to be “borrowed”

And once the back wall was opened up, it would need plywood installed, as the original parts of our house have no sheathing. Taking off the siding means that the stud cavities are opened up to the world. And, of course, since we were wanting to do shingles back here, plywood would be required anyway. So, this is how the week started out, with the unpleasant task of having to open up a wall to be able to side another. And since we can never keep things simple, I also thought this would be a great opportunity to be able to remove the conduit from the wall and embed the wiring inside. Lastly, we’d need to add window trim and fabricate more of the drip cap that we also can’t purchase anywhere (without paying to have it custom-milled).

The last obstacle to this project was more psychological, and perhaps entomological, in nature. Back when were were finishing up the kitchen prior to moving in, my dad commented on a piece of old stud that was in the debris pile on the patio. He said that it looked a lot like some of the bug-damaged wood in Atlanta, where he used to live. I was really surprised by that, because I was kind of ignorant at the time. The holes were so uniform they looked like a they were a variety of pressure-treated wood. Unfortunately, everything was all closed up by that point, but it’s always been on the back of my mind. I didn’t want to fully finish the outside of the house without checking to make sure that we didn’t have any bug problems. So, that meant that I had to open up even more walls from the outside…

Checking for damage

I am glad I did, because I did find some damaged pieces. I had assumed it was from termites, but the exterminator said the holes looked more like powder post beetles, which actually can come in the wood from a mill, as opposed to termites, which would come up from the soil. It was also pretty clear that the damage was very selective. There were some studs in the back wall from when the back porch was enclosed into the kitchen in the ’60s, and only those pieces had damage. Everything that we installed in 2004 looked perfect. I had him check out the crawl space under there as well, and it was all good – phew! He sprayed all the studs from the outside, so there should be no future problems, either. You can see a couple of missing studs in the corner. Since those had enough holes to be structurally weakened, I opted to just remove and replace them. In fact, they were so weak that one of them snapped in half when I was prying it off the other. After letting the treated wood dry a bit, I replaced the plywood and started hanging tar paper.

Only here after 2 days of work? Isn’t this where we started?? Well, maybe we did gain some trim in the process…

After fabricating the drip cap and building boxes to enclose the water heater in/out vents and the dryer vent, it was time to hang some siding…

Only halfway done, so time to start pulling from the back wall!

Unfortunately, even after working some very long days, I did not get enough siding up (less than in the above picture) to satisfy the appraiser who came back out to inspect the wall. Even though I argued that the tar paper did, in fact, protect the wood from the elements, our loan closing was rapidly heading south. At noon on closing day, our broker managed to find another bank that would purchase the loan without requiring the siding to be done first. They gave us a 60  day window to get it done, which was much more reasonable than the 6 days we had from the first bank. Ironically, I finished up the siding that night, so we realy only missed it by half a day.

Yeah, the blue still looks like crap.

Meanwhile, the back wall looked like this:

The area between the window and the door was temporarily covered over with tar paper for the inspection, so it also needed to be opened up, insulated and have plywood installed.

And with insulation:

Itchy, itchy warmth

And here’s how it looked after quitting tonight. Our patio door has some trim for the first time, so that’s kind of exciting.

All plywood done!

Since we’ve got 60 days, we’re going to wait until the back all is all shingled before getting re-inspected. No sense tempting fate and getting an appraiser that decides that it’s a problem to have un-sided areas on the patio! And now that we gotten this far, we are almost glad that we were forced into this. Who knows when we would have actually done in voluntarily? And once it’s all painted, our exterior is DONE!


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