The Free Bar!

On Saturday morning, we got up early and dropped the kids off at our neighbors’ house. We borrowed the neighbors’ truck, and drove up to pick up our free bar. We really had no idea what it would look like, and I was nervous when we saw the bar stools in the garage. They’re a modern-ish black padded circle with bright metal base. You can see them below. But when we got to the basement to see the bar, it wasn’t all that bad. We’re not huge fans of the black formica top, but the rustic barnwood is actually pretty nice.

A good look at the bar stool, and the barnwood front of the bar. We went ahead and stained the wood already, which you can see on the trim piece directly under the countertop. As you can see, it matches the baseboard along the wall pretty well.

Lots of storage room along the back. We’ll probably stick a wine rack in there, and I’ll move my beer glasses down there as well. I probably will have to put something up to prevent Evan from getting in there though. The little guy is crawling around and now standing up without holding on to anything. He also thoroughly enjoys pulling things apart and throwing stuff.

As you can see, the bar is pretty solidly built, and all wood too, no cheap paneling. Oh, what I would have given for some cheap, light paneling. That thing was a bitch to get up those stairs. Lisa was pushing from the bottom while I pulled from the top. The catch was that immediately at the top of the stairs, we had to make a 90 degree turn. We spent probably a good 20-30 minutes trying to angle the bar out the top of the stairs, tilting it up and down, until I was finally able to squeeze it through another door. From there, we carried it out the back door and flipped it over and over through the backyard and out to the truck. Getting it in the truck was actually pretty easy. And getting it down our stairs wasn’t too hard either, since ours is a straight shot down instead of a tight angle.
So we have some tweaking and rearranging to do downstairs, but the good news is that we now have extra seating down there for Evan’s birthday party coming up this weekend! And I have one less project to do.

Windows Are In!

Thompson Creek arrived yesterday morning around 9am. We had spent Sunday evening moving furniture away from the windows, and taking down all the curtains to get ready. They promised to be done with our 10 double-hung windows and one bay window by the end of the day, and we were hoping they were right, since we don’t much care for living in a fishbowl with no curtains separating us from the street.
They picked a good day to install, as the temperature was “only” in the high 80s, and it wasn’t oppressively hot, so having no A/C wasn’t a huge problem (it was still quite warm though). I called Lisa around 2:30pm, and she said they were working on getting the last window in, and that they should be done soon. When I got home though, we realized that they were almost done installing, but not nearly done cleaning up the remnants of the old windows. Still, it wasn’t too much longer until they were done.
Wow. Just, wow. The new windows are a 1000% improvement over the old ones. Granted, our old ones were 50 years old, but these new windows are nice. Last night, we left all of the windows in the house open for the first time ever. Before, there were 2 or 3 windows that were never opened. Now, every single one opens quickly and easily. Plus, we had to air out the stink of the caulking. Yuck! A necessary evil though.
Oh man, are we ever glad that we decided to get a bay window. The thing is hu-uge! It seriously takes up the entire wall of the living room, and not only can Ellie lie down in there, but I’m pretty sure I could as well. It is just unfinished wood right now though, so we will have to decide what to do with it (probably stain to match the lamp table). The biggest problem is going to be keeping Ellie out of that thing. She already knows how to open the window via the crank handle (child-proofing tips anyone?), and she can hide behind the curtains fairly easily.
I took a bunch of pictures after I got home, so I will try to post them tomorrow (but you know how that goes). Suffice to say, we are more than happy with the results. So happy that we went out to Tequila Grande for celebratory dinner and margaritas! The windows look awesome!

Windows Done!

Holy crap, that was fast. As you recall, we decided to go with Thompson Creek for our window project. When we finalized everything, they estimated 6-8 weeks to get the windows made. They called today to say that they were done! So, more like 3 weeks. We’re going to get them installed on Monday. And maybe they will help keep our poor AC from running all day in the 100 degree heat.

Quite Possibly the Craziest Thing I’ve Done (This Year)

Back in April or May sometime, I ran across a promotion from Doubletree Hotels in honor of Arbor Day: just submit your email address and real address, and they’d send you two trees to plant. Free trees? I sent in my info, and forgot about it. Until today, when this arrived in my inbox:

Your order has been confirmed by our team and you are one of
35,000 people across the U.S. and Canada who will receive
two live seedling trees as part of the Doubletree® Pledge to
Plant Challenge. As a result of your efforts and those of
others who participated in this unique re-greening campaign,
more than 150,000 trees will be planted by people just like
you as well as through reforestation efforts by the National
Arbor Day Foundation.

To support the optimal survival of your trees, and due to
the overwhelming response to this campaign, we have worked
with our friends at the National Arbor Day Foundation to
determine the right time to send trees to your part of the
country. We anticipate sending the seedling trees to the
address you provided to us in your Pledge sometime in
October or November.

Sincerely,

Your friends at Doubletree Hotels

Apparently, they were serious about the whole “sending you two trees” thing. Wow.

Window Shopping Done!

We heard back from two of our three finalists this morning, both of which effectively eliminated the third (TSI) from consideration. Century Siding came back with an estimate on the bay window, which would add $1630 to the original $5718 estimate, bringing the total to $7348. Lower than TSI for what I think is a better window, so TSI is done.
We were talking about windows over the weekend, and we ranked our favorites, regardless of price, and pretty much came back with our top three that I previously mentioned. Sears was right out due to high price and poor salesmen, and we eliminated American Home Center because we were not able to see the window. Unfortunate for them, as they were the lowest bidder, but we just didn’t have the time during the week to drive out to their showroom, and I had researched and found their window to be roughly similar to the TSI one anyway. At one point in our conversation, I asked Lisa what price we would have to get Thompson Creek down to, for us to go with them, since they were pretty clearly our favorite window. I threw out $9k, including the bay (our original sale price was $9k without the bay), and she said I was crazy and they would never come down that much. The original non-sale price was $20k including the bay. Their offer back to me this morning, including the bay window? $8700.
Sold! Well, at least I was sold. It was all I could do to tell the guy I would call him back after talking to Lisa. I was ready to say yes immediately, but cooler heads prevailed, and we talked about both offers some more. We weighed the pros and cons again, and finally came to a decision.
Thompson Creek won. Lisa was halfway between the two. She liked Thompson Creek, but wondered if the extra $1300 would be worth it. I was just happier all-around with the Thompson Creek product, and the fact that every time I called or had a question, there was someone there with a quick response. Plus, I was a bit biased, since I was still slightly steamed about the Century guy being late and essentially missing our appointment. So Thompson Creek it is, after much soul searching. We are also going to have a nice fringe benefit: 90 days same as cash financing. We already have the window money sitting in a high-yield savings account, earning us 5.25% interest (it earned almost $7 in 3 days). Since we get to postpone payment for 90 days AFTER the installation date, which is still probably a couple of months away, we will make about $350 in interest while we wait, which is kinda nice.
Anyway, I hope you all enjoyed reading about our window exploits. The next time I write about them, we will hopefully be enjoying our spanking new windows!

Window Shopping Update

Just a quick update on our window situation. I did some more research over the weekend to find out more about the quality of the windows we are looking at, and ensure that we are really comparing apples to apples, or at least that we are aware that one company is an apple, the other is an orange. As a result, Century Siding made a surprise move back into the top three. If all prices were the same, we are thinking that it would go Thompson Creek, Century, and TSI. To us, Thompson Creek had a pretty good product, but it’s just so darned expensive! However, I did get an email from one of their salespeople with a pitch to go lower than what they had before, so I am willing to try to negotiate them down. However, they do have to come down a good bit, because, with the lower bids we got, we are leaning toward getting a bay window after all. That puts the Thompson Creek price way through the budget at this point, so we’ll see what they come back with.
Century Siding seems to have the next best window, from my research. Unfortunately, since the guy didn’t show up on time, we didn’t get the chance to talk to him about replacing the picture window with a bay. I have a call in to them as well to get an updated quote. Lisa ran into him after gymnastics class on Thursday (he was at the house finishing up his estimate, not sure if he showed up really really late, or if he just hung around to make sure he gave the quote to somebody), and she said that he really conveyed a good knowledge of his product and a good rundown of what they’d do.
Finally, TSI’s biggest asset is that our neighbors recommended him. The guy was nice, and didn’t bore us with the demo, since he knew we had seen it before. He quickly ran down the product and gave us the quote. However, my research seems to say that the window isn’t quite as good as some of the others, but his price was low enough that we could afford a bay from him with no negotiation. And it’s not like the windows are crap. They will be huge upgrade over our current windows, and I am sure we’ll be happy with them in the end.
So, at this point it is a waiting game. I’m waiting for some callbacks with updated quotes, and hopefully we will have all the information we need to make a fair comparison by the end of the day. Since we are leaving for Michigan on Wednesday, we’d ideally like to have the decision made before we leave, so that they can get started on making the windows while we are gone.

Window Shopping: Century Siding

I got home early for this appointment because Lisa was likely going to still be at her chiropractor’s right up to the appointment time. The appointment was at noon, and the phone rang at 11:40. The estimate guy was going to be late, but no later than 12:30. OK, I think, no problem, we’ve been through all this dog-and-pony show stuff a bunch of times already, we can keep it short, and Ellie can still get to her gymnastics class at 2. The rest of the family gets home just after noon, and I fill them in. The phone rings at 12:15, and I figure it’s them again, but no, it’s Nova Installations calling to set up an estimate! Sorry pal, I called you two weeks ago, and this is the first I’ve heard back from you. You lose. 12:30 rolls around, no one there yet. 12:45, I call them back up, and they say, “He’s on his way!” Sorry, I’ve been sitting here for over an hour, and I need to get back to work. He said that the guy would just take a look and give a rough estimate and send it to us later. Well, lo and behold, Lisa gets home from gymnastics after 3pm (the guy still wasn’t there when she left the house around 1:15-1:30), and the guy is there! Nice and prompt for that noon appointment. At any rate, he did give us the estimate, and his form was much more detailed than some of the others, who just gave one number on a piece of paper. The bottom line is that it’ll cost $5718 for their windows. Whether we trust them on their “4-5 weeks” estimate, after the estimator debacle, is another question.
So now we’ve got all 5 estimates and we need to make a decision. American Home Center is the cheapest so far, but we haven’t actually seen the window (they did everything online based on my measurements), and TSI is not far behind. Thompson Creek and Sears are on the higher end of the price scale, but seem to be more negotiable, based on the number of times they’ve tried to contact us after they came out. I’m putting together a spreadsheet to compare all 5 companies, and we’ll hopefully make a decision over the weekend.