Sunday, October 18, 2009

The Fall of My Remodeling

I love fall! It is my favorite time of year. Trees turning shades of yellow, orange and red, mountains of gold, red and brown grain, glowing in a waning sun and crisp moonlit nights all just take my breath away. Like a lazy cat, I could curl up in front of a south window, soaking up the Autumn sun and even thunderstorms can be awe-inspiring, creating rainbows over golden fields. No matter where you live, Autumn brings new beauty to nature.

This year fall brought something else. It brought a halt to my house renovation projects. There have been days and days of rain which has effectively ended my painting of the fence, a project I hoped to finish before winter set in. The windows I hoped to install before snow flies, have been held up by the quilt project I took on. The siding didn't get started this year as fall swooped in before I got started and ordering siding in September didn't seem like the best plan.

So, here sits my house, still wanting more paint, more windows and a lot of siding. There is still the possibility of the windows getting in if we have a nice Indian summer but with the first snow having come last week, I'm less than optimistic about the possibility.

I hope to be able to post some more updates on the house this year but only time will tell. A few more mild, sunny days will be treasured for the extra moments they will give me to finish outside projects. And if that doesn't work out, there are plenty of inside projects to fill up the winter months.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Painting again....

Loving it, real color at last. I started with the butterscotch this time and decided if I get tired of all the color, I will go back to butterscotch and white. It looks good with my roof. For now, I like the 4 color scheme even if the local teens refer to me as the "crazy lady" doing the "wild" paint job on her house. Even my 30 year old son, who lives out of state, heard from his friend that it was "pretty colorful". I told him it was OK, my "grown up" friends like it. Who would have thought that a bunch of teens and twenty-somethings would consider something with a little color "wild"? The generation gap is wider than I thought.

I am of the Woodstock generation. Do you realize that Woodstock took place 40 years ago next week? I wasn't there, I was in Arizona then, getting ready to start college. Back then I would have thought a house painted like mine was "cool" or maybe even that the colors could have been more intense. I know this because when I got my first apartment a year later, I painted every wall and the ceiling, a different color. Color and bold pattern were in. We dressed in it, we painted it on our cars and in our rooms, sometimes we painted it on our faces. We pursued individuality fervently, to the point that we were all alike in our striving to be different. Our life plans did not include conforming to the social norms established by our predecessors, we were going to create a new, brighter world. We protested injustice, we demanded change, we asked for peace, sometimes with violence.

Like everything, I have changed with time. The 40 years since Woodstock has also brought me well into "middle age". My joints tell me about it in the morning and by evening, my feet tell me about it. I wear out quicker, I'm not as strong as I used to be and sometimes I totter when I turn too quickly. Taking risks is now scary more often than it is exciting and I worry more about what will be on TV than who will be "out" tonight. I find that putting a little paint on my house and sitting around with a bunch of dogs makes for a pretty darn exciting weekend. But I still challenge authority sometimes and I try not to conform all the time and I still love color.

Monday, July 27, 2009

I ordered the new windows for the north side on Saturday. Custom size, tall, thin replacement windows. Wider windows would have been nice but after re-framing for a couple of the new windows, I decided that was more than I wanted to do for these windows. The old windows are original, wood sash windows that do not seal tightly. There are aluminum storm windows, which help but I have put plastic over those windows, in winter, for years. When the wind kicks up, the plastic "breathes", moving the blinds in and out.

Installation shouldn't be difficult, pull out the old sashes and put the new windows in and close them in. It will be nice to have windows there that are easy to open and don't have to be covered with plastic in the winter. The dogs will like it too, as they always enjoy looking out those windows when they are open.

Months later, April 2010, figured I would come back to this blog. I got the windows installed in the last couple weeks as well as the guest room window. Closing around the inside and trimming out is yet to be done but it has been really nice to have the weather warm enough to start the outside stuff. I bought 1600 square feet of pink, fanfold to put under the siding. The wind will have to settle before I try putting that up though. Being pink foam, it will fly like crazy in a good wind. I'm excited about the arrival of spring so I can get back to my outside projects.

Sunday, July 26, 2009


Weeks have passed since finishing the painting on the front (West) of the house and I am FINALLY ready to start painting on the south side. Priming wasn't finished until 7:30 PM today, Sunday, so it's hard to say how much painting will get done this week. I may get started after work during the week as I am now excited about getting to put on color again.

Getting ready for paint on the south face took a lot longer than I anticipated. I quickly figured out that it was going to require a complete scraping after all, then the fascia joint at the top of the gable required cosmetic work (silicon implants) and the bottom of the fascia was unacceptable so that had to be rebuilt. The really ugly, box shape at the bottom of the gable was built from fiberboard so not only was it ugly but it also was swollen and soft in places from moisture. Removing it was easy, figuring out what the the person who built it was thinking was impossible. The bottom end of the soffit board was cut off as was the end of the little shelf below the shingles.

Since it appears the meeting of the bottom of the gable and the back roof occurred at a time after the original part of the house was built and it lacked architectural grace, I opted for an ornamental addition, joining the fascia board of the gable and the rear roof together smoothly. A matching curve was cut and installed on the other side, above the roof of the porch. Of course, having added this small feature on the side gable, I wonder if the front gable should also have curves. This is why my projects seem to never end!

Wednesday, July 8, 2009


Windows can be wondrous things that let light shine in and give a view of the world outside our domains. Old, drafty windows can be nothing but money sucking sources of frustration. I started replacing the 70 year old windows in my house about 4 years ago. The replacements average out to one window a year but not every year saw a new window. There are 3 windows still in need of replacement and I hope to see those go in this summer.

Last summer the window in the front face of the house was transformed from a tall thin window to a more pleasingly proportioned component of my home. It brightened up what is to become my library. I have always liked the idea of having my own library and the larger window seemed important for that space. Since it was a new installation window, not a replacement window, putting it in was more challenging. It required re-framing the opening after cutting into the existing framing. In the process, other problems became apparent and it ended up requiring me to replace part of a sill plate and cripple in some studs which had deteriorated at the bottom. For a few days I propped pieces of sheet rock against the inside wall to make sure no strange animals moved in during the night.

With it all back together and the new window in place, I truly believe it was worth the trouble. Not only does the front face look much more balanced, the north corner has new stability. The before picture is overwhelmed with greenery but that has changed as well, with the cedar shrub and spirea bush being removed. The pear tree is still there but will be pruned this fall.

When finished, all the windows in the house will be new, except for the front porch window, a large picture window with colored glass sash at the top. Formerly covered with a solid pane aluminum storm window, which was separating at the sides, the window is such a integral part of the character of the house that replacing it was not an option. The storm window with it's gaps and the large single glass of the window made for an energy nightmare so change was a must.

Using the glass from the storm window and learning "on the job" so to speak, I cut pieces to create a new, wooden sash for the old glass. Once assembled, the old style storm window set into the window sill, fitting tightly. Since I have never opened that window and never stressed over not being able to, I saw no reason to think I would need to open it in the future so I made small wooden brackets which were screwed to the sash and the sill, fixing the window firmly in place. Caulking around the top and sides made for a snug, double pane window which should be energy efficient.

The colored glass upper sash is one of the most striking features of the house. Sadly, the former owners did a very poor paint job on the frame and two pieces of glass were cracked. So, I set out to restore this window to the attractive architectural feature it had once been.

The center was clear glass, cracked across so that was removed and one end glass was also cracked. The original end glass was a lavender shade but there was no matching that color at this point so both end pieces had to be replaced. At the glass shop I found a beautiful rich ruby red glass, which the shop had just enough of to cut my 2 pieces. Having ordered these and a clear glass oval for the center, I was on the way out of the shop when I spotted textured glass. On that rack there was a piece of glass with a leaf design on it which was amazing so my order was changed.

The next day I picked up my new glass and went home to install it. Paint was scraped off the remaining glass, the sash repainted, glass was installed and the finished window sash was rehung. It is a beautiful thing with the setting sun shining through it, setting the wonderful colors aglow. This is a project I was truly pleased with.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Scraping, scraping, scraping........

OK, painting was inspirational, creative, fun even..... but scraping can get old after a while. What I had hoped would be a limited scraping, just knocking off a few loose spots, has turned into a down to bare wood scraping. Then, to make things more entertaining, when the side gable of the house was built, the facia and soffit boards were not joined evenly at the upper angle of the gable. Sadly, I have had to accept that this is a fix that is beyond what I can do. To square up the facia would require removing the board and repositioning. This would involve disrupting my roof which I am not going to do since the roof was new 4 years ago.

I'm working on a cosmetic fix that will minimize the uneven appearance although it is unlikely anyone will notice it if I leave it exactly as it is. I tend to be a bit obsessive about projects I undertake. If something is being done, I want it done right and it irks me when I have to settle for adequate. This serves to bog down a project at times, while I tweak it into "perfection". This is also why I actually prefer to do the majority of projects myself, rather than contracting someone to do it for me. I absolutely hate paying someone to do a job that I could have done better.

The first re-roofing on my house was such a situation. It was bad enough that when it was time to roof again, I was tempted to take on the job myself. Fortunately, I learned from my mistakes and did some research into contractors and found one with a good reputation and I went with high grade shingles. I can truthfully say that I have the best looking roof in the neighborhood now.

The past week has provided only limited opportunities to work on the house. Between two evenings of conference calls for dog rescue business and three nights of rain, painting has not been started, even though most of the scraping was finished last week. I was able to do some caulking, tighten up some joints and replace or tighten some shingles. I also managed, over the past few weeks, to let my sander, heat gun and scroll saw get rained on. So far these tools appear to have come through it, after drying out completely they still run. I will be the first to admit however that this is NOT a good thing for power tools.

With one weekend day left, I hope that tomorrow will be more productive. I would like to be ready to start priming by the end of the day. I could then start painting after work on Monday. After getting the front gable painted, I have really been anxious to start getting color on the side gable. I have all the windchimes down now and will have to decide what color to paint the wooden parts since most are seriously in need of paint of sealer. An excellent night or rainy weather project which will need to be done before rehanging any of the chimes. There are actually at least two more that go down the right side of the gable. I really like windchimes, as you might have guessed, except for the upkeep. Painting and restringing is a regular proceedure, especially out here where the wind blows a large percentage of the time.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

the Answer!

Yes, you can get high painting with acrylic paint. Of course it is all in your head or maybe a little bit in your heart and it won't fry any brain cells. Back in the 60's, we called it a "natural high", one that didn't require chemicals to achieve. Over the past few weeks, as I have worked on my house, preparing for paint and putting the beautiful colors on the gable, even with a 1/4" brush, I have found myself feeling what I can only describe as a "high". There may even be an addictive aspect to it as I was a bit morose over missing my painting "fix" on a rainy day.

Having limited experience with chemically induced highs, I have most often found that sense of warm, joyful lightness in accomplishment, in beauty and in creating beauty. Sculpting something beautiful out of wood, building an ornate porch post, restoring an earlier beauty to the front of my house, all bring me a sense of fulfillment and contentment. I find that there is a point in a creative endeavor where I begin to really see the potential of the finished work. At that point, the project becomes an act of love and working on it leaves me feeling much the way love (or chocolate) does.

This really isn't the first time I painted. I painted the garage once and it only took 5 years. For some reason the creative senses didn't get aroused over garage painting. I started down one side, rounded one end, ran out of paint, then got sidetracked. Did I mention I have ADD? By the time I got ready to paint again, the color I was using was discontinued. So, started painting with a new color from where I left off and then, you guessed it, the same thing happened again. This was all in the days before you could take any paint chip in and get it matched. Finally, with the third color used, most of the garage got painted, in part because my son joined in and finished up the west end. That project didn't leave me with a particular love for the process of applying paint.

The difference in how I feel about painting my house must be related to the lengthy consideration of color schemes, the careful recreation of shingles to take the place of broken or lost ones and the painstaking painting of one shingle at a time to achieve the pattern I hoped for. It has become a creative work rather than a paint job. Anticipating the completion of the project, how it will look with new colors and textures, how it will all fit together when it’s done leaves me with a sense of excitement and impatience.

It has now been nearly two weeks since I last painted. Having passed up one pleasant weekend day due to feeling a need to catch up a few inside chores, I find myself unable to get back to painting as it has been overcast and rainy almost every day since. Humidity is high, doors are swelling and painting in that doesn’t seem like a good idea. I’m looking forward to some dry sunny days that will draw the moisture out of the wood so I can move on with painting. Meanwhile, there is always the basement to clean out. EWWW! At least the stairs going down there look good.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Looking good......

I'm certainly glad I decided to take step by step pictures of my renovation of my house. Looking at them, it is hard to believe the change so far yet there is still so much to do. In May of 2008, I took this picture of the house before starting to work on it. As you can see, the masonite siding was deteriorated and warped. The gables were dull and peeling. There was definitely a need for a face lift on the old house.

With all the color applied to the gable, I think it looks pretty good. It is definitely a BIG change and is eyecatching. As of today, the paint on the gable only needs touch-up but this project will hold for a while as I started priming around the porch today. There is a second gable on the house, facing south. The house originally was L shaped with a gable on both "ends" of the L. The porch was added at a later time as was the extension to the back which probably doubled the square footage. The south gable will require more scraping than I had hoped but the old paint can't be left as it is. I just hope it doesn't require as much work as the front gable did. I'm anxious to get on to painting the second gable.
Can you get "high" from painting? Well, that is a subject for another blog. For now, I gotta go.

No dogs here!

How sad, but don't worry, it is just a move.

In reviewing my recent blogs, I realize everything has been about the house and I have not been talking about the dogs, who are an important part of my life. When I started posting here at "Dot's thots" I intended to talk about my pets and foster dogs but since that hasn't been happening, I decided to split off into 2 seperate blogs. As it happens, I set up a blog account called "DRatschats" some time ago but never used it. As the title implies, it was to talk about my Rats (terriers).

I have moved my Ratty tales over to DRatschats and if you came here to see and hear about my pups, feel free to go over there and see what is going on. Meanwhile, I will continue posting updates on my house here so you are welcome to check back and see how that is going. I am pretty proud of what I have done on the house and hope to make a lot of changes before winter comes again.

Friday, May 22, 2009

The blues......

No, not me, the house!

The house has both shades of blue (turquoise actually) on now. I picked 2 shades of the same color so the darker would give a shadow effect to the lighter color. I'm not sure there is enough difference between the shades, I will have to "watch" it for a few days. I will finish the rest of the darker shade tomorrow before going to visit my father.

I live on the main street through a small town in western Kansas. I'm sure I make an interesting sight, perched high up on a ladder with a 1/4 inch paint brush, painting the edges of shingles. Suffice it to say I'm not a "dainty" woman and I hope I look, at worst, eccentric. With my pack of little spotted rescue dogs, I can already pass for the "crazy dog lady" of the neighborhood so eccentric isn't bad. Hopefully, when I get everything done, I will be known instead as the creative, handiwoman in the really cute house.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Good day!

Painting went better than I expected, I got the front finished up in the butterscotch color. I will have to go back and do some touch up when all the colors are on. Avoiding smudges is hard when doing the detail work involved in this project. I will have to use an even smaller brush than the 1/2 inch one I have already ruined. The difference in appearance is truly striking. It goes well with the roof, too.
Oh, I also set up the fish pond and moved the birds out to their aviary for the summer.

Saturday, May 16, 2009


At last, real paint! I've begun applying colors to the house, it is a lot more fun than my memories of house painting. This includes the part where I use a 1/2 inch artist's brush to slip paint into the crack between shingles. Deciding which order to paint the colors in is proving to be a major challenge. I started with the darkest color called "Autumn Ridge", because it was in the eaves clear to the peak and because it is a real standout color. Of course I ended up with my hands covered in rust colored paint as I didn't take a rag with me and when dark rust drops started landing on the white primer, I felt compelled to try to wipe them off. It is my hope that the lighter colors will cover the dark smudges and drips. It appears that no matter what order I apply the colors in, I will be doing touch up work, probably with that 1/2 inch brush.

I finished the first porch bracket and even painted it. As I applied color to my scroll saw work, I wondered if I would find this process as enjoyable by the time I get to the sixth bracket. The actual application of color to a cut piece of wood or scalloped shingles would not strictly be described as enjoyable, fun or fulfilling yet these are the feelings that accompany this project. It is more like the feelings that go with creating a sculpture than what painting the garage did for me. I am looking forward to starting with the "Butterscotch Sauce" paint tomorrow. There are large areas to be covered with this color so it is not likely to be completed in one day but starting will be exciting although I could forgo the part where I am on top of the 20 foot ladder. Shades of acrophobia!

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Finally, some nice weather! The past week was full of sunshine and warmth, although it did rain at least 3 nights. I was able to start the priming on the house and by Friday finished priming the front gable. Quite tedious, painting down into the crack between the fishscale shingles. It does look so clean and crisp though in the coating of white primer.

Additional time was spent tightening up trim boards, cleaning soffit vents and scrubbing trim and soffits on the north side so that can be primed. Gutters have been removed and after painting the new "Rainhandler" system will be installed. Don't know how this will work but it will surely be an improvement over the old gutters which were always full of debris.
I continue to mull over my choice of colors for the gable singles. I have a gallon of "Butterscotch Sauce" color but have not committed fully to the turquoise paint yet. The plan is for 2 shades of turquoise with the butterscotch but I find myself rethinking the color scheme almost daily. Of course I can't actually say I have a better plan, just a bad case of indecision.

I finished the design for the porch brackets and will start cutting those out this week. I played with some designs using leaves and my first design, a "laughing" Rat Terrier. I liked the leaf designs but no one in particular so for a while considered making 6 different designs. In the end however, I decided the brackets should all be the same and I went with the laughing dog design. I found it appealing to be able to call my place "House of the Laughing Dog".
Today I realized that in this process I should replace the soffits on the rear of the house since those were done with a fiberboard material. I will probably replace this with plywood which will give much more stability to the soffit. I considered vinyl soffits but since I am planning to paint the soffits one of the trim colors, that would not be practical. It is amazing how this rolls from one project to another, almost daily something new comes up that really should be done. I wonder where the end of this summer will find me?

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Waiting for Spring!

Well, here it is, over a month since the official onset of spring but today we skipped to summer with a sunny 92, accompanied by a brisk breeze. Three nights ago I was still turning on the electric blanket when I went to bed, today I had visions of roasting through the summer while working on the west side of my house. This is the second spring for my major renovation of the exterior of my house. It started early last spring, when I decided the time had come to reside the house.

I bought the house at auction, almost 24 years ago, when it was clear the trailer was no longer big enough for myself and a 6 year old. The original portion of the house was a little folk Victorian, built in 1936. Around 1975, a basement was dug behind the house. Above this was built a one story extension which nearly doubled the square footage of the house. After living in a trailer for several years, this was a dream come true, to have more space than I could fill up with stuff.

Over the years, I have done several remodeling projects but mostly on the inside. Gradually, most of the windows have been replaced. The kitchen was revamped 3 years ago and new flooring has been laid in part of the house. Of course, for each project I finish, there are three more that I want to get done. The bathroom begs for a remodeling, the "front" room is to become my "library" and 3 rooms worth of laminate flooring still waits to be laid. Then last spring, I decided the old siding was too horrible to tolerate any longer and I was going to replace it. Easier said than done!

I started pulling off old siding, large sheets of a masonite product (reminiscent of trailer houses) nailed over old cedar clapboard siding. For a moment I thought I had hit the motherlode, the clapboard is not in bad shape overall and I thought perhaps I could revert back to the original siding. Unfortunately, when the house was added to, there was no effort made to match siding. Instead of 5" wood clapboard, the back half of the house was covered with 12" fiberboard laps.

I decided to install a larger window in the west face of the house and of course wanted to do this before siding. Pulling out the old window however, revealed problems in the form of 6 feet of rotted sill plate and several studs with rotting ends. Original siding had to be pulled off then and all the rotted framing replaced and the old siding rehung. Framing and installing the new window went smoothly enough but with most of the work taking place after getting home from my day job, things didn't move quickly.

What did move quickly was summer and just that quick, fall was slipping away as well. There was no new siding on my house and no more time to do it before winter. So, when the first warm days of the year came in March, I started thinking about getting ready for that siding job. First undertaking this year was to scrape the old paint off the fish scale shingles in the west gable of the house. With that job went the painstaking cutting and fitting of a number of decorative shingles to replace those that had split away with age. As Murphy's law would have it, whenever I take days off work the weather turns cold and windy so progress has been slow but finally all of the scraping is done on the front.

The first week of May, I will be taking vacation days again, in the hope I will be able to get paint on the front. I have colors selected, after going through a dozen combinations and will be painting the fish scale shingles in rows of turquoise and light golden brown. It will be a striking change for my little old house but it should not be the last.