Monday, November 8, 2010


Daylight Saving Time began last weekend. Now I am arriving home after dark on workdays. I needed a couple more months of summer but as they say, "Time waits for no (wo)man!" so we are getting into winter and my house is not sided. The good news, the contractor finally called tonight and said they could start in December. I won't be painting after the siding is applied but that was the case, even if they started siding this week.

There are still projects outside I need to finish before the siding goes up but weekends are the only time available to work on these. Some indoor projects have been getting a little more attention though. The library is being pulled together. The third bookcase is now getting a coat of black paint and over half the paneling is up. Windows still need trimmed out and the final bookcase needs painted but this room is getting closer to where I want it.

Seasonal jobs have to be done now. The plants moved into the house last weekend, filling the south window in the craft room and spilling over into the dining room window. My "carrion plant" decided to bloom(TWICE) this year, only the second time it has bloomed in the 10 or more years that I have had it. It is a most remarkable looking bloom but it was good that it was mostly done blooming before it had to come inside. There is a reason it is called a carrion plant. It does seriously STINK!
The tomatoes were harvested over the weekend as well. The crop was not real impressive this year but as is usual, now that it is getting cold at night the vines are covered with lovely green tomatoes. Unfortunately, I am not a fan of fried green tomatoes so I am storing the green harvest, hoping they will ripen inside. Of course, large tomatoes did not appear until last month, so no slicers in red. I have no idea why I keep planting a "garden", I'm in the hole by the end of season, year after year. I hate gardening! I just want a few nice, homegrown tomatoes.

Monday, October 25, 2010


I believe the rockpile has reached it's maximum sustainable height. One more layer of blocks
could be all it takes to topple the entire thing down into the street and driveway. As it is, I'm unlikely to be able to get my truck out until the rubble is gone.

I don't know what this stack weighs but I know the city better bring one of the big trucks to pick it up. Scooter very graciously agreed to pose on top to show how big the pile is. Actually, she found herself placed on top and when told to "sit" could not really see any alternatives anyway so she sat there.

The excavation of the back yard yielded a variety of artifacts. Dog toys, a rusty drill bit, numerous tennis balls, pop cans, pieces of old china and Ducky's ID tag were among the treasures unearthed beneath the cement. The downside, it has left a huge hole in the yard which today's rain turned into a massive mud wallow which the dogs romped through before coming in for supper.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Day 6, the hole grows!

I would not venture to guess how many pounds of cement I have stacked out by the curb now. The pile is about 2' x 4' and 3' tall and this doesn't include the 5 wheelbarrows full of small chunks and cement dust that has been deposited in the parking lot next door.

The deck boards were removed today, yet to come is removing the deck from the house. Still no sign of a contractor so who know, I may live the winter in plastic wrap. Since the siding is cement, installation could continue into cold weather but painting opportunities will soon be past for the year.

An end to this outside work wouldn't be all bad, a nice long nap in the afternoon, instead of demolition work, would be welcome but reality is, there are enough inside projects to last the next 1o years. Five rooms of flooring needs to be laid, finish the paper and paneling in the library, trim out the inside of a half dozen windows and the list goes on.

If I hold out for living until I finish all my projects, I should make at least 100. Hmm!

Monday, October 18, 2010


Taking "do it yourself-ing" to a new level, I started removing cement slabs from my backyard yesterday. This first involved the purchase of an 8 pound sledge hammer since I decided that handling a jack-hammer was most likely beyond me. That, a shovel, a spade and lots of elbow grease are the tools I set about this with.

I considered hiring someone to come in and take out the cement but the only company in the area with the equipment to do this is difficult to get out for "little" jobs like this. I'm still waiting, 8 years later, for them to return to repair my basement wall, a job they started then never returned to finish. Fortunately, they started by stabilizing the wall so it wouldn't collapse when they started digging out the basement and that has served to control the problem with the wall bowing inward.
Cement removal was prompted by the fact that when the basement and back half of the house was added, the backfill was not adequately tamped in before the cement pads were poured. When I moved in, 25 years ago there was no obvious problem but over time the ground has settled, dropping the cement nearest the house, draining directly to the basement wall. So far the water has not infiltrated the basement but it has been hard on the exterior of the house.

Change was needed and it appeared the only way to make it was grab a hammer and take out the cement so this is the latest job. Of course, I was aware of the fact that cement is generally hard but I was feeling confident. I've broken cement before. About 15 years ago I took out an 8'x12' slab before putting the deck on the house. What I didn't account for is how 15 years has treated me.

Now on the third day of cement removal, I have removed about 1/3 of the cement and stacked over half of it out at the curb, hoping it will be picked up when city clean up day comes next week. Getting out of bed this morning went much better than I expected but during the day I found that if I sneezed or coughed, all of my ribs hurt. I actually think swinging the hammer tonight eased the soreness but I may think differently in the morning.

What I found interesting during this project is that when I started taking out the sidewalk, I dug down to remove some dirt from under the slab to make breaking easier. About a foot down I discovered another sidewalk. At the end of the first day's work, I had a 3 foot square hole with a cement slab in the bottom of it. Obviously, at one time the yard was lower than it is now. Hmm! Maybe I could just fill it with water and toss in a couple fish.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

The library window is almost done. The trim on the outside, all new, is finished and primed. It has a sill now, before there was only a 1x4 box around the edge of the glass, narrow edge out. The frame is still there around the glass but after cutting a 3/4 x 3/8 inch strip out of the side of a 1x4, the trim fit right down over the frame, hiding it in trim consistent with the other windows.

The inside isn't trimmed out yet. The inner glass, which I added shortly after moving into the house, had to be removed to clean the space between the glasses. When I originally installed this glass, I did not seal all the tiny gaps as well as they needed to be so over time, spider weds developed between the glass panes. Besides sealing the space well, that space was reduced from 2" wide to 3/4" wide by the removal of one set of stops, leaving just the one thickness. This was painted white so it would resemble the vinyl windows through the rest of the house.

The film for the window arrived Monday and was installed Tuesday. It is interesting, up close it is not so impressive but when you stand back several feet, it has a nice look. Definitely provides privacy from that side, there is no way to see anything but light through it, which is what I was hoping for. The size of the window just did not lend itself to curtains or blinds. I had no interest in making it look like a wider window as that would mean forfeiting valuable wall space. This seemed like a good alternative.

The night view from outside is pleasing, the chandelier creates a pleasant golden glow in the upper window. Once the inside of both windows are trimmed and the curtains rehung on the big window, I can spend my winter evenings in my library, writing more blogs about my house project.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Meanwhile, inside.....

With the passing of the autumnal equinox and days now getting shorter than nights, time to work on the house after the paying job is almost nil. In just 5 weeks, the time change will make for even less, in fact by the time daylight savings time ends, I will be arriving home in the dark. Not a good thing, considering the siding has not started going up yet.

Meanwhile, since it is now dark by 7:30, I have turned to working on the inside projects in the evenings. The new covering has started going up on the library walls and is quite pleasing. It goes well with the map colors on the ceiling and accent wall.

I added a new bookcase, one of those inexpensive, put together yourself types, in black so it matches the computer armoire. Instead of using the cheap cardboard back provided, I used pieces of the wall paneling from window holes to back it. This makes it look like open back shelves against the wall. I also added a "crown" to it so it would match the old bookcase I already had in the room. This was such a simple little project, I was surprised at the difference it made in the look of the piece.
Once the paint has time to cure, the books stacked on the floor will go back in the old bookcase then the third set of shelves can be emptied and painted. I've ordered a roll of window film which has a leaf pattern on it. It looks much like the pressed glass I used in the center of the front window. It will be applied to the fixed window in the library which is 16 inches wide and 70 inches tall. This skinny window does not lend itself to a lot of different treatments so this decorative film looked like a good fix and will tie this window to the front one.

A die hard bibliophile, my relationship with books began when I was barely out of diapers. I would pester anyone in reach until they would read to me and by the time I was 3 years old I could "read" my favorite book "The Hide and Seek Duck". Mind you, this was way before Sesame Street or "Hooked on Phonics, in fact, this was before my family even owned a TV. If you must know the truth is, I actually had the book memorized and believe me, a reader did not want to try to skip parts because I WOULD know!

When I went to school and really learned to read, the die was cast, I was destined to love books for the rest of my life. Being an introvert by nature, I relish my private time and need seclusion regularly to replenish my spirit. Books have always fit into this time, being companionable without expectation. When I discovered the public library, I was in awe. To see an entire building devoted to books was amazing and over the years I spent a lot of hours wandering among the aisles of books. Now I am going to have my very own library, complete with a crystal chandelier. Very decadent!

Friday, September 17, 2010

Moving on

I think this pleases me. It isn't perfect, a good eye will quickly pick out the errors but the overall look isn't bad. I'm more than half way through the stripping and wrapping portion. I'm actually rather proud of myself, although I am in my third summer of renovation, completing as much as I have was no small task. The best part, all the work has met a standard that I consider acceptable. Some of it is just plain good!

The house should be significantly more energy efficient when I finish everything. The first step was putting new windows all the way around, replacing old, wood sash, single glass windows, many of which had gaps where the sashes met. Aluminum storm windows helped but were not enough to stop the cold winds of a northwest Kansas winter. The last few years I resorted to putting plastic over the inside of the living room windows and when the wind blew, the plastic would "breathe" in and out with the gusts.

The other big factor should be the house wrap I am adding. Over half the house had no wrap at all or totally useless wrap. This shield long ago lost all it's protective properties, looking and feeling more like a child's construction paper that was soaked then dried out. I have occasionally kept my bill from the gas company, which lists fuel consumption for the prior 12 months so this coming winter I will be able to compare to last year to see if the difference is obvious.
On a positive note, I have actually encountered very little termite damage, although there are definitely termites in the area. I have found them from time to time when a log or board is left lying in the yard for some length of time. Apparently, much of this old yellow pine which is used almost exclusively on the original part of the house, is not very tasty to the little bugs. I have found a few boards that they have attacked, probably less than a half dozen, but no active sites.

The front of the house is starting to look naked now, with over half the siding removed. The trim is off the window and will have to be rebuilt as I did not get it done the way I want it the first time. There won't be much time to work on it during the week since days off will be severely limited in the next month or so. Two other workers are out on medical leave now so it will be hard for anyone to take time off unless it is an emergency. Of course, if it starts snowing, THIS could be an emergency.

Saturday, September 11, 2010


Although I am still thinking about hiring someone to put the siding on, I seem to have gotten my second wind and moved on this week to trim out the windows on the north side. The double window required considerable reworking as the window frames, which I used as the base for my replacement windows, proved to be pretty much unattached inside the house structure. I filled large gaps on either side of the windows with boards then used long screws to attach the frames to the house. Extra space, I filled with insulation and expanding foam spray.

These windows were also the ones pictured in an earlier blog, which had their sills and drip caps pounded off with a hammer. The sill could not be completely replaced without taking the windows back out and tearing the old frames out, so the shattered sills had to be planed down as smooth and level as possible to allow for attaching a new sill extension. It was rather labor intensive but it went well and the new sill looks like it could have been there for years.
Strange, making improvements on the house with the emphasis on making them look old. The drip caps are also wooden. I bought piece of "drip cap" at the lumber yard, it was actually galvanized Z flashing but this was not the look I wanted so with further research I found the profile of wood drip cap then found some preformed, at Menards.
I'm fairly pleased with the outcome on this window, although it is off slightly but advice from my supervising father was to forget it as no one would notice but me. That is probably true. I can get a little anal about my projects, which is why they sometimes take so long and don't always get done. I want what I do to be done right and when something is off, I can sometimes double or triple the time and effort involved by taking it apart and redoing.

This is why I have a problem with hiring someone to work on the house. I absolutely hate when I hire someone to do a job for me and find that I could have done it better. This happened the first time I hired someone to roof my house. The job was poorly done, there were places that leaked, they did not replace decking that had deteriorated, just went over it so there were soft spots. I did learn a lesson about checking for references with that and when I had the roof done the next time I was satisfied with the job.

Perhaps I should not be so picky about these things but when I pay someone a few thousand dollars to do a job, I expect to be happy with the work. I also find it rather offensive when the advertise themselves as experienced at something yet do a shoddy job that I could improve on. Oops! Got on a rant there. Personal annoyance there, easy to get going on the subject. Enough of that.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Three day weekend!

Great opportunity to get some work done on the house. At the end of day three, for the first time I am really wondering what I have gotten myself into and thinking about hiring someone to hang the siding. I found the north side rather daunting, primarily due to the number of intrusions into the wall. There four separate holes for wires related to the phone and Internet then the defunct central air unit contributes two more. I was able to work out the house-wrap issues, with some creative cutting and taping. The prospect of installing the siding however was frightening. Getting someone out to disconnect everything in order to feed the wires through holes in the siding just seems overwhelming. I had already dealt with the prospect of having the electric company come out and disconnect that utility but until now had not thought about the holes in the siding installation is likely to require.

The idea of seeking help on the siding is becoming more appealing. Installing the windows was not intimidating, trimming them has been fun as was the painting of the gables. Up to this point, I've really not seriously considered turning the job over to someone else but I am just feeling tired. Perhaps that is the crux of the matter, I am just plain tired and don't feel like doing more. On the other hand, if that is the problem, a few days should make a difference. Guess I will see how I feel about it tomorrow.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Moving Tool World

The last of the repair and trimming on the south side is finally done. I started on the north side last weekend so my living room windows have been covered with house wrap since Tuesday. Rain was expected so wrapping was important as the walls were down to bare pine sheathing.

With work done on the south side it made sense to move tool world to the north side. Actually, getting the canopy out of the south yard was past due, the grass has suffered from being covered for 3 weeks. Having 10 gallons of sawdust sprinkled over it didn't help either.

The canopy was moved today, along with the scaffold/ladder but the tools will wait until tomorrow. The rest of the north siding needs to be removed but the project is complicated by the fact the phone boxes and connections are on that wall. They will have to be carefully detached and suspended so the wires are not damaged while the siding is removed from under them. The process will then have to be repeated when applying the new siding as the boxes cannot be left detached in between.

A week later and tool world is in full swing on the north side. Being a pop-up, the legs of the canopy pull out after the cover is on to get proper height. This has worked out so I can drop the tent down to about a four foot height for the night, providing better protection for the tools.

The goat next door enjoys the activity when I start popping the canopy back up. He starts butting the fence when I start work. His "mom" has been gone for about 3 months, visiting kids. Someone comes to feed the goat and the macaw but I think they are lonely. The bird will squawk and today it sounded like it was trying to imitate the sound of the sander.

I find myself talking to the goat when I work. I've been feeding him pears that fall from my tree and he gets excited when I toss them over the fence. He stands on his hind legs then lunges at the pears. If they are green, he will smash them with his horns so he can eat them. I think he is starting to look forward to my arrival, he will trot right over to the fence when he hears me.

With dark coming earlier every night, work time in the evening, after I get home from the paying job, is getting limited. A couple hours is about all the time available now so things aren't moving real fast. I was to have off most of this week to work on the house but the real job infringed on it so today was actually the only day I stayed home and I took a couple hours out of it to write a letter and make several phone calls.

Oh well, tomorrow is Saturday, no work pressure. My dad will come visit but he may find himself set out under the canopy to "supervise" while I finish trimming out the windows. I should be able to finish that portion tomorrow then will move to the front of the house. I may spend some time tomorrow checking on possible workers to help get the siding up when I finish with prep. For now, I think the dogs have the right idea. They are all sacked out on the library floor.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Craftmanship, Creative Expression or ..........

just the sense of accomplishment? I'm not sure what the feeling is that comes with getting something right on this project but it is a good one. I created a proper sill where none existed before and found myself feeling like I do when I create a sculpture.

My hope, as I renovate my house, is to give it as much of the folk Victorian look and character as possible, within a budget. I replaced the windows with modern, vinyl, double pane windows but I'm trying to recreate an "older" look in the window casings, giving the impression of original without the cost.

The challenges are varied and many. For some windows, I reframed completely and used new construction windows so there was no existing casing present. Some windows were replacement windows which slipped inside of the existing frame after I removed the old sashes. A couple of these had existing casing, including sills, although the style was not consistent as these windows were trimmed in brick mold rather than wide, flat boards.

Others of the replacement windows were trimmed but the previous owners destroyed portions of it in order to apply 4'x8' sheets of masonite siding. Since they wanted quick & easy installation they apparently beat the sills and drip caps with a hammer to knock them out of the way. These pose the greatest challenge, trying to make the remnant of the sill into a smooth surface which will allow for grafting on a new sill extension and creating new drip caps to take the place of those smashed to bits.

The first two efforts at building sills went well. These were not damaged, they were new window sizes and no sill was there after the reframe. Basic theory for the remaining sills is the same though, so I do not foresee major problems but only time will tell on that.

Poor old house has weathered a lot of years and they have taken a toll on it. The old cedar siding is in surprisingly good condition, termites never touched it, despite having made a few attacks on the sheathing beneath it. I hope to "rehome" the siding to someone who can use it as it seems a terrible thing to send beautiful, resiliant wood like this to the dump. On a small application, this siding could be brought back to usefulness and serve even more years protecting structures for someone.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Pretty in Pink

Three years after deciding to reside, here I am finally stripping siding off of the house in preparation for applying new, fiber cement siding. This is a seriously dirty job! This house was built at the end of the "dirty thirties" but in 75 year on the central plains a lot of dirt collects in the walls and ceilings of a house. It is not unusual to find an inch or more of dirt at the bottom of spaces between studs. I resorted to the shop-vac to clean up as I pried up sheathing boards to check for sill damage.

The old part of the house was built in 1936 and in keeping with the time, the sheathing in that section is solid, 3/4 inch thick, 8 inch wide yellow pine boards. AMAZING! Beautiful wood and rock hard after 75 years except for a few spots along the sill where water or termites have attacked during the past 3/4 century. Fortunately, I only found one damaged section, only 16" wide and not rotted through the full thickness, so I reinforced this rather than cutting out the sill to replace the bad area.

The newer portion of the house was built in 1975 and large sections of it are sheathed in this less desirable product. Although it has the advantage of being much flatter than the board sheathing, as is obvious from reading the labeling, this product "may smolder or burn". I hope to never see this warning tested but meanwhile I tell myself it can't burn any faster than the dry old wood in the rest of the house.
Siding does come down off this much easier since it is much softer than wood so nails can be pulled out without great effort.

As the project requirements have grown, "tool
world" has been created in the side yard. Indeed, I am a KU alumni but the canopy was selected only for it's clearance price as I needed a shelter to keep tools under while working. After a few days of dragging hammers, nails, screws, drills, saws...... back into the house every evening, I was looking for alternatives. This one gives me the chance to display my Jayhawk pride while keeping my tools dry. The 10' span of the canopy is almost as big as the side yard so I'm now effectively killing the scrappy grass that had finally managed to grow in this space. Sacrifice is sometimes necessary.

After all the siding on the south side of the house was removed and hauled out back where it is stacked, in hopes someone will want it, I set about applying pink, fan-fold insulation board. Having initially planned to use vinyl siding, I bought fan-fold to help level out the surface for the new siding. With vinyl it is not necessary to remove old siding but the lapped texture is not amenable to siding over without something to smooth the surface.

I did not find the application of pink fan-fold to be great fun, despite the lovely appearance the house has all covered in pink, with red text all over it. OK, I'm kidding! Pink seems to be all about trademark, they want EVERYONE who goes by to know you bought an Owens Corning product. Hardly anyone gets to see that pink, cotton candy stuff you put in your attic or walls but this stuff is like a giant OC billboard.

Since it comes in 4' widths, 50' long, which unfolds spontaniously, it proved to be a challenge to keep the sheets of insulation where they needed to be while holding a stapler in one hand. It went up but not without a fight. Then, after getting it tacked over half the south side, I did additional research and found it was at best a waste of time, in terms of R-factor, at worst a possible problem in terms of moisture retention when used in conjunction with housewrap. With that information I decided to finish out the south side but I will not be applying fan-fold to the rest of the house. Too bad, it would have been interesting to have the entire house pink, especially if it turns out I don't get the siding attached before winter sets in.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

What is it about having projects to complete that makes 10 more projects present themselves? Do it yourselfer karma? I spent my weekend restoring a wood patio door to replace the old aluminum slider, cleaning and sealing the deck and taking more siding off the house so I can start on the new siding when it arrives. There I was in the incredibly hot, humid outdoors, sweating, sweating, sweating but things were moving along well. After dark it was finally time to give it up and go inside, feed the dogs, cool off and get ready for bed. Then the fun began.

Quick bathroom stop was in order but when it was time to flush, no flushing going on. The clip on the flap was broken so flipping the handle did nothing. Now flushing involves taking the lid off the tank and sticking my hand down to pull up the flap. OK, I can deal, just have to get a new flap and install it. A minor inconvenience. Maybe a shower will make me feel better about it all.

How fun it is to peel off sweat saturated clothing! Ready for a nice cool shower, instead I get COLD shower. It seems the hot water heater has gone out again. This means lighting the heater and letting it run long enough to heat a tank of water before I can shower. Eventually I did get the shower but shortly discovered that as soon as the tank of water is warm, the heater goes out again. Now I have to figure out why my water heater, which is only about 3 years old, will not stay lit after heating. This also means that every day, when I get home from work, I have to go down and light the water heater so there will be warm water for a shower after I finish my outside work for the day, since the temperature is running pretty close to 100 (or higher) every day. Who was that who said they were tired of winter? WHAT WAS I THINKING?

Friday, August 6, 2010

Well, one should always be careful what they wish for. Winter left and summer came. Spring was entirely too short. Way too little got done this spring so now with August upon us, I am finally getting started on siding process. I started pulling old siding off and stacking it out back, hoping someone will want it for a garage or shed. I don't want to have to keep it around until big cleanup week.

I had to replace the diningroom window this spring when the wind broke a branch out of the tree next door and it came through the window. This one is installed better, I put the sill wrap on the bottom. I put in the new bathroom window last weekend and started working on the replacement patio door. Projects are backed up, I'm sure there are enough to last me until I die.

In the spring I finally started building my library. I am excited about this, I have wanted my own library for years and I am enjoying it. There is still a lot to do, including gluing maps to the rest of the ceiling and putting up new paneling over the strandboard that was on the walls when I moved in. The floor still needs to be sanded and sealed but that is a project for a long weekend as I will need to rent a sander. I've made my list for this weekend, hoping that will keep me on track to get things done.
I am feeling rather worn out so hope to get some good sleep tonight so I can get lots done this weekend. I have rehab to do on my replacement patio door as well, that could eat up much of a weekend but since it is in the garage, I can work on it in the evening since I put lights and outlets in the garage. I can fire up the sander and get that ready before the siding arrives. The more I can get out of the garage before 5000 pounds of fiber cement siding arrives, the better it will be.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Enough, already!

I am ready for the end of "Winter"!

While I will admit to experiencing near euphoria at crawling between flannel sheets, warmed by the electric blanket, on a cold January night and the sight of early sunshine on ice covered trees is more beautiful than any diamonds to me, I have grown weary of the cold.

Sloshing through piles of melting snow, shoveling openings in the plowed ridges across the driveway to release the car and chasing dogs out of the house because they don't want to squat in the snow are all reasons to look anxiously forward to the arrival of spring.

Perhaps in some future year, when employment is no longer a requirement, when all the home improvement projects are done, I will look forward to winter days. When sitting on the yet to be built window seat in the south window, reading a book while soaking up winter sunshine, will be all I feel a need to complete in a day. Then the cold may be welcome as a perfect excuse to accomplish no more than this on winter days.