Sunday, December 09, 2007

Useless Below 40

The afternoon temps get in to the low 50s, but overnight it drops in to the 30s. The house seems to stay right at about 40 with no heat running. I only keep a few rooms heated, so most of the house is like a meat locker several months out of the year.

I really need to do some winterizing, but it is just too damn cold to work. How’s that for irony. Several of the double hung windows upstairs have the top sash open a few inches. I push them up and put a wedge in there, but eventually, with the high winds, the windows rattle and the wedge falls out and the sash drops again. Some of these rooms I go in to so infrequently, that weeks can go by before I notice. This is one reason why I don’t heat any of those rooms. Well, that, and the fact that I have no real heating system to speak of.

The other problem is the stairs that lead to the third floor/attic. They are wide open and there is no door. There is also no framing for a door. Back in the 1920s they took what was mostly likely a 32-inch doorway and doubled the width. They then lopped off the bottom 2 steps to the stairs that lead to the attic and boarded over the entrance. This became a closet for one of the apartments.

I was never really sure why they did this. Ok, I can kind of understand removing the bottom steps to make it look more like a closet, but why widen the entrance. Closest with single doors are the norm. It was an odd choice. The only thought is that it became an alcove for an armoire or something. This was the early 20s, so closets in every bedroom were still kind a novel idea.

I rebuilt the stairs years ago, because I needed access to the third floor, but I never reframed or hung a proper door to close off the stairs. Any heat that makes its way up stairs is sucked up those stairs like a chimney drawing smoke. I had hoped to fix this problem, and get the attic insulted this summer, but the whole bathroom thing took a lot longer than I thought. And then I started the new job, and all. It just never happened.

So now its winter again and its going to be another cold one at the old Petch House. If I could get motivated I would fix the door and insulate the attic, but I just can’t seem to. I don’t like working in the cold. For more irony, if I did start to do the work I would most likely warm up. Hauling tools and lumber up and down the stairs is a good way to warm up a body. Of course, sitting in the front parlor with the doors closed, and watching football with the heater running is another way to warm up a body.

Maybe I’ll get to it this spring.


Katherine said...

I know exactly what you mean about the meatlocker. I too have no motivation to winterize--except in the rooms that I actually use. I closed off the rooms I never go into and put rugs on the sills in order to help with the heat loss. But the only rooms I care about are the ones I spend time in.

I have a woodstove. I could have ordered the wood for the winter in the summer. But that would have meant stacking wood in the summer heat. Seemed wrong, somehow. Now I am dealing with wood that is a few months shy of being cured...and sweating while I use the blowers on the fire.

But no project is getting done that can't be done in front of the woodstove...

I think that the lack of motivation is more due to less sunlight and less due to the cold. I have been stacking wood all week, in the early morning, and I feel more energized as a result to do anything.

Greg said...

"more due to less sunlight"

I think that has a lot to do with it too. When it gets dark that day is over.

Anonymous said...

Ah, now I know that I am not alone. I have heat downstairs, after installing a forced air furnace in the basement, but there is no heat upstairs unless I plug it in. I just didn't want to deal with putting runs in my old walls. I know there is a solution somewhere. Maybe those neat old bathroom-type wall gas heaters.

(Whose cats lay on the vents and suck up all the heat anyway.)

STAG said...

Actually the solution is easy, albeit a bit involved. Do it one room at a time. You probably don't want to drag off all the plaster from the walls, (You SHOULD at least bash holes in it for ventilation to the outside) but you will have to pull up some of the baseboards and the window mouldings. Then lay down a sill plate, some studs, and some vapor barrier, a whole new wall just inside the old one. Frame around the windows with the salvaged window frames, fill in the gaps with insulation, Add an extra window now that you have room on the inside for it, and that room will be able to be heated with a light bulb! Depending on how much space you leave between the new wall and the old, it also gives you a chance to lay in some duct work, wiring, computer wiring, concrete trombe wall segments, and space for that flat screen TV.
And you loose, what six inches off one wall to save hundreds in heating over the next ten years.

Greg said...


Oh, is that all I have to do. Maybe on the next commercial break all do it. Of course, the place would look like hell, but that's not important. On second thought, why not just a cinder block bunker buried in the back yard.

STAG said...

Why would it look like hell Greg? You not planning to do a good job? It would be the first time!

I did exactly all that on the "summer kitchen" of my 1867 era house....and it not only stays cool in the summer, warm in the winter, but I was also able to route a whole electrical service to the area and turn it into a showroom for my business. I wish I had routed speaker and computer wires at the same time. Only one wall needed to be done, took me about 4 moderatly busy (say, 7 hours) days including wallpapering, and unless you look closely you can't even tell that the mods have been done! I expect it would have taken much longer if I had attempted to plaster instead of drywall. Of course, the existing plaster was pretty much falling, or had fallen off so there was little point in trying to "restore" it. Its still there though, if I ever wanted to. But for now, I have a useable room where before I had a miserably cold storage shed.

Tried to do the same to an attached garage...took a LOT longer. But then, it WAS dissolving into the dirt...grin! On that job, I tried to use the existing stud wall...bad idea...took me a couple of weeks.

So yeah, I have some experience. I have been amazed at the great things you have been doing here though...they make MY efforts seem pretty tame. Though I am about to brave the snow and ice and see if I can somehow keep my front porch from collapsing this week from the yard of snow which has come down this last couple of weeks.

Anonymous said...

Some of the people writing in here apparently live in a different climate than Eureka, where it never gets really cold, and for that matter also never gets really warm (the ALL TIME high temperature records in 87 degree F).

Insulating an attic is a good idea if you are going to spend any time up there, but the older homes were designed not to be insulated, and don't "breathe" well if you do.

Because it very rarely drops below freezing here, and the number of annual days in the 30's is quite low, it is possibly to successfully "weatherize" a home here by adjusting double hung windows, weatherstripping doors, plugging up holes, and either putting a some kind of door on the fireplace or s screen in front (if you have a fireplace that is).

Most houses here don't even need double pane glass, as you can usually get by with judicious use of curtains, drapes, and blinds to ward off cold.

However, you better get that door to the attic hung. That sounds as you said, like a chimney. Brr.

And you can do as my wife and I do..invest in long underwear.

Greg said...

I've given up on trying to explain the whole North Coast Micro-Climate phenomena. Now I just say, "We don't live on the same planet as everyone else".

Another way is to just explain that probably not one house in the city has a central air conditioning system. It takes a minute for people to wrap their brains around that one.