Saturday, September 30, 2006

House of Five Gables

When I was doing the write up to add my house to the Local Register of Historic Places, and hopefully someday I will add it to the National Register of Historic Places, I had to make sure to get all the names of the architectural elements correct. Those historical types can be quite picky. I’ve heard they can be quick to start a fight if you use a wrong architectural term. You can’t just say the house has X number of windows, you must specify what style of windows they are. Everything has a name.

The proper way to describe my roof, or at least I think it’s the proper way, would be to say that it is a “Hipped roof with four lower crossed gables”. Three of the gables are referred to as “pent roof enclosing gables”. Here are some basic roof types

You can see that the hip type roof has shingles on all 4 sides, as opposed to the gabled type, which only has shingles on 2 sides. As it was said, my house has a hipped roof, and then it has the four gables. They are the “lower crossed gables”.

It’s obvious why they are referred to as “lower” gables because they are all lower than the main gable of the hipped roof. I was trying to figure out why they are specifically referred to as “crossed” gables. They do run across the roof, but then I can’t picture a gable that doesn’t. Two of mine run perpendicular to the main gable and the other 2 run parallel, yet they are all referred to as “Lower crossed gables”. Adding the word “crossed” seems a little redundant, but that’s what they call them, so who am I to argue.

Even though all the gable are lower than the main gable, none are at the same elevation, nor are any of them the same size. The gables get progressively lower and smaller. That is to say, the large front gable on the right side of the house is the largest and the highest. The gable on the south side is slightly lower and slightly smaller, and the gable on the north side is lower and smaller still. Finally there is the smallest and lowest of the four on the front left-hand side of the house.

The three largest of the gables are the “pent roof enclosing gables”. The pent roof is a small, slanted roof the runs horizontally at the base of the gable. Sometimes the pent roofs are shingled, but on my house they are metal. Here’s a shot of one of the pent roofs, and it’s not doing so good. Maybe Tex from over at 1880s Italianate can come over and do a POR-15 job on them, now that he’s an expert.

I originally thought the 3 main pent roof enclosing gables were all the same size. Today, when I was up painting the north gable, I noticed it was much easier to reach all of the shingles on this one than it was on the other two. This north side gable only has 3 rows of fish-scale shingles above the window. The front gable has 7 rows above the window, and the south gable has 5 rows. They are progressively more narrow as well, but I did not count the shingles.

This morning I scraped, sanded, and primed the shingles on the last, north side gable. The weather is still gloomy, and it looks like it may drizzle, so I’m going to put the top-coat on in a few hours and hopefully beat any precipitation. Then it’s on to Section 5.

Friday, September 29, 2006

Weird Weather

There was an article in the paper yesterday that said we broke two temperature records on the same day. Both the high and low temperatures for Tuesday were broken. I don’t remember the exact temps for the day, but it was a swing of 40 degrees. It was probably something like 40 for the low and 80 for the high.

I remember the low because I was outside painting on Tuesday and I was freezing my butt off. It didn’t start out that way, though. I originally went out in just jeans and a T-shirt and added layers over the next couple of hours. I ended up with long-johns, jeans, 2 T-shirts, and a sweater and I was still cold. It was like we went from Summer to Autumn over the course of one afternoon.

Ever since Tuesday the temps have been noticeably cooler, and the morning fog has rolled back in with a vengeance. It’s like driving through pea soup until about 10:00 AM, and after that we get a low ceiling for a few hours until it burns off to sun shine. It’s now 1:00 and it still hasn’t burned off. This is not good painting weather. I’m hoping this trend won’t last for very long.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Making The Grade

The bushes I removed a week and a half ago were causing more problems than I realized. Admittedly, I have a scorched earth policy when it comes to plants growing right up against the house. It’s just not good for the house or the foundation. Here is the bush, in case you’ve forgotten what it looked like.

What I discovered once I removed it was that it was two bushes and they were both growing from under the house. Now very far under, but far enough that the base of the bush was pushing off the skirting. It looked like someone had already trimmed the bottom few inches of the skirting due to rotting. That only seemed to give the bush more room to grow, and grow it did.

Also I found out the grade had been changed by the bush and the ground that was under the bush now sloped towards the house. Over the years as leaves and flowers dropped they would compost and raise the ground. At least this is my working theory. There was a distinct ridge where the perimeter of the bush used to be that was now higher than any point along the side of the house. Everything on the house side was lower. I needed to change this. Here’s the view just after I removed the bush.

I dug up all the ground in the area and found all sorts of weird shit in the process. There was a plastic dinosaur, 2 sets of car keys, a pager, a rubiks cube, some art supplies, a globe to a patio light, and all sorts of garbage. Oh, and the cats had added their own home-made fertilizer to the mix over the past week. Thanks guys!

I then set about changing the grade so it sloped away from the house. After that I added some grass seed and watered the whole thing. I’m sure the cats will be fertilizing it in no time. Here’s what it looks like right now.

I still can’t figure out how to get those two root balls out without removing the skirting or destroying it in the process. I'm still spraying them with Round Up and the hope is they will decay to the point that I can break them apart. Maybe next year. At this point, I’ll just be happy if they don’t sprout again.

You can also see I’m missing some foundation vents. Below is a picture of the last remaining original one left of the house from 1895. I’ve been searching Ebay and local shops for replacements. This side of the house faces the street so I want to get a matching pair that I can paint a contrasting color to the skirting. So far I haven’t found a set that are the right size. I think I need a minimum of 12 X 9 inches.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Pop Quiz!

Ok, judging from the picture below, that was just shot an hour ago, can anyone guess what color I was painting today? {answer below}

Section 4 is now officially done. Before we move on, lets take a moment to bask in the glory that is Section 4.

Before: Why brown?

After: Now that is a Section 4!

I reviewed the blog entries and it seems I started Section 4 on the 18th. I did take a day off to hack away at the bush, so that means it took 9 days to complete. If I hadn’t hit the 3 days of intense wind I probably could have done it in 7. Not too bad.

Next up is the attic gable you see in the picture. That is probably 3 or 4 days worth of work and I probably won’t start on it until Friday, which means I should finish Monday. Then it’s on to Section 5. I think I can do that in a week. If I can, and if the weather holds in to the first few weeks of November, then that leaves me about a month to complete the second story shingles in Sections 6 & 8. Very doable. If the weather doesn’t cooperate, I’m screwed.

Now, the answer to today’s pop quiz: If you said some shade of green, or maybe even red, you’d be wrong. The fact is, I didn’t paint today at all. I just never washed my hands from yesterday.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Compliments of the House

Now that I’ve turned the corner and I’m painting on the north side of the house I’m getting another round of comments from passers by. The house sits on a corner lot and if you come at it from the north or the west you still mostly see the north and west sides which are still the old brown paint job.

I’m a bit jaded at times, so sometimes when a neighbor compliments me on the paint job I think that it may just be obligatory. You know, if a neighbor sees me working hard on a project for months on end and then we pass each other on the sidewalk I may get a, “Looking good!”, and then after we pass the wife leans in and says under her breath, “What was he thinking with the green paint. My God, how long are we going to have to look at that!” I don’t think that happens too often, and either way it’s fine with me. That sort of civility is what makes living in a city tolerable. I think in the end, whether my neighbors like the color or not, they’re mostly just happy someone’s taking care of the property, and it’s not still a rental filled with drug attics, Nazis, and prostitutes.

Of all the comments and compliments I’ve gotten, a few of them do stand out. It wasn’t so much what was said, but who said it. I expect some people to comment on the house. People like my immediate neighbors, friends, and maybe coworkers. Whether they like the color or not, they’d have to be blind not to see the change, and it’s just civil to comment on it.

The first memorable one was back in the beginning of August. I had spent more than a week working on the pair of corner brackets and the window trim that makeup the right-hand corner of the front bay window. This is the corner that is closest to the street and it’s very noticeable. I stripped the whole thing back to bare wood and sanded it all down. The work just went on and on. This was the point when I had been dabbing on paint in small quantities for so long that I began to wonder what it tastes like. I’ve since discovered that Clary Sage doesn’t taste anything like it looks. Ugh!

After 7 or 8 days on the ladder it felt like I had been out there a month working on this one small part of the house. I was up on the ladder putting the finishing touches on one of the sunbursts when I hear this young woman behind me on the sidewalk exclaim, “Oh….Mygod, that looks so awesome!” It was the classic 17 year old girl exclamation with all the inflections done perfectly. I turned to say thanks and she went off how nice the house looked and what a good job I was doing.

She must live a few streets over because I don’t see her that often. This time she was walking the family dog. The compliment was nice, of course, but it was just so unexpected. I mean, I would think there would be almost nothing about an old house that would impress a teenager. It’s not like I was Justin Timberlake or some other heart-throb up on the ladder painting a house, and yet she noticed and complimented me on it. When I was that age a nuclear bomb could have been set off and I would have said, “Yeah….whatever”.

A few weeks after that I was, once again, up on a ladder painting. Out of the corner of my eye I saw a very old man in white paint splattered painters cloths limping down the sidewalk towards me. I thought to myself, “Here it comes, another sales pitch from someone who wants to paint my house”. When I first started this project I got regular visits and business cards dropped in the mail slot of people who wanted to paint my house for me.

I didn’t turn around for this guy and just continued painting. I heard him walk up behind me and stop on the sidewalk. “Here it comes”, I thought. All of the sudden I hear, “Man…’ve got that house is looking good”. You have to say that with a bit of soul that comes from smoking too many cigarettes and working too many long hours for too many years. I very briefly looked down at him from the ladder and said thanks, all the while waiting for the other shoe to drop. I went back to painting and he walked back to his truck without saying another word.

Then yesterday I was up on the ladder yet again and a couple of regular kids rode by on their bikes. There were two of them, and they were about 14 or 15. You know the type. The oldest looking and biggest of the 2 said, “Man, that house looks great!” I turned around and he wasn’t looking at me on the ladder. He wasn’t really saying it to me. He just sort of said it. I looked down once again and said thanks.

About an hour later the same kids rode by only this time there were about a half dozen of them. I was around the corner washing out a brush and I could hear them in the street. They all stopped on the street next to my house and the older kid was sort of lecturing them on the paint job…..

“See, look at the brown. That’s what it all used to look like. Now look at this. See, there’s green on the second story and primer on the first story. Now come here and look at the front. That’s what it’s all going to look like soon.”

I was amazed and felt a little uncomfortable for some reason. It was just really interesting that the paint job was getting noticed by the people I would least expect to notice it. It was kind of cool. Maybe this is the first step in old house appreciation.

Monday, September 25, 2006


Pooped painter pants profusely
Pulmonary palpitations – positively paralyzing
Painters productivity proudly proclaimed

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Make Mine a Double

Painting the house on a ladder hasn’t really been that bad, at least not until now. The problem now that I’ve gotten to the north side of the house is the rungs on the ladder. On all of the other parts of the house I’ve been working on relatively level ground. On the north side of the house there is about 3 feet of level ground and then it begins to slope towards the sidewalk. What this means is, I have to put the ladder down the slope and extend it further to reach the uppermost reaches of the house.

On an aluminum extension ladder the individual rungs are only a few inches in diameter. They are flat on the top, but it still only gives you an area of a few inches to stand on. Most of the time though, the ladder is not fully extended so the two halves of the ladder overlap each other. When this happens the rungs from the two halves of the ladder match up and you have a comfortable space to stand on. The total width of the two rungs together is about six inches. I could sand on that all day long and not get sore feet.

On all of the other sections of the house I painted it was only when I got up to the very top that I was forced to stand only on a single rung of the ladder. It was a little uncomfortable, but I never spent too much time up there, so it was no big deal. Now though, on the north side, I have to extend the ladder up so far because of the slope that I’m forced to spend a lot more time standing on only one rung of the ladder. It is not comfortable at all. I have to climb up 4 single rungs to paint the very top, and then work my way down. The first couple of days doing prep and primer it wasn’t too bad, but it’s starting to take its toll. By the time I get to the 5th rung down where they are doubled up again I am in real pain.

Had the whole house been this way I would have had to come up with another way of doing this. I would either have had to break down and get scaffolding, or get a 40-foot ladder. My current ladder is 32-feet. As it is, I only have one more section to do on the ladder. After that I can stand on the wrap-around back porch to work on the second story.

I measure the width of a section by the number of aerosmiths on it. I call them “aerosmiths” even though I’m not sure if it’s the proper name. The aerosmiths are the stylized floral carvings on the frieze.


The corner section where I removed the tree was 13 aerosmiths long with no windows. The current section, Section 4, is 19 aerosmiths long with only one window. The next section, Section 5, is only 14 aerosmiths long, and it has 2 windows. What that boils down to is fewer singles to prep and paint. That means a lot less time on the ladder. I’m just going to have to muddle through it. I have to go back up and put a second coat on the Section 4 shingles tomorrow, and paint the aerosmiths. After that it will be a few weeks until I start the Section 5 shingles because Section 5 is topped with the last attic gable that still needs painting. I’ll work on that, and prep first floor part of Section 5 before I work on the Section 5 shingles. It’ll give my feet some time to rest.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Wind, Winded, Window

No, I’m not conjugating house parts. These are the three things this brief blog entry will deal with.

Wind - Brutal. It added a third to the time it took to do this section. Today wasn’t bad, but yesterday – oh, man. At one point I was all the way at the top of the ladder and a gust of wind hit so hard that the ladder slid about 3-inches across the house. Three inches doesn’t sound like much, but frankly any movement when you’re that high on a ladder is not good. A cold sweat just sort of washed over me.

Winded – That’s pretty much what I am at this point. I think fear is exhausting. The second story part of Section 4 is primed and ready for paint, but I didn’t get to the first floor part. Tomorrow I’ll do a final sanding and prime the first floor. I think I will finish up this section by Tuesday.

Window – This is the topic of this weeks poll question. I remember reading a post by Jane Powell over at The Old House Journal forum about her house and it’s number of windows. Jane Powell writes all the Bungalow books. Anyway, I don’t remember all the details, but I think she has a massive 3,000 sq ft bungalow (Bungaloid?) in Oakland, CA and she said it has 80 windows! Eighty! Could you imagine? It makes my 26 windows look paltry in comparison. I could have that number wrong, I do remember it was an astounding number of windows, though.

Anyway, this weeks question is, How Many Windows Does Your House Have?

How Many Windows Does Your House Have?
1 to 5
6 to 10
11 to 15
16 to 20
21 to 25
26 to 30
31 to 35
36 to 40
41 to 45
46 to 50
51 to 55
56 to 60
61 to 65
More Than 65
Free polls from

Friday, September 22, 2006

A Little R&R

I’m getting together with some friends tonight to have dinner and ogle some turn-of-the-century photos one of them recently acquired. It was an EBay purchases of 40 photographs of Eureka taken around the turn of the century. There is little hope that one of them will be a picture of my house, but a boy can dream, can’t he?

My house isn’t exactly an eyesore. You would think that at some point over the last 100+ years someone would have snapped a photo of it. Preferably a pre-WWII photo. I have poured over every photo archive I can get my hands on and found almost nothing.

I met an old tenant once who said she lived here in the late 60s to the late 70s. She was a little girl then and she said you had a few photos of the place. She was visiting from out of the area with her daughters and I gave them a tour of the place. I gave her my email address and she promised to send me some but I never heard from. She even said they were already scanned and on her computer, so it’s not like she had to jump through hoops to get them to me. I’m kind of pissed because as I was giving the tour I mentioned several times how I was interested in the photos.

I did find one aerial photo on-line a few months back. A local photographer took dozens of aerial photographs of the city back in the 40s and 50s and they were all recently put on-line by the local university. They are large format photos, and the resolution is surprisingly good, but still, it gets grainy when you try and zoom in on a particular house. The photo that this was cropped from covers are area of about 25 square blocks. All the cars are from the late 30s to early 40s.

You can see that the house has it’s brown and tan paint job. It has the 2 story addition with the exterior stair case leading to an upstairs apartment. The apartment/garage building has been built, but the house does not have the asbestos siding yet. The chimneys are still there, and the streets are still dirt.

The other interesting thing about the photo is that it shows that there were still sections of wooden sidewalks in the neighborhood. The Petch House already had it’s concrete sidewalks, and you can see that a new section has just been poured at the property next door (lower right). Across the street, though, the old 1870s house still has it’s wooden sidewalks, as do many other houses in the neighborhood.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Less Wind Is Still Wind

And it’s no fun to work in. It feels like my whole body is chapped. I was able to get up on the ladder and work on the second story today, but it was not what I would consider fun. I managed to get about 2/3rds of the shingles scraped and puttied. Most of the first story is scraped and puttied as well. On the second story I still have the window and the shingles to the right of the window. Here’s where I’m at.

Pretty much everything to the left of the windows is done. Tomorrow I want to get the downspout off and finish up the shingles. If I can get all the shingles stripped at puttied tomorrow then I’m going to try and get up there first thing Saturday morning and finish sanding and primer.

Normally on the weekends I don’t start working on painting until after noon. According to weather reports we are supposed to get more wind tomorrow and then it calms down on Saturday. I don’t want to take any chances though. If I get a late start Saturday I might end up with more of this cold, windy weather. No thank you.

If I get out there early on Saturday and get the second story primed then I can work on the first story whether it’s windy or not. On Sunday I’ll do the same thing for the top-coat.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Blown Away

Ugh! The winds have picked up in a big way. So much so that they blew the ladder off the house twice today. Fortunately I wasn’t on it at the time. It makes for very unpleasant work. The worst part is, there is little or no wind while I’m at work or doing other things. For the past two days though, as soon as I’m ready to go outside and strip paint off the house – Whoosh!

I have managed to get a lot of the first story siding stripped in Section 4, but getting up to the second floor is treacherous with this wind. On Sunday I did drag my butt outside for a short bit and I get about 20% of the second story done. Since then: nothing, zip, zilch, nada.

It’s frustrating because the sky is blue, the temperature is nice, but the wind….oh, the wind. If I was back on the south side of the house I could work in it easily, but I’m just so exposed on the north side that faces the bay. Even with layers of clothing the wind just cuts through me like knife. Hopefully it will die down soon because I’m running out of first story siding to work on.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

The Hummingbirds Are Pissed!

And I’m sure the bees aren’t too thrilled either, but it had to be done.

The two big root balls are being slowly poisoned with a daily dose of Round-Up Poison Ivy & Tough Brush Killer Plus.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Secrets Revealed: More Secrets

Sounds enticing, doesn’t it? Well, don’t get too excited. I wanted to comment on two of the comments I received on yesterday’s post entitled, Petch House Secrets Revealed!

First Burrito asked:

I wonder what the starbursts would look like up on the gables?

Well, Burrito, not only would they look good, but they should be up there. Gable decorations were a popular thing to have in this town at the time my house was built. Sure enough, when I removed the asbestos siding I found “witness lines” (old blemishes in the paint) of gable decorations that were brutally ripped off the house when the house was Eisenhowered.

It’s impossible to know exactly what was there because I’ve never been able to find any old pictures of the house. Grrrrr! I do know what size the decoration was, and based on similar houses, or houses built at the same time, it’s pretty easy to surmise what was there. Here are two local houses, with gable decorations, built about the same time as mine.

Not a big fan of the colors

Shhh. If you listen closely, you can hear this house begging for a decent paint job.

Both houses, while different in size and design, incorporate the sun bursts over the windows, just as mine, and both have a very similar gable decoration. I will be reproducing this on my house sooner, rather than later. The only reason it’s not up there now is because I wanted to paint first.

In another comment Hip from House in Progress wrote:

I love the sunbursts. If the builders had the extra trim in 1895, I firmly believe that they would have added them then.

You are very close to being right. There are two other houses in town that have a nearly identical front stained glass window as The Petch House. Both of these houses employ sunbursts around the stained glass window. This is in part why I added them to my house.

These two house are really the same house design. The blue one lose most of it’s second story and a lot of it’s gingerbread in a fire. The original design predates The Petch House by about 10 years. I once mentioned how my house lacks the copious amounts of gingerbread as other houses of a similar size in the area. I commented something to the effect that my house, while still very much a Victorian, is more forward looking than other, similar houses in the area. The two houses above are the ones I was thinking about when I wrote this. The top house, with all it’s original trim, has far more ornamentation than my house ever had.

They just did not screw around back then.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Petch House Secrets Revealed!

Ok, so a lot of these aren’t really secrets, and really I’m only writing this because I’m being lazy and it’s in between footballs games, so take it for what it is: A Complete Waste Of Time.

1) The white dot to the left of the Number one is a bullet hole. The shot was fired from inside the house and passed through someone before exiting the house. Of course, I’ve talked about this one before. I bought a new piece of glass, but I vacillate back and forth about whether I’m going to use the new glass, which I don’t like as much, or repair this glass. It’s more than just a hole. The glass is in 3 pieces, and small parts are gone, but 90% is whole. You can not buy this glass in a large enough size to replace it.

2) The previous owners vented a gas furnace out one of the chimneys. The chimneys no longer exited the house and when the new roof was put on they shingled over the opening. Their bright idea was to shove an old feather pillow in to the chimney opening that terminated in the attic. I used this pillow as padding when I hung out that window to paint the attic gable. The pillow is still on the floor right in front of that window and Mortimer, my cat, now sleeps on the pillow every afternoon. In fact, he’s sleeping there right now.

3) I had to climb up on the roof twice to deal with this little gable. The first time was 3 years ago to remove the asbestos shingles, and then again a month ago to paint the original fish scale shingles. I was able to put a ladder on the porch roof to get up there. There is another one of those little gables on the opposite side of the roof, and it still has the asbestos shingles on it. These are the last asbestos shingles on the house, but I can’t figure out an affordable or safe way to get up there to deal with them. There’s no flat roofed porch to place a ladder on. It gnaws at me that these last few asbestos shingles are still on the house.

4) I came very close to buying this house a few months before I bought The Petch House. The house was built in 1901 (I think) and had been owned by the same family since the 40s or 50s. The kids turned it in to apartments after Mom & Pop passed away and it was really neglected. One of the grand daughters was now living in one of the apartments when the family decided to sell. The grand daughter and her husband were kind of White Trash tweakers and not happy the house was being sold out from under them. They made things very difficult.

I looked at the house and couldn’t make up my mind. It needed a lot of work. It had been on the market for more than a year and they kept dropping the price. I think they wanted $130,000 when I looked at. I had been looking at houses for 4 months or so. Four or 5 weeks after I looked at this one I was getting demoralized because I couldn’t find anything. I told my realtor I wanted to make a cash offer on the place of $90,000. She said it was too low and they’d never take it. We wrote up the offer and she called it in to the listing agent. We got a call back that day that they had excepted another offer of $89,000 that morning. Apparently they were really desperate to sell. A few months later I got The Petch House. I’m happy it worked out the way it did.

5) This is the bracket that made it on to The Patch House blog banner. It sort of looks like I fooled with it in PhotoShop or something. I shot the picture first thing in the morning in the glaring sun. I then cropped it in MSPaint and added the text. Nothing fancy, it’s just washed out from the sun.

6) Concrete steps that go no where. At one time these lead to the kitchen door of the 1920s addition I removed, now they go no where. I haven’t decided whether to get rid of them or incorporate them in to a new back porch. The main sewer line runs right underneath them. I have years to decided.

7) You can barley see it, but there is a fancy cast iron crawl space vent on the skirting there. It is the last remaining original vent from 1895. There were three more in other places around the house, but they were broken, or fell off, and were thrown away. It’s on the list to replace them with something equally as cool as this remaining vent.

8) This is my favorite place to stand and survey the neighborhood. The stained glass window has one clear pane right at eye level. It’s old and very wavy glass so it was there just for this purpose. It’s my wavy window on the world.

9) This concrete step was broken just before I bought the place. There was a car wreck in front of the house while it was on the market. One of the cars jumped the curb and ended up in the front yard. That step was broken and when I first looked at the house a lot of the yard was torn up as well.

10) This bracket seemed like the best place to hook up all 8 or 9 of the cable connections for the house. It was just a hideous rats nest of cables TV lines that all converged here on this bracket. From there they streamed out all over the house. It was unbelievably ugly. They just showed the house no respect at all.

11) This looks so much better without the tree. I can’t believe I considered keeping it.

12) The sunbursts on the green siding on either side of the 12 are not original. Due to a screw up at the mill I had a bunch of extra “sun rays” so I added these myself. It’s not that I think they look bad, but it’s always kind of bugged me that they are not original to the 1895 design.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Does Size Matter?

Some people think mine’s too big, but I like it, and I get a lot of compliments on it, so who cares. It can be tough to clean, but other than that it suits me just fine. Everybody’s different, right? Some like them big whether they need it or not, while others don’t. So the question is, Is Your House The Right Size For You?

Let’s make this another 2 part poll. First, What Size Is Your House, and then, Is This a Good Size For you? First though, lets look at last weeks question. The answers formed the classic Bell Curve.

It seems that the nesting instinct hits most people in their late 20s. It would be interesting to see if this is the same nation wide, or if HouseBloggers are a different breed. It would also be interesting to compare today’s statistics to those of 100 years ago. Did most people buy homes in their late 20s at the turn of the century, or did they start earlier or later?

Those are all good questions that I don’t have time to research and answer, so let’s move on. This week you are asked what the square footage of your current house is, and then you are asked if this size fits you well.

The Square Footage of Your House
Less Than 1000
1001 to 1500
1501 to 2000
2001 to 2500
2501 to 3000
3001 to 3500
3501 to 4000
More Than 4000
Free polls from

Is This a Good Size For You?
No, it’s too small.
Yes, it’s perfect!
No, it’s too big.
Free polls from

Friday, September 15, 2006

Almost Done

There is only one difficult part about shingling and that is doing the corners. Each shingle must be trimmed to fit, and they must go on in s a special order so they shed water properly. Just my luck, the only thing I’m doing are corner shingles.

The number of shingles I put on would have taken maybe a half hour if they had been in the field, but on the corner I spent about 3 hours on them. Admittedly, I’m not the fastest shingler, but in my defense, I was working on a ladder. With scaffolding this would have gone faster.

As you can see I was able to complete about 80% of it today. It gets increasingly more difficult and time consuming the higher I get. Tomorrow I should be able to finish in about an hour or so. You would think it was just a matter of removing a few old shingles and nailing up some new ones. No such luck. The big problem is the old nails.

You need to remove old nails that are up under shingles that you want to keep, and wouldn’t you know it, they make a special tool for this. It’s called a Shingle Ripper. Fortunately I own one. It looks kind of like a Slim-Jim one would use to break in to cars. You slide it up under a shingle and catch a nail with a hook on the end. There is a flat bar at the other end of the ripper that you bang on with a hammer and it pulls the nail out from under the shingle. It’s not an exact science and getting some nails can take a few tries. Nothings easy.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Chompin’ At The Bit

That’s what I am. I’m in full Stage-One mode with the house painting. Stage one is where I’m revitalized and ready to get to work on the next section. Stage 2 is where I’m demoralized that the work is dragging on, and stage three is where I’m tired, but I feel good that the paint job is coming out nice. Now, if everyone will get out their chart, we can see that the next section would be Section 4. This is the first section on the north side of the house.

I had speculated at one point that I might not have to strip the north side back to bare wood. Unfortunately that was wrong. I couldn’t have been more wrong. Well, I guess I could have somehow been more wrong, but I wasn’t. It must be stripped back to bare wood. Even more unfortunate is the fact that I can’t start until maybe Sunday because I have to do some work on the stupid apartment building first.

The stupid apartment building is the stupid garage building in my stupid backyard. It has 2 stupid apartment upstairs that seem to need something done to them every 6 months or so. I didn’t even mention that 2 weekends ago I had to replace the wax ring on one of the toilets. That sort of thing never gets old. The garage building was built in 1926. So imagine that you have an old house you live in and work on, and then imagine you have another one right behind you that you also have to work on. If it wasn’t for the fact that it pays the mortgage I’d burn it to the ground.

It’s fun to bitch and moan about it, but it could be much worse, and I know that. Still! {***Sigh***} I don’t like working on the apartments. I have a dream of one day taking out a fat loan like Steve and Jocelyn did over at Chicago 2 Flat. I would then have a team of highly trained professionals come in and do a whiz-bang job of a restoration on the apartments. I then could jack up the rents, while at the same time not have to do as much work on them because everything would be new and shiny. At least the stuff that seems to break all the time would be new and shiny. However, I don’t think I could handle the stress of two major projects on the property right now. Perhaps when I’m further along on The Petch House I’ll do that.

At any rate, this time the project on the apartment building is shingle repair. As I said the building was built in 1926. It’s a Mission Revival building with shingles on the second story and horizontal siding on the first story. For the most part the siding is in good to passable shape. I’m lucky that the part that doesn’t look so good faces the alley, so I’m not chompin’ at the bit to fix it. Most of it is passable, so I let it be. The problem area is the South/West corner. Surprise, surprise, right? After 80 years of being beat to crap by wind, sun, and rain the singles aren’t doing so good. There was also a little matter of a holly tree that grew up against the side of the building and sort of push some of the shingles around. The tree is gone but the damage remains.

As always, there are photos

This is the North/East corner. Doesn’t look too bad, right?

This is the alley side. It’s passable.

And this is the South West Corner. Ouch!

Yea, this is what I need to deal with. Ideally, I would re-shingle the whole south side, but that ain’t gunna happen, at least not this year. There are a lot of curling shingles, but they still shed water for the most part. Basically, the plan is to re-shingle this corner and see if I can stave off the major work for another year or two. Actually, the plan is that a giant earthquake will occur that is completely localized directly under the apartment. I huge creator will open up and swallow the building whole, but not before the tenants get safely out. That would be perfect. Hmmm, I’d better get earthquake insurance on the apartment building - just incase.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Dreaming of Reality

Well, here it is in all it’s Full Frontal Beauty. With a quick search through the blog and I found that I started on April 19th, but there was the shoulder injury, and I pimped the fridge, plus all the work on the porch was done as well during that time. I could go back and find out exactly how much time I spent just painting, and I probably will, but for now I’ll give a rough estimate of three months of painting. It seems longer – much longer.

Click to bask in it’s greater glory

I really worked too hard to get this last section done and I am sore, sore, sore. Between the tree and then 2 marathon painting sessions Saturday and Sunday, I really pushed myself too hard. We are back to this strange weather pattern where we get thick fog and maybe even a light mist in the very early mornings and the first half of the day. Then around Noon it all burns off and we get beautiful sunshine. Because of this I didn’t want to let the bare wood sit without primer after I sanded it.

On Saturday I first dug up the stump from the tree and got rid of that, and then I started sanding everything on Section 2. Once I got it all sanded I decided I needed to primer, otherwise the wood might get wet over night. Well, wet might be putting it too strongly. It’s just, why take the risk. This is going to be the substrate for future paint jobs for the next 100 years maybe. I was out on the ladder until almost 8:00 at night putting primer on. Sunday was the same thing with the first coat of paint. It was just exhausting.

Because of all this I was usually in bed before 9:00, and I never ate enough those days. I had a very strange and lucid dream Sunday night. In a very odd and dreamy way it encompassed some of what I’ve been going through, or at least feeling. Of course, other parts of it are just strange dream stuff that has no relation to current events. In a lot of my dreams I have friends and other people that I don’t really know in real life, but in the dream we treat each other as if there is a history. It’s very strange. I call them dream friends, dream family, or even dream lovers (don’t even think about it). Oh, and my truck has bad brakes right now. Anyway here’s the dream.

I’m in an empty house with a dream friend, a man. The house is a nondescript tract home and we are looking for watch batteries and we find 2 of them. We go outside and are standing by the side of the garage when a woman walks up. She is in her mid-twenties and we know each other but I’m not sure how. She is mad at my dream friend and tells him to leave and never come back. She looks at me and says, with a pleasant smile, that I’m welcome to come over anytime. (nudge, nudge – wink, wink)

The scene melts away, the man and woman are gone, and I’m sitting in the driveway in a 1990s Ford Thunderbird. I go to back down the driveway but the car is in drive and I slam in to the garage door. I don’t really smash anything but the car skids along the garage door and strips off a lot of the paint. The door is painted red and several layers of paint come off. Each layer has the consistency of cellophane.

I decided I needed to repaint the door, so I go in to the house to look for paint. The house is now fully furnished and the woman is in the kitchen. She is wearing a slinky white nightgown, talking on a cell phone, and cooking an omelet. I walk past the kitchen and head towards the basement. The basement is finished with a bedroom, bathroom, and lots of storage cabinets. It’s not done real well, but it’s pretty clean. After I open what seems like dozens of plywood storage cabinets on the walls I find a shelf with some different cans of cleaners and what looks like a quart of paint. I spilled something on my hands and I go in to the bathroom to wash my hands. I then take the paint upstairs.

I walk in to the kitchen and the woman has her back to me. I decide I’m going to surprise her and I walk up behind and start to put my arms around. Just as I do that she turns around a shrieks and the omelet pan, cell phone, and paint can go flying. We both fall to the ground with her on top of me and we are both scrambling for the cell phone. There was just as much playfulness to this, as there was two people trying to get a cell phone.

Just as I reach the cell phone her mother, my boss from about 10 years ago, and 2 more dream friends walk in. It is decided that we will all go to the hardware store to get paint for the garage door. I take the cell phone and paint can to try and return them to the basement, but I can’t find it. I eventually find some man standing in the hallway and I hand them to him.

I go outside to join everyone and the woman and her mom are getting in to a newer truck and start to drive away. The woman truns to look at me once more before they pull off. My boss and the two dream friends are waiting by the most beat up Volkswagen Beetle I’ve ever seen in my life. It’s sitting in the driveway just where I left the Thunderbird. The two dream friends are already in the backseat and they’re making sandwiches. My boss has a large canister of C02 that he wants to put in the trunk. The trunks are up front on the old bugs and the trunk lid is crushed beyond belief. I manage to get it open and there are already two canisters of C02 in there. I try to move them around to make room but the car starts to fall apart. I tell my boss there’s no room. I manage to get the car back together and the trunk lid closed. We get in and begin to back down the driveway. The woman and here mom are long gone.

As I back down the driveway I see a cop car coming and I try to stop but the brakes don’t work to good. I roll out in to traffic and partially up the driveway across the street. The cop stops in time, and after I roll past, he glares at me and speeds off. I start to drive down the street and a block away I pass my house but it’s gone. All that’s left is the foundation. Again, I try to stop but the brakes don’t work so good. I keep yelling at my boss and my friends to look at what has happened to my house but they don’t pay any attention. We slowly roll by with me staring and wondering what could have happened to my house.

As we drive along we are slowly climbing a hill and the weather gets progressively worse. First it’s raining. Then it gets really cold. Then frozen rain and sleet. It gets very dark and we come to an intersection. Because we are going uphill I manage to get the car to come to a stop but I have to keep working the clutch so we don’t roll backwards. Just then, out of the darkness a group of Marines marches by. They are soaking wet and miserable. They stop next to the car and stack their rifles in formation right by my window. They are doing drills in the rain and all I can think about is that I want one of those rifles. The light turns green and we drive on.

The road continues up hill and a light snow begins to fall. Up until now, after we passed what was left of my house, we had been driving through desolate mountains. After the traffic light we come back in to a town. I see traffic up ahead and the snow is coming in so hard now it is almost white-out conditions. I see brakes lights about a block ahead and I begin to pump the brakes wildly. Nothing is happening and we’re now going down hill. The car is picking up speed and I just know we are going to crash. The snow is so thick now, I can no longer see the brakes lights. There is that feeling of dread and hopelessness that at any second something terrible is going to happen and you have absolutely no control over it. Just when I think we are going to crash, I wake up.

The End.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Fifty Percent, baby!

So, is anybody else sick of hearing about my house painting yet? This is almost as bad as the dog-days of kitchen plaster. The worst part is, I’m only half way finished. The best part is…..


That’s right, I’m officially half way around the house. There are no pictures at this point (not that you need them) because the sun was all wrong and I need to get the downspout for the porch back up, but let’s not lose sight of what’s important here…..


I feel like dancing in the front yard. I probably should because the neighbors, I’m sure, already think I’m crazy, but I actually do have some self-respect. Other than that, not much else has been happening. Uh, oh let’s see, what else…..oh, I know, did I mention that…..



Talk About Your Bell Curves

Just a quick note to bring attention to the results so far in this weeks poll question. If you haven’t voted, then vote. If you have voted, then click on the View button to see the results so far.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

The Ageless Homeowner

Ok, so it was no surprise that Paint Stripping was the number one Least Favorite house chore. I was surprised, however, that Plumbing was only out of the running by One Vote. Plumbing beat out Drywall/Plaster for being the least favorite thing to do! That was a little surprising. Drywall/Plaster didn’t even come in third, and it was close to being fifth! I’m blown away. I thought for sure it would come in a strong second after Paint Stripping. Either a lot of people have never tried to tackle this job themselves, or you’re all drywall/plaster savants and getting a smooth wall is as easy for you as breathing in and out.

Not me {*sigh*}.

Least Favorite House Project

This weeks question deals with when it was that you lost your mind and decided to become a homeowner. When was it that you decided to give up the blissful existence of being a carefree renter and take on the crushing responsibility of homeownership?

Or maybe you didn’t become a homeowner. Maybe you are a renter right now with a great place to live and a wonderful landlord who must take on the responsibility of fixing the leaky toilet and worrying about when the roof is going to go sailing off down the street. Even better, perhaps you’re still living in your parents basement getting stoned right this very minute. There are times when that sort of lifestyle doesn’t seem too bad, holed up in the basement, just waiting for The Rents to kick the bucket so you can cash in on your slovenly lifestyle. Ahhhh, it’s the stuff dreams are made of.

When did you become a homeowner?
Blissful Renter
18 to 23
24 to 29
30 to 35
36 to 41
42 to 47
48 to 53
54 to 59
60 to 65
66 to 71
72 to 77
78 to ?
Living in basement
Free polls from

Friday, September 08, 2006

Gutter Man Cometh

I should start by saying that this is the first time in over 4 years of working on the house that I’ve called in a professional. The reason this is important is because for all I know this may have gone smoothly. I’m accustomed to my own incompetence, but I know myself well enough to know that I have little patience with people when I am paying them to do a job. I shouldn’t have to beg and plead with people to give them my money.

The pros were brought in to install a very short run of rain gutter on the front porch. All of the gutters on the house were in pretty good shape when I bought it, except for the porch. This was largely due to the rot issues with the porch. The type of gutters that were installed were seamless aluminum gutters that used a long aluminum spike to secure the gutters to the ends of the rafters. The spikes look like giant novelty nails. The problem was that the porch ceiling joists had rot, and the porch was drooping, so the gutters just didn’t work right. In fact, the first winter I was in the house I had a water fall right over the front steps. The second winter I was in the house the gutter fell off the porch. I did a half-assed job of putting back up and that’s how it stayed until I recently rebuilt the porch.

After I finished painting the very tip-top part of the front of the house it was time to for a new gutter. At the hardware store they sell a galvanized gutter that is nearly identical to mine but it only comes in 10 foot lengths. The porch is 12-feet wide. That means I would have an unsightly seam along the front. If it were another spot on the house I would have probably used this method and done it myself, but it’s the front porch. I wanted it to look really nice.

I opened up the yellow pages and there were two places that said they installed seamless aluminum gutters. I called the larger add first. A woman answered and I told her what I wanted and she said they would send a guy out to have a look. Sure enough, he showed up a few hours later. The truck he drove pulled a trailer with all the supplies necessary to do the gutters. The trailer is equipped with a roll of aluminum and a machine that forces the flat aluminum through an extruding device that forms the gutter on-site. You can have a 300-foot run of gutter with no seams in it if you want.

The guy walks up and looks at my porch, and says with a sort of smirk, “That’s it? You just want the porch done?” It is a total of about 17-feet of gutter with one outside corner. I said, “Yep, just need the porch”. He asked a few other questions about the fascia, and I pointed out that the soffit and fascia were both new and I had sistered new ceiling joists to the old rotted ends. I finally asked, “Can you do it?” . He replied, “Well, we’re really busy right now?” . I’m thinking to myself, give me a fucking break. This is maybe an hours worth of work. How busy can you be. So I asked him how long it would take to do it. He said maybe 45 minutes. I looked at his trailer and said, “Well, do it” . He told me he’d have to check with his boss and he’d be in touch. He drove off and I figured I’d never see him again. That was about 2 weeks ago.

I let a week go by to give them the benefit of the doubt that they would come back and let me give them some money. I finally called the other place in the phone book that said they did seamless aluminum gutters. A woman answers the phone and I tell her what I need. She asked me a question about the profile of the gutter. It is a bit of a pet-peeve of mine when people in a certain industry speak to people not in that industry and use acronyms or terminology native to their industry and just expect everybody to instinctually know what they are talking about. That’s what she did. She used two terms of gutter profiles that I have never heard and expected me to just know what the hell it was she was talking about. We went round a round with a series of questions and answers and it didn’t take long for me to get irritated. I snapped at her a little because I felt she was making me jump through hoops like a dog. She finally said she would need to send somebody out to look at my gutters. I figured I’d never see anyone from that company, and it’s been more than a week and I haven’t.

I started to think about the gutters at the hardware store again. I need to get gutters up there before the first rains. I’m not going to have water pouring through the columns that I spent so much time rehabilitating. I was at the hardware store buying something else last week and I went over to look at the gutters. They had everything I needed. The gutter itself is galvanized metal and comes in 10 foot lengths. They have outside and inside corners that fit in to the longer lengths, and couplings to extend the longer lengths. They have all the mounting clips and downspouts, and it’s pretty affordable. I figured I could do the porch for less than $50.

I decided I would wait until I was finished painting the section I was currently working on and if no one got back to me I would just use the hardware stuff. It wouldn’t look as nice, but at least I wouldn't feel like I was begging to get someone to come to my house so I could give them my hard earned money.

Well, yesterday, the first guy calls me back. His phone etiquette was terrible, but at this point I didn’t care. He said he could come by in about an hour and he showed up 2 and a half hours later. It took him all of about 40 minutes to put up the stupid gutter and it cost me $170. Unbelievable. This is why I do things myself.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

The People Have Spoken

Just like any spineless politician during an election year, I was swayed by the latest poll results. I studied the data and listened to informed opinion, but in the end I caved after the latest poll was released and I did what most people wanted. Regardless of whether it was the right thing to do, the tree came down.

Overwhelming Support

Honestly, it was the right thing to do. It just so happens that this time The People were right. I think the front of the house will be much better for it’s demise. I was able to scrape the rest of the shingles today, and tomorrow I’ll putty and maybe start to sand the first story horizontal siding. If all goes will I may start to primer on Saturday, which in reality means Sunday or Monday.

All Gone

Back From Whence It Came

Tomorrow: The Gutter People

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Should It Stay or Should It Go

I’m seriously thinking about getting rid of the tree. I’m finding that I’m having to remove so many of it’s limbs in order to safely work on this corner that it’s either going to die any way, or it’s going to be ugly when I’m done with it.

Now that I’ve been working around it for the past few days, I’m not even sure if I like it that much anymore. Frankly, I think I’d rather look at the house. There is also the issue of it rubbing against the house in the wind (I’m trying to convince myself here). I’ve notice a lot of wear on the paint where some branches have rubbed on the house in the wind. Also, it’s getting to the point where, if it gets any higher, it may be able to start dropping stuff in the gutters.

And then there’s the spiders. Spider webs every where. I know spiders do a lot of good, but maybe this is too much of a good thing. Here is what the tree looks like right now. I’ve really had to cut it back on the two sides that face the two walls of the house. I cut the front back today, and tomorrow I’m going to have to cut it back on the left side to get the ladder up there. The tree is just getting mangled.

Am I killing it? Should I just cut it down? I'll ask the musical question, Should it stay or should it go, now? If it stays there will be trouble. If it goes there will be double. So come on and let me know…….

Should It Stay or Should It Go?
Save The Tree!
Hack it to pieces!
Free polls from

The Wireless Home…..or not

I wrote a few days ago how I had run some CAT-V and coaxial cable while I was rewiring the house 3 years ago. After talking to a few folks who are in the business, they told me the industry standard today is to run 2 CAT-V and 2 coaxial cables to each room. For those not familiar with it, CAT-V is for phone or computer networking, and coaxial cable is for cable TV and some other things.

The reason you would run so many is because you may have different needs than just a phone and a TV. For instance, in one room you could have a phone line, computer networking, cable TV and an FM antenna that could use the 4 different cables.

When I was rewiring the house I didn’t actually install all of the cables in the different rooms. I ran the 4 cables from under the house, up through two floors, and in to the attic. The plan was that I would have splitters, routers, and junction boxes in the attic and I could split off of those cables and run 4 individual cables to the 4 bedrooms.

The idea was that when I got around to finishing each room I would decide where the best and most logical spot in the room was for the cables to exit. I found an interface that would hold all 4 and then allow you to use a faceplate for a GFCI type outlet to make it look nice. It would all be neat and tidy.

As time went on though, I started to think that with all 4 cables in one spot it could be a problem if I wanted the TV on one wall and the phone on another. What would I do, staple phone line around the room on the baseboards. That would look like a hack job. I then thought I could split the 4 and have a CAT-V and coaxial together in one location, and another pair together in another location. If everything is marked properly it would be easy enough to change around what cable is used for what by changing the connections on the splitters in the attic. The attic has a finished floor and full stairwell leading up to it, so it wouldn’t be like I was crawling around on my knees with a flashlight to do this.

The more I thought about that the less I liked it. After spending months re-wiring the house, pulling miles of new wire, and cutting all the holes for outlets I didn’t want to have to cut a bunch more holes. I started to think that with wireless technology becoming more prominent and accessible, what is the point of having all those cables. Wireless internet and phones are pretty common place, why not wireless cable TV. It has to be just a matter of time before wireless cable TV is in the home. I realize “wireless cable TV” is an oxymoron, but you get the point. If my computer can access the internet from a secure wireless router in my home, then why can’t my TV access a cable TV signal from a wireless TV router? Does such a thing exist, and if it doesn’t then why not.

However, I’m finding out that maybe the future isn't quite ready for prime-time. A few months ago I got a DSL wireless router and I’m less than thrilled with it. It is a 2Wire router and a LinkSys adapter, for those interested. The signal strength starts out good (never excellent) and then drops for no apparent reason, and occasionally I have to “repair” the connection (software). Yesterday I lost the signal altogether and had to remove and reinstall the wireless adapter from the computer (hardware). I did this after twice resetting the router. If this is what I have to look forward to, after only two months of wireless DSL, I’m not ready to ditch all the cables just yet. If my choice is between unsightly cables that work, or wireless technology that sort of works, I’ll take the cables.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Reaching For The Brass Ring

In Santa Cruz, just south of San Francisco, they have a small amusement park right on the ocean called The Boardwalk. It opened in 1915 with saltwater bath houses, daredevil divers, and a penny arcade. Now days most of it is nothing to get too excited about, but they do have 2 rides that are worth stopping for. One of them is The Giant Dipper Roller coaster (Take a virtual ride). It is a wooden roller coaster built in 1924 and is so fun to ride. It doesn’t have any corkscrews, and you don’t hang from a basket, or go upside down. It doesn’t matter though, because they just got it right. I’ve been on dozens of roller coasters all over the country and this one is my absolute favorite. It may not have all the bells and whistles, but it really has a great feel to it. It’s kind of like a great old house

The other ride is The Looff Carousel, built in 1911. It has spectacular carved horses and other animals, and it still has the original German 302-pipe organ in the center. The best part is it has one of the few remaining ring machines in the country. The Ring Machine is a long chute that stretches out towards the carousel. It is filled with rings that feed out one at a time for the riders to try and grab at as they ride around and around. I never new what the term Reaching For The Brass Ring meant until I road this carousel. If you are lucky and fast enough you can get on one of the outside horses and you will be within reach of the machine. If you get on the center row of animals it is a tough stretch, but it can be done if you’re tall enough. Trust me, I know.

As the carousel goes around and around you have a chance to reach out to the ring machine and grab one of the brass rings (these days they’re steel). Then with another half turn of the carousel you try and throw the ring into a giant clowns mouth. If you hit it, the clown lights up and bells go off. It sounds mundane by today’s standards of virtual 3D games with surround sound and first-person game play, but it is surprisingly fun. It’s a combination of the dizziness of going around in circles (who doesn’t like that?), the pipe organ blaring away, the echoing of all the voices in the cavernous hall, and the thrill of actually grabbing the brass ring. It really is thrilling! And if you actually manage to get a ring in the clowns mouth, then it’s the highlight of the trip.

I started thinking about this today when I was up on the ladder scraping shingles (the mind wanders). Because of the spider infested tree I can’t always place the ladder where it needs to be and I’m forced to stretch to get to places that are just out of reach. Doing this while you’re waaay up on a ladder is almost as thrilling as Reaching For The Brass Ring. It also made me think that, in a way, that’s what we do as house renovators. We are not content with just being in a space. We need to make it better. We want more out of life then just to be housed in a box. We are Reaching For The Brass Ring.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Thinking Ahead

Even though I am months away from finishing my current little project - painting the house - I’m already formulating ideas about the next little project. I think after I finish this next project I may actually try and gain some of my life back. This house has just dominated my life for 4 years now. If I can keep it up for one more year I think I can then sit back and relax a little. There will be plenty of work still to do, but I can take it in smaller chunks and not have it be so all consuming.

The next little project will be most of the downstairs of the house. Right now I use the front parlor as my living space. The dining room is largely empty, and the back parlor is sort of used as the dining room. I really only use it for dining when I have guest over for dinner, which isn’t that often. The last room is the foyer, which I’ll include the front stairs as part of that room. Of course, I use the foyer all the time coming and going from the house. The plan is to do all of these rooms as one large project. Because they all adjoin each other I think it’s the way to go to try and limit the amount of dirt and dust. Rather than try and finish one room and then isolate it from others, I’ll just do everything at once.

No doubt, this will be a huge project, but a lot of the grunt work has been done. All of these rooms have been stripped of old wallpaper and flooring. The dining room has been stripped of paint. The foyer was never painted, but the woodwork, especially the stairs, needs a lot of work. The parlors have 5 large windows and one small window that needs to be stripped, but because of the modifications in the 1920s, and some butchering during the 70s, I had to have all the door casing, corner blocks, and plinth blocks re-milled. All of that is brand new, sitting upstairs under plastic. The baseboards also need to be stripped. It sounds like a lot, but really, if you take all the woodwork in the 4 rooms, I would say about 80% does not need to be stripped. The electrical has all been upgraded as well, and all the lighting and plaster medallions are also sitting upstairs waiting for installation. Any doors there are, have mostly been dealt with already.

There will be a zillion small jobs that will consume months of time. There are always going to be a lot of little things that will consume time but not a lot of money. If I look at just at the big jobs that will really be labor and money intensive, I’m left with the list below.

Strip the last of the paint & refinish woodwork
Rebuild the dining room cabinets
Repair Plaster
Refinish floors

Refinishing the floors doesn’t sound like a big job compared to the rest, but the parlors have been painted around the perimeters and I’m not sure how bad it’s going to be to get off. I’m thinking about renting a floor sander and see if I can grind as much of it off as I can. What ever way I do it, it’s a lot of floor space and it’s going to be a big job. Also, the dining room has a tinted shellac around the perimeter and there are a few boards that need to be replaced in there. The foyer floors are bare wood and in good shape. The stairs treads have been dealt with.

Stripping the last of the paint from the parlors is going to take several weeks. I honestly don’t know what the original finish was in these rooms. The foyer and dining room were shellacked, and one could assume the parlors were as well, but you know what that say about assuming things. If they were originally painted I will strip them anyway to get the Jackson Pollock like paint drips and drizzles off the wood and regain some definition.

Rebuilding the cabinets in the dining room will really take a lot of time and be the most costly. I’m not going to be painting these cabinets, so I won’t be able to hide my mistakes behind paint and putty. I want to make them out of curly and burl redwood and prices I’ve been getting range from $15 to $26 a board foot. I still have hope that my fantasy will come true and Norm is going to come to my rescue like a knight in shining plaid armor and help me build these things. Fingers crossed.

Of course, the 800 pound gorilla on the list is the plaster repair. I’m batting about 500 when it comes to plaster repair. The upstairs bathroom came out great, and the kitchen……no so great. For those two rooms I used gypsum plaster. For the rest of the house I want to do the traditional lime and sand plaster. This is new territory for me, but others have gone before me and hopefully I will have learned from them before I start this adventure.

Some walls are in near perfect shape and only need a little patching here and there. Other walls need to be completely redone from scratch. There is one wall the back parlor were the plaster has almost completely separated from the wood behind it. It’s as if a large sheet of plaster is just leaning up against the wall. I have no idea what keeps it from falling down. There are some repair jobs on walls in the foyer that look like they were done by a 4 year old who was practicing his finger painting skills. I swear to God the person did the patching job with his bare hands.

The thought now is to move everything out of these rooms and set up a living area in one of the spare bedrooms. I can close off the kitchen and the top of the main stairs and isolate this entire area from the rest of the house. If I need to, I can use the back stairs to go from bedroom, bathroom, & living room upstairs, down in to the kitchen, and even use the back door to get in and out of the house.

Right now only one of the bedrooms has a door on it, so I’ll need to have some doors up there. No matter how well I isolate the downstairs area dust will be an issue. I also need to run cable and phone to one of the rooms. This is not a big issue because I ran 2 coaxial and CAT-V cables from under the house up in to the attic a few years ago when I rewired the house. I just need to pick a spot and run it the last few yards. I’ll want to do the plaster work first since it will be the messiest. Once that’s done, if it turns out good, I think the rest will be downhill. If the plastering doesn’t turn out good, I can always just sell the house and walk away.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

And it's cat by a nose!

If you own 1 cat you are hopelessly average. Six people chose “Other” as the type of pet they own. I’m dying to know what those are. After giving it a lot of thought, I realize I didn’t put chicken on the list. Maybe that’s the ‘other’. To be honest, I don’t consider livestock as pets, and after I made the poll I regretted putting donkeys and horses on the list. It’s not that they don’t make fine pets, it’s just that you really don’t share your home with them.

I guess the results aren't too surprising. Dogs and cats were the strong leaders. There was a brief time around Wednesday or Thursday when I thought Dogs were going to overtake Cats. I didn’t check all the time, but I don't think cats ever fell out of first place throughout the entire week. I was happy to see a turtle owner out there. I’ve always had a soft spot for turtles.

With this weeks poll we get back to the basics – Home Improvement Projects. Specifically, Which Projects Do You Like The Least. At first I was going to make it a single selection poll. That is to say, you would have only gotten one choice to choose your least favorite type of project. After I created the poll, though, I had trouble picking my own least favorite. There are too many to choose from, and too many of them could easily be my least favorite at any given time.

So with that in mind, I decided to make this a multiple choice poll. There is nothing to stop you from choosing every item on the list as your least favorite, but that would defeat the purpose of the poll. This is all very scientific and it’s imperative that the results be accurate {cough}. So please limit your selection to your top three…..or, I guess that should be bottom three. Choose your 3 least favorite types of projects to do.

The new poll is in the sidebar and below are the results from last weeks poll questions. Below that is a gratuitous cat shot in honor of the winner from last weeks poll question.

How Many Pets Do You Share Your Home With

Select The Type of Pets You Live With

Friday, September 01, 2006

Kingdom of Spiders

I haven’t seen any yet, but I think they are forming a plan of attack. I predict siege warfare when I get up in to the upper reaches of the tree. Already my spidey senses are tingling.

I started by cutting back the tree along the two sides that face the house. This gives me room to get the ladder back there. I keep thinking that maybe I should just get rid of the whole tree altogether. Maybe that will be this weeks poll question…..hmmmm…..maybe not. Anyway, it does kind of look nice in this little corner, but it is going to make painting a real bitch. I remember having to deal with it when I took the asbestos siding off. It was a real hassle to work around it then, and that’s not really finesse work.

The paint is just in horrible, horrible shape behind the tree. I started this time by driving the nails below the surface and getting rid of any old putty. Normally I scrape first and then deal with the nails. In some places I get a light shower of paint chips as I swing the hammer to drive the nails in. Yes, it’s that bad. It’s another one of those situations where it’s actually good that it was let to get this bad. Had it been marginal I might be tempted to sand it down a little and repaint. As it is, there is no choice but to take it all off, and given the condition, it wasn’t too hard.

I was able to get about 90% of the paint off the horizontal siding today and I didn’t start until after 3:00. I probably could have gotten it all of it if it hadn’t been for the tree. Even though the paint is in bad shape, and comes off pretty easy, you still need some leverage in some places to get a good pull on the scraper. I just can’t get the ladder where it needs to be. I’m able to get the paint off, it just takes a lot more work than it should.

Here are some assorted photos.

Tree Before Trimming

After Trimming

Every 80 Years Whether It Needs It or Not

Corner Complete. Whew!

The Sweet Spot