Thursday, April 17, 2008

So Many Surprises, So little Time to Write

Is it possible that it has only been six days since my last update on our home improvements? So much has happened. We’ve jacked up walls, found gas leaks, and so much more.

You can’t get there from here.

On Sunday, Mark climbed into one of the attic spaces to see about running a new TV cable up to the master bedroom. After a lot of rooting around under the insulation, he about concluded it couldn’t be done.

Who would guess that the cable runs from the front wall up over the peak of the roof down the back wall to the basement and again across to the front of the house where the cable feed actually comes in from the street. Believe it or not, he couldn’t find an easier way to run it without opening up walls. Problem deferred for another day.

Round one to the house.

Going, going, gone.

On Monday, the guys demolished the old deck in preparation for residing the back of the house and building the new patio. No surprise to find a section of really messed up wall and foundation. In fact, at a spot just to the left of the back doors the whole wall was sagging about 1 ½ inches.

Seriously, that expanding foam stuff is not sufficient to hold a wall together. Our friend Kim has concluded that this house has some magical force field that allows it to float in space with no visible means of support.

Our framing crew is amazing. These guys are nothing if not determined. They just jacked the wall back up into place, removed the loose brick, and added some whomping big tree parts to make it all work. They didn’t jack it up enough to get the house plumb – That would be expecting too much from this sad old girl of a house – but it is much better.

Of course moving walls is not an exercise without consequences. Doors that have been installed to accommodate the existing slope of the floor tend not to close when you change the grade. Sheetrock and cabinetry also have a few issues. But all of that can be fixed.

We win round two.

There must be some good news.

The old natural gas line that someone installed to fuel an outdoor grill, then disconnected and forgot under the deck, isn’t leaking anymore. We have no idea how long it had been leaking. Yes, we are thankful that that no one was blown to bits. Yes, we are hopeful that we will see a reduction in our gas bill going forward.
Our trusty ally at SawHorse, Dick Weaver was half way home when I called him about this one. He drove all the way back to approve Mark’s short term duct tape solution and add one of his own – bend the copper back on itself and then give it the “sniff test”.

We aren’t the only ones that think Dick is great. Lady is a huge fan!

I think I found a paint sample that is exactly the color of the old siding. Yes, we realize this is our opportunity to do something new and daring, like change the color of the house. If this were a true craftsman bungalow, we might go wild. However, we have what they call a colonial revival bungalow and subtle and conservative seems to suit her. We are keeping the red door!

One final note and I do hope this is the last surprise for this week. The electricians showed up this morning to replace the knob and tube wiring on the front porch. When they went to check the apparently new wire running up to the porch, they not only scared a squirrel out of his bed. They also discovered what he had been eating when nuts were not plentiful.

Since I was blissfully walking Lady while all of this was being discovered, it is a good thing that Dick was on the job. By the time I arrived home, they had already replaced the squirrel food.
Round three and we are inching ahead. Stay tuned though. I will be astounded if we have found all the surprises this house has in store for us.

Friday, April 11, 2008

The Good the Bad and the Ugly

The good

Apologies all around for this highly overused title, but it is apt. There really is some good news. The framers are making great progress with three sides of the house covered in new siding and all four of these eave returns rebuilt. Hard to believe these two pictures are from the same view. The dormer work is coming along. And today they hauled away the old dumpster and brought in a new smaller one. Red this time. Somehow that all feels like progress.

The bad

is something you may have seen on Mark’s (my husband) flickr site. As long as there was a dumpster in front of the house, we decided to see what was behind the cheap old wallboard in the basement. Among other things, we found a very cute critter, which we released into the garden.
We also found one very scary vent job for the hot water heater. Never mind that the vent comes out under the deck. We knew about this little code violation. What we didn’t know was that the vent we could see on the outside wasn’t actually attached to anything on the inside! Thank heaven for the idiots who insulated the basement. They didn’t do much to change the temperature in an underground basement, but they may have kept a good bit of carbon monoxide from circulating through the house and killing us as we slept.

Now for the ugly.

It involves the south wall of the house and the fact that a good portion of it appears to be resting on a stack of bricks. That’s right. Sans mortar. As soon as the framers noticed this, they called the contractor to come have a look, and to put in an order for some substantial timber products. The first thing the contractor said was, “well that deck isn’t even attached to the wall is it?” To which I replied, “Well it isn’t exactly a wall.”

The framers are going to pull the deck off the back of the house next week and have a go at shoring things up. Hopefully by the time that is done we will have a permit for the patio work. The original contract called for completion in about five weeks, which would be around the first full week of May. We may still make it, but I’m not going to hold my breath.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Knobs, Tubes, and Holes in the Roof

The holes aren’t exactly in the roof. We had a feeling that something bad was hiding behind the aluminum on the fascia and soffits. The contractor suggested we leave it in place, but the gutters were all askew, we were doubtful. Our perseverance resulted in a $5,800 work order. Read addition to the original “fixed price” contract to replace all the existing fascia boards, and wrap the vented soffits with plywood.

The demo on the porch revealed something else we suspected. The porch roof isn’t connected to the house…at all. Whoever built it, just toe nailed the side roof supports to the house. As the workers were pulling off siding around those connections, they discovered that one side is now hanging by one nail and the other is just floating in space. Help. I need 2 x 4s right now! These are holding it up for now and they are going to build a couple of half columns up against the house to carry the load. Don’t even think about the nightmare if that roof had fallen on the head of anyone using our front door over the last ten years. Can you say lawsuit?

Ever seen knob and tube wiring? If you aren’t familiar with it, let me just say a few words. Ungrounded, aluminum, 15 amp, fire hazard. This stuff has got to go. While directly connecting aluminum knob and tube to modern copper wire is a really bad idea – special insulated wire nuts are used to make the connection safely – we are lucky that there is modern wire running to a junction box right at the front porch wall. All we need to replace is a few feet.

Still think there might be some good news? Well there is. Replacing the porch ceiling with new bead board was already planned. It’s a good thing considering what the old ceiling looked like after the workers removed the vinyl that was installed over it. And, this project is allowing us to take an interesting walk through the many colors of the house’s history. Right now, the house is a conventional gray with white trim. However at one time it was apparently robin’s egg blue with dark brown trim. Was this the result of a conscious choice or a paint sale? Guess we will never know.