Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas to all!

And to all a good night.

Sunday, December 13, 2009


No, no, not épée or foil, but wrought iron - if we're going to be out of town this coming summer, the more security mechanisms we've got, the better, right?

Saturday, December 5, 2009

The Floor: done!

OK, so the latest in the southwest corner saga has been the decision to put in a raised floor covering the southern half of the downstairs in the carriage house. Once we started painting those walls, the prospect of a family room kind of area there just sort of leaped out at us.

That effort is complete.

The first step was to frame in the section of floor we wanted to use. The layout of the upstairs of the carriage house actually shows this pretty well; the new family room area is the square on the south end of the downstairs, with the stairway to the east of it. That turned out to be an area just shy of 16'x16'.

Since we were using 2x4s taken from the big house's basement, they smelled rather moldy. So as you can see, we decided to paint them with a Zinser sealing primer after dousing them with bleach. After the bleach, they actually no longer smelled moldy, but man, some of them had branching mold structures etched on their sides, so we just didn't want to play around with them. Plus the kids did the painting, so it was no extra work for me.
This framing work took about a week.

Once the framing was done, it was time to start laying the plywood, a 3/4" moisture-treated subfloor. This stuff was heavy; I could lift a sheet, but since all sawing had to be done in the big house (to minimize sawdust propagation), it all added up to a lot of physical labor. As you can see, we also laid down Styrofoam insulation board under the floor. It's about R8, so I don't know whether it's going to have a huge impact, but the completed floor is indeed comfy.

As I went, I tried to insert shims under the 2x4 frame to make sure it was solid on the concrete. I found that attaching the plywood warped the frame somewhat, but the final floor is still pretty solid and has no places that bang when you step on them, so I call it a success.

Here's an extremely important trick I learned from disassembly of the floor in the big house's basement - as you lay the plywood, take a 4' straightedge and draw a line over the joist. Now, you know where to put your screws. I forgot this on one sheet of plywood (until it was too late; I'd already put down the next row) and kicked myself repeatedly as I sank screw after screw into empty space.

Finally, though, yesterday, eight pieces of plywood later, it was done. I don't know if you can see this, but the plywood is cut to fit into the irregularity in the south wall (also the west wall) where the doors used to be. I'm pretty proud of this floor, actually. It's kind of silly - but this is really the largest carpentry project I've done. I actually ran through a box of screws for the first time in my life.

Anyway, today's project was to get the carpet down. What you say? Carpet? Yeah, even with the dust allergies, we decided that a thin, easily cleaned carpet with no pad was still a better choice for the floor than a cold linoleum - and we can't really afford a wooden surface here. I'd love a laminate or plank floor, but it's just a temporary house for the winter, not the main show. This picture, by the way, shows the carpet cut in under the west window (remember that first picture of that window with the Truck 'o' Stuff piled next to it?)

So here's nearly the final result for the southwest corner. I still want to put a bit of drywall over that exposed brick section, and the little window needs sealing and insulation, and there still needs to be some caulking done here, and painting of the trim and repainting of the dings and scrapes from putting in the plywood. And the trim's not finished yet, and actually I still have about six feet of tacking on the east wall, but:

The tree is up in time for St. Nicholas Day. And the shoes are in the window. Happy Holidays.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Not dead yet

I've been quiet again - we went to Chicago to the museums for Thanksgiving, and I've been hard at work on that raised floor in the carriage house downstairs, so I haven't had much time for blogging (I kind of want to finish a given task before posting about it). I'm close to done with that, so soon, Gentle Reader, all your patience will have paid off.

Trust me.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009


I believe I mentioned that I'd gotten quotes for the gutters. There is exactly one part of the roof with working gutters: the sunroom. Those gutters leak, but they at least guide water to a downspout. (Said downspout being on top of the second floor back room, whence the water plummets twenty-five feet down to splatter against the foundation, but that's why we need more gutters.)

The cheapest quote was $1480, for 5" seamless gutter throughout. Why? Well, to answer this question, the kids and I clambered all over the roof and measured the entire thing. This was made far more convenient by the fact that you can climb out windows onto any point of the house except for the top roof, and you can climb from the sunroom's roof up onto that by means of the stack of bricks I put there after disassembling the back chimney during this summer's roof project.

Anyway, not including the sun roof, we have 385 linear feet of gutter-needing roof. 60'2" of that is the front porch, which will need not only gutters, but some reconstruction; the existing box gutters are just as bad as neglected box gutters always are.

The drawing you see is a work in progress - turns out that at a scale of 0.5cm/foot the house needs three sheets of paper - but you can see the three back sections of roof. (1) is the dining room embayment, kitchen, and back rooms; (2) is the upstairs back room (the Blue Room); and (3) is the sunroom, which has an independent roof. The dotted lines are adjoining brick wall.

At any rate, I have more or less decided not to hire the gutters done. I might change my mind for the top ones, but if I can manage to do the work from on top of the roof (with a safety rope) I'm going to do it myself. Only if I give up will I call the men with ladders.

I'm probably just going to go with dirt-cheap aluminum K-profile gutters (i.e. your "standard gutter"), but a mention on This Old House pointed me to a place in Michigan that sells some much, much prettier ones: Classic Gutters - who knew gutters could be so snazzy? Maybe in a few years I'll replace the cheap-o gutters I'll be putting up now. These make me salivate.

Anyway, cheap gutters (and not-so-cheap gutters, but not like the classics above) can be had online at Gutter Supply - the link goes not to their gutter page, but to their finials. Finials are those little pointy things on the peaks of roofs. I'm considering some finials here and there on The House - maybe sometime after it's rendered habitable. But this way, I don't lose the link.

(By the way, the reason you don't see more finials is that the really slick ones are ungodly expensive. The Carousel finial on that page is $1489.23 "each" - I'll take three!)

Saturday, November 14, 2009

The basement

So our plan for the downstairs of the carriage house is to take that clean white area and put in a warmer floor. My first wish would have been to put down heating elements and then a floating hardwood surface - but pricing that out for a 15'4"x15'4" area, I realized it would cost upwards of a few thousand dollars.

Not an option.

Remember how that area was boxed in to install a floor when I got here, though? Well, we decided to duplicate that. Unfortunately, a lot of the long 2x4s used in that structure have been built into the roof, though. But fortunately, the entire big house basement also has a wooden raised floor.

Now, that basement is not yet as dry as it should be, not by a long shot. So that wood is decomposing pretty badly in some spots and it has to come out. Mold is not an option for us. (Indeed, mold isn't actually an option for anybody, but our son is particularly sensitive to it.) So I'm killing two birds with one stone. Today's job was removing the plywood from the floor in the eastern room of the basement (or at least, from about a quarter of it).This, plus the area not yet covered but boxed in, under the leaky window on the south wall of the basement, pictured here, will give us enough lumber for the section of the carriage house we want to box in. That, plus eight sheets of plywood, will give us a nice family room area with a floor that wet feet won't freeze to this winter. We need a little more space to watch movies that isn't cluttering up our living and working area.

And at the same time, less mold-susceptible organic substances in the big house's basement! So it's a win-win.

It felt good doing something other than software installation this week. Especially the part where I took the maul and destroyed some plywood that couldn't be unscrewed due to rust and wood expansion. That was fun. (You can see the debris in the first picture.)

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Virus attack!

In case you're wondering why I've gone silent again, this time it was Win32.Virut.56. I honestly thought it was under control - in the twenty-five years I've worked with computers, I have never been bested by a virus or hacker before; over the five or so times I've encountered them, I've been able to figure out the means of entry and seal everything off, root it out, and enjoy another year or two of bother-free existence.

The full blow-by-blow is probably less than exciting, but suffice it to say that I shot myself in the foot with a thumb drive I took myself from an infected machine and only realized about 0.05 seconds too late how colossally stupid I'd been - I saw the drive infect my laptop. I was up until 4am that night researching and whacking, mostly with Dr. Web, a marvelous tool that almost did the trick in combination with Comodo Internet Security and Malwarebytes scanner. The next day I tried Dr. Web Live CD (it boots into Linux and removes Virut while Virut can't infect more files) and honestly thought I'd beat it.

Today, though, after three days of lost work, I broke down and bought two new computers. One is a new Windows desktop, and the other is now a Linux box currently working on pulling the files off my infected drives in a safe, non-Windows environment. I'm actually going to have to wipe my dear old laptop; it finally just ... stopped booting. Yesterday. Nothing more I could do for it. I can start it up on a Linux rescue disk and copy the files onto an external drive, but Windows has left the building.

About two hours before the end, I realized that although things looked superficially calm, my machine was actually and literally on one of the Russian botnets. It was phoning home to St. Petersburg and the Ukraine as I watched it, downloading and spawning new viruses as fast as my new blocking software could stop them. Finally, after one scan-and-reboot to remove the quarantined files, the machine started hitting the blue screen of death during every boot cycle. Windows had self-destructed. I am almost 100% certain the Russians did this on purpose to make it impossible to deconstruct the botnet code. Not personally, of course - but I think it's one of their preprogrammed failure modes if an owned node starts getting too "smart".


But I did get a sweet new machine out of it. Two, really. My wife said if I wanted a new office setup for my birthday, I could have just asked. Ha! Also, it was fun in a horrible, high-stress, panic-laden way. So I can't say it was altogether a negative experience.

That said, I'm looking forward to getting back to nice, safe plaster, although the whole dining-room-by-Thanksgiving thing is looking way less probable now. Thank Pyotr and Dmitri if you see them.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Southwest corner update

Well, it's not done yet, but progress is definitely being made. I'm pretty happy with how this is coming out.

I've been looking into plaster lately. It's not all that easy to find plaster, for sale I mean. But I want to learn how to do it right. There is a store for plaster-specific supplies about an hour and a half from here. I'm thinking of visiting soon. For instance, there's a nifty material called "plaster bond" that you can put into cracks before refinishing. The carriage house has lots of cracked plaster (the big house, not so much, for some reason). I'm eager to give this stuff a try.

Monday, November 2, 2009

In the dining room by Thanksgiving, afterthought

So who's coming? Potluck makes sense, don't you think?

Sunday, November 1, 2009

In the dining room by Thanksgiving

Here is the original picture of the dining room from this May; things haven't really changed much since then; the focus has, of course, been carriage house livability. As you'll recall, one driver for the roof project was leaks above this room; there is some damage to the late-period drywall on the ceiling and the wallpaper was basically a loss, as you can see even in this picture.

But it's a fantastic room; all the woodwork looks like this, very little of the molding is missing, and the floor, while chopped up a lot from the room's use as the kitchen of the apartment in 304 during the 70's and 80's, is still attractive.

So we've come up with the goal of making this one room usable by Thanksgiving, and having a good-sized meal there. A collateral goal will be the installation of a sink in the kitchen, which is the room to the west of the dining room which was last used as a kitchen in the big house (it was a bedroom for 304 in the 70's and 80's, and it is currently my sawing shop, because the generation of sawdust in the carriage house has been denied approval by the household environmental management commission, a body whose membership comprises my wife).

This picture, taken in August while the roof was off (hence the bit of light showing at the top of the wall) shows what we're going to have to fix up in terms of the ceiling. Actually, it doesn't show the worst of it, which is just off the top of the picture - that entire sheet of drywall there is rotten and moldy around the edge, reportedly due to an overflow in the bathtub upstairs. Which I take to mean repeated and egregious overflow; a single incident would not account for the damage I see.

So anyway, I guess I haven't posted a to-do list recently!
  1. Carriage house livability

    • Garage area livability
      • Remove superfluous fiberglass insulation (40% complete)
      • Caulk everywhere (a lot is done; more to be done)
      • Some plaster patching (done on southwest, need to move everything out off the east wall to continue the process)
      • More paint, aye!
      • Seriously considering laying down a heating pad and hardwood veneer on the south end of the downstairs; the white walls certainly make the area look like a place you could live in

    • Windows
      • Kitchen window is the only one left

    • Bathroom
      • Attach and plumb vanity

  2. Carriage house electrical work
    • Replace stolen ground wire outside
    • Entryway lighting
    • Overhead light for washer/dryer area
    • Separate circuit for bedroom to permit use of air conditioner

  3. Carriage house paint and trim
    • Paint walls and trim in bathroom
    • All window trim

  4. Dining room (target: Thanksgiving. Yes, 2009, pipe down over there.)

    • Remove and scrape wallpaper (30% done, thanks to daughter)
    • Remove all damaged plaster on walls
    • Remove damaged drywall from ceiling
    • Restore plaster on walls
    • Drywall ceiling
    • Paint (I'm still liking that semi-gloss ultra white)
    • Clean and maintain the woodwork and buffet
    • Shore up under floor (soft spot from long-standing leak in roof fixed in 90's)
    • Polish floor

  5. Remainder of big house

    • Upstairs bathroom plumbing
    • Addition of sink in kitchen
    • Cleaning
    • Winterization, a lengthy process
    • Heat
    • Electrical systems: oh the humanity!

Monday, October 26, 2009


Back on October 5 when I started the southwest corner, the initial picture showed that the south wall fill-in where the garage door used to be had no drywall. (That's where the ants were on October 13.)

Two days ago, I finished that. It's not sanded or painted yet, but it's not fiberglass hanging out, either. After cleaning out the ants, I replaced the insulation, and then it was time to start.

The first sheet took way too long. I'd measured the height of the sheet at the front of the frame on top of the opening, but nothing in this opening is even close to square. So I ended up cutting off another half inch or so, a little bit at a time. Ugh. But finally it was in place.

This is the first time I've used full sheets of this mold-resistant cementitious wallboard. It's heavy, way heavier than conventional drywall. Still much lighter than a wall made of bricks, of course. In comparison with the rest of the building, this wall feels distinctly flimsy.

For the second sheet, I measured the height of the first sheet, determined not to make the same mistake. So naturally, this sheet was an inch too short on the left side. Oy. It didn't even come up to the 2x4 frame-in. The answer: lots of spackle, oh well.

The wall as she looks today - I spackled in around all the edges, and the result is pretty darned nice. My next trick is to sand all the spackle and paint it, along with the frame of the old garage door.

I'm using "Ultra White" latex paint for these walls. I like white, a lot - and I have to say, I'm really liking how it looks in this basement area.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Concrete is our friend

The floor of that southwest corner was pretty grotty - but when I really got in there with the Shopvac and sucked out all the loose dirt and brick dust and humus, it turned out to be a honking huge hole about four inches deep. The original plan was to patch it up with patching cement, but that stuff just isn't made for large volumes, and besides I just had a 10-pound bag, which would probably just disappear into that hole and never be seen again.

Bigger guns were necessary, in this case (gulp) actual concrete, which I had never actually used before.

So today my daughter and I learned how to work with concrete - turns out it's just like mortar except with gravel instead of sand, and probably some other differences. The important thing is, just like mortar, if you mix it with enough water and you're patient, it is a very forgiving medium. Here's the corner after we lugged in an 80-pound back of Quikrete from the car (good God 80 pounds is heavy) and mixed it up a bucket at a time, troweling it into place with our mortar trowels (which worked fine).

Then, what the heck, we kept right on going along the west wall, which had a lot of weirdness in it, including the bottom of the white window featured last week or so, pictured here. I had been wondering how best to seal up the base of that door fill-in; as always, masonry is totally our friend.

Well, flush with that success - remember back on July 26, when I finished the washer/dryer hookup and right at the end of the post I mentioned there was a truly big hole right in that corner where somebody once obviously fixed the drain stack but found refilling the hole just too much trouble?

Well, they were right. It was a job of work, let me tell you. First, we wheelbarrowed in six loads of dirt; two left over from the drainage ditch, and four from next to the cold frame where there's kind of a little hill built up.

It was a weird feeling, bringing load after load of dirt into the house, with a wheelbarrow, and it felt like a crime to use this lovely dirt to fill in a hole in the basement, but we got lots of this dirt out there, so there you go.

The next step was pea gravel, for a nice solid base after tamping down the dirt with a short length of 2x4 for a while. This part was much easier; no wheelbarrow was harmed in the taking of this picture.

Then it was on to the concrete itself. We finished off the first bag, then carried the other in from the car (I carried, she made sure the dog didn't get out).

We still ran out of concrete before we ran out of hole; this is the second bag of concrete. Turned out to be a bigger hole than I thought.

So we went out for Mexican (I had the burrito/taco/rice/beans combo, which was on special and quite good), and bought three more bags of concrete, each of which I now feel in every muscle of my body, and it took another bag and a half!

But the lovely result is what will soon be a solid floor for the washer and dryer:

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Southeast side drainage complete

So back on July 25 I posted about the drainage ditch I dug on the south side of the east end of the basement; sometime in August or September, I dug the ditch out better and buried some 4-inch corrugated PVC pipe in it along with many bags of pea gravel. For some reason I can't find pictures, so I don't have an exact date (I suppose my Menard's receipts would tell me, if I'd kept up that database, but I didn't, so they stand mute).

At any rate, Thursday I finished said ditch, after rain threatened (thereby causing my wife to threaten). The fear was that the rain would come and stay until the entire pile of dirt froze in place for the winter, which would suck.

I'd been putting it off because the ditch would have to terminate at the retaining wall on the sidewalk, and the logical next step would be to punch through that wall with a clay pipe - but nobody sells clay tile pipe any more. But Thursday was the day. Above, you see my crowbar inserted into the aforementioned wall. Amazingly, I was able to lever a couple of stones out of the bottom of the wall.

Here's the front of the wall, showing the hole at the bottom. It's about two inches high and six wide. Well, once I got things to this point, I realized that this was already a large enough opening for a drain, so I tamped the dirt down and put a large flat limestone rock on the bottom to prevent erosion out of the hole, then I thought: dammit, Jim, I'm a bricklayer now.

So I went and mixed up some mortar, and built a little brick structure to hold the pipe in place; the light was starting to fail a little, and the rain had started, so this picture is blurry, and the last in the series out at the ditch; after this was built and I'd slopped mortar all over it, and next to the floor of my drainage outlet, I dumped in ten pounds of pea gravel and buried the whole thing.

Well, but then I had some mortar left over, so I used it up on some experimental tuck pointing on the carriage house, and mortaring up the seam between the wall and the entry door.

Here's a picture taken the following morning - see if you can tell which joints are tuck pointed. This little bit of work represents maybe half an hour. I'm getting much better at it (it took me most of the day to do the bricks under the window, remember?) but it's still time-consuming work.

Worth it, though. I'm really starting to love masonry.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Carriage house door

The "front door" to the carriage house apartment is actually on the east side of the building, directly opposite the door into the "above-ground basement". As you can see, when closed, it shows a lot of daylight at the bottom and lower left. Moreover, it doesn't close well (or didn't), having to be lifted into place, effectively, and the deadbolt could only be locked or unlocked while pulling in and up on the door, making it impossible to get into the carriage house while carrying anything.

Irritating. And cold! So my wife mandated that this was to be the task today, and so mote it be.

Before weatherizing the door, though, I first had to rehang it so it would actually close correctly. The culprit in this case was the top hinge, pictured here. Oy. My guess is this hinge was damaged by a tenant trying to gain access after losing a key, and the "obvious" way to fix the hinge was to use longer screws, and drive them in with a drill, thus tearing hell out of the heads. Note the attempt to angle the screws, because the wood under the hinge is splintered.
So we take off the door, and the inside trim; wow! The frame is really not very thick! And shows the imprints of lots of historical hinges; my guess is this frame is original. Certainly it's older than you or me, anyway, and as we can see, there is a lot of open space behind it. Also a lot of dirt; really, to clean a house thoroughly, it has to be disassembled first.

Note, incidentally, the view of the sunroom of the big house in the background. Just to orient you here.

Anyway, here's why these screws didn't hold the door up; the threads are mostly not in the wood. The screw was long enough to extend into the bricks behind it, but probably not long enough there to get sufficient purchase, and the outer two screws are just hitting the plaster anyway. Useless.

So all I did was to remount the hinges with reasonable screws, using a trick I learned from my uncle: coat a toothpick with Elmer's glue, and stick it into the stripped hole before inserting the screw. Works a charm.

The bottom of the frame was also loose for lack of support, so I put a brick under either end of the threshold and drove in some shims to force it up against the frame, and thus the frame up against the bricks above it. Much solider now (oh shims, is there anything you can't improve?)

Once the door was rehung, it turned out that the strike plate was in the wrong place (it was right for a modern doorknob, but this door has antique knobs, so the strike plate needs to be about a quarter inch further into the frame). So I moved it, and adjusted the strike plate for the deadbolt.

As a result, amazingly, the door is now square to the floor. Wow. It's actually a pretty good door, although clearly it needs some paint. As you see, after I removed the threshold, there's actually a lot more gaping space there (a problem to be resolved tomorrow) - but instead of closing laboriously with a squeak-BLAM, it can now be pushed closed with one finger, and stays closed, and you can unlock the deadbolt even with your groceries and the umbrella in your other hand.

This is the kind of thing that makes me feel successful in this endeavor.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009


So there I was, just now, cleaning up the south wall of the carriage house in preparation for drywalling it, and there was a lot of crumbly dirt at the base of the wall. I pulled out the fiberglass and - have you ever seen an anthill in your house? No? Me neither, until today.

Nope, they're not carpenter ants, just bog-standard large-issue black ants whose anthill happens to be in a place that stays miraculously warm through the winter. I feel almost apologetic kicking them out.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

More on that southwest corner

But picking up where I left the narrative in the southwest corner: after jamming in Styrofoam as a base, I squirted in urethane foam to fill in the spaces. This part of the wall has sustained a lot of water damage both inside and out, so there's a lot more space inside it than there should be. From the outside, it will need some bricks and lots of mortar, but I'm getting better at masonry. (So more on the outside later this week, I hope - but first there will be some plain old drywalling, probably tomorrow.)

At any rate, the next step in providing a real wall was mortar into that crack. This took place concurrently with the window patching of the last post and the result was less blurry in person than this picture would indicate. Note also that I've started to patch the cracks in the plaster to the left of the window.

Above the window, the plaster had come loose from the wall, but was still relatively solid, so I used my adhesive caulk to glue it back to the wall. Not a technique that I would recommend for a wall that is intended to be smooth at the end of the process, but for my purposes, a nice white wall that gives some indication of its history, it's probably ideal.

Here's the corner as it appears today. There's plaster in the cracks above the window, I'm using plaster to smooth out the mortar, and the south end of the west wall is almost done; there were some seriously large cavities there, but not really large enough to justify mortar, so I'm filling them in with multiple applications of patching plaster. And obviously, the white paint has already encroached on the corner area.

I'll sand all this plaster tomorrow and see where it needs more fill. Also tomorrow, I hope, will be drywall on the frame section of the south wall (where the garage door used to be). Above the dark beam (that supported a rail for the garage door) the plaster is in seriously bad condition, again having disengaged from the wall and cracked. I'm not yet sure how I'll handle that. Probably more caulk and plaster patch; it's working very well elsewhere.

This corner is going to look great.

Beautification II: before and after

Just to the right of the picture I took last week of the southwest corner, there is a window on the west wall. Here is the picture I took in May, just after the arrival of the Truck 'o' Stuff, showing its ur-state.

Here is what that window looks like today. Actually, in person it looks slightly better; those grayish flecks on it are caulk, which must have a slightly different infrared reflectivity than the paint, because the flecks are utterly invisible to the human eye.

At any rate, I'm pretty proud of this, as it's really been teaching me a lot about masonry. At the corners of this window, there was serious plaster damage; here's an intermediate picture after some paint was already applied (I wish I'd taken better starting pictures) showing the hole. Further down is some urethane foam, my initial stopping of the myriad holes this window contained.

Now, on the south wall of this area, there's a large patch where missing plaster had been replaced by mortar. I was impressed, never having considered mortar in this application. But it works! It's ugly, but rock-hard.

So I mixed up some mortar and stuffed the holes, then the next day I cleaned out the mortar and did it again, because had I screwed up the first batch; it had become friable and sandy and could be flicked out by hand. I hadn't put enough water into the mixture, so on my second trial I was very careful: I mixed a much goopier starting mixture, carefully sprayed water onto the brick in the hole, then applied the mortar. To be extra-careful, I sprayed water onto the mortar again that evening - the longer mortar takes to dry, the better it cures (the crystallization process stops when the mortar dries, you see).

The result was incredibly solid, and adhered very well to the edges of the hole. I also applied mortar at the top of the old door frame (this window was set into a door frame), where there was about a 1/2" crack. I'd long since squirted urethane into the back of that crack to seal it, but it was still ugly.

Once I was satisfied that my second batch of mortar was going to set properly, I used plaster patch to smooth it out somewhat. It would have been a waste of time to make it too smooth, as the rest of this wall is anything but - so I just slapped some plaster onto it and painted it.

Once you gain a little physical skill working with mortar and masonry, I have to say, it is a very forgiving medium. I'm really starting to like it a lot.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Cory Doctorow's "Someone Comes to Town, Someone Leaves Town"

I ran across a mention of one of Cory Doctorow's books that I had never really noticed before (Someone Comes to Town, Someone Leaves Town), and the first chapter (at least) is about house renovation. Amazing. Cory gets it.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Windy night

No drafts in the carriage house apartment.

Bit by bit.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Beautification target: carriage house "basement" southwest corner

So here is really the first wall we're looking at fixing. This is all kind of bound up with the ongoing winterization and caulking effort; since the outside of the wall needs tuck pointing, the cracks you see to the right of the little boarded-up window are actually letting air in. Yikes! But much more importantly, there was a 1/8" slat nailed to the right side of that boarded-up window, and behind the slat was a really honking big crack from the wall settling.
Here's the crack in its native condition, and forgive my repeated use of Irwinism, but crikey, he's a big one.

Big enough, in fact, that my first step was just to cut up a bunch of leftover Styrofoam (from the box from the overhead light, actually) and jam them in.
That basically fills the crack, so it's a good start. There's a lot of extra air space between the brick layers in there (I believe they've moved a little), but there's not much we can do about that, beyond urethane foam to fill in some of it.

I'll post more on this endeavor later.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Roof complete

As promised, the roof pictures. From the south, compare with the earlier pictures with the lower box gutter falling off the house. We had originally intended simply to remove that eyebrow, but it turned out that its joists are the ceiling joists of the brick section. When we took it off, we could see the stairs.

So we put it back.

The north side of the house looks even cooler, I think. These eaves hang pretty far out, and the contractor was pretty frustrated that I wanted them wrapped in metal instead of vinyl. (The width made the metal hard to handle without it buckling.) But there's no other plastic in this house, and I don't intend to be the one to start.

I'm thinking some horizontal boards similar to the ones on the eaves on the sunroom (the very top right of the first picture up there) might look nice, and tie the whole thing together visually. Opinions?

So given my recent strides in electrical work in the carriage house, here's my rough to-do list:
  1. Carriage house livability

    • Garage area livability
      • Remove superfluous fiberglass insulation from the ceiling and around heating ducts (we're going to heat the garage area, after all; we're living in it)
      • Drywall the south wall where the garage door used to be
      • Caulk everywhere (a lot is done; more to be done)
      • Some plaster patching
      • More paint, aye

    • Windows
      • Finish bathroom window
      • Kitchen window

    • Bathroom
      • Attach and plumb vanity

  2. Carriage house electrical work
    • Replace stolen ground wire outside
    • Entryway lighting
    • Overhead light for washer/dryer area
    • Separate circuit for bedroom to permit use of air conditioner

  3. Carriage house paint and trim
    • Paint walls and trim in bathroom
    • All window trim

  4. Big house

    • Upstairs bathroom plumbing
    • Cleaning
    • Winterization, a lengthy process
    • Heat
    • Electrical systems: oh the humanity!