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!