Thursday, November 25, 2010

How to paint a ... oh look! A puppy!

In the midst of about half a dozen home improvement endeavors, another aftermath of layoffs at work, two night classes and more responsibilities with my professional group, I got a puppy.

Never had one before. I am a cat person, who was living quietly with two overweight and lethargic felines. But a few months ago, I saw this litter of puppies that were rescued by a colleague.

One stood out, because she looked like a miniature St. Bernard. When another colleague decided she couldn't take the dog, I volunteered instead. This dog had to be a part of my life.

She's a lot of work. And her presence has halted almost all the work on my house. I was adding insulation to exterior walls in my laundry room. I had to hire the rest of the work out -- but it was drywalling and adding trim, work best left to a professional anyway.

I had a dog door added as well, so Da Puppee can find shelter in colder weather during the day.

But that's pretty much halted the rest of my projects -- exterior painting, more insulation and the bathroom.

My life has become a bit more complicated, I'm losing sleep, I'm not concentrating at work and Da Katz aren't exactly crazy about this new companion. Yet I'm in love.

Slowly, I'm working away at outstanding DIY -- my goal in 2011 is to get the 2010 projects done.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Home gawking -- Florida

Newest batch o' Flickr photos shows some photos of homes taken in St. Augustine and the Old Northeast neighborhood of St. Petersburg. Beautiful, beautiful structure of the homes -- Victorian and Craftsmen style.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Google search: "window locks with uneven windows"

Have you ever just gone bats over how to get the details right on a project? For three days, I have been studying window locks, in search of some eternal answer to the question: How do you put them on right?

Flashback: Redoing laundry room; disassembling single hung windows, stripping them of old paint, dislodging upper panes so air won't leak out, putting them back in.

Now that they don't have decades of paint sealing them, I'm in need of window locks.

I go buy window locks. Let's try this type. Hmm, not many instructions. Let's dry-fit it.

Nope, won't work. The ledge of the upper pane won't quite meet with the ledge of the lower pane, giving an uneven surface for the lock installation.

Buy different window locks, one that might provide a little "give" for an uneven surface. I screwed two in, but one only locks halfway and other pulled out a screw when locking. As my father would say, "pretty Polack." I would say, McGyver gone wrong.

I then found myself at a home improvement show, eyeballing the perfect locks on some vinyl windows. Salesman swiftly is aside me like a vampire in Louisiana. Damn, perfect factory window locks. To appease him, I stuff a brochure into the complimentary bag (provided by a law firm that is growing leaps and bounds over foreclosures).

Now, the Goggle search, as titled above

First up, mrs. fix-it, or something like that:

1. Remove the broken lock (making sure that your window is closed tightly so that you get a good fit).
2. Take your replacement lock and put it on the window sash directly in the center, with half of the lock resting on the outer sash and half on the inner sash.
3. Using a sharp pencil, trace the lock and mark the holes where the screws should be.
4. Remove the lock and drill holes for the screws. Put the lock back on the window frame and tighten the screws.

Did all that, Missy. they meet unevenly. Let's modify the search...adding the word "sash."

OK, this from a Virginia energy website:

Properly installed window locks should pull the sashes together tightly and should hold them firmly against the window frame. Re- placement locks are available in most hardware stores.

no shit.

Now, aurora88, on the historichomeworks blog discussion board, certainly was obsessing about this very thing. In 2007, he sought help, and got a bit of it -- although he rejected some of it because he wanted something "refined."

Me, too. aurora88, me too.

Jade is helping, very helpfully, but here comes Johnleeke, (Site Administrator) who's now posted some 1886 patent on a window sash tightener. Surely available at your nearest Amish Home Depot.

Nobody else is buying your 19th century bags of goods, mister johnleeke.

eHow don't know how you want to do that when you can buy nice windows from someone.

Finally landed on a book excerpt from Terry Meany, who wrote a book called "Working Windows." Seems to think like the masses. I will either scout down the book or find the author.

And tomorrow morning, I will peek over again to those windows and see I can't find my own way.

Suggestions welcome!

Thursday, September 2, 2010


My father died when I was 10 years old. Today is the anniversary of his death.

I don't dwell upon this much -- most years I don't even think about it until a couple of days later. I have few fond memories; few memories, actually. His death sent our family into a financial hole that he could have prevented with better insurance. He was older, had heart trouble, and, as they say, was pretty emotional unavailable - a product of his day.

When he died, he had just finished rehabbing the attic of our home. We bought it two years before, and he tackled the reno with gusto. I remember him using hand saws. Stuffing insulation into attic eaves. Putting up drywall.

Dad updated a half bath, created a back room and put in a drop ceiling. I helped a lot as a nine-year-old would: grabbing tools for him, running up and down the stairs and watching him as he measured and planned.

Flash forward. Here I am, stuffing insulation, using hand saws, and measuring (although probably not as successfully). Not a bad legacy.

And, just a little bit, I envy the friends whose fathers are around to help them with a renovation

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Get this party started?

I'm hosting a post-nuptial party for some good friends next week. So how will I explain my unfinished projects? Or should I?

I mean, people know me. They know I'm constantly working on my house.

Right now, the walls of my laundry room are partially exposed as I tear down siding for my exterior painting project (currently on hold until summer ends its simmering). And there's the slightly disassembed post in the bathroom.

Then there's the repairs unrepaired: the siding still unpainted, the eave that's rotting away along the back porch. The low spots in the yard. I notice all these things, everyday. Will anyone notice them during an evening's festivities?

How do you entertain while remodeling?

Monday, July 5, 2010

Tarred and weathered

After painting of a third side of my house, I wanted to take a breather until I did the finishing touches. Time to inhale.

The mid-summer weather in the South makes it forgivable to neglect work outside. When the humidity is 90 percent and it's about 95 degrees, you huddle inside as if a Nor'easter was roaring through.

But last weekend, it was in the 80s during the day, and even a bit chilly at night. Glorious. I split the difference outdoors as a result. I spent one lazy afternoon in the hammock, catching up on reading that wasn't a requirement of my night classes. Then, this morning, I shimmied up a ladder and installed a drip edge near the roofline.

Why didn't I do this before? The L-shaped channel is designed to direct water from the roof to a gutter, but, in my case, it's a perfect solution to keep my rafters in good shape and even protect a few vulnerable spots. It also improves the look of an older roofline.

It was easy to put up. The thin aluminum makes the drip edge flexible -- you tuck it in between the bottom shingle and the roof. Adhere it with roofing cement (with a caulk gun) by running a bead over the channel and pressing the shingles to the channel. Be careful pulling up the shingles -- if they're older they'll crack a bit (I used extra roofing cement to repair those tiny cracks).

This break in the weather was just a break. It'll be 100 degrees here by Wednesday. Time to head back inside.

Monday, June 14, 2010

TA-DA! Three sides re-painted.

The next side of the house is (technically) finished. Just some touch-ups and such.

The siding transplant was a success -- in that I didn't screw much up. Now, a break for a long hot summer. Might start repairing the gaping holes I made in interior walls in the laundry room.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Not so level-headed

Been celebrating my 50th birthday over the last couple of weeks -- I call it Betseyfest -- so I haven't been as diligent about projects.

My brother and sister visited prior to my birthday. Part of their gift was to help me with one little project -- installing new closet doors.

Sliding doors, from Lowe's, check.

Tools, check.

Level framed opening? Not so check.

My brother was determined to make it work. So out came the shims. A few (six, seven, who's counting?) shims later, we leveled the top frame. He fudged the bottom by cutting it at a small angle, and I provided the know-how to plug the bottom of the hollow doors (thank you, DIY Network!).

I just need to put a piece of wood to cover the framing, but it looks pretty good.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Operation Siding Transplant: Update

I began Operation Siding Transplant last week. So far, so good. So good, that in fact, I decided to add Operation Insulation, MacGyver style.

A couple of nights ago, I started peeling away some damaged siding, and I dutifully began fitting the donor siding in the empty space. Thankfully, they fit, but I didn't nail them in just yet.

I was thinking, Hey, while I've got the outside cavity open, why don't I look at the options of adding insulation? A couple of minutes on the Internets, and I had a plan.

The next morning I called the insulation company I used to blanket my attic. The salesman said they didn't do retrofit work, but explained how to get it done.

First, I peeled away a few more boards of siding to reveal some of the framing toward the top and the bottom.

Next, I unfurled the insulation (kraft paper backed, 23 inches wide, and 3 1/2 in depth) and began cutting to size. I got the right size by fishing my measuring tape into the cavity. After cutting the insulation to match the cavity, I slowly stuffed it in. On the full lengths, I stuffed them in increments, so I didn't have too long of a piece to navigate through the hole.

I'm about finished -- still have to stuff the space above the windows and figure out how to get into spaces that now are obstructed by pipes (such as a kitchen vent), but I'm pretty confident I can finish this up, button up the holes with the donor siding, then prime and paint. And voila, I will have three sides of my house painted.

Some tips:
-- I'm in the South, but the insulation folks recommended that I buy insulation with a vapor barrier, and face that toward the interior walls.
-- I hope the wood studs don't sweat and cause condensation within the cavity.
-- Don't work on insulation when it's 90 degrees out. Oy.
-- Take a break, so you don't make mistakes out of sheer exhaustion.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Carpenter bees!

Spring is in full force here. Azaleas blooming, hosta shoots peeking, and bees buzzing. Unfortunately, the bees are of the carpenter kind.

I learned this after two random observations: a bee staying put near my hydrangeas, even though they weren't blooming yet. And little piles of sawdust under my railing.

I was enchanted by watching the bee just hover near the bush, but then I began to suspect it was protecting something -- especially when other bees would come near. It's a hive, I thought, built under the siding that's curled away from the building, damaged from all the Southern sun.

A consultation later at work, followed by some Internet research, revealed the world of carpenter bees. They burrow into exposed wood, use the sawdust for nests, and thrive inside a round hole that they create.

I found a perfectly round hole, but I also suspect they just had an open door -- or siding -- policy. I'm sanding and prepping the siding, exposing patches of bare wood. And the railings? I don't know how they did it, but they're hollowing out the bottom of the rails.

I reluctantly bought some insecticide (I believe we use way too many toxic chemicals in this world) and shot it through any opening I can find. The bees should be gone in two days. Or onto another part of my house.

To prevent them, I'll have to paint and caulk and replace some of the siding boards. They don't like painted wood. I'm on that, as soon at the pine pollen stops dusting everything in sight.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Operation siding

Success. Figured out how saw works, cut, pulled and extracted seven boards. All while wearing my pajamas.

Now I can come back and add insulation and look for some wallboard so I can hang organizers.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Siding transplant

The exterior painting job is moving along -- as long as my latest scheme will work.

I am transplanting siding.

The south side of the house has some really warped boards -- split and pulling away from the frame.

This is a 1939 house with its original siding, so I can't get any boards with that profile without paying for custom work. That's when I realized I might have some pristine siding tucked away somewhere else.

My enclosed back porch has the "donor" siding.

I pulled off some crappy paneling off one wall the other evening and found it in excellent condition. Now I have to figure out how to extract it.

It's old, dry and nailed firmly into the wall. I started to tug at it, and some of the wood split.

Here's my plan: With a skinny and flexible saw, I'll get under the reveal, cut the nails, then use either a reciprocating saw (something I've never used before) or a hand saw to cut away swaths of siding. I need to have long enough planks to replace about four or five areas on the south side and more on the equally weather-worn west side.

But this opens another DIY can of worms. I'll be pulling apart the back porch walls. I can use this opportunity to install insulation (glory be!) and put up proper drywall. That also means moving the laundry unit, displacing my tool storage and potentially finding more problems in those old walls.

Any advice on siding transplants?

Friday, February 26, 2010

The DIY Winter Olympics schedule

Preliminaries in exterior painting (taped delay due to inclement weather)
Live streaming: Lowe's slalom (clearance bins obstacle course)
Nordic snowblowing large hill event (15km)
Pairs raking (long program)
Halfpipe plumbing
Roof jumping

Friday, February 19, 2010

Winter view

I grew up in Chicago, and experienced many a big snowfall. But, in the South, a storm yielding 8 inches is akin to a blizzard. And it made everyone about 15 percent more happy. Our newspaper Web site got more than 400 photos from readers -- all frolicking in the snow -- and it was delightful. Pardon me if I sigh a bit over our winter, which lasted all of 36 hours.

Here's my contribution:

The leap

I have rearranged my finances to get enough money for my bathroom remodel to begin. Tell me what mistakes I'm bound to make.

Getting the check soon. Added to my tax refund, I should be able to finance it and start in the next few weeks.

I plan to:
-- Add a pocket door to the space, adding about six square feet to the space.
-- Replace my crappy old window with a glass block window.
-- Add a heated tiled floor. Yep, I live in the South, but I love me some heated floor.
-- Rearrange the bathroom fixtures (requiring some toilet and bath moving -- plumbing work!)
-- and build a custom vanity to fit the space, and carve in a vertical shelf unit.

My trusted kitchen guy, Pee Wee (yep, his name) will work on this. I'm calling him next week.

What mistakes shall I anticipate? And how shall I avoid them?

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Cabin fever!

Haven't done a thing outside in three weeks -- traveling, crappy weekends, crappy weeks at work -- and I've got some DIY cabin fever.

So I'm distracting myself in the usual ways: knitting, watching the endless parade of Jenny Sanford appearances on television, and trying to stay warm.

It's all Drafty McDraftpants here. I dream of blown-in insulation in the walls. But until then...

I have hardwood floors above a crawl space, and while I've put plastic on some of the ground, it's not everywhere, and an insulation job a few years ago fell apart pretty easily. A friend suggested tacking tar paper to the floor from below. What do you think of that? Another wasted effort? Or economical solution?

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Prime time

Before I began prepping my exterior for painting, I read a long article on detailing the steps. Scrap, clean, scrap again, sand, fix, prime and paint.

I was determined not to take any shortcuts.

I'm taking shortcuts.

My confession comes as I finish priming the north side of my house. It's the least damaged part, and is mostly hidden from public view. So I figured I could learn from this and not mess up the other parts of my exterior.

I hand-scraped, but some of the paint was embedded in the wood. I sanded, but I couldn't feather the surface enough. I cleaned, but I didn't use any TSP, since I don't want to damage any plants nearby. And I fixed minimally, but I can't replace any wooden boards.

I'm priming with an oil primer -- oh the joy of getting that out of my hair. I'm kinda sloppy about it.

And now I have to decide whether to begin painting, or go back and start over.

I think I'll paint. I need to have something finished, my chosen color on my house, or else I'll go mad with inertia.

It'll be OK. I'm learning. Help me -- how can I keep my momentum without shortcutting the process? Any tricks, gadgets or tips?