Friday, March 18, 2011

The kindness of strangers

I'm really not amazed by the generosity of people. In the news biz, despite all the bad news, we encounter lots of good people, doing good deeds, without much of a reward.

So it's nice that a good deed has helped me complete the laundry room. I asked a colleague where I could get a butcher block countertop from IKEA cut into two pieces. He suggested a friend at his church who is a cabinet maker.

He took the pieces to his friend and returned them, in beautiful condition.

A week later, I'm adding these pieces and helping put finishing touches on my room. My cost? A batch of cookies.


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.