Archive for the ‘Exterior’ Category

Pictures of the gap between addition and older part of house

Thursday, February 7th, 2008

[ETA:  Well, hmmm.  I thought I posted this yesterday, and the blog thought so, too.  However, I just looked at the front page of the blog and it wasn't there.]

You may remember the gap between our house and addition where the rain blows through from yesterday. My brother wrote that he had trouble visualizing the gap so here are pictures.

The clapboard (seen at right) is the original exterior, and the pine sheathing (left) is the interior of the addition. The bright white vertical line is the gap, formed where the addition meets the original house.

Gap between addition and original house

You might see trees through the gap in the close-up (below) if you click through.

Close-up of gap between addition and house

Here are exterior shots to put this in perspective. The gap in question is above the garage, at the inside corner where the 50s (asbestos?) siding meets the older clapboard siding. To orient you, you can almost see the window in the first interior picture (to the right, above).

Exterior view of gap location close-up-of-joint-between-house-and-addition.jpgExterior view after painting started

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Raindrops keep blowing through my wall

Wednesday, February 6th, 2008

Remember the brisk breeze I could feel blowing in the seam between the fifty-year-old addition and the rest of the house when the front came blowing in last week?  Not to mention the nice view of the outside you could catch a glimpse of through that same seam?  It turns out that rain can blow in through that same seam.  (We took the drywall and ceiling tile wall off those walls, which made visible the gap.  No house wrap or insulation.)

Not sure what to do about that.  Maybe 3M window film from the inside.  Or a huge bead of caulk.  I can’t even figure out a good Google search for clues: 

  • How to fill a hole in exterior wall
  • How to block a hole in exterior wall
  • Drafty wall repair

all give pretty meaningless results.  (Drafty wall repair gave, as its very first hit, a spreadsheet for anesthesia services, apparently because there is a code for “Anesth, chest wall repair.”  Hope I don’t need that done, too.) I tried, which has a nifty feature that lets you search all the registered houseblogs, and those houseblog searches, along with “gap in wall” and all the other variants I could think of came up empty.

So, I’ve posted the question on the houseblogs discussion board, and hope that something will come of it.

For now, I figure the wall is open so it will dry out.  Don says there’s a roof leak at about the same place, too.  Well, we knew we needed a new roof. 

In the meantime, I’ll just think of Burt Bacharach and B J Thomas, and hum a little chorus:

Raindrops keep blowing in my house
But that doesn’t mean that I’ll soon be feeling lous-y
Lousy’s not for me
’cause I’m going to stop the leaks and the dripping
Because I’m free
Nothing’s worrying me.

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Fly swatter to go with our fly swatting chairs

Friday, February 1st, 2008

It’s Snow Day 2 here in NW Arkansas for the Little One.  I still have to work.  The Little One got to sleep in today — yesterday, we had her up and dressed before we learned school was canceled.  Naturally, my thoughts are turning to spring, or maybe summer, and the flies that go with the change of seasons.

I want a leather fly swatter. My dad and I spent a while last summer looking for a fly swatter of normal length. Actually, I just looked for any fly swatter. When I found one (or rather three) for a dollar, they turned out not to be as long as those of my childhood, so I think it made it hard for Daddy to compensate.

leather fly swatter

While I was in Lehman’s online catalog (long story short, I was looking for storm window numbers tacks), I came across this: It’s 20″ long, and $5.00. Maybe I’ll buy two: one for me and one for Daddy. It’ll go great with my fly-swatting chairs from the auction this fall.


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Craig’s List Score!

Thursday, January 31st, 2008

I virtuously scan Craig’s List here in Fayetteville, hoping for the sort of deals I used to find in Chicago. This weekend, I finally scored. Boxes of screen and storm sash hangers were there for $3 a box (ten sets in each box or thirty cents a set). You’ll see from the click-through, screen-and-storm-sash-hangers.jpg, that the sets used to retail for 40 cents. These days, however, they sell for two or three dollars a set.

So, I got Don to contact the sellers, and he bought them out. Even better, he learned that they have other stuff in their warehouse, stuff which might be useful for us a little later. (I guess their family owned a windows and doors store for sixty years, and now they’re slowly closing their warehouse.) We now own 45 sets of sash hangers, which will come in handy if we ever when we build storms and screens.  Now to keep an eye out for number tacks to identify which storms go with which windows. Although $4.99 for twenty windows and twenty storms isn’t bad, I’d love some like Jeannie’s House In Progress number tacks which go past single digits. Kilian seems to have a better price of $3.99 for “110+” of assorted tacks. I’m jealous, though, of the old stock someone bought from them already. 

Hang on:  Can anyone tell me why map tacks wouldn’t work?  Look at these map tacks. 


You can buy them to go up to 50 (double digits on a single tack) and they seem legible and long enough.  Are they sturdy enough?  Too big? (The smalls are 7/32 in diameter.  The pins are 5/16″ long.)  Too expensive?  We would need three boxes: to label window, storm, and screen, or about $15 for the first twenty-five windows.  Plus s/h.  The large map tacks (5/16″ diameter) come in red, and go up to 100.

We do have some other pressing matters, like, oh, say, rebuilding the window frames (see photo below) swinging in the air without any contact to the glass that I can see, or filling the gap between the fifty-year-old addition and the old part of the house. (Not only can you see daylight, but there’s a brisk breeze when a front is blowing through, which it was at lunchtime Wednesday when the temperature dropped from 63F to 28F in two hours.)

Window frame (south side)

Or, this week’s urgent need, covering up the direct critter access into the basement Apartment 5 with some chicken wire. Don took out the basement kitchen cabinets Monday and discovered a hole, a big, long hole sized for roosters or snakes or five-year-olds to go lollygagging through. The stud wall is swinging from the ceiling and you can see daylight under the studs. I don’t know what is holding up the two stories of house above it. Static electricity, maybe.

Hole under house before exposure Hole under house after hardware cloth installation

The hole is at the base of the house under this deck. You can’t see it so well in this picture (left) so I stopped Tuesday morning and snapped a picture of it with the hardware cloth installed (right). What is that pipe? It goes into the former basement kitchen around the sink. Maybe a vent??
Rotten sill

The picture above of a really rotten sill predates our buying the house, but the others are from Wednesday. (The painters pulled the ivy off the house.)

In other news, work is crazy busy. The Little One has reached a charming stage, again, except that she is very tired. She fell asleep by 6 p.m. Sunday night, and slept until we got her up the next morning. Either she’s about to grow into fluent reading or she’s about to grow an inch.  Or some other landmark event is coming.  She’s home for a snow day today, and I’m watching the weather to see if I am getting snowed in, too.

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Our retaining wall (south of the house)

Wednesday, January 30th, 2008

We’re working on getting our retaining wall tuned up. It’s really a nice-looking wall running along the south border of our lot, made of native stone with flying buttresses and a stone patio.* Serene. The wall starts out at maybe 18 inches at the front of the lot, and then it growed like Topsy until it’s maybe twelve feet toward the back.  As a result, our lot is fairly level.  I think the patio (just off the kitchen) is even prettier than this pre-ownership picture shows.

Patio in summer

The only problem is that the wall is covered with ivy. Well, that, and the fact that once you pull off enough ivy to make five or six or ten ivy people**, you find big cracks and crumbling mortar.  And a definite tilt toward our lot.

Huge pile of ivy Typical fault line hiding behind the ivy

We had an appointment with our rock wall guy Monday.  He says the flying buttresses were probably added later and are helping to prevent the wall falling over, but we really need to build more wall at the base to push back against the tons of soil and water and put in holes to let the water out.  So we are.  Or rather, he and his crew will.  The first load of rock came Tuesday morning.  This weekend, Don and I hope to get more of my landscaping books out of storage so I can show our rock wall guy what I want. (Once I figure it out, of course.)  I picture some raised beds, some niches for rock garden plants in the walls, plenty of stone seating in front of the raised beds.  (Since the wall is facing north, I’m not sure if the heat sink attributes of a stone wall will make it a warmer microclimate than its surroundings, but I guess it might be a good place for more tender perennials.)  Also, low voltage lighting, a water feature, and maybe a fire pit, but probably not.  A fire pit, that is, due to local codes. 

Oh, and maybe a cold frame?  I saw a neat one in Washington State Park this fall.  It was original to the house (Greek Revival so early 1800s), and dug down six feet into the earth, so it only got noon sunlight, but never froze.  Ours couldn’t go down that deep due to rocks, but maybe we could build something that could go over one of the raised beds and attach to the stone bench in front.  Then, we could raise our own lettuce and tender perennials.  Daydreams, but fun to think about.

Sunday afternoon was beautiful.  Sunny and in the 60s.  The Little One and I made seven wreaths with ivy and nandina berries, which made no significant difference to the amount of ivy left, but delighted her.  Then I pulled as much of the ivy off the wall as I could so our rock wall guy would have a better idea of what he would be dealing with.

While making ivy wreaths, we watched a gang of small neighbor boys rampage through the yard and up the highest flying buttress on to the next yard.  All wearing hoodies, sneakers, and skateboards. We saw the touring version of Peter Pan this fall at the Walton Arts Center, and we’ve been reading Peter Pan this week, so I suggested to the Little One that they might be Lost Boys. She said, “No, Mom. I know one of them. He goes to my school.” (I don’t understand the barrier myself, since she is currently Peter Pan’s sister, but I guess I’m grown-up.)  I like living in a neighborhood with rampaging small boys.

Enough of that. Let’s look at more pictures. When we bought the place, it came with a really large container for holding trash cans. I think it held six big ones and it was just west of the patio. You might be able to see the flying buttress the Lost Boys scaled just behind it.  (Sorry for the terrible picture, but the container is gone now so I can’t improve on it.)

Big Trashcan Container

Don gave it to a utilities guy he met one of the three times we’ve had a meter replaced so far. Here’s the guy hauling it off. You can see it fills his trailer up.

Nice guys hauling off big trashcan container

Pictured below is the space behind the trashcan container and the Lost Boys’ flying buttress (at right). It was mostly ivy-free already, but I pulled a lot more out between the trashcan space and the patio (where the green, mossy area is). The bar growing through the redbud (I think it’s a redbud — see summer patio picture) is a clothesline remnant.

After trashcan container left

Below are better before-and-after pictures of what the ivy-covered wall looked like. These are just east of the patio, but I pulled ivy off the entire length of the wall.

Typical before ivy removal condition After ivy removal condition

Here’s our first load of rock. It’s really pretty stuff, with lots of lichens. And I am very glad that I don’t have to move it.

First load of rocks to fix the wall

*Our neighbors to the north tell us they used to watch drunken bashes at our house. Kegs and beer bottles flying out of the upstairs windows. Police calls all the time. One of the more recent tenants spent a lot of time picking the broken glass out of the patio area, for which I am grateful. I did find a pull tab in the ivy Sunday.

** I Googled Ivy People.  Would you believe it’s a Celtic astrology sign, more or less?  And that Don and I are Ivy People?  Weird what Google will tell you when asked.

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The Mailbox Question Raises the Doorbell Question

Tuesday, January 22nd, 2008

I think we will be going with a bronze mailbox.* Or maybe a wood one. (Mailbox numbers 1, 4, 6 or 10 being my current favorites, but hard to justify.  Especially when Jennifer at Tiny Old House saw Mailbox Number 2 for $40 on clearance.) Or maybe a plastic one.  Anyway, we need a doorbell, too, so I have started looking for one that would help me choose a mailbox.**

Despite having five apartments, we have no doorbells or knockers.  Based on my selection, I apparently feel any doorbell should come with instructions (“press”) or who should use them (“visitors”).

1. The Art Nouveau doorbell from Waterglass Studios ($50 at the first link or $46 here or $39.89 here. I lean toward the oil-rubbed finish.) (Wouldn’t you know it was from Waterglass Studios? One of my favorite mailboxes is, too, but I found them in separate searches on separate days. Actually, I like all their mailboxes. And the $39.89 doorbell seller has my mailbox for $249.95, s/h included. $4 less than WS itself.  Still darn expensive.)


2. NuTone RCPB702 Oil Rubbed Bronzed Lighted Pushbutton ($10 + 10.50 s/h)


3. Rejuvenation’s Lighted “Press” Button ($48)


4. Rejuvenation’s Putman Classic Doorbell Button ($23) [but expect lengthy delays]


5. Byron’s Visitor Surface Mounted Lighted Bell Push (MSRP $55, available for around $45)


6. Byron’s Pisces Recessed Bell Push (MSRP $39, available for around $30)


7. Byron’s Moonlight Surface Mounted Lighted Bell Push (MSRP $55, available for around $45)


8. Another Waterglass doorbell,”Victorian Style” ($39 + $7)


* Here is a good snapshot of one of our bad mailboxes. If you know anyone who would like one to five similar boxes, send them my way.  Funny thing.  Don ran into our mail carrier at our new house last week.  The carrier knew we were getting mail both at the apartment and at the five-flat.  Due in part to the lack of a dedicated mailbox at the five-flat, he’s planning to deliver all our mail to the apartment since both places are on his route.  Nice.


** More window shopping to come.  Now I’m thinking that I could do the whole front porch, at least virtually.  We still need new numbers and probably a new light.  Not sure what Don thinks of this light, but he usually wants to replace most of the lights.  Although Don says the standard issue hardware store numbers aren’t bad, I don’t think they do much for the house.  Oh dear.  We may never get the front entry done if I have to figure out all the bits at once.


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Window Shopping for a Mailbox

Friday, January 11th, 2008

I really want a mailbox at our house.  I don’t want one of the five the house came with. We still have two of those five hanging up in our front entryway: one for us (or perhaps the guy who was in the process of moving out when we bought the house) and one for our tenant. They’re little, ugly, and not too functional for today’s mail. Did I mention ugly?  old-mailboxes.jpg

(Sorry about the picture.  Apparently, I haven’t taken a picture of just the mailboxes so this is at tremendous magnification from a picture of the whole house so I lost some resolution.  They are worse up close.)

I started window shopping. Here are ten that might do. (We have a house that is a transitional farmhouse/arts and crafts/colonial revival, and we’re probably most focused on the arts and crafts aspects — except my heart is apparently with Queen Victoria or Anne. Still.)  The mailbox will be in a sheltered area so either wood or metal should be fine.

Mailboxes are listed in the approximate order of discovery. I think I’m leaning toward copper at present. Will get back to you when/if we get one unless we go to a big box store and buy another ugly one.

1. Waterglass Studios 10A Handmade Smooth Antique Copper Horizontal Wall Mounted Arts & Crafts Mailbox ($295)


2. Smith and Hawken Mailbox ($89)

3. Pinecone Covered Mailbox ($110)

4. Glasgow 12 Square Longbody Bronze Arroyo ($168)


5. Chaenomeles envelope style copper mailbox ($489)


6. Vintage Woodworks mailbox #357 ($253 CAD)


7. Pacific motif mailbox $130


8. Popular Woodworking (labor plus materials)


9. Art Nouveau Copper Mailbox ($279 for medium size)


10. Wood vented mailbox ($210)


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Revealing Apartment 1′s Porch

Tuesday, January 8th, 2008

As I wrote before Christmas, we want to convert the left two-thirds of the house to porch, in part because it used to be porch. (Also, we love being outside without mosquitoes, and we hope to be able to use the space often. Heck, it got up into the 60s over the weekend here.)  The flooring from the original upstairs porch is still visible from the outside.

Exterior of our house

The inside of the lower past/future porch is inside Apartment 1 and you can see it through the arch from our future dining room. These pictures were taken before the tenant left and demolition began.  There was a window on the right side, and a closet on the left side.  (Also, three windows across the front.)

Before tenant’s departure Porch in Apartment 1 (right)

Don removed some of the ceiling tiles in the section beyond the arch and found …

Porch ceiling in Apartment 1

Green beadboard. So there is a little original fabric to the house that I think we’ll keep.

I removed the rest of the tiles from the lower front porch ceiling on Saturday.  And Sunday, I demolished most of one closet (also made of ceiling tiles) in the dry bedroom in Apartment 1.  And admired Don removing more ceiling tile walls in the wet bedroom* in Apartment 1.  Some of the walls in the dry bedroom were drywall over ceiling tile.  Not a lick of insulation anywhere. 

Wait.  That’s not quite true.  We found a ball of insulation in the interior wall in the wet bedroom about the size of a football, with a Diet Slice can next to it.  I don’t know where that came from, but I know it’s going into the dumpster. 

We had another gas meter replaced today.  For those of you counting, we have had three of our eleven meters replaced so far, all at the utility’s expense.

*The “wet” bedroom is so-named because, after the pipes froze New Year’s Day/night, we found a new drip in that bedroom.  It looks like the drip may not be coming from the pipes inside that bedroom’s ceiling, but from a leak in the bathroom above.  There has been standing water on that floor, and I am not quite sure where it came from.  I guess we’ll figure it out soon enough.

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Building a heli-pad in the labyrinth, in my dad’s words

Monday, January 7th, 2008

Why do my parents have a helicopter landing pad?  Not because they are James Bond-types.  My dad has spinocerebellar ataxia, which affects his balance, among other things, so he does fall over and need emergency care with some frequency.  My folks live out in the country, at the end of a steep, curvy driveway that gets icy, so they have the potential need for emergency evacuation by helicopter. A helicopter pad needs a big flat space, with even flatter bits in the middle for the helicopter to land on.  Hence, the labyrinth.

The picture below is a satellite view of my parents’ modern house. To the right is the labyrinth. Wending around the house is the driveway on which my car was hit, causing nearly $6k in damage early this fall. Besides being curvy, it also has some steep shady parts, so it is easy to get iced in.   (Or out.  I got stuck on the driveway coming home one night last winter.)


I lifted many of these photos and the following text from my dad’s Christmas letter almost verbatim, although rearranged and with just a few more words for context.

big-flat-hole.jpg This was a low spot in the center of the labyrinth. There is a hardpan down about 45 centimeters. It was often wet and mushy, dried slowly, and things died of “wet feet.”

dry-well.jpg Don dug it down to hardpan and then dug dry wells through the hardpan in a couple of places to let the water through.

native-stones.jpg We started with about a tonne (1000 kg.) of flat rocks. They have now all been used.

gravel.jpg We also had 7,000 liters of gravel. [The gravel has not all been used.]
in-process.jpg  [In process.]

nearly-done.jpg [Almost done.]

Then we filled the dry wells and the excavation with gravel up to about fifteen centimeters from the surface followed by about ten centimeters of pulverized limestone. Then Don leveled things, cut the rock to size, and placed it.

finished-heli-pad.jpg This is essentially the finished product and I think it looks very good. Don says that we will need to work in some more pulverized limestone as that in the cracks settle.

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Reducing square footage. Good idea?

Tuesday, December 18th, 2007

Inspiration Exterior dscn0477jpg-copy.jpg

Two-thirds of the front of our house used to be open porches. The decking of the upstairs front porch is still sticking out between the first and second floors. I was coming back from a visit with a client one afternoon, and I looked up and saw an exact match (above, right)for our house. If you exclude the double gables and walk-out basement in front and windows arrangement and so forth. At least, it has two-thirds of the front open, with a center entry.

Now Don and I are talking about putting the porches back. Screened to keep the mosquitos out. With easy house access. And probably keeping the large number of windows. The lower porch would be connected to the dining room. (I think Don said the old footprint would have been 15×8, which should be big enough for outdoor dining and people watching.) The upper porch to the master bedroom. Probably. Maybe with those huge sliding/folding glass doors that I remember from Chicago bars and restaurants. Or just some nice lockable French doors. And it woud feel a bit like a treehouse. Especially once we get our dead trees replaced and regrown.

Reducing square footage, while hoping to increase the house’s value.  Well, it will be more valuable to us. :)   So, it should be a good idea.

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