Archive | December, 2007

Welcome, Stumblers and Searchers!

December 28, 2007


This blog has been experiencing a rise in the “polls”: search engine boosts. Lots of people visit me from Google, looking mainly for information on “cold air return vents” (my popular article is right here, by the way). This blog has recently been “stumbled” (stumbleupon) and I want to thank everyone who has stumbled me! And welcome!

I’ve been spending lots of time submitting this blog, and my others, into a vast array of search engines. There are some new ones out, too, which makes me happy! I am hoping that this blog grows more and more in popularity. Perhaps it might even expand into a “self-help” kind of blog. Who knows? But I am so thrilled to have been hosting so many visitors to my virtual home. Pardon the dust and the noise (and the electric cables hanging from the walls). I’ve always got fresh coffee, so stay awhile!

P.S. 3,000 visitors in one day, from search engines! I’m beaming! šŸ˜€

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Nothing More Than Ceilings…

December 27, 2007

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I am betraying my age a little with that title. It’s a terrible spoof of an old Eric Carmen song that seemed it be in every TV satire skit of the 80s.


My son had his birthday party recently, in the Dining Room. I love my Dining Room (even though it’s not remodeled yet), but it does have some major design challenges. It is a “tween” room: that is, it is between the Kitchen and stairway to the upstairs. It is also the only way to get to the garage (in the back of the house) from the inside of the house. And it is a way to get to the Front Entry Hall. And it is the only way to get to the downstairs bathroom (an ickky little room that was formerly a closet). And it is the only way to get to the Basement. My Dining Room is a “tween” room. Thus, it has FIVE doorways, plus another doorway leading to a small coat closet. And FOUR windows. It has almost no wall space.

I’ve tried to “ground” the room by painting the walls a deep red. I love the color. The old trim in the room is painted glossy white. The floor still has the old gray indoor/outdoor carpeting that was here when we ought the place. I won’t make you sick by describing what the room looked like when we bought the house– just painting the walls has made it much more tolerable.

The ceiling was covered by that junky, 70s-style cardboard drop-ceiling stuff. It’s in 1-foot squares. This makes it very easy to determine the square footage of the room– I just counted those squares!

But I hate drop ceilings, I hate cardboard on my ceiling–this room is a disaster. Eventually we will gut this room (well, it’s half-gutted already due to my electrical wiring work in process) and do it right. For now, I have to be content with the pretty red walls and glossy white trim. I also did something unique to my ceiling a few years ago. It helps me cope with that cardboard ceiling stuff. We wallpapered the ceiling.

I had found this amazing textured wallpaper about the same time I had discovered the old tin ceiling in the garage. I got the bright idea of papering the ceiling! It would cover the cardboard tiles that I hate so much. Here are a few pictures.

Ceiling 1

Ceiling 2

The wallpaper has been up for a good six years now, and it’s still sticking (even with all the bouncing from the floors above it). I painted the ceiling the lightest pink, to give a warm radiance in a very chilly room. The room is about 250 square feet, and it has two tiny little heater vents and a huge cold air return vent. That, combined with all the doors and windows, and the fact that this is the north side of the house, it’s mighty chilly in here. I close it off during the day because it makes the rest of the house so cold. We eat dinner very rapidly in here!

My point in describing it is to show that creativity can go a long way in making a room tolerable until you can restore it. You’ll see in the pictures that I have Christmas garland at the crown of the wall. I don’t have crown moulding for the room yet (not until I gut it), and the wallpaper seam looked awful there after its installation. Garland is a little tacky but it is not tackier than the wallpaper seam showing! Overall, it gives a festive look with something that would otherwise be driving me crazy.

Textured wallpaper is hard to find at home improvement stores, but you can order it through them, or order it online. It works!

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Vinyl vs. Wood Siding

December 25, 2007


My house is, as you know, 150 years old. It still has its original siding. *gasp* However, the original wood siding is buried under a layer of black tar paper and slathered with asbestos shingle siding. It makes me terribly angry if I think too long about it. I hate, hate, hate the asbestos siding.

My previous landlady, who used to live in this same town as a girl, said that in the early 1960s, a traveling salesman went door to door, peddling the asbestos siding. He must have become a very, very rich man. Every third house in my town has that blasted asbestos siding.

It’s not the dangers of asbestos that I hate (asbestos-cement siding is only toxic when it is crushed and airborne). It the texture, the aethetics, and the maintenance of the junk. It’s like having ripples of ugly eggshells on your house. This stuff is brittle, it is ugly, and it is heavy. Have I mentioned that I hate it like I’ve never hated anything before?

What’s worse, the asbestos siding was slapped up on top of the existing wood siding. So the extra layer protrudes out like an ugly fat lip. And the asbestos smothers all the lovely old wood architecture– the dorian-style corner boards, the elegant Greek Revival fascia, the sweet turns of the eaves– all gone, gone, gone.

Someday we will reside the house. Of course, our focus is on the interior right now. But I have been planning and preparing in my customary way, mulling over what kind of siding would be best and most efficient. After a few years of indecision, I’ve decided on vinyl siding. To be true to the house, I should choose wood… but I know I’ll never have the time to paint the siding every five years. The beauty of vinyl is that it is easy to care for.

If you had asked me 10 years ago about vinyl siding, I would have said NO. The last thing I wanted to do was slop blue or white plastic up on my beautiful house. But vinyl siding has come a long, log way this decade. I drive by and admire new homes with sage green siding, or dark brown siding. It looks fantastic!

So I’ll close with some food for thought with a pros and cons list on vinyl vs. wood siding.

Wood pros:
It’s beautiful
It’s true to the original style of the house
You can paint in any color you like
It won’t warp as readily as vinyl
It’s easy to use and easy to add decorative features

Wood cons:
The paint chips
High maintenance: you have to repaint every few years, which adds to the cost and time spent

Vinyl pros:
Can install it yourself
Is cheaper in the long run, but costs a lot up front
Is efficient and very low-maintenance
Is a snap to install

Vinyl cons:
Darker colors fade in the sun; lighter colors yellow in the sun
Can warp with extremes of temperatures
You need special installation tools
You must have insulated walls and a plywood/osb board substrate
Not as versatile as wood
Even the wood-look looks fake

After weighing my options, I think I’ve decided on vinyl. The vast mainteneance efforts for the wood are just too much. I think vinyl wins this round.

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Im-Pediment No. 2

December 21, 2007


Today my husband got up the pediment and trim for the Living Room/Entry Hall door.


You can see the gap between the fluted trim and the door jamb. The reason for this is the 1855 thumblatch that I wanted to preserve.


The latch needs space to close, and I did not want to hack a gash into the fluted trim. It was either hacking a gash, or moving the trim over far enough. We decided to move the trim over. Right now it looks pretty rough. I’ll eventually paint the bare wood white, and that will give it more depth and a finished look.

With an old house, a lot of the times it is impossible to “fit” modern materials with old stuff. Over the years, I have become less picky. I’m just grateful that it is somewhat plumb and that the door works again! This door greatly reduces cold drafts coming fromthe Entry. I have yet to install the inner door jambs (they’re already cut) and paint the jambs and trim. The trim really makes the room look great. I can’t wait until we have all the trim up!

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December 20, 2007

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A little progress is much better than no progress, correct? Working in the winter is loathesome. Power tools are cold, the wood is stiff, the paint is stiffer…. I try to avoid doing anything major during the winter.

However, we are trying to get up some of the trim in the Living Room. We’ve been working on our pediments– namely, our pediment over our French door. We’d only recently hung the door (it’s not a pre-hung model, so it required more care and careful measurings). My husband is a primo meaurer-er– he excels with mathematical stuff– so he did the bulk of the work and I played the handy helper.

I am very fussy about the trim and moulding in the house. I’ve spent enough years in aging homes with ranch casing– yuk! My home– relatively untouched since 1855– still has most of its original trim and moulding. Very little of it is in good repair (and it’s encased in lead paint), so we will have to replace it. However, with the original moulding, I have the original template of the design of the house.

Here’s a snapshot of the pediment from the Dining Room, to give you a feel for what the style is like. This is original moulding. The Living Room was a little more elaborate. Our house is Greek Revival, but is a milder version, as you can tell from the photo below. The triangular pediments are a classic trait of American Greek Revival style. It’s my favorite architectural style.


The pediments in the Living Room were solid black walnut. I desperately wanted to keep it, and did try. But the moulding was so damaged from leaking walls, endless pockmarks and holes, and about 25 coats of paint. We had to replace the entire Living Room.

So, making a short story long here, we’re working on the pediment for the Living Room. It will be very similar to the original one, but not as fancy (no multi-layers of wood– just a slab and a strip of trim at the top).

Here’s our installed French door, waiting for it’s trim. You can see what our restored Entry Hall looks like if you peer beyond the door’s glass.


Just for kicks, and because some of you have expressed interest in them before, I’ve included a photo of one of the original thumb latches. The house still has the original doors, and most of the latches remain. Only a few are in good shape. I took the good ones from upstairs and restored them to install them in our Entry Hall.

Thumb Latch

They had all been coated with gobs of white and yellow paint over their 150 year history. I removed them, and stuck all the latch pieces in a bucket of Peel Away for 24 hours. Then I brushed several coats of poly-urethane over the bare metal. They have held up quite well.

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Homemade Petting Zoo

December 18, 2007

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A friend of mine recently quizzed me on our deer population here, even though I live in a town with a lot of traffic– and I’m only 5 minutes away from a large city. Well, we’ve even heard of bears wandering around town, but thank God we haven’t had any of those kinds of visitors! (The deer are destructive enough).

I’m posting up some photos I snapped a few years back. These deer were so bold that they not only walked out of the woods in broad daylight while we were outside, but they wandered around the yard, sniffed at the toys in the play area, and let my kids pet them! (They also stopped to try out some of my plants… grr).

Here are the photos. I still can’t believe that these critters did this!

Deer 1

Deer 2

Deer 3

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Deerly Beloved

December 18, 2007

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Driving around the area, we’ve been seeing lots of trucks parked off the sides of the roads. We in Upstate know what this means: deer season! My growing sons are becoming very interested in outdoor sportsmanship. They love to hear my stories of living on a mountain, hunting deer and rabbits. My brothers were master marksmen and almost always came back with deer. How I remember nights upon nights where my mom and I had to cut the meat, wash the meat, trim the grisle, and pack the slabs into freezer paper! Sometimes she ground the leftover cuts with a big hand grinder. I always wanted to turn the handle, but she wouldn’t let me.The worst part of deer butchering was all the sticky deer hair all over the meat, and handling gobs of fat. Yuk. The best part was watching my brothers set up the salt lick for them. We kept the lick and the feeder all year round. We never hunted deer in the early spring. It was quite a sight to watch the does with their babies timidly step out of the brush to the feeder. If we made the slightest sound, off they bounded!

Where we live now, in town, we have the unique problem of too many unwanted deer! It is illegal in New York State to have deer feeders closer than 300 feet to a road, for obvious reasons. I wish we could have one, though, because then those eating machines would leave my baby trees and shrubs alone!

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Another Flood in the Basement :(

December 18, 2007


We’ve been plagued with flooding in our basement for the past seven or eight years. In the past, we’ve seen up to three feet in our basement. we had to replace our furnace last summer because of the devastating floods that hit Upstate. But over this summer, remarkable for its lack of rain, we had a relatively dry basement. Our two sump pumps hardly kicked on at all.

So it is with surprise and great dismay to see our basement flooding now that it is winter. One pump died and we had to get another. We don’t dare leave just one pump running in our basement anymore.

Anyway, I was stupid and stored my rolls of insulation in the basement. I forgot to put them up in a high place– last minute remodeling, the start of school, and other things made me forget the rule here: never store anything valuable in the basement.

My husband informed me that our rolls of insulation were soaked after the water came in the other day.

Is insulation salvagable? Can I just let it drip dry and reuse it?

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The Totals Are In

December 18, 2007

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My kids went outside to shovel this afternoon. They promptly reported that “alost two feet” of snow had fallen since Sunday morning. I have to admit that I doubted them! I am not very good at guessing snow totals, but two feet seemed an awful lot to me.

So I checked our local weather station, and they said we had 10.5 inches fall in my locality. It’s not two feet, but still, it is much more than I expected!

It must have seemed like two feet to the kids, who had to shovel out the van and sidewalks. šŸ˜‰

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A Brilliant Idea!

December 17, 2007

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I (finally) read through my stack of handy home improvement magazines over the weekend. There were some really great tips by readers that I enjoyed very much. But I stopped when I saw some small print at the bottom of the article. It said that the magazine will pay $100 to 200 for tips from readers! You could see a light bulb pop over my head. $100 for a tip! You can guess what I’ll be mulling over for the next few days!

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