Archive | July, 2010

The Makings of a Broom Closet

July 30, 2010


Since I had to change my initial plans and install a full wall (instead of a half wall) in the kitchen, I decided to make lemonade with lemons. A little background: after opening up a wall that the kitchen and conjoining dining room share, we decided it looked great, and wanted to keep the area open, with just a half wall/pass-through type of deal. However, I discovered that I had nowhere else to place the refrigerator, so we had to rebuild a full wall. šŸ™ The wall is a thick void, built to house a huge cast iron drainpipe in the corner. The rest of the wall is just wasted space. So I decided (on a whim) to bust out the dining room side of the void, and install a broom closet next to the bathroom door. I have NO IDEA how to make these things… after a little thinking, I just started whacking, lol. It didn’t turn out half bad…

I don’t know if you can tell in the photo, but here I removed a wall stud and installed a header about 7 feet up.


Then, I installed blocking to support the plywood walls I would soon insert.

Broom Closet_3

The blocking is a little haphazard. I wanted to use up the scraps of wood we had lying around the house. It doesn’t look pretty, but it works. AND it uses up the scraps instead of wasting them.


I had to meticulously measure the plywood panels and nail them in, to create a box. That bottom piece is a small scrap piece of expensive plywood that would have otherwise been tossed out.


We installed sheetrock around the walls.


Now, I have to find some doors for the thing. I didn’t take into consideration that I might not be able to find doors that fit such an odd measurement (the opening is 22 inches wide and 78 inches high). I may have to make my own, or buy two small stock doors and fit them in just right. The dining room walls will be deep red, so I expect I will stain the doors a cherry or mahogany color.

I’ll have a small shelf or two at the top, to hold various household stuff, like vacuum cleaner belts, light bulbs, etc. Our house has virtually no storage space (the basement floods and we have no attic space for storage), so little closets and cabinets around the house are valuable real estate.

In other news, we are FINALLY making progress with the sheetrock. WHAT a job. It’s just my daughter and I right now. We hope to have a small crew here Sunday to complete the job (am praying). If all goes well, next week we spackle and paint. Then— CABINETS!!!!!!

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Surprise on the Front Porch

July 27, 2010


I wondered what Livvy was staring at so intently on the front porch this evening. She often sits in the front entry, staring at the outside world of the two outside cats, Milo and Fuzzy. But she was staring a little more… intently… so I peeked out.



He arched his back when he saw me approach.



Little menace. I hollered and stomped my feet, and both raccoon and cat took off.

My daughter says we should Shoot Him, Skin Him, and Make Him Into a Hat. Maybe one of those groovy coon-skin baseball bats, perhaps?? LOL, wow did that one work out well! LOLOL.

We do NOT want raccoons hanging around the house. There have been reports of coons with rabies in the area. *sigh* Another thing to deal with.

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My Birthday Present

July 27, 2010


I have been wanting one of these for soooooooooooooo long. Now that my kitchen is becoming a reality, I actually GOT ONE!!! Look what The Hubs got me for my birthday!


Isn’t is beautiful?? I love clocks. I am going to have my newly renovated house filled with them. šŸ˜€ Livvy seems to like it, too. We share the same birthday. šŸ™‚ I didn’t get her a present “yet.” She has to wait until we finish the room. We’re going to build shelves and a cat walk for her, at the top of the walls, lol!

My new clock is going to go up on the wall where the chimney is. Right HERE!


Well, um, use a little creativity and try to imagine it. Ummmmm. It will look beautiful, I promise!

I’m doing the sheetrock and building pantry closets this week, which is why posts on all my blogs are so scarce. That, and the fact that I am totally exhausted. This is hard, physical work. I’m a week behind schedule and am trying to keep up on things…. more on it all, later.

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Buying Better Than Renting

July 24, 2010


Well, this makes me feel better.

Courtesy of New York Times

Sometimes I could kick myself for buying a 155 year old home. Especially when I have to try and install square sheets of drywall on VERY unsquare ceilings and walls. NOT fun.

The New York Times has a cost calculator at, comparing rental pros and cons with ownership pros and cons. Looks like buying a home gets you ahead in the finances than renting.

But not by much. :-p

Part of the reason for the less than stellar return rate, I think, is the severe drop in housing values and the severe rise in property taxes. I purchased my home for $62,5 over 13 years ago. It is now valued at $87,0 for taxation purposes, but I could never get that amount should I sell it right now. The market is bad, and no one wants a fixer upper. I do renovate it with the expectation that the market will improve, but I renovate mostly because the house needs the improvements, and we want to live comfortably and efficiently. Still, even though I have no intention of selling, it would be nice to know that my home is increasing in value as I improve it….

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These Are SO Cool

July 24, 2010

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I am REALLY into space-saving devices. I dislike clutter. I like my furniture with legs (Queen Anne style) because I like the airy look. I dislike knick-knacks and other clutter, too.

So when I was searching around for computer monitor wall mounts and spotted this at, it was instant love.

Isn’t that cool?! The Ergotron StyleView HD Combo. VERY expensive, though. A little too much for my budget. That model there is about $400. Even with’s low prices, it’s still a lot of cash. But what a great space saver! Here’s hoping it goes on deep discount sometime…

This one is nice, too. It’s the Ergotron Neo-Flex, and it’s a lot less expensive (but still expensive) at less than $100.

I’m always fussing with my monitor, moving it to this side of the desk and then the other (I do a lot of things at my desk, not just computer work). The monitor is always in the way, so I’d like to get a mount for it or something. Plus, I also have a mini-station upstairs in a small bedroom… and the clothes dresser is not meant for holding a computer and monitor! Anyway, I’ve done a little research, and I think Ergotron makes the best monitor mounts. All the others are short and rather stiff; Ergotron seems to build in better engineering and support than the others. Of course, Ergotron is, like 2-3 times more expensive, too… has great deals, but the Ergotron stuff just never seems to go down in price very much. oh well, maybe someday…. šŸ˜€

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Totally Drained

July 20, 2010


Yeah, literally.

I helped The Hubs install PEX plumbing yesterday.

Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz. Plumbing is exhausting work. That’s why I’ve avoided up to now. But he needed a helper, and the kids were busy… I was glad to help, but I’d rather be doing electric, or painting walls. Plumbing makes me wimper like a little kid.


Loops of PEX in the wall.

Plumbing is scary to me. Water wreaks devastation and damage to all the good things I’ve done in the walls. I like to be far, far away when the plumbing is going on. To hear The Hubs groan and exclaim “Ohhhh NO!” sends my blood pressure up through the roof.

See those PEX lines? They extracted a lot of blood, sweat, and tears to get up there…


Construction materials are so colorful! But what is it with primary colors? How about some purple and green, eh?


PEX is a newer product in the United States. It’s very easy to install. In NEW HOMES. My 155-year old house put up a big stink. We first had to remove the old lead-soldered copper lines from the existing areas (and turn off the water supply at the same time, btw) to run the new PEX through the same holes. We had to do it this way because we didn’t want to hack into the support joists anymore than necessary (like the previous owners had done, see below).


BAD BAD plumber. That entire joist is without support! And for what?! A couple inches of PVC! Bad...

Well, the old holes were, in some cases, too small for the PEX to pass through; so we had to make a few holes, anyway. :S We got the upstairs bathroom connected, but the water supply hasn’t been turned back on yet (we’ve haven’t had showers since Saturday, ehe). We’re hoping we can finish the job tonight. I’m hoping there are NO LEAKS. This plumbing system runs right over my new kitchen.

Yes, plumbing makes me a little anxious….

About PEX: it’s been in use in Europe for over 40 years now. It’s a rigid, tough polyethylene plastic material. You connect the ends with crimps or clamps. The nice thing about the PEX system is that the ONLY joints are at the manifold box in the basement (near the water supply) and at the actual fixture (such as, at the sink’s shut off valve). It also has better insulating qualities than copper (which bursts when water freezes). Best of all, PEX is a lot less expensive than copper, and requires no blow torch to install!


Blue PEX for cold supply. How sweet.


Our manifold. We still have to connect it to the water supply and hot water tank. Scary stuff, I think.

We decided to leave the drains as they are. Everything is *technically* vented except the kitchen sink and washing machine (drains we have to re-do, anyway). Well, the upstairs bathroom sink needs a little drain work, though. Apparently, the previous owners didn’t bother to actually CONNECT the pipes together! Sewer gases belch out from this open pipe area. Not a pleasant smell when it’s been 90+ degrees for over a week. Mmmmmmm.

Hanging drainpipe


I can’t wait to install our new 1.6 gallon toilet (let me rephrase that– to HAVE it installed). We have one downstairs, and when that sucker flushes, IT FLUSHES. I swear I feel my hair move with the downdraft. Yeehaw! No more holding the flush valve and praying that the contents go down! I’m really looking forward to that. Yeah, plumbing can be exciting sometimes. LOL

ANYWAY. Once we have surmounted the plumbing hurdle, I can finally start installing the sheetrock. Maybe by Thursday I can start. Here’s hoping I get a shower before then….

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Work Wear

July 20, 2010

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I admit, I am not a very good “safety gear” kind of person. It’s over 90 degrees for days on end! I am NOT wearing heavy denim overalls, steamy dust masks, and safety glasses that fog up. One thing I’d like to know is how does wearing safety glasses improve safety? I think they jeopardize safety– I wear regular glasses, and when I wear those ugly, heavy, blurry safety glasses, they steam up in seconds; I can’t see through them! How does this constitute “safety”? lol. Plus, the safety glasses are designed for someone the size of Chewbacca. Hello, “safety” gear manufacturers– we women do stuff around the house, too!!

Anyway, lol… I wear a lot of t-shirts and shorts as I work. I do wear gloves. But you can imagine how quickly I burn through the clothing– most of my t-shirts are now slathered in paint, caulk, have small tears, etc etc. We are ALWAYS looking for new t-shirts. The kids (all teens now) especially like “meaningful” custom t-shirts. One of their favorites is made by Voice of the Martyrs, and it says “This shirt is illegal in 52 countries.” It’s a great conversation starter at Home Depot. šŸ˜€ And I do love my Chuck Norris t-shirts. šŸ˜€

I saw this t-shirt recently, and it made me crack up. LOL

This is on the front:

And this is on the back:


I noticed that there’s a bunch of hype about Eclipse t-shirts right now. It’s EVERYWHERE. I don’t understand society’s sicko obsession with vampires, honestly. I don’t get how sick stuff like blood and vampires are so accepted by society as “OK,” but Christian t-shirts are “offensive.” :-p Doesn’t make sense to me.

Anyway, t-shirts are the clothing of choice for work, at least in this heat. Maybe they’ll eventually come out with VOM gloves, or Chuck Norris safety glasses…

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Insulation- DONE!

July 16, 2010


One of the reasons I am gutting the house is to be able to insulate the walls (the other reason is to electrify the house). Of course, another option is to leave everything alone and have a contractor blow in cellulose insulation…. however, The Attic has cellulose insulation, and I HATE IT. Both The Attic and the cellulose insulation. It is the dirtiest, dustiest, smelliest stuff EVER. The dust particles ooze out from the tiniest cracks and crevices in the home’s walls and ceilings, and coat the entire house with layers upon layers of dust. We could dust every single day, and have a new layer every single day. I am strongly against blown-in insulation. We have had respiratory problems because of the junk.

So I install fiberglass batts. This is a dirty, laborious job, especially in the heat of summer when the LAST thing on your mind is January snow. But come January, we will be SO glad we did this. My valiant daughter assisted me with this venture. The other kids helped with chores around the house so that I could turn my full attention to the installation. I have the greatest kids in the world, I tell ya. One daughter slaved away outside, on the asphalt on a blistering day, to hang and then take down the loads of laundry.

Here’s part of the dining room wall. This was the most difficult of the two rooms to do. For one, the studs here are spaced very oddly. You may have two studs 8 inches apart, then another stud 18 inches apart. Fiberglass insulation comes in 15-inch widths, so you can imagine all the cutting and fitting we had to do.


Also in this room, some of the studs had dry rot, from a very old water problem– the previous owners built a small porch and allowed a leak to drip over the window for many years. That entire section was rotted out by the time we bought the house. I had to try and replace some of it with wood, so that we will have something to secure the sheetrock to, when the time comes. Another corner had no wood at all– back in the days of plaster and lathe, furring strips held up the plaster, and there was no need for the modern-day framing that we see today. Indeed, the hardest part of renovating an old house–where most of the labor occurs– is in form-fitting it to modern-day size demands: 15-inch fiberglass, 16″ on-center framing for sheetrock, 4 x 8 sheets, etc. Back in the olden days, they didn’t have these and so didn’t account for them. It’s a real PAIN to have to do this, believe me.


I used faced fiberglass batts AND plastic vapor barrier. It’s a little much, I know. Supposedly, the facing on the batts makes a semi air-tight seal. But not in this house. My home is balloon-frame, AND with all the slicing and dicing of the batts we had to do, there would still be a lot of drafts coming through. So we stapled large sheets of vapor barrier to seal the cavities even more. I had done this in the living room, and the difference that winter was astounding. NO drafts! It was the first winter we didn’t have to wrap ourselves in blankets just to keep warm. (And that goes without saying that the forced-air furnace system was woefully inadequate).

Here’s the kitchen.


If you recall, I had mentioned in previous posts that the kitchen had no walls behind the old cabinets. Whenever we opened a drawer or cabinet, freezing-cold air would blast through. Well, I MADE SURE that this kitchen is going to be air-tight and warm this time! I really can’t wait to see how this system stands up to winter’s cold.


Here are some tips for installing (or inspecting) insulation, should you need to:

  • Don’t squeeze the insulation into the cavities, if you can avoid it. Because my home has brick noggin between the studs, I did not have enough depth for the thick batts, so I did have to squeeze them in. But squeezing or compressing fiberglass reduces it’s insulating qualities.
  • If you have stud cavities of varying widths as we do, measure carefully. Cut the batts to a perfect fit. While installing the batt, start at the top and tuck in the pink fiberglass from the sides while trying to leave a paper tab so you can staple the paper to the wood stud. This helps to hold the batt up, and to improve the seal.
  • Dust your skin with baby powder before, during, and after working with fiberglass, to help prevent itching skin.
  • Have a VERY sharp utility knife with extra blades on hand. The small bit of tar in the fiberglass batt facing sticks to the knife and dulls it, making the job slower and slower. Change blades frequently.
  • For 2×4-inch framed walls, install the 3 1/2-inch fiberglass batts; for 2×6-inch framed walls, install the 5 1/2-inch fiberglass batts. These batts are specially designed to fit perfectly in the stud cavity; they will fill the depth of the studs appropriately. Also, some municipalities regulate the insulation’s R-value, or quality of insulation you can use. My area regulation says I must use a minimum of R-13 for walls in 2×4 framing, and R-19 for walls in 2×6 framing. The higher the R-value, the better the insulating quality of the material.
  • Most vapor barrier rolls come in 10-foot lengths. Don’t cut the length when you install it– only measure for the width. Hang the sheet up at the top of the wall, and staple down (it’s handy to have a helper pull the sheet tight so you don’t get wrinkles in the plastic). When you come to the bottom of the sheet, cut off the remaining extra length– but leave a 2-inch lip onto the floor. When you set your sheetrock against the wall, the board will rest on that plastic lip. You can caulk the small gap where the sheetrock sits, thus creating a seal against floor drafts.

The Department of Energy has a website with a page on Insulation R-Values recommended for the United States at And here’s a good Insulation Fact Sheet at, too.

So this project is done. Whew! I am strangely surprised at how terribly tired I am from the job. My daughter is, too. Our bones ache, and we are just plumb tuckered. I’m surprised, because installing insulation isn’t all THAT labor-intensive. Demolition was labor intensive! But perhaps it was the heat (we had a heat wave going on) and high humidity? Or going up and down the ladders? Anyway, I don’t think I can do anymore renovation work today. I’m pooped.

Saturday’s goals are to finish running wiring for baseboard heaters upstairs, and create a PVC pipe shaft for a future central heating system installation. I also have to wire for Ethernet before we close up the walls. And here’s hoping The Hubs gets the PEX plumbing system completed! We start hanging sheetrock in the dining room on Sunday. Today, I get the insulation inspected. I have a lot of work to do for my job today (writing articles), so I think I’ll recuperate from the insulation while working on articles.

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Progress, Take Two

July 14, 2010


Well, progress is always slow until the walls go up.

My walls are still not up yet.

But they will be!! Soon! Hopefully, we begin hanging sheetrock on Sunday. Oh dear, I just remembered, I need to order it! LOL

OK, well, we started leveling out the kitchen ceiling with furring strips. How does it look? šŸ˜€


Of course, this house is 155 years old. NOTHING is level. Well, except my new window– now that baby is LEVEL. But the floors, the walls, the ceilings…. not. So I don’t have any high expectations with the ceiling here. I’m happy that the furring strips are “within the bubble,” to quote a very smart man. It looks pretty good, doesn’t it?


By the way, those funky colored hoses is the new PEX plumbing system. The Hubs is installing it. It’s a tough job, because we, um, *kinda* need running water while he’s working on the new system. I have no idea how he is going to manage that, but I can’t be too concerned about it, as I have enough to do right now!


Notice the extra loops of PEX in the wall. PEX expands and contracts with the temperature fluctuations, so you have to account for loops. Also, it makes it great having extra material should you need to replace something down the line, someday.

Here’s a shot of the foam board insulation above the partition wall in the Dining Room. This is a weird partition, and I have no idea why they built it this way– it’s as if they built the exterior walls first, and then, as an afterthought, decided to add a partition here. Because the garage and basement is so cold in the winter, I wanted to seal off this area. I later sprayed Great Stuff expanding foam around the boards, to create a seal.


I’m working on installing fiberglass batts insulation this week. Unfortunately, the temperatures are back in the 90s and it’s humid. :-p But the job must be done. Whew. More on that later…

Finally, here’s Livvy, resting from all HER hard work– chasing earwigs. We have a bit of an earwig population explosion here in Upstate NY, what with the soggy June and hot July we’ve been having. These ikky creatures are everywhere. We’ve sprinkled diatomaceous earth along the floor, and Livvy is on the patrol.


Soon, comes the sheetrock! And then things move very quickly!

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Good Deal on Emergency Kit at

July 14, 2010

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OK, have you got an emergency kit for your home and car yet? You should have one! We have had some winter car mishaps, and have had power losses from time to time– an emergency kit is cheap and, believe me, it’s very, very convenient when you need it. You can also have all the individual “stuff” and place it in a big box, but a kit is nice because it’s compact, and because family members are less likely to “borrow” a tool from the kit and never put it back. Not like that has ever happened here. :-p We can never even seem to keep track of our flashlight…

ANYWAY, a kit is very important. It’s good to have one in the car for winter, and in the house year round.

A car good kit includes:
A hand-crank battery-operated flashlight
A hand-crank battery-operated radio
Antibiotic ointment and bandages
Aspirin or ibuprofen
Waterproof plastic zip bags, with one bag filled with matches
Small, portable shovel
Small blanket
Small amount of cash

A good home kit includes:
A hand-crank battery-operated flashlight
A hand-crank battery-operated radio
Antibiotic ointment and bandages
Aspirin or ibuprofen
Waterproof plastic zip bags, with one bag filled with matches
Fire extinguisher
List of emergency telephone numbers and contact names
Small amount of cash has a great First Survivor Emergency Kit. It’s only $17 and the shipping is free. It also includes a handy Mobile Phone Charger with Dynamo Hand Crank Power Generator.

Also, this is the time of year when you should check to make sure you have operating smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors in your home. New laws have been passed in various municipalities. Here in New York, carbon monoxide detectors are now mandatory for all dwelling places, both new and existing.

It does not take very much time and effort to provide for safety in the home and car. And has made it easy on the budget, too. They have great prices on smoke and carbon monoxide detectors (ooo and on radar detectors, too! heehee). Some manufacturers have come out with combination detectors, too, and carries them.

Stay safe this summer! šŸ˜€

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