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Summertime Slump

July 27, 2012

5 Comments

FuzzyCatinGrass

Oh it’s not that we’ve been lazy… not exactly…. it’s just that it’s been too hot and humid to do much renovation work. I had such grand plans once July hit. I can’t believe all we’ve done in get the new windows installed. Lack of rain and an explosion in the deer population ruined the garden. I haven’t even finished sewing curtains or installed the bookshelves or finished installing drywall in the kitchen closet… I’ve been very busy with work, though. I was accepted for a special project for a few days, and was paid well for that. A few tourist places want us to visit, and I have a ton of reviews to write including one on pet pheromone diffusers. I’m eager to see how that diffuser thing works. I have to leaves it plugged in for 30 days to see any results. Livvy’s been cranky and jumpy lately — I don’t think she likes all the noise from the fans — so we’ll see if this gadget helps any.

Over all, it’s been a quiet summer so far. I suppose we’ll get going on the renovation projects in August or maybe September when it’s cooler. It’s just too hot and miserable to wrangle with drywall and dust right now.

How has your summer been?

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Repair Man

June 6, 2012

4 Comments

All I wanted was for him to check the vacuum cleaner belt.

RepairVacguy

I suppose every family has one? The kid who loves to take stuff apart just to “see how it works.” He disassembled the ENTIRE vacuum. I tried to refrain from nagging and worrying. I think it’s terrific that he likes to tinker. He’s the one who now installs and assembles all my furniture, computers, and etc. I used to do all that stuff, for years… it’s So good to have a break from it all!

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I’ll Remember This

April 21, 2012

3 Comments

white trash repairs - 21st Century CD Cases

Well, well. Learn something new every day. LOL

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Our Review of the Amazing Cat Sitter “As Seen on TV!” DVD

April 12, 2012

2 Comments

Well, I know you’ve been waiting with BAITED BREATH our review of a cool cat video we picked up recently. It was vigorously advertised, claiming to entertain your cat for hours! Gee, you could almost leave your home for a week’s vacation and the cat would be riveted to the TV screen, right?!

We decided to get Livvy, our Tabby-Point Siamese cat, to give her personal opinion of the video. I won’t bore you with a text transcription of her review results, I’ll just post the video here. Enjoy!

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Face. Palm.

March 30, 2012

Comments Off on Face. Palm.

I love this site “There I Fixed It.” It’s the only site that makes me feel good about my own rickety old house. Because no matter how bad I think my house is, there’s always something worse.

white trash repairs - It Could Use Some Rerouting

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Meanwhile, Back At the Ranch….

February 11, 2012

5 Comments

BUG1

BUG2

BUG3

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Old House Blues

February 9, 2012

4 Comments

Whenever I have had a professional carpenter, plumber, electrician, or whoever over to the house, every one of them inevitably says, “Oh, new homes have problems, too!” That always surprised me because I assumed that new construction was more durable, cleaner, better built with better technology. According to many professionals out there, this is not true. I am appalled, because newer homes *should* be built better. With newer homes, you don’t have to hack into support beams to retrofit plumbing pipes or electric wiring. New homes are insulated and already have coaxial cable and new windows and bright, shiny roof decking with no mold. What makes new homes so shabby? Poor craftsmanship?

Old homes are built well, I’ll give you that. 150-year old houses were built at a time before the spotted owl goons could shut down entire forests, when home builders could carve 12-inch beams out of home grown oak and walnut woods.

But when it comes to “modern” comforts (like central heating!), old homes are woefully lacking. If you have always loved in a newly built home, you don’t have any idea of the drafts that blow your napkins off the table, of the icicles that form on the INSIDE of the house… here are a couple typical Old House problems. I also offer my opinions and/or advice, for kicks. 🙂

1. Critters
Old homes almost always have critters– bats, squirrels, mice, chinch bugs, ants, carpenter bees. We have pretty much seen it all. An owl in the hot water exhaust pipe, possums in the basement, raccoons in the garage, bats in the house, mice and honeybees in the walls…. yep. How i wish I had been blogging when we discovered bees in the wall! One day, I looked out my window and saw a tornado-like swarm of bees swirling around an upstairs window. All of a sudden, the wall was covered in bees, all squirming to enter a rather large hole in the siding. I found out later that some brilliant National Grid guy had replaced my power cable anchor, screwing in the new anchor to a new area on the siding but NEVER CLOSING UP THE ORIGINAL HOLE. It became a nesting place for all sorts of creatures.

owl4

Barn owl in the water tank pipe.

 

We had no idea how to get rid of the bees…. when we pounded the wall in the bedroom, 20,000 bees erupted in angry buzzes. We eventually had to rip open the walls on a frosty autumn day (the bees were stupid in the cold). We vacuumed them up and tore out the honeycomb. A lot of the comb was still good, so we ate it. 😀

2. Mold
Old homes have mold. I HATE mold. Mold comes from leaks, and old homes have lots of leaks. We’ve had our share of mold from chimney leaks, ice dams, holes in the walls, etc. Mold is tough to remove. I quit trying to clean it when it invaded the wall cavities– instead, I gutted the living room and replaced everything. Sometimes, I still smell the faint odor of mold…

IceDamdamage2

Ice dam damage. These leaks create mold inside wall cavities.

 

3. Plaster dust
As long as there’s 1 square foot of plaster in an old house, the place will be dusty. Eep, I dislike plaster very much. I dislike dusting, too…

Attic3

Attic cellulose insualtion also creates a ton of dust.

 

4. Crooked walls, crooked floors
This doesn’t bother me as much, unless I am renovating and I need to somehow wedge a perfect 90 degree section of drywall into a 85 degree corner! I don’t mind that all my pictures tilt a little. I do not like my bookshelves tilting so noticeably, though!

5. Bouncy floors
Bouncy floors make me nervous. There’s something very creepy about bopping up and down in my desk chair when one of the kids walks by. So far, the floor seems none of the worse for wear, but I have detected some cracks in the joists below. If I ever get another house, maybe I’ll choose one that has solid concrete floors. ANYTHING that doesn’t feel like you’re walking on a waterbed as you cross the room, lol.

Basementwiringjobs

Support posts help alleviate bouncy floors.

 

What could you add to the list? I’m sure there are more quaint little things about old homes that I have missed here. Feel free to add your own two cents.

In the next post or so, I’ll talk about the benefits of living in an old house!

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Funny!

January 31, 2012

2 Comments

I just looked at the clock. Aghast! I have wasted 1 entire hour!!!

Where? HERE. lovelylisting.icanhascheezburger.com It’s the latest “Cheezeburger” site. Like we needed another one. Egads, i waste enough time on the LOL Cats and LOL Dogs and “There I Fixed It” sites! LOL.

This one made me crack up.

funny real estate - Just Take the Stairs

Uh. FAIL.

funny real estate - Wait, No, That Doesn't Go There

Do you think anyone will notice the real estate photo has been touched up a little?

funny real estate - Ooh, So Avant Garde!

Are your eyes twitching, too?

funny real estate - Static Disorder

THIS. IS. SO. COOL. But I live near the Adirondacks, so maybe it’s just a local “thing.”

funny real estate - The Missing Ingredient

I actually think this is pretty neat.

funny real estate - Is the Tripping Hazard Worth It?

The caption read “Time to Purge.” Bwahahahha!!

funny real estate - Time to Purge

OK I’ve wasted enough of your time, too. Some of these are pretty funny. MUST. GET. To. WORK.

Have a great week!

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Livvy Meets Goofy

January 19, 2012

4 Comments

Goofy is my mascot. He’s a small resin character and he sits in my desk. He tends to flop over easily. But I still love him.

This morning, Livvy hopped onto my desk and sat in front of my computer monitor as she usually does 200 times a day.

Livvy1

Goofy seemed a little miffed. He trotted from his place at the back of the desk to oppose Livvy.

Livvy2

Humph says Livvy. I belong here, she says. Move.

Livvy3

Livvy 1, Goofy 0.

Livvy4

A glutton for punishment, Goofy made another stance to defend his territory.

WAP.

Livvy5

So guess who’s king of the desk now? I miss Goofy. He was a lot smaller and I could see the monitor when he was here…..

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Old Windows vs. Vinyl Replacement Windows

January 16, 2012

3 Comments

In a previous post, Plaster vs. Drywall, I battled the snob appeal regarding plaster and lath walls. In this post, I’m once again picking up the sword and combating the “old windows versus replacement windows” argument. As an old house owner and a person who has lived in old homes all my life, I’ve had my share of old windows experiences. Most of them have been bad. Yes, people, I HATE old windows. New windows rock.

I love old stuff as much as anyone. My favorite old house style is Federal style, so you know I’m an old house lover. My own house, a Greek Revival, was built in 1855. I have researched the history of the building and its original owner (and owners after that). I know that of the original windows to my house, only two remain. Both are in terrible condition.

Garage Window

One of the original 9/6 windows, behind a storm window.

The other windows to the house were replaced in 1910 or so. Most of those windows are still in place. They are BARELY in place, but they are all still here. The house has a total of 15 windows, and only two windows had ever been replaced since 1910, the kitchen got an aluminum replacement window in 1972 and the upstairs bathroom window got a crank-style Anderson window in the late 1980s.

When we moved here, we could only afford to get 5 windows replaced, the ones that were broken or cracked. We got very inexpensive vinyl replacement windows. They’ve been in place since 1997. Even though they were the cheapest window we could get and even though they are over 14 years old, I LOVE THEM.

Yet among the “old house experts,” old windows are somehow superior to new ones. Old house folks are always saying that old windows are better than new ones because… well, just because. Old windows look better, they say. They say there is no difference with heat loss between the two, that old windows are more historic, and they are just “better.” I say: BAH.

So I’m here to debate the “old window” snobs. I think new windows are great, and old windows — especially MY 100+ year old windows — need replacing. And there’s nothing wrong with replacing old windows with new ones.

Snob appeal says: When it comes to insulation factors and heat loss, old windows play a small part and do not lose THAT much heat.

Reality Check: What planet are you from?!

My old windows rattle, shake, and leak. Cold air in the winter and hot air in the summer blow through the holes all around the frame. True, the glazing on parts of the window is flaking off (another problem with old windows) so air leaks through some of the windows (but glazing is not the problem with some of the others). Old windows are made of glass– thin, 1/8-inch thick glass. This house has 15 windows that are 32 inches by 62 inches– that’s 13.78 square feet of windows for the entire house. Which means that approximately 207 square feet of the walls here was covered by 1/8-inch glass. Brrr. Just yesterday with temperatures falling into the single digits, the old windows were caked with a thick layer of ice. The ice melted during the day and water was everywhere. I have to lay a towel on each windowsill to prevent the water from running all over the floor. Even with storm windows on some of the old windows, we still get thick ice on the glass. So for me, ALL my old windows, the ones that have storm windows and the ones that do not, develop thick ice on the glass when it gets cold. None of my vinyl replacement windows have EVER developed ice, not ever.

oldwindowicile

My old window. Don't let the snobs tell you there's no measurable heat loss difference between old and new windows!

Vinyl replacement, on the other hand, has two panes of glass in each sash. When we installed vinyl replacement windows in our dining room, the change was remarkable. Before, my hair would blow around at the dinner table on a particularly blustery day; new windows stopped that. Before, we could almost hear our neighbors in their homes discussing with each other how to kill my flower gardens and hack at my trees; after the new windows were installed, I live in blissful ignorance of their schemes. Windows will never really be very good at keeping out the extreme temperatures, no matter what kind of material they are made from. But vinyl replacement performs better than the old glass. That’s a fact.

Now let me temper this argument with a few points. YES, storm windows installed over old windows help reduce heat loss. YES, vinyl replacement windows will most likely not last 100+ years. Old wooden windows were *usually* made from “old-growth” wood, the hardiest and strongest part of the wood. I don’t know if the original builder of my home made his windows from old-growth. This home was always a “middle income” home in a “middle income” community. The biggest expense the owner made was to install black walnut trim in the living room (which, incidentally, had to be removed because it was soaked with lead-based paint from other owners who had painted over the wood!). Everyone’s mileage may vary because everyone’s house and windows and weather is different.

But in my experience, I have noticed a considerable difference between the old windows and the new. The old windows would stick in the summer and freeze up in the winter. The glass is thin. In all the windows, the glass is so old that is has melted and has drooped from gravity and weather changes. Some people like this kind of “character,” but I don’t. I like to SEE out of my windows, thanks.

Snob appeal says: Old windows look better than vinyl replacement windows. It’s better to keep your rotten old wooden windows than replace them with vinyl windows.

Reality Check: I don’t care how ugly vinyl windows look, rotten wood windows look worse.

It’s true that most “old house” building materials were build with better quality than the trash manufactured today. But there does come a time when you just have to say goodbye to certain things. Moldy plaster and rotten windows are some of them, in my opinion.

I KNOW! I KNOW! I am going against the entire old home snob community when I say these things! But please realize that I am addressing the 99% of us who are middle-income and who own non-state-historic-site houses. We just don’t have the cash to pay for elaborate repairs to old windows or spend millions on new custom wood windows. Those days are gone. For most of us old-house homeowners, vinyl replacement windows are terrific. They are more weather-resistant, easier to clean, have screening, and open and close easier.

Snob Factor: Vinyl replacement windows might look ugly and out of place in an old home. Old windows have more character and appeal.

Reality Check: Character and appeal are code words for “expensive” and “high maintenance.”

I am all for curb appeal and beauty in an old home. But just because SOME replacement windows look ugly, it doesn’t mean that ALL replacement windows are ugly. I have seen some wooden windows installed improperly and look horrible. Just because a window is wood or old doesn’t make it beautiful by default.

I think that my vinyl replacement windows look great. If a millionaire dumped brand new, gorgeous wooden windows into my lap, I’d take it. Heck, yeah. But that hasn’t happened, and I have some kids that need to eat. So we buy vinyl replacement windows and they look pretty good!

DiningRoomNewFlooring

My 14-year old vinyl replacement windows still look fabulous! This photo taken after we had gutted and were restoring the room, in 2010.

 

Snob Factor: Removing painted old windows contaminates the house with lead dust.

Reality Check:
Painting new coats of paint does not cover the lead, it chips off and exacerbates the lead problem.

Lead paint removal is a touchy topic. Every state regulated lead-based paint in old homes differently. Here in New York State, a homeowner can remove lead-based paint articles VERY CAREFULLY from the home. If you hire a contractor, expect to pay tens of thousands of dollars for the high-tech removal and disposal system.

I have tried both methods: leaving the old windows with their lead paint AND removing them for vinyl replacement. Removing them — WHEN DONE CORRECTLY and SAFELY — is much, much better than keeping the toxic articles. I sleep better knowing that those old time bombs are out of my house and far away from my kids.

Most windows in old homes were painted with oil-based paints that contained lead. You try to slap new paint onto those old windows, that paint is going to come off in no time. And every time you open and close the window, the paint is scraped and lead dust goes into the air. I don’t care what the “experts” say– all that opening and closing the window removes the new paint and just makes dust spew everywhere.

I personally believe it’s best to get rid of the stupid things altogether. No more dust, no more peeling, no more painting every couple of months…. Old windows that are coated with lead-based paint are best removed, in my opinion. The windows MUST be removed safely, however. Make sure you know your local regulations. Some towns even offer financial aid for the removal of these toxic items.

So if you decide to replace your crummy old windows with vinyl replacement, I say good for you. Don’t let the Window Snobs influence you! Shop wisely– get high-quality windows from a reputable company and install them properly. They will last a long time. Mine have.

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