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Ice Dam Damage

February 13, 2011


I was pretty happy and contented with winter until the temperatures tumbled into the double-digit SUB ZERO numbers, causing ice and ice dams. I found myself browsing the selection of gorgeous patio furniture at CNS Stores yesterday. *Sigh* They have over 200 stores– stores loaded with furniture and home decor and linens. I’m torn between getting a porch swing or a rocker, because I am going to be OUTSIDE all summer long this year!!

Back to reality. Lots of Northeasterners groaning about the ice dams these days, and no wonder. 4snow2011We got ICE. All the snow on our roofs promptly froze. Then, the temps bounced back up, and the ice melted. Then it refroze. Not to mention that my attic leaks tons of heat because it is a) improperly insulated (another thing I need to fix), and b) there’s no insulation in the second floor walls (we have to renovate that section of the house yet).

Here’s a photo of an ice dam, for those who don’t know. Ice works its way up and under the shingles, where it meets with the warm air from the house. Leaks commence, and can be extremely destructive.

Photo courtesy of

This house has evidence of some very serious ice dams from the past (scars of ugly, patched plaster are on some of the upstairs bedroom ceilings), but we’ve never had bad ice dams until this year. Maybe it’s because the house was never really WARM due to the disgusting forced air furnace system that was here. This year, with the new heating system, it’s downright toasty in the house. But I guess I’m paying a price…

We discovered some damage in our garage. Bad ice dams. This is the ceiling, from the inside:



Yes, that IS old tin ceiling. I think it’s about 120 years old, maybe. And above the tin ceiling is even older wallpaper– that probably dates back to the 1870s, I assume. The previous owners before us covered all these ceiling layers over with a 70’s drop ceiling. The drop ceiling has been collapsing, so that explains why we can see the old tin ceiling and old wallpaper and original plaster ceiling.

I’ll betcha there’s a human-sized icicle in the attic above the garage. šŸ™ I’m too afraid to look.

There’s not a whole lot we can do. Our roof is too steeply pitched to climb up on it and loosen the ice. I considered throwing rock salt up on the roof…. we tried to get roof rakes, but all the home centers are sold out. Yeah no kidding.

So we want spring to come now. REAL bad. lol. I am SICK of ice!!!!

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Old Window Icicles

December 29, 2010

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Huh. I’ve never seen this happen before.


You know why that’s happening?! Because for the first time in this house, it is ACTUALLY WARM. It’s so warm that the warm air is leaking out through these leaky, 100-year-old windows, and making icicles when the warm air hits the freezing air outside.


Since ditching our forced air furnace and installing gas heaters, the house has been incredibly warm. And the gas bill is much lower than last year. Unfortunately, the electric bill is SKY HIGH because we have electric baseboards upstairs. I knew that would happen. But I wasn’t comfortable installing gas heaters upstairs. This setup is temporary– we intend on installing a hot water baseboard system in the future. But the gas heaters are just phenomenal.

I did a LOT of research about the heaters before I bought them. I’m a copywriter for a few online writing companies, so I also wrote a number of researched articles on the devices. I’m pretty impressed with them. Of course, I have a slew of carbon monoxide detectors installed throughout the house (you should install these if you have ANY gas-burning appliance in your home, anyway– and especially if you have a fireplace). Some of them have digital readouts that display the level of CO2 in the room. And mine has consistently displayed 0. Yay! The gas burners burn very cleanly.

Actually, gas heaters are no more dangerous than a wood fireplace. Wood needs oxygen in order to burn, too, and dispels carbon monoxide, too. Gas heaters have something that fireplaces do not, however– sensors. When a heater senses that oxygen is being depleted, the heater will shut off automatically.

Anyway, I am very happy with out heaters, although I think they keep the house a little too warm. The water vapor is not a problem here, as we have PLENTY of drafts in this house (I never thought I’s be grateful for a drafty house!) and the moisture helps eliminate the massive static electricity we’ve had problems with every winter. So far, the gas heaters are a win-win.

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Chestnuts Roasting On A….

November 19, 2010

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Who eats chestnuts anymore?

And who has a roaring fire anymore?

It’s this time of the year that I long for an open fire, SOME kind of open fire. When I was younger, my family purchased a home with a huge stone fireplace. One of our favorite things to do was to sit in front of it. And that was exactly the problem– all of us sitting in front of it. No room for all of us! A fireplace does not give off much heat, as a lot of the heat goes right up the chimney. Fireplaces also suck up the oxygen in a room, creating a draft. And of course, house fires start in chimneys; you must carefully maintain your chimney very year. So the flames were very cozy-looking, but not very warm. And all that wood chopping, stacking, loading, ash removal…


We have only one chimney left, and it’s merely a vent for the gas appliances. When we convert our garage into a family/music room, I’m going to install a vented gas logs fireplace. I’ve done a bit of studying, and the vented are best. They draw air in from the outdoors, and vent the combustion gases outdoors.

Well, this year I still have only the electric space heater to cozy up to. But soon I’ll have my nice gas fireplace! šŸ˜€

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Plugging Holes For Winter

October 19, 2010


I’m busy trying to get all my Internet writing work done these days, and at the same time, scrambling around trying to winterize before the snow falls (which, they say, will occur Friday morning). Eeep! I’m not ready for winter. I mean, I’m READY— there’s nothing I’d like more than to cozy up in front of a toasty fire, cuddled up with cat and blanket. But we have a LOT of loose ends to wrap up before anything cozy goes on in this house. For one, there’s this:

Basement Window2

Yes, that’s a hole in my basement window. The window fell out.


That’s the original 1855 basement window. The old cut nails are still in it. It had been patched at some point in the past 100 years or so, but I’m amazed it’s lasted this long. We have a few other ones that are seeing their demise, now.

Rather than figure out how on earth to replace the window (and figure out how we’d afford the custom craft), we decided to close off the window. This area of the house is extremely soggy, and water tends to pool beside it. Instead of exacerbating a water problem by keeping a hole here, closing off the window will seal out the moisture. Next year, we’ll remove all the top soil and lay a slab of concrete, to further direct water from the roof from collecting here.

I’ve got some kids who help me haul the concrete, and mix it. Yay!


I lay a thin layer of sand mix to give the cinder blocks something to grab as they sit in there. After the first row of blocks, I fill them with concrete. Then I slather another layer of sand mix, and add another row of blocks. I will eventually smooth out the entire side, to make the wall look seamless.

This is just the first row of blocks. I have since added two, and need to wedge in a narrow third before the window is entirely sealed off. Problem is, I’ve been SO swamped with work that I haven’t been able to get back out to the project.


I’d better hurry. We have a mass of water and drain pipes right in front of this hole. God forbid they should freeze.

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Find the Kitty Friday, Late Edition 10/15

October 15, 2010


Find the Kitty Friday

Where the action is, there is Livvy.


We finally got the gas dryer installed. The Hubs installed the gas line. It’s actually not a very difficult task (yea, SHE says, haha!). The key is perfect measurements for the gas pipes. We were going to hire our plumber to do the work, actually, but changed our minds over the summer. We found out that our plumber had taken a few dangerous short cuts when he installed the gas line for us a few years ago. He’d used one of those flexible stainless steel pipes (coated with yellow plastic) to rig up to the main gas service line pipe. He then stuck it up into a hole into the laundry room, attached a flange on the end, and connected another yellow flexible gas pipe from the flange to the dryer. Plumbing codes say that for main service gas lines, you have to use solid, black pipe.

One we saw how non-complicated it is to install your own pipe, we decided to do it ourselves. It’s also saving us upwards of $1000. The hardest part is making accurate measurements. You also must test for leaks with soapy water. I also test for leaks with my very sensitive nose. šŸ˜€

So anyway, we got the dryer installed. THANK GOD. I had been carting 15+ loads of laundry every week to the local laundromat all summer. WHAT a chore. Of course, as soon as we get the dryer installed, Livvy wants to be a part of the action. I love this cat. Everything is new and exciting to her, even laundry. LOL.


Yet we still have no heaters, downstairs. We have an electric space heater for the most chilly of days, and are bundling as best as we can in blankets. The heaters require more gas lines, and The Hubs has not had any time to get them installed yet. I tried to encourage him, by patting him on the back after doing such a great job with the dryer line.

“Thank you so much! It’s works great!! Are you happy about such a job well done?”

“It’s over,” was all he said.


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Planning the Heating System

September 21, 2010

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I haven’t touched on our plans for heating the home yet.. mostly because we have been absolutely consumed with so many other big projects that need our attentions now… I mentioned over the summer, during demolition, that we decided to rip out the forced air furnace ducts after seeing their dismal and dangerous condition when we ripped open the walls. I have always hated forced air heat, and the one in this house seemed particularly dusty and toxic. We were always sick with some respiratory illness or another. The ducts in the house were horrible. The sections of ducting had never been connected together; they simply sat inside each other. Well, they had once sat inside each other. After 60 years, the ducts had split apart, exposing the inside of the ducts to the plaster dust and lathe inside the walls, and to the toxic lining they had slathered all over the exterior of the ducts. Talk about horror- I HATE forced air systems. Filthy, inefficient, and expensive. Yuk.

We still have our forced air furnace installed, though. We are eventually going to sell it. We’ve consulted with our Furnace Guy about getting a new, modern heating system. I’m not too keen on central heating, but the Furnace Guy said that is the best way to go when it comes to house values. So far, the decision is to go with the hydronic baseboard heat. Before we closed up the walls in the kitchen, I constructed a shaft made of PVC pipe, for the allowing of PEX piping to go up to the second floor when we decide to install the heating system.

A gas fireplace with sufficient BTUs can heat an entire room or zone! And they look beautiful!

However, this winter we are not having it installed. I installed electric baseboard heat in the bedrooms upstairs, and we will be placing space heaters in some of the rooms downstairs. Of course, I’d just LOVE to install a fireplace in the house. The home did once have fireplaces– in the living room and in the dining room, but they were old coal-fueled fireplaces, and not the clean-burning fireplaces that we know today. I will be building a section in the living room and the dining room with the hope of installing a gas-fired fireplace in each room. It would be so cozy. And I hear that gas-fired heaters are much warmer. I know a few folks who have them, and their homes are almost hot in the winter!

So that’s our decision thus far. Next year we will be getting a hydronic system. It’s too big a project to do (and pay for) this year, so for this season, we’ll endure the electric baseboard heat and space heaters. I’ll have more updates on that, to come.

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Winter’s Chill Will Soon Arrive

August 28, 2010

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September is almost here. We are *almost* done with this renovation project. Well, with the big stuff. I will be working throughout the winter on all the various little things: installing trim, making shelves and cabinet doors for the pantries, installing flooring, painting, etc. It will be a busy time for me.

We also have to install a few space heaters throughout the house. Now that the entire downstairs is insulated, I expect the heat to stay in the house this year (!), and our heating bills to ease a little. I have a few gas heaters I want placed in certain areas. We’re also looking to install some vented gas logs/fireplaces or something like it, one in the living room and one in the future family room (it’s just a garage right now).

Gas heaters and fireplaces-especially the ventless kinds–are said to be extremely energy efficient. The only by-products of the heaters are water vapor and small traces of carbon monoxide. Both by-products can be harmful to the home residents unless care is taken. For example, many newer gas logs fireplaces and heaters are equipped with special oxygen detection sensors. If they sense that oxygen levels in the room are low, the heater will shut off. And homes as drafty as mine will have no problems with air flow, lol. You just have to find quality equipment, such as R. H. Peterson Real Fyre Gas Logs. They are a reputable company, selling gas logs on the Internet from waaaay back in 1994. It’s important to purchase quality heaters, not some no-name brand with lousy support. Anyway, I’m trying to do all my “homework” before we actually make any more purchases on heaters. I greatly dislike the forced-air furnaces.

So the ante is up now that autumn is nipping at our heels. Soon the “big stuff” like cabinets, counters, and flooring will be done!! And then, on to the multitudes of small stuff! Pictures are forthcoming! šŸ˜€

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Changed My Mind With Lighting

June 25, 2010


Choosing lighting for the kitchen has been really difficult for me. The kitchen is very large, 12 x 23, but it has a lot of angles and doorways. And the ceilings are 9 feet. I eventually chose two sets of chandeliers, which I absolutely love.


But I can’t say I have been 100% settled with the choice of chandeliers. They would certainly spit out a lot of light, but they would also generate heat, and could possibly be more costly to have on (certainly more costly than fluorescent lighting).

My kitchen gets very hot in the late afternoon. It is situated on the southwestern side of the property. Dumb, I know. I didn’t plan it! But the sun comes blasting through the windows in the summer. And the area right outside the window is a HUGE asphalt parking lot (I didn’t do that, either!!). The house used to be a parsonage, and was once connected to the church nearby. The previous owners installed a HUGE parking lot right outside the back door all the way over to the church. It gets pretty hot. I have planted trees to provide shade, but they’ve only been there a few years. So it’s HOT in the summer.

Plus, I will be installing a gas space heater in the kitchen. I will eventually save up money to purchase a very nice little gas fireplace, to create a small “hearth” in the location, but for now, it will be a gas heater. And I’ve been reading that if you have a gas heater, you should either purchase a blower unit to move the heat around ($150 additional), or install ceiling fans to move the air.



So I got them. Two of them. šŸ˜€ I think they will be perfect. I’m going to return the chandeliers. I love them, but the fans are much more functional and just as beautiful.

That’s renovation for you. I think it’s impossible to have EVERYTHING pre-planned. Things change. For example, we had no idea we would have to change the heating system in this house, until we opened walls and saw the condition of the ductwork. Unfortunately, things like this have broken the budget, but at least we are making the house more efficient, more comfortable, and more valuable. So I’m rolling with the punches these days. There really isn’t anything you can do.

Anyway, I’m pleased with my fans. I’ve read through the manual and I really like Hampton Bay brand. The manual is in ENGLISH and it actually makes sense!

TIP: Never install a ceiling fan using a plastic ceiling hanger work box. Use a metal box, it’s much, much sturdier. šŸ™‚

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Choosing Central Heating

June 10, 2010

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I’d mentioned that we were getting rid of our forced air furnace. I hate forced air, always have. All it does is blow around dusty, moldy air. In an old house, it’s terrible. We were always coughing and getting sick. We finally tore out a 60-year old WOODEN duct a few weeks ago… and the inside was caked with almost an inch of disgusting dirt and dust. To think that we’d been breathing all that in, all these years.

I pondered going with hydronic baseboard heat (the best there is, in my opinion). But the system is wildly, wildly expensive; to retrofit it into my home would cost the tens of thousands. After some thought, the only kinds of heat we can go with are electric baseboard and wall-mounted gas heater units. I’m going to go with both. Electric baseboards are going upstairs. The forced-air furnace was so bad that it hardly pumped ANY heat at all for us– we had to use electric space heaters in the bedrooms, even with the forced-air furnace running. Ridiculous! But because electric heaters are so expensive, I really can’t install them throughout the house. So we’re going with natural gas wall-mounted heaters. I’ve seen the vent-free models in action, and they do a good job keeping the houses warm, it seems. However, I’m not going with the vent-free models. They pump a ton of moisture into the air, which can lead to mold, rot, and respiratory problems. The direct-vent models are installed on exterior walls (or chimneys), and get their intake and outake air from outside air.

The direct-vent heaters are still pretty expensive– $400 a unit for the very basic 8,000 BTUs (which supplies a 200 square foot room). I’ll need three of them, one for the living room, one for the kitchen, and one for the dining room. This will enable us to have zones all throughout the house, where we can control the heat for each individual room. And since they are gas-fueled, they will save us a little. The really nice thing about them is that they do not require electricity to run, so if there is a power outage, we will still have heat.

Of course, this change in the heating system alters my home. My basement will no longer be heated (the forced air furnace ducts leaked like crazy into the basement, creating a rather balmy atmosphere down there). So I’ll need to insulate the basement ceiling to keep my first floor floors warm. But at least we won’t be breathing in decades-old mold and dust….

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The Mystery of the Heat Pump, Solved!

January 4, 2010

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Here’s a website of heat pump reviews, detailing everything you always wanted to know about heat pumps (but were afraid to ask!). šŸ˜€ Seriously, I have learned, over the course of owning this drafty 1855 house for over decade, that it really, really pays to know how your heating system works. We spend a fortune on heating costs for this house, and the biggest reason (besides the holes in the plaster walls) is that the entire furnace system was installed improperly! The previous owners installed the ducting system the opposite way it’s supposed to be, and then they only installed two cold air return vents. To redo the system, I’d have to gut the walls and reinstall all the ducting properly. What a chore! But it may be worth our while to do this, because all I see right now is dollars flying out the window.

Well, heat pumps must be understood in the same manner. Essentially, heat pumps are devices that, uh, PUMP HEAT! They do this either mechanically (such as, a fan or blower), or a chemical (such as freon or refrigerant). Heat pumps can be used to pump cool air into a building, as well. There are types of furnaces that are heat pumps, as well as other units for swimming pools, air conditioners, water heaters, etc. This website has everything you need to know about heat pumps, including heat pump prices and a very good explanation of how they work, what they do, and the development of technology involved with them.

Listen, if you are planning a renovation or building a home, get informed about your heating system before you install it! I’m sure my house is just an aberration (I hope so), and the screwy heating system isn’t all that common. The heating and cooling systems in your house are going to be there a good long time. Make sure they’re done correctly, and make sure you get the best bang for your buck, too. Check out the website for information and on getting the best price of heat pumps.

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