Saturday, November 25, 2006

Window Box Repair

When you own an old house that suffered from years of benign neglect, there are a 1001 small little projects to fill your afternoons. For a long time I've had my eye on my front window box. During the winter there has always been a strong, cold, unexplainable breeze that enters through the interior wood trim on the bottom of my big front window. I suspected some type of hole.

Most of these little projects seem deceptively small. But when you get involved in them, they suck up an amazing amount of time. In order to look at the bottom of the window box, I needed to remove all of the dirt currently in it. Once that was done, I hauled my dry vac up from the basement and removed most of the remaining dirt. Sure enough, the stucco had deteriorated at the bottom of the box. You could actually see the wire mesh that originally formed the "lathe" for the stucco brown coat. The rest of the box's interior was in surprisingly good shape.

So, I went out to my garage and mixed some patch cement. Patching the missing stucco took a larger amount of patch than I thought it would and I ended up making a few trips back to the garage for more cement. I experimented a bit with a drier and a runnier mix. Looking at the patch today, I think the drier mix worked better.

I'm toying with the idea of putting a 6" strip of roof membrane patch down on that joint so water will be forced back into the box and out one of the drains on the bottom. Hopefully, this is one of those jobs that only need to be done once.

I usually fill my front box with spruce tips for the winter. But, that would mean hauling in new dirt for the box and I just don't have it in me these days. So between my yard of dirt, my empty window box, and the sections were I have pulled down the aluminum house is looking a more than a little bleak right now. I almost feel a little sorry for those realtors trying to sell houses on our block :-) Maybe I can figure out how to use styrofoam for a base for the spruce tips......

Sunday, November 19, 2006

The Comb-Over

After yesterday's Big Dig, my lawn (or what's left of it) is looking bleak.

So, this afternoon I performed the lawn equivalant of a comb-over. I raked some remaining leaves out from under my front everygreen and artfully scattered them over the bare dirt.

Now I have the hope of an old, bald man looking in the mirror. You can't tell the grass is even gone. Can you? ;-)

Saturday, November 18, 2006

The Big Dig

At 7:30 yesterday morning Grant from Grant Utilities, Inc. and 4 guys from his crew arrived at my house to install my new sewer line. By 5:30 pm, I had a totally new lateral line to the city's main sewer line and a new above ground clean out in my basement.

This company's bid was in the middle of the three I got. It was $2500 less than the top bid and $500 more than the bottom bid. I liked that they were all business, answered my questions, the answers matched what I had discovered through research, they gave me specific details of what to expect and the owner was on site for the work.

As I previously posted, the sink hole in between the sidewalk and the street was the great unknown because the camera had stopped at this point and couldn't go any further. So, they weren't sure what they would run into at this spot. When they got to this point, I had a decision to make: 1) they could sleeve the pvc to the city main line and leave it unsealed (my non-techie description). This would leave this small joint somewhat subject to roots. 2) They could dig in the street and go down and fully seal the joint. This option was $1200 more. I chose #option 2. I don't want to have to deal with roots ever again. Ever.

When all was said and done, my basement was left cleaner than when they arrived. The leaves that I had delayed raking in my front yard are now 8 feet under. No treasure was found buried in my front yard despite the high hopes I had. I was somewhat disappointed that some of the neighbors weren't around for the work - I wanted to jokingly tell them I was building out on the front of my house and watch them try to hide the horror on their faces (teehee).

My wallet is $4500 lighter, but the words "clogged sewer" will never cross my lips again - at least not in connection with my house. In the Spring, I will need to add top soil and reseed my grass.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

The Backlash

As it turns out, you can only force a girl to pay for things like new sewers, 2 part epoxy and mouse traps for so long. Sooner or later there is some backlash.

Witness the Stuccohouse "backlash" in the form of a new, pretty, hand knotted, wool, 6'x9', Persian design dining room rug.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Rot Be Gone

I've developed this bad habit of finishing a project and then not wanting to talk or think about it again. Not good for a blogger.

So in order to just get these photos online as proof that I actually did finish something this Summer/Fall, I'm posting a series of photos of the repair of my front door overhang brackets. They, obviously (I hope) run from bad to good.

A quick recap: Aluminum down, gasp - rot!; yuck! ants; rot be gone; LiquidWood wood consolidator; BoraCare borate treatment; WoodEpox epoxy; sanded epoxy; primed overhang bracket. I still need to replace the front fascia board and paint, but that will have to wait until next Spring.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Road Trip

I've been working a lot lately. So, yesterday I decided to take some time off and take a short road trip.

I went to college in a small town about an hour or so north of the Twin Cities. On a sunny day, it's a nice drive up there. They also have a small store on campus for local artists and artists in residence on campus. I make a run up there almost ever year about this time to pick up Christmas cards and some presents.

I took a pottery class when I was a college freshman from a pretty well known potter. She wins lots of local and international awards, and she sells her pottery in the store. So, each year I check out what she has to offer and usually end up taking home a piece. From what I remember, she seemed pretty old when she taught my class (she scared the bejeebers out of me too), so she must be ancient now.

The drive yesterday was nice. Warm (for MN this time of year) and sunny. I was all ready to do a little shopping when I pulled on to campus. I walked up to the little store.....and it was closed! The sign said it was open Tues. through Friday. Guess I should have called first.

The afternoon was not a total loss though. I took a quick tour of campus (boy, do students these days lead a cushy life) and I bought a school sweatshirt. I had lunch at BoDiddley's - one of the best lunch spots in the world. And between the stores in town and the outlet mall on the way home, I finished 95% of my Christmas shopping.

It looks like I have an excuse to make another short road trip up there again before the holidays :-)

Friday, November 10, 2006

Motivation Gone, Gone, Gone

I've been slowly working on restoring my old windows. I've been stripping them down to wood, replacing broken glass, removing all of the old putty and reputtying, applying wood preservative, repairing any damage, repainting, restoring the original hardware and reinstalling. I have also been stripping off mulitiple layers of paint on the wood window surround trim and repainting it. I've been mostly working on this between other projects.....taking my time and getting it exactly how I want it.

This summer I finished one of the windows in my bedroom.

It would seem all the hard work is done. All I have left to do is knot the replacement rope to the old weight and then run it through the pully and tie a knot and attach the upper & lower sashes (one sash is now propped in the window).

Ridiculously simple. Would take maybe 30 minutes. I get up each day and promise myself that today I will put the sashes in the window.

For the life of me, I can't get motivated to do this.

I thought with winter coming I would be forced to do it.

Au contraire.

It started to get cold. My bed is 3 feet from the window.

I switched over to my flannel jammies and was just fine.

It got colder.

I pulled out my Hudson Bay Point Blanket along with my flannel jammies and I was just fine.

It got even colder.

I pulled out my down comforter along with my Hudson Bay Point Blanket and my flannel jammies and I was just fine.

It got even colder.

I discovered that I can use my heating pad for a few minutes along with my down comforter, Hudson Bay Point Blanket and my flannel jammies and I stay toasty warm. I can't move real well, but I stay warm.

This weekend, they predict a cold front with snow.

Just. Can't. Get. Motivated.

Friday, November 03, 2006


I am going to be a lazy blogger today and point you towards a post on my Dad's blog about my paternal Grandmother. The story has been told in my family for years, and I actually have the original newspaper article written about her adventure.

I attribute 99% of my love of old houses & antiques to both of my Grandmothers.

You have read a bit about my maternal Grandmother's influence on my house in past posts. She owned a big farmhouse that even as a child, I adored.

You will be reading more about my paternal Grandmother's influence in the future when I get around to replacing the handrailing on my front steps. Her house had an entryway very similar to mine and I would love to duplicate some of the rail woodwork (and yes, that is the storm door of my dreams). As a child, visiting her house was big excitement.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

City Taggers

I woke up this morning to the sound of a truck outside my house in the early morning hours. At first, my sleepy mind tried to remember if this was the day they were cleaning the streets.....and the sound was my car being towed (I got towed a few years ago during snow storm and that is an experience I never want to repeat). Then, still in bed, I decided it was probably the FedEx guy.

Well, I went out to run some errands this afternoon and saw some spray paint marks on the street. It took me a while to connect the dots. The city had been out to mark my natural gas lines for the guys who will be working on my sewer. Good idea. Blowing up my house in the process of putting in a new sewer line is something I'd like to avoid.

The new sewer goes in the week after next.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Holding It All In

This past weekend I replaced my window screens with my winter storm windows. I still have the old 1920's wood screens/storms in 9 windows. In the process I noticed (once again) that the wing nuts that hold the screens/storms in place were in really bad shape. They are the original hardware to the house - 80 some years old.

Normally I am all about stripping the paint off of old hardware and using the original stuff. But these were rusted well past their prime. In fact, a few of them were so rusted underneath the paint, that the paint had formed a shell over rust powder.

I though to myself "it will take me maybe an hour to replace these." I'm pretty sure if I had listened carefully at this point I would have heard my old house laugh.

So, I ran down to the local Ace Hardware store and bought a bunch of zinc plated replacements. (note to other restoration purists: yes, the Phillips screws bothered me a bit, and at some point I will switch them out for slotted screws). Like every other old house project, the whole thing mushroomed when I discovered that many of the old screws were just sitting in the wood frames....and that the old holes needed to be filled and redrilled.

3 hours later.....9 windows had 36 new wing nuts holding in the storm windows. We are now ready for winter.

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