Tuesday, July 31, 2007

The Totally Mundane

Truth be told, only 2% of restoring an old house is glitz & glamour. The rest is totally mundane....the kind of stuff you can file under "when will I stop discovering crap like this!" I sometimes hesitate to even post about this kind of stuff for fear of boring the snot out of blog readers.

There has been a quiet rustling in a exterior wall in my living room for a couple of years. It actually was probably there when I moved in; the previous owner was less than truthful in her disclosures, I have discovered.

I've never really been able to tell if it is something outside in the downspout.....or something that has been able to work it's way into the concrete block of the foundation. I never got too alarmed by it because there was never any threat that it would get into my house, there was never any chewing noise, and it always disappeared when I tried to pay attention and figure out where is was coming from. Nevertheless, I have spent quite a few hours caulking the eaves and windows in this area hoping to eliminate this little guest.

I'm not sure exactly why it dawned on me last weekend that I should look down rather than up at the eaves to solve this mystery. The exterior of the house is stucco, the foundation is concrete block with a smooth cement exterior overlay surface. It seemed pretty impenetrable. But, something caught my eye.

The exterior, decorative surface of the foundation had a spot where it had worn through about 4" below the surface in this one corner of the house. I somehow tend to discover crap like this when the temp. is in the mid 90's.

So, Sunday I spent my afternoon in the parching heat patching this hole in the foundation. It's going to be below dirt level, so I went with sturdy rather than pretty. So far, no more noise.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Better Late Than Never

Tee Hee.

I sorted through today's mail and found a bid for fabricating my copper drip edge. It's a week and few days late, but Company #3 came through for me.

I'm signing the contract and sending it in tomorrow.

Did you hear that huge sigh of relief? Although, I suppose I shouldn't relax and let down my guard until I have that thing installed, right?

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Plastic Replacements

I'll admit to being a bit of a lawn furniture snob. When I moved into this house, two wood Adirondack chairs came with me. No plastic furniture for my back yard.

Well, those chairs served me faithfully for nearly 15 years. Last week one tragically succumbed to rot.

It occurred to me that I am in no position to be throwing money willy-nilly at lawn furniture that is going to need maintenance. I have bills to pay, and I have also come to the realization that the days of me having time to paint lawn furniture are probably pretty far off.

After all, I have an entire house exterior to scrape & paint. I have 80 yr old windows to restore. I have copper drip edge guys to track down. I have backband to locate. I have a kitchen to restore.

So, when I spotted these chairs at my local hardware store on clearance......and the kind cashier told me she would take two of my Ace Rewards $5 off coupons......I thought to myself......what could be the harm in having a few plastic chairs.

Their warranty is for 3 years.....and that's about the time I should be able to work in a some new wood Adirondacks.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

If the Phone Doesn't Ring.....

No, Dick the copper drip edge fabricator did not call with an estimate last Wed. as promised.

Nor did he call on Thurs. or Friday or Sat. or Sun. I now feel a little like Pollyanna for thinking that he would.

Enough said.

I have now called 3 roofers and 5 sheet metal fabricator/roofers. 5 came out to see the overhang, told me they would be happy to do the work, promised to call with an estimate.....and then just vanished. One called with an estimate, got the job and then vanished. Is this how roofers in the Twin Cities operate these days? Really?

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Casement Windows

Happy Birthday to me. Happy Birthday to me.

I have four banks of inward swinging casement windows. Each bank has three windows. It's hard to find window treatments for these windows. The PO had mini-blinds mounted to the wood trim above each window, so in order to open the window you needed to pull the mini blinds completely open and the wrestle the window inward past the bundle above it. Ugly. If you attach standard curtains to the window itself, then in order to really open the curtains, you need to open the window.

One day in a fabric store I ran across swing curtain rods. The rod rests in hardware that allows it to swing inward. So, you can open the window unencumbered......and you can have the curtain open or closed. A very nice solution. A couple of years ago I bought some for one bank of my living room casements.

Today as a birthday present to myself, I'm ordering more for my sunroom windows. I'm debating which final to choose.....

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

My Copper Drip Edge

You came to this post expecting to see a photo of my new copper drip edge.

Yea, that would have been nice.

Wish I had a new copper drip edge to show you. It's not for lack of trying. I assure you.

I've now started to take the "He's Just Not That Into You" approach to home contractors. It spares me the pain of sitting by the phone waiting for their call. Maybe I should write a book. Hmmm.

I thought I had a metal guy all lined up. Steve from Company #1 came out and told me he could do it. He called with an estimate, and I told him immediately to go ahead. Then things got sketchy. He didn't call when he said he would. I asked him if you could do a quick drawing of how the drip edge would look and he balked. Then he just drifted away. Presumably to customers that wanted their whole roof done in shiny copper.

So, Tom from Company #2 came out. I carefully explained to the company before they sent someone out what I was looking for....that this was a small job (under $1k). They assured me it was right up their alley. Tom took a look at my roof and told me this was something he certainly could do. He just needed to send out the roofer to take a look at it and would then send me an estimate. I should have been a bit suspicious when he tried to suggest I needed a whole new section of roof - every other company has told me they can cut this in. I waited 2 weeks. Then, thinking there may have been a mix-up called and left a message. No one even returned my call. I guess they don't want the job, huh?

Last week I finally had Dick from Company #3 come out. I once again explained that this was a small project...I needed a 10' arched, copper drip edge. I have high hopes for this guy. We chatted for a while about restoring old houses, etc. He thought he could have an estimate to me by Wed. of this week. I remain cautiously optimistic.

This has been going on since May and I'm running out of metal fabricators in the city to call....

Friday, July 13, 2007

The Threshold

Yesterday I finally painted my front door threshold. My motto on this outdoor stuff is "I never ever want to have to do this again...or at least for not for a really long time." To that end, I went to the paint store and asked them to suggest a heavy duty porch floor paint to use on the threshold. The woman suggested a Benjamin Moore (the only brand of paint I use) Porch & Floor Urethane Reinforced Alkyd Enamel.

The only catch was that it comes in high gloss. I wasn't too sure I wanted high gloss anywhere near my front door. I debated for a few minutes and then decided it was such a small strip of horizontal wood, that it wouldn't be very noticable.

Holy cow, this stuff is nasty. It is oil based, so you have all of that.....but on top of that it's just plain goopy. I managed to get two coats on. Amazingly, once it dried it was a smooth coat.

Here's what I like about my neighborhood. I'm out there laying on my front step trying the get paint on the underside of the threshold...and I hear people politely shout out......"It's looking good!".....and "Nice job".....as they walk by on the sidewalk out for their evening stroll :-)

Finally, a little walk down memory lane. What my front door looked like shortly after I moved in (note the lack of side insets and the fine pressure treated step). What it looks like now (sorry for the sun & shade).

Sunday, July 08, 2007

The New Chair

I'm not supposed to be shopping for antiques right now. My focus is supposed to be on the exterior of my house.

Oh well. It's been a tough week.

Meet my new chair. It is maple, handmade and according to the antiques guy 100-150 yrs old. Clearly, it needed a good home.

Friday, July 06, 2007


The eternal optimist in me had hoped for better.

Rejuvenation was a big No Go for the back band trim I need. I called their store in Portland. Yes, they have the exact back band profile I need in stock. Yes, it is Douglas Fir. Yes, it is more than 75% less expensive than quotes I have been getting locally for something that only comes close to what I need.

No, they will not send it to me. No, not even if I pay shipping and whatever handling charge/profit they need. No, not even if they are my last option.

They are not equipped to ship.

Really? Cuz they shipped a pretty elaborate dining room lamp to me complete with 5 glass shades, and it arrived in one piece. I could be wrong, but it would seem 5 sticks of wood would be a whole heck of a lot easier.

No, they will not even give me the name of the millwork company that makes the back band for them so I can ask them if they will ship to me.


So, I got off the phone with Portland and contacted Siwek Lumber & Millwork, a local company and my last hope. I asked them if I could fax the profile I need to them and they could check if they have anything close and give me call back. If they had something I'd drive across town to see it. The guy was not thrilled but he said yes. When I hadn't heard from them by the end of the day, I called back. The guy I had spoken to earlier had gone home. No, he didn't check. No, the guy now answering the phone would not check......if the fax was sent to the other guy. No one ever got back to me. Good grief.

I think the thing that makes me so fricken frustrated is that these companies have positioned themselves in the market as a friend to old house owners. All of their marketing proclaims to the world that they understand what it is to work on old houses. They tell warm fuzzy stories about how they helped people restore their homes. Unlike the big box stores, they are all about customer service.

Uh huh.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Old Hardware

Just a quick photo of a very cool door hardware set I inherited from my uncle. He was a saver of old things. He was also responsible for closing down a number of the old family farms when my relatives passed away over the years. So, I suspect this door set came from one of the old German farm houses built by one of my relatives.

The practical part of me thinks the knobs would look very cute mounted on a board and used as coat hangers. The historical side of me has been telling me that it would be a shame to pull apart perfectly good hardware.

Maybe I can work the intact set into some furniture (kitchen cabinet or armoire) somewhere down the line.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Back Band Hunting

I may come to the realization that this is the going rate, but I sure was in for a surprise yesterday when I stopped into a local millwork shop to price replacement trim for my windows. I knew it was going to be expensive, but I didn't have a clue it could go this high.

I'm looking for back band to replace exterior trim on my house that was either cut away when they installed the aluminum many years ago.....or had just failed on it's own account. As I've been stripping the woodwork around my front windows, I noticed that the back band was in pretty bad condition here too. There is rot, some splitting and chunks of the profile that look like they are just worn off - not to mention that someone along the way thought that using glazing putty on the trim instead of caulk might be a good idea.

So, I decided that I should replace all of the back band around the front windows and then use what I can salvage of the old to do minor replacements in the other spots (1 foot here and there). My goal is to never, ever have to deal with this exterior stuff again once I have it painted, so I want to do it absolutely right the first time.

I haven't been able to find the back band as a stock item (no big surprise). But I knew that there was millwork place nearby that had a profile very close to mine as part of their profile catalog - meaning they had the blade, but make the run to your order. They do not have to create a blade.

I need 21' of back band for the front window - a 10' piece for the top and two 5' pieces for the side. Their price in basic pine - drum roll, please - $205. Any other wood better suited for exterior, say cedar, would run more. When I asked if they had any other option he showed me an overrun from a custom order (see photo for small sample). Again, it was pine and was about .5" wider than mine. He had one 8' and two 7' pieces that he would part with for $5 a foot - $105. I'd have to splice the pieces for the top of the window.


It may be that I have to go back and pay $105 for that trim and be happy to have it. But, because I'm not in a huge hurry I'm going to continue to do some hunting. I can certainly see why one of the previous owners just replaced one side of the front window with a flat profile.

Rejuvenation, out in Portland, has the exact back band profile I need as part of their standard catalog (see photo of their catalog page). The exact one. Next week I'll give them a call and see if they would be willing to ship four 5' 3" sections. We'll see. Maybe if I cry over the phone ;-)

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