December 2007


We’ve got a huge list of things we would like to get done during the next year. We’ll see what actually gets done!

1. Fence the back yard, so we don’t have to worry about the dogs escaping.
2. Have the plumbing checked out, and at least have the worst pipes replaced, if not all of them.
3. Finish the electric rewiring, including the garage and outdoors.
4. Replace broken garage siding and repaint all of it.
5. Put an entry door on the side of the garage.
6. Landscaping – cut down a dead tree, plant some new trees, put in some brick walkways.
7. Finish at least part of the basement – new bathroom and bedroom/office/playroom.
8. Work on the kitchen – this one probably won’t get started let alone finished next year.
9. Get some new furniture — things that match!
10. Install at least a plywood floor in the attic; check out venting the attic.
11. Restore the windows.
12. Scrape and repaint the roof overhangs.
13. New toilet, tile, and fan in the existing bathroom.
14. Crown, picture, and/or chair moulding in the rooms without it.

There. That comes out to a bit more than one project a month. I’m sure we’ll think of more to do — or we’ll have emergencies to deal with as they happen. I didn’t even bother writing down “check into installing central A/C” since I’m pretty sure that won’t fit into our budget at all next year.

Not much in the way of news. But I did find the perfect fabric for a curtain in the nook (aka the happy room). It was a remnant at the fabric store. Here I just draped it over the existing curtain rod, until time allows me to make it a “real” curtain.

I woke up this morning to find there was no water from any of the faucets. That means, no morning pot of coffee. Lucky for me, I had a gallon jug of water. I went to the basement to see if there was a frozen or burst water pipe. I didn’t see any damage or leaking but one of the basement windows had blown open (it refuses to latch closed). I did the best I could to keep it closed by basically piling junk wood in front of it, inside and outside. A while later, maybe 20 minutes, I tried the water again and both hot and cold were working. The mystery third faucet was not working still, coming out only at a trickle.
A bit later, I tried the mystery faucet again, and reddish-brown nasty water came out. It’s the first time I’d ever seen that here. It eventually turned clear.
From what I thought I could tell, the regular hot and cold faucets were originally from a well, went through a water softener, and then into the various parts of the house. The mystery faucet bypassed the water softener. I heard the owners a few years ago had trouble with the well, and switched the house to city water. The main water entry line now leads to pipes coming off the old water softener. I guess I thought that the mystery faucet was fed by the city water too, but maybe it is still coming from the well. I don’t know anything about wells but I’ll have to find out, I guess.

I had some ideas for the breakfast nook, where I make my coffee and do some reading for work in the mornings. The room also serves as additional counter space when we run big kitchen items like the mixer or crock-pot, and it’s where the naughty cat takes his meals. Since I’m the only coffee drinking, crock-pot using, cat person here, the nook’s my room. But it’s so boring. So I decided to paint. I had a color in mind, but I didn’t think Mrs. B would ever go for it, given that she vetoed my ideas in other rooms. However, my color choice was approved!

Before and After:

Can’t help uploading another one.

The curtain was there when we moved in, and will be replaced eventually. I’d like to put up a shelf to hold our gazillion cookbooks and some coffee items. Either a chrome shelf, or a wooden one painted white or red. Or both white and red. Awhile back, I saw a nice dinette set, red table and red chairs. It was a bit too expensive at the time. I think it’d look great in the room, but what we have in there now does work. And who else has a scalloped octagon-shaped faux marble table in a lovely shade of tan?

On another front, the dining room has been re-electrified. Last week I prepped it for the electrician by removing the old outlets (all 2 of them) and the light switch, making holes for 4 new outlets, and running all the wire to each and to the breaker box. All he had to do was install the receptacles and hook it up to the breaker box. I even adventured into the attic to remove some of the old knob-and-tube wiring running to the light fixture. Snip snip. It only took the guy not even 3 hours to finish off the dining room (if he had had to do all the work, I bet it would have taken him at least 25 hours to do, judging by his progress before. And, it wouldn’t have been done anytime soon, since he won’t be back until sometime in January).

P.S. The paint color is “Polished Turquoise” by Kilz (found at Wal-Mart); but I had Menard’s match it with Dutch Boy paint. I stumbled onto this website, which apparently gives you the color codes for many brands of paint. So if you see someone’s house site and like what they’ve done, but cannot obtain their paint locally, perhaps you could match it using this information.

Last weekend, the electrician offered me use of his reciprocating saw to get rid of the creepy basement room. Creepy because it was unlit, full of sizeable spiders, and very closed-in. I hadn’t even thought of just removing it, rather, I’ve been putting off cleaning it aside from shooting a can of Raid in there after we moved in.

(“creepy room” all the way in the back, walled in with gray beadboard):

The demo was fairly easy. I tried to accomplish it in the quietest manner possible, due to the baby being upstairs. I pried off the beadboard walls with a hammer. Under that, the walls were insulated on the inside with cardboard. It looks like this is a box the insulation originally came in:

Then there was a plain box with a Montgomery Ward shipping label still attached. I wonder if the house isn’t a Ward’s house. There was this unpleasant surprise on one of the room’s sagging shelves. Who knows how long it had been there. This chandelier was in the room. A few parts of it are broken, and all it says is ‘made in Spain.’ I wonder which room it had been in, if any at all.

Almost done:

All that was left to do was get rid of the wall studs. I picked up the saw to make it easier, instead of hammering them out. The wood floor-plate was held in place by metal rods which easily came out.

I left the existing shelves up, for now. They’ll be easy to take down later.

This is where I started to get tired of the project. I tend to start things and not finish them. I had no interest in cleaning up all the debris. I didn’t realize there’d be so much of it. But, I took the nails out of the wood, so I could throw the wood in the burn pile. (Living in a rural area does have its benefits, like being able to burn whenever you want).

Finished! (Almost). Cleared up about 25-30 square feet, turning creepy into not too bad. It will also make rewiring the living room much easier.

We’re making some progress on the rewiring. The electrician was out this weekend to do some work, but was rather late both days so he didn’t get all that much work done. Actually, only a two lights — in the nook and entry — got rewired (and the nook light had already been wired, he just put up the light fixture in place of the temporary light fixture). We’re still without light in the kitchen. I had hoped the kitchen would finally be finished, and the work would move on to the dining room. So, before he arrived, I cut out holes in the dining room for the new outlets and removed the old outlets. Such optimism! Removing the old outlets is much nastier than cutting in new ones. In our place, the outlets are surrounded by and screwed into wood. Not wall studs, but just wood. It makes it very difficult to remove the outlets, and then there’s the task of removing the wood that’s in the way of putting in a new box.

With plaster walls attached to metal lath, there really isn’t a way to figure out where the wall studs are before going into the wall. After hitting one stud on my first new outlet, I figured out that I could make a small hole and feel around for obstructions before cutting out the entire outlet hole and then looking. Clever! (Some things come pretty slowly to me, like tying shoes). On all the new holes (except the first) I managed to miss wall studs by only an inch or two. It is nice though to know where they are, so if we want to put up shelves, we know where to attach them.

Lots of chiseling and wire snipping later, we’ve got a start.
Running the wire is also a pain, but not nearly as bad as the kitchen wire was. (The kitchen wire had to be run up from the basement to outlets at counter height, whereas the dining room outlets are all close to the ground). I had to drill a lot of holes in the joists in the basement to run the wire through. I had a drill bit designed for the purpose, but it didn’t do the job all too well. I had a ‘Speedbore’ which also didn’t do such a great job. Finally I bought a monstrous-looking bit designed for wood and metal, which really ate through the wood. Our problem I think might be that the wood is so old and tough, a normal wood boring bit might not be tough enough, having been designed for fresher wood.

Pictured: my beloved Bosch drill, holding the super bit that works. On the left is a thin, foot-long bit I used to drill downwards from inside the outlet holes so I could locate where exactly in the basement to drill upwards to run the wire. Second from left is the typical wood-boring bit. Second from the right is the Speedbore Max’ bit.

In my aggravation while doing all this (grumbling “It’s not my job!” most of the time — this is why we hired an electrician in the first place) I ripped out the old knobs and tubes that were just sitting there empty in the basement. It looks like they even had special double-headed nails to hold the suckers in.

The knob-and-tube, which once ran the entire length of the basement, is nearly gone. There’s more in the attic, but that’s on its way out too. And, of course, its buddy, the cracking cloth-covered romex which circled the basement but now circles the waste bin.
The plan is to have the dining room and living room done this weekend. So, I’ve got to cut out the living room outlets. The living room had one plug on the plug circuit, while the rest are on the lighting circuit. That room will be more challenging since the existing wires don’t run up from the basement like all the other rooms, but instead run down from the attic, even to the outlets. I avoid the attic if I can, since there’s no floor up there, but lots of nasty insulation. Got a feeling I’ll be spending some serious time up there soon.

We made one design change this week. The electrician pushed us to get white outlets and switches, which is fine. But now we think they might look too strange in the living and dining rooms, where they have always been brown. Brown goes with the woodwork too. So I bought a slew of brown outlets and a few switches, heavy-duty ones, and they cost no more than the white variety. We strayed from the brown since he told us they cost more and were so hard to find. Not at all, one just has to look at the dusty bin on the very bottom of the receptacle display at Lowe’s. Now we can reuse our patterned brown switch and outlet covers. We should have enough left over from the entire house to do both front rooms. The bedrooms, kitchen and bath will all have white plugs and switches, which is fine. Hooray for brown!

We weren’t sure whether we’d put up a tree this year with everything that’s going on at the house. But we ended up doing a tree, thinking the bright lights would be something interesting for the baby to look at. And, it’s baby’s first Christmas, so we had to do something.

I was given the order to get the tree. “Not too big, not too expensive.” Oh, and not real, either. Normally I’d go for a real tree, but this year, I agreed that an artificial tree would perhaps be less hassle. I went to the garden store where I knew they’d have a huge selection of trees. And they did. Most of which were way too much money, though a few of them actually looked almost real. I don’t understand why trees nowadays are all pre-lit; are people that lazy to be unwilling to light their own trees? Naturally the pre-lit trees don’t come with energy-efficient LED lights either. And they cost significantly more than the unlit trees, though the only real value added would be a couple of strands of cheapo lights.

After browsing for about an hour, I settled on the cheapest decently sized tree they had. Six-and-a-half feet of fake tree, with white lights, for $40. This one didn’t come unlit. Looking back, I should have bought the colored lights tree instead. Whatever; I don’t see this tree being our main display for more than a few years.

So I successfully complied with Mrs. B’s instructions. Although, if I were let loose on my own to buy a fake tree, I probably would have gone with a white one. since the tree’s fake, it may as well proclaim it’s artificial fakeness to all who see it. The tree’s not fooling anyone. But, I was specifically instructed to stay away from non-green trees.

That’s about it. A few strands of LED bulbs, ornaments and doo-dads, and it’s done. I didn’t even hang up all the ornaments we have.

Secretly I am biding my time until the year I can put up a big, real tree. With the big C7/C9 bulbs, and TONS of tinsel.
Unrelated: the garden store also had picture rail hooks, which have been impossible to find anywhere else locally. And, at $1.49 for a package of 4, much better price than the 2 or 3 dollars per hook that I’ve seen online. Granted the hooks I got are not as pretty, but who can see up that high anyway? Not me!

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