Thursday, July 30, 2015

Two Hours

Most of this summer has been unseasonably cool.  Rainy, too.  So.  Much.  Rain.  Sometimes hard rain and bad thunderstorms, but mostly light rain; the kind of day that can't make up its mind if it wants to rain or not, the kind of day when it mists a little, then rains for an hour or so, then stays cloudy for the rest of the day so that the high temperature is around 80, the kind of day that would be perfect for, say, putting up trim pieces under cover of a porch.  

But Marion and I didn't work on the porch on that kind of day.  No, we chose to work on a day when the heat index topped out at 115.  It was only a couple hours of work, but two hours was plenty in that heat. We laughed about it taking only two hours to do, including a 20-minute conversation with one of my neighbors, because ever since last September when we bought the trim pieces Marion's been saying "It'll only take us two hours".   Typical of us, that it took us ten months to find two hours to finish this up. 

We used 1x4s next to the house.  I could make up a good story about why we did that, but the truth is--well, look to the left of the 1x4 in the photo below.

There's a good-sized gap between the beadboard ceiling and the clapboards, a gap that's too wide for quarter round to cover.  I'll take the blame for that for the one piece of beadboard sheeting that I cut, because I'm incapable of measuring accurately.  The rest of it is a quirk of measurement:  the house itself is still square, but the concrete slab the porch sets on was built out of square to the house, so because we measured from the edge of that slab when we built the porch, the porch is square to itself but out of square to the house.  What this means is that a sheet of beadboard cut, say, 72" long will fit perfectly along the outside edge of the porch, but on the house edge will have a gap ranging from 1/16" to 7/8" or slightly more. We could've compensated for this if we'd realized it before we cut all the sheets of beadboard to the same length.  Whoops.

There's Marion proving himself alive and well and perfectly capable of carpentry with only seven whole fingers.  He told me that an old man at a lumberyard said to him when he saw his missing digits, "Well, now you're a real carpenter." It seems to me that there ought to be a certification course or something he could take, instead of having to run his hand into a saw, to prove that, you know?

Marion notched out the 1x4s around the door and window trim.  (Incidentally, he did that with the ledger boards when he built the porch, too.  One of the things that surprised us was that the original ceiling covered up part of that trim.)  He used chunky quarter round on the other seams, so I don't think it looks bad that it's not all quarter round.  I imagine it'll look even better when it's painted.

The very last thing Marion did was to cover the corner seam of the beadboard with a long piece of lattice strip. With that, the construction of the porch is officially finished.
Now all I have to do is paint those trim pieces to match the ceiling, and finish painting those spindles, and then the front porch will be really and truly completely finished.  My goal is to have all that done by the one-year anniversary of when we closed up the porch ceiling, which will be September 24th.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Fair Trade

Sometimes I go through life with blinders on.  Sometimes I procrastinate.  Sometimes I don't know what to do, so I don't do anything.  And sometimes, all of those things sorta glom together and make something bad happen.
Everyone pretty much agrees that the front door is one of the best things about my house.  Last year when we took the craptastic porch off the front of the house, I was very worried that falling debris would break the glass in the door or damage the trim somehow.  I tacked a piece of plywood over the door to protect it.  Good thinking.  Once the demolition was done, I took that plywood off the door.  Bad thinking.  Because without the plywood over the door, and without the porch roof to shelter it, the beautiful front door was exposed to rain and bright sunlight.
News flash:  days and days of weather can really beat up a 127-year-old door.  After a couple of weeks, it looked pretty bad.  I put up the piece of plywood again, but the damage was already done.
When the porch was finished, down came the plywood again, and the front door looked bad for a whole year.  I didn't know how to make it look better, and I was afraid of doing something that might make it worse, so I didn't do anything at all. 

Last week I was talking to the owners of a local shop, Blackthorn Antiques. These folks are experts in restoring old furniture, so I sought their advice about my front door.  We were also talking about a recent Historic Preservation Commission meeting. (I may have neglected to tell y'all this, but I was recently appointed to the city's Historic Preservation Commission.) The first big issue HPC's facing since my appointment is that a guy wants to tear down a two-story Victorian in one of Lexington's National Register Historic Districts.  The Commission voted unanimously not to allow the demolition, but the owner's appealing that decision to City Council on Tuesday night. Someone from HPC will have to make a presentation to Council about the house.  One of Blackthorn's owners is a fellow HPC member, and he was trying to persuade me to do the presentation.  I was trying to justify making an unbudgeted purchase of the stuff necessary to fix my front door.  Then, the shop owner made me an offer I couldn't refuse:  "I'll give you a third of a can of Howard's Restore-A-Finish and a couple pieces of steel wool if you do the presentation."  Seems like a fair trade.

About an hour and a half later....

It's looking better already.  I need to even out the stain a bit so the door doesn't look striped.  (Or am I the only one who notices that??) After that, I'll see if I can swap the Restore-A-Finish for a little Feed-N-Wax.  I'm not sure that'll work, since there's not another presentation to be made...

PS:  The water heater installation was utterly uneventful, and afterwards I ran from sink to sink randomly turning on hot water, just because I could.



Monday, June 1, 2015


Y'all, I really need to get this blog-writing thing back on track.  Seriously.  All my posts so far this year have started out with "last week" or worse, and this one's no different.  Sheesh.
Anyhow, a couple of weeks ago I went down to The Scary Basement for some reason and saw that the dirt floor down there was all muddy.  Not just damp like it gets sometimes when the humidity is 1000%, but actual mud and a couple of puddles.  Uh-oh.
Further investigation revealed that the bottom of the water heater had rusted out.  Or, as my momma put it, "It finally went blooey."
This is not altogether a bad thing.  When I bought the house in 2006 the guy who inspected it told me that the water heater was in really bad shape and I'd be lucky if it lasted five years. I decided then and there to wait to replace the water heater until it actually stopped working.  In the meantime, I've put up with a water heater that takes forever to produce hot water (I can fill up two 5-gallon buckets before the water gets hot enough to take a shower) and then suddenly produces water that's scalding hot.  The water heater has only three settings on it: Low, Medium, and High. That's deceiving.  Low should really be called Scalding; Medium should be called Boil Lobsters In Your Bathtub; and I suspect that High would involve actual flames coming out of the faucet.  So here we are, 8 years and 7 months after I bought the house, and it's finally time to replace the water heater.
I have a friend whose brother-in-law is a plumber and he said if I bought the water heater, he'd put it in for about 200 bucks.  I'm given to understand that this is pretty cheap, as plumbers go.  However, I firmly believe in not paying for labor when you can get it for free, and my friend Steve very kindly offered to install my water heater for free.  Steve is apparently a glutton for punishment, because the last time he offered to help me for free, he was nearly squashed in a construction accident.
Someone wise once told me that old houses are like nesting dolls:  you see the one big issue, but hidden inside is another issue, and inside that issue is another, and so on.  Swip-swapping the old water heater for the new one seems pretty straightforward, but then there's finding time in everyone's schedule to do it, borrowing my son's truck so we can haul the new water heater home (because I'm not paying the big box store to deliver it), and figuring out what to do with the old one.  I haven't been able to get everyone together yet, so for two weeks I've been taking showers and doing laundry at my son's house.  It looks like next Sunday will be The Day.  Hopefully nobody gets squashed.