Saturday, July 28, 2012

Just One Little Problem

Remember when the front porch used to look like this?

That is one seriously ugly porch.  Seriously.  Ugly.  It hurt my eyes to look at it.

From the time the house was built (around 1887) until at least 1947 when this photo was taken, the front porch looked like this:

Hipped roof, pretty spandrel, iron roof cresting.  Beautiful little porch.  It hurts my heart that it's all gone.  (By the way, the polka-dot background is what my kitchen countertops used to be, and it does not hurt my heart that they are gone.)

In the spring of 2009, Mare and I got rid of most of the ugly porch, and for a day or two it looked like this:
I really liked how the porch looked all open like that, and for about 48 hours I lost my resolve to screen part of it in.  Then I thought about how much I like to sit on that front porch, and how much I fear flying (and biting) insects, and so we screened in one end of it.

And I was almost immediately sorry.  I wasn't sorry that I could sit on the front porch and drink a beer without being chewed to pieces by mosquitos.  I was sorry that I did something to the house that made it look even less like it did in 1887.  (Although taking all those damned shingles off the rest of the house so that the original siding shows did a lot to assuage my guilt.)  Still, it hasn't set right with me ever since.

So, about a month ago I called Mare to ask him to give me a bid on making the porch look like the 1947 photo.  He finally showed up, unannounced, yesterday.  Mare has always been long on ideas and short on money.  Yesterday was no different.  He was completely unable to give me even a ballpark estimate of what the new front porch might cost. Sigh.  However, he did come up with a great idea.  His plan is to remove the front porch completely and re-use it on the back part of the house so I can have a screened-in porch back there.

This is what the back of the house used to look like, before I had the shed torn down and before I got rid of all those awful shingles.  (My camera is missing and my cell phone is utterly dead, so I had to dig up this old photo.)  The screened-in porch would go from about where that shed wall is, then past the back door to the end of the house.  This would solve a few problems:  I would still have a place to sit outside without fear of June bugs; the porch door could be lined up with the sidewalk, which is about 4 feet to the left of the current back door, so my eye wouldn't twitch every time I look at the back yard with its sidewalk leading to the middle of a wall; and (best of all) the front of the house would look more like it's intended to.  Second-best is that the back porch would not cost anything, since that area's smaller than the front porch and we can re-use everything.  

There's just one little problem:  I still don't know what the new porch would cost.  Sigh.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Where We Are

Gosh, it's been awhile since I've posted.  I wish I could say that's because I've been so busy working on the house that I haven't had time to post, but the truth is that the heat has really slowed us down.  In summers past, I can remember having a Heat Advisory now and again but this is the first summer I can remember in which the National Weather Service has issued a Heat Advisory for several days at a time.  We might get a day or two in there of reasonable weather, and then it's back to blazing hot again.  (Note to the WeatherBug app on my phone:  I could do without the cactus-next-to-the-sun logo you've been using.  I get that it's very hot.  That just makes it seem worse.)  We're averaging about 3 hours of work on the house on our days off.  
So here's where we are now:

We finished two of the three sections of the bay window in the dining room.  You might notice that the windows aren't painted.  That's because we've been considering whether or not to take them out of the frames, strip them, and then put them back in.  I think we've decided against that for now and we're leaning towards painting them in place, taking care not to paint them shut again.

We also finished the west side of the "new" part of the house.  This is the back porch area that was closed in sometime around the 1940s, and then re-done (because of the poorly-planned bathroom remodel) in the 1970s.  The window frames have some wood rot on them, so part of them will have to be replaced.  On the back of the house (the left of the photo) you can see where I painted on test colors.  Best decision I've made in awhile.  Also, my yard looks really junky in this photo...

All that's left to do on this side of the house is this:

The kitchen section, the last of the three bays on the dining room window, and the terrifying part of the house  above the dining room bay.  I say terrifying because one of us Charlie will have to stand on that little tiny patch of roof in order to scrape paint.  Oh, and pry off those pieces of curved trim like the ones I showed you last time.  

Listen to me, saying "all that's left to do" like it's just a little bit and then we'll be done.  (Insert hysterical laughter here.)  It's taken us two months to get this far.  Don't tell Charlie I said that.  He has a much better attitude about this project than I do.  I am famous for taking on a huge project, declaring a deadline that's unrealistic, and then feeling defeated when I don't make that deadline.  Charlie has no deadline.  "It takes as long as it takes," he says.  That makes allowances for bad weather, unpredictable real-job schedules, lack of motivation, and the occasional day off for fun.  That's a million times better than my way of looking at it, which is something like, "OhmyGodthisistheendofJulyandwe'reonlythisfar", said while chewing on what's left of my nails and checking the long-range weather forecast.  That takes some conscious effort for me to let go of my old way of thinking and just, as he says, "chill out about the house".  So, secretly, I will say that by winter I'd like to be completely finished with the west side of the house and the back of the "new" part, which is about a third of the back wall.  That's dependent on several things--like weather, good health, and Charlie not going to jail--none of which I have any control over at all.  That last thing is particularly worrisome.  His case has been transferred to another division and a different judge (I don't know why) and he'll go to court again at the end of this month for what I expect will be another continuance.  If he does go to jail, expect the slow progress to get even slower, because we figured out Saturday that he can scrape 4 or 5 clapboards in the time it takes me to do just one.  Also, expect a dramatic post from me detailing my bravery in climbing up on the bay roof--or a post written from the ER after I fall off.

So that's where we are now.  I'll keep you posted on where we're going.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

The Big Idea

I knew that scraping the house down to bare wood was going to be a slow and awful job...but I didn't realize how slow and awful.  That paint is tough, y'all.  We tried an angle grinder, a heat gun, a disc sander, and White Trash Bob's Metabo thingy and none of them work as well as a pull scraper and a putty knife.  Most of them (the grinder, the heat gun, and the sander) didn't work at all.  WTB's Metabo works only on perfectly flat trim, not the clapboards.  That means hours and hours of chipping away at paint and making not much progress.  I was whining about this the other day when Charlie said, "The next time I'm workin on the house and I get an idea, I'm keepin my mouth shut."  I asked him what he meant and he said, "This whole thing is my fault.  You would've been happy with your little plan about the caulk and then I came along and said we should start all over."  It's true, it was his idea, and I recorded that conversation for all eternity right here.  Now I have someone to blame.  (Not really; the house will look so much better when we get done.  In three years....)

Anyhow, when Charlie said he'd keep his next big idea to himself, I knew he didn't mean it.  So I waited (with my own mouth shut) until the next idea came along.  And, I didn't have long to wait.  A couple of days ago he was scraping paint off a piece of trim under the eaves when he said, "Ya know, this would be a lot easier if we just took the trim off the house."  What?!  Take the trim off the house?!  That sounded like a huge pain in the hiney to me...but then I got up on the other ladder, started scraping on the trim, and got a crick in my neck in the first five minutes.  I went and got a wrecker bar and we took those trim pieces right off the house.  (I say that like it was easy--it wasn't.  Those things were practically welded to the house by caulk and paint and getting them off the house without breaking them was difficult.)

We started with this:
A quarter-inch of paint in places.  Much like the rest of the house.  It looks bubbly because I put Jasco stripper (which I highly recommend) on there before I thought to take a picture.

And then it looked like this:
Wow, right?!  I think it's actually chair rail.

And then I painted it:
Inside my house, to avoid the heat of the day.  There might be a couple pieces of cat fur stuck in the paint.  Don't tell Charlie, okay?  (The paint is a little darker than this pic in real life.)

And then we put it back on the house, but I didn't get a photo of that because the trim's hidden up under the eaves.  Yep, all that work for trim you can't even see unless you stand in the flowerbed and look straight up. The only places on the house where this trim will really show are on the gables, and there I think it will stand out and look really pretty.

I can't wait for Charlie's next idea.  I predict it'll happen by the end of stay-cation on Sunday.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Before, During & After

I was in a hurry when I took this photo Saturday evening (a BLT was waiting for me) so it's maybe not the best photo I've ever taken, but I like it.  It shows before, during and after all in the same photo.
It also shows that the gray paint does look okay with the brown roof.  Or does it?  Oh heck.