This Old House, Glaser Edition

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

More Grunt Work

The Carport: Before DejunkingThe Carport: After Dejunking
Over the weekend, Steve, Tammy, and David did more grunt work: they offloaded all the bricks for the front walkway to a pallet in the yard. Steve did the usual round of yard work (mowing and weed whacking) and completely cleaned out the carport. Now the huge dumpster is completely full! He somehow managed to get a couple of nasty spider bites on one arm. Some streaks around the bite look like acid had dripped down the skin. This morning, the bites stopped looking so angry.

Shoots Growing after Only One WeekEnd of the Line near the Cookhouse

Tammy won more victories in the battle against the bamboo. She finally made it to the end of the line of the bamboo growing on the east side of the root cellar and cookhouse. She did not have to dig under the cookhouse, but one rhizome came uncomfortably close to doing so! She is making a map to show the treacherous trenches dug up by those insidious rhizomes. When Tammy finally vanquishes the bamboo, she plans to post it here. City planners ought to force all people considering buying this form of bamboo to view such a map, much like teachers had drivers-ed students to watch documentaries on grisly car wrecks.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Color at Last!

Hallway to Homeschool Room BeforeHallway to Homeschool Room After

Tammy's brother and co-worker have spent the past month getting the walls in shape for painting because the walls were in poor condition. David's room had staples in the wall, while the homeschool room had decorative wallpaper, some of which was ripped off and not worth keeping. Some spots had writing (pen and marker). The walls of the hallway and master bedroom and bathroom were pure sheetrock. They had been exposed to the air for quite some time (at least a year) and had dried. The sheetrock thirstily drank up the first coat of paint, so the walls required more paint than originally anticipated. Finally, the door and window trim held layers and layers and layers of paint, which they sanded back to bare wood.

Homeschool Room BeforeHomeschool Room After

Above are the before and after shots of the bay windows in the homeschool room. We put a shot of David's room in the post called Middle Earth Green. The homeschool room and hallway are in Lovely Buff on the walls, Garland Green for the window and door trim and the moulding, and Northern Glen for the cabinet. Our contractors came up with a wonderful idea that makes the wainscot down the stairs pop: they painted the trim the darker Northern Glen and the interior area Garland Green. Steve and Tammy feel relieved because the colors go well together. The lighting in the photos was insufficient because the elecrician removed all the lights to install the new wiring.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Power to the People!

Ugly Gash Needed to Replace Knob and Tube Wiring
School started this week in the Glaser household! Tammy was knee-deep in Algebra I, Biology complete with microscope and dissection kits, and other high school subjects, which left little time for blogging.

The first week we owned the house, we discovered it still ran power through old cloth wires, knob and tube style, which was state of the art--100 years ago. Our electrician works a regular full-time job and freelances on weekends, which is why we have not covered this topic in detail. Last Sunday, our electrician and his brother removed all the old wiring in the house. Upstairs had three spots--a bare bulb hanging in the bathroom, a fixture in the master bedroom closet, and a switch controlling a faux tiffany lamp at the bottom of the stairs. Downstairs had three spots: the combination light and ceiling fans in the living room, Steve's office, and Pamela's bedroom.

Spot in Upstairs Hall Closet with Hole for Tiffany LampSpot in Wooden Ceiling for Downstairs Faux Tiffany Lamp

Some spots were harder and others were a snap. The wiring in the master bathroom and closet was simple because it drops from the attic. Major surgery is not required for anything dropped from the attic. The rooms downstairs literally required surgery as Tammy's brother had to slice a one-inch line from the fixture to the wall, down the wall too the switch. The trickiest maneuver was the tiffany lamp because the electrician thought he would have to cut into the wood ceiling. After doing extensive measuring (running upstairs and downstairs to do so), he located a small spot in the upstairs hall closet through which he could drill a hole. Tammy, with advanced degrees in mathematics, was thoroughly impressed for he hit the target perfectly. This allowed him to run the wire down from the attic, through the hall closet wall, and to the tiffany lamp. Later in the week, Tammy's brother covered the area with sheetrock, hiding all traces of the wire.

Switches for Hanging LampsCrawl Space to the Roof of the Front PorchSteve and Tammy also asked the electrician to install three hanging lamps along the porch. When they saw what lay beneath the vinyl siding, they were glad somebody had already sprung for the siding. Tammy's brother cut a hole out of the plaster in Steve's office that leads to a crawl space above the front porch. The electrician's brother, a National Guard reservist who has served a deployment in Iraq, is used to working in hot conditions and volunteered for the mission of running the wires through the crawl space. When the lamps arrive and are installed, we will post photographs.

The old wiring was in sad shape, and we are glad we forked out the money to replace it. Steve said bare wire showed in many spots and the cloth covering was quickly deteriorating. Just touching it caused pieces to loosen.

Saturday, August 19, 2006


Newly Discovered Carriage BlockCarriage Block from Another Yard in Town
Steve, Tammy, and her father spent Saturday morning in the yard. Steve and Tammy's dad refined the edging and spent time killing the grass in the sidewalk cracks with Roundup and weed whacked a good portion of the yard. While edging the front yard, two interesting discoveries emerged. First, Steve and Tammy's dad uncovered bricks lining both sides of the front walkway and noticed brick underneath the sidewalk. At some point in the house's history, someone poured a thin layer of concrete over a brick walkway. Second, while edging, Steve and Tammy's dad found a "stone" lodged in the ground and began digging. Before long, they discovered what we suspect is the foundation to an old carriage block. Several homeowners in the area have preserved their carriage blocks, which helped passengers climb into horse-drawn carriages. As the house was built around 1908, the builders would have included that "modern" convenience.

The Enemy: Damn-boo RhizomeModern Trench WarfareTammy worked in the backyard on the damn-boo. She nearly finished emptying the root cellar, and the only thing left is to shovel out the remains of a plastic swimming pool. She is 99.9999% sure we have the invasive kind of bamboo that launches rhizomes, or runners, underground and will eventually take over a yard. Some enterprenuers actually make organic jewelry out of that stuff! While following rhizomes from here to eternity, Tammy wondered if the stuff was trying to dig a hole back to China. We have two weapons of damn-boo destruction: grunt work (pulling up all the rhizomes as far as they go) and chemical warfare (pouring a concentrated cocktail of Roundup down the throat of a cut stem). Both sound good to us!

Tammy's Little FriendWhile Tammy rested on the steps of the cookhouse, taking swigs from her Bubba Keg, Charlotte, a yellow garden spider, or Argiope aurantia for all you naturalists, cozied up to her. As these spiders eat the pests that plague us so while working in the yard, Tammy didn't mind the company. Had it been a snake, even a garden snake, she would have outpaced the bamboo in a race to China. Stay-tuned for any messages in the web, which had a zigzag (stabilimenta for all you geeks) much like Jacob's ladder.

After they headed home, Tammy's dad won the prize for the best discovery of the entire month. The lady who sold the house to the previous owner stopped to chat with her dad, who was finishing up in the yard. She still visits a neighbor down the street and noticed some changes happening to her old home. She was born and raised in the house, and her parents owned it for many years. She is willing to share with Steve and Tammy old photographs and stories about the house some day in the future. She was relieved to hear we plan to keep the cookhouse. Her family hired a lady named Mary to cook for them when Mary was only fourteen-years old. Mary lived in the cookhouse and cooked in the main house.

Panic Attack!

Very Yellow Window and Antique LampClose-Up of Window

Tammy nearly flipped out Friday morning when she saw the hallway windows upstairs. The window trim looked like lemon custard spread all over the wood! Picking colors had chafed her nerves as badly as the 1930's cloth wiring still in the house. She was startled to see the "garland green" curdling around the windows! Fortunately, this was not one of her brother's practical jokes like the day he had secretly bought some slime, a novelty new to our acquaintance in our teen years, and sneezed in his hand during dinner. Our horrified faces showed him he got the intended effect! Tammy should have given him more credit for the primer he applied to prep the windows was not white, but bright yellow. Whew!

The rooms upstairs are taking shape, but it is a tedious process. Tammy's brother could have slapped on paint, over layers and layers of paint, and would have been finished in a few weeks. He and his co-worker are craftsmen and are doing their best to make it look as close to a showpiece as an old house on a limited budget can.

Steve and Tammy are starting to get positive comments on the outer appearance. One neighbor quipped, "The view from here is getting better and better." Another added, "It hasn't looked that neat in years." We are new to town and do not know many people outside of our small circle in friends. The other day, Steve was picking up coffee at Hardee's and a total stranger told him, "The house is looking good!"

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Burn, Baby Burn!

Dead (Left) and Alive (Right) AC UnitsTammy's brother and his co-worker must have had the tune, "Burn, Baby Burn", turning in their heads Monday and Tuesday. Sometime over the weekend, one of the two air conditioning units stopped dead and, in compliance with Murphy's Law, it had to be the upstairs where they were working. They sweated through two days of sweltering heat in spite of two fans propped in the windows. The room was hot a person could break out in a sweat just sitting there doing nothing. Steve and Tammy sweated too for visions of The Money Pit swirled in their heads. After all between a leak, old wiring, and other surprises, they feared the negative spiral into a fiscal sinkhole was about to begin.

New (Left) and Old (Right) FiltersToday a repairman did a thorough check of the entire system: air filter, compressor, condensation areas, condenser coil, electrical components, fan and motor, refrigerant and thermostat. Checking the electrical components was an especially daunting task: they had to check the A/C box near the units, the circuit breaker panel (we have two!), and a rat's nest of wires up in the attic which has absolutely no ventilation. The repairman could have baked a sheet of cookies had there been less dust and dirt up there. He found two problems: some genius had installed a switch in the attic backwards, and paint dust had completely clogged the air filter. The damage was only $59 for the service call!

Note to Self: Tell the contractor to shut off the upstairs air conditioner and power up the fans whenever they sand.

Question for All: Is a poltergeist capable of reversing a switch? Hmm . . .

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Hurricanes, Stay Away!

Chim-ChimineyBefore buying the house, we hired a home inspector to report discrepancies to clue us into what we might be facing. The foundation was in decent shape, but needed work. Last week a mason worked on several brick related projects. The chimneys were in shaky condition, so shaky, that the mason could only stucco one of the three chimneys. The other two are structurally unsound, so we plan to remove them when we redo the roof (dream: replace the shingles with a metal roof). A hefty wind could topple them, and a hurricane would sweep them to the ground. The mason also strengthened the foundation by repairing any gaps and covering crumbling areas with concrete. He also replaced the nine rusted metal ventilation grates with modern vents that close when the temperature dips below freezing. We were not shocked to learn the old vents were not of a standard size, so the mason had to fill in the gaps. Finally, a piece of siding between the top step and the porch was rotting, so he replaced it with bricks!
Firm FoundationNew VentTop Row

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Seeing Ghosts!

Ghost DustNo, nothing paranormal has happened. Thursday morning, two people entered the house--one with olive, tanned skin (Tammy's brother) and the other black skinned (a friend hired for the day). By the time they left the house Thursday afternoon, they were whiter than ghosts! What caused this startling transformation? They spent the day plastering, sanding, and chipping paint off the trim of windows and doors. The rooms upstairs have a total of fifteen windows and six doors. Judging by the layer of dust on the floor, they probably wished they were ghosts because of sore muscles, stiff fingers, and aching backs and wrists.

Today, Tammy swept up the ghost dust and uprooted the damn-boo invading the ground near the root cellar. Bamboo is treacherous, and she completely agrees with the folks at TAMU that no one should ever plant it on this side of hell. As pandas are not indigenous to the southern United States, anyone considering planting this stuff without a two-foot-deep barrier trench ought to spend eternity digging up bamboo roots.

P.S. The bloggers do not intend to ensnare unsuspecting readers with such a titillating title. They gladly offer a bone for lovers of all things paranormal. The previous owner told Tammy the house has a poltergeist who enjoys ringing the doorbell. Tammy, the skeptic, thinks the poltergeist is nothing more than the cloth wiring installed in the 1930s to be removed by an electrician at a future date.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Blast from the Past!

Shed, Five Years AgoShed, Last MonthShed, TodayThe house's former owner gave us photographs of it when she first arrived. Prior to her, no one had improved the house for 50 years! As we make progress, we will share blasts from the past. We have cleaned and trimmed the yard; we thought our task was daunting until we saw this shot of the shed from five years ago! The next photo shows her progress; the third shows our attempts to trim. We plan to clean out the shed (housing more "treasures"), paint it, and landscape later in the year.

Grainy Shot of a Wall Hung SinkPlywood Covering Old Pipes in a BedroomSteve and Tammy apologize for the dark, grainy photo, which is our only shot. The house had wall hung sinks in the bedrooms, quite fashionable in the Edwardian Era. The bedroom upstairs holds evidence of the pipes in the hardwood floor: this spot of plywood in what will be our homeschool room covers some pipes. The other two bedrooms upstairs have pipes in the floor. Tammy's brother and co-worker have almost finished painting the homeschool room's ceilings, molding, baseboards, and windows in earth tones and have installed new outlet covers, switchplates, and cable connection plates. The floors, painted ugly brown, are in sad shape, and we wait for a quote to restore them.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Bucketful of Tetanus

Bucketful of TetanusNearly Filled DumpsterYesterday, Tammy removed a bucket filled with rusty old nails. She couldn't lift it due to its weight and rusted out bottom. She tried shoveling, but invasive roots had knitted together the rusty nails. She wore gloves with thick rubber covering the palms to avoid being punctured and the risk of tetanus. Tammy spent about 1 1/2 man-hours removing most of the nails by hand in the steamy heat. The bucket measured two feet in diameter with at least a foot of nails! With all the junk in the house and yard, the dumpster Steve and Tammy rented is nearly full!

Monday, August 07, 2006

The Mother of All Cash Registers!

Ancient High-Tech Heavy MetalThe cookhouse is full of junk, which we plan to remove! The first item proved to be harder than expected: a National Cash Register. We believe a company of that same name in Dayton, Ohio manufactured it in 1947. Between the spray paint, rust, and broken parts, the thing is inoperable and probably worthless. Steve was able to roll out of the cookhouse, but it was so heavy he left it in the yard. Steve and Tammy's dad managed to lug the thing onto a dolly and haul it over to the dumpster in the driveway. Lifting it into the dumpster is another story. So, for now, this forties high-tech clunker is taking up space in our driveway.
More Cash Register Credentials
For All You History Buffs

Azaleas Gone Wild!

Azaleas Gone Wild!I Can See Clearly Now

Steve and Tammy's father waged war against the azaleas and other shrubbery gone wild this weekend. They cut them back to mere nubs, and the house has a much neater appearance. They razed the jungle next too the house, bursting with briars, thorns, and other unpleasant plants, that hid two hammock posts! With the steamy oppressive heat, Steve felt like he was trying to tame the Amazon rain forest. We can finally see clear to the doggie fence from the street now; compare the photo on the left (our before shot) with the one on the right (the after shot).

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Call me "Bubba!"

My Three Bubba KegsWhile Steve was on his business trip, Tammy and David worked in the yard, emptying the root cellar. They have discovered all kinds of lovely things like an aluminum bucket of rusty nails with the bottom rusted out, requiring them to shovel nails out of the dirt, and its twin, full of wet decomposing leaves that smelled like dog doo. They retrieved rusty poles, two big round aluminum pipes, a rusty chain, rotten wood and sticks, live vines, loads of brick, big brick blocks, old toys, a pack of cards, an aluminum trash can and its lid, shovels full of leaves, and an empty Canadian whiskey bottle--we're surprised we didn't find more of those. Clearly, sometime in the past, they ceased storing fruits and vegetables in their root cellar in lieu of trash. Tammy and David were thankful they have not seen any rats, snakes, or spiders . . . yet.

Because of the extreme heat, they worked either early in the morning or late in the evening. What helped them immensely was something Tammy picked up at Wal-Mart called Bubba Kegs. She bought three, in different colors, in the 52-ounce size. Before they head out to the steam pit every day, she fills them up with ice and water. Water never tasted so good than after working an hour in an outdoor sauna. The Bubba Keg also comes in handy when Tammy was in the garage sorting more "treasure" to donate to ministries at church, the Council on Aging, and the dumpster.

"Middle Earth" Green

BEFORE David's RoomAFTER David's Room

When we first asked David, who turns 14 in two weeks, about the color for his room, we were relieved to hear, "Green, like my eyes!" We gave him some color chips and booklets containing shades of green. Apparently, he must think his eyes are a bright shade of lime because the name of his favorite color was Temptation, which is so bright it couldn't tempt us! A friend of Tammy's in cyberspace wrote that her 15-year-old son picked nearly the exact color and painted his room last week--they are brave. We settled for a deeper, darker shade called Northern Glen with Green Garland trim to complement a White Scallion ceiling. After the contractors did the first round of painting his room, David approved of the new colors because it looks like Middle Earth!