This Old House, Glaser Edition

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Two Minutes of Bliss

Tammy’s brother resealed the drainpipe to the shower, and we waited twenty-four hours for it to set. The next day we ran the shower and, for two minutes, we Snoopy danced and cheered. Then, an ominous drip dashed all of our hopes! After careful investigation, Steve and her brother determined it might also be a slow leak in the shower valve. Steve headed to our home away from home, Lowes, for a new valve and shower handle (among other things).

Yesterday, Tammy’s brother was relieved to find he did not have to cut into the tile to reach the valve! Yes, the huge hole in the sheetrock is about as ugly as the one in our dining room ceiling, but cutting into the tile would have been even uglier. He reinstalled a new valve and shower handle and tested the system. This time, my dining room floor stayed dry! We plan to continue our test for a week or two, having everyone use the shower in the master bathroom exclusively. Why repair the dining room ceiling unless we are absolutely positive we eliminated all leaks?

Tammy’s brother is the most relieved. The leaks were not the result of faulty workmanship. The only piece of plumbing left untouched by his hands was the one that sprung multiple leaks. The toilet and sink are fine from our inspection of the hole in the dining room ceiling.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Kitchen!

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Tammy was strolling through the dining room to the kitchen when she noticed something funny, meaning "curious; strange; peculiar; odd." She heard a drip and, when she looked up, Tammy saw an ominous sight: little dribbles pooled at the top of the dining room ceiling.

Of course, Steve was on a business trip, and Tammy's brother had left only fifteen minutes earlier and was shopping for groceries. Clearly, Tammy had no clue about what to do, so she grabbed her dad, who had witnessed this same terrifying vision on his dining room ceiling about four years ago. He bolted outside to the main water valve and shut down the supply. Tammy ran upstairs, checked both bathrooms, and saw absolutely nothing! David's bathroom was bone dry, and the master bathroom was slightly damp from a shower earlier in the day. Her dad came to the same conclusion--the source of the leak was not obvious to the most casual observer.

Tammy's father headed off to the grocery store and then to her brother's place and, after what seemed like hours, located him. Robby turned several shades of white as he threw anything cold into the refrigerator and sprinted to the car. Meanwhile, Tammy and David set up buckets and moved all the tools stashed on a sleeping bag in the dining room into a different room. All she could do was wait, wringing her hands, until someone with expertise arrived on the scene. As she stared at the pitiful vision, a crack slowly crept across the ceiling, mocking her inch by inch as it formed an evil sneer. Because we were fairly certain that master bathroom held the key to the mystery of the leak, Tammy's brother headed upstairs and checked his top worst fear: the sink and toilet, which he had installed himself. Both seemed buttoned up tight so perhaps the problem lurked beneath the floor. Then he checked his second worst fear: the pipes in the wall behind the shower had a slow leak, which would require him to tear into the lovely (and expensive) tile in the wall. He pulled out the switch to the fan, inspected carefully with his flashlight, and saw no signs of moisture. Then a very simple, but obvious explanation hit him: perhaps, the drain seal in the shower pan had failed, which would be the best scenario and easiest repair possible. He took off the cover, resealed it, and must wait twenty-four hours before testing for leaks.

We headed downstairs to the dining room. Tammy's brother cut a hole in the sheetrock, and the sopping insulation slimed him. An awful stench permeated the room, and we suddenly realized we had solved the mystery of the smelly bathroom. From time to time, an odd odor had wafted through the master bathroom, which had no relationship to the contents of the toilet. This odor had appeared well before we moved into the house and before anyone had started tinkering in the master bathroom. We suspect this slow leak had been happening for a long time and three long hot showers in one morning proved to be too heavy for the ceiling to support. We now think this is why the closet in the master bedroom stank so horribly we had to mask it with a cedar liner.

Ripping off the sheetrock diverted our attention momentarily. Exposing the layers of ceiling covering was like opening a time capsule. We could see the wooden ceilings, which still remain in three of the rooms. Shiny wallpaper once covered the dining room ceiling before being covered by sheetrock. The PVC piping looked odd amidst the evidence of the good old days.
The next issue Tammy handled was Steve. She opted to lie boldly and convincingly on the phone to avoid worrying him on his flight home. The last thing he needed after spending the day schlepping his way through Washington, D.C. was fear of the unknown. "Yes, honey, everything is fine! In fact, my brother plans to work a bit tomorrow." She rehearsed several variations of gently breaking the news and finally settled on (1) Ben & Jerry's butter pecan ice cream, (2) two comedy DVDs (Young Frankenstein and Oh Brother, Where Art Thou), and (3) a joyful announcement that we had finally solved the mystery of the smell in the master bathroom. From there, it was all down hill.

Steve took it philosophically and focused on the positives.
  • It wasn't a deluge.
  • It didn't ruin the dining room floor.
  • We had no furniture in the dining room.
  • No one was electrocuted or died during the making of this mess.
  • We may not have to tear up walls and tile.
  • We didn't make this mess. We inherited it.
  • We found Shelob's lair.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Color Scheme

With the exception of the sanctuary, Tammy developed the color scheme for the other rooms with insight and approval from Steve. To give continuity between the rooms downstairs, she wove a constant thread between the rooms by choosing the same American Tradition colors: Sawyer White on the ceilings, Paramount White on the fireplaces, and Coconut Milk on most of the trim, molding, and wainscot. All she needed to do was to pick colors for the walls of each room.
Pamela was adamant about having a blue room, so Tammy handed her a pile of chips from Lowes, and Pamela settled on Wisteria Snow, which we carried from her bedroom into her bathroom. Steve and Tammy both agreed upon peach for the living room and tried to find a peach that would transition well from the living room to the office and Pamela's bedroom. Resort Peach was the perfect choice!

We fell in love with the rich reds and greens at our neighbor's house and opted for a dramatic look in the dining room by using Heirloom Red. We did not go with green because several rooms already were awash in that color. We were nervous about choosing such a dark red, but this will be for formal dinners and special occasions. We risked it because, even if we loathed it, we wouldn't spend much time in that room anyway!
The tiffany lamp is what ties in all the odd colors into one beautiful bouquet: Pamela's blue, Steve's olive, the dining room's red, and the green trim of the hallway.
At some point in the future, a few years from now after we have taken care of all the important details, we want to redo the kitchen. Its rustic look seems out of touch from the rest of the house. The Kitchen Maid cabinets are intentionally distressed. With all the movement flowing in and out of the kitchen during the renovation, they have become even more distressed. Even with careful application of elbow grease, the cabinets have too many pock marks for Tammy's taste. The counter tops are made of wood like the floor! We prefer earth tones over the bright blues and yellows in the back splash as we prefer earth tones. Tammy chose a warm, but neutral color for the walls of the kitchen (Muslin Wrap).
Tammy's brother and partner spend most of the day finishing up Pamela's bathroom and started the shoe molding for the entire house. Tammy spent the day mainly cleaning up the kitchen cabinets, but she did assist her father, the Paduan carpenter, in the final touches of the mirror in the master bedroom, which turned out fabulous! Once again, we struggled with the lack of squareness: our choice was to make it level with gravity or level with the fireplace. We opted for the latter.

After work, Steve shopped for a television stand at Circuit City, and David helped him put it together. We were all too exhausted to go into storage to find the plasma television he bought back in December at the mall. So we piled into bed while visions of HDTV danced in our heads.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

The Sanctuary

Three of the rooms downstairs are in good enough shape to present on the blog. Today we will feature Steve's office, except for the fireplace, which needs a tad more tweaking. We call it the sanctuary because Steve has big plans for this room. He selected all of the colors, which are Mark Twain House Olive on the walls and Gilded Linen for the trim, molding, and ceilings with paint called American Tradition. The east wall pictured here will have two interesting features: an access door to the porch and connection for cable television.

The first is already there. When the electrician installed the porch lights, Tammy's brother smashed a hole in the upper east wall for access. To avoid ever having to do that again, Tammy's brother framed an access door in case we ever need to work on the porch lights or add ceiling fans, which you can see in the picture just below the crown molding.

Today, the cable guy installed HDTV under mild protest by Tammy. We have lived without programmed television since 2001. We keep up with local, state, and national news off the radio and Internet and find less passive ways to entertain ourselves. Steve yearned for programmed television in his sanctuary, so we compromised with having cable in that room only. The cable guy also set up our Internet access, and we will go wireless once we have the electrician back in the house.

Steve has always dreamed about having leather couches, which are not wise investments for those with kids and dogs. Now that the kids are older and the wild dog is learning to love the great outdoors, we plan to try a burgundy leather couch that will look sweet with the olive colors. He will have the always-in-perfect-order desk, which the anti-Martha Stewart (Tammy) will avoid like the plague. He might even stash an upright piano in there if he can find the space. Steve took lessons for eight years and plays beautifully.

To the left are before shots, with after shots on the right. The ceiling was a real chore to beautify because the electrician had to cut a line across all the way to the ceiling fan. We thought that new wiring had replaced all the old knob and tube stuff. While the upstairs rooms were fine, the wiring downstairs was in sad shape. The only way to fix the problem was to cut into the ceiling and sheet rock! We decided to spray the ceilings downstairs with popcorn texture. It required several attempts to mask the gash, and one can still see a trace of it.

The sanctuary will probably be the most comfortable room in every season. Because we had to gut the room of all plaster and not simply cover it up with sheet rock, we took the opportunity to insulate it. Tammy's father has already redone all of the windows, pane and trim, and he and Steve covered them on the outside with storm windows. We still need to caulk some of the gaps caused by the lack of squareness of the house. Old houses tend to settle, and no square inch of this place is truly square. Imperfections like that affect every aspect of renovation from windows to trim to fireplaces. We like to think it adds character!

If you think the sanctuary looks great now, wait until you see a shot with the restored mirror, mantel, and fireplace!

Monday, January 01, 2007

Crime Scene Photos

Something untoward happened to the floor in the office on the morning of Saturday, December 23, 2006, and we called the floor cop to the scene of the crime. The guilty party will remain anonymous to blog readers, so let us set the stage. A certain person has been highly particular about protecting the precious floors--and they are precious! No one can wear shoes in the house for tiny pebbles lodged in the outer sole of a shoe might scratch the floor. If Santa came down the chimney, he would be told to remove his boots and leave them on the fireplace floor. Area carpets and blankets are under every single piece of furniture or equipment. The beloved hyperactive dynamo dog no longer qualifies as a house pet and is learning how to survive the great outdoors. We all agreed we all must take these precautions to protect the floors, especially the pine upstairs.

Well . . .

The said person who shall hereafter be called I-speak-for-the-floors was working in the office, attempting to clean the tile around the fireplace and experimenting with the effects of paint thinner and . . .

You guessed it . . .

SPILLED it on the . . .


Do you know those slow motion special effects in which the character frantically tries to avoid disaster? Seeing life roll by in slow-motion, I-speak-for-the-floors exclaimed some choice words and then grabbed up the can, stripped off available clothing, and mopped furiously. The varnish on the floor boiled and bubbled and gurgled and curled up into little balls of candied gloss, little globules clinging to bare wood splotches on that section of the floor. I-speak-for-the-floors was mortified and humiliated and so berating of these actions, nobody had the heart to pile on with more accusations. Why hurl insults when the guilty party does such a capable job with self-inflicted diatribes and character assassination?

We called the floor cop, who told us other things people have done to ruin their floors: black paint, nail polish remover, floor stripper, etc. What made this accident so special is that it happened in record-time. He ended up having to re-restore the floor for a second time in two weeks!The cop was glad to pick up a little Christmas bonus and redo the office floor while we were in Florida. When we arrived home, the only tell-tale signs of the crime were painful memories and tape covering the door reminding us not to walk on the floor while it cures on penalty of death.

This blog writer refuses to reveal the name of the guilty party. Is it Tammy, the anti-Martha Stewart? Steve, or Whirlwind, as his in-laws have dubbed him? David the bumbling Boy Wonder (who suffers from teenager clumsiness) or Pamela the Stealth Child (who earned that name at the age of eighteen months by being able to quietly crawl up to Daddy's computer and press the red reset button). Maybe it was Tammy's father, the Paduan Carpenter, who used to hang all our pencil sharpeners backwards. Or could it be Da Boyz, Tammy's brother and sidekick? This blog writers lips are sealed. He, er . . . she, uh . . . they, whatever!--will never tell.

Today we did not do much! Our plans to prevent New Year's Day headache syndrome by avoiding adult beverages and going to bed early backfired. We all picked up plenty of germs in Orlando and felt tired and ill all day. Steve helped Tammy's father put together the newly restored, but unfinished fireplace in the office. He did some handyman work, but a persistent daylong case of hiccups wiped him out. Tammy managed to clean the most of the stove and cycle through four loads of laundry. David washed more walls!

Here is a sneak peek of the replacement for the cracked board of the fireplace!