30 December 2008

Sticker shock

We got our first electric bill in the mail since we've had the HVAC installed. It totaled somewhere in the vicinity of $275. Ouch! Needless to say, we're spending New Years and the subsequent 3 days installing lots and lots of insulation in the attic and anywhere else we can find to stuff it.

21 December 2008

Ghosts in the attic

When we first started cleaning out the attic in anticipation of sistering the joists, we found a bunch of hay and chicken wire stuffed into the eaves. We just figured the hay was being used as old-school insulation, and the chicken wire was simply keeping it in place. Now that we have some floor decking down, and I can easily reach the eaves without risking death by falling, I began a more thorough cleaning of the area via ShopVac. The first time one of these:

It's a bat, in case my photography skills don't do the discovery justice.

got stuck on the end of the hose, I was startled. But I hit the hose on a piece of wood and down the bat carcass fell. I resumed my work, picking up at least 4 more bats and 1 small bird. Bats and little birds happen in attics sometimes, especially in really old houses. Keep in mind that I was alone in the semi-dark, working by the light of a single bulb.

Then this happened:

Oh, yes. That's a chicken. Or, it *was* a chicken at some point in the past 140 years. Notice how I didn't even bother to take the ShopVac hose away. I switched off the vacuum, got my camera, and called it a night. Here's a glimpse into my thought process:

1. Ack! A chicken!
2. Why is there a chicken in my attic?
3. How did a chicken get up here?
4. I'm pretty sure it didn't fly up here.
5. I don't know of any chicken-sized holes in the house it could've walked through.
6. Somebody put the chicken up here on purpose?
7. Well, that explains the hay.
8. I've never heard of people keeping chickens in their attic.
9. Why is there a chicken in my attic?
10. Fresh eggs?
11. There aren't any stairs or steps leading up to the attic, so getting eggs would be a huge hassle (especially with a 10' ceiling height upstairs).
12. WHY is there a CHICKEN in my ATTIC?
13. Forget it. I'm going home.
14. Really, though. Why is there a chicken in my attic?

Any ideas?

08 December 2008

I'm alive, I promise

I'm so bad about updating progress on the house. Two major accomplishments recently:

1. We have heat! After $4000 in supplies and $1000 in labor, we have 2 fully functional heating systems. Even without any insulation in the house, it cycles on and off, which means it's working pretty well. We've tried to stuff insulation in any place where there is a gaping hole (usually a missing brick or nailing block, and fortunately these spots are few). Not having to worry about frostbite makes working a bit more enjoyable.

The great tentacles of our octopus HVAC.

2. We (finally) finished sistering the joists on the east side of the house. That means that we're starting on attic decking! Walking in the attic feels much safer with the new, stiffer lumber. The old joists seemed a little spongy, if that makes any sense.

Our attic is really dirty.

Doing all that work on the joists was pretty time-consuming because we had to cut notches in every one that went up. We should be able to get a substantial portion of the OSB decking up next weekend. In the meantime, I'll continue patching "cold spots" in the brick with the half-ton of mortar-repair caulk I bought in anticipation of finally putting some insulation on the walls.

17 November 2008

Little known fact

Getting hit in the back of the head by a piece of falling 2x8 lumber hurts. Like, a lot. It doesn't always do enough harm to cause a concussion, though. Little known fact.

14 November 2008


The last of our vinyl windows was *finally* installed today after more than a month. All but two windows in the house had been replaced with energy-efficient vinyl-kraft windows. They both had leaded-glass upper sashes, and I think the previous owner simply wanted to keep that look. I don't blame her; they're pretty nice. However, both of those windows were over 4 feet wide and 6.5 feet tall and let in a lot of cold air. We also had a crack in another window that we decided to get replaced at the same time. The company had done a lot of work for Paul and Francesca at the company building, so they decided to cover the broken window under warranty and just charge us for the two new windows, a transom over the back door, and labor. We waited several weeks for the windows to be made, and were delighted when they called to say they were ready. The large window in the side bay went in without too much trouble (even though the window was bigger than it should have been), but the big window in the front:

DOA. A huge stress fracture stretched from top to bottom of the upper sash when they unloaded it from the truck. They already had the original window out by then, so they installed the new one and said they'd come back to replace the pane in a week or so. The transom window over the back door was measured wrong, too (this time, the window was too small), so they had to do some finagling to make it work. Here's the finished product:

which, while the area still needs work, is a vast improvement over what it was before:

Most of the junk pictured here was put out on the lawn and taken away by treasure hunters within 24 hours.

They also forgot the warranty-replacement sash, which I forgave, telling them to bring it back when they replaced the big one. A couple of weeks lapsed before they came with the DOA replacement. But they couldn't find the other replacement sash, the one covered under warranty. Fast forward another two and a half weeks to today. I got a call at 8:30 this morning, which of course I didn't answer. They called back again later when I was actually awake and said they had the last window ready to install immediately. I couldn't leave work, but Tom went over while they installed it. We still need to caulk the outside of all the windows, but we should be able to do that in a weekend with both of us working on it. We still have the original leaded-glass panes:
We'd like to include them in the house somewhere, but we're not exactly sure where. We asked about having that glass sandwiched between the two layers of glass on the new windows, but apparently the weight of the leaded glass causes the window to detach itself from the frame. After the living area is finished, we could hang them in front of the new windows. I'm sure that selling them on ebay would be easy and profitable, but I'd like to keep them with the house if we can. Any ideas on where I could showcase these ladies?

12 September 2008

Long time, no posts

It's been over two months since I posted any progress on the house. I assure you, progress has been made. After days of working and reworking my plan modifications, Paul rained on my parade and said rerouting the plumbing was going to be more work than the benefits were worth. After we worked out the kinks involved with that, we were able to reframe the master bedroom (now featuring an 8-foot niche opposite the wall for the bed). The house has been tidied, swept, and vacuumed; kitchen cabinets and cast iron pipes were donated to any Portsmouth citizen with a truck to take them away; and the rear basement wall has been cemented over and awaits a coat or two of Dry-Lok for dampness prevention. Tom has been working on the yard a bit, cutting down three giant weed-trees, having a nasty run-in with poison ivy, and hacking away at the tree stump that bent the crankshaft on the lawnmower the second time we ever used it. The master bedroom has the electrical boxes in place and ready for the wiring to be run. About the electrical...

Our power got shut off sometime this week. I had called the power company to switch service over to our names, and they said I had to pay a $65 deposit within 10 days. No problem. I immediately called the number the service rep gave me, only to discover they assess a $3 fee for payments made over the phone. Being the frugal-minded person I am, I decided to wait for the bill to show up in the mail. And I waited. And waited. The bill arrived late last week, and the power was off by Wednesday. Do they expect that the bills are being delivered by teleportation? Luckily the meter hasn't been taken out, or else this would have turned into an even bigger mess. Hopefully their promise of getting it turned back on "as soon as possible" will translate into having power by the weekend. Otherwise, progress will come to a grinding halt.

Most of the windows in the house had been replaced before we bought the house, but two big (4' x 6.5') windows in the living area remained, both with leaded glass panels. We got Cornett window company to come out and look at them so we can get those replaced. For those windows, plus the transom over the back door and angle-trim for the rest of the house, including labor, demolition, and cleanup, it's going to set us back $1100. Plus they're replacing a damaged upper sash for free even though it's not technically under warranty.

A few of the vinyl windows weren't installed properly (Cornett didn't install them), but the company also doesn't make service calls to fix them. They do, however, let their installation guys get some side business on the weekends doing jobs like that. I'll presumably get a call from them soon so they can fix the windows. From there, hopefully we'll be able to seal and insulate to keep our heating bills down.

11 July 2008


So as you know by now, Tom and I bought a house in Portsmouth, Ohio.
It looks great, right? It is great, really. It just needs a few updates, like walls. The previous owners gutted it almost entirely, then unfortunate circumstances forced a quick sell. Even though there's practically nothing in it, we still feel like we got a good deal. A lot of the hard and expensive work has been done, like replacing the roof and windows, adding in two new furnaces, reframing walls in a more open floor plan, and roughing in plumbing. We both are enthusiastic about it and feel like we can do a lot with the 2660 sq.ft.

I've already spent many hours in there doing preliminary work, material estimates, and cleaning up construction messes. We bought some general supplies already (ladders, a ShopVac that is probably not nearly big enough for all the dirt this project will produce, various tools, etc.), but this weekend we'll be picking up lumber and starting the real work. I'll update with project details as we progress.