Category: home renovation

Surrounded by Piles

I’m used to being surrounded by piles. As an author and librarian, I’ve always got a stack of something somewhere that needs to be gone through and sorted, or is waiting to be consulted later on. Sure, sometimes the piles are virtual (unread emails or tabs in my browser), but they’re no less real.

Lately, however, I’ve been surrounded by quite a few different types of piles. We’re tackling new territory in home renovation: landscaping. I’ve discovered that this is pretty much a never ending process of getting new piles of stuff dumped in your yard, and then trying to find places to put it all.

Technically, the piles started with the wood pile. We had a big silver maple cut down in our backyard last year, and it was cut and split into a huge wood pile that needed to be stacked. We had to wait for the wood shed to be renovated before we could begin stacking it. In the meantime, Denisa has had plans for a flower bed in front of the house, where our wood porch used to be. It seems like such a straightforward project.

It lies.

First, you need to have a place to plant the flowers. That means dirt. I thought we had dirt there, but apparently it was the Wrong Kind of Dirt, so we needed to have someone come and dig out the bad dirt to leave a spot for the Right Kind of Dirt to go. And what a mound of dirt it was. Put some snow on that thing and you could sled down it. And it had to be moved around to the places where the bad dirt used to be.

Except there wasn’t really a spot for that yet, because what good is a bed without a wall for it to nestle in? Denisa wanted a fieldstone wall, which meant we needed to get some fieldstone, which meant another pile appeared in my yard, this one a big jumble of rocks. All those rocks had to be moved and organized and stacked into a neat wall.

But wait. There’s more. Because I guess you can’t just put dirt down underneath where the rain runoff will be coming from the roof. Never mind the fact that we’d had dirt there before. That was Bad Dirt. Good Dirt needs special attention. It runs away when runoff comes. So we needed to put pea gravel right next to the house to deal with that problem. I thought I could just get some bags of it, but it turns out landscaping is always cheaper by the pile.

So now we had a big pile of pea gravel dumped in our front yard today.

Denisa’s working on the stone wall. The wood is close to being finished. We have to put the pea gravel next to the house, and then we can put the rest of the dirt down. With the leftover dirt and fieldstone, we’re looking to build another bed around the screen house.

I’m about piled out, to be honest. Hopefully today was the last pile to arrive. I dream of a day when all the piles are gone and we just have a normal front yard again. Is that too much to ask?

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve posted the entirety of my book ICHABOD in installments, and I’m now putting up chapters from PAWN OF THE DEAD, another of my unreleased books. Where else are you going to get the undead and muppets all in the same YA package? Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

220 Volt Wiring + Drills = Bad

If there’s one thing I’ve come to expect over the years of renovation projects on my house, it’s that there will always be surprises in every project. Whether it’s ripping off the eaves and discovering rotting wood beneath them, giant rocks in the way of holes that need to be dug, incorrectly installed insulation, or something else, any time you open up a house that’s 178 years old, you’re bound to find a thing or two you’re not expecting.

We’ve already come across the first surprise with the new renovation.

Yesterday my contractor was taking off the siding from the bathroom. It’s vinyl, and we’re replacing that bit with clapboard so that it matches the clapboard going up around the sun porch. As he’s ripping it off, he came across some areas where the supports for the old porch had been drilled into the wall. No big deal. You can you a sawz-all to get through those old screws no problem.

Except one area didn’t look quite right. There was a hole around it, and looking through it, he could see wiring right next to the screws. Suspicious, he carved out some of that area to be able to see more before he sawed through the screws. It’s a good thing he did, because three of those screws had gone straight through the 220 volt wiring that leads to our dryer.

This is, naturally, disturbing on many levels. If you’re not familiar with wiring, let me explain a bit. Most electricity in American homes is 110 volts. When you plug your toaster into the wall, that’s what you’re plugging into. Some appliances need more juice, so they have wiring and circuit breakers that allow more voltage through. 220 volts to be specific. No electricity is safe to get zapped with, but twice the amount of it is that much more dangerous.

When you drill through a wire, you take something metal and put it into contact with that electricity. That can complete a circuit, sending all that electricity through the metal whatever-it-was and straight into you. If somehow that doesn’t happen and you don’t notice, that metal and wiring can cause electricity to arc inside your wall. Arcing electricity generates heat, and heat generates fire, and fire inside your walls means your house burns down.

So to put this in context: someone in the past drilled through the most dangerous wiring in my house not once, not twice, but three separate times. Somehow they were able to not get zapped on any of those occasions, so they unwittingly left those screws in place in the dryer wire, where they’ve now lived for at least 12 years. A constant fire hazard that could have gone up at any time.

I count us very lucky in many ways. Lucky that our house is still standing, and lucky no one got hurt in the renovation process. We have an electrician coming today to fix the work and make it safe at last. It’s not an expensive repair, thankfully. Which is why it’s surprising it ever happened in the first place. It also hasn’t pushed back the timetable of renovations at all, since it’s in a spot that can be ignored for now as work proceeds elsewhere.

We just don’t have a functioning dryer until it’s repaired, but that’s why they invented clotheslines, right?

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve posted the entirety of my book ICHABOD in installments, and I’m now putting up chapters from PAWN OF THE DEAD, another of my unreleased books. Where else are you going to get the undead and muppets all in the same YA package? Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

Let the Renovations Begin

Spring has finally sprung (more or less), and you know what that means! Time to get some more changes done around the house. The other day, our kids asked if there was ever going to come a time when we weren’t doing yearly renovations. It’s a valid question, since we’ve done so much over the years to our house. Part of me assumes that surely there will come a day when there’s only the need to maintain, not continually improve, but then I look at all the things we still need to do . . .

Who knows?

We’ve spent a lot of time planning a kitchen renovation, and we followed that up with pricing a kitchen renovation. We are not doing a kitchen renovation this year. It’s just outside our price range, and we need to be able to save up some money to get it done all in one fell swoop. (I estimate it will be in the $25,000-$30,000 range, and that’s if we’re lucky . . .)

Perhaps the smart thing to do would be to do nothing on the house and save all that money toward that kitchen. However, there are some things we feel must be completed, just for the sake of our sanity and the overall look of our house:

  • The front steps–Two years ago, we ripped down the front porch and put in cement steps, with the plan of topping them off with granite treads and adding a wrought-iron railing. Then we got sidetracked last year by putting in our screen porch/shed combination, and the stairs never got completed. That needs to change, just because it’s good to finish projects, not just start them. Also, the front of the house needs serious help, and those steps are a part of that.
  • The sun porch–Again, this is a project that was started last year when we ripped out the old sun porch, put in new windows and a ton of insulation . . . and then stopped before the outside was complete. (The inside will wait to be done as part of the kitchen renovation.) So right now we have the front of our house basically naked, with no clapboard or covering at all. Yuck. We’re going to put in clapboards and stone to complete it and tie it all together with the rest of the house.
  • The wood shed–Many moons ago, we put in a wood shed behind our house. In the winters, we’d attach plywood to the sides of it to keep the snow out. The last few years, we just left the plywood up the whole year. It looks . . . very not good. So we’re going to switch that so that the whole thing looks more complete and intentional, and much less ply-woody.
  • The front bay windows–The trim is in bad need of repair. No big renovation here. Just getting it back in good working order. We’ll likely also need to hire someone to come paint the whole thing, because my personal desire to paint things is much, much less than it was in previous years.
  • Landscaping–With all of that done, and the front porch torn down, we have massive bare dirt piles as the first thing that greets people when they come to our house. That’s less than optimal. But with all these other smaller jobs completed, we can actually turn our attention to landscaping the front of the house and making it all look much more appealing.

The net effect of all of this won’t be that significant when it comes to how we live our lives day to day. However, it will generally make the house much more visually appealing, and there’s something to be said for that. The hope is to have the renovations complete within the next three weeks or so, and then find a painter to have that done soon after, so we can finish off the landscaping. May should be a busy month.

Wish us luck!

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve posted the entirety of my book ICHABOD in installments, and I’m now putting up chapters from PAWN OF THE DEAD, another of my unreleased books. Where else are you going to get the undead and muppets all in the same YA package? Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

When Pellets Attack

I noted yesterday how busy I’ve been feeling. Imagine the joy I felt, then, when I came home from work yesterday to find two tons of pellets stacked in front of my garage door, blocking my entrance. There was nothing to be done but get to stacking them. Thankfully, Tomas and Denisa were on hand, and we churned through the stack in about a half hour. A few thoughts:

  • Stacking two tons of pellets is much, much easier than stacking two cord of wood. Or even one cord of wood. A ton of pellets is 50 bags, each of which clock in at 40 pounds. When you divide that up by three people, even two tons is just around 33 bags a person moved. There’s no need for a wheelbarrow, each person can take a bag on every trip, and that stack almost as easily as legos.
  • We bought the nicer grade of pellets this time, after using the cheaper ones for two years. I loaded them into the stove last night, and I can’t tell any visual difference between the two. Supposedly these burn hotter and create less ash, but I’m skeptical. Not skeptical enough not to try them for a year, but we’ll see. In the end, it was only like an extra $50 a ton, or something like that.
  • Running a pellet stove is much, much easier than running a wood stove. There’s less maintenance, and less moving the combustibles. You bring in a bag once a day and fill up the hopper. End of story. There’s no mess from having dirt and leaves and pieces of wood tracked all over the place, either. You can set the stove to keep the room at a certain temperature as well, so you automatically use fewer pellets when it’s warmer outside.
  • Why, then, do we not just switch out our wood stove to a pellet stove? A number of reasons
    • Pellet stoves need electricity to run. If we want our house to be warm in a power outage, we either need to get a generator, or we need a wood stove. When the power goes out and the pellet stove is running, smoke has a tendency to go into the house. That’s a bad thing, in case you were wondering.
    • I like the look and feel of a wood stove. A real fire with logs just looks more homey. Plus, the heat feels stronger and more pervasive to me. It’s a much, much bigger flame.
    • I can’t help thinking wood stoves are cheaper. Pellets are $250 a ton, give or take, and we go through 2.5 tons to keep our addition warm. Wood is like $200 a cord, and we go through around 3 cord to keep the rest of our house warm. I think we’d have to get at least 4 more tons to keep the house going.

In any case, the pellets are in now, and we should be good for the rest of the year. Yay!

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve been posting my book ICHABOD in installments, as well as chapters from UTOPIA. Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

Are Bathroom Faucets Supposed to Have Icicles?

Before I get the responses, please note that yes, I do realize bathroom faucets should not have icicles. I’m not *quite* that dense. However, this didn’t stop me from having a bathroom freeze so solid, it took hours to get it to thaw.

Allow me to provide a little context.

When I left for Thanksgiving, I debated draining the water to my new bathroom. This was still November, after all. Even if it got below freezing outside now and then, surely inside my house it wouldn’t get that bad. Not in an insulated place, even if the heat was off, right?

Still, I ended up deciding it would be best to drain the pipes just in case. But I really just went through the motions. Turned off the water in a couple spots, drained a couple others. I saw water come out when I drained them, so I didn’t think too much more of it.

While we were away, the windchill at home got to around 10 below Fahrenheit. The temperature itself was about 4 degrees. Our friends keeping an eye on the house texted to note the bathroom had icicles hanging from the faucet and asking if they should do anything about it. Speaking from experience now, that’s a bad feeling to have when you’re 500 miles away. In the end, I told them not to do anything, mainly because if they turned on the heat and there was some sort of a leak going on, I wanted someone there who knew the house well enough to easily turn things off.

When we got home yesterday afternoon, I set about looking into the problem. The good news is that (from the research I did), pipes typically burst when they’re under pressure. As long as there’s space for the water to expand, then it expands, but if there’s a bunch of water pressure pushing it one way, and no space for it to expand, then it bursts the pipes. By draining the pipes as much as I had, I’d given it the space it needed. Good thing, too, since it took hours for the bathroom to thaw. The toilet water (what was left in it after draining) was frozen solid. There was a little stalagtite of water in the shower underneath the shower head. The pipes themselves were frozen through and through.

The water all came back eventually, and I see no drips or water leaking from anywhere so (knock on wood) hopefully we avoided a catastrophe. Next time I’ll be more diligent in my draining. Go figure.

In the mean time, it’s a bit chilly up here. Another foot of snow is forecast for tonight. Thank goodness summer is over.

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve been posting my book ICHABOD in installments, as well as chapters from UTOPIA. Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

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