Friday, October 30, 2009

Who Ya Gonna Call?

Well, we have our first unexplained happening at the house. Perfect timing for Halloween!

About a week ago I made some yummy chocolate pumpkin muffins, and like a good home-owner I kept my contractors happy by leaving a plate at the house. The masons must have really liked them, because two of them ate all 6 muffins before the third worker was able to get any. So, I baked another batch and left a plate at the house before going to work yesterday. But the masons did not work yesterday, so before leaving the house in the evening I brought the muffins inside and left them on the counter. (I'll admit here that my mom and I each ate one muffin, but there were 4 left when we locked up the house.) This morning my mom was the first person at the house. Shortly after 9am the masons arrived, and she told them that I had made more muffins. But when she went in the house to get them they were gone. The zip-lock bag and the styrafoam plate they had been on were still on the counter where I left them, but no muffins. No tools were missing and nothing was knocked down or disturbed. Just four missing muffins.

Ah well. Perhaps the culprit will come forward some day. And if not, well, "I ain't afraid of no ghosts!"

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Killed the Camera

Those promised pictures will have to wait. Our camera died on Sunday. I think we scared it to death.

Above is one of the last pictures the camera took, and frankly, I can't really blame the camera for going cold with that image on its memory card. The old lintel had to come out so that correct measurements for its replacement could be determined. The new lintel is being carved right now and should be finished on Wednesday or Thursday. Several rows of stone above the lintel were also removed. They had been cut into to place boards supporting the old porch and were starting to fail. The mason took stone from the springhouse to replace the broken stones. These should match the existing stone so that the repaired area blends in with the rest of the wall.

Charles has already ordered a new camera for us, and the first pictures it takes will show some visible progress. The new shingle roof went on yesterday (and they got the metal roof coated as well - thank you weather for warming up a bit!). We've done some finishing woodwork on the front of the addition and a first coat of paint is up on most of the front wall as well. At right is one of the windows cleaned up and primed. Hopefully I'll get a first coat of paint on it tomorrow.

The yard is also looking better. My uncle J (same one who helped shore up the basement stairs) drove over an antique John Deere that once belonged to my great grandfather. It took him a couple of hours but he got the whole pasture cleared. Unfortunately, the chopper caught a stone and my uncle was back today working to straighten the blade back out. My dad was back at the house today, and got the lawn mowed for what should be the last time this season. And tonight my mom, Charles and I planted a nice sized maple tree between the house and the barn.

Tomorrow the new LP tank will be placed and lines run to the house. The heating contractor is planning to have the temporary furnace in by the end of the week. Gutters will also hopefully be up by the end of the week. Temperatures will be flirting with 70 by the end of the week (!!!) so we should be able to get a finish coat of paint on the front wall of the addition as well.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Board & Batten

Yesterday was the kind of day you don't want to spend outside, so we found ways to stay busy inside instead. After an expensive three hour trip to the local home improvement store, we spent some quality time in the shop. We now have anough batten cut and primed to replace all the missing/too damaged to salvage batten on the north end of the addition, and enough boards cut and primed to finish off the west side of the addition as well.
In the picture below you can see one of the original battens underneath the new battens. Thanks to some help from my mom we were able to match the beveled edge from the originals on our replacements.

It's back to the house after church today, hopefully more pictures coming soon!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Keeping Busy

I've been taking pictures but haven't had time to download them from the camera. The schedule this past week has been the same each day. At the office until 4:00, then hurry to the house and work until dark (which comes way too early every night). It's only about 3 hours a day at the house, but there's been progress. We're going through primer and have several empty tubes of window and door caulk. There are a couple swatches of paint color on the kitchen wing but I'm not happy with the lighter color yet, so by tonight there should be at least one more swatch up to compare to the others.

The masons have half of the front of the house ground out. New mortar is in on the back of the 2-story part of the house and it's looking nice. They are also supposed to have estimates for us today on the various options for repairing the front door's lintel.

The kids have been enjoying the weather too. Our son has been spending every afternoon exploring the creek and the woods. Our daughter putters about variously riding her bike on the driveway, lugging around a cooperative tiger-striped kitten, or joining her brother for adventures along the creek.

We've also been enjoying our bats. At about 6:30 each evening we can hear them start to chirp and chatter. And shortly after 7:00 they start to come out. They swoop out fast and low from the fascia board along the attic. They are big enough that we can easily watch them fly away. The kids got a huge kick out of the bats the first time they saw them, with lots of squealing and running and pointing. While we need to get the bats out of the attic, I really really hope we can convince them to remain somewhere on the property.

And one last note today - I've changed the blog back to a public setting. The Order of Confirmation of Sale was subject to a 30 day appeal period, which expired late last week. I've been checking the on-line docket on the county clerk's website religiously and so far nothing has been posted. It appears our worries about the sale being contested are over. It is still frustrating that we had to buy anyone's cooperation, but having the house tied up in appellate courts for another year would have been a nightmare.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Oh - That's Not Good....

We've been busy. The masons are getting ready to repoint the front of the house, which meant the old rotten porch needed to go. Watching this was nervewracking in the extreme. I was so worried that that triangular roof would pull stones right out of the house when it came down.

It didn't. (Whew!) But it did uncover an existing problem that clearly needs attention. Take a look at the lintel above the front door.

Just inside the front door there is a crack in the ceiling running from the top of the door straight back into the house. A few cracks in old plaster never really concerned us, but now that we can see what's causing this one it's suddenly become much more worrisome.

The mason is looking at several options for fixing this. Option One involves lots of rebar. Option Two involves a completely new lintel. They've already replaced another (much smaller) lintel on the back of the house and did a great job. I just hope I'm not at the house when this repair is made. Seeing a gaping hole above the front door would probably be enough to make me faint. I'm a little dizzy just thinking about it.

And speaking of the masons, they've been at work. Lots of grinding out joints going on. Tomorrow they will have three men on the job - two mortaring and one continuing to grind.

The weather today was lovely. The whole week looks beautiful. It was hard to be in the office all day, but as soon as I got off work I headed to the house. I met my mom and we began priming the kitchen addition. (This after lots of scraping and scrubbing over the weekend.) Here's mom at work with some four-legged supervisors.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Look Ma! No Chimneys!

Our masonry contractor has been busy at the house. First up was the lintel over our walk-out cellar stairs. In the before picture below the lintel is mostly hidden, but if it was visible you would have seen that it was wood and it was basically splitting in two lengthwise. The before picture clearly shows the effects this was having on the stone wall above the lintel.

Below is a picture of the new lintel. It is limestone (like the rest of the house) rather than wood. Even without the pointing around it complete it looks soooooo much better!

Next up is an interior threshhold. This is between what will be our dining room and a walk-in closet/laundry room on the first floor. The threshhold is stone, but it had split in two and one part was basically falling into the basement. This was because years ago the stone wall directly under this doorway had a hole cut into it for ductwork. This doorway seemed to shift noticably just in the time we have been in the house, so we are very relieved to have this issue resolved.

And there's the chimneys. We were at the house this morning getting a quote for insulating the attic. I was standing in the living room talking with the insulation contractor when we started to hear rather loud knocks and bangs. After a little bit, the insulation guy said, "Sounds like they're trying to knock the house down for you!" So I went up to a window and looked out, just in time to see two bricks fall from the sky. "Well," I said, "I hope that's only the chimney coming down out there." Luckily, that's all it was. The mason will rebuild these chimneys for us next summer, but because there are other repointing jobs that are more pressing, for the winter they will just be capped off just above the roofline.

To the left is one of the chimneys just before it was taken down. They literally took the things apart by hand. Both chimneys were down within five mintues. So far, we are quite impressed with this masonry company. When we left they were busy (in the 34 degree weather) starting to grind out joints on the east wall of the house. The weather early next week will be back up around 60 degrees and they want to have all the prep work ready so they can start repointing as soon as the thermometer is cooperative.
I've got to say - in the midst of the ever growing "to do" list, it feels very good to see some progress being made!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The Water's Rising

It's very early in this process. So it's not too surprising that the "to do" list right now seems impossibly long - and getting longer every day.

Take the lack of a furnace as a case in point. We contact an HVAC contractor to prepare an estimate on a new furnace and duct work. He wants us to have an energy audit done so he knows what size furnace we will need. The energy audit reveals that the attic needs insulated (not a huge surprise). The insulation contractor says he can insulate the attic, but won't do it until we evict the bats and clean up their mess. Every pest control place I've called says they don't handle bats. I've called two county extension offices and got the same reaction at both - "Hmmm. That's something we've not dealt with before. We'll have to look into it an get back with you." And that's where we are right now.

We're also facing the reality of the weather. The roofing contractor informed us that temperatures are already cold enough that he will not be able to resurface the standing seam roof until spring. Any hope at getting the exterior painting done before spring has also been all-but-given-up. Highs are in the 40s the rest of this week, with wet snow in the forecast for the weekend.

But all is not woe. The bat issue will be an adventure, I'm sure, but it has promise of being an educational and interesting one. I've been perusing websites and it seems that the best time to bat-proof a house is in the dead of winter when most bats are hibernating in caves. In addition to sealing all openings to the attic, several websites recommend installing bat houses on the property as further encouragement to the returning bats to stay out of the house. Call me crazy, but there's a part of me that thinks this could be kind of fun!

And although Charles and I have been stymied this past week with full time jobs and two kids with nasty coughs, my parents have been busy at the house. My dad was brought over his loader tractor earlier in the week. He pulled down the outhouse and cleaned up several brush piles behind the house. (About gave me a heart attack that day when I pulled in the drive and saw smoke rising above the house! But it was just the burn pile he had started in the back yard.) And yesterday my mom donned coat and gloves to attack the weeds and junk next to the shed. Our mason starts work tomorrow, shoring up a shifting threshold and replacing the lintel over the walk-out basement stairs. And Charles's parents have offered to watch the kids on Saturday, which should help Charles and I get a productive start to the weekend.

So the water's rising for sure, but I don't think we're in over our heads yet. (Hopefully I've be of the same opinion a week from now!)

Monday, October 12, 2009

It's Cold Outside

I spent most of the weekend at the house with a chipper little four-year-old for company. She entertained herself quite well while I puttered about. Mostly I worked on scrubbing walls and cabinets in the kitchen addition. The pictures from yesterday's post don't show the layer of grease, dust, cobwebs, and general grime that cover most surfaces in the kitchen. I also did some work insulating outlets along exterior walls. Our energy audit showed the outlets as a large source of cold air intrustion in the kitchen.

Charles was busy all weekend with performances of his most recent play, but he was able to help me pry up the nasty sections of subfloor in the kitchen. We also pulled up the carpet from the dining room (nice wood floors under this) and from the living room (nice wood floors under this too, except they have some kind of primer painted on them).

Later in the afternoon my mom stopped by, as did my aunt and uncle J & L. They got a tour of the house and grounds. Then J wanted to see the basement. Sounds reasonable enough, right? Except that the basement steps were among the top items on our to-do list. At some point a giant hole had been cut through the support under the stairs in order to run ductwork. The expected result was that the entire staircase was collapsing. J & my mom ventured down, one at a time. Ostensibly, they went down just to check things out, but a few minutes later my mom yelled upstairs asking if we could scrounge up some 2x4s from out at the barn. So, several of us headed out to the barn, collecting pieces of scrap wood. And by the time J came up from the basement we had newly braced, sturdy steps for him to walk on. Family is such a blessing.

Now if I could only say the same about Mother Nature. I realize it is October, but really, highs of barely 50 degrees? We have a lot of outside work to do, and the sooner the better. But if we don't get temperatures a bit warmer it's going to be either miserable and/or impossible to tackle some of these tasks until spring. This whole summer has been unusually cool, so surely we're due for the mildest November on record. Surely.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Interior Pictures!

Finally - some pictures of the inside of the house!!! First off is the kitchen. Since the front door is rarely used this is the first room most people will see.

Above is the other end of the kitchen addition. (That dark stain on the floor reeks. Replacing that section of subfloor is on my list for tomorrow. Thankfully, it seems to be the only urine problem in the house.)

The picture below is one I love. This is the view looking from the kitchen into the stone part of the house.

And - into the stone part of the house. Below is a picture of those living room windows that make me melt.

Above is the doorway from the living room to the dining room. (Ignore the Easter Egg Purple walls - they'll be gone soon.) Notice to the bottom right of the door where the baseboard is missing, that's a stone wall you can see. And by the way I measured the baseboard today, it is 13" tall.

Heading upstairs we have this adorable, totally impractical little nook.

Above is a picture of one of the bedroom doors. I love them. I was studying the doors downstairs today and I don't believe they have any nails in them. There are mortise and tenon joints and wood pegs, but I couldn't find any nails. And most still have the original hardware.

I'll close with the following picture, it's not of the house, but it is the view we had pulling out the drive for a Lowe's run this afternoon.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

We are homeowners!!!

Back on August 20th, we were told to expect it to take 6-8 weeks to get to closing. It's exactly seven weeks later and The Einsel House is ours! We handed over the rest of the purchase price late yesterday afternoon, and the paperwork is being filed today.

So the posting should get much more interesting from here on out!

Sunday, October 4, 2009


Went back to the house last night. My grandparents wanted to know if they could see it. The previous owners are mostly moved out, just the usual 85% moved out stuff is left behind. Trinkets and toys that have been in storage for years litter the floors, along with all the dust bunnies that had been hiding under the bed and behind the fridge. Having just moved five months ago ourselves it looked pretty familiar.

But seeing the house again, mostly empty this time, was sublime. And scary. We have so much work ahead of us. So much work. How I wish this was April rather than October. But, oh my heavens, what a house. For the first time I really studied the woodwork inside the front door. It's amazing. And the living room (where those curtains I've been working on will go) is jaw-dropping. With the furniture out we noticed the baseboards for the first time. They are the highest baseboards I think I've ever seen. Will have to get a ruler in there to measure.

(Oh, and this news just in - we have a closing date! 48 hours from now we'll be homeowners again!)

Friday, October 2, 2009

Crisis Averted

Mr. Attorney's attorney is reviewing the proposed "Covenant Not to Intervene or Interfere in Sale." Provided it meets with his approval it looks like we have averted this crisis.

We had to buy this cooperation, though.

In the end, if we had gone to the sale and had to bid up to what this is now costing us we still would have been thrilled. We're still getting a good price on an amazing property. But although we feel relief, it's hard to feel much happiness at this resolution. After all, we're paying half of the malpractice deductable for a mistake we didn't make.