Archive for March, 2011

I don’t have a very good before picture for this project but in the photo below you can see what looks like a hedge between the neighbors and our yard. The hedge is really one grape vine plant that gets covered with a volunteer climber every year. The grape vine grows very rigorously all summer long. When it runs out of vertical space, it grows along the ground. I cart loads and loads of cuttings to the yard waste site every summer and I am sick of it. It is not a good use of my gardening time.

The grape vine covered chain link fence is visible toward the lower left center.

My plan is to use the existing fence posts to support wires for 3 espalier apple trees. Last night, I started removing all the plant material from the fence. To my surprise, it was much easier than when it was actively growing.

I got this far:

All of the grape vine is removed.

Then today I decided that I should take advantage of the nice weather and get some more done on this project. Armed with diagonal cutters and sawzall, I removed the chain link and top fence bar. I also started digging out some of the roots, finding that the ground is still frozen in some spots.

Chain link removed

The posts are pretty ugly so I am trying to figure out if there is a way to dress them up. I am considering painting them, boxing them out with cedar or wrapping them with some kind of material.  Since I would like them to be a bit taller anyway, I am heavily leaning toward the wood option, which is also the most expensive version. I haven’t run my ideas by A. yet so maybe he can come up with something better.


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Unfortunately, the not so exciting structural projects are not done at Little Eastside Bungalow and we are currently in the process of sistering the floor joists of the first floor. Now, you might say that this project should have been done first and you are right. But like many new homeowners the path isn’t always so clear and we really needed a new roof first. Over the past few month we have been slowly working on simplifying the mechanicals and electric underneath the kitchen to make room for the sisters. This also allowed us the move all our electric into the new service panel and get the subpanel for the garage and finish the garage electricity. A. also noticed that the flooring nails stick out below the subfloor about 1/2 inch or so. Since we are planning on installing radiant heat from below with aluminum heat transfer plates and PEx, the nails need to be cut flush with the floor.

Flooring nails below the subfloor

This is just another one of those nasty projects: working overhead with the sparking angle grinder and the smell of burned wood. A. worked really hard this weekend and got about 5 joist cavities done.

Nail end ground off.

We had worked on installing the blocking last weekend and were able to get two new joists up this weekend.

Two sisters and you can see that there is a lot of stuff in the way.

Double joist hanger installed on the beam.

In our house, the joists are hung onto the beam by being notched and set onto a ledger. This leads to cracks in the wood over time right at the corner of that notch. I don’t think new growth wood would even survive this type of construction for a year. The old joists have held up OK but we can see evidence of cracks developing. The floor already feels a lot stiffer were the new joists are installed.

Even though this project isn’t necessarily pressing from a structural sense, we need to get these sisters in before we can install the radiant heat. But we can’t get this all done unless we rip out the duct work from the furnace. With temperatures in the teens (-8°C) over the last few nights, the idea of abandoning the furnace anytime soon seems impossible. And once that is done, it is another race against time, since we only have about 5 months in the non-heating season. So, it may look like we are not going to get a lot of exterior work done on the house this year.

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Our garage has not had adequate gutters for long as we have owned this house and probably longer. The gutters ended short of the roof toward the lower yard and didn’t have a down spout. Every time it rained, all the water from the garage roof was discharged right onto the retaining wall. This is probably contributing to the failing of this wall and the garage sloping toward the lower yard.

When we removed the gutters from the main house before the big reconstruction of the roof, we kept them for the garage. This weekend, after almost 1 year since the roof project and 3 years of living in this house, we installed them on the garage.

1/2 round old steel gutter partially removed. You can see how it ends short of the roof at the other end and there is no down spout.

North side complete with gutter and downspout.

And a good rain this morning to try them out.

This morning we woke up to our first thunderstorm of the season. Yesterday, we were still missing a couple of pieces to finish the project which we ended up purchasing late last night. This morning when we woke up to rain, I slipped into my rain pants and coat and installed the drain tile extensions. Now all the water from the garage roof will run down into the lower yard. Hopefully, this project will prolong the life of that retaining wall and with this the life of the garage.

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So it took us about 1 year 4 month from laying conduit to the garage to finally completing the garage electricity project. We dug the trench and laid the conduit in the fall of 2009, right before it got cold and snowy. We managed to fill the trench back in the next spring and were too busy with the roof project basically until this winter. Today it was finally time. A. finished hanging the conduit in the basement to the panel yesterday. Today we pulled the wire, hooked them up on both the main panel and subpanel and rewired the garage door opener and a light in the garage. I also installed the keyless entry for the garage which just makes our life easier: we won’t have to go unlock the kitchen and use the remote opener when we come home on our bikes.

Unfortunately, electricity projects mostly go unnoticed to any friends or family or curious  neighbor. There is a small indication with this one:

4 little bird wires.

No strings attached.

I think this week and next weekend, we should be able to fix up the wiring of the kiln, install the kiln outlet and have a firing next week. Yippy. I bought the kiln when we bought the house and that was in Nov. 2007. I think it is about time.

And some cats to look at.

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Ever since the first snowfall a few days into December we have had snow on the ground. And even after a week of above freezing temps there is still a lot of snow. And we’ll get more. But anyway, when we returned from our trip to Europe the roofers had finished up our roof. It feels pretty great not to have to worry about rain or snow anymore. We worried for three years, every time it rained that there would be a new leak. And in the winter, we worried about ice dams. And last summer when we had no roof but only tarps was the worst of all of it. No more of that. 🙂

This photo is taken the day after the big snowstorm we got with 18" of snow.

And when the snow slides off or melts, the roof is red.

In February our back yard looked like this:

The fencing around the garden is about 3 feet high, the stakes are about 4.5 feet.

We have been working on indoor projects which mostly include electric wiring. We ran the wires from the main panel to the kitchen circuits. Now we have all of the main house electricity on the main panel and the subpanel is free to go to the garage, where my kiln will finally get power. Redoing the wiring and cleaning it up a bit will also give us better access to the joists for some of the structural work that we need to do. I have also been putting in some hours painting the siding we bought last fall for the gables and dormer. I am almost done, only one more bundle and some shorties left to do.

Painted siding in new attic space.

In January, we also had to perform a little furnace repair. The exhaust blower started to get a bit loud, especially when it first kicked on. We researched a replacement part and debated whether we should just order one to have it on hand. We hoped that the furnace would last us through this winter as the plan is to get our hydronic heat ready for next winter. The next day, the noise got even louder so we quickly decided we should order that part. We debated the shipping method hoping that we would have enough time to ship it regular ground. Our instincts, however, told us otherwise so we settled on 2nd day air. The evening of the next day, while sitting on the couch watching TV, the furnace kicks on and the blower starts shrieking, slowly getting slower. A. quickly ran to the basement and turned off the whole furnace. The new blower arrived the next day, luckily a workday for me so I didn’t have to sit in a cold house. A. installed it that night and we were back in business.

New blower in old furnace.

This is a super easy repair and only cost us the price of the part. Through a bit of research, we learned that these high efficiency furnaces with assisted vents (the blower forces the exhaust air out of a pipe instead of relying on a natural chimney draft) commonly have these blowers go out. If we had called a HVAC repair, they would have probably charged us extra for the part and an arm and a leg for the blower and then a charge for just coming to our house to look at it. So, if you have one of these, learn a bit about them.The repair only required common tools and the ability to connect 4 wires, a hose clamp and three screws and the part was available on amazon. Oh, and if you start noticing that the blower is getting a bit loud, especially when it first kicks on, order that part right away. From us noticing that something was up to the complete failure of the thing took about 5 days.

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