Dec 18, 2009

Winter is Here

As I write it is really December as you know I was working furiously to get caught up on all of our work that I hadn't posted since last December. It is nice to know I am finally getting caught up and can write about what is really going on.
We finally have winter and it really came in with a bang. Our first big snow was a whopper. Our yard had either 20" or 18" depending on where we measured. I had a snow day from work most businesses and schools were closed in the area even the UW closed which is a very rare occurance. It took us about 4.5 hours to get everything cleared out including helping the neighbors and shoveling the snow off the flat mudroom roof. So here are some photos of the snow to enjoy now that the work is done.

Fall is fast approaching-time for windows

With several projects completed over the summer and fall fast approaching we decided we should try to put new more efficient storm windows on the upstairs. After liking the Larson gold storms we put on the alcove window earlier in the year we decided we should replace all 12 storms upstairs. How to do it efficiently though. This would be a tough job from a ladder just measuring would be a chore. So it is off to the rental center to rent a lift. It proved to be well worth the money spent to rent it for two days. The first rental was to remove the old storms, scrape and repaint all the trim then measure for new windows. After a few weeks of waiting for the custom windows to come in we had to wait for a nice day to rent the lift again and replace all the windows. While doing the windows we decided the gable vents were very old and nasty looking so we replaced those at the same time.

new vent  

Or exciting discovery was there was fish scale shake siding when we took one of the gable vents off the front of the house.
It makes us just want to rip all the aluminum siding off to see what the house looks like. We know though this is a project for another time in the future.

Birds eye view of the neighborhood

I begin to wonder if Greg is ever going to come down from the lift. He says he wants one for Christmas this year! Don't think we have the space to store it. Although I know we would get use out of it.

Garage upgrade

Having moved from a house with no garage having one is great. But we decided having two doors would make so much more sense. So in August we decided it was time to move the entry door and add a second garage door. We hired a construction friend of ours and his friend to do the work and we pitched in and helped as much as possible.


So one day of work and we had two new doors. Then the fun began painting the whole garage. This took several weeks but we have a great new looking garage.


Well as many of you know old house have horrible wiring as back in the day life did not depend on electrical like we do today. So we are and will be for a while working with a family friend to update the old knob and tube wiring through out the house to new wiring and add outlets and more fixtures etc. Greg and Brad have started some of the routing but not any of the connecting. We are using the existing chimney as an electrical chaseway to get wiring from the attic to the basement so having to take the chimney out while sad will serve a good function in the long run. While digging around in the insulation in the attic Greg found a treasure

This old mirror frame was buried in the insulation. To bad it wasn’t a bag of money! Oh well we will take the frame it is a nice addition to the house. Now to find a place for it. Also while up there they needed ventilation so they pulled the little square window out and had a great view.  There will be more shocking news as the electrical work continues. 

Abandoned Beauty

Like I said the bats have taken up residence down the street. We are sure of this cause we can watch their flight path directly from the house down the street. On the corner there is a beautiful old Victorian built by the same builder as our house(Sjur Johnson). It was owned we are told by one of the Larson families. And now a relative owns it who apparently has a history of having properties he does not maintain and lets them rot to nothing. People around town who care about the history have been for years trying to buy it but he will not sell. We do not understand these types of people. So here are some beautiful pics of the old original house and the state it is in now-at least the bats have a home!

Note the windmill with built in water tank behind the house that looms over a house that is 3 stories tall. It is possibly 75 ft-100 ft tall. Sadly it is no longer there.

Inside views -Hand painted mural around ceiling of parlor

Air I need Air!!!

The Edwards house has beautiful windows. Something the designers back then knew how to do-design houses that functioned to cool well in summer and be light and bright in winter. The house has tons of windows that circulate all the lovely breeze through them so that between the coolness of the stone basement, shade trees and lovely windows AC is hardly needed. Well I suppose a cool summer also helped with that. However back in the day houses were designed to optimize conditions. In the winter those same windows let in tons of light to help heat on cold days. Granted there is also a heat loss from them but today modern storm windows can fix that without destroying our beautiful wavy glass sashes. I know many preservationist think storms ruin the historical look of houses. Which is true the storm windows are not historical but in restoration we need to be a little practical also. We believe we found something that is sort of a good compromise. Ok so I got a little sidetracked in my rant the original point of this was to say how in the parlor alcove we have 4 beautiful windows but they only had the original glass storms on. No summer screens were anywhere around the property. So once it got nice and my urged to throw open those windows to let the breeze through was dashed. Time for a fix! We looked very hard to find storms. It is very common now for all of these window companys to suggest removal of your beautiful historical (supposedly inefficient windows) to replace them with their awesome vinyl windows! What!?? Are you serious!!!? People buy into this and are sold very inferior windows on a daily basis and your energy return for cost is not good. By the time you actually see the money back those windows are junk. Our fix Gold Series Larson storm windows-we ordered the flush mount type. Once installed as you can hopefully see by the photo they look almost like the original wood flush mount type of traditional storm windows. I am sure there will be more installed in the future.

More Parlor work and trim dilemma

Well after many months of getting sidetracked and slow work we finally were able to put a coat of Kilz primer on the parlor walls. It still needs a second coat but that will wait til after the trim restoration is complete. So that leads me to the dilemma-what to do with the trim. After much research online and trial of products I think I have a plan. I just wish the trim had not been so dinged up-I could live with alligator crazed finish or something like that but this is just beat to Hades. I guess I should count my lucky stars it doesn’t have 50 coats of paint on it and that someone actually left it intact in the house even with all the crazy paneling and drop ceilings etc they preserved the trim. So I will thank the Tanners for that! I have decided that stripping would work but then we would lose our original historic finish so I am trying re-amalgamation with denatured alcohol. If you are familiar with french polish on shellac finishes it is very similar. Since the trim is all shellac I am just brushing and brushing more denatured alcohol on it to smooth and cover the scratches and take layers of alligatoring off. It will still be a big job but I think and hope in the long run looks great. So summer has put a stop to the trim and only now that winter is coming will I start on the trim again. Hopefully by the end of winter I will have the trim in the parlor and living room done. We did learn something in this process-in our haste to rip down the paneling and get the walls stripped we left the new clean plaster exposed and not need to take care when working on the trim next to it. So in the future all wood work will be done first then the walls will be stripped of paper, paneling or other hideousness this way we can then just paint and prime and the room is done! Lesson learned!!!!

Dec 6, 2009

Shed is a mess already (June 2009)

Well the question of the day is how can you only have a shed for about a year and have it be a complete disaster already. I guess part of the answer is only really organizing it partially to start. Basically we just moved everything into it to get it out of the garage. So shed cleaning day has come. Oh what a difference a little organization makes!

Bat Hilton! (April 2009)

Well if you have followed us through our journey thus far you know that we had a bat issue in our attic. I being the conservationist and bat lover felt very sad for evicted the furry little bug eaters. So my awesome dad with is awesome carpentry skills made us the BAT HILTON for a Christmas gift. It is supposed to hold 300 bats. So then the planning started on where to put and get it up. Thankfully my not so bat loving husband humors me and worked on an awesome plan for getting the house up. It got installed in early May and many of the bats may have already taken up residence in the abandoned Larson house down the street. We did not have any roosting yet this year but we are hoping(or should I say I am hoping) that we will have some bats next summer. It certainly once again got the neighborhood talking like so many of our projects seem to. We have and endless stream of people driving by watching what we are doing and often asking questions which is really kind of cool. So we are putting out the bat Hilton signs and hoping a few of the bats will rent a room next year.



Parlor work continues (March/April 2009)

Well once we got all the wallpaper steamed from the walls there still was the nasty residue which needed to be cleaned off. I spent several days with the TSP and a scrubby washing every inch of the walls and ceiling so we would have a nice clean plaster finish coat to work on. We then had a few holes that really needed repair.


We also made a few interesting discoveries. We could now see the walls originally had picture rail that had been removed and in the alcove outside corners there had been wood corner protectors. Both of which will be replaced as we continue work.   The next thing we also discovered is there was some wall that had been removed near the stair way and front door. We are guessing so the parlor could be closed off and only used for the special occasions. The repair left a hump in the ceiling.  


 We contemplated fixing the holes etc ourselves but since plaster work is really an art we decided to hire out and try to learn while the pro fixed the room. We hired Theresa from Artisan Plaster in Madison WI.  She was great and did a great job fixing and explaining to Greg how to fix the holes we find in the future. For big jobs we will probably still leave it to the pros but now we are confident we can do the small touch up ourselves. 




Greg had been laid off from his job like so many others in Dec. which actually was good cause it allowed time for him to be home and work on these things. He got a new job this summer so it is back to weekend warrior house work now. While he was off he spent many days touching up plaster holes and sanding-a hellish job! I swear the previous owners kids played rugby or something as dinged up as all the wood work and plaster is in the house!

Dec 1, 2009

BRRRR It’s cold in here.

While turning on the Christmas tree(Dec. 2008) I noticed a very cold breeze blowing in from the corner of the parlor room. Well actually the temp in the corner was the same temp. as outside! No wonder that room was always cold when we were sitting in it. So Greg started exploring once the tree was down and we had emptied the room and removed the paneling. So while I was in the process of stripping wallpaper/paint he was sealing leaks. It is amazing what you find when you start taking things apart. In the alcove window there is a air return duct. The piping is under the floor in the root cellar. Well he could feel cold air coming from that alcove area and the left side corner of the parlor room. So one day he started dismantling the duct. Under it we found a very large void. Large enough that you could hide a person.

Maybe it was a hiding hole for gold! Of course the gold was long gone. Now what!? Well being the ingenious fixer he is Greg made a styrofoam box and filled it with insulation.


I should also point out that this insulation was a whole roll he had previously stuffed in around the duct in the fruit cellar and we wondered where it all went-surprise in the gold hiding hole!  He also removed some of the floor boards and made a handy little hose injector extension for a can of spray foam and foamed down into the wall and between the floor boards.

Little did he know some of the foam was coming right back outside. Looks like that will be another project for a future date! Oh joy. Never a dull moment at the Edwards house.
Then he reassembled all the duct work and flooring so that no one even knows of the large secret hole. Can’t wait to see what a difference that makes this winter!