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This Old Crack House

From log house to farmhouse. Farmhouse to townhouse. Townhouse to apartment house. Apartment house to crack house. Crack house to our house. Our house to our home.

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Friday, December 30, 2005

My Neighbor is Still a Moron or Zero Activity Next Door!

It has been over two weeks since the house next door flooded. There has been no sign of the owner or any of his minions! The "For Rent" sign is still up as is the "For Sale" sign. I would love to see someone's face when they see the kitchen!

There is a window to the basement in the back of the house with a broken pane. I stuck my head in with a flash light to see if there was still any water in there. It has all gone! If it wasn't for the smell or the water bill, you would never know that there was 3 feet of water in there. Now here is absolute proof that if you ignore your problem long enough it WILL go away on its own......

Thursday, December 29, 2005

The problem with switch plates!

Have you ever had a switch plate that won't lay flat?
When you rewire an old house and have to install electrical boxes where they are awkward to install, well, they don't always lay flat. I had to put some really skinny boxes in our breakfast room because one of the walls was brick and the other one was 1" planking. Add some 3-way switches and the skinny box doesn't have much room left for wires. The end result is that the switch plates won't screw on flush with the wall. There is a gap that shows up in the form of an ugly shadow. I also have a problem in the hall where a switch was put into the wood molding near the door and in order for the plate to sit flush with the wood I would have to chisel a recess into the wood where the box is screwed on.
Here is the one in the brick wall.




You can see that the metal on one side of the box isn't flush with the wall. I have the option of removing it and chisling more brick and then replastering the wall to get to to sit flush or I can find a way to fill the gap.
You can go and try to find some of these



but that could take several years if you need a few (and we do!).
I have a simpler solution. I have some very thin plywood that I cut to sit around the electrical box and under the switch plate.



I plan on painting two of them green and putting shellac on the third but I guess you could really do some fancy stencil or rubber stamping on one of these if you wanted to. Call it a creative solution to a simple problem.... it works for me!





I had to do something today, the temperature outside was 52 degrees! Inside it was 44 degrees and after 5 hours with the windows open it got up to a whopping 46!

Saturday, December 24, 2005

HO! HO! HO!

This says it all!
















See Ya Next Week!

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Is winter over yet?

Hey! Yesterday was the first day of winter! (Well officially, anyway.) You know what that means? Only some 90 days before it's spring! I had better go find my shadow and get it ready. I lent it to a groundhog last week. If I don't get it back now he'll keep it until February!

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Doing a Happy Dance!

Happy, Happy, Joy, Joy, Happy, Happy, Joy, Joy, Happy, Happy, Joy, Joy, Happy, Happy, Joy, Joy, Happy, Happy, Joy, Joy, Happy, Happy, Joy, Joy, Happy, Happy, Joy, Joy, Happy, Happy, Joy, Joy!

Look what I was able to buy!




A cast iron fireplace horse shoe!

I found it at an antique mall of all places. It cost $22.50! You read that correctly, twenty two dollars and fifty cents!It is about 1" too wide to rest flush with the marble due to the 'molding" near the base of the marble sides. I will have to cut and file some small notches on each side of the horse shoe to get it to lay flush, but hey, what a find! I will just have to find a cover now... you wait and see, that will cost $225....

Happy, Happy, Joy, Joy, Happy, Happy, Joy, Joy, Happy, Happy, Joy, Joy, Happy, Happy, Joy, Joy, Happy, Happy, Joy, Joy, Happy, Happy, Joy, Joy, Happy, Happy, Joy, Joy, Happy, Happy, Joy, Joy!

Sunday, December 18, 2005

It's 36 degrees inside. What should I do?

Things to do while waiting for the gas man (woman) when the indoor temperature is 36 degrees.
I was able to put my Rejuvenation light fixtures up on Saturday in the freezing temperatures that engulf this house. They look good in the hall, the larger of the two needs lower wattage bulbs because your eyes are drawn to the glare as you walk down the stairs and the bulbs are exposed on the upper side of the light. Either 40 watts are in order or I need a 3-way dimmer or both!

Since I was over there I made this





"WTF is that?" you ask.

Well, since you asked. It is a plank of wood that has been given 3 coats of shellac and has three old iron square head nails protruding from one edge.

"What is it for?"

This:

Those Sneaky Utility Companies!

Sometime in 2003 we stopped using the gas at this place. This decision was made because I had re-run the existing lines inside the place so that I wouldn't get a bump on the head fumbling around in the basement. The main line from one of the two gas meters ran across one of the rooms in the basement at head height requiring me to duck as I passed through the room. I moved some lines and ran lines to areas of the house that had never seen a gas line in case I would need to install a furnace or a gas dryer at a later date. I tidied up the lines in the basement quite a bit and made one of the meters obsolete. At that time I had the meter removed leaving me with just one.

Well, after this I never ran a furnace again and we have yet to use the stove. I still have to buy a water heater and we have decided to get one of the "on demand" type that mounts to the basement wall. I don't need to get one until we are actually ready to live here so we have no need for the gas service.
For the longest time our monthly gas bill was $4.00 until this year when Vectren jacked up the billing to $7.00. So, we pay $7.00 a month for something we don't use but have the option to use if we want to or install the correct equipment.

Every so often for the last two years, Vectren would leave us notes saying that they need inside the house to test for gas leaks before the meter. Since our meter was inside the house, they needed access to check for leaks. Their note indicated that this was a federal requirement but I question its integrety because I have NEVER received a note at the house where we actually live and pay for the actual use of gas. This house is a mere 3 blocks away.

I never called Vectren for an appointment because I couldn't ever guarantee that I could be at the house at any particular time. Besides, I was suspicious of their real desire to get in the house. I suspected that they wanted to see if I had tampered with the meter. Whenever I saw the so called "sniffer" person they were leaving notes on the doors of houses that were vacant and never actually trying to get into occupied houses where people paid more than $7.00 a month for gas.
They finally called us on the phone. The "boy" who called asked for Deborah. The conversation went something like this;

Boy; "This is Vectren. We need to get inside your house to test for gas leaks."

Me; "You've never done this before."

Boy; "It's a new law that has only been around for the last two years. We need to go into your house and we have a device that detects gas. It will take us about 20 seconds."

Me; "I have lived here since 1994 and have NEVER had you contact me about this." (Now, you have to understand, I am at the residence thinking that they want into this house.)

Boy; "You are where, 114? Where are you?"

Me; " I'm not telling you where I am. This sounds like a suspicious phone call. Thank you. Good Bye!"

Five minutes later I'm sitting on the porcelain throne when the light bulb in my head goes off and I realize that they want into the "Crackhouse". Two days later we get a letter in the mail with an ultimate threat to discontinue service if we fail to comply.
We set up an appointment for Saturday afternoon. Even though it is up to 36 degrees on the first floor I was sure that there was some work that I could do while I wait for the gas "sniffer" to show up. Since it was Saturday, I was sure they would be there early so that they could get home early.

I was right, they showed up by 12:45. The woman came in with a flash light, went down to the room in the basement. Shined the light on the meter and gave the gas lines a good look over then said "I'm done. My sniffer didn't go off in your yard." Then she left. She didn't have a "sniffer" in her hands. Things that make you go "Hmmmm".

Speaking of gas. I wonder if my neighbor with the flooded basement (still no sign of him) has his gas turned off?

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Everything is Coming to a Grinding Halt

Nothing is being done at the house due to below freezing temperatures outside and at freezing temperatures inside. I can't cap my third floor plumbing lines until it is above 40 degrees since the cpvc cement won't cure properly. Besides, that will only take five minutes to do. The smoothing of the parlor walls requires the joint compound being able to dry and not freeze onto the walls. I can't do any mortar or cement work. I can strip paint from wood though! How exciting!

Besides what does anyone care about what is happening at this place? It seems that more people are interested in what's going on with my neighbors house than mine. I had over 250 visits to this blog yesterday. On any normal day when I talk about my place I'm lucky if I get 120 hits and until yesterday my all time high was 160. Maybe I should blog about other peoples houses!

Still no sign of the owner of the house next door. I thought about calling the real estate agent to let them know about the problem but then I started thinking even more. I have already made three phone calls to the owner. The first at 10PM when I noticed water in MY basement. The second at 10:15 PM after I called the water department emergency # to inform him that I am getting his water shut off and the third at 12:10 AM to say that the water was finally turned off after some difficulty and that at one point I had to enter the house to see if I could shut the water off from inside but there was 3 feet of water in his basement. If the owner is on vacation and hasn't got my messages then whos problem is it? Not mine. If he can't be bothered to get over here, whos problem is that? Not mine.

Now, if they do get over here, pump out the water and use fans to dry out the house I know the guy won't put any money into fixing the place properly so I have to deal with the uncertainty of the quality of neighbor that I get. If I sit back, let his furnace and water heater rust and allow toxic mold to infest the walls and hope that the foundation cracks making the place uninhabitable then maybe it will be condemned and have to be removed at which point I offer to buy the place.

Hmmm, decisions, decisions. What would Jesus do? What would Flying Spaghetti Monster do? More importantly, what would YOU do?

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

My math skills suck!

In the previous post about the volume of water in my neighbors basement, I am wayyyyyy off!
The dimensions of the house are 25' X 25'. The water was approx. 3 feet deep. That makes my volume calculation accurate at 1875 cubic feet. In order to figure out the volume of water though, I have to convert this to inches because there are 231 cu. in in a gallon. Since there are 1728 cu. in. in a cubic foot then there are 1728/231 or 7.48 gallons in a cubic foot.

7.48 gallons X 1875 cubic feet = 14025 gallons of water!!!!!!!!!

Holy Crap! Can you say "water bill" boys and girls?

If the owner doesn't show soon and the weather stays cold we'll have indoor ice skating for the kids!

My Neighbor is a Moron Part 2.

The rest of the story.....
Do you remember me telling you about the house next door to my residence? How the owner paid some morons to put vinyl siding on it? Well, about three weeks after that was done, the tenants moved out. The house has been empty since and has a "For Sale" and a "For Rent" sign in the front yard.
Tonight I noticed something strange as I was cleaning out the litter boxes at 10:00PM. There was water in my basement filling up the north west corner. I filled two buckets with water and was looking for a source of the leak when it became apparent that the water was seeping in on the entire north side. This is unusual. There is snow on the ground and it hasn't rained in a while. I thought for a moment and then went outside and looked between the property line to see if the snow had melted away. Then I heard the waterfall. The house next door had obvious problems with their plumbing. Having had similar problems at the "Old Crackhouse" I knew the sound of burst pipes!
I left a message on the owners answering machine, then, realizing that my basement was still oozing water I called the water department. They came out and tried to shut off the water. This isn't easy with 3 inches of snow on the ground. The first time they tried, it was my water that got shut off. The second attempt was a gas line. At this point we thought that if we could get permission to go in the house via a lock box key then the water could be turned off inside. I called the owner again. No answer. I decided to take a bold step. Noticing a 4 inch gap at the top of the plexiglass sash window on the porch, I stuck my hand in, unlocked the sash lock, lifted the window and went in. The water department employee could not follow me since this could be construed as "property damaging" but he was willing to lend me his flash light. The lights would not come on in the house so, using the flash light I found the door to the basement avoiding the torrent of water pouring from the kitchen ceiling. I went down two steps and then stopped. The water level was up to the 4th step. That means it was almost 3 feet deep! By my estimation, that is 1875 cubic feet of water and that equates to about 1200 gallons! In order to shut the water off I would have to go into this cesspool and look under water for the shut off valve. Screw that! I don't even know if the electric is shut off! Can you say frazzle dazzle?

See, there is never a dull moment around here. Plumbing continues to be the bane of my existence. If not mine, then the nearest immediate neighbors! I think when I see the owner later today, I will offer him $6000 for the place which is the lot value. He wants something like $48,000. It used to have nice oak floors, not any more. The panelling in the kitchen is now warped and the ceiling is gone. I could demolish the place and have a double lot or sell the two properties as a package deal and let the new buyer demo it or rehab it. Unless of course, any of you want to be my neighbor! For a short while at least, until we move three blocks away into the "Old Crackhouse".
Look at it this way. The house has an indoor swimming pool.........

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Nothing to do with a house blog but...

I see that one of the pop idols of my childhood may be spending some time in the "Big House". Thats right, Gary Glitter has gotten himself in trouble again. This time with Vietnamese authorities. I have no sympathy. If it looks like a duck and walks like a duck, well, you know how that goes.

Well Gary Glitter, it looks like you will be singing less "Do you want to touch (me there)" and more of "Leader of the Gang (I am)". Start practicing.

"Do you wanna be in my gang? My gang, my gang? Do you wanna be in my gang? Oh yeah!"

Sunday, December 11, 2005

The Ugly Truth about Brick Houses

It is nice to own a solid house made of brick but it is certainly wrought with problems.
For starters, where insulation is concerned, brick has an R value of 0.2. This means that our 8 inch thick walls with 1 inch of plaster has an R value of 1.8. The recommended insulation in walls is R-11. This means that the resistance to heat flow is pretty piss poor! In fact heat transfer is quite slow but it still occurs. The advantages in the summer are that our first floor stays relatively cool as long as the shutters are closed on the windows. Also, if it gets cold outside, it will be warmer inside for a few days. If you get a warm day or two though after a cold spell, well, the reverse is true. If you open the windows to warm the place up then you get condensation on the interior brick walls that are colder than the air that hits them. The outside temperatures this week have been as low as 10 degrees. The inside temperature on the first floor hit 32 degrees on Friday this week. If temperatures rise above this, it will take several days for the inside to catch up. It could be 60 degrees outside but will be 40 inside for several days and if I open the windows to let the warm air in then my walls will sweat and the acrylic paint will blister.

Another disadvantage is that if your gutters get clogged and water drips on the brick, the brick will suck up the water and transfer it to the inside plaster. This causes paint to peel. We have noticed that since we have bought the house and are slowly sealing it up that old paint is peeling where walls used to be continuously damp and wood molding is shrinking from drying out. This causes gaps between it and the plaster. Another thing to note is that houses built prior to 1920 or so had a high lime content in the mortar. Old brick is quite soft and mortar is supposed to be softer than the brick. Old recipes for mortar were varied and many had no Portland cement. I suspect ours was something like one part lime to 3 parts sand. Often the lime leaches out leaving just sand between bricks. New mortars are harder than old brick and should not be used unless you add lime to them. For my tuck pointing I have added about 1 part hydrated lime to one part masons mortar. It seems to be holding quite well. It is something people should be aware of though because using modern mortars will cause your old bricks to crack eventually. Many contractors who call themselves "masons" don't even know about adding lime to mortar so beware if you need to get a chimney fixed. They will coat it in a Portland cement mortar and ten years from now your bricks will be crumbling. I know because this was done at this place! Any way, whether or not you have a brick house, now you know the ugly truth!

Thursday, December 08, 2005

You know Christmas is coming when.....

You see an increasing number of ads for these;




AND the words keep ringing in your head. Chi chi chi Chia!

Interesting web site. They also sell the OV- Glove and Chimney Sweeping Logs that are increasingly advertised every December. Oh, and let's not forget the (Clap on(clap,clap), clap off (clap, clap)) The Clapper!

Please Santa, please! Do NOT give me any of these things this or any other year! Especially the Chia Pet or head!

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Sunday at the Auction

We went to another one of Woods Auctions on Sunday. We were interested in these two pieces of furniture.





We had an idea of what we were willing to pay for them. $600 for the couch and $1000 for the display case. Well, we didn't get either. The couch sold for $850 or something like that. Which was fine because it really wasn't a practical piece and we would have to decorate the room around it. The display case sold for over $1300. we'll find another one some day.

We didn't get off scott free though. Deborah got these for $45 a piece. There is always room for an Eastlake parlor chair.



Then she bought this for $65. Now this is going to be a fun plaything for Elizabeth when I rig it up but I doubt that the neighbors will agree. My trusty 4' level is there for scale. The thing weighs close to 100 lbs. Elizabeth will certainly know when dinner is ready!



I bid on this.




It is a folk painted sausage stuffer. I will probably strip it of paint and hang it in the kitchen along with the assortment of old knives, slaw cutters and implements that we are accumulating. Hey, for the $5 it cost, I can throw it at the squirrel on my third floor or fill it with play-doh and start my own shape factory!

Monday, December 05, 2005

Installed and working!

By Saturday night these lights were in place. I know they don't look as good as the Rejuvenation fixtures but they certainly are period pieces.







Now, a word of advice for anyone deciding to buy one of these downward pointing bulb type fixtures. When you re-wire it, you need to put a socket on the top portion and leave it "loose" so that a candle type bulb lays flat on the top making it less visible to anyone looking at the fixture. The purpose of this bulb is to reduce the shadow that will be cast on the ceiling if you don't install it! The other trick is to install low wattage bulbs so you aren't fixated on the glare produced by bare light bulbs. I used 40 watt bulbs and they are too bright but I have a dimmer switch on this light so I can dim them to around what 25 watt bulbs would generate. The light emitted from 25 watt bulbs today is about equivalent to a 50 watt bulb from the 1930s. The other solution is to make glass bead shades to hang over the bulbs and dangle down like the headress of the woman in the poster. That would break up the glare. General Electric used to make art deco bulbs for these fixtures called GA bulbs. Once in a while you will run across them. They have a flared yellow tip to diffuse and direct light downwards but the top of the flare and the neck are white to cast light up to the ceiling. They are shaped like a long necked wide bottom vase. They look kind of neat but are actually a product of the 1950s.

Now all I have to do is install the Rejuvenation fixtures in the "Crackhouse" BUT the temperature here is below freezing. The basement of the "Crackhouse" is at 43 degrees, the first floor is 38 degrees, second floor is 33 degrees and the third floor is close to whatever the temperature is outside. It may be a few days, or weeks before I put them in. Let's put this into context. I don't know about the rest of you but I hate working in the cold. It does strange things to my body. My fingers shrink, my feet lose all feeling, my nose runs and my balls shrivel up. That is not a pretty site. You know what prunes look like? Well, my balls look like the stones in those prunes!

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Replacement Lighting

Several years ago, about 2 or 3 years B.C. ("before Crackhouse") I acquired some lights from Rejuvenation. Some were purchased and some were gifts. We decided a long time ago that we would transplant them to the "New" house if we could find some replacements that wouldn't come close to the $1000 replacement cost of the Rejuvenation lighting.
Two years ago we found some sconce lights at Home Depot or Lowes for $15.00 a piece so I transplanted the $97.00 each ones and stored them in the basement until this year when I put them in the dining room of the "Crackhouse" after painting the upper portion of the wall. I see that the replacement cost on these (Lafayette #w466) is now $132.00 each! The other two lights we have are the "Vincent" and the "Fremont".





These two lights are going to go in the entrance hall of the "New" house. The larger fixture going downstairs and the pendant will be located at the top of the stairs on the landing.
Well, we were out and about Thursday this week at a nearby antique mall and found replacements for both lights for the princely sum of..... wait for it.......ahem...... I said wait for it...... drum roll please....... ahem again..... cough, cough....... are you ready?

$52.00!

Here are the lights dismantled. (Yes, I have already pulled them apart!)





I have even rewired them already and replaced one socket in the single light fixture and got any pieces so that I can install them. I also bought light bulbs so the additional expense was another $20.00 but...... hey, I will feel no remorse leaving these fixtures in the house when we sell it!
Since the house already looks "Period" we wanted period lighting left with the house but didn't want to spend a fortune on it. Hopefully these will be installed this weekend!
In the meantime, I noticed this at the apex of my costly reproduction pendant light.



Do you see that splattering of black dots? Do you know what that is? It is fly poo-poo! It would appear that my light fixture has been an outhouse for flies for several years. Even our flies have class!