Wednesday, November 30, 2005

It's Like "The Shining"

Have you ever seen "The Shining"? You know, where the words "Redrum" keep appearing on the walls? Well, it's happening at the "Crackhouse". No, we aren't getting the words "Redrum" nor are we seeing "Murder" or "You will die" but there is definitely bleedthrough occurring.
I have applied three coats of joint compound to the parlor walls in an effort to smooth them out and it appears that the writings of the previous crackhead tenant just won't go away! See for yourself

I am haunted by these guys almost 5 years later. If I close my eyes and cover my ears and sing "La la la la la la la la" it still won't make him go away. Maybe 3 coats of KillZ primer will do the trick. If that doesn't work I'll seal it with my old friend "Shellac". If that doesn't work I'll use duct tape to cover it.

Wait, maybe I can scare it away!
"Here's Gary!"

(This was how I looked AFTER the hair cut!)

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Disaster Thwarted!

The temperature dropped below freezing on Friday. I stopped by the house to check the condition of the third floor plumbing and found it had frozen. I made the decision to shut off the water. Good job I did! Everything was unfrozen today. When I turned on the faucet I heard the "Glug, glug, splash" of water leaking out of the line. Upon further investigation I found the copper pipe had popped at one of the joints. Now the line is drained so once again I have no water. Time to cut and cap the lines to the third floor. Now I have a toilet and sink on the second floor I don't need water on the third floor but I do need a utility sink in the basement. Where's that extra 10% off coupon from Home Depot? Damn it! It expired today....

Plumbing, STILL the bane of my existence!

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Todays mistake

I made a mistake this morning. I asked Deborah to trim my hair. I mean, how hard could it be? I handed her the clippers and said "short back and sides please" the top is fine. Now I should have realized that this could be a bad move. I mean, she has NEVER cut hair before AND I have NEVER seen her carve a roast. Her attempts to slice a loaf of bread are pitiful to say the least and she always cuts herself when slicing vegetables.
As for my hair? Well, she butchered it. I knew it was a mistake when she took the attachment off the clippers and I could feel the warm buzzing blade running up my neck behind my right ear, then I heard the "Whoops!"
Being Thanksgiving Day it was most improbable that a barber would be open. I doubt one could have obscurred the damage. I had to resort to giving myself a winter buzz cut. I learned my lesson...
That's OK. In 4 months when I mention a haircut she will say "How do you want it cut?"
My reply will be "Well, I thought that I could get it short here, long here, a bald patch here and a piece sticking out over here. Oh, and a little bit of blood running down my neck will do nicely."
She will say "You can't do that!" and my comeback will be "Why not? That is how you cut it the last time!"

Having seen "Toy Story" for the 300th time and with my new found skills at remodelling I think I will change my name to "Buzz Leitzell, Space Arranger."

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

The Partinization of my window.

The renter who lived here in 2001 when we bought this place had the surname of "Partin". His first name is grafittied (is that a word?) all over our walls since he managed to live in every single one of the apartments this place was divided into, destroying each one as he migrated down to the first floor making the unit uninhabitable as he moved along. His sister rented the adjacent unit. Mr. Partin was a drug addict. I believe crack was his drug of choice.

Anyway, Mr. Partin often did work on the house in lieu of rent. Now there are two types of work done on this place. The first is the kind of work done to make do. This would involve such things as duct taping a thingymajig to a whatchamacallit. No thought goes into aesthetics, the job is done to solve a problem using the most readily available tools or products to complete the job. We call this type of job a Weils job. This was the surname of the property owner from 1954 to 1988. He is the guy that turned this place into apartments. He left drywall tape showing on seams. Cut holes in the middle of floors to put in electrical boxes. Ran plumbing up the sides of fireplaces. Well, you get the idea, it's a half-ass job with the wrong materials or just a half-ass job.

Then there is the other type of job. This involves some forethought and a tiny bit of skill. This is when you use the correct materials the wrong way. Mr. Partin was a graduate of this school. He had been the one to add a 4th layer of shingle to a part of the roof but placed the nails too high on the tab allowing much of the shingle to blow off over time. He used screws where finishing nails would have been adequate. He repaired broken windows with plexiglass and then used used caulk to seal it in. He used poison bait traps inside the house to kill the mice causing their carcasses to rot inside the walls and floors thus stinking up the house.

I put in the last exterior storm window this week while the weather held out. Before I could do this I had to strip the paint from the frame and remove the sash windows so they can be stripped and re-glazed. It is always bad enough when the top sash is painted shut. You have to strip the paint around the seam to break the seal and wiggle the window in the hope that it will move down so that you can pull out the blind stop that keeps it in its groove. Well, this window was not only painted shut, it was caulked on the inside to seal draughts out. Mr. Partin used silicon caulk to do the job too! Needless to say this added an hour or two to the time it took to strip the window and free it from being stuck.

With Thanksgiving just a few days away I say "Thank you Mr. Partin for making me more resolute every day I happen to work on this place." It is because of you that I have learned that there is a wrong way and a really wrong way to use many home repair products. I am still amazed to this day that there were in fact fuses in the third floor fuse box. I certainly expected a person with your ingenuity and Pennsyltuckian heritage to have replaced at least one of them with a quarter!

Friday, November 18, 2005

Giving Thanks this week

Did you know that had the South won the Civil War we would not have a Thanksgiving Holiday?
Lincoln declared a national Thanksgiving holiday in 1863 and after that all we hear about is the Pilgrims in New England who arrived there in 1620 while on their way to Virginia. An earlier attempt to settle in Maine in 1607 by the Popham Colony had failed as had the Lost Colony of Roanoak Island in North Carolina (1587). However, the first successful colony to settle was in fact Jamestown in 1603. The problem is, Jamestown is in Virginia which was a Rebellion State during the "War of Northern Aggression" (as the South saw it) or the "War to Preserve Union" (from the Northern perspective). Had the Confederacy won they would have pissed all over Lincolns holiday and founded their own based on Jamestown and we would know very little about the New England settlers of Plymouth Plantation.

Since we do have Thanksgiving on Thursday, here are some things I am thankful for;

1) The amazing cooking skills of my mother AND father-in-law. (Can you guess who is making dinner on Thursday?)
2) That the slate portion of my roof didn't get any new leaks this year.
3) That the sink hole in my back yard that was once a well hasn't got any bigger.
4) That there were no new stray cats that adopted the wife. (Three is enough!)
5) We didn't have to buy ANY new power tools this year, whether I wanted to or not.
6) I didn't strike any more fingers with a hammer - yet.
7) My plumbing has held up for the last 6 months.
8) I haven't electricuted myself despite several close calls.
9) I haven't fallen off the roof.
10) My squatter pigeons only number 6.
11) There is only one squirrel in my 3rd floor "attic" (alas it may be no longer. That's another story.)
12) That only a 5' section of my alley retaining wall collapsed this week.
13) That the new neighbors renting across the public alley from us may not actually be assholes.
14) Most importantly - this (she went to see Santa today)

Without which I may have packed this ambitious project in several years ago! It sure is nice knowing you have someone to leave it all to....

Now, in your best Elvis impersonator voice, repeat after me
"Thank you. Thank you very much."

Monday, November 14, 2005

One last look.

Take one last look at the parlor before I cover the walls with joint compound. I wouldn't want to deprive the world of one last opportunity to view this magnificant art work!

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Messing with your minds.

A couple of weeks ago I installed a tracking counter on this blog. Since then I have noticed that when I post to the blog I get between 120 and 160 hits in a day. When I don't post this drops to around 30 and the lowest counts are on Saturdays. Today was unusual with 35 at 11.00 PM. Most of the viewers link through A few link to the blog from my house web page that I set up in 2001 which shows a month by month progress report since we acquired this place. If you are new to this site then you may want to check it out if you have a spare couple of hours because it is quite extensive. The most interesting visits are those that locate this site via keyword searches. These have included the following;

Pictures of crack
Pictures of crack houses
What does crack smell like
Found list of crack house rules
Bain of my existence
Farmhouse sex
Civil War sex
Intrigue sex
Rib cage showers

The first two are quite common. I guess that I need to be careful what I write in this blog. Nah!
Now for the fun part. This is a picture that graces my dining room wall. It is actually called "Solitaire".

I call it "Topless deco babe with a tight pussy".

Well, this should send the counter spinning!

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Stripping Paint from Metal

We all know how to strip paint from wood. (Well, if you have been reading these houseblogs for a while you would know.) Have you ever tried to strip paint from metal? There are several ways to do this. You can try burning the paint off (doesn't always work), you can try boiling the paint off (the wife would kill me if I used a decent pan for this), you can get it sand blasted off (I'm really too lazy and to cheap to do this if I don't have to) or you can use some sort of paint stripper. Being the cheap bastard that I am, I always go for the paint stripper. The problem with paint stripper is that it can evaporate before it has time to work properly. So the trick is to cover the metal item with the chemical stripper, then stick it in a plastic bag and let it sit for a while. Small items can be put in an old coffee can and covered with the stripper.Next, you wash off the chemicals and peeling paint. Take a wire brush and scrape all the paint flakes off. Then you may need to rub down with some steel wool. You may also need to break out that extra large can of "elbow grease" to get off that original layer of black paint that must have been made with hoof or rabbit skin glue because it is so stubborn to remove.
After all the hard work, you are left with this

or this. My foot is in the picture for scale.

And now you can spray them with varnish/shellac or you can paint them black all over again!

Oh no! It's time to strip the jam off of Elizabeth's face before evaporation makes the job more difficult.....

Sunday, November 06, 2005


This morning we had a brief conversation. Deborah shouts down the stairs

"Would you like to make a quick trip to Home Depot?"

Me; "Ha, ha, ha, ha!"

Deborah; "What's so funny?"

Me; "A quick trip? Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha!"

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Never under estimate old time ingenuity.

I have the daunting task of lining 7 chimneys. None will get done until spring at this point because of the likely chance of it freezing in the next few weeks and the mortar not being fully cured, but I am planning how I am going to do three of them already. Some will be lined with flexible stainless steel liners. Especially those that service fireplaces on the ground floor. I may attempt to line two of them with clay tile liners though because it would be cheaper and I have the room in the flue to lower them down from the roof. Today I removed the one and only damper that existed. It was installed in the large fireplace in the "cottage" side of the house. This fireplace was the original means of cooking back in 1845 when the house was built. The two metal hinges for the crane are still embedded in the wall of the fireplace. I used to think that the 36" long cast iron damper unit was original but now I know it wasn't. When I cleaned up the damper door two weeks ago a large hole appeared as the rust got scraped away, so it wasn't going to be much use. The 6" wide opening it presented was going to be a problem for me when it came to positioning and sealing a clay tile liner and was definitely an obstacle for the stove pipe that would have to go through it if we wanted to use the old stove we bought. In order to remove the damper I had to remove the mortar around the edge as well as the four heavily painted metal supports that held it in place that had been embedded into the side walls of the fireplace. I cannot make out what one of the metal pieces was but the other three consist of two 7" screwdriver shafts and the entire blade of a one and a half inch wide chisel! There was another screwdriver shaft bent in a curve at the back for extra support. I guess that with the widespread use of the Phillips head screw someone had no use for these three flathead screwdrivers any more and hammered them a good 6" into the mortar joints so the damper unit could be held in place.

Well, now I can actually stand up inside the fireplace and when the time comes, position the bottom liner tile and seal it in place with refractory cement. I may even use the screwdrivers to support it in place so that I can dump a slushy mortar down the chimney from above to seal it in place. Though some angle iron might be more practical. Now I can get one of those cap mounted flue dampers and run my stove pipe straight up the chimney about 4 feet so that it goes up to the lining tile. In the meantime I have wedged an old foam cushion in the flue to stop the cold air from wooshing into the house.

What can I do with the chisel shaft though? Hmmmmmm.........

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Advice for Newbees

Deborah and I had a discussion about what advice we would give people who choose to do work on their homes. We came up with several good tips that we sure wish we had followed. If you want someone to talk you out of a project I'm your man!!!!!! (Been there. Done that. Blogged about it and have the scars to prove it...)
Anyway, here they are;

The right tools are crucial. They save you time, never be afraid to buy tools, you will always have them.

Whatever you estimate a project is going to cost, DOUBLE IT!

However long you think a project will take, DOUBLE IT! If you have small children in your family, DOUBLE IT AGAIN!

NEVER gut the place if you plan to live in it any time soon. Although it is fun to remove the bad stuff you will be overwhelmed when you look at how much you have to put back together. Work one room (or maybe two) at a time.

Don't EVER lose focus on the end result.

Fix the roof leaks or isolate them before you paint any rooms below where the water falls. There is no point in doing a job twice.

Don't pay someone after they have done the job. Pay them after they have done the job right.

Black wire to gold screw, white wire to silver screw.

And finally, if at first you don't succeed, use a BIGGER hammer!

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

A major psychological milestone.

The living room is now painted. This is a real milestone because for years I have had to look at fugly walls and textured ceilings and for the last few months the house has been very white due to primed walls and ceilings. Here are the money shots. Excuse he dusty floors.

We used the same colors that have been used in the dining room but kept the format plain and simple. The ceiling is solid color and the walls are solid color. Once again there is some molding to install in this room and I still have to put the window sashes back but this really makes a big difference because now there is only one room left on the first floor to finish, well two really because I have to install a powder room under the stairs but that space is so small I don't consider it a room. The parlor is next and should be completed by February. The current plan is to paint the walls in that room a metallic gold and use a gold based wallpaper below a chair rail BUT we shall see if THAT plan gets nixxed before it comes to fruition!

Soon we will actually be able to move in! Then I get to install the two furnaces, the water heater, insulation, replace the front and side porches, replace the slate part of the roof, add two more bathrooms, add one more kitchen, redo the remaining two rooms on the 2nd floor, completely rehab the 3rd floor, line the 7 chimneys, re-build the fireplaces and install the woodstoves. After that, well there is the garage I have to build and the yard. I think I will be blogging for a while longer. Just think, if I had a new house, I wouldn't have to do any of this. Well, not for 3 or 4 years anyway....