Friday, January 25, 2008


You know, over the years I have stripped and finished at least 13 doors and every time I complain about backache after having to lean over the thing for hours and hours as it sits on a pair of saw horses. Something happened this week though. I became enlightened. I don't know if I just had one of those "ah-ha" moments or if I was just paying attention to what was in the adjacent room but ..... I found a solution!

My back doesn't hurt today!

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Now We're Hopp(er)ing!

Here is a pellet stove update for all of those folks out there who are thinking about getting one. Ours is working just fine. Our situation is a little different from the norm though. The primary purpose of our stove this year is to stop our pipes from freezing once again. So far, so good. We lowered our maintenance temperature from 55 degrees to 45 degrees way-back-when to reduce our pellet consumption in November when outside temperatures were well above freezing and we have been holding there since. We have noticed that, just like any appliance, there is a large amount of fuel consumption if we try to raise the temperature to a comfortable level. If we were to set the thermostat at 65 the thing would run on high for most of the day and night to achieve that internal temperature and switch to low when it was within 2 degrees. After reaching the desired temperature the thing turns off until the temperature drops 2 degrees and then it runs on low to maintain. To maintain a temperature the stove consumes maybe a bag of pellets a day. With super low temperatures outside it is sucking up more but hasn't exceeded two bags. We love it when it is above 40 degrees outside because it doesn't use up any fuel! Of course all of this would be different if we were maintaining a higher temperature.

There are some inherent problems related to pellet stove ownership though. The main one being that you have to keep the hopper full. If it empties the stove shuts down and posts an error message which is easily fixed after filling the hopper and pressing the "Retry" button. UNLESS ....... the temperature in the room where the thermostat is falls below 40 degrees. Then you have a problem. This has happened a couple of times to us but I have figured out a solution. Firstly you have to be sure the hopper is really full. This means you have to push the pellets down and back with your hand. Pouring them in and walking away does not the hopper fill! Next, you have to figure out what the room temperature really is because the thermostat reads 99.9 degrees and you have to get it to read at least 38.4 in order to get the stove to start up. I do this by placing an electric heater within 3 feet of the thermostat. Eventually the 99.9 drops to 38.4 and the start up message appears. A full hopper will keep the thing running for at least 12 hours at a medium/low setting trying to raise the temperature by 5 degrees. Sometimes longer. The space we are trying to keep warm is the first floor and comprises almost 2100 sq. ft of area. The second floor is maintaining at a lower temperature which varies with the outside temperature. The difference is usually between 6 and 10 degrees lower but this last weekend it dropped as low as 24 degrees after the hopper ran out of fuel and the house had almost 12 hours to chill because I couldn't get over to check on it. With outside temperatures at 9 degrees I have to be certain to check the thing twice a day sometimes. Don't worry though. The water is shut off to those upper floors after last winter's plumbing fiasco!

So, back in November we bought a ton (50 40# bags) of pellets for a little over $200 and are now half way through them. The next three weeks are going to be the crucial ones for consecutive days of below freezing temperatures. After that I can probably drop the maintenance temperature if I have to and cruise into March. We are hoping to only need the one ton of pellets this year. Next year, if we are in the place we will probably need closer to 4 tons with the second floor stove running too.
A few other things to note. Although the ash does not create a dust problem, the pellets themselves do when you pour them into the hopper. The ash pan takes about a week to fill up and the ash that builds up in the burning chamber needs to be vacuumed once a week. Each 40 # bag produces maybe a cup of ash so there isn't much residue at all. I guess we should start pricing wood pellets to see if the price drops near the end of the season so we can start planning for next year. Now if we could just pellet-ize kitty poop .........

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Victorian Homes Magazine Visitors

You would think that by the time you are 40 you would be wise about certain things. Possibly even home improvement. Not us! While already owning a house we took a walk one day around the neighborhood and spied a huge old house that we had never seen before because it was winter and the foliage that hides it in the summer was on the ground. "What a neat old house" we said. "Just needs a little TLC" and "Oh look, a for sale sign."

One month later we were members of the "two house club" and had to evict some pharmaceutically inflicted individuals from two of the four apartments that we had just acquired. Almost seven years later we are still members of the "two house club" and our three year project has expanded into a journey of learning such wonderful and useful things like how to make beeswax polish, everything you ever wanted to know and more about shellac, making concrete counter tops and sinks and what plaster is really all about. No contractors are being used. None! We tried one plumber early on and his work failed inspection and a portion had to be re-done by yours-truly. As we say around here "Why pay someone to screw up when I am perfectly capable of doing it myself for free!"

Now, if you have a little time, go get a cup of your drug of choice and prepare to sit down for awhile as you venture through our nightmare. Here is a little tip;

if you just want to look at pictures of house pornography, click on the link to the right that says "Our New House - The entire Crack House story". Here you will find the original site that I established documenting our journey since 2001. I am always slow to update it though and I am a few months behind.

If you feel a little sadistic and want to laugh (alot) at our pain, then read the blog entries. When you are done, click on some of the 50 or so links I've listed because many of those people are in the same boat and every single one of them has followed our journey with sadistic enthusiasm!

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Crappity Crap Again!

This has absolutely nothing to do with plumbing or houses in general. I've got that pox thing again!

"Aunt Sabine" tagged me with the “linky love train” meme, in which an ever-growing list of blog-owner names is supposed to chug its way through the ether.
The rules are simple: When you get tagged, you have to add your name below the person who tagged you and by doing so you are letting the list grow:
Rachel’s Soulful Thoughts
When Silence Speaks
Dancing in Midlife Tune
Underneath it All
I am Dzoi
Hobbies and Such
moms…..check nyo
Choc Mint Girl
Amel’s Realm
My Thoughts
Rusin Roundup
Juliana’s Site
Rooms of My Heart
Colin aka cotojo
Francis & Deborah
The Alien Next Door
Aunt Sabine
This Old Crack House
A Great Pleasure
Jeane Michelle

So, here are my five picks, you can call me a bastard later!

The Devil Queen because John needs all the love he can get.

The Emery Restoration because this slacker needs to make a post sometime soon! because they need all the hits they can get to their site.

Area House because they've been slacking too.

Folksy Blog because she doesn't comment here as much as she used to!

It's not like you have to list 8 of your most embarrasing moments or anything!

Sunday, January 13, 2008

A New Layout

I was playing with my blog template this evening in case you noticed a change. Kind of psychedelic - eh?

Isn't that what crack houses are supposed to be about?

"I feel capital!"

Saturday, January 12, 2008

A Case of "Vuja De"

“Vuja de”…. a jokey term created by George Carlin for the opposite of “Deja Vu”; being in a situation you’ve been in a thousand times before, and feeling like it’s the first time that it’s happened.

It's winter here at the "Crack House" and there isn't a lot of big stuff to do so I thought I would try something different. Only it doesn't seem so different ........

Case in point. Last winter

This winter.

Only the gloves have changed and the walls are sooooooo much whiter.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Farewell to the Beast

Well I finally did it. I got rid of the "Beast." This was probably the most cost effective vehicle I have owned. I got it six years ago for a bout $300 and I can't remember if that was cash or trade. I put about $200 into parts and maintenance over six years and a mere 9250 miles on it driving back and forth to Lowes or Home Depot. It made a trip to Youngstown once and Indianapolis too. I don't drive it much. In 2006 I drove it a handful of times. I haven't driven it since September 2006 and it has been sitting idle since then, sucking up $400 a year in insurance and tags cost. For the money and the amount of times I drive it we could rent a U-Haul truck several times a year and still be ahead. I haven't been able to get it to start lately. I think the fuel line is clogged up and I'm not willing to spend time messing with it so I called the number in an ad I saw in a local paper and a guy paid me $125 to take it away! What a deal!

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

The Color Purple

In the old days plaster was in fact plaster and it came in any color as long as it was white. As any regular reader of this site knows there is lime plaster and there is gypsum plaster. Walls in old houses are comprised of lime plaster while patching plaster and plaster of Paris is the much faster drying gypsum variety. Well, now we have something new and it isn't plaster at all. It is more like fiberglass. It sets in minutes and comes in a variety of colors. Elizabeth's choice was purple. Wanna see?