Wednesday, December 21, 2011

We Have Curtains!

I have wanted curtains in the front room for a long time. I got tired of looking at the pile of boxes that were stacked up in that room since we moved in over 2 years ago and relocated those to another room that we don't use yet! One day I can go through them and throw everything out or sell it because we haven't used it for over two years. Now, I could make curtains myself, after all I do actually know how to use a sewing machine but would like something really regal looking in that room. That would involve some thinking and some math skills. I did the next best thing instead. I went to and browsed the window treatments where I saw the perfect arrangement listed as "Chris Madden Hilton" and if you click on the photo below, it will take you to the exact page.

Now, there is a catch. The photo shows an arrangement that is actually five layers. There is a balloon shade, a pair of striped sheers, a pair of gold curtains, a pair of burgundy curtains and then a valence made up of five individual pieces. Once I figured that out and the fact that everything is sold as single panels and not pairs I placed an order. Three windows worth in all. They were not exactly cheap but hey, I am worth it! It was certainly considerably less than having them custom made and I didn't have to go shopping for fabric or looking through boxes to find the sewing machine. When I showed my daughter the picture of the curtain arrangement and told her that we would have curtains that will look like this her eyes lit up and she said that "Those are the kind of curtains you would see in a mansion!"
Now I still have this window to finish restoring because it was boarded up for 40 years

but the other two currently look like this. The balloon shades are on back order and should arrive in February but the shipping was free so I can't complain. The room is starting to look quite grande.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Helping Mother - A Comedy of Errors (part three)

I know, I know, why has it taken so long to post this? I've been busy and have actually been getting some work done on the Old Crack House itself!

When I last wrote, I mentioned more issues with plumbing. I couldn't figure out why the "speedfit" adapters were leaking where they were attached to the original copper pipe. When I turned on the hot water supply, the shut off valve was also leaking at the joint where it was attached to the old copper pipe. My mother made a comment that prompted me to have one of those moments when you realize what the problem is but you don't know right away how to fix it. She said rather calmly, "You don't suppose it's imperial pipe?"

In England, household supply lines are generally 15mm or 22mm pipe. Imperial measurements would be exactly as we use in the U.S. either half inch or 3/4 inch. Luckily 1/2 inch equals 15mm but 22mm is about 1mm larger than 3/4 inch thus explaining the cause of the leaks. They make a fitting for this but I was running out of time, patience and the part that I needed would have to come from a plumbing supply store and those close early in the UK. I wasn't planning on replacing the old copper hot water supply line but now it would actually be easier and faster to do so. Since I couldn't readily acquire an imperial to metric fitting so I bought some 3/4 inch brass olives for a compression fitting and used one at the shut off that I had installed, removing all the copper after that point and replacing it with the plastic pipe and "speedfit" fittings. This worked! Once the plumbing was functioning properly I was able to finish grouting tile and installing fixtures knowing that any additional leaks would be from the fixtures. My older brother who lives an hour away could fix those if he could get his hands on an adjustable wrench. So, with the plumbing done, what else could go wrong? Easy, the new drain fittings were metric and the old pvc waste lines were imperial which meant that I had to replace the drain traps and some pvc pipe. Fortunately these pipes just had to go through the wall to feed an outside drain. The sink trap had to have an adjustable neck though because the new sink drain pipe would not line up with the old one .... Then there was the tile that I broke installing some baseboard molding and the fact that I couldn't install the towel rail because there was problem with one of the parts .... need I go on?

The comedy of errors ended with the bathroom looking like this.

I estimated that I saved my mother $2000. In the process she learned a little bit about plumbing and how the time taken to do anything related to plumbing is inversely proportional to the complexity of the job! I still hate plumbing!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Helping Mother - A Comedy of Errors (part two)

OK, in England the plumbing is weird. You can buy copper pipe for plumbing. It comes in 22 mm and 15 mm sizes and you can buy plastic pipe, similar to PEX but more rigid which is joined with what we would call "gator grips" in the US. Of course in the US you can also use PVC or CPVC pipe for plumbing.
So, I have to re-route the plumbing in order to shut off the downstairs bathroom from the rest of the house. This I am able to do using the plastic Speedfit system however I run into a problem. The copper pipe feeding he bathroom is in a very awkward place behind the bath tub. In fact it was so awkward that at one point a hole was knocked into the wall to access the pipes due to previous leaks. Here is a picture showing a boarded up hole in a concrete block wall behind where the bath tub was located.

I was able to re-route the cold water line quite easily. It was all 15 mm pipe and the Speedfit fittings worked great. I had problems though with the 22 mm fittings over the copper pipe. They tended to leak. Here is a picture of the new plumbing in the water closet. Some of those copper pipes feed the radiator system. Don't get me started on that ...

Now while I was trying to figure out the plumbing I went ahead and tiled the walls. I ran into a slight problem though. The tile cutter that we had borrowed would cut tiles up to 12" across. My mother had chosen 16" tiles. Of course this was realized late at night. This meant that we had to rent a long tile cutter. Since the stores in England tend to close by 6 PM, this was another delay.

The next day I rented the tile cutter but after cutting 8 tiles the device that split the tiles broke. This meant a quick return to the rental facility before it closed so that I could get a tile splitter that would handle the 16" tiles. Murphy's law was certainly at play!

I also needed a hole cutter for the sink waste pipe and a carbide saw blade for a jig saw. Let me just say that things are quite expensive in England. By this point it is Wednesday and I was hoping that I would have been finished by now. No such luck though!

Next I will tell you why the 22mm Speedfit fittings were leaking. By this point I was frustrated with plumbing, however, I am used to it by now .....

Just so you can relate to everyone involved, here is a picture of my mother doing what she likes most .... shopping!

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Helping Mother - A Comedy of Errors (Part one)

A couple of months back I got an email from my mother. She was going to get her bathroom remodeled and she was quoted $6000 for a room that was no more than 10' X 8'.
So, being the good boy that I am, I volunteered for the job in order to save her several thousand $$$. The job involved putting tile on the walls and installing new bath tub, toilet and sink.

Well last week I went to mother's house and spent 7 of the 12 days working on the bathroom project. Just like at The Old Crack House I managed to under estimate the time it would take to finish the job. When people ask about how I am doing with our house, I generally reply with "I am ten years into my three year project!" If all went well with my mothers bathroom it could be done in 3 days, possibly 5 days. Needless to say, nothing went well. My brother stopped by soon after my arrival and proceeded to tell me that where my mother lives the only water supplied by a main pressure line was the kitchen faucet. The water would then feed into a cistern in the roof that feeds all the other parts of the house by what is referred to as a low pressure system. I put my nephew to work right away pulling up carpet tiles and then linoleum tiles from the floor while I set about looking at the plumbing.

The first thing I had to do was isolate the downstairs bathroom from the rest of the house so that I could remove all the fixtures and still have water supply to the kitchen and upstairs bathroom. After turning off the water to the house I installed two shut off valves. One to the hot water line that came from the water heater and a cold water line that went to the cistern. I disconnected and removed the toilet from the room and turned on the main water supply that was located under the kitchen sink. Well, water started spewing everywhere! Upon close examination I could see that the water line from the kitchen went under the floor and came up behind the bath tub where it branched off to feed the sink, toilet and bath before going up to the cistern. The water line would not be accessible unless the tub was removed and it would appear that a hole had been put into the concrete block wall behind the tub in the past for this very reason.

I learned three things that day. One, my brother knows nothing about plumbing. Two, the water was going to have to remain shut off for at least a day since, three, it was going to take longer than expected simply because where mother lives the shops close at 6 PM and it takes 15 minutes to go 3 miles in a car.

Here are pictures of the bathroom before I got started. My mother and her friend had already removed much of the wall tile before my arrival. You can see all the lovely avocado green fixtures that were popular in the 1970s. However, this bathroom was done around October 1983 if the newspaper stuffed as a filler in some of the wall spaces has anything to tell us. The pages were dated September 23, 1983.

Now before I continue with part two of this saga, I do need to mention that mother lives in England .......

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

More Recognition

Wow. No posts for months and now you get three in three days! My "Steam Punk Bathroom" got some web recognition back in July and I am finally getting around to mentioning it on this blog. posts articles about reusing materials and keeping them out of the landfill. There is also a search by zip code feature that informs you where you can take certain types of recyclable products. Try it out!

To all my Facebook Friends, these ramblings are posted to my houseblog at and get fed to my Facebook account so that they appear as Facebook posts and not as posts to a blog page. To see the posts you need to click the "view original post" link next to comments. Some of the links and video don't work through Facebook.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

You Know it is Getting Colder When ....

You know it is getting colder when 8 tons of wood pellets are delivered to your house and you need to move them to the basement! Eight tons arrived last Wednesday. Have already moved five tons to my basement. You know, last year we had 8 tons delivered and I had to move them. All I can think of is this 
song ....  I ought to get me some coal.

Monday, September 19, 2011

The Added Cost of Screen Doors

Way back in June 2002 I took all the siding off the outside of the kitchen and wrote about it on my web page at that time. Then 7 years later we experienced the great termite invasion of 2009.
I never realized that it has been two years that I have lived without gutters on the kitchen. The lack of gutters has posed a few problems for us over the years.

Anyway. Since the weather has not cooperated with my schedule to do more work on my roof, I have embarked on getting things done to the outside of the kitchen. The last post indicated that the addition of screen doors meant that the color scheme was due to be changed. Well, I just have one more coat of paint to put around the windows and something has to be done with the 8 inch space near the ground but here is the back of the house now. Complete with screen door!

As you can see in this photo I have a new toy to ride around on.

This one is a bit blurry but it says "Elvis 150" on the side. Never thought I would own own anything with "Elvis" on it .........

Monday, September 05, 2011

The Roof and Other Projects

Since I haven't been able to finish the roofing project this year because of the wettest spring in decades and then some 30 days of 90+ degree weather this summer and the lack of 4 consecutive days without rain at 80 degrees or below, I decided to take on some lesser projects.
The first was putting in a window well and a replacement window in the front of the main house.

This window project came about after tearing off the front porch last September. Once we did that it exposed an old window opening that was below grade. My box gutter work fixed the leaks in the back that flooded the basement but now water and dirt was coming into the front room of the basement so I had to put this in. I have since inserted a water faucet through the framing so now that it is September, I can water the front yard. (After everything has shriveled and died.) I have put an electrical box on the opposite side of the frame but haven't connected it yet. Maybe I can have that done before Halloween. I was forced to reorganize the basement in order to access this window. That project was 10 years overdue. This meant sorting through a pile of scrap copper and fittings which I still have to take to the scrap yard. Now here is the funny plumbing story because anyone who has followed this blog knows that I can't do plumbing without a leak. I connected a PEX line to an existing shut-off valve and ran it to the faucet set up. All I had to do was turn on the valve and watch for my PEX to leak at a connection. Well, I turned the valve which has been off for only 10 years ....

Water started pouring out of the valve and shutting off wasn't working. So I had to shut the water off to the whole house and figure out what to do. Of course the valve was now in an awkward spot since the furnace duct-work was installed adjacent to it last fall. It was fortunate that I had not taken the metal to the scrap yard because I was able to reconstruct the valve from old parts in a bucket! The rubber had deteriorated in the original valve. Needless to say a simple project took an hour longer than planned. I really hate plumbing .......

Next I'll tell you how my screen door project has forced me to re-paint the outside of the kitchen. Here is the view the wife has been yearning for. Something about a cross breeze she says ....

Nothing is ever easy with this money pit!

Thursday, June 02, 2011

How to Get Rid of Stuff the Slow Way

Now that my relationship with the City has changed I want people to know that I am still treated just like every other citizen when it comes to rules and regulations. I was issued a warning notice because my yard standards were a little lacking this spring. I still had a small pile of wood in the front yard left over from the porch removal last fall and a moderate pile of concrete and other crap in the back yard after the removal of the fire escape as part of the roof restoration last September. I was also told to cut my grass and the wondrous collection of weeds that have accumulated after the heaviest seasonal rainfall this city has experienced in recorded history. The bad news was that I effectively had 5 days to comply and since my schedule had been put together months in advance with little time to spare, this meant that I had one day to make a difference. Now I could have called for a roll off dumpster to be delivered but those are not cheap, require a location for placement and are limited to being available for a certain number of days before they are hauled away. I used one of those last September, you can read about it HERE.

Now that someone has acquired the house across the alley I didn't think it would be very neighborly to plonk a dumpster across their parking space for several days. I also didn't have the time to fill it to the top in one day. So I tried something different. A friend had told me about a program that is run by Waste Management called "The Bagster" Since I saw a real potential of using this program within some of our inner city neighborhoods to reduce costs in City Hall, I was willing to try this out for myself.

When you analyze the cost it is actually cheaper to use the baggies than to rent the roll off dumpster from Waste Management. Last September we paid a grand total of $407 for a 4 ton dumpster and an additional $21.75 for an extra .75 tons. So in essence three of the bagsters would hold 4.5 tons of debris. The dumpster cost would have been $421.50 for 4.5 tons. I only used two of the bagsters this spring. The bags cost $30.00 each from Lowes or Home Depot. With tax the two bags were $64.00. Three bags would have cost me $96.00. The pick up cost in my zip code area was $89.00 for the first bag and $69.00 for additional bags. Once again, I only used two bags. Here is a picture of them!

Three bags would have cost a total of $323.00 making it almost $100.00 cheaper to use the baggies! Cutting costs and getting the job done is what I am all about. I will probably need to use two or three more of these bags to empty my basement of all the excess wood and make some room down there, not to mention that I still have much concrete to dispose of.
This program is not available in all areas and I don't make a dime promoting it. I just like to let people know that they have choices!

Monday, May 23, 2011

The Screen Door Saga

The wife wanted screen doors. Three in fact but let's start with two. She likes the idea of the wind blowing through the house creating a cross breeze through the kitchen. The screen doors were bought at a big box retailer. I believe it may have been Lowes. They cost $88.00 each which was reasonable. Well, now they need to be sealed and painted. We had one color that we could use. We have used it inside the house. It is a dark green. These doors needed some extra flare, so more colors were needed. That means two gallons of paint at $30.00 a gallon and then there is the screen door hardware. The front door was 3 inches too short and so I had to make a shim for the bottom of it. The back door isn't in place yet because I have to redesign the entire rear of the house just to accommodate it!

So, here is the front screen door.

Now let me tell you what I have to do as a result. Paint the windows and doors. Redo the entire porch and install a second doorbell because you can't ring the traditional one installed in the middle of the door if the screen door is locked! It is very fortunate that I anticipated that this day would come and I ran doorbell wire through the brick and into the basement several years ago.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

The Thermo Gaseous Electro Daily Fragment Modulator.

aka the Steampunk Clock.

I went to Ikea one day and among many other things I got a wooden, cabinet style wall clock that was on sale for $21.00 or so. Then it sat on my floor for a month or two until I could figure out what I wanted to do with it. Eventually I came up with an idea and went out and spent some money on some copper plumbing fittings and some electrical parts. I also ordered an assortment of different light bulbs and sifted through a bag of odds and ends. So, an additional $50.00 later I now have a unique wall mounted clock that looks like this.

The two antique looking bulbs on each side are actually "Balafire" bulbs that have a moving carbon filament so that it looks as if a flame is burning inside the bulb.
When the thing is turned on it looks like this.

So, the big question becomes ..... "Where do I put it?" That was easy. It hangs in my office where I am slowly framing some weird and wonderful patents of inventions from Dayton, Ohio and placing them on a wall with an 1870 version of a birds-eye view of the city.

Eventually this wall should get covered in these patent pictures. I just need to find some time to go through all the patents. There are thousands of them. The step ladder was invented in Dayton, Ohio for all you home renovation enthusiasts out there. The clock and pictures are the perfect compliment for the radiograph machine, L.C. Smith typewriter and the Plasma lamp on my credenza!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Ask and you shall receive!

Many years ago I posted a link on the right side of this page that told readers what few items we were in the market for. The main two items were a door that is 101" X 36 " and a ceiling light fixture for the parlor. Well, we have had several referrals but no luck on the door. We got one email about a month or so ago regarding a light fixture though. I took up the offer to acquire the fixture and installed it the day that it arrived. The only issue was that it came without the six shades that it needed. I don't know if you have ever looked for shades but they can end up costing more than the light fixture if you are not careful. Kind of like getting a picture framed. I just spent $300 a piece getting two $20 posters framed. Some things just don't make sense!
Any way. The person who sold me the light fixture has been eager to see if I would make a post about this. I held off until the light shades arrived. I was able to get the best possible price for these shades at Lehmans which is here in Ohio. Believe me I searched extensively online at many options. These were the most cost effective. Of course I had to order 6 pieces which caused an automatic backorder situation which delayed delivery. Anyway, here is the light fixture in all it's glory.

Now I am going to have to paint the room!

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Dayton Patented

Dayton, Ohio has the unique reputation as being the city with the most patents per capita than any other city in the United States. It had over 1200 patents issued before 1868. I have been researching some of them because I find some of the inventions interesting. Dayton is famous for the airplane, the automotive starter motor, the ice cube tray and the pop top can BUT did you know that Dayton has claim to the automatic gate, a wringer and of all things House paint? Anyone who owns a Victorian brick house may find this patent interesting. It is for house paint and is from 1837. We still have flakes of this or something similar on our place. Click on the image to read the ingredients.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Year End Update With Pictures!

I get asked this question often. "Did you finish your roof?" The answer is "No, but it is two fifths done."
The gutters are the time consuming part. They have to be riveted and soldered in place and each corner has to be custom made. There are eight corners due to us having a bay section with four 135 degree corners. The good news is that six of the eight corners are in place so in the spring I just have three straight sides and a dormer to remove and replace with a window similar to the others. I am not looking forward to that window construction.
So here is why it has taken so long. Besides the roof, I had to brick up this hole in the wall.

I still have one row to complete but it involves standing on a ladder. I don't stand on ladders unless it is at least 45 degrees Fahrenheit. Here is a news clip from New Years Eve where I get asked about the roof. This was aired live at 6:10 AM so I was up early for it.

Leitzell praises risk takers:

I had three downspouts to replace. This had to be done to stop the waterfall we encountered on Thanksgiving Day in our bedroom and parlor which was also the result of not completing a section of gutter before a torrential rain.

Then there was the eight tons of wood pellets that were delivered and moved to my basement. Before they could be stored, I had to remove a huge pile of wood and store it outside.

We had a furnace installed this year.

I actually paid for this to be done. If you live in the Dayton area, call Mr. Hartley who owns Dayton Air Conditioning and Heating, at 937-277-8864 and tell him the Mayor referred you. I did have a role to play in the installation.

My role was to seal up a window opening that we used to vent the furnace. I put in a second piece of 4" pipe for future use if needed. It is easier than knocking a hole in the wall!

While I was at it, I replaced the bulkhead doors which were destroyed by some kids trying to break into the house in 2009.

Then I installed this door in the basement in case you get through the bulkhead doors!

I have also made a bead board wall to replace the handrail to the third floor so that I can install a door and keep some heat in the house. I have also replaced the toilet in the Steampunk bathroom with one that actually works and doesn't require three flushes to clear! I also put a toilet in the 2nd half bathroom area (also the laundry room)so that I don't have to look at the hole in the floor any more!

Did I mention lining a chimney so that we could use the wood stove in the parlor? Well I did that too. I poured vermiculite around the liner and wondered why it was taking so much to fill the space. After entering my bedroom I saw the problem. My fireplace had filled up with vermiculite! This meant that there was a hole between my chimneys. After figuring where it was I proceeded to knock a hole in the chimney to repair the hole. After repairing the hole and pouring vermiculite again, I discovered another hole higher up. So I had to make an even bigger hole in my chimney to repair it. Here is a picture. I still have three bricks to install in order to finish the work.

After all this, homeschooling my daughter and doing Mayoral things there are still people out there that call me lazy!