Friday, April 30, 2010

Two Doors Down, Three to Go

Thanks to JH, we managed to install two doors (count 'em, two doors) on the barn. I had spent the previous week preparing the ROs and he came over to install. I figured that it would take half an hour and we'd be done, but of course it took a lot longer than I'd expected, or for that matter, hoped. The reason is that doors are tricky, you really have to get them in right or they won't open or close properly. What a drag. It doesn't help that they are heavy and extremely cumbersome, but such is life.

So JH and I wrestled with the doors for a few hours and managed to get them in, but not before I basically took a bath in silicone caulking. That stuff gets everywhere. We could have gone on for longer, and JH had indicated that he was ready to, but we had places to be, so I reluctantly put off installing more doors until next week. We had to get to the bike store to find A a new bike, and we also had t-ball (my first practice as coach-yikes) and guitar after that, so no time to waste actually trying to build a house.

One note-the wood pile is about 40% done. Meaning that when we reach 50%, we'll have enough wood (hopefully) for this winter. 100% will mean we have two years worth of wood, which amounts to about 10 cords. Is that crazy, or what?

Until the next time, thanks for reading.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Stoked About Britton's

I just read in the Standard that Britton's, our local lumber yard, was bought out by Bethel Mills. Good news for aspiring real men (as well as certified real men) throughout the area. You don't give it much thought, but having a bona fide lumber yard so close to home is a great thing, saving us the hassle of having to go to W. Leb. Plus, they're local and use native woods, which is kind of cool, in a Vermont sort of way. I have to confess, I didn't think they were going to last, but it seems to me that the arrangement works out for both parties, not to mention aspiring home improvement gurus like myself.

Thanks for reading, and thanks to cbcs for the pic.

More Fascia, Cleaning Up and the Lawn

The fascia on the gable side of the house was much harder to remove because not only is it nailed to the rafters, but it's attached to the roof, as well. Imagine my surprise when I removed the nails attaching it to the beams, and the darn thing wouldn't fall down. I had to pry the thing off from the roof, which wouldn't have been so bad if not for the fact that I was nearly 30 feet off the ground on a shaky ladder. Bummer. I got the fascia off, finally, but not before destroying the drip shield attached to it - it's just a thin piece of flashing. I spoke with the roofers and they said they would put a new one on, and if I wanted to, I could simply remove the thing. Easier said than done, but at least my path of destruction won't have too serious a consequence... I hope.

I'm also embarrassed by the level of mess that has accumulated in the barn, but only because when JH comes over to help, he has to maneuver around all the clutter. I think this is what keeps R from visiting the structure, the mess would send her into shock, so she wisely just avoids it. It's a good thing my Mentor isn't around to see it, he'd have a cow. My brother-in-law, PR, as well, but thankfully they're all a few area codes away. I want to clean up, but I just can't find the wherewithal to pull it off. One day.

In the meantime, there are windows to remove on the second floor, windows to order to replace them, not to mention a 2nd story door to put in. What were we thinking installing a door on the 2nd floor?

For all it's worth, I did finally mow the lawn, and since we put so much effort in restoring it, I didn't want to hack it too short, so I set the mower on high, which did absolutely nothing to the grass. I had to set it lower to get any effect, and it did look better, though I still think the grass is a work in progress. Kind of like everything in life.

Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to NRL for the pics.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Stumped on the Barn Doors

In a good example of "so close, yet so far," JH came over the other day ready to install doors, and they ROs ended up being just a touch too big. I need to shorten all of them by about an inch or two, enough to make a difference and create a gap where our biggest enemy, water droplets, can sneak in. So, we instead spent the day fitting all of the doors and seeing what needed to be done. I recorded the difference and will add more wood.

The debate came up about whether or not to use PT wood. The sill is PT, and in certain places, the frame above it is PT, but I don't think that's what S&MG did. The frame that rests above the PT sill is rough cut, so in one door, I did the same.

Either way, JH recommended using PT since it will get exposed to water, but now I have to get it, and I hate cutting that stuff. He mentioned that we could get around it by adding the wood to the top of the frame, thereby eliminating the need to use PT wood, and at the time, don't ask me why, I declined that option.

In retrospect, I think it's the way to go. That way, I can use the wood I have and take care of it before next Thursday. Amazing what a day or two of thought can accomplish.

Until the next time, thanks for reading.

doors too small
debate over PT wood
embarrassed by mess, will clean
finished shelf, need backing

Fascia, Lawnmower Tuneup, and Chainsaw Issues

In a good example of things that are daunting and intimidating, yet aren't so bad once you actually do them, I started to remove the fascia off the barn. Mind you, I never would have initiated this if not for the roofing company telling me I had to. Sometimes it just takes a higher power to get things moving along.

As I mentioned, it wasn't so bad, and I'm assuming putting the new fascia back on will be a lot more difficult, but I can't dwell on these things. You have to celebrate the moments when life throws you a bone. I managed to get the boards off one side of the barn, and decided to quit while I was ahead. While most people would have continued until they finished the job, I had many other things that needed attending to, and I've decided that the only way I'm going to get them done is by chipping away at the respective stones.

So from there, I moved onto the next project, which was yard maintenance. While I was stewing in self-satisfaction over the minor triumphs of our lawn, I had to remind myself that at some point I was going to have mow it, and that meant breaking out the 'ol Toro and getting it up and running. I messed by not running it dry the previous year, so I did what I thought to be the next best thing - I siphoned off the remaining gas, drained the oil, and pulled the air filter. I then had to get the oil and filter before I could run the thing.

From there, I moved on to the wood pile. I have about 5 cords of tree length wood that still needs to be cut up, which means I can do real-man activities like use my chainsaw. The only problem was, I couldn't get the darn thing to start. I couldn't believe, the thing is less than a year old, and it wouldn't kick in. It looked like a trip to Joe's was in order, I needed a replacement chain, anyway.

I went to Joe's ready to plead my case about the saw (it was still under warranty), and while I was there, pick up the necessary real-man supplies. They took the saw out back, and got it started from the get-go. It turns out I'd flooded it, though I was only following their recommendations about how to start the thing. They'd warned me in the beginning about flooding it, but I still managed to screw things up. Oh well, the learning continues.

On the bright note, the saw was fixed, and I was ready to cut the grass. Spring is in the air, if you didn't notice.

Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to NRL (our son) for the pics.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Mondays and Chainsaw Redemption

Early this week, I managed to slowly chip away at the stone and move things along. It appears that this is the only way things are going to get done around here, and excessive obsession with the big picture will only result in frustration and inaction, two areas that I excel at.

With this in mind, the prior week, JH and I were installing window in the barn when one of the ROs was too small, by less than an inch. We had put all the other windows in, so rather than waste his time watching me enlarge the RO, we ended the day and I decided to open the hole myself. This wasn't such a big deal, but the re-sheathing part was the pain. After that was done, I decided to see if the window would now fit, figuring I could do this much on my own. The RO was snug, but it slid in fairly easy. Because the fit was tight, it held the window in place, so I could go to the other side and check the level, which was fortuitously right on.

At that point, I figured I'd just install the thing, so I pulled it out, caulked the edge, and put it back in, then nailed it. How's that for real-man initiative? Of course, I had N take a pic of it. Just for the record, N is my official blog photographer.

I don't know if I've already mentioned this, but I also found out that my chainsaw sharpening techniques weren't completely off-kilter. I took the chain into Joe's and D told me that it looked fine, that he'd seen a lot worse. Great. I proceeded to use the saw to cut a few cords of wood, and then I had the issue of cutting up that massive header that was infested with carpenter ants. I needed to make smaller pieces for the burn pile, and the thing is long (about 9 feet) and thick (about 7 inches). Using a rotary saw wasn't going to cut it (not pun intended), so I decided to try the chainsaw. I was worried, of course, about nails, so I carefully chose my cutting paths and went for it.

Of course, I forgot to consider nails hidden deep within the structure, and proceeded to fry my chain. Bummer. The minute I hit the metal, I knew I screwed up. Darn. Oh well, at least I have a replacement chain. I'll have to get another.

One new project in the making is a shelf our kids want for their Lego creations. A even drew up a design with specific indications of dimensions and sizes. How cool is that?

Until the next time, thanks for reading.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Upcoming Week

I contacted the fire marshal about burning some scrap wood, but never heard from the guy. Not sure how I'm supposed to approach this, but I'll keep trying. This, however, was fairly fortuitous, because I was going to burn a ton of cedar shingles that I ripped from the front porch, and I just learned from my mentor that they are extremely useful as shims when you install a door. So I went outside last night and grabbed a bunch from the burn pile. Talk about good timing.

When JH comes over on Thursday, we'll finish putting in the final window and maybe even give a stab at putting in a door, but that may be well over our heads.

At some point, I have to get on that deck, and let us not forget the fascia on the barn, mowing our newly refurbished lawn, and making a dent in that wood pile.

Until then, thanks for reading.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Installing Windows

JH came by the other day and helped me install windows on a provisional basis, provisional meaning he'd do it and see how it went, basing future assistance on that. Personally, I think it went well, JH is a great guy, super nice and easy to talk to, and with some interesting experiences. I enjoy just hanging out with the guy, and he has building experience without being overbearing, though in certain instances, being overbearing ain't a bad thing. This is especially true of the likes of me, who likes having his hand held. I'm guessing I'm too old for that.

Either way, he stopped by in the AM, we chatted for a bit, and then we set about putting those darn windows in. Between the two of us, we had enough experience and knowledge to know what to do. In the end, it isn't rocket science, and thanks to my brother in law, PR, I had some sense of the drill. And once we got started, it went fairly quickly. We put in four windows, no problem, and were about to put in the fifth when we found the RO to be too small. I couldn't believe it. I'll have to widen the hole, which is a bummer, but not the end of the world.

I'll attend to that, then we'll set out sights on putting in doors, which I believe is a little more hardcore. Also, I need to replace that darn fascia, and then get to those second story windows and doors, which is going to be a challenge. Good thing I got that extra ladder.

Until the next time, thanks for reading.

Progress on Front Deck-Removing Shingles

We made some good first steps working on that front deck. N was my most-excellent helper (good help is hard to find), and together we managed to removed the shingles from the walls For the record, it was not easy, and there were tons of shingles. N did a stand-up job.

The next step will be to get that cement board off the floor, replace it with the proper pitch, and then put clapboards over the walls. I'm guessing it will only take me about ten years to complete.

My Mentor said to take the nails out where the shingles were, but that's a fairly enormous job. There are so many darn nails, and some are hard to remove. I know, I'm whining, but what else is new?

In the meantime, that floor might present me with some problems. Initially I was just going to rip it up with a hammer and chisel, but noticed that the cement board is bonded to plywood, both of which are screwed into the something (I assume either more plywood or the floor joists) with 2 inch screws. So now I wonder if I should simply unscrew the thing and lift it off. It would make it easier if I could do so, but there is one complication, and for the life of me, I don't understand how they did this. The screws are hidden underneath a thing layer of the cement board, so they are difficult to locate. It is almost as if they put the cement board over the plywood, screwed it in, and then layered a thing membrane over that to hide the screws. Why do things have to be such a pain?

I may have to seek out greater wisdom for direction. This, of course will require that I climb up the mountain and visit my Mentor at the summit, where he sits cross-legged and naked, waiting for my arrival.

Welcome, Grasshopper.

Until the next time, thanks for reading.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

We Need the Rain

As much as I love to see the sun shining and find that gray, rainy weather can bring me down, I have to admit, I'm glad we're getting some rain. It's been pouring, and we even got some snow, which puts a damper on my plans to do work outside, and there's plenty that needs to be done. But, conditions are pretty dry out there, and this hit me like a ton of bricks just the other day.

I almost set the woods on fire. It was scary, even though it wasn't a desperate situation, and a few fortunate events prevented a disaster. As I mentioned, it's dry as heck out there, not to mention windy, and there is plenty of dry stuff lying around, including leaves and grass. I was unloading the ash can from the wood stove, and forgot to consider the fact that the snow puts out any smoldering coals.

The ash was not glowing, and when I dumped it in the woods, all seemed fine. I went inside and prepared to pick up A at rehearsal, when I asked N if he smelled something burning. He said he did. I looked in the backyard and saw smoke. Running over, I could see the ash smoldering in the dry grass, fed by the wind. I immediately panicked and ran over to get the hose, which was tangled up really badly. Letting a few profane invectives fly, I excused myself in the presence of my son, who was rolling his eyes at his father's indiscretion, and proceeded to untangle the mess. With N's help, we got it fully extended and it ended up being too short. With the wind blowing, it was pretty much useless.

I ran into the barn and got a bucket, and we proceeded to fill it and dump it on the ash. Mind you, the situation wasn't bad, but it was enough to scare me. If we hadn't noticed it and instead drove away to get A, it could have built up to something even worse, especially with the wind.

Now I know two things. One, I'm going to store the ash for at least a couple of days in a larger metal trash can before dumping it. Two, I need a longer hose.

Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to Josep Altarriba and Mogens Lauridsen, and for the pics.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Making Pizzas, Meeting the Man, and Wimping Out

Things have been so crazy around here and I've been feeling so overwhelmed that I actually bailed out on karate class, and I felt really bad about that. However, I'm going a little nuts over here, and with all the activities that are wearing me down, the thought of having to be one more place was just too much. However, that's probably the best time to do something you really love to do, and how else am I going to karate kick my way into the sunset?

Just to rub salt in the wound, my sensei had forgotten his keys, so he had to stop by our house to get my set, making me feel even worse. I hate letting the guy down, but what are you going to do? There's always next week.

My life has been all about meetings lately, and I've come to the conclusion that they sure do take a lot of time. It's not just the actual act of attending them, but scheduling your day around them. It really changes the makeup of your day, and not always for the better.

I attended another FF meeting, and have to confess, it went well, I think it's a great group of people who really care about their community. Plus, I finally met the man, JH, the baking czar of King Arthur Flour. What a super nice guy, and I mean genuinely nice. I was impressed. We talked pizza, and though I'm still not sure how we're going to pull this off, or for that matter, what my role is, it was a fruitful meeting. Some things were clarified, while others were made less clear, but what else is new?

Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to Christopher Bruno for the pic.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

My Feet on the Roof

I finally got my feet on the roof, fixed, and it wasn't that bad, though it's precarious up there, especially when you get tired. Normally you just lean back and relax, but you can't do that when you're up there. It's a little stressful.

I needed to replace a piece of trim that was directly under the roof drip shield, and the whole idea of it was bumming me out to no end. I had hoped to ignore it for as long as possible, but truth be told, it was pretty rotted, stemming from icicle formation. At two points in particular, icicles and ice dams form pretty badly, and the exposure to all that moisture had caused the wood to rot. I could have reduced the problem a bit if I'd been more diligent about painting it, but it took me years just to get that extension ladder, so it was bound to become a problem. I actually discovered it when I went up there to paint. The wood was in bad shape, so as a quick fix, I covered it with duct tape until warmer weather, which not only was fairly ineffective, but was a bit of a mistake because the tape was really hard to remove. Funny thing about duct tape.

Anyway, the job took all day, and time is one of the few things I have very little of. Scratch that, it's one of the many things I have very little of. Factor in the fact that I had all these meetings to attend that day, and it was enough to drive me nuts. And like all home improvement projects, what starts out fairly straightforward becomes much more complicated, by virtue of the fact that the very act of trying to fix something, at least in my hands, results in more damage being done. Also, there are always hidden problems that only show their face once the job begins. Finally, let us not forget about the fact that not only do I have no idea what I'm doing, but at 25 feet, my hands and feet are shaking.

So while I knew it wasn't going to be easy, it ended up being harder than originally planned. This is actually a good thing, because if you knew all the hardships you were going to face in the beginning, you might never start a project in the first place. Not unlike being a parent, mind you.

What made it all the more difficult is the previous owners, SG and MG, were top notch builders, so they never did things the easy way. They used long pieces of wood that they seemed to custom cut/rip. This made my job all that much harder, because I couldn't buy stock pieces of wood and simply replace them, I had to cut them to size. What a pain.

In the end, I managed to get the pieces replaced, one on each side of the house. I nailed in the new boards, caulked the seams, and will paint at a later date. I may even get to it before next year... you just never know.

Until the next time, thanks for reading.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Roof Issues Bumming Me Out

This bums me out to no end, but I've just discovered that I have to deal with an issue that I was hoping to put off for at least another 5 to 10 years - I need to replace the trim near the roof on the back of the house, as well as replace the fascia on the barn. Both projects will require that I scale to new heights and do the work standing on a ladder. Bummer.

The house project is something that needs to be done. Because we get such bad icicles on the backside, the wood trim has rotted, fairly badly in some spots. This could have been avoided, or at least lessened to some degree, had I been more vigilant about painting the wood, but it took me two years just to get an extension ladder, so live and learn. The piece of wood is a strip of 1x2 lumber that spans the entire roof. The roof shingles are flexible, so I can push it up and get to the wood underneath. This wouldn't be such a big deal if not for the fact that I have to work about 25 feet off the ground, on a wobbly ladder, while holding a beer in one hand... just kidding about the beer.

Then I have to paint it. The fun never stops. It's a good thing I got a new ladder.

Until the next time, thanks for reading.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Inching Forward and Small Fruits of Our Labors

Okay, inching along here, we are starting to show signs of progress, if you can call it that. First off, I still have about six cords of wood in log lengths, but I blocked up about 3 cords last fall and am in the process of splitting them, so the pile is probably past 40% of my goal. Mind you, when I reach 50%, I will have enough wood for this year, and by 100%, I'll have two years worth of wood getting ripe for burning. Another key aspect of being a real man in Vermont is having two cords of wood at the ready. Having firewood OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder) helps in this regard.

Also, believe it or not, our lawn is starting to look like a lawn once again, meaning green, or at least green-er (it's hard to tell in this pic, but take my word for it). Now don't get me wrong, last year the lawn was green, it's just that it was green with weeds, of the broad leaf variety. We're talking ground ivy and wild strawberries, which sound sort of appealing at first, but their appeal eventually wear thin. It was kind of embarrassing, actually. The philosophy that I hear all the time up here is if it's green and you can mow it, then leave well enough alone. While there is some merit to that, I still think that if you can pull it off with a reasonable amount of effort and no chemicals, then why not? My approach thus far has been rather than seek and destroy the weeds, I'm going to encourage what I want to grow, i.e., grass.

I'm hoping it'll work, but for all I know, it's just grass that would have come up regardless of my efforts, but I like to think I played some role in the end result. Chalk it up to the frailty of the male ego, we need a pat on the back now and then. It validates our existence. Speaking of which, my wife R said today that she thought the lawn was looker nicer and greener.

Did I mention that the windows are ready to be put in (only about a million times)? I spoke with JH and he's coming over next Thursday to put in the windows. Being the home improvement guru that I am (ha!), I'll oversee the operation. Talk about a disaster impending. Between the two of us, we should be able to get something done, but you never know.

There is another project that really hardcore contractors have encouraged me to do, but other reasonable and competent builders have told me is unnecessary. It involves installing support between the ceiling joists so that they don't buckle and collapse under the weight of the second floor. I've heard conflicting theories about this, but I'm inclined to do it, because not only do I need more things to do, but I've got the wood on hand, so I might as well use it. Plus, it's a fairly easy to do job.

There are a few projects that bum me out because I'll have to get on the roof, but more on those later. In the meantime, there is still the issue of the front porch. I don't think R would be too happy if I kept it covered in plastic for another year. With our brilliant plan to use concrete having crashed and burned, I now have to come up with plan B. The big question is, what exactly is plan B?

Until the next time, thanks for reading.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Almost There

Okay, so I'm almost ready to put the doors and the rest of the windows in. I finished sheathing the newly framed openings, and repaired the incisions in the Tyvek, now all I've got to do is prep the holes for the insertion of the windows, then give JH a call. Hopefully he'll be able to come over some time in the next week or so to help out, that would be great.

And hopefully we'll have some nice weather to do the job. Not sure if it's imperative, but I think since we're also waterproofing the openings, dry is good. We shall see, the forecast looks pretty good.

Also, I have to finish that deck. It's so daunting to me because it seems like a pretty heavy duty job, and I have no clue what I'm doing, but you never know until you try. I've learned this lesson in life, most of the time, if not all of the time, what scares you into inaction is not as bad as you thought it would be. Then you kick yourself because you sat on your butt all this time. At least learn firsthand that you can't do it before you throw in the towel.

Finally, hurt my knee last night, and hurt my sparring partner's knee, while we were sparring in karate. I think it's because he and I... or maybe I should only speak for myself, but we're kind of intense. I for one need to lighten up and have a good time with it. Something about hand to hand combat that brings out the worst in me. Now we're both injured. Oh well, can't fight your animal instincts.

Until the next time, thanks for reading,
Allmost ready to put in windows
weather not cooperating
more wood this year
that deck