Friday, December 23, 2011

pic of the day

it's a snow day in EP.. :)

Thursday, December 1, 2011

window insulation upgrade pt2

So from a previous post about my window insulation adventures, the obvious question would be "are you satisfied with the performance"? Well, it's complicated. On the one hand, yes I've cut down the draftiness in these windows bigtime. By insulating the sash pockets, I no longer have to worry about cold air seeping through the sash chain opening. That's a relatively simple fix (and effective) -- I've begin upgrading other windows in the house starting with the office. The other part of the equation is the easy stop insulation.

I do see how if your sashes are in great shape and have beefy wood all around the critical corner area where the upper and lower sash meet, the chunk of insulation that's supposed to stop drafts passing through that vulnerable area should work pretty well. Unfortunately in my case, the corner edge of my lower sashes have that edge routed off and are partially worn. I'm assuming that was original, which is fine but that inner corner is where I still feel a slight draft get through. The fact that the original parting beads were also just a smidge deeper that the replacements means the new bead rests a little further into the channel than they originally did. So how to fix this shortcoming?

I plan to break out the epoxy and/or glue new strips of wood on these corners so they sit flush to the insulation on the new parting beads. I'm also considering pulling the beads back out and adding some 1/4" shims made out the old beads so they snug up nice and tight. I also wasn't quite happy with the weatherstrip that runs along the top rail of the lower sash. Maybe my sash aren't perfectly straight as the weatherstrip has a very short profile and you could still see a slight gap in some spots. To compensate I added an additional 1/8" rubber weatherstrip just above the easy stop strip. That works much better -- I don't plan to open and close these windows all the time so we shouldn't see too much wear and tear on the rubber stuff. Once I get around to fixing the present shortcomings, I'll report back if it made a meaningful difference..

Friday, November 18, 2011

don't you love fall?

Meet "oakie" my prized Shumard oak tree, living up to its Southern red oak lineage.. When I first bought this tree it looked like a two foot stick with a couple small branches. Every year it gets progressively bigger and fluffier. The fall colors keep getting more spectacular too. I can't imagine when this thing is 60+ feet tall, that'll be pretty sweet.

Friday, November 11, 2011

window insulation upgrade pt1

Once upon a time I dreamed of improving the windows in my daughter's room. No better room in the house to improve first. I actually started this project about a year ago. To make these windows worthy of what I had in mind the window sash themselves would have to be completely restored. They were removed one by one and each got the royal treatment. Much scraping, reglazing, and repainting. With the sash ready to go, the window casing on the interior was also completely scraped/sanded down and primed (final paint is still on my to-do list).

I've put a lot of research into how to make an old window perform like a new energy efficient window. One option would be to use storm windows -- not sure if this was ever really common in el paso, my home did not come with storms (to my knowledge). I've never seen another old home in the area with original storm windows. It can get cold here -- but I guess not cold enough. Although last winter it dipping below zero for a few nights in a row was pretty darn cold. I wasn't about to spring for storm windows though -- I was looking for solutions that were a little easier on the wallet and wouldn't involve much hassle come winter.

A while back I read a few articles on This Old House about Easy Stop weather stripping. I was convinced that I could have my beautiful vintage windows minus the drafts. I actually purchased a set for each of the three windows and had them on standby for nearly a year while I got the windows ready. Yeah, yeah -- I like to take my time ok? I'll show the goods on that next time.. Another good idea I had read about from a past issue of Old House Journal was insulating the sash pockets. I'd seen something similar on TOH using a rigid insulation that was thin enough to stuff into a sash pocket and yet have the weights operate normally. I think they called it a polystyrene foam? Unfortunately for me I could never find a similar product. That is until I stumbled on the Prodex website.

After consulting with customer service, I found that the Prodex Total 16 inch insulation would work for my application. The only downside is you kind of have to order in bulk, but if you use this across multiple windows you can make the numbers work. So after popping the casing off each window, you line the sash pocket with the insulation on all three sides (and top and bottom if you want).

I also replaced the aluminum window jamb liner (I think that's what you call them) with copper V strip. The old stuff worked ok, but the channel in the sash was too wide for the liner to keep tight. A big point for drafts to pass through. The new weather stripping should hold the sash tighter and provide a more solid barrier against the wind. Well that's the hope at least..

Saturday, September 24, 2011

new roof

Who knew insurance companies don't like to insure homes with a pathetic excuse for a roof? Last month we had the rental house undergo a flurry of work to put on a new roof and I think it looks better than ever. We also had the chimney rebuilt as it was partially falling over. Next up is some landscape lovin'..

Saturday, September 10, 2011

I'm still here

Wow, it's been a while hasn't it? I'm still drowning in half-finished projects, but I managed to finally cross two off my to-do list. For some reason I only get my butt in gear when we're going to host a party or something, but I'm happy nonetheless. The desert garden is complete. Well the hard part anyway. The massive piles of rock screening are finally gone and I was able to finish landscaping the unfinished corner. I still have more planting to do, but that will wait for fall's cooler temperatures. This ups the enjoyment factor in the backyard bigtime. Ghetto factor comes down another notch.

The contractor had added railing to the deck and replaced some warped pieces earlier this year. It had only gotten a partial finish treatment. I didn't buy enough stain/sealer at the time and so it looked so-so for most of the year. I finally built up the will to do some light sanding and a hose down prior to finishing the sealing. I think it looks pretty good too. Till next time! :)

Saturday, May 28, 2011

rental house before & after

Finally, some before and after photos of our project (rental) house. It's been a couple of months from start to finish, but we've finally completed it. A while back I was concerned about taking on another project like this, but it's grown on me. I really like this house and am proud of the work we've done.

A lot of the work was cosmetic, the biggest changes were to the kitchen and bath. The kitchen had ugly linoleum floors which we removed to refinish the original wood floors. Added some subway tile along the backsplash and repaired the original scored subway style plaster. The 60s kitchen cabinets were spruced up a bit. The bathroom was basically gutted, although the plumbing work had already been done (see hole in wall). I think the tilework and clawfoot tub add a nice touch. Next big project for this house is a new roof -- hopefully in a year or two.

Now time to get back to work on my house. This was a fun little diversion.. :)


Living Room

Dining Room





Wednesday, May 25, 2011

another one bites the dust

A while back I daydreamed about expanding the historic district my house sits in to help protect old buildings like these. These buildings lie just outside the district lines and while most are in decent condition (despite 90% having already met their demise), there are a few that could use a lot of love. The building above was one of those (it's the last one in link above). Sadly we'll never know if this building ever could have made a comeback. The rumor was it was burned down by transients the other night. The next day the city had the remains demolished for safety reasons. I don't understand some property owners. You do nothing in terms of building maintenance and watch your property slowly waste away. You're too lazy to tear it down so you wait a few decades, count on the eventual fire, and then get the city to tear it down for you.


Friday, May 13, 2011

3rd Annual Bungalow Blog Tour

Where to begin? The past five and a half years have been an experience I don't think I'll soon forget. Back in january 2006 we finally closed on an American Foursquare house in the Sunset Heights neighborhood of El Paso, TX. We were young and naive, but knew we loved old houses. We had recently moved from Chicago, IL and had grand visions of the potential in this house. Little did we know the amount of work we'd be in for. Improvements started off slowly but we gradually upped the ante for each project we completed. Progress would eventually freeze as we took a year hiatus to focus on raising our first child. For better or worse, it didn't take long for the house to beckon me to continue where I'd left off. This is our story.

The house is a fairly modest brick foursquare built in 1914 (maybe 1912) for Joseph H. McBroom, a city attorney. We recently completed the exterior paint and tweaked the front porch. Painting exterior windows was something I've been working on for a few years. The house has obvious leanings to the Arts & Crafts style in the interior. Lots of thick, chunky molding and straight lines. The formal rooms are what drew us to this place -- the living room fireplace flanked by leaded glass built ins, the coffered ceilings, and the dining room pseudo-wainscoting.

Since I can't just work on one thing at a time, I have several projects to burn time and money on. Probably one of the most time consuming has been the restoration of the windows. I've been blessed in that all the original windows were all still there, but it has taken much time and patience to scrape these down, repair, and paint them. Actually this is something my recent exterior paint-fest didn't fully address. There are a few windows that are only superficially painted to allow me to remove and repair them with ease. Currently working on the windows in my daughter's room.

I know when I first told my wife about my plans for the parkway, she thought I was crazy. "Leave well enough alone -- can't you just finish the projects you're already working on? Yes dear." Since I'm a glutton for punishment, I decided to slowly remove the tan landscaping rock (and donate it to a neighbor). In it's place I added compacted rock screening (curse you screening!) from my backyard to act as a base for the brick pavers I had planned. Who doesn't like brick lined streets? I know I do. There's just something so cool about it I think. A big plus is the school across the street already has a similar paver lined with trees in the parkway. Helps complete the effect I think. Add a meaty shumard oak tree to the mix and you have the potential for landscaping glory. I got the big side of the parkway complete (well mostly), so the other side shouldn't be too big a deal. I already have the landscaping fabric topped with compacted rock screening. When I have time, I need to pick up where I left off.

Partially out of guilt for indulging in grass and non-native trees, I have dedicated a corner of my yard for native plantings only. Actually the truth is I really do love the look and smell of the chihuahuan desert. And so the desert garden was born. I've been gradually removing rock screening and carving out planting beds. I then lay down landscaping fabric over the beds and sift all the dirt out of my rock screening so as to minimize weeds taking hold in the new beds. Several varieties of native plants have begun taking hold including creosote, sage, yucca, and desert willow. I've had a few bite the dust over the time I've been working on the desert garden (note to self, yucca don't like fertilizer), but the ones that have taken hold are quite healthy and happy. This project is currently on hold as I need to get the remaining screening piles hauled away to continue building the gravel path and remaining planting bed.

I recently had a new roof installed -- the roofers kindly destroyed this flower bed, which I've since resurrected. Not done yet, but looks a million times better.

Of all my little projects this is one of my favorites. I get satisfaction in bringing the dining room back to what it must have looked like 100 years ago. It wasn't too bad to begin with -- all the wood in this room had never been painted. It had been screwed with though. There was some serious wear, particularly around the windows. I've restored all the wood trim on the far wall and my plans are to fix the row of windows on the side wall. First I need to finish sanding down the wood on the ceiling. I'm about 2/3 of the way though. One other little detail I finally got around to was installing wainscot style trim under the side windows -- this had been removed at some point and I had to get the local lumber mill to cut these down to the proper thickness. Oh, I also installed an Auer heat register I had spent nearly five years searching for (thanks ebay).

And last but not least, the project house. Not to be confused with the project house we worked on a few years ago. This little bungalow was built in 1913 in an old neighborhood not too far from where we live. It retains much of its original charm, from the exterior with its chunky brackets and beadboard porch ceiling to the interior with its beefy crown molding and kitchen built in. The bathroom is pretty sweet with hex tile and clawfoot tub too. From a previous post about exterior paint colors, some people were drawn to the blue paint scheme, while others were not. The colors we chose were #3. Roycroft Brass was the major trim and Weathered Shingle for the gable shingles. Classic light buff for the soffits and Rookwood Dark red for the brackets and rafters. If it looks familiar that's because it is. My house is painted in roycroft brass and rookwood red. Very similar scheme but this one feels a little more jazzed up. The red is a little darker than the one I used on my house. Honestly my first choice would have been the blue too. I don't know -- I've had a thing for red brick and blues for some reason.. Anyway that was voted down and the current scheme was chosen since it was a little safer. I wasn't sure it would work in the final product, but I'm happy with it. The old house cleaned up well. Excuse the mess -- it's still not quite done (at least in these photos). Stay tuned and I'll throw up some proper before/after shots in the next week or two..

Thanks for visiting!

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