Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Gutters, Day 3 through 6

In the last few days there has been no visible progress on the house. Friday Matt dropped off all the lumber needed to do repairs and Roger dropped off the metal gutter coving, which is the part that everyone will see. In both cases I have signed on to prime and paint the material.

Saturday and Sunday were mostly spent giving the gutters two coats of primer and a topcoat of Ivory. I primed both the front and back of the gutters, which should help protect the Galvanneel if any water does seep in behind the gutters.

I also ran into my first problem with the gutters. When I went to paint the interior of the last five gutters, it looked to me like the Galvanneal had two different sides, one a matte gray and the other a shinier, galvanized side. And the matte gray side was the one on the inside for five of the sixteen gutter pieces. I called up Roger to ask him if there had been a mistake. If maybe he had accidentally bent five of the pieces backwards, placing the corrosion resistant side to the inside of the gutter, rather than the outside.

Roger didn't know. He called his materials guy who said that there was no difference in the material, that the entire piece was Galvannealed. I know that I'm paying a lot of money for these gutters (too much really), and it was reaffirmed when Roger offered without hesitation to just fabricate five more pieces with the matte gray finish to the outside.

What is troubling about this, is that Roger, who I hired to manufacture the gutters and who is supposed to be a metal working guy, couldn't tell me why the sheets of Galvanneal have different sides, and neither could his materials guy. Nor could they tell me if one side was more corrosion resistant. After painting 160 feet, both sides, with two coats of primer I can tell them that one side accepts paint more readily than the other. It's always frustrating to pay for expertise that isn't there.

In any case, Roger dropped off five more gutter pieces last night and I've taken the day off of work to try and get them painted today, although with temperatures in the 50's, I doubt I will have any success. It'll take too long to dry between coats.

Roger is working in the shop today and should be able to finish up fabricating the new gutters today. If the weather holds (and it is supposed to be sunny tomorrow), then they should start installation tomorrow. I'm hoping they'll be done by the end of the week at the earliest or Tuesday of next week at the latest.

Here's a picture of the day's work; seven painted gutter fronts, primed with two coats, front and back.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Roofers, Day 2

Another "quiet" day today. The roofers had just a few things to finish up. They had to put a little bit more roofing felt on, load the roof up with the new shingles and clean up the mess. They arrived promptly at 8:00 am today. I have to admit that after some thought I came to the realization that they probably were late yesterday because they were holding off to see if it was going to rain. I guess I unjustly maligned them. It just goes to show how easy it is to jump to conclusions when you aren't in somebody else's shoes.

By 11:30 they had everything done, including removing the huge dumpster that held the remains of our 87 year old roof. They did a pretty good job of cleaning up. There's still some residual black dust on some of the window sills and muntins and so long as I can get out there to brush it off before a rain storm it should be fine. It wouldn't bother me so much, but my parents just painted the window sills and now they're all dirty.

Matt will be dropping off all the wood tomorrow for the carpentry repairs, including the cedar shakes for the side walls of the dormers. My responsibility is to get all the wood primed, painted and/or stained before Matt uses them in the repair work. I'm also fairly comfortable that most of the existing fascia board is sound which means I can use the scaffolding that Roger kindly left behind and get some painting done this weekend. This weekend is going to be a big painting weekend.

We also have some salvage metal guys coming tomorrow to haul away some of our scrap metal. They came last week and hauled away a lot of stuff, including a vintage water heater tank and washing machine. Most of the stuff was pretty rusty and in tough shape or just plain broken. What's left though is the original water boiler tank used for the heating system. It's about five and half feet high, two and a half feet in diameter and has walls about one half inch thick. Several people have told me that we should sell it for scrap because it would be worth quite a bit. When Ms. Huis called last week, they quoted her $80 per half ton. At those rates, I'm glad that there are two guys who are just happy to try and get it out of the house without charging us. Here's hoping that their trusty refrigerator truck can handle it.

Roger stopped out tonight with color samples of the pre-painted Galvanneel. Sadly, none of the colors match closely enough. We could maybe have picked a very different color that coordinated with the shingles or brick, but I wasn't willing to take the chance of picking something I wouldn't like. If I had a decent computer program that would let me try out different colors on a pre-existing photo, it might have been easier. We'll end up using a plain Galvanneel that I'll have to paint. My "to do" list was getting to short anyway.

I'm hoping that Roger will be able to start putting the gutters up sometime next week. He hadn't started fabricating them yet as he was looking for direction from us. He needed to know if we wanted to replicate the double wall gutters or go with straight stainless steel. Now that we've let him know, he can start fabrication. Hopefully he can start tomorrow and be done fabricating in a few days.

Here's a picture of the roof as it is now.

And here you can see the bundles of shingles balanced up on the roof. Let's hear it for friction.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Roofers, Day 1

Today was the first day the roofing guys came. The day started with a 7:30 am call from Jon telling me that they were keeping an eye on the radar, but they were still planning on doing the roof today. I expected my next call to be from Ms. Huis when she got back from school at 9:00 telling me that the roofing crew was there setting up. She called me at 9:30 to tell me that nobody was there. I was not pleased about this. As I said on Monday, I believe contractors should show up at 8:00 and go home at 5:00. Doing so shows a certain professional attitude. In any case, they finally showed up at 10:15.

I went home for lunch at 11:45 and was surprised to see this.

That's right, a huge crane in front of the house. They were using the crane to lift a large container up to roof height. They threw the asbestos slate into the container and when full, they lowered it down and dumped it into the dumpster on the ground. By the time I got home, they had about one side of the roof done.

I couldn't resist peaking into the attic to see what it looked like from the outside. It made for an interesting shot with all the holes and cracks in the roof deck.

I left to go back to work without talking to any of the guys. They looked really busy and like they didn't want to talk to me. On the way back to work I got to thinking about how I had considered removing the roof myself. I pondered this for a day or two when I was concerned about the rising cost of the project. I thought about how I'd take the shingles off carefully. Where I would drop them. How I'd maybe set up a slide to send them down. And finally what tools I'd need. Seeing what these guys had for equipment (a crane!) makes it seem like a comparison of the stone age to the modern age. I'm glad I had them do the work.

Each of the guys carries a small monitor that tracks the air quality around them. This is to verify that they are not breathing in too much asbestos as they work away. There are two huge ironies with this. First, the monitors are not real time. They are sent into a lab and analyzed once the job is complete. My understanding is that if they did inhale too many asbestos fibers, it's too late. It already happened. The other irony is that all the roofers smoked. I guess the good news is that they won't get cancer...from the asbestos.

When I got home from work around 4:30, the roofers were putting the underlay on. They had all the asbestos slate off, but everything was absolutely filthy with black dust (coal dust? 1921 roofing felt?) By the time they left at 6:00 pm, they had the roof covered with underlay and the roof is waterproof, barring hail or high winds. There's some clean up to do tomorrow and they still need to balance the bundles of shingles on the roof. That way when they come back to apply them to the roof deck, they won't have to lift them over my custom gutters (and accidentally wreck them).

I talked briefly with one of the guys before they left for the day and he mentioned that they found almost no rotten boards, just one small spot of a few square feet. There was also one rotten fascia board by a downspout. This is great news. It means that we're replacing the roof in time. I'm looking forward to getting up on the roof this weekend to look at the dormers and also to see what I can see from up there.

Here is a picture of house when we took possession of it last fall.

Here is a picture of the house after Roger removed the gutter.

Tomorrow I'll post a picture of how it looks after the roofers are done with their first phase.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Gutters, Day Two

There isn't much to report today. Roger and Dale came back and cleaned up the mess in a half day. They picked up the remains of the gutters, most of the broken slate and none of the nails or roofing felt. Tomorrow the roofing guys come to remove the asbestos slate, and I'm sure the mess they are going to make will be ten times worse than what Roger made. It's supposed to rain tomorrow. Thunderstorms. It will be a minor disaster if it does. I have no gutters, so the rain will go right into my soffit and then I don't know where, other than down.

I climbed up to look at the paper wasp nest tonight too and it's absolutely huge. It fills the space between two joists (sixteen inches). I took a broom handle and poked it into the nest. The handle slid in the full four feet. I don't know if the nest goes that deep for sure, but the resistance against me pushing never let up. I also saw a few wasps fly between the one inch crack between the brick and the terra cotta block. That means the nest extends down into the walls. Who knows how big the nest really is. Once we get a good solid freeze they'll die.

I was woken up last night at 5:30 by my wife. "We have another bat." Sure enough, I recognized the "flet, flet, flet" of the little guy. No telling if it's the same one as before. I never asked him his name. So Ms. Huis closed our door and I opened our windows. I crawled back into bed to try and sleep my last 30 minutes, but between my wife saying, "Is he out yet?" and the occasional whoosh of the bat flying over my face, it didn't happen. Eventually, about 5:55 he found his way out and five minutes later I got up to get ready for work.

We also got back the cost options for putting a decorative facing on the stainless steel gutters. It's $725 for a Galvanneal piece and $1650 for copper. Another option is to get a pre-painted Galvanneal metal. It's a little more than Galvaneal, but has a 20 year paint warranty. The only downside is that it may not match our paint exactly. We'll decide this week what we're going to do.

Most importantly, eight years ago, at almost this exact time, I married a brilliant, beautiful, talented and funny woman. I wouldn't be where I am today without her. Everything I've done with her in the last eight years, I'd do again, with one exception. I'd try and spend even more time with her. I love you Ms. Huis and thank you for eight great years.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Gutters, Day One

Today is the day it starts. The demolition begins. Nobody really knew how the roof and gutters were put together on our house. This is the really interesting part. How was the system designed? Did it work? What did people do to the gutters over the years to try and maintain them? I found out the answers to some of these today.

Ms. Huis called me at about 9:30 this morning to tell me that Roger and Dale were on site to tear off the gutters. They arrived at 8:00 and did set up. The fact that they showed up at 8:00 is great. I like contractors who show up at 8:00 and leave at 5:00. It means they are dependable. By the time Ms. Huis was done dropping off our eldest at school and dropping the car off at the mechanic, Roger had already torn into the gutters. His comment to her was that the gutters were pretty rusted and "this was going to be a bigger job than he thought." What a surprise.

About ten minutes later, she called me back again. The old spidey sense told me that this was not going to be a good phone call. She put Roger on the phone. The original plan was to rip out the interior gutter and save the exterior gutter. Then when it came time to put it all back together, we'd replace the interior gutter and reface it with the exterior gutter. Looks like that is not an option.

According to Roger, the exterior gutter was rusted through too and couldn't be saved, and that was on the east side - the good side. He was calling looking for direction. I told him I'd come home at lunch, take a look and we could discuss.

Once I got home, I crawled up onto the scaffolding to see what the situation was. It seems that in 1921, two pieces of galvanized sheet metal were used to create the gutter; an interior, functional gutter, and an exterior, half gutter used to make it look attractive. What I didn't know, was that when the previous owner said he replaced the gutters in the 80's, he didn't actually replace them. He took and created another interior gutter, also out of galvanized, and laid that on top of the existing 1921 gutter. There were actually three layers of metal, and they were all shot. One of the problems with that many layers of metal is that the water gets trapped between layers and then sits and rusts.

I had hoped to have a picture of the gutter and its onion-like layers on the fascia, but Roger was able to pull all of the gutter off today, leaving me with just the shots below. Tomorrow they'll be coming back to finish the clean up.

This first picture is a shot of the fascia on the west side of the house, looking south. It's possible to see the "L" they notched in the joists to accommodate the gutters now that the gutters are fully removed. It's also not apparent in this photo, but Roger and I are pretty certain that the fascia around the entire house is not original. The lumber is nominal sized pine, rather than a true 1" thick board.

The second picture shows the state of the roof once Roger removed the gutters. Because these are high backed gutters, they tuck under the shingles. The only way to take them off is to remove the shingles. Hopefully this won't cause us any grief. Roger really shouldn't have moved the shingles around much as he did. A government bureaucrat could have a fit as Roger is certified to handled asbestos materials. If necessary, I'll have to say that I removed them for him to do the job.

The third picture is to show what looks like a nice, dried up cow pie on the roof. We did not allow cattle on the roof. They make too much noise when they roll off the roof. Thud, thud, thud, mooooooooo, thud. This is all that's left of our 1921 roofing felt. Not great, but there you go.

The last picture is the best picture I could get of the many layers of gutter. It was clearer on the fascia. The layer of metal on the left is the exterior gutter. Next is the 1921 interior gutter and on top of that is the 1980's gutter.

We maybe could have saved some of the exterior gutter, but not much. Roger was trying to be careful, but the metal was bending, buckling, dimpling and breaking. When I considered that the visible gutter profile could be remade and that we were trying to save galvanized steel, it just seemed better to start over from scratch. Had the gutters been irreplaceable or the material no longer available, I'd have given it more thought. This leaves us with two options.

First is to abandon the concept of a double gutter. We'll use a single gutter, with the external face shaped to look like the old external, decorative element. The pros are that there is no increase in cost from the bid; the gutter is actually deeper than the original allowing more water to be channeled; and Ockham's Razor is satisfied. There are a few cons. First, if we put a slant to the gutter, there will be a gap between the bottom of the gutter and the top of the fascia. This is an ideal entry point for wasps and critters, who will happily fly into the attic or the floor joists of the attic. If we don't put a slant on the gutter, they won't perform as well. Second, painting stainless steel is not easy, nor always recommended. The name says it all, "stainless." This would leave use with a shiny gray gutter that would eventually fade to a gray. I do not find this appealing.

Second is to recreate the original, double wall gutter. The pros are that this allows us to slant the gutter, while keeping a nice tight seal between the exterior gutter and fascia. The external gutter can also be made of any material, as it doesn't need to function, just to look good. That means we can use Galvanneal so we can paint it more easily, or we could really go all out and use copper. The cons are that this will increase the cost of the project and it makes the entire gutter process more complicated. I've asked Roger to give me two "back of the napkin" type quotes for a double wall gutter; one with Galvanneal and one with copper.

Assuming we can overcome the technical issues with option one, we'll go that route. Alternately, if option two is not that much more (riiiiiight), we'll do that.

One little humorous tidbit is that Roger found a putty knife between the two interior gutters, probably left when the second insert was installed in the 80's. He tells me that it's a Craftsman, so I'm thinking I should be able to exchange it for a new one if it has a lifetime guarantee. Too bad I don't have the same guarantee for the gutters.

Friday, September 19, 2008


Since the work on the roof starts Monday, I thought it would be time to post current pictures of the roof and gutters. The first picture is of the front fascia board, looking north, with peeling paint. Notice the trim attached to the top of the fascia board and beneath the gutter.

The second picture is of the fascia board, looking south, where I have removed the trim. It appears that the exterior of the gutter does not fit securely against the top of the fascia board. The trim helps fill this gap, and of course, looks nicer. Then there is caulking applied between the trim and the external gutter. The bid from the carpenter does include replacing all that trim, so removing it will help them, and if I can salvage some, all the better. I'm not sure how successful I'll be at salvaging any. It's pretty fragile.

The third picture is a close-up of the asbestos cement tile, with my hand on the tile for scale. One of the things I'll really miss that is barely visible in the shot, are the half barrel hip caps where the roof edges meet. The add a lot of structure to the roof. Since the new shingles are asphalt, they'll just roll the shingles over those corners. It won't look the same at all. Short of going with tile though, I'm not aware of any way to get that look.

The last picture is a picture of the gutter looking north. The gutters on the east side of the house are in pretty good shape. I could have saved them and tried to have Roger re-solder them, but since I'm going to the trouble of ripping off the roof, I decided I didn't want to take the risk that the seams would pop again in five or ten years. In this picture its possible to see the galvanized gutter that lies between the external gutter and the roof.

Roger will be out Monday and the plan is to take a saw and cut the gutter out, while not damaging the exterior gutter. The exterior gutter will be carefully removed and set aside. Once that's done, it's time for the roofers to demo the asbestos tile. This weekend I want to remove all the trim and I need to make room in the yard for all the shingles the roofers will be unloading on Wednesday. We bought enough shingles for the garage too, so I need to make sure I have a place to store them.

On a completely unrelated note, and a nod to the fact that it's the simple things in life sometimes that can be very satisfying, my quest for oatmeal is over. When we were in Ireland, I got into the habit of having Odlum's oatmeal for breakfast with Irish cream and honey. I loved it. It tasted great, was pretty healthy (depending on how much cream and honey I added), and stuck with me for a long time, so that I wasn't hungry by 10:00.

When we moved back to the U.S., we bought Quaker Oats, which were awful, but I couldn't quite figure out why. So I began trying all different kinds of Oats, including some imported Irish oats, (not Odlum's) which were far too expensive. But none of them were quite right. Eventually, in talking to Ms. Huis, I hit upon the discovery that it wasn't the taste of the oatmeal, but the texture. It wasn't mushy enough.

So I started trying to soak the oatmeal over night. Then I tried cooking it longer. Then I tried soaking it 24 hours. But all to no avail. The texture was wrong. And then Ms. Huis suggested I try putting the dry oatmeal in a blender. Pure brilliance. That's exactly what it took. This morning I had my Irish porridge again and life was good. The only thing missing was the Irish cream, but I know I'll only ever get that in Ireland. It just gives me one more reason to go back.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Six Days and Counting

One week ago I had a meeting with Matt the carpenter, Jon the roofer and Roger the gutter guy. In writing that sentence, I'm puzzled. What do you call a guy who works with metal, but isn't a blacksmith? Sheet metal worker? Metallurgist? Gutterer? There isn't a nice, succinct word for what Roger does. In any case, I met with the three of them over lunch. It gave them an opportunity to meet each other and me a chance to talk to them all at once. Mostly I'm concerned about what I don't know. In the words of the idiot savant Donald Rumsfield,

"...because as we know, there are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns -- the ones we don't know we don't know."

I know that there are things I don't know (known unknowns). Such as how Roger is going to get the gutters off without destroying the metal facing that is visible. But there are also the unknown unknowns, like when Matt asked Jon, "Will you be doing step flashing into the chimney or using counter flashing? Because with this caliber of house, I'd like to see step flashing." These are the things that I worry about. Because it all takes is one cowboy to cut a nice diagonal groove into the bricks, and ruin them forever. I try to take nothing for granted, but it's those pesky unknown unknowns.

We are approaching start time quickly on the roof project. Next Monday Roger is to come out and remove the existing gutter and the original metal facing from the house. He's estimating one to two days of work. Then Wednesday the roofing crew comes out and removes the 87 year old asbestos cement roof tile. A few comments about the asbestos cement roof tiles.

First of all, if they still made them, I would have priced out replacing them with more asbestos cement tiles. They have amazing longevity (over one hundred years if they are well taken care of, which ours were not). The cost would probably be somewhere between slate and high end asphalt shingles (between $45,000 and $15,000 respectively for our roof). And I think the health hazards involved with them is extremely low. Certainly no worse than all of the VOCs, petrochemicals and heaven knows what other chemicals in a new house.

Second, the asbestos shingles are an impediment to a future sale of the house, someday. It will be good to get them off. I think one of the many reasons that the house was on the market for two years was that the previous owner was very clear about there being asbestos in the shingles.

Third, while I could have removed the shingles myself without any regulation, I chose not too. The hassle of dealing with hauling that much material off site and making sure that it was in an an appropriate container, combined with a fear of falling off the roof, twenty feet to the ground meant I was happy to pay the $5,000 to have them remove the asbestos.

Fourth, because I did hire a contractor to remove the asbestos tile, they are regulated by the state. There is a whole host of laws they need to follow. The tile cannot be dropped greater than ten feet. The guys doing the work have to wear air quality monitors to make sure they aren't inhaling too many asbestos particles. On the days they do the work, the only people allowed on site are us and state certified asbestos contractors. And those are just the things I've picked up on in casual conversation. I'm sure there are others.

Anyway, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday of next week are set aside for roof removal, roof decking repair (if needed) and then felting of the roof. Then the next week, Roger comes back and starts on the gutters. I haven't gotten a firm answer out of him yet as to how long it will take, but his "squishy" answer has been two weeks. Then after that, Jon's crew can come back out and put on the shingles. I suspect that will be a one or two day job. And then finally, after all of that, Matt can come out and finish repairing the fascia, the trim and the cedar shingles on the dormer walls. I'm hoping that the entire roof project will be done by the end of October.

It's a big project, and it's taken more time to get going than I thought it would. I have confidence in Matt and Jon. I'm a little concerned about Roger. He was the best option I had though.

Last week we also finally got the dryer vent put in. We've been venting into the basement for the past year or so. It didn't matter much in the summer, as Ms. Huis has been hanging laundry on the clothesline, but it really made things dusty and damp in the winter. It was the heating and cooling guys who came out and drilled through the basement concrete block. They not only drilled the hole, but also put in the vent and hooked it up to the dryer.

It's expensive to have other people do work that I could do, but I will say that it goes 100 times faster. And even though I cringe every time I sign a check, I do smile every time I look at the updated electric, pass the new dryer vent, look at the kitchen ceiling or use the toilet. And I will readily admit that with only one exception, all of the work that's been done has been to a much higher standard than I could have achieved.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Monday, September 8, 2008


It was quiet this morning when I went to work. The birds were chirping, in the distance I could hear the very faint hum of traffic and that was it. Gone was the constant hum of the factory. After 119 years of continuous production, the factory that was the purpose for our town's founding has shut its doors.

Six hundred jobs are gone now. The jobs averaged $23.00 an hour. That is twenty seven million dollars annually that is no longer being directly contributed to our community. That's a lot of money. Of those six hundred jobs, roughly seventy five are in our village. The rest are in the numerous towns in our vicinity.

There was a rally on Saturday put on by the union for all the workers. It started at 3:00 and was kicked off by a long steam whistle going off at the factory. I'd never heard it before that day. I took the girls and walked to its location. The papers said that there were 3000 people at the rally. I'm not great at counting crowds, but there were a lot of people there and there were speakers there too. Politicians and union officials. I couldn't stop and listen for long. The girls got bored.

But what I did hear was that the new owners of the factory (who owned it less than a year before shutting it down) made a case before the U.S. government that the Chinese and other Asian countries were unfairly dumping product into the U.S. market, flooding the supply. The government came back and disagreed, saying that they could find no proof of that. Within the month, the private investment firm that owns the company who bought the factory started shutting down factories. Not once was it mentioned that the factory was being closed because of its inefficiencies or deficiencies.

The rally was meant to be a bipartisan, but it had definite Democratic leanings. Politicians touted "fair trade" rather than "free trade." Adam Smith and the "invisible hand" were denigrated and belittled. Union representatives promised an end to corporate greed gathered on the backs of the workers. And the crowd was very vocal in its support.

At one point, one of the speakers who came up had the same last name as the builder of our house. It's an uncommon name, so I know that he is somehow related to Bill. I wonder if the speaker was aware that his own relatives blocked the purchase of the land by the factory fifteen years ago. And I wondered again if our house really had been a cause of the shut down of the factory. Maybe it was foreign markets dumping product in the U.S.

The owners of the factory have said that they are closing plants because of the glut of product on the market. They are hoping that once the supply goes down, then prices will go up and they can afford to re-open some of the factories, which is why they are not selling the factory. I wonder though what will keep foreign companies from flooding our markets more once the domestic supply is gone?

I am a worrier. I always have been, except for a five year hiatus I took during college when I was too distracted to worry. I worry when I see good paying middle class jobs go away. And this is the closest I've ever been to a factory closing. I've lived through a few lay offs in my life, and seen a few people go. For the most part the people that were cut were not top performers and the loss to the company wasn't great. Most of them landed on their feet, and some even benefited as they got double pay from severance and the new job. This is different. Everybody is losing their job, and to hear people talk, the factory was highly productive, with up-to-date machinery and processes. And the factory was supposedly making money.

The simple truth is that a lot of these people are going to have a rough time ahead of them. Some of them will stay in the area, but good paying blue collar jobs are harder and harder to find. Heck, good paying white collar jobs are harder to find now than they were ten years ago. Some of them will try to move, but they will have to fight a bad housing market, an uptick in home inventories, and the overall loss of jobs.

I wasn't there at the end of the rally, but I know when it ended. At 5:22 pm on Saturday the steam whistle at the plant blew one last time. And then it was silent.

Friday, September 5, 2008

The Fire is Full of Irons

There's been a lot going on in the last week at the House of 42 Doors. Monday was a public holiday and I took Tuesday off. I wanted to take the week off, but one of my coworkers popped out a baby and I needed to go back to cover for their absence. My parents were here for the weekend helping out with projects, so much was accomplished in that area too. On top of all of this, Tuesday was Pumpkin's first day of school. Busy, busy, busy!

Thankfully, the House of 42 Doors is brick. That means that exterior maintenance on the house isn't too bad. Every time I drive by a Victorian mansion, I appreciate the intricate, complicated and beautiful color schemes. I also thank my stars that I don't have to deal with painting something like that every five to ten years.

This isn't to say that our house doesn't need paint. A lot of the paint on the house is failing and needs to be redone, but on Saturday we scraped and painted all the window sills. Once the storm windows are done being scraped, puttyed, painted and weatherstripped, I can put them back in place and we'll be ready for winter. Thus far, about half the storm windows around the house have been painted and put back in place.

My mother finished painting the kitchen ceiling and walls that were repaired when the soil pipe blew up, and she got a good bit further on the vestibule walls. We started stripping those walls when they were here back in May, and almost have them down to the bare plaster. Once they have been stripped of all the calcimine paint, we'll be able to paint them to match the living room.

My dad cut down a few trees in the back (the last of them) and fixed our garage entry door, which needed a threshold. He also helped me clean out the garage. I think that at last we can squeeze one car into the garage (although we haven't tried yet). He and I also replaced the brick patio that had to be taken up to fix the sewer last fall. Both of my parents raked our back yard, resulting in a pile of twigs, leaves and acorns about four feet high and eight feet in diameter. Our landscaping is still a big mess but we're making progress.

Tuesday of next week, I'm meeting with the roofer, the metalworker (for the gutters), and the carpenter to try and get a schedule together for the roof project. Hopefully, the three of them can talk, as professionals, and I can step out of the picture while they hash out the details.

Our mason has been out several times over the last few weeks trying to color match our mortar for the tuck pointing. To date, he's had little success getting the color right. It's a difficult job and I don't envy him.

I've gone to war with the huge wasp nest in our eaves. I don't know how big it is, but I'm pretty sure the carpenter and the metal worker have no desire to be ripping out the fascia and the gutter around a swarm of yellow jackets. I've been spraying them daily and I think we've finally got them under control. There are well over 100 wasps that on the ground beneath their entrance. I think it's a pretty big nest.

Thanks to my father-in-law and his devoted efforts, we finally have a second car. We got a great price on it, and on Tuesday we switched over the title, got new license plates and updated our driver's licenses to show our current address. They wouldn't put "House of 42 Doors" on our licenses though.