Our New Old House

1918 Bungalow


Archive for the ‘basement’ Category

Don’t Go Chasing Waterfalls

Just stick to the rivers and the lakes that you’re used to.

Funny how this song was going through my head all night…

Here’s some video from last night’s first serious spring storm. Keep in mind, our house is on one of the high points of our neighborhood.

VE.1334454828588.mp4 from Kelli Griffis on Vimeo.

Starting spring early

I’ve had spring fever bad these past couple of weeks and I decided to start some seedlings early for my vegetable garden. The only place I can do that is in the basement but my basement’s awfully cold. So I built a makeshift heat tent to help hold in some of the heat from a space heater.


I planted seeds for eggplant, brocolli, cauliflower, and tomatoes.


Hopefully with the lights and the space heater they’ll be warm enough to germinate.


I hope in a couple of weeks I’ll see some little green sprouts. Fingers crossed!

If anybody has any tips, I’d love to hear them. I’ve never done this before, so if I’ve missed anything, let me know!

Nothing new to report, so here’s a look at my workshop!

I don’t have any exciting dramatic pictures of progress to show off this week, but I did spend some time moving things along in my refinishing workshop. Let’s take a tour!


This room in my basement is where I do all the wood refinishing projects that aren’t stuck to the wall. Currently I’ve got a door propped up on sawhorses soaking in Citri-Strip, a table for heat gunning paint off the trim pieces for the windows, and a table for Citri-Stripping other trim pieces. You can see a door propped up on the right that’s been refinished — I just have to put the hardware back on it and hang it back in its doorway — and a stack of windows from the front bedroom waiting to be reglazed, stripped, and refinished.

Closeup of the trim pieces ready for Citri-stripping:


So that’s my little workshop! Hopefully I’ll have some nice progress pictures for you soon.


At Our New Old House the plumbing was one of those things that we knew we’d have to do eventually but that never gave us enough of a problem to fix right away. However, when the faucet on our tub stopped working and we discovered how difficult it was going to be to connect a new faucet to the old pipes, we decided to hire a plumber to re-do our whole plumbing system.

Here are the old pipes to the tub:


And here are the new flex tubes, which are much easier to attach to fixtures.


Since we were going to have the plumber here anyway, we asked him to remove some of the scary old fixtures that had been left behind by previous owners. This toilet was a must to go.


And so it  was gone…


And they capped the drain hole.


The pipes were all galvanized before and probably very close to original on the house and had calcified inside quite a bit. Here’s the inside of one of the valves they took off:


So, with all the galvanized gone they replaced it with Pex.





Now our water pressure is GREAT, the hot water gets to the tap really hot, and fixtures are all easy to attach!

We used John Carroll of Des Moines (Carroll Plumbing, LLC) and we were really satisfied with his work.

MidAmerican Energy Audit

Last week I had a visit from an energy efficiency specialist from our local energy company, MidAmerican. MidAmerican has a program called EnergyAdvantage: Save Some Green. Homeowners who get their electricity and natural gas from MidAmerican can call for an hour long appointment in which a specialist will walk through your home with you, take notes on the current state of your home’s insulation and energy usage, and then make suggestions on how to improve the energy efficiency.

He started by going over a printout of the last year of my energy bills. He gave me an idea of the averages used by other similar houses and let me know where our usage for the past year falls on that scale.

When I told him were looking at the possibility of replacing our furnace and adding central air, he explained to me the factors that go into determining the size of units we need.

  1. Square footage to heat and cool
  2. Number of windows and doors on exterior walls
  3. Existing value of insulation

With that in mind, he figured that our house probably needs a 60,000 BTU furnace.

Now, one important thing about the existing furnace is that the home inspector we had to look at it wrote down the wrong date for when our current furnace was installed. He accidentally wrote down 1983, which is correct for the water heater. But the furnace was installed in 1997! Keep in mind that three contractors came out and looked at our furnace and also didn’t notice what year it was, or did notice and didn’t choose to point out that our furnace is supposed to last 20 years and probably doesn’t need to be replaced. We were thinking of replacing it based on it being nearly 25 years old! With this new information, we’re not necessarily bent on replacing the furnace part. It’s still under consideration.

He went through the house and helped me identify the weakest spots in our insulation. A lot of that was painfully obvious, but it was good to get a few suggestions on how to most cost effectively repair those weaknesses.

One major weakness is the coal chute. He recommended bricking it up with hollow glass bricks. That way we can let in light, but it’ll be a good insulation for the spot.

Another important aspect of our insulation that’s lacking is the attic. Everyone thusfar has described the attic as a “half story” but on account of the insulation properties he noted, the MidAmerican guy said it’s just a converted attic. The things that indicated to him that it’s never been considered “living space” are that the floor and crawlspaces are packed with insulation but there’s no insulation under the roof. He said I can change that and then it’ll be more efficient, but it will require tearing down the plaster and lath ceiling, insulating that space under the roof, and then putting up drywall. I suppose that’s an option, but I think we’ll go ahead and improve the window insulation, put doors on the crawlspaces, and see how well the place stays heated and cooled this year before deciding to add that task to our list. It may be possible to remove some of the insulation from under the floorboards in the meantime, but I don’t think that’s really even necessary.

Finally, he was satisfied with my intentions to fix the windows, but told me it would be wise to insulate the walls. They currently have nothing inside them. He recommended hiring a contractor to blow insulation in from the outside. They’d have to take off the top strip of siding, drill the holes there, blow the insulation in, and then put the siding back. Also, his suggestion for agreeing on price was to say we’ll pay you for the labor, plus we’ll count up the bags of insulation at the end of the job and pay you according to that. That way they have more incentive to use more insulation in our walls so they can get paid more for it, thus doing a better job of insulating the place.

Now that I have specific recommendations for improving the insulation, I can qualify to have MidAmerican energy pay up to 70% of the cost of insulating my house, up to $600. We’ll probably apply that to having the insulation blown into the walls.

So with all that information in mind, we’re going to contact back the people we got quotes from, ask them to adjust the quotes for leaving the current furnace and just adding A/C and ductwork and then see what we’re facing as far as cost. I’m guessing it’ll just be as simple as deducting the cost of the new furnace from the total and probably adjusting the labor cost a bit, but I guess we’ll see.

[tags]insulation, furnace, air conditioning, contractors, energy usage, attic, coal chute[/tags]

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