Our New Old House

1918 Bungalow


Archive for the ‘winterizing’ Category

Still getting the hang of this plaster stuff.

I enlisted Brandon’s help this weekend in mixing plaster for me while I put it on the walls. Eventually he started putting it on the walls himself, so that part got boring, but together we finished patching all the cracks, holes, and corners in the front bedroom.



My first corner!

Kind of blotchy after wet sanding.

See how bad our corners are? This one has fiber tape over it.

Gosh, is that how my hair looks from the back?


I’m not particularly proud of how this corner came out. I’ll sand it down a bit and add another smoother layer.

Ok, enough about the plaster. Let’s talk about the weather! It’s been cold here! So cold I can’t think up a colorful simile with which to describe how cold it’s been. (Leave me a comment if you’ve got a good one.) Anyway, it was a great opportunity to show just what a difference plastic sheeting can make when you’ve got leaky windows and worthless storms.

Here we see a window with plastic sheeting intact. Notice: NO FROST! That means no warm, moist air is leaking out into the frigid outdoors, and no frigid outdoor air is leaking inside.

Now let’s look at a window on which the integrity of the plastic sheeting has been compromised by the claw of a scheming cat.

And in other news…


See if you can spot it in this photo:

How about now?

Yes, folks, the scraper was INSIDE Brandon’s bicycle. How it got there I’ll never know. But I’ll tell you, the only way I found it was by buying three new scrapers of the exact same kind that very morning. (Still sale priced at Menard’s, btw.) After I’d safely tucked them away in my tool box where they belong, the prodigal scraper glinted at me from inside the bicycle and we were tearfully reunited.

If I can stop hiding things from myself, this house may actually get done someday!

Another weekend, another visitor, another few projects closer to completion.

This weekend my college friend, Chantell came to visit. She’s from Chicago and is going to grad school at Syracuse. She took the train all the way from Syracuse to Chicago for the holidays, and took the train from Chicago to here for a weekend visit. As soon as we made plans for her to come, she asked me, “Do I get to help work on the house?” Clearly, she had no idea what she was getting herself into! But Chantell’s a good sport and is one of those crazy people (like me) who can find fun in even the most mundane and tedious tasks, so we put on the radio, sang some crazy songs, and got some work done around the house.

First she finished up the last bit of scraping wallpaper in the front bedroom:


While she did that I helped Brandon take the air conditioner out of our bedroom window. (More on that in a little bit.) Next I helped Chantell scrub the walls to get the last of the wallpaper residue off and get them clean and prepped for plaster patching. There aren’t any pictures of me helping with this part, but I was there! She’ll vouch for me.



Look what a difference washing the wall made! The paint almost looks nice enough to leave alone! The spot in the middle has been scrubbed.


In this picture, the left wall has been scrubbed, the right wall has not. Like you needed me to tell you that anyway.


While Chantell and I were scrubbing, Brandon took the closet door off its hinges and took all the hardware off the woodwork so I can start stripping the paint. Apparently, when the previous owners put up a new style of curtains, they never removed the old hardware, just added more and more brackets, hooks, and screws as they went. So here’s the bag full of hardware he took off two windows:


Some of the brackets had been painted over multiple times. Here’s Brandon’s screwdriver and putty knife stuck behind one bracket:


He also took the register off the heat duct and removed the hardware from the door so I could put them into ammonia and soak the paint off.

When the previous owners were getting ready to put up the wallpaper, someone scratched some math problems on the wall in pencil.


Like I said before, Brandon and I also took the air conditioner out of our bedroom window. This project was a BEAST! First of all, the thing had been there for like 20 years. It weighs a ton. It leaked condensation all over the window sill, causing water damage to the wood and the plaster below. That will have to be repaired later. Our first challenge was undoing all the crappy insulating they had done all those years ago.



Brandon popped the front cover off so he could get a better grip. What a mess!



After wiggling it around a bit, we figured out it had to go out and not in, so we let go from the inside and let it sag dangerously off the side of the house.


There are no pictures of the next few steps because it took all three of us to get underneath it and haul it down to the ground. I’ll admit, we dropped it the last foot or so. I brought up the dolly and hauled it to the curb.


 We closed the storm window and I cleaned up the inside of the window as best I could.  The paint is all flaking off and the accumulation of dead bugs and cobwebs was disgusting.  But our bedroom is now just a little bit more insulated from the cold.

 Since it was really nice outside on Saturday I took the opportunity to spread some mulch around the back door to cover up the mud back there until we can get a new concrete slab poured.  While Brandon and I were working on that we found the coolest spider underneath a bag of mulch!   


It’s called a Woodlouse Hunter Spider and it only eats what are known around here as “roly-polies.” (They’re known in other places as woodlice, pillbugs, or armadillo bugs.) It’s perfectly harmless to humans, but sure doesn’t look harmless! I looked it up to be sure. I learned a lot about woodlice too! They live in damp places in the dirt and eat decaying plants and wood. You’ll find them under logs, in wood piles, and in this case, under bags of cedar mulch. They are also harmless to humans, but can indicate a dampness problem if they’re found near the foundation of your house. Like earthworms, they help enrich the soil.

EDIT: A kindly reader named Ron informed me that Woodlouse spiders are in fact dangerous sometimes because they are aggressive.  They’ll bite and the bite can be painful and nasty and all sorts of terrible things!  So don’t mess with them.  Thanks Ron!

Ok, moving on from backyard biology…

After we went down the street to Grandma’s and had a Mexican meal that couldn’t be beat, we came back home and I taught Chantell how to use the heat gun.

First, I made sure she was protected from the lead paint fumes.  That meant fitting, adjusting, and testing the respirator.  Hilarity ensued.





Then we got down to the serious business of stripping paint. Here Chantell waits eagerly while I plug in the heat gun.


Chantell listened carefully to instructions.


And watched me demonstrate.



Then I turned her loose!



She almost finished the whole door!

We did have some time to relax this weekend too. The cats got the whole futon to themselves while we were working.


Scratch didn’t mind sharing though.


Jack Frost, do your worst!

Brandon and I did a few things to winterize the house today.

First, we filled some gaps in the basement that were letting cold air into the house.

By the way, maybe I’m a dork for this, but I think insulating foam is one of the most fun and entertaining substances ever created. Not only does it make an awesome gurgling sound when it comes out of the tube, but it also looks like whipped cream when it comes out. Plus, watching it expand and bubble out of the cracks is really fun. The coolest thing though, is that you can let loose a little glob of it on your brick basement wall and it will slowly roll down the wall like those slimy toys we used to get from Nickelodeon when we were kids. Anyway, I had fun. Here are some pictures:

One big hole was around the exhaust pipe for the gas furnace. There was a half an inch of open space around the pipe. I filled it with foam.

Here it is before foaming:

Here it is mid-foam:

Fully foamed:

One basement window was really drafty so I filled all the gaps around it with foam.

Here’s the window before:

And the foaming process:




The coal chute was letting in a lot of cold air. So guess what I did. You got it! FOOOOAAAMMMM!!!!




And for good measure, I also got a few gaps that opened up as the foundation settled.




Next we put up some plastic sheeting over our drafty windows. Brandon is a master plastic sheet putter-upper. I mostly just assisted but he let me do the fun part of shrinking the plastic with a hair dryer! (I love him so much!)





Now we just need to get some wood for the stove and we’ll be all ready for winter! Ooh wait, I need some more fall first. Winter can wait!

P.S. I also got on a very high ladder today and cleaned out the gutters on the other side of the house today. Phew! I’m exhausted!

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