Tag Archives: Construction and Maintenance

The Doors

This isn’t a blog about musicians.

A wild idea came to me while we were in the long process of fixing the rot under the house, replacing vital parts, and painting. It began because none of us could decide on a favorite door color.

So why not paint all the doors a different color?

Why not?

First, I will treat you to the redoing of a 100 year-old door:   First, strip the many, many layers of paint.SAM_0579_0293 SAM_0571_0068 SAM_0572_0069















Next, figure out the color. In this case I took some flowers from the garden to Home Depot and color matched them.SAM_0578_0292 SAM_0573_0300







Then, finding the outline of old hinges under the paint layers, I set out to duplicate the hinges with “play-doh”.SAM_0574_0288 SAM_0577_0291









It wasn’t easy to find something that would withstand freezing and humid hot weather and still stick to the door. I was able to use this and then paint it with weather-proof paint and glue it with weather-proof glue. I think it was successful.SAM_0770_0262

You can almost see the “hinges” on the left edge of the door.









The inside back door is white.
The inside back door is white.
Upstairs front balcony door a dusty blue.
Upstairs front balcony door a dusty blue.
The front door is pale green.
The front door is pale green.
The door to the garage apartment is yellow.
The door to the garage apartment is yellow.
The back upstairs balcony door is Cayenne.
The back upstairs balcony door is Cayenne.
One of the back doors is blue-green.
One of the back doors is blue-green. This is actually my favorite color. It is also the only door that can not be seen from the street.

Almost to The End of Rot

As a follow-up as to why our house is slowly becoming one with the earth, I am now able to announce that we have dug, and drilled, and sawed, and unwedged some very scary stuff out from under the house. One huge mercy is that what we thought was a broken pipe is nothing more than an unconnected air-conditioner drain. That should be piped and draining away from the underneath by this next weekend.

Once the siding, and then the tongue-in-groove cypress wood beneath was cut and pulled away, more rot was uncovered at all the corners. The giant timbers holding up the outer shell of the house were so rotten that they turned to powder when touched. It was disconcerting.

Here, we had to take off about five feet by three feet of wood to expose the rotted boards in order to pries them away.
Here, we had to take off about five feet by three feet of wood to expose the rotted boards in order to pries them away.

I’m typing this as the saws-all is biting into my home on the ground floor just beneath my computer desk. As the grinding burr of metal ripping into hundred-year-old wood continues, I’m trying to hurry and finish this new post.

Lights are blinking. The battery backup is beeping. This may mean that a power line has been compromised. Oh no! The worker is asking my husband where the breakers are. I better exit! – to be continued.

AND . . .

Here it is a day later. The wire to the computer had been cut.

The worker was able to tape the wires together so the computer works for now. Electrician coming.
The worker was able to tape the wires together so the computer works for now. Electrician coming.

I have a battery backup surge protector. It has proved invaluable in this house.

While tearing out boards a mouse’s hoard was uncovered. Or it might have been a rat’s hoard. There was lots of fluffy bits of insulation, scraps of paper, sawdust, gnawed pieces of electric wire, and a 1966 penny.

The rotten wood extended up the corners of the house along the west side and in the front.

Here you can see that the corner is missing.
Here you can see that the corner is missing.

I called a termite inspector. According to him, our house did have a serious termite problem at one time but not anymore. There are no active termites, another mercy.

Note in the pictures the lovely new 6″ X 6″ X 12′ beams supported by lovely new piers. The shiny metal sheets are to protect against future termite invasion. Here, imagine music in the background. It is the hallelujah chorus!

This Week of Renovating

The bathroom vanity before
The bathroom vanity before

The other day I was driving West on I-10, my thoughts ranged from the mundane (how was I going to find the time to stain the floors of the Oldcastle house) to the odd (I love renovation. Why didn’t I do this full-time?).

I’ve discovered laying glass tile is a breeze. If they weren’t so expensive I would plaster rooms with them. Rooms! At the Oldcastle house I put glass tile around the bath vanity, including at the floor around the vanity because the hole that we filled in with cement was filled too high to put conventional tile on. So here you see the dark tile around the new vanity.


Sure, I could begin a small renovation business. I had just installed glass tiles and grouted them in the master bath of the house.

They looked perfect. I had designed several of the new elements of the house from the cabinets (wish they were all white, though) and the bathroom vanities. I had added a light where there was none to create a dining room area. It was fun. Just wish I wasn’t using our money to do it. How much more fun would this be if it were someone else’s money? I could do wonders for people looking to change their old and drab bathrooms and kitchens.


We had already been approached by two neighbors who were interested in purchasing the property. So I knew things were going to be okay with it.

Kitchen almost done.
Kitchen almost done.

We had established that this week we would be putting up a “for sale” sign. Finishing touches, completing the punch list, that’s all we have left.

Then my mother-in-law called. She had blood in her stool A lot of blood. She wanted a ride to the doctors. My husband took her, after a consultation with the doctor, they had her at the hospital in fifteen minutes. Her blood-thinner levels in her blood were at the stage where it was surprising that she had survived. She was bleeding internally. There was fluid around her heart. It didn’t look good.

First night in the ICU she called my husband at 2 AM and told him if he didn’t get down there and get her out he would find a dead mother in the morning. We spent time with her the next few days. Every day and every night it was a new conspiracy theory. For instance the hospital staff was conspiring against her to keep her in bed so they could take more of her money. And the electronics in the room were making the clocks and her watch jump ahead every few hours so that it always looked like 2 AM so she would remain confused. The scary one was that no one was visiting her. And who was I to tell her different? We wouldn’t take the time to come visit. We weren’t caring enough to make sure she was fine. Okay.

My sweet, dear, beloved mother-in-law had gone “around the bend” in a big way.

In order to show her that we cared I resorted to bringing her a pile of get well cards from her loved ones – i.e. all of us – with notes and pictures, vases of flowers (fake because “real ones make me sicker”), photos of us visiting when she was too asleep to know we were there and making her drink water (“I don’t need water. Everyone makes me drink water. It’s just a trick.”)

The renovations and the rest of the world had to come to some sort of agreement with timing.

Last night, after several nearly sleepless nights we figured she was calmer. Perhaps it had something to do with the fact that we took the phone away from her. So we planned to sleep. Then the phone rang at 1AM. This time a neighbor across from the Oldcastle house was calling to the report the garage door and front door were open. We asked him to please lock the house up. We rose early to drive over to see what damage had been done. Nothing. Everything was as it had been. Strange.

Then it hit me. I forgot the fundamental rule of property recently abandoned by its occupant.

Change the locks.

This wish for renovation work full-time must have been the thinking of a brain high on paint fumes.

In Case You Were Wondering

Melencolia I. Print of Albrecht Dürer
Melencolia I. Print of Albrecht Dürer (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

These past few weeks have been challenging. Sometimes I feel like Mighty Mouse trying to save the day against crazy odds.

Most of the time I think I’m more like Wile E. Coyote and life is a rent house full of those tricky anvils ready to fall on my head when I least expect it.

A few weeks ago one of our erstwhile renters decided to duck out in the middle of the night, leaving quite a bit of damage behind. It’s all good. We had her deposit. Okay well, her deposit covered the cost of the paint and sheet-rock mud.

So this is the thing. My husband wants to sell and I agree. But the place was a mess. So we gutted the kitchen, somehow scumming past the giant, dead or dying Palmetto bugs (they resemble giant cockroaches) and bundles of human hair stuck between the stove and the refrigerator to decide what we were demolishing. All the lower cabinets, and the breakfast bar-top in the kitchen had to go, maybe the bathrooms needed a serious makeover.

When the lower kitchen cabinets were removed we thought now would be a good time to install a water line to the refrigerator’s ice-maker. While unscrewing the fitting, the pipe broke. Water spewed. Rush outside to cut off water. Water had already been cut off. Quick! Find buckets. Found. Whew! I guess all the water in all the house drained down to that one pipe. We took in what other damage was evident then. The black mold on the sheet-rock from behind the cabinets was overpowering. We tore the offending pieces out. The insulation behind it was made up of tiny Styrofoam balls. They poured from the walls and floated across the floor. After sweeping them up a hundred times – most of them ended up in a garbage bin. Water line is now repaired, replaced pipe, refitted new insulation and sheet-rock.

We decided to gut the bathrooms. Taking out the sinks we discovered a giant depression in the cement foundation under the two of them. What was the purpose of this? It’s the oddest thing I’ve ever seen. We had to buy cement and fill in the depressions so a new vanity would fit in the place of the old ones (one of them we are making a pedestal sink to give an impression of more room.)

At this point we decided to tackle taking out the breakfast bar.

The breakfast bar is a layer of formica coated wood about 58″ long and about 15″ wide. Mark, the handyman, took a crowbar and hammer to it. It didn’t budge. I had a sledgehammer and I suggested that Mark use it. He was willing. I figured he would be. What man doesn’t want to use a sledgehammer? No, the bar still didn’t budge. Mark noticed the tiny dimples along the top and began slamming his claw hammer into them because he said, they were the nails holding the thing down.

There were twenty nails along the 58″ breakfast bar. It took about an hour, with much sweat, and a few choice words to get the wood to budge. By then the brick along the front of the bar was cracked and shaking with every swing of the hammer. Finally, the last nail was pried loose and the bar tilted up and with some effort was torn away from it’s sixty-year-long mooring.

So if you were wondering what happened to the blog all along these past few weeks, this little renovation project is one reason for the delay in my adding a new entry. The other reason is that during this time my mother-in-law was in the hospital briefly. She is fine. We don’t actually know what is wrong or why it happened.

Onward and upward we strive forth through the sea of tiny Styrofoam bits!

Two (or three) Mighty Mice to save the day!