Thursday, December 25, 2014

Have a Lovely Christmas

I hope you are having a lovely Christmas today. I have to work a few hours, but fortunately not the whole day. My family will do all the cooking and save me some food.

I've been wanting to share this for awhile, but kept forgetting to post it. I have collected Muffy Vanderbears for over 20 years. My mom bought them for me at first, then after she died, my sister started getting them for me. I now have plenty and since they aren't making new Christmas bears any more, we've decided to stop. I have plenty anyway. 

Every year I've intended to make a little vignette with the bears and finally this year I did it. I have 2 kind of funny spaces in the stairway to my basement - one is a door to the laundry and then this shelf in the middle of the wall. 

Alison and her daughter filled the shelves with the Muffy Ice Princesses skating and the Muffy Tiffany shoppers. I wrapped a bunch of empty boxes and stacked them around the scene. 

This is my vignette in the doorway to the basement laundry. That's Muffy Reinbear and the Muffy from White Christmas. I made the little flags from washi tape, add a little quilt batting and you have a snow scene. I was very tickled that I FINALLY decorated with the bears.

Again, I hope you are having a lovely day. Merry Christmas, everybody. Thank you for stopping by.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

A Few More Christmas Crafts - Bear with me a little longer

I know that most people who read my blog are interested in the green building aspect of it. But as it is Christmastime, you have to bear with me for the Christmas crafts. Only 1-2 more weeks. 

I made a pom pom wreath sign to hang at work to remind people about the wreath making party.  I used foam core board covered with a piece of scrapbook paper, then poked holes in the board to tie the pom poms and red felt balls on. I tied them on rather than gluing in case I should decide to use them elsewhere later on. Then I hot glued a piece of ribbon around the edge of the board. I poked 2 holes to attach the ribbon hanger and poof! that's it. I typed a message for the center of the sign and then hung it up at work. (I've taken the paper off already.) I think it is pretty cute.

I never get a picture of the cupcake station with cupcakes on it because I am usually so stressed at the start of the party. This photo shows where we put the cupcakes. The chalkboard sign I made based on a recipe I found in one of my Christmas magazines - plaster of paris with flat latex paint. John framed it with some scrap wood. The sign is just screwed in so I can paint the back with another color chalkboard paint and reverse it should I desire to do that at another time.

The ribbon tree is a piece of painter's canvas covered with drop cloth material and ribbons pinned on with T-pins. Took about 15 mins. My friend, Lynn, made the felt ball trivets for me about 2 years ago. They are lovely.

Like I said, maybe 2 more weeks of crafts, then back to green building type stuff.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Recover Chair Seat - Should be easy, right?

I try very hard to re-use things and to make things that can be re-used or recovered easily. I bought a pair of folding chairs from Target that are pretty comfortable and cute, but the seat was covered with a black vinyl that started to tear.

This is Piper on the better chair which I have yet not recovered.

This is the vinyl that I took off of the worst chair. You can see why I needed to recover it. Fuzz Parker is in the background nesting on my batting. You know you can't keep a cat off quilt batting.

Here's the photo of the recovered chair. Looks pretty good, doesn't it?

Except that when I removed the bottom (forcefully by hammering on the underside) I broke the rabbet which held the seat in place. I didn't realize that the seat was rabbeted in. I think I can get John to help me glue it and tack it back on. I will have to cut the rabbet off on the other seat to get that one out.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Christmas Decorations for the Party

We had a very successful party again this year. Everyone made beautiful wreaths and no one got burned from my high-powered Dewalt glue guns except me.

Everyone helps with the party, even Lynn from Montana and my sister, Jo Ann, from Utah. Here are their contributions this year. Both Jo Ann and Lynn knew that the theme this year was a red and white Scandinavian Christmas theme. It was a delightful surprise to get these in the mail the week before the party.

Lynn sent me this beautiful set of felt birds which I strung on fishing line to go over the FOOD table - the most important table of the party. I never manage to take a picture of the food on display because I am usually pretty stressed right before the party.

Jo Ann cross stitched these ornaments for me. The reindeer and the snowflake ornaments were hanging on my mirror in the living room. The tree ornament was on the tree.

I will post some photos from the party and then I think I will write a post about hosting a wreath making party. That will follow in a the next week or two.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Wreath Making Party Information

Ok, finally I'm getting around telling people a little bit about the party as it's not your typical party. I think I've hosted the wreath making party 3 times in the past.

Basically, the supplies for the wreaths are all here. I've got greenery, wreath forms, various ornaments, many colors of ribbon and 5000 felt balls from Nepal for the wreaths. You don't have to bring anything for the wreath UNLESS you have a very specific theme or idea in mind, then you would need to bring the decorations for your specific theme you want to add to the wreath.

I also will have a pretty complete spread of food - sandwiches, dips and chips, chocolate chip cookies and one other dessert (haven't decided what yet), pasta salad, fruit salad, soft drinks including some beer and wine. If you have a special dish you would like to share, please bring that, but you don't have to bring any food. I think there will be plenty as I tend to overdo things.

The real challenge for the party is parking. My neighbor is the Duncan Chapel fire chief and he has to go out on every call his station gets. We have to leave his driveway readily accessible to allow him to get in and out easily. We may have you park at my brother's new house around the corner and have him drive you here or perhaps park and Publix at the intersection of Poinsett Highway and Old Buncombe Rd and pick you up. I'll post more details later.

It's a fun, creative party. I think you will have fun. I hope to see you here.

Wreath Making Invitations

I finally decided on what to do for the invitations for the wreath making party.

Here are the major components - a little package of candy, the written invitation and little stockings to hold the candy. Finally - one week before the party, I am mailing them out. I have been telling everyone about the party though. I don't think it will come as a surprise to anyone.

New Bathtub and Subway Tile

Just a quick post to show you the new bathtub. It is so beautiful and CLEAN.

The rest of the bathroom is not quite up to this standard yet. I really want to gut the exterior wall so I can insulate it. I found out when we removed a closet in my living room that they did not insulate the walls behind closets. I have no idea why that would be true, but it is. So the bathroom closet is along an exterior wall and uninsulated. I'd like to make sure that whole wall is done right. And then I plan on tiling the floor. After that my bathroom will be done. Next project would be the kitchen.

Remember I am a slow renovator so the kitchen will probably be a year away.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Wreath-Making Party Time

I've been working pretty hard around the house trying to spruce things up before the wreath-making party on November 30th and December 1st.

I got Carlton to install a new bathtub for me with new subway tiles all around.  That is very exciting. I haven't wanted to admit it, but I had layers and layers of plastic and duct tape around my shower and bathtub for about 2 years that I just tolerated until now. I felt like I had to finish John's house before I could do more stuff on my house. Pictures in another post.

I haven't made my invitations for the wreath-making party yet because I keep debating on what to do. I've got to get those done this weekend.

I thought I would show you a pom pom wreath I finished last year. Jo Ann gave me a great red ornament last week that really goes well with the wreath. If you should decide to make a pom pom wreath, just be aware that you are going to need LOTS and LOTS of pom poms. I'm pretty sure that's over 60 pom poms.

I hope you are having a lovely fall. It remains stunningly beautiful here.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Little Triumphs

I've been getting a few things done. But as you know, at first every job escalates as it begins. The key is to make sure it de-escalates and gets completed.

For example, here is how the shower ceiling looks now.
The AFTER photo
 Much improved from this:
The BEFORE photo
Still need to caulk around the edges. I bought some mold-proof caulk for that purpose. One of these days this shower will be gutted and rebuilt. 

Then I have ordered new lights for the bathrooms. This is why:

I was going to paint the rust base but the wiring is even kind of dried out and cracked. Therefore, I ordered a white porcelain-based light from Rejunvenation. I thought I was ordering from a different company, but I guess I was waylaid in my googling. Anyway, it is exactly what I wanted. So no more rust on the bathroom light I hope. 

Mathison Porcelain Light from Rejuvenation
The rule at my house is that I have to do an onerous (as in not a fun task) then as a reward I can do a fun task.

My fun tasks are making crafty things. I LOVE to make crafty things.  This is not a good photo, but I am making all these garlands for the windows. I hope to repaint my living room before my Christmas party so the background is not so yellow, but not sure I can get that done. Anyway, here is an idea of what the garlands look like.

I bought 5000 felt balls from Nepal and I am stringing them up everywhere. 

I hope you are having a lovely fall. These past few weeks have been a real gift, don't you think?

Friday, October 10, 2014

Ok, So the House is done, Now What?

Yes, we basically finished John's house. I need to spend more hours underneath the house taping the air barrier better. We need to paint the outside, but the house is livable and John is very happy and comfortable. It is living up to expectations so far. His power bill the last month the we worked on it where we had constant air conditioning and power tools running was $58, I think. One morning as he left, the temp was 68F inside the house and going into the 80's outside that day, he meant to turn the air conditioning, but forgot. When he got home the temperature inside was 70. He would have set the AC on 72. Nice. The house holds the temperature very well. 

It is extremely sturdy and quiet. John keeps hearing noises that have been bothering him a little bit, but he thinks it's the refrigerator as nothing else makes any noise in the house. 

The housewarming party was a great success. I didn't take any photos as I was talking to everyone. 

Anyway, what is next? My house and Kathy's house. I have had a Christmas wreath-making party 3 times in the past, but skipped last year since John was living in my basement and we were busy working on his house.  I think the wreath-making party is a really fun way to start the season. I'd like to get some stuff ready at my house so it looks really festive for the party. But there are some obstacles and challenges in my home. Or in other words, some real problem areas. 

For starters, I didn't have a light that worked in the kitchen for years. There was an ugly boob light that just wouldn't work. I thought the problem was the 2-way switch, but apparently it was the light itself. Rich (my brother-in-law) switched out the light for this one. It really works, but as you can see it exposes another problem - old cracked plaster on the ceiling that desperately needs to be patched and painted. 

Kitchen light challenge

Next, when I worked on my house and had it covered with a layer of polyiso foam and re-sided, I that the brick stairway redone to match the house. Only problem - they did a terrible job. They used slate that is too thin for steps and not adhered well. Danger. Danger. I don't really know how to fix this problem by the time of the party. We've got to something though.

Front steps challenge

This is the back wall of my basement. I think I have solved the water problems in the basement by grading that area and a french drain in the backyard, but until John moved out I was unable to see how moldy it is. We'll scrub the walls, then repaint.

Basement wall challenge

My basement stairs are covered with this horrible green vinyl stuff. I was driving me crazy so I started peeling it off. I will probably only be able to do the landing and not the whole stairway as that would probably be too time consuming, but I think I can make the landing look much better. (Almost all of my photos are iPhone photos, but this is a particularly poor photo. Still you get the idea.)

Basement stair landing challenge

When John lived in my basement he refused to leave that bathroom door open despite the serious mold and humidity problems. The ceiling was solid mold. What you see below is the bathroom fan and ceiling AFTER scrubbing the ceiling. Needs lots more work. That bathroom will be gutted and redone sometime in the future (the future to me is 3-5 years, I kind of work on the slow renovation schedule).

Basement bath fan challenge

And this is the shower ceiling after I spend days cleaning the shower itself. I think what happened here is that someone added a bathroom light under an aluminum false ceiling. It has seriously corroded over time. I'm going to sand it and repaint it, but not take it down yet. I've got to do something with the upstairs bathroom pretty soon so I need this shower, but I would like it to be much more pleasant before I use it.

Basement shower challenge

The other  serious problem areas are replacing the upstairs bathroom tub and tile around it and then uncluttering my porch and back bedroom. I find uncluttering harder to do that scrubbing walls or sanding floors. 

Thank you for taking time to look at this little blog. I hope you are doing well. 

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Certificate of Occupancy and Housewarming Party!!

We got the Certificate of Occupancy on Friday, August the 29th! What a relief that is. John has been very happy about that. We still have lots of details to do. I hope to have some good photos this evening.

We have planned a housewarming party on September 13th from 4pm to 9pm. Hope to see people there.

I'll post more later. Thank you for reading about the house that took so long.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Fat Cat Grooming

One of my cats is an eager eater. We have to put her in a different room so the others have a chance to get at the food. This morning she was casually grooming herself after indulging in some canned cat food. This is Betty Boop who is about 3-4 years old.

"Are you talking to me?"

"I'm busy, don't interrupt."
"I just love a relaxed bath in the morning after a good can of food."
This has nothing to do with the house, but it is a nice diversion. And I do know that Betty is massively obese, but it's hard to put one out of nine cats on a diet. Several of the others are extremely skinny. I do try to keep her from the food.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Why We Built the House on Piers (instead of a Crawlspace)

While we were working on the house today, suddenly a storm came up and dumped buckets of rain. This is the view of the front yard with two little rivers running through it. On the right side near the road you can see the creek that the beaver's have dammed up. We need to work on it some more to try to get that down.

This is a view of the front entrance porch. We have not added more gravel to the driveway because it always gets messed up when they move the dumpster. We will do that in a week or two when the dumpster leaves for good.

Another interesting day at the house.

Finishing Details

Lots happened today. We were seriously motivated and got a lot done. We have arbitrarily decided on September first as move-in day and September 13th as House-warming party day so having specific dates has certainly helped us move faster.

As I am extremely clumsy, I am not allowed a paint brush where a spill would be difficult to compensate for such as near a finished floor. But what I love to do and most people do not like is to sand and finish the floors. So while everyone else was in on the paint party. I was working on the stairs.

After we stained the floor 2-3 days ago, we took off our booties and then walked on the stairs. My sister was wearing shoes, I was wearing socks. Apparently the little flimsy booties they sell at the big box stores are not sufficient to prevent stain from bleeding through. I need to remember this. I sanded the stairs with 4 grits - 60-80-100-120 with exhaustive vacuuming in between. Tedious work, but the stairs are so smooth now. I am very happy. I will stain them tomorrow.

I have protected the already painted balusters with homemade baluster condoms. We will see how they work to prevent stain from getting on the paint.

Then I stained the bottom newel post. I think it looks really nice. I can't wait to get the finish on the stairs. They will be so beautiful.

We had trouble finding a stain to match the front inside of the mahogany door. The wood trim is some kind of pine (radiata pine, maybe?) that doesn't take stain as well as we would like. So the mahogany stain that we used on the door would not work. John noticed that the semi-transparent stain on the porch looked like it would match. Crazy. No way would that work, but it did. In fact, it looks great. He covered it with 2 coats of polyurethane.

John got the shoe mould done on the porch and in both bathrooms. We initially thought about painting it, but decided on staining it instead. It looks great.

This is the porch shoe mould. 

Downstairs bathroom shoe mould. It looks great with the tile. 
Anyway, a very productive day. We are getting somewhere and soon John should be in his cozy little energy-efficient home. 

Thank you for taking a look at the progress on John's house.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Blower Door - Slight Disappointment

Ok, we had what was supposed to be the second and LAST blower door test, but I am not happy with the result and I may have Dean Benton of Benton Green Energy come again after I have fixed some problems. 

Blower door reading on August 6, 2014

You may recall that a blower door test helps determine how much air leakage you have through the building envelope. The test involves putting a fan in an outside door frame and depressurizing the home to accentuate the air leaks. The house is depressurized to a level of 50 pascals which is about equivalent to the force of a 20 mph wind on the home. There are 2 main values that you get from the test - one is directly from the manometer as shown above and one is calculated based on the volume of the house. This article, Blower Door Basics by Martin Holladay on Green Building Advisor (GBA) explains it much better than I ever could.

Blower Door Set-up while we were at the rough-in stage. 

The number shown on the manometer above is called cfm50 or the amount of air that moves through the home at 50 pascals of pressure. The other number is ach50 or air changes per hour at 50 pascals.

Our previous reading was 98 cfm 50. The above reading is 235, but I think it leveled out at 220. In any case, the number has more than doubled - 2.4 times greater than the last blower door.

What happened??

Well, I have some ideas.

What do you think about this dryer vent? Do you think that there is some leakage around this pipe?

Dryer vent through the wall, not sealed around the vent pipe. This was installed AFTER the first blower door test.

What about the vent cover for the kitchen fan? Do you think that those little plastic louvers seal out air?

This flimsy plastic piece covers one of the fan vents. A similar cover was on the dryer vent. 
Now the photo below may show a less important air leak. This is the inside view of the Lunos e2 - a heat recovery ventilator (HRV) that exchanges outside air for inside air. It does go through the wall in large tube. We did seal the tube to the sheathing inside and out before the walls were closed in. Still it is designed to move air through the home. You may wonder why we go through all the trouble to seal up every possible hole in the building envelope and then deliberately install a fan to exchange air. Well, when you have a very well air sealed home, you need to move more fresh air through for the inhabitants, but it needs to be filtered, conditioned air, not random leaks. That's what the HRV provides.

Lunos e2 Heat Recovery Ventilator (HRV)
The reason I did not calculate the ach50 is because I am confused about the volume of the house. The house is a Cape Cod design with kneewalls and sloped ceiling upstairs so I don't really know what counts as the house or not.

For example, the space above the bathroom and the bedrooms is not really sealed off from the rest of the house. It is within the thermal envelope of the building. Do I count that? I think so, but I am not sure. I am going to post a questions on Green Building Advisor to get their advice.

Area above the bathroom. You can see the Intello Plus smart vapor retarder from 475 High Performance Building Supply. The ceiling joists are insulated with dense pack cellulose. There will be a small door that fits in the opening. It does not set tightly to the frame, however. Is this within the thermal envelope?

So, the big change from the rough-in stage to almost completion (I know, almost completed at 18 mos later - crazy ) is the vents. We taped cardboard over the area where the vents were during the first test, but I don't know if you tape over vent covers when you go for the final test. That's another question for the knowledgable people at GBA.

I'll let you know more later. Thank you for visiting here. 

Thursday, August 7, 2014

More Photos of the New Stairs

Andrew of Carolina Custom Stairs had quite a challenge installing the balusters on our S-shaped handrail. At the level of the S-shape, he had to alter the placement of the balusters so that there was no more than 4 inches between the balusters. Here are a few more photos of the stairs.

We are scheduled for the inspection for the Certificate of Occupancy (CO) tomorrow. We still have a lot to do, but mostly its finishing details - floor finishing, painting trim and such. These last things seem to take forever. So perhaps soon the perpetual house will be finished.

Thank you for taking a look.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Stairs Installed - Beautiful!

One of the last things we needed before getting a certificate of occupancy (CO) is a handrail on the stairs. Andrew of Carolina Custom Stair Works did a meticulous and beautiful job installing the stairs. Unbelievable. He noted that most people do not choose to have wood risers instead they choose MDF which is painted. It is much more difficult to install the oak risers because you have to miter the corners at each stair. I have a photo that demonstrates this and shows how beautiful it is.

Notice the S-curve on the left side of the photo. I really like that. This view also shows the color on the walls much better - Aqua Pura - I love it. John does not.  Balusters have been installed but I haven't gotten a photo yet.

View of the top of the stairs. Balusters will be painted.
I love the curve of the handrail at the top of the stairs.
Beautiful detailing of the stairs

This photo shows the expert workmanship of mitered corners on the stairs. We are thrilled with this work.

Well, I hope to get more photos today now that the balusters are up.