Thursday, May 24, 2012

Just Shoot Me

Basically, my house is in pretty good shape.  Really and truly.  But for some reason, this past year, when I could least afford it, I've had to throw big chunks of money at all sorts of things that had nothing to do with tile or a new kitchen floor or a new bathroom or anything fun and sexy and visible like that.

No.  First the water softener ruptured and after living with scary hard water for several months I admitted I needed a new one, and a water filter as well if the job were to be done properly.  Then the attic insulation went bad and the only feasible way to replace it was with spray foam.  At the same time, I found out I had all sorts of things wrong with my roof and flashing, and that had to be taken care of.  As it was being taken care of, I was informed that the wet place on my chimney breast is due to my having no liner in the flue for my hot water heater.  OK, I got a decent bid from some plumbing and heating guys to come put one in.  But up the ladders they go, and down they come-- they couldn't get the liner in, due to the bend in the chimney, they said.  Call a chimney sweep/technician, they recommend.

I've been calling chimney firms on and off the past month, but only two have actually come by to take a look at things.  And only one has actually gotten up on a ladder and looked down the chimney.  That was today, and just shoot me, it doesn't look good, it looks expensive, and it looks like the kind of thing that can't really be put off.

I want to get the water heater flue lined so I can get the chimney breast dried out and hang the wallpaper in the living room.  But the chimney repairman who was out this evening tells me the real problem is birds' or squirrels' nest material that's practically blocking the flue and sending not only condensation, but also carbon monoxide, back down into the house.  Worse carbon monoxide, since the HVAC guys knocked out the cement that used to seal the WH pipe into the wall of the flue in the basement in their futile attempt to install the liner last month.  I'd wondered why I seemed to get a whiff of gas down there, even when the furnace was off.  And maybe I should wonder why I've been feeling stupider than usual these days.

So it won't be enough just to shove an aluminum liner in there, I'm told.  The chimney must be cleared, then I really should get a stainless steel liner, because aluminum will pit and corrode out in three years or so.  If I was to be really, really pessimistic about my employment chances, I'd say who cares, I'll be selling the house before then anyway.  But what if I don't?  Then I've got the same problem again.

And, says the chimney tech, it won't be enough for me to run the liner in then slam the existing cap with the cute fins back on.  Those cute fins have way big gaps, 2" or so, that let all those birds and/or squirrels in, and nothing to stop them building their nests in the new liner.  So I would have to get new caps for my flues, and no, it wouldn't work just to stretch some wire mesh over the top of the flues under the existing cap.  That would just mean the birds would build their nests at the top and block it up there.

I know this is no hypothetical situation.  I dug around three 13-gallon trash bags worth of birds' nest material out of my eaves last October.  And their handiwork is in my WH flue right now.

Crap.  He's given me a ballpark estimate, and I thought if I ever would spend that much on the chimney, it'd be going well towards covering the cost of a pretty new gas fireplace insert.  He's willing to work out financial terms, but crap, crap, crappity crap, why does all this have to come up now?

Hey, Lord, don't You realize how broke I am?  Or maybe I should just let the house moulder and go to ruin, in the good old-fashioned style?

Meanwhile, I've cracked open a window in the basement.  And a CO detector is on my shopping list when I go to Home Depot after work tomorrow.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Working on the 2nd Floor Hall Trim

Oh, gosh, I need to make a blog post like nobody's business, and if I wait around trying to think up a clever title, I never will.

I'm busy reattaching reshellacked trim to the walls of my 2nd floor hallway.  Really.  Been at it for the past, I don't know, do I really have to check the pictures and find out exactly? For the past week at least.

You'd think with a nail gun the work would go quickly, even though I'm doing it on my own.  But in a world-- I mean, a house where nothing is plumb, it's not exactly a matter of slamming up the pieces and firing them in.  Things have to be done to them.

Like with the baseboard that sits to the right of the bathroom door.  Anybody remember this post from July 2007?  It was past fiddling with the shoe mouldings and just lowering the baseboard was out of the question.  No, I had to take a piece of old yellow pine floorboard (removed for the foam insulation job in the attic) and cut a piece the length of the baseboard that sloped from ¼" high at the outside wall to nearly 1½" at the righthand bathroom door trim plinth (all that in less than three feet), shellac it to match, then glue it to the existing baseboard.  Here's what it looks like installed

(and please pardon the picture quality; I'm not having good luck with my new camera AT ALL), with no shoe moulding yet.  In person it looks even more like it's running uphill to the left, despite the wallpaper pattern being straight, but what can you do?  Run it cockeyed across the wallpaper?  Don't align it to the adjacent base?  Leave horrible gaps, as before?  It is what it is.  If the floor has settled, it has settled.

Then there's the  makeshift white pine plinth the POs-1 made to go under the righthand trim at the opening to the 3rd floor stairs, the piece that fits around and under the curved bottom step.  There was no use stripping it and I've always meant to make a new piece to replace it.  That's been the big project for today.

Yeah,  a pieca wood 9" high by 2½" wide with a 1" by 7/8" notch cut out of it at the top left.  Most of the day.  This is what I get for forgetting how to adjust the blade tilt on my table saw.  Because unlike the piece the previous owners made, mine was going to be coped back all along the left side edges to fit the curve of the stair riser and tread.  And that's what I did.  But not after spending more time online this afternoon than it really took to remind me how to set that blade . . .

OK, ok, no sympathy there.  Happily, I got the piece cut and it's not too bad, if you overlook a little messiness in the notch.  Never mind, it'll sit under the step nosing anyway.  And it'll fit to the riser better than the old piece did.

And I got the new stop mouldings for the window at the top of the steps cut to size (the old plastic ones that came with the replacement windows I threw out when I demounted the trim) and ready to sand and shellac.  The big pain in the rear this evening has been the plinth on the lefthand side of the bathroom door, next to the new piece I made today.  No matter what I do, even after spending a good hour or so chipping away at the plaster behind it, I can't get the piece of wood to sit flat to the wall.  Either it sticks out over ¼" too much at the top left, where the trim sits on it, or there's a ¼" gap behind it at the bottom right, where it's supposed to be snug to the face of the door frame.  I've checked the old photos, and yes, it was cockeyed before.  But that was when the trim was still painted.  Back then I was willing to put up with silliness on the assumption that it would all be straightened out Someday.

Maybe it would be, if I hadn't used Big Wally's to stabilize that plaster.  Rory B claims it changes and strengthens the composition of the plaster, and blasted it he isn't right.  It now holds together like plastic, even against the onslaught of my mason's bolster.  I still don't know exactly where the high point is.

But oh, well, I can report that after three tries, as of this past Sunday, my bedroom door frame is finally back up in such a way that the door closes-- without ridiculous gaps.  And as of last night most of the face trim is remounted in the 2nd floor hallway, barring some pieces that have to be recut or augmented.  So actual progress is being made.

I only wish I had decent pictures to show it.

And that I wasn't having very expensive and therefore futile second thoughts about hanging another William Morris wallpaper on the top part of the stairhall walls, instead of covering them with the faux finish paint . .  .