Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Meanwhile, Down the Basement . . .

The last of the wood filler.  I hope.
Paint stirrer to the rescue
I'm making progress on tarting up with reclaimed screen door.  Except for a couple of places I discovered when I (thought I) was finishing up the sanding, both the door and its insert are both filled and sanded.  The patches in the old hinge mortises are dry, planed, filled, and sanded.  (I confess it-- I used pieces of clean paint stirrers).  Of course I had to make extra work for myself and put a dent in the moulding of the stile when pipe-clamped those mortise filler strips a few days ago.  Oh, well.  Yesterday I put the travel iron and a wet washcloth to work, and the squished place popped back up, good as new.

Note idiot clamp dent on near side.

A little steam should revive it.

Good as new.  (Under the circumstances)

Note vet tape in lieu of clamps.  Now I remember what I should use!

Cut the new pegs this afternoon.  2-3/8" each.  Not sure why, but I'd looked forward to/dreaded that task as some kind of mile stone.  Like maybe it means this thing is actually going to get done, for realz.  And maybe now that's true.

(Hope I don't have to fiddle around with cutting them shorter.  I mean, didn't I spend enough time drilling out those holes?)

Scraping Along

Midmorning today I was glaring at the old dried-up vinyl flooring glue around the perimeter of my stairhall floor, and decided, oh, phooey, I've got the stuff, I'd give the radically-misnamed "EasyRelease" adhesive remover another shot.

Only this time I really disobeyed the instructions.  This time I mixed it with water one-to-one.  Thanks to that, or maybe because yesterday's application had some residual effect, this time it worked.

Not until after two hours of soaking with periodic reapplications, and not without a good three or four hours of scraping.  But at least today the scraping yielding results with less wasted effort and frustration than yesterday.

Didn't bother to sequester the kittens today.  Barricaded the wet strip with a very wide baby/pet gate a friend let me have when she moved.  But they got a whiff of the chemical and made themselves scarce.  But once I started working I barely prevented my going-on-14 calico from jumping down into the open heat register to explore the ductwork.  Oh, no, you don't!  Outside with you!  The dog, however, was content to watch from the front room. 

Started with the west wall.  Didn't start spraying the bit at the foot of the hallway bench on the east side until I started scraping the first application.  I was thinking maybe it might help to keep the work area wet.

Maybe it did.  At least, I got the result I wanted-- the old adhesive off the floor.  I also got a few gouges in the plywood, but the filler material will deal with that.  At this moment, I Do Not Care.

Monday, July 30, 2012

What You Callin' 'Easy'?

Remover applied
I've always wanted ceramic tile in my 1st floor hall.  Had it all picked out.  I'd doodle my tile job detail during choir practice--underlayment, Ditra, thinset, tile, and all.  Then late last winter I got the depressing news:  A trustworthy tile pro informed me I shouldn't do it unless I tore the whole floor out and sunk a new one between the joists.  For even if I reinforced the springy place in the existing floor I'd still be out of Code with a too-shallow bottom  step.  Feasible, but pricey.

Frankly, I'm out of Code already, thanks to the ½" plywood my previous owners two back slapped down to underlay the ever-so-(un)attractive sheet vinyl they chose.  The bottom riser is that much shorter than the rest even now, and it doesn't bother me.  Would another half inch or so of tile, etc., matter that much?

Test for riser comfort/safety
Late in May I bought one of my chosen tiles at the Big Orange Store, set it on the floor at the bottom of the stairs with some thick cardboard under it to simulate the setting materials, and walked down the stairs a few times.  No.  Ow.  Yep, it would matter.  "Watch that bottom step, Ethel, it's a doozy."

Well, maybe I could pry up the plywood and make something out of the original tongue and groove floor beneath. 

It was no go.  I think the POs-1 didn't merely nail it, they glued it down as well.  And I wasn't up to getting down with the circular saw and cutting it up into little puzzle pieces and heaving them up one by one.  No telling what that'd do to the T&G.  And there'd still be the dried adhesive to deal with.  Hmm, no.

Withal, I've decided, the only thing for it is to fill and sand the plywood (which is a decent, regular, knotless, interior grade) and paint it.  In a faux tile pattern that'll simulate the Gothic Revival tiles I always wanted.  But first, I have to get the vinyl adhesive residue off.

The product in question
Could be worse.  It's only around the perimeter of the L-shaped space and along the verges of the floor heating register.   I rejected trying to sand it off.  Chemical methods should be easier and more economical, I thought.  So I bought a bottle of Henry EasyRelease Adhesive Remover a few weeks ago, and today, I tried it.

Ohhhhhhh, my.  Easy release?  Not so much.  The label says to dilute it 4 to 1 with water, apply it to your dried, hardened glue, then wait one to two hours for the loosening action to work.  I sprayed on the first application around 2:30 PM and according to the instructions renewed it every so often (every twenty to thirty minutes) to keep it wet and working.

After two hours, I went at the (theoretically) softened glue with my 5-in-1.  No joy.  It barely made a dent.  Tried adding more adhesive remover to the bottle to make the mix more like 3 to 1.  Squirted it on and waited another hour or so, reapplying at intervals.

The ordeal begins
By this time it was nearly 5:30 PM.  Upstairs in my bedroom my two younger cats were sequestered behind the closed door, to keep them and their tender paws out of the adhesive remover.  Neither of them was happy to be held captive, and might have been plotting all sorts of dire revenge in the form of poo in the shoes or smelly yellow puddles on the bed.  They had to be sprung as soon as possible.  Meanwhile, the dog, exiled to the back porch, was leaping at the screen door and barking in protest at having to be outdoors without me.  (My oldest cat would stay outside all day and all night if I let her.)  Okay, kids, I'm working as fast as I can!  I went at the old glue again with the 5-in-1, a putty knife (useless) and the paint remover hook.   And went at it, and went at it, and went at it.

Done, barring the gunk hung up on the nailheads
I'm tired, I give up
The old glue started coming up, but it was hard work.  I kept at it steadily but by a few minutes before 8:00 I had less than half the ring of residue removed from the plywood, my knees were hurting, red, and swollen despite the pads I wore, and I was thoroughly fed up.  If this product brings up adhesive residue easily, I'm Mike Holmes' new forewoman.  I had to stop.  Rinsed the application sites with cold water per the directions, including the places I'd sprayed with remover but didn't/couldn't scrape, put everything away, and liberated the captive pets, indoors and out.  Thank goodness the kittens (five-year-old kittens) had controlled themselves.

Still to do, and only part of that

I'll try to get the rest tomorrow.  Pretty tired and disgusted now.  The sander might be an option after all.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Arrières Pensées

Yves Tanguy, Arrières-pensées (Second Thoughts), 1939
The prep work in the living room is finally done.  The last of the old beige moiré paper has been stripped, loose plaster has been resecured and patched, large missing pieces (behind the baseboards) have been filled in with drywall, the old wallpaper size/paste has been scrubbed down and stabilized with Gardz sealer, cracked have been taped and mudded and nailholes spackled, the silly skinny cornice moulding impinged upon by the ceiling paint has been given a faux natural wood finish courtesy of some brown paint I found in the basement and three or four coats of walnut-tinted shellac, and all four walls have received a coat of wallpaper-compatible primer.  Including the wall above the fireplace, where the wet places used to be.  The holes and flaws in the door frames are filled with wood filler and wiped smooth with alcohol on fine steel wool to avoid raising dust.  The door and window frames need a few coats of shellac, but otherwise, everything is prepared and ready for wallpaper.

But I'm not jumping up raring to hang it.  It may have something to do with a dream I had recently . . .

    I was in a house, and it was my house, though it looked nothing like it.  I was in a large room, beautifully wallpapered, and  the papering job was mine.

        The predominant color was a kind of deep warm rose-pink, with subtle pattern of more orangey-reds, with accents of darker and lighter colors running through it.  The effect was very rich, and though the paper wasn't any of my William Morris patterns, I knew it was very expensive, like something you would get from Bradbury & Company.  The most striking thing was a border about five inches high that ran horizontally around the room about four feet above the floor.  This wasn't applied over the other paper; no, it was integral with it.  The paper came in five foot widths, and I'd hung it as directed, horizontally, so the border showed as it ought, with the upper width overlapping the lower.

        I stood there admiring the effect, when all of a sudden the upper five-foot strip began to come loose from the wall, just to the left of the doorway.  Oh-oh!  I'd better go get some paste and stick it back up, fast.  But I wasn't sure where the paste was, because now it seemed that I wasn't in my own house, but this was a room I was living in in a house owned by somebody else, maybe my older sister, and I didn't want to go upstairs and bug her.

        My bed was opposite the door, I was tired, and I thought maybe I could leave this till morning.  But as soon as I sat down on my bed, more of the top width of wallpaper started peeling off.  No!  I ran over and literally caught it in my arms as it came loose from the wall.  I saw that underneath it the other, coordinating paper was also railroaded, and it went from baseboard to ceiling.  And as I stood there struggling, it, too, began to cascade down.

        All around the room the beautiful expensive paper was coming off the walls, and rippling down wrinkled and ruined, so it couldn't be put back up and reused.  What did I expect, I told myself.  This was a basement room, so maybe it was damp.  But I thought I'd taken that into consideration when I'd done the papering!

        Then I looked up, and saw that I'd also papered the ceiling in the deep rose-pink paper, complete with an ornamental border with special motifs in the corners.  And this, too, began to peel off and hang down.

        I was distraught!  All that work!  All that money!  The job was ruined and I was ruined!  What could I do?

And the only thing that saved me from utter nightmare misery was making myself wake up enough to remember that the only room I have wallpapered so far is the stairhall, and it's in William Morris "Blackthorn" and it's only on the bottom of the walls and it's adhering very nicely, thank you very much.

 At the time this seemed like only a frivolous dream, and I was more frivolous still for writing it down.  But maybe not.  Maybe it's me trying to come to terms with what I'm going to do with the red on red "Owen Jones" wallpaper I bought for the living room, if I don't get lucrative work soon and have to put the house on the market in the foreseeable future.  The price of the paper has nearly doubled since I laid in my supply three years ago.  And what about all the blankstock I've bought, too?  Maybe it might be better just to paint the living room walls and those in the dining room as well and get the trim back up, then wait and see what happens to me financially before I blow the expensive Morris paper on it.  Because if I hang it and have to move, sure as shooting the realtor will tell me I should take it back down in order to sell the house.  Or the new owner will take it down and all my effort will be wasted.

I don't know.  I have to consider that not using what I've got would mean blowing money on more paint, with no guarantee that I'd want to use the papers I have in my next house, if any.  And if I'm renting or boarding with somebody, how could I?

No decisions yet.  I still have a lot of work to do on the screen door and on the floor in the 1st floor hall.  I'll see what my local DIY friends think.  And if any of my DIY cyber friends want to weigh in, please do.

Friday, July 20, 2012


If my DIY life were a piece of music, it'd be a Baroque fugue with two or three themes running in counterpoint to one another.

Upstairs we have the work on the living room walls-- scrubbing, sealing, patching, and all the rest.  Down the basement I'm still getting the last of the paint off the salvaged screen door.  But up in the kitchen the last few days there's been a variation on the screen door theme-- transforming its original hardware.

Please pardon rotation fail.  Technical difficulties.
I've mentioned before what a jolly hard time I had even getting the pieces off the door.  Then I struggled to free the hinges from the aluminum shims the door's previous owner for some reason had to use.  Bought a new drill bit at the hardware store a couple Saturdays ago to drill out the last four screws, and that worked great on exactly two of them.  Just drilled in to weaken the remaining screw from the top, then pivoted the aluminum pieces and hit them off with a hammer.  But the last two screws were stuck in one hinge, so that technique wouldn't work.  Oh, I tried the drilling part.  Bit went dull on me and gave up any pretense to removing any material.  Ditto with one I had lying around.  So it was back to the hardware store this past Saturday to buy another bit and see if they had any other ideas.

Hinges boiled once
Happily, they did.  One of the owners simply took the offending hinge into the shop and drilled the stuck screws out for me.  Thank you, thank you, thank you!  Bought a new 5/8" bit anyway, since I'd trashed the other two.

Curses, boiled again!
Now that all the hardware was off and ununcumbered, I could start having fun.  The hardware as I got it was a brown tone, and if I weren't too particular I could've claimed it was patina and left it as was.  But I knew better. Using the recipe from the StuccoHouse blog, I boiled the hinges and latchset (separately) in water laced with baking soda.  The first half-hour boil made a disgusting mess on the stove (because the pan leaks and the lid doesn't fit tight) and bubbled up the brown top coat of paint.  The pieces looked rather like melted chocolate, but not a particularly good or appetizing brand, if you catch my drift.  The second 30 minutes in the pot loosened the black underlayer. 

The black may have been the finish as it came from the store, but it was compromised in many places and had to go.  Scraped and steel-wooled it off, just as I had the brown.

So by last Sunday night I had a set of nice,
Hinge parts, clean and draining
Latchset, clean
clean (if a little rusty) screen door hardware draining on my kitchen counter.  And the rust mattered, because even though this door isn't going to be directly exposed to the elements, it'll still be on the exterior and subject to humidity and moisture.  I didn't want to paint it again; what could I do to protect it?  I kept thinking "oil-rubbed," but that usually applies to bronze.  Can you have oil-rubbed steel?

A little research online unearthed a promising but alarming article on oil-rubbing, replete with instructions about heating up your metal pieces to burning-hot and melting your oil, wax, whatever, into them.  No thanks, don't want to destroy my kitchen counters or burn the house down.  The promising part came when it told me I could apply tung oil cold.  And that it was especially effective on metal that was pitted.  You want pitted metal?  I got your pits right here.

One coat of tung oil. Getting there.

Two coats of tung oil.  Much better
I found my bottle of tung oil in the workshop, but believe it or not, it took me a day or two to figure out how to get the safety cap off.  But after the ViseGrips came to the rescue, I applied two coats of the oil to all the pieces except the screws, waiting 24 hours between coats as recommended.

Finished yesterday and I think they look really neat, almost as if they were bronze.  All they need now is a coat of paste wax-- once I remember where the dickens I put the can.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Weeds and Woodwork

    I've really neglected my garden this summer.  Simply have to make progress inside the house.  But when I took Llewellyn out I was confronted with the horrible state of the garden beds, especially how the crab grass was taking over the Brussels sprouts.  So since it was nice outside, I spent the morning weeding and mulching instead.

    I'd planned to mulch up old bagged leaves and spread them around the Brussels sprouts plants, but gave that up after the first bag took nearly an hour to do.  They're so wet they weren't going through the leaf vac grinder and into to catcher bag, they were being turned into dirt and clogging up the grinder wheel chamber.  I was constantly having to take the machine apart to clean it out.  So most of the bed is now covered with whole, if wet and decaying, maple leaves.  Not ideal, but I couldn't afford six or seven more hours at it.  Tired, and the sun was getting hot.

    Nice to have that much done, though.  Makes it look a little like I have a real garden this year.

    Progress continues on the south wall of the living room.  Got the last two coats of  shellac onto the cornice moulding.

    That was four coats and that's enough.  I'd contemplated going on today and priming the south wall and the adjacent west corner.  But I don't like the way I got primer on the lower edge of the cornice on the east wall when I tackled it in April-- it'd be a good idea to tape that surface to prevent it happening on this side.  So I'm giving the shellac overnight to harden up before I apply the tape.

    So instead I went downstairs and wielded my new Dremel and my new 7/16" Forstner bit on the broken and stuck pegs in the salvaged screen door.  Shocking how most of them just flew into powder-- no wonder the door fell apart.  The strange thing is that as they were being drilled out those pegs smelled like sweet corn!

    The old pegs were 1/2" diam., but I started drilling with the smaller bit in case I didn't hit the hole on center first time.  First knocked down any that protruded with the Dremel multipurpose cutting bit.  Probed around with the dental picks trying to work the loose pieces out, then finished it off with a 1/2" Forstner.

    Ironically, the last peg I tackled looked like it might come out with a little wiggling.  But I couldn't get a grip on it and had to drill it out anyway.  But because the wood was in better shape, it held together and my battery-operated drill wasn't making much headway.  Thankfully, my old corded drill is still working, and gave me better results.

    Tested the cleared holes with a 1/2" dowel I have sitting around.  I guess I'll cut it up to make the new pegs.

    Around 10 o'clock I thought I was almost done with all the drilling out I needed to do, just two more to go at the top of the hinge-side stile.  But the attachment of the bottom panel to that stile is a little wobbly, and considering how easily the other joints fell apart, maybe I should take my rubber mallet and separate those pieces and replace those pegs, too.

    Which would have given me up to eight more holes to clear, depending on how many pegs I could keep intact.  Nope, I've had enough for the night.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Living Room Wall Progress

The wood of the flat moulding has weathered gray--it is stripped
Wednesday morning I used up the last of the Western Wood Doctor on the plain side of the screen door insert.  I ordered more Monday night, but it has to come by truck all the way from Oregon and the ETA is Tuesday the 17th.  That's given me the excuse to come back upstairs and work on the south wall of my living room.

Old filler plaster
Haven't touched it since just before my English friend Janet* visited in April.  Mental block.  See, on either side of the cased opening to the front room is a two to three inch strip of scratch coat plaster.  At least, that's what I have on the righthand side.  On the left there's broken blocks of scratch coat plaster, miscellaneous broken bricks set up on end, and other flotsam and jetsam filling in the space between the 2x6 support member and the proper mortared-in brick of the wall.  I know because some of those rectangular chunks of plaster were loose and protruding, and I pulled them out and laid them aside when I first got around to that wall.  Question was, what was I going to do with them?  More to the point, what was I going to do about the 1½" deep by 2½" wide by 18" tall cavity left once the plaster blocks were out?  Would the face trim be enough to hide it?  What if it showed?  I had some idea of using Liquid Nails to glue them back in, but how could I hold them tight to the back of the cavity while it was drying?  And how could I shave enough off the backs of the blocks so they'd go in flush, without breaking them to pieces?

Styrofoam blocking
Needed to be doing something on the house Wednesday morning, and all of a sudden it hit me that I was going too far with the authenticity.  The point is to fill the cavity, right?  So who cares what it's filled with, as long as it's a legitimate building material (e.g., not Kleenex) and it doesn't show?  So with a mingled sense of cleverness and shame, I cut the Gordian knot and trimmed down some old packing Styrofoam.  I mean, it's like insulation, even if it is on an interior wall, right?  Shoved the foam to try it and the pieces fit perfectly.  Glued it in with construction adhesive on Thursday (once I'd scrubbed the wall above it), and there it reposes and dares anyone to make something out of it.  (The old plaster went out with the trash Thursday night).

Gardz is shiny
Two coats mud &/or patching plaster
With that settled, I could go on to scrub down the south wall and the part of the west wall around the corner (the idea being to remove any loose or soft size from the previous owners' wallpaper job) and coat it with Gardz primer (to seal in all the remaining size).  Had that done by Wednesday evening, and the mornings up to today saw me patching the cracks and old nail holes in the plaster and wet-sanding them down.  One bad area above the lefthand corner of the opening needed taped and mudded; I've controlled myself and kept it to two coats of joint compound (24 hours drying time after each).  Typically I have a hard time trowelling it on; I keep leaving ridges.  I've found the more coats I apply and the more sanding I do the worse it gets.  The crack's not at eye level; get the paper tape well covered, wipe it down a little, and let it alone!

Finish plaster at bottom
Being in an intimate relation, as it were, with this wall the past few days has given me a good-enough answer to a house history question that's been tugging for years at the skirts of my curiosity.  My front room used to be an open porch, of course.  And that cased doorway from the living room used to be a window, probably a three-gang from the width.  But why all that filler on either side of the "new" supports?  Did the window used to be wider than the doorway is now?  The finish plaster above the lintel seemed to say No, but all those loose bricks and crap bothered me.  But when I was down on the righthand side cleaning the wall just above the baseboard line, I noticed that the original gold-tinted finish plaster went all the way to the inside line of the support on that side.  Of course, when the front room was a porch, that finish plaster went all the way under the window.  Maybe this doesn't make total sense, but something about it tells me that the window rough opening was built as wide as I see it now, and the width of the doorway is the width of the former window.    I think they stopped the coursed brick well short of the window jamb supports to allow installation room and to account for variations in the width of the windows they might get.  Most of the filler that's in now would have been put in with the doorway, but it was meant to be there, I think.

Seems odd that I would chew this over so much, but I guess it bothered me to think that structural brick had been knocked out when the doorway was put in.  And the face trim was installed out of plumb which made me wonder what else had been done carelessly.  Not that the structure has been compromised-- I've found evidence that the work may have been done in the 1930s and it's been fine since then.

Well.  Next on the agenda is to continue the fake natural wood shellac job on the painted cornice moulding, which is too narrow and cheap-looking but is not coming down at this juncture.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012


A better picture of the new chimney caps.  Pardon the bad quality-- my new camera is a piece of junk and it's my own fault for not getting back to the manufacturer to gripe about it.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

"Peter Darling! the Sweep's Here!"

Old caps
Thus in Dorothy L. Sayers' Busman's Honeymoon does the new bride Harriet Vane Wimsey announce to her husband Lord Peter the presence of the man who's going to solve the problem of the blocked sitting room chimney in their newly-purchased country house.  Peter and Harriet only found out they needed the sweep in the night before.  I've been gearing up to have something done about my water heater flue for months.

Still, when I could suppress the awareness of what the work was going to cost, I, too, could rejoice this morning at 9:30 when the truck drove up and John the chimney technician rang the bell.  Hurray, the sweep's here!

He certainly earned his money.  He was here for five hours, and made sure everything was done just right.

First thing, he went down the basement, put the water heater on pilot, removed the 3" flue between the appliance and the chimney, and enlarged the opening into the brickwork.

Old cap unit, on the ground
Note the rust on the lefthand side!
Then it was out to the side yard to raise the ladder.  He got the old double chimney cap down, what I feebly call the turbine-looking thing, and it was a lot bigger than I imagined.  And wide open to the birds.  And very rusty on the water heater side.  Not a big surprise, since the guys who did my roof repair a few months ago told me it was going.  That's why they painted it, but the extent of the rust was eye-opening.

Flue full of bird's nests

 John got out his rods and brushes and pushed the birds' nest material down into the basement where he plucked it out of the opening.  Two 5-gallon buckets worth, and some of it was packed so hard, he said, that for awhile he thought I had a brick stuck in there.

At work with the rods
My knowledge of chimney sweeping is mostly derived from Busman's Honeymoon (what did you think-- Mary Poppins?), so I knew about rods and brushes, but somehow I thought they were metal.  I asked John, and he said, no, in the old days they were mostly bamboo or rattan; now they mostly use fiberglass and other synthetics, depending on the offset of the chimney and the nature of the blockage.  And though he's heard of clearing a chimney with a shotgun (as employed by the vicar in Busman's Honeymoon), he's never actually known anybody who's done it!

New liner, with 2 buckets of blockage
A new cap.  Pardon rotation fail.
I didn't hang around watching the festivities the whole time; I kept busy inside sorting papers in the dining room or grooming my dog and my oldest kitteh on the back porch.  But I stepped out front in time to see my new stainless steel liner and its insulation coiled like a bright blue snake and the curb, and beheld the new chimney caps up close and personal, a chance I will likely never get again.  Made to order, stainless steel, powdercoated brown with hipped "roofs" without the standing seam.  Very Craftsman looking.

The liner is in

The animals needed more brushing and were enjoying it so much I missed the actual insertion of the liner into the flue.  He said there was no trouble getting it down.  Which is funny in a grim sort of way, because another chimney company came out in mid-June and got cold feet about "what they might find" in my chimney.  They were afraid they couldn't get the liner through, refused even to bid the job and told me to get an electric water heater instead!

Connecting the liner at the WH
But it went in sweetly, and soon as John had adjusted it at the top, it was back into the basement to get the new flue from the water heater connected in to the new tee at the bottom.  John told me the new flue from the heater is 4" diameter instead of the 3" I had, which will take a bigger tank if I or a subsequent owner ever need it.

Setting the caps
Next was the exciting part, setting the new caps.  I keep hovering in my neighbors' yards across the street, where a bit of a rise gave me a better viewing angle, and I noticed that the front cap wasn't parallel with the stone dressing at the top of the chimney.  But John was already on it.  He was down at his truck cutting a couple of metal shims.  "I can't make the cap level," he said, "because the top of the chimney isn't level.  Does that make sense?"  "Absolutely."  "So we have to fool the eye so it looks parallel to the ground."

Careful adjustments
Time for sealant
And he did.  He worked at it until he got it right, got my okay, then used sealant to fasten the caps down. Standard way it's been done for decades, and no, he's never known a high wind to carry a cap away.  Then, sealant all around the bottom of the stone dressing, between it and the brick.

He noticed a bit of light-colored something on the stone and tried to scrape it off.  I'd noticed it, too, and when he came down he said it was sealant left from the old cap that had covered the whole top dressing.  He went back up with some solvent and soon, it was gone.

Done up top; time to lower the ladder
 The ladder came down after that, but John wasn't finished.  He headed back down the basement to mud the connector from the water heater into the brick flue so it was good and tight.  When I came down to watch he pointed out that I seem to have a leaky connection on the outgoing side of the appliance, judging from the corrosion.  It's not enough to melt the plastic collar yet, but it's something I need to watch.

New connector mudded in
This will need watching
As I'd requested, he hauled the two buckets of bird straw around back to my compost pile.  Once everything was put away out front, it was time for The Paperwork.  From comparing notes with other old house owners, I know that the price I got on this job was very reasonable, what with the sweeping, the top-quality stainless steel liner with insulation, and the two new caps.  I still wish it hadn't been necessary, but it helps that he accepted half now and equal payments at no interest over the next six months.  And there's a lifetime manufacturer's warranty on the flue-- if I get it professionally inspected every year.  But, John confided, even if I don't or can't, he's never known one of these to go out.

But I'll think about that next summer.  Right now, the work is done, hurray! and the damp spot over my mantelpiece can start drying.  It might take a week, John said, but then I can finish prepping my living room walls for finish.

All finished
I keep walking outside to gape at the new caps.  (You'd think I had this job done just to get them.)   I regret to admit it, but I kind of miss the old ones-- they were so distinctive.  But they didn't match the style of the house and they weren't working.

John hauled the old cap unit away, so I can't have a wake over it.  I was toying with taking it in for scrap myself, but I don't think I could lift it, nor did it look like I could fit it into my car, even with the back seat folded down.  So it's just as well I forgot to mention it and he made the decision for me.

Now, terra cotta chimney pots.  That'd be just the thing.  Oh, yeah.