Tuesday, August 11, 2020

Gee, thanks a lot Isaiais!

      Last Tuesday Hurricane Isasais or however the hell you spell it came through Pike county PA.
I still reside in NY, so I did not see firsthand how bad it was. I went up to the house on Saturday to do some work, and that is when I learned how bad it was there.
      Bottom line is, I suffered a setback on the progress to the house.  I'm not going to disclose the specifics, but I will say that I'm a bit upset. I did not photograph anything, so there isn't much to post about today.

      I'm bummed out, and I'm still trying to devise a game plan for how to proceed. I'll document it when the time comes. I'm sure I'll look back at it as just a bump in the road once the house is done. Compared to some of the challenges I overcame on this house it is relatively minor.

     So stay tuned, I'll be back at it soon.

Sunday, August 2, 2020


    Yesterday, I bought my wife Robin up to the house. She's a pretty good painter, I had her put a second coat of paint in the piano room.  By the way, we're going to start calling that room the library because thats where all the bookshelves are going to be, and of course we no longer have the piano.

    I also installed the permanent ceiling light fixture after the ceiling got its second coat of white paint. Here's Robin putting the last coat of grey on the walls:


         While she was painting in the next room, I was laying down the vinyl floor in the kitchen.
It was a bit tricky to get it centered and then the first few cuts made me nervous, but then it began to get easier. There will only be one short seam in the floor over by the basement staircase.  I still have to install the baseboard moldings back over it too.


Thursday, July 30, 2020

Doing well, or maybe not so well.

       The bottom line is, I need running water in the house. I've been working around it for 4 years. Lugging barrels of fresh water up to the house nearly every weekend, and not having running water (or a toilet that flushes) has taken its toll on me.

     Bob, my boiler tech says he needs water to fill the system and so I've been on a mission to get the well going. I called two well companies, one of which would not service my area, and another who came out to the house and said he would give me an estimate, but just ran me around in circles for over a week and then just stopped returning my calls.
    Finally, I called Gary Tyler of Tyler Pump and Well Service.  I should have called them first,  they were professional, polite, prompt, and punctual.  This morning right at 8:30 (just like they said) the guys from Tyler Wells came to the house. They replaced my pump with a new 220 volt Pentair well pump, I think it was a 1/2 horsepower unit. They also ran all new wiring, installed a new fiberglass pressure tank with a boiler drain valve and a main shutoff ballvalve.  A new pressure switch was also installed.

     I came so close to having running water today, but hit a small problem. My 100 amp circuit breaker panel does not have a ground rod in the earth tied into the ground bar.  Rather than running the ground to the neutral, I ran it to the "fake" ground bar and had some arcing in the box when the breaker for the well was turned on.  I should have my friend Matt up to the house within the week and get that issue resolved, then the water should flow!

    Here's a few photos from today:

 Old pump is out:
 New pump being wired up:
 New pressure tank:

Sunday, July 26, 2020

Pour some more.

The second concrete pour has cured. This one was a full 24" tall on top of the 8" footing that I pored the day we dug the trench.  One of the photos shows that there is still another foot of concrete needed to reach the existing sill plate under the wall.  A lot of the original sill plate is rotted and gone, so I will most likely build the next forms at 14" tall so that some of the concrete can flow under and around the wall studs and timbers where the sill plate was. This will definitely strengthen and support the wall while stopping water from getting in the basement.

    After removing the plywood forms, I backfilled the trench alongside the new wall with dirt.


     After playing in the dirt, I went back to the piano room where I proceeded to put a coat of white paint on the ceiling as well as the first coat of grey paint on the walls.

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

I ditched on the piano room.

      Well, I know that I said in my last post that I'd be doing paint & vinyl floor next, but I took a left turn at Albuquerque.  I actually got the chance to have some young helpers join me to dig a twenty foot long trench alongside the foundation on the north side of the house.

       You see, for some time now the north wall of the stone foundation has weeped water into the basement after heavy rains. Parging and re-mortaring it from the inside slowed it, but did not stop the dampness at the floor alongside that wall. I decided last year that I wanted to dig it all out from the outside and pour a concrete wall on the outside of the stone wall to stop the porosity.
       Rob and I began to dig it out last summer, but thats when we discovered the in ground oil tank. That discovery led to us addressing that project first. (see blog entry from 11/3/19)  Then Rob became ill, and heavy labor such as digging a deep trench was too much for me alone. 

     Last week,  my son Chris and his friend Steve joined me at the house. The three of us dug a trench alongside the stone foundation. The trench was four feet deep, 18 inches wide,  and twenty feet long.  Seeing the stone foundation uncovered, it was no surprise that water was getting in. There was no traces of mortar left anywhere, and there were gaps, voids, and holes everywhere in the wall.

      It took about four hours to dig it out, and then the boys helped me carry the cement mixer out and they carried 16 eighty pound bags of concrete outside so I could mix it up and pour an eight inch deep footing at the bottom of the trench.  We did not take any pictures of the digging process, but I went to the house yesterday to pour more cement, and I did snap a picture of the trench with the cured footing.

       I bought a pallet of concrete mix (42 bags) and headed to the house yesterday to pour the wall. First I built a plywood form which was 24 inches tall at its lowest point and 36 inches tall at the end nearest the cement mixer. I mixed and poured every single bag into that form, and I still need more. I'm about a foot (12") short still, so I will have to get another pallet of mix.

      Here's a photo of the wall so far:
        I'll photograph the wall at its current height once I remove the forms and before I backfill with dirt. Then I'll build the next form for the last 12" - 18" of the wall.

Saturday, July 11, 2020

Up next: Paint & Vinyl

   Four sanding sessions is what it took to get the piano room done. Yes, there are a few small spots that need tiny touch up here and there but basically, its ready for paint. Once the ceiling and walls are painted, the window casing, crown moulding, and then the wood floors can be installed.

     Having completed my sanding for the day, I moved on to the kitchen floor. Most of the luan underlayment was straight forward, full sheets mostly except for a few 2' X 8' half sheets along the back wall.  The exception was the sheet that curled around the hallway wall and into the three doorways.  That one took the better part of two hours to cut & trim and fit into place nicely.  Nonetheless, I got it done.

     And just like that, the kitchen was ready for the vinyl floor. I bought in the roll and hopefully my son Chris will be able to help me unroll it and get it into place next weekend.


Saturday, July 4, 2020

Sand, spackle, repeat...

     Yes its true, the worst part of any home renovation is the endless sanding and inevitable re-spackling  of all the seams and screw heads. I'm two sessions in and by my calculations I'll have two more before the primer/paint gets applied.  Its tedious and exhausting, but necessary.

     After I was all spackled out,  I installed the last three pieces of 1/2" plywood on the kitchen floor around the sink cabinet.  Following that, I began laying down the 1/4" luan underlayment. I used construction adhesive and about a thousand inch long crown staples to hold it down.  I'm guessing the vinyl floor will be going down in about two weeks.

edit 6/7/20:
    Sanding session #3 indicated that many of my screw heads & seams are done, so I rolled some primer on the completed areas. This should prevent me from re-sanding areas that no longer need sanding and allow me to concentrate on the remaining rough areas.