Wednesday, December 31, 2008

More on windows.

Made some more interior storm windows the other night.

My materials list:

- 1x2's for the frame $0.25/LF
- Frost King 3/8"x3/16" foam weather stripping $0.20/LF
- Frost King window insulation kit (Outdoor Use) $9.50/pack

The panel shown measures 22.5"x81". I can make 4 panels from the window insulation kit. A rough cost per panel is:
- Plastic: $9.50 / 4 = $2.38
-1x2: [(81" x 2) + (19.5" x 3)]/12 x $0.25 = $4.60
- Weather Strip: [(81" x 2) + (22.5" x 2)]/12 x $0.20 = $3.45.

Total per panel = $10.43

All material purchased from Home Depot.

For detailed instructions on making these, please see the Historic HomeWorks site.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Another weekend...

...went by and no work on the bathroom.

I did manage to get the tree up by Christmas Eve though. There's nothing like waiting 'til the last minute, keeps things interesting at least. But this year I decided to take extra time to make our non-prelit tree a prelit one by stringing the lights in a certain way. In theory it would save time for next year. Good decision, bad execution!

I spent a good amount of time battling one string of lights that was half lit and another string that just wasn't lit at all. Also, what will happen when I pull out my wonderful prelit tree next year and find a string that's not lit? Test each bulb while battling the hand/wrist eating branches? Or maybe take the lights off, replace the bulb, then just put them back again (defeating the whole purpose of a pre-lit tree)?

This tree will last us for many years to come but the next time (say 20 years from now) my wife asks if we should get a prelit tree, my answer will be "Hell yes!"

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Ok, let's get back on track...

... to the bathroom.

Here's a layout of the floor tiles that we are going to use. My wife was really excited after I finished to self-leveling cement pours, so she quickly laid out the tiles the next day. We had seen the basket weave pattern in other old homes and decided that's what we wanted. My wife searched everywhere for the pattern but could only find it in marble. We liked the pattern a lot but to do it in marble was just not in the budget. So we decided to go with another pattern.

Fast forward 2 years later, we were in the process of buying the floor tiles and just happened to stop at a local tile store. We were on our way to one of the many "put bathroom project on hold this weekend" engagements so my wife just ran into the store to get a price. Next thing I know she runs out with a sheet of the basket weave! Turns out a company just started making the pattern in ceramic.

Of course my next comment just had to be "Good thing the bathroom is taking so long, now we have the tile we wanted!" That didn't go over too well.

Monday, December 22, 2008

It's COLD!

It's pretty cold today, says 13 Deg F (feels like -4 Deg). I'll say, it feels like minus something out there! And yes, it's freezing in the house too. We pretty much live in one room huddled around a space heater. At times I believe we could save a whole lot of money and just move to a studio apartment. But of course we've accumulated so much stuff in our house that it's just not an option. So for now we have a very expensive storage facility. I would sell storage space but I believe that there is a minimum climate control standard that we wouldn't be able to meet!

In an effort to be "green" or mainly to save money, we've searched for alternate heating. A few years ago we installed a pellet stove and it worked great for the first season. Then it just wasn't burning right. At first it was caused by a whole chamber that I didn't realize needed to be cleaned (wasn't mentioned in the instructional video). Then the pellets got wet and didn't burn right. Now the cheap brand of pellets aren't burning right (high quality pellets are in high demand and hard to find). This thing is starting to be a real pain in the a$!

I still believe in the idea or at least want to believe in the idea after shelling out the $$$ to have this the stove put in. Hope to get it figured out soon as it isn't getting any warmer.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

What to do today?

I had hoped to keep the momentum going with the bathroom project but of course other things always pull me away. The main culprit is having 3 young kids at home, why must they always need something right at the same time? Well, this is not a blog about child care so that's all I'll say about the kids.

We had our first major winter storm yesterday and I had mixed feelings about it. Part of me didn't want it to be too bad because it would extend my commute home. But the other part wanted it to come down hard so I could use the new snowblower (used, but new to me) I recently picked up. Of course as fate would have it, it snowed just enough to be a pain but not enough to justify using the snowblower. I may just break it out for the heck of it...

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Freakin' Squirrel Problem!

Like the title says, we have a squirrel problem in our house. Two summers ago a young squirrel decided to find its way into our house and freak out my wife in the family room. I was dropping my daughter off at ballet and of course decided I didn't need my cell phone for such a short trip (mistake #1).

Well, when I finally made it home I could hear my wife screaming my name from inside. I run into the house to find her and our middle son (youngest at the time) on the couch. She tells me that the squirrel ran into the room past her and the baby, into the fireplace. Then she says that she stayed in the room to keep it trapped in the fireplace and that I need to take care of it.

Aaaa, okay. I don't know about anyone else but I've never dealt with a squirrel in the house before. So I creep into the room thinking it's going to jump out and attack me or maybe get scared and start running around the room looking for a way out. I've heard that you could open a window and try to shoo it out, yeah right! Or maybe set a trap in the room and get it out that way, yeah didn't get around to buying one of those yet (mistake #2). Best solution, call someone else to take care of it.

So I call an animal control guy and he shows up with a fishing net. He asks me in his manly Italian accent if I want to come into the room to help and laughs at me as I decline the invitation. Doesn't bother me, I'm not the one getting paid to risk my life!

After a few minutes he traps the squirrel in the net and tells me to open the front door. I open the door and go onto the porch. I start to look in to see whats going on (mistake #3). The next thing I see is a ball of fur coming at me. Thank god years of martial arts training sharpened my reflexes and I got out of the way just in time. The guy tells me that the squirrel was ready to jump out of the net so he had to fling him out the door.

I don't know what would have been worse, the squirrel escaping back into the house or the squirrel in my face, but I was happy to have it out of the house. The guy told that it was a young squirrel and we were lucky because an adult would have been harder to handle. He then told me that one way the squirrels get into the house is by sitting in the gutters and chewing a hole through the fascia into the attic.

Sure enough, one day I watched a squirrel climb up to the gutter and followed its tail as it ran inside the gutter. It then disappeared somewhere in the middle of its run. I already knew there were squirrels in the attic but didn't know how they were getting in until then.

Armed with my new knowledge I proceeded to get all the necessary materials to squirrel proof the attic (traps and wire mesh). Bought 2 sizes of traps, a smaller one for flying squirrels and a larger one for grey squirrels. Setup the smaller one in the attic with no luck, the trap was tripped with no bait left behind. I figure it was either a grey squirrel that was too big and prevented the door from closing or it was something smaller that got through the mesh of the cage.

I second guessed setting up the bigger trap in the attic because I thought if I did end up catching a grey squirrel, how would I get it down from the attic and through the house without it peeing & pooping all over the place. So I ended up placing the larger trap on the porch and caught 2 squirrels that way. One that had been eating the Halloween pumpkins and breaking pots and one that I saw chewing paint off a column (little bastards).

I searched online to find out what i could do with the trapped bastards and found that in NJ you could either put them down or release them at or near the site of capture. Being Buddhist kind of ruled out the first option but the second option didn't really make any sense. So I searched a little more and found this document

The document talks about relocation to a better habitat. In both instances I drove them 10 miles out and released them in a large wooded area, which I believe is a better habitat. But I'm starting to rethink the relocation plan as it's most likely just creating a problem elsewhere. The other option is starting to come up for consideration but I don't know if I have it in me to do it. So I may just have to get a pet that would eat squirrels, maybe the koi pond I wanted to build could be a piranha pond instead.

Haven't gotten around to putting up the wire mesh yet but will hopefully do that in the spring. Stay tuned for that project...

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Another project...

Yup, another project. I know I should really finish the bathroom first but it's cold outside. Actually sometimes it's colder inside!

In an effort to keep the cold out I figured storm windows would be a great solution. But getting custom storm windows just isn't in the budget. So I searched "DIY storm windows" on the internet and came across a great idea for making interior storm windows at Historic Homeworks.

I made my prototype and it looks like the interior storms will do the trick. Now just in time to help me really tackle the project, is giving away a Dewalt Track Saw. Looks like a really cool tool, what a great giveaway!

Making some progress...

I finally put down the electric radiant heat for the bathroom that's been sitting in the box for over a year. It was relatively painless and really the main thing holding me back was fear of the unknown.

On top of a 3/4" plywood subfloor I used 1/4" USG Fiberock under the heating mat and 1/2" GP Dens Shield at the sink and tiolet areas. I used the Dens Shield because I had left over pieces from the tub wall installation. I poured 2 layers of self-leveling cement (SLC) on top of the heating mat (1st pour was 1/4" over the Fiberock, 2nd pour was 1/8" over entire floor). I did it in two pours because I could, realistically, mix only one 50lb bag of SLC at a time.

I used the tips that I got from one project closer and things went pretty smooth. The 2nd pour looked great this morning and I'm ready to tackle the floor tiles! At least we've had them for less than a year.

Lessons learned:
1) If you think you need to glue the heating mat down in more places, you probably should. In the 1st pour some areas of the mat got pulled up as I was spreading and then the SLC got under the mat. I had to spend a little more time pushing the mat back down. A little nerve wracking when you only have a 10 min working time for the SLC.
2) Don't pour too much SLC in one area to make the 5 gallon bucket mix lighter. A 50 lb bag + water is pretty heavy, plus handling it and being careful while walking on the radiant heat mat isn't fun. I ended up pouring a lot in one area because it was heavy and cumbersome then spent most of the time spreading the SLC from that area to the rest of the floor.
3) Make sure you have a plan for spreading the SLC. I had originally thought I could pour the SLC and spread from the doorway. I never would have been able to reach all areas from there and ended up spreading from the tub and jumping out of the bathroom after.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

The light at the end of the...

So I've been working on our bathroom remodel for a little over 2 1/2 weeks, no wait I meant years. Yes, years! Started when my wife was pregnant with our 2nd child and thought I'd have it done before the baby came. Well three kids later it's still not done.

I recently came across a great site that has given me some really good tips and has inspired me to finish the project. Their address is and they're giving away two $100 gift cards to Home Depot. What more inspiration could I ask for?
Here's what it looked liked back in the day, minus the painted flowers, trees & sky!


Here is our house, a 140+ year old Second Empire Victorian. My wife named it Forest Hall, I wonder why?