Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Design Idea: windows over interior doors

Remember these five old wood casement windows with brass hardware we picked up at BIG NYC almost a year ago?
Well, this is what I have in mind - basically a slightly distressed version of this look.  We could install them along the top of the the Kitchen walls above the doors so that they open out into the living room.
(PHOTO CREDIT: Trevor Tondro for The New York Times -

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Freeze Panic!!

Last weekend when we went up to the house I commented to the contractor that we didn't have much more time to get any "pre-freeze" work taken care of, such as trenching the side of the house to avoid further damage from frost-heave and, more trivially, draining the hot tub sitting in the driveway which had filled with rainwater so that it didn't freeze and burst the various jet feed tubes or worse.  He said we still had plenty of time before it would freeze up there.  I figured he was right so all I did was stick a couple hoses into the hot tub and suck water through them to get them siphoning (sadly, there was mud in the hose when I first sucked on it so I got a mouthful - ick!).

Anyway, imagine my surprise when I began hearing that a big snowstorm was predicted for the catskills for this weekend.  It would take weeks of freezing temperatures to freeze the ground enough to cause any more frost-heave damage, but it would only take one freezing night to break the hot tub pipes.  So, suddenly began to worry that I might be too late to save the hot tub.

I got up early on Saturday morning and picked up my pop (who happens to be in town) and we zoomed up to the house where we siphoned the last of the water out of the tub, shop-vac'ed the water out of all the jets and hoses and pipes, built a plywood cover for it and put two tarps over the cover.  And not a minute too soon.  It began to snow pretty heavily while I was laying the tarps and tying them on.

Then, as we were heading down the driveway to get on the road home in hopes of avoiding a blizzard on the ddrive home, my dad asked if maybe I should worry about pipes in the house freezing.  So I drove back and drained the pipes and suctioned out the last of the water in the toilet and then spent 45 minutes waiting for the pressure tank to drain completely - at a trickle - into a condensation pump which ejected it out of the basement (the tank was still at least half full when we finally just left it draining into the pump - couldn't wait any longer).

So, here are pics I took just before we got on the road.

Sunday, October 23, 2011


We went up yesterday to check out the finished roof and it looks great.  Hooray! Finally something is finished.  And this is a big something because without the roof on, everything we tried to do below ended up getting wet and wrecked whenever it rained.  So this is a big plus.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Round Roof!!

I received these pix of the roof from my roofer this week.  Looks like they are basically done with the mansard section of the roof and are ready to move on to the upper section.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Roofing the Tube (and the box)

We are having a new roof put on because the cedar shakes on the upper roof were warping and failing - they were improperly installed in the first place on top of a layer of asphalt shingles (which is not okay since cedar needs to "breathe").

I am a little nervous since Hurricane Irene just rolled through and dumped a tremendous amount of water on the Catskills and my house was pretty well exposed to it all with the roof off.  I have been trying to call my contractor since yesterday morning, but no answer.  Phones and/or power are out up there I think.

This is the strange junction where the mansard roof on the tube meets the flat roof on the box.  Apparently this caused some confusion and creative problem solving because it requires bringing the mansard down further along this side of the house than it does around the rest of the house.

This is the guys installing new plywood sheeting along the mansard.  My understanding is that after they stripped the old shakes and shingles they found nothing but a 1/4 inch layer of plywood underneath, which is inadequate to the task.

This is the peak of the roof after they covered it with the ice and snow barrier - a very important layer I am told.  I just hope it kept Irene out.

And here's a bunch of guys working up on the roof.  Man is that sky blue.  Crazy blue!!

As of Friday morning the status update is that they are going to need a scaffold brought in to install the asphalt shingles on parts of the roof.  I didn't ask why.  I don't honestly care.  Timing doesn't matter much to me.  I just want them to finish on budget and on quality (is that a thing "on quality"?).

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Crazy Locals!!

A neighbor on the other side of the mountain from us took these pictures from his window a week or so ago.  This is the view from his window out onto the little pond on his property. 

Kind of thrilling, right?!  Look at the little dude furthest to the right - just kind of sauntering around with a big old head and giant ears.
Do you think mom is like, "What a handfull, these cubs. Oh! I know how to keep them entertained for a little bit - we'll got to the pond and take a dip before their afternoon nap."
Anyway, this pretty much guarantees that we won't be camping on the lawn any time soon.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

First Night in the Tube!

I went up to the house on Sunday with another car-load of stuff.  We (meaning I) have to stop taking stuff up there now - it is to the point now where we are going to have to shuffle things from room to room in order to do the work we need to do now in any particular room.  Ugh.  My fault.

Anyway, so I slept in one of the downstairs bedrooms on Sunday night - no bed (just an air matress), no AC, no hot water, no wife, no nothing to make it a happy experience.  Just two things made it tolerable:

Since it was Memorial Day weekend all the stores were closed by 7PM so I had to go twice as far to find a gas station that sold beer before sunset.  It seemed a little ridiculous at the time to rush around stressed out looking for a beer so that I could properly enjoy the sunset from our deck.  But it was worth it.

This fine gentleman was an invaluable yard sale find ($5!) on Sunday on the road to the house.  It seems to be a fifty year old GE oscillating fan.  It blows pretty strong and made my night in that hot room doable.

Then on Monday morning, after a drive to Schenectady to pick up that big, old planer I posted a while ago, I stopped at a yard sale and made a new friend.  Hello stress relief!!

Tin Ceilings

We picked up a bunch of this old tin ceiling cheap on Craigslist a couple weeks ago.  Note that the pieces pictured here are the flat border pieces and the curved "cove" pieces. It's pretty great stuff.

Still trying to decide which room to install it in.  We were thinking it would go well in the kitchen, but the master bath is directly over the kitchen so it might be a mistake to install tin ceiling in a spot we might have to open up down the line to repair plumbing - but then how often do you really open up a ceiling to fix plumbing if the plumbing was done correctly the first time around?

In any event, we're going to need to do some stripping/scraping to get the rust and flaking paint off and then re-paint it.  It will be a lot of work.  I don't really know where we'll find the time to do this.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Old Rotten Cedar?!

The cedar we picked up yesterday was, without a doubt, rough looking on the outside.  Indeed, each and every long piece has a section approximately 10 inches long two feet from one end that is completely rotted through.  Since all the wood came from old water towers, my guess is that the rot line was right at the surface of the water where whatever foreign elements were in the water (bacteria, moss, scum, soap, whatever) tended to float.

But, to be honest, the surface of the full length of pretty much every board looks a little porous and dead.  I suppose that isn't altogether surprising for boards more than 20 years old.  It looks like this (top and bottom of a piece of a slice of board shown):

But lo and behold, look at the cross-section of the same piece of wood (click to enlarge):

What appear from the surface to be deep cracks in the wood end barely a millimeter below the surface.  And not only that, but this stuff smells like heaven inside.  The fresh cedar smell is positively addictive.  I'm sniffing this board so much, I'm becoming a cedar huffer.
Anyway, I suppose this comes as no surprise to some people, but I had never messed around with cedar before.

Oh, and for anyone who doesn't know already, the dark arc line curving from just left of top center to lower right is just a saw mark where the saw blade got hot and left a little burn mark on the wood.

So, all in all, I'm pretty happy about this score.  Thank you Craigslist!

Day in the Country!

Here are some pictures V took around the house yesterday.  You can see that the upper deck has been repaired. The lower deck (seen at the bottom of this pic) is still awaiting much love.

V discovered that there is some sort of beautiful flowering vine all over the deck. Crazy.  No idea what it is, but we like it.

The view is so nice.  We can't wait to be able to spend a whole day and have a meal and a drink and enjoy the view.

The walkway leading to the house has also been partially repaired.

Lumber Van - Part II

We got a 12 ft cargo van yesterday morning (same van they gave me 2 weeks ago) and V and I loaded up all the maple flooring I collected over the past two weeks from a nearby dumpster (looks to be about 300 sq ft).  We didn't get a pic of the wood in the back of the van, but this is the wood after we moved it into the house - it is stacked on the upper landing outside the main floor.  To give you a sense of scale, the stack is about six feet long end to end and is four rows deep.  So it's a lot of wood!

Then we drove over to Jersey City to pick up the reclaimed cedar water tower staves I found on Craigslist. These are mostly 2"x5"s and there are are about 44 10ft lengths - but those have some rot about two feet from the end, so they are probably going to end up yielding about 6-7 feet of usable decking after cutting and planing.  We also got about 50 4 foot lengths which will lose about a foot each in the clean-up process.

Note that way way back in the load, just behind the seats, you can see some tin ceiling tiles that I picked up cheap on Craigslist this week in the neighborhood.

Finally, we picked up a table I bought on ebay 2 months ago.  The seller was in Ohio, but the guy who sold me the cedar hooked me up with someone who was driving back from Ohio on Thursday so, for a reasonable price, he picked it up in Ohio and dropped it off in Jersey City.  Note that the table top isn't pictured here - it is cast iron and weighs a ton so we left it outside - we're going to put some sort of custom (i.e., made by us!) wood table-top on this anyway.

And that was how we spent our day yesterday - loading all this stuff in and then out.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

maple carload & flooring adhesive

So, I went back to that dumpster a couple more times and ended up with all THIS hard maple 4" T&G flooring:

Now all I need to do is figure out how to put it down with all this adhesive stuff on the bottom.

It feels kind or like dried rubber cement and when you rub it, it sort of comes off in little rubbery bits.
OH, and it smells pretty awful - but I figure that will go away when it dries completely.  Anyway, maybe all I need to do is put a rotary brush attachment on an angle grinder and hit it lightly to blow most of this stuff right off.  I'll give it a shot.
The smell, we'll just have to see about.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Reclaimed Water Tower Cedar - Decking?

Turns out that decking wood is incredibly expensive.  2"x6" cedar decking costs $2.06 per linear foot (i.e., $4.12 per square foot).  And that hurts!
I've seen old water tower staves for sale at BIG NYC for $2 per linear foot in the 5" width and $3 per linear foot in 6" width and up in price from there.  They appear to be lovely on the inside after just a little planing.  But the price is still prohibitive.  So, anyway, I found a guy across the river on Craigslist and he will sell me 6'-10' lengths of yellow cedar from water towers in widths ranging from 5" to 9" for under $1.50 per linear foot.
He has both red and yellow cedar and it is all over 20 years old so it seems likely it is older growth than what we get now and may be tighter and a better quality.
Here is a pic of a nice planed piece of the red and a chip of the yellow.

I am probably going to take all his 9 and 10 foot lengths, which add up to about 265 square feet.  And that should be enough to re-do the lower deck so that we can roll the hot tub down and hook it up.

Oh, how I long for the hot tub to be bubbling.