Sunday, December 30, 2007

Pegboard: It Will Come Back To You*

I finally have my pegboard back! For more than a year, it's been sitting out in the garage. As part of my New Year's resolution to start finishing projects, I decided to get the boiler room -- which serves as my shop room -- in order. I got only one of the boards up today, but it's certainly a start.

And yes, I do know that this seems counterproductive for my resolution, if one considers that I spent all day organizing the boiler room rather than working on the projects that I resolved to finish. However, not only will this help speed my work flow, thus making it easier to finish projects, but this isn't the new year yet. I figure I'm still in the grace period before the resolution goes into effect.

* Yes, it is bad pun week here at College Hill House.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Wave and Smile

We love this view. Most of the windows in our house have the original "wavy" glass, which is a feature that we were completely clueless about until after we moved in. During the open houses and walk-throughs, we were too worried about the windows being painted shut, the (we thought) highly dangerous boiler system, the mini-golf carpet in the living room, the (yes, I'll mention it again) cat-pee smell, and multitudinous other things. We knew the windows were old, but we didn't really notice the glass.

We also didn't really know much about old houses in general. We knew that we loved what we had seen of old houses, and that we hated living in our cul-de-sac suburban hell where every house looked the same. And of course we knew that College Hill had the best Halloween in town. But otherwise, we were old-house newbies.

The first day when we moved in, we noticed the glass. And we went crazy. Or at least, I did. We didn't know why the glass was so wavy, but we knew it was one of the coolest things we'd ever seen, and it was something we had never seen in any of the cookie-cutter houses we'd been in all our lives.

A week or so after we moved in, people started telling us how smart it would be to replace those old wooden windows with brand-new high-efficiency double-paned windows. We replied that we liked the old windows with the wavy glass. Most people said "Oh, well, okay."

But some didn't.

Some kept pressing, telling us that we didn't understand how nice these new windows would look. We replied that we didn't care how the new windows would look, because they wouldn't look more original than the original windows look. That seemed rather self-evident to us.

But they kept going. And I'm not talking about one or two people here. I'm talking about several individuals on different occasions. We had to get brand-new replacement windows, or we were idiots. We maintained our position that we really liked the wavy glass and the old windows, and for the most part I ended up ranting that if we were going to replace the windows we might as well replace the lathe-and-plaster with sheetrock, and replace the original wooden doors with new hollow-core doors, and replace the steam heating system with a furnace, and eventually we would have completely replaced our old house that we loved with a new house that was just like the one we moved out of because we wanted to live in an old house!

Unfortunately, most people seemed to think my sarcastic rant was basic common sense. Of course you should replace everything, they seemed to think. No one actually said that during the uncomfortable silence that usually followed my rants, but they probably were thinking it...

Of course, after reading more house blogs and forums, we realized just how lucky we are that none of the previous owners have replaced the windows. The wavy glass is coveted by many.

Now, we are restoring and installing the storm windows, slowly, and it seems to be helping the insulation considerably. The back of the house, which was freezing last January even after adding the plastic window insulation, is now completely tolerable. We've been impressed by how much the old wooden storms from the garage have helped, and now we know why: it turns out that many people think that the old windows with wood storms have a better R-value than new replacement windows.

Ha! We knew that. Of course we knew that.

Okay, we didn't know that and it completely surprised us. The fact is that we would keep the old wavy-glass windows no matter what. We are prepared to pay a little extra for the historical value. But it sounds plausible, and it is great ammo against those new-window-nazis.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Christmas 2007

Happy Holidays! My side of the family had Christmas in College Hill this year, and it was great fun. Hope you and yours have a safe and happy holiday season.

I hope to get out and take some pictures of the College Hill Christmas lights before they start coming down, but we'll see how that works out. Here's a picture of our living room in full holiday mode (complete with the three new stockings, of course):

A New Year

It's that time of year: the end of it. Or the beginning, if you're one of those glass-half-full types. Either way, it's the time when people decide to claim they are going to do things better in the upcoming year. I've never been into the whole New Year's Resolution thing, basically because people never keep them and I doubt I'll be any different. However, after living in this house for a year, I need to take desperate measures, so I'll give it a shot.

For 2008, I resolve to finish projects.

You might notice that in my Project Tracker (on the right side of the blog), Nursery is currently set to 95%. The nursery has been almost finished for a few months now. In fact, there are several projects that I could put on the project tracker that would require similar percentages. For example...

This is the stove that came with the house:

The whole kitchen was remodeled around 1960, and this was surely the latest and greatest high-tech food prep wizardry available at the time. It even had push-button heating levels for the stove coils. Unfortunately, only one of those coils worked, and the whole top unit was broken. We took it out and bought a new stove and microwave to replace it. Since there wasn't an electric outlet to plug in the microwave, we had to tear off a lot of the tile to run the wiring:

It all worked out rather well, and the microwave was simple to install. Looks pretty good, doesn't it?

But perhaps you've noticed the problem. I still haven't replaced the tile. Almost a year later. The cost wouldn't be exorbitant, and it wouldn't take much time. I just haven't quite gotten around to it. There are always more pressing projects to see to.

There was the floor in the bathroom on the main level. It had awful stained carpet, so we ripped out the carpet and padding, mopped and sealed the floor underneath, and put down new vinyl flooring. All it needs is caulking around the tub. That was at the beginning of February. (In case you're too horrified, we never use that tub.)

The upstairs bathroom? Ripped up the carpet there, put in new flooring, taped off everything and painted the walls, replaced the towel hooks, recaulked the tub and sink, fixed the valve on the tub, replaced the shower head, and installed one of those fancy curved shower rods. That was about half a year ago, and just any day now I'll put the baseboards up.

The steps in the front room -- we spent days tearing the horrid green carpet off of these beautiful wooden steps, then pulling out the billions of staples and filling the holes. Just need a few trim pieces to put a big "Done" stamp on that project.

There's an access door in the basement that leads under the front porch. If I were to paint it the same color we painted the rest of the basement, that room would be pretty much finished.

See a pattern here? I'm sure there's some name for this pathology. Something official sounding, like Project Completion Aversion Syndrome, perhaps. It's very annoying. Mainly when someone comes to our house for the first time, and as we're taking them on "the tour" I feel like I need to justify every 95% finished project.

So I'm going to do it. I'm going to finish all the projects from 2007 -- it can't take that long. One solid weekend of work should be plenty to finish up everything. And in 2008 I will finish each project before moving on to another.

That can't be too hard, can it?

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Dining Room Retrospective

As I've mentioned before, a lot of work was done to this house in a short amount of time after we moved in -- thanks in large part to our wonderful friends and family. The dining room was the first area to take considerably longer than we expected, because there were a couple of surprises waiting for us.

Here is the dining room right after we moved in. Nothing horrible about this room. It was just a little plain for our taste:

We decided to paint the walls red and replace the chair rail with a more substantial one. Simple, right? Except that when we took the old chair rail off, it was stuck to wallpaper. Lots and lots of wallpaper. There were perhaps five layers of wallpaper from the chair rail down to the floor.

We tried to remove the wallpaper, and we were able to get through a couple of layers. We tried all sorts of techniques, but it was going to take forever.

Here is the dining room during the process, with one coat of paint on the top and layers of wallpaper still on the bottom.

Finally someone (I can't remember who, but it was one of us that had been soaking and scraping wallpaper for a few hours) came up with the solution: wainscoting. We just covered up the wallpaper (as so many generations before us had, but this time with something other than more wallpaper).

Here it is after we put it up and filled all the cracks and holes:

And the final product:

One of the main reasons I'm keeping this blog is so that someday we can look back and see what we've accomplished. We're pretty proud of the dining room.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Guess I need a bigger stocking

The pipe insulation for the basement arrived a couple of days ago. I didn't expect it so soon -- looks like I have another item for my weekend to do list. Here's hoping this helps cut down the gas bill a bit.

Here's the sample piece I ordered a few weeks ago:

This is good stuff. The pipe is around 200 degrees, but you can barely feel warmth on the outside of the insulation. I'm slightly concerned that the basement will be a little chilly once we've covered all the pipes, but we rarely go down there anyway except to do laundry. Perhaps in the future we'll look into getting the basement fireplace operational again.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Sometimes the small stuff is worth sweating

Within the first couple of weeks after we moved in, we replaced the carpet in the kitchen and main-floor bathroom with new flooring, painted several rooms, replaced the stove, put in the electric for the new microwave, installed the microwave, went through an epic process of cat-pee de-scenting that I still have to write about someday, and completed several other fairly major projects (all with the help of friends and family, of course).

The fact that the doorway from the kitchen to the dining room had only one saloon-style door wasn't high on our list of situations to rectify. We found the other door in the basement, but didn't bother with it. We had more pressing issues.

This week, I finally got around to it. It turned out that the little plastic thing on the bottom hinge (for the DIY purists out there, I believe the technical term is "coggy-type whatsit") was broken. I acquired a new hinge, and after only an hour of measuring (because the new hinge was, of course, completely different from the old one) and cursing (because apparently I can't measure all that well), I was successful:

It's not a huge accomplishment: the doors stay open all the time anyway, and personally I'm not even all that fond of them. They don't match the style of the dining room or the kitchen. But they are rather quirky, and we don't want to get rid of them. Most importantly, it's one more thing that looks finished.

Until you close them, that is. The doors aren't the same height. Did I mention my measuring skills? Maybe next year...

Friday, December 7, 2007

Insulating the Steam Pipes

A couple of days ago, we got the first length of 1.5-inch-thick insulation for the steam pipes. It was only a three-foot length -- I wasn't about to order 25 lengths at ten bucks a pop, based solely on the assumption that I had measured the pipes correctly, remembered pi correctly, completed the math correctly, and then guessed blindly at the correct size of insulation.

Surprisingly, the insulation fit perfectly. And it was simple to install, as well; these are preformed fiberglass lengths with a vapor barrier glued to the outside. They open up like a hinge, and then you just close them around the pipe. The wrap has an adhesive strip, so you peel off the paper and seal the deal. Simple.

We ordered the other 24 lengths yesterday. We got them from Express Insulation, because of their shipping price. The other places we checked were going to charge around $150 for shipping; Express Insulation charged $30. It was a pretty simple decision.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

College Hill in the News

There's an article an KSN's Web site today about Kirstie Alley's new "Santa Land" that is on display. (If you drive down east Douglas, you can't miss it. It's between Kirstie's house and the Scientology Center, and it's the thing that looks like a giant Santa Land.)

Apparently it's the actual Santa Land that was made for the movie Look Who's Talking Too, but I won't hold that against it.

They don't specifically name College Hill, but that's what they are referring to:

Wichita's resident movie star, Kirstie Alley is at it again, getting into the holiday spirit with a display that people say will be "over the top."

Santa Land is taking shape at 3725 E. Douglas in Wichita. Her friends say it's her way of fitting into the neighborhood that's long been big on holiday decorations.