Saturday, May 31, 2008

Tennessee, Part 1- Simple Old Houses

We are back from a very relaxing week in the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee! We stayed at a fabulous bed and breakfast, Berry Springs Lodge, just outside of Gatlinburg, and spent a week tooling around the area.

We spent our first couple days looking at simple old houses in Smoky Mountain National Park. I love how small, simple, and functional they are... rather like a certain tiny old house I know.

Ogle's Cabin:

A fireplace inside:

An old multi-pane window:

The grist-mill:

It's fascinating to look at the foundations of these houses...
stacked stone.

If you look closely at this house, you can see the stacked stone foundation:
This was one of the first stores in the area, and one of the only painted houses. Park information states that the house was painted these three colors because they were the only three colors Sears and Roebuck carried at that point... but I'm not sure of the truth in that!

A raingutter:
A built-in cabinet:

And finally, a few pictures from Cade's Cove.





Stay tuned for EXTRAVAGANT Old Houses... and siding removal. The start date is tomorrow... I'll slip more vacation pictures in between the monotony!

Friday, May 23, 2008

Tornadoes and Vacations, Birds and Gardens

Just a quick update before we go to Tennessee for a week! Lots has happened.

Thanks, Why S? for thinking of us! Luckily the tornadoes in Colorado yesterday skirted my city (as they always do); being nestled against the foothills does have its perks. My husband was teaching on the last day of school when a tornado hit the town he teaches in, however; it missed the school by 2 blocks, but destroyed the homes of many students. We wish we were not leaving town tomorrow, as we would head over with our truck, work gloves, and tree saws to help out.

We are personally lucky that our Corolla only sustained a severely cracked front windshield and a large collection of dents from the hail; cars a few spaces over were relieved of their bumpers, windshields, and more. We planned on driving it into the ground anyway, so the dents aren't too much of a problem; it will just be the UGLY, DENTED tan Corolla now.


On birds... I realized while reading Chile Chews that I missed a perfect opportunity to try roasted robin on Monday. Ah, well... I AM a vegetarian. I thought I saw the other baby robin up on the fence today; I am hopeful that it at least will make it to adulthood.


My parents came to visit this week, and brought quite a few seedlings to plant. We found spots in the front gardens for all of them, and mulched them with leaves in the hopes that they might survive a week without care. No pics, but I will take pictures of what survived our absence when we return.


I FINALLY picked my book for Green Bean's book challenge this month. I will be reading Affluenza: The All Consuming Epidemic by John De Graaf et al, and Con$umed: How Markets Corrupt Children, Ifantilize Adults, and Swallow Citizens Whole by Benjamin R. Barber. Reviews to come after my hours traveling.


Finally, we are going to Knoxville, Tennessee, for a week! This is the first vacation in quite a while for us. We are going with my husband's parents, and it should be a blast! We are already planning to visit such attractions as the Biltmore Estate, and no trip with my father-in-law would be complete without ogling finely cut stone accents and architecture, so I should have LOTS of pictures when we return.


Look for the removal of the siding when we return... it will be a BIG surprise that you don't want to miss! We know there is brick... but what else? Stay tuned...

Monday, May 19, 2008

BAD Bad Dog. BAD dog.

I was afraid of this.

Remember my bird nest?

The cute one, in the apple tree?


With the baby birds?
Here's what they looked like a few days ago.


The Murderer...

Guilty as charged, convicted and sentenced to a 30 minute down-stay (not that he knew why).

Poor little robin never had a chance.

I know they're just dogs. I KNOW it's part of nature. I know that instinct is stronger than most training. But this was a baby I've watched from an EGG! 4 weeks of watching over these little birds, of checking the ground underneath the tree every day to make sure there wasn't a fallen bird, of trying our best to make sure our dogs didn't get a robin snack.

Too bad this one hopped away into the bushes today on it's first adventure out of the nest, still unable to fly. We watched with horror as Kirby grabbed it and started bouncing and tossing with glee.


I buried it under the lilac bush, in a super deep grave with a stone on top. It didn't even have all of it's color yet. Poor baby robin. Hopefully it's brother or sister faired better... we'll keep the dogs out of the yard for a few days to give it a chance.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Just a Warning...

If you decide to save money by cutting your own hair, make sure you change the hair guard on the clippers from oh-so-short 1/2 inch to cute-pixie-cut 1-1/2 inch BEFORE you start to cut your hair.

Baring that, at LEAST start at the bottom... NOT on top of your head.

I'm feeling a little shorn right now...

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Bought Some Patio Chairs Today...

Don't mind the dirt and apple blossoms on the patio...

They have red and orange striped cushions on them, too... nice and cheery!

It will be so nice to have actual outdoor chairs around our patio.

They need a light sanding and restaining, but were only $50 for the four chairs and a table (which isn't in the picture)! Our current table is a little nicer, though slightly smaller... we haven't decided which to keep yet.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Shh... Molly's on a Hunt

in our big backyard...


What is she hunting?

Well... first they twist THIS way...


And then they slide THAT way...


And sometimes you can even see their beady little eyes...




Garter snakes!

(Anyone have any idea what the evil plant that the garter snakes are sliding around in is? It's some sort of a bush, that sometimes gets thorns... I've been pulling it for YEARS and it keeps spreading).

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Repairing a Metal Firepit

A few years ago, we acquired this lovely firepit:

Sadly, as you can see, though we left it covered, it has rusted.

Close up of the rust:

I am not one to let something ruin through neglect, so I sanded down the firepit and used a can of Rustoleum fireplace paint to return it to its former rust-free glory. I found that my dremel with a sanding drum attachment made the best rust remover...


Careful back and forth motions with the spray paint will prevent drips... and placing newspaper underneath helps your driveway.


No more rust! I think we are ready for summer.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Cavity Wall Construction... and Brick House Salvaging

I had a dream last night that there was perfectly intact brick underneath the asbestos. The house looked AWESOME in my dream. Too bad that isn't likely reality! I fear there will be too many nail holes in the bricks themselves to salvage... or that there is an entire wall collapsing, or WORSE.

That being said, we are sure going to give it our best shot! I've been digging up information on brick houses in the area, and what sort of problems we might encounter.

First, I discovered that our house is constructed with what is known as cavity wall construction, where two courses or wythes of bricks creating the wall are separated by a cavity of air. This was popular in the Denver and Colorado area from the turn of the century onward, though somewhat uncommon in other areas of the United States until the 1960's

I based my assumption on the fact that there are no "half bricks" visible in the identical neighboring houses, as cavity wall brick homes are constructed with the bricks laid end to end, creating a wall that is half a brick thick. I confirmed by peaking behind a rotting window frame; the hollow space and two courses of bricks were quite plain to see.

I found a wonderful article at Old House Journal that talked about brick houses in Denver; they published it 6 months ago, and it couldn't have come at a better time. It makes me feel better about the problems we might uncover, and how we might fix them. It's a great read for anyone who might have a Colorado brick home, or a cavity wall brick home.

We will have to keep a careful eye out for delamination of the bricks (when the outer layers of bricks are separate from the bricks behind them), a condition that is common in the Colorado area due to the sunny summers and cold nights. Any bulges in the face of the wall will be evidence.

I was pleased to note that there are masonry specialists in the Denver area with expertise in the sorts of problems we might uncover; hopefully help will be available if we need it.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Monday, May 5, 2008

Drum Roll Please!

And the results of the asbestos test sent off to Western Analytical Laboratory are....

NO asbestos in the ceiling popcorn! YEAH!!!!!

Oh, and 15% in the siding, but we expected that. It doesn't change any of our plans... it's still coming off to expose that beautiful brick that might be underneath. We will just have to pay the larger dump fees for asbestos now, and be a little more careful in removal.

I'm pretty surprised about the popcorn ceiling... it must be a relatively recent "improvement" to the house. I'm thinking it will be coming down now... room by room.

As an aside, I was very impressed with how fast WAL tested the materials and got the results to me. I dropped it in the mail on Friday, and received an email today with the results. I'll get a paper form in the mail later this week, but the email told me what I needed to know. I would highly recommend them for anyone needed asbestos testing done.

A Door Style Question... Does it "Fit"?

So, back when we bought the house, I had no idea about true historic styling and such. I just knew I liked old houses, and LOVED the ones that had been restored.

We bought our little ambiguous cottage, filled with hollow core doors, particle board builder's special baseboards, and cardboard cabinets... it was what we could afford, and it had good "bones".

A few months later, while looking for doors to replace our hollow core nasties, we stumbled upon these mahogany veneered doors at a local salvage yard. They looked so nice (though they needed a lot of work), and the price was just right ($25 each).

Here is one of the doors installed on our bathroom:


And here is the door with its new black jet doorknob:



Now here is the question/concern:

The door in question is CLEARLY a 1930's to 40's Tudor style door... in retrospect, it came right out of a set of university apartments that were VERY Tudor. It came with a cut glass knob and a very cool set of plates, too.

OUR house, on the other hand, may be ambiguous, but Tudor it is CLEARLY not. Our plans for the interior/exterior involve very simple woodwork along the lines of a very simplified Victorian merging a little into Craftsman (as might have been done in a 1911 folk house). These doors feel a little grand for such plans.

I felt that adding those black doorknobs helped the door fit our house quite a bit... but do they LOOK right? I'm not totally concerned about "period" style... but I want it to look good.

I suppose I could always strip down and refinish them and then sell for $150 each, giving me money to buy the 5 panel doors that would be perfect... but it's hard to find those unpainted. And these are a lot less work, since they just need a light sanding and a quick refinish.

Any thoughts?

Friday, May 2, 2008

Polishing My (Door) Knobs

Remember my ebay find: the jet door knobs? I spent some time cleaning them up today.

The door knobs, taken apart and waiting... $20 for all of those knobs!

Up close shot of one of the door knobs... notice the surface rust.

I used a car battery cleaner (essentially, a stiff wire brush) to clean off the rust, then finished up with 00 steel wool and WD 40. I'm going to finish the job with metal polish... but have to run out and buy some.

I couldn't wait to install one of the knobs on our new bathroom door...

A new jet door knob installed on our mahogany bathroom door!

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Asbestos Testing

I prepared samples of our cement siding for asbestos testing today, in anticipation of RIPPING it off. While I was at it, I scraped off a bit of the popcorn ceiling to send off, too, as the cost is $30 for one or $20 each. I figured I can get the ceiling tested for $10.


I am using Western Analytical Laboratory for the testing for a few reasons. Number one is that it is confidential; only I (and anyone I authorize) can see the results. The other reason is that One Project Closer posted a good review of their experience with WAL. It's always good to go with something tried and true!

Here's hoping that NEITHER the siding or the popcorn has asbestos in it! (Although, I would settle for the popcorn not having any).