The Cool House: maintenance
Showing posts with label maintenance. Show all posts
Showing posts with label maintenance. Show all posts

Thursday, September 08, 2011

What now?

I love when a long renovation comes to an end, the feeing of tranquility that descends when you know you don't have to be dressed and decent at 7:30 AM, when the day will no longer be interrupted by shouts of "You did want the molding removed, didn't you?" or worse "Can you come here a minute, we may have a problem" and when all the power tools have finally been silenced. Even the mental anguish you experience knowing you went over budget despite swearing you wouldn't or the nagging feeling you overpaid for something trivial, there is, at last, a moment of peace that you, in your naivety, imagine will last forever.

At some point, though, this security blanket of home repair denial will be rudely snatched away from you, leaving you exposed and shivering in the cold light of reality. For me it came with the trifecta of the garage door that would no longer close properly, the loose mortar on the chimney and the holes in the fence the fencing guy swore didn't need replacing because it was "good for at least two more years". We set to work. The garage door was repaired by us and when the temporary fix no longer did the trick an "expert" came to fix the problem... and caused another bigger issue that blew the motor. Needless to say the firm's promise to make good meant they ran in the opposite direction and for the whole summer we parked the car outside. But winter will be here before we know it and neither of us fancied digging the car out of a snow bank so I gave in and called another firm. The garage door was fixed without further drama and at a better price than the first guy quoted. The chimney cap blew off in the hurricane, so we locked in a date to fix that and the crumbling cement pronto, except every time the masons came to start the pointing it rained. And by rain I mean tropical storm downpours. Today they found a few hours of sunshine and got the job done. The fence? Well in a rerun of this scenario, we braced and secured the fence. I was promised two more years and I will make sure I get those last few months, if I have to stand there and hold the thing up day and night.

So all was done and I was singing a happy song until I heard a thud that seemed to come from under the dining room floor. Just as the last issue had been taken care of, just as I was thinking we were done for this year, one of the basement windows, the one that had been nailed in place seven years ago by a contractor who thought it wouldn't open and then found he couldn't get it shut, one of a suite of four, fell off its opener. Just because it could.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Done, done, done

and tick! All those things on the Fall list were completed... and because we had some leftover mortar The Guy decided to re-grout the patio where it had cracked after those extremely heavy kitchen appliances had beaten a path to the kitchen door. A reprise of this, in fact. No mess, no fuss - just a couple of hours graft (although I could have done without the high humidity) and we are good to go for the next few months.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Catching up

The kitchen floor has been sanded and resealed. There's a 3'x4' piece I'm unhappy with - it looks like it was missed or wiped over while still wet - but I'm undecided whether to get it done for the third time, after all in a few months people will be tramping snow through the kitchen and the animals will have given it a not-so-gently-distressed look. The wallpaper backing came off with a 1/1 solution of fabric softener and water. This was the first time I'd bought fabric softener since 1990 and I'm sure I paid $1 for a bottle back then. Big sticker shock but the kitchen smelled snuggly for a couple of days. And a decision was made on the baseboards. That's all I'm saying. Watch this space.

And we finally changed the lightbulb on the balcony after ::cough:: eighteen months. These are all good things. On the rest of the renovation promises have been made. On the last day of September the kitchen punch-list will be checked, rechecked and the items will be tackled methodically and purposefully until every last one is done.
Then there is the Fall list. That's the list you get when you walk around the house one coolish day in September making sure everything is ready for the six months of ice, snow and freezing temperatures that make up a Long Island winter and discover a whole bunch of things you are sure weren't there a couple of months ago. Like the paint that peeled off the front door step... and the basement windows... and the chunk of window that's fallen off the latter. Off the window mind, not the trim. And not through rot either. This piece is clean and smooth and hard, it just isn't attached to the window any longer. Then you realise there's a hole in the mortar under the sliding door in the great room that's big enough to shove a baby's fist through - or for a whole nest of mice to crawl in and out of and a gap in the slate that will allow all that snow to melt though to the subfloor and you'd better fix that pronto.
At this point the idea of selling up and moving to a condo with a very friendly and super handy on-site maintenance person seems a very attractive idea. And if you could make that condo somewhere dry and warm with a mid-century vibe it would be almost irresistible.

The only other option would be to take a very long nap...

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Quick reno update

Before I left for Palm Springs we had a few house issues - tree in pool, missing tile and snow up to my armpits but as of today we have resolved most of those. Steady rain is taking carre of the snow; a man with a chainsaw and a truck came, happily declared "Let's make a mess", chopped down the tree and hauled away the debris. Bonus: more light at the back of the pool so the hollies I'm planning should do well; potential problem - more weeds.

The tile came in, the floor is finished and grouting has begun. We used half a bag of anthracite grout on the shower and floor tiles and two bags of grey (gris) grout on the mosaic walls. Quick pic above of the grout drying before they washed it off the tiles. Got a big thumbs up design-wise from the plumber who came to check it out before he returns tomorrow to attach the faucets, shower fixtures and WC. He wanted to know how we made it bigger! Shower door ordered and should be here in less than "tweaks"*.

Painters already have one coat on master bedroom walls, ceiling and trim and the closet. Today the bath and dressing room get their turn. We also ordered the new bed/furniture and the Awesome Designer is waiting patiently to install the upholstered window valances.

Still to do: Fit vanities (scheduled for Thursday); measure and install counters and re-fit saddle (marble guy will be here asap after vanities go in - turnaround is one week); plumber to fit basins, faucets; electricians to finish lighting and carpenter to attach all the pretty hardware to the wall. I'm still hopeful we can make it so The Guy can take his first shower in there on his birthday but at this stage I'm just happy we're making progress.
*The official supplier/contractor delivery estimator - supposed to equate to two weeks, rarely meets that timeframe.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Flat caps

The fence is finally up, all the blue plastic chicken wire has been removed and the old gate has a new set of hardware with self-closing latches. Dogs are securely on one side and the landscapers/pool guys/tree people don't have to lean on it to ensure it latches properly. Polly is, I think, a little sad that she can't get out on her own to go and greet the neighbors but I'm relieved. More importantly no small child can get into the backyard unaided.

The minor niggles - design issues really - like having to put in three different heights, 4', 5' and 6' on the west, east, and south sides, and three different styles so they'd tie into existing fence panels, have worked out better in the practical application than I could ever imagine. It helps that the grade rises by a foot in places so the panels are stepped anyway; we're also fortunate you can't see the whole fence from any vantage point either because of all the plantings.

In fact on the east and south sides you can see very little of the fence itself, just the flat caps I chose to top each post. Those things are fiendishly expensive but as The Guy says: The devil is in the design details.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Iron Moan

Yesterday at twilight I dug up the iron form around the rear driveway, bent it into a small hoop and hauled it to the trash collection point. Today is plastic and metal recycling day and I'm hoping it gets picked up, otherwise it'll sit there until the regular garbage collection. Even after five years of separating the trash I'm still not sure what gets recycled where. In Europe we had a list, a long long list and woe betide you (in the form of big fines) if you put the wrong garbage out or left a yoghurt pot unwashed in the regular trash. But at last I knew what went where on which day!
Of course the solution to my dilemma was to leave the freakin' form where it was but frankly I'm fed up falling over it (when I don't remember to carefully step up) every time I walk the dogs. In 2004 the owner's son had mentioned we should get the landscaper to knock it back in and I'd hoped he'd volunteer or magic elves would take care of it, but that never happened. Fast forward five years to when I told the landscaper we were resurfacing the drive and he suggested I get the asphalt guy to rip it out. Nope that didn't happen, either!
As I walked up the drive with the dogs in the late afternoon there was a chill in the air and I knew the warm weather we've had this week wouldn't last. If I didn't do something about it right now it would have to wait until Spring. That was the breaking point. I fetched a shovel and took all my frustrations out on 50 feet of metal. Why was I so miffed? The lovely deep asphalt you see in the photo that we had laid a couple of weeks back, on a sunny day with no rain in the forecast so it would have time to cure, well the weather guys got it wrong and it poured and poured, leaving puddles of sealant and exposing holes in the drive - in general it's a big gray mess. Actually it's a big gray mess covered in leaves and acorns and it will stay that way until March when the asphalt guy will come back and redo it. Until then I can look forward to it being covered in several inches of snow and impenetrable ice... and of course I have that lovely photo to remind me what it will look like when it's finished.

Monday, November 09, 2009

An Attractive Nuisance

According to the source of all legal stuff I need to know (and a shedload that hadn't even entered my realm of consciousness), fences fall into this category of tort law. I do think it's less of a nuisance than before - to get in now you'd have to scale the sheer 5' panels to get in the back yard, there is a spring latch so landscapers/tree guys/pool guys can't leave the gate open, plus there are no stray nails or screws to tear delicate skin. And the gate has a puzzling pattern of reinforcing strips that some may consider attractive - is that a coat-hanger or a Christmas tree? On the other hand, has all the nasty blue plastic wire been replaced? Not yet. But by next week three-quarters of the yard will be secure. And the ugly metal fence on the north side? Well, that's still under discussion...

Sunday, November 01, 2009

From the bedroom windows

Quite a lot has been done outside over the past week or so and the best way to view it is from the second level/first storey.

Sealcoating: Through a screen, darkly. Nevertheless you can clearly see the just-asphalted rear drive. It's taking a good time to dry but it looks much better than the cracking, holey, moss-covered mess that was there before. It will need another coat next year - and we'll also do the front drive and put in a drain on the north side at the same time.

Planting: An additional 15 Holly, Cephalotaxus, Box, Pinus and Euonymus shrubs as well as more Hostas and Dianthus have joined the 26 bushes that were planted on the North side of the property. The Guy has been out and counted every plant we've put in since we started this section. He makes it 100 - I think he's exaggerating but I'm afraid to count. I'm just hoping they all make it through the winter.

You'll be able to see one thing that hasn't yet been taken care of - the fence, although I'm promised it will be done this week. Definitely. Here's hoping...

Monday, August 24, 2009

Step It Up

It started with just one step- this step, the one we had fixed already four times this year; the one The Guy had finally cemented into submission. The landscaper pointed out that a large chunk had fallen away, smashing into slate shards on the path below. Being an angel, as well as a semi-pro at masonry he offered to take care of it andon the hottest, most humid day of the summer, that's exactly what he did.
Of course, being a professional, he insisted on doing a proper job and re-setting all the loose stones. By the end he had re-mortared or replaced the entire first step and after deciding the front riser was unfinished, he re-faced that, too. The porch looks so looks so much better, the stepping stone paths are more integrated with the steps and visitors to the house no longer have to dance around the step, which is a big bonus.
A wise man once wrote on this blog that sometimes you have to Pay The Two Dollars. This is one of those cases where we should have asked a professional to do the masonry work. But we didn't know who to ask, and anyway it seemed like a simple job. If we had had the proper tools in the first place and opted to replace the stone rather than reuse it I'm certain we would have successfully completed the job ourselves at the first, or certainly, second attempt. As it was it took five... that's a lot of sweat and frustration. Now we have a pretty path, a couple of design flaws have been solved in this area but at least we now know who to ask if we have any more stonework issues. Live and learn!

Monday, July 27, 2009

Bob Vila makes it look so easy*

Sometime, a couple of winters ago, after the sprinkler system had been winterised by some joker who took the pipe apart, we noticed one of the outside taps was dripping. Turning off the water to the faucet helped but there was still a persistent drip through the winter that replacing washers and tapes just wouldn't stop. Not good. In Spring we replaced the sprinkler faucet and everything worked until winterisation rolled round again. This time the upper compression faucet leaked. We turned the water off again and waited for Spring. The solution this time was to replace the old wheel type with a new lever and the sprinkler guy offered to take off the completely seized-up fixture but he didn't have one of the right size to replace it so he capped it and I was supposed to go buy one and fit it myself. That was April and as we rarely use that faucet we didn't miss it until now.
Now is mid to end July when the humidity on Long Island causes the stone and brick to turn green and algae to grow on the asphalt. Now is power-washing time. Now is the time when a working hosepipe is necessary to blast the green gunge off the paths. Now is the time to fix the faucet.

So with old tap in hand I set off to purchase a new tap. And an adapter so I could run the hosepipe from it. And another adapter the purpose of which escapes me but which I bought anyway. I've learnt not to argue with the hardware guy.

Having assembled some plumbers tape, a wrench, a screwdriver (just in case) and the necessary hardware I set about unscrewing the cap. I tried, I tried really hard but I couldn't get that cap off. Eventually I called for back up

The Guy applied the wrench, twisted and turned and eventually loosened it and pulled it off. Which is when we realised we had not turned off the water to the faucet.

It could have been me kneeling in front of the tap. But instead it was The Guy who caught the full force of the flow. Luckily I had my camera to record the moment and more lucky still, he was wearing swimmers. Rule #1: Always shut off the water when messing with the plumbing!

After a quick run to the basement to shut off the water he attached the new tap, complete with its extra doodahs and after another run to the hardware store where he laid down $16 for the right size spanner/wrench we have a leak-free outside faucet. Hurray!

The hosepipe we bought last week is connected and after a couple of adjustments, drip-free. We are ready to tackle the power-washing...

*If your outdoor faucet isn't completely corroded and your compression faucet not connected to another compression faucet that connects to your sprinkler system you can probably easily fix the drips by watching this video. Repairs should only run you a couple of dollars (if you have the right tools) and take less than 5 minutes.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Next to no-cost maintenance

A quick round up of the week's chores. In addition to fixing the pool skimmer covers so we can lift them up without breaking nails, fingers or bits off the brick we:

Restore(d)-A-Finish(ed) six doors - and they look excellent - cat and dog scratches disguised, walnut colour revived. Love this product, I've invigorated tired furniture, trim and now doors.

Fixed the elephant in the room Sub-Zero just as it was exiting its warranty, thus saving me $529+labor. Tell me: How can a condenser last less than 5 years? I've known fridges go decades without needing to do anything but defrost the ice box.

Fixed the exterior light outside the front door by banging my fist on the underside of the housing. If you remember banging my head on it was how the lights went out in the first place. (The Awesome Designer says she'll help when the house burns down because our wiring is loose).

The total fix for the pool skimmer handles was just under $40, and that was the most we spent on repairs all week. We did splurge and buy two new hosepipes 150' and 75' at $34.99 and $24.99 - not cheap but not prohibitive either. The other repairs were cost free.

Monday, July 20, 2009


What connects a cleat, boats and the Cool House pool?

Take a boat or dock cleat. Fasten it to two 3-4" long screws

Push screws through pool skimmer cover (don't forget to clean skimmer basket while you have it open!)

Screw on a back plate, secure with nuts... and voila.

One handy handle to lift the skimmer covers that lies flat when not in use. Safety first around the pool. Ingenious!

And the most likely place to use a 3" cleat or a boat? To secure the 1/4" line that runs up the pennant

Thanks to everyone who chimed in with suggestions.

Almost connected

Three days running around. Three hardware stores to find one that sells the correct screw size; one swimming pool supply store who sent us to the boat yard next door, who sent us to West Marine who sent us to Coney's Marine in Huntington who had a near-enough match for the cleats.

The hunt is now over. We have the requisite hardware assembled to effect a repair to the... What? No-one has found the connection yet. Last clue: It's not used as a tie-down for anything in our pool. And every last vendor has described the use as "ingenious".
One last chance, interwebs, before we fix the cleats in place: What do we use them for? What purpose would a 3" cleat normally serve on a boat?

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Find the connection: Clue

Re: the connection between the object (identified correctly as a boat or dock cleat) and the pool, plus the purpose of a 3" cleat on a boat. Does this help solve the puzzle?

What should have taken less time to fix than the internets are taking to identify a connection is turning (as things tend to do when tackled by yours truly and The Guy) into a marathon search for the correct doodad. Currently trying to locate the right size of screws. And no, none of the 14,325 screws we have in jars at the Cool House fits. Quelle surprise!

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Find the connection

Between this


and these

Bonus questions: What is the object in the first photo? What do we use it for? Where can I find a replacement?

File under: We learn something new about the house every year

Monday, June 08, 2009

In the yard

The last blooms on the azaleas and rhododendrons have faded and fallen and although the peonies and the late dogwood are out there's little color in the yard by the second week in June. That means, of course, less admiring the garden and more chores.
So yes, there was a FOURTH attempt at setting the stone on the steps to the front door - this time scraping it right back to the foundation. (Probably should have done that first time). No one is allowed to look at it, much less step on it, so it could be a while before we know if we are successfully cemented in. Last time it seemed ok - until the torrential rain loosened the side mortar. I have fingers, toes and eyes crossed for this one.
There was the horrible moment when I put the gardening gear in the garage and I heard chewing coming form the overhang - which meant we hadn't killed all the bees last session. I stuck a kid's paintbrush in the poison dust and poked it into one of FOUR new holes - and touched a bee. That surprised both of us! It stopped chewing but turned it into a coughing, buzzing, shiny black mass of madness. It flew out and landed dizzily on the path whereupon I put it out of its misery. Next month there will be the ritual filling of the holes, followed by the staining of the siding, This never gets old. Not.
The Guy lovingly painted several new examples of poison ivy with the most effective of herbicides - taking great care not to drip it on the pachysandra or rhododendrons. (I'm a super swelling, steroid needing, extra-specially sensitive soul that gets a full body rash from touching the dog who brushed against it hours earlier so I leave this to the so-far immune member of the family). I feel this is going to be an on-going chore this season.
All the windows were washed - outside and in. We carried the outdoor pool furniture up from the basement, set it out and cleaned that, too. (The pool is actually colder then when we opened it, 66F. No one will be dipping in there this week).
The lilac bush at the back of the pool that was toppling over and threatening to decapitate anyone going back there was pruned back - hopefully we'll get more growth from the base and many more blossoms next Spring.
A gorgeous new yellow Hosta generously donated by the Awesome Designer was planted, but will be replanted this week in a more commodious spot. White Impatiens lovingly planted by neighbor Barbara the entrance to the cul-de-sac were rescued from under the fringes of the day lilies and given some more light at the edges of the bed.
Weeds were pulled and death was removed from the lawn, the flower beds and the pool skimmers.

Of course it wasn't all work: dinner was eaten al fresco, steak grilled by the Loyal Blog Reader for the Awesome Designer's family from New Mexico, The Guy and I. Later, specimen maple seedlings were dug and bagged ready for a trip to the southwest, where we hope they will find some hospitable soil amongst all the sand... (and fewer weeds as well).

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Not just for cocktail wieners...

Speaking of wood, we've had an issue with the bi-fold doors in the mud room for a while now. The screws simply won't hold the hinges in place anymore, and because these are hollow core doors rather than the solid doors elsewhere in The Cool House using longer screws isn't an option - after all you can't screw into air.

It had obviously been a problem before we bought the house, the hinges had been moved once already. We tried filling the screw holes with plastic wood and gorilla gluing/liquid nailing the hinges directly to the door but the constant back and forth motion eventually loosened the screws, foiling our best efforts and leaving someone holding a falling door and yelling for help!

Last week I'd had enough and marched down to our local True Value to find the answer to my wood woes. I was expecting to be pointed in the direction of super glues and wood fillers but I was offered a really cheap solution: cocktail sticks. The trick is to break off screw length pieces of the stick, two or three or more, depending on the size of the hole and stuff them into it and fasten the screw into these tiny chips of wood.

I was really dubious, after all how many miracle solutions work? But I tried it straightaway and it's held up since. So there you have it, a problem that's caused at least two families endless headaches fixed with one cocktail stick, which we already had, and the right advice from a pro. Cost $0. It was a pretty good day.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Weekend Achievements...

Monday AM edition:


pots of purple basil and oregano added to herb garden


Tomatoes, peppers, basil, lemon balm and cilantro in the jumbo container by the barbecue


Third attempt at setting the stone (if this doesn't work we'll be calling in the mason)!

Still to do this afternoon:


more weeding needed

and it's time for the annual carpenter bee hunt. Those guys will be going down. Spotted four so far, two dead (from the white powder I dusted in the holes last month) and two bent on making the siding into a holey mess.

Certain traditional Memorial Day activities will not be happening:


The pool is covered with a layer of pollen and only 73 degrees. Brr

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Polish and dust (then polish some more)

The day started and ended with shoe polishing. There are no pictures of this because, frankly, photos of shoe cleaning are worse than photos of paint drying. But I will say that it's The Guy who undertakes this chore and there's a whole process involved: several rags, "real polish", brushes. perhaps a little spit to help things along and always, always, complaints about the choice of colour to match the shoes. I'm much more a buff it up sort of girl so I walk away as soon as he gets the polish out. But if you feel you need know more about the polishing process here's a condensed version.

An hour or so later the shoes shone and we could move on to the next chore: Masonry Part Deux.

One of the stones The Guy carefully re-set a few weekends ago popped again. When we lifted it this time it separated cleanly along a natural fault, leaving a thicker piece that we were able to reset and a thinner piece we'll keep and use to replace cracked stones on other projects.

We used a different grade of stone dust for the mortar that should be more resistant to cracking. It looks much more natural than last time so we're hopeful. (The reddish coloured line in the photo above isn't a crack but hæmatite within the stone).

But why were there two shoe cleaning episodes? Hmm. Someone undertook the messy, dusty work in his Cole Haan sandals....

.... and had to clean them quickly before another pair became "yard shoes". 
(Yes, I fibbed about the no shoe-polishing photo).