From the top of the world's biggest volcanic mountain in the middle of the world's largest ocean.
It's important to be aware of one's surroundings. You know what they always say..."Safety First".
The builder's blog.
I like to show-off my photo album, but sometimes
it's useful to share some ideas, too. This "blog" is for people who like to
read. I've been told by folks smarter than myself, that I shouldn't be
long-winded, just show some pictures and tell folks that "We're the best."
If anything is too boring, just scroll down to anything that you might be interested in.
4-17-2016 Our gas bill was $68.00 this month. That includes hot water, laundry, and cooking, not to mention the heating of the shop to 55 degrees at night, 68 every day. Our house is about 2300 sq. ft. and the shop is about 800 sq. ft. so our heating bills are quite low! Happy dance.
2-11-16 Reviewing our gas bill for
the past month, it's only $108.00, and I've been heating the shop every day,
too. It's a lot less than I described below.
The weather was warmer than usual, and the cost of natural gas has gone way down as the result of fracking operations across the country, and I finished adding insulation to one side of the house and I added six inches to the attic. We now have about 15 inches in the attic. I could add another six inches in the future.
1-16-16 After a couple of days of 40
degree weather it's now dropping down to 6 degrees tonight, and -6 (six below
zero) tomorrow night, putting the kibosh
on outdoor work. I don't mind, I'll just do some indoor work, including paperwork in preparation for tax time. It never ends. My office needs a makeover
and the cabinetry is stored in the garage, but I had better wait until after tax-time to embark on that project. I've just spent half a day looking through thousands of
pictures, and I selected five or six to put into this web. I did not finish the job; I only got through 2007 before I ran out of time. It's amazing how much work we did
that year. I remember how anxious folks were to get their jobs finished, and we were doing double duty to keep them happy. I never even took the time to review
those years until now! We remodeled so many kitchens that I forgot most of them until now, jogging my memory by reviewing the pictures. The years are going
faster and faster. I still have a few more years to perform this kind of workmanship, but not the tens of years that I used to have. I'm both amazed at and pleased
with the volume and extent of the work that I accomplished, and from now on I'm just "picking plums" doing exceptional and unique craftsmanship.
Designing a web site has proved to be a
little too much, so these last few pages did not fit into the original "frames"
that I started with fourteen years ago, but you
can use your back button, or click on the tabs at the top of the page to navigate back to the list. I plan to start a whole new web site someday, but don't hold your
breath! When I started this field of craftsmanship, I carried around an album of photographs which I had taken myself with a thirty-five millimeter camera. Now,
of course, I use a digital camera which easily transfers the photographs to the computer for future management. I wonder where the old photo album has gone.
Probably, it's down in the basement. If you want to see some pictures, you can look at my website. We've come a long way, baby! Faster and faster.
Here are a couple of birds on a snowy and cold winter's day. It's about 7 degrees F. and 4" powder snow, on January 12, 2016. The pictures were taken through the window and screen. The squirrels stayed in their shelters today; no tracks visible in the snow.
Downy Woodpecker Red-bellied Woodpecker
Recent thoughts at large: Now that December is nearly half over, I recall a few things from the past year.
We made a roof-and-chimney repair that had plagued the customer
for twenty years, as the roof was repaired every ten years, but still it leaked
onto the living room floor. I guessed that I could find the problem that three
roofers before me could not fix. After all, I've done it before. So we reached
an agreement on the price, and I guaranteed the work I wasn't worried, because I
planned to replace all the shingles after a tear-off, all the flashing, and all
the ice and water shield. Also, after the roof repairs, I was going to rebuild
the chimney, which had deteriorated as the result of a bad flashing job, and
possibly the wrong mortar mix. The chimney also was rebuilt ten years before!
Doesn't anybody know what they're doing anymore?
After the roof repairs, there was a leak dripping down on the inside of the skylight glass, and I returned, at no extra charge, to repair the leak in the Skylight Sash, (It is an operable skylight.), because I had previously corrected the curb flashing with the Velux flashing kits, but I never looked at the sash. I took pictures to show my customer, and fixed that leak, too. Ultimately, I repaired a dozen or more leaks, all for the price quoted, never any extra charge. Obviously, you're lucky to find a knowledgeable and honest tradesman like me!
Sneaky leak in skylight head flashing, upper left.
In another job, we removed the Kitchen wall to expand the space
into the Dining Room. We had to inspect the truss framing, re-route the
electrical and the thermostat, remove some soffits, restore the flooring and the
ceiling, and then paint everything. During the paint preparations, I noticed
that the ceiling at the other end of the room had sagged more than an inch, and
was being held up by the ceiling light fixture. I can't leave it alone and paint
over it. I just can't do it.
I jacked-up the ceiling, and added about a hundred screws, and taped and painted the ceiling at no extra charge. Another happy customer.
By the way, a nearby neighbor's ceiling actually fell down, I heard later, as it was probably done by the same builder some thirty years ago.
The next door neighbor had the whole house painted by us (interior), and then she wanted me to repair and refinish some of the cabinet doors and frames in her very Custom Kitchen (built by her late husband) which were oak with a white stain and lacquer finish; Not pickled, but white! The doors and face frame of the sink base were chipped and peeling, so they had to be sanded and stripped before refinishing. The rest of the doors needed artistic repairs without stripping. Also, a lot of European Hinges had to be replaced. I had to do this on an hourly basis because it's impossible to estimate. The work turned-out better than she expected, but she had me stop after five days due to costs. One benefit of hourly work is that you can call it off after a day, or at any time.
My furniture grade industrial nitrocellulose lacquers last more than thirty years without failing. One job still looks great after forty years. I haven't seen any others at that age, but I suspect that the results are excellent. However, it's hard to sell quality when someone else is cheaper. This is a constant refrain in my business. The bad drives out the good. That's why we can look at old work and exclaim, "How extraordinary, how magnificent!"
She wants me to come back in the springtime to hang a Double Door front entry door.
At my house, I replaced five windows with Pella Double-Hungs with traditional (historic) casings and sills. The casings are five inches wide, and the sills are multi-beaded (with three beads). I added an inch of foamular, and new siding on that side of the house.
A lot of other jobs were performed, too. This is how I manage to stay busy when there is not much building going-on. The recession continues, now in the eighth year.
Let's talk about moisture problems in construction. Later we can discuss solar energy, and why it's frowned-on in Illinois...(because the utilities own the legislature?)
(There is very little advantage to using photovoltaics in Illinois because of the paltry returns on investment. In California, the utility pays $ .04 [four cents] per kilowatt hour for any excess power being generated by the solar panels. The fight there is to get a more favorable return, e.g. about six cents. But in Illinois, we don't get anything. Zero. It takes over twenty years to pay-off a solar investment at that rate. [It's almost as if the "Hand of God" prevents any progress here.] In some states they impose an extra tax on anyone who uses solar, to offset the reduction in utility bills! Meanwhile energy supply companies receive tax breaks amounting to trillions of dollars for oil, coal, gas, and nuclear. For parity, the alternative energy customers need to have a tax break, too. Or we could quit paying depletion allowances to all the energy companies. We could make the nuclear power plants pay for their own insurance, instead of having the taxpayer cover all losses. They're not a fledgling business any more.)
The University of Illinois in the mid-1980's built some mock-up homes to test for condensation in the walls, after which they published a small pamphlet called "Council Notes" which I reproduced on my first web page in 1995 or so...long gone now, but I found the pamphlet. I always remembered the critical details, and I've incorporated the methodology in all my buildings since the 1970's. (I've known about moisture problems since the time I built three "Prairie Style" houses for an architect who was well versed in moisture problems, and we sat around after work, talking about it, in 1974-1977.) Since then I have witnessed the ignorance of the bricklayers and carpenters vis-à-vis flashings and Tyvek and any other building paper...tarpaper being the early choice for water control and drainage. The tradesmen who are installing these products are frequently doing it wrongly, leading to moisture problems in the walls, including mold and rotting studs and joist ends. Witness the problems with the "Drivit" stucco wall coatings in the past twenty years. Also, many roof leaks are simply the result of water getting behind the flashing.
Tarpaper has the ability to resist water penetration, but to allow the penetration of water vapor at a rate, called a perm rating. Aluminum foil blocks all water vapor transmission. Foamular has a perm rating. Visqueen also blocks all water vapor transmission, and has been used on the inside side of insulated walls, just below the drywall, to good effect. Most kitchen and bath paints will reduce moisture moving through. On the other hand, using foil faced polyisocyanurate foam board on the exterior side of your wall is just asking for trouble. We use "Foamular " insulation which has a good enough perm rating, especially if you fill it full of nail holes, allowing moisture to escape easily. These simple concepts are crucial for posterity. For a more through discussion, click on the link, above.
The clapboard siding on our house and garage is now twelve years old, and the paint looks fresh and new still. The paint on the old siding, however, has been peeling and flaking since the sixth year, which would make someone very unhappy if they had painted the whole house that way. I'll be replacing the remaining siding this year, along with five new windows. Our 160 year old house is looking very happy, now that it has been renewed and improved. It's easy to heat, too. Since we're heating the three-car garage (converted to a cabinet shop) at the same time, it's hard to calculate just how much it costs to heat the house, but I would say it's about $120.00 during the coldest months, and $60.00 for the shop. (Cost update: see above.)
The Homes and Room Additions and Gazebos that we build are better than most. They remain solid and don't sag as the years go by. They remain energy-efficient even as the standards change. I always said that we build for at least one hundred years. Refrain: It's hard to sell quality when someone else is doing it cheaper.
I hasten to add that we are not really expensive, and we really do provide better value, hands down. Let's say that our price is 10% more than the lower price...but the craftsmanship is precise and pleasing to look at, and the finished product lasts twice as long or three times as long as the lower priced projects. That's value, and you can see it as the years go by.
Building Science .com has published an article on vapor barriers Building Science
(if the link doesn't work) copy and paste into your browser: buildingscience.com/documents/digests/bsd-106-understanding-vapor-barriers
U.S. coal down 30% in ten years. Coal on the way out. Peabody is down 95% (but I could be 50% wrong).
Cherries, first flush, etc. Spring 2015.
A story about the vagaries of weather and cherries.
To change the subject temporarily, I watched some unusual weather this spring. The temperature was cool at night, all through April and it warmed-up in May for a week or so, enough for all the cherry trees to blossom, and the bees to appear at the same time. That was the first flush. Suddenly it cooled-off so much that the blossoms stopped blooming, and the bees disappeared too. I looked-up bees on the google and it seems that bees can't fly around below 57* F. I worried that my cherries weren't getting pollinated, as it remained below 55* F for ten days. The blossoms shriveled and the new buds failed to open. Finally, it warmed-up enough for a second flush of blossoms, just as heavy as the first flush. This time, they didn't open all at once, but kept blooming for two weeks, making a third flush?!
That was in May. Now it's June 7th, and it appears that the first flush cherries are turning red, while the second flush is still green, and the third flush are small and underdeveloped. The trees are very heavy with cherries, and some cherries are being rejected and falling to the ground. It appears that we'll be picking cherries for three or four weeks this year, as they ripen at different times. I'm waiting to see whether most of them make it to the ripe, edible stage, or not.
I picked about five gallons of cherries, pitted and froze them, lost about a gallon because I couldn't keep-up with all the work and they began to get moldy. That's the bottom line. Getting there was another story. I lost about ten gallons or more on the tree. Overall, it was a big success.
The first flush was getting ripe when it rained a lot. We got four inches one day, and shortly after that the first flush cherries all cracked open. A week later, when they were ripe, they had developed mold on them from too much rain and from the sweetness oozing from the cracks. Disaster! Look closely, there is a white mold hanging from the bottom of the cherry in the middle.
Amazingly, the second flush was not damaged, and another week later they were ripe and ready. The second flush did not get too much rain at the wrong time, and did not crack at all. The mold from the adjacent cherries was creeping onto them, and they had to be picked carefully, avoiding moldy ones as I picked the best. About five days after that, the third flush ripened, and they were also fine. The birds ate their share; I even noticed some robins eating cherries! (I thought robins ate worms.) One tree I planted three years ago, a grafted specimen with Bing, Black Tartarian, and Rainier all on one tree, produced about a dozen cherries this year, and the birds ate all of them because the birds are not scared off by people walking by, like they are scared from the trees next to the sidewalk.
Lapins cherries were bigger than a quarter!
The golden delicious apple tree is loaded with good looking apples now. They should be ripe by October.
News flash! The squirrels ate all of the apples! It's Sept 22nd now, and every last one is gone. I'm thinking of revenge!
Restoring the old Farmhouse
The weather is fairly cool this year, so the pool has not warmed-up at all. The water temperature is 74*, not warm enough for most people, so the pool party was cancelled. I do have the solar cover installed, but with sixty degree nights and cloudy days, the water isn't getting warm. June 28, 2015.
Meanwhile I am removing and replacing windows and siding on the fifth and final side of the house. After removing the siding, and re-nailing the sheathing, I install one-inch Foamular insulation, Tyvek, then new windows, and then the new pre-painted redwood lap-siding.
This picture shows what it looked like when the fiber-cement board siding was up. The window crowns had been hacked off. after they rotted on the ends, and the cement board was installed over a flat surface. The old farmhouse looks ugly. The blue clapboard siding on the left is new.
Don't worry about the redwood trees, they are now being farmed for this purpose. They grow very quickly, and are ready for harvest in about thirty years. Back in the day...they used to cut old trees, but that was regulated to save the old growth forests, and redwood lumber disappeared from the lumberyards in the 1990's, but now it's back again in the form of farmed redwood. It takes long range planning to grow a grove of trees. The oldest side of the house, now going on twelve years, still looks new! The paint is not pealing or flaking. Redwood is the wood that holds a paint job better than any of the others. You should follow the directions offered by the American Redwood Association when painting your pre-installed siding.
The roofing on the left side, and that over the porch were the ones most in need of repairs. I used an architectural shingle that claims to last fifty years. The tar up against the siding was several inches thick, and causing rotting on the window sills and bottom strip of siding. All are restored now. I also began using copper flashing to help reduce algae and moss on the roofing. I never use roofing tar to effect any repairs, as it doesn't last long.
The old clapboard siding looks restorable, but it really isn't great. It is 155
yrs old after all, and although it was expertly installed way back in 1859, it's
split and leaking.
Still, we decided to paint the right side for the next five years, and turn our attention to other elements of the project.
The windows and doors are drafty and useless. The old window weights are in drafty pockets of heat loss. We used great effort and expertise to make sure our new Pella windows looked just like the original windows, inside and out.
Behind the siding, some of the house paper had shriveled badly. It's no wonder these old houses are drafty! The damage here is evidence of water leaking through the siding.
Evidence of air leakage which allowed dirt and moisture to build-up under the clapboards, leaving behind lines of soot that filtered through.
Here you can see the profile of the crown molding that was original to the
windows. They were long-gone, but I brought them back again!
It's actually a bed molding. I duplicated the profile and made new crowns on my 1930 Oliver shaper table with the original Tesla design, three phase motor, delta or star. Now 85 years old and still running strong! They took pride in building machines that would last a lifetime and your son's lifetime, too, in the 1930's. It weighs-in at about 2000 lbs. So it's a museum piece that I'm using to make my authentic profile crown moldings.
Here you can see the drilled holes for blown-in insulation. Our walls are well insulated, and protected on the inside by a vapor barrier.
Working my way up the side. There is a beaded soffit, and an aluminum fascia with built-in crown, to match the original wood crown.
New gable vent will have a solar powered exhaust fan in the attic. Kimberly-Clark brand housewrap is tested here. Ask me what I think about it.
The old weight pockets provided lots of drafts and heat losses. When new, the windows glided up and down effortlessly.
Sash cords and pulleys in the old window jambs.
Notice the weight pocket inspection slot cut into the jamb, lower left.. When you know how to open that slot, you can re-hang the weights.
We have re-hung weights on some historic home windows, but in this case, I'm throwing away the drafty old things.
Almost done with the outside. The casings and crown moldings are restored to their original appearance. I removed a bad piece of siding, and the "Historic Windowsills" from AZEC are not yet in.
This is a plaster repair where somebody apparently notched-out the
plaster-and-lath with a sawzall to get at the weights
(presumably to re-attach them with new sash cords). They didn't know about the inspection slots built-in to the side jambs,
which make the task easier. Sometimes they're painted shut, but a razor knife will cut them loose. If you want your historic
windows restored to their original condition, hire an expert.
Now the weights are unnecessary and the missing plaster is being replaced, first
with a scratch coat. When the plaster is
finished, I'll install new windowsills and casings to match the originals. I filled the weight pockets with insulation.
For the purists among you, none of the windows in this house were original when
we got here in 2003. Some were from the
1920s, some were from the fifties, some from the eighties, and finally when we got here, we needed to replace about twenty-five
of the forty windows in the house, because they were too far gone to repair. So there is no chance to "keep it original" anymore.
Instead of that, I have matched the original details as closely as possible with modern energy efficient windows. When I say "as
closely as possible", I mean "exactly like the originals" in appearance, except for the weights, the pulleys, the sash cords, and the heat loss.
It's a work of art! Our heating bills are very modest.