Saturday, November 12, 2011

Long overdue update

I haven't updated the blog lately because I've been busy with a lot of other things, plus didn't really have much of anything noteworthy to journal by itself.

I did get a new heat pump installed last month and am very pleased with the equipment as well as the company who performed the work.  The listing agent for my home referred me to his personal HVAC contractor, S.A. Sloop Heating and Air out of Landis, NC.  For a nice Trane system, a lot of new ductwork and thermostat, their price was right at what another company had quoted for a contractor-grade system with no new ducts, plus I would have had to do some of the work myself.  Sloop sent out two guys who worked for eight full hours mostly in the musty, dusty crawlspace.  When all was complete, I had a nice electric heat pump with a ten-year parts and labor warranty plus a free one-year general maintenance/start-up agreement.  Also, the workers left nothing behind except the old unit, which I asked them to leave and plan on taking to the scrap yard.  It was as if no one had been there.  Not one speck of garbage anywhere they had worked.  Additionally, they were such generally nice and polite guys all around that I fixed lunch and dessert for them.  They deserved it as hard as they had worked even before noon had rolled around.  This is a great HVAC system with quiet operation.  No more loud oil furnace.  No more soot getting blown all over the house.  No more having the house smelling like the engine of a '63 Buick.  I do find it ironic, though, that I hired a boat to put in a train.  (Get it?  Sloop = boat?  Trane = train?)

There was a period where I got tired of patching the plaster, so I moved on.  This is the beauty of working on my own house; if I get bored, there are plenty of other things to do until I want to go back and work on the other thing I started.  In late September with the impending falling of the leaves, there had to be something done with the gutters.  As you can see from the picture of the house on the home page, all the trees are very large and several loom over the roof.  Without a gutter guard, during autumn I would estimate the gutters would have to be cleaned out once per week.  I researched and found a gutter guard that is awesome.  I needed one that didn't have a top grate or screen because willow oak trees have very narrow leaves, similar to those of an ash tree, and tiny acorns that would catch in the mesh.  I definitely can't afford Gutter Guard (ever priced them?!  sheesh.).  What I found is manufactured by Amerimax and sold at Lowes Home Improvement for around $4.75 per 4' section.  It's a solid vinyl cover that operates on the same principle as Gutter Guard.  Here's a photo:

The wide part slides under the first course of shingles, with the narrow part clipping onto the front lip of the gutter.  Installation was simple and went quickly once I got the hang of it.  All you need are tin snips (the vinyl is thick and basically impossible to cut with a utility knife), a measuring tape, a straight edge and a pencil.  Two warnings:  there is a score-line approximately 1" behind the drainage slots.  This is so the installer can bend the guard according to roof pitch, so the rainwater will be directed into the channels and not shoot over the entire guard.  I'm sure these panels were made to be installed by a professional with an aluminum brake.  Bending them by hand is extremely difficult and fairly painful on the wrists and fingers.  My left thumb is still achy/touchy in the main joint.  The other warning is that once the guard is in place, it's almost impossible to remove.  Once removed and put back into place, it doesn't retain its same shape to confirm to the gutter lip and will have to be fastened down with a small sheet metal screw.  I'm pleased with the guards' performance thus far.  I have such an overabundance of leaves on all sides of the house that they do tend to stack up on top of the guard, but not in the drainage channels.  It's a lot easier to get a few steps up onto the ladder and use a long-handled broom to occasionally brush off the leaves than it is to climb all the way up there and scoop out the debris.

The plaster repair and drywalling is back in play now.  My initial plan was to go room-by room but there was a place in the kitchen that needed immediate attention.  In a previous post, you can see a chimney that goes between two sets of cabinets.  Instead of leaving the exposed brick, someone applied what appears to be a sort of grey, portland cement-based coating overthe brick, and it's on there thick.  I've never seen anything like it.  Over that, there had been a coat or two of paint, then someone stuck contact paper over that, followed by two or more coats of paint.  There were spots where the cement junk was exposed, and it was powdery and crumbly and probably had lots of yummy asbestos in it.  Other spots had missing contact paper or else bubbly areas where it wouldn't adhere to whatever was underneath.  All over it was a big ol' airborne toxin nightmare and I had to sweep and wipe down the floors and counters more than once daily because of fallen chips and powder.  The old flue cover (the kind that looks like an inverted paper plate) above the cabinet had long broken, thus leaving a hole partially behind the upper cabinet since whoever built/installed the cabinet didn't securely seal off the opening and just put the cabinet about halfway up the paper-plate-thingy.  Other than incoming drafts, I wasn't concerned until I learned the oil furnace as well as the new unit vented out through that chimney.  No wonder the kitchen was especially sooty and smelled of old oil.  I also can't imagine the health hazard that must've posed.  I sealed off and caulked the flue hole, and encapsulated the entire chimney with 3/8" sheetrock, fastened by using a masonry bit to drill into the brick and using TapCon screws.   All cracks will be caulked to help prevent lead dust from escaping.  Not only does it already look vastly better without even being complete, but what a relief not having to clean up paint chips.

Work on the living room plaster cracks has resumed.  I'd like to be able to finish the two remaining ceiling-to-wall corner beads by Monday afternoon., including all sanding.  Yesterday, I got all suited up for sanding.  With the exception of maybe an hour and a half gap of running an errand, I worked from 4:30 to a little after 10pm.  After the first session, I vacuumed up all the dust.  Returning from the errand, I got a second wind and decided to work some more.  That round created a worse dust mess than the first but I was so tired, I left everything as-is.  I figured I'll clean it up this afternoon since it would have more time to settle.  All the mud used in the living room up to this point was the pink kind previously mentioned.  The new kind, like was used in the kitchen, has an easier to clean up dust formula and it really does work. It's a "heavier" dust and tends to clump together and fall straight down instead of poofing all over everything.  Never again will I use regular or the pink drywall compound.  This stuff is great.

Here's some pictures of the current disaster, including an extra sexy one of me in my sanding gear.  Brian stayed in another room since he didn't need to breathe the dust and I doubt I could find a tiny respirator for him.  As soon as I opened the door, he ran in and wanted to make a blanket nest but I stopped him after the photos and we went to another room for rest of the evening.

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