Monday, June 13, 2011

The realities of an old house

Dear friends,

I spent all day today researching foam insulation, trying to find one that won't cause respiratory problems for us, the installers and any future visitors to the house. We also have six fur-creatures to think of, too. The idea of completely foaming in the attic to make it much cooler is appealing, but I can't make a decision on that until I find a product that I'm confident isn't high in VOCs (volatile organic compounds) or formaldehyde. When we built our former healthy green house back 16 years ago, we used batt insulation made from recycled blue jean fiber. It was satisfactory, but never gave us the level of insulation we'd like. So this time, we wanted to try something different.

We arrived at the house yesterday to find a small lake in the backyard. Apparently a pipe decided to burst, but luckily the water ran under my potted plants I moved there, and a very thirsty ancient pecan tree. I found out the hard way how that wonderful blackland prairie soil acts when soaked---I put my sandal-clad foot right into it. Ewwwww. Since I'm an absolute freak about wasted water, it did give me a bit of a kerfluffle until my Mr. Fix-it found the shut-off valve and stopped the leak. Old house---one, Bobbi---zero.

Inside, I was eager to start on preparing the woodwork in the front parlor, now my little office nook and main entry to the house. I proceeded to approach the leaded paint with caution. Since the house is so old, I've always assumed it was leaded, but confirmed it with a test kit I bought at True Value Hardware store. Rats! (BTW, any paint made before 1978 might have lead in it.) Most of the paint is in good condition, but there are a few chips here and there on the window trim and doors. The key, I've learned, is to spray everything so it's wet, and sand wet, or gently scrape the chips into a bucket of water. In other words, do not make any dust. Wear gloves, and a dust mask, just in case. After I removed the chips, I dried the woodwork, gave it a coat of acrylic primer to seal the edges, and let it dry. I like using the Olympic Premium no-VOC paints and hopefully will get a good bond between the old oil-based paint and the new acrylic I plan to use. All of the woodwork has to be scrubbed and primed before I can repaint it. That's a huge job, but one I love because I can see immediate results. Next visit, I'll tackle that gorgeous front door, with the original glass.

It still has the original doorknob and hardware. Whose hands have turned that knob over the last eighty-one years, I wonder?
The big news is that the high efficiency Carrier HVAC system is scheduled to go in on the 23rd of this month. Yay! Most of our budget is going for those things that make a house comfortable, but not necessarily the things you can see. This system includes high quality insulated metal ductwork in the attic (easier to clean in the future and less likely to grow mold), along with a lot of insulation and caulking on the inside, and repair of the original windows, will go a long way to make Two Sisters comfortable for us and keep our future energy bills low. I happen to love working with wood, and find it a joy to work to bring the old windows back to life (and make them safe, too).

It's just part of our plan to make this remodel as green, and as healthy, as it can be, without breaking the bank.

Happy trails,

bobbi c.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Thank you for commenting on my blog! I love visitors, and readers, and appreciate the time you spend there. Hope it's enjoyable and fun for you. bobbi c.