Floor Repairs Begin

Today Tim Moon, owner of Restore A Floor in Palmyra (originally headquartered in Ithaca), started some repair work. He came with a helper and we also discussed other small repairs such as loose, creaky stairs and a handrail that’s separating from the post.

The part of the living room shown below was once closed off to form a laundry area, and it’s likely that this section of the floor was opened up to provide plumbing. A previous owner then repaired the floor with this unfortunate patch. It’s not toothed in and sticks out like a sore thumb.

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When I visited the house after work I found Tim had torn up the old fix and removed a bunch of the surrounding wood too. You can see the previous work was not supported by much (or any) subflooring. He’s returning next week with materials to do a proper repair.

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He also took up all of the old shoe molding downstairs and will replace it with new molding.

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Note the ridge that shows the floor has been sanded before.

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The ridge by the wall is fine because it flares into the molding and isn’t really noticeable unless you look for it. More egregious is this ridge that runs across the short length of the living room:

Floor Repairs Ridge 1

Floor Repairs Ridge 2

All that white dust is from sanding the walls to prep for painting, by the way. The floors actually look pretty good, but there’s a mixture of refinished and original finish and we’d like a more consistent look across the house. Plus as you can see, there’s a lot of poorly done DIY work and we’re eager to see the results of a properly sanded, filled and refinished floor.

Tim’s tools are in the house and repair work has begun. He continues work all of next week.

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Malibu Solar Wall Wash

I like landscape lighting but I’m too lazy to run wire and I want to minimize the electricity we buy anyway. Fortunately there are a ton of good solar options out there. Modern solar landscape lighting is brighter and warmer than the dim cold lamps you’re probably used to.

To start off, I picked up this 54 lumen Malibu LED solar wall wash from Home Depot. The reviews are excellent, and while it’s rather pricey at $40, the cost is worth it to me if the product delivers.

Unboxing

Wallwashers look cool and can add security if they illuminate otherwise dark corners of your home. I actually expected plastic since it seems like everything’s made out of the stuff these days, but this one was constructed out of a surprisingly hefty metal.

Testing the light

I figured a good location for my first landscape light would be the right side of the house, which is pretty dark and has no other lighting (the left side has flood lights aimed onto the driveway). The light came charged so even though it was late in the day I was able to test it out that same night.

Picking a place

Excuse the horrible cell phone photography. It’s hard to convey, but the light delivers. It’s bright, has a warmth reminiscent of incandescent lamps, and it lasted for at least the four hours of night I spent in the house painting tonight. The real test will be after it has fully discharged. The spot I placed it in is shaded and I don’t expect maximum performance (which the manufacturer claims to be 10 hours). Still, if it lasts past midnight I’ll be happy. I’ll report more on this later.

The light at night

Paint is Up

We’ve been spending a week spackling, sanding, and caulking. Most of this has been done after work, which has meant a lot of eating out and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches; not our usual healthful fare. It’s extra frustrating because it seems like there’s an infinite amount of wall and trim repairs to do. Every time I feel satisfied I find another imperfection. This weekend, though, we decided we just had to let it go and begin painting or it would never get done.

NW Bedroom 1

Our interior designer helped us pick colors earlier and in the process she learned that Sherwin-Williams was having a sale this weekend. I’ve spent a lot of time on painting forums lately and I’ve come to the conclusion that professional contractors love Benjamin Moore Aura and Sherwin-Williams Duration. You probably can’t go wrong with either, but the conveniently timed sale meant we were going SW. They have a new line called Emerald that’s supposed to be more durable, easier to level out and zero VOC. For a few bucks more a gallon I went for it.

Deciding on sheen ended up being a little tough. I was set on satin but some comments from the salesperson made me switch to matte to reduce the visibility of surface blemishes. It’s a step above flat, Sherwin-Williams’ lowest sheen, so it should still be moderately washable. The trim will be semigloss.

Once I had all the supplies in hand, our good friend Brent lent invaluable assistance over the weekend to get us started. I painted a room for the first time 7 years ago when I sold my condo and I haven’t done it since. It was great having someone take the lead cutting while I rolled the walls. Eventually he taught me how to cut in too and that also reduced painting time.

NW Bedroom 2

The baby blue in all 3 guest bedrooms is gone, replaced by the much classier Urban Putty. Everything still needs a second coat because that blue is still powering through in some spots and putting down two coats is a good idea anyway.

I find it hard to rate SW Emerald when I have nothing to compare it to, but I can say it didn’t seem to spatter at all when rolled, coverage is great (I used the low end of their coverage rating and I’m pretty sure I’ve overestimated how much paint we need), and the hiding over that intense blue was pretty damn good (though as I said, I’d still suggest two coats). If it holds up well in the years to come, I’ll probably never think about the paint again. If it performs poorly, I’ll be sure to update.

Residential Energy Audit APPROVED

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Speaking of NYSERDA, I just got an email from them approving us for a reduced cost energy assessment. NYSERDA offers reduced price home energy audits through their New York Home Performance with ENERGY STAR® comprehensive home energy assessment program (for most people it ends up being totally free). The application is here and relatively painless (you do need old energy bills or a waiver for a home you’ve just purchased).

NYSERDA also offers a bunch of low-interest financing options if you can’t afford to get everything fixed right away. One of their plans charges right to your energy bill and payments are capped at the amount of energy cost savings that the fixes are expected to produce. I’d rather not finance at all, but their money is relatively cheap and I’ve been writing checks to contractors left and right lately.

The next step for us is to pick someone to perform the audit and I’ve already done that: I’ve heard great things about Ithaca-based Snug Planet and I’ve already contacted them to schedule.

Kicking off Solar

Our good friend Keith recently started at Renovus Energy (as of this writing the site basically doesn’t exist, though it promises a launch eventually), the premier solar installer in the Ithaca area. He gave us a great housewarming gift: coming over 10 minutes after we closed on the house last Friday to take our deposit for a 4.1 kW solar electric system with the just-announced 21.5% efficiency, 345 watt SunPower X-Series panels.

This morning we took the next step and I signed a bunch of paperwork for NYSERDA to approve the rebate Renovus will collect on our behalf. This is the first time I’ve ever signed documents on an iPad. Really forward-thinking, this company.

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Also from Renovus was Joshua to perform the site evaluation. This guy was incredibly friendly and fearless on the roof. He used some shade analysis tool (it looked like one of these, but I can’t be sure) to determine that everything looks pretty good up there: decent roof pitch, minimal shading and the side of the roof facing south is away from the street, so I don’t have to care about how the array looks.

Honestly, I wouldn’t care anyway. I’m interested in maximum power output and it’s just a bonus that the back side of the house happens to be ideal. We’re also planning on symmetrical placement of panels on each side of the roof, so the layout will fulfill my OCD desire for balance.

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Now we wait 6 weeks or so for NYSERDA approval. I can’t wait.

Medicine Cabinet

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I don’t know how old this medicine cabinet is, but given that it looks to be made from some kind of commercial plywood, it can’t be as old as the house. It was secured by 4 nails driven through the trim. I just had to pry it out from the wall.

It’s not attractive, that’s for sure. Our interior decorator suggests we replace it. Unfortunately the opening is 15″x22″ and framed by 2x4s. I’m not finding a huge selection of recessed medicine cabinets that fit. I’m not even sure what style is appropriate.

Even though that that porcelain light fixture is not my style, we’ll be keeping it as a nod to the house’s history. It’s not original: this great article indicates they became popular in the late 1920s. Still, it’s part of the house’s evolution and we appreciate that. There’s an interesting quote in that article from designer Bo Sullivan:

One detail worth mentioning is that these lights often had a “convenience outlet” cast into them – convenient for shocking yourself to death. When we rewire, we always disable this outlet to be safe and meet modern codes.

This fixture definitely has that outlet and the wires leading to it have been cut. Anyway, it just needs to be cleaned up with some paint remover and it’ll be ready for remounting after we paint.

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Dehumidification

First minor project: I won’t have to deal with emptying the dehumidifier bucket anymore. Our home inspector recommended draining it into the sump (which has the added benefit of regularly testing the sump pump), and I took him up on his advice. The sump cover even has a convenient hole you can punch out to feed in a pipe. It’s intended for venting sewer gases when needed, but it serves my needs nicely.

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I consulted the internets to make sure I wasn’t doing anything ill-advised, and it appears that bad idea or not, plenty of people online have said that they do exactly the same thing.

A separate issue for me is the cost of running the dehumidifier. I’ve plugged it into a Kill-A-Watt so I can see how often it runs in a 24 hour period. The fan alone draws 30 watts. When the evaporator is engaged the machine draws about 400 watts. None of this is surprising: it’s basically an air conditioner. The basement is damp year-round, though, and I want to stay on top of controlling the moisture.

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Ours

One month after our originally scheduled closing, we finally own it.

Many thanks go out to our real estate agent Lindsay Lustick Garner, who only works with buyers. Without her help to set up an escalation clause, we either wouldn’t have gotten the house or we would’ve made a much higher offer than we needed (we ended up being bumped to $8,000 over asking, which we consider fortunate).

Big thanks also to Matt Haney who did our inspection. We actually had a mini-inspection before making an offer, which he charges $135 to perform. If you get a full inspection later (which we did), he takes $50 off if you’ve done the walk-through review. It really puts your mind at ease before you make that offer. I actually found him via his wife’s interior design business, who we are now using to choose paint colors, light fixtures, etc.