Enon Hall

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July 4, 2006

drummer boy

Happy Independence Day!

July 5, 2006

I'm sitting in a wet chair as I write this. But I'll get to that later. It's been a week since my last confession...I mean "post"... so I have a lot of ground to cover

Friday we had the pleasure of a visit from "Jim K in PA", probably well known to those of you who frequent our Forum. Our projects always seem to run on parallel tracks, so it was great fun to meet him in person, compare notes, and show him around. You know, Jim...I'm thinking of some kind of labor exchange program. I come help you for a few weeks, you come help me for a few weeks... Except I don't do roofs, so I guess that renders me of little value to you right now.

Saturday morning I had a date with our back porch. I finally had enough acceptable porch boards to complete the floor job that I started last month. I made my way to the workshop over the garage to gather some tools and was surprised to find a flight school in progress. The baby birds had been booted from the nest, fuzzy topknots and all, and Mama bird was busy trying to get them airborne. It seemed like there were birds everywhere. Mama barked orders and the babies (either 3 or 4, I never could be sure which) flopped and flailed, following her directions the best they could. They particularly liked the pile of sawdust under my table saw as it made for soft crash landings. Occasionally one of the trainees would catch some air and be lifted to the rafters where, instead of landing on top of the rafter, it would crash directly into the side of the rafter and then hang on like Spiderman, little feet digging into the wood for dear life. Hanging...hanging...hanging...ahhh...DIVE FOR THE SAWDUST PILE! Gay, William, Gay's mom, and I stood at the top of the steps for quite a while watching class. It struck me that William's sailing class last week probably had moments that looked just like this. One was airborne. One was hiding in the sawdust. One was rolling around in the corner after crashing his fuzzy topknot into the wall. And Mama frantically raced back and forth trying to keep all of her little fuzzballs in the air. You could tell she was determined that this was the day.

Finally we tore ourselves away and went about our day, but each time I had to go up to the shop to get something I would find the show still going on. Or at times they would be taking a break, gathered in a corner of the room, resting in a heaving pile between my reciprocating saw and jigsaw.

Classes continued on Sunday, this time with more experimental jaunts outside of the actual building. At times the shop would be completely empty. At other times the whole class was back. None of them, including Mama, paid too much attention to me as I came and went. I just called out, "Don't mind me. Just need some nails." and "Looking good. Keep at it."

Monday morning I was working in the front yard when Mama came and landed on the sawhorse in front of me. (Gay doesn't believe me, but it's true.) This was the first time that I had encountered her outside of the house, but I knew it was her because I saw her fly down from the open soffit of the workshop. She landed in front of me and yelled at me. Then flew off. I knew exactly what she was telling me. "The babies are all gone now. Thanks for the hospitality. You can have your shop back now."

Later that day, I was surpised to see one of the babies come in for a tumbling landing near where I was working outside. (His fuzzy topknot gave him away instantly.) I don't think he really meant to land so close to me. Probably was headed in the opposite direction and got caught by a breeze. He hopped and flitted under the porch and then emerged on the other side to take off again.

So the shop is quiet again now. Kinda sad.

Meanwhile, the back porch floor got done. A pretty uneventful project, other than my "fudge board."

The back wall of the house has a slight angle in it where old meets new. So boards that started out perpendicular to the new construction don't wind up being perpendicular to the old construction at the other end of the porch. Somewhere along the way, a significant adjustment needed to be made. I probably should have made a couple adjustments, instead of making up the entire difference in one board, but I didn't think of that until I was already running out of real estate. So yes, that board diminshes from full width at the front of the porch to practically nothing at the back of the porch. But once everything was down and painted, even I have a hard time finding that board. So I should just keep it to myself.

I'm really happy with the way the floor turned out. This time I used a narrower skirt board and trimmed out the top edge and it looks much better than when I first did the porch five years ago.

I'm also very happy with our granite steps. They match the porch floor color very nicely.

And I even made progress on the front porch!

Now for tonight's big adventure...and my wet chair.

It was another show provided by mother nature.

We decided to go out to dinner tonight. Mainly to be able to sit in air conditioning for a little while. We decided to go to a local restaurant that sits right on the Rappahannock River and right beside the 3-mile-long bridge that connects us with the rest of the world.

When we arrived we were the only diners so we got first choice of a prime window seat with a sweeping view of the river. A few minutes later William looked at a wet spot on his arm, then at the ceiling. Condensation from an air conditioning vent was dripping on him. No biggie. We're still the only guests. So we ask to move over a table, so as to save William from getting Legionaire's Disease or something. So, after a Chinese firedrill, we settle in at our new table, our drinks arrive and continue chatting...until Gay's mom is now being dripped upon. Another vent. Laughing, we decide to just twist the table to try to get her out of the path of the drip. We twist and pull towards the window until she's in the clear.

Then as we look out the windows (big windows) we can see a dramatic storm coming across the river from the south very quickly. The sky turned ominous and the bridge started to disappear, one section at a time. It was fascinating and I turned my chair a little to face the window for a better view. William and I were counting down the seconds until the storm made landfall. The bridge was half consumed, three quarters consumed, and then totally gone and the restaurant was instantly in the thick of it with winds raging and rain pouring. And Gay...she's now getting drenched from water flooding into the restaurant from around the top of the window.

On to table number three! This time we opted for one not quite so close to the windows as this was turning out to be one hummer of a blowing storm. We couldn't see anything at all outside. Not even our car, parked a few feet away.

At this point we are pretty deep inside this restaurant. Each table move has taken us farther from the front door; we're probably about 30 feet away from it now. Suddenly the wind seems much louder and I feel a cold spray of water on the back of my neck. I turn around to see papers blowing around the restaurant and the front door blown open (an outswinging door, sucked open), and rain blowing in vertically. I didn't see any restaurant personnel, so William and I got up and were running to the door. Luckily, before we got there, the busboy came running out and we differed to him. Let him take the shower! He tugged on the door and couldn't get it closed against the wind by himself. Two more guys came out from the kitchen and the three of them finally got the door closed. (The busboy later apologized to us for the door blowing open, which I thought was kind of funny...but very nice.)

As the lights flickered I was really starting to have visions of us having to camp out in this restaurant for the night. But in short order the storm passed over us, leaving large waves crashing onto the small beach. (We don't normally see waves in the river!) The restaurant's flagole had blown over and the American flag itself was nowhere to be seen. By the time we had finished eating things were pretty calm. But on the ride home we started seeing the extent of the damage. Trees and limbs and flagpoles were down everywhere. For the first time I started getting a bit concerned about what we might find just a couple miles away at Enon Hall.

We first thing we noticed was a large branch down from my favorite sycamore tree.

It neatly threaded itself between the smokehouse and my car, damaging neither.

As William and I looked around in the drizzle and fading light it looked like the sycamore was the extent of our damage. But then I noticed a view that looked somehow different. A lot of green where I should have been seeing creek. Sadly, we lost one of the large old cedars that lines our creek bank.

It's amazing how shallow the roots were.

So I sit now on the porch, in a damp chair (getting itchy), listening to what is now a gentle rain as I write this. I hate that we lost the cedar and I hate that the sycamore was wounded. But, man. What a spectacular show that was. And we had great front row seats. -- Bill

July 10, 2006

It's been almost a month since I posted my punch list of things that had to be completed before the plasterer gets here. The items on that list are 95% done. The blueboard won't be here for a week and a half, so the sense of urgency is somewhat diminished. We'll be ready, no sweat. Hopefully, the plasterer will be ready when the material gets here.

Today I made shiplap, beaded doors for the attic and crawl space entrances and hung the door to the workshop. Soon there won't be anything left to do inside and we'll be forced back outside in the heat to get back on the siding. It needs to be done. Just not looking forward to it. -- Bill

July 13, 2006

A little progress to report...inside and out.

One of the last items on my inside punchlist is skirt boards around the two new staircases. (I assume this would be called a "skirt board.")

For the rear stair that leads to the room above the garage it was pretty easy as I could make it any depth that I wanted. I chose to just use 1X10 stock, so it's roughly 9-1/4" wide with a bead around the bottom edge. The board overhangs the ceiling framing so that the plasterer can work right to it.

I wonder if trim carpenters hate joist hangers as much as I do, or if it's just because I'm such a novice. The joist hanger in the corner of the stair opening prevented the skirt board from sitting flat in the corner. So I had to chisel out the back of my trim board to accommodate the hanger, including the bottom nail which sticks out almost a 1/4".

The skirt board for the center hall stair is going to be trickier because it needs to be 13-1/2" wide in order to cover the full floor thickness. I'm undecided what to use for this. A good plywood has been suggested, as well as MDF or MDO. It needs to be able to take a bead well and finish well. Any suggestions?

In other news, I finally got the posts up on the front porch. We've been looking at this for months...

The more I looked at the way the porch roof was framed the more I felt that the fascia board was just to narrow, making the whole thing look a little puny. So I decided to add a box under each side. (I know this architectural feature has a name, but heck if I know what it is. Somebody help me out here.) I used 2X10 lumber stacked four deep to get the mass that felt right.

In order to add this while still supporting the roof, I put the boards up in stages, doing the back boards first. Then I put a support under these, removed the front brace, and put in the front boards. The boards are of staggered lengths so that it all stitches together nicely. I was a little concerned about hanging this weight from the porch roof, so I both nailed and screwed the boards into place. I don't think they're going anywhere, but I may still go back and add a strap around them...just for that final step of structural overkill. Then it will all be cased in with trim.

With the posts in place, I'm really glad that I added the drop-down boxes. Otherwise the roof edge would have felt too dinky sitting on top of the these hefty tapered posts.

This morning Mark Dameron from "EnonEast Earth Maintenace" arrived to take care of our storm clean-up. He hauled away 3 truckloads of tree debris.

Counting rings, it looks like the cedar was about 100 years old. Mostly heartwood! We also had him take down a small dogwood that the cedar landed on. We're talking about planting a weeping willow in place of these trees. -- Bill

July 16, 2006

We finally have the mantel that we bought back in January. We weren't ready for it and the dealer didn't mind keeping it in his booth, so it worked out well. But I needed to go on and get it this week so that I could get some exact measurements and decide how big the mantel shelf will be.

It's hard to believe how perfect the mantel is size-wise. Once it's sitting on the hearth the opening will exactly meet code...six inches clearance around the firebox on all sides. Still, it's going to take some work to get it into shape. I'm thinking that maybe this mantel originally had panelling above it or something, cause it sure doesn't look like there was a shelf on top.

We were out of town on Friday when the Buckingham slate for the colonnade floor was delivered...and deposited about as far from where it needed to be as possible. So William earned an iTunes card by hauling 1,300 pounds of slate across the yard and into the house this weekend.

Hopefully we can get the installers back this week to lay it.

The most dreaded item on my punch list was cleaning up the family room and kitchen in preparation for the delivery of the blueboard. Meant moving a lot of lumber to the workshop and garage. Gay and I got that done today.

So, we are officially back on outside jobs this week. Hot. -- Bill

July 17, 2006

With the heat index well into the 100s I worked on the porch cornice or entablature...whatever you want to call it. It took me all day to finish one side because of the heat, and because I was making up the design as I went along. I'm pretty happy with the result.

In hindsight, I wish I had put a bead along the bottom of the side boards, but by the time I thought of it I was too tired to deconstruct what I had already done. The only other element I'm not sure about is the little button at the corner. Three boards converge here in a not-so-pretty fashion. I thought that maybe a 1-1/2" square decorative button might do the trick. From some angles it looks good, from others it looks like a wart.

I ran across this quote from Thomas Jefferson in a book that I'm reading called "Last House on the Road" by Ronald Jager. I always knew that Jefferson was a proponent of masonry construction, but I never realized that this meant that he was not a fan of wood construction. In the 1780s, Jefferson wrote:

    A country whose buildings are of wood, can never increase in its improvements to any considerable degree. Their duration is highly estimated at fifty years. After half century then our country becomes a tabula rasa, whereon we have to set out anew...
I guess Enon Hall is due to fall down sometime around...1812. -- Bill

July 18, 2006

Ack! 100 in the shade. Wish I had been working in the shade...

I trimmed out the other side of the front porch cornice and will post a photo tomorrow after it's all primed. Maybe even painted.

The tilers showed up today and put the slate down in the colonnade and finished grouting the master shower. They should be back Friday or Saturday to grout the slate floor.

That's all for now. Must...go...drink...wa...ter... -- Bill

July 22, 2006

Blueboard! On Thursday our blueboard order was delivered. 204 sheets. I had to remove the sashes from two windows so that they could use the boom to bring it in. It was a little scary to watch, but the guys were very efficient and careful.

This brought up an issue. I have never tipped any of the guys delivering lumber or other materials. But these two guys impressed me with their pleasant attitudes and professionalism. Plus, they were good about distributing the board throughout the addition. So I felt compelled to go scrambling for some cash. "Have lunch on me today," I said, giving them each a ten. They didn't act like it was at all unusual to get tips, so now I'm wondering if perhaps I should have been doing this all along. But although everybody else did perfectly nice jobs delivering their materials, these were the first two guys who struck me as doing something tip-worthy. What's the protocol here? I'm sure builders don't tip these guys.

Anyway, the blueboard arrived on Thursday and the hanger dropped by yesterday. The first thing he said was, "These are eights." Meaning 4X8 sheets. Yeah, they are. When he estimated how many sheets we would need he just gave me the number and didn't specify the sheet size. Turns out he was figuring 4X12s which are the norm these days for professional installers. Only wimpy DIYers install 4X8 sheets, I guess. So, now we're short 1/3 of what we need and it will take another two weeks to get the balance. Sure wish I had thought to ask.

Anyway, the hangers arrived today and started installing the blueboard.

By quitting time they had hung the kitchen, family room, downstairs center hall, and master bath. It's exciting to see studs disappearing after almost a year!

The slate floor is all grouted. Looks good, just needs another good wash down. We went with a dark grout to make it easier to keep it looking clean and because we didn't want a lot of contrast between the slate and the grout.

William wrote this poem the other day and said I could share it here. The first stanza alludes to the elderly previous owner and the house's state of "wildness." The rest is a little easier to disect.

    In a hall of lanterns bright
    Lies a man of little might
    To the darkness crawl the toads
    Shrouded by the leafy loads

    A son is born unto a man
    Next of those to understand
    What is lost is found again
    A memory in scratch of pen

    There it is, so dark it stands
    Something for to work our hands
    Time's detainee we released
    The strangulation now has ceased

    So the war it was prepared
    No one else truly cared
    To free the beauty from the beast
    Except the ancient land's deceased

    An age of toil then was unleashed
    Until perfection could be reached
    When sits a man in ancient seats
    The lord of his inheritance is finally at peace.
Ah, yes..."the age of toil." Well said. -- Bill

July 23, 2006

The blueboard hangers were back this morning (Yes, on Sunday) and finished the master bedroom, master closet, law office and law office bathroom.

It's fun to see William's room come together. On the other hand, it's a little sad to see all of my hard work hidden away.

It's really hard to believe how big this room is, even after carving a bathroom out of one end. Both spaces combined total about 400 square feet.

Which reminds me... among housebloggers there has been some discussion of how kids and the restoration of an old house mix. I have found that there are always a million opportunities around here to help William practice math (his Achilles heel). Last night we had to trek 45 minutes away to Lowe's to get some contractor's paper to cover the floors in his room and bathroom and the colonnade. I gave William the assignment of determining how many rolls we would need. So he had to figure the square footage of all the spaces, total them up, determine the square footage of the rolls, etc., etc. He seems to enjoy taking on these assignments, but would hate it if we just sat down to "practice math." Earlier this month I gave him the assignment of projecting how much our electric bill would be for the month based on meter readings that he took. Gotta keep those math skills oiled during the summer!

I learned a new expression today. The hangers asked me what I wanted them to do with the scrap pieces of blueboard. I said they could just chuck them in the dumpster.

"We don't walk the scrap, buddy."

(These guys alternately call me "buddy" and "Phil.")

I had to ask him again because at first the meaning of this odd combination of words totally escaped me. After some discussion it was revealed that the most they could do was chuck the scrap out the window. I would have to then get it in the dumpster. Whatever...

But I do like the expression. Should come in handy when groceries need to be unloaded from the van. "Sorry, Gay. I don't walk the groceries."

Maybe not. -- Bill

July 25, 2006

Yesterday the sheetrock hangers hung the remainder of our blueboard. Turns out we were only short 13 sheets. Which means that the original count that I was given (had I ordered it in 4X12 sheets) was way, way too high! I would have been stuck with a lot of extra board, so this all worked out for the best. We should have the rest of the board later this week.

I didn't get much done while the blueboard hangers were here because I was trying to stay out of their way, yet also keep an eye on things. But I also tend to get lazy when other contractors are here. My mind says, "Hey, things are moving forward without you. You can take a break!" So I just spent the time dabbling at small projects, cutting the grass, grading our road, etc. Oh, and walking the scrap.

I don't think we have a single area that is finished. I mean totally finished. There are a couple areas that we consider "done" but, in reality, there are some details still left. The back porch is one such area. Today we finally trimmed out the cornice and ran the bed moulding all around, inside and out.

This is what we like to call "character."

The placement of this kitchen window obviously didn't work out quite right. As a result, I had to notch the casing to fit around the porch roof trim, split the copper drip cap, etc. It kinda looks like "where worlds collide." No, that's not right. It's "old house character." If nothing else, it's a back porch conversation piece.

We had a nice visit last night from Kerry and Karen Shackelford from Museum Resources. I was encouraged when Kerry took a quick look at our kitchen quarters and proclaimed that we "have a lot to work with" in terms of the condition of the old timbers. Kerry also teaches a timber framing class sometimes. I'm really hoping he'll do another class soon so I can acquire some of those skills. I really look forward to the day when I can work on restoring that building. -- Bill

July 30, 2006

We're waiting on scaffolding so that we can get back to work on the siding. (Because it's hot as Hell and that's what you wanna be doing when it's really, really hot.)

Back in March you might remember that I had decided to buy this scaffold from Scaffold Mart. (At the time the price was $1,399...looks like there's been a hefty price increase.) Well, when I placed my order they informed me that it was on back order. No problem. I wasn't ready for it anyway. Weeks passed. A month. Two. I never heard anything from them. I called to check on my order and was told "the ship has broken down." Ah, so my scaffolding is lost at sea. Long story short, I was not at all impressed with my dealings with ScaffoldMart and cancelled my order. I'm not even sure that my order was ever even processed in the first place. Meanwhile, one of the contractors that we have worked with offered us the use of his scaffolding! (I'm not tellin' who so he's not inundated with other such requests.) It was an unbelievably kind offer, especially since he's delivering it to us and not accepting any rental payment, though I offered. So, we're anxiously awaiting its arrival so we can get back to work.

Meanwhile, this weekend we took the opportunity to catch up on some exterior painting. Gay scrubbed down the north face of the Dutch Colonial, which had started sprouting some algae, with bleach water and got about half of it painted. Looks good.

Lucy is on the disabled list. Not sure what she got into, but she has a pretty nasty laceration on her leg (front, passenger side). It's wide open to her muscle, but the vet advised us to just let her take care of it. "Let her lick it," he said. He said that suturing it would require a general anaesthetic, which is an unecessary risk to her. So, she's been laying low inside today and taking care of her wound. Until a deer ran through the front yard and she nearly had a conniption trying to get out to chase it.

I need to do something about this situation...

The condensation drain from the upstairs air handler is creating a standing pond by the back door. And the drain for the downstairs unit, which we haven't even turned on yet, is just a few feet away from this one. I was unprepared for how much water would be coming out of this drain. (At our old house the drain emptied into a gutter, so we never really saw the water.)

I don't think grading is the ultimate answer to this. For one thing, the HVAC guy put the drain way too low. It should have been at least another brick up, in my opinion. I think I need to attach a PVC pipe to both drains and run the water off somewhere underground. One possibility is collecting it in an underground tank so that we can use it for watering. Or I can bury one of these tubes of packing peanuts to create a little drainfield for the water to dump into. Or just let it run out somewhere away from the house. In this same area, we get a boatload of roof runoff when it rains. So I probably need a solution that takes care of both problems. Another great hot weather activity! Digging holes and trenching! But if I don't do something, I'm afraid that if we got a solid day of rain, we would have water standing high enough in this corner that it could start flowing into the crawl space door which is nearby. Which would be bad. -- Bill

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© 1999- William H. Chapman