Enon Hall

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September 1, 2006

6:15 AM - This is gonna be a looong day. The sun's not up yet but the wind and rain are driving hard from the north. Aiming the flashlight at the windmill I can see it spinning faster than I've ever seen before. Taking the flashlight into the addition I'm sickened to see this.

This is the first floor family room on the north side of the house. I can't, for the life of me, figure out how this water could be coming in. It's not coming directly in through the windows above, but the water must somehow be traveling down the left sides of jambs, judging from the two larger wet spots. This is not good. And if we have 24 hours of rain as predicted, it's just gonna get worse.

I know, this is small potatoes compared to the damage many, many people have experienced...it's just frustrating that I don't know where it's coming from.

7:05 AM - The creek is really up. Our boat dock is right at water level. All of our neighbor's docks are under water at this point. And I'm sure our little dock on the new lot is well under water.

So far the drainage trench is working perfectly and power isn't flickering.

9:00 AM - The creek has now overflowed its banks. And we're at low tide.

Don't worry, the kayaks are tied well.

Radio reports say that roads all around us are flooded out. Then the station went off the air. The power here is flickering a little now. Nothing to do here but worry and post updates.

11:00 AM - This day really sucks.

I decided to rip out the wet blueboard to try to trace the leak.

The good news is that the insulation is all dry. I can only find a couple trickles under the windows. But a little water can go a long ways. In some places it almost looks like the water is coming UP from below the plate.

I guess it's running down and then traveling under the plate and then wicking up where it can, like around this wire.

Make it stop.

7:00 PM I think the three of us agree that this was the most stressful day of our lives. And as bad as it seemed to us, we can't help but think how fortunate we are when compared to all the folks who lost everything to Katrina just a year ago. Our day was bad. But it could have been so much worse.

The water damage in the addition is extensive. i can't even really bring myself to discuss it. Much wet blueboard. Mostly on unplastered walls, but also on some newly plastered areas. There will be much tear out and reinstallation. But more importantly, we have to figure out what went so wrong with the windows and correct that so that this won't happen again.

The big heartbreaker today was this.

The large cedar at the graveyard wall came down and took part of the wall with it. Very upsetting.

The creek came up much higher than I expected from this storm. Our boat fared well, even as the waters rose to 3 feet deep on the dock...that's a full 5 feet over the normal water level. I watched across the creek anxiously wondering if one of our out-of-town neighbors on that side had tied off his boat and jet ski or if they were just floating on their lifts. I called our other neighbor across the creek and he didn't think the boat was tied off, so I got in the car and headed to the other side to meet him. We waded out knee deep on the other neighbor's dock and, sure enough, both the jet ski and boat were floating on their lifts and about to be carried off down the creek. In the wind and driving rain (and in my fogged up glases) we could hardly see the dock below us, so we had to watch out for each other so neither of us would be swept away. Coming back up from the dock we encountered several snakes in the grass that had come from the flooded creek. Completely drenched and with pains in my ears from all the water, I got back in the car to head home, only to find my path blocked by a newly downed tree. The one other route, fortunately, was clear.

After the storm passed I could see that another neighbor across the creek also hadn't tied off his boat and it now sat high and dry up in his backyard.

Oh, and our port-a-potty blew over.

And I have poison ivy between my fingers. But I don't think I can blame that on Ernesto.

The power's been off since about 11:30 this morning. I'll feel very luck if we can get it back by this time tomorrow. Meanwhile, we have a lot of cleaning up and regrouping to do. -- Bill

September 4, 2006

Aah...electricity. After 74 hours our power was finally restored about 1:30 this afternoon.

Thanks to everybody for the many kind E-mails and posts to the Forum.Our spirits improved greatly on Saturday when the sun came out and we had a chance to dry things out and really assess the damage.

I had to tear out about 190 square feet of blueboard, none of which had already been plastered. Except for one area, the leaks all involved windows. Five windows in all, all on the north side of the house. The wind was blowing hard from the northeast and all of the leaks occured on the inside left (northwest) side of these windows. The water ran down between the studs and sheathing and then pooled on the sole plate, seeping to the left and right and out onto the subfloor. Very little insulation was actually wet...and where it was, it was only the bottom couple inches. These clues give me some ideas of how the water was getting in. I will be investigating that in more detail this week. Prior to this, we've had heavy storms with no leakage. But this was like having a fire hose trained on the north face of the house all day long.

I am going to proceed under the assumption that every window in the addition has the same issue, even if they didn't leak during this storm. Conceivably, the same storm coming from the south could have caused the same problem on the back of the house.

Several readers have pointed to the incomplete cornices as possible water sources. I went into the attic during the storm and did feel a small amount of blowing rain, but I really don't think this was the major problem. Or else we would have seen the leakage consistently along the length of the walls, not just to the left of the windows. Also, I have been taping off the top edge of the top piece of siding if the wall isn't complete to keep water from running behind it during storms.

We had two other leaks. One around the new chimney, which should be an easy fix, and one that concerns me more in the kitchen ceiling.

This water somehow came in from the screened porch off of the master bedroom. The source is going to be much harder to track down.

All in all, the actual damage was minimal dollarwise, maybe $300 in replacement materials. The real disaster would have been if this had happened after the walls were finished and the floors were in. Instead, we've been given a chance to correct the problem before it can do real damage. But how will we know that we've actually fixed the problem, short of waiting for the next tropical storm or hurricane? Certainly we can shoot the hose at the house or, as one friend suggested, get the local fire department to bring their fire hoses out here, but will we ever really be sure that the problem is gone? I'll spend many a sleepless night over this, I'm sure.

Otherwise, life is returning to normal as we can hear generators shut down and a decreasing number of chainsaws down the creek. Yesterday we took the kayaks out and were amazed by the amount of debris scattered around the creek and its banks. We must have hauled the equivilent of a small dock's worth of lumber out.

Neighbors who were here for Isabel say that the tidal surge for this storm was much worse than Isabel. Looking at the photo of the dock above (September 1st)...at its highest point on Friday, the boat was actually floating just a foot below the tops of the tallest pilings.

The port-a-potty wound up coming in very handy! (After we righted it and cleaned it up.) And one note about power-assist toilets...one downside is that you can't manually fill the tank to flush them if you don't have running water. Fortunately, this wasn't our only toilet.

OK...that's all the news that is the news. Now I need to go secure my place in line for a long overdue shower!-- Bill

September 14, 2006

Well, I guess it's time to break radio silence and post an update about what's been going on around here. I've actually started several posts in the last week and half and then trashed each of them when it sounded like I was wallowing in despair. "Wallowing" is not a quality I admire and generally not something I do, but Ernesto definitely left Gay and me in a funk. Especially as we continued to find damage well after the storm had left us behind.

Two chimneys leaked, the "dummy" chimney on the right hand side of the Dutch Colonial and the brand new chimney in the addition. There's a story for each.

The Dutch Colonial chimney leak stained the ceiling in an upstairs bedroom. The water continued on down beside the chimney stack and into the back of three built-in, stacked cabinets in the downstairs bathroom. Everything in the top cabinet got pretty wet. (Towels mostly) Only one thing in the middle cabinet got wet. Really wet. Everything in the bottom cabinet stayed bone dry. Hmmm...maybe I'll make this into a puzzler and see if anybody can guess what the item(s) was in the middle cabinet that got so wet...and why nothing in the bottom cabinet got wet. If you have a guess, post it to the Forum. Hint: The middle cabinet is where we keep medicine and toiletry items.

Regarding the new chimney... I called our roofing company to come out and look at the flashing on both chimneys. While they were inspecting the new one they shouted down to me, "Mr. Chapman, do you know that this chimney's not finished?" Huh? Turns out the mason never finished off the top of the chimney...the flues don't come all the way to the top of the chimney, the holes in the bricks aren't filled, there's no mortar cap. Gee, I wonder why it leaked! Ah, my friend the mason. I called him that night and told him what they had said and he asked me, "Well is there anyway we can confirm that?" What??? Yeah, get your arse up on the roof and look into the chimney yourself. Grrr... he's supposed to be here this week or next. We'll see.

Otherwise, I've been removing the sashes on all of the windows that I built and tightening and caulking everything up. I have identified about four weak links in the construction that I am going back and addressing. It's a slow process. So far, I have finished 6 of the 12. I feel very confident that they will not leak after this. Well, maybe not "very confident." Maybe "nervously confident." After all, when it drizzled this morning I nervously went around checking all the windows.

I also have all of the blueboard back up.

Our plasterer was only here one day last week and hasn't been here at all this week so far because he got pulled off to anothe job. This too is killing our schedule.

Ernesto also caused me to finally pull the ripcord on the siding installation. I am waiting on a price from Eagle Construction (the company that framed our addition) to come finish it up everything on the outside of the house. There was just no way that we could deal with the storm damage AND keep the siding going. It kind of feels like defeat to me because we didn't do as much as I wanted us to. I always intended to get them to come do the gables, but there is still the front and back of the garage that Gay and I could easily do. But something's gotta give or we're never gonna get this place finished. "Uncle." I'm ready for help.

I'm also waiting on pricing from some masons to repair the graveyard wall. Hate to imagine how much that's going to cost!

So for the past couple weeks we've been busy peddling in reverse. We hope to be shifting back into a more gratifying forward gear soon. -- Bill

September 18, 2006

We finally finished the overhaul of all of the new windows today.

In other news... we're waiting.

Waiting for the plasterer to come back to work. So far, he's been here one day this month. This is a killer. His absence would have been a little easier to deal with if he had actually finished even a single room so that we could be working on flooring in that room. Instead, he has jumped around quite a bit upstairs, hitting lots of spaces but finishing none of them. So we're dead in the water. His boss promises that he will be back tomorrow and be here "for the duration."

Waiting for a price to finish up our siding.

Waiting for a price from a mason for the graveyard wall.

Waiting for our mason to show up and finish the chimney.

Waiting for the cedar to be removed from the graveyard so we can see how badly damaged the boxwoods are...or aren't.

I'm not good at waiting.

But while we're waiting...has anybody tried any of those electronic mouse repellers? Do those things work? We've had mice in the house all summer long. And now they're getting ready to harvest the field in front of our house, which will bring a stampede of new mice our way. And then the colder weather... So, the electronic things...do they get rid of mice or just get rid of your money? -- Bill

September 20, 2006

Good news...The Associated Press wrote an article about housebloggers that includes Enon Hall and a lot of our other favorite houseblogs. It's already been picked up by a lot of online news outlets and will probably be picked up by newspapers this weekend.

Bad news...the media outlets get to be creative and write their own headlines for the story. I don't really appreciate CNN's headline that appears right under our photo.

Actually...it kinda makes me laugh. You can read the story by clicking on the image above. If you found our site through this story...welcome!

In other news, the plasterer was back at work yesterday and today and has been making good progress. He expects to be done upstairs by the end of this weekend. Here's a view of the master bath.

In other good news...we have a crew lined up to finish up the outside of the house (siding, eaves, etc.) and they will be starting on Monday! They expect the job to take them about four weeks. It's an additional expense we weren't counting on, but something's gotta give for the sake of sanity and getting the job done. I feel better already.

Our heart pine flooring arrives tomorrow morning at 7:30! Can't wait to see it. -- Bill

September 21, 2006

Bright and early the trucking company showed up with our antique heart pine floors from Carlisle Wide Plank Floors.

These boards are reclaimed from the timbers of old factories and textile mills and milled into tongue and groove floorboards. They have a tight grain, a really nice patina, and tell-tale signs of their former lives like old nail holes. To match the flooring in the old part of the house, Shanon at Carlisle put together a mix of premium and select grade boards in widths from 5 to 8 inches. We're still a little ways away from installing this flooring, but it's nice to finally get to see it. Really pretty stuff.

A while back there was a lot of passionate discussion in the Forum about how we might (or might not) finish these boards. At this point, we're leaning toward a natural Danish Oil finish. We've done some tests and like the very natural result.

The plasterer is still bookin' along this week.

Here he's putting the finishing touches on the fireplace in the master bedroom. Without the colonial mantel in place it almost has a Southwestern feel right now, but we love the look of the parged firebox. Once it gets nice and sooted up it'll be perfect.

Mark Dameron also came today and removed the fallen cedar from the graveyard.

One of the giant old boxwoods really took a beating under the downed cedar, but was by no means "done in." And luckily none of the headstones suffered any damage. One footmarker was pounded into the ground by the falling wall and tree, but can be easily fixed. It sure looks different without that big ole cedar. -- Bill

September 25, 2006

Plaster is finished in the law office (William's bedroom)! The plaster should be cured enough to be ready to paint this weekend. The firebox in this room will be rehabbed at a later date.

In other exciting news, Gay and I started putting down the pine flooring the master bath.

This is not the heart pine, just new 3/4" tongue & groove boards. We are using this everywhere where we are painting the floor. (William's bathroom, the master bath, and the kitchen.)

As in William's bathroom, I'm face nailing the boards. But I ran out of cut nails and won't get more until Friday, so our progress will be slowed. I think we're going to go ahead and get everything cut and laid out and then I'll nail it down once the nails arrive. (I could have sworn that I had another whole box of those nails around here...)

Since the beginning we have planned to put wall-to-wall carpet in the master bedroom. Not because we really want that, but because we couldn't afford to continue the heart pine in there. Last week I got the bright idea that if we have to put down carpet that maybe a pattern would have an older feel than just a solid. We got excited about the idea when we found some cool patterns online that had an early 19th century feel.

Not necessarily these colors, but this kind of idea.

So, on Saturday we went to the local flooring store and found that they had a single rack of patterns. We found one that we really liked and asked for the price...$110 a square yard!! Holy cow! The cheapest end of the line was $40 a square yard. Unless we can find a cool remnant somewhere, I don't think we'll be having a pattern carpet.

But we do like this sculpted carpet from Mohawk. It might be a good compromise for us. And it's much more in our price range!!

Today was supposed to be the first day of work for our siding crew, but they never showed up or called. Not a great way to start. I was really looking forward to there being progress both inside and out today. -- Bill

September 27, 2006

The siding crew got started yesterday. They spent yesterday and today working on the front eave.

The list of rooms completed by the plasterer is growing quickly. The only room not finished upstairs is William's bathroom. Downstairs, the family room and kitchen are done!

Yesterday we finished cutting the floorboards for the master bath and then pulled them up and stick stacked them until the cut nails arrive on Friday. We also stick stacked the floorboards for the kitchen, which we hope to install on Sunday.

With the plasterer moving along and the outside of the house off of my plate, things are happening fast now. We called the company that's been storing our kitchen cabinets and told them that we can take delivery in two weeks. We ordered our clawfoot tub. We're double checking to make sure we have all of our light fixtures, smoke detectors, etc. Things have been crawling for so long and now it feels like we're in hyper speed. It's hard to believe where we are now, considering how the month started. There's still a lot to do, but it's the really fun stuff!

A view of the new kitchen plaster.

The mason still hasn't shown up to finish our chimney. Somebody told me today that it used to be very common for masons in this area to secretly put a piece of glass in the chimney several courses below the top. When the customer paid the final bill, the mason would climb up and break the glass so that the chimney would vent. If the customer failed to pay the final bill, they wound up with a house full of smoke the first time they tried to use their new fireplace. Kinda funny. -- Bill

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© 1999- William H. Chapman