All’s Well That Ends… Well or Otherwise

So, this week was (hopefully) the last scary high pressure deadline I’m to see for a while. The combustion test was scheduled for Monday morning, and the plumber was to have the radiators hooked up the week before. Yes? No. He showed up last Sunday to do the work, and somehow the key I’ve left for contractors was no longer in its usual spot. (No worries, I’m going to change the locks after the bulk of the work is done.) And for some reason he couldn’t get through to me or my dad, so he left. And then he said he’d take care of it Monday morning. When else?

Well, Monday morning came and the plumber sent someone else who has done work for him (and screwed up a number of other things). But it was a simple job, so I wasn’t too worried. Make sure the nuts connecting the radiators to the pipes are tight, fill the system up with water, and turn the boiler on. My dad came down; I was at work. No big deal. But this guy outdid himself. He skipped over the first part of that job right to filling the system. And I had water in every. Room. In. The. House. On the day the test was to happen. My dad ran around with towels and a Shop Vac. Miraculously, the room that had the most water slopes in the right direction. The water dripped harmlessly through the middle of the floor into the living room and the cellulose insulation stayed dry. To anyone who said I should have leveled all my floors, take that! Crookedness FTW!

Well long story short, everyone freaked out a lot (including me, while at work) but it all came together. And the woman who was to test the boiler called me before she came, so she rearranged her tasks for the day and came to my house in the afternoon again. She tested the boiler, and it failed. When I bought the house, the carbon monoxide content of the fumes was a horrifying 3000 parts per million, and they were venting to the interior of the house. With the chimney repaired I assumed that it would combust better. And it did, the CO was down to 2000 parts per million. As she was packing up, my dad said, “Hey why don’t we try cleaning it?”

And so, he opened up the boiler and dumped out the burner tubes. A quart of soot and charred dirt fell onto the floor. The tester unpacked what she had packed, tested it again, and the new carbon monoxide content is down to 3 parts per million. Success! And a whole day left to close out the loan. But I didn’t hear from them with a revised contract, so it looks like I have to reapply for the loan anyway. I deleted some heating work from the contract because I originally thought I’d have the radiators working in December and now heating season is over, and they allowed me to do some drywall work myself instead of paying them to do it. But extra expenses on the chimney and changes to the windows (to make them prettier) probably make it a wash. But windows are tax deductible and drywall work is not, so I must have that contract.

So what now? Part of why I’m held up with the finish work is that a lot of what needs to happen next requires planning, and I just couldn’t think ahead. So aside from a bit of insulation work in the front bedroom, which we sort of abandoned a month ago, here’s what I’m planning out now:

  • All interior woodwork. I made a spreadsheet with rough window and door dimensions and wall lengths and specified what type of trim I wanted in various parts of the house. This meant (ack!) doing math.
    Woodwork Order Form
    Recall that my first floor was extensively renovated in the 30’s and didn’t match the upstairs. Even though I’m replacing everything, I am putting the mismatch back in. Upstairs, I’ll be using the TL-600 Victorian casing (left), while downstairs gets the TL-674 Craftsman casing combination (right).
  • I’m ordering this trim from Tague Lumber, a pretty big local lumber company that has an excellent selection of specialty woodwork. And they’re delivering the trim to my house for free! Since it all comes in 16 foot lengths, this is kind of a big help. It also means that I want to try to get everything all at once. Which brings me to my stair nosings. The cove molding underneath is long gone, but on the ends of the stairs the rounded part and the cove part are one piece. I’m planning on taking one of these into the molding showroom (yes, not a lumberyard, a showroom) to make sure what I get to go with it is the right size and species. Red oak I’m pretty sure. Also, have a look at what a great job the previous owner’s painters did.
    Definitely Wall of Shame worthy. I think I’ll save these and strip them chemically. Maybe they’ll call come down and then go back up later, or maybe the ones that are secure can stay up. We’ll see. They’re in decent shape, and I learned from stripping the doors that varnish is easy to get off. Thinking ahead, I can eventually decide if I want to sand out and refinish the stair risers, or if I should call them beyond help and paint them. I like the way they look either way. As it is, they have polyurethane dribbled on them and dozens of carpet tacks and strands of old wall to wall carpeting. And they have pin holes all over them from dozens more carpet tacks that were taken out. Fun.
  • Then there’s the siding on the back of the house. It originally had German or Dutch lap siding, but I like typical square siding better. And I’m using HardiPlank instead of wood for price, maintenance, and fire retardance. This looks crisp and solid like wood, but it’s 90% cement and sand, and it doesn’t peel like real wood. I think narrow 4 inch boards would look best, but because it’s up high and hard to see, I’m going with wider ones. Fewer cuts that way, and the leftovers are a width that is appropriate for my parents’ house. I’m trying to talk them someday losing the vinyl and insulating their house from it. the exterior while they’re at it. I’ve been told it will take only a couple of days for the order to arrive, so hopefully we get this going next weekend.
  • Then there’s tiling the bathtub walls. You might remember that blue tile I got on Craigslist. Well, I was scammed! The seller wrote 20 square feet per box, but I opened them up and found half that! Also, they retail for half as much as he said, so I didn’t really save any money, but I did get almost enough tile to do the job. I pulled out some tiles, measured them, and lined them up around the tub and found that I have about enough to tile up to my eyeballs. Clearly not adequate. So, I’m going to cut my losses and buy another 30 square feet to tile all the way to the ceiling as originally planned. I thought I had 100 square feet, but now that I’ll only have 80, the baseboards outside the tub area are going to be wood. I’m going to try to get my order combined with another one to save on shipping charges, so it might be a while before I can move forward with this. Since my tiles are several years old I’ll need to fully mix the old and new tiles together. You’ve probably seen them before, but here’s a reminder.
  • Then there’s the radiators. I am keeping 7 of them, down from 9 when I bought the house, and I had the bedrooms zoned with their own thermostats in case there would be balancing problems with them. Of these 7, 4 were covered and have old, almost certainly leaded paint on them. The other 3 have horrible looking flat latex wall paint gobbed on thick, apparently right over big globs of joint compound.
    P1040282That’s definitely a shot for the Hall of Shame. I’m almost out of things to add to it, so sad! An important chapter in my life (or at least on my blog) is coming to a close. Back to the radiators, I thought about having all of the them sandblasted and powdercoated, but I’ve read mixed things about powdercoating radiators and other cast iron things. Instead, I’m going to have the 3 that have crappy paint sandblasted but not powdercoated, and simply paint over the others. It’ll be safer to let someone else do this in a shop that has proper lead containment structures. Right now, I’m thinking of using a Rustoleum industrial grade paint for food processing facilities. It’s a very durable, rust resistant, scrubbable, heat tolerant, and mold and mildew resistant white oil based enamel that is rated for food contact. I’m hoping that this means I get something durable yet not overly toxic. And it’s sold by the gallon, so it’ll be cheaper than spray paint. The original plan, if you recall, was to paint all my trim including the radiators with the same satin white paint, with a sprayer, all at once. Now I’m doing the radiators, the painted trim, and the stained doors in 3 different finishes. And on top of that, I’ll be spraying the exposed brick with a sealer.
  • And this week I’m getting estimates for the patio door! Scary and expensive, but it’ll look so good. I can’t wait. And… the plumber is coming back this week! Get excited, you know I am!

2 thoughts on “All’s Well That Ends… Well or Otherwise

  1. CindyH

    Wow – I fell behind on keeping up with this blog and now I am very tired 😉
    Bad contractors, internet rip-offs and more for the wall of shame – you’ve been busy and not in a good way.
    Keep on keepin’ on – it still is progress even if so slow for you.


  2. Mary Elizabeth

    Chad, the woman who did the boiler test is a real gem! I’ve met very few people in the inspection business who give so much of themselves to be sure the test is fair. Sorry you had all this stress. Also sorry you got messed up with the tile deal. All will be well in the end, but shame on the guy who sold you the tile. Keep your spirits up, and we’ll look for more progress over the summer.



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