The North Side - A Summer-Long Project

September 7, 2015

The north side of 173 had really begun to show its age - heck, begun?  Back in 2013 I was bemoaning the north side of 173!  Wood was getting punky in places, the stoop was so worn out that when I ran my hand across it by accident, I ended up with lacerations!  And the foundation surface had really gotten bad, there was mildew and moss, and the concrete was crumbling.  As the summer began I figured I needed to get out there and get started.  The first thing was the window that is actually at the landing of the stairwell.  Time and weather had pretty much done it in, the sill was worn, the window putty had long since crumbled, and the window frame was almost to a really bad point:

So out came the ladder and the stabilizer. Come to think of it, I may do a product review on that wonderful item!

Some windows at 173 would just look plain ol' stupid if there were shutters on it.  These windows will instead have the framing painted black.  After stripping, glazing, priming and painting here's how the window turned out:

The upstairs windows will eventually get shutters.  After standing back and admiring my handiwork, I really started noticing all the wood and concrete issues.  

A:  A portion of the door frame had rotted out.
B:  I dug a shallow trench and some of  the concrete was crumbling in large sections.
C:  Some of the crumbling constituted large, deep holes.
D.  That horrible stoop!
Starting with the door-frame, after removing the rotted wood, I spliced in some pressure-treated pieces, including a gap behind the sill.

Once all that was done, I covered it with a piece of thin vinyl board. As it turned out, both sides of the door needed pretty much the same treatment.

Then it was time for the foundation concrete.  It's funny how over time one just doesn't notice how bad things can get.  Some of the holes along the length of the wall were as much as 5" deep!  In those holes I used some wire to give something to hold the concrete together.  Outside of that, I cleaned the walls really good, then applied some Quickcrete Bonding Adhesive and then just got going on applying new cement.

Of course, all that work and digging really tore up the ground, so I started fixing that as I went along.  Here's a shot of the resurfaced foundation, and the beginning of fixing the ground around the foundation:

Time for the stoop.  That stoop.  Perfect name for it - stoop.  It took quite a bit of figuring to finally decide on the approach to fixing it.  I considered resurfacing it, but after lots of internet searching, decided against that.  I also thought about taking it out altogether and building a (very) small deck-type stoop.  

In the end I decided to build over it.  I'm not sure how it's going to work out in the long run, but I thought it was worth a try.  I used pressure-treated lumber and TapCon screws and built right over the concrete.

And here it is:

Then it was just a matter of staining the stoop, finishing concrete, fixing the ground and fixing the shade garden. We put garden stone (the white ones) along the area where the rain comes off the roof and hits the ground.

Here you can see the shade garden in the background. It's mostly a variety of hostas and ferns. By next summer it'll grow in full! Here's a shot a little closer:

And finally, a long shot of the whole side:

So you can see, the upstairs windows need shutters, and at some point I'm going to replace the kitchen windows, but for now, the north side of 173 is done!  Just for fun, here are some bonus pictures:

The concrete just kept coming off!
You can see the mess I made in the shade garden
Shade garden rehab'ed

173 In Bloom 2015

August 24, 2015

This has been a relatively productive summer, and there will be some additional posts to reflect that.  But sometimes it's just good to sit back and enjoy what you have.  One instance of that is the plethora of flowers, bushes and trees that bloom on 173's one-tenth of an acre.  Yup - postage stamp!  Not to brag but, the yard gets alot of compliments.  People come from across the neighborhood to see it sometimes.  One lady wanted to include it in a paper she was writing for a college class, and one time there was a group of teenage girls (whom we had never seen before) using the yard as a backdrop for a photo-shoot!  Of course that was not always the case.  When we first arrived lo those many years ago, there was some spirea, a rose bush, and some other flowering bush.  I think that was pretty much it.  Here's a bit of a representative pic:

Awww, there's the old Bruegger-Meister!
So here's some pics from around the yard.  First let me say that not one single sunflower was planted this year.  However, we have sunflowers everywhere, at least three varieties - all volunteers!

 And here's the front fence.  173 is a corner lot, so the fence was put in to keep people from beating a path across the front yard.  As it turns out - a very happy circumstance!

The honeysuckle was a very early addition to the yard. I always wanted honeysuckle, for some reason it hearkens back to my childhood, but I don't think we had any.  Maybe from some childhood book - Huck Finn, Tom Sawyer, the Hardy Boys?

And Bee Balm - which coupled with the honeysuckle always draws the hummingbirds!

No idea what this one is called, but it sure looks nice!

Then there's this ornamental grass, maybe a Russian Giant? 

A friend at work gave me a cutting from her Rose of Sharon a few years ago, beautiful addition!

Oh, and speaking of volunteers - see that pumpkin?

 One of my favorite spots.  Started out with just the lilac, but has grown into a great little retreat: 

From early spring.  If you haven't figured out by now, this post is neither in chronological nor any kind of logical order!

And one of my absolute favorites - the poppies!

Another one that I have no idea of its name, but another of those little surprises one finds when poking around the yard.

It's late summer so the vegetable garden is fading, but the flowers aren't!

Along the back fence grows wild grapes...another volunteer!

And what can beat fresh-from-the-garden tomatoes?

Remember that picture a few shots up where I talked about one of my favorite spots?  Here's the other side of it.  The anchor plantings are the lilac and a Canadian hemlock (which I gotta prune soon before it gets outta hand!)

And finally, here's one of those great treasures; walking in the driveway and seeing this little beauty peeking out!

This was by no means a comprehensive log of all the stuff at 173, but hopefully it gives a nice sense of what goes on here!  I know I sure love it!

The "Seasons-Go-Too-Fast-Partial-Almost Complete-But Gotta Wait 'Til Next Winter To Finish It" Dining Room Reveal

July 8, 2015

The written language is amazing.  With it we can communicate thoughts, plans, fears, joy, love, pain, almost anything.  We can communicate the angst Roquentin , the kindness of Dorcas, and the mind of Hawking.  Through the centuries it had liberated the slave, incited wars, inspired poetry, and united peoples.  Alas, there are some things that the written language cannot do.  Primarily, it cannot convey to you the mix of joy and mirth with with which I write this post.  I had dreams baby!  Not dreams of fame and fortune, I had not deluded myself into dreaming of such unattainables as being an astronaut, playing for the Yankees, or even overthrowing every government to be king of the world (no - get that DiCaprio image out of your head).  No, my dreams, for this post anyway, was to have the dining room DONE!  I mean, fat lady singing, fork sticking out D-O-N-E!  Instead it's just ... done.  It all started in the winter with waking up one morning and deciding 173 needed a dining room table...
It was a Craigslist find...Hey wait - I think I might even have a screenshot:
Not exactly "Like New" but I loved the bones. After it was all painted up, it turned out pretty nice but it didn't come with chairs.  Luckily we already had one-too-many chairs in the study, so this little beauty was re-assigned:
Of course 173 needed more than one. Off to the Habitat for Humanity ReStore, and I think $20 later...
You're right!  It doesn't match in color or style, but believe-it-or-not, the style mismatch was part of the master plan (as if there's really a master plan)!  You see, I wanted a dining room, but I didn't want a brand new, perfect condition, perfectly uniformly matching dining room.  Actually, that's part of the reason I painted all this stuff.  And, the mismatched chairs were inspired by (sing in your head, "y'all ready for this?") a little known TV show called Friends - check out their kitchen:
I loved the idea of different styles of chairs, but quite frankly I didn't have the (mom will be reading this so I'll go with...) "nerve" to paint them different colors.  After all, life does need a bit of uniformity!  Here's how they all turned out...
One of the things I always felt 173 needed was a good old-fashioned hutch.  When I was at the ReStore I saw this incredible hutch.  It was a significant piece, a little old-school, and had some interesting architecture.  But when I first saw it they wanted something like $300 for the thing.  Just seemed a little much for a second-hand hutch, so I walked away.  A couple weeks later I went back for something else and found that the hutch was still there.  I thought that was crazy because of its sheer beauty, but I guess maybe it's that whole "eye of the beholder" thing.  Or maybe it was just meant to be!  Anyway, there it was - and for something like $85!  
You know how it is when you find something new and you want to learn a little about it?  Check out what I learned!
Right??  I was cracking up!!  Either this guy was gouging some poor sap or I got a hell of a deal!  Well, now it was time to get to work on it!  And this thing was a beast!  I really don't know how many man-hours it took to finish the hutch, but I'd say easily 20 hours.  Sanding, priming, painting, antiquing...easily 20!  I used the same products and methods as when I did the table, you can see all that here.  I'll show the whole thing a little later in this post, but here's a closeup of some of the detail work:  

I also rewired the hutch lighting, found new shelf plugs, and had to replace the glass shelves.  I think the shelves cost more than the hutch and the chair combined!
Then there was the secretary.  An old friend, whose name I sadly can't recall, gave this piece to me many years ago.  It was kinda beat up, but I never really had a good idea what to do with it. 
I loved the style, but it really was in rough shape.  After the table and hutch were painted Polar Star by Valspar, and the chairs were painted Benjamin Moore Kendall Charcoal, I figured the dining room was going to need just a little pop of color.  So a few years ago I was at a little shop in Bethany Beach and saw this piece:
I have no idea why, but I absolutely loved that color and waited those few years, regularly spying this picture in my "House Ideas" folder on my phone, and waiting for the day I'd find a use for the color.  That day finally came!  Using Sherwin Williams Ardent Coral, and antiquing glaze, the secretary came out as a great little pop of color!
It really is a great color, but it's virtually impossible to capture on camera.  It either comes out bright pink or orange.  Here's a shot that's pretty close to showing the actual color:
Thinking (or wishing) it's over aren't you!?  Well, not yet because then there was this.  My place of employ a number of years ago was going to discard this typing table:
For maybe eight years I had the perfect use for this thing - it was the stand in my workshop for the drill press!  It was perfect!  Well, because there was no space in the dining room for a buffet, and after seeing what they did over at the Red Hen Home blog, the old wheels got turning.  After sanding, priming, three coats of paint, adding a bottom shelf, and creating my own stencil:
Another shot, and while you're at it take a look at the hutch!
Now, before we go any further, just a quick reminder of what the dining room was looking like when the table was bought off Craigslist:
And here's the same view, or close to it:
And here's the other end of the room.  Notice the secretary, still kinda pink-looking on camera but really adds that little pop!
And if you noticed, there's a rug!  And here's a picture with the rug, table, a chair and the hutch:
So waaay back at the beginning of this post I waxed philosophic about the inadequacies of the written language.  I've tried to express my joy in the transformation of the dining room.  But it's difficult to express the mirth part.  Like I said - I wanted it DONE!  But with summer here there's just too much outdoor stuff to do so the rest will have to wait 'til winter (which here in NY comes mighty soon!).  Come winter, there'll be a fresh coat of paint on the walls, I'd like to build a radiator cover, get new curtains, and maybe even new book shelves!  Until then...time to get outside!

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