Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Autumn's Arrival

It is with both love and fear that I welcome the return of our old friend... Autumn. The Autumn season just happens to be my favorite time of year, and for good reason - Autumn brings with it both mine and Tony's birthdays, the anniversary of our engagement, and as of next September, our wedding anniversary! Growing up in New Jersey, there was nothing more exciting than driving out to the farms of Colts Neck to go pumpkin picking, complete with a roadside stop to buy hot apple cider and cider donuts, while taking in the rows of trees bursting to life with shades of red, yellow, and orange.

As an adult I still get giddy at the first sight of a chilly evening, breaking out my best sweaters to run to the nearest bar for a hot toddy. Before you know it, I have apple sauce cooking on the stove and something pumpkin-related is in the oven. So believe me, I really do love Autumn. I could wax poetic about it for hours. But the fact of the matter is we own a creaky, old farmhouse now, and it could benefit from two years of endless summer which would allow us to just work - work - work. Now, when Autumn comes around, all I can hear is the overwhelming tick tock of a quickly disappearing timeframe in which to get anything done. Autumn is the last leg in our race against the Vermont winter, and we are sprinting the entire way to the finish line.

Early falling leaves of late August - both foe and friend!

With winter just around the corner, we have a few MAJOR tasks we need to pull off in the next six weeks or so. If we fail at this mission, we are looking at our THIRD winter without heat. This simply cannot, cannot happen... I will most likely pull my hair out and run screaming from the house if it comes to that point. Thankfully, family and friends have offered to come help us crank through this work as we make a mad dash for a successful fall finish! Here's where we're at with our five major to-do's...


When I last updated this blog in July, we were days away from getting our electric lift so I could hopefully speed through sanding and painting the house peaks. Well, we did get the lift, and I must admit... I have never loved a piece of mechanized equipment so much in my life. It is a 34' electric Genie lift, and it is indeed magical.

A painted peak, complete with accents!

In a classic case of "Murphy's law for restoration", we received a call from the rental company saying the lift had broken and wouldn't be available for the first few days of our week-long rental. So, instead of having the lift for a straight Saturday to the following Sunday, we had to split it up between two 4 and 3 day rentals. This hiccup in scheduling certainly slowed down my work flow some over the dwindling summer months, but all in all we seem to find ourselves in a pretty good position for mid-September!

We now have the south side of the house completely done (minus the bay window), and the front of the house is finished from the second floor up. Sadly, the first floor in the front still needs to be redone (sanding, priming and all) as it was the first wall we painted and ended up not being done properly. It's a sad price to pay for not understanding the depth of the painting work ahead of us when we first began, but I'd rather do this house the right way now so I don't even have to look at a gallon of exterior paint for years to come. Ergo, time to sand my seemingly finished paint job and start from scratch :/ Restoration is not for the faint of heart, people...

All that's left to do is one pretty bay window!

The painting work that needs to be redone in the front of the house shouldn't take more than two days, and I'm hoping to accomplish it in one of my now common mid-week trips up to the house, during which I attempt to squeeze in a solid day or two of work. I've also begun work on the north side of the house (facing the orchard), and managed to prime that peak and get one coat of trim color on the roofline and attic/second floor windows. This coming weekend we'll be renting the lift once again, so I'm hoping to get the north peak and as much roofline painting done on that side as possible. There's still a bit to go on the second half of this side, so the whole shebang definitely won't get finished in two days, but I intend on powering through as much as possible!

First half of the north side... coming along!

Our goal for the winter: have three sides of the house completely painted. I am very sure that this CAN be done! I just need more time. And an electric lift. And endless daylight. And a weekend without rain. That's not too much to ask for, right?!

Meanwhile, there happens to be a minor downfall to getting the exterior looking better. A beautiful house only highlights how rough looking our next big to-do item is...


Oh these darn windows. The better the house looks, the worse our chipping, dirty windows appear. But do these windows want to be fixed up with nice, new paint and a cozy layer of glazing to prevent the cold winter air from leaking in? Apparently, no. Flashback to repairing the bay window earlier this week: after fighting for THREE HOURS with stripped screws and trim so warped by the sun it has bowed up around the screws, I finally managed to get 3 measly sets of windows out from the bay window. The amount of time lost on that simple task was mind numbing. By the time I had passed the windows on to Momma Merkel for her signature caulking removal, I found myself wondering why on earth I fought the battle to keep these lovely, wavy old window panes in this house.

The answer is, of course, because they are original and beautiful, but the 5 + hours it takes to sand, scrape out the old caulking, reglaze, prime and finally paint a single window starts to wear on your soul a little once you really start to think about it. Therefore, it's best not to think about it!

One window dolled up in Lincoln Cottage Black - in place!

Our goal for the winter: get all of the first story windows totally refinished so we can run heat on the first floor without losing too much heat. We've also managed to glaze quite a few windows on the second floor, but as I sadly found out last month, any windows that were glazed and then not painted soon after are already starting to dry and crack. We will somehow have to find the time to sand and paint those beauties as well. If only Tony and I could evolve beyond sleep we might actually stand a chance of accomplishing these gargantuan tasks before November!

Bay windows are getting the star treatment

All of this talk about 'heat loss' brings us to our next and biggest checklist item(s)...

Plumbing and Heating!

It's crazy to think that our plumbing was actually run one year ago, but without a working bathroom we had no way to test the lines. That brings us to the most transformed room in the house... the downstairs bath! Thanks to Tony, now a master tile setter as well as master everything else, we are the proud owners of one Victorian-inspired bathroom.

Looking good as far as the eye can see!

Here's a sneak peek at the downstairs bath, complete with a floor-to-ceiling subway tile shower and Victorian hexagon tile floor. With the grouting just finished on the room last week, we can proudly say that the bathroom is "done"! At least for now, anyway. This coming weekend Tony hopes to update our antique marble vanity with our new sink and faucet fixtures, and once that is in place our plumbing team can return and officially hook all of the fixtures up.

Finalizing the flower design

Unfortunately (because there's always a catch!) we have determined that a few more big projects need to get done before the plumbing can be tested. Mainly, we need to install a new septic tank (boo!) and a new line from the basement out to the septic. This old septic has a lot going against it: 1) it is made of metal and has rusted straight through in the ground - you can literally break pieces off with your hand, and 2) its capacity is for a single bathroom, not three bathrooms and a laundry to boot. She simply has to go.

One useless septic line...

Our septic team also thinks there is a possibility our leech field will need to be reconfigured, but the added cost of that work is a doozy. They believe it is best to test the leech field when all bathrooms are up and running to see if it can handle the flow of water, and we are more than happy to wait it out and save our pennies until then.

And of course, it must also be mentioned that you need heaters to run a heating system! We've lugged up all of the first floor radiators to VT and intend on priming and painting them this week with our handy dandy spray gun. Father Merkel, master restorer of cars, has volunteered for the task. We have the utmost faith in his abilities.

And if that wasn't enough on our plate, the final tasks on our agenda involve...

The Basement

Specifically, shoring up the basement for the winter so there are no major cracks or leaks to the outside. And boy are there still plenty! There are three major things to accomplish down there:

  1. Install our new basement ventilation fan with built-in dehumidistat in the back window frame to try and control our humidity problem.
  2. Install a door to block off the basement cellar doors from the rest of the basement.
  3. Replace a rotten sill that was attached to the old side porch and close up that hole to the outside.
Tony has already done a fabulous job of installing two new basement windows, so things are functioning a little better already!

Snug as a bug!

Oh, and somewhere in that to-do list we must throw in finishing up with our insulation upstairs. So... yeah.... we can get all of this done before winter! It might be an intimidating amount of work, but there's nothing like a giant to-do list and a short timeframe to light a fire under your butt. And if we don't accomplish these tasks, we will need an actual fire under our butts to keep warm during winter #3. 

Will we make it to the finish line?? Only one way to find out - stay tuned! And maybe send positive thoughts our way in your downtime ;)

As always, please check out our slideshows from the summer to see our big summer push to paint and tile the bathroomTony's time-consuming tiling while I blast through peak painting, and the bathroom wrap-up.

Thank you for reading and for all of your supportive comments! Until next time...

We bid a fond farewell to the joys of summer...

... and throw welcoming arms around the fall season!

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