Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Weak in review

OK, real quick:

Last week was not your bang-up dramatic get a lot done kind of week, but we did accomplish some stuff. We finished drywalling outside the bathroom (though there's still another round of mudding and sanding to be done there), put foil tape around the edge of the big new window for weatherproofing, did some little things to touch up the bathroom and edge it closer to being finished, and solved three unexpected problems:

1. No fridge. Our new one arrived on Wednesday. It came with ice cube trays. It keeps our food cold.

2. No phone. The line went dead last Sunday. John spent a whole evening cleaning little contacts and poking around and got it up and running again. [incoming message: hey, John here... What a mess the phone line was. Indeed I did clean up all the contacts at the phone jack itself, but then, as replacing the jack entirely didn't solve the problem, spent the next night tracking down the malfunction. As it turned out, there was like 60 feet of abandoned cable on that line. I removed it all from the screw/grommet connectors outside at the box and cleaned the connections up nicely. Voila, a clear dial tone! John, out.]

3. No overhead light in the living room. This too was fixed by JG. In so doing he discovered that part of our wiring system was even more outdated than we'd thought, about which more later.

None of this stuff, of course, is on our work writeup from the bank, but we are homeowners, there is no landlord to call, and one simply must have a fridge, a phone and a living room light.

This all led into the arrival on Friday of Rebekah and Chris, John's sister and her husband, fresh off the Blue Ridge Parkway and itching to end their summer vacation with a little hard labor. We hung out on Friday, went to the farmer's market Saturday morning, and then got down to business.

The women's team tackled the shingles. (I like that sentence.) After John took off the rest of the asbestos shingles around our new attic window, Bek and I started measuring and thinking about how these new ones would fit. I'd bought the bundle of cedar shingles the day before and they made the attic very aromatic as we worked. This involved thinking about how we'll trim the window, reading installation instructions meant for Spanish-speaking contractors, keeping Toes from sneaking up into the attic, and other rocket science that I won't bore you with here.

Long story short: we got everything laid out and numbered, figured out the best tool for trimming the shingles (jigsaw), and decided the dormer had dried sufficiently from that morning's anti-asbestos soaking to be able to put the vapor barrier on. This we did. And it was good. And then we had a very late dinner and went to sleep.

Next day Bek and I trimmed those suckers up, cut notches in the ones that would fit around the rafters, installed dummy shingles behind the bottom row to hide the foil tape, and nailed everything up. Hey, there it is! Eventually we'll paint it to match the rest of the siding and it will be a spot of texture on the front of the dormer.

Bek is not only really good at thinking about how to put things together, she's easy to work with and fun and cool. I'll think of her every time I look at that dormer! Chris did an awesome job too and I'll let John tell you all about that.

She and I also moved a huge pile of dirt and started a compost pile.

- Erika

Okay, this is John, "telling you about that."

What can I say? Chris and I managed to upgrade the electrical system in the front of the house (living room, porch, and bedroom). Chris worked his ass off. Seriously. There's no stopping him. We used some heavy telephone wire (a casing with a dozen or more wires in it) to fish wires in and out of the walls. He perfected a method for securing the phone wire to the existing black Romex wire by tying and taping. We'd loosen the existing wire in a wall cavity, then give it a good pull until the phone wire came out with it on the other end. Then the new wire was tied to the phone wire and pulled back through the wall to the fixture or outlet or switch. We separated the circuit into two separate ones, living room and bedroom, and for every outlet we upgraded we replaced it with a double (two outlets become four). Feels great to see 3 prong outlets throughout the house now (except for the studio/office space that currently functions as a tool room, but we'll get that later).

My favorite circuit that we discovered is the one with no beginning and with no end. It's just a loop. How odd.

I just want to toss my words of thanks here to Bek and Chris. Really, we could not have had such a successful weekend without them. Thanks guys, we love you!

- John

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