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Archive for August, 2009

Friday was an exciting day at Casa Dos Gatos. Steve Rowe, Maine’s Democratic candidate for Governor, filmed a campaign spot at our house! Our builder, Ben, is a green builder, and I guess Steve Rowe wanted to showcase his commitment to the potential of a new green economy here in Maine. (I don’t want to speak for him though;I’m really not sure how the footage will be used or what his platform is.)

Here are Ben and Steve Rowe milling about before the cameras rolled:

Ben and Steve Rowe confer before filming begins.

Ben and Steve Rowe confer before filming begins.

Ben filmed a testimonial of sorts for the potential future Gov:

Ben puts in a good word for Steve Rowe.

Ben puts in a good word for Steve Rowe.

Then there was a staged conversation between Steve and Ben’s crew.

Steve and the crew

Steve and the crew

The crew attracted quite a bit of attention from the neighborhood, including from our mailman, who stood around watching the goings on for a few minutes before continuing on his route. When Nick caught up to him to get our mail (since it couldn’t be delivered while the crew filmed in front of our mailbox), the mailman was perturbed: even though Steve had bothered to walk up and shake his hand, the potential governor didn’t recognize the guy, who later told us he’d been delivering Rowe’s mail for 10 years!

I thought Steve was a nice guy–he seemed pretty genuine and interested in how Nick and I ended up in Maine, what we did for work, and where we’d come from. He was inquisitive with the crew, too, to his own detriment, apparently: While he was being filmed talking to them, the director kept telling him to look back and forth between the two workers, I guess for the sake of a better visual. But he was asking them real questions and I could tell he didn’t want to look away while listening to their answers, so he just kept looking at the one who was speaking, even while the director yelled, “More movement! Look back and forth! Shake your head!”

I guess the guys were answering in long sentences, because he never did move his head that much. Maybe they were giving him a rundown on how much work our house needs.

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We’re pretty sure we have to paint our walls white in order to coax in the sun and lighten up our house, but I’m afraid of what three pets and a toddler would do to all that white–it might end up looking kind of dingy.

I found inspiration today on Apartment Therapy. Bright pops of color against a plain white background give these rooms a sophisticated cheeriness that could aid all of our moods when winter descends for its six long months. And maybe distract from all the cat and dog hair. And continuing renovation dust.

Photo from ApartmentTherapy.com

Photo from ApartmentTherapy.com

Laura_Resen_colorful_living_room_square72

Look! Exposed ceiling beams, just like our living room. (Photo from ApartmentTherapy.com)

See more cheerful interiors here: Apartment Therapy DC | Perfectly Imperfect: Bold Bohemian Color Meets the White Box.

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In reading Nick’s Day 60 post, it struck me that this isn’t really the 60th day of our renovation, but really just the second week. But that’s okay. As Nick said, seeing that toxic purple glue on the PVC pipe was like a glimmer of hope.

But about that PVC pipe. PVC is an extremely toxic substance, both to manufacture and to just, well, be around. (That “plasticky” smell of vinyl shower curtains–that’s the smell of PVC, plastic that’s softened up with phthalates, a chemical suspected of disrupting the endocrine system, which can lead to health problems, especially in children.) The only alternative I know of is copper tubing. It’s a lot more expensive, but I think it would be a lot healthier.

This article on Builders Websource gives a great overview of copper pipes vs. PVC tubing. The basic summary is that copper pipes won’t harbor bacteria, they don’t contain any chemicals (and lead is no longer part of the copper alloy), and they are a time-tested choice. Drawbacks are they can be noisier than plastic when water rushes through at high velocities, they don’t do well with acidic water, and they aren’t insulated, leading to thermal loss.

PVC, like most plastic things, is easier to work with, lightweight, durable, and cheaper. The major drawback, as I said before, is that it’s just not that good for human health or the environment due to how it’s manufactured.

My green dream would be to have copper pipes running throughout the house. I suspect the reality will be a microcosm of our times: cheaper, faster, easier, plastic.

UPDATE: According to BuildingGreen, in some ways copper isn’t any more environmentally friendly than PVC, due to the intensive nature of its extraction from the earth and accompanying manufacturing practices. Let’s hope our new pipes our polypropylene. I’ll let you know what the plumber lays down…

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We got a call while we were on vacation from our neighbor, who owns the rental building next door. Apparently, the Porta Potty the carpenter has been using was placed on the neighbor’s property, and he was none too pleased about it. I can’t say I blame him.

Ben moved the Porta Potty to the front of the house, on the miniscule piece of the sidewalk that we can claim as our “property.” It’s a beauty, no?

I’ll be so happy when all the detritus is gone from the front of our house. I’m commissioning my mom, who has an amazing green thumb, to figure out what to do with our tiny plots of “land,” i.e., the dirt between our house and the brick sidewalk.

royalflush

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I’m a little sad to see the stairs leading up to our “second” front door gone. (In case you don’t know, our house only has two doors–and both are on the front of the house. There are no windows on either side of the first floor of the house, and no door in the back.) When I was at the house doing demo, I liked to take a break by opening that second front door and stepping out onto the top stair landing, from which I could look down our street and see Casco Bay.

But, like the back stairs behind the old kitchen, those stairs are gone now. It looks like the builders found something else, too. Under our vinyl siding, there’s something possibly even more garish: asphalt sheet siding stamped in the pattern of bricks. It’s really quite hideous. Nick and I were harboring a secret fantasy that underneath the vinyl we’d find old cedar shakes that needed nothing more than our loving touch to come back to life and restore dignity to our little old house. But, instead we found what one blogger has termed “ghetto brick.”

I do sincerely hope it doesn’t contain asbestos. We need to take some of it down to replace the four windows in the old porch room. Some quick Google research seems to indicate this kind of siding was more popular in the 30s and 40s, so hopefully it will be asbestos-free. Regardless, we will probably just have to leave it where it is right now, and replace the old vinyl siding once we’re done with our repairs. It’s possible there are wooden clapboards under the asphalt siding, but I can’t even imagine the work it would take to get that looking good again.

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It is day 60 and things have finally begun to move forward after two months of backward motion. The builders have started their work, evident from the outside by the porta-potty on the sidewalk and the missing front stairs. On the inside of the house there is more fresh demo: the upstairs section that was the old bathroom floor has been cut out, effectively separating the upstairs into two halves, now joined only by a 6″ wide walking plank for the contractor and his crew. But there is a New Pipe!! A brand new shiny PVC drain pipe in the kitchen and future half-bath! It has gleaming purple glue joints and it serves as a beacon of hope that soon the entire house will be filled with new pieces of stuff, their whole so much larger than the sum of their parts.

58steps

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Now that we’ve reached the lowest low point in our renovation, I can’t think of a better time to take a vacation. We leave tomorrow for a week at Nick’s dad’s cabin in northern Minnesota. We’re not bringing the laptop or any home renovation magazines–just Sadie, Ting-Tong, and some summer reading. And when we get back, we’ll get to see what the house looks like with a week’s worth of framing (hopefully). This will be the first time we’ve added something to the house, rather than taken something away and we can’t wait. We’ll be sure to post pictures.

Have a great week, and we’ll see you when we return!

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Today we met with Ben to go over the final estimate for the renovation. We were stunned to learn that the cost of everything–framing, insulation, plumbing, drywall,  electricity, and carpentry–will be almost double the original estimate. And that doesn’t include fixtures or tile for the bathroom, flooring for the kitchen and Sadie’s room, paint, or kitchen cabinets and/or countertops. Oh, and we won’t be moving in until November 1.

We were so dismayed by the news that we couldn’t bring ourselves to do anything productive last night. Instead, we watched “The Money Pit” and laughed. Sort of. The jokes were a little too close to home.

money pit

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OMG!

OMG!

One of the last surfaces to be demoed was the inside of the window wall of the new dining room/old porch. When this wall was built, the builder of the wall recognized that the weather here in Maine can be extreme at times. He wisely chose to line the wall as well as to insulate the wall. His choice of lining: not so wise. Rather than use the standard variety of inexpensive vapor barriers or even sheet plastic he used cut-up pieces of cardboard box. Cardboard, not especially known for its water resistance, unfortunately let the wall down. The wall is now entirely rotted and is being held up only by imaginary hummingbirds.

We didn’t plan on removing and rebuilding an exterior wall, creating a temporary wall in the meantime, and replacing the windows because the gas pockets are breached in most of the current ten panes. This will add several thousand dollars. We don’t have an extra several thousand dollars.

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Wilf Carter

Wilf Carter

Click to play \”Little Old Log Shack\” by Wilf Carter

I had my “Classic Country” genre on shuffle the other day (a pleasure only to be enjoyed when Reeve is not at home) when this song came on and made me feel a bit better about the house. Not sure why, but I guess if Wilf Carter would happily trade electricity and, presumably,  bamboo floors and concrete countertops, for moonlight and coyotes then we should be able to as well.

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