Nightmare on Elm St.

The journey of turning the nightmare we bought on Elm St. into our dream home...

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Monday, December 19, 2005

A TREE-mendous Morning

We had a huge holiday party this weekend, so I thought that I wouldn't have anything to share on the blog today because no work was done. I was very happy to be wrong, though! About 7:30 this morning, the tree crew from the city showed up. There was no way I was leaving for work with the street full of equipment and branches falling everywhere, so I watched and took pictures for the blog. It's so funny how seeing something like this is just as exciting now as it was 20 years ago. There's just something about the destructive powers of man vs. nature!

First went the canopy. This guy bounced around in the cherry picker in the power lines like a champ. I would have been terrified.


Periodically, the guys on the ground fed the big branches into the chipper.

I got better shots as the tree trimmer moved away from the sun.

Great action shot!

Giant bulldozer to move the trunk and the leaves
(why are there still leaves on this tree in December?)

The broken trunk that caused all of this mess.

Goodbye tree!


It looks strange to see the house without the tree on the corner, but we'll get used to it. We have the option of getting a street tree in the spring in front of our house, but Aaron's not sure. A lot of the street trees have disrupted the sewer lines, so it may not be a good idea.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

A TREE-mendous Evening

The weekend after Thanksgiving, I noticed a large crack 2/3 of the way through the trunk of the tree in front of the other half of our duplex. The next Monday, I called the City Arborist (yes, we have a city arborist) and left him a message that I was concerned about the tree. We played phone tag for a few days, but he finally called me back. Our conversation went something like this.

me: I'm really concerned about this tree in front of my house.

him: It's actually in front of your neighbor's house.

me: Yes, I know, but it's badly cracked and it's in front of the other half of my house. I park under it, I walk under it, my friends walk under it. I'm concerned that it's going to fall and someone's going to get hurt.

him: Yes, it's on our dangerous trees list, we have to get through some other trees before we get to it, and the sidewalk has to be fixed (the tree roots have messed up the sidewalk) also. (That part made no sense, why do you have to fix the sidewalk to cut down a tree?) If I were you, I'd back my car up. (That really threw me- Aaron's cousin was nearly killed and is now in a wheelchair because a tree fell on her on a beautiful summer day, it was a freak accident, but this tree was designated as dangerous and they won't take it down???)

me: Okay. Thanks. (WTF?)

So, for the past few weeks, I've avoided the crap out of the tree, not parked under it, and told all my friends to cross the street when they walk their dogs by it.

You may have heard on your national news or weather channel about an ice storm affecting the mid-Atlantic states today. Well, we've been getting slammed with heavy freezing rain all afternoon. Tonight, Aaron and I were on our way to the store about 7:00, and I noticed my neighbor on the other side (not the other half of the house) had parked his car under the tree, which was covered with ice, but not leaning or anything. So, I went over and told him that the tree was cracked, told him the story about the city, and advised him to move his car (he's been out of town for a few weeks, so I hadn't seen him to tell him the tree story yet). He told me that he'd had a really bad day, he'd lost his wallet and spent the whole day trying to get new cards and a new driver's license, the last thing he needs is a tree crushing his car. So, he moved the car, Aaron and I went to the store, and I didn't think too much of it.

About 9:00, we came back from our errands, and as we drove down the street, Aaron started laughing. Sure enough, the tree was down (it fortunately fell in the middle of the street, not damaging any property, hurting anyone, or taking down any power lines). When we went inside, we had a message from our neighbor letting us know that the tree fell about 15 minutes after he moved the car, so thanks a lot! The city came by about half an hour ago and dragged it off. Sorry for the crappy pictures, it's dark outside!

Here is the remaining part of the tree-


The last part of the tree being dragged off- (two other huge sections have already been taken away)


A closer view of the above-


We're both going to call the city tomorrow and ask them to take down the rest of the tree, and tell us why the hell that they wouldn't take it down when I called a few weeks ago! I will keep you posted. Keep your fingers crossed that the rest of it doesn't go and take the power lines with it.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Happy Holidays from the Nightmare on Elm St.

Happy Holidays to all of the Internets and Housebloggers!
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You get what you pay for.

This is Aaron posting today. Whether we want it to or not, HVAC has now become part of our remodeling effort. Apparently, the previous owners had a "connection" with a heating and air conditioning contractor. We do not know the name of the contractor, but I would like to give them a little advice about installation in old homes. I am no expert, but in dealing with our house there are three simple rules to follow:
1. Plan your installation carefully
If you have cut the opening for the floor register one floor joist across from where you cut the hole in ducting, it is not appropiate to make a huge S trap with the 6" duct line in order to connect the register to the duct. As you may have guessed, the S trap was in the way and we had to move the duct over one floor joist. Thank goodness for the advent of insulated, flexible ducting.

2. Balance the system
We have a horrible problem of our basement and kitchen remain hot, while the rest of the house is FREEZING. Our system has plenty of capacity, but there is a lack of vents in rooms with lots of windows and there are no baffles to reduce air flow to different zones. Hence, the house is a single zone!!!

3. An ounce of craftsmanship goes a long way.
If you cut extra large holes in the walls and floor for the registers and ducts, at what point do you take a step back and realize this looks like dirt!! I should really try to make the holes the same size as the vent to preserve the look of the house.

Behold, the innocent little vent that caused us about 15 person hours-


And our beautiful new duct

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And then there was light...

While we haven't been lazy lately...

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(Well, at least not all of us...)

There hasn't been much progress to show pictures of. Just please believe that we've been chipping away at the framing in the basement. Here are some pictures of one of the last "photo-worthy" projects that we've completed-

The front porch lights! I'm sorry that I didn't post these sooner, as we put the lights up on the Wednedsay before Thanksgiving! The lantern by the door-

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The overhead light (on our beautiful, never-painted porch ceiling!)-

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And my incredibly handy husband freezing to death, but nice enough to pose with both the lights-

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If you recall from my earlier post about the porch, this means that we only have the other lattice panel to build and we'll be done with the front of the house projects!

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Sorry so silent

Hi everyone! I'm sorry that I've been so silent lately. Not all that much has been going on at the house. We had Thanksgiving at our house, and my dad and his girlfriend stayed for a few days. It was a nice visit, and the highlight was a Segway tour of downtown DC. It was a blast. You may look a little silly on the Segways, but they are SOOO much fun! I got lucky because they were running out of working Segways, and I got the one that only had the red key left. (Segways have three keys- one black (beginner 6 mph) one yellow (intermediate 9 mph) and one red (advanced 12 mph). So, I was able to fly past everyone else! Aaron was very jealous!

We're chugging along on the basement! And Aaron got the porch lights up. I have pictures of those, but they're kind of boring. Most of the bsement progress walls are up, thanks to another wonderful neighbor who lent us his framing nailer and hasn't asked for it back yet. Maybe we'll be done with it this weekend, I'm not sure. Last weekend we took out the last section of wall that needs to be replaced and found original rough pine 2x4s behind it. This was really interesting to us for a few reasons-

1. We haven't found ANY original framing in this part of the house.
2. You can see where the lath was at one point attached to these old 2x4s, so there was a finished plaster wall down there at some point.
3. There was a thick layer of plywood underlayment behind the old nasty paneling in this area. We have not found this in any other part of the basement. This plywood was extremely water damaged, much more so than the rest of the paneling in the basement.

This got the two of us scratching our heads for a long time on Saturday morning. Why rip out the old wall? Why leave this one section of framing? Did houses have any finished basements in 1915? Aaron had an interesting theory to run by everyone here. In the 70s Frederick was flooded very badly, so much so that downtown Frederick (approx. 3 blocks from our house) was completely ruined and many businesses moved out of the downtown area. The city embarked on a multimillion dollar flood control project which is in its completion stages now. They buried huge culverts under the city to control Carroll Creek which flows to the Monocacy River, and was the cause of the big flood. While most of the creek runs underground ffrom Baker Park near our house, a small amount of the water flows in sort of a pond/canal thing on top of the culverts and attractively through the city. They are developing this part of Frederick now, and it should be very nice when it's done. The flood control project was also important because without the danger of flooding, many businesses started moving back in the late 80s and now downtown is thriving.
You can read more about this here. Here is a picture from the city website of Carroll Creek-

Here is a nice shot of Market St.-

Anyway, Aaron wonders if the basement flooded during the "big flood" in Frederick, causing the tear out and paneling nightmares. What do you think? Is there any way to tell?

So, hopefully we can finish the walls and start the drywall this weekend, but that may be rather ambitious. We also have to decorate the tree, put away the Christmas decorations that we're not using, oh and I have to finish my project for Solid State Physics. Should be a VERY busy weekend. Thank goodness, Mike, our knight in ripped purple home improvement sweatshirt is coming!

We're also debating which ceiling we want. I've spent some time looking into our original Armstrong ceiling tile option, which I posted about here. There are some issues including-
needs an air gap for insulation
cannot be installed next to incandescent bulbs (not good for those recessed lights on a dimmer we were drooling over)

We're considering real tin from American Tin Ceilingsinstead. We have a tin celiing in the kitchen and we love it. I'm thinking something subtle, with an antique white finish.

There is also always sheetrock. Boring. But cheap. However, we do like the idea of being able to take out a celing panel and get to the wiring, plumbing, and HVAC if we need to.

There are a lot of exciting issues to solve! Stay tuned and comment below if you have any suggestions on the ceiling.