Time to hibernate

You probably didn’t notice, but all my pictures of the new roof on the front of the house show a pretty big change, even bigger than the new roof.

Mike had a busy summer working on the new sunroom, and we’re finally ready to let it rest over the long winter.

Here’s a rundown of his progress — and it truly is his progress. I participated very little, and the only help he had was when his friend helped him install the heavy sliding door. All else you see — all the framing, the new tongue-in-groove floor, the walls, 14 windows, the trim — that’s all Mike. It’s amazing!

front porch right

This is pretty much where we started, although in this picture we had already cut down an overgrown and ratty arborvitae to the right of the one here.


The column bases and floor were so bad, Mike was afraid the whole roof might come down. So he propped it up -- those posts stayed up for months and months, though had to be moved and rejiggered way too often, with me holding my breath every time.


That's the weather side of the house, so the porch was in bad shape. Rotting floorboards and all. We had to pull up the floor anyway to replace the sewer line that runs under the porch, so that began our journey.


In this picture, the last arborvitae is finally gone, and Mike has already reframed the floor and replaced the joists. Oh, and that was only AFTER we waited weeks (or was it months?) for a mason to come and rebuild the brick piers.


We insulated the floor and installed a vapor barrier, but it will probably only be a three-season room. Too expensive to heat over the winter.


It was a relief to get the new floor down. The plan is to replace the rest of the porch floor (after we rebuild the other two piers) this same way.


It was a great day when the porch roof was resting on new columns instead of those blasted posts!


Framing the walls (which are mostly windows) came next. (See how nice the new brick piers look?)


It was exciting to see the first transoms go in.


The windows required a ton of shimming and finessing -- quite a painstaking job.


As I mentioned, the sliding door was big and heavy, but Mike and his friend, Gary, made quick work of it.


Trimming everything out was a huge job. We used plastic lumber to avoid future maintenance.

The last details took a while — bending the aluminum flashing around the base and finishing up the trim, especially. We were thrilled to see the last bits of wood and OSB covered. (Coping the inside corners of the crown molding on the porch was yesterday’s “I hate this” chore.)

Bending and fitting the aluminum flashing was quite a chore -- I mostly tried to hide while Mike was working on it.

Lots of clean-up effort this past weekend means the front porch finally doesn’t look like a construction zone. (And, a double bonus: With the garage no longer a staging/storage area, I can park my car in it for the first time in 6 months!)

Look! No wood to trip over. No ladders. No tools. And an actual "Welcome" mat at the front door!

We even put the antique wicker in its new (still unfinished) home and were thrilled at how cozy it feels.

Having a sheltered home for this 100+-year-old furniture we inherited from Mike's parents was a big part of why we decided to build the sunroom instead of just keeping the open porch. Good thing it fits in the room!

It may be next year at this time before the interior is finished, but that’s OK. This has been a huge one-man job, and we’re happy with the progress and the promise of having a pretty little retreat to relax in down the road.

And yes, there’s still the rest of the front porch to rebuild — maybe next year, maybe the year after — it’s been a tough year financially and scary that things don’t appear to be picking up, at least for my business. Life in fixer-upperhood sure isn’t for the faint of heart and light of checkbook. But we are so fortunate compared to so many, and probably not thankful enough for it.

And so, this project hibernates, but we don’t. Finishing the powder room — the “winter project” that hibernated over the summer — is again at the top of the list.

Winter is the time of promise because there is so little to do —
or because you can now and then permit yourself the luxury of thinking so.
~ Stanley Crawford

Summer Weekend Classes for DIYers

Class Schedule — May 30–31, 2009

Muscle-Building Basics — Rocks and Bricks

Feel the burn in your biceps! To prepare for a new patio, participants remove heavy pieces of cut stone from a stack, carry them approximately 50 steps uphill, then restack them. Next, students pull flagstone and rocks from stacks in their own yard and restack them (temporarily) in neighbor’s yard. Class finishes by moving 100 or so bricks from one stack to another, 20 feet away.

Trees and Fences for Couples

Couples practice teamwork and tact as they cut down and trim trees and shrubs in the abandoned yard next door. (Note: Class requires use of 7-ft pole pruner with chainsaw on the end.) Extra credit for cutting out and removing wire fencing installed by their home’s previous owner — now hopelessly entangled in thorny barberry — without killing themselves or their partners.

Appeasement 101 — Wood, Wood, and More Wood

One participant appeases the other by loading a giant pile of wood from a month’s-ago porch demo into old pickup truck, with no clear idea of where to get rid of it. Appeasee practices appropriate gratefulness and diplomacy (refraining from suggesting abandoning both pickup and wood at nearest junkyard).

Furniture Refurbishment — What Not to Do

Students learn humility by improperly priming a small outdoor table. “Time-saving” primer-paint combo doesn’t stick, and must be scraped/scoured off so table can be repainted using different primer. (Students earn bonus humility points by painting two coats before acknowledging it’s not working.)

Improvisational First Aid

Participants receive first aid kit of ibuprofen, eye drops, allergy pills, sewing needles, aloe gel, potato chips, crunch-n-munch, iced tea, wine, and beer, and must decide how to best treat various cuts, scrapes, splinters, bruises, allergies, muscle aches, and random pains.

I have never let my schooling interfere with my education.
~ Mark Twain

1. Get up. 2. Turn on computer

Are you a list maker?

I am; my husband is not. (This came out at our pre-marriage counseling with the pastor — this was about as revealing as it got.)

And no, I don’t make daily lists that start with “1. Get up.”

I make lists for two reasons: (1) It’s the only way I can keep track of things when I have a lot to do (mostly at work) and most importantly (2) I need to see progress. Progress is very motivating. I might have 20 things to do, but if I’ve already done 5 of them, at least I’m getting somewhere. Making progress is what keeps me sane.

I once read somewhere the first step to achieving a goal is to write down everything it will take to make it happen, then have at it.

I took that advice to heart when I decided I wanted to work for myself. Sadly, I can’t find the list anymore (written on a 3½” x 3½” square of paper), but I think it included things like: Research business structures (e.g., S-corp, sole proprietorship); Get tax information; Choose name and register it…very concrete and doable.

I do remember clearly the last thing on the list: Quit my job.

Ten years later, I’m pretty sure making that list was a big part of my success. It forced me to concentrate on one thing at a time and just do it.

Shortly after we moved into the house, I started a House List. It’s posted on our extra fridge in the basement (relegated there after we redid the kitchen and got a new fridge that doesn’t deserve to have ugly lists posted on it).

Here’s where it stands, almost four years later.


Lots of things crossed out; others we won’t get around to for a long time. And it’s  rather out of date. I don’t even have “Build powder room” on it, though that’s what we’ve been working on for months now. Nor does it adequately represent our biggest ongoing project, the front porch repair/sunroom addition.

I keep the list around to remind myself how far we’ve come. Maybe sometime I’ll add more projects, just so I can have the joy of checking them off and marking our progress.

I recently, just for fun, started a different kind of list. Not to-do’s for a change, but wishes, ranging from pie-in-the-sky (a Kindle) to mundane (a narrow leaf rake). Maybe on my birthday, Mike will pick an item from the list, or I can refer to something on it for our family gift exchange at Christmas.

I’ve refrained from adding things like “Retirement home in Tennessee mountains.” Besides, Mike just found this list that considers Pittsburgh one of 10 great affordable places to retire. (Who knew that PAT buses would factor prominently?)

Hmmm….speaking of retirement. That’s a goal we’re all aiming for, right? What would that “just do it” list include?

I’ll start it:

  1. Save $14,770 each year for the next 20 years.

I can probably stop there.

You will achieve a grand dream a day at a time,
so set goals for each day — not long and difficult projects,
but chores that will take you, step by step,
toward your rainbow. Write them down, if you must,
but limit your list so that you won’t have to drag
today’s undone matters into tomorrow.
Remember that you cannot build your pyramid in
twenty-four hours. Be patient. Never allow your day
to become so cluttered that you neglect your most
important goal — to do the best you can, enjoy this day,
and rest satisfied with what you have accomplished.
~ Og Mandino

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