Tuesday, May 27, 2008


I got a lot of planting and other yard work done this weekend. One chore I was happy to do was to get these succulents planted. They were a gift from my friend Wendy, along with the pretty blue pot. I had the strawberry pot, and I like how the hens and chicks look in it.

Being succulents, I'm hoping this means they are more like cactus and won't suffer when I'm a slug about watering. Now to move on to the rest of the yard. It's turned into quite a jungle!


My friend and neighbor, John K., just had sod installed in his backyard. He was thrilled, and so were the raccoons. Every morning John comes down to see whole sections of sod lifted very carefully by the raccoons so they can get to the grubs underneath. He ordered coyote urine (I don't know if this is where he ordered it, but this is what I'm talking about) and that worked for one night. He just put down some anti-grub stuff. We'll see if THAT works, since it is apparently the grubs they're after. Anybody have any ideas?

Thursday, May 22, 2008

A Visual Aid

I thought a visual aid might be helpful. This is the first floor of my house. You can click on the picture for a bigger view. I'm not sure why there needed to be an entryway in the kitchen once upon a time, but maybe it was to add an airlock. I think the room that I use as a pantry was always there, though when I moved in, it was more of a mudroom.

In any case, when the entryway was removed, the load-bearing wall (the "bad" wall) was apparently not properly reinforced. The bad wall does continue all the way to the front wall next to the front door, with an archway through to the dining room. Same on the livingroom side. So the break in the load-bearing wall is only there in the kitchen, and it is directly above that that the walls are so cracked upstairs. If the house is sagging there, it stands to reason the load-bearing wall is going to sag too.

The blue square is the masonry column in the basement the structural engineer believes is settling. This is also a reasonable theory, but John K.'s 4ft. level shows everything on the straight and narrow until you get upstairs

Wednesday, May 21, 2008


I like the quote we got from the 2nd engineer, but I'm just not 100% sure that his solution will fix the problem we want him to address. On one hand, I think I trust that he knows a whole more about structural engineering than I do, his description of the settling sounds valid, and his confidence is comforting. On the other hand, John K. points out that everything from the basement to the first floor is level, that it's above the rebuilt part of the kitchen that appears to be the problem. I did point this out to the engineer, and he still went back to the support column settling scenario. I'm going to ask him to come back again to be double sure.

Monday, May 19, 2008


My friend at House Things I Like is thinking about mailboxes. So am I. I like this one. I can mount it on my front door to cover the current mail slot. I'm told it's quaint that we still get our mail delivered through the front door, but Mosby thinks the aliens are invading and throws his 75lb self at the door and bites what comes through. I've repaired the claw marks on the inside of the door and don't want to have to do that again.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

First of Two Estimates

The first estimate to fix our sagging floors and walls came in. It was $4,500, which struck me as not too bad, but I don't think this guy (the first engineer) correctly identified the problem. It would be terrible to spend that and still have the problem. Can't wait to see the other estimate from the guy we really liked. Engineer #2 walked around the house, outside and in, in the rain. Took his time, declared the house sound, and (I think) correctly identified the problem with that one column sagging under the load. I can relate to the column on a personal basis.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Living Walls

I mentioned a water feature in my basement and a friend sent this link to living walls: http://www.eltlivingwalls.com/. How cool is that? Gives "kitchen garden" a whole new meaning, doesn't it?

Monday, May 12, 2008

A Bit of Rain

As a friend of mine has said recently, it's been rainy. This three inches is in the last 36 hours, and I dumped 2 inches out just before that started. We had part of one day dryer in the last five. I managed to plant a few Mother's Day flowers and pull a few weeds from around my roses before total boredom set in for the 10-year old. The good news is the sump pump well appears wet, which means the really crappy job of French drains we had installed must have worked. I didn't hear the pump start up, but maybe just because it didn't get quite deep enough in water. Still better than wet floors from the water feature that used to be the basement wall. If the drains didn't work we were going to decorate the wall with moss and just live with it. Very Japanese, though we are not.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Engineering to the rescue

The top picture is what you see when you walk in my front door. The next photo is what's behind the mirror hanging on the wall. The third photo is on the other side of the wall where a door knob punched through the wall. The wallboard inside the wall has separated from the plaster scrim, and is buckling. I don't think there is enough spackle in the world to fix this.
We didn't know if it might be old termite damage in the floor that might be causing the wall to settle, but it also occurred to us that the settling cracks upstairs might be related. Duh. Clearly we need an expert opinion.
The structural engineer came yesterday. All the problems stem from one source: one of two support columns in the basement, in the center of the house. The problem column is directly under this hallway, supporting the I-beam running from the front to the back of the house. Over the 70+ years since the house was built that column has settled about an inch or so. You can really see the effects upstairs, where the hall bathroom door is at least an inch higher on one side than the other.
The solution? We have to lift the center of the house from the basement about an inch or so. Easier than it sounds. A lolly column next to the two-foot thick original column, crank to lift, shim it, then take the temporary column out. Voila! My architect neighbor had the same solution (though he was less sure about it). He said you'd have to crank it up a little at a time, but the engineer said Nah-- they just do it. I'm relieved. I'm so anxious to finally have this fixed! We'll hire somebody to do the drywall repair. Russ then goes off into paroxysms of ideas for fixing everything else. Don't know if we can afford to have the livingroom done too, but I'll get a price on it. Maybe just pay for the drywall and prep work, then we can paint.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

The Patio

I wish I'd done a "before" picture. I think the radiator adds a necessary whiskey tango element. I'd actually like to move it, but it's so damn heavy. And where would I put it?

The ivy started under the bushes and covered the patio to the point that you couldn't see any flagstone except at the corner you see here closest to the camera.

Temporary Guests

Can you see this guy? I intended to trim the bushes by my front door after I cleared the patio, but with this nest of baby cardinals there, I had to leave that chore for another day. There were at least three.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

O.K., Things Are Starting to Happen

Found the patio today. It's been there, but it was almost lost to the English ivy that seems to want to take over the world. What I thought would be at least a weekend's work turned out to be a mornings chore. Wow! Wish I'd taken a before picture so the after would have some context, but, oh well. Trust me. You would have been afraid to sit down for for fear of being taken over the vines. If you could have found a seat. Anyway, it's progress.