Friday, March 27, 2015

The Harsh Reality of Winter in an Old Home

According to the calendar, spring has officially sprung. I’m still a bit skeptical that winter is really, truly, finally over, particularly since my evening commute on the first day of “spring” looked like a scene from Narnia.

Nonetheless, now that the cooler days are apparently behind us I’ve been reflecting on our first winter in our new home. We moved into The Papered House in late fall, so we just had a brief period of time to adjust to our new home before the seasons changed.

All things considered, we survived the winter very well. There’s honestly not much that we can complain about, especially in comparison to what so many others experienced. We didn’t have five feet of snow weighing down our roof. Our house is well insulated and the ancient heating system kept cranking all winter. We had a frozen pipe, but it didn’t burst. In other words, we consider ourselves pretty darn lucky.

 But even though we didn’t have any weather-related catastrophes, we still felt the full force of winter. Here are a few things we’ll be glad to leave behind.
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Monday, March 16, 2015

Guest Room Ceiling

Just a quick post for today -- we finally finished the guest room ceiling! In my first post on the guest room, you could see that that there were quite a few cracks in the plaster, which we (ie, my husband) repaired. But then it took me ages to sand the ceiling after the plaster repairs were completed. Sanding is easy, but it turns out that standing on a ladder and craning one's head/neck upwards while a fine mist of plaster/spackle dust descends on one's face is not the most enjoyable way to spend a weekend.

But the end result was worth the trouble. There are still some imperfections and I wasn't able to sand the ceiling completely smooth for fear of reopening some of the cracks. Still, it's an improvement. Here is what the ceiling looks like now:

The paint color looks white in this photo, but it's actually a light greenish-gray that's reminiscent of sea glass. The color is Amelia from California Paints and it works nicely with the Cottage Green that we used for the walls. 

And here is what the ceiling looked like after the repairs, but before it had been sanded, primed, and painted.

That's all for now. This week, I'm planning to repair and preserve the wallpaper in our family room. If all goes according to plan, the preserved wallpaper should look exactly the same as it does now (sounds like that will be a boring set of "before" and "after" photos, right?).
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Monday, March 9, 2015

Bathroom Mini Makeover

Our bathroom has undergone a "mini makeover." I like to think of this transformation as the equivalent of cooking pancakes for dinner: we needed something quick, cheap, and easy, making use (primarily) of items we already had on hand. And since this is our only bathroom, we wanted it to remain fully functional while we spruced it up. In a few years, we plan to give this bathroom a "real" makeover. But in the meantime, this budget-friendly redo gets the job done.
When we bought the house, our bathroom came with paisley gray and pink vinyl wallpaper that was starting to peel. Country chic circa 1990.

There was also a laminate vanity straight out of the 1970s. Look at those handles!

The walls were tiled in 4"x 4" gray square tile, finished with a bullnose border. We think that this tile was installed in the 1940s or 1950s, since it was a popular Post-War style. All things considered, the tile is in very good condition and we actually like the classic look.   

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Sunday, March 1, 2015

The Anatomy of a Bad Decision (& How To Thaw Frozen Pipes)

About a week ago, I woke up on a Saturday morning to a homeowner's nightmare: I turned on the bathroom faucet and nothing happened. No water came out of the faucet. Zip, zilch, nada. The cold water pipe in our one and only bathroom had frozen overnight. 

We love our historic home, but modern plumbing is one of the things we appreciate. 

The frozen pipe itself wasn't the real issue, although it's definitely inconvenient not to have running water in the bathroom. No, the true danger is that those pipes often burst, leading to severe amounts of damage if the water supply isn't shut off immediately. Even in the best case scenario, a burst pipe needs to be replaced. This is never a project that a homeowner wants to take on, and certainly not when you're already committed to several other large projects. 

The worst part of this situation was that the frozen pipe was entirely avoidable, were it not for a single bad decision. During especially cold weather, we usually let our faucets drip overnight or anytime we aren't going to be using water for an extended period of time. But this particular night, I made the decision not to drip the bathroom faucet. In hindsight, it was the wrong call. 

In order to save others from making a similar bad decision, I've shared the chain of events here. Fortunately, we were able to thaw the pipe without it bursting, thanks to some good advice from my father-in-law and brother-in-law. Thank goodness for knowledgeable family members. I can't remember the last time I felt so grateful.  Now that you know we didn't suffer hardship as a result of my bad decision, go ahead and laugh or roll your eyes at my stupidity. If you're just interested in how we got the pipes to thaw, feel free to skip to the end.  

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