Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Under the front porch

It was a very dirty Sunday afternoon. As in, washed my hair three times and I still found a twig stuck in it when it was dry... I had spent the afternoon under the front porch sliding around on the sand under the beams.

I'm not planning on it being a regular thing or anything and I was REALLY glad there happened to be no skeleton down there (aka the opening of 'Bones' every week) but I was also really sad that previous homeowners hadn't forgotten any gold bars/coins/secret treasure down there. Nothing quite that exciting.

It was a bit exciting though. My dad borrowed my brother's concrete saw and took to the stucco with calm and power. I was petrified simply when he started it, so I am glad I didn't have to do it. I like my power tools but that was a bit much.

The house didn't fall down and in fact, we were very impressed with the quality of construction and the size of some of the porch beams. The stucco/concrete was about an inch thick and stayed perfect. Looks like it was built at the same time as the house, the way the main beams extend into the basement.

So why are we cutting out an access hole into our front porch? The floor gets cold. No wonder - no insulation at all and folks, we get snow, snow and snow and can get down to -40 C (though -40F is the same temp...). Even the last few weeks, with autumn making an appearance, the temp in the front room has dropped.

Yet we don't want to shut the front door (because it needs a window to let light in the front room. Trying to make the porch at least a 3-season porch instead of just summer seems like a good investment.

Now that we had cut out the concrete and taken out the boards, all there was left was to climb inside. It was incredibly sandy and cobwebby and dusty. We then measured the space between the joists, to cut the insulation sheets to match. I cut the first few and cut so crooked that I went in the hole and dad cut instead (which worked out well because his lungs had much more trouble coping with the dust).

We passed the pieces in, pressed them into the joist gaps and kept going. By the end, probably around 2 hours, we had done all the side walls and all the floor joists, with the exception of one small corner that was behind a beam because it was fairly impossible to access.

That was it for the more expensive insulation sheets and I was exhausted and FILTHY! My white bra, which was under my shirt of course, was brown. Completely brown on the outside.

Now the plan is for me to put a second layer on the floor ones with cheaper insulation (well free really, since dad had some left) and glue it to the first layer, as well as on the outer walls. Then seal off all the gaps with caulking, and it will keep out any cool drafts as much as possible. We definitely already noticed the difference on Monday morning which is so exciting.

For now, we've put the concrete back in the hole, held in place with a wedge of old wood. Once the inside is all done, I'll add to gate bolts, allowing access in future if needed, but caulk and paint around the hole so it isn't so obvious.

Hopefully one more day this upcoming weekend and then that's another job to be marked "completed" on the House Projects list.

Actually, I did resolve two further jobs on that list - I cut the holes for the deadbolt and lock on the front door a bit better, so they locked properly! And then I added the weather stripping around the front door... and now the door doesn't close properly... sigh...

Monday, September 9, 2013

The list of projects just gets longer, not shorter

When you buy an older house (1928 to be exact) for a reasonable price, you imagine that you are mostly happy with it, but there are a "few" things you'd like to change.

Then you start living in the house and you start jotting down the list of things that "would be nice". Which grows as you discover things that "need to happen" and another list of "really should do".

So lately, this project list gets longer and longer and right now, with hubby back at school after working for the summer, the dollars are getting tighter and tighter. Plus it is getting colder, so that isn't going to help.

Time to prioritise!

To me, the first priority would be keeping the heating costs to a minimum. Our furnace is gas and we are on equal billing. Meaning, based on the last occupant's bills, they guess that if we pay $63/month, it should average out between the cold months, the really cold months and the warmer months. Then in August, they calculate whether we owe them money or whether they owe us a credit.

This year, we moved in in April. And we had a freak snowstorm. And then another one. And then it just never really properly warmed up. Oh and there was a day in the middle of SUMMER when it didn't get into the double digits in Celsius ALL DAY!

So in August, after only a spring and a "summer" (in quotes because it hardly was one), we owed the gas company $3 for the month. This means that even though it was the warmest months, we used the gas enough to not be in credit. I extrapolate from that that we are going to owe them mega $ next August unless we can reduce our heating bill somewhat.

Try telling that to a homesick Aussie who hates the cold...

So the first step (other than turning down the heater whenever he isn't looking) is to insulate the floor of the front porch. We need the door to the enclosed porch open, since it is a solid door and the hallway doesn't get enough light. But the floor isn't insulated and it isn't part of the basement, so the cold rises. With the door open for the light to come in, the heater has to deal with a colder room and so it of course uses more gas and my gas bill goes up.

Right. Insulate the floor. Change the door to a door with a window, to let natural light in. See, from one idea to two projects in one go.

To get under the front porch is the next challenge. It is wood surround covered in concrete about 1.5 inches thick (3cm - how quickly you begin to think in inches, even though technically this country is also metric!). My plan is to cut an access hole on the far side of the front porch wall, climb into the space under the porch and attach insulating foam to the bottom of the floor between the joists.

I wrote that sentence very easy. Actually doing so will not be so easy nor pleasant. Hopefully no skunks inhabit that space...

I'll keep you posted. I may also create just created a House Project List page - helping to keep me on track and the extra joy of being able to cross something off. And I really will stop perusing Houzz.com and actually get projects done instead of looking at other projects and getting more ideas. Really. Who am I kidding, I so won't....