Saturday, February 23, 2008

Good News! House Not Falling Down

Nice Mr. Structural Engineer

First off, the good news: our house is officially not falling down. Matt& I had noticed some new, sizable cracks in the stone facade of the house that worried us. We decided to have a structural engineer take a look and tell us whether or not the house was falling apart. The verdict: NOT falling apart!

The engineer got under the house and looked at the piers, which are stacks of concrete blocks set on a cement perimeter. He says they're holding up fine. In about 5 years, we should have another inspection to see if any of them need to be re-aligned, but for now, he doesn't recommend taking any action. He said that we should expect to see some seasonal shifting as our house is built on sand that contains a little clay. In addition, although our piers are adequate, they aren't the most stable model, which is a poured concrete pillar set several feet into the ground. Consequently, shifting is to be expected. He also said that if we did get the house leveled, we'd probably end up doing all kinds of damage to the interior. So we're going to stick with the status quo. We could, if we had all kinds of extra money, invest $12K in installing the deluxe version of cement piers, but he didn't really recommend it. Nice structural engineer. Regarding the cracks in the mortar, he just recommended patching.

I had been dreading having to take out a $10K loan to have the house leveled, causing all kinds of damage to the brand-new bookshelves, and seriously imperiling my ability to pursue any other home restoration projects or to buy a new car (the old gal has 216K miles on her--she's a good old wagon, but sometime in the next year or two so she's going to be called to the great car lot in the sky). So the engineer's report was phenomenally good news for us.

We Welcome Another Antique Knob to the Family

One of the ways we celebrated was by installing new door knobs (you should see us when we really cut loose). I installed a new exterior doorknob in our study to match the other two new knobs (in stylish oil-rubbed bronze.) We also needed a new knob for the door that separates the public part of the house (kitchen, living room, dining room, guest room) from the back rooms (master bed, mudroom, study, master bath). We restrict Po to the private part when he's unsupervised because there are fewer things for him to break back there.

So we needed a door knob. We checked out Elgin's Antique Mall today, and they had only 1 door knob set that came with the matching mechanism. Lucky for us, it came with an exterior mechanism, which is what we needed for the kind of door we've got.

The knobs aren't very nice (mis-matched brown and black porcelain), but the box is pretty awesome, and the price ($22) was just right. We need to find a spring to get the knob to work--for now, we just use the lock to keep the door shut. And we'll need to get Dad's advice on how to polish and protect the metal box. But even in the interim, it's functional and interesting. Matt's going to paint the door soon, and that should make the lock really stand out.

Stain for the Bookshelves
We've also been testing stains on the undersides of our shelves. From left to right: Red Oak, Cherry, Gunstock ("gunstock," forsooth!) and American Cherry.

We're going with (I cringe as I type this) "Gunstock," the only wood finish with the National Rifle Association Seal of Approval. Sedona Red or Red Chestnut are closer to being the actual color I had in mind, but they weren't available at either Ace or Lowe's. And as Gunstock is a little lighter, it may be better in a small room like the study. I don't know if you can tell in this picture, but all of the stains turned out a little blotchy--we may need to use a pre-stain wood conditioner to help it go on more evenly. Good thing we've gone through this extensive trial process.

We're also progressing on the porch glider. We finished painting the stand, and Matt's started bending pipes from the old hurricane fence to replace the swing's supports. I've put 2 coats of "spar urethane" (weird name, huh? Is it the urethane for protecting spars on ships, or what?)* on the stained slats. Now we just need to paint the supports, drill holes in them, and buy some special bolts with acorn nuts from Austin Bolt Co. Anyway, we're getting close.

*apparently, a polyurethane with UV-absorbers to protect against sun damage. Thus saith wikipedia. No word on the etymology. (Hah! "No word on the etymology!") The existence of a product called "McCloskey® Man O'War® Spar Marine Varnish," however, would suggest that the term does, indeed derive from nautical usage.

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