More New Windows

The windows that I ordered back in April have finally arrived.  They’re all going in on the second floor, so I decided to build this scaffolding.  It took about $40 worth of lumber from Lowes, and an hour or two to put together.  This gives me a nice stable platform to work on the windows from.  The scaffolding is  12′ tall, 3′ wide, and 7′ long.  It’s a very simple construction, with 4 12′ 2×4’s carrying most of the load, being braced a number of smaller 2×4’s to prevent it from twisting or buckling.  The top is simply some 1/2″ plywood that was actually part of the shipping crate of my jointer.  I used my framing nailer to put it all together which was quick and easy.  It’s a very stable structure, and its at the perfect height.

TV Stand for Marty

I’m sure you remember Marty,  I mentioned he gave me a hand installing a skylight awhile back. Well he recently got a shiney new giant (73″!) TV and needed a TV stand for it. I built my TV stand a few years ago, which he liked, so we decided to build him one just like it. Pretty simple design, oak plywood for the top, bottom and sides, attached with some nice dado’s. The front was trimmed out with some nice ash that was just glued and nailed on. If my biscuit cutter wasn’t a piece of junk I would have used that to put the face frame on.

New Water Main Shut-off

A good ball valve on the main water line is something every house should have.    Like many older homes, our house had a tired old stem valve as the shutoff.  Not only does this valve take about ten turns to fully close, but ours at least, still leaks a bit when tightened all the way.  Ohh and did I mention you need to use a strap wrench to even get the handle to turn?  Not something you want to have to deal with in an emergency.   Even worse, having to use such a big wrench makes it very likely that you’ll snap the handle right off, and then be left with no way to shut the water off at all.

Theoretically this should be an easy job, shut the water off, cut a section of pipe out, and solder in the new valve.  However when you can’t shut off the water completely, it makes soldering in the valve very difficult.  Still with a bit of persistence I was able to get it in and leak free.  Now with just a quick and easy quarter turn the water is shut off completely.

New Patio Light!

Jess wanted to replace the dingy old patio light with a nice new one.  Normally when a guy says his wife wants to replace something, that generally means that they want him to do it.  Not this time for Jess though, she wanted to do it herself.  She did a great job, I gave her a hand holding it, and taking her picture, but that was it.  The new light works great, and looks much nicer.  Now if someone would just paint those gutters…

Leaky Kitchen Sink

The other day Jess  calls me into the kitchen and points out the puddle of water she noticed underneath the sink.  It looked like it had been there for awhile, and was hidden behind some bottles and such.  After a bit of routing around I was able to find that the slip nut that connects the trap to the drain had cracked, and water was leaking from there.  These chromed brass traps come in various quality levels, with the cheapest 22 gauge ones not being much thicker than paper, so its not surprising that it broke.  Once I’d figured out what the problem was, it was easy enough to run to Lowes and get a replacement (the nice thick 17 gauge one), and solder it back in.  Not a big deal, but its irritating that I had to spend my night doing this because the previous guy was to cheap to spend the extra 5 bucks on the higher quality one.

Helpful wife

Those 8 cubic yards of compost don’t spread themselves, so I was glad to have the help of my wife. She did a great job spreading it all out and getting nice and even to make a happily little home for all of the new seedlings. After the compost was down, I spread some lime and fertilizer into it, and then raked it all in to even it out.

New Roof

After just a day of work (not by me of course), we have a nice new roof! The guys from Benchmark did a pretty good job, although there were a couple minor things I was unhappy about. When I talked to the guy he said they would pull out the old attic fan, since it would just pull air from the new ridge vent (plus it was broken anyway). But they didn’t do that, and they also cut the wire from my antenna and patched the hole that it ran through. I’m sure they just assumed that I didn’t use the antenna anymore, but since I do (free HD tv!) I had to go back up and rewire that.

Roof in work


After choosing a roofer and sending in a deposit for 1/3rd of the cost, we then had to wait for them to get the permit, and the weather to have them come out and do the work. I took the morning off, as I wanted to see what they were doing, and be available if there were any issues. I’m not sure this was really necessary, as they didn’t need to get in the house for anything, although they did need a power outlet.

The guys got started right away, rigging up some tarps and going to town on the old shingles. In just a few hours they had both layers of old shingles torn off and were starting the prep-work for the new ones. A truck with the shingles pulled up and had a forklift hanging off the back. The forklift was able to go high enough so that it could unload them directly onto the lower roof, which I’m sure made life easier for them.

After some debate we had chosen the Owens Corning Oakridge 30 year shingles. This was a rather irritatingly difficult decision, as the only independent source of objective information that I was able to find was Consumer Reports, who I don’t really like, nor trust. Owens Corning seemed to be pushing their Duration line, but CR gave a significantly higher rating to the Oakridge line, which were the same price. Why they make two separate, very similar products that cost the same price with out any real distinguishing features is beyond me.

I left around lunchtime, with the house in the state shown above. The guys had put most of the tar paper down, and some of the ice barrier. They had also removed a couple of sheets of rotted sheathing, and were getting ready to replace it. I was a bit surprised to see a couple of other houses that had all of the sheathing replaced, and I’m glad I didn’t have that done, as it seems quite wasteful, considering the good shape that most of the plywood was in. I can only assume that those other roofers managed to convince the homeowners that it needed to be done, and got a couple extra bucks for it.

Choosing a Roofer


This is our old roof. It’s actually in pretty decent shape, however it looks pretty ugly with our freshly painted house. Plus it leaks in one spot over the garage, and I’m not positive I know where the leak is coming from, having tried to fix it once already unsuccessfully. We decided that since it would need to be replaced in the not to distant future, to have it replaced now. I toyed with the idea of recruiting a couple of friends and doing it ourselves, but then I did some calculations and figured out how much the two layers of old roof weighed (around 8,000lbs), and how much the new one would weigh (about 4,000lbs). I also realized how little I liked doing the same thing over and over and over again. Since that’s pretty much what roofing is, we decided it would be best to hire someone to do it.

Picking a contractor is never fun (at least not for me, maybe someone out there enjoys it, but I can’t imagine why). You get a half hour or so interview/estimate, a few references, and whatever else you can dig up. Then you give some guy a check for a 1/3rd the work (in this case about $2500) and hope he shows up to do it, and does a good job at that. I went to the Owens Corning, and GAF’s websites and they had a few recommended installers, and I figured choosing one of them would be a better idea than just randomly picking one out of the phone book (google really, because who uses a phone book anymore).

I called five roofers, one didn’t do roofs anymore, and one didn’t call me back, but I had the other three come out to give me estimates. One guy showed up while I wasn’t home and then called me back with the estimate, but the other two I met at the house. All three estimates came back in the same ballpark, and all seemed reputable so I basically just had to go on gut feel. I didn’t really like the idea of hiring someone I didn’t see in person, so that left it down to two, and we ended up going with Benchmark Construction, run by Tom and Katrina Kopciowski. They sent there estimate via e-mail which I liked, and he also got on the roof and actually looked around a bit instead of just doing everything from the ground.

Refinancing Part 3, Closing?

Last we had heard, our refinance had been submitted to underwriting on June 17th.  At that time we were told there was a 3-week turn aroun, and so when July 8th came along and of course we hadn’t heard a peep, I fired off another e-mail to our “Loan Processor” Shirley.   Suprise, suprise, not only was it not done, but it would still be another two weeks before it was finished.  Finally on July 20th we got an e-mail saying that it had been approved!  Yay! Ohh but wait, no they still need a monthly statement from our savings account.   So after yet more scrambling I send that in,  and it goes back to underwriting.  At that time I also ask for a breakdown of what we need to pay at closing.

Another week goes by and I get another e-mail asking for another form to be signed, this one authorizing Chase to talk to our old mortgage company.  After yet another week goes by we once again hear that our loan has been approved by underwriting  (apparently it took them two weeks to review my bank statement).   Of course  the e-mail gives the loan at 4.625% with 2.5 points for 30 years.  Completely different than the 4.625% with 1.375 pts, at 25 years.  I fire of f a few angry e-mails, and Tyson steps in and says that he will “take care” of the points.   I also again ask for a breakdown of the $12,000 they need us to bring to closing.  We schedule the closing for three days later, on Monday the 10th.

That night, Jess looks at it and notices that it has the wrong term (which in my furor over the points I overlooked).   She calls Shirley, and sends off another e-mail complaining about it, and once again asked for a breakdown of the closing costs.  Shirley says she’ll get it switched over and that the closing would still be on for 4:30pm on Monday.  Still no information about what would happen at closing, who to call if something was wrong, what we needed to have, nothing.

Monday afternoon rolls around, we still haven’t gotten a breakdown of the closing costs, just a couple statements that we need to bring $12k to closing.  Of course since it takes more than 3 days to move money around, we wouldn’t be able to do that.  It turns out though that we didn’t need to bring the money to closing, we could FedEx a check to the title company a day or two later and that would be fine.  So at 3:30 on Monday, I get a call that they haven’t finished the paperwork, and could they move it back a few hours.  At this point I had already left work early, but we moved it to 7:30pm.  Still waiting for a new good faith estimate of the closing costs.

At 7:30pm the Notary shows up with a giant stack of paperwork to sign.  We spend the next hour or carefully reading and signing the 100 or so pages, on which there were a handful of errors.  Everything important seems to be right though, with the rate, term, and points we had agreed to.   I call Tyson to let him know the errors, and sign everything anyway.  The final total we had to pay out of pocket was around $6,000, or about half what we were told.  I’m just glad we had enough cash for it, or I would have been very pissed at having to sell some assets to get the extra cash that we didn’t actually need.

At this point I assume we’re closed,  and we’ll wait and see how it all plays out.