There are pros and cons to just about everything in life.  Like living in the middle of nowhere, for example.  For the most part it’s great; it’s beautiful, one has lots of elbow room, the crime rate is low, etc.  On the other hand, there is a downside.  Isolation requires driving long distances for refined cultural experiences and also for many goods and services; Amazon can only fill so many voids.  Life in a 36-square-mile township which has a population density of less than one person per square mile is vastly different than the life experienced by most Americans.  Most of the time I’m OK with that.  And there are perks – like being a long distance from the nearest McDonald’s, Wal-Mart, etc.!

One of the biggest problematic voids plaguing low-population areas is the lack of competent tradespeople.  Those who are skilled have long waiting lists for their time; they are constantly in demand.  When taking on the Project House, Jim and I intended to farm out as much work as we could to others.  It was a goal of the owners to get the exterior cleaned up and painted as soon as possible.  Neither Jim nor I wanted to paint the exterior; there were more than enough interior issues to keep us busy for a while.  The painters we knew of were all booked for the season.  We finally learned of someone new to the area who was looking for work.  We took a chance.  He worked hard, did what was expected, but disappeared and moved out of the area after working off his advanced pay. No explanation; just gone.  Whatever.

Then we learned of a retired guy who was looking for work.  It soon became apparent that he cherry-picked all the easiest stuff and fastidiously avoided any thing that required effort, such as caulking or repairing missing putty from window sash.  He could not cut in (paint a sharp line of transition between two colors) and avoided any attempt to.  He painted several windows shut and when asked why, he said, “I couldn’t get them to open”.  All he had to do was to go inside and unlock the windows, but apparently that was too much effort.  When asked why he dripped paint all over the concrete porch floor, he blamed the drop cloth that he failed to use.  When asked why he didn’t paint the putty on the window sash he said, “No one does that anymore”.  Despite having scaffolding and ladders available to him, he never ventured above the first story.

So, Jim and I started painting, but by that time the working days were getting shorter as winter approached.  We still have one and a half shed dormers left – including four windows.  They can wait until spring, but we would have preferred to have the whole house done in one season.  Now that snow is on the ground, we’re focused on indoor work.  We have been working on window rehabilitation – in-between lots of other things.  Wood windows are vastly superior to vinyl ones – even in deteriorated condition – because faulty wood windows can be repaired or rebuilt.  Faulty vinyl windows can only be replaced.  Wood windows will last centuries – if properly maintained.  The sad part is that many people do not know how to (or do not care to) properly maintain windows.  It’s pretty simple, actually; keep the exterior side painted and the end grains sealed!

Because the electrician will be punching numerous holes of various sizes in the plaster walls and ceilings throughout the house, we can’t really begin much finish work until he and his crew are done.  There will be a lot of patching and new sheetrock work to do in the aftermath.  And because this electrician is in such high demand in this area, his efforts to date have been sporadic.  Hopefully he will be able to devote more time to our project now; he returned today after a lengthy absence.  It’s a good thing, too, as the owners will by dropping in tomorrow morning for a brief look at progress.  They are beginning to understand that things  work differently here than in more populated areas!

Here are the highlights of the previous week; a new trap door to the attic and the installation of a bay window unit in the kitchen which the owners requested:

The original trap door measured just under 12″ x 24″ – not big enough for many 21st-century humans and certainly not big enough to get a future furnace into the attic. A bigger one is required!

First I score the plaster to eliminate damage to the surrounding ceiling.

Inside the attic, I dismally note that gas pipes – a “T” intersection, no less – run squarely over my intended new opening. Looks like I’ll be cutting out more than just a joist…

Next I remove the plaster within the scored lines.

Ready to cut the pipe! I had actually proposed restoring the acetylene gas lighting system to the owners, but they were so not interested…

Lath removed! Boards are laid upon the joists to support me when removing part of a joist from above…

A new jamb made of salvaged 1 x 4s lines the opening. Short pieces of lath from the ceiling temporarily hold the new door (repurposed from hefty masonite paneling removed from an upstairs bedroom). A drop cloth caught most – but not all – of the debris.

An innocuous 1 x 4 frame finishes the opening.  Now I just need to fill the nail holes, prime the wood, and paint it. The old trap door location has been filled with sheetrock – the damaged plaster adjacent to it will be similarly patched and all repairs will eventually be feathered into the surrounding sound plaster.

The next project:  a new bay window!

This is what the old kitchen window looked like at the start of our project. The window itself is a c. 1960 replacement of an original window (replaced when the steel siding was installed).

The window is removed and a new header is installed to match the width of the new bay window.

Jim removes steel siding in preparation of enlarging the opening.

Here he takes a break to play the role of a fast food worker and delivers bottled water and junk food to an invisible drive-through customer.

A piece of plywood, cut to the shape of the bay window unit, will support the new window during the installation process.

The opening is enlarged to accommodate the new bay unit.  The plywood is supported by triangular brackets.

These window units are heavy! It took a while, and numerous four-letter words, but we finally got it into place. Here Jim begins to frame an enclosure above the bay.  I had previously installed the cable support system that came with the window and which can barely be seen above it.

The spaces above and below the window will eventually be clad in salvaged bead board (matching that which was also originally used under the eaves).

This is how it looks from inside. The kitchen’s sink will be roughly centered on this window.

After two months of saying, “I’ll be there next week” the electrician finally arrived to trench and lay cable to the house.

Then the yard looked like this for another three weeks until he reappeared today. Now everything is covered in snow.

Power enters the house below ground to avoid unsightly overhead wires. A chunk of sidewalk had to be removed, but the whole thing will be replaced in the future anyway.

Here Austin installs nail plates to protect the plumbing work he and Frank just finished. Jim is altering the wall in preparation for the bay window installation.

When not fussing with windows, Jim and I are beginning to patch plaster in areas which we know will not be breached for wiring. This is a “before” photo of plaster damage on the ceiling of the staircase landing.

The same corner now, but from a slightly different perspective. Matching the texture of the original sanded finish (now coated with several layers of paint) is difficult. But we’re getting really darn close!

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