Wednesday, July 30, 2008

A Thank You Letter

Dear Momnipotent & Dadolescent,

I can't tell you how much I appreciate your help in renovating the house. From installing crown molding, building a foyer, fixing doors and steps, the never ending task of attemping to make my house plumb and level, painting, caulking, drywalling and even allowing the use, and in some cases purchasing, a multitude of tools are all very much appreciated. The house has come a long way (though not as far as we had thought) since you originally saw it.


Thank you, thank you, thank you.



Saturday, July 26, 2008

Drywalling Machine

Since drywalling is a pain in the butt, I figured the Queen should do it. Doesn't she look happy?


And for a random pic, here is my impression of an angler fish.


Pretty good, no?

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Etsy Lust

If I could, I think I'd fill the house with all things etsy. It's a great place for good cheap art, pottery, or whatever assorted knick knacks that your inner consumerist desires. While I don't have a need for their stuff, I do have a want for it. So that leaves me filled with etsy lust.

(click the pics for links to the etsy sites)

I'm sure my male friends would think me a wee bit effeminate for liking this stuff. I'm ok with this. Is it so wrong that I prefer things like etsy, Project Runway and HGTV to fantasy football, baseball and action movies? My old football and rugby teammates would laugh if they could see me now...

    + + +

My DVD set of Mad Men showed up. I watched the first couple of episodes last season, before losing track of it. This show is one of my all time fave shows up there with HBO's The Wire.

I can't wait to see the new season starting this Sunday.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

New HVAC system?

A few reasons have me considering an upgrade to my HVAC system.

    1) My latest BGE bill. I used a whopping 1578 KWh of electricity in June - almost 3 times as much as I used last year. My A/C unit is running almost constantly, even after I had a guy come out and look at it. This doesn't seem normal. I have some holes in the house due to renovation (like ones into the attic), but I was surprised to see costs up this high. Maybe the 50" plasma and XBox 360 are to blame too?

    2) Natural gas prices are up over 200% since January! (See the table of my energy costs below) Since this is the cooling season most people don't notice, but come winter this will lead to some hefty bills.

    I know something is wrong with my gas meter so I don't think it's recording my full usage. I don't have a problem with this, but BGE has volunteered to come out and fix this issue for me free of charge. I haven't been expeditious in getting back to them. I don't know how this would increase my cost/therm, but maybe this is the case? I doubt it though.

    3) My current A/C and furnace are at least 15-20 years old. I have a home warranty on my house, which has been used numerous times to repair my constantly ailing HVAC system. Each time the warranty company comes out they fix piece parts but it doesn't look like they'll buy me a whole new system. *sigh*

Baltimore Rowhouse Consumption Table*

Energy prices are also motivation to seal up the cracks in the ceiling and to actually insulate the attic. Yes, I have no insulation up there as I've been waiting to redo the upstairs bathroom before blowing it in. I'm a bad person with a carbon footprint the size China.

My buddy Dru works for a big HVAC company, so he's running some numbers for me. My prelim estimates have me thinking I'll need about need about 2 tons of chilling capacity. Pricing out some mail order split systems (both interior and exterior parts) gives me a range of about $1500-2500, plus installation. The $1500 system is SEER 13, while SEER 16 would run about $2500. I'm not sure the extra $1000 up front is worth saving me around $120 a year. I'd like to be green, but I also don't like to throw a bunch of money away. Also throw on maybe $1000 for install (I have no clue) and this is looking to be a pricey endeavor.

After the sizing is run I'll take another look at what the prices are and decide if I really want to do this. While it wasn't in the plan to upgrade this, the costs are making more and more sense.

*Some notes on my calculations. The prices I used are prices for electricity with all taxes and fees added on, and the gas costs are the commodity prices plus the delivery charges. Comparing bills I've noticed some interesting things happening with prices.

    a) Surprisingly, the cost/KWh of electricity has stayed roughly the same. I had thought there would be a massive increase due to high commodities (coal). I wonder why prices have held steady. Any ideas?

    b) While I see the commodity cost of natural gas has gone up 40-50% percent, what I don't understand is why BGE is charging 40% more for the delivery charge. Not sure why this would correlate with commodity prices.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Chiasso Rules

A while ago I ordered a modern looking mailbox from Chiasso.

It arrived, and promptly sat on a shelf in order for it to age properly. And by age, I mean that I procrastinated about putting it up, but let's not talk about that... This past week I went to mount it and realized that it you had to use the keys in order to open the front of box to drill the mounting holes. Much searching later, no keys were to be found. I emailed Chiasso:

    I had purchased the arcs mailbox a while ago and just got around to installing it. When I went to install it I could not find the two keys that came with it. I don't ever recall seeing these at all... What could I do to get another set of keys for the mailbox?

I expected an email back saying that I was a moron for losing the keys and there is nothing they can do for me. I was pleasantly surprised to get this response:

    Hello Corey-

    Thank you for your email.

    We apologize that your mailbox is missing the keys. Unfortunately, the keys are specific to each mailbox, so we are unable to send just the keys.

    I have submitted a new order for a new mailbox be shipped to you, no additional charge. This is scheduled to ship in 1-2 days and arrive to you in 3-5 business days via DHL.

    In regards to the other mailbox, if you feel someone could use it,please donate it on our behalf. You do not need to return it to us.

    We appreciate your patience and understanding regarding this matter. Please contact us if we may further assist you.

    Chiasso Customer Care

While I wasn't even sure I had lost the keys, they sent a new one. Now that is customer service.

The new mailbox came with two keys taped to the mailbox. I removed the keys from the mailbox which left a tape residue on the box. I looked at the box they sent originally, and no tape residue was to be found. I guess I didn't lose the keys after all, but either way I really appreciate Chiasso's response and will be ordering from them again.

Now I have an extra mailbox, sans keys. Anybody with some locksmithing skills want a free mailbox? Just cover the shipping costs or drop by and pick it up and it's yours. All I ask is that you take pictures of it after it's installed to prove that you actually mounted it. If you can't get new keys then please ship it on to a person that can use it.

For a chance win the mailbox write a haiku (5-7-5) describing how it would look on your house. I will select the best haiku, and the mailbox is yours. Multiple responses are allowed.

For inspiration here are a some samples,

    stainless steel goodness
    you'll look hot mounted on brick
    stuff me full of mail


    I will soon cover
    your sleek stainless body with
    many fingerprints

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Dear Recent Googler

After googling "how to make a tile mosaic of a pug face" and arriving at my page, I hope you found everything to complete your auspicious endeavor. Please send pictures upon completion.


Baltimore Rowhouse

Rowhouse or Row House?

Here in good ol' Bawlmer we refer to our rowhouses as one word, as opposed to "row houses". This makes sense to me. Since my house adjoins others maybe the words should also be conjoined too. I've noticed some links on some of houseblogs to this site have it as two words. After Wikipedia'ing 'Rowhouse' it sent me to an explanation for Terraced house. I don't have a terrace, so not sure how I fit in this category, but reading down the page shows that row houses are indeed two words. That said, that's not how we roll in gramatically incorrect Baltimore so we will stick with the one word. Y'all fancy folks on the intarweb can use two words if you like.

And now, onto the real post. I've never posted a picture of the outside of the house. Now that the front door has been replaced and the window trim is being painted I thought I'd put some pics. Keeping true to form I will forego the before pictures and just show pics mid progress.


The new door is wood and we decided to paint it black. I'd like to paint the trim black too, but the last trim painter was a bit sloppy and got a lot of white paint on the brick. Also, the new front window is vinyl so not sure how that would look. Do y'all think it would look better with black or white trim?

The door isn't anything too fancy as we wanted it to fit the style of the neighborhood, and I didn't feel like spending a ton of money on this project. Also, I wanted to keep all of the trimwork around the door and front window original so that meant no steel or fiberglass doors. Either of these options wouldn't have been able to be planed to fit in existing framing and I was NOT going to rip out all the trim to have some ugly pre-hung completely square door put in place.


As you can see, prehung doors and windows have been forced into many houses in the area. Many rowhomes have stained glass transoms above the door with the house numbers in the glass. While I love this bit of character I have only a single pane piece of glass with house number stickers on it. Last night I put new modern satin nickel house numbers up and can soon scrape the ugly stickers off.

Also notice that the whole block is rowhomes with all with the original marble steps. There is a large marble quarry north of Baltimore, so most of the steps came from there. In fact, most of the marlbe on the Washington Monument is from just north of Baltimore. I wish there were some painted screens, but sadly there are none on my block.

I'll be on the Gulf Coast of Mississippi for the next couple of days, so no work on the house. I'm looking forward to seeing how far things have come along since Katrina, and eating at some of my favorite places like The Shed (as seen on Food Network), and maybe even Trapani's over in Bay St. Louis. I'm craving Trapani's trout smothered in crab, shrimp and hollandaise. Yum.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Mantle Birds

I'm very pleased with how the refinished mantle came out. I used furniture refinisher and some wipe on poly. Notice the cigarette burns on the mantle - pure character.

The birds have been found at local shops, antique stores near Shenandoah National Park, and gifts scrounged from ebay. We're always on the look out for our new collectibles.






Monday, July 14, 2008

Uber TV invades the house

Reading houseblogs and other design sources, the TV is something to be hidden in a deep dark corner of the house out of view. Yet when you watch TV it's supposed to be convenient. Hmph. The 13' width of the rowhouse limited our TV space to one of the side walls. Add the fact that bookshelves fit so perfectly into the niches to the side of the (non-functioning) fireplace, above the fireplace was the only good place for the TV. While we admire our new 50" TV nightly, we get a crick in our neck while laying on the couch.


We also decided to refinish the mantle instead of painting it white. After stripping the brown paint off the top, we were happy to see it was oak instead of the pine that I expected. There are multiple cigarette burns around the edge. To me, this just adds to the charm. After 5 coats of poly, the mantle looks HAWT when coupled with our $1 a sq/ft subway tile. We also decided to collect little birdies with the mantle serving as a great perch.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

The Queen Takes Her Throne

Or at least sells her cottage...

While Baltimore Rowhouse goes through a painfully sllooooooow renovation the Queen's condo has been on the market. 130 days after putting it on the market, it now has a contract on it. Woohoo!

Maybe I should finish the upstairs bathroom for the Queen's imminent arrival. :-)

*edit - I should spell check more often