A Very Generous House Warming Gift

Getting the pergola completed this year was made possible when my cousins Marlon and Debbie offered to pay for my landscaping material as a house warming gift. I had already purchased the Forest Pansy Redbud, Limelight Hydrangea, and 8 coral bell plants, but still needed to purchase the green mountain boxwoods (3), green velvet boxwoods (3), Bobo hydrangeas (2), and buckthorns (3), plus mulch. Covid-19 was making it difficult for nurseries to get plant material, so I bought whenthey came in and the nursery took care of them until I was ready to plant them. While I had been a decades long customer of Lakeview Nursery they seemed completely indifferent to being a part of this project. I went with my drawing, so didn’t need landscape design work, but at a minimum I wanted to pay them to plant at least the two trees, but preferably all my plants. I paid 60% of the plant price many times at Inner Circle for that service. When I got a STRONG sense that didn’t want to work with me in that manner I started looking at other nursery options. Fortunately Mom and ‘Em, the new coffee and wine shop around the corner from me had recently installed their outdoor space. I called Theresa Ferrari, one of the owners (the Mom) and she shared with me her landscaper, Mike Acra, Acra Landscaping.

Mike came to my house. I shared with him the quote for the remaining plants I had gotten from Lakeview and he told me he could source those plants, even get larger buckthorns and green mountain boxwoods, and install everything including what I had purchased already. His quote was very close to just the plant material at Lakeview, so Marlon and Debbie approved them doing it all. While I was excited to design my first landscape, planting and yardwork falls under must do, not like to do in my arsenal of skills. I was very grateful to have this gift bestowed on my home. Mike’s crew arrived early on Friday, Sept 18 and had everything planted by noon.

The only thing I needed to do was finally properly daylight the downspout on the left side of house. After months of back and forth with the City on what I should, could do with that downspout I got an email confirmation that i could just daylight it, let the water run into my yard. I just needed to pull the water run off away from the house foundation. I’ve had an ugly, black drain pipe attached since the box gutters were repaired which had to go! My father sent me a YouTube video of what he thought I needed. It would have been a lot of digging and I knew I’d hit mass roots. I found another video that was simpler, although I did not follow it fully. With the gutter guards I had installed at the roof line I didn’t need a filter kit and I wanted the connection from the downspout to match what I had done with the rear downspouts. I also did not trench 10′ away, I did 5′ because it was still more than required and that was the scrape length of the PVC pipe that I had. I did use the pea gravel, T-pipe connector and drain grate. My hole under the t-pipe went down about 18″ and took the entire bag of gravel.

I’ll get some top soil and throw down seed to get some grass in that area. Fall is the time to overseed your yard and that is my next weekend project. I’m trying to get tall fescue grass to be the dominate grass in the front and side yard.

The final touch for the landscape was the addition of landscape lights. My father installed Malibu lighting at my old house. The technology for those lights have changed a lot over the years. We had incandescent bulbs that my mother and I had to change out every spring. I did convert to LED a few years ago, but it appears Malibu has gone out of business. For this project I purchased Hampton Bay lights from Home Depot. I had Mr. McGhee, my electrician, install another outside receptacle on the side of my house (I have one by backdoor and on porch, neither in a good location for accessing the left side of house). I purchased the Hampton Bay 120-watt transformer (2), 9.8-Watt Millennium Black Adjustable Light Color Outdoor Integrated LED Landscape Flood Light (10 – bulk price eligible when you buy 10 or more) and 14-2 landscape wire. I needed 75′ for left side and 50′ for right. These lights are even better than the old Malibu lights I’ve used. The stakes are metal instead of plastic. They have an extension plate you could hit with a hammer (vs. the top of light) and they have adjustable light settings. You can choose from 2700K Warm White, 3000K Soft White or 4000K Daylight light colors. These pics were set on 3000K, but I have subsequently gone done to the 2700K setting.

Stunning if I must say so myself.

Paint is to Foundation as Pergola is to Eye Lash Extension

With the house painting complete I was able to focus on completing the rest of the exterior renovation/restoration. I started by painting the front steps. I found extra wide, rubber stair treads on Amazon that should help protect the steps from foot traffic wear. Another item I added, but not visible, were gutter guards to help keep debris from clogging up my downspouts. I removed them to allow DJK Painting Co to paint behind them and discovered that one was partially blocked with twigs and leaves. I searched Google for options and found Joylight Gutter Guard also on Amazon.

During the final days of the paint job, I gave Mike Tanner of Tanner Construction a call to have RayRay and Bobby scheduled to install the final two columns that would support the pergola.  Sadly he shared that Ray had lost his battle with cancer.  Just three months ago he had installed the first four.  Rest in peace, Ray.  We decided to touch base on Monday, Sept 14 to check the weather forecast for the week.  I decided to move forward with the wood delivery for the same day.

With the beautiful restoration of the porch bead board ceiling, my original plan to build the pergola out of cedar was changed to a more affordable poplar wood as I will stain it to match the ceiling. What made the project affordable is I purchased “green” wood (not naturally or kiln dried) wood from Wilhelm Lumber located about 30 minutes away in Brookville, IN. My former neighbor told me about them. With delivery all the lumber was under $600.  

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The first task was cutting the design into the ends of the rafters.  My father made that easy by finding a PDF that provided templates for many different design styles.  I chose something simple, but also complimentary to my house. My beams were wider than the templates, so I took them to Fedex and had it blown up to 10″ and 7″ heights.  I cut them out and traced them onto scrape plywood and cut them out with my jigsaw. My plan was to use my router to cut the actual boards. Wilhelm had given me some 1″ thick sample pieces, so I used them as my test. My actual boards are almost 2″ thick. I purchased a router bit with a bearing and went for it. I failed miserably.

First I only clamped my template to the board. It shifted, so I got a notch into the board almost immediately. I ended up screwing the template to the board. I knew my bit would not cut completely through, but it labored cutting through half the thickness. Once I got through the first pass I went through again, this time letting the bearing ride against the cut portion. I got about half way down the board and it bogged down bad, so I pulled the bit out and started cutting from the opposite end. When the excess wood fell away I lost control of the router and it bounced along the edge causing ridges.

I knew I had the wrong size bit, learned to not cut against the grain, but when I lost control I also scared myself, so I called Kendall (the person that was helping me with the headboard and made me the heirloom box) and my neighbor Dusty for advice, sharing the above pics. Both confirmed my thoughts that I was trying to remove too much wood with a router and suggested I cut them out with my jigsaw. Kendall suggested using the router to clean the edges. Dusty said to sand the edges. Saving the cost of another bit I followed Dusty’s suggestion. I don’t know what I was thinking ever considering using my router. I purchased a 5-pack of Bosch High Carbon Steel Extra Clean Cut T-Shank Jig Saw Blades for Cutting Wood ($11 vs a $40 router bit) from Home Depot and that blade cut like butter and left a surface as smooth as a baby’s butt. I only sanded the edges to get rid of the tracing marks.

For the 2×2 top course I took the same design template, but reduced it to a size where at least half of the end would have a curve. Initially I only cut the shape on one end as I was not sure how long I was going to make them. Ultimately I made them 172″ long and had them extend approximately 5″ past each end rafter, so I did end up cutting the shape on both ends.

Bobby and John (they worked together installing my master shower) arrived on Wednesday and the plan was for them to put up the two columns, the two beams horizontal to the house that would support the other pergola rafters plus one of the perpendicular rafters so it would be stable enough for me to finish the rest. Their first step was setting the columns. I ordered two 4x4s from Wilhelm Lumber that would run up the center of the columns so the parallel rafters would have something to anchor to. They were bolted to the cement porch with ABA ZMAX Galvanized Adjustable Standoff Post Base and 1/2 in. x 4 in. Steel Hex-Washer-Head Indoor/Outdoor Concrete Anchors. They used my 2x2s to brace the columns until the 10″ rafters were installed. He also mounted a block of poplar wood I had cut to 9″ x 3.5″ and painted Sea Serpent, so there would be an anchor point to the house. I purchased OZCO 56628 1/4-inch by 5-3/4-inch OWT Timber Screws for this.

I selected Ozco Building Products fastners, specifically their Laredo Sunset series, for all of the visible fasteners of the pergola. Most I purchased through Amazon, but when I discovered I needed more 2″ Rafter Clips, I found them at the Home Depot store in Florence, KY. When it came time to put the parallel rafters up they discovered they did not have a 3/4″ drill bit that could go through both 2″ thick rafters and the 4×4 post for the OZCO 56650 3/4-inch by 6 to 8-inch OWT Timber Bolts I purchased, so they had to the company owner, Mike, to bring one. While we were waiting they set up one of the 7″ rafters that would run perpendicular to the house and discovered the board was too wide. I failed to take into account the 1″ extension of the fascia board attached to the soffit. Fortunately I have a table saw and Bobby and John ripped off the inch. I don’t have a feed table for my table saw (its a job site saw), so it definitely was going to take two people to rip the remaining 10 boards. Bobby worked with me to cut the rest and we got half of them done before Mike arrived with the drill bit.

The first thing he said to me was Venus, I cleared the day for these guys to work on your project. I over-estimated the time for the first four columns, so let us put up all the rafters, I promise it won’t break the bank. I knew I would struggle doing this by myself, so I let them do it. Nothing pains me more than to pay someone to do what I can do for myself given my limited financial resources. While John hung the ones we had ripped, Bobby helped me finish ripping the 1″ off the ones we had not done. They had all 11 up in just a couple hours. They also reinforced the ledger board by hitting the studs with 1/4 in. x 3-3/4 in. Hex Head Self-Tapping OWT Timber Screws capped with OZCO 56621 1-1/2-inch Hex Cap Nut. Theses allowed the screws to match the size of the Timber Bolts. I bought OZCO 56638 Laredo Sunset 2-inch HV (High Velocity) Rafter Clips to attach the 7″ beams (now 6″) to the 10″ support beams and OZCO 56639 Laredo Sunset Joist Hanger Flush 6 to 8-inch to attach to the ledger board that I had attached to the house when the box gutters were restored in 2018. I knew then I was doing this pergola. It was part of my vision from day one.

With the “heavy” lifting done, the only thing left for me was the top course of the 2×2 beams. I had planned on 12, but only had room for 11 with approximately 6″ between each beams. Once I got my calculations down I created a jig by cutting a block of wood 6 3/8″ wide, so that my spacing remains consistent. With two clamps and my impact driver I set out to attach 121, OZCO 56617 Laredo Sunset 2-inch Rafter Clips.

As I stated earlier, I purchased green wood from Wilhelm Lumber. It has to dry out naturally, contain less than 12% moisture, before I can stain it to match the bead board ceiling. I’ll tackle that project next spring and consider that “house maintenance” vs. a continuance of the house restoration. On to the landscape!

Cheap in Price, Not in Service

This wasn’t priority work, but it’s something I’ve wanted done since I cut down all the trees in the backyard; clean up the cluster in the front.  Gene, with Cheap Tree Service, did some work at my old house removing limbs that broke during an ice storm.  I gave him a call about removing one limb and cleaning up sucker branches from the cluster of trees at the corner of my house.

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At my old house, electric was run underground, at this one a line from the pole you see with the stop sign runs to my house and these limbs engulf the line.  I was told Duke Energy doesn’t trim back trees that rest on utility lines when the tree is on private property.  Every bad storm I fear the branches breaking and taking down the line, so I’ve wanted those limbs trimmed back since the electric was turned on.

Fortunately for me yesterday another appointment on his schedule cancelled late and he was nearby, so he gave me a call to see if he could do my work.  I said yes and he and his crew were there in 10 minutes and had the branches and suckers cleaned out and up in 30 minutes.  Very professional crew and he cleared out more than I requested and didn’t charge me more for doing what was really needed given it didn’t take him a lot more time.  Love that mentality.  Cheap Tree Service is a minority owned business if you seek to support businesses in that category.  Licensed and Insured!

Huge difference.

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Not The Plan For The Weekend

This weekend was supposed to be simple, no strenuous projects.  Cut the grass, paint, and hang the 1st floor bathroom door.  Well I got the grass cut and after that was 7 hours of what has to be the most physically taxing work I’ve done in months.  I moved into the house with just the heat installed.  It was November, so AC wasn’t a necessity at that time.  My entire yard needs to be graded, but the area were the AC unit is going to be placed was particularly bad.  With every rain water would puddle in that area.  With hot weather approaching, instead of tackling the door, I tackled this area.

First priority was getting the drain pipe for the gutter deeper in the ground.  Last March my cousin Cameron and I ran PVC to connect the relocated downspout from the gutter to the original drain in the ground.  He dug down to the top of the clay pipe and we ran the PVC to it.  Unfortunately as the ground settled that pipe became exposed because we didn’t go deep enough.  We should have dug deep enough to remove the first clay pipe link.  That’s what I did Saturday.

This was one of the days I wish the weather forecast had been wrong.  I got to the original connection and was able to dig down to remove the next section of clay pipe (another 18″) before the rains came.  Digging the trench deeper, adding additional PVC to adjust for the deeper trench, and refilling the hole all occurred during a steady rain.

I was a muddy mess, so I don’t have a lot of pictures.  Before refilling the hole I dumped 4 bags of pea gravel in to help with elevating the dirt line.  I finished the project about 10p.  I was whipped and hungry.  I worked through dinner, but I was bound and determined to not have to deal with mud again the next day.  That tyvek suite has been deposited in the trash.

With the pipe fully covered now I could build the pad for the AC unit.  I have never poured concrete, so another new skill has been added repertoire.  After watching a few YouTube videos and talking with my go to handyman, Tom Milfeld, I decided to take this project on.  LADIES, we can do this.  I don’t know how many times I’ve prepared something in the kitchen that just needed you to add water and stir with no trepidation.  Well concrete is no different.  Just add water and stir.

20190428_130429First step was building a box.  My HVAC company had marked the spot with an orange box, so I’d know the location and size.  I had to go on memory because the rain and my digging project eliminated his markings.  Next step was making sure the box was level.  I made a 4″ thick frame, but in order for the box to be level the side closer to the house had to be elevated with stakes making it almost to 6″ deep.  That just confirmed how bad the pitch towards the house is and why I always got a pool of water in that area.

Quikrete’s website has a concrete calculator, so I would know how many bags to buy.  My box was roughly 40″ x 40″ and at a uniform 4″ depth that would need 7, 80 lb bags.  I bought 9 due to the deeper house side.  I got my wheel barrel out of storage, which became my giant mixing bowl and started mixing one bag at a time.  I ended up using 8.

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Even though it was Sunday I asked Tom if I could get just one hour of his time.  He arrived on bag 7 and brought the tool needed to smooth out the top.  For future reference I now know not to mix too loose.  He told me the water will evaporate and seep into the ground eventually, but he had to spend more time smoothing it out.  In a couple of days I’ll remove the wood frame.  I’m still sore and stiff, but my house is now ready to receive the AC unit.  Of course I had to leave a mark in the concrete, so in block letters I placed SGw/S – Sista Girl w/ Skills was here.

Another Door Complete

It’s actually been done for a while, but I’ve been pulled away from my house to work on a kitchen remodel, that post is coming soon.  This door had the worst graffiti of all the first floor doors.  I used only the process outline in the YouTube video How To Restore a Wood Door.  I’ve been using Restor-A-Finish color Ebony Brown. Turned out great.  Here is the before:

 

Here is the after:

 

 

 

 

 

I See the Trees Fallin’

Today Gregory Forrest Lester took down approximately 15 trees from the side and back yard of my house in preparation for my future garage.  I thought I had hit pay dirt when I contacted a woodmizer out of Indiana who, in exchange for the 5 walnut trees, was going to cut down all the trees for FREE.  Well that turned out to be too good to be true as their plan was to “fall” the trees, which required a street closure permit.  In order to get that they would need to apply for the permit, be bonded, and insured with the city.  They were none of these, so back to plan A, paying to have them removed.  I got several bids in the same ballpark, but selected Gregory Forrest Lester because they were on the City of Cincinnati’s contractor list.  They also agreed to match my lowest bid, which included the grinding out of the accessible stumps.

I’m so glad I went with them.  The two other low bids were smaller operations and would have taken at least a week to clear all the trees.  Their crew arrived at 7am, as stated, and they made quick and efficient work of removing the trees.  They were finished by 2pm.  The crew was super friendly and very accommodating.  There were several branches and debris on the roof and I asked if the young man in the cherry picker could use their backpack blower to removed the and they did.  There was a bunch of out of control grape vines entangled around the two cluster of trees that remain near the front and they removed a lot of it for me.  They also cut out a couple of rouge branches from those clusters.  One of the crew members gave me a great landscaping suggestion, planting Redbud trees along the back.  I’ll probably give them a call when it’s time to tackle the landscaping.

Here’s another Quik video capturing the event: I See the Trees Fallin’ video
I swear my house was smiling, basking in the warmth of the sun, something the rear of it had not felt in years.

I have a strong desire to make my own dining room table (I have these really cool cast iron table legs that are screaming for a wood top), so I’m still allowing Woodwright’s Portable Saw Mill and Woodworker to take the walnut trees.  Randy Wiper, owner, will properly cut the trunks into slabs and dry them out and I’ll get enough for my little project.  If I chicken out on tackling the table I will at least get enough to create a vanity shelf in the two bathrooms.

First Cut

Unlike in Forest Park, the City of Cincinnati does not consider yard waste trash and they only pick it up every two weeks (I’m on the Green Schedule) April thru January.  It has to be placed in special paper yard bags or a dedicated can that is marked yard waste.  Forest Park tried enforcing paper bags for yard waste and that lasted one season.  I guess I’ll have to get use to using them again and today picked up 3 packs of 5 to tackle my first yard work at the house.

My grass was getting pretty long and tonight is my night to set out for pick up tomorrow, so I figured out a way to haul my lawn mower over to the house (bought a ramp that fit on my Cruiser) to cut the grass.  I also took my string edger and backpack blower.  The house has probably not been edged in decades; grass was very overgrown on the sidewalks and curb.  Unfortunately I ran out of string (I didn’t think I’d need a refill), so I didn’t get to do the entire property.  I did cut my yard as well as my neighbor’s, Laverne.  I used the blower to clear the sidewalks and get more leaves up.  My cousin Greg showed up just in time to pick up all the debris, my least favorite part.

At the closing for my house Joe Gorman, Camp Washington Community Board Executive Director, told the attorney that my house is a signature property for Camp Washington.  I’m on a mission to make sure it lives up to that status.  Getting the yard in pristine condition will be a major part of that.  My father designed the landscape around my current home.  I’m looking forward to designing this one.