Sunday, August 26, 2007

Home improvement motivation... summer style

It’s been a long, hectic summer filled with distractions that have kept me away from many home improvement projects. Between weekend events to spend time with friends and family and full-fledged vacations, it’s been hard to tackle some of the outstanding projects in my Cape Code rejuvenation quest. (And by outstanding, I mean unresolved, not spectacular.)

One of the biggest feats of the summer has been tackling the roof leaf into the dinning room ceiling. A few weeks ago I went out onto the sunny porch off the bedroom directly above the dinning room and started exploring. To quickly catch you up, as previously mentioned in my Getting started post, I had already cut a hole in the dinning room ceiling in an attempt to pinpoint where the leak was coming from. (And also to keep the sagging plaster from giving way and dropping onto the dinning room table. You can see a photo of the sagging plaster in the link above.) This hole has been there for over a year as I tried to surmise the situation and calculate the best plan of attack. Essentially I unable calculate a great plan of attack, and with my wife’s patience wearing thin due to the hole in her dinning room ceiling, I set off to the sunny porch with hammer and crowbar in hand.

Let’s start by showing you the doorway where the leak is coming from. With the dinning room ceiling opened up, I could tell the leak was coming straight down and not running from another area. The spot right above the leak is the door. It must be pursued. The photo to the right was taken on June 11. (June 11?! See what I mean by summer getting away from me? It seemed like just a couple of weeks ago.) Note the garden hose in the picture. Prior to destruction I pinpointed one last test spray on the right side of the door and confirmed that it was dripping into the dinning room.

Initially I was only going to remove the screen door and the casing board on the right side of the doorway, but later I noticed that the siding was installed in a less-than-desirable manner. You see, the siding butted up against the door casing. After a little research, I discovered that the end of the side (in this case, up against the doorway) SHOULD be capped off with a vertical J channel. (Here’s a great Web site that shows the various siding installation pieces. Click on the house drawing to view their useful animation that shows which side components are used on a home.) With a J channel, any water that works its way along with siding towards the door will be hit the J channel and head down to the rubber roof.

While seeking out a solid filler to use at the base of the right side of the doorway, I discovered Bondo Home Solutions All-Purpose Putty. That’s right sports fans; the same people who brought you the great two-part body filler to bring your cherished rust bucket car back to life also make a similar two-part filler for applications around your home. In my case, I used it at the base of the door casing on either side of the door. On both sides of the door the wood had rotted away and had previously been patch with something that didn’t withstand the test of time. I’m hoping Bondo’s All-Purpose Putty will stand the test of time. However, I’m not just leaving it exposed to the elements. I added flashing at the base of the door casing that should bring rainwater away from the door threshold and out toward the rubber roof.

When I was finished with the right side of the door and ready to move on to green pastures, I started poking around the left side of the door. Frankly, the wood door casing was in even worse shape than the right side. I ultimately removed it, along with the adjacent board that’s alongside the right side of the window. I also removed the two short pieces of aluminum siding below the window.


In the photo to the right you can see that I installed two new boards and filled some of the larger gaps with the Bondo All-Purpose Putty. In this spot, the Bondo will be primed and painted to reduce exposed to Mother Nature.







Below the window, I replaced the old aluminum siding with HardiPlank cement fiber siding. It’s relatively cheap, comes pre-primed, and should withstand the test of time (something I’m certainly looking for in a product for this home improvement project!). The only downfall of using this product is cutting it. Understand how hard this stuff is before cutting it with your best blade on your circular saw or compound miter saw.

At this point the only thing I need to do is prime the boards on the left side of the door. Once I do that (hopefully later today), I can re-hang the screen door and put a lawn sprinkler up on the sum porch to see if my handiwork actually worked. If it the roof leak is fixed, there will be a domino effect around our house: the dining room ceiling will get fix and the hardwood floors throughout most of our first floor will get refinished. We’ve been putting off refinishing our floor because there’s currently a water mark on the hardwood floor in the dining room below the leak. The dinning room floors connect with the hardwood floors in the front foyer and the back hallway, which in turn leads to the first floor bedroom and den. Basically, once you start refinishing the floors there’s no place to stop.

Getting the heavily-worn floors refinished will give our entire first floor a new breath of fresh air. We’ve held off on refinishing the oak floors until the leak was fixed. Hopefully that time is finally upon us!