How we came to purchase our home.

WPA Photo

A Works Progress Administration photo offers a glimpse of our home's past.

Reproduction Windsor Chair

Finally, a dining room set.

No Power, No Heat.

Our first snow storm and it's aftermath, October, 2011.

Lead Poisoning

Updates to our son's lead levels.

Bit By Bit

My wife's blog on being pregnant, giving birth and raising our first child with all the complications, hardships and joys that life throws our way.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Getting Cold...

We've been spoiled.  October, November and most of December were a delight.  The outdoor temperatures kept peaking at near 60 degree highs.  Recently, however, the night time temperatures have been falling.  We're now close to 20 degrees at night and gradually dropping.  For a "normal home" this wouldn't be much of an issue, besides, what's "normal" anyway?  

Normal is what everyone else's home is like and your's is not.  That is, insulated.

 I came home from work today to find that the first floor was relatively warm, and the heating was off.  My wife had closed the doors leading to the upper floor as well as closed off our bedroom and bathroom.  Going inside our bedroom was a shock to the system, like the Polar Bear Club... 

The temperatures in our bedroom and bathroom were dramatically colder than any other part of our home.  Where it was a decent 60+ on the first floor, our bedroom was hovering in the upper 30's.  Our walls are thin, yes, but what is much worse are our windows.  They do not align correctly where the upper sash and lower sash have anywhere from 1/8" to a 1/2" gap between them.  The outside air circulates quite well with this setup and lowers the temperature rapidly.

We purchased two boxes of Frost King's Window Insulation Kit from our local big name hardware store costing us $10.98 (plus tax) each.  The kit comes with nine clear plastic sheets and double sided tape.  The concept is simple enough.  Clean off the area around the window along the molding.  Apply the tape along the perimeter and stick on the clear plastic sheet.  You don't have to be very neat as this last part hides most of the sloppiness.  Take your wife's hairdryer and starting at one corner, work your way around the window.  Just watch that plastic film shrink and become as tight as a drum!

My wife is a great helper, by the way.  While I setup the next couple of windows, she heat shrank the plastic.  When taught, the plastic is barely noticeable, especial with the curtains back up.

I also grabbed two bottles of paint-able white caulk and went at it in the bathroom.  I caulked every seam and nail hole in our bead board wall. The wall divides the bathroom from the stair well, which leads to the attic... the Icicle Queen herself wouldn't stay up there....talk about a draft when you get out of the shower... We'll see how it is in the morning, if there is any effect.  I hope for the best, our latest heating bill came in :(

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Chimney and Stoves, Part I

My wife and I are looking on spending between $5,000 and $6,000 year heating our home with oil.  Our furnace is approximately 60 years old, and in fact on 12/2/2011, I had the oil tank filled costing us $694.33 for 185.7 gallons.  Last time we had the tank filled was on October 12.

On the weekend of 12/3/2011, I had the chimney inspected.  I was a little disappointed with the inspection.  I had to wait a month for the appointment and when the two man crew came in, they spent 15 minutes walking around as I took them to each fireplace.  After the walk through, the attic was seen, then the basement.  Finally, one man climbed to the roof and looked down the chimney.  That's it.  I was charged $150 for a visual inspection (Level 1) and all they told me was what I already knew.  That my chimney is unlined.  Yey, thanks for wasting my money...  Not only did I waste a month, waste $150 for information I already knew, I also received a citation from the chimney sweep that I have a code violation.  Now that's a WTF moment if anything.

I was also given an estimate for repair.  The oil furnace has a 7" diameter exhaust that is ducted to the chimney, but is also unlined.  For $2,500, the Sweep will install a liner for that exhaust.  It's important since the exhaust, like an automobile's exhaust, contains carbon monoxide.  Being un-lined allows the gases to potentially leak through cracks in the chimney.

The sweep also noted moss growing on the chimney cap's exterior bricks.  For $475, the cap can be cleaned and sealed.

Also, for $1,200 to $1,400, they will install a stove that I buy separately whose price includes a liner.

With this knowledge, my wife and I went stove shopping.  We ended up at a large showroom with several different styles, sizes and brands.  I found out that stove makers make exclusive contracts with distributors who are the only ones allowed to sell that brand within a set radius forcing a price point that is hard to beat.  No real competition...

Regardless of the above, we saw and liked a particular stove called a Lopi Leyden.  From the salesperson we found out that the unit is made in America, cast iron and a higher quality than average.  Reviews online show a 50/50 opinion in regards to quality of build.  You can fill the stove either from the front double doors or from the top.  It's roughly 500 lbs in weight and since it burns wood, requires a 6" liner.  The larger the liner, the more expensive.

We got a quote of $1999 for the stove itself and another $1000 for the liner plus $600 for basic installation.  I tried my best to explain to the salesman that we don't have your typical setup.  We have an antique home.... somehow, when I explain this to people, they don't seem to understand.  Photos are the only way to express a thousand words:

 I sent all these photos to make sure that the salesman knew exactly what it was that he was dealing with so that there were no surprises during the installation.  I also included a photo of the exterior of our home showing the chimney.  I wanted to get an appropriate estimate for the installation of the stove as well as the cost to install the liner for the oil boiler.  With all this information, he waited a week saying that he's trying to get information...
Hi Steve, spoke with Matt my installer. He's thinking by looking at the pics and doing a quick drive by that your chimney opening is 48 x 48. Let me know if you have any questions.
Sent from my Samsung Captivate
 That's nice, but this was emailed a week after the photos were submitted.  I replied with:
Great, so where does that leave us with an estimate for the installation of a 7" diameter liner for the oil furnace AND updated installation costs for the wood burning stove? 
A couple days pass and no response:
I hate to pester, but I am still waiting to hear from you regarding the installation costs.
I also apologize for using your personal email, as I do not have your work email.
Thanks, Steve 
A response, finally:
Its no bother at all Steve. Monday i was playing phone tag with (name) a couple times. Either he was in the middle of an install or I was unavailable. Yesterday i was off. Im going to ask him if he could leave a approx figure should i miss his call again. Take care. I'll talk to you soon with an update. 
Ok, so I'll wait for him to get in touch with his installer......
Good morning Steve
I wanted to give you an update. I spoke with (name) briefly yesterday. He advised me that he wouldn't be able to do the job for you because he's so backed up with installs on stoves. Sorry for the delay in getting back to you.
This salesman is just wasting my time...
This is really disappointing.  Waiting for information for two weeks only to read that your installer's opinion on cost is that he's too busy?  That's F'd up, to be blunt.
I suppose I should take my business else where, if this is the level of service I am to expect from Dean's Stove and Spa.  We like the stove but putting a serious buyer on the back burner and showing nothing for it is ridiculous.  You could have been more professional about it and gave us a proper quote but added, "unfortunately, our installer is not available until...". No, instead you blew us off for two weeks, then had the balls to say, in essence, that your installer is too lazy to figure out a quote.  I put great effort in creating a detailed plan with photographs, I can see I only wasted my time.
A review of this business will be made.
Quite disappointing.  Good luck with your future endeavors.
I am still planing on installing a wood stove, but not from Dean's Stove and Spa.  Perhaps I will buy one from them and have the chimney sweep install it.  After emailing the above, still annoyed, I wouldn't want to give a commission to this salesman.

There is a tax rebate of 10% for wood stoves of over 75% efficiency for the 2011 tax year.  Hence, why my time is being wasted by this salesman.