Sunday, April 20, 2014

Getting Started in Agriculture

I've enrolled myself in a free online beginner agriculture program through North Carolina's National Center for Appropriate Technology, and through start2farm. I think I meandered my way to it through the Madison-Morgan Conservancy of all things, while researching the Nolan House. The website also had farming information which lead me to these online programs. Pretty neat. I like free stuff.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Still Angry

I keep going back and forth in my mind about the fact the the seller didn't have permits to do some major stuff in the house. Therefore he lied on the disclosure, which is fraud. The fireplace is a rooting mess. It would be nice if, since he didn't have the permits to put one in, that he should pay to remove it. But really, what would I rather be using my money for? Proving a point? Or doing needed stuff around here. So there you have it. Enjoy my latest podcast on Spreaker!

Sunday, April 13, 2014

What is really needed is a dry crawlspace instillation, and sealing the sill plates. I can crawl under there and seal the sill, but the dry crawl, might be too much money for us to do at this point. I can also add soffit vents, exhaust the bath outside, and even upgrade it to be used as a whole house exhaust. We are planning to replace our furnace with a heat pump and move the ductwork into the attic. These modifications may help improve the moisture issue. Our house is currently around 60% which is the highest you want. Above that the conditions area created for mold. Your home should be between 40-60%. The weird thing that happens is after we've been running the AC and then we need to run the furnace for what ever reason. Steam comes out of the vent and steams up the windows. The other night the system was on cool, and it was cold out and nothing was running and the house got down to 64 degrees and the bedroom we are in at the moment smelled like dirty laundry, and the humidity was at 74% when I turned on the heat, it shot up to 84%, then slowly dropped back down. So it's a double edge sword. To keep the house around 50% either the heat or AC has to be running regularly. That's not efficient, or cost effective. Our house sits in an ungraded foundation. Ungraded, being that there's a hill under the kitchen that almost touches the floor. I don't know if this was there at the time of construction, or if there was a flood at some point. The crawl is only about 24" high. In some places the ductwork is sitting on the ground. Gross. A lot of the duct insulation has been torn off and used as nesting material in the ducts themselves. I found one nest in the air return, and one in the vent in the kitchen. There's probably more. Some where along the duct there's an opening for vernon to get into. Or they're entering from the furnace or evaporator coil itself. Our furnace is in a grotesque house attached to the exterior wall of the house.
 The opens for the vent ducts are rectangles cut into the exterior of the house, with no attempts to seal the opening. So it would be easy for vermin to get into the duct work from the house. I really want to get rid of the rotting creep shack, remove the ducts from the crawl, seal the duct entries, and move it all into the attic. I'm currently working to chisel down the chimney which almost touches the roof. The chimney itself is a moisture wick from the crawlspace. I had noticed a moldy smell coming from the dividing wall between our rooms. I was able to look in the wall where they added a cable jack. But I didn't see anything. After some research I read an article about an old chimney causing mold, and paint failure due to it being a moisture wick. When it snowed the snow melted on the roof above the chimney and above the two places where the facia was gapped and had rotted a little. I'm pretty sure the chimney goes down to the crawl because the home used to have a floor furnace that vented out through it. Small house, with big problems. I'm hoping that if I reduce the chimney down and cap it, that it will solve that problem. Although, it will still be wicking moisture from the crawl. At least right now it's somewhat venting out through the ridge vent. Maybe I need to think about what I'm doing.
Gutters, heat pump, and a dry crawl would do this house a world of good. With out gutters and a dry crawl, it's going to continue to rot. Is it worth saving. Sometimes I just don't know. The house is sitting on compacted red clay that in places goes down at least 20 feet. Judging from what I saw at the gully. Clay is hold a lot of nutrients and water. I don't need to dig very far before I hit moist clay. Even if it hasn't rained in a while. Now that Georgia isn't in a drought, the gardenia's are turning yellow, and the paint is peeling off the walls. The house is basically sitting on one big moist terra cotta pot. It's just perpetually damp. I read that a 1000 sqft. crawl will release about 10 gallons of moister per day. Well that explains a lot. This isn't Arizona either. This is moist Georgia clay. I could make pottery out of this stuff, or a new house made entry out of cob. I just might do both. I'm actually gathering clay as I grade the yard. Here's what I can do right now. Grade the yard away from the house 1 inch per foot for at least 10 feet. Add gutters, and extend the downspout away from the house at least 10 feet. Or into my rain barrels. I'm not sure if we'll ever be able to add a dry crawl. If the crawl wasn't so low and damn scary, I'd have gone in there already and sealed the sill. The crawl is only about 24" in a good place, and 2" in the kitchen. When you build a crawl this low and you think you might ever want to venture in there, you're now going to need a chihuahua, or a primordial dwarf. I would love to rase the foundation, poor new footers, elevate the crawl to 3.5 feet, add a dry crawl, and really clean this place up. I guess if the paint in the master fails again, we might need to consider it. Plus, is the house still sinking southward? On the front of the house under the bedroom it's like the home is tilting towards the back and the sill plate is almost exposed. It has termite damage. Plus the bottom board of siding is rotted and ready to break off. The inspector missed that. As long as most of the sill plate is damage free then it's OK, but if most of the sill plate has termite damage, then we're talking terms of, "Just bulldoze this shack already". I'm seriously. It's only 1082 sqft. Was built more like an extra home, not a primary home. The rafters are weird and hand hewn with bark still on them in places. Replacing a sill plate is mucho dinero. Since the house is small maybe it can get away will sill damage. The house was not taken care of for a long time. Was covered with vines that went all the way into the gable vents, and under the exterior siding. It also had powder post beetle damage (hopefully that was the sill culprit), termite damage, dry rot, and wood fungus. Yikes. Maybe I need a dehumidifier to get things started.


This was a huge undertaking, one which took me about two months to finish. Because I've never done anything like this before, I would stop when I was unsure, do some reading and thinking and then move forward. My room rehab involved several techniques, most of which I improvised, and hope withstand the ongoing moisture issue from the crawlspace. My technique involved repairing, filling, and patching with expandable foam, because it's weather resistant and adds insulation value. While working on the wall and exploring cold spots, I discovered that the walls had blown in insulation, but the the house envelope is missing a layer. The envelope is only siding, tarpaper, studs, and drywall. I think the old tar paper has holes in places adding to the cold spots, and moisture infiltration. I tried to fix this with foam. The cellulose was also over filled, otherwise known as a "blow out" which caused the south wall to bow out into the room. The cellulose also acts as a sponge to absorb moisture from the crawlspace, gaps in the tarpaper, and later I discovers a rotten and separated facia. I had to foam and silicone the entire south side facia board where it meets the roof because it was gapped and rotted in places. My technique for fixing the mold crack beneath the west window involved foam, and a layered cast of drywall mesh and mud. This technique would have also worked for the punch hole, but I hadn't thought of it when I repaired the punch hole first. I think the foam, mesh cast would have given me a smoother and stronger patch over the punch hole. As is, the punch hole patch involved foaming the area behind the drywall around the punch hole and towards the window where the drywall was flexing with pressure. I foamed it flush then cut out a relief to insert a square of drywall with flaps of drywall paper around the edge to help with blending. I did end up taping the edges with mesh and the result was slightly raised and the wall still flexes slightly, though not as bad as before. I also removed the tape and mud blob patches for the cellulose fill holes, 4 holes per wall. The tape had water damage and the holes where allowing moisture to enter and become trapped beneath the many layers of paint. I foamed these holes and as much of the surrounding area behind the sheetrock. I also drilled holes every 8 inches in the wall near the crown molding and foamed a continuous line inside the wall. The interior wall and soffit share an opening which leads into the attic. I'm not sure how this adds to the problem, or what will happen if I add soffit vents. I also foamed the entire length of the south corner and west corner. After all the foam, and patching I had to blend everything with a float coat of mud. So almost the entire wall of the dividing, south and west wall, was mudded. Lots and lots of sanding, and lots and lots of dust. Finally, after all old and new discoveries where addressed, and I felt happy with the surface, I primed with two coats of Zinzer, and then it took 2 tops coats of Glidden premium. I also decided to go ahead and repaint the ceiling while I was at it, because it was splotchy in places. I decided instead of keeping it white to paint it an off white, which I had seen Nicole do on her show. The color scheme changed though at painting time. I was originally going to paint our room a color called, "Haystack", but decided it was too yellow and wanted something more relaxing. So I switched to a color called, "Misty Summer Day". I tried to re-tint haystack, but they couldn't do it, so it will probably go in our daughter's room. She picked out a color called, "Dazzling Daffodil". But it was way too yellow. I tried re-tinting it and ended up with a color that looks like gross caramel. Still not sure what I'll do with that. Mix it with something else, sparingly. The color for the ceiling is called, "Glow". I had 2 gallons I tinted that color, should have only tinted. I took it back to try and make it lighter. Should have added more white. They made is a more beige color which I thought I liked. But at home It was too dark. There's a huge difference between the lights at Home Depot and the light in my house. Smartly the guy in paint recommended only re-tinting one can just in case. Good thing, because I decided to just keep the original color on the ceiling. I still think it's a little too dark, but I like it. The room now has a very relaxed happy feel too it, which is exactly what I wanted. Best of all, no more pea green soup color on the wall, and no more peeling paint. Only time will tell if this repair will hold up. I did the very best I could with the money and resources available to me.
It all started with a flap of peeling paint
Underneath was the tell tail signs of water damage 
Rini called this the "Bunny"
A small peel quickly becomes a massive paint fail
inspecting a crack under the window
Finding crumbling sheetrock and mold
other areas where beginning to blister and crack.
When scraping away these blisters, larges areas of paint would come away.
Testing for lead
Covering where I had opened up the crack which had mold and termite residue.
Be careful when changing scraper blades. The ER visit cost more than the entire room rehab.
$1000 for liquid bandage and a crappy splint?  Where is the ACA now?
Soon our room looked like a meth shack
Found a strange curved crack and the wall next to the window was flimsy
Finding more water damage next to the other window
caulking the crack, but what is this spongy peach stuff  I'm  revealing? The paint that was covering this area was darker and sticky.
The water damage next to the window was pretty bad

Close up of some of water damage on south wall
finding poorly patched holes from when the blew in cellulose, which is acting as a moisture sponge.
Patching poorly taped drywall pieces 
Underneath the spongy peach stuff was a poorly patched hole some one had punched in the wall

A domestic despite between Joseph and Meg? How interesting. 

Foaming the cellulose holes and the punch hole

Just cut flush when dry with a serrated knife. Bread knives work really well.
repairing more cracks under the west window

When scarping the paint by the south window, it failed all the way to the sheetrock paper.

Mudding starts and scraping continues

Mudding the curve crack while still repairing the punch hole.

More foam for the punch hole and the surrounding area behind it to ad stability to the wall

Things have really gone from bad to worse. 

Investigating the water damage, trying to find it's source. It may have been the rotten facia board which I discovered later.

Scraping the west wall finds more water damage 
Looking pretty horrendous, what's that red stuff?
Squaring off the mold area for a possible drywall splice
West wall is done being scraped and now needs patching and a float coat

close up up mold crack. Had old termite damage and even mud from the out side in the wall

debris from a prior infestation, and red clay dust

scraped out all the dirt and debris from between the two wall beams

South wall. Meshing, and mudding the long relief cuts I made into the wall length cracks from the cellulose over fill or "blow out". Also mudding the drywall paper.

I break for inspiration. Nicole Curtis wears the same shoes as me
Now she is awesome in my book
I've just patched the punch hole with a drywall square. Maybe a full foam patch with a mud cast would have been better. But I was still learning at this point.

Second foam patch. I chose foam for all my patches because it's moisture resistant and adds insulation. 
With an ongoing moisture issue, I need to use weather proof materials.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Desperate Landscapes

I need to be on an episode of yard crashers, or something. Our yard is just an unkept mess. Over grown random plantings, and trees that seeded themselves. Nothing is coherent, and nothing is where is should be. Everything is too close to the house. And that includes the big rusty shed. What the hell am I going to do with this mess? It's so weird I can't even imagine what needs to be done. I might call in a landscape architect just for a write up that I can implement. Or not, cuz I'm broke. I just want openess flowing out from the house.