Shingle Repair

I've had a lot of home ownership bad luck lately. I have multiple problems going on concurrently but for the sake of my sanity, let's focus on this monkey wrench.
Our tankless hot water heater went kaput. Like, completely Out of Order. Lame, right? It was only installed in late '07 or early '08. It was no longer under warranty, and my plumber said that something in the circuitry had blown out. Fixing it would be pretty labor intensive and in his experience many units don't make it past 10 years. (So not true that they last 20 years).

The system was behind that copper cover on the top rear deck. So with the heater's death came the great debate about whether to replace it with another tankless one or go with a tank in the garage. You see, I already have a boiler in my garage that runs the radiant heating system which could also heat water for the house's needs if a tank were installed. 

Installing a new tankless would be cheaper (the cost of heater about $1,500 plus labor), but a tank system, although more expensive (about 5K with labor), would last my lifetime. So I might be replacing the tankless one again in 10 years or I could just eat it now and be done with it (at least in theory, but that's another saga and blog post).

Secondly, a tank system is much better for water conservation. It took a considerable amount of time (a couple of minutes) for the hot water created by the tankless system on the deck to reach the faucets throughout the house. It felt super wrong to stand there and wait for hot water while watching gallons flow down the sink. The tank system allows pumps to be installed so that the hot water continuously recycles through the system and comes almost immediately. 

As for energy consumption, the jury is still out on that and I will comment when I get my first PG&E bill. With either system I am using natural gas which is far more economical than electricity.

We decided to go with the tank system and my plumber took the old system away and capped the gas line. I still need to call the electrician to get the electrical capped off. 

Anyhoo, getting back to reason for this post -I needed to patch the shingles where the heater had been attached to the house. Now, despite this blog being titled The Shingled House, I don't know shit about shingling. I only took this on because the patch was over an area that had already been waterproofed with a membrane so I figured I couldn't screw things up too badly. And of course, I had my trusty friend Youtube to teach me how to do anything. I found this video to be particularly useful.

Ok, so the whole premise of shingles is that you build and overlap from the bottom up, so that the water runs off each shingle onto the top of the next, causing water to cascade off and away from the building. This layering, however makes patching sort of a pain in the arse as the nails from the upper layers (not being removed) can interfere with sliding a shingle in from beneath for a lower layer. 

For this reason, I found it easier to remove more shingles, all the way to the roof line, so that I had fewer to weave in under others with nails. This decision was made easier because I had extra shingles stored in my crawlspace from an earlier repair so I didn't need to consider saving them or running out to buy more.

I used a level and chalk to keep the shingles as straight as possible and I tried to follow the guidelines on spacing and overlapping. Because this is a southern exposure and the existing shingles have shrunken quite a bit, I kept my spacing relatively tight in anticipation of there being quite a bit of shrinkage on these new ones too.

Shingles score and cut pretty easily with a box cutter with a fresh blade -even across the grain which was necessary for the topmost shingles.

Not bad! Ben Franklin was right, you can do anything you set your mind to...This took me about 4 or 5 hours total, btw. Too bad the trim needs paint, and asap.


Cardboard Cube

I have been hoarding cardboard for almost a year now in order to make a little cube of a stool for my living room. I know this look will not be for everyone but I have had a love affair with cardboard for some time now.

I made these pieces when I was still a Graduate student at RISD in the mid 90's. I was inspired to work in cardboard from Frank Ghery's Easy Edges pieces from the early 1970's, mostly because I just loved the texture of the sliced up corregated edges. This was a major turning point for me in my own design process and thinking. Up to this point, I had only worked in wood, which is a long, arduous and exacting process, whereas cardboard is fast and intuitive and forgiving. In other words, I realized that working in hardwood was sort of boring and a drag, whereas cardboard was fast and fun.

This cube sort of reminds me the plywood cube Tom Sachs made with zero waste. It is at the same time minimalist and then not. Just as an funny aside, Tom Sachs made that cube when working in the wood shop of none other than...Frank Ghery.  

Because I no longer have a woodshop, this took a little time to make. Previously I sliced up my cardboard on a table saw, or if I wanted a more feathery edge, I used a bandsaw. For this, I used a razor blade. Oooof. 

I cut my cardboard on the diagonal, so that I didn't have two distinct sides (one running with the corregation, the other across it). I like the variation that I got with the different recycled boxes I used.  

In order to give the top texture, I ripped off the top layer of paper and exposed the corregation on the top sheet. My experience with cardboard is that it is super durable and if cut up in this way, it only gets better with age.

Glue up is very simple with a foam roller and Elmers.

I would glue about 4 or 5 sheets and then stand on it for a few moments to get a tighter seal. I eyeballed the alignment for squareness.

We use this as a stool and a side table to hold drinks.

Hope you enjoyed this little project. I sure did.


Wicker Bull's Head

I have been searching for a vintage wicker bull's head for a while now. I was smitten by this image of Lorenzo Castillo's kitchen, which I believe I first saw posted by Heather Clawson. I missed my opportunity to buy one from Jayson Home. They carried two sizes and were pretty nice but I hesitated because they were pretty expensive, and now they no longer offer it. 

When I saw that Target was selling one (via Emily Henderson's blog), for like 29 Dollars, I bit. I ordered it online and kept my fingers crossed. 

I'm giving this a try but I think I might hate this guy. He lacks the coolness of a vintage piece -it's too new looking and the face sort of looks like a pig rather than a bull (the eyes are sort of piggy looking). And, the snout is too long. I wonder if this would look better sprayed with linseed oil to darken it. 

Maybe a wreath of greens would improve his looks and who knows I may still grow to like him. Meanwhile I continue to search for the real deal- a vintage one from Spain or France. I'd love to have a little collection of smaller ones up there. If anyone has a source, please do tell.


A New Piano

We have a new piano.

I got it from a salvage yard in San Francisco. It is a former player piano that no longer has the player mechanism in it. It dates from 1917 and has a beautiful sound. It's loud and rich AND I knew that Kit would just love the way the little doors open allowing him to see the hammers hitting the strings.

This was the notice taped to it. This piano has been sitting somewhere since 1999.

When I saw this piano, I was immediately drawn to it but I was just breezing through the yard in search of salvaged lumber, besides that they were asking $300 and it's not easy/cheap to transport a piano. 

And, if you are a regular reader, you might recall that I already have a piano, a cute little Bradbury spinet. This little guy is only a loaner though, it belongs to my brother-in-law. I moved the map and put up the suzani earlier this year. You can see some other iterations of this nook here. (Clearly I like to move my stuff around).

Anyhoo, I left the yard without buying this thing, but I couldn't get it off my mind. It was ugly painted white but it sounded so good and I knew it would look awesome painted black. I went back twice before pulling the trigger and paying $250 for it. I'm so happy with it and so is Kit. He likes to play out patterns and chords and it sounds so lovely in the house. As for me, learning the piano is on my bucket list, but realistically not until I'm too decrepit to pursue my other more physical and creative interests (like running and DIY mania -because let's be real, there are only so many hours in the day).

It took three guys -two who were as large as pianos themselves, to haul it up one flight of stairs and to bring the other one down. 

Almost the entire piano's original varnish has alligatoring, I am completely ignoring that. I dry-scraped the top with a razor and knocked off other areas where the adhesion of the other two layers of paint weren't good. I wiped everything but the keys with de-glosser and then primed it with tinted Zinsser Bulls Eye 1-2-3. Any paint store can add a little dark base to bring the tre-white primer to a mid-range grey for darker topcoats. 

I used a dry toothbrush to clean the red felt that runs along the top to the keys. It pops so nicely against the black and white, hard to believe that's almost 100 years old. I cleaned the keyboard with a damp cloth.

I also very delicately vacuumed the interior with a dusting brush attachment and my vacuum set on the very lowest setting.

The paint is Benjamin Moore's Black Beauty in eggshell. It has just the slightest bit of white in it, which I think suites the era of the piano. It took about 3 or 4 coats to get good coverage.

Right now I'm using this drummers stool for a seat but I'd like to find a glass ball claw foot stool of the same era for it.




I'm thinking of going back to cloth napkins. 
I dyed this linen some time ago (for a pillow) but the color didn't come out as I'd planned so it was sitting in my fabric pile. I had enough for four 24" squares. 

I didn't go with seams and instead used a fairly tight zigzag stitch at the raw edge. On the prefinished edge (one per napkin the way I cut them), I zigzagged slightly off the edge because I liked the way it looked.

I edged in different colors so that we can use the napkins more than once and not get them confused, kind of like what we do with our tooth brushes.

This was a very fast project, btw. An hour or two of stollen time in the morning.


Found Storage Cubby

I've had really good karma lately for street finds. 
I recently found this little storage box out in Noe Valley.

It was looking a little ratty, especially with the tape remnants on the top.

It was in perfect shape structurally though, it just needed some light sanding to minimize the water marks and to get rid of the gummy tape residue.

I bought this random orbit sander recently when I was redoing the window sills in Ethan's room. I justified this splurge because I am also planning on repainting the trim on the rear deck which is peeling and will need some sanding prep. I like Makita as a brand and usually stick with that if I can. This sander is a charm to use; it is way superior to one of those palm sanders (faster and quieter) and has the added bonus of velcro backed sand paper disks which are worth every penny in my opinion.

It cleaned up not perfectly but pretty nicely. I only gave it the lightest of sanding with 250 grit because I didn't want to eat through the top layer of veneer. I finished it with one application of Butchers Bowling Alley Wax. The paper I had leftover from when I lined this dresser's drawers.

This thing is perfect for housing my thread. I'm using the bottom drawer to hold all the tools and presser feet to my new (old) sewing machine. For now I'm storing this little box within the larger cabinet in my living room that houses a bunch of fabric. That cabinet is here, in case you're curious.

Nice, right? Much more pleasing to look at than the plastic boxes I had been using.


Dry Garden

My garden had been toughing out the California drought pretty well until this summer. The grass was perpetually brown and all but the plants and trees seemed pretty unscathed. Trying to be a good conservationist, I rarely watered.

And I recycled bathwater whenever I could because I have a mega bathtub upstairs.

When I got back from my vacation at the end of June, my garden looked terrible. Many of the trees were losing their leaves, which sort of alarmed me. This poor lemon tree is looking really pathetic right now.

These guys (laurus nobilis) were turning brown and dropping their leaves as if it were autumn (in June!), besides that these guys keep most of their leaves year round.

The creeping fig was also drying up.

I bit the bullet and bought some soaker hoses. That way I can keep my garden alive while using as little water as is possible. I already have some soaker hoses on the east and west walls (which I had been using about once a month), but had none at the rear, north wall, where all this leaf dropping is happening.

I'm hoping that a few slow deep soaks can remedy things until the winter rain (hopefully) arrives. The hoses say they give about 1/2 to 1 gallon of water per foot per hour. I ran the long one for an hour and the short one for about a half hour. This is only about the equivalent of one or two big tubs, so everybody keep their pants on!  Oh please please please let a mother of all el ninos come our way this winter.

If you live in California, are you watering your garden or yard?