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Posts Tagged ‘3916 Gosnold Avenue’

Real Men Love Pink Houses

July 29th, 2011 Sears Homes No comments

In March 2010, when folks saw the ladders go up on the outside of the house, they asked what color I was painting my house.

I smiled and told them, “The most beautiful pink in the world.”

More than a few raised their eyebrows.

In fact, this formerly beige house looks absolutely delightful dressed up in pink. Perhaps the most interesting comment came from my husband who said, “I’m secure enough in my masculinity to live in a pink house.”

Indeed he is.

Tory Newman was the fellow who painted this entire house by himself, and did a BEAUTIFUL job.

To contact Tory, call  536-5635. He is a true artist and a nice guy.

To read about the Sears Homes in Norfolk, click here.

Last year, we sold our big pink house and moved to a smaller house. To see pics of the Ringer Ranch, click here.

Pretty in pink

1925 Colonial Revival Home in Norfolk ,Virginia.

Winter-time

Winter-time

pink

Pretty in pink.

Wow

Picket fences go really well with pink houses.

And of course, everyone should have a pergola in the back yard.

And of course, everyone should have a pergola in the back yard.

To learn about Sears Homes, click here.

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My Pink House

July 28th, 2011 Sears Homes No comments

“Do you live in a Sears House?”

Having given more than 200 lectures in 25 states, that is easily the most frequently asked question.

And the answer?

No, but I live in a pink house that was built in 1925, and it’s a beautiful house, and that’s almost as good as a Sears House.

In Summer 2010, we had the house painted pink.

Yes, Pink.

I love it. Just love it, and that’s a good thing because this was an enormous project. We used more than 35 gallons of paint and primer (field and trim) and we chose Sherwin Williams Duration ($50 a gallon, 25 year warranty). Tory Newman did the job, and applied every drop of paint using a paint brush. No rollers, no sprayers, no watered-down-paint, just a first-class paint job done by a first-class painter who used all first-class materials.

My 1925 Colonial Revival looks stunning in pink, and I’m quite certain that this is the prettiest house in all of Norfolk.

My daughter says it looks like strawberry ice cream. My other daughter says it looks like a sheet cake. I think it looks perfect. :)

To read about the perfect pergola in the back yard, click here.

To read more about Sears Homes, click here.

Pretty in pink

Pretty in pink

Side view

Side view

The process

The process

The back looked worse than the front. Its likely the front had been repainted, but the rear had not.

The back looked worse than the front. It's likely the front had been repainted, but the rear had not.

Close-up of dirty eaves

Close-up of dirty eaves

Little House

Little House

Winter-time

Winter-time

Little house in the winter

Little house in the winter

To read about Sears Homes, click here.

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A Portrait of Our House on Gosnold

July 27th, 2011 Sears Homes 2 comments

Christmas 2007, my husband surprised me with a painting of our new home at 3916 Gosnold Avenue. It was one of the best gifts I ever received. The painting occupies a place of honor alongside our staircase wall. A couple weeks ago, a dear friend was looking at our home, as she knew someone who might be interested in purchasing it.  She saw the painting hanging on the wall and said, “Oh how beautiful! And now when you move out, you’ll always be able to take a little bit of your home with you.”

In addition to the painting (done by Kay Gillispie of Arbovale, WV), we’ve also been involved in the “Out and about Norfolk Plein Air Paint Out,” for the last three years, where local artists spend a day creating an artistic masterpiece of some Norfolk landmark. The second image came from such an event! It is an oil painting done by Gina Warren Buzby.

The third and fourth images were done by Morgan Sarah Ringer, and given to me as a gift. All four of these artistic works are among my favorite possessions on earth!

To learn more about our house, click here.

To see the pretty paintings, scroll on down!

To learn about Sears Homes, click here.

P

Kay Gillispie's beautiful artwork hangs on the staircase wall in our home. If you look closely, you'll see the little house in the back yard.

Close-up of the artwork done by Kay Gillispie

Close-up of the artwork done by Kay Gillispie

Oil painting of our backyard, done by Gina Buzby

Oil painting of our backyard, done by Gina Buzby

And another lovely piece done by Morgan Sarah Ringer!

And another lovely piece done by Morgan Sarah Ringer!

Mor

Morgan's rendition of Teddy the Dog staring down the little house!

My favorite angle is the side, which shows off those quarter-round windows and new canvas awning.

And my favorite "view" of the house is from this angle, which shows off those quarter-round windows and new canvas awning.

To learn more about 3916 Gosnold Avenue, click here.

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The Ten Most Important Things I Learned About Harvesting Rainwater

July 26th, 2011 Sears Homes No comments

This dry dusty city of Norfolk, Virginia, has an ordinance that forbids sinking a well within 50 feet of any property lines. Since our house is centered on our 110′ by 110′ lot, that means the only place we could have a well is in the center of our basement.

My other option was rain water harvesting. Fortunately, the city doesn’t have any ordinances against collecting rain water. (In some states, it is illegal to collect rain water.)

After I set up my first rain barrel, it didn’t take me long to realize that one 60-gallon rain barrel didn’t go very far during one of Tidewater’s hot, dry summers. It was a start, but I need more water.

One rain barrel

One solitary rain barrel

The next summer, I added more rain barrels, placing them under a downspout that produced copious amounts of water. The first year, my little rain barrels sat directly on the dirt, and I didn’t use them very much. They were too low, too muddy and the head pressure was abysmal.

Later that year, I built a nice wooden stand for my rain barrels.

Rain

The triplets.

The stand made it much easier to access my rain barrels, plus, the three feet of height gave them a little bit of head pressure, and improved water flow. And the 3-foot stand made it easy to fasten a hose to the spigot (a simple feat that was nearly impossible when the barrels sat on the ground).

Rain barrels have many benefits for many purposes, but they’re ideal for gardening. Chlorinated water - the stuff that flows from the city’s pipes and into our homes - is stuffed silly with chlorination and fluoride, neither of which are good for living things, especially little plants. While chlorination keeps us humans from getting cholera and other nasty bugs, that chlorination will also kill off the microorganisms in the soil that helps plants thrive. (Fluoride is a toxic by-product of the aluminum smelting process, and if it weren’t dumped into our city water supply, the EPA would require that it be treated as hazardous waste!)

But back to rain barrels. There’s a sound financial reason for using rain barrels, too. Experts say that 40% of our summertime water use comes from the outside spigot.

In the process of using these rain barrels throughout the summer, I learned a lot of practical lessons. Below are the top 10 most important things I learned.

1) Height is important. For every foot of height you add to your stand, you’ll gain .43 psi of head pressure. If you could manage a ten-foot stand (not advisable for safety reasons), that’d give you 4.3 psi. From a practical matter, the three-foot stand (pictured above) put the spigot at the perfect height for me. And if you’re working with a raised bed garden (like mine), you’ll need the extra height so that water can flow easily to your thirsty plants.

Raised beds

My raised bed is 24" tall, so the three-foot stand is perfect.

2) Weight is also important. Water weighs about 8.3 pounds per gallon. Those rain barrels hold 60 gallons. That’s 498 pounds per barrel, and I’ve got three on one stand, so that’s almost 1,500 pounds of weight (when the barrels are full). That’s a tremendous amount of weight and you should plan accordingly when building your stands. This summer, when my barrels run dry, I’ll have to pull them down and add cross-bracing to the stands. You’ll note in the picture that they’ve started to lean hard to the left. Cross bracing would have prevented that.

twisty

Let's not twist again, like we did last summer...

3) Placement. My three rain barrels are located in my back yard, underneath a busy downspout. Water comes from the main roof (which is slate), flows down to the smaller roof and into my rain barrel. With 10-15 minutes of a good downpour, all three rain barrels are filled up full.

rain

The downspout on this side of the house produces a lot of rainwater.

4) Pre-screen your rainwater. These rain barrels have a four-inch floor drain in their top, with a piece of mosquito screen affixed. Too many times to count, I’ve rejoiced as a summer storm pours rain from above, only to find that the four-inch hole became hopelessly choked with the debris from the gutters, and very little of that delightful rainwater actually entered my rain barrels. My solution to this was simple. I took the aluminum-framed screen from an old storm window and stuck it on top of the rain barrel. That solved my problem. The large surface area of the aluminum screen allowed water to flow even after that first pile of gunk came washing down the spout.

Pre screen

And it's just an aluminum screen from an old storm window. The brick keeps it in place. My husband said this rig makes it look like Jed Clampett lives here, but it works.

5) If you’re building/making your own rain barrel, put the spigot in the right place. When my neighbor saw my rain barrels, he ran out and bought some materials and made his own barrels. Every single one of his five rain barrels has a spigot at the half-way point on the barrel’s side. This means that he’ll only be able to use 50% of the water in the barrel. Not a good design. There are also entire blogs devoted to building your own rain barrel. The barrels shown here are food-grade olive barrels, used to ship olives here from overseas. Learn more here.

Rain

Spigot placement is important.

6) Don’t get bugged. Mosquitoes are naturally drawn to stagnant water and rain barrels provide the ideal breeding ground. Screens will stop some of that, but not all. One year, I had mosquitoes crawling in through my overflow pipe. Adding several drops of baby oil to each rain barrel will create an oily film in the water, and should stop mosquitoes from laying eggs in your rain barrel.

7) One downside to this rainwater fun is that you’ll now have to keep your gutters cleaned out. If all that precious rainwater is cascading over the front edges of your gutters because the downspouts are blocked, your rain barrels won’t do much for you. And if your house is sheltered by large trees (like mine), this can be a perennial problem.

Trees

Trees are pretty to look at, but hard on gutters.

8) When the barrel runs dry, remember to turn the spigot off. Sounds simple enough, but somehow, it’s so easy to forget this little detail. Many times, I’ve gone outside to check my rain barrels after a hard rain, only to find that I left the spigot open and all that rainwater went in through the top and out through the spigot.

oopsie

It's easy to forget to close the spigot when rain barrels run dry.

9) Maintenance. About once a year, I rinse out the rain barrels with city water. The bottom gets a layer of crud in it and the smell is horrific. I’m not sure about the microbiology of all that decaying matter, and maybe it’s just dandy for the garden, but the stench will knock your socks off.

10) Keep water away from the foundation. A surprising amount of water can be discharged through your overflow pipe. Make sure that water is directed away from the house.

Make sure that water flows away from house.

I keep meaning to put that downspout spillway *under* the overflow hose.

11) Your downspout might not quite hit the sweet spot on the rain barrel. A little extra piece of aluminum downspout is probably the simplest solution. I used a piece of Plexiglas, which also does the job nicely.

Buts

You might need to add a little extender to the downspout to reach your rain barrel.

12) If a drought hits, and you don’t want to use chlorinated water on your lovingly maintained and chlorine-free tomato plants, you can fill one rain barrel with city water and let it sit for several days. The chlorination will dissipate in time and you’ll have chlorine-free water. This isn’t the ideal, but in a pinch, it’s one way to keep your garden chlorine free.

13)  Use a good quality hose, so you don’t go stark-raving mad. A cheap hose will kink repeatedly, and because the pressure is so low on water flowing from a rain-barrel, this kinking problem will be 50 times worse than it would be with city water delivered at 60 psi.

14) Enjoy. I’ve had a lot of fun playing with my rain barrels. And look how my garden grows!

garden

Garden views.

garden

Tomatoes, strawberries and carrots share living space.

wow

And the world's most perfect strawberry, from my garden.

And flowers, too!

And flowers, too!

When we were kids, we’d sing this little ditty.

See, see my playmate,
Come out and play with me
And bring your dollies three
Climb up my apple tree
Holler down my rain barrel
Slide down my cellar door
And we’ll be jolly friends
Forever evermore.

If you’re in Hampton Roads, I highly recommend “Mike’s Rain Barrels.” Mike, the owner of this small business, is knowledgeable, customer-service oriented, friendly and thorough. Best of all, his prices are very affordable. You can contact Mike via email at mminor1959@verizon.net or call (757) 761-1553. The best part - he’ll deliver your rain barrels in his Toyota Priuss.

To read about Sears Homes, click here.

To buy Rose’s book, click here.

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My Pretty, Pretty Pink House - For Sale!

July 24th, 2011 Sears Homes 3 comments

It’s a grand old house filled with the most modern technologies - and perhaps best of all - it’s priced about $60,000 below the current city assessment.

Even if you’re not in a market for an old house, take a moment and enjoy the photos!

Updated: This blog was created July 24, 2011, and yet this remains one of the most popular blogs at this site. Every day, a couple dozen people come to THIS blog. My beautiful pink house sold (and closed) on August 14, 2011. Every day of my life, I’m profoundly grateful for my “new” house, a 1962 custom-built brick ranch.

To read about the new house, click here.

And please, take a moment and please leave a comment below. What is it about this particular article that you enjoy?  :)

My favorite angle is the side, which shows off those quarter-round windows and new canvas awning.

My favorite angle is the side, which shows off those quarter-round windows and new canvas awning.

3916 Gosnold - from the front.

Dappled afternoon sunlight complements the front of 3916 Gosnold.

The

The gated entrance to my secret garden!

And on the other side of the gate youll find bowers of flowers (blooming in the sun).

And on the other side of the gate you'll find bowers of flowers (blooming in the sun).

Something this old house hasnt seen in a long time - GRASS in the sideyard!

Something this old house hasn't seen in a long time - GRASS in the sideyard! The pergola is pretty nice, too.

My daughter said we didnt have enough views of the inside, so I took some additional photos!

My daughter said we didn't have enough views of the inside, so I took some additional photos! View from the living into the foyer and dining room.

The setting sun illuminates the formal dining room, which measures more than 13 x 17.

The setting sun illuminates the formal dining room, which measures more than 13 x 17.

L

The formal living room is 13 x 23 and is always awash in light.

And the sunporch - one of my favorite rooms in the house!

And the sunporch - one of my favorite rooms in the house! Kinda wish I'd moved that old floor lamp before I took the photo!

View from upstairs - looking into the foyer.

View from upstairs - looking into the foyer.

Another view of the formal staircase

The staircase has solid walnut banister and tapered spindles.

k

Upstairs hallway. Door at the end leads to the third floor.

One of the three upstairs bedrooms.

One of the three upstairs bedrooms. The door leads out to a balcony (over the sunporch).

The bathroom was restored to its original 1920s appearance. Notice the hex tile on the floor.

The bathroom was restored to its original 1920s appearance. Notice the hex tile on the floor.

This old pink house has been faithfully restored to its original splendor, and has a high-efficiency gas boiler (94%+), high-efficiency central air (14 SEER) and a dazzling rainwater harvesting system. Enjoy the best of old-world craftsmanship together with the latest and greatest of modern technology. In short, you’ll have the unique pleasure of living in a beautiful old house with none of the environmental guilt. :)

House is 2,300 square feet with three bedrooms, 1-1/2 baths, with a large sunporch, full third floor and awesome basement.

Price is $287,900 with $4,000 closing cost assistance.

If you’re interested in scheduling an appointment please contact the Realtor.

More photos are below.

To read about Aunt Addie’s murder in Lake Mills, click here.

My old house foyer

The house on Gosnold is a classic Colonial Revival, right down to the details. The image on the left is the entry foyer at Gosnold Avenue. The image on the right is the cover of the book, "Colonial Style." Even the light fixture is the same. The rest of the details are also spot-on. Biggest different is, my rug is not as pretty as theirs.

door

And, we have an original ice box door, too. Back in the 1920s, this door provided access to the back of the icebox, so that the iceman could deliver a 25-pound block of ice to the ice box without entering the home. This was also known as "the jealous husband's door."

fam

The twin grandchildren of the home's builder (William Barnes) sit on the front stoop (mid-1950s). They were born and raised in this house. The home remained in the Barnes' family until 1971, when it was sold to new owners. Laura (on the left) supplied the family photos, which proved invaluable in the home's restoration.

housie

The house at 3916 Gosnold Avenue.

houaiw

Classic lines and high-quality workmanship make this a timeless beauty.

milk

On the back porch is this old "Milk Door," which provided a place for the milkman's deliveries, whether or not anyone was home (and/or awake!). A corresponding door in the pantry enabled the housewife to retrieve deliveries without stepping outside.

kitchen

The house has 32 windows, and 7 of them are in the kitchen. One of my favorite features in the kitchen are these many beautiful windows. The gas stove (left) is less than 30 days old. The dishwasher and fridge (both stainless steel) were new in March 2007.

ki

This spacious kitchen was remodeled in Spring 2007.

ki

The gas stove was installed less than a month ago. Still shiny new!

kitchen

Really big refrigerator does everything but serve you buttered toast in the morning.

living

The living room is awash in light with a western and eastern and southern exposure. The living room is 25 feet long and 13 feet wide.

dining room

The spacious dining room has four windows (six feet tall!) and has beautiful oak floors.

Entry foyer

Visitors to our home frequently comment on the beautiful foyer.

room

Original french doors to the living room and dining room are still in place.

And did you notice those shiny doorknobs on the french doors!

And did you notice those shiny doorknobs on the french doors!

En

A view from the staircase.

house

Another view of the foyer.

rain

The house is also a gardener's delight, with provisions to collect and store more than 200 gallons of rain water.

garden

Your own private farm awaits: Tomatoes, corn, cucumbers, zucchini, strawberries, carrots and lettuce will be ready for harvest in about 30 days.

y

Hubby does not convey. Usually.

Another view

Flowers in full bloom.

wow

And the world's most perfect strawberry, from my garden.

Finis!

Carrerra marble under radiator and toilet complement the hex flooring. Work was done in Spring 2010.

Bathroom pretty

Bathroom was restored to its original 1920s appearance.

House

This 1930s vintage thermostat works beautifully, controlling a 2011 high efficiency gas boiler.

New-old stock from eBay. Vintage doorbell installed in 2008, and it has a beautiful chime!

It's the little things that make an old house a special home. Vintage doorbell installed in 2008, and it has a beautiful chime!

view

Front entry foyer is 11 feet wide and 25 feet long.

Its done!

Spacious sunporch has built-in bookcases that are 9-feet tall.

attic

Even the attic is spacious and grand! And with a little back-lighting, these windows can scare the beejeebies out of the trick or treaters on Halloween night! If you look up, you'll see collar beams on all of the roof joists. The house is topped with Buckingham Slate (recently restored), which weighs 1,400 pounds per square (100 square feet).

House

Little house (address is 3916-1/2) has a floored attic, vintage windows and slate roof.

housie

Another view of the little house.

uniquely large yard for Colonial Place

Private, off-street parking and a uniquely large yard for Colonial Place make 3916 Gosnold Avenue a quiet oasis amidst a sea of classic old houses.

Street view

View from the street.

Sideyard summertime view

Sideyard summertime view.

Another view

Another view of the pergola. Dog does not convey.

Another view of the pergola

Teddy the Dog wants to know if the new house will also have a dog swing like this one.

17 Really Good Reasons to Buy The Big Pink House

1) Low electric bills - average budget bill of $115/month (and we love our air conditioning!).

2) High-efficiency central air (14 SEER) with all new ductwork, and electrostatic air cleaner (installed October 2007).

3) High efficiency, top-of-the-line gas-fired boiler (94% efficient) installed March 2011.

4) Thorough restoration of original (Buckingham Slate) roof, with new copper flashing and copper cap at roof ridge. Roof repairs will be required again in 2085 (or so). (About 25% of all the construction debris found in landfills is roofing materials. Slate is the “greenest” roof in the world and with occasional maintenance, it can last forever.)

5) Seamless 6-inch (extra large) aluminum gutters and downspouts.

6) No worries about old plumbing! Entire house replumbed with new copper lines in 2007.

7) Electrical service updated (some new wiring and new panel) in Spring 2007.

8) Fresh paint, too! Two coats of Sherwin Williams Duration (25-year warranty) cover the home’s cypress clapboards.

9) Eleven new high-end replacement windows have been installed within the last two years. Windows on home’s front are original (to preserve architectural integrity).

10) “Move-in ready” for your favorite quadruped! Custom-built picket fence surrounds peaceful back yard.

11) Who doesn’t love a little house, especially one with a slate roof? “3916-1/2 Gosnold” is a custom-built “mini-house” with a 9′ ceiling, floored attic, built-in ladder and vintage windows.

12) When it’s time for the morning’s ablutions, step into the bath and back in time. Faithfully restored second-floor bath features porcelain sconces, vintage medicine chest, and a Kohler Memoirs sink, sitting atop a restored hex floor. Also has elegant wainscoting, Danze high-end faucets and solid brass vintage towel rack.

13) Modern kitchen is full of light with seven large windows, stainless steel appliances and a brand new Kenmore gas range (May 2011).

14) Harvest Time is nearly here! Tomatoes, cucumbers, corn, strawberries, zucchini and flowers thrive in three separate raised bed gardens in spacious back yard.

15) Handy rain-water harvesting system already in place for those thirsty plants, with more than 200 gallons of available storage.

16) Bibliophiles delight! Built-in bookcase on sunporch is more than 9′ tall and 6′ wide, with 27 sturdy shelves.

17) The house was custom built in 1925 by William Barnes, owner of one of Norfolk’s largest lumber yards. His grandchildren recall that he hand-selected every piece of framing lumber that went into the house. And it shows.

To schedule an appointment, leave a comment below or contact the Realtor.

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Oils well that ends well…

July 11th, 2011 Sears Homes No comments

When oil prices started up last winter, I started to panic. In three months’ time, we burned more than $1,600 in fuel oil.  At the end of January 2011, Mr. Oil Fill-Man appeared in my back yard (a scant 27 days after his last visit), to fill the tank - again.

“We’re taking 160+ gallons of fuel oil each time you come by,” I told him. “Is that normal for this area?

“Yes M’am,” he replied. “In this neighborhood, every house I visit is taking between 150-200 gallons of heating oil.”

Talking with two of my neighbors, I’d found that they’d converted from old oil boilers (about the same age as mine), to high-efficiency tankless gas-fired boilers. Both neighbors told me that their heating bills had dropped from $500 - $600 a month to about $125 - $150 a month. Both were delighted with the new system and the new savings.

We’ve not yet seen the first winter with this fancy new system, but in the meantime, we had trouble finding someone to haul away the remaining 65 gallons of heating oil in the tank.

And then I discovered Allan. He arrived in a Dodge Ram truck and had all his tools and equipment ready to go. He used rags and small drop cloths and five-gallon buckets, and as promised, he pumped out the whole of it and didn’t spill a drop. Using a 75-foot hose, he was able to transfer the oil directly to a 275-gallon tank on his truck.

Allan is a mechanical engineer and watching him work was a pleasure. He was careful and meticulous and incredibly professional.

As we say in the internet world, I “highly recommend” Allan!  To contact him, write solar_guru@yahoo.com.

He

Allan poses in front of his "oil truck."

To learn more about Sears Homes, click here.

To read about Aunt Addie’s mysterious murder, click here.

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My Green and Pink House

July 10th, 2011 Sears Homes 1 comment

My pink house is now green. Green - as in - environmentally friendly.

On March 10, 2011, we assassinated our old cast-iron, oil-fired boiler. It wasn’t pretty, but it had to be done.

The old behemoth wasn’t really that old. It was born in Utica, New York in early 2002, and was, in fact, a Utica (brand-name) boiler. When we purchased this cold house in March 2007, we were told that the Utica was a higher end boiler, and should provide good service for years to come. It was rated at 200,000 BTUs, which is a lot of heating power for 2,300 square feet.

During Winter 2010, oil prices started up (again). In three months’ time, we burned more than $1,600 in fuel oil. In January 2011, when Mr. Oil Fill-Man appeared in my back yard (a scant 27 days after his last visit), I ran outside to chat with him.

“We’re taking 160+ gallons of fuel oil each time you come by,” I told him. “Is that normal for this area?

“Yes M’am,” he replied. “In this neighborhood, every house I visit is taking between 150-200 gallons of heating oil.”

This told me that my neighbors were apoplectic over their heating bills, as well.

Talking with two of my neighbors, I’d found that they’d converted from old oil boilers (about the same age as mine), to high-efficiency tankless gas-fired boilers. Both neighbors told me that their heating bills had dropped from $500 - $600 a month to about $125 - $150 a month. Both were delighted with the new system and the new savings.

I was not that surprised to hear that these two neighbors also removed their fairly young oil-fired boilers and replaced them with this fancy new system.

Since purchasing the house in March 2007, we’d added several high-dollar storm doors, plus several ultra-high efficiency replacement windows (on the rear and side), and we’d repaired and re-caulked existing storm windows on the remaining windows. We’d also used up 40 tubes of caulk (yes, 40), closing up every little crack and crevice.

When it was time to get estimates for the new work, I had many choices, but the big two were: Gas-fired boiler or Heat Pump?

The benefits of a heat pump were simple: It’d give us the chance to add central air to the first floor.  (We already had a central air system for the upstairs.)

Unfortunately, we learned that adding new ductwork for the first floor would have made our basement well-nigh unusable.

The other factor was, I love my radiators. They’re old and funky and they rattle and pop in the winter. I was not ready to abandon the old charm of the 1920s cast-iron radiators. Plus, it’s true what they say: Radiant heat is the most comfortable, even heating in the world.

So that left us with one more set of choices: Cheap it out with a regular, average efficiency gas-fired boiler, or go ahead and spend the extra dough and go with a high-efficiency (90%+) unit.

The lower end gas boilers were $3,000 and up (for 80% efficiency), but required that we install a new liner in the old brick chimney. That’d add another $2000 to our costs, so we were at $5000. For $7,500, we could get a super-high efficiency gas-fired boiler, rated at 94% efficient, which used a pvc snorkel. That would enable us to abandon the old chimney, and get our heating bills down under $200 a month. And, we’d get a $500 rebate from our local gas company, making the price difference between the two options a scant $2,000 (or the cost of 100 days of fuel oil).

We opted for the high efficiency tankless gas-fired unit.

Several things went wrong along the way. The high-efficiency gas boiler was ordered, but didn’t arrive. That’s okay, we were told, they’d upgrade us to a better system, no extra cost. Sounded good. Oopsie, more trouble. The better system had a lag time too, so we’d have to wait three weeks for unit to arrive. But then, the company had located the unit we’d contracted for and we went forward with the installation.

Next, Virginia Natural Gas drove us nuts. They would not set a meter for us until the boiler was in place. That’s funny, because the contractor didn’t want to set up the new boiler until we had a meter in place.

In the end, Virginia Natural Gas won. No meter would be installed until the boiler was in place and complete. Dealing with VNG was an enormous hassle. For a time, I really missed dealing with Miller Oil. They were so friendly and accommodating.

Once the boiler work was mostly done (and we knew it would soon be ready to be turned on), we called Virginia Natural Gas for the 3,492nd time. It was a Thursday afternoon.

“The next available date on our calendar is Friday afternoon,” the operator told me.

Friday, as in eight days away. We’d already been two days with no heat or hot water. We were already greasy and cold. A bad combination.

After I made a few screeching noises, she moved the date up to Saturday, between 9:00 am and 4:00 pm.

Friday evening, we got an automated call from Virginia Natural Gas. It said that our meter would be set on Saturday morning, between 1:15 am and 1:15 am, and to make sure someone would be home at that time.

Watching television in our living room, wrapped up in blankets, we listened to the voice mail and laughed out loud through chattering teeth.

Saturday morning, my optimistic husband got up and went outside to check for the meter.

“They didn’t come at 1:15 am,” he said with a bit of disappointment.

About 2 pm, Mr. Meterman showed up. He looked at the gas line poking out from the house, and said serenely, “There’s no way I can hook this up. They ran the line in the wrong place.”

I fell on my knees and begged. From my close-to-the-ground position, I hugged his legs and told him that we were making mortgage payments on a cave, and that I’d lost feeling in my fingers the day before, and could he please, please, please give us a little heat?

Surreptitiously, I rubbed my greasy hair against his pants leg. He scrunched up his face, groaned and took a step back.

Moved by my impassioned pleas, he forced the modernistic, bright yellow piping this way and that, and managed to get the gas meter set in place.

Virginia Natural Gas had told us that Mr. Meterman would fire up our appliances. Mr. Meterman said he was not permitted to fire up our appliances.

Fortunately, Mr. Brandy-New Boiler sprang right to life when turned on, and for the first time in 72 hours, we had hot water again.

Monday morning, the contractor re-appeared and got the boiler going, and Monday afternoon, our radiators were once again filled with hot water, making their trademark snap, crackle and pop noises.

My house is warm again. And it’s a good, comfortable warmth. And best of all, it’s a high efficiency warmth. :)

Old Oil burner

This is the only picture I have of the old oil burner. I'd intended to snap a few before photos when the work started, but was so stressed out by all the upset of my house being torn up (again), that I thought, "ah, forget it." This photo was taken in March 2007 when we first looked at the house.

The poor old Utica, as its being hauled off for scrap.

The poor old Utica, as it's being hauled off for scrap. Notice the heavy cast-iron boiler on the front. Workers estimated this rig weighed about 400 pounds.

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Another view of the new equipment.

A view of the new equipment (and our old basement).

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Close-up

Close-up

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pipes

This photo shows the complexity of all those pipes. Lot of stuff going on there!

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And outside, it looks like this. The white PVC pipe is an air intake for combustion. The silver is for exhaust.

And outside, it looks like this. The white PVC pipe is an air intake for combustion. The silver is for exhaust. The red area around the border is where my house is bleeding from the jagged, rough and ugly cutting. The house cried out in pain, but I was the only one who could hear the throes of agony.

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I wasnt thrilled with how the gas meter business turned out.  Two holes and one crooked meter.

I was pretty unhappy with the work done by Thing One and Thing Two. The hole on the left was the contractor-created hole for the natural gas piping. They used a bright-yellow 1" gas line and it was not attractive. Monday morning, the contractor agreed to remove the misplaced yellow line and replace it with black-iron pipe, in the hole to the right. You can see (from this picture), how awkward the placement of that left-side hole is. The yellow gas line continues just inside the house.

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Close-up of the pain

Close-up of the pain. The hole on the right was the original hole, where a gas line was run many, many years ago. If the contractor had simply used that hole in the first place (as I requested), it would have saved us all a lot of trouble.

And theres a handy dandy little gauge on the wall that measures boiler temps and domestic hot water temps. Highly entertaining.

And there's a handy dandy little gauge on the wall that measures boiler temps and domestic hot water temps. Highly entertaining.

Instructional literature that came with the unit shows that the tankless boiler is a happy little thing.

Instructional literature shows that the tankless boiler is a happy little thing.

But he can get frustrated pretty quickly.

But he can get frustrated pretty quickly. Not sure what he's doing here...

My pretty, pretty pink and green house!

My pretty, pretty pink and green house!

Another view

Another view

To learn more about Sears Homes, click here.

To buy Rose’s book, click here.

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Beautify Your Premises with a Sears Kit Pergola!

June 26th, 2011 Sears Homes No comments

For a mere $83.70, you can beautify your premises with this graceful, imposing pergola. The text (see below) promises that everything is pre-cut and “ready to put together!”

This image came from the 1921 Sears Building Materials catalog, and I just fell in love with it. I’ve seen a few pergolas like this - randomly placed in a back yard - and they’re all stunning.

And it’s an easy-to-build kit!

Awesome. Just awesome.

My own pergola (built by my nice-guy husband) is shown below.

To learn more about Sears Homes, click here.

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Pergola as shown in the 1921 Building Materials catalog.

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It is indeed a thing of beauty! (1921 Sears Building Materials catalog)

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And it only weighs 1,200 pounds!

And I saved the best for last: The Perfect Pergola

The pergola built by Wayne Ringer is a thing of beauty!

To read another article, click here.

To buy Rose’s book, click here.

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A New Day on Gosnold - OPEN HOUSE on Sunday (June 26th)

June 21st, 2011 Sears Homes No comments

Who doesn’t love relaxing in a back-yard swing, nestled neatly under the strong timbers of a hand-made pergola?

This pergola can be yours for a mere $287,900, and as an extra bonus, we’ll throw in the big house for free!

And I saved the best for last: The Perfect Pergola

Picture yourself in this swing! Feels delightful, doesn't it?

This coming Sunday, our Realtor (Gary Crawford) will be hosting an Open House here at Gosnold.  There’ll be pony rides and face painting and a free Krugerrand will be given away to every third visitor!

Okay, not really, but it’s a beautiful old house and if you love old houses, you should stop by.

This old pink house has been faithfully restored to its original splendor, and has a high-efficiency gas boiler (94%+), high-efficiency central air (14 SEER) and a dazzling rainwater harvesting system. Enjoy the best of old-world craftsmanship together with the latest and greatest of modern technology. In short, you’ll have the unique pleasure of living in a beautiful old house with none of the environmental guilt. :)

Mr. Realtor will be here from 12-3 pm on Sunday, June 26th at 3916 Gosnold Avenue.

House is 2,300 square feet with three bedrooms, 1-1/2 baths, with a large sunporch, full third floor and awesome basement.

Asking price is $287,900, which is $58,000+ below city assessment. If you’re interested in scheduling an appointment please contact the Realtor.

Ready for the tour? Enjoy the photos!

To read part two (more photos!), click here.

My old house foyer

The house on Gosnold is a classic Colonial Revival, right down to the details. The image on the left is the entry foyer at Gosnold Avenue. The image on the right is the cover of the book, "Colonial Style." Even the light fixture is the same. The rest of the details are also spot-on. Biggest different is, my rug is not as pretty as theirs.

door

And, we have an original ice box door, too. Back in the 1920s, this door provided access to the back of the icebox, so that the iceman could deliver a 25-pound block of ice to the ice box without entering the home. This was also known as "the jealous husband's door."

fam

The twin grandchildren of the home's builder (William Barnes) sit on the front stoop (mid-1950s). They were born and raised in this house. The home remained in the Barnes' family until 1971, when it was sold to new owners. Laura (on the left) supplied the family photos, which proved invaluable in the home's restoration.

housie

The house at 3916 Gosnold Avenue.

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Classic lines and high-quality workmanship make this a timeless beauty.

milk

On the back porch is this old "Milk Door," which provided a place for the milkman's deliveries, whether or not anyone was home (and/or awake!). A corresponding door in the pantry enabled the housewife to retrieve deliveries without stepping outside.

kitchen

The house has 32 windows, and 7 of them are in the kitchen. One of my favorite features in the kitchen are these many beautiful windows. The gas stove (left) is less than 30 days old. The dishwasher and fridge (both stainless steel) were new in March 2007.

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This spacious kitchen was remodeled in Spring 2007.

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The gas stove was installed less than a month ago. Still shiny new!

kitchen

Really big refrigerator does everything but serve you buttered toast in the morning.

living

The living room is awash in light with a western and eastern and southern exposure. The living room is 25 feet long and 13 feet wide.

dining room

The spacious dining room has four windows (six feet tall!) and has beautiful oak floors.

Entry foyer

Visitors to our home frequently comment on the beautiful foyer.

room

Original french doors to the living room and dining room are still in place.

And did you notice those shiny doorknobs on the french doors!

And did you notice those shiny doorknobs on the french doors!

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A view from the staircase.

house

Another view of the foyer.

rain

The house is also a gardener's delight, with provisions to collect and store more than 200 gallons of rain water.

garden

Your own private farm awaits: Tomatoes, corn, cucumbers, zucchini, strawberries, carrots and lettuce will be ready for harvest in about 30 days.

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Hubby does not convey. Usually.

Another view

Flowers in full bloom.

wow

And the world's most perfect strawberry, from my garden.

Finis!

Carrerra marble under radiator and toilet complement the hex flooring. Work was done in Spring 2010.

Bathroom pretty

Bathroom was restored to its original 1920s appearance.

House

This 1930s vintage thermostat works beautifully, controlling a 2011 high efficiency gas boiler.

New-old stock from eBay. Vintage doorbell installed in 2008, and it has a beautiful chime!

It's the little things that make an old house a special home. Vintage doorbell installed in 2008, and it has a beautiful chime!

view

Front entry foyer is 11 feet wide and 25 feet long.

Its done!

Spacious sunporch has built-in bookcases that are 9-feet tall.

attic

Even the attic is spacious and grand! And with a little back-lighting, these windows can scare the beejeebies out of the trick or treaters on Halloween night! If you look up, you'll see collar beams on all of the roof joists. The house is topped with Buckingham Slate (recently restored), which weighs 1,400 pounds per square (100 square feet).

House

Little house (address is 3916-1/2) has a floored attic, vintage windows and slate roof.

housie

Another view of the little house.

uniquely large yard for Colonial Place

Private, off-street parking and a uniquely large yard for Colonial Place make 3916 Gosnold Avenue a quiet oasis amidst a sea of classic old houses.

Street view

View from the street.

Sideyard summertime view

Sideyard summertime view.

Another view

Another view of the pergola. Dog does not convey.

Another view of the pergola

Teddy the Dog wants to know if the new house will also have a dog swing like this one.

17 Really Good Reasons to Buy The Big Pink House

1) Low electric bills - average budget bill of $115/month (and we love our air conditioning!).

2) High-efficiency central air (14 SEER) with all new ductwork, and electrostatic air cleaner (installed October 2007).

3) High efficiency, top-of-the-line gas-fired boiler (94% efficient) installed March 2011.

4) Thorough restoration of original (Buckingham Slate) roof, with new copper flashing and copper cap at roof ridge. Roof repairs will be required again in 2085 (or so). (About 25% of all the construction debris found in landfills is roofing materials. Slate is the “greenest” roof in the world and with occasional maintenance, it can last forever.)

5) Seamless 6-inch (extra large) aluminum gutters and downspouts.

6) No worries about old plumbing! Entire house replumbed with new copper lines in 2007.

7) Electrical service updated (some new wiring and new panel) in Spring 2007.

8) Fresh paint, too! Two coats of Sherwin Williams Duration (25-year warranty) cover the home’s cypress clapboards.

9) Eleven new high-end replacement windows have been installed within the last two years. Windows on home’s front are original (to preserve architectural integrity).

10) “Move-in ready” for your favorite quadruped! Custom-built picket fence surrounds peaceful back yard.

11) Who doesn’t love a little house, especially one with a slate roof? “3916-1/2 Gosnold” is a custom-built “mini-house” with a 9′ ceiling, floored attic, built-in ladder and vintage windows.

12) When it’s time for the morning’s ablutions, step into the bath and back in time. Faithfully restored second-floor bath features porcelain sconces, vintage medicine chest, and a Kohler Memoirs sink, sitting atop a restored hex floor. Also has elegant wainscoting, Danze high-end faucets and solid brass vintage towel rack.

13) Modern kitchen is full of light with seven large windows, stainless steel appliances and a brand new Kenmore gas range (May 2011).

14) Harvest Time is nearly here! Tomatoes, cucumbers, corn, strawberries, zucchini and flowers thrive in three separate raised bed gardens in spacious back yard.

15) Handy rain-water harvesting system already in place for those thirsty plants, with more than 200 gallons of available storage.

16) Bibliophiles delight! Built-in bookcase on sunporch is more than 9′ tall and 6′ wide, with 27 sturdy shelves.

17) The house was custom built in 1925 by William Barnes, owner of one of Norfolk’s largest lumber yards. His grandchildren recall that he hand-selected every piece of framing lumber that went into the house. And it shows.

To schedule an appointment, leave a comment below or contact the Realtor.

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So THAT’S What That Little Door is For…

June 7th, 2011 Sears Homes 2 comments

Old houses often contain many mysteries. It’s our 21st Century paradigm (and ignorance of recent history) that makes our old homes seem “mysterious.”

Take ice boxes, for instance. We’re just one or two generations away from these once-modern marvels, and yet most of us baby boomers know little about them! If fact, most post-WW2 folks know very little about day-to-day life in the early 20th Century. Discovering the answers to those “old house mysteries” can be pretty darn fun (and satisfying, too).

During the open house here at Gosnold, someone was puzzled by the funny little door in my home’s pantry. When I explained the purpose of that door, the visitor exclaimed, “I’ve got one of those little doors in my old house, too. I always wondered what that was for!”

The “funny little door” was an access door for the ice man. Back in the day, my pantry was an open back porch. And back in the day, houses had an area in the pantry or kitchen dedicated to the ice box. An exterior access was created for the ice box, so the iceman could deliver fresh ice to the house without traipsing through the house (and ruining a freshly cleaned kitchen floor in the process).

Sawdust was typically used to insulate the ice, so when your 25 or 50-pound block of ice was delivered, it often came with a little mud, some spilled water and a light dusting of sawdust. It was a bit messy.

With a small service door on the rear of the house, the ice man could tromp up on the back porch, open the little service door, then reach in and open the corresponding smaller door on the rear of the ice box, insert the block of ice and be on his way. In some ice box promotional literature and catalogs, this service door was also known as “The Jealous Husband’s Door,” because it eliminated the opportunity for an iceman to socialize with the lady of the house.

As ice melted, the water could be collected in a pan or (in fancier homes), an ice box drain was provided to take the water away. In my house, the old 2″ ice box drain line is still in place. The line exits through the basement wall at about 12″ below grade. Ice box drains were not plumbed into the sewer line because oftimes there would not be enough water to keep the trap filled with water. If an ice box drain was plumbed into the sewer line and the water in the trap evaporated (or was not present for any reason), sewer gasses could end up in the house, and that’s a very bad thing.

I suspect there was a very small reservoir or tank or drain field of some kind to receive the water that drained from the ice box.

Now perhaps there’ll be one less mystery about your old house and that little door.  :)

Ice

"Keep out the iceman" read this ad from a 1915 "Ladies' Home Journal." It would seem the dapper gent with the straw hat and fine shirt is "icing" the box from the outside. While he may not need to enter the house, it's interesting that he's still managing to sneak a peek at the lady of the house.

Ice box

"Hey Baby, It's me, Mr. Kool. What's up? Is the old man around"

What

What this graphic does NOT show is the iceman's panic-stricken face, when he realizes that "the lady of the house" is a zombie who apparently passed on some time ago. Instead of eyes, she has those ominous x's, which can mean only one thing: She's become one of the walking dead and that platter in her dainty hands will soon contain a zombie's favorite meal - Iceman Brains. Scary stuff.

This vintage photo of Gosnold Avenue (from the late 1950s) shows the open back porch and the ice box door.

This vintage photo of Gosnold Avenue (from the late 1950s) shows the open back porch and the ice box door (under the pantry window).

Close-up of door.

Close-up of door.

door

Years ago, our back porch was enclosed and today it's a handy-dandy pantry. Incredibly, the original ice box door remains, just as it was when the house was built in 1925. The room on the other side of this door is the original pantry, which was converted into a half bath about 30 years ago. The corresponding opening on the bathroom side is gone.

door

When you open this door, there's nothing but a piece of plywood on the other side. It creates an interesting (albeit very shallow) cabinet space.

door

Close-up of snazzy (and original) hinges.

To buy Rose’s icebox door, click here.

To read another article about awesome old houses, click here.

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