Bestowing tender, loving care on a home, a bit at a time

#513 in a series of true experiences in real estate
June 2006, Hills Newspapers

The best money I think I ever spent on my house was to move the laundry from the basement to the main living level. When my kids were little and insisted on wearing the same favorite clothes every day, I could throw in a load of wash at night, and while doing other things, could easily return to pull things out of the dryer.

Having new wood floors laid where there had been carpet over plywood was expensive so I wasn’t able to do it all at once. In fact, the bedrooms and hall in my house are still vinyl and carpet covered. But the kitchen and adjoining dining room have now golden-colored fir floors that a friend milled from old planks and laid (excellent choice) on the diagonal.

I don’t remember what we had to pay for these floors but I think they look stupendous. I still am consciously enjoying them everyday. The living room came later, a year when I had a tax refund and saw my chance. This floor is more formal, narrower beech wood strips, but the baseboards are high and cut from new vertical grain fir. Worth every cent.

When my husband and I bought my house in the early 1990s, we tore a lot of it apart. We ran out of money (and marriage) before the rebuilding was done but with only a few exceptions, I think the things we did do, we did well and beautifully.

For instance, when we needed to replace our wide front porch, we chose concrete for durability and relative low cost. But rather than one solid expanse of concrete, half a dozen divisions were made by inserting flush with the surface quarter-inch-wide brass strips. Big, beautiful, distinctive difference.

My house was built in the late 1940s, in sort of a ranch style, although not even so distinctive. We could see from the start that any architectural interest was going to have to be added. Our architect suggested that tearing out ceilings to the roof line would get us the most bang for the buck. We were game; we tore back to aged fir roof sheathing and loved the rough, unfinished look.

It wasn’t all that inexpensive though. Engineered cross beams were added, electricity had to be rerouted, walls opened up.

And, that first summer we found, it gets hot in the house. There is no insulation, nothing between the ceilings and the roof surface with the sun beating down.

A few weeks ago our trusty contractor friend Shaun suggested that he install twirling turbines in the roof. You know the kind – round metal turban-like things that revolve on their own (no electricity necessary). They let hot air out.

We haven’t had hot weather yet this year so aren’t sure how much difference these will make. We only put in two, one each in the living room and kitchen where there were already openings cut for vents.

But last week we decided to go one step further. My ex-husband (and former collaborator in house projects) told me about a whole-house fan, electric with self-closing doors, to be installed in a ceiling, cost around $500 – $700.

I did some research; was told that I could have the fan installed in the hallway ceiling simply by cutting a hole to the attic space and plugging it in. The motor is very quiet on low speed, the manufacturer said. The fan will suck hot air out of the house and circulate cooler air from open windows and doors.

I ordered a 2-speed fan immediately and will have it installed this week. This seems so very much better to me as a cooling aid than air conditioning or other, portable electric fans. I’ll let you know.

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