Sunday, April 27, 2008

“Cute squirrel. Is it dead yet?”

Do I hate squirrels? They bark at me. They scurry atop my roof. They try to invade my home. And I swear they’ve tossed nuts at me on occasion. Squirrels and I have some history. It’s not pleasant.

I’m sure there are those of you who treasure the little creatures and would take offense to anyone harming them. How sweet. You should form a tree rat appreciation club. Build yourself a big tree house and commune with the pests. Think of me when you are getting your rabies shots.

In the meantime, I take the role of being the apex predator in New Albany neighborhoods very seriously. Furry vermin are in the cross-hairs. I’m wondering how many it would take to make myself a fur lined winter coat. Fifty? A hundred? Some fur lined house slippers sound nice too.

The source for this rant? Upon taking a seat after a very long day of cleaning up New Albany ("who really needs trash cans when you have an alley", another rant coming soon) I heard a strange sound at the front door. This is what I saw.

A cat apparently had chased this guy up on my front porch. He wanted in badly. After taking these shots I sprinted to the garage looking for some tool to end this vermin’s life. Shovel? Whacking stick? I settled on a broom, mostly concerned about collateral damage to the house.

He’d vacated the porch by the time I got there. I can only hope the cat did its job.

Of course I don’t really hate anything. But I do have an extreme dislike for these furry tree vermin. For more reading on why all squirrels must die visit the website – All Squirrels Must Die!

Sunday, April 20, 2008

It begins again – the next seasonal installment of Ted’s never ending quest to finish his exterior restoration

Today I kicked off another season of work on the exterior of the house. It felt good. I probably won’t be saying that when July and August roll around.

Progress will be tracked here, same as last year. In addition, I will share more of the “how to” stuff and some of the “how not to do” stuff. If someone else learns from my screw ups it will make them a little easier to stomach.
I set up on the north side of the house today to start stripping paint.

Here are the tools of the trade for removing paint. That’s just part of my growing collection of scraper’s. Some are big, some are small, some are pointy, some are flat. But they each serve a specific purpose when called upon.

The device at the back is my secret weapon – the Speedheater. Two infrared light bulbs heat the paint and separate it from the wood.

Here’s how it works. To the right is a section of peeling, alligatored, and failing paint. After I remove the loose stuff, I the turn the Speedheater loose on it. You hold the device over one spot about 45 seconds and the paint starts to bubble, separating from the wood.

A scraper then can easily remove the paint. And in case you are wondering, this is lead paint and not stuff you want to mess with. This is why I’m a big fan of the Speedheater. The paint comes off in large, gooey masses like this.
There’s very little “dry scraping” which puts dangerous dust in the air. A plastic tarp below captures everything that falls. Hit the Speedheater website for more information on the advantages of this type of paint removal.

This is what the wood looks like after the paint is removed. It will get sanded next, cleaned and then painted.
The north side of the house will take me a while to clean up. If anyone out there has an interest in seeing the Speedheater in use please feel free to email me and we’ll schedule some time together for a demo. I’ve even been know to loan it out on occasion when I’m not planning to use it.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

New Albany Shotgun homes – They’re Loaded

Reference “New Albany” and “Shotgun” in the same sentence and most will assume you are talking about New Year’s Eve or the 4th of July, when shotguns fired in the air double for fireworks.

But I’m not talking about the New Albany celebratory salute now. The historic neighborhoods of New Albany contain approximately 500 Shotgun style homes. These homes are typically narrow, one-story with each room placed behind the other. Often, the doors in each room line up. So if you opened all the doors and fired your shot gun through the front door – the shot would pass through the house. Hence the name, “Shotgun” home.

The home style is experiencing a renaissance in many parts of the country. It has always been celebrated and loved in many Louisville neighborhoods, especially the German Paristown neighborhood (they even have an annual Shotgun festival).

In the resource and green conscience world we now live in, smaller has tremendous advantages. Less space to heat and cool is the obvious benefit. And, let’s be honest, the homes are dirt cheap. Baby boomers are aging and downsizing their housing. A modernized Shotgun has appeal.

In an effort to bring attention to New Albany Shotgun homes, Preservation Month organizers have coordinated an exciting forum and workshop in May.

From the Preservation Month media advisory –
Monday, May 5th - Preservation Conversation #1: Reinventing the Shotgun House for Contemporary Living, Cornerstone Evangelical Methodist Church, 418 East Spring Street, New Albany, 7:00 – 8:30 PM.

As a kick-off to the focus on shotgun style homes during National Preservation Month 2008, Patricia Gaye, Executive Director, Preservation Resource Center, New Orleans, presents stories of her experiences with shotguns in New Orleans and the results of efforts to increase awareness of their value to the New Orleans culture. Since many New Albany neighborhoods feature (approximately 500) shotgun style houses, what value is its cultural contribution to the City? What efforts can the City implement to strengthen awareness of their value and affordable, modern livability? Free and Open to the Public.

Tuesday, May 6th - Pizza and Preservation: Reinventing the Shotgun House for Contemporary Living, shotgun house of Ron Stiller, architect and presenter, 2112 Elm Street, New Albany, 6:15 PM – 8:30 PM.

Ron Stiller explains the shotgun’s strengths as modern living space and demonstrates the interior changes that maintain the character, as well as the potential, for responsible modern needs.

The workshop is free and open to the public. Pizza and beverage will be served. Reservations required by calling Historic Landmarks Foundation of Indiana - 284 4534.

More shotgun related reading ---

Architectural Descriptions, Floor Plans and Photographs

Recent posting by Bluegill over at NAC

The Shotgun House Project in New Orleans

Brett Zamore Design LLC - A Modern Update of a Shotgun

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Open me, walk on me, jog on me, bike on me, use me

It’s tantalizing. I see it every day on my way back and forth from work. I can see it from my office in downtown Louisville. A bridge connection between Indiana and Kentucky. A connection between New Albany and Portland. It is, of course, the Kentucky & Indiana Railroad Bridge. And if I could get across it on bike or foot, I’d have to travel a measly four miles to get to work.

I have no details or timelines, but I do understand the process is underway to get the K&I Bridge open for pedestrian traffic. It can’t happen soon enough for me.

Those new to the area may not realize the bridge is even there or that it was used for vehicle traffic until 1979. The steel gridwork roadways are still there.

I never traveled over the bridge by car. And of course walking on the bridge now would be trespassing on railroad property – which I’d never condone (wink, wink, nod, nod). But I can imagine the views are breathtaking of the river, the Sherman Minton Bridge, the Louisville skyline and of the McAlpine Locks and Dam.

Multi-billion dollar bridge projects? Let’s use the one that’s already there. How much would it cost? How much does a bolt cutter cost? Maybe they could charge a toll to cover the cost?