Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Attic insulation

Got the attic insulated today! Clint from Mitchell Insulation added about 14 inches of blown-in fiberglass insulation into my attic today. It had only an inch or two before. Looking forward to a cooler house this summer.

Update: The insulation has made a HUGE difference. Also had the HVAC man out to tune-up and clean the a/c, which is a new unit he installed when I moved in. The temp inside the house has remained about 20 degrees below. Prior to the insulation the house would have been over 80 degrees at this time of summer. Now that the insulation has been added and lots of gaps sealed up, the inside temp has remained steady at 71-73 degrees.

Friday, November 30, 2018

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Building the front porch columns

Here's what the original porch columns looked like when the previous owner moved in:

Unfortunately, the original wood columns were in disrepair, so he replaced them with brick. I'm perplexed as to why he chose to install brick columns, since he was such a skilled carpenter.

Step 1: Sledgehammer out the bricks

A local laborer was able to knock this out in about 20 minutes. I piled up the debris and posted it on the free section of Craigslist, along with the note 'You must load.' Like magic, it vanished.

The original support posts were just (2) 2x4's sistered together. The support on the inside column was not bearing any was just kind of...floating there.
Step 2: Replace rot on the frieze board, grind down concrete base caps

First, we jacked up the header beams with 4x4's placed on bottle jacks and used a long level to ensure the beams were straight.

While the jacks were in place, I used a diamond grinding wheel to level out the base caps so that the new wood base would sit flush on the concrete caps. Using the grinder, I slightly tapered off the edges of the caps so that rainwater would drain away from the wood:



The frieze board (that's the underside of the porch that rests on top of the columns) was rotted. This meant the porch was in danger of collapsing down if not repaired, since the support beams need a solid surface to bear the load. So we repaired the rotted sections:



Step 3: Install new 6x6 supports

Then, we measured and marked where to place the 6x6 metal beam holders, which lifts the wood off the concrete, thereby preventing rot by keeping the new beams dry. Next, we cut the new 6x6 supports and test fitted them for level. We then removed them and drilled the metal lifts into the concrete caps. Finally, we placed the new supports, checked for level again and lowered the bottle jacks:

Step 4: Build column base

Gabriel gave me dimensions for the wood base pieces, so I was able to tackle these while he was away:

Step 5: Build column housing

Gabriel and I prepped all the pieces that make up the actual columns. He was the brains of the operation. Couldn't have done it myself without him!

Step 6: Glue, nail and trim them out


Project Cost

Demolition labor - $20
Brick debris removal - $0 (gave away on Craigslist)
Lumber - $200
Metal supports - $35
Screws and bits for metal supports - $20
Carpenter's labor - $60 (bartered for trade of the contractor saw I bought on Craigslist for $60)

Special thanks for my friend, pro-carpenter Gabriele for helping with this project. He was a great teacher and fun to work with!

Monday, July 30, 2018


My reply to a post on my favorite website,, was featured as the comment of the day runner-up. It's an awesome and often hilarious blog about Houston real estate news.

 “There was a blackout in my area, East End of Downtown, that night (July 23, 2018). We were without power for nearly 2 hours. Per a neighbor, CenterPoint relayed that over 900 homes were without power. There wasn’t a light on within visibility. Suddenly there was silence, except for my scream of ‘Nooooo!’ that apparently was heard all the way down the block. I called CenterPoint, whose automated message stated ‘A power outage has been reported in your area. The estimated time for repair is 11:45pm.’ Power was indeed restored at about that time, though can’t say that we enjoyed the heat through the wait.” [Corbin Dodge, commenting on Texas Electric Customers Are on a Record-Breaking Power Usage Spree]

and in a later reply I posted:

The day after the blackout, an expert at Texas A&M Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering issued a statement to KBTX News of Bryan, TX that: “It’s an incredible amount of energy used but luckily engineers are doing their jobs so that we have enough margin to stay over summer,” said Le Xie with the Texas A&M Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering. “So I think all things considered we are having a stressed power grid but we’ll make it through it.” Electricity dropped dead again, twice on July 29th and once on August 1st. Perhaps he was just referring to Bryan/College Station?

See the full post here

Friday, February 23, 2018

Old blind man lost in a parking lot

While parking at Kroger I noticed an old black man who was taking very slow, careful steps. He was leaning unsteadily, crouched over a cane and dragging a small shopping cart behind him. As I stepped past him, he looked up at me and I could tell from his cloudy white eyes that he was blind. Something about his expression caused me to pause and turn back to him. The man, weak and barely able to speak, asked a question that broke my heart:

“Can you tell me where the bus stop is?” he asked, his wide eyes pointed at the skyline above my shoulder.

After giving him directions the man asked if I would walk him to the bus stop. The parking lot was large and it would take him quite a while to reach it, so I pointed his cane toward the bus stop and instructed him to walk “that direction.” Then promised to meet back up with him when I returned from the store, just in case he had wandered off course.

As I neared the entrance, a woman stepped out from her car to ask what I had spoken to the old man about. I explained that he had asked where the bus stop was.

The lady, clearly concerned said "he has been out here for hours. I was here earlier and came back to pick up a few more things.” She observantly pointed out, “he’s wearing that big jacket in this heat. I asked the store to call the ambulance but I don’t understand why they won’t do anything. No one will do anything. It’s too hot out here for him to be walking around like that.”

Now worried about the old man, I promised to call the constable if he had not made it to the bus stop by the time I finished shopping.

While checking out, I looked up the constable’s phone number, then stepped out of the store to search for the old man. He was nearly to the bus stop but was stuck at a curb, unable to lift his shopping cart over it. I rang the constable and they responded that a unit would be dispatched to take the old man to wherever he was going.

The woman who I had spoken with was now holding the man by both hands, helping him to step over the curb. I watched as she helped him sit down on the bench and hand him a bottle of water while a young lady lifted his cart over the curb.

The old man had finally made it to the bus stop, after spending over 3 hours wandering in circles, presumably with every passerby responding “I don’t have any change” before he ever a chance to utter such a simple question: "Can you tell me where the bus stop is?"

Situations like this should remind us how important it is to sometimes just stop and listen. He could have died from heatstroke today, had it not been for a nice lady who recognized that he was simply an old blind man, lost in a parking lot, trying to find his way home.

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Fun in the woodshop

My buddy (and neighbor) Alex and I decided to have some fun one night after the tools "went to sleep"...

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Snow! In Houston!

Winston is cold...
The neighbors got to my yard before I woke up

A week later....uh-ohhhhh...

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Pet peeves

Growing up with an interior designer has taught me many things. My mom always pointed out how details matter. Here's a great example of how a minor change can make a room feel more 'together.'

Brushed knobs reflect light differently, based on the direction of the brushing. Here's what happens when the knobs are not all set with the brushing in the same direction:

A quarter turn of the knob makes a world of difference:

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Gonna need more clamps for this. Part 2

17 Window sashes to go.
Definitely gonna need more clamps for this.

...sneaks over to neighbor's to borrow his entire collection of woodworking clamps

Woodworking woes

Borrowed a friend's router to shave down some ill-fitting joints on my windows. Failed to recognize that there's a tenon in the way...

Wednesday, October 11, 2017