Thursday, July 19, 2012

No Pain, No Gain: How to Revive Old and Overgrown Bushes

The mantra of anyone attempting to resurrect overgrown bushes should be, "no pain, no gain." Unfortunately, that applies both to the bush and the bush owner. Just like trees, its amazing how much stuff ends up on the ground for cleaning up when you begin the process of trimming (in this case, more like extreme pruning).

After 40 years as citizens of York City, the former owners of 665 Madison weren't exactly on top of their landscaping . Beautiful flowering bushes had been neglected beyond a cursory "shape-up" far too long. In the picture to the left, the base of these bushes is on average five feet from the front of the bush, but a mere 2 feet from the back of the bush
Less visible in the pictures below, are "three" yew bushes covering well over 300 sq. feet of both our front yard and the neighbor's. After some consideration and debate, the verdict was passed. Our with the Yew bushes and radical intervention for the flowering bushes along the side of the house. 

Now that we removed them, the front is a lot more open.

The bushes are not attractive but are showing new growth, even in the midst of a hot summer.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Roof Job Unwanted: Why You Should Fix It Now, Not Later

This spring, while we we were making wild plans for a privacy fence along our corner lot backyard, rain water was slipping between crumbling slate and nonexistent sheathing on our porch roof. Its sudden condemnation re-routed our plans and we immediately launched a semi-DYI roofing project. Go-week was June 14th until finished (one week to the day), and I hired friend Steve Williamson for the expertise and tools [I am likely the most tool impoverished DYI'er in the U.S.]. Happy to provide a contractor recommendation for anyone in York County!

As it turns out, most of the roof damage was a result of a leaky roof that had been fixed some time ago, albeit very shoddily. The fix had come a bit too late to prevent serious rotting.

Since our neighbor's had already shed the slate from their side of the porch roof and the slate on our side was in very poor condition, our decision was easy. Pull off the slate and anything rotted beneath (crossed fingers, crossed fingers...) and replace with asphalt shingles.

Here's a few pictures to show what we did:

Demolition day rolled around and we made fairly quick work of removing the slate. It's a job best done primarily with a small pry bar and your hands, working from the top down. We dedicated a significant amount of time huffing the 1/3 or so of the slate tiles that were in good condition to the garage for re-use on our slate main roof or for landscaping purposes. We found significant parts of the old planking completely disintegrated, and I fell through on one or two occasions!

Proving that TV ads do occasionally work even on those who don't have a TV in their house, I signed up for WM's "Bagster" for this project and was impressed by the amount of stuff we put in it. A few days after scheduling pickup, a large truck showed up and lifted the bag by remote control crane into the bed of the truck. I paid short of $40 for the bag and $144 for the pickup. Totally worth it.

After removing all the old sheathing, we found the beams to be in pretty good shape, save for some rotting on the tops of the wood beams as seen below. It was beyond irritating to realize that the rotting was all dated and now completely dry. The previous owners had let the roof become leaky for some time, before they finally decided to do something about it. Excited that we'd be able to sister a few 2xs and get on with the new roof...

We got held up by the middle section of the eaves shared with our neighbor. There the rotting was significant. This wasn't altogether surprising- we knew water was slipping between some broken tiles and filtering down into the eaves. We just hoped that there was something left to hold the new roof up.

In the picture below you can see a new beam we managed to wedge on the neighbor's side of the roof to prop up their sagging shingles, and then a second sistered beam on my side (the right side). In retrospect, I wish we had extended a new beam the full length of the roof for peace of mind. The reality is, however, if we keep water out by maintaining the roof, it really won't matter.

We also took a big dip out of the roof by slapping 2xs along the beams.

Here's the repair on the eaves and corner of the roof a bit further along. We put the aluminum soffit (just like the neighbor's on the right) back up once we were finished.

At the end of day 2, this is what the roof looked like.

The old roof had no true flashing. Here, we used a grinder and then tucked the flashing into the brick.

On a side note, Linden Painters finished our neighbor's house, which included portions of shared architecture. Below, the left window is our and the right window is our neighbor's. Interestingly, the neighbor's window opens into a closet, whereas in our house the closet was removed to make more space in the bedroom.