Dysmey Post > Projects & Stuff > House Projects

House Projects

Completed ◊ Current/Ongoing ◊ Proposed


I started this page during a vacation in early August 2007. This was shortly after I bought my house a couple of months earlier. Here I discuss big projects that I have done, am doing or will do in time. I have planned these when I bought the house I now live in. The projects I am spacing out over a period of months to make them more affordable.

Completed Projects

Mail Box


Problem: The mail box that came with the house is tiny, rusted and does not protect mail from the rain, as I discovered when I found several wet bills when it rained before I could return home from work.

Solution: I have removed the tiny mailbox and replaced it with a standalone box with newspaper shelf. I have placed it in a spot next to where the front sidewalk meets the pullup. This was the toughest part of the install because the ground there is hard and stony, and I could burrow only eighteen inches instead of the preferred two feet. But the post went in, and the box is stable. I am happy (my mail is dry) and so is my mail carrier (the box is easy to reach from the mail transport).

Completed: 14 July 2007.

Upper Room Window

Upper Room Window

Problem: The seals on both panes of the west upper room window are broken, so that the panes hold a lot of condensation (and on the bottom pane a quarter-inch of water). It does not help that the window faces west, in the direction of the rain. The screen is torn, too.

Solution: A glazier in Gas City has replaced the screen on the first visit. He replaced the upper pane on the second visit. The lower pane was replaced on the third. And it was cheaper than I thought (or was told).

Completed: 18 August 2007.

Note: There are panes in each of two west-facing first-floor windows, which have broken seals and condensation. But these are not as badly damaged and can wait until the other projects are finished.

Isis Tumor

Isis With Bandage

Problem: Isis, the cat my sister the teacher gave me, has a tumor on her neck as a result of a cat fight nearly two years ago. The tumor has long stabilized, but oozes plasma and pus from time to time. Ointment does not stop the oozing.

Solution: I took the cat to the vet to have the tumor removed. Isis now wears a neck bandage, to keep her from scratching the wound; and I am giving her antibiotic twice a day.

Completed: Bandage was removed 13 August 2007; medicine was finished 18 August 2007.

Dead Trees

Dead Trees along Buckeye Street

Problem: Two trees along Buckeye Street as tall as the house died a while ago. They were already bare of leaves and bark when I bought the house. There was another tree in front of the house; but it was long cut down, and only its rotting stump remains.

The trees are a threat to the telephone line that passes through the branches, and to the house itself, if they should fall in a storm.

Solution: The trees must go. They must be cut down.

And on 19 August they were cut down by a co-worker of my carpenter neighbor who cuts down (and cuts up) trees as a side-job. As he only cuts down trees, I had to stack the pieces in my yard along Buckeye Street until I can get a hold of Padre's flat-top trailer to haul them to my sister the teacher, who has a wood-burning stove that suppliments her gas heater.

Completed: Trees were cut down 19 August 2007.

Note: Larger pieces were hauled away as firewood 26 August 2007. There are a lot of people in town with fireplaces, including my sister, who lost out of the wood because she was using the trailer in her yard for storage in one of her DIY projects. The smaller pieces will get picked up by the street department.

Note: One of the stumps from the felled trees decayed from mold and ant consumption in spring 2010. I dug out the decayed wood, replaced it with soil, and planted grass seed.

Chimney Top

Chimney Top Before Repair

Problem: The chimney is decorative because the fireplace was removed during a remodeling years ago. Someone foolishly put an old-style antenna and bolted a satellite dish on the top of the chimney. They are perfectly useless there; they make the house look ugly; and they weaken the integrity of the chimney.

Solution: I paid a bricklayer to come over to remove the antennae, repair the chimney and cap off the top.

Completed: 23 May 2008.

Note: I have been told by my folks and some of my neighbors that they noticed the antennae when they walk past the house. Anyway, this picture shows the difference a repair job makes.

Maple Tree Trimming

Trimmed Maple Tree

Problem: The big maple tree in the back yard had branches that hung so low that they whacked me as I crossed the back yard.

Solution: I had intended to remove the low-hanging branches myself. But on the first weekend in October 2008, I accepted an offer from a tree-trimming business to remove all the lower branches from the tree. Now the tree looks much better, as you see in the picture.

Completed: 4 October 2008.

Back Gutter

Back Gutter

Problem: The back gutter bows in the middle, so that the water accumulates there. The excess pours over the edge onto the deck and the back door. In winter, that water freezes, making it impossible to open the back door. Worse, some of the water is flowing into the moulding over the door and pouring through a hole in the moulding.

Solution: Replace the back gutter, and make sure it is set up so that the water drains properly. This is what I did: The back gutter was removed this past April 2008 and set aside, only to be stolen three weeks later by thieves taking advantage of high metal prices. For awhile the lack of a gutter was an improvement. But with the heavy rains and snows, parts of the utility room wall become as wet as when the gutter was there. The need for a back gutter became clear. In 2009 I bought a set of vinyl components, including a new drip edge, and to build a new back gutter during my spring vacation in 2009.

Completed: 5 May 2009.

Note: One of the problems I had with the new back gutter was that a center segment was screwed to the fascia only, as there was nothing behind it. In time, the weight of rain water caused the screw to pull out of the fascia, spilling rain water onto the ground where it was not wanted. In May 2010, I had to buy a downspout to use as a support column for that section of the gutter. That is not good. This is part of the bigger problem with my back roof, more on which below.

Isis Back Problem

Isis Under Step

Problem: Isis injured her back in some way back in November 2008. She was barely able to walk, and was unable either to climb or to jump. Her back ached so much that she fled under the bottom step of the stairs, which provided some back support, as shown in the picture.

Solution: Isis had long had a weight problem, which the veterinarian concluded was a major contributor of her back injury. Thus Isis was put on a diet which has dropped her weight to two pounds in the past couple of months. When her back problem did not improve, Isis was given some medicine to ease the pain. That worked for as long as she was on the meds. Once it ran out, she was back to her achey self.

The canned and dry diet foods was helping. The medicine helped as long as it lasts. But keeping Isis on it was a bad thing, and she was achey again when it ran out. So I took her to a specialist at a vet hospital in Anderson, who found some form of problem under her third thoracic vertebra. Tumor? Clot? He did not know for sure. I already knew that the tumor removed from Isis' ear was cancerous; I suspected that a metathesis may have embedded into that vertebra, and sprung to life after the main tumor was removed.

Despite continued medication, Isis' condition had gotten so bad that walking on her hind legs became impossible, and she is in pain without medication. At that point Isis had to be put to sleep.

Completed: 6 May 2009 (Isis' passing).


Rewiring Complete

Problem: On 13 June 2009, in a bout of overenthusiastic grass-shearing, I severed the telephone cable to the downstairs. I did not discover this until days later.

Solution: This accident affords me with an opportunity to rewire the telephone, network and coax (TV) cables on the west side of the house. In the picture, barely visible due to size, are the wires that go into the living room as well as the current cable lashup (a); the telephone cables coming out of the network box, including the damaged one (b); and the cable going into the upper room (c). These will go into some sort of sheathing. It will be difficult as wires pass under and around the bottom of the chimney (d).

The project is so extensive that it required a page of its own. To summarize, I used Carlon™ conduit: a Carflex flexible segment around the back of the chimney, and rigid conduit elsewhere from the living room (1) and the upper room (4) to the telephone interface (2) along a vertical shaft (3). Within these I ran telephone cabling to both living and upper rooms; I connected the living and upper rooms with CAT5e network cable; and I ran a coaxial cable from the living room to a weatherhead next to the roof. I had to call the telephone company to complete the phone cable connections, but the network and (after an antenna was fitted) coax cables worked from day one.

Completed: 22 August 2009.

Outdoor TV Antenna

TV Antenna

Problem: I have abandoned cable television after the following, in given order:

  1. my local cable television provider had changed from Insight to Comcast;
  2. my selection of channels had eroded over the next year;
  3. basic cable service (local channels only) had been dropped this year;
  4. I decided that I needed the sixty dollars a month as part of a potential monthly payment for a new car;
  5. it was announced (and, to be fair, this has nothing to do with Comcast) that Sci-Fi Channel would become SyFy in July 2009 to disassociate the channel from the so-called 'basement-hiding antisocial geek market'!

The problem with my decision is that in Fairmount, being so far away from broadcast towers in Indianapolis, Fort Wayne and Muncie, local television stations are difficult to impossible to receive on an internal antenna, even a boosted one. This has become especially true after the digital transition, as digital signals do not travel as far as analog ones.

That is why an outdoor antenna is a must. Any outdoor antenna will have to be mounted on or beside the roof. I will not mount it to the chimney after all I expended to strip the rusting metal crap that was on it when I moved in.

In fact I have already found a suitable spot to mount an antenna, marked in the second picture by the red crystal, where the antenna's cable can be guided along the same channel as the cable left by Insight.

Solution: I had wanted the Winegard SS-2000 as a well-recommended indoor/outdoor antenna, but learned that its reach was extremely limited. I settled for an antenna that was more expensive but had a greater reach. Its cabling is part of the rewiring project above.

Completed: 26 August 2009.

Stairway Reinforcement

Stairway Pillars

Problem: The stairway to the upper room was not built with 105-kg residents in mind. It was not built even for children running up and down them in mind. As a result, the stairs creak loudly when I walk up and down them. It also stresses the wall beside the stairs, resulting in long cracks in the plaster of the wall near the top of the stairs. There is no point in repairing the cracks until the stairs are stabilized.

Solution: As a temporary measure, I bought and installed an adjustable support column under the stairs. I had to put it under one stair step. And I could not crank it too high, because the column would push the step out of the stairway.

Then I bought two 2″ × 2″ posts. They were stored in the shed until I had time to work on them.

That time came during my May vacation. I carved 1½″-wide notches out of the top of each post with a wood chisel. The notches were to fit snug into the side of the stairway. Next I cut the posts to different sizes, so that they would support the stairway at roughly equal intervals. Then I give the posts two coats of white paint to match the color of the stairway. Finally, I pounded the posts into position.

Completed: 6 May 2010.

Back Roof

Leak Over Back Door

Problem: There is a persistent leak where the roof joins the fascia, especially over the back door.

The new back gutter in the spring 2009 was meant to fix this. It has not: I have removed the drywall over a very damp spot over the back door, reavealing wood as wet as a rain-soaked log, complete with ants. As a temporary fix, I dried the wood and gave it a pepperine treatment before the hole was sealed with spackling. But it was evident that I needed a permanent solution.

Solution: I devote a full page to this problem.

Completed: July 2010.

Mailbox Pullup and Driveway

Mailbox Pullup
New Driveway

Problem: The pullup to the mailbox, which substitutes for a front sidewalk and curb, is being overrun with weeds. The same is true of the driveway between my house and the neighbor's, which I use during the winter months.

Solution: In spring 2010 I had been thinking of digging up the gravel, pulling the more egregious weeds, laying down a layer of weed-blocking fabric, and covering that up with a new layer of gravel. Then I figured it would be cheaper just to lay on the gravel.

Next, after learning what kind of gravel is used in driveways (#7/#8 gravel), I computed how much gravel I would need to recover the driveway, which is 54′ 2″ × 25′ 4″. I would need 8.375 tons, which, at $9.75 a ton, makes for about eighty dollars worth of gravel, excluding transporting the gravel from the quarry to the driveway. And I will need landscape fabric to suppress the weeds already there; these come in 3′ × 100′ rolls, of which I will need about six or seven.

In May 2010 my neighbors took an opportunity to cover their side of the driveway (and part of mine, too) with free gravel. But it is not enough. I tried to smother the weeds on my end with landscaping fabric. However, the sun shone through the fabric. The fabric blocked evaporation. It was like a greenhouse under there. It just made things worse. After a month, I removed the fabric, bought some Roundup™ and sprayed the weeds dead.

Finally, at my neighbor's suggestion, I called Navillus Aggregates near Jonesboro and bought eight tons of driveway gravel. Before the truck came, I bought 250 feet of landscape fabric of a thicker variety used by my neighbor, and laid it down over the weeds on my side of the driveway. After the truck came and dump the gravel, I shoveled and raked the gravel over the fabric. It was strenuous work, but it was well worth the effort. As for the pullup, I can rip up the weeds with a stirrup hoe, lay down what remains of the fabric on top of the scrapped area, and shovel some excess gravel.

Completed: 28 July 2011.

Front Maple Tree

Front Maple Tree
Front Maple Tree After Trunk Removal
Front Maple Tree At Death

Problem: The maple tree was left to grow when I moved into the house. Now it is nearly ten meters tall. But its branches droop, too weak to hold up the weight of their leaves, such that I have had to cut down the lowest ones every so often. Worse, the tree is infested with ants.

Solution: At first I had considered cutting the whole tree down. Then I thought that it would be better if one of the two trunks were removed, letting the other trunk grow. In November 2011 I have cut down the top half of the west trunk with a hand saw. It was a lot of effort for the small part of the trunk. So, I borrowed a small electric chain saw, which made the removal of the rest of the trunk quicker. After that, I sealed the stump with a tar-like sealant to keep the insects away. In the second picture you can see the single trunk with the black spots near the bottom, where the other trunk (now in yard bags to the right) stood.

During the spring of 2012, I inserted fertilizer stakes around the tree to ensure that it lived. Regrettably, during the big drought of June-July 2012, the leaves shriveled up. The tree was dead, yet I have let it stand by Madre's request (well, more like demand) until next spring.

That spring has come and gone, and the tree is definitely dead. After calling two different tree surgeons and getting no real response, I cut down the tree myself.

Completed: 11 August 2013.

Current/Ongoing Projects


Section of Lawn

Problem: The lawn is, as Madre described it, more weeds than grass. It is mostly weeds along the road and pullups, and around the paved areas. There are bare patches between the patio and the road. There are patches of a strange stuff like packed lint in some spots.

That part of the back yard between the maple tree and the street is one big shallow depression. There is also another parallel to Buckeye Street, which I had thought at first was a sunken sidewalk, but have since concluded is a buried water or sewage pipe. It merges into the bigger depression. And there are smaller depressions in the front yard and the driveway on the west side of the house. All these hold water after a heavy rain or snowmelt; they make my yard resemble a lake. I am told it is because the soil is made of clay, which does not drain well.

Solution: I planned at first to just plow up the lawn. That would have been a hugh undertaking if I did it myself, and an expensive one if I contracted it out. My experiments with reseeding in parts of my lawn worked well at first, but the grass died during the long rainless August. However, I found that weed/feed chemicals do a good job in making the grass grow a lot while suppressing the weeds.

In fall 2008 I used the winterizing fertilizer/weedkiller my folks got me last year to see if that would improve the lawn. The results were somewhat good, so I used more weed-and-feed from the folks as well as a standing weeder, a device for pulling up weeds (esp. dandelions) from a standing position.

Later in the fall 2008 I removed all the bricks on one of the two backyard paths, filled it with soil and seeded it. Then in the spring of 2009 I pulled the bricks in the other path, laid landscaping fabric on the path, and reinstalled the bricks. The results? One path is so full of grass that you would not have known the path was there unless you were next to it. The other path has some grass in the cracks but is not as bad as it was last year.

I bought a new push-reel lawn mower and a battery-powered weed whacker to make the work of maintaining the lawn easier. (The old green mower I gave to my sister Vickie.) I later learned (from a relative of a past owner) that there was drainage pipes laid in the late 1990's to keep the house itself from flooding. Evidently the big depression in the southwest corner of the lawn is there for a reason.

Early Spring 2010 saw me distribute weed-and-feed on the whole lawn with a new spreader. I repeated this in Spring 2011, and saw fewer plantain and other weeds, even during the dry spell in the summer.

To Be Completed: Ongoing.



Problem: The patio in itself is in okay shape, but the ground is sinking under it, causing the large cracks you see in the picture. Also, I need to do something about the mysterious square of rocks in the corner.

Solution: I dug out the rocks from the square, but put them back in after laying some landscape fabric. That curtailed weed growth in the square. As for the patio itself, I filled the cracks with a sand/cement mix. It worked for awhile, but as the ground subsided under the patio, the cracks reappeared. As of spring 2009, the patio is back to its old condition. In April 2010 the cracks were big enough that the patio needed to be resealed; this was done on 10 April 2010 using sand filler and a liquid sealant. I have resealed the patio on July 2012.

To Be Completed: Ongoing.

Back Deck

Back Deck

Problem: When the house of renovated several years ago, the renovators built a back deck began with a railing. It was not well-placed. It was covering the crawlspace entrance, so the previous owner sawn off a corner of the deck over the entrance. The railing, which was still there during the winter before I bought the house, was removed because it had become too wobbly.

The deck has had a few planks replaced. The others are all starting to split at the ends.

Solution: If there is to be a deck in back, it will need to be shortened so that the right edge (facing the house) is aligned with the right threshold of the back door. The remains of the right side of the deck need to be removed. And there needs to be some sort of means to make access to the crawlspace easier.

The harsh winter of January/February 2009 is taking its toll on the deck, with one or two of the planks splintering from the ice expanding and thawing on the deck. I may have to remove and replace the deck eventually.

To Be Completed: Ongoing.


Dead Bush

Problem: The bushes around the house and the shed are dead. The remaining plants around the house are mostly weeds.

Solution: The bushes (live and dead) I removed in fall 2007.

The stones were removed, landscape fabric laid out, and mulch shoveled in front of the shed. It looks pretty good.

In April 2009 I something similar with the front of the house under the windows: Laid borders of bricks from the old path, put landscaping fabric inside them, and planted irises with Madre's help. The results in 2010, as shown at left, are impressive although brief. As of 2013, the irises still bloom in the spring.

To Be Completed: Ongoing.

Written by Andy West on 11 August 2007. Updated 12 August 2013.