Windows, Breezes, and Flowers

The cool weather in Houston has been wonderful. It’s so nice to enjoy sunshine without baking, and the breezes mean we’ve been opening the windows instead of running the AC. Heaven!

One of the many things I love about older homes is the way they were designed to keep cool. Cross-ventilation should not be underestimated! Our former apartment was cobbled-together rather than designed, so opening the windows there wasn’t very effective. Here we have screen doors and cross-ventilated rooms, and opening the windows is literally a breeze: the house cools down very quickly as air flows through the rooms. We haven’t run the AC in days.

The changing weather also has the garden blooming and I am enjoying discovering existing plants. There are several established rose bushes, all large and some fragrant. All but one are blooming profusely right now. There is also a very large Chain of Love vine growing at one end of the porch, and a vine I can’t identify producing delicate, trumpet-shaped pink flowers in the front flowerbed.  I am looking forward to expanding the flower beds here and putting some of my own plants in the ground.  I’m not sure when I will be able to start my vegetable garden; I love fall and winter vegetables (here in Houston that typically means leafy greens) but building the beds and buying the soil mix might have to wait until spring.

Inside the house we’re working on unpacking and getting settled. That’s taking a back seat to school and work, but we’ll get there eventually!

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Moved In

Last night we got the last of our things out of the old apartment. We’ve been renters in Houston Heights for five years now, and it was kind of sad to leave that place. We were very happy there for the first years- the place was small but cute, we had a great big yard, great neighbors, a quiet street. The last couple of years in that place were pretty bad (largely due to a landlord who just wouldn’t fix ANYTHING, but who regularly raised the rent) but there were some good times too, and I’ll miss them.

The new place is piled high with boxes and looking quite a mess. In the coming week I plan to start unpacking and get organized… so much to do! I’m glad we’re done moving house, though, and ready to move on to the settling in.

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We’re In!

We’re spending our first night in the new house!

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Lead Paint?

In some parts of the house, mostly on doors and window frames, there is severe flaking of the paint. It occurred to me that this is a lead risk: our house was built in 1945 and the chance that at least some of the paint used over the years contained lead is very high.

Every flake we see represents millions of particles we don’t see… and it’s making me a little paranoid just thinking about it! We are going to make stripping and repainting the doors and windows a top priority, for safety’s sake.

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Today was our first day ever purchasing major appliances.  We bought a refrigerator and a range at Sears Outlet. A good friend recommended Sears Outlet to us and we did indeed get a good deal on our appliances, especially since we took a printable coupon in with us, for a further discount.

My list of requirements was pretty short. For the stove, it had to be gas, and it had to have a self-cleaning oven. For the fridge, I wanted a model with the freezer on the bottom.  I was hoping to get both pieces in stainless steel, but I thought that would end up outside of our budget. I’ve long loved the idea of a convection oven, but I thought that would also be out of budget.  We got lucky today, and came home with both pieces in stainless steel, all requirements met, and the range has convection! It seems that the price of convection has come down drastically in the last couple of years.

They will both be delivered on Friday. I hope that by then, the gas is on.

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Tired, and so much more to do…

Tonight we spent some time cleaning at our Third Ward Wonder.  The house is not as dirty as it could be, although the cabinet beneath the kitchen sink smells mildewy and is so dirty it kind of makes me want to cry (I’m very tired, okay? And I hate cleaning house.)

We went over there planning to shampoo the carpets in the back bedrooms (I am thankful that they are the only carpets in the house) but the gas isn’t on, so there is no hot water.

I have a dilemma about the floors. They are hardwood, almost certainly original to the house (built in 1948.)  After reading a bit, I think that the finish is probably a “penetrating seal”: they are somewhat shiny but not glassy or plasticky, and the grain can be felt. So I think they can probably be waxed. I used to live in an old apartment with old hardwood floors, and when I moved in, a friend’s mom came over to tell me how to care for them and the other very old finishes in the place. She advised cleaning them with Murphy’s Oil Soap or weak ammonia, and then waxing them, and even gave me a little bit of acrylic floor wax to use. I did just that and they looked great, but now I am reading that I shouldn’t use ammonia or oil soap, so I don’t know!

I do know that the floors are in pretty good shape and we probably won’t be refinishing them anytime soon… so waxing them probably won’t be a problem. And I just realized that I have the perfect “inconspicuous area” to test a treatment on… which brings me to the next floor problem.

Our house is a brick facade house built on a block-and-beam foundation. The brick outer walls, though, were extended down to the ground all around the house, with grills to provide ventilation. Like most block-and-beam houses, there was some sort of opening in this wall at the back of the house, so workmen could get under the house if necessary.

I say was because while it may still be there, it’s now inaccessible (ironic for an opening typically called “the access.”) When the former owners expanded the house around 2002, they added onto the back of the house… and didn’t provide easy access to the underneath. In fact there’s just not as much crawl space under the addition, and so when the house needed foundation work (way before we bought it) the then-owner decided to cut through the original hardwoods and subfloor in both original bedrooms. Yes, they cut through an original, functional hardwood floor… and then left it like that! My studio (the second bedroom) has a single, poorly cut chunk that can be lifted out, and the front bedroom has a chunk cut out as well, only the planks have all been separated there.

(The former owner did not have to butcher the floors.  I have seen work done in similar situations: they could have excavated a trough between the piers of the new addition. Whoever they were, they were lazy and ignorant.)

Now we have the flooring issue to deal with, as well as the access issue. So I wonder: how should we repair these floors? How can they be repaired? Does the subfloor have to be fixed from below? And how do we make sure the crawl space is still accessible? I have no idea how we are to repair them, but for access, I am actually thinking that we should install a door in the floor of the studio, or in the master closet. That way workers can access the crawl space if need be. And come on, how cool would it be to have a secret door leading to a wonderland beneath one’s house? (By “wonderland”, of course, I mean “sandy, dark area with lots of paw prints. Plus spiders.”)

My plan for tomorrow is to get some sleep (’cause I need it) then pack some here during the day. When  my partner gets off of work we will take a load of stuff over to the house, where I will mop the floors (and probably wax them) and clean the baseboards.  If the gas is on we’ll shampoo those carpets… I am concerned about lighting the pilot light on the water heater, I’ve never done that before.

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Handy Links For People Moving

Choosing a power company: The Texas Public Utilities Commission’s power education page.

Forwarding your mail: the official United States Post Office change of address website.

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