Whilst we don't really celebrate Valentines, I can't help but lust over beautiful themed interiors, especially those on Instagram - where I spend most of my free time scrolling through squares and squares of homes I only wished I owned. If you're not on Instagram yet, where have you been?! It's quickly becoming the new Pinterest for home & DIY inspiration and I absolutely love the community on there.
One day we'll go all out on the decorating-front for a celebration; (any celebration - Easter, Christmas, Valentines - I'm not fussed!) there'll be bunting, flowers, food, music, it'll be so pinterest-worthy, all my dreams will have come true. But until then, I'll make-do with small corners of my home having a touch of festivity instead.
And of course one the easiest ways to bring a touch of theme to a room is through chalkboards! They can be switched to different themes at the touch of some chalk. This star chalkboard is from a DIY I did last year with Rustoleum (go check it here!) but since then it's been sat looking pretty depressed in my office waiting for the day I felt creative enough to do something new with it. The problem is, chalk is hard to write with. It kind of just gets everywhere and doesn't have that crisp chalkboard calligraphy look you see on every pinterest photo going and I just couldn't get it the way I wanted it.
Until I discovered chalk-pens! These ones are from Chalkola - a small independent family owned business which can also be found on Amazon. The pens are liquid, but made from chalk. It means you get a clean crisp line, unlike traditional dusty chalk. They dry so that they wont smudge - great if you have little hands that like to touch everything ;) And no problem with smart-arses changing words like "house" to "ouse" either! But they obviously do erase too, simply by wiping over with a wet cloth. It makes chalkboards much more durable and practical. I love that you can layer colours and even draw art with them too!
They can also be used on any non-porous surface including ceramics, glass, mirrors and whiteboards to mention a few (always test surfaces first though!). I think they're pretty awesome. Great for leaving notes on random stuff - mugs work a treat! Anyone else need to leave a bazillion reminders for their other-halves? "don't forget to turn the grill off" and such-like? But of course, with Valentines, you could even get romantic with it ;)
They come in a whole range of different colours and tones - from vibrant neons to earthy tones. The earthy tones are personal faves! I so desperately want to take a calligraphy class (I'm sure they exist!) and become the master of chalkboard writing. But until then, I'll just practice with my new pens and make a better effort to update this little corner of our home. A countdown to spring is the next idea on the horizon - surely I'm not alone in being fed up of this cold winter weather?!
But for now, here's the one little festive/themed spot of my home for this Valentines. I hope you all have a wonderful V-day too, even if it's amongst plaster-dust, like ours! I must deeply thank the Morrisons wine & dine for 2 meals - because there sure as hell wont be any cooking in our non-existent kitchen this Valentines! Who said renovating can't me romantic?! ;)
PS. If you're interested in these pens, Chalkola are offering 20% off any of their pens with code: 20OFFSTR
*Pens were kindly gifted by Chalkola. All opinions are my own. Thanks for supporting the brands who support this blog :)
As I write this I’m sitting in my hotel room in Tampa halfway through a great weekend workshop with a ton of amazing historic preservationists. I’ve written about a few of them in an earlier post and these people truly are rockstars, but it makes me wonder why with so many great people in preservation there is still so little traction in the mainstream.
As I’ve had some quiet time away from my daily grind I’ve listened to some amazing preservation business ideas from these people. Some of which could change not only the way we think about preservation but how we think about our buildings as a whole.
I’ve seen people fired up to change the world and cause some serious disruption to the status quo on the scale of giants like Steve Jobs and Elon Musk. You probably think I’m exaggerating and living in a world of delusional hyperbole, but I’m dead serious.
There are 330 million Americans and every one of them needs a place to live. A house, an apartment, an loft, condo, co-op, a roof over their head. They don’t all need a computer, iPhone, electric car, or trip to space (though all of those would be cool).
They need a safe, warm place to live that is both sustainable and maintainable. They need a home. And preservationists are in the business of fixing homes. Let’s play a little game of what if…
Preservationists could get off their arrogant, high horses and stop being seen as anti progress but rather pro sustainable progress.
Preservationists could figure out how to translate the hundreds of studies they have from technical jargon into plain everyday English so that people can finally understand the blaring truth that the greenest building, window, wall, floor, is the one already built.
Preservationists could provide low-cost housing options for people who need it by restoring older buildings instead of letting developers raze them to create high end condos for the rich.
Preservationists could be known as historical preservationists instead of hysterical preservationists.
Preservationists could be seen for what they really are which is someone who wants to use and reuse the buildings we have rather than cramming our landfills full of more and more junk.
Preservationists could expose the untenable waste and lies behind planned obsolesce in construction so that public would see it and make better choices.
What if, what if, what if?
The list continues to grow in my mind. As fast as I can write them down new ideas come into my mind. But the over-arching theme is that historical preservation needs to get its act together!
How can a group of people who have not only the truth on their side, but the studies to back it up fail to communicate that truth in a coherent way to the masses?
What is that truth? I’ll tell you right now, but I’m also going to promise to you that for the next month I am going to show you the evidence to back it up in a way that our soundbite culture can digest and understand.
If at the end of this next month you aren’t 100% convinced of the claims I am about to make then I will eat my words and publicly proclaim on this blog “Historic preservation is of no value!”
My Four Claims:
I encourage you to come back every week and read what I’m about to start posting here and tell me if I am able to prove the claims I have just made. I dare you.
I expect kickback on these topics, maybe not from my regular readers who already love their old houses, but from those who don’t agree with us.
So share this with all the skeptics you know. Send it to flippers, developers, mayors, city councils, neighbors, anyone who doesn’t buy this historic preservation gobbledegook. Let’s see if I can make you a believer!
Hi my name’s Betty! You’re probably wondering, but yes, I am a window. A 6-over-6 double hung to be exact. I know it’s unusual to find a speaking window but there are a few of us around if you’re interested enough to hear our story.
Next week I’ll be turning the big 150. It used to be a lot of my friends and family lived to 150 but not so much anymore. Most of my old friends are long gone, but here I still sit taking in the beautiful views of the Charleston streets.
It’s one of my favorite hobbies you know, people watching. Oh I can sit for hours and watch the passersby both outside on the streets and my owners inside. And I do have to mention, I have some of the kindest owners. They’ve been with me for years! They give me a nice warm storm in the winter, screens in the summer, keep my glass clean, and keep my paint and putty touched up every couple years.
Things weren’t always this great here in Charleston. I’ve had a few owners who were not quite my taste to put it nicely. I even went 3 decades without so much as a coat of paint. That was a rough time for me.
I was almost certain I was headed to landfill that last year before they moved and I got my new owners. When they moved in I thought I was a goner for sure, but they saw something different. They saw the potential in me to be beautiful again, for my wavy glass to sparkle once more and they did it. They believed in me and I am not one to let them down after the love and care they showed me.
Sadly, I’m one of these few old-timers left on my block. Henry, Charles, Gordon, Mary, Helen, they’re all gone now. Just last week we lost Walter and Mildred too. Poor girl, she got the rot, and rather than treating her they replaced her and hauled off Walter at the same time even though he was perfectly healthy! Who does that?
Right next door to me is one of those replacement fellas. I think his name is Marv. He seems nice enough, even if he is a little full of himself. Keeps yammering on about “R-values” and “U-factors” though I still not quite sure what all that means. I haven’t gotten the nerve up to tell him he’s the 5th window to grace that opening. I don’t assume he’ll be around much longer than any of the others.
Once the originals are gone these new replacements don’t seem to stay long. 10-15 years is about all they last in the neighborhood before the new model shows up to replace the replacement. Seems like an awful waste to me.
They’ve certainly gotten fancy over the years, They used to be just simple aluminum but now some of these folks are double or triple paned glass (personally I think they need to trim down a bit). One fella even had blinds between his glass. Crazy!
Anyway, I could talk for hours if you let me. I won’t keep you any longer I’m sure you’ve got to get back to your family or work or some other thing you humans entertain yourselves with. If you ever want to stop by and chat I’ll be here. I’d be happy to tell you all about the old days. I love telling stories. Till then.
Hey there, Marv’s the name, saving energy’s the game! I see you were talking with Betty over there. Nice old gal isn’t she? Doesn’t really do much, but which of those old fogies do? They don’t understand the huge responsibilities us windows have today.
Sure we have to let in light and create a nice view for our owners, but job number one has to energy-efficiency. If we can’t cut these people’s energy bills then we might as well retire, right? And I don’t plan to retire for a long, long time.
I can outlast Betty no problem. Heck, by the time I’m 150 can you imagine how much money I would have saved these people? That’s crazy money right there! They told us in the factory you’re only as good as the money you make us. I’m assuming that means energy savings for the homeowner.
There is one old timer here in my house and he keeps telling me not to get too comfortable because I won’t be around long. What does he know? I’ve got an argon filled double paned IGU with a thermally broken vinyl frame. He’s just wood and putty. Putty boy ain’t got nothing on me!
I have to say these old windows don’t seem to have much respect for us replacements. We work really hard to save energy for our owners and I don’t understand why they don’t appreciate it. I’ve heard tell of some of the other guys I graduated from the factory with catching “foggy panes”. Couldn’t see a thing and end up getting themselves replaced. These guys peaked in factory and were just destined to burn out anyway.
You don’t think our makers would have built us to fail do you? That’s would be crazy with all the technology I’ve got. I should be the longest lasting window of all time, especially compared to the putty heads.
After all they don’t even have a warranty! I’ve got a 10-year warranty with full coverage. I’m not really sure why they only did 10 years since I’m jam packed with all this technology. But gotta trust my factory, right? They’ve got my owner’s best interests at heart I’m sure.
Well, enjoy your stroll. I’m sure I’ll see you next time you come around!
I get a lot of questions from people about removing their aluminum siding and potentially getting back to the original wood underneath. Is it possible? Is it feasible? What will I find? After all, siding is one of the 5 Worst Mistake of Historic Homeowners.
Let me start by saying that removing aluminum siding is not complicated. It can be tedious work but there is nothing particularly complex about the process which makes it a perfect DIY project.
Most times aluminum siding was installed right over the old wood with very few modifications. It was cheaper to do that way because removing the wood siding was usually cost prohibitive. That’s good news because if your old house originally had wood siding then it is probably still hiding underneath all that tin foil.
The one caveat to removing aluminum siding, and vinyl siding for the matter, is that you don’t know what the condition of the wood underneath is.
If you are willing to roll the dice a little and have enough money in the budget to cover some repairs to the original siding then removing your aluminum siding is definitely a worthwhile option. But before you start you need to embrace the idea that you WILL have repairs needed to your home’s envelope when you remove aluminum siding.
There are two schools of thought on removing aluminum siding.
If you just want to get this stuff off and send it to the scrap yard then the work is much easier. You can damage and tear the stuff apart pretty easily and have your house unwrapped in no time.
If you want to remove a section of the siding and then reinstall it that requires much more finesse. We’ll talk about both below.
How to Remove Aluminum Siding
Step 1 Play Detective
Before you break out your pry bar peel back a corner of the siding in a couple places and see what is going on under there. Knowing what’s underneath first will help you plan your work going forward.
Is it clapboard, shingles, asbestos siding? You need to know what you are getting into.
Aluminum siding is very sharp and can easily cut you so before you do anything put on a pair of work gloves. Aluminum siding and vinyl siding are attached much the same way. They are nailed across the top of each piece and the bottom of the lap hooks into the top of the following piece.
Removal For Repair
Using a metal clothes hanger or other small hook dig into the end of one of the pieces of siding which will allow you to pull it off. Pull the bottom down and away and then you should be able to simply unzip that piece horizontally across the wall all the way down to the end.
That will give you access to the nails holding the piece below the one you just unzipped so you can pry them out with a pry bar to free the piece from the wall.
Removal For Restoration
If you are getting rid of your aluminum siding then just grab that pry bar and starting at a corner tear into this stuff. You can really just rip it off pretty easily. There may be some nails that need a pry bar’s help to come loose, but with some muscle it will come free.
On outside and inside corners you may have little channels that the aluminum slots into. These can be pried off by finding the nails that hold them in place too.
Also depending on your siding salesman your exterior trim and fascia may have been wrapped in aluminum which creates just one more thing to remove. This cannot be removed without damaging the aluminum which is fine if you plan to trash it but can be a problem if you are planning to keep your aluminum.
Generally the aluminum that wraps over your old wood trim is held in place with small aluminum nails. They are a bit of a pain to pry out, but if you can get a corner started it is usually easily to peel the aluminum back and let the nails come with it rather than trying to pry each nail out.
Step 4 Aluminum Soffits
The open eaves in old houses are another thing that often get covered up and turned into what appear to be vented aluminum soffits. These soffits are very easy to remove. Each panel is attached with a couple small nails to the sides of the J-channel. I honestly just get the first one off and using the claw side of my hammer just yank the rest of it down before undoing the nails holding the J-channel in place.
Step 5 Insulation
Often you’ll find 1/2″ styrofoam or other rigid insulation underneath the aluminum siding which was nailed into the siding with fat headed roofing nails.
Removing this stuff is simple since it is so fragile and can be torn away from the building simply. Removing the myriad of nails throughout the old siding is the time consuming process. Removing the nails and patching all the holes is what takes me the most time in the whole process probably.
What to Expect After Removing Aluminum Siding
Once you’ve got everything off you can finally see what your house was supposed to look like. In my experience there are a few things that often require restoration after we unwrap an old house.
If you can be prepared for some of these possibilities then you’ll be well ahead of the game. Removing aluminum siding can really do wonders to your home’s curb appeal if you have the budget to restore the siding underneath.
We’ve unwrapped a lot of houses and it never stops being fun for me to see what we find underneath. The depth and beauty of these old houses can really shine again once you get that awful fake stuff off its face.
And one last tip: don’t forget to haul all this aluminum to the recycling center for a nice payday at the end. Getting a check for a couple hundred bucks at the end of a hard day’s work makes it much more rewarding!