Ondura Corrugated Roofing Review

22 Apr

We bought one panel of Ondura roofing to complete our chicken coop primarily because it was lightweight and flexible enough to bend and fit in the back of our Toyota Yaris hatchback. It was about 22 dollars for the panel, and to install it correctly we also needed to purchase nails affixed with rubber washers (about $12 for a box of 100).  The panel is made of 50% recycled materials, primarily asphalt and cellulose fiber.

It was awkward to work with because of its size and its floppiness factor.  You are supposed to use a carbide-tipped circular saw blade mounted backwards to cut it (for cuts perpendicular to the ridges and valleys), but we used a regular blade because that’s what we had available on a Sunday evening.  The main issue was the buildup of shredded rubbery fuzz that the cutting process created (which is not much of an issue at all).  We also had a hard time because the material crowded the blade once we were a foot or so into the cut – much like, but worse than making long cuts in plywood.  It helped to have another person pull the cut section away from the blade so the blade could cut more smoothly.  It probably would have helped to have the correct circular saw blade to cut it ! Cutting parallel to the ridges and valleys was a much easier job, completed by scoring the panel a few times with a utility knife and then bending it at the scored line. It broke cleanly and easily.

Overall it was a quick job and the product was easy to work with.  We’ll have to wait and see how the chicken coop holds up in the years to come, but it sure does look cute.  I’ll post a pic of the coop when it’s finished.


Helping Survivors of Disaster via Reclaiming & Renovation

25 Mar

Hey there Frugal Home Renovators~  I’ve recently learned more about this non profit group that helps disaster survivors fix up their homes after storms such as Sandy and Katrina.  They have another weekend of service coming up right around the corner in May, when they will be heading down to NYC area for hands-on work recovering from Sandy.  Please check them out and become involved if you are so inclined, every bit helps!

Not for profit organization – Non Profit 501C3 Ithaca NY – Love Knows No Bounds.

Some of their information~

“Devoted to bringing love and care to people traumatized by disaster, ALL THE WAY through the recovery process.

Love Knows No Bounds provides long-term and holistic relief from catastrophic events, such as natural disasters, and prioritizes working with under-served communities and families in their recovery process. Led by the expertise of community leaders, we rebuild homes and community buildings, strengthen local service programs, deliver material goods, provide respite and rejuvenation for survivors, attend to mental health needs, and develop projects which empower residents of the community economically, educationally, and socially.


Love Knows No Bounds is a 501c3, disaster relief organization that supports under-served families and communities through the second phase of recovery and their return to normalcy. We provide programs in rebuilding homes, redistributing donated home furnishings, respite and stress-reduction opportunities, and revitalization projects that leave the community stronger than before the disaster. Get involved and make an immediate difference in the life of someone who aches to get back home.”


March Madness

23 Mar

Hey there folks, thought I’d check in to let you know I’m gathering my focus and getting back to blogging!  I had taken the past month off in order to prepare for the biggest exam of my life, which I took last week and passed.  It’s great to be able to spend energy in ways that don’t include reading about mental status exams or psychological studies.

Here around the house we have had several projects in process during this time period.  Most exciting to me is our baby chickens, who are currently a week old.  Kasey has turned our “bunny condo” into a rolling chicken coop, and soon we will have our own supply of eggs.  We purchased the chicks from our local Ag store, three “reds” and three “whites” which I’m sure she can tell you more about.  One step closer to frugal food independence!

Settling into their temporary home

Settling into their temporary home

I continue to plug away on drywall sanding and mudding, and I believe our upstairs bathroom is just about ready for paint.  It would be easier to get excited about this fact if we didn’t have 3 more rooms and our stairway left to finish, but having a second bathroom right next to our bedroom will be nice once it’s done.

We are starting plants week by week, and hoping to expand our vegetable garden again this year.  Kasey made very cool germination mats out of rope lights and plywood that have made a huge difference in our germination rates.  I’m starting lavender from seed for the first time and have had a 100% success rate! Hopefully we can line most of the length of the retaining wall with lavender, nasturtiums and other edibles we can grow from seed.

We also just had our final electrical inspection, which clears the way for our final whole-house inspection.  There are a couple of small projects (venting) that stand between us and our final inspection, and since we still have snow on the ground it will take some time to finish them up.  There’s no sense in climbing up a ladder when it’s still 20 degrees, windy and snowing.  A couple of years ago these small projects would have felt intimidating, but now we know it will take a weekend of work and then we are *golden*.

Hopefully I will have more words to share soon.  If there are any projects or posts you are particularly interested in hearing about please email me and I’ll make that a priority.  Hope you all are enjoying the beginning of spring (or “second winter”, as the case may be)!


Ron Swanson’s DIY Tip of the Day

23 Feb

Sharing a little DIY humor this morning.  Enjoy!

Ron Swanson on how to forge a ring – People who buy things are suckers – YouTube.


Email from Dad

18 Feb
So the other day, I get this email from my dad Tony~
“Mr. G—ski’s old farmhouse, which is located across the street from Uncle Kenny’s and about 100 yards down the road towards the Blvd. burned down tonight.
The fire started on the back porch by a bucket full of hot ashes from their wood stove.  There was some wood stacked on the porch, under the roof to keep it dry. The wood started on fire and started the outer wall burning.   They called the fire hall when they spotted it on the back porch.  7 minutes later when the firemen arrived the flames were shooting through the second story roof and the roof was caving in.
The house had balloon construction .   No fire stops between floors. Once the HEAT not the fire pushed through the siding it rose (as heat does) and caused an updraft , like a chimney does.  This caused a vacuum which pulled the fire into the area between the wall studs and then up the wall between the studs into the attic roof area. In five minutes the roof caved in and the upper part of the house was a total loss.  No one was hurt, thankfully.
If they had fire stops like you guys installed the fire never would have been able to leave the porch and enter the house so fast.
SLEEP WELL       Love, Dad”
This is meant to be comforting, and it was.  However since we moved into this house we have both found ourselves intensely fearful of a major fire.  I’ve seen a huge house go up in flames, and recently some dear friends lost their house to a fire as well.  This is one of those fears that any homeowner must face.  Face it and then move along.  We choose daily to trust our work, and the stakes are high.  So do your best, have good insurance and know that a hundred year old house with fire stops is better than one without!

By FAR, my least favorite part of this house is…

15 Feb

…the cellar!  I grew up as a “flat lander” in Western New York, where our cellar had a concrete floor and was built in the 1960′s.  There was no water issue, even with a major water source less than 30 feet from the house.  I had no idea what I was getting myself into when I found myself living in a hundred year old farmhouse in a hilly Central New York town.  It’s a dirt floor cellar.  A. Dirt. Floor.  Even better, only someone under 5 foot tall could stand up straight.  I’m the shortest in my family at 5’8″.  So the cellar is just filled with good times for us.

During the first six months, Kasey spent several hours on her hands and knees digging out a sump area by hand.  We have an important agreement in our marriage whereby I have a “pass” on all things gross.  I don’t clean the kitty litter, and I don’t dig on my hands and knees in the mud of our cellar.  It works (for me).

Since that initial hole was dug, we’ve gone through several sump pumps and not one has worked properly.  The spot we chose for the drainage hole (where the water naturally drained to) had a large stone at the bottom that limited our depth to about 18″ below the dirt floor, so traditional sumps were difficult to keep steady and often got stuck in the “on” position.  We opted for the past year or so with a submersible sump pump which was triggered by a float being buoyed by the water.  As the water level increased, the float rose and eventually triggered the pump to move the water out of our drainage pipe and out to the municipal drainage at the road.  Unfortunately even this submersible sump pump had problems and seemed to overheat pretty regularly, leaving us to obsessively check on it several times a week and mess around with it until it worked correctly.

Here you can see the upright sump pump peeking up through the plywood cap. The sump is secured by a bungee cord so when it kicks on it can't go anywhere.  The drainage pipe leads directly to this sump, which is buried in gravel

Here you can see the upright sump pump peeking up through the plywood cap. The sump is secured by a bungee cord so when it kicks on it can’t go anywhere. The drainage pipe leads directly to this sump, which is buried in gravel

Thankfully, this problem was solved by my father in law Glen and my wife.  They spent an afternoon working and the outcome has made a world of difference!  They started by opening up the width of the already hand-dug hole and sinking a vertical tub into the hole.  We purchased the thick plastic tub at our local hardware shop, and then dad drilled several holes around the base of it so that water could get in but dirt and stones would stay out.  They then placed one of our original vertical sump pumps inside the tub and cut plywood that served to both cap the plastic tub and hold the sump pump steady.  Soon we will build a deck of sorts to surround this sump area and make access to our electric panel easier.  Thanks to the drainage we dug outside and this new sump drainage system inside, our cellar is now dry as a bone.  Even better, it rarely crosses our minds.  *relief*


Old Projects/New Tricks

13 Feb
The plumbing was cast iron, and there were several layers of (nasty) flooring

The plumbing was cast iron, and there were several layers of (nasty) flooring

We’ve recently decided to take a new approach to finishing this house renovation.  First, the back story.

As many of you frugal home readers know, we purchased our house in its “carcass” stage; all rooms had exposed framing, the brick and stone foundation was ragged at best, and there was no electric or plumbing.  In an effort to get into the house as quickly as possible (we didn’t have money to support two households for long), we focused our efforts on what was necessary for occupancy.  I use the term “necessary” loosely~ when we moved in, it was with no drywall, a toilet, and our laundry lines over a bucket for a sink.  Three rooms had electric, and it would take another 7 months to establish a consistent heat source.

At this point, we have 3 rooms that are about 80% finished, a 50% finished kitchen, and the remaining rooms have drywall hung but with one layer of mud complete at best.  We’ve been living in the house for just under 3 years, and we’ve finally surrendered and started hanging things on our (unfinished) walls.  We’ve decided that from this point forward, we will completely finish ONE room at a time, every 3 months.  Some rooms will require more work than others during that time span, and that is fine.  We will also continue puttering with other projects, but deciding to zero in on one room will help the remaining work feel less overwhelming and (finally) more organized.  The first room on the list is one of the rooms needing more work to complete, but will also provide the most happiness when it is complete~ our upstairs bathroom/laundry room.


Gallery of The House at Closing

09 Feb

Save Energy, Save Dollars – Cornell Cooperative Extension of Tompkins County

06 Feb

Here’s a link to a local event for Central New York folks~ learn about how energy is used in your home, inexpensive (or free, whoot!) ways to increase your energy efficiency, and programs available to help with more costly options.  Check it out!


Save Energy, Save Dollars – Cornell Cooperative Extension of Tompkins County.


Happiness is an Organized Shed

04 Feb

Part of the reason why I started this blog was to help other folks build confidence in tackling big home renovation projects.  One area I’ve focused in on is the importance of organization and how it makes renovation SO much easier.  It is disheartening to spend 30 minutes looking for the tool you need to complete a 15 minute job.  With this being said, I don’t think I’ve focused enough on how organization and a clean work space also makes renovation SAFER.  Most of us want to get through our renovations in one piece, right?  Right!

We’ve struggled with organization because, as noted previously, we bought a house without a garage.  There’s been a lot of progress in organizing our hand tools and supplies via our tool cabinet and see-through storage bins but our small, dark shed outside seems to quickly devolve into mayhem with even the best intentions to do otherwise.  This daily annoyance turned into a much bigger problem in late December when I started poking around in our shed so that I could find our xx ski’s and then gave myself a concussion (see below).IMG_0203

After cracking my head on the handle of a mortar hoe about a month ago, I’ve re-committed to keeping this space organized and everything up off the ground.  I cannot stress enough, for myself or for others, the importance of keeping things organized.  One wrong move, folks, and I coulda done a LOT more damage.  Safety (and organization) first!