Year: 2009

The High Price for Cheap Rent

On a nearby street, a line of ugly, cheaply built, 1980s-vintage row houses stand on a plot of land where there was once a neglected old Victorian. The six houses share a communal front “yard” — a quarter-acre concrete pad that gives the place all the charm of a New Jersey strip mall. To complete that grim visual, cars are illegally parked on it, usually double wide, often obstructing the sidewalk. In fact, there are more cars than one would expect from six single-family homes. A couple of months ago, I deduced why that was when I saw a small …

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Most Bizarre Use of a Shop Award

There’s no way I don’t get nominated this year. As prologue, let’s step into the WayBack Machine and bump the dial back to early June, when I casually mentioned to Doc Karen that I had seen several feral cats on my evening dog walks. In addition to being an MD, Karen is also a NYS licensed wildlife rescuer so I should have known that I was shaking a hornets’ nest. A week later, over my fourth or fifth margarita, I found that I had agreed to allow my shop to be used as a holding facility for the Great Owls …

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The Tormek Blade Sharpening System

Shop owners love to brag about the incredible tool buys they’ve made on eBay, at flea markets and at estate auctions. Like my $50 Hitachi framing nailer and $125 radial arm saw. But most of us have also made purchases we’re less proud of, like the $100 “miracle corner clamping system” I bought at a tool show which turned out to be utterly useless for anything besides building the tiny box the salesman demonstrated at the show. Naturally, we don’t talk much about those overpriced white elephants, which is probably why these hucksters are still in business. Then there are …

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Building stairs the EZ way

Shortly after I took possession of my house, I was cleaning up the cellar one afternoon when I noticed my cat, Chopper, engrossed with something halfway up the old cellar stairs. I checked to see if he might have a moth and instead saw a pile of paint chips and wood fibers below the stringer he was pawing at. With the paint removed, I saw hundreds of white wormy looking things. Termites! How did this happen? I’d closed on the house nine months earlier. My inspector found some evidence of an old termite infestation and, to be safe, my lawyer …

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Beware the Sucker Holes

No, that’s not a pornographic double entendre. “Sucker hole” is a term I learned from an old flight instructor. It’s a break in the clouds which beckons naive, non-instrument rated pilots to take a chance on finding clear skies through that hole only to have the clouds close in on them and leave them in zero visibility. Last week I said I’d post my progress with the new Insteon home automation device, the ISY99-i. Lemme digress for a second. Say what you will about marketing droids, but when a company goes to the trouble of holding a brain jam to …

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My house “blue screened”

I had my first Insteon home automation device failure this week. Unfortunately, it happened to the brains of the “automation” part — the software/hardware combination that executes the timers that turn the lights on and off. Specifically, the culprit was the PowerLinc device that bridges my house to the USB port on my computer which runs the timers. Here’s the little sucker. At 70 bucks, it’s not like changing a lightbulb. Okay, I was pissed about it, especially as it’s only a little over two years old. But, fact is, I was never happy with this automation set up. For …

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Steam Radiator Air Valves 101

As I was just opening my eyes this morning I heard a steady hiss coming from downstairs. Anyone who’s got single pipe steam heat knows the sound, especially early in the morning when the boiler is working hard to warm the house from its overnight setback temperature. That’s the sound of pressure from the steam displacing air inside the pipes. It’s normal. That’s what an air valve on a steam radiator is supposed to do. But if it’s loud enough that you can hear it a floor away, you’ve likely got a problem. It often means the valve is stuck …

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Welcome to Brooklyn Row House

This blog is about the challenges of renovating an old (1903) Brooklyn, New York row house.

My last major renovation project was the master bedroom, most of which is about finish carpentry. You’ll find other completed home improvement projects in the Projects submenu at the top of this page.

I’m not a professional builder and don’t pretend to be. I’m just an experienced amateur raised in a family of committed DIYers. I try to closely follow local and national building codes but don’t mistake anything on this site to be professional or even accurate advice! Your mileage may and definitely will vary.

This is the third iteration of BrooklynRowHouse.com, from scratch-built to Drupal and now Wordpress. I hope you enjoy your time here.