Plague Walls

With great reluctance, I pulled myself out of my sick bed to get back to the master bedroom renovation, which means more demolition. Lovely.

A couple of hours later Karen called to see how her patient was doing. Karen’s an anesthesiologist who had to leave medicine because of a severe latex allergy. So she takes things like breathing both personally and professionally. When I told her I was ripping down old woodwork and plaster I thought her hands were going to zoom through the phone and strangle me, Bugs Bunny style.

“Are you <bleeping> nuts, you stupid <bleep>?! Do you want bronchitis or pneumonia? Do you want your lungs full of mold spores while you’re still fighting off a fever?”

Message received. I told her I’d stop and hung up promising to go back to bed. I just didn’t say when. I went back to work, making a note to look out the window every few minutes to check for her car.

As usual, she was right. Even with a fresh mask I lasted about another hour before I started coughing like a coal miner. I knocked off, showered (I’m glad I installed that steam generator) and had just crawled back into bed when the doorbell rang. It was Karen. Talk about cutting it close.

Anyway, I got this much done.

What you don’t see is the mess that was living behind this woodwork. Really fine spooge, like grey talcum powder mixed with sand. To avoid stirring up dust sweeping it I decided instead to use the central vacuum to clean out the cavities as I opened each one of them up. My vac, a VacuFlo, is one of those bagless tornado action units that exhausts the really fine dust outside, under my back deck. After sucking up a pile of this stuff I went into the office to answer an instant message summons when something caught my eye out the window in my back yard.

Omigod, FIRE!! The back yard was full of billowing grey smoke belching from what appeared to be my basement. I ran downstairs in a panic, yelling at the dogs to pack their milkbones. But the basement was fine. It was dust from my central vac’s exhaust port. Whoa. I figured that it probably wasn’t in the best interests of public health to keep doing this. I managed to completely fill the vac’s six-gallon collector bucket too.

Back to the renovation, the idea here is to get rid of that steam radiator on the left by tucking a pair of smaller radiators in soffits under the windows. I have a plumber friend coming by this week to size the units I need to buy. The soffit facades have to be easily removable because steam radiators require periodic replacement of their air valves.

What I’ll probably do is frame out boxes under the windows using 2x3s and face it with red oak panels containing removable grills. I also have to insulate around those windows as well.

This week I want to get those radiators in, finish the closet framing and complete demolition in this room. That’s what I want to do anyway. My plumber friend is a little slow returning calls and I have to stage my demolition projects because Sanitation will take only so many bundles from me twice a week. The last time I left a huge pile of contruction debris for DoS they wrote “Balls!” with a magic marker on my garbage can and left without taking anything.


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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, from scratch-built to Drupal and now Wordpress. I hope you enjoy your time here.