Posted by: philipfontana | September 19, 2015

Repair & Replace, Part 2

Repair & Replace, Part 2

That Stage of Life That Continues……


                 Our 1885 Dutch Colonial where we have lived for 40 years. Note for reference later in this article that air conditioner to the right of the big old sugar maple tree, between the two windows on the side of the first floor. Read on!


     Excuse us for living, but when I wrote “Repair & Replace,” mid-year 2014, I had a feeling I might be back for Part 2!

[I refer you to the archived articles in the bottom, right margin here. Click on “Our Old House.” There you will find that article, “Repair & Replace,” plus the original article from 2013, “Old House.”]

But once again, I must ask you to excuse my complaining if even in good humor. All one has to do is tune in to the nightly TV news to witness the disasters nationally and world-wide, natural and otherwise. And we won’t let ourselves forget the thousands of homes from storm Sandy still not rebuilt. Indeed, we count our blessings and know that our troubles pale in comparison.

Increasingly foremost in our consciousness is the fact that the “punishments” that our old house brings our way are largely self-inflicted in that we remain living here by choice! – -Visions of a nice condo! – -Nightmares of the divesting of 40 years of “stuff” and packing and moving! In the meantime, we battle on.

So, how have things been since May of 2014 when I last reported? We will put aside the tractor trailer accident of November 8, 2014. – -That doesn’t count, right? We live on Rt. 202 in Montville, New Jersey, with the front of the old house eleven feet from the roadway. The damages to field-stone walls, metal fence, and mailbox, etc., totaled $2,640. As I started saying, putting aside “the tractor trailer accident,” things have been better!

Shortly after writing that last 2014 article, we returned from two weeks on the beach in Dewey Beach, Delaware, in July, to find a stain in the living room ceiling. “Geri, come look at this! This is serious….next to where I fixed the stain last year from the upstairs toilet leak and the wax ring I had to replace. This time we’re in big trouble.”

“John the Plumber” came the same day on his way home! – -That’s a blessing right there, i.e., a same day service call! There I sat with John in the upstairs bathroom discussing the stain downstairs on the living room ceiling. “It’s here,” said John. “It’s the drain pipe between the bathtub/shower and the sewer pipe under the toilet.” “So we have to cut the floor boards,” I said. “No,” said John. “The way to do this is through the living room ceiling.” “When can we schedule that?” I responded with timidity. “Right now,” said John.


           That’s me doing the finishing touches to the living room ceiling after “the leak.” I should have taken “before & after” photos. There was metal lathing hanging down from the 6 in. x 8 in. hole the plumber cut into the ceiling.



     And so it was done. – -A 6 inch by 8 inch hole in the living room ceiling cut through the old plaster and metal lathing, with one side of the metal lathing still attached and hanging down. John the Plumber made his “fix” in short order. He returned the next day to check that all was well before I closed up the hole. Having the choice of calling a carpenter or handyman, I decided to repair the hole myself, my way, rather than be subjected to someone else’s “fix,” perhaps cutting out a piece of the ceiling and putting up a piece of plasterboard. I wired up the metal lathing in place. Seven layers later of ready-mix cement, spackle, and texture paint, and the job was done…but for the painting.

In the spirit of “things are better,” off we went on the merry way of our appointed rounds in life. – -Back to Dewey Beach, Delaware, again, year # 18 there, July 2015. No sooner did we return home and settle in and trouble again! The in-wall air conditioner of 34 years gave up its ghost. When we enclosed the old porch in 1981, the contractor and I made a big mistake. We put a window A/C in the wall! – -No sleeve! – -No brains! Over the years I realized the mistake and knew someday I would pay the price. – -My someday had come!

To my surprise, I discovered that there is such a thing as a window/wall air conditioner. The issue was “size.” Wall A/Cs are 26 inches wide. (With vinyl siding added in 1992, tearing out the wall was not an option for me!) But the new window/wall A/C was 20 inches by 14 inches, closer to my old A/C size of 23 inches by 16 inches. And P.C. Richards had a model in stock, a Friedrich. The problem was that P.C. Richards would not install anything with a space to fill-in around it of more than 1/2 inch all around. – -“Screwed!”


         Take a look again at that air conditioner in that first photo of the old house above. Here I am in this photo with a 23 in. x 16 in. hole in the wall after removing a 34 year old Gibson air conditioner. “Demolition” took me two days, totaling 12 hours! That’s ivy on the big old sugar maple tree out the wall opening. You can barely see the top tips of the ladder legs leaning on the tree. I had to stand on the rungs of the ladder backwards facing the A/C.



     So it was “demolition derby” for me for two days! To give you an idea of what it was like, a crowbar and hacksaw were my main tools! And still the old A/C, now reduced to its shell, would not budge. I discovered the contractor 34 years ago had caulked the sides of the A/C to the wood frame!


       Here is Geri, wife and carpenter’s assistant. If you look closely you can see the new metal sleeve we installed ourselves. And a closer look will reveal the wood frame we added around the sleeve reducing the enclosure down to 20 inches by 14 inches. Geri worked with me every step of the way in order to get the measurements and sawing right the first time!!! I could not have done the job without her! Again, had we called a carpenter, he would have completed the job his way and, perhaps, not to our liking. – -Carpentry work; 2 days, totaling 12 hours again.


         Here we are closing in on the A/C project. We slid the main unit into the sleeve, pushed the “on” button, only to hear a loud whining sound from the fan. We turned it off after a minute very dejected, to say the least. Two days later, two Friedrich authorized repairmen came out and made a small adjustment to the “fan blow wheel” & we were in business!


     Now we were up and running, but for the 3 1/2 inch trim project around the new A/C. Not being carpenters and having to do some mitering with the saw and painting, of course, two days, 12 hours later (again! 36 hours in total!), WE WERE DONE!!!

Excuse us for living, but we like the way the new air conditioner and trim fits in with the woodwork and look of the old house. Take a look! What do you think” – -Until “Repair & Replace, Part 3” or the moving van!


             Comments: Please!




  1. My former house was built in 1920 and we had many similar problems. We had our entryway ceiling cut out 5 or 6 times over the years because of the tub and shower upstairs. Total nightmare. I’m glad you got it all under control.

    • Michele! How nice! 1920!!! 5-6 times…and over the entryway! It is encouraging just to know others lived through this!!! Many thanks!!! Phil

  2. Hi Phil and Geri
    Wow lots of work on your part lol
    But the old saying- if you want something done right then do it yourself
    Well good luck – I hope this is the end of it! ( yeah right teehee)

    • Margaret! Thanks for the nice comment, Marg! It never ends….right?! “Condo! Condo!” Phil & Geri too!

  3. Beautiful post! Thanks.

    • Wilson, So nice of you to say! Best wishes to you! Phil

      • Thanks, you are doing amazing work!

  4. Great to see you and more of your handy work, Phil. Say HI to Geri.

    • GP, So, so nice of you! I honestly think of you & assure myself that WWII history continues to go forward thanks to you. And the guilt for not visiting anyone’s websites as I struggle to keep up with life. I am now doing only 6 posts a year, keeping up with THE HOUSE, & family & friends. I’ll tell Geri you said hi! We DO have 2 weeks every summer on the beach in a condo & have an upcoming Rhine river boat cruise. But, GP, all I really want to do is go bass fishing in a lake & haven’t done so for two years!!! Thanks for listening & hope all things are good in your world! There’s a bond that values our fathers’ contributions to our country! Phil

      • Pan fry one of those bass for me, Phil!!!!

  5. Phil, I love this post! I had a house in Portsmouth, NH built in 1780. OMG, what a lot of work…and heartache…and great times. My kids grew up there and loved it. I can’t begin to enumerate all the troubles we had with an old house! On one wall the beam was disconnected from the post, and a friend said, “it’s just hanging on by habit!”. Well, there are no end to the old house tales, and I love yours! Thank you!

    • Chip!!! I haven’t even read your comment & I’m thrilled just to receive it! OK, what did you say…. You liked it! 1790! OMG is right! Work & heartache I am sure! “Great times”? Ah, the memories! And troubles! A beam disconnected from the post!!! Thanks! But should we stay or go condo? Sometimes I think we should just buy a small more modern ranch style house. Help! Come photograph our house! Ha! Phil

  6. Hey, I thought age didn’t matter, it’s all in the mind. And who you calling old? Get over it grandpa! Our UK cottage is 1750 and has held up better than the piece of junk built in 1930s that costs us a fortune in repairs and taxes. But I’ll give you kudos for the AC install. Next time use a match and gasoline. Cheers,

  7. Love this post and the photos my friend! 🙂
    It sure made me smile.
    Hugz & Love ❤

    • Patty, Thanks for the comment! Glad this silly piece made you smile! You still have the record for the most comments on my four years of posts that began January 2012!!! And you & I only go back to Oct or Nov 2013 when I posted our trip to France! I’ll bring you a hug to Amsterdam NEXT WEEK!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Phil

  8. So happy to see you are writing again! Gosh, I could do what you did, so for my view, you did well in “demolition derby” mission – the new air conditioner looked impressive!

    • Indah, I am posting every other month now…6 times a year! That’s about all the time I can devout to it! Glad you mentioned the “demolition” aspect of this post!!! That was the most impossible part! The carpentry was just tedious! Thanks! The project DID turn out pleasing to us! “Keep swimming!” Phil

      • Just realized I forget to mention “not” on my first comment – it should be “I could not do what you did” 😀 I am horrible at carpentry or anything related to “handy tools” Wishing you a wonderful weekend!

  9. charming house. It does so much for our attitudes in ways we may not even see to live in and work on a real house. I certainly feel that way in house now in NC after leaving Miami condoland.

    • Carl, Charm=Work!!! But you are right in that it is profound loving where you live & the place we call home, despite all the work! Glad you feel that in your new house in NC now. I will take your words as encouragement ….before we “bolt” & sell & move to a condo. With each repair as we age we get discouraged. Any more advice is appreciated at Phil

  10. Was condo officer 15 years. 77 townhouses – complete disaster . Over half not paying maintenance, 3 months behind on all bills. All building roofs leaking and no money. Got out and sold my place for less than I bought it for 16 years earlier. Do as much study on condo association first. Look at budgets, legal entanglements, unit owner delinquencies,enforcement policies and quality success in keeping people in line or record of association harassing particular unit owners, foreclosures, history special assessments and certainly interview a few residents too. Age of buildings important too. Some upscale condos in Miami were 40-50 years old and concrete floors of balconies disintegrating. $30,000 assessment each and like pay NOW or foreclosure. At another the yuppies became the majority and assessed $25,000 each to build marina they wanted. All the old people on fixed income had to leave and lost everything. It is very easy for condo board of directors to cheat and steal from unit owners. They keep the books perfectly accurate but get cash kickbacks from vendors to whom they award contracts. They also fill their pockets ordering repairs and upgrades that are not necessary. You may consider being a simple renter at a condo which means you enjoy all the amenities and no ownership worries. . At our age , wise to eliminate future possible problem scenarios. Condo ownership kept me in fear of oh God what can possibly happen next. But others have had good experiences and serenity.

    • Carl, A shopping list of experiences & caveats for us to learn about, consider, & inquire……”Look before you leap”, hey???!!! Many thanks! I wonder if things are conducted more responsibly in NJ than FL….but what you say tells me that the potential is there for all these pitfalls!!! Can’t thank you enough! We have been playing off condo vs rental before you said all this. We thought between higher property tax than our home & the association fee, we were talking $10,000 more living expenses with a condo. And we figured a 2 bedroom apartment up here in a large condo like building would be around $2,000/month or $24,000 a year. So we thought the condo was the better way to go. But we WERE worried about condo association fees & assessments as being “wild cards” financially & that is what you are emphasizing load & clear!!! MANY THANKS! Phil

  11. Oh yeah, then there are the parking space wars. I got arrested once for dramatically altering the “appearance” of a car the people constantly parked in my space.

    • Carl, Cars …we have two…another consideration of ours re we might downsize to one car but want a garage! And you have quite a story to tell about getting arrested for the battle you had over someone using your parking space! You “dramatically altered the appearance” of their car…… your art skills I am sure with a message!!!!!!! Phil

  12. Phil & Geri great job and story aunt Rose would be proud next time I NEED A

    • Uncle Paul!!! How great to see your comment here! Aunt Rose would tell us, “Call a carpenter!” We were out of our league doing this job. But we pulled it off going step by step! Thanks so much for reading this & commenting! Love to you, Phil & Geri too!

  13. Lovely place and well worth the effort in upkeep. 🙂

    • Kev, Thanks for the encouragement! We need it to stay & not sell! Wish I did a post to show the rooms of the house! And again here, thanks for taking a look! Phil

      • A pleasure. 🙂

  14. My granddad built his house in 1937. I lived in it from the age of 11-18. I loved that old place, and it’s still there, with the oak trees I planted out front and the hurricane storm shutters that I put on the windows in 1968 after Hurricane Beulah destroyed everything around us. Not our house, though. When granddad built something, he built it to stand until the end days.

    • Russel Ray, What a wonderful story of your grandfather’s house & growing up there!!! What experiences like planting those trees & putting up the shutters! –Hurricane Beulah….but granddad’s house built to withstand anything!!! Great story & memories. Phil

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: