My new year’s house resolutionsJanuary 2, 2009
My house project for 2009 is sustainability—in its many forms. Now that we’ve lived here for over a year (as hard as that is to believe!) I have a much better sense of exactly how long projects take to finish….so this year I’m putting together a pretty targeted list of projects to tackle in the hopes that come next New Year’s Eve, I’ll be able to check all of these off the list. Here goes!
1. BETTER WINDOW INSULATION. If we can afford it, this might mean replacing some of the windows, especially in the bedroom, where they’re super leaky. For most of our windows, though, it means some serious weatherstripping. Right now my plan is to use Spring Bronze weather strips. I’ve been reading up on these, and they seem to have the big bonus of being historically appropriate and (if reports are to be believed) hugely effective, all while making the windows open and close more easily—an issue in our house, where the windows have been painted dozens of times. I’m also still in awe of our Oakland neighbors over at House Made, who tore out and restored their windows themselves, as did the crew over at House in Progress. Some of our windows might be candidates for this if it weren’t for the days (weeks? months??) they would sit open, based on my track record with other projects. Seems iffy at best. In the meantime, I keep hunting for good Bay Area window restorers who don’t charge $1500 per window….*sigh*
2. DROUGHT-TOLERANT LANDSCAPING. We’re already pretty good at this, and spent a lot of time and money last year retrofitting our sprinkler system to be a programmable drip system. Unfortunately, shortly after I finished that project we got the Labradane, who thinks it’s really fun to chew on drip tubes. So now I’m redesigning the whole system to bury the tubes in some places and replace them with low-flow sprinkler heads in others. We’re also hoping to finally put down new drought-tolerant sod in the yard; we’ve successfully killed the old grass after a summer of no water, so now we have a lovely pool of mud in our backyard. That’s unfortunately hanging in limbo until we finish replacing the retaining wall on that side of the yard (that’s an even longer story that I won’t get into now!) But by the end of 2009, the goal is to have a largely self-sufficient yard.
3. PRODUCTIVE VEGETABLE BED. Yeah, we tried this one last year too. 2009 will be the second pass at it, since we only had lukewarm success. A friend thinks we need more potassium in our soil. (“Your soil is too good,” she explained to me—who knew soil could be too good??) Sometime this month I’ll pull the stragglers out and redo the irrigation in the veggie bed, mixing in some soil nutrients while I’m at it. I’m also moving the tomato bed to be up against our south-facing house wall. Maybe this year we’ll get some actual vegetables! (Last year our plants grew profusely, but didn’t fruit much.)
4. NEW POWER STRIPS. Seems like a small step, but we’re investing in some smart power strips this year so that our appliances can be turned on and off with a switch. We’re actually pretty low-tech as home theater goes, but even the television by itself is a huge vampire power hog, and now we have a powered converter box thingamajig too for the digital switchover. And because we’re old school, we’ve got a VCR that is used solely for wiring the television to our Wii, since the television doesn’t have the right inputs. Highly efficient. Maybe we’ll fix that too.
5. CLOTHES LINE. We have a dinky folding clothes rack already, but it’s been the plan to install a “real” one for a while now. The challenge there has actually been finding an affordable umbrella-style rack that wasn’t made in China. You’d think it wouldn’t be that hard, but…. We’ll either sink it in concrete in the lawn or (more likely) put it in a standing base on the patio. The bonus? We can get a base that will double as a stand for a patio umbrella, when we finally get one of those! Read more about line drying options here.
6. NO MORE LEAKY TUB. Our tub has a very, very slow drip. So slow that it’s not even annoying enough that we remember it’s there. It’s been there forever—was even in the first inspection the previous owner had done, almost two years ago!—and it really, really needs to be fixed. Really. Hmm. Wouldn’t it be convenient if someone decided this would be a fun weekend project sometime soon?
7. RAIN BARREL. Something else we’ve been talking about for a while now. D. has a plan to set up a wannabe greywater system with our washer, which happens to be just inside our garage on a wall with a downspout on the other side. The idea is to route both the downspout and the washer drain into the rain barrel and then to use the water on landscaping.
8. RETAINING WALL & FENCE. Not exactly a sustainability improvement, unless by “sustainable” you mean
“our yard not collapsing into our neighbors’ yard.” We are attempting to tackle the project using reclaimed wood, though. Still not sure that will fly with our neighbors, though. (The building next door is owned by a management company, which means there are way too many steps involved in getting bids on this project and getting it approved by various boards and supervisors….it’s been underway since May. ‘Nuff said.)
9. DISHWASHER. Last but not least, I’m determined that by the end of 2009, we will have a dishwasher! Actually this was supposed to happen by last September (my “one year in the house” rule—at least the seismic retrofit and rewiring were done on time!) But it gets bumped to this year’s list for many complicated reasons.
And that’s the list. I’m trying to be realistic this time around, and not start up too many new projects until we get a handle on the ones already underway. (Ignore the hole in our bathroom ceiling that’s been there since February, please….) So no chickens or solar water heaters on this year’s list….but there’s always 2010!