Amish windows

8-2-16 001This week we got our new windows. You probably are wondering why I would even talk about something so boring as home improvements. The exciting story here is not in the what, it is in the who. We had the Amish come out to work on the project.

Let’s just clear up the boring part first. My husband and I bought a house built in the 1990’s when everyone was on the air tight energy saving kick. Having an air tight house has been great when it comes to heating bills. We barely pay anything to heat our house during the cold Wisconsin winters. However, we have had moisture issues since the day we bought it.

The moisture can’t escape. Anytime we had temps below freezing, condensation would form on our windows. Sometimes it rained inside our house with water dripping down our windows pooling into the wooden sills. Our house is like a rain forest. We ¬†bought an air exchanger to draw the humidity out of our air tight house. But by then the damage was done to our windows. They needed replacing but we couldn’t afford to do it in our earlier years.

The picture above is the window from our bedroom. We have been breathing in black mold for years now. We tried bleach, we tried everything, but we couldn’t fix the damage done without replacing them.

We were referred to an Amish man to do the work of replacing our windows. The first step was to have him come out here to look at our windows and take measurements. He needed someone to drive him. The first obstacle was giving him directions to our house. Get out your iPhone and type in our address. That obviously wasn’t going to work. He did get lost coming out once because he had difficulty explaining the directions to different drivers. It is probably like trying to read a map in a different language.

After he took the measurements, he made the windows himself. I thought that was pretty impressive. Most people around here know that anything Amish made is high quality.

Then he came over this week with three other men. They arrived in a large diesel truck driven by a heavy set man in overalls. He looked like a rancher from Texas, not that I have ever seen one anywhere besides TV. Then he drove off.

It took the men a day and a half to complete the job. ¬†At first the men seemed pretty ackward around me. In their culture I don’t believe that they are comfortable talking to a married woman without her husband around. I felt naked around them in shorts and a t-shirt. No matter what I wore, I don’t think that I could ever be as modest as an Amish woman. I didn’t want to offend them.

I heard the men talk a lot in German. I didn’t understand a word even though they were speaking the language of my ancestors. When they were working outside, one of the men asked another what the buzzing sound was coming from a machine. The other man replied, “I think that is what you call an air conditioner.” They were very respectful and friendly, yet we all eyed each other in puzzlement by the differences in culture.

The second day, the four men came back to finish the job. This time they brought along two little boys around the ages of 7 and 10. The boys didn’t seem to do any of the work besides carry a few light things. Instead they followed their dad around intensely watching him and learning the family trade. I wish that our culture had the same attitude regarding our youth instead of throwing them out into the world after high school with no job skills.

The Amish workers seemed interested by my children watching TV. They seemed fascinated to see us drive off in cars, especially the teenagers. I’m sure that they had just as many stories to tell about us as we told about them. There was nothing bad to say.

I am very happy with our new windows and the work the Amish men did.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Patching things up

I live in a house that is almost 20 years old. Everything is starting to show its age, but few things need major repair. The carpets, flooring, and counter tops are showing signs of wear. I understand the feeling.

We live in an air tight house which does have some advantages. We never have high heating bills in the winter. However, we have had some major problems with condensation on our windows. On freezing cold days, it rains inside our house. Water pools on our wooden sills.

After a decade and years of condensation issues, our windows frames and sills are rotten. Black mold is growing on the woodwork. Years ago we had an air exchanger installed to pull in the dry air and expel some of the moisture from our house. But the years of condensation have taken its toll. There are a few windows in our house that I am afraid to open because I fear they will fall out.

We have known for awhile that our windows need replacing. But it is a very expensive project. Something that we do not have the expertise to do ourselves. We could’ve hired our next door neighbor to do the project, but decided to go with someone else.

This is one lesson we learned the easy way because someone else learned it the hard way.

Lesson learned: Never hire a friend or neighbor to do a big remodeling project for you.

My parents live in a brick house with a mansard roof. Basically, their roof slopes down to cover the second story of their house. At one point, they needed a new roof for their house. Luke suggested that his friend and his friend’s father (a neighbor) put on a new roof. My parents hired them to do the job. What they didn’t know was that they didn’t have any experience working with a mansard roof and they didn’t know what they were doing.

One stormy evening my parents visited our house. That night after they returned home, at about 11 PM, I received a phone call from my mom who was crying. Who died was my first thought. My mom called to tell me that it was raining in her house. Her things were getting wrecked and there was nothing she could do about it. She felt sick to her stomach.

They found out with the first torrential downpour that their new roof leaked. They had out every bucket they owned, but it wasn’t enough to contain all of the water coming through their roof. The next day they had to rent a dumpster. I helped them haul out all of the items that were ruined from the flooding.

Their new roof leaked! It also looked like crap. Shingles littered the lawn every time the wind blew. It took them months to come back and patch things up. My parents spent a lot of money on the roof. They were thinking of suing the people that did a shoddy job. But they were neighbors. Not to mention that Luke was a good friend of the guy who did the work. They stood up in each others weddings. This caused some bad blood between the neighbors. This also caused problems with the friendship that could not be easily patched up.

Every time my thoughts stray to hiring our neighbor, Paul reminds me of what happened to my parents. Sometimes being a good neighbor is asking someone else.

Thankfully, my parents ended up getting a new roof a couple of years back from someone who has a lot of experience with mansard roofs. It looks absolutely wonderful. Unfortunately, the friendship did not patch up as good as the roof.

Now we are just waiting on a price quote for the new windows. Yikes!

Cabin chaos, part 3


After 50 years, the cabin became run down, bat ridden, and somewhat dilapidated. The roof leaked. The floor sagged under cracked worn flooring. Using the outhouse became outmoded as a commode. I really didn’t want to go up there anymore.

It was at this point that Aunt Grace decided to finance a major remodeling project. My brother Mark was the perfect guy for the job. He was good with his hands and was a very hard worker. When Mark was in middle school, he drew up a design for a water bed. He constructed the bed out of wood and spent the next 25 years sleeping in it.

Being the middle brother of my younger 3 brothers, Mark was almost invisible. Matt and Luke demanded almost all of the attention. Mark received attention and approval by working hard. He is the hardest worker that I have ever known. By the end of his teen years, he had already wrecked his knees and back from hard physical labor. Last summer I think he felt threatened when I told everyone that I was running a marathon. He told me that he bet he could run faster than me. He holds the title of family brawn.

Mark started to remodel the cabin in a process that took about 6 years. He managed the project and did a majority of the work despite living several hours away. He gutted out the cabin then put on new siding, new windows, redid the fireplace, and added an indoor bathroom. Once the old flooring was removed, we discovered hardwood floors underneath. Mark restored the hardwood flooring, put on a new roof, and put up dry wall. He also worked on the trim with precision and accuracy.

The most difficult thing he had to do was face his fears to get the job done. He braved claustrophobia, spiders, and rodents to squeeze in through a small opening to a crawl space. He needed to go underneath the cabin in a dark, musty, moldy dirt hole to reinforce the foundation. Plus, it was dangerous. If something went wrong, it could have collapsed and crushed him.

Everyone worked together as a team to complete the project, but almost all of the credit goes to Mark.

When Mark finished the remodeling project the cabin was magnificent.