CitriFAIL (or Fun with CitriStrip)

Mel and I finished all the woodworking tasks involved with our faschia project. Tasks remaining:

1. strip/scrape
2. caulk/sprayfoam
3. prime
4. paint

So we set out scraping all the chipping paint off the old fascia & soffits. The paint is alligator cracking.  We really dislike the look of when paint is just applied over other cracking paint, so we really wanted to scrape it all off.  We realized pretty quickly that it was going to be a big task.  I had read somewhere about a product called CitriStrip, so we decided to give it a shot.  It didn’t turn out so well for us.  We ran into three problems:

1. we spread it too thin
2. we were using straight scrapers on curved surfaces
3. we caused some serious damage to the wood surfaces in some places

Here’s some photos:

After several hours of using CitriStrip, we suspect that our surface may be less paintable overall than it was before we started.  In areas where we had gooped the CitriStrip on a little bit thicker, we saw some evidence that a thicker application could have been much more successful, though it wouldn’t solve the problem of scraping curved surfaces with straight scrapers.

We’re toying with the idea of buying more CitriStrip and trying it again with a much thicker application, but we’re pretty much at the point of this project where we hate working on it, so we’ll probably just slap some new paint up over the old stuff, & it will look kind of lousy.  But at least it will look better than when we started.  We’re hoping to be totally done with this project by the end of next weekend.

I Need a Lawyer!!!

Peeps.  I need your help.  I need an affordable lawyer FAST.  Turns out, I’m being sued.

I just received notice that the Minnesota Attorney General and the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources have filed suit against me.  The suit alleges that the extensive repairs I’ve been making to the exterior of my home lately have “resulted in a significant loss of habitat for several species of birds as well as squirrels.”  The suit alleges that I deliberately and maliciously destroyed the nesting grounds in an attempt to remove animals from the areas they have inhabited for several decades.

I spoke with someone from the Attorney General’s office this afternoon because I was certain that this couldn’t be the case.  It sounds too absurd to actually be happening to me.  But apparently there is some sort of squatters law for animals that allows wildlife to effectively claim an area as natural habitat if they are allowed to live there long enough.

The woman I spoke to assured me that they didn’t want to make a big deal out of it and that all charges against me will be dropped if I comply with a few simple requirements.  Primarily, she said I need to drill at least twelve 1″ diameter holes and two 3″ diameter holes somewhere on the fascia of my home.  These holes will allow animals to use the eaves and attic space in my home for nesting.

I am completely livid about this!  This is the most frustrating thing that has ever happened to me!  Someone, PLEASE!  Help me find a decent lawyer to fight this!!!

[Edit:10:40 PM – Please note that this post is for entertainment purposes only.  I’m no good at comedy….]

More Fun With Fascia

As always, I’ve spent the best part of my weekend kludging my way through home repairs…  last time I wrote about it, the corner of my house looked like this:

Then, with that gaping hole on the side of my house, it rained for a week straight.  I finally got some good weather today, so I finished up all the woodworking on this side of the house.  First, I had to cut a curved piece of fascia:

Sorry you can’t really see it very well from this angle… I cut the curved fascia pieces from a 1×12… I pretty much just had to free-hand the curve.  It was a lot of this: climb up the ladder, hold it in place, mark where it needed to be trimmed, climb down the ladder, walk to the garage, trim, walk back to the ladder – and then repeat all that about 30 times.  Anyway, here’s the end product all caulked & ready for painting:

I tried really hard to find a way to make that crown molding wrap around that curve without having to splice it into several pieces… but it just wasn’t going to happen… I couldn’t do it.  I know you’re all disappointed in me, and will blast me in the comments.  That’s ok.  Go ahead.  Blast me.  I don’t need your approval:

(original source unknown)
Oh, also, I tore into two other corners on the house and guess what I found?????  BIRDS NESTS!!!!  Surprised???  No?  Me neither:

Anyway, that’s it for now….

More (Boring) Pictures of my Fascia Project

Are you guys tired of reading about my fascia project, yet?  Because I’m tired of working on it.  Seriously.  I really want this project to be done by the end of May so that it doesn’t ruin my entire summer.  Ok, so here’s the pics.  Mel was my first assistant:

Here’s a before shot:

Notice the wire mesh and spray foam keeping squirrels out of the attic.  It’s pretty classy, I know.  So I pulled the fascia off and guess what I found???  A Bird’s Nest!!!

So I replaced the faschia but forgot to take a photo. Sorry.  Next up was the fascia on my eave return:

Surprise!!!  Another Bird’s Nest!!!!  Boy, big surprise, huh?  Also, notice the wire mesh.  This project will be a success if I am no longer relying on wire mesh to keep birds and squirrels out of the attic.

Once i’m finished vacuuming that garbage out of my eave return, I take a peek inside.  Squirrel damage!!!!  No, it’s not supposed to look like this… this is probably years worth of squirrel damage.  This is why it is critical to keep squirrels out of the attic space.  They chew/scratch everything:

And more rotten wood:

Here’s what it looks like after a day’s work:  I’m still not sure how I’m going to handle that curving roofline….



Soffit and Fascia Project

It’s been a pretty busy but uneventful weekend around the Collins homestead.  We decided that we’d better get started working on a couple projects if we’re ever going to finish them and still have time to play around this summer.  I’m going to give you guys a photo documentary of what I spent all weekend working on.  Ready?  OK.  Let’s get started.

We’ve got some fascia and soffit problems, as I’ve documented before.  So I just jumped in head first.  Here’s a before picture:

A couple things to notice in the photo above – peeling paint, wire mesh keeping animals out, and the whole thing is sagging right off the side of the house.  You can’t tell from the photo, but since the whole thing is sagging, the gutters are sloped the wrong way, so they don’t do anything anyway.  Ok, so I just ripped the end off and here’s what I found:

Holy rotten wood!!!!  It’s not clear to me how whoever worked on this last expected this to drain.  the whole inside the eave was just a single 2×4!  This is clearly a problematic design (if the 2×4 is level it won’t drain, but if it’s sloped, then the soffit and fascia have to warp to match the slope.  The warping soffitis clearly demonstrated in the next photo:

Ok, so I started chopping out the rotten wood, and it was pretty much just crumbling in my hands.  Then I found this:

Clearly, somebody has been living in my soffits.  It looks like a bird nest.  Here’s a look at how warped the fascia was:

Next I ripped the soffit off and had my mind blown.  I knew things were going to be rotten in here, but it was worse than I expected.  It’s a little hard to tell what you’re looking at in this next photo, but some of y’all will agree that this is not a good situation:

The next step was to replace a chunk of the totally rotted wall sheathing:

Next, I screwed on a new chunk of wood (technical term) to level things out:

In the photo above, you’ll notice that there’s a good 4 inches of space below the 2×4 and where the vinyl siding starts that wasn’t there when I started the project… that’s just what happens when the vinyl siding is added after the thing was sagging off the house… now that it’s back up in place, there’s all sorts of space underneath I’ll have to fill somehow.  The next step involved putting up a couple new braces and then cut a piece of roof sheathing.  I needed the roof sheathing to be able to curve to match the rest of the roof, so I scored a flat piece of OSB.  I just cut a bunch of grooves about halfway through the thickness of the board so it would be a little bit bendy (technical term):

Now things are starting to come together:

Alert readers will notice that it’s still wonky and crooked.  That’s because I’m not very good at this stuff and don’t actually know what I’m doing.  Ok, well now the next photo looks like we’re actually making some progress!  Check out the new fascia:

That board was really hard to nail in place since I’ve only got one ladder.  Imagine Mel standing on the ground supporting one end of the thing with a 12′ extendo-board while I’m nailing the other end.  Awkward.  I think it looks pretty good, though.  Here I am checking out my skillz:

Here’s the side view of what we’ve got so far:

Yea, yea, yea… I know pocket-hole screws aren’t the right way to screw something like that in place, but I don’t know what the right way is, so I used pocket-hole screws.  There’s two more screws on the other side of that board too, in case you’re wondering.  I think it’s looking pretty good.  You’ll notice that instead of just a 2×4, I’m using a 2×4 and an awkward little wedge to make the roof curve.  OOH.  such a superior design!  Behold my superiority:

HA!  Next, I cut a new piece of fascia for that curved end:

Looks pretty good to me.  Then I put on the new soffits:

Next step, I need shingles & flashing:

OK, that’s it for now. I’m going to go eat sherbet.

Cornice and Eave Returns from My Neighborhood

Get ready for a nerdfest, readers, I’m going to rattle on about eave returns today.  I want to talk about it because when I googled around, it was hard to find info about them.  So I’m gonna show you a lot of photos of eave returns from my neighborhood.  They are more properly called cornice returns, I think, but I’d rather call them eave returns.  Eave returns are the decorative extension of the roof eave that wraps around the gable end of the house.  This article has some good snobbish info about how cornice returns are supposed to look.  Heres some terminology for you (click to enlarge):

Here’s a typical shingled eave return from my neighborhood:
A couple things to notice about it:  It’s got shingles on top, and the fascia has all been wrapped with sheets of brown aluminum.  Also, notice that the pitch of this little chunk of roof is much more steep than the snobbish article I linked to above recommends.  One of the key issues with this part of the house, is how the rake fascia meets the eave return faschia.  Notice how there is a layer of shingles stuck between the eave return fascia and the rake fascia.  It’s awkard trying to figure out how to make this joint between the rake soffit, rake fascia, and the shingled eave return work well.
Here’s another shingled eave return that doesn’t look nearly as nice:
Notice that they haven’t really figured out a good way to make that joint work, either.  I imagine any time you want to re-shingle, you’ve got to somehow shimmy some shingles up into that little gap.  Awkward.  Unsatisfying.
A lot of houses in the neighborhood have eliminated this problem of shingling the eave returns by just replacing them with plywood.  Here’s a few examples:
This works ok, and I find it kind of tempting as a solution to the awkward shingling problem.  But as the photos show, it can also look pretty bad once the squirrels chew through the plywood, and I don’t know how much I trust that plywood to handle rain very well.
So another option is to wrap it in aluminum:
This is another good option that solves the shingling, squirrel, and rain problem, but I’m just generally not a big fan of wrapping things in aluminum.  No reason in particular, I’m just kind of snobby that way.
In new construction, you see a lot of box eaves, also called porkchops:
These are simple to construct and they eliminate the issue of how the rake fascia meets the return faschia.  There simply is no return faschia, so it’s no big deal.  No shingles or plywood.  From a drainage standpoint, this is a much more simple design that eliminates a lot of opportunities for leaks.  Architectural purists turn their noses up at these features, though.  They are kind of ugly, and eave returns add a lot of charm to a home.  This box eave adds a little bit of curvature to the design to spruce things up a little bit:
A related feature is the full eave return, a single eave that stretches across the entire gable end of the home:
I’m sort of inclined to believe that eave returnss are more of a liability than anything else.  They’re attractive, but useless from a functional standpoint.  I should note that some homes don’t have any return eaves:
Some don’t even have fascia or soffits:
And now, with that little bit of  background, it’s time to look at my own sorry eave returns:


Obviously, they need some work.  They clearly need some paint, and a lot of the fascia and trim work will just need to be replaced.  Key to this design is that the slope of the roof flattens out towards the edges.  This is a design feature called flared eaves, and we have the Dutch to thank for this splendid, ice-dam prone design.
Notice how previous homeowners have had a difficult time finding some crown moulding that will bend around that curve or come to a complete point at the end of that curve.  That will be challenge #1 for me this summer.  Also notice how I’ve smartly stapled some wire mesh up to keep squirrels out of those gaps where the rake faschia meets the return eave.  This is because previous owners have also not been able to figure out a great way to fit a piece of faschia into that acute angle.  That will be challenge #2 for me this summer.
I’ve toyed with a lot of ideas of how to approach these eave returns…. should I remove them and replace them with a simple box return?  Should I use plywood instead of shingles?  Should I remove the crown moulding entirely and just have a simple flat fascia (notice that the crown moulding has already been removed in some places to accommodate the rain gutter)?  Should I liberally squirt massive amounts of foam insulation into that gap?
Answers to these questions and more to follow in the upcoming months…. Stay tuned!