Status: surviving the Polar Vortex in a broken house

We’re currently living in a three room insulated section of the house – two larger rooms which we use as living room/kitchen and living room/bedroom, and a tiny room that’s office/closet. The kitchen room is where we have the DutchWest wood stove, which is our only method of heating the house.  It’s a great stove, with a catalytic combustor that re-burns the smoke for a cleaner, more efficient burn.  And our neighbor up the block sells firewood!  Even with that thing cranking, the other room is only in the mid-50s today… so we’ve been sticking to the kitchen area.  This part of the house holds heat pretty well, even if it takes some effort to get the front room above 60 when it’s cold out.  After filling the plaster walls in the front room with blown-in cellulose insulation, the difference has been incredible.

ImageFortunately Kevin has been on an insulating tear.  The basement is tightly sealed up, and stays reasonably warm, considering.  The bathroom at the back of the house is no longer at ambient outside temperature.  Instead, it’s a super-insulated box that stays warm with the help of a space heater… so the pipes aren’t freezing as often anymore.


It’s half shiny silver spaceship and half old timey wainscoting, and 100% better than it was before… which was the only time period I would have accepted (with caveats) the mostly-problematic “urban pioneer” label.  Grudgingly, even I will admit that putting on a coat and boots to visit what’s basically a freezing outhouse is kind of pioneer-ish, as was hauling water from the basement, making do with our rudimentary food preparation situation and heating the house solely on split wood.  Luckily for them, pioneers didn’t worry about showering.  In our modern day and age, showering is part of the social compact.  You’re not allowed to be a filthy stinky person and still be accorded most of the customary rights and privileges of courteous day-to-day interactions… which is ok, and it means we have a rotating cast of friends’ houses where we shower for the time being.

ImageThis is Upstairs, which will soon be ready for drywall.  In a fit of optimism, we picked out the paint color a month ago.  This is where we will have dedicated sleeping and showering spaces at last!

The heated downstairs and the parts of Upstairs we’re working on comprise the oldest part of the house, a square 2 story box.  This original box is what we’re going to be living in for the immediate future, so we’re only worrying about insulating and sealing off this part (and making sure the rest of it is at least mostly airtight.)  The rest of the house was added on in sections, and will be left in more or less its current state (of structurally stable and sealed but still down to studs) until we can handle the work/need the space, whichever comes first.  Right now it’s looking a lot like:


and feeling pretty chilly.  But when we’re not working on it, there’s no reason to be there.  Kevin’s up there right now and he’s double layered up plus wearing insulated bibs.  The work doesn’t always stop when the world does, and inside you don’t have wind chill!

I know Kevin’s working on a post about the kitchen so I’ll leave that for now other than to mention that it’s SO NICE just having one, especially on a day like today when it’s -7891045 degrees out and all anyone wants is hot food and tea.

The dog and cat wear their own fur coats but when that isn’t enough the dog has a quilted jacket, which was probably not necessary inside today but it’s new and exciting, and the cat has a crocheted “cat nest.”


My family is in town, and my brother in law had never been colder than 45 degrees before this week.  Haha!  We took a walk to get takeout from the excellent Niagara Cafe last night and my dad compared walking down Pennsylvania towards the river to when he climbed Mount Elbrus.  It’s been nice to host people by a roaring fire, take them on neighborhood walks in the screeching wind, and assure them that this is as bad as it can get around here, weather-wise.  Unfortunately crossing the 190 via the pedestrian bridge at Hudson did not work out because the ramp is a solid sheet of ice.  My decadent wish is that they incorporate a heated walkway into whatever renovation plans I hope they have for that thing… yes, a pipe dream.

It’s really really nice to be living in a finished space instead of a work zone.  Sometimes I forget about the state of the rest of the house… until I open the door to it.


Hope everyone else is surviving winterpocalypse 2k13 unscathed!  Don’t leave the house except to take house pictures!!