Monday, September 18, 2006

The owner calls

The owner calls

The continuing saga of life in a Frank Lloyd Wright home.

After I got home this evening the phone rang and I went to pick it up. The caller ID said it was the original owner and I knew it was his wife. I had sent her a note recently with a clipping from the Cincinnati Enquirer's Sunday Sept. 10 edition about endangered modern homes in the Cincinnati area along with a blurb about the 50th Anniversary of the Boulter House construction. She was very gracious on the phone and thanked us for sharing the home with many events. She said that the master of the home also liked to share the home. "It must be a guy thing," she remembered. We'll get together soon, Janet and I hope.

We just got back from the Frank Lloyd Wright Conservancy annual conference, which was held, in Detroit this year. Compared with two years ago when Janet and I could get away, it was a better event for us. Being seasoned owners by now with three years under our belt, I was more confident about adding my two cents worth. That was quickly put in its place after listening to the presentation "Maintenance Planning for Wright Homeowners." Although I do a fair amount of documentation about the projects I do, I need to do a better job and she passed out some excellent forms to fill out along with a schedule of maintenance. My biggest concern is the roof. Although the easiest solution would be to put on a new roof, we don’t have the money to do that or don’t want to spend what we do have on it until it starts to fail. This is not unlike the experience John Payne, the owner of the Richardson House experienced when he patched the radiant floor heating only to have it last 8 years and then fail in river of water flowing under them while the supply valve was desperately trying to make up for the loss in pressure. It seems silly that I'm trying to wick away the ponding of water on the roof but it hasn't been successful yet. A Ben Dombar home owner and the owner of the Penfield Home are also interested in my experiments. The best thing I've found is a large mop head. It wicks off about a gallon an hour. Smaller 5/8 to 1-inch diameter wicks, barely a pint an hour. Well that about ends the experimentation this year. I put a couple of gallons of latex paint on the Styrofoam roof insulation over the last three weeks, covering the spots that were eroded by the sun over the summer or picked out by birds. Don’t ask me why. Nest material? I hope I can confirm again this winter that the insulation has reduced our energy use by 25% although cost went up last November by 38%. The only thing I changed was to insert corrugated plastic roofing material under the areas of the roof that have standing water in a effort to cut down on the water absorption. The panels weight 5 pounds new and when completely waterlogged weight 60 lbs. Keeping them up out of the water doesn’t seem to help much, rain water saturates the top panel anyway. The roof has two layers of 4" x 4' x 8' panels. I got an estimate to put an aluminum roof over the whole thing, $29,500.

My number one fall project is to replace the windowsills on the south facing windows. Our cabinetmaker, milled some of the reclaimed redwood from the carport studio tearout (don't worry it wasn't original). It now has a bevel to direct the water away from the windows. After consulting with two architects I chose the Abatron system because it comes with a pigment which will match the brown redwood color if in the future I plan to sand the surface. Once removing the old sill I'll use Abatron's consolidant, fill with the pigmented epoxy to restore the wood to its original dimensions. After cutting to fit I glue it in with paintable silicon elastomeric latex caulk and nail it in. I may also use pure silicon since the fine edge won’t need paint. Any help with this would be wonderful. The idea is that the sills can be removed and replaced in the future with the door itself intact.

Later in the fall after I can’t use silicone anymore, I plan to dig out the north west corner paver walk which has dropped 1 1/4 inch since they installed the walk. I really don’t know why it sank. Maybe I'll find out when I excavate.

The repair on the west side floor slab looks great. The presentation on the radiant floor heating revealed what I was looking at when I was preparing the edge of the slabs for edging. I say edge of slabs because I could tell that there was a base pour, maybe two, and then a topcoat of pigmented concrete. The water is pooling there now on the surface so that at least won't corrode the radiant heating pipes for now. One other thing I learned from the presentation was that the cracks in the floor are where the pipes are and sure enough I can see the curves and other details now that I notice. I hope Janet and I are lucky in that the steep slope caused the water to drain away. Before the back wall was excavated and the north walkway created the north living room wall was damp and that is where the big crack is which I measured as .045" 2/2/05. I think that the exterior of the pipe is rusted there. The fourth pipe from the wall has the large crack. The third pipe has hair line cracks. Now the center of the floor as dropped 3/4". Maybe that is why there is a large crack. The concrete had to open up somewhere. An architect and his wife were walking along Rawson Woods Lane yesterday and I invited them to a quick tour. I love to get architects to stop bye and I immediately start grilling them on the structural details. "After coming back from the conference I found there are more questions than answers about radiant floor systems" I said. "Yes, it is that way," the architect replied. My final thought on the situation is that you need to look at nature and see what has lasted the longest. I'm looking for an example of radiant floor heating in nature if anyone knows of one. The Roman baths may be a good example. Please hand me the lead pipe.