Harrisburg Patriot-News

The Harrisburg newspaper ran a story on Olde York Homes today. It made front page of the real estate section and, thanks to Gary, Speedwell Forge was prominently featured.

York-area firm has crafted a

Sunday, October 30, 2005
For The Patriot-News
Reprinted with permission
Gary Geiselman was ready to throw in the trowel.

Harrisburg Patriot News features Speedwell Forge B&B

Harrisburg Patriot News features Speedwell Forge B&B

He had spent weekends for nearly two months fixing up an old row house in downtown York. He was starting to wonder whether he was in over his head.

Then his father, Donald Geiselman, broke down the project into steps and listed them on 10 sheets of paper, which he handed to his son over breakfast one Saturday morning.

Dawn makes News for Speedwell Forge B&B

Dawn makes News for Speedwell Forge B&B

“Now I’m really depressed,” Gary Geiselman remembers thinking.

With his father’s help, he persevered one step at a time. Nearly 30 years later, Geiselman continues to tackle renovations as the owner of Olde York Homes.

This year, the York-based company was recognized by This Old House magazine as one of the top 40 contractors in the country.

“It’s a real honor,” said Geiselman, who founded the company in 1980. The top 40 list appeared in the magazine’s October issue.

While new homes have been sprouting across the midstate, companies such as Olde York Homes have kept busy repairing and restoring the region’s older dwellings.

Companies engaged in renovating old houses typically have a backlog of projects, said David Zwifka, executive director of the Historic Harrisburg Association. “There’s fairly strong demand.”

Geiselman said he rarely advertises, relying instead on word of mouth to spread his company’s reputation, both among customers and among the skilled craftspeople who work for him. The business employs 18 people at its shop in York.

“I’m fortunate to find people that still want to take the time to do things,” Geiselman said. “That part is key.”

Olde York Homes has annual revenue of about $2.5 million. About half comes from restoration work on houses in York County and surrounding areas, Geiselman said.

A quarter of the company’s revenue comes from making custom cabinets and woodwork. The company derives the remainder from work on newer homes and from construction.

Projects cost from $5,000 to $1 million, depending on their scope, Geiselman said. Most projects fall between $100,000 and $200,000.

“If they’re calling us, they want something out of the ordinary,” he said.

Polly Stetler called Olde York Homes to work on the vacant house in York that she and her husband, Stephen, bought for their family 12 years ago. Olde York initially redid the kitchen and has done other work since.

“It wasn’t cheap,” Stetler said. “But it was worth every penny.”

Stetler said she appreciated Geiselman’s eye for detail and the pride he and his employees show in their work. “They take their time, and they do things right,” she said.

Geiselman started out as a banker. But he couldn’t resist the pull of working with his hands and being his own boss. He comes from a family of builders.

His father, a full-time engineer, worked part time fashioning cabinets for Gary Geiselman’s grandfather, William Altland. Now retired, Donald Geiselman works part time making cabinets for Olde York Homes.

Altland, who died 14 years ago, built some of the first housing developments in post-World War II York County.

As a child, Gary Geiselman enjoyed riding around with his grandfather to visit work sites during the summer. Now that he is less involved in his company’s hands-on work, Geiselman finds himself doing the same thing.

“I know every back road in York County,” he said. “Just like my grandfather did.”


Channel 11 news

Picture this: It’s September 6, the last day of my “vacation”, and I’ve spent the last five hours talking to the plumber, the contractor, and the septic guy, when the channel 11 news van pulls up, ready to do an interview.

Of course I knew they were coming — Dawn specifically scheduled them for my visit so she didn’t have to appear on camera — but that didn’t mean I was ready. Like so many other things on this project, if I knew what was coming, I wouldn’t have done it. Or at least I would have scheduled it early in the morning, so I wasn’t exhausted from talking all day.

Dawn was still dealing with the septic guy so she was in the cornfield during the entire interview, which was probably a good thing because she would have been kicking me throughout. Instead, she had to wait until it was on TV before she kicked me.

The original clip was ninety seconds long, but I’ve abridged it to 45 seconds — partly for bandwidth, but mostly to remove embarrassing clips of me saying the stupidest things. (Such as, “The biggest challenge is the cost, that’s what keeps me up at night.” Way to market the B&B, Gregg!) Rebecca Baer is the anchorwoman and she also did the interview.

Afterwards, I picked up a copy of “Guerrilla Publicity” which devoted an entire chapter devoted to common mistakes people make on camera. I’m pretty sure I hit every one.

Two technical corrections: Rebecca states the mansion was unoccupied for a year (it was 20 years) and that we gutted the entire mansion plus two other buildings (we worked very hard to preserve as much as possible in the mansion and Paymaster’s Office; we did gut the Summer Kitchen because there wasn’t anything worth saving.) Also, the “1902” seen at the end of clip was where the paper hanger had signed the wall; it is crossed out because the next paper hanger (in 1947) was a jerk.



We’ve learned a lot in the past six months, including a lot of jargon:

  • Alarm system: Being legally robbed to protect yourself from being illegally robbed.
  • Back-prime: The tedious and thankless job of painting the¬†backs¬†of boards, in the hope that your house will survive the next natural disaster.
  • Bath: a bathroom, not a bathtub. (The sink is called the lavatory.)
  • BIBS: Blow-In Blanket System. Probably the most expensive way to insulate your home, and therefore the one recommended most by contractors.
  • Blueboard: Used in place of lath, it is a moisture-resistant form of drywall that is then coated with plaster. It has no character, but the finished product looks the same. Future renovators will laugh at us.
  • Board: A 1″ thick piece of wood (e.g. floorboard, baseboard). Can be any width or length, but can’t be thicker than one inch. A 2×4 is not a board.
  • Casement: A window that swings out rather than slides up and, if it’s big enough, can be considered a secondary exit for building code purposes.
  • Casing: The molding around a jamb; it is programmed to self-destruct when removed.
  • Chase: The near-criminal act of cutting a hole in something to put something else.
  • Checking (aka alligatoring): What happens when you have too many layers of paint. Get yourself a good sander.
  • Sander: Someone (besides yourself) willing to spend weeks on end stripping old paint
  • Chimney cap: What you need to keep birds, squirrels, raccoons, and rodents out of your chimney.
  • Cornice: The bit between the eaves and the soffit, I think. Not really sure.
  • Fascia: What you have if you don’t have a cornice.
  • Demolition: The act of removing 20 years’ worth of water-damaged plaster, ugly wallpaper, walls that need to be moved, insulation saturated with rodent waste, outdated plumbing fixtures, and all of the plaster in the attic because your contractor wants to replace your 200-year-old roof joists with green wood from The Home Depot. Be sure you protect the floors first.
  • Dentil: A pattern of notches in the molding; makes painting a joy.
  • DIY: see “false economy.”
  • Dry rot: A fungus that eats wet wood; your worst nightmare next to foundation problems.
  • Drywall: A new wall system that doesn’t include wet plaster; hence it is “dry.”
  • Eaves: The part of the roof that sticks out over the walls in order to drip rain on you.
  • Envelope: The outer shell of the house, used by the insulation contractor in discussing the infiltration and exfiltration with the R-rating to convince you to buy the BIBS system. He will neglect to mention that most of your heat loss is through the windows.
  • Existing wall: What the contractor uses to write notes on.
  • New wall: What the contractor calls six 2x4s nailed to the floor
  • Fenestration: A set of windows. Next time you see a Colonial house with 6-over-6 windows and appropriately-sized shutters, you can impress your spouse by saying “Look at that beautiful fenestration.”
  • Fixtures: Anything not included in the contractor’s quote.
  • Flashing: Metal strips that seal the joint between masonry and roofing. (You thought I was going to say “see plumber’s crack” didn’t you?)
  • Flue liner: A flexible metal pipe installed in a chimney to avoid chimney fires. Voice of experience: An 8″ flue liner will not fit in a 7″ flue.
  • Frame: A series of joists, plates, studs, braces, headers, and sills.
  • Glazing: Putting lights in the sash with points and putty. (i.e. fixing windows)
  • Grading: See “strip mining.”
  • Gutters: Contraptions used to catch leaves before they fall harmlessly to the ground
  • Heat pump: An extremely efficient heating method, which we are not using.
  • Steam: An extremely inefficient heating method, which we are using.
  • HVAC: High Velocity Air Conditioning. (There is no such thing as Low Velocity Air Conditioning, so it’s just really pompous.)
  • Joists: Horizontal beams which everyone will tell you always run in the same direction; do¬†not¬†listen to this.
  • Ladder jacks: An insane method of scaffolding made by holding a horizontal ladder between two vertical ladders.
  • Lath: Originally, small strips of scrap wood that provided a base for plaster. Later, a metal screen that served the same purpose. Today, Blueboard is used. Unfortunately, not many funny things you can say about lath.
  • Light: Glass in a window; often counted as in “six-over-six” or a “four-light transom.”
  • Line set: Two pipes that connect the outdoor air conditioner (or compressor) to the indoor evaporator (or air handler). The “liquid line” is smaller than the “suction line.”
  • Lintel: A stone header at the top of a roof or window which displaces the load. When looking at an old stone house, look for lintels in the middle of nowhere to indicate where an old window or door was.
  • Load-bearing: What plumbers cut chases into.
  • Keystones: A poor man’s lintel. An arch of smaller stones was used instead of a single piece; the keystone was the center stone which, when driven in, held the rest of the arch in place through compression.
  • Mansard: A flat roof with very steep sides; makes for a much nicer attic than (our) gable roof
  • Mantel: The wood (or marble) panel around a fireplace. A full mantel goes from floor to ceiling. Hopefully,¬†your¬†grandparents didn’t apply marble-like wallpaper to their mantel.
  • Mortar: A mixture of water, sand, and cement used to hold things together. See “pointing.”
  • Mortise-and-tenon: The art of joining two pieces of wood by creating a tongue (the mortise) and a hole (the tenon). To check an old door, look at the edge–you should see the end of the tongue for each panel.
  • Parging: To plaster. (See photo, below.)
  • Permit: Zoning, Building, Occupancy, Parking, Stormwater, Well, Septic, Land development, you name it. Unless your brother-in-law sits on one of the local committees, don’t even think of restoring an old house.
  • Plans: What you paid good money to have an architect draw up, and paid more money to have the contractor scribble all over. Note that every contractor will want his own set of plans to scribble all over.
  • Pipes: copper, cast iron, black iron, pex, PVC, heating, plumbing, etc.
  • Plumb: A very recent phenomenon, unheard of 50 years ago.
  • Pointing: To fill in the space between stones with mortar. Note that the color, thickness, and shape of the mortar is the difference between a professional job and the mess you just made.
  • Powderpost beetles: Self-explanatory. Much less destructive than carpenter ants or termites, but over 200 years the damage can add up.
  • Preparation: The reason you hire a contractor, because anyone can apply the paint.
  • Punky: Soft or rotted, as in “this window is punky,” or “this beam is punky,” or “this door is punky,” or a hundred other things the contractor looked at.
  • Radiators: Large, ugly, problematic, and potentially unsafe heating method that all historic specialists will try to convince you to keep.
  • Renovation vs. Restoration: Something people who have never done either like to argue about.
  • Risers: To a plumber, it’s the hot water supply; to the carpenter, it’s the back of a stair. Don’t worry, the plumber and carpenter will never talk to each other so there is no chance of confusion.
  • Rosebuds: The marks a hammer makes when it hits something it shouldn’t, like a floorboard. Old hand-forged nails used to be called “rose-head” for the same reason.
  • Safety equipment: What the contractor knows he should be wearing. Includes safety glasses, mask, gloves, long pants, and thick-soled shoes.
  • Sash: The window frame without the glass. Old windows had true dividers, because the glass could not be made in large sheets. Today’s windows have large glass and fake “muntins” (dividers) which look good from about 50 feet away, and cause for pointing and laughing any closer than that.
  • Double-hung sash: A simple name for a complicated set of lights, cords, and weights that you will never, ever, be able to re-assemble.
  • Shutters: Practically, a set of panels used to protect windows during a storm. Aestetically, a set of panels that set off the window. Popularly, a set of panels that could obviously never close to cover the window they are mounted on. See “eyesore.”
  • Sill: The bottom of a door or window; it is the opposite of “header.” (Beneath the sill is the apron.)
  • Sistering: Nailing a piece of wood onto another piece of wood because it is soft, punky, split, or, in the case of our contractor, just because it’s old.
  • Soffits: The underside of the eaves. Please don’t ask me why someone had to come up with a new name for this.
  • Split-system: The act of cooling the first floor from the basement and the second floor from the attic. Works well if you don’t have a 12″ thick stone wall running down the center of the house like we do.
  • Stain: Oil mixed with dirt. When finished staining, you seal it to protect it from dirt.
  • Storm windows: A second window that goes against the first to make an early (but effective) version of dual-paned windows.
  • Studs: The wooden posts you¬†hope¬†your wife is referring to when she’s 3,000 miles away and surrounded by a dozen men who do everything she asks.
  • Subcontractors: See “herding cats.”
  • T&G: Tongue-and-groove, a method of installing hardwood floors to ensure they can never be taken up again without extensive damage.
  • Toenail: Driving a nail in at an angle. It has nothing to do with your anatomy.
  • Vinyl windows: Eyes with no soul. See also vinyl siding and vinyl flooring.
  • Wallpaper: A wall covering that is difficult to put on and impossible to take off.


Shopping list

Since I posted the to-do list, I might as well post the shopping list. These are the things we still need to buy before we hang out the “vacancy” sign (which we also need to buy).

  • Street sign
  • Spotlight for street sign
  • Light posts along driveway
  • Accent lighting on house?
  • Invisible screen door?
  • Stairwell keys with Darlington crest
  • TV armoire
  • Tablecloths, table liner
  • Kitchen sink, faucet, soap dispenser, water filter
  • Commercial dishwasher
  • Range hood, liner, exterior fan
  • Plates, cups, saucers, bowls, serving pitchers, platters, silverware, etc.
  • Wine carafes?
  • 4 twin mattresses (Boys’ room, Paymaster’s Office)
  • 3 queen mattresses (Kathryn’s room, Bill’s room, Summer Kitchen)
  • 2 twin/king converter
  • Sleeper sofa (Summer Kitchen)
  • Gas logs (Paymaster’s Office)
  • Stand-alone gas fireplace (Summer Kitchen)
  • Stand-alone electric fireplace (Boys’ room)
  • 4 electric fireplace inserts
  • 9 bedside lights
  • 5 alarm clocks
  • Lighted mirror (Kathryn’s bath)
  • 3 tub fillers
  • 4 hairdryers
  • Medicine cabinet (innkeeper bath)
  • 4 Vanity lights (Bill’s room, Boys’ Room, Summer kitchen, Innkeeper’s bath)
  • 1 Dresser (Bill’s room)
  • 1 Pool table
  • 3 wireless access points
  • 1 Paper folder
  • Backyard lighting (solar?)
  • 3 TV/VCR/DVD (Mansion, Summer kitchen, Paymaster’s Office)
  • 1 portable TV
  • 1 kitchenette with built-in microwave (Summer Kitchen)
  • 1 kitchenette with separate microwave (Paymaster’s Office)
  • 6 red chairs
  • 2 kitchen tables
  • pots/pans/dishes/silverware (cottages)
  • washer/dryer (Duet)
  • 1 folding table
  • 1 laundry sink/faucet
  • 40 drinking glasses
  • 4 luggage racks
  • 8 flower vases
  • Glass tops for all tables/dressers
  • 3 fans
  • Backup generator
  • Wooden blinds
  • Pictures/paintings?
  • 4 bedspreads (Amish quilts?)
  • 12 sheet sets
  • 12 washable blankets
  • Allergy “bags” for box springs, mattresses, pillows, comforters
  • 36 guest towels
  • Phone system (7 lines)
  • Credit card machine
  • Brochures, gift certificates, price sheets, guest comment cards
  • Travel kits (little toothbrushes, toothpaste, shampoo, etc.)
  • Phone cards
  • Magnetic vehicle signs
  • Room diaries
  • 9 chandeliers (library, kitchen, hallway
    [3], Bill’s room, Paymaster kitchen, dormer, game room)
  • Front porch light


Dawn’s new to-do list

Just in case we were getting excited about all the progress made so far…


  • Repoint east side, spot point as needed (Hollenbeck)
  • (November, after mason) Finish east gable, downspouts, front porch (Lantz roofing)
  • Insulate between all floors (blown-in blanket)
  • Paint all windows and sashes; hang windows by November 1st (Dawn)
  • Hang exterior shutters (Olde York Homes?)
  • Make interior storm windows (Village Glass)
  • Move basement door (Olde York Homes)
  • Build new basement stairs (Olde York Homes?)
  • Build mechanical room in basement (Olde York Homes)
  • Paint front porch (Dawn; ceiling is sky blue per Gary G.)
  • (February) Build kitchen island and refrigerator cabinet (Olde York Homes)
  • Install whirlpool bath; put air pump in kneewall above (AH Moyer)
  • Install humidistats in all bathrooms (Joel Miller Electric)
  • Run electric to all fireplaces (Joel Miller Electric; need 220V for kitchen stove?)
  • Run electric to cedar closet (Joel Miller Electric; need 220V for electric dryer?)
  • Install illuminated exit signs, emergency lighting (Joel Miller Electric)
  • Install window and door contacts (for burglar alarm)
  • Install pulls and horns around mansion (for fire alarm)
  • Put fire/burglar alarm keypads in kitchen
  • Run line sets from workshop for air conditioning (AH Moyer)
  • Finish air conditioning ducts; install remote temperature sensors in return ducts (AH Moyer)
  • Install thermostats in kitchen (AH Moyer)
  • Run new black iron pipe to all radiators (AH Moyer)
  • Install 75 gal propane water heater and recirculating pump (AH Moyer)
  • Buy and bury two 1,000 gal propane tanks (Dawn, Martindale)
  • Strip and re-paint all radiators (Dawn)
  • Run radiant flooring under kitchen, bathrooms (except boys’ room) (AH Moyer)
  • Set up thermostats on radiators? (AH Moyer)
  • Remove “extra” steam radiator on third floor (Dawn)
  • Tie waste lines to septic system (AH Moyer)
  • Install laundry tub in basement (AH Moyer)
  • Strip stairs (Dawn)
  • Sand and refinish all floors (Olde York Homes)
  • Install toilets and sinks, faucets and shower valves (AH Moyer)
  • Tile Kathyrn’s bath, our bath (Olde York Homes?)
  • Build brick partition between boiler flue and kitchen flue; install chimney cap (Dawn?)
  • Buy and install range hood, remote blower in kitchen chimney (Olde York Homes?)
  • Restore iron firebacks (Dawn)
  • Buy and install four electric fireplace inserts, one stand-alone fireplace (Dawn)
  • Install safety railing in servant’s stairwell (Olde York Homes?)
  • Remediate basement moisture (Olde York Homes? Cover spring?)
  • Replace basement doors (Olde York Homes?)
  • Repair lath and plaster (Jerry Leib)
  • Paint interior (Dawn; need to determine colors!)


Summer Kitchen

  • Clean chimney (Dawn)
  • Replace roof and gutters (Lantz roofing)
  • Buy and install new front door (Olde York Homes)
  • Buy and install new flooring downstairs(Olde York Homes)
  • Reinforce flooring upstairs; fix “bump” (Olde York Homes)
  • Refinish flooring upstairs (Olde York Homes)
  • Install plumbing, fixtures (AH Moyer)
  • Buy and install kitchenette (Dawn)
  • Install air handler (AH Moyer)
  • Install electric panel (Joel Miller Electric)
  • Install tankless water heater (AH Moyer)
  • Re-plaster brick wall; repair walls (Jerry Leib)
  • Buy and install stand-alone gas fireplace downstairs (Dawn)
  • Strip and repair all windows (Dawn)
  • Re-glaze all windows (Village Glass)
  • Paint and hang all windows (Dawn)
  • Build and install storm windows (Village Glass)
  • Run water and propane from mansion (AH Moyer)
  • Run electric/telephone/cable/LAN/fire/burglar cables from mansion (Joel Miller Electric)
  • Run line sets from workshop for heat pump (AH Moyer)
  • Install propane line to fireplace, hot water heater (AH Moyer)
  • Paint everything (Dawn)

Paymaster’s Office

  • Finish cleaning (Dawn)
  • Remove linoleum floor, brick “wallpaper” (Dawn)
  • Clean chimney (flue okay for gas fireplace?) (Dawn)
  • Move cabinet doors; create new wall (Olde York Homes; no room to create third cabinet)
  • Buy and install kitchenette (Dawn)
  • Remove beaded boards, plywood from bathroom (Dawn?)
  • Install bathroom plumbing, fixtures (AH Moyer; work around stone in basement)
  • Drywall bathroom area? (Jerry Leib?)
  • Install heat pump on slope; put air handler in attic area (AH Moyer)
  • Fix woodwork in corner, other holes (Olde York Homes)
  • Install whirlpool tub (AH Moyer)
  • Install electric panel ( Joel Miller Electric; already done?)
  • Install tankless hot water heater (AH Moyer)
  • Install propane line to fireplace, hot water heater (AH Moyer)
  • Buy and install gas logs for fireplace (AH Moyer)
  • Install basement door (Olde York Homes?)
  • Refinish floor (Olde York Homes?)
  • Strip and repair all windows (Dawn)
  • Re-glaze all windows (Village Glass)
  • Paint and hang all windows (Dawn)
  • Build and install storm windows (Village Glass)
  • Remove electric meter (Dawn, PPL)
  • Repoint walls as needed (Hollenbeck)
  • Paint kitchen and bathroom (Dawn)
  • Run water from mansion (AH Moyer)
  • Run electric/telephone/cable/LAN/fire/burglar cables from mansion (Joel Miller Electric)
  • Buy and install 500 gallon propane tank? (Dawn)
  • Pour cement floor in basement (Dawn)


  • Drill well (Myers)
  • Install well pump (AH Moyer)
  • (November)Install new roof and gutters on workshop (Lantz roofing)
  • Install air compressors/heat pump in workshop (AH Moyer)
  • Install louvres in windows with automatic opener (AH Moyer)
  • Install new drain along driveway (Halderman Excavating)
  • Install outside paths/lighting (solar?)
  • Finish septic system (Halderman Excavating)
  • Pour cement floor in workshop (Dawn)
  • Repair floor joists in workshop (Dawn)
  • Insulate old well house (Dawn)
  • Need to remove and sandblast door and window hardware? (Dawn)
  • Determine if we want to repair electric stove or buy gas stove (Dawn)
  • Buy and install interior blinds (Dawn)
  • Add new parking spot in front (Dawn)
  • Create pull-off; install retaining wall (Dawn)
  • Resurface driveway (Dawn)
  • Paint arrows/post signs at end of drive (Dawn)
  • Build retaining wall on east slope (Hollenbeck)
  • Run telephone line under road into basement (Dawn and D&E Communications)
  • Remove telephone pole (D&E)
  • Replace cable? (Dawn; not sure where this is currently coming from)
  • Clear ivy from trees (Dawn)
  • Set up flower garden, vegetable garden (Dawn)
  • Rebuild garden pond in front (Dawn)
  • Do landscape design (David Christian)


  • Clean out privy; re-roof
  • Restore bookshelf in basement; set up as wine rack
  • Set up backup generator
  • Move trough to water pump (need forklift)
  • Replace back porch
  • Replace roof on tractor shed/ice house
  • Rebuild chicken coop
  • Restore benches and lawn furniture from basement
  • Remove cement on back porch; replace with wood or stone
  • Clean up Stallion Pen (drain basement, stabilize walls, replace roof, gut interior, cover windows)


Summer Kitchen

After Brian had gotten a little overzealous and stripped off the wall-to-wall carpeting, six layers of linoleum, the original wood floor, and the old floor joists, the place sat quietly for three months. Last week, it was a hive of activity.

Mike had another job to complete in Cornwall, so Barry from Olde York Homes is helping out. His first job was to remove the only functional bathroom, which didn’t make him real popular with the rest of the crew. (The septic guys had accidentally cut off the water supply the day before, but nobody noticed the toilet didn’t flush. They noticed the toilet was missing right away.)

The many faces of Barry

The many faces of Barry

Barry then removed the “privacy glass” window that had been installed where the old door had been. (He found a brick signed “Wm Darlington 1952” — William was Dawn’s father.) Unfortunately, we don’t have a door to replace it with, so right now there’s a piece of board marked “door” covering the hole.

Next, Barry laid out a grid of new floor joists, but Mike the HVAC guy stopped him so he could first install some ductwork. Soon the plumber and electrician were also involved, and the entire floorplan was modified! Now there’s a “utility room” that’s only accessible from the outside, which houses the air handler, hot water heater, and breaker box. It’s actually kind of clever; I wish I’d thought of it.

So then Barry went upstairs to pry up the old floorboards on half of the room so he can reinforce the floor to support a whirlpool tub and a bathroom. The plumbers have asked if they can hoist up the bathroom fixtures while the floor is out, instead of having the take them up the circular staircase, so he’s waiting for them.

So if you’re keeping score, Barry removed the old bathroom without building the new one, he opened the wall but didn’t install the door; he laid the floor joists without laying the floor; and now he has pulled up the old floor upstairs without repairing it. Barry, can you finish one job before starting another? ūüėČ


One more week of freedom

Okay, I really just said that there to irk Dawn, but I definitely understand why we decided long ago never to get married. All of my family is arriving staggered throughout the week, “the moms” are organizing the reception, I’ve set up an itinerary to keep everyone busy, and Dawn — well, Dawn’s busy destroying the wedding site.

A week ago, we had lush lawns and a picture-perfect setting. Today, the septic people have dug trenches and pits through all of that. The room we’re getting married in was selected because it was the only room with a complete ceiling; now there are chases cut through it. And to top it off, the weather channel says it will be cold and rainy.

When you think about it, though, we really wouldn’t have it any other way.

I just have one question: The day after our wedding is our 14th anniversary. Should I get Dawn a gift?


Final word on the septic system

I’ve decided to never mention the septic system again. After this, of course.

  • The septic system is designed to handle 1,800 gallons per day. We will have 5 adults plus up to 10 guests, so even on a full day, assuming each person takes one 5-minute shower and I run 3 loads of laundry, everyone will have to flush the toilet¬†37 times each¬†before we exceed capacity.
  • There are two fields, each 60′ x 220′. Together that is half the size of a football field (or the full size of an arena football field, if you’re into that sort of thing). In city terms, my septic field in Pennsylvania is¬†5 times bigger¬†than my entire property in Los Angeles.
  • The “nitrate plume” area (which we can never build on) is 10 acres in size. The minimum lot size in the area, I believe, is one acre, so that’s the equivalent of 10 homes. At a conservative value of $10,000 per acre, that is$100,000 worth of land¬†sitting idle.
  • The pipes run a quarter-mile (1,350 feet) long, and 93 feet up. Now, I don’t design septic systems for a living, but even I am pretty sure going¬†uphill¬†is a bad idea.
  • There are 5 tanks, totalling 7,500 gallons, which¬†all¬†had to be custom-built for our project.
  • The system requires access points every 50′. That means¬†27 manholes¬†will dot our property.
Septic System or Sub-division? It's hard to tell

Septic System or Sub-division? It’s hard to tell

Everyone¬†tells us¬†they’re happy we’re restoring the property, but then they make up these ridiculous requirements that defy common sense and cost a fortune. If I ever meet anyone who is considering restoring a property in the area, I will tell them they’re crazy.

Come to think of it, everyone we talked to who had restored a property in the area told us we were crazy.