By Dan Duckham in Miami area. Owner told me it was built in early 70s, The
house itself has a lot of unique features and very open, but it also has a
very "chopped up" feel. Even though it has lots of windows, the house felt
real dark because it has dark wood ceilings and black slate floor tiles.
The wood ceiling is unfinished (sort of having that ski lodge feel), and has
a lot of moisture damage that appears to be caused by roof leak. Of course
it's a vaulted ceiling and I don't know what's between the ceiling wood and
the galvanized roof, whether there is any insulation or just tar paper, the
second floor felt like an oven even with AC running.
So one concern I have is how do I repair (cover) these moisture damage with
the ceiling like 20 feet high?
Is there a way to make the house more energy efficient with so many windows
and apparently none or very little roofing insulation?
Any idea how to brighten up the place with dark wood ceiling and black slate
It probably was designed for a couple with no kids. The living room is
huge, kitchen is huge, then a half-stair leads up to a floor which opens to
a room, then the stair continues to the second floor and a very large
landing area and there is the master bedroom. No door, very open, the
master bedroom is more like a loft and can overlook the living room below
from the hald wall. Then it opens to the bathroom, no door either. There
are very few interior door in this house, every thing is open, even the
rooms, the walls are only up 8 feet and then is open above, this means if TV
is on in the master bedroom there is no way to block it off in another room.
It is a unique house and I am tempted to get it and rework it, but the
ceiling moisture damage concerns me and I can;t figure out a way to avoid
paying $500 on electric in the middle of summer.
If it was built in the early 70's I bet the windows are single pane, also
probably not hurricane resistant.........replacing the windows with double
panes would help a lot.....but cost big bucks as well. If the roof has not
been replaced, it is probably nearing the end of its lifespan.
There are lots of windows in that house, so many of them very high up and
have to be opened and closed with those 10 feet long cranks. Redoing all
those windows would be a huge cost. The problem with the roof is one thing,
but the exposed wood ceiling I can see water mark everywhere (it's not
pained wood, unfinished wood I would say cedar because of the texture but I
can't tell for sure), even if I stop the leak with a new roof it will be
cost prohibitive to replace all these wood in the ceiling, unless I guess by
staining them even darker or painting them over.
You would need to look at the cost vs. payback........if it saves you $250/
month in elec. and another 1000k in insurance a year........when will you
hit the break even point.
If it is cedar, (or cyprus, or redwood etc) the wood will not have rotted
from water. You might have to sand and stain to get rid of the water
Deck wash. I think it's usually some from of peroxide.
Or, weak bleach solution.
Follow with a light-colored stain/tint, such as the "pickle" (whitewash)
I'd mentioned. Go talk to people who know wood before just slapping paint
or dark stain over damaged wood. If wood is not cleaned, and you just
stain it darker, all you'll end up with is *dark* wood that's blotchy.
If the ceiling is water-damaged, merely covering the ceiling won't do any
good - you'd probably have to repair or replace the roof. Might as well
have some insulation and maybe some of that new roof liner, it is called
"R-Guard"?, it's a metallized materia that goes immediately under the
plywood and reflects a good amount of heat (from what I've heard) back out
of the roof.
Install motorized attic vents - my understanding is that they have a
thermostat that kicks them on when the attic reaches a certain temperature.
If the wood ceiling is unfinished, you can consider "pickling" (basically,
whitewash) to give it a lighter "bleached" or even greyed "driftwood" type
look that's often considered "beach-y".
If it's very high, all I can think is, get a very tall folding stepladder,
of scaffolding, if you're going to work on it yourself...no easy way to do
it that I know of.
For the floor, area/throw carpets in cream and white tints, with some warm
tones included (red-orange-yellow, and tints and tones thereof). Some
people opine that floor-to-ceiling curtains in a light color visually
"lift" a ceiling. You can use drapes, sheers, or have them made freom
whatever fabric you like. Heck, you can make your own - all you need is
the main fabric, some backing to reduce fading (muslin, bedseet material,
or even SaniTherm, which is an insulating material and also blocks light
when the things are closed). It's just a matter of measureing correctly,
running a seam down 2 sides and across the top, and hemming the bottom -
you can use non-sewn options for that.
Ceiling lights might help brighten that feature - some people seem to like
spotlights but also consider a more diffuse type of lighting, and something
original/handmade (or that looks like it could be unique) might be nice.
Add elements that reflect light, avoid things that absorb it. Light-
colored furniture looks well against a darker floor. Avoid heavy, dark
fabrics. It sounds like a light- or medium-colored leather would look good
in the place, plus, many people find leather to feel "cool" to the touch in
a warm climate.
If your windows are single-pane, and you don't want to replace them right
off the bat, consider window film - there are metallized films that
supposedly reduce the heat the comes in by 50% and more, and reduce Winter
heat loss by 40%. Or you might be able to build in a layer of lexan
paneling but I don't know whether that'd work, plus it's bloody
*expensive*, might cost more than replacing the windows (although, OTOH,
it's also resistant to shattering). There are also security films that are
sturdy enough to make plain windows behave more like safety glass.
If you put up film *plus* insulated drapes, that will help. Also consider
pergolas around the house to lessen the insolation. Or at least, window
I saw one house where the people had put up padded fabric rather than wall
paper in one room - they used a red silk-blend but there are various
options; put batting agaisnt the qwall first, finish with piping or other
trim (to hide the staples).
haahn enough room to add in a layer of studs-plus-insulation covered by new
sheetrock. If you redo the roof and ceiling, also sounds like there is
room enough for insulation.
The problem with "expedient measures" is that they typically cost more than
expected, and they're often less than satisfying in appearance over time.
So you have to consider the "rattiness factor" - how much something will
wear, how quickly it will begin looking ratty.
The problem(s) with these old, uninsulated houses goes even beyond the
monthly electric bill:
(1) they are just plain uncomfortable in any season
(2) the temperature differentials are annoying
(3) you are totally and helplessly dependent upon having huge loads of
power always available via the Grid, so even a simple Brownout causes
(4) it's almst impossible to keep they reasonably dry
(5) it's hard of the HVAC system because it *always* has to run overtime,
since you're essentially cooling (and.or heating) the outside
(6) they're environmentally unsound
(7) they let in more ambient noise from the outside
(8) from what I can tell, and purely IMO, it *seems* to me like they let
more bugs in, because there is less of a buffer and less possible sealing
(and fewer places for insecticides to remain). It sounds silly, but one of
the warm-climate bugs is the Black Widow Spider, another is the Brown
Recluse Spider. I got nailed by the latter opnce, and beleive me, you do
*not* want either of those nipping your tootsies while you're on the
In any event, it doesn't sound like you'll be able to get off cheap, so you
have to factor in the work that the place needs, before making an offer,
and of course always get an inspection so that there are fewer unpleasant
HTH a little -
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