homes gardens by robbiecokkin



Ask Judith ?
A Green Holiday; Buying a House
by Judith Capen

Q. How can I green my old house?

A. This is a very big question with lots of subcategories depending on whether you
are planning a major rehab, whether your house is wood or brick, its orientation, how
much of it is attached, like a row house, how much free standing…
    Furthermore, ‘green’ as currently defined includes not just carbon footprint but
also things like light pollution, runoff and landscaping, water usage, and indoor air
    Whew. Where to begin?
    Let’s begin with you. It really doesn’t matter how green your house is if you aren’t.
And it’s December so what is preoccupying most Americans?
    The answer, probably: the Holidays. Mostly Christmas, of course, but also Ha-
nukkah and maybe a little Kwanza. Presents for everyone! Buy buy, wrap wrap. Prac-
tice the American consumer religion.
    But, you can be green for the holidays and even move your house a little that way
with your gift-giving.
    First, and this is the gold plated, standard, do-it-yesterday advice for anyone who
wants to help out with greening the world: compact fluorescent bulbs. Give them as
stocking stuffers for everyone (I like the ones where the curly bulb is inside a shell
that makes it look like a flood for downlights).
    For friends and family who have showers without low flow heads, that’s another
great stocking stuffer that gets points in two categories: water use reduction and sav-
ing energy. Almost all showerheads screw off to be easily replaced with a low flow
    A programmable thermostat is a gift that will keep giving all year in energy
savings. They’re small and would easily fit in a stocking although you’ll have to call
                                                                                            TOP: Close the cover and this programmable thermo-
someone to install it.                                                                      stat looks nicer. You can program it to set-back at
    You can become famous among family members for the greenest stocking                    night while you’re asleep, to come on in the morning as
stuffers.                                                                                    you’re getting up in the morning and getting ready to
                                                                                            leave the house, then to set back while you’re at work,
    With your other gift buying don’t forget the 4 Rs (Refrain, Reduce, Reuse, Re-          and turn the heat or cooling back on when you get
cycle) plus S for Sustainability. (OK, I added Refrain. It seems to me the first step        home before going to bed. You can do all this yourself,
should be not to buy at all with the second step buying less.) Try to apply them to all     manually, but human nature being what it is…With
                                                                                            the program you can automatically limit heating and/or
your holiday consuming and celebrating.                                                     cooling your house to only the hours you need it.
    Let’s talk about regifting. No wonder Americans have attics, basements, and off-
site storage, all full. Just donate the awful things people give you. Hold onto the         BOTTOM: Compact fluorescents (CFL to the cogno-
                                                                                            scenti), both the curly kind and ones disguised to look
nice, but-not-for-you stuff, until you think of someone who would like it…If it’s the        like floods.
thought that counts, you got it so you don’t have to hold onto the thing itself unless
you really like it.
    If you re-gift, you get two of the Rs: refrain from buying new and reuse. And if

156 ★ HillRag |December 2007
you have run out of things to
                                       6000 sq. ft. vacant lot on Capitol Hill
re-gift consider writing checks
to good causes like buying a
goat for an impoverished fam-         Rare Opportunity
ily in a less-developed country
in the name/honor of your             at a Great Location!
kid’s teachers (Heifer Inter-
national at
or Oxfam www.oxfamameri- Or write
a check to Trees for Capitol                            Two blocks from the Potomac Ave. Metro
Hill or Congressional Cem-                              stop, the new Harris Teeter and the
                                                                                                                        1400 K STREET, SE
etery for a tree and tell your                          Anacostia Waterfront riverwalk. Near                            A Wonderful Location
                                                                                                                        on Capitol Hill
gift recipients you did it in                           Pennsylvania Ave retail corridor, Eastern
their name(s). Or, give every-                          Market and Barracks Row.
one on your list money in the
form of donations to
(as little as $25.) an organiza-                                                                    Kitty Kaupp & Tati Kaupp
tion who makes micro-loans to                                                                       Coldwell Banker
poor people around the world.                                                                       Residential Real Estate
When the loans are repaid, the                                                                      605 Pennsylvania Avenue SE
people in whose names you                                                                           202 255 0952 cell
donated would get the money,                                                                        202 741 1699 office
it having already worked for
     If you must buy things, give
some green thought to your
     How about a massage? I         3 buildable lots totalling 6000 sq. ft.,
bet a massage gift certificate       3 two family flats or up to 6 condos
has yet to end up in off-site        possible. Blueprints available (McAlli-
storage.                            ster Architects); 10' Easement provides
     You can buy books that are     all lots with parking. 13,000 sf GBA.
like new from Alibris or the        $850,000
big booksellers, saving the odd
tree and getting points for re-
     If you still find yourself
absolutely impelled to buy
something, go to the National
Building Museum and buy one
of their very cool items made
from recycled or sustainable
stuff. (Or visit them online).
     As always, dark chocolate
(fair trade, please) is good, as
is red wine. (Don’t forget to
recycle the bottle and send the
cork to:
     Wine Cork Recycling
     Yemm & Hart Ltd.
     1417 Madison 308
     Marquand, MO 63655
     Read up on this recycling
Do this one soon before there
are no more natural cork corks,
just plastic and screw tops.
     Chocolate makes you hap-
py with serotonin and red wine
helps you live longer with a

                                                                                                              ★ 157
                   CLASSIC                                                healthy heart so you can continue to refrain, reduce, reuse, and recycle.
                                                                          Maybe you should consider unhealthy gifts of Twinkies and cigarettes for
                   DESIGN & BUILD                                         friends and family who vote Republican and own SUVs.
                                                                              Sorry to digress so far from house greening. Practice personal greening
              “Designs that will stand the test of time.”                 for a bit and I’ll get back to you with more about greening your house.

                                                                          Q. Since it seems like the real estate market has settled down a bit, I thought I
                                                                          might be able to buy a real Capitol Hill house, old, with character, wood floors,
                                                                          plaster walls. Any advice on what to look for?

                                                                          A. My advice is mostly to be an educated consumer, looking carefully at
                                                                          the potential purchase. For sure, you need to look beyond the superficial
                                                                          coats of paint slapped on to spruce it up to go on the market, the quickie

    Specializing in whole home renovations, additions and custom homes.
                    Classic Design guarantees an exciting,
                 satisfying experience every step of the way.

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   Heating                                                                            TOP TO BOTTOM:

   Drain Cleaning                                                                     Consider before you buy. It will cost $25,000. to get the paint off the pressed brick
                                                                                      and repoint, not to mention the money to fix the over-sanded floors and replace the
                                                                                      vinyl windows not visible in the picture.

                                                                                      This painted, pressed brick looks like $25,000 to me to get the paint off and repaint.

                                                                                      This is what unpainted pressed brick should look like with its thin, ‘butter,’ joints.

158 ★ HillRag |December 2007
kitchen re-do with non-Ener-
gy Star appliances and cabinets
you’re not crazy about.
     After looking at the house
you found and thinking about
your desire for authenticity, I
think you should adjust your
offer since you will have to
spend a lot of money to undo
dumb things that have been
done to the house in the name
of ‘improvements.’
     You should reduce the ask-
ing price by about $25,000 to
remove the paint, including
the brand new coat, from the
pressed brick and repoint. (You
can recognize pressed brick by
its very smooth face and the
tiny joints between the brick,
called ‘butter joints.’) Don’t’
worry about the paint on the
back of the house as it is com-
mon brick (note the rougher
face and 3/8” mortar joints),
sometimes painted historically.
     I’d reduce the asking price
by $15,000. to $20,000, so
you’ll have money to replace
the old pine floors when the
recently applied polyurethane
wears through on traffic paths
and gets all scratched and
when you sand to refinish there
isn’t enough wood left and all
the shoulders break off.
     Count the number of vi-
nyl windows and multiply by
$1,300-$1,500, to know how
much it will cost you to remove             F o r A l l Yo u r
them and replace with wood.
     It will cost you $15,000-
                                           Roofing Needs                                                    Kitchens, Baths
$20,000 to reinstall the ra-
diators so recently ripped out.
                                     S P E C I A L I Z I N G I N H I S T O R I C R E S T O R AT I O N
                                                                                                               & Beyond
You can hold onto the ducted                                  • New Roofs/Re-roofs/Repairs
forced air system for cooling,                                • Specialty Roof Coatings &                   As a design/build firm we can plan your
but will have to install a new                                  Patching                                    project complete with drawings and permits
boiler, restored radiators, and                                                                             – our carpenters, cabinetmakers, painters &
                                                              • Tear Off/ Torch Down                        licensed subcontractors carry it out.
piping all over the place to get
                                                              • Tin/ Metal/ Rubber/Copper/
lovely hydronic heat back.
                                                                Slate/Cedar Shakes                          Our woodworking shop can build almost
     I don’t know if you can ac-                                                                            anything from the counter tops to built-ins,
tually get the buyer to reduce                                • Flashing
                                                                                                            to doors and windows.
the price by these amounts.        F R E E E S T I M AT E S   • Waterproofing & Gutters
But, it’s important to recognize                              • Brick Pointing                              We do smaller projects, too, such as
                                   40 YEARS
that too many of the ‘improve-     EXPERIENCE                 • Chimney Repairs & Skylights                 replacement windows and doors, baths,
ments’ made to Capitol Hill                                                                                 painting in & out, refinishing doors, railings,
old houses are often anything      L O C A L LY                                     $   Senior Discount $   etc., and replacing counter tops.
                                   OWNED &
but. A lot of these sorts of       O P E R AT E D
‘improvements’ just succeed in
costing some subsequent own-                                                                                  Joel Truitt Builders, Inc.
er much more money to undo                       Advanced Roofing Systems                                               734 7th Street, SE
or make repairs. ■
                                                202-491-9153                                                             202-547-2707
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                                                                                                                                   ★ 159

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