Being a homeowner at Lake Tahoe is an exercise in quirkiness, frustration and required inventiveness. Beyond all the zoning regulations required for something as seemingly simple as tree removal, there’s the inherent silliness of home construction. For many middle-class folks, buying an older (read: built before 1999) home is the only option available. And homes built circa 1950-89 aren’t really built for winter. Single pane windows, little or no insulation, baseboard heating (if at all), drafty construction, not to mention oddly designed kitchens meant more for weekend visitors than full time residents. These were a generation of homes built for summer visitors, and making it a truly year-round home requires sometimes considerable effort.
While we were lucky when we found our house – it had double pane windows! a new roof! – we knew that we would have to invest in some upgrades if only to allow wintertime temps to get above 55 F. Over the past few years these upgrades have included a clean burning wood stove, new heavier curtains and blinds, and the great ‘Insulate the walls from within’ project, where we lost a bit of floor space by adding insulation to all the external walls of the bricked ground floor.
Alas, even with all that effort, we were still losing enough heat that we still couldn’t maintain the house at a temp above 62 degrees. Luckily, a friend of ours needed a client/victim for a home efficiency study, and we offered up our quirky home. Thanks to professional evaluation, we learned that much of the heat was escaping through our afterthought, uninsulated mudroom. The solution? Add a door between the mudroom and kitchen.
Simple enough, but you must understand that nothing is simple here. The door frame was a combination of wonky (think Alice in Wonderland on a mild scale) and masonry, which is apparently a tough combination for the hardiest of DIY folks. N, to his credit, saw this, like all the other home projects, as an engineering challenge. We opted for a custom made door, which had it been cut to our measurements initially, would have been fine. Alas, the door manager at the local hardware store was not only dyslexic but stupid, and we ended up the first time with a door that didn’t fit.
Cue to this month, a year later. N was able to speak with the store managers and get a new door ordered, and spent the past weekend measuring and drilling, with little help from me, Mz. Stickyfingers. It’s up, and while there’s no finishing trim, its effects are already being noticed, both by us (house is staying warm downstairs!) and the dog (confused). And as an added bonus, we no longer have to worry about the dog getting into the trash in the mudroom.
We’re hoping that this door minimizes any immediate need to insulate the floors (another leaky part of the house), as that would be a monumental task compared to these other projects. And time will tell whether we’re saving money on our energy bills.