31 March 2006

some progress on the "Placebo Room"

What's the "Placebo Room?" you may ask. Or, you may not, but I'm going to tell you anyway.

It's the room I can work on to feel like we are making real progress on the house, while I'm stewing in slow-electrical-upgrade hell. The kitchen is all cosmetic, and cheap cosmetic, at that, work. I can feel like there's hope when I look at it and see real change. It's a mental health thing.

So I call my kitchen the Placebo Room, as it has the effect of maintaining hope for the rest of the house, as a sugar pill might have "effects" in a medication study.

Now that I've bored you, on to the real stuff. No work today, but yesterday, I got half the kitchen floor laid, all the cabinets painted except the upper doors, and got to see how the Red Drawers with Newly Polished Chrome Handles looked on the chalkboard black cabinets.

Oh, and I forgot my camera. Again.

But they looked really snazzy. I'll post a plan image, when I can get my butt in gear and transfer it from the other computer (no network, natch - it's the stone age here at mom's). Then, at some point, when I finish enough to remember the camera, we might get a sort-of-after picture.

And, we decided that the upper cabinet doors should also be Saftey Red. Because, it looks really cool like that in my cheapo home design program. And also in real life.

So we have to buy another can of spraypaint, but I think we can elbow 5 bucks into the budget.

29 March 2006

Superficial kitchen facelift

Today was the day I worked alone. SO, in an effort to prevent injuries, I worked on our temporary kitchen facelift (we budgeted about 200 bucks for this, just to make it livable until we can do the Big Kitchen Renovation, say, 5 years down the road). Let me just say that I LOVE appliance epoxy - it makes old, ugly kitchen fixtures look at least acceptable, if not fantastic. Our stove now matches our fridge, and the 1930-1950's steel cabinets are well on their way.

Things I got done:

  1. Painted the drawers red.
  2. Painted about half of the lower doors steely metallic (it got windy and I had to quit).
  3. Primed and laid sticky tile on a test patch of the floor.
  4. Painted the first of three coats of blackboard paint on the exposed ends of the cabinets (both for adults and the kids).
Things still to do:
  1. Wire the kitchen
  2. Install new light fixtures (will probably stay after the BKR)
  3. Install the new faucet set (will probably stay after the BKR)
  4. Paint over the beigy-marbled tile-patterned wall board (white, I'm thinking, and probably with Kilz.)
  5. Finish laying floor tiles ( the test was successful so far)
  6. Fix broken/missing drawer rollers in sink cabinet
  7. Patch and reskim the two plaster walls we've revealed, then paint.
  8. Paint cabinet frames black, pull and paint upper doors black.
  9. Pick the six least shiny chrome handles and paint them black (for lower doors)
That's a lot of stuff to do yet, for this superficial makeover. I did, however, discover that the nylon washers I bought to replace the several missing drawer wheels in the sink cabinet were the wrong size - I need 1 1/4 inch washers instead of 1 1/8. Grrr. That's a long drive to return 5 bucks worth of nylon washers. But I also need to buy another can or two of epoxy paint. I sense that I'll run short if I don't.

28 March 2006

Enforced Inaction

Mom's at her Physical Therapist's office today, and Chris had to go in to the office to interview a couple of applicants (even though he's supposed to be on medical leave until tomorrow, interviews aren't exactly physically strenuous), so that means NO SITTER for the boy.

I've been stewing in my creative juices all day. I'm just DYING to get in and get the kitchen worked on, or the boy's room, or SOMETHING. Argh.

My house is only a few blocks away. It's maddening. I want to work, dangit.

27 March 2006

Fortune Cookie Fu

We ate at the local Chinese buffet tonight, as it was declared a "no cooking" night here at Mom's.

C got the following fortune:
Be patient. Good things come to those who wait.

And I got this one:
You are capable of extremely hard work and dedication.

I don't know if the above is a blessing or a curse...


Went to Lowe's yesterday, and scored several lovely bargains. In other news, my blog doesn't seem to be showing up on Houseblogs' feed. If you see it there, please comment, so I know I'm not going crazy :) Also, I just noticed (okay, it was actually on Friday) that the banner for Houseblogs shows a lovely old deadbolt that's shifted slightly. Just enough to not work ... I'd seen so many of these over the years that it just went right over my head every other time I'd looked at it. Mom saw it and laughed, saying something about how emblematic that was of the whole rehab experience.

Bargains, itemized, sort of:

2 cans of paint in a nice mossy Arts & Crafts green, off the "orphans" rack in the paint dept: $5.00 each

1 can of a nice sky blue for The Boy's room, again an orphan: $10.00 (higher end decorator brand)

4 rolls of paper appropriate for placing above the borders in the livingroom and dining room (in the "frieze" area): $1.50 each

A new chrome bakers rack for our kitchen: $40.00 (down from $80.00)

And ... A cool Deco-streamline style white and chrome vanity 3-light fixture (like what my husband wanted) for the bathroom: $10.50 (down from $80.00 - discontinued, and it had all its parts)

I got some other stuff, too, but those were the nifty bargains.

25 March 2006


The new light fixture (a flushmount with stars, moons and suns areound the edge) is up in my son's room, and it has a functioning switch. Looks great.

The last vestiges of the enthusiastically nailed dropped ceiling in the dining room and hallway are GONE! Gonegonegone! Yay! Now the repair of the cracks in the plaster can actually commence.

There is no longer a vast swath of stained, old, glued-down, blue indoor-outdoor carpet in the kitchen - I ripped it out with shouts of glee this afternoon. Now, of course, the inexplicably ugly linoleum (no pictures) can be seen, in all its blue-green, grey and red glory. At least it gives me a guide for laying the new sticky tiles.

The kitchen cabinets have had all handles removed, and the doors and drawers are off in preparation for painting. We even fixed the wonky hinge on one of the cabinets that's been bothering me since we walked the house initially.

The wall of the long, narrow (and unusable) pass-thru closet that we're incorporating into the master bedroom is now completely stripped down to studs. Interestingly, the studs all have pencilled notation on them. We also have a HUGE pile of plaster & lath debris to dispose of now, and some nice mouldings to use in places where original mouldings or edgings were damaged. There's also about 50 pounds of plaster roughcoat that dripped down onto the plate when they were coating the walls, and that's just peachy-keen to chip out.

I also took hi-res photos of the wallpaper fragments. Might get to reconstruct the stuff now :)

Still to tackle:

Bathroom. We're almost avoiding it, because it MUST be gutted and re-done. All the fixtures and associated bobs have been bought, but we still must buy Wonderboard, tile, adhesive and grout.

Dining room posts, beams and ceiling. We need to figure and purchase lumber, as well as figuring how much drywall is needed. That'll come this evening, I think.

What to do with the paint in the master bedroom... So far the only input my husband has given is "Warm. It should be warm and cozy." Which I agree with, and which really doesn't help much. The lights for the master bedroom and the dressing room are an antiqued copper. That should help, but it doesn't. Quandary.

24 March 2006

We survived the cold snap..

And so did our plumbing. I have been suffering from nightmares involving flooding and house collapse (as seen in The Money Pit), but the house, which seems to be under a Special Dispensation from Above, is just fine.

I was going to go over to the house today and rip up the glued-down carpet in the kitchen (it's on top of perfectly good but hideous linoleum), but got distracted by my gestational diabetes test. I won't, of course, find out whether I "passed" or not until monday, when my next OB appointment is. Whee. I'm probably fine, except for having to drink what amounts to concentrated flat orange soda :P

We've got a sort of a tradition of buying and rehabbing houses during pregnancy in my family - my parents did this too, with their first project house in 1975, and the next one in 1977. I've got a goal of moving in on or around Tax Day - we'll see how well it goes. As long as we can get moved in before I have a baby in my arms, we're okay.

Practical things:

The breaker box should be going in (well, at least dry-fitted) tomorrow. I'm charging our saw batteries right now. After that, we'll be able to really get the several outlet circuits in from below without losing our places ;)

I've figured out an elegant, Anglo-Japanese style arrangement for the necessary support beam and its attendant posts in our dining room. It'll go nicely with the planned false beams on the ceiling. I'll post a drawing as soon as I have it scanned. I'm also considering building box-type window seats into the two ends of the bay - they would be ideal, and perhaps some nice Stickley-style wall-hanging shelves would be good, too. Or maybe we can scrape up another 30 bucks and get two more sconces ... Hmmm.

I'm debating making a plaque to mount our new house numbers on - perhaps wood or aged hammered copper? I hate it when I can't make up my mind.

I'm still working on my reconstruction of the original paper I found bits of. So far, it looks fairly neat, and I may send what I've got off to Bradbury and Bradbury for their archives once I get it done. If they're interested.

I've been toying with paint colors for each room, and how to use the edging papers I found, and whether I want to make a freize ... So far, we've got greys and blues for the living room, and greens and browns for the dining room, and red/black/white with steel and chrome in our unavoidably 1930's kitchen. Possibly deep blue with white and chrome in the bath, with or without black accents. Nothing yet for the master bedroom suite (bedroom and dressing room will be done the same), and we're still juggling ideas for the boy's room.

21 March 2006

putting the brakes on

... my frustration, that is.

We had some good things happen, we accomplished some stuff.

We're on Houseblogs.net (waves at the legions of other housemad people out there).
We got several things we need for the house, including a nifty lockset-positioning thingy for installing our new deadbolts.
We finally remembered to pick up a couple of smoke alarms.
We also finally remembered to get the new digital thermostat that ought to make our gas bill less horrible, once the gas is back on.

And the sun finally came out, to at least partially melt the snow.

note to weather gods

Dear Weather Gods,

Normally I love snow. I love taking my son out into it to play, I love throwing snowballs at my husband and running away. It looks cool. My dog even likes it.


We'd Really, Really, like to move into our house before the middle of April. We are being somewhat delayed by the low temperatures and inclement weather, as there is currently little electricity and NO HEAT in the house, which makes working in it near impossible.

I can't even lay sticky tile in the kitchen right now. My freind who is generously giving of his small quantity of spare time to help us rewire probably won't willingly venture into the frigid attic where all the lighting circuits are.

Please, PLEASE, allow us to get some work done this week. Please?

Thank you,
the Slaves.

20 March 2006

Cursed by the weather gods

The gas is off, as is the electricity, which means no heat.

We are having a last-of-the-season cold snap, INCLUDING SNOW.

Visions of broken pipes and a flooded cellar are currently dancing through my head.

I can only hope that the low-tech method of leaving all the taps dripping (okay, I was a touch paranoid so they're actually trickling, and from both hot and cold) will save us from unforseen disasters.


18 March 2006

Still alive!

We're still alive. The computer had a heart attack last week, so yesterday we had to buy a new power supply so I can continue boring others with my ranting, and here we are.

We have been working like mad on the house, despite C's minor surgery this week, and wiring is going apace. So far, several lengths of scary old wiring of various kinds have come down out of the attic, and we have one circuit up and running.

I found more wallpaper, same room. It's the field paper, with enough of the motif to figure it out. Pictures later.

There's a sag in the diningroom, at the join between the bay and the original construction. Things Must Be Done About This, as it is just sort of hanging in space. I see beams in my future, and screwjacks, and pain.

Bought vinyl tile for kitchen - real kitchen renovation isn't happening for a few years, but it doesn't have to be vile until we do the Big Renovation. I painted our perfectly functional almond gas stove silver and black using appliance epoxy and stove paint. Ten bucks for a matching appliance certainly isn't bad to me!

More later - I have to get overalled and head over to the new place. Pictures, too.

08 March 2006

Archaeology and evidence

Well, went back today for a short tour with my mom - she's helping us buy this place, and I inherited my love of old things that need repair from her. Someday, I'll blog her current mania, the Wolfe-Tucker house, built in 1857. But that's another story, and a long one :)

What we mostly did was to take photos. This is but a small sampling, and I'll add narration between them. The rest are here. One of the things that really gets me going when working on an old house is the archaeology factor - there are always surprises, and sometimes, hey are even good ones. These are mostly good ones.

This really doesn't look very interesting, but it is probably the original olive color in the kitchen. I was thrilled to find it so easily.

This was lurking in the closet, and had been recycled as a closet hanger rod from the original bath or the kitchen (both were olive). It's an original towel bar, and will be going back into the bath.

Not much to say here, except: LOOK! spare original floorboards! There are actually 4 - one is in the car, in case we need to match them.

Here's what I promised pics of a couple of days ago - the small fragment of original paper in the dining room. It survived by virtue of having been papered over and then plastered over when the bay was put on the house in the 20's. Thank God for old, bad DIY sometimes. I'm going to try to excavate more of the pattern - there's a good half a square foot of plaster roughcoat that overlaps probable wallpaper remains. Mom is farily sure that's a WWI era paper. Once I've chipped enough away, I'll reconstruct it in Adobe Illustrator and post an image here. The inks are bronze and sliver iridescent on a cream paper, and they are still reflective after 90 years and being buried under plaster. Amazing.

This doesn't look very interesting either, but it's a closeup of the probably 1920's siver&grey paper over the earliest layer - an ochre yellow, very Arts & Crafts.

The small bedroom was originally a bright cerise, probably because the family that built it had a little girl - it was from her that the PO's parents bought it in 1950. That makes us the third family to live in it, and all three were young families with a kid or two. Oh, another cool thing - the family who built the place? They were related to the family that built my mom's place.

This just keeps getting cooler and cooler.

Tomorrow: Escrow closes! WooHOO!


So, as we don't have the money this year to make over the front of the house, we sat down and made some sketches. I've been researching porches for a week now, trying to figure out what I want to do, what would be appropriate, what would keep the finished porch part of the year-round living space and still come out looking Craftsman-style.

Currently (this may change, of course), we plan to go from this:

to this:

This will obviously begin with the much desired removal of the plastic siding (admittedly, they attempted to be harmonious when they picked this stuff, but it's still plastic) that wraps the front porch monolithically, and makes it look rather like a Very Tall Doublewide. This will be followed by (or preceded by) the ripping out of the front steps and the remains of the old iron railings (there are currently a couple of uprights left). I'm glad the back door is closer to our driveway. The windows will stay, but they and the door will get appropriate trim, while the door will be replaced with either the restored original front door and a nice full-glass storm door or a harmoniously designed modern steel door (if we can find one).

The bottom of the porch will be faced with brick tiles - the kind that are cast off actual antique bricks - laid over a concrete board underlayment. This is admittedly a cost saving measure, but the porch was reframed about 10 years ago and is quite solid. The front steps will be concrete based, with full brick facings, and the piers will be brick (we plan to use recycled brick) with concrete caps and a painted wood railing.

The top of the porch will be framed up to suggest beams, and I'm still deciding what to do about thae little bit of non-"beam", non-window and non-trim space. I'm thinking stucco, as it's an easy solution, but it'll clash with the original siding. I don't want to use clapboard there, though. I'm stuck.

Good thing we have couple of years to think about this.

07 March 2006


I, typically, forgot my camera. No pictures were taken today, which is just a Murphy's law thing as I discovered a fragment of an early paper under the textured skimcoat that I've been chipping off since Friday.

Pictures tomorrow, though. I promise.

In other news, nearly the entire hallway is crack free! Less work for me, yay!

05 March 2006

More excitement! Good, bad, ugly...

First, out with some more fug, and eventually, in with the beautiful, restored bathroom. So far, I got about half of the plastic tile off before eau-de-puke scented adhesive (what is that stuff?) drove me out of the house.

Yes, out of the house. Bleh. No pictures, maybe Tuesday. I'm busy all during those precious daylight hours Monday, so I get no cathartic de-muddling joy.

Which brings us to our next subject of discussion: Why "precious daylight hours," you may ask? Well, one of the main reasons this house was such a deal (I'm not naming numbers, here, as we're still in escrow until Thursday, but our home loan is an amount normally financed for buying a new car), is that the wiring is, uhm, eccentric? Very DIY? Very much in evidence of having been done by several people who had no idea how to wire things?

All of the above, really. Twist-tie style connections, poor or no use of electrical tape (try masking tape!), connections completely lacking in caps of any kind, no boxes, 2 circuits, perhaps 10 outlets all told, at least one fixture hanging by the aforementioned twist-tie style connections, a mixture of knob and tube and more advanced types of wiring ... I could literlally go on and on, but I'd like to sleep tonight. Essentially we have ruled it unsafe to turn any lights on, plug anything in, etcetera, until such time as we have rewired everything. That's scheduled for next weekend, when we will have a workparty including some good friends that are also experienced rehabbers over for a day of slavery and pizza, followed by beer.

We've spent about 2 grand so far on materials, but that does cover the replacement tub and sink for the bath and all the fun electrical bits and bobs, including budget-but-acceptable replacement light fixtures. Whee! Bye, bye, money! Thanks, Uncle Sam, for allowing us a tax refund that will make our house livable!

Our dining room is now full of debris, but I did find that the ultra-fashionable 1930's sandtextured skimcoat (badly cracked) under the fuglyfuglyfugly 1960's panelling was poorly applied. Why is this good? Our house isn't a 1930's house, it's a 'teens house, and I really never have liked that sand-stucco-effect stuff, everever. So, being badly applied, it comes off with little resistance - apparently the walls were not washed properly after the original wallpaper was pulled down, leaving a nice coat of paste between the beautiful original smooth perfect (except for a few easily fixable cracks) fine plaster finish coat and the later texture. I practically did a little dance of joy when I saw how easy this was going to be.

Oh, and the plaster? It also shows where the border paper was placed! Whee!

Then, we found a strange mold (not black, some other mold) was growing on but not destroying the lath in the DR bay. Weird, and time to whip out the ol' Lysol.

See you Tuesday.

03 March 2006

Good bone structure, bad makeup

Well, to get things started, we are buying our first house. Escrow closes next Thursday, and we have worked out an agreement with the current owner to get started on the restoration ASAP.

We think it might be a Sears kit, probably built in 1916 or 1917. The coal bin in the cellar is papered with newspapers from both years. It was remodeled slightly in the 1920's to provide interior cellar stairs, a bay on the dining room, and a larger kitchen and back porch.

It's a great little house, 2 or 3 bedrooms depending on who you talk to, small but servicable bath, nice sized kitchen, closed in front porch, large living and dining rooms, etc. Gorgeous woodwork, which is, mostly, unmolested. Great hardwood floors which have escaped wear mostly by virtue of being hidden under the VILEST of wall-to-wall carpets ... and an inspired abuse of "wood" panelling (six kinds. Of the variety that is real wood made to look fake. The world is a strange and dark place sometimes).

The bathroom is a case of fabulous 1950's plastic-tile fugly. Out it goes, though we're trying to salvage it for someone who may want it for a 1950's house. The adhesive used on this stuff has mostly let go, which means I can scrape it off with a putty knife, but it also smells like essence of vomit. Yay.