23 April 2006

Beauty from ugliness

It's really amazing what a difference patching and applying a skimcoat over a cracked, be-holed, and befouled plastered surface can make. My morale went up about 10 points yesterday. My kitchen nears completion, and approaches paintability. As do my son's room and our dining room. FX's room, actually, is so close to completion that I think we might just get it done in the next couple of weeks. The ugly, dented and cracked outer corners in both dining room and kitchen look like new. I love patching plaster. The cleanup can bite my butt (I hate that part), but the process is a dream.

In other news, the breaker box is ready for installation, with its new home cut into the cellar stairwell wall. We have real outlets appearing as if by magic throughout the house (J and K have earned my finishing and structural carpentry slavery many times over with their help on this, and I think I promised yesterday to help K with a cheapo kitchen makeover this fall...).

There is hope in my heart! We may even move in before my next child arrives (I say that as if he's hovering in a holding pattern somewhere overhead, but he goes with me to the house every time...).

No pictures, as usual. I didn't think the changes would be so dramatic, so I didn't bring my camera.

15 April 2006

Ambitious plans for making do

I am really beginning to thank my lucky stars for the time I spent doing theatrical backstage work. What, you may ask, does that have to do with rehabbing a house?

Actually, a great deal, if you have a lot of cosmetic oddness and no money to deal with it. Set, costume and prop design and construction (all of which I have done) really come down to creatively making things do what they aren't intended to do at all. Like turning plywood into a house in Venice, or making an axe out of wood, foam, paint and glue.

Take, for example, the nice, solid, dependable, MODERN, Andersen casement storm windows in our screen porch:

Nice enough, but they Really Do Not Go With Our House. I've been puzzling over what to do with them to make them work, without having to replace the things.

Today, I pulled an interior screen out and looked at the psuedo-mullions. They are made of plastic and they snap into the frames, so I should be able to pull them out and modify them (epoxy is my friend) to a more appropriate appearance.

That's my mockup of what they might look like. Hopefully. OTOH, I may just be able to make nice wooden ones, too. We'll see. It's a future project, probably won't happen until we've been there awhile. But now I think I can fix it, and I rest a little easier.

Kitchen! I am the Sticky-tile Empress!

What is she going on about? I'm really good at doing things with sticky tile (self-stick vinyl tiles for the normal people reading), many of which sticky tile was never intended to do. I've done my grandmother's bathroom, in such a way that it looks like we spent FAR more than 100 bucks on it. Mosaic, fancy cuts, etc. I get crazy with the stuff. It's wonderful when you want something to be temporarily livable/pretty until you can do the real renovations, and you've got a small budget.

Anyway, I stuck it to the Awful Tileboard in our kitchen toady, and to the Hideous Vomit-and-Cream Formica counter, as well as to our floor. The floor was fairly normal and straightforward, and has come out BEAUTIFULLY. Here we have photos of my kitchen cabinets, just about complete:

That's the temporary, cheeeeep new countertop solution: heavy-duty sticky tile, with a couple of painted strips of mdf stop moulding.

It looked so sexy I had to get our new knives out (housewarming gift to ourselves) and make them pose against it.

And this is what the counter looked like prior to covering it up. Yes, it is in 3 pieces, for no apparent reason. I stabilized it with the painted moulding strips prior to attaching Ye Olde Sticky Tile. It came out great.

I must, at this point, add that I am Very Impressed with the latex surface primer suggested by some nice sales monkey at one of the big home-improvement stores we've haunted recently. It DOES actually help the tiles adhere. VERY WELL - so well, in fact, that there will be no repositioning of tiles. If you screw up, scrape the tile up and get a new one out. This means that my normally non-feasible technique of covering up hideous formica tileboard (done it before, natch) with sticky tiles is now much more practical.

Also here is a preview of my plans for the sink cabinet:

This will, of course require Even More Paint, plus more sticky tiles (I have those) and I have to make another trip to the hardware store to buy the right size nylon washers (so I can replace the drawer slide roller wheels and my drawers will hang straight). It's SOOOO obviously a mockup, but that still looks better than what's there.

You may have noticed some of the doors hanging open, above. There's a reason. The closure springs are mostly gone. A question, for anyone who may be reading this: Do you know of a source for replacement hinge-spring assemblies for old steel cabinets? I'm fairly good at research, but this has me stumped.

13 April 2006

And now, for something completely different...

... I know I've been dropping hints about my mother's fabulous house pretty much all the time, so, as this is another Involuntary Inaction day wrt our little bungalow, I'll post some pictures of the Great Crumbling (not really) Pile. I'm thinking that I might do this on my off days, from now on, since this place isn't being blogged anywhere and I'm working on it for mom, since her back injury.

These were all taken in winter, hence the snow. I really need to get some photos of the inside and the outside in spring - it's really gorgeous now.

This is the house from about halfway down the lawn toward the road. Looks like a typical colonial/federal type house. It's bigger than it looks here - each of the 4 rooms in this wing are 20x20 feet, with very tall ceilings (10'+, with teh lower floor having higher ceilings than the upper by a foot or two), and the hall is a good 10x20, with a well-preserved formal staircase. Note to self: get pictures.

That funny little pseudo-antebellum semicircular porch is both incorrect (if you look closely, you can see the outline of the original front verandah on the walls) , and Badly Installed. It slopes toward the house (BAD).We have grand plans to rip it out and rebuild the original verandah, but that requires a jackhammer and money that's just not there right now.

We don't use this entrance much at all, as there is no path to it and the porch is horrible. That ought to change once we replace the missing, correct, USABLE porch.

This was taken after walking around that line of trees to the left in the picture above. This is a view around the side of the house to the remaining old barn (or older barn - it was probably built using older lumber from a now-missing structure), which Needs Help if it is to remain standing. There are plans to rescue it, as it's such a neat old building, and other than requiring some shoring (and sistering a cracked beam, and fixing a busted door, and...) it's still in fairly good shape.

This is a view walking around the other side of the house, toward the side entrance, now used as the main entrance. Here the beautiful original verandah is still in evidence, save for its brackets. In this wing is a large (20x40+?) lower room, and two upstairs rooms a narrow room (20x10) and a large room, probably intended to be the nursery (20x30).

We're walking, we're walking... Now you can see (nearly) the whole of the verandah. Also, you can see the kitchen addition (the short part of the house), and that it has FOUR chimneystacks. That does in fact mean 8 fireplaces and attendant flues. No, none of them are usable just now. LIning them is also on the to-do list. We are currently living above the kitchen, in a 20x30 room that pretty neatly holds most of our furniture.

Okay, this is taken from the corner of the kitchen addition looking toward the front of the house.

Now, some historical info- this house was built in 1857 by a Mr. Wolfe for his sister and brother-in-law (the Tuckers) to live in. It's a virtual copy of several l-shaped Shenandoah Valley Federal houses, though it is in southern Illinois. We suspect that it is actually a copy of an older house in that area.

Most of the rooms have been at least partially restored, but the nursery is the last one, and we have a good deal of tuckpointing (on the chimneybreast) and replastering to do yet in there. There is still, thankfully, quite a bit of the original woodgraining left in the house, though the PO did sand/refinish some of the floors (he was VERY good at structural repairs - we have him to thank for having a new roof, sound foundation and non-collapsing, non-sealed chimneys-, and admitted himself that he wasn't suited to restoring the interior).

Besides not having any images of the interior yet, you don't see the l-shaped back porch (there are four doors that exit onto this porch from the main floor) in any of these pictures. There's also a 3/4 cellar under the kitchen and part of the main house.

And, this is just down the road from my little 20th century house. Very handy!

10 April 2006

Comments encouraged ... and now enabled

I just went and checked my comment settings. I had NO IDEA that the default setting only allowed other Blogger users to leave comments (slaps head).

If there's anything you wanted to tell me, I've fixed that now. I did turn on word verification, though, just in case some enterprising spambot wants to make life tough.

Back to work.

09 April 2006

House Rehab Illustrated

I finally remembered to bring the camera. Included herein are images of the kitchen, so far; before/after images of the front door; some cool Basement Archaeology shots; and other things, with my typical boring narration. Oh, and please pardon our dust and construction debris. Everywhere.

And Now, to the Pictures!

First, the kitchen, before:

Bleh. Notice the grimy blue carpet. It's glued down ... with wood glue.

and so far:

The cabinets are being painted flat black (blackboard paint), with silver lower doors, and Safety Red drawers and upper doors. I cleaned the chromed handles, which are all the same for the main bank of cabinets (BTW, magic eraser sponges work great for this, with a bit of degreaser for the greasy parts - my friend K. thought I had replated them!), then picked out the six most worn ones and sprayed them black with epoxy paint. Those six went on the matte silver doors, and the cleaned chrome ones look wonderful against the red painted drawers.

We plan to do the same to the sink cabinet, but it involves a bit more work to take apart. Plus we need to buy more paint...

I am really loving how the cheapo sticky tiles are making the old floor look larger. It's not ideal, and not period to the house, but we'll have a kitchen we can enjoy until we can do better.

And now, the Original Front Door (now the living room interior door), with Icky Kwiky goldtone lockset:

and without:

The paint is pretty bad, yes, but cleaning the hardware and making it pretty can wait until we're in the house. Removing the offending modern lockset prior to moving in could not wait. And it still looks better than it did.

I'm no Indiana Jones, but I did discover some cool stuff in the cellar.

For example, when you look up and you aren't busy being terrified by Horrible Old Wiring, you can find some bizarre things, like an old Esso sign being used to fit the new ductwork under the original coal furnace heat vent:

Plus, I think the part that was cut out is leaning against a wall elsewhere. Neat.

Now, I know it's not cellar related, but do you remember these?

They are the access panels for the bathroom plumbing. Which has no cutoff valves. None. Zip. Nada. I have no idea why you need access panels if you have no cutoff valves. Yes, they are on our to-do list.

Anyway, those panels? They're made of another old sign:

I think the rest of it has been used to make the interior cellar door solid, and that's a whole entry all by itself. Anyway, get a load of the name - "Critic Feeds" :D

Back to creeping around in the basement. I stuck the camera through a hole I punched in the plastic stapled over the access to the foundation of the dining room bay, adn I took some photos, to see what was there.

I found an old porch swing and some mouldings:

God knows if that thing can be saved, but it's pretty cool to find it at all.

and what probably happened to parts of the original kitchen cabinets:

Yep, that's what they are. I don't think they are salvageable. Makes you sad, too, doesn't it? At least I will have references to use when we do get around to doing the Big Kitchen Renovation.

And finally, to close, here's a couple of images of the old (but not original) coal furnace:

It's still hooked up to the flue, but obviously hasn't been used for decades. That first photo is its tag, which is on the back. It's probably a 1930's model, judging from the styling.

More photos later, but this is a good start. I still haven't found any stamping, but I'm too pregnant to fit through the attic access panel, which is where i'm most liekly to find marks.

Lockset Archaeology, plus more working lights!

We spent yesterday continuing with the electrical work and moving original parts of the house around. Now, thanks to our Wonderful Freinds, we have a hallway light fixture, and my son's room has light, and things are really moving along that way. So well, in fact, that we need to buy some more wire :)

However, Chris and I did stuff not related to electrical work. We went looking for various bits of hardware that had been relocated over the years and tried to put it back. This kind of thing is one of my favorite rehab activities - I get to play archaeologist.

I was started on that path because our original (now interior, as our porch was enclosed 10 years ago) front door had had its lockset and attendant hardware removed and replaced with a modern Kwikset lockset (YUCK! I despise shiny yellow goldtone) sometime in the last 30-odd years. There have not been any keys for that lockset for nearly 15 years (according to the PO), so we were going to have to remove it, no matter what, and replace it with something that our 3-year-old can't use to permanently exclude us from the house.

I thought of something odd I had seen on the (now interior - also has a now-enclosed porch) back door, involving a knob/key plate that didn't look like it was set right. It looked too large, and the interior one, while smaller, was still larger than the rest of the interior plates. This matched up nicely with the scars on the front door, as did the edge face of the lockset, once we removed the Icky Kwicky lockset and knobs. I delightedly disinstalled the relocated mortise lockset and brought it into the living room, where Chris was working on the door.

Chris observed that the latch was going the wrong way, and said that this must not be the right set. I pointed out that somebody had clearly disassembled the lockbox and removed the deadbolt (I'm guessing about the time the key disappeared) and the button stops (privacy knob-locks). It looks very similar to this repro mortise lockset, but is made of iron with steel working parts. Chris then unscrewed the two screws, pulled out the latch and flipped it over, and put it all back together. After all that, it worked fine and tapped into its original hole perfectly. We still have to strip off the eighty-one billion layers of old paint from the plates, and then refinish them and the knobs, but it already looks a million times better.

Yes, our internal kitchen/back door is now without knobs, but I know where its originals went (and plan to harvest them and replace them), and the latch hadn't lined up with the (wrong) strikeplate for decades anyway. It had locked with first a twist bolt (since painted into oblivion) and then a small surface bolt for ages and ages.

I have ambitous plans for relocating various doors throughout the house so they are more useful (such as the all-glass basement entry and its lovely old wood-framed screen door, the current interior kitchen rear door, and the old kitchen/hall door). There are two non-original, but clearly older, doors that are going to go away to more appropriate homes once the doorway shuffling is complete.

There's also some strangely located edge molding that was stuck into the cellar stair doorway in addition to the stop molding. For no good reason. That will also be removed, stripped and reused in one of the several places such molding was yanked out. But it can wait. Next winter, maybe...

As for future plans, anyone have shellacking or varnishing tips for me? I'll need to coat the cleaned door/window hardware to make it match any non-painted stuff that still exists in the house, as all the hardware was in place when the wood was finished, with shellac. And our windows in the dining room bay need to be refinished, as there's old water damage from before the storm windows went on.

Why is it, that as soon as a task gets struck from the list, two more spring up to take its place?

05 April 2006

More Inaction & some book nerditude

Well, this week has so far been mostly taken up with non-house time commitments - doctor's appointments, historical society meeting, grocery shopping. However, a couple of good things came of it.

First, we now own a copy of the Schoolhouse Electric catalog. WOW! We definitely want to upgrade to some of those fixtures in the future. Lots of them are perfect for our house.

Next, I'm an enormous book nerd. I used to be a bookstore employee, prior to finally becoming a professional graphic artist about 10 years ago. So, in that vein, here is my book geekery for those who care to read it:

Dover Books offered me a Presidents' Day discount coupon ( I saved a whopping 10 bucks, but I had wanted to get some more books for a long while now) and I took advantage of it to buy some references.

  • The 1912 and 1915 Gustav Stickley Craftsman Furniture Catalogs

  • This was mostly purchased for the purpose of getting a better idea of the overall look of a furnished Craftsman house. I might keep it, but I may also donate it as I already have a much more practical reference for building my own repro furniture.

  • Aladdin "Built in a Day" House Catalog, 1917

  • I bought this, just in case my house might be an Aladdin, since Rosemary Thornton can't pinpoint it as any particular Sears kit model. So far, I've determined that it clearly isn't an Aladdin, either (all the hardware/details being Sears items is a big giveaway there). However, this catalog shows several light fixtures identical to several that are reproduced by Schoolhouse Electric. If you have an Aladdin, they are definitely the company to get your replacement fixtures from!

    Since I've answered my own question, this catalog will probably get donated to the local library. There are probably at least a couple of Aladdins around here, since they were the other major manufacturer of kit houses in this region.

  • Easy-to-Make Arts and Crafts Lamps and Shades

  • I bought this out of curiosity, and I may actually be getting quite a bit of use out of it. The instructions are for making lampshades (and building lamps and light fixtures) out of cheap, lightweight materials. Very Sexy. Chris has been inspired.

  • Arts and Crafts Designs

  • I bought this as I have several other Dover Pictorial Archive books from the Art Nouveau and Arts&Crafts periods. I was hoping it would have new things. Unfortunately, no. Most of the things in it are redrawn from other sources, all of which I have. However, if you want a nice cheap general design ref and can only afford one, it's worth it. This is going to the library, too.
Since I am reviewing books here, let me list several (also Dover books) that I already own and like:

And, finally, some I'd like to get:

04 April 2006

Historical Society

We went to the monthly meeting of the local Historical Society last night. I was volunteered for the position of webdesigner/pet technogeek a month or so ago by my mom, so, last night I presented them with three options for hosting and stood there explaining basics about putting together a site to a roomful of people who all stared at me like a dog listening to music.

All lovely people, of course, but not websavvy at all - this town is still in dialup country, though the library has a few computers and a scanner. We have huge piles of resources and content, small amounts of funds, enthusiasm and an upcoming event. We have a month for everyone to submit the content that was waved at me last night, and I have promises of some photos of my house prior to the porch being squashed by the tree and its subsequent reconstruction as a closed porch.

Long story short, I've got something to do in the evenings now.