Monday, October 31, 2005

Dining Room: New Buffet!

What can I say about Lisa? Not only is she a wonderful parent with a busy and successful professional career, she certainly does more than her share of restoration at Foxcroft. She was tired of the "half done" look in the dining room, so she has been working on stripping the windows, by far the worst in the house. This weekend she wanted to finish them, so she completed sanding, stained and got two coats of varnish on. She also is nearly finished with the corner cupboard too.

Since this was nearly done by Sunday afternoon we decided to get the new buffet off the porch before trick or treaters arrive tonight. Once again, what can I say about Lisa? She can move furniture. We took the old cupboard upstairs:

It does break into three pieces thankfully.She also helped me get the new buffet, that I salvaged from Evanston, IL, last week, into the dining room. We got rid of the crappy old carpet (last unwanted relic of previous occupants) and put the buffet where it will eventually be. We put the doors back on and shelves, and immediately ended up piling stuff on it, oh well.

She is thrilled at how it looks there, and I am glad she enjoys it. When upstairs is finished and we can move things up, we will be able to complete the dining room: paint and strip and re-do the floor. With luck we'll have the plaster put back where we had to addd the support columns for the gable before we move upstairs.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Road Warrior II: Still More Salvage

After last weekend's perilous but successful journey to Evanston for the buffet, I ventured a shorter distance on Friday: going to Dubuque. While a shorter trip, it was a much larger haul, as I brought home 750 sq ft. of 2.25 inch wide oak flooring. I was a little nervous as this would be the first trip towing with Pete's truck since my fateful "Ever Lose a Ball Hitch at 60 MPH?"" saga as part of the "My Ebay Doors" excursion.

I took Tarryl's trailer, which I last used to haul brush to the landfill last May. On my return from that trip the back gate fell off. We removed it this time, before I left, because I was under the impression (which was to be mistaken, much to my chagrin) that since the floor was on pallets in the warehouse, and I had seen a forklift, that those two items would mean it would be easy to get the flooring onto the trailer.

It turns out the bundles weren't banded to the pallets, that pallets are in very short supply at Mid America Salvage and can't leave the building, and that the forklift belonged to someone else. To top it off, the young kid helping me load was complaining about how much work it was putting the boards onto the trailer. I pointed out that this was my day off, and that when I got home I'd be carrying all of this up to second floor. He quit whining for a while.

I drove very carefully, and was extremely worried going up and down the hills out of Dubuque but everything went smoothly. I got home and started unloading. I got all the medium boards in Friday night, and left the 10 packages of long boards (10+ feet long, one package of 15 footers) for Saturday morning along with all the bundles of short pieces that we had put in the bed of the pickup truck.

In the morning I put all the long bundles against the scaffolding and opened the window. Lisa tipped the bundles up to me and I put them in the sitting room and then took them into the bedrooms. Then I unloaded the pickup and returned the trailer and truck

Now Rowan and Laurel's rooms each hold flooring stacked a minimum of 8 boards deep. Maybe in the next week or so I'll start getting it all down.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

We've Got Power (Well, some places do)

Tom, our electrician, is just about finished. Lots of little details have been taken care of in the last two days. While Bess generally had wonderful plans, there were a few things that have us wondering "What was she thinking?" when she built the house in 1928, and I'm talking about things that were strange even for those times. Two big ones were electrical: While the living room has six electrical outlets, the dining room had one. We now have three, which should be a big improvement. Also, we moved one of the sconces in the first floor bathroom. Originally there was a sconce on either side of the corner sink, but strangely they were not centered in any way, nor really useful since the mirror is on the medicine cabinet to the right of the sink.

We had Tom move one sconce so they are centered on the medicine cabinet. Our next plan is to remove the corner sink and put a salvaged pedestal that we have under the medicine cabinet. I look forward to being able to shave and not leave shaving cream on the floor as I won't have to move between the sink and the mirror.

Another great step is that we have a back porch light, which we haven't had since June. When we removed the closet bump out wall into the kitchen we lost the kitchen overhead, back porch, and garage lights. We got the kitchen overhead back a few weeks ago, but not the porch since we had also removed the very scary hanging wires (I could reach up and touch them easily, if I dared) between the house and the garage. The porch light switch was a three way that could be turned on from the house or the garage. Now just the garage light needs to be wired back up

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

More Homes from my Childhood!

The photo above is our house in North Liberty. We lived there in 1964. I remember (as a four year old) that we had a party line telephone, and the lady across the street (Myrtle Werk) didn't have indoor plumbing. For more of these reminisces see:
Homes of My Youth

Sadly, the first place I remember living, 641 S. Lucas Street, has been torn down and replaced with bad apartments for university students. It looks like this now:

Here is the house across Lucas Street that had kids my age:

Here's the house we moved into when I was 8, I lived here until I went away to college. My parents sold it in 1988 when they couldn't get a permit to put a porch across the front.

While I'm searching, how about this one:

This was my paternal grandparent's home in Northwest Iowa. They moved into it in 1950 and it was sold when my grandmother passed away in 2002.

Now if I could just find a picture of the house we lived in when we moved to Oklahoma City for 2 weeks in between the North Liberty house above and the one on Seymour Street. I kid you not, we moved from Iowa to Oklahoma City when my dad took a job as an editor with a textbook publishing company. He hated the commute so much he put in his week's notice at the end of his first week. We moved back with most of the boxes never unpacked.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Have Salvage? Will Travel

I don't consider myself the "Road Warrior" type by any means. But this weekend was an excception due to two different exceptional salvage opportunities. As mentioned in the last post, I did go to Mid America Architectural Salvage on Friday to check out flooring. They did NOT have any 1.5 inch wide oak flooring, but did have exceptional 2.25 inch boards, so I went ahead and put a hold on them, and will pick them up this coming Friday. There is nearly 750 square feet in the lot I'm getting, which along with what I already have should be enough to do second floor. The store was impressive, it is two floors of an old warehouse on the Mississippi River, lots of very cool things, and reasonable prices.

Also on Friday, I put down the high bid on a built in buffet at the Chicago based home demolition sale site I have lurked at Murco for nearly two years, but have never gone to one of their sales in person. Check out their website, log in as user name "murco" and password of "murco". This buffet didn't go at their on site sale last week, so it was put up separately. I had showed it to Lisa and she was all for getting it. The one thing we have missed here at Foxcroft was the big buffet we had at Van Buren St. Here is a picture of our "old" buffet:

In the Foxcroft dining room we currently have a rather primitive cupboard that my great-grandmother's brother had built in 1900. It's a wonderful piece, but we'll find better use for it elsewhere. Jodi Murphy called at 5:07 to say the buffet was mine and that I should come get it this weekend. I was hoping for a little more time, but oh well. Let me say that Jodi turned out to be a wonderful person, very knowledgeable and helpful, and I recommend her to the Chicago folks looking to buy salvage materials. Here were photos from their website:

I left Sunday morning at 6:30 and got to Evanston at 10:45. When I arrived I phoned Jodi and she told me how to get into the house. I was alone with my tools, but had several possibilities for help in getting the buffet into the truck once I removed it from the wall. I am used to working on salvage sites since I am a board member of Friends of Historic Preservation, and have worked on buildings locally before they have been demolished. I brought plenty of hand tools, (no electricity) a flashlight, and wore my flannel lined jeans (no heat either.) I didn't drink too much coffee on the way in, voided myself at a gas station in Evanston, and brought no water since there's no plumbing as well.

I'd never removed a buffet before. First I removed the doors and drawers and put them in the living room far away from where I was working. I next removed the shelves and shelf brackets. All loose hardware went into my Ziploc jumbo two gallon freezer bag. Then I took off the quarter round and discarded it.

Now I was ready to figure out what to do. Fortunately the back of the buffet was in a pantry closet, so I had a pretty good idea of what the back of the piece consisted of. I had to removed painted beadboard paneling so I could access the mirror. I pried it off, and then got the mirror out and set it with the doors. I then knocked enough plaster off the left back to exposed the top and removed the nail holding it in and got some wiggle on that side. I knew the other side would be much tougher since it was in the basement stairwell, but by going back and forth I eventually found the anchor nail, and got some wiggle there as well. When Jodi stopped by to introduce herself we talked about how to go at the final removal. She thought it was nailed to the floor at the front. Given the way it was bowing when I pried on the ends, I knew she was right. I took the blade off my hack saw and worked it along under the front and found nothing anywhere along the front. Finally I realized it was nailed at the back, hidden under the plaster debris. So in a little over two and a half hours I had the thing out from the wall.

Now came the really hard part loading it into the truck. I had not been able to persuade anyone to come with me (understandably) and had put calls out to two people I knew in Chicago when I arrived, but neither panned out. Jodi came through with a referral and Nick said he'd be there in 45 minutes. That gave me enough time to wrap the doors and mirror in blankets and shrink tape them up. Shrink tape on a roll is an absolute must at a salvage. After that I walked the street a little to look at the neighborhood.

I will admit that I was quite preoccupied with how to load the buffet into the truck, I hadn't slept well the night before because the measurements on the Murco site showed it to be longer than the truck bed. I brought a LOT of straps and rope in case I couldn't put the gate up. I measured as soon as I got there, and realized that that while the top was longer than the bed, the base was not, if I could slide it in and then tip it so that the back rested on the passenger side bed I might be able to close the door. My other worry when I got there, was how to get everything else into the truck. I thought I could put the drawers back in once the piece was tipped, and that the doors and mirror could fit in the extended cab behind the front seat. While I was fretting on all this, did I mention that it was raining? Of course I had left the plastic tarp in the garage at home.

Nick is a big strapping Australian, not what I expected in Chicago certainly. I laid out the padding on the side of the truck and we got the piece out of the house easily. It was a bit more work getting it lifted onto the truck bed, but we did it, and slid it the length of the bed. When tipping we broke the wood rail for the bottom drawers on the back of the buffet (not visible and easily reapairable) and got it tipped, the door closed. I thanked Nick and paid him and he and the family took off. I was ready to starting strapping and loading. Then the sleet started.

I managed to get blankets over the buffet and strap the whole thing down. Because of the break in the bottom, I couldn't get the bottom two drawers back in, I put them in the shelf area, one on each side, I'd already packed the shelves in the front seat and piled all my tools in too. At 4:15 I took off. It was raining hard.

It rained about 3/4 of the time on the way home, I was lucky there was so much construction along the way so everyone was driving slower. I'm also quite lucky that I-88 is MUCH smoother going west than it is East. I checked by straps at Dekalb, IL and again in Davenport. Everything was tight, and nothing broken. I got home at 9:30. I had called ahead and Pete was there, along with Mike from next door. We unloaded the truck and put everything on the font porch. Seeing Lisa's face when she unwrapped the doors made the whole trip worth it.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Lights! Outlets! Action!

Tom the electrician has been here the past three days and now we have working ceiling lights/fans upstairs and all our outlets are live too. Yee Ha! It will be nice not to have to run extension cords from the laundry. Tom also got our main ceiling light up in the kitchen, and outlets there too as well as increasing the number of outlets in the dining room by 100% (now we have two) He'll come next week and get the back porch light working again, and bury the lines to the garage which have been inactive since June.

I also nearly finished painting the tub feet. I had already painted the "balls" of the feet the same shade of dark gray that the underneath of the tub is, now the claws are silver. One more coat and they will be ready. The blue in the pic below is painter's tape. The girls were watching me tonight and want to have the toenails painted red.

I am going to drive to Dubuque tomorrow to check out Mid America Architectural Salvage. They said they had one and a half inch wide oak flooring, if so, I'll get enough to for the rest of upstairs, and the trifecta of accomplishments for the week will be complete.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Exterior Color

Just in time for all the trees turning in our neighborhood I finished painting the trim on the new gable in the back of the house. Since the window isn't here yet it looks like we'll wait until spring to put shingles on the walls, but oh well. Here isn a picture of how it looks with the three colors I used on the trim:

The additional colors will be the dark brown of the shingle siding and the buttery yellow of the window and door trim. We will likely use a lighter brown for the storms and screens.

The electrician is working today upstairs, perhaps by tonight we will have ceiling fixtures and fans. When those are in place then he can make the wiring up there "live" which will be great.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Mr. Inside, Mr. Outside

I managed to come home after work yesterday and begin to paint the rafter beams and the barge board. The color is a custom one mixed to match the drip edge on the barge board and is some kind of "weathered bronze" color. This is a darker version of a color we used at our old house called "Putty." The old owners of my favorite paint store, said that "Putty" was really the same color as an old Mautz Paint, that honestly was called "Doesn't Show Dirt." We used that color on our foundation, rafter beams and porch floor at Van Buren St. and it really did live up to its name. The beadboard in the overhang at Foxcroft is the same color as what we did our clapboards at Van Buren, "Lambswool." We will use that color on the wooden trim at the gable ends as well. I think we'll also re-use the butter yellow on the window trim too. That one is called "Chamois." The lookout beams will be a dark brick red, perhaps we'll re-use the "Burnished Mahogany" that was on our old storms/screens. Can you tell we really liked the colors of our old house? Lisa picked them all.

Pete came over last night and we started to grout the upstairs bathroom's tile floor. He did all the hard work in spreading and working the grout, I kept him supplied with fresh water at the wiping stage, which meant a steading hauling buckets up and down the stairs.

My plan is to paint after work again on Wednesday, and to finish grouting on Thursday evening.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Caulking on Mt. Everest

OK, so it's not that high, but getting to the top of the gable still gives me a feeling of accomplishment. I primed the trim yesterday and today I started topcoating the beadboard. I then caulked all the seams on the lookout posts, and the bargeboard. The first two pics are from yesterday. The last two are from today.

Frequently while teaching I will make the statement "There are two types of people in the world, those who divide people into two groups, and those who don't." Today I was thinking about the two types of people who restore old houses: those who fix up one house until it's perfect and they stay forever, and serial remodelers. I always thought we were in the first category, until we found Foxcroft. While I don't plan to move from here in quite a while, I like being able to do all these projects with the knowledge of what I did on Van Buren St. Given that the houses have nearly identical floor plans makes it even better. I knew exactly how to lay on my back on the roof with a foot on the eaves board to paint the beadboard overhanging the sides of the gable. I knew exactly how to caulk the lookout posts. Even though I'm older, I'm still working about twice as fast as I did when I had to puzzle through everything. It's a great feeling.

There are plenty of things yet to do upstairs inside that I've never done before, but that also makes it interesting, so that it isn't entirely monotonous. I did finish the tile on the bathroom floor on Friday. It looks great. My next step there will be cutting a 45 degree angle on the 1x6 for the trim. I'll need Pete's saw for that, then I'll start painting and cutting trim to length. My evenings will be full for a long time to come.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Mr. Scaffolding

It's not easy to admit that it took me six years to paint our old house, but in my defense, I did a hell of a job. One thing I certainly learned is that it is worth the time and expense to set up scaffolding. I own two five foot levels, one set of screw jacks, and an OSHA plank. I put them to good use.

I realized this week, that I needed to get moving on painting the trim of the new addition. So today I rented another set of 5 foot scaffolding and a set of three foot, and built a pretty good platform to work from as I paint the bargeboard and get under the eaves. It is supposed to get warmer, tomorrow and Sunday, so if I'm lucky I'll get most of it primed tomorrow and perhaps even start topcoating on Sunday.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

A Study in Black and White

Last night Pete and I started to lay the tile floor in the upstairs bathroom. I'd never done ceramic tile, I've only laid vinyl tiles, fortunately, Pete is good at this. We started by rolling out the heating floor mats that Pete bought as a housewarming present for Lisa and I, and taping them to the floor. We fed the electrical leads through the channel we had chipped out of the floor.

Then we had to fish the wires up the wall to the box where the controls will be, we had left a string in place for this purpose. After successfully doing this, Pete remembered that we hadn't run the thermostat wire. Of course we then broke the string and had to then fish a wire back through again and start over. 30 minutes later we had this step finished.

After mixing the mortar we dry laid the two walls of the back of the "el" to see how we were going to fit. Since it was already 10:15 PM we knew we'd only work until our bucket of mortar was gone. Also we knew we wouldn't do any of the difficult cut pieces since we didn't want to run a tile saw while the girls were asleep. Pete then started laying along the two walls

Going over the heating mats proved to be a bit of a challenge, we needed to leave a deeper bed outside the mats so there wouldn't be a noticeable change in the floor when we passed over them. Pete continued to lay working toward the shower. I cut full sheets down as needed, and kept brining fresh boxes of tiles.

By 11:15 we were ready to "turn the corner." We left space to fill in with individual tiles around the tub supplies and drain. We also left space to fill next to the diagonal side of the corner shower. We filled toward the bathroom door and ran out of mortar just short of the WC, leaving only it and the rest of the longer leg of the bathroom. We cleaned up about 12:15 AM

After we finish the floor, I'll put in the baseboard, then we'll be ready to put subway tiles over the lower half of the outer walls.


Monday, October 03, 2005

We're Trendy??

"Trendy" is certainly not an adjective I would apply to my family, especially when it comes to how we deal with our house. Imagine my surprise when reading our local paper yesterday that I look over the weekly piece in the classified section about "updating" (I often think "Yupdating") your home. I nearly always cringe when I look at their suggestions for improving your home, especially it's re-sale value.

Yesterday's piece was on how bathroom remodels are your best value financially because you can get back nearly 90% of costs at sale.... and so on. Then they list the most common trends in bathrooms and damned if we aren't doing nearly every one in the new bathroom we're building upstairs:

  • water closet (separating the toilet from the rest of the bath)
  • additional vanity area (with 2 daughters we figured two places to get ready would be good)
  • separate tub and shower (we thought it would be easier than crawling in and out of the clawfoot tub)

The only one we aren't doing is putting our sink in a "furniture" setting.(we're going with a pedestal)

I had a good laugh reading through all that, and here we thought all our ideas were original ones to help deal with an unusual space: our bathroom is an "el," but in reality we're just following the crowd.