Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Mr. Adaptive Re-Use

I am currently serving as president of our local historic preservation group. In the aftermath of the April 13 tornado we have been quite busy assisting those whose homes were damaged to get quality assistance, apply for grant money, navigate permit process in historic neighborhoods, etc.

One of our saddest jobs was to salvage the Italianate house we were working to have moved to save it from demolition. The tornado tore off it's roof and a good deal of the second floor. It is no longer fit to move, so it will be leveled.

Here is what the house looked like before the tornado, courtesy of the Iowa City Assessor's Website:

We removed original doors, windows, trim, railings, a mantle, and many other items. On our last day, a week ago Sunday we were finishing when the salvage manager said it was a shame to leave all the cut limestone that made up the porch. It had original soft mortar that has been returning to it's original ingredients: sand, water, and lime. The top cap was 24 inches wide and four inches thick. The was a single 10 foot straight piece, three six foot curved pieces, and another 12 foot straight piece. We pried the top cap off the straight section with a long bare and then literally lifted out the cut stones of the wall. Between 5:00 PM and 10:15 PM I took 6 station wagon loads and 6 pick up loads off the site. I have enough to line both sides of my entire driveway and around the flower beds that flank our turn around. The stone will keep the gravel from migrating into the flower beds and the wood chips from the driveway.

I also have enough to run completely across the front hill to keep wood chips out of the lower yard

But I think my best idea came when I broke some of the curved top caps into smaller pieces to use as steps up the side of the hill from the driveway to the front walk area:

No go back to the picture pre-tornado you can see the limestone was painted red on the left side of the picture, too bad the bushes cover most of the porch.

I have to go back and set all these properly. All we did on Sunday was drop as fast as possible to go and get more. I paid Friends of Historic Preservation $50 ton (the going price to pick off the Stone City Rip Rap pile) and got a bargain.

After coming back the next day to remove the front door and nail a board to seal off the house, our salvage manager asked if I had taken the entire porch after he left. I said "Yes," and his single word response was "Impressive."

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Just In Time To Shut Them!

I realized that if I want to start stripping floors upstairs I need to be able to have the windows open without allowing bugs/birds/bats all get in too. I've had the new upstairs screens and storms sitting since October, but I needed to paint them. I started on that on Thursday night, so that on Saturday I installed the two in the front gable. Here they are:

They are nice, I was able to get Pete to help me put up the screens in Rowan's room on Monday. I needed help to hold the ladder. In the front I could just stand on the roof.

Laurel's screens are dry and can go up as soon as I move scaffolding and the ladder around the house. The screens for the new gable in back are ready too, but can't go on until we build the trim around the window so that they can be hung.

As soon as I get a start on the floor I'll also need to be painting storms too. The double hung windows are in serious need of work before next winter. With one storm up in the summer I can take out the upper and lower windows and reglaze, stain and varnish them before cold weather.

Also, since I now have screens the temp has hit 90+ degrees so I closed all the windows and turned on the air!

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Something Underfoot

The plumber came on Friday and stubbed in the supplies and drain for the new sink. He also moved the toilet supply so that the toilet will be able to sit closer to the wall.

On Saturday I ripped out the rotten subfloor and was thankful the joists look fine. Just to be safe I saturated them and all the subfloor around the opening with Minwax wood hardener.

So on Sunday while Lisa and the girls were gone I put in the new subfloor down. I had some scrap 1 x 8 left so I soaked it with wood hardener too and cut it to fit in place. Since I butted them tight and the difference in true dimensional and modern lumber there was a gap of an inch and a half at the back of the opening, so of course what did I fill that space with? Leftover Oak Flooring!

The plumber will come back today to cut an opening for the toilet in the floor. My next steps will be to put down cement board and get ready to tile the floor.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Mushrooms Galore

Today is a continuation of Tuesday's of "The Mushroom Factor." Quick recap: toilet leak leads to pulling all the vinyl and plywood subfloor to reveal the original pine floor. That went out too. The plan is to put in a tile floor. But since all of this is going on, why not do what else we want in the bathroom too, and just move it ahead of finishing the upstairs?

The bathroom is the only poorly designed space in the entire house. I don't know what Bess was thinking. For as much as she obsessed over every detail, (and we know she did from her letters and journals) she really made major mistakes in the bathroom. Here is the original blueprint:

The only change is that the tub is now a walk in shower, but otherwise the corner sink was in place as was the stool. Here's what I think was bad design: why would you have a corner sink when you had plenty of room underneath your medicine cabinet? To make matters worse there were two sconces on either side of the SINK. I have had a horrible time shaving there. When he was here last summer I had the electrician move one sconce so they are now on either side of the medicine cabinet.

So if the plumber was coming anyway to cut the soil pipe so we could redo the floor, why not have him put new supplies in for a pedestal sink (we have a salvaged one waiting in the basement) at the same time? Plumber says "good idea." While the plumber and I were measuring he mentioned we'd need to move the toilet supply a bit so the the new toilet with a smaller tank would sit closer to the wall. I broke out the plaster (fake tile) wall to expose the current plumbing and to make room for new:

So in a typical mushroom factor scenario, what started out as pulling a toilet to put down a new beeswax ring resulted in demolishing half a bathroom wall, capping supply lines and pulling out the sink.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

The Mushroom Factor

The mushroom factor is a well documented old house phenomena in which the home owner starts on project A only to discover that in order to complete it project B must first be addressed, which leads to project C, etc. on to N (which is a VERY big number)

We at Foxcroft had been extremely lucky in avoiding the mushroom factor for over a year, since our fabled 5 Deadmen in the Basement episode. I was quite worried when Lisa said three weeks ago, “The toilet in the first floor bathroom seems to be leaking!” I decided to pull the toilet and prayed that all we needed to do was put down a new beeswax seal and call it good. Pete came over and we pulled the toilet to find that there were already 2 seals there, and that the vinyl under the toilet was extremely wet. We pulled back the floor a bit to discover equally saturated quarter inch plywood under the vinyl.

We then worked at getting all the vinyl off to see what was going on down there.

I knew from the orginal house contract that Bess wanted some sort of poured “Imperial” flooring that no one was able to get for her so the original floor was 2 and a quarter inch yellow pine, painted black. I wondered if it was still there.

Yep, black painted floor except where a chunk had already been sawed out around the stool, so obviously water had been a problem for a while. I checked the joists from below and was grateful to see that the joists were not affected but some of the subfloor had.

I pulled out the flooring, and took off the flooring paper to expose the subfloor

So the subfloor is open now and you can see how wet the subfloor was. Our plan will be to saw out the subfloor where it is bad around the stool and replace it. I have contacted the plumber to cut the pipe so we can floor over it. Then we will put down durarock and tile over the floor.

More mushroom factor information to come, we have a lot more steps to go through in the bathroom.