Monday, April 03, 2006

The New Back Door

When I first bought The Petch House is was covered in asbestos siding. The siding is actually mostly cement with asbestos added to it. The cement and asbestos is mixed together and formed in to shingles that are about 2-feet wide and 1-foot high. I suspect this stuff was put on the house shortly after WW II. When they put on the asbestos siding they ripped off some of the gingerbread, and sawed off parts of the windowsills so it would lay flat against the original siding. It really removed all of the character from the house. I guess this was a popular thing to do at the time and a lot of people refer to as “Eisenhowering” the house. They Eisenhowered the hell out of this place.

With Asbestos. Eewww!

Without. Ahhh!

When I was looking at the place during escrow there was a part of one asbestos shingle missing on one of the attic gables. I could see a few fish scale shingles showing through. That was all needed to see to know that there was a nice house under all the asbestos siding. Once I owned the place it was a top priority to get the asbestos siding off the house. I had to get the two apartments over the garage fixed up and rented first but as soon as that was done I started ripping off the asbestos siding. It was a big job. If I remember correctly there was 5300 pounds of the stuff hanging on the house.

Once I got it off I discovered that aside from needing a paint job most of the original siding was very much in tact and in very good shape. The first floor has 1X8 ship-lap siding. The second floor has octagon shaped shingles, and the 3 attic gables have fish scale shingles. There are also little sections on the hipped roof that have fish scale shingles as well.

I could tell what had been removed from the house because I could see outlines in the paint of what had been where. The was crown molding under all the window sills that was removed and the corners of the window sills had been sawed off. The second story windows had a simple sun burst design over each window that was left alone. They were able to get the shingles to lay over the design with out cracking. In a few places they used small pieces of the 1X3 crown molding that was removed from under the window sills to fill in voids in the second story sun burst designs. Sometimes the edge of a shingle would land in a gap in the design so they used a small piece of the crown molding to fill in. I was able to use these scraps as a pattern to remake the crown molding.

The down stairs windows had a more elaborate sunburst designs over them. They were larger and stuck out more so they were removed. The “sun” part of the design ways made up of a half of a turned bull’s eye and the “rays” were tapered, turned dowels. They actually removed all but one of the downstairs sunbursts. The one that remained was in an awkward place because of the 2 story addition that was added in the 1920s. This was good because now I had an exact pattern of what was there.

Scar Tissue
You can see the image of the sunburst and the butchered window sills on the second story

All Better

The Omega Burst

I thought about trying to do plaster molds so I got some latex and made a casting of the one remaining sunburst. It didn’t work to well for me so I decided to have them remade in wood. That is the proper way anyway. The plaster was a money saving device and I’m kind of glad now that it didn’t work. I think I needed 9 of the sunbursts remade. Before I went down to the mill I went around a measured all the windows to make sure they were all the same. It turns the two windows that are butted up against each other in the back parlor are a few inches narrower than the rest.

A Little Bit Smaller

The height of the design was the same on all of them. The designs are made up of 15 rays and so the 3 horizontal rays on either side needed to be slightly shorter on those 2 windows. You can’t simply saw down the rays because that would make them wider at the base. They are tapered, remember. There is this very precise ratio between the amount of taper in the “rays” and the diameter of the “sun”. It is a pretty crowded design and if the rays are to fat they won’t all fit around the sun.

I went down to Blue Ox Mill with my latex mold and ordered up the sun bursts. I needed 7 large and 2 small. They charged me a little bit more for the large ones than they did for the small ones. That’s fine by me except when I got them home they were all small. I started to put the first one up and noticed it didn’t quite fill the space. It just didn’t look right. There was also the issue of being charge for something I didn’t get. I headed back to the mill.

The folks at Blue Ox are nice but sometimes their business skills are a little off. I admire the hell out of the work they do but sometimes dealing with them is a major pain. I started to explain the problem and the first thing Viviana asks is, “Did you supply us with the measurements”. I said, “No, I supplied you with an exact mold made of latex”. It didn’t take long for them to come clean and admit that they screwed up. As I said earlier, it was just the 3 horizontal pieces on either side that were too short. They made me 42 more rays (6 rays X 7 sunbursts) and I was able to put up the designs. The best part is, they never asked for the old rays back, and this is where the new back door comes in.

The back door opening is 34X82. That is a big space. I’ve been trying to find and old door to go there for a very long time. When I rebuilt this part I just got a B-Grade door (factory second) from the local lumber yard and slapped it in to place. I don’t really like it. When I was out looking for a new side door last week I found the door below at one of the salvage places.

The door is exactly the right size, and I like the glass because this part of the house doesn’t get a lot of light, but it’s a little plain. The door is from the 1950s so my plan is to de-Eisenhower it with the remaining rays from when the mill screwed up. I can add two corner sunburst to that bottom panel and sort of Queen Anne-ize the door. I bought a bulls-eye corner block at the hardware store for $5 so I can create some quarter-round bulls-eyes to go in the corners and then fit the rays around. It’s going to be tight but I think it will work.

Here’s the door

Here’s the corner block I will quarter.
I will need to cut it to a circle and quarter it

A mock-up of the sun bursts. They will go in that bottom panel of the door and face the street. Take THAT Eisenhower!


Suzanne said...

Greg, all of your close up of the windows and the house in general really emphasize what a beauty you have there. I like your idea for the new door, too - it continues the sunburst theme well.

On one window close up shot you can see all of the shingle nails on the wall to the left. Is the whole house covered with those? God, what a job that's going to be. Please don't pick a really hot day to do that one.

Karen said...

Just wanted to let you know how much I enjoy your writing. It's always interesting and your great sense of humor always gives me a chuckle. Have you decided on exterior colors yet?

Greg said...

Karen & Suzanne,

Thanks for the comments. The nails you see in the one picture were all over the house like that. It took almost as long to remove the nails as it did the asbestos shingles. That one wall with the nails still in it is part of the addition I took down. After months of being on a ladder removing the siding and nails I figured I wait to remove the nails from the addition since it was coming down anyway.

As for the colors, I’m going back to what it once was, or at least what I’m pretty sure it was. I’ve found very strong evidence that is was mainly a two-tone green house. The second floor was a very pale green and the first floor was a dark green. There is also evidence that the trim and was an even darker shade of green that the first floor. I want the house to be eye-popping but I don’t want it to be garish. I will limit the pallet to 3 main colors (the 3 greens) and then use some red on things like the sashes, and the crown molding under the second story flare (that is currently what’s there as you can see in the pictures), and maybe high-light the sunbursts with yellow. There is also the repeating scroll pattern around the frieze I want to bring out. Maybe the same light green as the second floor against the dark green of the trim.

With any luck I’ll start painting in a month.

Kristin said...

Oh my, those sunbursts are so lovely! Your green paint scheme sounds perfect. I can't wait to see it!

mindy said...

Wow, Greg - I've been out of the loop lately and not checking my regular favorites, and I see I've been missing alot.

Those sunbursts are great. We don't have much of that style around here, so it's very interesting to see. Thanks for sharing the closeups!