Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Don't Light A Match!

I spent the morning under the house for what I hope will be the last time for a long time. A few months back I decided to move the stove but never moved the gas line. I think I was putting it off until the last minute just in case my mind changed again. Push officially came to shove this morning because I want to get the last of the bead board up and finish paint stripping. So, gas line moved. No leaks. Bead board up.

My neighbor Gary has been a plumber in this town for 25 years or so. He is indispensable when it comes to this sort of thing. Last year when I replaced all the other gas lines in the house I went to ask him if he new a good plumber to do the work. He convinced me to do it myself. He came over and toured the house. He showed me how to measure properly and how much to deduct for fittings. He advised me on pipe size. He then told me to draw out a diagram with measurements and he would review it. I did that and took it over to him. He went over everything and then got on the phone and called the plumbing supply house he deals with and called in the order. I picked everything up the next day. All of the pipe was cut and threaded to my exact measurements and well below retail. Gary loaned me some tools and then gave me a quick lesson on pipe fitting. When it came time to run new copper and fix drains he is always happy to give advise. He tells me he won’t do any of the work, but if I need anything else, all I have to do is ask.

Well, today I got the pipe moved but I was missing one fitting so I trotted across the street to Gary’s. We go out in his garage and he has every conceivable pipe fitting you can imagine. It is better stocked than most hardware stores. All of it is leftovers for jobs he has done in the past. He has cast iron waste pipe, copper up to 6-inch, black pipe, galvanized, PVC, CPVC, and ABS. I mean everything. Sure enough, he pulls out a bucket of ¾ inch nipples and dumps them out. I tell him I need a 2 inch so he digs out 2 of each 1.5-inch, 2-inch, 2.5-inch, and 3-inch. He tells me to just bring back what I don’t use. When I had to replace a cast iron elbow he did the same thing. You go over and say you need a 45 degree elbow and you leave with 4 or 5 fittings at various angles. Just bring back what you don’t use.

I spent the weekend stripping paint on 4 entry ways. It went pretty smooth. I start with the heat gun and get most of the paint off. The woodwork is ornate Victorian so it is slow going. This room was originally faux grained in oak, and then over the years it was painted several times. The faux graining is alcohol based and may be tinted shellac but it does not come off quite as easily as plain shellac. I’m left with a good amount of residue. Normally I would switch to alcohol and then sand paper. However, I tried something different this time and it seems to work really well.

I take Jasco Semi-paste paint stripper and use it with steel wool like a soft scrub cleanser. The Jasco semi-paste is a thick, slime like substance that adheres well to vertical surfaces. I spread it on about 2 feet of casing then scrub with the steel wool. It gets most of the residue off and what is left is smooth enough that very little sanding needs to be done. I’ll probably just wait until I’m ready to paint and then go over it with 100 grit.

That’s enough for now, back to paint stripping.

I Need A 1993 Mazda Pick-up (4X4)

Anybody know were I can get a 1993 Mazda Pick-up (4X4). For some reason I just have an urge for a 1993 Mazda Pick-up (4X4). If anybody hears of a 1993 Mazda Pick-up (4X4) for sale be sure to let me know.

Sunday, May 29, 2005

Kinetic Sculpture Race

I took a day off from slave duty to watch day 2 of 2005 Kinetic Sculpture Race. The race is a nearly 30 year annual event on the North Coast. It is a 3 day race that starts in Arcata, goes to Eureka, and ends in Ferndale. All sculptures are people powered and must be able to traverse sand, mud, water, and asphalt. These are pictures of day 2 of the race as they start to cross the Humboldt Bay for the water portion of the race. It is a hoot and a half.

For more pictures of today's race click Here.
For the Kinetic Sculpture Race home page click Here.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Coping With Old Woodwork

No, it’s not a 12-Step Group for people dealing with over-painted or battered woodwork in their house. This is just a neat shot from the kitchen of a good cope joint. The shorter one is to the door under the stairs. The person who did this was either very good at their work or they were good at hiding their mistakes. I will be stripping and repainting, of course.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

As Bad As It Gets

The current level of destruction in my house is unprecedented in the 3 years I’ve been working on it. It needed to be documented so here it is (pictures below). When you feel that your house is out of control you can come here and view this blog entry and feel that much better about yourself.

What I am dealing with now is the culmination of two major projects. The debris from one has collided with the debris from the other like two binary stars that could no longer over come the gravitational forces that kept them apart. Virtually every single room in a 3000 sq ft house and 3 garages has been affected by it. In some ways, it is the amount of space I have and not the lack of it that has caused it to get so bad. If I always have room to put something someplace, I can put it there and worry about it another time.

It started about 8 months ago. I dismantled a 1920s 2 story addition to my house. Up until that point the kitchen and bath I was using were in the addition. Once it came down I had to bring the original kitchen and bath on-line. The house has been in a permanent state of chaos ever since.

I salvaged as much as I could from the addition. All interior and exterior wood was beautiful old-growth redwood. I can’t bring myself to throw away any but the absolute worst of it. Two garages are filled with lumber. A third, which is my shop, is crammed with trim. Doors and windows ended up all over the place, along with doors in the house I removed for various reasons. The attic has piles of bead board and casing, a few toilets, boxes of kitchen stuff, and more lumber. One of the upstairs bedrooms that I used as a staging area when I dismantled the top floor still has some lumber in it.

The new casing that I had milled from the salvage lumber is piled in the upstairs hall, and more is in the front parlor. Also in the hallway is about 30 feet of really cool 1X6 crown molding that came off the exterior of the addition. The claw foot tub, toilet, and sink from the downstairs addition bathroom is piled up in the butler’s pantry. There is also more doors and flooring material in there. The scullery has cabinet fronts and draws for the soon-to-be kitchen cabinets, along with more assorted trim pieces and I think another door.

The dining room has cabinets from my soon-to-be kitchen, dishwasher, refrigerator, part of a sideboard I traded for a claw foot tub that came out of the upstairs bathroom of the addition. There is also some new trim for the kitchen and assorted other pieces that came out of the addition. The front parlor has a stove, dining room table, reproduced corner blocks and plinth blocks (milled from addition salvage lumber), the top half of the sideboard, and another cabinet for the kitchen. The back parlor has another stove (there will be 2 in the kitchen) and another cabinet that will be going above an apron sink in the butler’s pantry. The apron sink is in the kitchen I’m working on, and the reason it is there right now is because it is too damn heavy to move and I have no place to put it.

The house has fancy cut octagon shingles on the second floor. I had to cut a bunch of redwood shingles to reside part of the exterior after I moved the addition and I couldn’t bring myself to throw away the scraps. I have about 800 pieces of 6X6 redwood blocks, and about 1600 small redwood triangles. The garages were full so they still sit in boxes in the foyer looking for a home. Also, the foyer is a little table that I will probably be getting rid of but I haven’t yet so there it sits. Oh, and there are 3 strange brass chandeliers that my neighbor was going to throw away so naturally I took them. They are on the floor just inside the door where I put them 2 months ago. There is also a new fir door that came off the back porch when I rebuilt the alcove. It will be leaving but it hasn’t yet.

That is pretty much the whole house except for 2 bedrooms and a bathroom. The bathroom is my one finished room and my pride and joy so nothing gets put in there. The bedroom I use is also off limits. The other bedroom remains a guest room but things have begun to creep in. I'm keeping and 1890s parlor set that belonged to my Great, Great Grandmother in there.

As soon as I can get the kitchen done and the butler’s pantry squared away it should be much better. I can then sort of stand back and decided what I need and don’t need for all of the doors windows, trim, and lumber. I’m hesitant to get rid of anything at this point because you really never know what you’ll need. It is a bit over-whelming at times, but I just need to stay focused and keep working on the kitchen. However, it will get worse before it gets better. The new wood flooring for the kitchen is supposed to arrive some time soon. I need to pull up the existing 1X6 redwood flooring that is in there. It is in rough shape but there is a lot of good lumber in there. I have to find a home for 325 sq ft of new flooring and 325 sq ft of old flooring. It is going to be interesting.

These pictures don’t do it justice. It is much worse in real life.

Dining Room

Butler's Pantry



Front Parlot

Bedroom 1

Bedroom 2



Tuesday, May 24, 2005


Dust, dust everywhere but not a drop to drink. No, wait, that’s not it. How do I dust thee. Let me count the ways. Hmmm, closer. Eat my dust! There, that’s the one. Yes, eat my dust. Everyone come over here right now and eat my dust. That is the only way I’m going to get it out of the house.

I have got more dust in this house than I can shake a stick at. Because of the thick haze in the air I keep trying to clean my glasses thinking they are just incredibly dirty. My CDs are skipping and the DVD/CD burner on my laptop just stopped working. It is very dusty in here. Did I make my point as to just how dusty it is? I tell ya folks, it’s soooo dusty in here (HOW DUSTY IS IT?)… Hi-Yo

Ok, that’s enough.

The dust is from all the plaster sanding in the kitchen. It has been really windy here the past two days so I can’t open the doors or windows to let it out. The wind is coming in from the west and that is the side of the house the kitchen is on. I tried sealing the entryways in to other rooms with plastic but it can’t hold everything back. I then made the mistake of going out the back door. The wind shot through the door with such force that it ripped part of the plastic off the door going in to the dining room. Billows of white powder poured in to the rest of the house.

The good thing is, I did finish the sanding today. I’m going to go back over a few small places here and there with fresh plaster tomorrow. For all intent and purpose, though, I am done! It still looks funny because I skim coated over existing walls and new work. Also, this room was partitioned into three rooms about 90 years ago, so I was working with many different wall surfaces try to get them back to a uniformed appearance. Until I get a coat of primer on I really won’t be sure how well I did. Right now they are still walls only a homeowner could love.

Monday, May 23, 2005

It's Color Time

I’ve actually started thinking about colors for the kitchen and I need help. I really hate picking colors. It is one of those “finish” issues I wrote of before. It is just so final. Once I paint I’m going to have to live with it for a while. Below is my first idea.

The room is 285 sq ft. It is on the north side of the house and the windows are all under a porch so it does not get a lot of light streaming through the windows. The ceilings are 10.5-feet high. The floor will be wood. There will be only one built in counter with cabinets above. These rest will be free standing cabinets, so there will be a lot of wall visible. The trim color will be used a lot because there is 36 inch bead board around the whole room. Not sure if I quite got that trim color right. It is supposed be a sort of light cream color. The cabinets will also be painted. I’m thinking a dark green, similar to the accent green. There will probably be an 18-inch wallpaper boarder around the room. The main source for lighting will be 2, 2-light antique brass fixtures that hand hang 2 or 3 feet into the room.

Be honest, will it look like crap? Any other suggestions for a color pallet? Really be honest. I need help.

Sunday, May 22, 2005

For What It’s Worth II

Got all the skim coating done. Next time I’m starting with the ceiling. I normally do that when I paint, so I’m not sure what I was thinking. I have new little blobs of plaster on the walls here and there that must have been flicked off the trowel when I was doing the ceiling. Not the end of the world.

This is the second room I’ve done plaster on. The first time I think I got it on too thick and this time it may be too thin in places. I started to sand today and with 120 grit I get back to original plaster awfully quick in places. The plaster underneath is solid but the texture is different. Not sure how it will show. I will probably go back over some places.

The places that failed on the first try seem to be holding now, but thanks to Steve at Lakewood 2-Flat for the suggestion of plaster weld. I’m going to look for that. I have plenty of plaster in this house that needs work.

I had to quit sanding today because it was so windy today. Normally I can get positive air flow going and with the back door open all the dust gets sucked out. As it is, I now have another thin coating of white dust over the entire first floor of the house. Yea!

On a high note, I was looking at primer today and a few cans said I should wait 90 days before painting new plaster. Now, if anyone asks why I’m taking so long with the plaster I can say, with an air of superiority, “Well, you have to take this long. I mean, come on, who’s going to paint plaster within 90 days of finishing. What is this armature night?”

Saturday, May 21, 2005

Plans Go Asunder

I had planned to use the neighbor's scaffolding to work on the ceiling but he had to go to LA for who knows how long so I’m back to the trusty ladder. I own 4 ladders. There is the 32 foot monster ladder that is invaluable when you own a tall Victorian. I spent weeks up on that baby 2 years ago when I removed the asbestos siding a rebuilt trim a window sills. I have an articulated 16 foot ladder. It has 4, 4-foot sections that lock in to place at different angles. It can be a 4-foot, 8-foot, 12-foot, or 16-foot ladder. You can also make an 8-foot section of scaffolding that is 4 feet high, but it is not very stable and kind of dangerous to work on. The aluminum ladders are great, but the rungs are relatively narrow, and they can be tough on the feet if you are on them for long periods of time.

The other 2 ladders are wooden ladders and came with the house. They were left by the POs or a previous PO (PPO?). These are the ones I use most of the time. They are really inside-use ladders and rarely go outside. I’m not sure how old they are but they saw a lot of use well before I got them 3 years ago. One is a 6-foot ladder and the other is a 4-foot ladder.

The 6-footer is my favorite. I put 1 foot on the forth rung and the other foot on the cross brace on the opposite side while I straddle the ladder. This puts me at the perfect height to work on the ceiling. The rungs are wide and flat so it is comfortable to work on for long periods. The 4-foot ladder is good to use in the same way upstairs where the ceilings are only 9.5-feet high. For all of the bad things the POs did, leaving these 2 ladders almost makes up for it – almost.

They also left a lot of brooms, which is surprisingly handy. I think I have 6 or 7 brooms in the house. Brooms are one of the few things I don’t spend hours looking for. There always seems to be one within arms reach. Maybe I should buy 6 or 7 hammers, tape measures, screwdrivers, etc. I could have a complete set of tools on all 3 floors of the house and a set for the garage. Now that would be livin’ large old-house style. Boo-Ya!

Friday, May 20, 2005

Two Steps Forward One Step Back

Had to clean up a lot today in order to start on the ceiling. Just too much crap in the way. My neighbor OWNS 3 sections of scaffolding with castors, so I’m going to borrow one section to do the ceiling.

There was a small section of wall and ceiling that were concealed behind a partition for 80+ years. The wall had a section of 18 inch wallpaper boarder from 1895 at the top (pretty cool) and the rest of the wall and ceiling were painted. I guess there was a lot of dirt and grime on it, but the area of the wall that I had skim coated didn’t take. This morning it looked like the bed of a dry lake. The plaster was just falling off. It was a section about 3X5 feet so not the end of the world.

The rest of the walls had 17 layers of wallpaper (wallpaper must have been pretty inexpensive) and after all the scraping and sanding I was left with a pretty clean surface on the rest of the walls. I kind of kick myself for not cleaning that small section before skim coating. Live and learn, right.

I scrapped it and then sanded with 60 grit. I then washed it with TSP and sanded again. I skim coated today so I’m hoping it holds this time. It could have been worse. I didn’t skim coat the ceiling yet. I went ahead and sanded and cleaned that as well. Not fun.

I don’t know if there are any Jeopardy fans out there but the last finalist for the Ultimate Jeopardy Champion just won their 2 part semi-final match. It will be Brad, Jerome, and Ken Jennings in a 3 day match for $2,000,000.00 to pick the Ultimate Jeopardy Champion. The match starts Monday. These people are freakishly smart.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

It Just Doesn’t Make Sense

There is a man that works at the local college that teaches classes in Historic Preservation. There is a curriculum there that you can get a 2 year degree in preservation. This person also writes a column in the monthly insert called Restore & Preserve in the local paper. He is also a member of the Historic Preservation Committee. Because of all of the work I’m doing on my house I am familiar with his name and read his column every month. Until a few weeks ago I had never met him.

In his column he often writes that if anyone has any questions please feel free to call him or send him an email. He says he loves to talk about old buildings and is happy to help. Yada, yada, yada. Just after I bought my house there was something that confused me about the layout of the house. It wasn’t anything too technical about construction or structural rehab, but more a question about historical context. I won’t go in to it here, but it was about the kitchen. Anyway, I wrote him an email and weeks went by with no response. A couple of months later the issue arose again and I had just read his column so I called him this time. He seemed hurried on the phone and said he really didn’t have time to talk and he took my number and said he would call back. He never did. I was a little perturbed, but nothing major, and I kind of forgot about.

The first time I actually met him was a few weeks ago at the Historic Preservation Committee meeting when I was listing my house on the local register. I had written a lot about my house and he had more than a few questions for me at the meeting. He asked more questions by far than any one of the 6 committee members. I am an armature at this and he corrected some of the things I wrote. It is was fine with me because I knew some of it was inaccurate and I enjoy learning. Anyway, after the meeting I wanted to follow up with him on some of the things he brought up. I am planning on using this information when trying to list my house on the National Register and I wanted to get it right. I sent another email.

Remembering the last time I tried to contact him, I was very specific in this email. I asked 3 questions and I asked them in a way that he could almost answer all three with one word responses. Several weeks have gone by with no response. Last night I went to a gathering of old house enthusiast at a friends house and he was there. He came up to me and said that he got my email and that we should get together and talk. I felt like saying, “Just answer the stupid email”, but I didn’t. I arrived late and there were a lot of people there and I never really got a chance to talk with him before dinner and the presentation.

He was there giving a presentation on The Secretary of the Interior’s Guide To Historic Preservation. At the end of the presentation he said that he loves to talk with people about there projects and encouraged every one to call him or email him with questions. He even suggested people could swing by his house if they wanted to. I wasn’t sure what to think.

Then today, I ran in to him at the market down the street. A very odd coincidence. We were in line at the check-out together. He was at the cashier and I was 2 people back. I reached over and tapped him on the shoulder with my baguette and we started to talk. He was dealing with the cashier so I didn’t get in to anything too deep. We chatted briefly and as he was walking out he turned and said, “Um, oh, let’s see, I have your email address. I’ll get in touch with you and we can get together.”

I’m not sure what to think. Does he expect me to ask him for a professional evaluation of my house? That is not really what I’m interested in and I never hinted at it. I doubt he connects me with that 10 second phone call 3 years ago. I just asked three little questions in my recent email. One question was just the proper spelling of an architectural term he brought up at the Preservation Meeting that I can not find in any books. Why would you repeatedly encourage people to call you and email you and then never return their calls or emails. It just doesn’t make sense. It is very irritating.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

For What It’s Worth….

Well, I finished the walls today. Tomorrow I will start on the ceiling and then I will have to go over the whole thing again and sand and smooth areas that do not meet my highest of high standards. I am my own worst critic. At my last house I cut one of the steps on one of the stringers for the stairs wrong. It was off by just a hair and I didn’t notice until I trimmed it out. I don’t think anyone noticed but it bugged me for the next 3 years until I sold that house.

Tonight I have a little R&R planned. There is a group of old house owners that get together once a month for a pot luck. Every month it is at a different group members house. I don’t go to every meeting but it’s fun. Tonight we are meeting at the home of a couple that runs an antique store in Old Town. They live in a really nice 1910 house. I guess it would be called a 4 Square. It is a large and imposing home. They've been working on it for about 10 years and are doing a very nice period restoration. They had a Christmas party last December and were showing off their brand new Carrara Marble counter tops in the kitchen. Very nice.

I kind of feel like the odd man out at these things. They are all a bit older then me and more socially conservative. Also, most of them have owned their homes a lot longer and so are so much farther along then me. I do get to go into some great homes, though, and they are all fixed up really nice. Most every one in the group is doing period restorations as opposed to remodels. Some of these places are over-the-top. The area is dominated by grand Victorians and so most of the houses are late 19th century.

Last month we met at a 5000 sq ft 1901 house. I think it would be termed Free Classic, but I’m not really sure. It has a huge Onion Dome turret on the corner. The foyer is huge and is dominated by these massive redwood Corinthian columns and a great open stairwell also made of redwood. It is just spectacular. The meetings start with drinks and mingling, and then a pot-luck dinner. After that the owners give a little presentation about the house or recent projects. Then there is a brief meeting. Right now many of them are working to help restore a 1901 (?) fire house in the city so that dominates the meeting portion. Finally we get a tour of the home. Going up in the onion dome is pretty cool.

I’ll be having the meeting at my house in August. I wonder if the kitchen will be done by then?

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

It’s a State of Mind

I think it was 2 years ago this summer that I pulled 5300 pounds of asbestos/cement siding off my house. It was months of work on a ladder with a pry bar. Getting the actual siding off wasn’t even the worse part. After I got all that crap off the house I had zillions of nails I had to pull. They used a thin ring-shanked nail and if you didn’t pull it out slowly and straight you could leave a lot more than a tiny hole in the siding.

I thought I would never finish. It just went on and on. After a few months of this I realized I had another 4 to 6 weeks or so of work ahead of me so I started to kind of psych my self up for it. If someone made a comment about the weather I would reply with something like, “Oh yes, this is beautiful nail pulling weather”. It could have been 40 degrees with the rain coming in sideways and it was still perfect nail pulling weather. When a co-worker would ask me if I had plans for the weekend, I would answer with something like, “Well, I plan to get up early Saturday and get in a couple good hours of nail pulling in before breakfast. You know, there is really nothing like nail pulling first thing in the morning. It just gets the blood flowing”. All weekend activities I mentioned after that would either be actual nail pulling or some how nail pulling related. I got a lot of strange looks.

I’ve started to think that way about the plaster in the kitchen. It just seems to be taking forever. I think part of that is because I really don’t like it. It is just such an imperfect art form. Sheet rock isn't any better. Give me a piece of wood any day of the week. I can measure it and cut it and then re-measure to make sure it is what I want. Plaster doesn’t work like that. There will always be imperfections. It is very frustrating to work with.

But I must get it done. Yesterday I ordered the flooring. I have to get these walls done before the flooring arrives. So now I need to psych myself up. I must get in to this work no matter how much I dislike it. So, you know what I’m thinking now would be absolutely perfect. I think if I can get in one solid hour of plaster work before dinner that would be great. Nothing tops off a perfect day like a little plaster work. Fine wine, beautiful woman, plaster, and good music. These are the things that make life worth living. There is a light rain falling right now, but you know, this is perfect plastering weather. It really doesn't get any better than this.

Monday, May 16, 2005

Lusting For Lustron

Until a few months ago I had never heard of a Lustron Home. Apparently about the same time Levittown was springing up like so many weeds there was a man in Ohio who had a revolutionary idea about building homes. I don’t know all the details exactly, but they were called Lustron Homes. Several thousand were built and are still scattered about the mid-west.

The thing that made Lustron homes unique was the materials used and the construction method. Every last piece of the home was made up of enameled steel panels. All exterior and interior surfaces were enameled steel. The homes came with many built-ins like book cases, hutches, bathroom vanities and they were all made of enameled steel. The roof “shingles”, gutters, walls, doors, ceiling - inside and out – everything was made of enameled steel. They were all made in a giant factory and shipped out by truck and rail. It was a revolutionary idea.

There was some story behind the whole thing, and as I said, I don’t know all the details. Apparently the man behind the idea got a lot of tax breaks and maybe some federal funding to start up the manufacturing plant. It had to do with the big housing shortage just after WWII. There was a scandal and things went arye (with the Federal Government involved – I don’t believe it). Anyway, the whole idea went the way of the buggy whip.

So, you may be asking, why am I bring up Lustron Homes at this point? Why do I lust after a Lustron Home all of the sudden? Why do I seem to be enamored with enameled steel? Well I'll tell you.

It's because they didn’t use plaster or sheetrock on the inside!!!

I’ve come to the conclusion that it is impossible to get a smooth wall the first time out. In fact, at this point, I’m sure there is either magic or witchcraft involved. Either that or it is a secret Communist plot to drive me insane. Yes, that’s it, it’s the Communists. It’s not over people. Start digging your bomb shelters now, before it’s to late!!!

Sunday, May 15, 2005

Little Done & A Momentous Event

Well, I didn’t quite get as much done as I had hoped. I would say I am a little more than half way around the room. I still have the ceiling to do as well. I am never satisfied with my plastering abilities. I’ll get it, and it will eventually look good, but it will take a little more work than I would like.

All I’m doing is skim-coating. I had a lot of areas of old plaster, other areas that had small patches, and then other areas that needed to be completely rebuilt. Two odd things I noticed. First, when I apply the finish plaster over the old plaster it lets off a strong ammonia smell. Not sure why that is. Second, when skim-coating the old plaster I have a working time of a half hour or more. When I skim-coat the new plaster I have a working time of less than 5 minutes.

That new plaster must still be drying, even after 2 weeks. I apply the skim-coat to it and in less than 2 minutes the stuff has the consistency of stiff clay in. In some ways it is easier to work with because you are less likely to leave trowel marks. However, you have very little time to get it right.

On high note I did something today that has been more than 2 years in the making. I put up 2 of the new corner blocks in the kitchen. The idiots who sheet rocked a few rooms back in the 70s sawed off the tops of several of the fancy corner blocks. I had to get them reproduced, which was quite expensive. I wanted to use the salvage old-growth redwood from the 2 story addition I removed. I couldn’t remove the addition until I rewired and re-plumbed the main house because the kitchen and bath I was using was in the addition. It was very gratifying to finally get some of those up. It is sort of like having to chop down trees, so you can mill lumber, so you can build a boat, so you can go fishing, and now I am finally eating the first fish.

The one on the left is original. The one in middle is a cut-off one. The one on the right is new. They are 8.5-inches high. 6.25-inches wide. 1.5-inces thick.

Saturday, May 14, 2005

I’m Back In The Saddle Again…

It was one week ago today that I did any work on the kitchen. I had been working on it on an almost daily basis for more than 2 months, so one week off wasn’t all that bad. Still, it felt odd. I usually don’t take time off like that unless I’m on my death-bed or something. I get kind of obsessed about things. Although not as obsessed as Lakewood2-Flat’s dogs. That is just freaky. :-)

The week off was not a complete waste. I worked on the paper work to list my house on the National Registry of Historic Places. I typed and typed and edited and edited and retyped and retyped. I spent a few hours at the library looking up architectural terms. You can’t just say you have a dormer or a porch on your house you have to say exactly what kind, and there are a lot to chose from. The favorite term I found was “pent roof enclosing gable” to describe three of the four gables on the house.

There are 2 parts to the write-up on the house. There is the “Narrative Description “ and the “Narrative Statement of Significance”. Each ended up being a little over 5 pages of single-spaced, 10 pt. text. I’m going to need to get someone to edit and proof read it. I’m notorious for making odd little mistakes in my writing. I will do things like write “Of coarse” instead of “Of course”. Spell checkers don't catch those kinds of mistakes.

Next I will need to take some pictures. They require black and white photos. I will need to snap pictures of important interior elements, along with photos of the exterior elevations. I will also need to get photos of the other houses in the area that I referenced in the write-up. All photos and paperwork has to be on archival quality paper. Finally I will write the bibliography. Not sure why but I’m really dreading that.

Every thing is sent in duplicate to the State Office of Historic Preservation. They do all the vetting before it is sent to the Parks Service. I’ve been told to expect that the state office will send back the information to make some requested changes or for additional information. If the state office thinks the house is worthy to list they will send it to National office. The web site for the National office says they list 99.9% of the properties the state sends them. They also say they make a decision with-in 45 days from the time they get the paper work. Not sure how long the state takes. I’m hoping to get everything sent off in 2 weeks or so.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

In Search of a Location

The location of my house to be specific. Well, I know where my house is. In fact, I’m sitting in it right now, but I need the coordinates. They are asking for the Northing and Easting of my house. They being the State Office of Historic Preservation (SHPO). All week long I’ve been working on the paper work to add my house to the National Register of Historic Places. I’m not exactly sure why I’m doing it, but I am. It is kind of like rolling down hill. I just sort of go where it takes me, and this time it's taking me in this direction.

I was able to use TerraServer to find the Longitude & Latitude, and I used an on-line tool to convert that to UTM Coordinate. The trouble is I’m not sure if either of these values are the Northing and Easting values the good people down at the SHPO want. I posted a message on a cartographers board and one at The Old House Web for good measure. Hopefully I will find someone who will know what the heck these people want.

In case anyone’s in the neighborhood and wants to stop by I’m at Longitude –124.1587 & Latitude 40.79998

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

An Architectural Arms Race

I know that I live in a small town that is pretty isolated. I’m sure there are cities that have Historic Districts that are larger than my entire city. Still, for what it is, there is some pretty amazing architecture here. It seems like there was an Architectural Arms Race going on in this town from about 1885 to about 1930. The town literally did not exist in 1855, but just 30 years later they were building houses that are still considered today to be some of the finest examples of Victorian homes in the Country. The next town over did such a fine job the main street has been recreated in Logo form in the Lego Land amusement park in So. Ca.

It seems like everyone was trying to out do everyone else. And it didn’t stop with the Victorians. There is block after block of fine Craftsman homes, bungalows, and bungaloids in every imaginable shape and size. Unfortunately some time shortly after WWII the SALT & SALT2 treaties were signed – I’m not talking about Strategic Arms Limitation Treaties but the Stunning Architecture Limitation Treaties – and the arms race ended. After that it was little house on the hillside. Little houses made of ticky-tack.

We’ve lost a lot over the years but a lot still remains. I bought my current home (1895 Vic) about 3 years ago. A few months later I bought my first digital camera. Some family came to visits that summer so I played tourist in my own town and snapped a few pictures. I was in full Victorian mode at the time because of my new house so there aren’t any Craftsman or Bungalows here, sorry. I am a big fan of the genre, and I almost bought a 1922 Craftsman myself once.

I posted all these pictures on my site over a year ago and seeing those great homes yesterday on another blog (I forget which one) made me think about them. Some of the pictures were taken early in the morning while I was walking to work so the lighting is bad. This is a small sampling of the fine homes in this city. All of these homes are with-in about a 10 minute walk of my house. Another interesting note about them is that they are all built entirely out of redwood. They’re fun to look at. Sometimes I have trouble wrapping my late 20th Century brain around the ideas behind late 19th Century architecture. What the heck were they thinking?

Click the thumbnails to see larger pictures

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Subconscious Procrastination?

I’ve stalled on the kitchen. Some are good reasons and some are not. This pattern is not uncommon for me, but it still bothers me when I don’t work on a project for 3 or 4 days in a row. I had the issue with the neighbor and cat, and the intestinal thing over the weekend. That really took me out of project mode. There has also been a new project at work. Nothing major, but it does tend to occupy more of my time.

Also, in the past 2 days I’ve had one tenant move out and I inked the deal with the new tenant. Boy, let me tell you, it really pays to be picky and to treat people with respect. This is the second tenant in a row I’ve had in that apartment that cleaned it so well when they left I had to do nothing. Yesterday I went in with the new tenant to show her a few things. I hadn’t even been in there yet myself since the old tenants left on Sunday. On the way upstairs I told her that if there was anything she wanted done like the carpets or the oven cleaned or windows washed to just let me know. We walked around the apartment together and both were amazed at how spotless the place was. I returned the deposit to the old tenants today and almost threw in an extra $50.00.

All that aside, the other reason I haven’t done any work on the kitchen is because I'm starting to do finish work. It is, you know, so final. It is what everyone sees. I hate to screw it up. Subconsciously I think I feel that if I never start it I will never screw it up, so I keep putting it off. I have to start sometime, though. This week I’m going to have some extra work at my real job so I can’t really do anything (is that just an excuse?) but I’m determined to start skim coating this weekend, I promise… unless something comes up… which it could… you never know… I might get sick… I do feel a little something in the back of my throat…

Sunday, May 08, 2005

Slower Than A Dead Slug

There’s no trick question here. This time I’m talking about myself. I’ve spent the whole weekend geeking out on the computer and watching the boob tube. My cat has spent the past week sleeping on a box left over from a recent EBay acquisition. It is the new sleep spot. I check for a pulse every other day to make sure he’s still alive. It has been very slow around here lately.

I also seem to have some lower intestinal thang. I will spare you the details but I think it has something to with my steady diet of frozen dinners and take out food because I HAVE NO KITCHEN!! If that weren’t bad enough I had a little run-in with one of the tenants yesterday. I’m not big on confrontation so it sort of put me a bad mood.

They’re nice people and mean well. They are a 20-something couple I’ve rented to for nearly 3 years. Shortly after they moved in they got a kitten. Apparently, a few months ago their little cat decided to start peeing on a bedspread or something. Now, this cat has lived 99.9% of it’s life in their apartment. Last year they made an attempt at getting it acclimated to outdoor life but it didn’t go well. Last weekend the woman decided the cat would now be an outdoor cat. I talked to the man about it and he said it was supposed to be punishment for the pee thing.

This young cat is totally freaked about suddenly being outside 24/7. It spends most of its time under the platform for the garbage cans. There is maybe a 6 inch clearance under there. The woman keeps food and water on the front porch of the apartments but the cat is so freaked out I doubt it is eating much.

I didn’t say anything for the first week because I figured they would take it back inside soon, but on Wednesday I was woken up about 5:00 AM by the cat because it was meowing under their window. It had rained all night and the poor cat was soaking wet and wanted in. It rained on Thursday and on Friday as well. The cat had been living under the garbage cans for more than a week now and it wasn’t doing any better. I talked with the woman in the afternoon on Friday and told her that the cat needs a home. Toss it outside during the day but it needs go inside sometimes. It wasn’t well suited to this new life she had decided for it.

Friday evening I went to throw out some garbage. There was the cat soaking wet cowering under the garbage cans again. I went inside and called them. I got the man and said the cat needs to go inside. It can’t live under the garbage cans and I don’t want the food on the porch all the time because it invites more strays. He took the cat in and the next day the woman came to my door and said, “We are both adults and you have no right telling us how to discipline our cat.” We went back and forth for a bit and I basically said this is my property and if I think you are mistreating your cat it becomes my business.

The discussion was surprisingly heated. I was really in no mood for it. This is not the country side where a cat can live in the barn, nor is this a cat that that has been outside for more than an hour or so. You just don’t toss it outside in the rain. She said she would take the cat back in but that we would just have to agree to disagree as to whether she was mistreating her pet. I never agreed to anything. Take care of your stupid pet or don’t have one.

Saturday, May 07, 2005

Faster Than a Speeding Bullet

While not house related, this is something worth sharing I think. Who knows what the fastest animal on the planet is? If you said the cheetah you would be wrong. There is an animal that weighs less than 3 pounds and has been clocked at over 200 MPH! I guess it is kind of a trick question because the animal is a bird and so those are flying speeds. The bird in question is the Peregrine Falcon.

The reason I’m writing about this is because of an article in the paper today about a peregrine nest on the 33 floor on the PG&E building in San Francisco's financial district. The peregrine falcon almost became extinct in the 70s because of the pesticide DDT. It caused the egg shells to become thin and break before the chick could mature. There are 3 chicks and the image is updated every few seconds. The web cam has been active for about 2 months now.


* The peregrine is the fastest animal on the planet. Scientists estimate the speed of a diving peregrine to be more than 200 mph.
* Peregrines eat birds that they catch in the air.
* Peregrines nest on tall city structures that are similar to the sheer cliffs they prefer in nature.
* The peregrine is one of only a handful of birds that nest on every continent and major land mass except Antarctica.
* The peregrine population declined to zero known nesting pairs east of the Mississippi, and just two known nesting pairs in California by 1970.
* Today, there are an estimated 235 peregrine falcon nesting pairs in California.

I guess in a way this is house related. I mean, a nest is a house of sorts, and besides, I have nothing else to write about today.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Sometimes It Just Works Out

Once I get an idea in my head it can be hard to shake it. That was the case with the flooring in the kitchen. The sort of traditional floors in my area were fir, and it just so happens I like the look of fir, so it would work out well if I put it in. I went to all of the floor places in town and they seemed to have everything but fir, and I do mean everything. Finally I found it at one lumber yard 2 towns over.

One of the flooring places I went to had a huge selection of flooring. They had just returned from a flooring convention and had bought some odd lots off the floor and were selling them at incredible prices. I started crunching numbers and these floors were looking really good. The only problem was they were all engineered or pre-finished floors. Now, there is nothing wrong with engineered or pre-finished flooring. They are supposed to be very good and very long lasting. The trouble was the grooves. I was going for a very traditional look and the grooves just wouldn’t cut it for the look I wanted.

I went to The Old House Web and posted a question on-line to get some clarity on the subject. I wanted to talk to people who had put in floors like this and I also brought up my desire for fir floors. I was told repeatedly that new fir floors will not be the same as the old fir floors I’ve seen in other old houses. The second generation fir is just not as hard and durable as the old growth stuff. Then someone posted a message about an EBay seller selling some fir flooring. I went to check it out.

It turned out this guy bought thousands of feet of 3X12 (3 inches wide, 12 inches thick, and as long as a house) fir joists salvaged from an old sawmill in Alaska. The joists are over 100 years old and hard as a rock. He mills them in to 1X6 T&G fir flooring and he is only about 300 miles away. It took a few months to work things out. When you deal with mill owners and others that don’t normally handle the retail end you have to be patient. With them it is about craftsmanship and not service. They don’t always get back to you right away. You just have to sort of let things play out. Anyway, he called me today and we agreed on a price and logistics. It will be milled to order and shipped to my front door for less a square foot than anything I found locally besides the cut rate engineered flooring. Sometimes it just works out.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Stage Two Complete!

After taking a few days off I finally finished stage 2 plastering in the kitchen. I’ll let the whole mess dry for a day or two and then I will need to sand around the edges a bit before I can skim coat. Maybe Sunday I can start to do a small wall.

Here’s another hint for would-be plasters: When doing the ceiling don’t spread plaster directly over your head with your mouth open. That is, unless you like the fresh, wholesome taste of plaster. It is chalk full of yummy goodness. Choosy Mom's chose plaster. It's squeezably soft! My doctor said, "Plaster"!

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Name That Style

Below are pictures of a 1926 building built in my backyard. The first floor is 6 garages and the second floor is 2 1-bedroom apartments. I’ve been working on the paperwork to list my house (1895 Vic) on the Natl. Reg. Of Hist. Places. I thought I would include this building with it. They are both on the same lot, and I think they are both worthy of listing. Whether the Feds think so remains to be seen.

The problem is, I’m having trouble naming the style. I spent the day at the library pouring over books and couldn’t really nail it down. I can sort of describe the building in architectural terms but I’m wondering if there is a particular style that it belongs to.

Any guesses?

The top story is wood shingles and the bottom is 1X8 shiplap. Over the front 2 garages (4 more on the right side) there is a small porch roof?? gable roof?? with projectring wood beams. The roof is a parapet roof.

Monday, May 02, 2005

In The Dirt On My Belly

Because I’ve decided to get rid of the sink that means I had to cut the pipes and get them out of the wall. This means it was another trip under the house. I am intimate with the crawl space under the house. I have been there many, many times. It used to be a real nightmare. There were so many pipes for all the different apartments you literally could not go from one side of the house to the other. When I was buying the place some inspectors just wouldn’t go under or said the report was incomplete because some areas were inaccessible. And all of the trash and debris was incredible.

I spent months under there last year cutting out miles of old pipes, cable wires, phone lines, and hauling out bags full of debris. I then mounted lights down the center that shine on both sides and put two electrical outlets under there. When I re-plumbed and rewired I secured all the wires and pipes up against the joists. I can now flip a switch and crawl around in a relatively clean and well lit space. Now if I can just do something about the cat poop.

Sunday, May 01, 2005

The Kitchen Sink

Stage 2 of the plaster is almost complete. I’ve run in to a small problem. Well, actually, a large and heavy problem. It’s the kitchen sink. Over a year ago I bought a circa 1900 kitchen sink. It is one of the big cast iron monsters with the drain board and backsplash. I think it is sometimes called an apron sink. It is 4.5-feet long and weighs several hundred pounds. Right now it is the kitchen sink but I’m going to be getting rid of it.

The kitchen is 285 sq ft and a very odd shaped room. This kitchen has never had modern counters and cabinets installed. I was really working with a blank slate and so I went through many revisions of the design. The sink was going to be the center piece in versions 1, 3, 4, 6, 8, 12, 15, 22, 23, & 28. It did not make the final cut, however, in version 36. I decided to hang on to as long as I could because it is nice to have running water in the kitchen but now it is in the way of the plastering. I can’t finish the ceiling or a small part of the wall without moving it. The sink is way to heavy to just move it around when its in the way so I’m going to sell it and just get rid of it once and for all. Sniff

I went down to a local antique/salvage place I’ve dealt with many times (Side Note: The owner is the woman whose daughter I didn’t rent to. We talked about that when I was in there. Her daughter is 18 and so is the boyfriend so the mom understands why I didn’t rent to them. She doesn’t hold it against me. I made some suggestions for talking with potential landlords and the mom got right on the phone and told the daughter. I hope it helps.). The owner said she give me $150 in store credit. I think it’s worth more. I walked down the street to another antique store that sometimes deals in this sort of thing. I had talked with the owner about the sink before but she said it is too big for her shop. She said it is worth $250 - $300 retail. I’ve decided to put an ad in the paper and try and sell it that way. That means it will be in the way for several more days at least.

I think that will work out, though. I need to get the area cleaned up and sort of recoup form stage 1 & 2 of the plastering. Getting the plaster from hawk to trowel is not an exact science and a good amount does end up on the floor. Here is a hint for you: cardboard and not plastic makes a good drop cloth for this sort of thing. With plastic, the plaster lands on the plastic and you step in the plaster and now the whole mess is stuck to your shoe. The plastic becomes almost useless almost immediately. Below is a picture of the mess so far and a diagram of the blank slate kitchen.