Monday, October 30, 2006

Grate, Juuuust Grate!

If you’ve read my blog long enough you’re probably thinking that the title is a typo, and most of the time you’d probably be right. However, in this case I’m talking about antique heater grates. I purchased a pair on Ebay to use as foundation vents for the outside of the house, and they came today.

There were 3 of them available at the same time, in 3 separate auctions, from the same seller. I didn’t notice until I unpacked the 2 I won that they aren’t really an exact match. Now that I think about it, maybe 2 did match and there was a third one that was a close match. They’re close enough that I don’t think anyone will notice.

All of the auctions ended about 2 minutes apart and the bidding was fast and furious at the end. I only need 2 for the north side of the house that faces the street, but the plan was to try and get all three. I won the first one, lost the second one, and then won the last one. It was thrilling, but now I'm thinking the second one must have a been the exact match for one of the ones I got. Oh well.

Next I’ll soak them in TSP and water for a few days to strip the paint off. They’re too big to boil. After that, some spray paint and then slap them on the house.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Get The Biggest Fork You Can Find….

And stick it in the second story of my house, because that baby’s done! No, don’t just stick it in there, jab it in repeatedly with a sinister look on your face while you make those violin noises from Hitchcock’s movie Psycho. Weeee, Weeee, Weeee, Weeee.

No more 32 foot ladders. No more bone chilling winds. No more slippery porch roofs. It’s done. It’s finished. I can move on. But before I move on, let’s update the chart.

It’s a beautiful thing, isn’t it folks?

I’ve added a Section 7b. These are the two little walls I built a year or two ago to re-enclose a small section of the porch. This also has the Queen Anne Door I made. Part of this section is not under the porch, so I want to do it next. We’re supposed to get rain Wednesday, so I’ll see if I can pound it out Monday and Tuesday. Fingers crossed.


Section 7b

Saturday, October 28, 2006

A Bit of a Problem

So, yesterday I pounded out the north portion of the house above the wrap around back porch. We’ve had two days of cloudless, fogless skies, with little or no wind. This seemed to be perfect painting weather, especially on this north side above the porch that sees almost no sun even on sunny days. The shingles on the porch roof seem to be always damp, and frankly, it’s must be just about the worst place imaginable on the house to work. The west side of the porch was a Cake Walk compared to this.

I wanted to take advantage of the weather so I put in a few marathon days and just got it done. Everything is painted except the trim around the two windows. That is an hours worth of work, at best. Last night I worked until shortly after 6 in the evening putting on the top-coat on the octagon shingles. Around 5:30 or so the dew settled on the porch roof shingles. In just ten or fifteen minutes time they went from grayish black to dark black and everything got a little clammy.

I hate working up there when it’s like that. I start to envision myself sliding off the porch. I rationalize the potential fall by convincing myself that the ground is soft, and if I land right, I may not hurt myself too bad. Besides, even if I do hurt myself, I have good insurance, so it won’t be too bad. I just have to survive the fall. This does little to calm me. The palms of my hands and the bottoms of my feet sweat profusely.

By the time I finished the dew had settled on the fresh paint. Not good. Fortunately, like said, there is no fog. I checked it repeatedly through out the night and never dried. It’s now almost 11:00 AM the next day and the paint still hasn’t dried. There was some minor running near the bottom, in the last area that I finished up, but it’s not too bad.

I’m not sure how this will affect the paint job. I mean, it can’t be good for it, so the question is, how bad is it. I can’t say, because this is new territory for me. I was hoping to finish this up today and be done with it, but I can’t paint the window trim until the siding dries.

It’s another beautiful, cloudless day....except on the north side above the porch.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

I’ve got it, but it’s wrong…

It dawned on me, as I was looking at the pricey antique toilets and vanities at DEA Bath, that I have a plethora of antique bathroom items, they’re just the wrong style. I wouldn’t call these trash by any stretch of the imagination, but you know the saying, One Man’s Trash is Another Man’s Treasure.

I own three complete toilets from the 20s, 30s, and 40s, plus another tank and lid from the 20s. All are very desirable and fetch a commanding price when they are cleaned up. I also own a 1920s bathroom sink and a very early brass toilet flapper out of an old high tank toilet. This is all in addition to the clawfoot tub and oak high tank that I already plan to use in the downstairs bathroom.

Getting rid of all these items locally would take a while. It’s a small town and people won’t snap these things up immediately. I could sell them on-line, but it's kind of a pain to ship these types of items. They are very heavy and would require a lot of packing. It’s odd that I did check out Ebay just to see what old toilets would sell for and there was only one listed. It was a fancy English painted and embossed Victorian toilet bowl starting at $650. My aren’t quite in the same category as that, but you would think there would have been at least on antique toilet like mine listed. Odd. Anyway, I got to thinking that one place that might be interested in them is DEA Bath. I’ve contacted them to see if they’re interested in buying them from me. I told them I would take store credit.

If it goes well, this could give me a lot of store credit. DEA Bath is a little south of Sacramento. I could load up the car with all the supplies and make it a one day round trip. I haven’t heard back from them yet, so, fingers crossed. Click this link here to see crude pictures of my inventory.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

The California Cooler Problem

The California Cooler was an invention that popped up around 1910 or so and was in wide spread use around here until about 1930. The only time I’ve seen them on a house built in the 19th Century they seem to be retro fitted. That’s my problem. I’ve got two of them that are on the north side of the house over the porch. The bedroom that is on the other side of this exterior wall was turned in to a kitchen when the house was cut-up in to apartments in the 20s.

The California Cooler was always built on an exterior wall of the kitchen. There was a louvered vent on the outside that lead to a cabinet in the kitchen. The cabinet wall that faced the vent had wire mesh instead of wood, this was to keep the bugs out, and the shelves were either wood slats or wire mesh. The idea was that the cool costal air would flow through the vent and then circulate around the wire shelves and keep perishable food stuffs cool. Maybe this was a cheap alternative to ice. Maybe there wasn’t an ice plant in the city. I’m not sure. Even in the dog days of summer the temperatures stay somewhat cool in the day, and noticeably cool at night. In the winter, of course, it’s much colder, but it rarely freezes. It was a clever idea.

Here’s what one looks like. This was the 1920s addition I removed from my house. I was able to salvage some of the kitchen cabinets, but the cooler cabinet was already in rough shape, and the door was now plywood, so I moved it out to the garage and I now store tools in it.

Anyway, the first picture is the outside shot of the cooler, and then there are 2 shots of the cooler cabinet that was just on the other side of the vent, with it’s wire mesh wall and wire shelves.

You can see the vent just to the right of the upstairs door.

The open side with wire mesh is on the right. This faced the vent above.

Another shot of the shelves.

So, if you have a 1917 Craftsman with California Coolers, you celebrate them and restore them. If you have an 1895 Victorian with two of them cut in to the upstairs bedroom wall, you get rid of them. That’s what I have. Also on this same wall are some plumbing vents that are no longer used. These are also left over from the apartment days.

In the picture above, you can see one of the cooler vents on the far left just past the downspout. It’s much smaller than the one shown above. There is a second one out of view, below the rectangular window. The plumbing vents also need to go, but I’ve decided to paint first and then go back and fix these items. My concern is that I’ll waste a day or two fixing all this and run out of nice weather for painting.

There is also the fact that the plumbing vents are nice to hold on to while working on the porch. This north side porch is cold, windy, and slanty. The roof seems more narrow, and it seems to slant more than the south side. I’m sure that’s just my imagination. Also, because the porch roof sees very little sunshine, it has small growths of slippery fungi in places.

I just can’t wait to finish this section. Working up there is really no fun at all.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Speaking of Bathrooms....

Kristin over at 1902 Victorian showed some eye-popping Victorian bathroom vanities the other day. They had eye-popping prices to boot. In fact, one of the bathroom vanities on the site was listed as “expensive (let’s talk)”. Another one was priced at $7600! Needless to say, those vanities aren’t for mere mortals like myself. Besides, I think I'd be afraid to use a $7600 bathroom vanity.

I’ve been thinking about bathroom vanities myself because I started thinking about the bathroom & mudroom floor tile last week. I only need to tile the mud room now, but the rooms will share a common floor, so I thought I might buy all the tile for both rooms at once, but only tile the mudroom at this point. The more I think about that, the less I like that idea. The smart thing would be to just tile both rooms and get it over with. It’s not that big of a space.

The problem with this plan is that I haven’t roughed in plumbing yet. You can see the snow-ball effect this is having. This all started because I wanted to put up a door to close off the bathroom from the kitchen so I could control dust. I could have just slapped up plywood and be done with it, but I have to deal with this space eventually, so why not now.

Anyway, I had this sink (see below) already. It’s from the 20s, and in pretty good shape. It came out of the addition I removed. I also have a 1930s toilet and tub from the addition as well. The plan was to do a 1920s bathroom, but the more I think about that, the less I like it. Now I’m thinking a Victorian marble vanity like the one I have in the upstairs bathroom would be better. Here’s the direction I’m leaning.

1920s sink. It looks better in person – and when it’s clean. Most of that discoloration is dirt.

Here’s how I’m leaning. This stuff is all from DEA Bath.

Antique marble corner vanity - $150

Reproduction under mount bowl with hardware - $170

Reproduction nickel plated rope brass legs - $295

Faucets and drain $200 (estimated)

Total - $1000 once I get it shipped to me.

Still kind of pricey, but it’s better than the $3500 to the “expensive (let’s talk)” prices of the other, super high-end vanities. I could buy it in installments, you know, one piece at a time over several months. It would seem less expensive that way. I could also go with fancy sink brackets, instead of the legs and probably save $200 or more. Really, all I need now is the vanity and I can do the rough-in of the drain and supply lines. And if you think about it, $1000 is not all that much for a nice vanity. I would pay half that for a crappy press-board vanity with a molded sink and cheap faucets down at the home center.

And before anyone says it, yes, I know about Ebay. Ebay and I go way, way back. Vanities like this do come up from time to time. As a matter of fact, there are 2 marble vanities without sinks, legs, or faucets on there right now. They are about $150 with shipping. My big concern with purchasing something like this off Ebay is getting it in one piece. I know DEA Bath will pack it and ship it correctly, and they won’t haggle if there’s a problem once I get it. That piece of mind is worth the extra 20% I might pay retail for something like this. Smaller, less breakable things, yes, I’ll take my time and wait for the deal-of-the-century on Ebay.

If I bought an 80 pound marble vanity off Ebay it would have to be a good enough price that I wouldn’t be as worried about it showing up in 5 pieces. Some people just have no idea how to pack things. Almost every single cast iron thing I've bought off Ebay has arrived broken. Newspaper and thin cardboard will not support very heavy objects. It's not rocket science! Very frustrating.

I’m still in the formulating stages on this project….We’ll see.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Altitude Sickness

Some of my misspent youth was spent traipsing through the Sierra Nevada mountains with 30 pounds strapped to my back. For those of you not familiar with them, the Sierra Nevadas are the range of mountains that run up the east side of California. These are the same mountains that contain Yosemite National Park and Mt Whitney, which at 14,494 feet, is the tallest mountain in the continental US.

I lived in the LA area at the time and my buddies and I made many trips up Hywy 395, which runs through the Owens Valley up the east side of the Sierras. The Owens Valley used to contain the giant Owens lake until LA watered it’s many orchards and flushed it’s many toilets and now Owens Lake is gone. ~sniff~

Anyway, we’d drive up Owens Valley past little towns with names like Lone Pine & Lee Vining until we found a trail head. Then we’d backpack up in to the mountains for 4 or 5 days. It is just unbelievably beautiful country. There are year round glaciers, and ice cold streams dotted with tiny alpine lakes.

Sometimes we would go on long, grueling hikes over several mountain passes and other times we would make base-camp at one of the lakes, which we almost always had to ourselves for the week, and then take day hikes to other areas and higher elevations. The highest I ever hiked was to 12,100 feet. At that elevation you are above the tree-line and nothing really grows there except lichen and moss, and there is very little of that. It’s sort of looks like a boulder filled moonscape.

Being that we came from what was essentially sea level, it would take a day or so to get acclimated to the thin air. The first day was always the worst. I can remember getting to camp after the first days hike in and just feeling like crap. My body would be in a state of shock from the strenuous hiking and the thin air. That’s sort of what I felt like this morning. Either the porch roof is higher than I thought and I got altitude sickness, or I just worked too hard on Sunday.

I didn’t sleep well last night either because my shoulder and wrist hurt from all the scraping and painting. I woke up this morning feeling very sluggish and groggy. Sort of like I was hung over. It was one more reminder that I’m not 20 years old anymore.

By the time I got off work I was feeling a little better. The first half hour on the roof was kind of unsteady, but after a while I started feeling better. The best part is I finished painting the west side of the second story. Tomorrow I’ll do a little touch-up here and there, and reinstall the gutter, and that baby will be done!

What a difference 3 days makes.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Holy Crap!

I worked myself in to a stupor today. I was up on the roof at 9:45 this morning and worked until 5:30 this evening, with only one break for lunch of about a half hour. This is the first time I’ve gotten a blister from the paint scraper, and the first time I’ve every used an entire gallon of primer in one day. Those old west facing shingles just drank up the primer. I also have a blister on my foot from working on the slanted roof.

It wasn’t as hot today as it was yesterday. It was still warm, but there was a very gentle breeze coming off the bay. It was just perfect painting weather. I got the whole west side above the porch stripped to bare wood, puttied, sanded, and primed. It was an incredible amount of work, but it really feels good to have it done. Tomorrow I’ll put on the first top coat, and I should have no problems finishing this side up on Tuesday. Then it’s on to the north side.

Man, I am in the home stretch!

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Almost Too Good

It’s said that Eskimos have more than a dozen words for snow. Around here I think we could use about half that many for fog. Most of last week we had this incredibly thick fog. When I left for work in the morning it looked like it had rained, but it was just that the fog had covered everything with moisture.

This was the type of fog that carried a lot of moisture, sat right down on the ground, and didn’t move at all. It just enveloped everything. The good thing about this type of fog is there is nothing above it so it burns off quickly. There is no “deep marine layer” sitting on top of it. By 9:30 the sun starts to poke through, and by 10:30 it’s completely gone with not a cloud in the sky. Other fogs will just sort of lift off the ground to a few 100 feet and still block the sun all day.

This was OK for painting in the afternoons, but I had to be careful not to let bare wood sit uncovered all night or it would get soaked. Fortunately, Section 5b was small, so this wasn’t an issue. I was wondering how I would deal with this fog once I got on top of the wrap-around porch and started to work on Sections 7 & 8. I thought I might have to work on very small sections at a time and make sure what ever wood was stripped and sanded got primed before the fog rolled in around 6 in the evening. As it turned out, I awoke to brilliant sunshine this morning, and the fog is no longer an issue. Now the problem is the sun.

I was sick of working in the cold of the north side of the house, so I decided that once I got up on the porch I would do the west side first. The porch wraps around both the west and north sides of the house. Also, the west side is smaller, and does not have issues like the north side (more on that later), so it seemed like a good place to start.

Normally on the weekends I don’t start working on projects until after noon. Big mistake. I was absolutely broiling in the sun up there on the roof. The afternoon sun just beats down on me, and with the black shingles, it must been in the high 80s. Yes, I know, high 80s isn’t hot hot, but it’s hot enough and I’m pretty well spent at this point in the project. That, and I’ve pretty much become a weather wimp after living on the coast of No. California for 15 years.

Anyway, I got a lot less done than I had hoped. I was able to putty all the holes on both the north and west sides, and I got about 40% of the shingles scraped on the west side. I was hoping I would get it all scraped, sanded, and primed, so I’m a little disappointed. Tomorrow I’ll get an early start. The best news is, though, the weather is supposed to be like this for 8 days straight. If I don’t screw around, I might be able to get both sides painted before the next scheduled rain comes next Sunday. I’ll have to watch the weather predictions closely, because things could change.

I’m going to putz around the house a bit and see if I can get some more done when the sun falls behind the garage.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Greg, meet wall. Wall, Greg.


That pretty much sums it up. Section 5b complete. Tomorrow I start Section 7, or is it 8. I forget now. Why won’t it rain?

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

More Tongue Less Face

The sun came out today, which means I get to go out and start painting again. I just feel every so lucky for this. I can’t tell you how overjoyed I am at the fact that I get to scrape more paint. I’m just the luckiest man in the world. Yes, life just can’t get any better. Before I could paint though, I had to deal with the rot and siding issues with the little bump-out part of Section 5b. Here it is n the picture below.

All of those short little runs of siding needed to be replaced because water had drained in to the wall from the gutter above and rotted everything from the inside out. The good news is, I seemed to have fixed the problem. We had rain the past few days and the wall inside was dry as a bone and there was no more debris. Four years ago when I opened the wall there was about 2-feet of debris stacked up in the wall cavity.

Because we’ve had nasty weather on and off for the past week I did some preliminary work to prepare for the siding replacement. I went out to the wood shed and cut 16 pieces of salvaged siding in to 12-inch lengths. I then scraped all the paint off them and puttied all the holes. I then sanded a second time to clean up the putty, all the while feeling very smart and proud of myself for accomplishing this little task.

But I forgot something.

The siding in the wood shed is a mix of 1895 siding and 1920s siding. To the naked eye they look identical. But they’re not identical and they can’t be used together on the same wall. Go back up and look at the picture. Notice how the little short pieces on the left match up perfectly with the longer pieces on the right. Now imagine that you have a type of siding that looks identical to that, but the face (the part you see) is a ¼ in taller. After every 4 runs you would gain an inch, and those rows would quickly stop matching up. This is what I forgot about the different siding.

In the picture above, the 1895 siding is on the left and the 1920s siding is on the right. The overall height of the boards is the same. Now look at the tongue at the bottom. The 1895 siding has a longer tongue at the bottom and a deeper notch at the top. The longer tongue and deeper notch means less face. When I preped my 16 pieces of siding I used 4, 1895 pieces and TWELVE 1920s PIECES. Grrrrr! It was almost a complete waste of time.

So after I got all the old siding off, and did a little prep in side the wall, I started putting on my beautifully preped pieces of siding and after 3 rows they stopped matching the other rows on the house. So it was back to the wood shed for me. I now feel like a professional wood siding tongue inspector. I can spot that 1895 shit a mile away.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Still Thinking Tile

Yesterday I wrote about how I might need to tile the mud room sooner than I thought. Anna from 1620 Timber Frame left a link about a Spanish Tile Co. called Moasaic del Sur. They have a distributor here in California. They have some very cool tiles and I’ve sent for a catalog. I’m sure they’re crazy expensive, but check out this sample. These are concrete tiles. This patteren is made up of tiles that look to be either 4X4 or 6X6. I'm sure it's probably a metric size. Regardless, I really like them.

I haven’t made any decisions yet, and hopefully the sun will come out soon so I can get back to painting. If that happens, I’m a month or more away from tile work. Plenty of time to make and change a zillion decisions about tiles. On the affordability scale, the 1-inch unglazed hex tiles are about as cheap as it gets. I can get them locally for $6 a sq. ft.

I Googled up a mess of images of 1-inch hex tiles and found some nice ideas. One pattern I like is below. It’s simple but I like it, and this is a simple space. In addition to this I’m thinking about a boarder of square black & white tiles with a Greek key design.

Of course, with the tile idea taking center stage now, the cresting idea has been moved to the back burner. That’s not really a winter time project anyway.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

A Wall Is Reborn

It’s raining again. This does not bode well for me finishing the exterior house paint this year. I haven’t given up all hope, but I am trying to except the fact that it may not happen. It’s not the end of the world because there’s plenty to do around here.

Sometimes a really big project requires that you complete several small projects to get ready for it. That is the case with me and my next big project. A few weeks back I spoke about finishing the rest of the downstairs as the next big project. In order to do that I need to relocate the Living Area to another part of the house, and I need to isolate the kitchen from the rest of the downstairs to try and keep dust and dirt at bay. For the most part the kitchen is isolated except for the door leading from the mud room (unfinished) to the downstairs bathroom (also unfinished).

Both of these areas, the mud room the downstairs bathroom, need gobs and gobs of work. They are basically empty shells at this time. The bathroom doesn’t even have rough-in plumbing yet. Hell, it doesn’t even have a door at this point. The idea is to just get a door up so I can close it off from the kitchen.

The mud room is a small little space roughly 4X6 feet that sits at the confluence off the bathroom, kitchen, and back door. The one wall that has no door has a window on it. It should be a quick and simple room to pound out and finish up. If I sheetrocked the room I could almost to the whole thing with just 2 corner seams because in most places the door casing goes all the way to the corners. It should be simple, but it isn’t. Below is a map of the space.

Both rooms share the porch roof so they only have 9.5-foot ceilings. Originally this was one long room that was about 16-feet long. The outside wall with the double window on it was pushed out a foot or so and a door was added to make 2 rooms. Then the mud room part was opened to the porch. The color coding for the walls goes like this.

Green = Floor to ceiling bead board
Red = 60-inch bead board below plaster
Pink = Exterior siding
Black = New walls I built to re-enclose that area of the porch. Framing only.

The plan is to take all the floor to ceiling bead board out of the bathroom and use it in the mud room. There is just enough to do those walls. Both rooms already have a bead board ceiling. In the bathroom I’ll get rid of the 60-inch bead board and use it to augment the supply I have for the butler’s pantry and laundry room. Eventually the bathroom walls will be subway tile and plaster. Both rooms will share a tile floor that will be something like 1-inch hex or penny rounds. You know, with a nice boarder and the field.

This is sort of where I ran in to problems with the quick and dirty mud room make over. The tile needs to go down before the floor to ceiling bead board goes up. The other problem I discovered was with the wall and doorway that separates the mudroom and bathroom. The door was only 28-inches wide and the wall wasn’t built very well. For some reason they built it with 2X4s turned sideways. It was a very thin wall.

So yesterday and today I tore down and rebuilt the wall. I also removed all the exertior siding from the mud room walls. If I had a tile floor in there right now I could hang a door and start to put up bead board. It’d be nice to get this mud room finished because the entry way from the kitchen to the mud room has no door and I’m kind of sick of looking at the open framing on the walls I built a few years back. So I’m thinking I need to tile the room.

If I bought enough tile for the mud room and bathroom I’m looking at about 100 sq ft. I ran down to the home center in town to look at pricing. They have some black and white, unglazed, 1-inch hex tiles for $6 a sq. ft. A monochromatic floor seems kind of boring, but it might be nice. I’m not sure about unglazed. Seems like it might be tough to keep clean. I’m not sure.

They also had some glazed penny rounds and glazed 1-inch squares that were $9 a sq. ft. Both came in a myriad of colors. One thought, just off the top of my head, was the penny rounds with a pale green boarder and then a white field with rosettes of the green in the field. The mud room, because it has no door from the kitchen, is sort of an extension of the kitchen. The kitchen has green walls with the honied white bead board. If I did the bead board walls of the mud room in the same honied white it could look nice. Or maybe I should do something completely different in the way of color in the mud room. Much thought will be given to this over the next few weeks.

No matter what I do, I’m looking at maybe $1000 worth of tile and supplies for the floor. I wasn’t really planning on that right now, but it needs to be done. It would be nice to just buy all the tile now even though I’m only going to do the mud room at this point. Bathrooms are expensive and it will be nice to have that cost out of the way when I get around to doing it in a year or so.

Some on-line tiles places I'm looking at American Universal Corp.(AUC) and American Restoration Tile (ART). AUC is close, so shipping might be doable if the price is better than I can get locally. ART is not close by, but I'm sure they are out of my budget even if they were a block away. Still, the pictures are pretty to look at for ideas.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Considering Cresting

I’m not sure why I started thinking about this yesterday, but now I can’t stop. I want to put cresting around the perimeter of the front porch roof. If I was really ambitious, and really wealthy, I would put it along the tops of all the roof gables as well.

For those not familiar with it, cresting is decorative iron work that was very popular in the second half of the 19th century on Victorian homes. A quick Google search found Capital Crestings. Your one-stop-shopping source for all your cresting and decorative iron works needs.

If you recall, the front porch roof has two open sides that total about 20 feet. If you don’t recall, there is a picture of the front porch at the bottom. The cresting comes in roughly 4 foot lengths, plus I would need one Finial for the outside corner. The prices shown are for 5 sections plus a finial. Shipping would be extra. Here are a few I’m looking at. It’s no coincidence that these are some of the least expensive offered by Capital Cresting.

The Windsor – 11-inches high - $500

The Windsor Finial – 22-inches high

The Chelsea – 19-inches high - $600

The Chelsea Finial - 35-inches high

The Gramercy – 18-inches high - $700

The Gramercy Final – 35-inches high

The Cortez – 21-inches high - $760

The Cortez Final – 35-inches high

So far, I like The Chelsea the best. Of course, I really need to finish painting the house first. The weather is gloomy and cold today, so that's why I'm here dreaming of cresting instead of out scraping paint off Section 5b.


Just out of curiosity I went up in the attic and measured the 5 main gables. To do the whole house, including the porch, would run me a little under $3000 for The Chelsea. The money is an issue, of course. I think the worst part would be the installation, though.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Source of Funding

So, the last Poll Question was either difficult to answer or it was a poorly written question. Most likely it was a little of both. With 54 votes it was the lowest turn-out by far of any of the questions. Of those who responded, the majority of us are planning a very busy and stressful year, with 12 of us planning on being maxed out.

Lots of things can cause stress, but I think most of us can agree that worrying about money is way up on the list. When working on projects around the house everything seems to cost more than you think it will. So this weeks questions is about Where The Money Comes From. Most of use probably use more than one source, so the question is really about the main source for the big projects?

Where Does The Money Come From?
Credit Card
Equity Loan
Ins. Settlement
Drug Dealing
Knocking over liquor stores
Money tree in backyard
Free polls from

Thursday, October 12, 2006

What’s The Deal With Section 5b?

Yesterday I alluded to some problems with Section 5b. This is the last little area of the North side of the house that has not been painted, and is not under the porch. This is the next project. If there were no issues with it I could probably strip it, putty the holes, and prime it in one day, and then paint the next. It needs a little more work than that, though. There is (insert dramatic pause with evil music here) Rot!


I feel extremely fortunate because up until this point the only rot I’ve encountered on the house has been on the porches, and porches always rot, so that doesn’t really count. I’ve known about this problem for a few years because I discovered it when I removed the asbestos siding. Here’s a picture of Section 5b. It’s the small wall with the little window just to the right of the freshly painted green wall of Section 5.

There were two problems here. First, where the porch roof meets the house, just above this wall, there was no flashing. This did not cause the problems with the wall, but it was a problem. The flare out of the second story helped to divert some of the water, but not all of it. The second problem was the location of the downspout for the porch gutters. They located it several feet from the end and that section to the left drooped away from the downspout.

Normally that might not be a problem except there is a major downspout for the second story roof that drains down in to that part of the gutter. The gutter would over-flow and spill back behind the asbestos siding. Water also got back behind the redwood siding and in to the wall. Not a good thing.

When I removed the asbestos siding a few years ago it was obvious there where problems. I flashed the porch, changed the way the second story downspout drains, and I raised the left side of the porch gutter so it sloped towards the downspout (See the little wooden triangles under the gutter). This solved all the problems but some damage had already been done.

When I removed the asbestos siding some of those short little runs of horizontal siding had become completely disconnected from the house due to rotted nails and were drooping. The only thing holding them on was the corner trim, which also showed some signs of rot as the bottom, but nothing too bad.

I removed the corner trim, and all the siding, to find that that little section of wall that creates the Section 5 bump-out was filled with debris about 2 feet up the wall. Water had been pouring through that wall for a while and was leaving behind little things as it did. I’m not sure how long it took to get the wall that full. Because the interior walls of the house are solid wood behind the plaster, and there was the asbestos siding on the outside, no one noticed.

I cleaned out all the debris and discovered very little damage in the wall. Some of the studs showed some rot, but the sill was in great shape, and so were the back sides of the interior wall boards. Thank God the house is built entirely out of old-growth redwood or this could have been much worse.

I cut away any rot on the studs but didn’t bother sistering any new wood in. Because this bump-out is so shallow there is a lot of wood in there to create the outside and inside corner of the bump-out. I think this also helped to prevent further damage to surrounding areas. Normally a stud bay (the area in-between 2 studs) would be 16-inches minimum. There are 4 or 5 stud bays right in this area but they are all less than 8-inches wide. It’s like a ship with small ballast tanks. When one stud rotted out to the point that water and debris could get in to the next stud bay, the next stud bay was only 6-inches wide.

The little pieces of siding were in bad shape as well. It’s funny that from the front side they look fine, but when I took them off some of them were little more than a shell of a piece of wood. The rot started from the back side and was working it’s way out. Some were in worse shape than others. The bottom few rows where all the debris was were in the worst shape. None of them were bad enough that I couldn't nail them back up at the time.

I’ve decided to replace them now, though. My fear is that the soft wood on the back side will collect moister and the wood won't be able to hold paint. Any that are marginal I’ll spray with wood hardener. I also want to fix the small bit of rot at the bottom of the corner trim where the water exited the wall. Somehow, the water table suffered no damage at all.

So that’s the next project. I still have plenty of the salvage siding from the addition I removed. Finding new wood for the corner trim will be a little more of a challenge. The wood is 7/8th inch thick, and a full 6-inches wide, and because of the bull-nose corners I have to replace it with the same. I may end up shimming new wood if I don’t have any salvage left.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

I’m Always Writing Something

Well, I finished Section 5 and that means it’s time to update the chart. Updating The Chart is kind of like releasing endorphins in to the blood stream. There is a slight sense of euphoria that comes with seeing that I am one step closer to finishing what has been one of the toughest projects so far at the old Petch House.

Oh baby, that's the stuff

You may notice that I’ve added a new section. There is a small, single story wall that is sort of part of the porch. For some reason there is a little bump-out on in the kitchen that creates this wall. For what ever reason the builders put it there, it’s the last section of first story siding on the north side that is not under the porch roof. I probably should have preped and painted it when I did the rest of Section 5, but I didn’t, so I’m going to do it next. I’m calling it Section 5b.

At this point, being that it’s so small, you might think that this would be like taking a break. I’m mean, there’s almost nothing to it. Hell, it’s so little work, it’ll probably paint it’s self… might think. Nothing is ever what it seems. More on that later.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Hide & Seek

I toss the cats outside every morning before I leave for work. I do this for two reasons. First, I don’t want them tripping the motion detectors and setting off the alarm system, and also, if they stay inside and sleep all day then they’re bouncing off the walls all night.

Most of the time this is not a big deal. They both enjoy being outside and it’s not uncommon for them to be standing by the door when I leave. When the weather turns cold and wet though, they are a little more reluctant. Last winter, Mortimer, the big black one, started hiding in the house on rainy mornings when it was time to leave.

The house is big, but I could almost always find him. The times I couldn’t find him I was sure he was in the attic. The attic has a stair well leading up to it with no door. Once up in the attic there are a zillion places to hide. The poor lighting and numerous gables make searching difficult. He learned quickly to keep quiet while I stumbled around through the dimly lit space.

Mortimer sleeps on the bed every night and the way it usually works is I get up with the alarm and head in to the bathroom to shave and brush my teeth. Five minutes later I’m back in the bedroom getting dressed. When I’m finished I gather him off the bed, carry him downstairs, and toss him out the front door.

This week we had are first rain of the season. On Wednesday and Thursday Mort was already off the bed when I got back from the bathroom. After I got dressed I headed for the attic and after a few minuets I would find him. The first morning he was crouching behind an old door leaning against the wall, and the next morning he was laying down in the top drawer of a stack of old dresser drawers. Both times I scooped him up and out the door he went.

On Friday though, he tried something different. Friday morning I was awoken to the sound of a thud hitting the floor. It was Mortimer jumping off the bed. I rolled over and looked at the clock and it was 4 minutes before the alarm went off. I’m not sure if he has impeccable timing or if he’s learned to tell time. Regardless, seconds later I hear him softly climbing the attic stairs.

Four minutes later the alarm goes off and I get up and do my usually routine. The routine now includes a trip to the attic to get Mort. I’m up there looking and looking and I can’t find him any where. I head downstairs and check all the rooms and eventually make my way back up to the attic. I’m sure he’s in there some where.

There are two lights mounted on the ceiling but I also have one of those mechanics lights with the hook on the end. I plug it in and start shining it in every little nook and cranny of the attic. I’m kicking boxes and moving things around. He’s just no where to be found. I figure he has found a new hiding place and I decide I’d better get going before I’m even later to work than I already am.

I start to head down the stairs and I have to stop to unplug the mechanics light. The plug is close to the floor and near the stairs so I walk down three or four steps and then reach over and unplug the light. I then stop for a few seconds and take one last look around. I just know he’s up there some where. I can feel it. Then, just as I turn to head down I hear a rustling sound. There’s a small box laying on it’s side about 6-feet from the top of the stairs. The box has some bubble wrap sticking out of the front of it. I had kicked this box a few times.

I climb back up the stairs and get down on all fours to look inside the box. Sure enough, behind the bubble wrap, there’s a big black cat holding his breath. I figured I should get a shot of this before I scoop him out of there and toss him out the front door.

Friday, October 06, 2006

New Treasure

I haven’t been on a ladder in three days now, and it feels kind of good. I was due for a break and the weather supplied me with one. It never really rained that much, but it was enough that I couldn’t work on scraping or painting the house. Tomorrow, though, I’m back at it.

I want to get in full days both Saturday and Sunday. The first floor siding in Section 5 is scraped and puttied, so most of this weekend will be dedicated to the second floor siding. That means, it’s back on the ladder for me. I’m getting a little tired of the ladder, but I’ve just got to do it.

Today I bought a little cabinet down at my favorite antique/salvage place, Empire Furniture. It is mostly redwood, and pretty old. I’m not sure what it was originally, but it was modified to become an armoire. Here’s a picture of it.

The doors are not original, they are fir, and it looks as though it didn’t have doors originally because there are no mortises for hinges. The hinges for the doors that are on there now aren’t even mortised in to the cabinet. Even so, the doors, door hardware, and hinges are pretty old themselves. If I had to guess, judging from the style and hardware, I would say the cabinet is over 100 years old and the doors were added sometime in the 20s.

I’m going to use it was a TV armoire in the front parlor. It’s in pretty good shape, but it does need some work. The shellac is alligatoring in places, and one of the hinges is being held on by nails, and the doors don’t really close right because of that. All in all, though, it’s a nice little cabinet and the TV fits in there perfectly.

I went in to Empire Furniture a few weeks back and saw another redwood armoire type cabinet, but it was ridiculously over-priced so I didn’t even ask about it. When I start the downstairs remodel I want to be able to close up the electronics to help keep dust at bay. That is the main reason to buy something now. I went back in yesterday and asked Sheri, the owner about it. I wanted to see how much she could come down on it. Prices are rarely chiseled in stone at this place.

We walked back to the cabinet and I asked her, “What’s your best price you can give me on this?”. I got that line from one of the appraisers on Antiques Roadshow. Sheri told me the best prices was the price marked because it was a consignment item. She admitted it was over-priced, but she couldn’t bargain with me on it. She then told me there was another redwood cabinet I might be interested in.

We walked to the other side of the store where she pointed out the cabinet above. I liked it immediately. As many of you may know, here in Eureka, if it’s old and made of redwood, it’s most likely made locally, which means I’m interested. It is smaller than the first one I saw, so I started measuring to make sure my TV would fit. I needed a minimum opening of 27-inches and this is 27.5-inches. It’s just perfect.

When it came time to talk about price I didn’t have to haggle. As I’ve mentioned before, Sheri is my neighbor, and I’ve bought from her many times. When she gives me her best price it is not a starting point for negotiations. The price she gave me was 45% below the price on the tag. I said, “Sold!” and got my checkbook. A year from now, when the parlor is finished, it should look nice in there.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Work With Me People!

Hello! National Weather Service! I’m trying to paint a house here! First you say rain Tuesday & Wednesday. Now you say rain Wednesday & Thursday. Well, which is it?

Fortunately I doubted those pin-heads from the get-go so I went ahead and scraped more paint today. Not only did I scrape more paint but I scraped it all. All of it from the first floor siding, anyway. I was also able to get all the holes puttied as well.

Now of course the problem is, if I can believe those Communist down at the National Weather Service, we’re going to get rain for the next 2 days and I have bare wood. I was going to cover it with plastic, but I didn’t have anything big enough, and I didn’t want it flapping in the wind all night. I think it’ll be OK, though. The 10 day forecast - if you can believe it - calls for a week of sunshine after two days of rain. I can spend 4 or 5 days on the second floor siding while the first floor siding dries out. I think it’ll be OK.

Here’s a little eye-candy

Monday, October 02, 2006

And So It Begins

We are scheduled for our first rain fall tomorrow. It’s a little hard to believe because today was an absolutely beautiful day. Even right now, at shortly after 5:00, there is not a cloud in the sky. The 5 day forecast calls for rain Tuesday & Wednesday, and then clearing on Thursday, so it sounds like it’s a small front that should roll through quickly. We get rain here like Buffalo gets snow, so if it does rain tomorrow this will be the first of many, many, many rainy days in the months ahead.

Last year at this time I was removing the 2 story addition to the house. We had a week or so of very heavy rain fall in October. I remember because I had removed the roof, and I had also removed part of the second story floor to cut out all the pipes. The addition housed two kitchens and two bathrooms so there were a lot of water, drain, and gas lines that had to come out.

When the rains came it was a torrential downpour inside the addition. It was an odd experience to open the door to the bathroom and see water pouring down from above. That went on for a week or so and then I had clear skies most of October and November.

After I removed the addition there was a lot of work to be done on the original siding of the house. I remember that I was finishing up the last of the shingles on Thanksgiving morning in a slight drizzle. I was going to a friends house for Thanksgiving and I was out there at about 7:00 in the morning finishing up the shingles and then breaking down the scaffolding so I could return it Friday morning and not pay a late fee. Good times.

Regardless of the threat of rain I did start to scrape Section 5 today. The paint is coming off pretty easy. Well, easier than Section 4, anyway. Section 4 was actually pretty stubborn in some places. This north side of the house gets very little direct sunlight, so the paint is in….well, I won’t say good shape, but at least it’s not in horrible, horrible shape like the rest of the house.

In other news, my boss gave notice at work and will be leaving shortly for greener pastures. He will be missed. He and I both moved up to this area at about the same time. He from Oakland and me from Santa Cruz. Of all the people at work he and I are the closest both culturally and politically. Aside from that, he’s just a heck of a nice guy.

The work I do is little more than a means to and end for me. The End being the completion of my house. The job is not what I would consider a career, but it affords me the time to do what I enjoy doing, and that’s work on my house. If I work 20 hours in a week that would be a long week. My feeling is, I could get a better job that I don’t enjoy. I could then pay someone to do the work I do enjoy. Alternatively, I could work a part-time, dead-end job and do what I want to do. So that’s what I do. It works for now.

My boss understands this and has always given me a lot of latitude in my schedule, and frankly, in my work ethic, as well. It has just been a real pleasure working with him. The pay is commission, so I actually make a decent wage for the hours I work, and meager benefits. It could be much worse, but I only see myself doing it for another year or so. It's just not work I really enjoy, and I'm not going to be working on this house forever.....or am I?

I don’t think there will be any drastic changes with a new boss. The owner of the company is well aware of my schedule. He sees me leave everyday by Noon just as I have for the last 4 years. Still, there is that unknown quantity: The New Boss. Let’s hope The Who had it right when they sang: Meet the new boss. Same as the old boss.

My boss, Bob, is pretty much the only person I’ve ever mentioned my blog too around here, so if you’re reading this Bob, good luck, I know it can’t get any worse. Oh yes, and, TAKE ME WITH YOU! (an inside joke)

Sunday, October 01, 2006

What The Heck Are You Doing?

That is a question many of us may ask ourselves at times. Why am I doing this? I could have bought that new condo and not have to deal with all this house renovation stuff. But that’s not what this is about. Really what I want to know is – What are you doing? Or more specifically - What are you planning on doing? To what extent are you going to be working on your house over the next 12 months.

I don’t read every entry from every blog, so it’s difficult for me to tell the extent to which people are working on their homes. Some HouseBlogs may be just about a kitchen renovation, while others may be about a long term, whole house renovation. That’s what this weeks poll question is about.....sort of.

I tried to come up with a way to express this in a poll question and I got the feeling I would never be able to describe all the different types of blogs with simple sentences like, “Renovating my kitchen” or “Complete rehab of crack house”. There would always be people left out.

There’s also the issue of the level of stress and disruption to one’s life that a particular job can make. Building a new garage and a gut remodel of a kitchen can cost the same money and take the same amount of time, but we both know which one is going to disrupt your life more.

Then there’s also the issue of time. Some people bought a home that maybe needed a few major jobs done, while others have places that can take years before they can be considered habitable. On top of that, we are all at different stages of completion.

So here’s the deal with this one. You decided what level of work you are planning over the next 12 months. Since we are kind of at the end of fiscal year for major house projects you need to think ahead. Thank about what sorts of projects you would like to tackle next year and then think about how they will impact your life. From there, rate it on a scale from 1 to 10, with 1 being little impact and 10 being the possibility of a nervous breakdown.

Level of stress in the next 12 months
Free polls from

The Results From Last Weeks Poll