Thursday, November 30, 2006

Tile Scheme or Tile Plan: You Decide

So, if you recall I’ve been trying to come up with a way to have a claw foot tub with a shower, but not have the shower ring. I’m just not a big fan of those things. The tub is going to go at the back of the small bathroom, and a shower curtain will be drawn in front of it. This will keep water from splashing out in to the bathroom, just as with a regular tub with shower. The problem has been the other three walls and the floor beneath the tub.

Naturally, water will end up other places aside from the tub drain at the bottom of the tub. The question has been, how much water. I think more than 75% of the water will go down the tub drain, with the majority of the remaining water hitting the wall on the side of the tub.

I could do a standard shower stall but I don’t want it to look like a tub sitting in a shower stall. The run-of-the-mill modern tiled shower stall has a 6-inch curb in front of it, and the floor is steeply slanted all around the drain. The drain is a 2 part drain, and the whole thing is large and imposing. Not what I want at all.

So what to do, what to do? That has been the big question. I went to a few tile forums and asked about drains for steam rooms. I figured that was a good compromise. Trying to explain what I wanted to do would get me a bunch of answers like, “Why the heck do you want to do that?”. Not very helpful. I figured asking about what type of floor drain would be installed in a steam room might get some creative juices flowing amongst the tile guys and maybe I could come up with an alternative to the 6-inch curb in the bathroom.

Well, I got nothing. One person suggested I use a good membrane. That one person was the only person who responded. I was asking about a drain, and I was told to use a membrane. Membranes are used in shower stall installations. It was like I was asking a zombie to drive a car and all I got was the standard “Groooan”. I can’t fault the tile guys. Few of them want or need to be creative. They know how to do shower stalls and they can whip them out pretty fast and move on to the next job. Badda-boom-badda-bing.

I Googled until my fingers where soar and I got 50 variations – using the word “variation” is a stretch here – but I got 50 variations on the same thing. According to the internet, there is only one way to control water on the floor of a bathroom. It is a 6-inch curbed shower stall. Apparently, without that you are screwed.

I began to wonder again how they used to do it in the days before synthetic membranes. The Romans where big on bath houses, and I’ve seen pre-WWII shower stalls. So how did they do it? Well, I found one reference to a lead lined shower stall. It was pretty much two words in a long description of a modern shower stall with a membrane and a 6-inch curb, so it did me little good. Even if it was step-by-step instructions I doubt I’m going to be getting my hands on a lead sheets anytime soon.

So I thought and I thought and I thought and I came up with The Minnesota Mining & Manufacturing Co. For those of you who don’t know, the 3 “Ms” in The 3M Corp stand for The Minnesota Mining & Manufacturing Co. Thank you very much Stucco House for that little bit of trivia. Now I ask you, have you ever purchased a bad 3M product? I’m willing to be you haven’t.

In my opinion, 3M is the Pantheon of Corporate America. These are the people who brought us Scotch Tape and Post-It Notes, not to mention a plethora of other adhesive and non-adhesive products. I guarantee you every single one of those products works exactly as advertised. It either meets or exceeds your expectations. It’s probably something you’ve never noticed before and that’s the beauty of the company. They don’t ram “The Greatness” of their products down your throat with advertising, they just make great products.

Any way, the miracle 3M product I’m going to use 3M™ Marine Adhesive/Sealant 5200 to seal the tiles in the shower area. I will do a gentle slope towards a standard floor drain, and a slight curb with quarter round tile. The floor of the bath area will be the 3X6 subway tile, as opposed to the 1-inch hex tile that will be on the rest of the floor.

When you Google the 3M™ Marine Adhesive/Sealant 5200 - and you will - you will see things like “EXTREMELY PERMANENT”, “Can be used below the water line”, “cures with no shrinking”, “Stays flexible and allows for structural movement”, and “Stress caused by shock, vibration, swelling or shrinking is effectively absorbed”.

Now, if this were any other product but a 3M product I would be saying to myself, “Yea, right, I don’t think so”. But I’m not saying that. Me, the born skeptic, actually believes something that is written about a product on a retail internet site. Snowballs may actually be flying through hell as I write. To go one step further, I will be using the membrane under the thinnest, backboard, or the mud job - what ever I decide. It won’t be the steeply pitched floor with the 6-inch curb and the 2 part shower drain. No I won’t be doing that. My first line of defense will be the 3M™ Marine Adhesive/Sealant 5200, and it will hold.

So why doesn’t everybody use the 3M™ Marine Adhesive/Sealant 5200? Because it’s $10 for a standard sized caulking tube. That’s ok, though. I’m not going to be paying a tile setter $50 and hour so I can afford the $150 worth of caulk. Big whoop! Of course, there is a bit more to this plan, or is it s scheme, that I won’t go in to now. I really think I’m on to something here, though. If I do this right, it may even be better than what all the tile guys are doing with their membranes and their 6-inch curbs.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Decisions on Sashes

Well, I made up my mind – for now anyway – that the new window with the stained glass sash is going to be centered horizontally on the wall, but it will be lifted slightly higher than the other sash. Here’s the picture again for reference.

The window on the left is 42-inches off the floor on the interior side. Once it’s trimmed out that will be more like 38-inches, which would put it just above the 36-inch wainscoting that I had originally planned for the little mud room.

If I move the new window up one row of siding that will lift it another 7 or 8 inches. If I do 36-inch subway tile in the bathroom that will leave me plenty of room in between the base of the window and the top of the tile to mount a towel bar if I want to.

Before I start the window installation I need to make sure I have all the siding ready to go. Today was clear blue skies with brutally cold temperatures (It dropped down to 33 last night! Brrr!), but that could change in a moments notice. Unless I want to resort to plastic sheeting, I need to have all my ducks in a row before I pull nail-one.

So it was out to the wood shed today to see what I had in the way of siding. There is still some out there, but I am really down to the dregs of the siding selection. There is also the issue of having 2 kinds of siding, that while they may look identical, do in fact have slightly different profiles. I’m going to have to be very careful with the selection process.

I figured I need a total of 6 – 11.5 foot pieces, and 10 – 5 foot pieces to finish out the side once the new window is in place. I was able to scrounge from the shed 3 – 11.5 foot pieces, and 10 - 5 foot pieces. That’s not bad, but those numbers will almost assuredly drop over the next few days as I begin prep them. And they need a lot of prep. As I said, this is pretty much the bottom of the barrel for lengths of this size. They all need to be trimmed to length, puttied, and sanded. I also want to prime and paint them before they are installed. I haven’t even thought about where I’m going to put all of this stuff while I’m painting it.

Anyway, if I can use all that I scrounged from the shed, that means I only need 3 more 11.5 footers. We’ll say 36 more feet. I called down to Almquist lumber yesterday to see what the price was on the siding I saw there a week a go. You know you’re dealing with a real lumber yard when they give you the price in Board Feet and not Lineal Feet. The siding is $4.92 a board foot, which somehow equates to $3.28 a lineal foot. I’ve had the conversion explained to me a few times, but it’s something I use so little I forget it almost as soon as I’m told it.

So that works out to be $126.64 for the 36 feet I need. If I had to buy all of it then it would come to $418.62. Needless to say, that’s a big difference, and it’s an incentive to use as much of my salvage stuff as possible, regardless of what it takes to make it look good. I figure it’s going to take me the rest of the week and part of the weekend to get it all prepped. I’ll then need to buy the new stuff and prime and paint it. Maybe a week from this Saturday I can reframe the wall and put in the new window.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

The New Bathroom Window

I built the window Sunday and Monday, and then painted it today. The sash is an English stained glass window I got at a salvage yard a few years ago, and the jamb and sill are from a double hung sash window that came out of the 2 story addition I took down a few years back.

The colors are a little washed out, but that is same Clarey Sage and the Fired Brick that I used on the rest of the house. I’m generally pleased with the way the window came out. This is only my second window I’ve made. I did screw up on the sill a bit, though. I had to dismantle the old double hung window and re-cut everything for the smaller single stained glass sash. I cut the sill too narrow for some reason. It should be ok because the narrow side will be on the inside of the house and it will be hidden behind the window stool and apron. Those are the parts that make up the interior trim at the base of the window.

I bought two matching sashes, and as you can see in the picture above, one is already installed. The little wall with the window is what I’m calling the mud room, but to be honest, it’s not much of a mud room. The brown wall to the right of that is going to be the downstairs bathroom. I’m going to be getting rid of those two big windows and replacing them with the new window I just made.

At first the plan was to just center the new window on that brown wall. It would be better, though, if I shifted it to the left. Essentially, the new window would replace the big window on the left, and the big window on the right would go away. I would then fill in the missing siding.

The reason that would work better is because the tub will be at the far end of the room and I want to leave some uninterrupted wall space for a towel rod and maybe a cloths hamper or something. It is a small bathroom and the opposite wall is going to be occupied by the sink and toilet. My mind, however, likes symmetry. It’s seems the right thing to do would be to center the window on the wall and then just work around it when it comes to interior design.

On the other hand, if I don’t center the window, maybe to have the window off-set on the wall will be one of those fun little quirks of old houses. I’m not sure this is the right house for odd little quirks, though. The off-set window would be a bit out of place. The over-all massing of the house is asymmetrical, but all windows and doors are centered on their respective walls.

Another thought is to center it on the wall, but set it up higher on the wall. I have a similar size stained glass window in the front parlor that is positioned about 5 feet up on the wall. That window is original to the 1895 construction, so there is precedence. Much thought will be given to this over the next few days.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Don To The Rescue

I contacted Don Hooper, the owner of Vintage Plumbing, about 2 weeks ago asking about wall brackets to go with my sink legs. I had bought a pair of 1890s, nickel plated sink legs on Ebay to use in the downstairs bathroom. The legs support the front two corners of a marble vanity, and then there should be brackets mounted to the wall to support the other two comers.

I’ve since discovered that the wall brackets have a small post on the top that accepts a hole on the underside of the vanity. This is what holds the vanity to the wall. Once the backsplash is in place, the only way to get the vanity away from the wall without disassembling it, would be to break the marble. The brackets, it seem, play a larger role than just helping to support the marble.

Anyway, I contacted Don 2 weeks ago asking if he had any brackets, or if he knew where I could get some. He emailed me back within minutes and said he makes a reproduction pair and he’d be happy to sell me a set if he still had any. We agreed on a price and I waited for him to contact me telling me he had a pair for me. I never heard back from him.

Even after a few days the pessimist inside me began to doubt I would ever hear from Don again. His site is pretty popular, and being that he is located in LA, I’m sure he gets a lot of local traffic. Also, judging from his site, he mostly deals in high-end stuff for big spenders, and I just figured me and my little request from a couple of brackets might be too mundane. Woa-is-me, right?

On Friday, just a few days ago, I decided I’d better try and find an alternative to Don Hooper. The brackets are roughly 1 X 5 inches, and are a fairly simple design. I started searching for fabricators to make me a pair. I needed to find someone who does non-industrial fabrication. A lot of places I saw on-line were fabricating parts for production machinery and industry prototypes. Not really what I needed.

I eventually found Vulcan Metals in St. Louis, MO. Their site said they would fabricate anything from as small as a pencil holder to as large as hotel railings. Judging from the pictures they do a lot of high-end residential railings, bar BQs, tables, chairs, etc. I shot off an email to one of their estimators, along with a crude drawing of what I needed.

Well, wouldn't you know it, later that day I got an email from Don at Vintage Plumbing saying he just located a pair! I shot off another email to Vulcan saying, “Oops, never mind”. I told Don I’d take them. He gave me two prices. One was for finished but unplated brass, and the other was for finished and nickel plated brass. As it turns out I need to get the waste pipes for the claw foot tub nickel plated, so I said I’d take them unplated and just add them in when I plated the pipes.

I asked him about a good nickel plater and he suggested Astro Chrome & Polishing in Van Nuys, CA. He said he’s been going there for 30 years, and people ship stuff to them all the time. That is exactly what I want to here. He suggested that I request copper pre plating before the nickel plating for better results when having something replated. I don’t understand it exactly, but it seems the copper adheres better to a already polished surface than the nickel does. Works for me.

Next all I need is the marble skirting, oh, and the marble vanity itself. I’m hoping to pick up the vanity in a week or two, and after that I’ll know what size skirting to get. It’ll feel good to have this out of the way.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Done With The High-Tank

I was able to finish the mounting frame for the high-tank today. I said yesterday that is was “simple mortis and tenon construction”. I didn’t mean to say that making mortise and tenons is simple, only that the style they used was simple. I actually had a little trouble with making the tenons.

I desperately need a better table saw. My $150 POS table saw is just not going to cut it anymore. I was at Sears today buying a router bit for the tank frame and I drooled over several high-end table saws they had. The price is one thing, but the other is space. Some of these saws are as big as a dining room table. My little Model T sized garages don’t really accommodate big pieces of equipment like that. I’ll have to do something though.

Here’s the tank with the new frame. The stain is not an exact match, but it’s close enough. The reason I say the mortise and tenon joints are simple is because instead of making a mortise just big enough for the tenon, they cut a groove down the entire length of the board. Once the groove is there, the tenon can pretty much go in any place. There is a lot less measuring, and it makes it pretty simple to do. The whole thing is done on the table saw. I get the feeling these tanks were really cranked out of the factory way back when. It didn’t take a lot of skill, and one person could produce several in a day.

Here is a real mortise and tenon joint. The mortise is the pocket and the tenon is the opposing slender piece that slides in. On the frame, instead doing a nice pocket like that, they just milled a groove the entire length of the board. Then just slap in the tenon, glue it up, and cut off any excess. Next!

Friday, November 24, 2006

More High-Tank High-Jinx

When I bought the tank last year it was stuffed with an odd assortment of trim pieces and plumbing parts. I didn’t realize it until I got home, that even though I had gotten all of these “extra” parts, the toilet tank was, in fact, incomplete.

The high-tank I have installed in the upstairs bathroom mounts to the wall on a cleat that is not seen once the tank is in place. You mount the cleat on to the wall and then the tank hangs from it. The tank I bought last year, the one I just refinished, mounts in a slightly different manner.

The “new” tank has a 4 part trim piece that gets mounted to the wall, and then there are two hooks on the tank that mount on to the trim piece. The trim piece is kind of like a picture frame for the tank. It has some mill work on it, and it is exposed on three sides of the tank. I said it’s a 4 part trim piece, but I only got two of the parts, and they were both the same part, so really I only got one of the 4 parts of the frame.

2 Left Sides Don’t Make a Right

Hooks on the back of the tank.

So today I started the construction of the new “mounting frame”. On Wednesday I went to Almquist lumber to pick up some oak. Almquist is pretty much the only lumber yard around here that carries anything but pine, fir, or redwood. They have just an amazing assortment of wood. I’m really not interested in all the exotic woods they carry, but I was happy to see that they have redwood 1X8 siding that matches the profile of my house, and they have curly and burl redwood in stock! All I needed was 3-feet of 1X6 oak, but I felt like a kid in a candy store walking around the place.

Anyway, the frame s pretty simple, mortise and tenon construction. Tomorrow after the glue sets I’ll round two corners and then round over one edge with the router. After that will be the tricky part of matching the finish of the tank.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Constructive Criticism

Well, that was pretty much the response I was expecting to yesterday’s post. In hind sight, No Grout would not be a good idea. I guess what I really mean are no grout lines that are really visible. If the tiles are butted up against each other there will always be thin gaps here and there. The tolerances on tile just aren’t that good. That would be smooshed with grout.

I must say this has been very, very helpful. It is all a part of the process. You come up with an idea. You play with it. The idea gets changed and modified, and hopefully you end up with a workable plan. In this case the plan starts with the expected results: A Vintage Looking Tiled Bathroom. From there I work backwards, looking at available resources, and ways to achieve that look.

As an example, I’ll point once again to the beautiful tile floor in the foyer of Chicago 2 Flat. I hope Jocelyn doesn’t mind me using her as an example. Anyway, click on the picture to enlarge it and look at it closely. If there are grout lines in between each tile, they are not that noticeable. Also, last week I was talking to a friend who was part of a salvage team that took a bunch of subway tile out of a local 19th Century hotel a few years back. He told me that those tiles were butted up against the other and there were no visible grout lines. I even asked him if it looked like they used grout and he said, if they did there wasn’t much.

As someone pointed out in one of the comments, by the 1920s mosaic tiles came on a backer mesh just as they do today. Someone else said the boarders came with a paper face glued to the front. This paper was remove after the boarder was set. I, of course, am doing an 1890s bathroom, so it seems it would not be appropriate to have uniform 1/8th or ¼-inch grout lines. I could be wrong, maybe there are grout lines, but I just don’t see them. A 1/8th inch grout would probably look nice. After I posted yesterday, I remembered someone else on one of the old house forums said they used pennies as spacers for the tiles. Another idea would be toothpicks.

I was very intrigued by the paper faced tile boarders. This gave me a great idea. I bolted awake in bed last night about 4:00 in the morning and had trouble getting back to sleep. I could make my own boarders before I put them down. In the Chicago 2 Flat tile, those boarders look to be about 10-inches wide (10, 1-inch square tiles). I could take pieces of cardboard about a foot wide and build my boarders on those. I could make a wooden frame out of 1X2 stock and build them like puzzles on the cardboard, maybe 3 or 4 feet at a time. Once the tiles are in place in the frame I would lay down a sheet of stencil paper, then remove the frame and start another section.

The stencil paper has a sticky side that is a little stickier than a Post-It note. You can pull it up and reuse it many times. I only need about 40-feet of boarder. I could make those up in the evening while I’m watching TV. When I go to lay the boarder, I would just slide it off the cardboard, gently smoosh it down, and then peel off the paper. Just like old times. Of course, I’d have to even them out a bit after their in place.

As for the field tile, I think someone mentioned they took an hour to do 2 square feet by hand. I can see the first few feet being tedious and time consuming. After a while though, I’m sure the pace would quicken as I reached a stride. After the boarders are in that leaves me roughly 50 sq ft of field to do. Even if I was only able to do 2 sq ft and hour, that’s still only 25 hours of work. In my mind that is very doable. Most days, when I was painting the house, I was able to get in 3 to 5 hours of work before dinner. Considering I could work longer on weekends, I can see doing the whole floor in a week!

So that leaves the mortar/thin-set debate. Right now the room has a 1-inch thick sub floor. This is the original plank sub floor and the boards are a full inch thick. They rest of 16-inch OC joists. The one transition from tile to other floors is in to the kitchen. That is a 7/8th-inch thick wood floor. There will be a marble threshold between the tile floor and the wood floor. The tile is ¼-inch thick, and if I put down a ¼-inch backer board, that would leave me 3/8-of an inch for a mortar bed. All told then, I would have an inch and a quarter floor on 16-inch 2X12 joists -That is plenty firm - and then the mortar bed with the tile. With the use of screeds I should be able to get a smooth bed. The difference in height between the kitchen and bath would be the additional mortar from the 3/16th-inch notched trowel. Extremely minor.

Well, thank you all. I’m more excited about this than ever now. As for the rotten 1950s walls, it’s hard to say how much of that can be blamed on thin grout lines. Perhaps is was a poorly done job….well, it did last 50 years, so maybe it was too bad. Let’s face it, a lot of bathrooms done in the 70s and 80s are already shot and being ripped out.

The last thing I did want to touch on was this quote.

The low cost of labor and the relative newness and lack of understanding about the physical properties of concrete didn’t hurt either. Backer board, latex additives, plywood sub floors, kiln dried joist material, ect have come a long way to rendering thick bed jobs not necessary for most typical flat floors that aren’t in a shower.

First, as far as I know, concrete was invented by the ancient Greeks and has been in use for thousands of years. I know the Romans made extensive use of. As for the debate of old building materials and methods versus new, well, who knows. I do know that my house was built in 1895 and even after decades of neglect it is structurally in far better shape than most houses built in the last 40 years. I will take any wager that my old redwood plank sub floors and joists will out last any plywood sub floor and kiln dried joist, any day of the week.

There are pros and cons to both methods of laying tile. You said, “…have come a long way to rendering thick bed jobs not necessary for most typical flat floors that aren’t in a shower”. You seem to be implying that the mortar bed method is better, it’s just not needed. Considering what I’m doing in the bathroom, this seems to be a better method.

Much more research is needed.

I just found this discussion on "mud bed" tile installations...

Mud Beds

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

How Deep Does The Rabbit Hole Go

Yet again I find myself thinking about tile. I guess I think about it so much because it will be the single biggest expense for the bathroom, but also because it will make the biggest statement. And as we all know, image is everything. For me, it is almost always going to be form before function.

One thing I’ve noticed when looking at pictures of tile work is the old tile work has little or no grout lines. Today, when you buy 1-inch hex or square, or the penny rounds they come on the sheets of mesh and the tiles are spaced evenly. This makes it very convenient to lay the tile and you get a pre-measured quarter inch grout line – or something close to that.

When I look at pictures of turn of the century tile floors, it looks like the tiles are pushed right up against each other, and if there are grout lines, they are almost non-existent. Of course, these tile floors are laid on a mortar bed, so there is a solid, impermeable surface under the tile. Modern floors are generally laid on cement backer board and thin-set. The thin set is a Portland cement based mortar and you trowel it on with a notched trowel.

I’m working on some assumptions here, because I’m not an expert tile layer, but it seems that the notched trowel method would leave some areas where there is very little thin-set between the tile and the board. Don’t misunderstand me here, I’m not suggesting the thin-set is a less effective way to keep the tile down. In fact, I’m sure quite the opposite is true. The question is one of water infiltration. With no grout, and thin-set laid with a notched trowel, water could be a problem. I'm guessing it could be, because I don't know.

If the floor tile is laid with thin-set and backer-board, but without grout lines, is it effective at keeping water away from the substrate (e.g. backer board and/or the wood sub floor). The reason I’m thinking about all this is because I thought it might be cool to do a traditional tile floor without grout lines. If so, then would the thin-set application hold up over time, or would I need to do a traditional mortar bed as well. The one and only time I’ve seen a tile shower installation go in, the first step was a mortar bed.

This, of course, adds more work to the project. Really, it adds a lot more work because it would entail me to not only do a mortar bed, but also lay all the little hex and square tiles one at a time, by hand. I wonder how long that would take? I think I have about 70 sq ft of floor space. It’s a lot to think about. This may require a trip to the library to see if I can find and old book on laying tile, and possibly a trip to a psychiatrist.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Did I Say Oak?

On Saturday I should have said “Painted Oak” when I was describing the high-tank I bought last year at a local salvage place. Grrr! Why do people paint these things. Luckily it was just one thin coat of paint over a thick layer of shellac. I can honestly say this was the easiest thing I’ve ever stripped in my life.

I think part of it has to do with the fact that it was a tank mounted 6 or 7 feet up on a wall. It probably didn’t get banged around too much up there. Stripping paint off shellacked wood can be easy when it hasn’t been dinged too much. When you bang in to a piece of wood the paint gets forced in to the grain. That’s when it’s hard to get out.

Also, I think maybe because it was oak, it may have made it seem easier to strip than other things I’ve stripped paint off of. I’m accustomed to working with redwood, and while the straight grained, old-growth stuff is hard, it still isn’t oak.

I used my patented 5 step paint stripping method.

Step 1: Heat Gun
Step 2: Jasco Semi-Paste and Steel Wool
Step 3: Boiled Linseed Oil & Turpentine
Step 4: Touch-up minor specks with artist paints
Step 5: Shellac

For Step 2 I let the Jasco sit on only one or two minutes and then rub very lightly with the steel wool. I then have a stack of paper towels waiting as I use the scraper again to gently get off the goo. The idea is to try and disturb the original finish as little as possible. If there is no paint residue left I will use denatured alcohol instead of the Jasco paint stripper.

It took me maybe 3 hours to get all of the paint off and refinish the tank. Refinishing didn’t require much because the original finish, sans shellac, was in very nice shape once I got everything off. I wiped it once with a light coat of BLO and turpentine, and then gave it a few coats of shellac. The thing looks great. There are a few chips and some minor cracks, but I decided to leave them for character.

This is just after I bought it in October of 2005

This is today after 2 coats of shellac

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Long Time No Poll

Yes, it has been a long time. What the heck happened, you ask. Well, as I’ve said time and time again, I’m basically a very lazy person. Oh, and there was the whole mad dash to finish the house painting before the weather changed.

Regardless of the reason, the weekly poll is back…..for now. The last poll - Remember, way back when? - asked about how we all pay for our obsessive house renovating. By far, the majority of us are on the go broke slowly approach and pay as we go. A daring few are using credit cards. Man, I hope those interest rates are low. Others are mortgaging their futures by spending savings and taking out home equity loans.

We have a few criminals among us. You guys totally rock! There are a few that live in fantasy land with a money tree in the backyard. No doubt fairies are doing most of the work while the home owners dream of finished projects snug in their beds.

As for the 2 people whose families are footing the bill, I just wanted to let you know that I am available for adoption. I’m quite, house trained – for the most part – and I won’t even show up for holidays if you don’t want me to. You say the word, and I’ll start the paper work.

This weeks poll deals with kids. Yesterday I was stripping some paint in the dining room, and I got to thinking how much more difficult this process would be if I had a rug-rat or 2 scurrying about. I have no doubt children are a great blessing, but when your house is ripped a apart it must be a bit of a blessing in disguise. How do you do it? On second thought, I don’t want to know. Let’s just get to the question.

Are you renovating with kids?
My SO/Spouse acts like a child
Free polls from

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Testing Ballcock, Liner, Spud, and Float

Working with plumbing is hard enough when it’s all new. When you add in the dynamics of 100 year old plumbing built before standardization, you never know what you’re going to be dealing with. Today’s challenge was to test the oak high-tank for the toilet.

The high-tank works exactly the same as the low-tank only it’s mounted 6 or 7 feet up on the wall. I needed to make sure a few things worked properly before I started buying parts next week. First there is a copper liner I needed to make sure didn’t leak. The oak won’t hold water so the tank has a copper liner inside that holds the water. The liner passed with flying colors.

Next, there is the ballcock and valve system that fills the tank with water and then shuts off at the proper time. This works with a floating ball, in this case also copper, that is raised with the water level. As the ball raises it slowly closes a valve. Once the ball gets to a desired height, the valve closes, and the tank is ready for the next flush.

Finally, I needed to make sure the spud was in good shape and could seal properly. The spud is a threaded pipe with a flair at one end. It goes through a hole in the copper liner and the oak tank. There is a rubber gasket inside the tank that creates a seal when a nut is tightened down from the outside of the tank. Essentially, the oak, copper liner, and then the rubber gasket are squeezed between the nut being screwed on to the pipe underneath, and the flair at the top of the pipe inside the tank. Next, the flush tube attaches to the threaded spud under the tank and it leads to the toilet.

Artists Rendition

The gasket was shot, but that was easy to replace. The problem arose when I tried to get a slip nut that would screw to the spud. I would need a slip nut to attach the flush tube. I still need to buy the flush tube, and it will come with it’s own slip nut, but I had to make sure the threads are modern standard plumbing threads. They are not.

The spud looks just like an inch and a half threaded pipe but the spacing on the threads is a little different. A new inch and a half slip nut will make it about a half of a turn before it binds up. I had a very similar problem with the other toilet I installed upstairs. I think it was in the 20s or 30s when threaded pipe for plumbing became standard. Anything before that seems to be a shot in the dark.

So, this was a good exercise. When I order plumbing parts in a week or so I can add a new inch and a half spud for the toilet tank.

The tank

What ever floats your float

Rube Goldberg would be proud

Friday, November 17, 2006

It Still Counts As Work

I’ve spent countless hours on-line sourcing materials for the bathroom. Not to mention lots of time spent driving around town to look at other items. I love browsing and searching on-line, but after a few weeks of this I’m really getting a little tired of it now. I’ve pretty much settled on the subway tile from I’m going to do without the cap and just get field and base from them. I can then use the same 1X3 fluted wooden cap I used in the kitchen.

I bought the sink legs off Ebay, and I sourced the wall brackets for the legs, but I’m not feeling good about it now. I wrote back to Don at Vintage Plumbing asking him where I should send the check, and who do I make it out to. He gave me the information and then said he would have to find a pair for me. Apparently he has had them made, but may not have a pair right now. It’s only been a few days, so it’s not time to panic.

I bought the faucet from Van Dykes Restorers, but that will most likely be returned now. DEA Bath is supposed to email me pictures of 4 or 5 vanities that fit my needs. I probably won’t get the pics until early next week, but then I can finally put the whole vanity decision to rest once and for all.

I spent most of yesterday making out a rather long, and what will no doubt prove to be an expensive parts list of things I will need from DEA Bath. Some of it will need to be nickel plated, and they will do that, but I need to tell them what I want so it will be ready when I go down in a two weeks. Two weeks is the plan, but you know how plans go. Once I got the list together, I naturally had to compare prices at several different sites on a few of the common items. That meant a lot more clicking and reading. I got the HAJOCA toilet from my neighbor, and I got a great deal on the oak tank last year, so that saved me several hundred dollars right there. Whew!

The floor tile samples came from Lyric last week, and I’m not overly thrilled with what came. The tile is a nice, perfectly square edged mosaic tile, but now I’m not sold on the styles. I got a sample of the polka dot, 1-inch hex, and the pinwheel (squares and rectangles). Both are black and white. Then I saw these two samples from a few HouseBloggers and said, “Yes! That’s what I want!” I’m going to do my best not to out-right steal either of these designs, but I make no promises.

Chicago 2 Flat

Top to Bottom

I lost out on a few EBay auctions for lighting over the past few weeks. I always lowball on bids when I first start shopping for something on Ebay. It gives me an opportunity to see what things are selling for, and you sometimes get lucky and get the deal of the century. That happened this time. I was over bid on a few auctions but I ended up with a vary nice pair of 1890s wall sconces with etched glass shades. Or at least I hope they’re nice, as I don’t have them yet. They have been rewired and looked to be in good shape. I got the pair for $86 with shipping. That almost makes up for what I paid for the sink legs – don’t ask.

I’m still searching for a ceiling fixture, and other things like towel rods and toilet paper holders. I bought a nice pair of nickel plated brass shelf brackets from a shop locally. I don’t have a picture, but it is a pair of brackets that supports a glass shelf. I also picked out a really cool 3-arm swinging towel bar, also nickel/brass. It was missing a nut and I should be able to get it soon.

There is still a lot of generic purchases to be made locally, but the hard stuff to either find and/or decide upon has mostly been done at this point. Now I just have to buy it all. That will be spread out over the next few months. Most of it is not too bad, except the tile…..oh, the tile.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Is a Vanity in the Hand….

Worth two in the bush, or in this case, several in Murphys, Ca. That is the question I’m grappling with.

It’s a bit convoluted, so please pay attention. There is an antique marble vanity top with sink here in town that I could buy right now. There are 2 issues with it, one minor and one major. The minor issue, or so I’ve been told it’s minor, is some rust stains. They aren’t too bad, but bad enough that I would need to get them off or it would drive me nuts. I’ve been told I can use a poultice of Cream of Tar Tar and Hydrogen Peroxide to leech the stains out of the marble. A good friend told me about this, so I’ll assume it’s true. This is what makes the stains the minor issue.

Still, the stains are a big minor issue, if there is such a thing.

The second issue – the major issue - is the faucet. It doesn’t come with one, but that’s not the issue. This vanity was set up for a mixer faucet as opposed to a separate hot and cold faucet. Normally you would think that was a plus, but in this case it presents a few problems. First, there is a serious lack of Victorian mixer faucets to chose from. In fact, I really only found one. It is at Van Dykes Restorers and the quality is poor. The other problem with this particular faucet is that it does not come in shiny nickel, only in shiny brass and oil rubbed bronze.

You wouldn’t think the issue of the faucet not coming in shiny nickel was a big issue, but it is. I used to say I don’t want to live in a museum when secretly it’s what I’ve desired along. I’ve always liked the unusual and slightly out of style. It is not uncommon in my life for me to take things to their extreme. Or at least close enough to the edge that it’s obvious I went a little too far. In the upstairs bathroom I went with chrome on the faucets and it’s bugged me ever since. The faucets are the only metal things in the room that are not nickel plated and they stick out like a sore thumb. I’m not going to make that mistake again.

I went ahead and bought the faucet from Van Dykes anyway and it came yesterday. The main reason to buy it was to see it in real life, but also to see if it would fit the single hole already drilled in the vanity. It does not. So now I’m faced with needing to drill out the hole. I actually have experience in this so it’s not as daunting as it might have seemed a few months ago. Still, it is one more issue. It is one more thing to worry about, and one more thing that could potentially go wrong.

I bought the faucet in oil rubbed bronze for the primary reason that I know I would never install an oil rubbed bronze faucet in the bathroom. I’m forcing my own hand to either not use it or get it nickel plated. So I started calling around to platers yesterday to see about getting it nickel plated. So far I’ve gotten one bid of $85 and I would have to ship it to them, so really it’s $100. Twice on the phone I had to correct the guy that I wanted nickel plating and not chrome. Visions StoccoHouse type plating problems started going through my head. The more I think about this the less I like it. It’s just more hassle of what will already be a big project.

The other option is to select from one of the marble vanities at DEA Bath. There are a few 2 hole vanities to chose from, and I have a tentative agreement with DEA Bath to take some of my unwanted vintage toilets and sinks in exchange for store credit. In effect, I would be trading toilets for a marble vanity. The issue here is, I have to drive to Murphys, CA, which is about 6 hours, one way. It’s not the end of the world and the drive would do me good.

The other issue is, I would have to pick out the vanity in one day. I usually like to mull these things over, write about it on the blog, change my mind a few times, and then pick something out. This will be a blurry-eyed, over-night, Cannon Ball run to Murphys, CA. ending with me making a crucial decision through a caffeine induced haze. Not ideal conditions.

Then, of course, there is the old “bird in the hand” thing. The vanity that is here in town, is here in town. If I say no to it, and it gets sold, that’s pretty much it. I need to make a decision on the vanity before I start the rough-in on the plumbing. What happens if I get to Murphys, CA and there’s nothing I like. So the question is, do I buy something that I don’t really like just because I can (the vanity here in town), or do I take a chance at what’s behind Door Number 2?

I’ve told the shop here in town that is holding the vanity that I would give them a yes or no within 2 weeks. If someone else is interested in it before 2 weeks is up, they will contact me and I will give them a yes or no immediately.

At this point, I’m leaning towards What’s Behind Door Number 2.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Well, that was easy, but not cheap

I started what I thought would be a long, arduous, and painful process of trying to find a pair of apron wall brackets to go with my new sink legs. As I mentioned yesterday, I bought a pair of 1890s sink legs on EBay for the new bathroom.

The legs support a marble apron at the outside corners of the vanity and there should be a pair of small brackets that mount to the wall to support the opposite end of the apron. These inevitably get tossed or left behind because people either don’t know what they are, or they just loose them. This is the same reason there are a zillion cabinet latches and rim locks out there without the catches. These parts may seem small and insignificant, but they are a crucial part of the item whether it be a cabinet latch, rim lock, or sink leg. It's like having an old car with no window cranks.

Anyway, I’ve been playing around with ideas about how I could mount the sink and apron without the little wall brackets. A few ideas came to mind but they mostly seemed like hack-jobs. Anybody that knows me, knows that I’m normally not opposed hack-jobs and work-arounds. Hell, “The King of Work-Arounds” could be my epitaph. In this case though, this sink will be very heavy when it’s in place. This is not hack-job territory. It should be secured properly to the wall. I don’t want to have a $1000 worth of antique plumbing crashing to the ground because I was too cheap to do it right.

Then last night I thought about the site I had found mentioned in a few of 1902 Victorians musings on dreamy Victorian bathrooms. There is a place in LA (I think) called Vintage Plumbing. This is the place that has the $7,600 marble vanity. I found their site and shot off an email last night shortly after 9:00 at night. About 10 minutes later I heard my laptop ding-a-ling at me indicating new mail had arrived. It was Don from Vintage Plumbing. This guy is hard-core if he’s answering obscure questions on antique plumbing at 9 o’clock at night on a Tuesday.

Sure enough he had what I was looking for, only they weren’t original antiques. Apparently I’m not the only person who has had this problem. I guess it’s so common, or at least common among lunatics who buy antique sink legs, that Don has his own made out of nickel plated cast brass.

The brackets are about 5-inches high and about an inch wide. At $135 for a pair I’m going to need a bullet to bite on when I write that check. Ouch!

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Bathroom Jewelry

This is the first of what will be many purchases for the downstairs bathroom over the next few months. In other wards, I’m going to be broke over the next few months as I pour more money in to the house. I keep telling myself it’s an investment, and I guess it is, but it still stings a bit.

Anyway, enough belly-aching and on with the show and tell. These are my latest Ebay treasure. They are a pair of 1890s nickel plated, brass sink legs. First is a picture of the of the legs I bought and then a picture I found on-line of how they are used.

Notice in the picture how the sink legs support a marble apron, which in turn supports the marble vanity. What I don’t have are the nickel/brass wall supports for the apron. If I can’t find any, or make any, I’m thinking I could support the apron in a notch in the wall tile, like one would support floor joists in a brick or stone house.

On the back of the angled parts, at the top of the sink legs, where the marble sits, there are threaded fittings which will hold a bracket so the legs can’t separate from the apron.

On the bottom of the legs, as you can see in the picture above, there is a stud that will go in to a hole in the tile floor. This keeps the leg from being kicked out from under the sink. What all of this means is, I’ve pretty much committed myself to a marble vanity.

I have 2 that are being held for me right now. One is local, at one of the shops. There is an issue with the faucet and some stains, that I won’t go in to now. The other one is at an on-line site. There are issues there as well, that I won’t go in to. Hopefully some things can be resolved in the next week or two and I will have one of the vanities with a sink.

After that I’ll need the marble skirting. Those will be just 3 pieces of marble with no fancy mill work, so I can get that locally from the same place I got the slab for the kitchen. Both of the vanities I’m looking at are the same white Carrara marble, so it shouldn’t be too hard to get a good match.

It’s going to be a challenge to get this all put together without it being crooked or anything. I’m getting nervous about it already, but if it comes out nice, it should look pretty neat. If it doesn’t, I can always sell the house, right?

Oh, and notice the tile in the bathroom picture. This is pretty much what I'm shooting for. I like the white hex with the white square boarder. Those may even be 1X2 rectangles in a staggered running bond on the boarder. It's simple, and plain in a way, but I really like it.

Edit: The Victorian Toilet with the shell motif listed on Ebay that I wrote about in yesterday's post sold for $1,375.00! As I said, too rich for my blood.

Monday, November 13, 2006

They Don’t Make ‘Em Like This Anymore

This is what I would love to have in my bathroom. Both of these items are on Ebay right now. One is in New Jersey, and is pick-up only – kind of a long drive for a toilet – although, as of this writing the high bidder is “californiajensens”. Sounds like it could be a long drive for them as well.

The second one has a current bid of $575 and the reserve has not been met. A little rich for my blood. It’ll be interesting to see what it goes for.

Click on the image to go to the listing

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Bathroom Tile: Round Two

I dreamt of tile last night. That should give you some indication of how much I’m obsessing about it. I’ve contacted a few other places, and some friends of mine say they have some leftover subway tile they want to get rid of. The selections are many and the prices are all over the place

The tile, of course, is for wainscoting in the bathroom. I’m basically looking at 3 different tiles to complete the project. There is the field tile. This is a 3X6 white “subway” tile. There is the cap. This is the piece that hides the transition from the tile and the wall above. They are roughly 2.5-inches high X 6 inches wide. Finally, there is the base that makes the transition from the field tile to the floor. This can either be a simple cove that is maybe an inch and a half high, or it can be a fancier 6X6 inch tile with a fluted profile. The fancier base is much like a wooden baseboard in other parts of the house.

There are two big differences between all the tiles. The field tile really only has a few distinctions between the different manufactures, and then there are differences in an individual manufactures product line. The really high-end field tile has perfectly squared edges and is an exact match for antique subway tile. After that, some manufactures offer either a matte or gloss line. Some also offer other colors besides white to chose from, but I will be doing white.

The real differences are in the selections of Cap & Base. I’m mean, let’s fact it, a 3X6 white tile is a 3X6 white tile. It’s hard to do a lot with that. The subtlety between a square edge or a slightly round edge will be lost on most people. So the real issue is picking the cap and base I want, and then buying all the field tile I need. The issue here is, I can’t mix and match from different manufacturers. I can’t buy the field tile for $5.00 a sq ft from one manufacturer, and then buy the cap and base from another manufacturer because the color white is not a universal constant. I have to buy everything from one supplier to ensure the color is consistent throughout the different tiles – field, cap, and base.

So, here are my choices so far. This was the first place I looked, and I really liked their tile, especially the base.

Field Tile = $10.95 sq ft
Cap = $23.00 lineal foot
Base = $28.00 lineal foot

Designs In Tile: Someone left a comment on my blog about Designs In Tile and I was very excited about these tiles. They are within a days drive so I could pick them up and save on shipping. They do a historically accurate tile. Problem number one: Their web site says they are booked with orders until 2008. They won’t even send out a catalog! I kind of want to finish the project before 2008. However, they do list over-runs and odd lots that are available now.

I had high-hopes for the over-run stuff because I have a pretty small space to tile. I emailed them on Friday with my needs and they got back to me yesterday. Not bad. The woman who contacted me said the over-runs were no longer available, but they were about to start a new run for a customer, and because mine was a small order, they could add it on. I was very excited until I found out about Problem Number Two: The prices.

Field Tile = $25.00 sq ft
Cap = No price given
Base = No price given

Next I went to The Tile Center here in town. They had two lines of tile to chose from. I walked in and saw a display of field, base, and cap selections in about 6 different colors. It was off in the corner with another display shoved up against it. They had one of each tile from each color selection in vertical columns on the wall. A separate column for each color. The only color peaking out from behind the display in front of it was the white. The manufacturer was called something like Art Work Tile in Boston. I don't remember now. The different caps were at the top, followed by a selection of boarders (dental work, swirls, pyramidal shapes, etc), then the field tiles, and finally, the base tile. Very nice stuff.

As I was looking at it a saleswoman walked up holding a 2X3 foot display board of another selection of subway tiles. I looked at it as she approached and nothing jumped out at me. I asked her about the prices of the stuff from Boston and instead of answering my question she held up the display board she was holding and started to tell me about that tile instead. It was the selection from Daltile, and it was nice, but as I said, nothing really grabbed me. The Boston tile was nicer.

We went back to her sales desk and I listened politely as she told me about the Daltile. They had a matte and a gloss. These prices are for gloss. Matte was a little cheaper.

Field = $5.60
Cap = $7.00 lineal foot
Base = I did not write this down. It was just a simple 1-inch cove piece. Probably $2 to $3 a foot.

After I let her give me her sales pitch on Daltile I asked again about the stuff from Boston. When I asked about the base I had to explain to her the difference between the cove piece, which could be used as a base, or a real 6X6 inch base tile. I actually had to take her back over to the display and point it out to her and explain how it was used.

Boston Tile
Field = $13.99 sq ft
Cap = $18.50 lineal foot
Base = $22.00 lineal foot

Finally, I was at dinner with fiends last night and I got to talking about tile. Surprise, surprise, right? They mentioned that they had “a lot” of tile left over form their bathroom project they did 6 yeas ago. They said it was “very inexpensive” and they wanted to get rid of it. It sounds good, but I’m not sure how much there is, and I’m not sure if there is base and cap. They got it at a tile center in Berkeley, so if I needed more, which I’m sure I would, I would need to get it from there, or find another distributor that carries the same tile. I’m not sure if this will work out.

From a purely aesthetics point of view, I’m still leaning towards The simple fact is, I like the base. The cap of is almost identical to the cap of the Boston tile. The base, however, is much nicer. As far as cost, the Boston tile seems in the same ballpark as the tile. The field is a little more, but the base and cap are a little less. The real difference comes when you factor in shipping and taxes. I wouldn’t have to pay shipping for the Boston stuff or the Dal Tile, but I would pay tax.

Just playing with rough numbers, to give you some idea of the difference, these figures take in to account shipping and taxes. = $4,200
Boston = $3,900
Daltile = $1,350

As you can see, there is only about $300 difference between what I really, really want and what I’d be happy with. The Daltile, of course, is significantly less expensive. The other option is to go with a wooden cap instead of tile. For about $50 I could put the same fluted, wooden, Victorian wainscot cap in the bathroom that I used in the kitchen. That would cut about $1000 off the cost of the tile, and I would still get the base I like. This is something I’m considering, and it is something that was done 100 years ago, so it’s not like I’m cheating

There are still other options to consider, so we’ll see what happens. I have plenty of time to decide. I’ve made a few recent bathroom purchases, and there are a few more big-ticket items I have to buy. The biggest big-ticket item will be the tile, so I’ll leave that for last and see if I can afford what I really, really want. Who knows, maybe the lottery ticket in my wallet is a big winner and I can go back to Designs in Tile and order the really nice stuff.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

The Grate Roundup

I soaked the two antique heater grates in a stiff solution of water and TSP for about a week. When I took them out most of the paint had already fallen off. What little remained was then blasted off by the house. A little residue remained in some of the tight corners, but it wasn’t too big of a deal to scrape out by hand.

Last night I spray painted them with the same green paint I used on my stools. They really came out great. Today I put them on the house as my new foundation vents. I don’t have any shots of them on the house, but here is a before and after stripping.

Also, I switched to Blogger Beta, or is it the New Blogger. I’m not sure, but I do know that I can’t seem to access many of the comments that were posted the past few days, but thanks to all for the kind words.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Dotting “I”s

Well, I washed my last brush today. I painted the two window sashes on the back porch, and with that I have now officially finished painting the house for the season. I say “for the season” because there is still more to paint.

I still have to paint the little wall I wrote about last week. I’ll need to repair some siding after I go from the current two windows down to one. I will definitely be replacing the window this fall or winter, but I’m not sure if I will have the weather to paint.

I also need to paint all the skirting on the house. It doesn’t look too bad, but I want to get the dirt off at least, and put a fresh coat on. That will be next year. I also need to, or rather, want to paint the turned columns on the back porch. The porch itself needs some repairs, so I’ll probably strip and paint the columns at the same time I make the repairs. I can’t say I’ll get to that next year.

The whole thing seems a little anticlimactic. It was such a long project, filled with a lot of adventure. Well, at least it was adventurous from a house project standpoint. After all of the work on the tall ladder, and climbing on to the roof, and hanging out attic gable windows, it ended with me standing on a chair painting 2 window sashes with a 2-inch sash brush. I’m glad I’m done with it, but I’m actually feeling a little melancholy about it. I’m not sure where that’s coming from.

Anyway, next year I’ll finish up and Cross the “T” on the house painting project. For now I’ll Dot the “I” with one last after picture. Oddly enough, I couldn't find a decent before picture that showed the whole back porch.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Meet The New Toilet – HAJOCA

I went over the Gary’s house today before he got off work to pick up the toilet. I knew he wouldn’t want to take the $50 for it, so I gave it to his wife instead. I also picked up a few sacks of garbage as per our agreement.

His wife and I went out in to the backyard to get the toilet and there were two of them sitting under a tree. One was a newer, complete toilet sitting upright. The one I wanted was the 100 year old one, laying over on it’s side in the mud. It’s just the bowl and has no tank, also the seat was broken.

His wife looked at me like I was crazy as I pulled it out of the dirt. She pointed to the cracked seat, and said, “That one’s broken”. I took a few minutes to explain to her I was not worried about the seat. I told here how I was going to be using it for an old high-tank toilet. Her eyes widened as the story progressed. I'm not sure if she was impressed or thought I was even crazier then she first suspected.

Here’s a few shots of the toilet sans mud, spiders, and an army of ants.

I had never heard of the Haines, Jones, Cadbury Co before, but a quick search on the internet told me that they started in Philadelphia around 1860 and are still in business today under the name Gorman. The “HAJOCA” comes from the first two letters of each of the partners names “HA” “JO” “CA”. It seems that they got their start in brass pipe fittings for steam systems and expanded in to other plumbing supplies. The gentleman in the center of the logo is William Penn. I found an early advertisement stating they had done all the plumbing for the Princeton University Graduate School.

The toilet looks surprisingly like the 1922 American Standard “Pacific” that is in my upstairs bathroom. It makes me wonder if maybe it was made by Standard for HAJOCA, and they just added the HAJOCA label. From what I read, HAJOCA was first and foremost a brass foundry.

The real difference between the 2 toilets is that the HAJOCA has an inch and a half spud on the back, so it was designed to be a high tank bowl. The Standard Pacific has a 2 inch spud on the back. I know for a fact that it was originally a low tank toilet. I had to buy a reducing spud when I turned it in to a high tank.

The best thing about these old toilets is the enclosed trap. Notice how smooth and slender the sides are below the bowl. I don’t know why they have the exposed trap on most new toilets. It makes them so hard to clean.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Two Heart Beats Away

Congratulations Nancy Pelosi – 8th District San Francisco



Painting In The Rain

Just painting in the rain.
What a horrible feeling.
I’m miserable again.

It took me more than 4 hours today to sand it all down and primer it. The bottom two thirds of the walls had to be stripped to bare wood. The paint was in good enough shape that I couldn’t scrape it, but it was bad enough that it had to come off. I spent about 6 hours over the weekend stripping it with a heat gun. Ugh! It had an orange peel texture to it.

I knew I had to sand and prime today and I was absolutely dreading it. It was all I could think about at work today. I knew if I started anything else I would never get out there, so I walked in the door, changed my clothes immediately, and got to work. It’s done, that’s the important thing.

The weather was thick and muggy and it felt like rain all day. It started coming down after I sanded, and just as I started painting. It came down pretty good but there was no wind so it stayed off the porch and off the walls.

Tomorrow I’ll put on the first top coat and then finish up Thursday. It would be nice if I could say that was the last of it but there is one little section remaining.

I’m going to remove those two windows on the right and put in a stand glass window like the one on the wall to the left. I bought two identical sashes a few years back and that has always been the plan. That wall with the 2 big windows is the downstairs bathroom I’m going to be working on next. The windows are just too big for the room. I think they are original to the house, but that is definitely not their original spot on the house.

So before I can paint I need to build a window for the sash, and then install it. After that I can fix the siding and then paint that last little section. It just never seems to end. Next year I will paint the columns you see in the first picture, and get rid of the 2X4 railing. The columns need to be stripped and that ain't going to happen this year. I'm ignoring the rotted porch decking for the moment....and for several more moments after that.

Monday, November 06, 2006

On Going Negotiations

Two weeks ago I talked about my collection of antique plumbing parts that I want to transmogrify in to even older plumbing parts for the downstairs bathroom. The stuff I have is the wrong vintage, and also, it’s just the wrong type in many cases.

I have 3 complete toilets that pre-date WWII, and then 3 toilet tanks. The toilets are nice, but they don’t look right. I’ve decided to lean Victorian in the bathroom and the 1931 Standard Moderns toilet, for instance, would look out of place with it’s art deco lines.

So I contacted a place called DEA Bath to see if they would want to buy or trade my plumbing parts for some things I am going to need from them. It’s been a few days shy of two weeks, and I contacted them by snail mail, so it’s not time to panic because I haven’t heard of them. At the time I contacted them there was really nothing I needed in the meager selection of local salvage places, so I didn’t offer the items to anyone locally. Well, this past week that changed.

One of the 3 or so places in town that would deal with this sort of thing has decided to go out of business after more than 2 decades because the owners are retiring. Another place in town, actually owned by some friends of mine, negotiated to take some bulky items off their hands. They got some display cases, and things like that. Also as part of this deal they got 2 Victorian marble vanities, a per WWI Crane toilet, an two oak tanks. Any of these items would be perfect for my bathroom.

I won’t go in to why those items weren’t available to me when I went in to the store that is now closing. It is a troubling question as to why I can go in to a salvage place and ask about toilets and marble vanities and the owners tell me there is nothing available, and yet they magically appear a few weeks later. I won’t go in to this because it speaks volumes about the owners of this place that is now closing down. I’ve been in their shop many times in the last 4 years and the only time I ever bought anything was when I purchased it from their assistant. I could write several blog entries about my odd experiences with the owners, but I’ll just leave the whole thing there.

So now I have two vanities, a complete Crane toilet, and 2 oak high tanks without the bowls to chose from. I already have an oak high tank, but I need a rear spud bowl, and I also need a marble vanity. My friends called me on Saturday and told me the items were now in their possession and I should come down to the shop. I dropped everything and ran.

It turns out the only thing I can use is one of the marble vanities. I don’t need the two oak tanks and they don’t want to brake up the Crane tank and bowl set. That’s fine. They then came over to my house on Sunday to view my selection. To be honest, a lot of the stuff I have is not too spectacular. The 1931 Standard Modernus is pretty cool, and then I have 2 very, very nice tanks with matching lids from the early 1920s. Those three items together would go for about $1,600 on the DEA Bath web site. Throw in the other tanks, toilets, and sink I have and they retail for more than $2,500 on-line. I’m not going to get retail for them, I know.

The real interesting thing was one of the tanks I have. It is a 1922 Standard tank and it is an exact match for a tank they have in their one and only bathroom at their house. They’re nuts about antique plumbing and plan on putting in two more bathrooms in their house. They really would love to have this tank. Advantage Greg.

We haven’t talked money yet, and I’m not even sure what they are asking for the marble vanity with sink. They showed me a very nice 1902 Trenton Pottery china bowl that they have at home that they said they could make available to me. What I would really like to have is the 1897 toilet bowl they recently acquired. They plan to put it in their downstairs bath. There house is a 1910 Colonial Revival Four Square and I joked when I saw it about how that 1897 bowl would be much more fitting in my house. {It was no joke}

Then this morning as I was leaving for work my neighbor Gary, the now famous plumber who helped me in more ways than I can remember when I was re-plumbing my house, was also leaving. We both leave for work at roughly the same time and frequently see each other in the mornings. I was pulling away from the curb as he was coming out the front door so I backed up to his truck and we chatted for a few minutes.

I recalled that he had an old rear spud toilet tank sitting in the mud in his backyard. I was helping him pull out some bamboo or something one day and I saw it there half buried. I pulled it out of the mud and asked him about it. He said he has several toilets here and there and he installs them here and there when he’s doing work on the side. He held on to that one incase someone might want a high tank installed some day. This was 6 months ago so I wasn’t really thinking about toilets and bathrooms at the time.

Well, this morning I asked him if it was still in the mud in his backyard. He said it was, and I said I’d give him $50 for it. He said I could have it. He didn’t say it casually like, “Sure, you can have it if you want it”. It was more like, You can have it! Please take it and get it out of my yard!” He then said his wife would love it if some of the toilets left the property. He went on to tell me he has all the pipes for it was well.

I insisted I would give him $50 and he insisted he didn’t want the money. I TOLD him I was giving him the money and then I mentioned I was going to the dump on Thursday and asked if he had anything that needed to go. He said, “The toilets yours but you have to make dump runs for a month.” I said, “Fine, and you get $50.” And then I drove off. I’m going to the dump on Thursday so I’ll go and get the toilet and a few bags of garbage while Gary’s at work. I’ll collect the toilet and leave $50 with his wife.

Now I’m thinking what I really want is the marble vanity and the 1897 toilet. You should see this thing. Even if I don’t get it, which I almost assuredly won’t, I’ll have to take pictures of it. The thing is a work of art. Regardless of what I end up with, I have quite a bit to offer. The pièce de résistance is the matching 1922 tank to the toilet my friends already own. Even though they won’t admit how much they really want it, I now they really, really want it.

So what I’m thinking about doing is offering them everything I have for the marble vanity and the 1897 toilet. They will never go for it. The 1897 toilet is too much of a treasure. Regardless, it’s worth a shot. I will essentially be offering 4 complete vintage toilets, 2 vintage tanks, and a vintage sink. I’d take the deal if I were them. Wouldn’t you?


Sunday, November 05, 2006

Tile Costs: Gulp!

So, I’m still in bathroom planning mode, and it’s not pretty. I’ll be the first to admit that I’m a bit of a tight-wad. I’ll walk a mile to save a buck, and I actually do stoop down in parking lots to pick up pennies. I’m obsessed with getting a good deal, and I will almost always sacrifice my wants and desires if I can get almost what I want at a substantial savings.

I’m trying not to be this way with the downstairs bathroom. I’ve only completed two rooms in the house so far, the upstairs bathroom and the kitchen. The house supplied me with a lot of what I needed for those rooms so even though I spent thousands of dollars, I was able to do those rooms for a lot less than I normally would have, given the amount of work that went in to them.

I want to try not to be so cheap when it comes to the downstairs bathroom, but it goes against my nature, so it’s going to be tough. This room is a blank slate so I won’t be solely driven by restoration. With the other bathroom I still had most of it, so I put it back the way it was the best I could. Honestly, the whole bathroom was done for about a $1000 and it’s still my favorite room in the house.

I did improvise some with the kitchen, but again, I had a lot the “parts” already. Granted, everything was beat-up, covered in paint, or laying in piles waiting to be nailed together, but it didn’t cost anything. Even given everything I had to work with, if you include every last piece of wire, sheet of sandpaper, appliances, lighting, etc, etc, etc., I still spent less than $10,000 on the kitchen. Considering the room was an empty shell, that is dirt cheap for a ground-up remodel of a kitchen. Hell, a quarter of the money was spent on the antique cast iron kitchen stove.

Now I come to the bathroom. I want to do something really nice, but it’s going to be tough to pry open the wallet. Case in point: The Tile. Oy! Tile ain’t cheap. I spoke about the floor tile the other day. If you don’t include shipping, mortar, grout, or backer board, it’s around $600 for the floor tile. I figure $1000 when all is said and done.

Today I was looking at wall tile. Crack! {That was the sound of my head splitting open}. What I want to do is subway tile 3 feet up on most walls, and then floor to ceiling subway tile around the bath tub. Here’s what I’m looking at. This all came from the one and only source I’ve look at, Again, this is just the cost of the tile. Maybe add 20% to include other costs for things like mortar, grout, and backer board. That’s a guess, and even the costs listed below are rough estimates.

3X6 Field Tile = $1600

2.5X6 Cap = $380

5X6 Base Molding = $730

Total = $2710
Plus 20% = $3252

The room has 9-foot ceilings so I was considering doing the field tile 48-inches up the wall. I think that would look nicer. The cost above is for 36-inches up. If I went 48-inches up that would add roughly another $200 to the cost. So basically, if you include the cost of the floor tile, and if I went 48-inches up, I’m looking at about $4500 in tile and supplies. That is just for the floor and half the walls in the room. I still have to add all the costs of wiring, plumbing, lighting, cabinets, walls above the tile, ceiling, and a zillion other little things that I can’t think of right now.

In some respects it is a question of money, but in other respects – at least in my warped mind – it is a question of the cost of this room relative to the costs of the other two rooms I’ve done. The cost to do this room alone could easily balloon to nearly the cost of the kitchen if I’m not careful. Can I justify that? Will my tight-wad tendencies impose themselves on my wants and desires for the downstairs bathroom? Will my head explode if I continue to think about this? I can’t say at this point.

Stay tuned.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Tile Samples Ordered

I ordered some tile samples for the bathroom. They’re not so much samples as just 1 square foot sheets of two kinds of tile. They were out of one that I wanted so I went with something else. I got a square foot of the polka dot 1-inch hex, and a square foot of the spiral pattern.

Polka Dot - $625 sq ft

Spiral - $7.95 sq ft

The tiles is coming from Mosaic Tile Supplies, and at this point I’m not really sure where they are, other than they exist is cyberspace some place. The one thing I liked about them was the comment on the page showing the tiles. It says:

These tiles have completely squared edges rather than a beveled edge, making them perfect for period homes and architectural or historical restoration projects.

The also have 1-inch square tiles in solid colors. The squares come in about 40 different colors. I wanted to get a sheet of white (Chalk) and a sheet of black (Raven) squares to play around with for a boarder but the black are out of stock. I ordered the spiral instead and I’m considering it for a boarder. Originally the idea was to do some kind of design with the black and white squares for the boarder, and use the hex as the field.

Once I get these, and if I like them, I’ll check again to see in the black squares are in stock. The local home center has 1.5 sq ft sheets of black or white squares or hexes. They are also unglazed mosaic tiles but the edges aren’t “completely squared”. They do have a very subtle bevel to them. It will be interesting to see how they differ from the ones form Mosaic Tile Supplies. The local tiles are $5.99 a sq ft.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Section 7b Finished

And not a moment too soon. We got our first real rain of the season today. This was the kind of rain that has people running across parking lots and jumping over puddles. Over the past month we’ve had a few days of precipitation, and maybe even some drizzle, but I wouldn’t have called it rain.

Although they are becoming a bit pointless at this stage of the project, here is a before and after of Section 7b.

I did the wall not under the porch on Monday and Tuesday, and the adjoining wall that is under the porch yesterday and today. Tomorrow I’ll need to touch up the panel on the door a bit. On all of the sunbursts around windows and on brackets I did the burst in Livable Green with the background in Basil. It worked fine in those situations because the surrounding bracket or trim was Clarey Sage. With the rest of the door being done in Basil it didn’t look so good. The panel lost some dimension being that it was the same color as the door. After I painted it I went back and change the background of the panel to the Clarey Sage. It looks much better, but it needs another coat.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Downstairs Bath: First Look

Well, actually, it’s a first look at the floor plan of what the bath may look like. I have about 2 weeks to go on the exterior house painting, but after that it’s all-bathroom-all-the-time. The space is not huge so I have to maximize it. Also, the room has never been a bathroom before, so there is a lot of work to be done.

I have only one priority for the room and that is a shower. The original 1895 bathroom upstairs has no shower, and really, that’s fine with me. I don’t think I’ve taken a shower in about 5 years now, and I don’t really miss it. I love soaking in my canoe of a claw foot tub, and as Churchill said, “Why stand when you can sit”. Still, some freaks out there can’t live with out a shower, so I’m caving to popular demand and putting in a shower. Incidentally, the first showers sold at the end of the last century were for men only. It was felt that a woman’s delicate skin could not stand the harsh blast of a shower spray.

The issue is, I want to use the claw foot tub as the shower, but I’m not a fan of the 360 degree shower curtain. It’s not bad, it just seems there should be a better way. The room is 10X6, roughly, and there really isn’t room for a tub, sink, toilet, and shower. I realize they make small neo-angle showers, but I’m not a big fan of those either. And even if I was, I couldn't fit it in.

So this leaves me with a bit of a dilemma. How to I use a claw foot tub as a shower with out the surround shower curtain. Well, here’s what I’m thinking. The picture below is a second draft of the bathroom.

What I’m thinking about doing is getting rid of the window behind the tub and making the walls on either side of the tub, and the wall behind, floor to ceiling tile. The floor would be tile as well. The plan all along has been to do subway tile 36 or maybe 48 inches up the wall in the entire room. In the tub area it would just extend the remaining 5 or 6 feet to the ceiling.

The space is 68 inches wide and the tub is 60 inches, so I could (I think) mount a shower curtain across the front of the tub and use the area as a shower stall. The tub would collect most of the water and what misses would go in to the floor drain under the tub.

It’s just a thought at this point. The tub will go in that spot regardless, because there is no other place for it to go. If it’s doesn’t work, or if I don’t like how it looks, I can always put in a shower curtain ring.

Like I said, this is a first look.