Monday, July 30, 2007

There’s Only So Much…

There was an episode of the Simpsons where Homer complained that his brain could only hold so much. The conversation between him and Marge went something like this…

Home: It’s like my brain can only hold so much. Every time I learn something new I forget something old. Like that time I learned how to make wine in the bathtub and then I forget how to drive a car.

Marge: You forgot how to drive because you were always drunk on homemade wine!

No, I haven’t started making wine, and I haven’t forgotten how to drive either, but there does seem to be a limit of the number of creative things I can do at one time. There are a lot of things going on right now in my life and they require not only more of my time, but also more physical energy, and more of my creative energy as well.

There seems to be only so much I can do at one time and the blog is not one of those things. I could find the time to write a paragraph or two about what I’m doing around the house, but it would be little more than that. To be honest, what I’m doing right now is not very blog worthy.

I have another few months of this and then I will get back some of my life. Until then, posts are going to be few and far between. I did get a few very nice emails about Mort. I’m sorry I didn’t respond to them, but I do appreciate them.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Two Weekends, Two Doors

Doors really take a lot of time. Last weekend I put a new front door on one of the rental units. If you include the time it took to purchase the door and paint it, the whole thing took me 5 or 6 hours. Granted, I’m not the speediest worker in the world, but doors are a lot of work. You must mortise hinges and install locksets, and of course they never fit perfectly the first time. There is always some trimming or shimming that needs to be done. It didn’t help matters that the apartment was on the second floor.

This weekend I turned my door hanging attention back to the bathroom. I’ve been working on this door for a good 3 or 4 weeks now. The door was in reasonably good shape, given its age, but it still had some issues. The main issue was the paint. It had to all come off. There was a lot of it and it was chipping pretty bad. I’m really not in to the whole shabby chic thing.

The only other issue with it was one of the panels was cracked. It was right along the edge and it was a pretty clean break so I filled it with some poly urethane caulk. The wood on the panels gets very thin where it meets the rails and styles of the door. There really wasn’t much to glue. Plus, it would have been hard to get the glue in there and get it to stay while it set.

Once I got all of the pant off it came time to hang it. Naturally, the old hinge mortises on the door did not match up with the old hinge mortises on the door jamb I reused. Not that I expected them too, but one can hope. It’s probably just as well, because no doubt the screw holes would have been stripped.

And of course, things did not quite match up. This is a 100+ year old door being hung in an 80+ year old door jamb that was reused and installed by an armature carpenter. I really never expected the door to fit on the first try and it didn’t. It wasn’t too bad. A few minor trims later and the door was swinging effortlessly on its reproduction steeple tipped hinges.

I decided to get classy with the door knobs considering the bathroom came out so classy. I’m not sure where I got these. They probably came on one of the doors I bought some place. You can see the image of the old face plate. I’m not sure if that big oval style pre-dates my house or if it came later.

I also added a little deadbolt type lock. This was an Ebay purchase. Next will be to remove all of the hardware, take the door off the hinges, and paint it. I want to clean the door knobs and face plates as well. It probably won’t be until Wednesday or so when I get it back up, but this puts me one giant step closer to finishing the bathroom.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Not Long For This World

Ok, so the title is a bit dramatic, I'll admit, but Mortimer was diagnosed with Feline AIDS yesterday. The doctor says he could have several more good years ahead of him. Still, it's a bit sobering.

Mort has had this ongoing respiratory infection for the last 6 months or so. We've tried a few different antibiotics and the symptoms seem do go away for a little bit but they come back. He just can't shake it. This is what prompted the FAIDS test. He does not have leukemia, so that's good news.

He has a deep ear polyp and the doctor speculates that that could be the source of the infection. Then again, it may not be. There is a surgical procedure for removing the polyp, but no one around here does it. He is in no pain because of it, and we decided that given his age and condition it's not worth the trauma of putting him through a surgery that would require so much travel and time.

I often question putting cats through traumatic surgeries that require a lot of recovery. It's easy to anthropomorphize them and forget that they are not human. Even if they come out of it healthy there can be a psychological aspect that is hard to quantify.

I always think back to a cat we had when I was a kid. He was hit by a car and we opted for major surgery to save him. This required a long period of confinement for recuperation. The poor cat was just never the same after the whole ordeal. I was a kid at the time, and didn't think much about it then, but in retrospect, I don't think the heroic efforts were the right way to go with that cat.

I've already made the decision that I won't let Mort suffer and there will be no surgeries in his future. He has had a very long and difficult life, but the last 5 or 6 years have been very good for him. It doesn't seem right to put him through something that he may see as torture just so I can spend a few more months or years with him. When I feel the time has come, I'll put him to sleep.

When I first started the blog I wrote about how I met Mortimer. I wasn't really sure what to write about at the time, so Mort seemed like a good topic. I mentioned how he runs up to my truck every day when I get home from work. He still does it. Sometimes when I tell people this they say he only does it because he's hungry, but I know that's not it.

It doesn't matter how many times I pull up in a day, or how hungry or full he his, if he sees me pull up he runs out to the truck and greets me. It seemed like a good time to get this on video so I took my camera with me to work today. I wasn't worried that this might take several tries to get the shot. He does it every time rain or shine.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Moderate Improvements

I was able to get a few things done on the bathroom. I bought an antique heater grate off Ebay, which I’m using it as a cover for the bathroom exhaust fan. The plastic Nutone cover that came with the fan seemed a tad out of place with all of the marble and tile. The grate was in really good shape so I just had to clean it with steel wool and paint it.

This is centered over the sink.

Tail Piece Before

Tail Piece After

I also got the new tail piece for the sink drain. It looks much, much better than the pieced together one I had on there originally. It was an extra $35 or so, but it is a huge improvement on the look of the bathroom. I also needed to repair a small leak on the cold water supply line for the tub, but with that, I am officially finished with the plumbing. Everything is now hooked up and not leaking. I’m so glad that’s over.

I managed to get all of the paint stripped off the door, but then I had to turn my attention to landlord duties so nothing has changed with that for a week now. I had one tenant move out last week and another one moves in on Monday. The door still needs to be sanded and painted, and then I can hang it.

Once the door is up, the bathroom will be functional but it stills needs a few things before it’s practical to use on a daily basis. I need a towel bar and a few hooks for bath towels. I need shelves for the medicine cabinet. I also need some place for soap in the shower. The shampoo and what not can go in the window sill, but I don’t want a soap dish there. So I need something that will hang on the side of the tub like I have in the upstairs bathroom.

After all of that, I just need the marble on the corner cabinet and I can officially say the bathroom is done!

Friday, July 13, 2007

A House as a Kaleidoscope

I wrote last summer how my neighbor across the street mentioned how my house shoots color at his house during certain times of the year. It’s the two stained glass windows in the front parlor interacting with each other. As the summer sun sets in the evenings a ray of light comes in the small window on the north wall and goes out the large stained glass window on the east wall. At around 8:30 the light hits the house across the street.

Last summer when I learned of this I tried to see it in action but I was never able to. Last night though, I was sitting on the couch when I noticed a large square of lighting hitting the big stained glass window. I went to the front door and sure enough there was a red square of light in the shadow cast by my house hitting the neighbors front porch. It’s pretty cool.

The sun, of course, sets slowly but if you follow the path the light would eventually follow you can see how the red square would eventually hit their front window. This would no doubt put a big square of red light in their front parlor. Eventually, the square of light moves across my front window and picks up other colors as well.

I live in a Kaleidoscope!

Saturday, July 07, 2007

My First Shower In 5 Years

And It Works!

I got my hair-brained shower scheme all hooked up today and took my first shower in 5 years. Eh….it was ok. I’ve gotten so accustomed to lounging in my canoe of a tub that it felt rather odd to stand up in a shower. Plus, I don’t care for the shower head. It was a wide spray of very fine streams of water. I felt like I had to move around just to get wet. I also mounted the shower head kind of high. I’m either going to lower it, or get a new shower head, or both.

Anyway, here’s a few shots, one with the curtain open and one with it closed.

I ran down to Target after I got the shower working and bought a shower curtain, rod, rings, bath mat, and waste basket. It came to $88. Choke! I was a little surprised it would be that much. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I bought a cloth shower curtain. I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or bad thing, but at least it doesn’t have that smell of fresh vinyl that seems to permeate half the house when you buy a plastic one.

I took a 15 minute shower and didn’t try and control where I splashed at all. The shower curtain did a very good job of containing the water. Really, I would say 90% of the water went down the tub drain. Afterwards there was no standing water under the tub and NO water outside the shower area. I honestly don’t even think I needed to put the quarter round tile on the floor now.

The shower curtain never billowed away from the force of the splash. In fact, the outer sides of the tub didn't get wet at all, and neither did the supply lines or drain. Really, anything that went over the side hit the tile or curtain and slowly drained to the floor. The tub feet didn’t even get wet.

Above is after the shower. You can see that the cloth curtain got very wet in the center. I’m not sure if I’m supposed to have a liner, or what. I’ve never had a cloth shower curtain before.

Here are the pipes after the shower. So little water went over the front that it didn’t even wash away the small pile of tile and saw dust that collected there when I drilled the holes for the shower riser mount. You can see there is water on the tile, but the pipes are dry as a bone.

So far I’m going to say this is a resounding success. The only thing left to do is go under the house and make sure the shower pan doesn’t leak. However, I vowed not to go under the house for 12 months, so that will have to wait.

Next up, the door. It’s about 90% stripped of paint. I still need to sand it and paint it, and then I can hang it. The end is in sight.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Petch Family Portrait

The Great Grand Daughter of Thomas and Phillias Petch came through with some photos. She stopped by last week with her daughter and I gave them a tour of the house. They’re pretty cool photos. The first one is an undated portrait of Thomas and Phillias Petch. The second one has a derived date of about 1889, and Phillias looks almost the same in both photos, so I guess this one is about the same age.

After that is a Picture of Phillias with the three boys. That’s Thomas Jr on the left, then Phillip, and finally George on the far right. I seem to remember learning from some place that there was a 4th child, but I’m not sure at this point where I got that information. The second photo is also undated, but we know the youngest boy, Phillip, was born in 1887 and he looks to be about 2 years old in this photo. That would date it to about 1889 or so. That would put them in the J St house.

I’m still holding out for a vintage photo of the house {fingers crossed}.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

No Surprise, I Guess

I had a small leak in the drain assembly on the bathroom vanity. It was at a factory joint, but it turned out to be my fault. I thought it was a soldered joint. It was right where the tail piece met the underside of the drain. I didn’t realize this was a threaded tail piece that screwed up in to the drain.

I called DEA Bath and got Jim (Tim is no longer there). He explained that the I was supposed to remove the tail piece and apply pipe dope and then reattach it. As he put it, they don’t do this at the factory because it’s not uncommon for people to need a longer tail piece. If it was screwed down tight at the factory it would be hard to get apart. You don’t want to take a pair of pliers to it and ruin the finish.

As soon as he said “a longer tail piece” bells went off in my head. That’s exactly what I need. If you look at the drain in the picture above, you can see that extra 6-inch chrome tail piece just above the P trap. To me it sticks out like a soar thumb. That should be a single piece of nickel pipe that runs from the basin to the trap. DE Bath sells a 12-inch long, inch and a quarter, nickel tail piece. I can use it to replace both the original nickel tail piece and the chrome addition. It’s $28, and I swore I wouldn’t spend another cent on this vanity, but what the hell.

I also found a 30-inch door for the bathroom. I thought I was going to need to cut down a 32-inch door. A few weeks back I measured all of the doors I have stacked up in the door room and I thought they were all 32-inch. I have 18 of those Eastlake doors, believe it or not. Anyway, on Monday I decided to search out a good candidate for trimming and I started measuring them again. I was hoping to find a door that had already been trimmed a little. Sure enough, one of them was 30-inches.

It needs a little help, but it’s not too bad. The paint needs to be stripped off, that’s a given, but beyond that, it has a thin crack in one of the panels, and another very minor crack near the mortise for the lock set. It even had a very nice, working lockset in it. So that’s the job this week – getting the door ready.

Happy 4th everyone!

Sunday, July 01, 2007

The Bathroom Two Step

I got the sink all hooked up, and it did not go willingly. Working with vintage plumbing is always a bit of a chore. Even though I think the results are worth it, it takes longer and you sometimes need to be creative.

For starters, my ultra-cool 1890s Peck Bros. faucets do not have standard threads on them. They are just a hair shy of half inch threads. I can get a half inch nut to thread on but it is very loose. There is no way it would hold water.

This was no surprise because I’ve known about this since I bought them. What I ended up doing was taking a copper male and female threaded end piece (these are the inch long parts you would solder on to the end of a copper pipe) and soldered them together. I then threaded the female end on to the faucets as best as they would go, and soldered them in place. It worked well and you can’t see them unless you’re on the floor looking up under the vanity.

The basin was a major pain. I had to buy new mounting brackets to set in to the underside of the marble because the old ones were gone. They work like concrete anchors, in that there is a sleeve and wedge. You drill a three eights inch wide hole a half inch deep and put in the sleeve. You then hammer in the wedge part and in theory the anchor is set in the marble. The wedge part has the threads to accept the mounting screw.

The problem I had was that it takes a while to drill in to the marble. It takes a little over a minute to get a half inch deep and inevitably the drill wobbles and bit, and so the hole is not perfect. In concrete you maybe be drilling 2 or 3 inches in so it’s no big deal if the hole isn’t perfect all the way down. There is still plenty of area for the anchor to wedge it’s self in to. Not so on the half inch deep hole in the marble. The anchors kept popping out.

I eventually had to re-set them all with epoxy. The other problem with the brackets was that they were not made for a sink this thick. The sink anchors are modern kholer anchors and are made for modern sinks. The original anchors would have been a threaded post set with lead. The post would have stuck out 2 or 3 inches. I had to buy longer screws and fabricate new brackets. It just seemed to go on and on getting this basin installed.

I finally got the basin in only to discover the drain pipe wasn’t long enough to reach the P Trap. This was kind of my fault. When I put in the drain I had the choice to run it above the shut-off valves or below. I chose below because I wanted to show off the P Trap. Well, I had to go buy a 6-inch tail piece and, of course, it’s chrome and not nickel.

So now I have a nickel drain pipe, connected to a chrome tail piece, which is connected to a nickel P Trap. It’s looks kind of screwy but there is no way I’m spending more money on this vanity. A new nickel plated tail piece is $34 plus shipping. It really, really bugs me though.

The only thing I didn’t have a problem with was putting it all together. Once I got everything figured out it all went together nicely and I had no leaks. That’s my one saving grace. I also got a lot of the other bathroom parts installed. I had to rewire all 3 of the fixtures, but that was pretty straight forward, and they’re now hung. The TP holder and soap dish went fine even though I had to drill through tile {nervous grin}. I also got the telescoping mirror hung. I almost decided against hanging it, but I’m glad I did.

The three arm towel rod I may not install because it sticks out too far. There is really no good place for it. I also decided to do without the nickel/glass shelf. There is only one good place for it, but because I’m not using the three arm towel rod, I need a real towel rod. Once I get one, it will need to go where the shelf was going to be. I really don’t need the shelf, because I have the built-ins, so it was just going to be for show anyway. The shelf and towel rod will be on Ebay soon. I have some other leftovers to get rid of as well.

So the last 2 steps to do are set up the faucet, shower, and supply lines on the tub, and hang the door. The door doesn’t exist, as such, at this time. It looks like I’m going to be trimming down a 32-inch door. It’s not the best solution but the bathroom needs a door. I’m going to wait on the tub until next weekend. The supply lines for the tub don’t have shut off valves and I don’t want to be in there until 9:00 at night on Monday fighting plumbing so I can get the water turned back on. That’s a weekend job.

So, next up, the door. Aside from the tub and door I need a cover for the fan and the marble for the large built-in. The fan cover is an old cast iron heater grate and is in transit as I write. The marble will need to wait a bit.