Monday, September 27, 2010

Not an Artists Rendering

It specifically is not an artists rendering because I am not an artist. Photoshop is one software program that has always been difficult for me to get. I once sat with a book that had step-by-step instructions on how to merge two images with one masked and I still couldn't get it. I understand the theory. I'm reasonably intelligent. I often pick up these sorts of things quickly. It frustrates me to this day that I could not get this. So much so that I've wasted the first paragraph of this blog entry on the fact that I can not mask out the background of one image and superimpose it on to another in Photoshop. How's that for neurotic?

Annnnywho, I got an email from today informing me that my stair runner carpet should be here this Friday. If that is true, then I can install it this weekend. That will be huge. After that, I just need a few small pieces of furniture and some pictures on the wall and I can stick a fork in the foyer and move on to the front door.

The mirror is real, but I'm sure you will be shocked to know that the small demi-lune table is not really in that photo. It looks so real! I've been Googling my fingers to the bone for the past few days looking for tables for the foyer. A hall tree would be the proper Victorian piece for this spot, but I've decided not to go that route. I found the piece above at Ethan Allen.

When I started looking I first went to Ballard Design and found a nice little table right off the bat and it was on-sale. The only problem was the sale table only came in white and the one in the picture with the mahogany finish was not even available at full price. I get the feeling they had zillions of the white ones left over and they were desperate to dump them.

I then went to and found nothing that appealed to me. After that I let Google tell me where to go. This is where it got interesting. If you Google 'console table' you get a number of sites that all seem to have the same exact inventory, and they all offer dozens, if not hundreds of different tables.

After looking at 3 or 4 of these sites I began to think they were all the same site only different domain names. It doesn't matter what link you click on you get the same selection at the same price. After looking at page after page after page of small tables I gave up at those sites because nothing really jumped out at me. I then just typed in and found the table above.

One thing you'll notice about the table above compared to similar tables at all of the other sites is that the table above has no lower shelf. Almost all of the others have a lower shelf 6-inches or so off the ground. I do know this style of table, when it was in fashion, would not have had the lower shelf. I think the real reason for the lower shelf is to make up for poor craftsmanship. Oddly enough, the table from Ethan Allen is less expensive than many similar tables at other sites I looked at.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Decisions Must Be Made

So, today I purchased the last piece of the puzzle for the foyer project. I bought the runner carpet for the stairs. It was not an easy decision for a number of reasons. First, it is a design element choice, and those are always agonizing for me. Paint colors, drapes, rugs, furniture and the like are always difficult for me. More often than not I change my mind after I've made the purchase. Not good.

In this case, it is really not good because the runner carpet is expensive and non-refundable. Like it or not, I bought it and it is going in. The other difficult aspect of this decision was the width of the runner. Unless I have something custom made my choices are 27-inch or 40-inch. The plan all along was to do 27-inch. That is what was there originally and it is a nice fit for the width of the stairs. That was until I refinished the stairs. The treads are really beat up and the more I cover them the better, so I went with a 40-inch wide wool runner. The stairs are 46-inches wide, which means it is basically carpeting on the stairs, with 3 inches of wood showing on either side.. I'm hoping it will not look odd.

I looked locally first and found no wool runners available. I could buy some unpatterned wool carpet and have it cut to be a runner, but that is not really what I wanted. I wanted pattern with boarders. I purchased this on-line and the company is adamant about no returns on runners once it has been cut from the roll. Even though I found it on-line I purchased it over the phone.

The salesman made it very clear that I could not return this runner. After the transaction was complete on the phone I had to confirm by email and type “Yes” in to a little box, indicating that I knew there were no returns. After I sent that back they sent another email with the final bill and shipping information. I didn't get that email until I got home from work and my first panicked instinct was to call someone and beg them to change my order to the 27-inch runner. I ran to the stairs and measured one last time and convinced myself I must call to change it....then I convinced myself it would be ok....then change it...then ok...change...ok....change....ok

Then I poured myself a glass of wine and convinced myself that I didn't care. It will get here in 2 weeks. I will install it. It will bug the crap out of me for a few weeks and then I won't notice it anymore.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Warts and All

I think I would have made the annual Home Tour being held on October 3rd this year. The front door and pocket doors won’t be done for lack of hardware, but the rest of the foyer and stair hall will be. The only things remaining are the base shoe molding and the stair runner carpet. I also need to redo one piece of the picture rail, and of course do a lot of cleaning.

I’m going to start shopping for stair runner next week. There are huge selections on-line, but I will first see if I can find something local. I dread going in to local businesses to shop for this sort of thing. It is like if I don’t walk in wearing a suit and tie I practically need to jump up and down to get someone’s attention. It is very frustrating.

The first place I went to when I shopped for carpet for my last house, I told the salesman I wanted to install carpet in 3 bedrooms, a hallway and the stairs and the first thing he showed me was the indoor/outdoor carpeting. I looked at him with an irritated glare and said, “No, inside my house”. His response was, “Well, I just assumed….” And then he trailed off. The rest of the time we spent together he acted like he had someplace else to be. Honestly, must I be forcd to shave a put on cologne just to shop for carpet? I ended up spending close to $3,000 on carpet at a different store. That place screwed up the installtion schedule, though. From the time I purchased the carpet it took more than 6 weeks to get it installed.

The plan is to do a 27-inch runner all the way up the stairs. The treads are a little beat up, so I might go a little wider. I knew they would be far from perfect, but there has never been a plan to replace them. It goes against my philosophy of ripping out and replacing something just because it isn’t perfect. I realize that needs to be done at times, but it will always be a last resort for me. I try and adhere to the 3 Rs of environmentalism: Reduce, Recyle, and Resuse.

I told myself I was going to hire a pro to sand the floor this time. This is my 5th time sanding and refinishing a floor and the process still somewhat eludes me. This one came out better than some and worse than others. I think part of my problem has to do with the crappy equipment I must rent from Don’s Rent-All.

I swear the sander I got on Saturday was from the 1950s. It did not even have the lever to lift the drum off the floor. They are really the only game in town, though. It is either Don’s or a 30 mile round trip to Mckinleyville. Unfortunately, without more competition there is no reason for them to upgrade the equipment. Most of the rest of the developed world uses the U Sand instead of the drum sander, which is a technology that is 100 years old or more. Come on Don’s! It is 2010. Get with the times.

The main reason I did the floor myself this time was because I woke up Saturday morning and thought, “Ok, what’s next”. The answer was the floor. At that point I could have started calling people to get estimates and set up a work time or just go and rent a sander. It seems easier and quicker just to rent the sander. Maybe the reason I am such a DIYer is because I have such poor planning skills. Had I planned better I would have started calling for estimates 2 weeks ago. I have a feeling I will be installing the stair runner myself.

The following pictures are titled, "What I did for my summer vacation", because thanks to the airport fiasco I didn't go to Philadelphia. It still hurts.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Last of the Lino

Every once in a while you just have to marvel at the magic of the Blogosphere. Back in June of 2007 I posted a picture of the linoleum that was under the carpet on the stair landings in my house. Within a week someone saw the post and sent me pictures of my linoleum in a Omaha, NE catalog dated June of 1929. Pretty amazing.

Needless to say, that pretty much nails down the date of when the linoleum was installed. This was not too surprising. It was during the 1920s that the house went through the major cut-up in to apartments. When they did this, they covered all of the common floor areas in the house with linoleum. This included the foyer, 2 stair landings, and the upstairs hall.

Then in the 1970s the linoleum was pulled up in all of those areas except for the landings. The reason they pulled it up was because they were putting down a 3/8th inch under-lament (particle board) and then the floors were covered with a 12X12 fake wood tile. This under-lament and tile was put down in all rooms and the linoleum in the common areas made the floors uneven and caused problems when transitioning from the common area floor to an apartment floor. There was no transition necessary for the landings, so the linoleum was left and covered.

So now you may be asking yourself, “Well, if it was pulled up then how do you know it was there”. The answer to that is, because when they pulled up the linoleum they left behind the under-lament that was used for it. In this case it was a paper product. You can either think of it as really thin cardboard or really thick newspaper. This product was glued down to the wood to get a really smooth surface and then the linoleum was glued down to it. When the linoleum is pulled up half of the paper under-lament comes up with it and the other half stays glued to the floor. What remained was not really thick enough to cause problems for the 1970s particle board under-lament, so it was left.

It did, however, cause me problems. I had to pull it all up to get back to the original 1X6 T&G redwood floors. I tried all kinds of things from different scrapers, heat guns, chemicals. In the end what worked best was water. Lots and lots of water. I mean really, really a lot of water. The adhesive that was used to glue down the paper product is a water based adhesive. It becomes active again when you get it wet. The challenge was to get the water down under the under-lament to where the glue was.

If you just pour water on to the paper product the water beads up on top and just sits there. What I found works best is towels or sheets. You lay the towels and sheets down first and then soak them in water. Now the water sits on top evenly and penetrates over time down through the paper product. Once the glue gets wet the stuff comes up in big sheets. For small areas you can also use boiling water. It penetrates even faster.

As I said, it takes a lot of water. When I did the upstairs hallway I must have had every sheet and towel I own down on the floor covered in water. There may have 20 or 30 gallons of water on the floor. It was quite surreal to have that much standing water on the floor of an upstairs hallway that is 30 feet long and 4 feet wide.

Once the paper stuff comes up the floors must be washed down immediately before the remaining residue hardens up again. I did the upstairs hallway first and it was a huge mess. I would not attempt to do such a larger area like that again all at once. When I did the foyer I did it in several 4X4 foot sections. This is about the size of one of the landings.

Believe it or not, that is linoleum on the landings

It comes up easy

Except on the leading edge where people walk

They used tacks and a stronger adheseive that is not water based

The paper product covers the landings completely

Add water and let simmer for 60 minutes

They did not skimp on the paste. This is what it looks like once the paper comes off.

It goes pretty fast. It is really only about 20 minutes worth of work per landing, but it must sit for an hour with the water on it. At this point the wood is still very wet and damages easily. I won't even walk on it until tomorrow.

Once it dries, any remaining paste turns white.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Worst Vacation Ever

It is the worst vacation ever because it never happened!

Since I bought the house 8 years ago I haven't done a lot of traveling. Both time and money are always tied up in the old Petch House, but this year I planned on going someplace outside of western states. So this week I planned a quick trip to Philadelphia. I've always wanted to go because of the history - First US Capitol, The Constitution, Liberty Bell, Ben Franklin - I mean, forgetaboutit, the place is oozing with history, not to mention a spectacular City Hall and all of the Philly Cheese Steaks I can eat. Also, a friend of mine spent 6 months there at a training center for a new job and she came back gushing about how much she loved the city.

So I was all set to go. I had a reservation for 3 nights in a hotel built in 1830. It is a small place with 12 rooms right in the heart of The Olde City, just a few blocks from Independence Hall. The plan was to not rent a car and just walk or take mass transit. I would only be in town for 2 full days and 2 half days. In fact, I should be there right now. Grrrr!

I had an A List of sites I wanted to see and things I wanted to do and then some additional things I would do, if there was enough time. The latter included some architectural salvage shops. I still need slide bolts for the front door.

Because this is Eureka, CA there are hardly no direct flights to anywhere. Every flight I've ever taken out of this city has first gone to San Francisco (6 hours drive south) and then on to where ever you want to go. The Eureka/Arcata airport is billed as the foggiest airport in the US. In fact, it was built during WWII specifically so the air force could come up with a way to land planes in low or no visibility, and the first “blind landing” was made at this airport back in 1947.

Until Monday, I knew nothing about this history of our little airport. I only know that now because of the front page article in Monday's Times Standard about how they are replacing the Instrument Landing System at the airport (ILS). The ILS is the system that allows pilots to land when they can't see the runway. If you go to the airport's web site it mentions nothing of this construction.

Did I mention that this is the foggiest airport in the country? Yes, I think I did. So take foggiest airport in the country and remove the ILS and what do you get? You get an airport that has no planes landing or taking off. There are two carriers that service the airport: Horizon and United Express. I don't know about Horizon, but United has landed 1 plane in the last 3 days because we are socked in by fog and there is no ILS. It is insane.

I rebooked my flight 3 times and each one was canceled. I could try and book a flight out of Redding (3 hours away), but the zillions of people whose planes were canceled before mine have taken every available seat. The fog is not going to lift and in fact, the weather is only going to get worse. It is supposed to rain Thursday and Friday.

The other option is to drive to San Francisco and pick up my already scheduled flight. Well, it is too late for that unless I book another flight. The next one I can get on would put me in Philadelphia at 3:00 AM and cost an extra $200. The small hotel I'm booked at has no late night check-in service, so that means my first night would be spent sleeping in a chair at the airport.

It is also too late to try and redo the trip from scratch because at this late of date I would be staying at the Ramada Airport Express or if I'm lucky, some absurdly expensive hotel, which would mean renting car, and most likely taking a more expensive seat on an airplane. In short, I would double the cost of the trip and it wouldn't be the trip I wanted. I wanted to be in the heart of the old part of the city and just live there for 2 or 3 days. I'm sure the rest of the city is very nice, but I don't need to see commuter traffic and a Pennsylvania Applebee's or Subway sandwich shop. I'm sure they look exactly like the ones in California, Kentucky, Florida, and Montana.

What really irritates me about all of this is that anyone who has lived on the north coast of California for more than 2 years knows that July, August, and September are the foggiest months of the year. According to the article in the paper they started work on the ILS last month and it will be another 2 weeks before it is back on-line. Why the hell did they pick the foggiest time of the year to do this??!?! Next Month the skies will be clear as a bell. Everybody knows that. Well, apparently, not everybody.

Hello?!?!? Airport managemnt? Did you just move here?

Sunday, September 12, 2010

It's a Toss Up

I'm not sure which is more tedious, taking the old shellac off or putting the new shellac on. I do know that putting the new shellac on will take a lot less time than stripping the old off. I also don't have to wear gloves and a respirator for putting on the shellac, so that is a huge plus.

I actually like the smell of shellac. It is sort of sweet smelling. It amazes me that anyone would use a polyurethane instead of shellac for woodwork that will not be anywhere near water. Even in areas that will see some splashing I would still consider shellac.

As much as I love shellac it is time consuming to put on. It took me 3 or 4 hours today to get one coat on all of the woodwork in the foyer and stairwell. The first coat takes the longest, so later coats will go faster, but I will be putting on a minimum of 3 coats and most likely 5 on the new woodwork.

Hopefully I can finish up by next weekend and then it will be on to the floors. I already ordered rugs and they are in transit as I write.

It Glistens

Monday, September 06, 2010

1000th Post

According to Blogger, on September 2nd I made my 1,000th post to the blog! That is a milestone, of sorts...I guess. Really, it is kind of meaningless. Other than the fact that 1000 is a nice round number and it could be considered large by some measurements, it came and went without me noticing it, so never mind.

As for the foyer, it feels like I've made a thousand posts just on this project. I'm at the "it is a never ending project" phase of the project. According to the blog I started this project back on May 13th, so that means next week it will be 4 months. I guess that's not too bad. Of course, I'm not finished, but these 3 day weekends are great. I wish every week had a 3 day weekend. Or better yet, what if I only worked 3 days a week. I did that for years. I was so productive on this house back then - sigh!

1) Finish stripping the shellac off the stairs.
2) Strip the shellac off the baseboards in the stairwell and foyer.
3) Strip the shellac off 3 doors and the casing around 4 doorways
4) Paint the walls in the foyer
5) Hang picture rail in the foyer
6) Trim out the pocket doors
7) Install the mill work I had made for the missing stair parts
8) Oil and shellac all of the woodwork – stairs, doors, baseboards, picture rail
9) Sand, oil, and shellac the stair treads and foyer floor
10) Install a carpet runner on the stairs and buy rugs for the foyer
11) Hang the light fixture in the foyer
12) Install the antique, cast bronze mail slot in the front door
13) Paint the outside of the front door
14) Buy and install a new old lockset for the front door.
15) Clean, clean, clean, clean, clean
16) I would also want to re-upohlster the chair seat of the desk chair in the kitchen

Above is the list I made a few weeks back when I was considering being on this years Home Tour sponsored by The Eureka Heritage Society. I've made a pretty good dent in the list. Honestly, except for the front doors and the chair in the kitchen, everything on this list will be finished by October 3rd, which is when the home tour will be.

Really, the two big jobs left are the floor, including stair treads, and shellacking all of the woodwork. I'm having a little trouble deciding which to do first. Good arguments can be made for doing either of them first. Aside from those two items, there are still many little things that can easily eat up a weekend. Still, I think I could have made the home tour. Unfortunately, they needed an answer by last weekend and at that time I did not feel comfortable committing myself to a deadline. Oh well, there is always next year.

Here is where it stands now. We'll start with the obligatory before shorts.

As it stands

Thursday, September 02, 2010

The Front Door Blog Entry

I suppose I should be thankful that the front doors are still there at all. All too often you see these original double doors removed and replaced with a modern single door and side lights. My doors have really been through a lot though, and it shows. In the picture above, one door and part of the other still need to be stripped of shellac.

I can find no less than 5 places where there was some sort of automatic door closer attached. What remains are the screw holes, which can be dealt with with putty and “micro faux graining”, as I like to call it.

At some point there were dogs with long, sharp claws that lived here. They liked to scratch at the door to get out. The grooves are deep in some places. If I sand them out I risk thinning the door where the bottom mortise is, so they will stay.

The original lockset is long gone and there is a much smaller one in its place. The original doorknobs are there, but the plates and escutcheons are gone. I will need to get a whole new vintage lockset, plates, knobs and escutcheon to replace what is there. There is quite a selection to choose from on-line, and prices are reasonable. It also looks like people have jimmied the door a few times over the years, so I will need to build areas back up around the lockset.

Because they are double doors, one door is stationary and held in place with a bottom and top slide bolt. Parts of the original bolts were still there, but they were both missing pieces – not parts, but pieces – and are broken beyond repair. Mine are both mortised in to the door so I must find replacements that are of the exact same size. They were cast iron with a nice Eastlake design, like the other hardware in the house.

The real issue here is that the top one is 24 inches long. I have found every size from 4 inches to 22 inches in a similar style (cast iron, Eastlakeish design), but the only 24-inch one I've found is brass. I'm going to buy it just so I can get something in there that works, and then keep looking for a more suitable replacement. It took 3 years to find the right pocket door rollers, so I'm not holding my breath.

Someone cut out a slot in one of the panels for a modern mail slot. I think this was done very recently. I've purchased a really nice period one, but it is not as wide as the modern one, so I will need to fill in at either end. On the outside, this will not be an issue. I can fill any seams with putty, sand smooth and paint. You will never know the difference. The inside is a different story because the wood will be a clear finish. I'm thinking of making a very thin redwood backing that mimics the design of the mail slot. I'll add the wood to the door and then mount the mail slot on the wood.

The glass is not original, but that doesn't really bother me. What does bother me is that someone broke some of the wooden stays that hold the glass in and did just about the worst repair you could possibly imagine. I will need to make new ones on the router. It might be easier to just replace all 8 instead of trying to make 3 to match the remaining 5.

I think the 3-light transom has been replaced. It always looked a little odd to me. It does not seem to fit the space as well as you would think. There is an extra half-inch piece of wood along the top to fill a gap. Also, it is not really behind the trim like it should be. Rather, it is placed in the opening and then toe nailed in. When I stripped the shellac it was actually painted white originally and then had a deep maroon tinted shellac over it. The white paint was very thin and seemed to have been sanded down first. Nothing else in the foyer had this sort of finish to it. It is redwood though, and it has old wavy glass in it. My guess is that it was broken early one and replaced with something the builder had laying around in the shop.

The outside of the door has rusty staples in it around one of the windows where it looks like the glass broke and someone covered it with plastic. This is the same window that had the crappy repair on the wooden stays that keep the glass in. For some reason there is plywood along the bottom of both doors. I'm afraid what I'll find when I take that off. I never stripped paint or repainted the front doors when I painted the house 3 years ago. Even then they seemed like too much work and I just needed to keep going with the house painting. I'm kind of thinking like that now.

I can't stop work on the inside of the foyer to deal with all of this right now. Even if I had all of the parts I need these doors easily represent 4 weeks worth of work. For now they will get stripped with shellac and oiled and then I'll just leave them be for awhile. I'm going to shop for locksets and door bolts and when I have all of that I will revisit them. Sooner rather than later this time. When I painted 3 years ago I had every intention of getting back to the doors as soon as I was done with the house painting. Obviously, that never happened.

Some neighbors a few blocks away told me that for years before I bought the house the front doors were propped open 24/7. This was the apartment days, obviously. That is probably the best thing that ever happened to the doors. Prop them open and leave them alone.

This old front door is just a long time of waiting and forgetting, remembering the coming back, not crying about the leaving. And remembering the falling down and the laughter of the curse of luck from all those son's of bitches who said we'd never get back up.