Tuesday, January 31, 2012

40% Off Smith+Noble

I got a post card in the mail last week for an Employee Discount of 40% off the purchase of window treatments. I must order before February 21st and spend at least $1,000.

Spending a $1,000 at Smith+Noble would not be difficult at all. Ordering before February 21st would be a challenge, but for 40% off, I'll make the effort. The only real challenge is that I hate making these design decisions in the first place and being rushed to do it would really suck.

My thought was to just order the same roller shades I put in the dining room and then later I can decide on drapes. There are 5 large windows that need roller shades, so that should come to more than a $1000.

I went to the Smith+Noble site to try and find the style of shades with the same hem and add-ons that I put in the dining room and I couldn't find anything close to what I had purchased. I started to think maybe I didn't buy them at Smith+Noble. This was about 2 years ago, so maybe I did get them someplace else.

I shot off an email to customer service to see if they could locate the order. They did, but it turns out the shade style and all of the options I ordered have been discontinued. Here is the response.

Thank you for contacting us regarding your previous order for the roller shades. I will be happy to help you. I located the order using the information provided. Our records indicate the shades were in the Calypso/Cornsilk 843, with the standard spring roll, with the Diana hem. This material and shade style has been discontinued and is no longer available to order. The decorative hem option is also no longer available. I apologize for the inconvenience. I am happy to send samples from our current collection so you can select a comparable material. Please let me know if I can assist you with anything else.

Now I'm back to making decisions if I want the discount. Ugh! Maybe 40% off isn't worth it.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Petchhouse Forum

I'm looking for your torrid, sexy stories about stripping. I want stories with lurid details and climactic endings.

I'm talking about paint stripping, of course. When I strip the paint in the parlors I'm going to try a different approach to stripping than I normally do. Kelly made a comment on my last post about methyl chloride paint strippers, which is what I normally use. Actually, what I normally use is a heat gun. Here was my response to Kelly.

If the original finish was shellac, then it is a no-brainer for me: heat gun.

If it was originally painted and a flat surface then I will also use a heat gun. I go this route in this case mainly because it quick. I don't have to apply stripper, wait for it to work, test it, wait some more, etc, etc.

If the piece of wood is flat and has no detail then a heat gun and sharp edged scrapper goes pretty fast.

In the parlors I have wood that was originally painted and has a lot of detail. The heat gun a scrapper routine would be very tedious and time consuming.

In this situation I normally use the methyl chloride based strippers because they do work reasonably fast, compared to some of the "green" strippers. I like the semi-paste variety (think slime) because they cling to vertical surfaces.

The downside to methyl chloride based strippers is the caustic odors and potentially flammable fumes. It is not a big downside in my opinion, but it is something to consider.

In the parlors, since I'm only working on the weekends I may try one of the "green" strippers. These usually work much slower and can stay on for days. The idea is that I will apply the stripper Wednesday evening and then spend the weekend taking it off. Methyl chloride based stripper generally dry out quickly and don't like to be left in place after they have done their job.

I would be interested to hear about "green" strippers from others.

So let me hear it, people. I want to hear your "green" stripping stories. I want your stories with product names, devices, and methods used.

(Go Niners!)

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Shout Out

I'll be the first to admit that I can be tough on local business people who I don't feel try hard enough to get my business. Maybe too tough at times. Regardless, I want take a moment to praise a local business person who did a good job, on time, for a competitive price. In short, he did his job and did it well.

I've had this on-going saga with a tree in my side yard. It has had some dead and dying limbs on it that I've wanted to cut off for the past three years. Three of them hang over my phone lines and every winter I think it is just a matter of time before I lose phone and internet service.

I've considered trimming the tree myself, but it is a good 25-feet tall, and like I said, it hangs over the phone line. I just had this feeling I would end up taking out the phone line and maybe end up in the ER in the process. The scenario that played in my head was me falling off a ladder as the vibration from cutting cracked the dead limb and then I would take out the phone line as me, the limb and the ladder crashed to the ground.

The tree has a main trunk that goes up about 4 feet and then 6 or 8 main branches branch off of that. Each main branch is 6 to 8 inches in diameter and goes up another 10 to 20 feet. Two of these branches were denuded and another was close to rubbing against the house when it blew in the wind. All three of these hung over the phone line.

About five years ago, when two of them started to lose leaves, I took some aircraft cable and tied all of the branches together. I'm not sure if this helped to keep the branches from breaking off, but it helped me sleep at night when we had one of our big winter storms. About 3 years ago I started to call people to see about having the tree trimmed. This usually started in October when the weather started to change and I realized another year had passed with out me dealing with this.

I was amazed out how difficult it was to get someone to do the work. It was usually one of 3 scenarios. They would show up to give an estimate, but then not return calls to do the work. They would show up to give an estimate and say my only choice was to cut the whole tree down. The worst, was when they wouldn't show up at all. After three years I was running out of people to call.

This year I started at it again. I had a promising tree trimmer who came out and looked at the tree, but that only started a 6 week odyssey of phone tag. No matter how many times I gave him my cell phone number he would call my home phone while I was at work. The last time I called I did nothing by repeat my cell phone number several times and he never called back at either number after that.

On Tuesday I called Steve at Eager Beaver and left a message. He called me back a few hours later on my cell as he was standing in my front yard. We talked about what I wanted and he made a few suggestions. I said sounds great, how much. He gave me quote. I asked if he wanted a deposit. He said no, he would just leave an invoice in my mail box. I asked when he could do it and he said Thursday.

I came home today for lunch and there was Steve parked out front with a wood chipper on the back of his truck grinding up the last of it. The limbs had already been cut off and the tree looked great. We chatted for a minute and I went in for lunch. Twenty minutes later I heard the chipper shut off so I went out and confirmed the price. The yard looked great. The tree was trimmed. I handed him a check.

He even took in the slack on the aircraft cable so it is still in place holding everything together, just in case. If the tree does need to come down at some point, I know who I'll call.

Eager Beaver Tree Service

Sunday, January 08, 2012

The Horror

It's never too early to begin to stress about design choices like paint colors, window treatments, and woodwork finishes. This is really the part of the process I dread. Over the next few months I can look forward to countless sleepless nights and hours spent looking at paint chips. And if history repeats itself I will spend $75 on paint only to decide I don't like it after it is on the wall.

Oh, what joy.

One of the things I have thought about doing with several rooms, and then later chickened out, is to paint the frieze and ceiling sky blue and then sponge on big, fluffy white clouds. Then hire a local artist to come in a paint on a few blue birds streaking across the sky. I'm thinking about it again with the parlors, but it probably won't happen.

If I don't go that over-the-top route I do need to start thinking of a more realistic pallet. The parlors can be considered 2 rooms, but from design standpoint I will treat them as one room. While not huge, together they create a room that measures 14X28 feet. I'm not sure that I can get away with really bold colors in a room this size. Or maybe I could, but they would definitely need to be the right colors. Also, unlike the other major rooms on the first floor there will be no dado in the parlors, so it will basically be 3 colors: Field, frieze/ceiling, and woodwork.

The woodwork is really the starting point. I need to strip off the layers and layers of poorly applied paint before I do anything. If the woodwork in these rooms was originally shellacked, like it was in the foyer, stair hall, and dining room, it would be a no-brainer. I would strip back to bare wood and re-shellack. For years now I have had a very strong suspicion that the woodwork in these rooms was originally painted.

During the 1920s, when the home was converted in to apartments, the two parlors became a living room and bedroom for one of the first floor apartments. To separate the space more they added more framing to make the opening between the 2 rooms smaller and added a pair of French doors. They reused the original casing, plinth blocks and head blocks to trim out the new French doors.

They did a nice job, and you really couldn't tell at first, except that the French door hardware was definitely 1920s and not 1895. It became even more apparent when I started to strip off wallpaper and found that the area around the French doors was sheetrock while the rest of the room is plaster. Then of course, once the sheetrock was removed, it was obvious the framing was not original.

Later, when I was working in the kitchen I reused some of the casing from around the French doors for the dumb waiter style door and when I stripped back the paint I found that the original color was a creamy pale yellow. One thing I have found repeatedly when working with redwood is that if the original finish was paint, getting back to bare wood clean enough for a new shellack finish is almost impossible. I'm not saying it is completely impossible and unheard of, but it is so much work on high Victorian woodwork with all of its detail, and the results are so poor, that it is simply not worth the effort.

On the other hand, if the woodwork was originally shellacked stripping back to bare wood becomes very doable and in fact I did it with great success in the dining room. I mean, it took me 3 months and was a hell of a lot of work, but the results speak for themselves. If I tried that same thing on redwood that was originally painted I would not have nearly the same results.

So the question I've been asking myself all of this time is, was the casing I used in the kitchen really original to the parlors from 1895. There was a possibility that when they framed in the opening and added the French doors they milled a few short runs of new casing and the creamy, pale yellow paint was originally applied in the 1920s. If that were the case then the rest of the woodwork could have a nice, protective layer of shellack underneath all of the thick, goopy layers of paint that look as if they were applied by Jackson Pollock.

So yesterday I got out the trusty heat gun and did a little exploratory surgery. Sure enough, just as I expected, I found that same creamy, pale yellow pant. That means that the woodwork in the parlors was originally painted in 1895. That also means that I will be repainting.

I will most likely go with chemical strippers, as opposed to the heat gun. Not sure which product I will use at this point. To be honest, I'm a little relieved. Stripping all of the woodwork in these 2 rooms back to bare wood good enough for a shellack finish would be a lot work, even if it was originally shellacked. There are 6 windows that would take forever, especially that large front stained glass window. After nearly 10 years of restoration I just don't have that kind of stamina anymore.

Saturday, January 07, 2012

Bump & Grind

Now that the kitchen range hood is nothing more than an unpleasant memory it is time to get back to the even more unpleasant task of dealing with the plaster in the parlor. There are no two ways about it, working with plaster, whether you are talking off or putting on, is a mess.

For those of you who are not long time readers of the blog, the plaster in this house was put on in unique fashion for the time. The walls on the entire inside of the house are sheathed with 1X8, T&G “plaster boards”. Plaster boards were milled locally in the Carson Mill at the turn of the century. The boards have dovetail grooves running the length of the boards, spaced 2-inches apart. As the plaster is pressed on to the walls, it fills the dovetail grooves, which is what keeps the plaster on the walls.

An 1893 article in The Humboldt Standard refers to them as “patent grooved lath” and says before the plaster goes on “it makes the walls look as if covered with matched and grooved flooring”. The article also claims that this method saves mortar and makes the home more sturdy and better insulated than traditional lath. While all of that may be true, this method also makes it a pain in the ass to remove the old plaster and get the walls ready for new plaster.

I only strip off the plaster that is failing so most of it comes off effortlessly. What remains though, is the plaster that was forced in to the grooves back in 1895. I must get that old plaster out of the grooves before the new plaster goes on and it does not come out willingly. In the past I used a Rotozip tool with a plaster bit to grind out the plaster. This really makes an incredible mess. As the burred plaster bit hits the plaster in the grooves it sends out a 3-foot rooster tail of ground plaster. Even working with the Rotozip in one hand and a shop-vac hose in the other, the room quickly becomes choked with dust. I must wear what amounts to a home-made haz-mat suit when doing this.

Well, after years of hard work, the Rotozip finally bit the dust – no pun intended. When I was working in the dining room using the Rotozip to remove the remaining hearth tile the front bearing started to make a little noise. By the time I was half way through the foyer and stair hall that little noise became a high pitched scream and now it was both the front and back bearings that were going. Towards the end of the foyer, just to get it to run I would have to flip the switch and the smack the housing with a hammer to get the bearings to move. Needless to say, the plastic housing did not like being smacked with a hammer and eventually I broke the on/off switch.

On Thursday I went to Sears to buy a new Rotozip, but came home with a Multitool. The Multitool comes with a number of different attachments, but the one I use is a flat blade with teeth on the end. The blade moves back and forth at high speed and does a pretty good job of breaking the plaster apart in the grooves. It doesn't remove it from the grooves quit as effectively as the Rotozip, but doesn't make nearly the mess as the Rotozip, either. What remains in the grooves gets shop-vaced out. Initially this process makes much less of a mess, but once the shop-vac comes on the dust starts to get thick. I now run the shop-vac just before I'm ready to finish up for the day, then close up the room for a few hours until the dust settles.

One down and six to go.