Sunday, December 10, 2017

Living Room & Dining Room: Before

Prior to moving into the house, we wisely employed a company to remove the "popcorn" texture from the cove ceilings in the living room and dining room. The removal process is relatively easy--you spray the texture with water and then it scrapes right off. Since we weren't certain what we were dealing with, we sent a sample of the texture to a lab that confirmed it contained asbestos. As such, we felt it prudent to hire professionals who could also dispose of the waste appropriately. As with many changes this house incurred over the years, we were left wondering, "Why...WHY would you put a texture on beautiful cove ceilings?" Once the job was done, our question was answered.

Cracked ceiling.
The ceiling was badly cracked! There was a grid of cracks running both east/west and north south. Texturing the ceiling was probably someone's easy solution to a much bigger problem. For us, the repair of the ceiling would have to wait its turn. Upgrading the electrical would come before the ceiling since it would likely cause some damage to the plaster. In the above photo, you'll see that we had recessed lighting installed. I was afraid that the recessed lights would detract from the authenticity of the renovation, but I actually love them. Lighting can transform a space and in dark fall and winter days, it warms the room.

Icky trim.
Water damaged window sill.
During prior paintings, the living room and dining room trim had not been protected and was splattered with specks of paint. Additionally, since the house had been vacant for a few years prior to our ownership, the windows on the south side of the house began to rot and warp, causing the sills to sustain water damage. How would we fix this? Mahogany changes color as it ages and it wouldn't be possible to just slap on some new wood and have it match. Some of the grooves in the wood were deep and I was concerned that it couldn't be saved.

To be continued...

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Christmas Spirit

Several years ago, I pushed hard to landscape the front yard in the fall for the sole purpose of putting up Christmas lights. Nick complied with my request, though I'm certain he thought I was irrational. Other posts will cover the landscaping, this one is just about Christmas spirit.

Christmas - 2015
The first Christmas with lights included red lights in the dogwood tree and Japanese maple, green lights in the Italian cypresses flanking the house, and white lights along the roof line.
Christmas - 2016
In 2016, we decided to give the rapidly growing dogwood and maple trees trunks of white, using the red lights only in the branches. We also added white lights to the little weeping yellow cypress** under the front window. We bought a little Christmas tree from the Boy Scout Troop 100, which we put in our TV room (front bedroom). This was our first tree together (married 7 years at the time).
Christmas 2017

The 2017 house has added lights in the front windows and a Christmas tree in the living room.

Front Window
Christmas Tree
We hope the 2018 Christmas will include the perfect tree topper and tree skirt. It has not been easy to find just the right things! How many years until we have a Griswold house?

**Actual name of "weeping yellow cypress" may vary.

Friday, December 1, 2017

Front Bedroom: This is Home

A neglected house is a bit like a neglected animal--although you might have compassion, you don't just want to cuddle up to a dog with fleas and mange. Looking around the front bedroom, I wasn't at home, but gazing out the window with the morning sun streaming in, I imagined that I could feel at home here.

Among the first things done, the windows were replaced. I stripped and sanded the trim, and we dug out the cracks in the plaster for repair.

Things get worse before better.
We even replaced the window in the closet. It was a little removable fellow with a latch and a chain, but the clear single pane glass wasn't practical, and it wasn't necessary to be able to open this particular window. Although you can't quite tell from the photo (below right), we replaced it with a frosted glass window.
Shoe storage!
Do recall the attic ladder project. Here's where we patched the old access hole:

The patch.
Leave no trace.
By now you know the routine: patching the plaster cracks, skim coating the ceiling, sanding, sanding, texturing, priming, painting. Crammed into a single sentence like that, it sounds like a breeze. Trust me, it took us many moons.

This is home.

Monday, November 27, 2017

Finishing the Hallway: Circle the Differences

As a transitional space, a hallway is uninteresting. But, as you've already seen, a lot of changes happened here. This area was so boring to me in its original state that I failed to take a true "before" photo!
Ooh la that a laundry chute??
I love the final product! The additions of the attic ladder, laundry chute, and picture rail give the eye  much more to take in. The picture rail turns the area into a tiny gallery, which can easily change on a whim. Like the back bedroom, we textured the walls using a knock-down method. The  musty smelling coat closet received a partial make-over and a coat of shellac-based primer that sealed in the stench and cleared the air. Yay! Interesting to note, we had to demolish a stud bay in the closet when the electrical was updated. My forward-thinking husband used the opportunity to add an electrical outlet and cable/phone jacks so that we could neatly store our wireless router hidden away. The outlet is at about 5 feet so that the router can sit on the shelf without wires strung down the wall.

Vintage lighting - so much life to go!
Switches and stitches.
With the addition of beautiful vintage era lighting and push-button switches, the hallway is complete! If you are REALLY observant, you've noticed that all the doors received new brass hinges to replace the old steel hinges that had been painted. The black and white photos on the wall are some of my favorite images from both my mom and dad's family albums. The embroidery piece traces back to my great grandmother, though its creator is somewhat questionable. Read about that on my mom's blog here.

Standing in the bathroom entrance (for reference).

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Chute! There's Laundry on the Floor

Have you ever lived in a small house with small rooms and small closets? Where did you keep your dirty laundry? Perhaps it was the most logical place...the bedroom floor. We have been frustrated by the difficulty of keeping order with respect to laundry. The washer and dryer are in the basement and there isn't much  space for a hamper upstairs. During the time that we used the basement bathroom things were a little better because we kept the hamper in the bathroom where we most often changed clothes. But, we knew that someday we'd have a proper bathroom upstairs and would need a laundry solution. Occasionally, you'd find Nick or me standing alone in the basement staring at the ceiling dreaming of where we might be able to install a laundry chute. We equally concluded that there was just one place that would work, and that was in the hallway. So, before any further work, it only made sense to build the chute since it would involve some destruction to the wall.

Nick carefully pried the baseboard off the wall and marked where the chute would go, giving consideration to where he calculated the studs to be.

Remove baseboard, cut starting hole.
Nick saws.
The jig saw works well for cutting nice straight lines with minimal collateral damage to the wall. We found the perfect sized cabinet door at a construction salvage shop. It has a similar profile to our existing doors and no major dings. With some sanding and painting, it'll be perfect!

Not too bad!
Salvaged cabinet door.
Next, we got some sheet metal and a tool that helps bend it to make perfect corners. The tool is basically two steel rectangles welded together with a gap between them. You slip the metal into the gap and bend. I called my brother, a sheet metal expert, and inquired about the best tool for cutting the metal. The sheet metal scissors are $20 or $30, so we wanted to get it right.

Nick's sheet metal construction.
My, what nice seams you have!
Nick figured out exactly how to build the chute so that there would be no visible seams where the sheet metal pieces are joined and no sharp edges that might catch on our clothing. His ability to construct things so perfectly is amazing to me!
Perfect fit.
The chute was then placed in its new home and the baseboard put back in place. The final photo represents a couple of imperfections not worth pointing out, but that will be corrected in time. We haven't actually used the chute yet because it isn't connected to anything in the basement. Although it's pretty narrow, we ensured that we'd still be able to pass our garments through. I love how it came out! It is at home in our hallway.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Attic Ladder: The Last Step (Ha!)

Installation instructions for attic ladders say that it can be done by one person, which seems incredible to me. But truly, Nick was able to do the next part all by himself. He installed some wood boards across the open span so that the ladder could rest level with the ceiling while he positioned it to his liking. Then, he shimmed the gap and screwed the ladder into the framing. Once complete, I came along and plastered the edges that had gotten mangled in the process and filled in the small gap between the ladder unit and the framing.

Bracing for installation.
Secured. Plaster touch-up.
The plaster touch-up wasn't really necessary since we put trim around the ladder to match the doorways, but we feel better having done it anyway. The door is made of melamine, which I'm not a fan of, but there wasn't any other choice. The reason why I don't like it is that unlike wood, if it gets dinged or marred, it's very difficult to patch and repair. It had a corner that was slightly squished, but I was successful in making a decent repair. It also painted up to satisfaction, so it works! 
Melamine door - pre-paint.
Post paint w/trim. Happiness!
I think it looks really sharp with its white trim and matching door. You'll notice several things in the final photo that I haven't talked about yet. Worth mentioning is the neat little exposed bulb light fixture that replaced the larger glass shade fixture at left. We put in another matching light around the corner in the hallway, which makes it a happier, less ominous place. 

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Attic Access OR Bats in our Belfry

You might already think that we have bats in our belfry, as they say, but I promise that WE don't think we're crazy. Our plans to have the old knob and tube wiring replaced dictated the order of operation for other things. For instance, dropping the ceiling in the basement would be required in order to string the new wiring for outlets. So, before we installed the new garage door I demolished the garage. Also, we had black mold in a part of the basement due to a leaky water supply shutoff valve, so I purchased an air purifier, a mold remediation solution, and suited up to carefully remove the drywall and secure it in thick plastic bags for disposal. Having addressed the mold in the wall, it only made sense to also pull down the ceiling for the needed access for the electrical job.

Similarly, we needed to consider attic access for wiring the ceiling lights. The only access to our HUGE attic was a small-ish access hole in the ceiling of the closet in the front bedroom. If one were to actually use the closet, she wouldn't be able to get up through the hole. Wouldn't it be GREAT to be able to access the attic for potential storage down the road? With some careful measuring and research to find the smallest attic ladder available, we determined that we could close up the hole in the closet in favor of an attic ladder in the hallway. There was no point in refurbishing the bedroom and closet until we patched up the attic access, and if we were going to patch up the hole, we might as well install the new access ladder.

Before: Do you see where it will go?
Before: Clearing the space in the attic.
As you can see in the photo, I had already started stripping the trim in anticipation of working in the hallway. I worked on this for a couple hours a night, with the goal of finishing one door frame a week. THERE ARE SIX DOORS IN THE HALLWAY!!! Sorry for the outburst...I just needed to emphasize how ridiculous that is.

Make hole, demo plaster.
Nice hole!
Nick figured out the precise measurements and marked the hole. He used a jig saw to cut through the lathe and plaster and a hammer and crow bar to knock down the plaster. Demolishing plaster overhead is the worst--it falls right into your face. Blech!

New framing.
Framing in action.
We knew that at some point we'd want to lay down a floor in the attic to make the space usable. However, Nick determined that we would not be able to get full 8' x 4' sheets of plywood into the attic once the ladder was installed due to the angle of the ladder and the limited space in the hallway. So, before the ladder went in, we bought a bunch of plywood and SHOVED it up the hole. This was SO much harder than you can imagine. One of us had to serve a as Receiver in the attic and the other had to be the Hoister on the ground. The Hoister had to lift up the plywood high enough for the receiver to take over. As I recall, I was the Hoister; a position earned after failing as the Receiver, which required more strength. 

Taa daa! Future floor. 
To be continued...