Thursday, November 20, 2014

schoolhouse odds and ends

I'm neck deep in stripping woodwork, and since I have nothing revolutionary to add as far as the process goes, I haven't felt much like blogging.  Luckily, as much as I feel like I've dropped the ball productivity wise, our carpenter had a few days to help us out.  On the agenda was installing the water table on the schoolhouse, slating the belltower, and modifying the sills and jambs on the schoolhouse windows.




The water table was made out of 10 x 1 1/2 Azek trim.  We chose the Azek since it will be resting on the concrete piers, pressed up against the 3x14 antique warehouse beams we used as our sill.  This way the sill won't be absorbing any water that could compromise the building.  To build the water table we cut three inches off at 10 degrees, then ran the other edge of the three inch piece through again at 10 degrees (then glued them up together). We went a few steps further, treating the sills and studs with tim-bor, a borate preservative that will protect against rot, carpenter ants and termites, and flashing both the top and bottom of the Azek.  The flashing was a bit of a wasted effort however, since it was only after the fact that I learned you can't use aluminum against concrete (or treated lumber), as it will corrode.  This is where it pays to do your research, as even our carpenter was unaware...

I can forgive the flashing snafu when this was all that was left of the Azek
Only available in very expensive 20 foot lengths, I didn't want to buy a fifth board

On a happier note, the slates on the cupola were almost entirely ones that had been culled from rebuilding our roof.  They had various issues including the beginnings of rot, chips and cracks - but the area is small and steep enough that the rotted slates should still have decades of life, and the chipped sections could be cut off.  This way I don't feel any guilt about using our good slates that we're saving for the front of the kitchen roof.  It looks great, although I can't tell you why I didn't take a picture of the finished roof.


Monday, November 10, 2014

let there be heat

No posts last week, I know.  But I was too busy finishing up what I needed to for our radiators to go back in.  Then, I sort of got sucked into just lounging about in the warmth.  Having heat is just so very decadent....

In our defense, it had gotten pretty damn chilly around here...


We pulled these two radiators about a month ago under the pretense of accessing the floors and trim.  Having them out of the way also meant that we could reinforce the floors underneath them and caulk all the gaps, as they had begun to weaken and deteriorate with the water moving through the walls before we bought the house.  Thankfully, the wood, though black from the water, didn't need replacement.  Even though it doesn't look the greatest, it'll never be seen again now that the rads are back.

terrible before pic, but you get the idea
that's brick on the right where the plaster had failed



Since our plumbing company (Chuba for the locals) had given us a quote we couldn't refuse, we let them do the heavy lifting (the radiators are 4 feet long and 2 1/2 feet tall).  Price-wise, removing and re-installing two radiators as well as installing a new pressure relief valve on the boiler ran us two hundred dollars.  Although we could have done it ourselves, for that price I was happy to hand over the money.  We put some plywood down to reinforce our rotten porch so the radiators didn't fall though, and decided to paint them while we were at it (they looked terrible, peeling silver on one side and substantial surface rust on the other (sooo much water in this house!))....  They got pressure washed, the worst spots wire brushed, and painted with many, many coats of Rustoleum's antique brass spray paint.  I even remembered to tape off the threading and bleeders.


And now they're in, the boiler's working, and I can worry about finishing up the woodwork.


I'd like to pretend I don't have any more deadlines, but there's only one reason Luke would be this cute...



I think he may have overheard that we're getting a puppy come Thanksgiving....

Friday, October 31, 2014

halloween humbug...

With the entry torn apart, and monster radiators occupying the front porch, the Halloween spirit never kicked in this year.  Which is sad, because Halloween?  Our favorite holiday...  Instead, I'll wish you guys a happy Halloween and fill up the rest of the post with images of Halloweens past...








Tuesday, October 28, 2014

a name in a haystack

We had an unexpected windfall the other day.  A local house historian has a facebook page which I follow for the local history.  She often mentions architect names, which gives me leads to research.  As I've mentioned before, 1886 is quite early for a shingle Queen Anne of this type, and it would have been quite cutting edge at the time. This, and the fact that it was built for a prominent banker almost guaranteed that it was architect designed, but there was nothing indicating who that architect might be, and all our research had turned up nothing.  A few days ago she posted a house built in New York by the Pittsburgh firm Charles Bartberger and E.G.W. Dietrich that was similar enough in style (and early enough) to make me do some research into the firm.  Included in that post was a lead for another house of theirs nearby...

This house near us in Shadyside ended up being key...

MacBeth house by E.G.W. Dietrich on Amberson in Shadyside

This house is the MacBeth House at 715 Amberson Ave, built in 1884 by E.G.W. Dietrich. Although it doesn't look strikingly similar now, check out the original drawing...

MacBeth house by E.G.W. Dietrich on Amberson in Shadyside

The devil's in the details in this case.  While the house itself doesn't resemble ours other than in type, there are too many striking similarities...




Alternating applied bullseyes on the trim...

Half-timbering/stickwork details in the gables....

Huge sunburst corbels...

Third floor Queen Anne windows...

Simple curved corbels on the porch with turned vase shaped columns on the first floor...

Cantilevered stair supported by corbels....

Fretwork on the Juliet balcony, and incised Eastlake square columns on the upper balcony (contrasting with those on the first floor), and similar decorative shingle work with the kicked out skirt on the second floor...

Stacked stained glass windows with aesthetic movement transoms in the stair tower...


The kicker is that early this spring I went to an estate sale behind this house, and was irrationally compelled to take pictures of it's backside (although it was too cold to walk around the block to see the front of the house).  Because of that ridiculous compulsion I can add detailed asymmetrical chimney to the list of similarities...


Everything seems to support Dietrich being the architect, and now that we have a name to research perhaps we'll find something more definitive.  But for now, I'm satisfied...  And even, dare I say, joyous....

Thursday, October 23, 2014

wood grain goodness

So the floor?  Done...



It's lovely.  Although it's too cold to go roll around in the grass outside, I'll just lounge about on this expanse of pine.


Sadly, it's not an exact match to the original graining - I didn't have enough time to experiment with the technique given our tight deadline, so the color ended up a tad dark with a less distinct grain. Truthfully this resulted in a more realistic looking floor, but it's still regrettable.  Even more so since I have to carry this through to the dining room, hallway and butlers pantry.  I had planned on writing a bit of a tutorial for getting the grain right since it's such a common treatment, but there's no point given my failure...  What we ended up using was red elm gel stain as the glazing medium over the gold paint, cutting it with mineral spirits if it got too thick.  Every graining tool I tried to use made lines that were too thin.  After trying everything I could think of I ended up buying a silicone basting brush.  It worked, don't judge me.


I was just the girl sitting on the floor of her entry room with all the curtains open flogging the floor with a basting brush for 10 hour stretches...


The cold and damp weather was the biggest hurdle to getting this done.  The stain took three days to dry enough for the poly, and in that time an enormous amount of shiba inu and ragdoll hair embedded themselves in the thick goo.  Unlike debris in poly, I couldn't just sand it out.

the fuzzy culprits...
OBVIOUSLY his nose was cold...

 So, I chose to ignore it.  Three coats of poly over the last three days and the floors are done.  I used varathane semi-gloss (semi-gloss matches the gloss of the waterlox I use elsewhere) to protect the paint, and while normally I'm not a big fan of poly, this looks pretty damn good.  The can advertises it's "aluminum oxide nano technology," which I would normally mock, but given how even the first coat resisted being sanded, maybe I'll give it a pass...