Friday, March 29, 2013

pardon the dust . . .

Since I proved to myself that I would indeed be posting regularly, the trained monkey and I made the pretty new header you see the other night, as well as cleaned up some formatting and such. That led to the purchase of a domain (only two dollars with a coupon code, who knew?). What we didn't anticipate was all the problems we'd have linking the domain ( to blogger. All this to say, it seems I've disappeared from some of the lists of people that were following me. Pretty pretty please add me back?

signs of life

I hope the weather was as kind to each and every one of you today as it was to me. It was the first day that screamed spring, and it was lovely.

The warm weather also brought my favorite Brit out of hibernation, showing up on my doorstep to take a count of the slates he has stored in our backyard. It looks as though his attorneys have done well, and he'll be staying in the country, better yet, an offhand comment about my schoolhouse brought forth a "I could do that next month." He thinks the foundation will be no trouble, and we have access to a heavy duty truck and enormous flatbed trailer. I'm giddy and I haven't even seen the building yet, not to mention talking price with the Brit is an exercise in futility . . . If any of you have dealt with having a simple foundation done I'd love to hear from you, we don't know what to expect price wise, other than knowing the price on concrete is insane.
Other than bouncing around like a crazed person over the school house, I started rearranging our guest room in anticipation of house guest season. This shouldn't have been a big deal (other than dragging an armoire up the stairs) until I remembered that the walls only had one coat of paint in places. Why would I have done such a foolish thing you ask? Well, the bank deadline for our 203k loan was absurd, and included nonsense like stripping wallpaper and painting walls. While I couldn't convince the bank inspector that primer was paint, one coat up fooled them, giving me more time to work on things that actually mattered in making the house habitable. So today consisted up me wandering the room, paintbrush in hand, squinting . . .

Hardly a good after, but it's where
we're at currently . . .

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

percussive maintenance

Once again this house is full of fumes. This time it's the generously applied PB Blaster that my roller hardware is cooking in. I know what you're thinking, schoolhouse, countertops, laundry room - has this girl got the attention span of a goldfish?

Yes. Yes I do, now what were we talking about?

I have been looking for affordable barn door hardware (antique) since finishing the framing on our walk-in closet over a year ago. Living close to very rural areas I figured we'd find something local in no time. Well, I was wrong, and it took ebay to fill this particular hole in my heart.

The grime on these cannot be understated, and we had a momentary heart attack when they arrived and did not spin properly (as advertised). Scraping the pound of old grease and grime off of them didn't rectify the situation, but it did reveal that the inner wheel spun on it's bolt around several bearings.

an unprecedented mess for such small objects
all cleaned up

Google failed miserably when it came to telling us what to do, so we improvised. The trained monkey likes to hit things with the hammer, and hitting the bolt reduced the wheel's looseness somewhat. Then, after soaking everything in the lubricant he tapped on the bearings with hammer + every long/small/sharp object in range (cleaning out the crud as we went) until the bearings were free moving. The problem was the bearings were bunched up (instead of surrounding the bolt). Again the trained monkey and his trusty hammer lined the bolt up to the correct position and hit the wheel until the bearings were forced to spread around the bolt and they were was once again centered on the wheel. The rollers look quite lovely after a few hours of care and cleaning (even showing off some original red paint), and we're using the heat from the radiators to help the lubricant soak in.

Truthfully, this is not a high priority project, so don't expect to hear too much more about them for a while . . . As far as the schoolhouse goes, we're looking at the building this Saturday. I'm trying not to get too excited over it, but failing miserably, I mean, a BELL TOWER, seriously, of my very own!

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

school house rock

Not that we're skimping and saving for a massive wrap around porch or anything, but it would be rude to not at least consider free school houses that fate offers up right?  I think my house deserves something extraordinary as it's carriage house.  As does Daphne . . .

yes, vintage VWs must be named,
they won't sell you one otherwise . . . 

We're pursuing it, and we'll see if anything pans out . . . We would need the building inspector to overlook the bell tower (height requirement) . . . .

Monday, March 25, 2013

running on fumes

Despite the piles of snow we got last night and this morning, the temps have slowly been going up, and much of it has already melted. Mother Nature shouldn't be irking me as much as it has, but with active Waterloxing going on, being able to open up a door would have been a nice option.
Luckily, after doing all the floors on the second floor I've killed enough brain cells that those volatile organic compounds smell downright delicious to me now (actually the bad stuff evaporates after the first couple of hours, the rest is just smelly, but not dangerous, tung oil). As far as finishing the counter tops, two of the three surfaces are done. We sanded them by hand at 80, 150 and 220 - raising the grain after the first two sandings. The oak had some odd voids and chips, smoothing those out was the only reason we didn't stop at the 150 (Waterlox does best when it can soak into the grain). We then put two coasts of the Waterlox/stain mix on over 48 hours, two more coats of straight Waterlox over 48 hours, sanded with 0000 steel wool, then a final coat of Waterlox. They look lovely, and look good with our floors and what will be our trim. The only difficulty will be actually using them - I'm almost ashamed to admit I tiptoed on the floors for months after I finished them, hopefully I'm not that overprotective of the counter tops or we'll be eating out much more frequently.

first coat

third coat
second coat

final (truest color)
I also finished putting a coat of poly on the underside of the counter that will sit above the dishwasher (which we still need to buy). This corner piece is the only section waiting to be finished, we still haven't decided whether we need to biscuit join/dowel the miter together. We did figure out that we can caulk on top of the Waterlox, we just need to wait a week first. The only truly aggravating part of this process is that I'm incapable of applying Waterlox both neatly AND thoroughly, thus the tedious touch up painting that I need to do.

Friday, March 22, 2013

master of the house, keeper of the zoo...

I was utterly sick of anything that might require wielding a brush yesterday, so I dug through my piles and unearthed a few antique light fixtures to figure out which one to restore for our laundry room. We have accumulated an extraordinary number of these gas and early electric fixtures, ranging in price from free to a few dollars. I had planned on soliciting some advice on which one to use, but that might have undermined the dictatorship I have going on around here. As it turns out, the gas fixture I had hoped to use will need to be professionally rewired (the gas valves need to be drilled out), and honestly, with a hundred fixtures in the basement (oh you think I'm joking?) it's not in the budget to deal with it now.

The budget concern is due in large part to our menagerie, which, epileptic dog aside, has been fairly low maintenance. This month we were hit with a newly diabetic cat with an ulcerated eye and ear infection, and a dog with a broken and infected canine. Everyone's been patched back together, but it'll take our bank account a while to recover.

the creatures in question

Grandma was concerned enough that the cat got a get well soon card - addressed to "Master Crom," I guess we know who the favorite grand-animal is . . . Our mail lady must have loved it, if Crom's not there to greet her she asks where he is, and we've caught her sitting on the porch taking pictures of herself with him!

The fixture we put back together required very little work, it had a fair amount of its original polychome paint and decent wiring, so it was cleaned, polished with 0000 steel wool and waxed. Most of the fixtures we have are basketcases, and are completely taken apart, stripped, painted, and rewired from scratch - which is far more fun than it might sound.

The trained monkey may
require a bit more
training in photography

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

just tell them it's research . . .

Need to kill some time today?

(Follow the links down the rabbit hole)

Beautiful National Trust Interiors

Countless Antique Wallpapers

Proving that old houses are truly the perfect marriage of art and science

As for house related happenings, we're having 45 mph gusts and it is glorious to not hear the sassafras pummeling the tower.  Also, I have a load of laundry in the wash, and the sanding and first coat of waterlox is on the counters!

Monday, March 18, 2013

singing the blues

Well, more like singing the praises of the blue-greens . . .

Obviously we're not done yet, although the list has grown considerably shorter (finishing the painting, cut the shelves for the built-in, install the gas line etc . . . ). But at least I can wash clothes again - those that have to be around us should appreciate that, although with the miserable weather they won't dry anytime soon.

As an aside, we thought long and hard about building the laundry room on the second floor. The vibration issue is one we hadn't thought of, although hopefully it'll be somewhat rectified by the addition of the reinforced floor and pedestal - however we did do what we could to minimize the chance of a catastrophic water leak.
Watts Intelliflow
This device takes the place of the standard laundry water supply - it has a floor sensor that detects tiny amounts of water and will turn off the water in case of a leak. It also only allows water through if the washer "requests" it. Obviously the braided supply lines are a must, and we also ran a bead of clear caulk around the baseboard to prevent water from flowing down the walls before the sensor can detect it. The only thing we gave up was the pan the washer previously sat in because the pedestal drawer wouldn't have opened.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

it's big, it's heavy, it's wood!

All this mess can only mean one thing. We were hit by a tornado.

In addition to its swath of destruction, it seems to have left some countertops in its wake . . .

They haven't been fastened down or finished yet obviously, but you can add me to the legions of Ikea butcher-block fans that already rule the internets. As it stands now, we plan to finish them the same way we refinished the upstairs pine floors - first coat is 25% stain (half minwax red chestnut/half dark walnut) and 75% waterlox, with three additional coats of just waterlox. I did learn two things today; first off, to poly the underside of the slab that sits on top of the (will be) dishwasher to protect it from moisture, and second, to caulk before the waterlox, as the caulk won't stick to the waterlox. I'll be finishing the straight piece in the next week, but the corner will be waiting till we have some time to do some more tweaking of the cut and leveling.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

how to win friends and influence people

Has anyone else with spooky old houses noticed that giving tours gets you contractor discounts? Although we have a number of people we work with regularly, we're not above giving come-hither looks to worthy looking contractors working in the neighborhood. Last fall the neighborhood was having some of its sidewalks replaced because of gas line replacements - we knew this was coming, and we had hoped and prayed that it would be OUR side of the street that was torn up and replaced. But alas . . . Undeterred, for a month we chatted up the owner of the company doing the work, and when he began working near our house he asked for a tour. Suffice to say, after his second tour a week later he poured 120 feet of new sidewalk, dug out a new driveway (returning it to its original location), and installed 6 new tree spots for cost. In return, we owe his wife a tour if he's working in the area again. I can live with that.

In that same vein, we had someone come out today to give us a quote on pouring some gravel in the new driveway to conquer what most closely resembles the Swamps of Sadness (we leave mud tracks all the way down the hill). After chatting about old houses and restoration for 45 minutes, he takes a glance at the driveway, adds up his material cost, and tacks on $100 bucks to cover the delivery from 45 minutes away, labor with a bobcat to remove the mud, lay fabric and dump the limestone. I don't know how the house does it, it's certainly not her stunning good looks or winning personality, but I wish I had her people skills (however, the 36 x 40 framed original photo in the entry may help incite conversation, as does the fact that in our main contractor's and real estate agent's phone we're "spooky house").

don't let the dusting of gravel fool you.
this is a pit of doom!
In other news, work continues, but I've come to terms with the fact that if I want to keep posting I have to let go of my rather controlling nature and see what my fingers type. Thus, chronology be damned!

Monday, March 11, 2013

for your viewing pleasure

I've been nattering on about the laundry,
and despite the work that's gone into the room, there's only so many pictures I can post before I lose your attention for good. I also don't want to talk about it much because it broke my heart just a little yesterday. I'm good at lots of things, but as it turns out, wallpapering is not one of them. Admittedly, trying to work in such a confined space (the built-in) might not have been the best way to start, but what's done is done. I thought about lying to you and blaming it on the paper, but then I worried the wallpaper would fall off in spite. So, it's up, it's pretty, and it's in a closet where hopefully its issues will go unnoticed.

Let's change speed then and start talking about the kitchen. When we bought the house no one could understand why I loved it; but it had windows on three sides, it's original hearth and monster chair rail, a swinging butler's door, it's own porch, huge built in, and hopefully had original floors and plaster hiding under the glue down outdoor carpet and dropped ceilings.

We've slowly been picking away at it (and had no running water for 9 months), but it's finally beginning to look like the space we'd envisioned. I'll post project by project descriptions over the next few days as a lead up to our countertop install and plumbing everything from scratch. Much like dryer sheets, I can't wait to buy dishwasher detergent, it's been 2.5 years!

We were inspired by a number of vintage kitchens in working on the space, I've been collecting photos from the internet for years. Now everyone organizes these on Pinterest, but since mine are saved to my hard drive and I don't have the sources, I hesitate to post them there. Instead, I'll post some here just to share what I dream the kitchen will look like someday (the kitchen we're finishing now, much like the staircase, is only semi-permanent). Today, lets see some period kitchens in the colors we're working with (the green is the original wall color, while the woodwork was stained a mahogany color, we will paint the walls yellow inspired by the original paint on our salvage cabinets).