August 6, 2008

Homemade Shelves & Memories Showcased

My wife envisioned our family room wall devoted to family photos. So when I planned the oak drop ceiling (shown) I included a couple of recessed spots to highlight the area.

My wife doesn't ask for much, so I felt compelled to get on this project sooner than later. Made a quick trip to the lumberyard and spent an afternoon with dad in his shop. We whipped these two shelves together. Nothing fancy... just 1x on top and bottom with a piece of crown in the middle and returning on the ends. Also routed a groove along the top to catch frames resting on it. Spray painted black to match the blinds (seen to the left) that I also spray painted. To mount them I screwed several blocks to the wall and then placed the shelves over them and put a screw in through the top of the shelf and into the block.

Had a bunch of mismatched frames in the basement. Spray painted the ugliest of the bunch, black.

Kept the whole project a secret and while my wife was away, installed the two shelves. I think we're both happy with the outcome. One nice thing about What do you think?

In addition to the shelving project, I refurbished a patio off the back of the house which has some really nifty features: enclosed & screened, stuccoed, arched windows, 20 foot ceilings with exposed rafters, tiled floors with drains for any rain that might blow in. This patio has been non-inhabitable since we moved in 6 years ago in that babies and peeling leaded paint don't mix. I finally had enough of looking at the cobwebbed dirty room through 30 feet of windows flanking the back of our living room! One morning I got up and decided to tackle it. Got out the heat gun and hepa vac and started stripping. Washed everything down and repainted. Through up a couple of ceiling fans and hauled up patio furniture from the basement. We absolutely love it. I will get some good pics taken and post later.

By the way... sorry for the delay in posts. I have a good excuse... I've been gone! Every 10 years, my company gives us an additional 4 weeks vacation time. So I added another normal vacation week to it and took 5 fun-filled weeks off with my family. Lot's of great memories.

April 24, 2008

Painters Signed Our Attic Nearly 100 Years Ago

After removing some foam board in our attic, I discovered these ancient writings.

It reads: "Painters - Bud Stockwell - Mich - February 7, 1913 - Carl P Symon"

In another place they signed again. This one reads: "Big Fire - October 31, 1912 - at Bunglow" I believe it says "bunglow" although mispelled. This is very interesting as the attic required quite a bit of work do to a massive fire sometime in its past. If indeed the fire did occur in 1912, it's amazing that the place didn't just burn to the ground given the scale and damage that is seen in the attic. Doesn't seem like the fire pump trucks would have had enough power back then to blast much water. I wonder if lightening caused the fire and rain helped to extinguish the fire. Hmmm?

Bud had to sign just one more time.

Oops. Carl forgot how to spell his name.

March 19, 2008

Family Room... Before & After AND How to Build an Oak Drop Ceiling

An after pic so you have an idea of where I was headed with this renovation. The ceiling was originally a rough stucco finish but torn out by previous owners and a drop ceiling put in. The old fuse box had this room marked as "library." Not much wall space for book shelves, though.

We wondered how we would utilize this space... perfect for child storage!

Pre-purchase/Before: This is how the room looked when we first toured the house to purchase. The whole house was used as an office. Evidently it was also used as a garden shed (shovels in corner) and game room (Trivial Pursuit on desk).

Pre-purchase/Before: Another angle... including office workers. The open door leads to staircase or you can pass through into dining room. The double doors to left lead to living room.

Before: Stripped wallpaper down to the original coat of blue paint. This was the only layer of paint on the wall. The texture was interesting, in that 100 years ago, they probably didn't use rollers. The whole wall was brushed. I skimmed this wall with mud which I dreaded. I am not very good at this. And my expectations are much higher than my abilities! The other walls had so many issues, including cutouts for beam posts, that I just hung drywall over the top of them.

Before: Tore out the drop ceiling which PO installed due to a sagging ceiling. The bathroom above this room had a 3 inch mortar bed which was way too heavy for these joists. I added these LVL beams (green beams that you see here wrapped in oak) to help support it all. I cut out sections of the wall on each end of the beam to install steel posts resting on foundation walls in the basement. What a project. The engineer's original specified LVL system was not enough. After I installed them, the ceiling still sagged. So I sistered on another couple of LVLs. Still it sagged! Added yet another... I ended up bolting together 3 LVLs to make up each beam. Of course they had to be bolted in a very engineered way. Nothing is easy. After all of that, the ceiling/floor still sags a bit, but am pretty confident no cave-ins are in the future. Probably after all of those years of sag, the joists have "set" themselves in the "sag" position.

Before: In that there is a bathroom above this room, I wanted to be able to have access to the plumbing in case of leaks. I wanted some kind of attractive "removable" or drop ceiling. I looked into prefab oak ceilings and they were way too expensive. So between my dad and I, we came up with our own oak drop ceiling. I wrapped each of the two beams (that hung down into the room) with oak 1x and lined the belly of the beams with 1/4 inch oak plywood. Then I created a "ledge" around the perimeter of the room with a combination of oak 1x and the original oak crown molding salvaged from this room. My plan was to set oak panels on top of this ledge.

I cut panels from 1/4 inch oak plywood. I wish I could have found quarter sawn graining but this "wild" grain will be fine. I hung them on some unfinished walls upstairs to help with their finishing. These here already have holes cut in them for can lights.

Of course I had issues to work through... like how to get lighting into the drop panels, how to keep them from sagging in the middle, or how to hide the seams where the panels abut.

I ended up salvaging the old drop ceiling aluminum channels. I gorilla glued the T bars to the back side of my 1/4 inch oak plywood to give it rigidity. The span is roughly 4.5 feet. Only time will tell if these T bars will give enough support. After I set the panels up into place I reached above the panel and wired up the T bars at a few points to help with support. I cut holes for some salvaged can lights I had. I installed them and wired them up to the ceiling joists as well to support them.

All in all, if I ever have a plumbing leak, although not quite as easy to get into as the typical office drop ceiling, at least I can get these panels out without destroying the ceiling.

A foam pad puts a lot of stain on quick. Hanging these all on the walls was a huge time saver. We top coated with poly, sanded with pole sander, vacuumed, tack clothed, poly again, sanded, and poly again. had to really watch for runs due to being hung vertical.

What I learned about plywood: There is a huge difference in quality of oak plywoods. In ignorance, I ended up buying pretty decent stuff for this ceiling. It laid flat and had a fairly thick top veneer of oak. Since then, I've gotten others (imported from China I am told) to relign some doors that curl up like pasta and have paper thin veneer that looks and performs terrible.

This wall has stair case on the other side of it, so being a practical bungalow, the original builders created storage under the stair case. Here I am sanding out the lower cubby. Tight fit for big butts. Kids will love it, so worth the effort. By the way, the insides of these cubbies are lined with beatiful bead board.

It took someone a bit smaller than I to sand out the upper cubby.

After: Done. I was pretty happy with the way the ceiling turned out. Although you can spot the seems of the oak drop panels, I don't think they're too bad. The smaller recessed lights in the middle are small eyeballs that will focus on wall art or mantel.

Just MOMENTS after the room was opened up to the general public, the kids had string strung from every available hinge and doorknob and fort city was built.

No comment! Sorry for fuz faces. Just not comfortable exposing the babes to the universe.

Cubbies and drawers not installed yet... one more coat of finish to go. Also, we found this nifty tv cabinet at a used furniture store. Couldn't have hoped for better had we spent a thousand dollars. This only cost $160.

The closet to the left is lined (original) with cedar. The door that goes here also has cedar veneer on the inside of the door with oak on the outside. This closet has a couple of built in cupboards as well as an old fuse/electrical box in it. We are going to put the kid's computer in there. Nice out of the way spot for it.

Although there is an oak floor in this room, we were really looking forward to something soft to relax on. Wood and tile floors are awesome in lots of ways but SOFT has its place as well. This is our new SOFT room... with SOFT furniture (mostly).

March 13, 2008

Oak Drop Ceiling in Family Room

The family room is now finished. It's so nice to have a room with soft carpet. Wood floors are pretty and clean BUT they are hard on old dad's knees while wrestling!This room was a real challenge.

Due to massive beams I had to install to support the concrete bathroom floor above AND wanting to be able to access the plumbing, I needed to install a "drop" ceiling. I came up with this. Can you tell it's a drop ceiling? I have to take off to pick up plywood for this weekend's project, but I promise to post all the gory details about this ceiling/family room project next week. I have lots of pics of it as well.

March 5, 2008

Insulating the Closet Ceilings

My upstairs closets are built into the pitched eves of the house and therefore, have only 6 inches of dense-packed cellulose in the ceiling cavities. This is not enough insulation for the cold north... so I finally took action.

I'm installing 2 inch (around R-10) sheets of polystyrene foam board over the plaster ceilings in each of these closets. I'm trying to be careful about getting them very well sealed. I bought this nifty spray gun and several cans of the pictured spray foam. It lays narrow to wide bands of foam, depending on how far you pull the trigger. I'm applying beads of foam at all the joints. The sheets are being attached with both foam board glue and 3 inch screws with washers. Unfortunately, I will have to go over the top of all of this with a thermal barrier (ie., gypsum board or something) Dow makes a foam board that is somewhat rated for fire, but it's about $60 per sheet.

Of course, no job goes as smooth as it initially presents. In the first closet I started on, I tried to screw up some loose plaster before adding the foam... screws wouldn't pull the plaster up. I pried a bit of the plaster loose to see what was going on. Apparently a large upper attic fire in the early 1900s burnt sections of the wood lath holding the plaster to the ceiling... SO I had to tear off half of the plaster & lath before adding the foam board. From below the wood lath looked great. BUT the back side was completely charred and I was able to push my finger right through it. What a mess this tear out made!

Points of interest in the photos:
- the exposed conduit is feeding electric to the patio ceiling on the other side of the window
- the window is one of two that overlooks a very cool 2-story cathedral ceilinged patio with huge arched screened windows and tiled floors with floor drains (that don't work and actually drain into the basement at the moment-which reminds me...)
- the square wall cut out was used to feed new electric to a switch in the living room below
- When the spray gun starts to slow up and get clogged, you simply screw on this can of cleaner and spray it for a few seconds. It worked really well. Somehow the tip seals off when not being used so that the foam does not harden inside the gun, thus you can let it set for days/weeks without having to clean it all up.
- We're very fortunate. For an old house, we have huge walk-in closets. Six of them (and larger than the one pictured) upstairs alone. Is that crazy?!
- I am amazed at how even the insides of the closets are finished out with crown moulding above doors & windows... even the inside 2 attic spaces! Where have these guys gone?

Note: When cutting foam insulation, you will have pieces of pink foam shrapnel clinging to you for days. The stuff has a heck of a static charge!

February 28, 2008

Our Bungalow Tree House

My dad decided that our kids needed a tree fort and built them THIS! I think he originally had a simple platform with canvas roof in mind... well... one thing led to another... and we ended up with a bungalow fort.

He built it at the ravine edge with Rosman Creek below as seen in the winter pic. It's a great site for it. Our house sits up a little higher on the hillside so we get a nice view of the fort and creek.

Dad had some extra cedar laying around... I found some used cedar at a Habitat Restore Store. A friend of mine had some used cedar shakes that he was going to use for kindling. Handrail made from old water piping we yanked from the wall. Support timbers from jack posts I used when adding new support beams in our basement. Lots of hand-me-downs in this thing. The kids love it. We love it. And we love dad & grandpa for building it for us.

February 27, 2008

2 bathrooms... 1 quiet & powerful fan

When you have four young kids, you have to be ever vigilant... always on alert... ear to the ground. What are they up to? Where are they at?

Thanks to our super quiet, but powerful Fantech ventilator, we can even monitor the gang while running the bathroom fan... which is impossible with most fans available. Honestly, if it weren't for the indicator light on the timer, you would not know it was running. Although a bit pricey, I'm really glad I put this thing in.

In addition to being able to hear what's happening around the house while running the fan, it is also really important to get rid of all the steam (and other gasses) generated in the bathroom. Let's just say, with this thing, you don't want to leave any loose toilet paper or small children lying about. I may have oversized it just a bit.

I have two bathrooms upstairs that this single fan takes care of. I mounted it in a utility closet, ran flex duct to each of the bathrooms and connected a butterfly damper with a rubber seal that closes off when not in use. The fan then vents out the bottom (I think it's 8 inch) and runs out a side wall.

It's controlled by a digital timer with timed presets in each bathroom.

Another nice thing is that if the fan ever needs servicing, you don't have to tear into your ceilings to get at it or worry that a replacement unit won't fit in the same ceiling cut out. This thing hangs in a closet.

February 21, 2008

Hey... that's our fireplace in the Rookwood catalog

In an earlier post I mentioned that I discovered an abandoned dumbwaiter shaft in the house. Upon removing the walls that had been built around the shaft by PO, I found a stack of green glazed tiles that were used on the floor in front of the living room fireplace. They appear to have been cast offs from the mason who initially installed the fireplace in 1909. There was a indicia imprinted on the back which I didn't recognize, so I etched it onto a piece of paper and googled all the major tile manufactures logos of the period. I quicklly identified the tiles as Rookwood.

I sent a photo of the fireplace to the newly regrouped Rookwood Pottery Company in Cincinnati, OH to see if they could tell me anything about it. After several months, and another inquiry, they responded with this reply:

"Your fireplace is directly out of a Rookwood Pottery Company catalog from August 1, 1912 page 49 (See attached). It was originally sold for $82.00 not including hearth. Today the field tile on the floor would be sold for $105/sq foot and the entire design would cost about $4,300. These particular tiles would not have a mold number on the back, they were simply marked with the Rookwood symbol due to the design of the mold. The home owner of the house must of picked the color themselves, it is a color that would reflect the bungalow design of the house and still be highly sought after today by Arts and Crafts enthusiasts. What a beautiful fireplace! If you are open to sending us one of your extra tiles, we would love to have one. It would be used only for research on how these particular tiles were made in this year. I understand completely if you would rather keep them for yourself. Hope this provides you with some interesting information.

Best regards,

Suzanne Blackburn
The Rookwood Pottery Company

2619 Glendora Ave
Cincinnati, Ohio 45219
P 513 381 2510
F 513 281 2004

I've attached an image of the catalog page below. It was so bizarre to see OUR fireplace in a catalog from so many years ago. I imagined how it must have been for Mr. & Mrs. Robinson (original owners) to be sitting at the table looking through this catalog and bantering over which fireplace they would like installed. Anyway, I was very pleased to have this information.

Side notes:
- The configuration of the benches on either side of the fireplace is original, although a bit odd in that they extend beyond the face of the fireplace.
- They are indeed cabinets and not windows on either side of the fireplace, in that there is a hallway behind the fireplace
- The grey tubes on the arms of the furniture are pieces of foam pipe insulation used to soften the edges and sharp corners (we have 4 young children - need I say more?!)
- Originally there were two gas pipes plumbed into the wall above the mantel for wall hung gas sconces
- We've never used this fireplace. Although it appears to be in reasonable condition, it should be inspected, which costs money, which takes money away from other priorities. I have it capped off outside on the chimney.
- While cleaning out the ash pit in the basement below this fireplace, I found a old contractors tape measure (obviously dropped accidentally)
- There is a hidden dumbwaiter shaft accessed by a false panel in the back of the benches to the right. I can only imagined that they thought this would be helpful for hauling up wood to the fireplace. Judging by the lack of wear on the basket, I don't think it was used much. Probably too awkward of a location. I'll get pictures for you sometime.
- Excuse our lack of attention to decorating. We are so preoccupied with raising our 4 children and renovations, that knickknacs and doylies don't get a whole lot of attention around our place at this stage in our life.
- All of the Oak you see was completely sanded down and refinished in the original stain color. Believe it or not, there is a lot of green pigment in it.
- Although the fireplace itself extends to the floor of the basement, the skirt/floor area in front (I should know what this area is called) is poured concrete with tile. So it is supported by 2 very large brick pillars in the basement.
- The area of the living room that the fireplace is built in, is called an inglenook (orginally designed to capture the heat generated by the fire and provide a warmer place to park your cold body) Has medieval influence.

February 19, 2008

Secret Passageway

I would have loved one of these when I was a kid! One of the bedrooms upstairs has a couple large walk-in closets, one of which backs up to attic space in the eves of the house. We cut a hole in the back of one of the closets (as pictured) and will make some kind of discreet door. The cool thing is that, at the other end of the "secret passage" is another existing door that leads into the closet of another bedroom.

Of course, between the kids telling their friends about their "secret" passage, and me blabbing about it on the blog, it's not so "secret" anymore!

Actually, we do have one more secret passage in the house. I didn't know it was there until I began renovations. As I was sanding some built-ins, I noticed some odd markings in the surface where something had rubbed on occasion. I started looking things over and sure enough there was a hidden door that pivoted at that spot. It revealed a what I believe was an old abandoned dumb-waiter shaft. I'll post some pics of this sometime. Fun, huh!

February 14, 2008

The most colorful wall in the house!

I take these shots for future reference. With my luck, I know I'll be tearing into them again someday to fix something! Got to looking at this upstairs bath pic and realized it's quite a colorful wall. I think I used every color in my crayon box!

Points of interest:
- The black streaks running down the lathe is from huge attic fire in October of 1916. We know this because a couple of the painters who came in to repaint the repairs signed their names and left this note on an attic wall.
- The black box to the left is for an in-wall heater to help take the chill off after a winter shower. Am going to put it on a timer so that it doesn't accidentally get left on. Thought about infloor heater under tile, but just don't have the energy to investigate ONE MORE THING!

February 13, 2008

Kinda tight in here. No more!

We moved from a house with just a few hundred square feet into this 7000 square foot behemoth. Even though we now have room to roam, we find ourselves all congregating in the smallest room of the house. I guess there's comfort in familiarity and coziness.

By the way, the above photo is our youngest daughter checking out the interior improvements of her older sister's American Girl doll's camping tent.

February 11, 2008

Very Expensive Icicles

After thousands of dollars spent on insulation, I still have ICICLES! It is so disheartening. A guy tries to do his best. I researched and interviewed until I was blue... failure! I could've bought a lot of heat tape for the amount of money I've got into insulation in this place (or taken a nice cruise to a warm "ice-free" place).

One of the culprits is that, in place, the Icynene spray foam appears to have shrunk some and pulled away from the roofing & framing - which is not good. The other issue is that they scrape the icynene away from the bottom of the rafters so that drywall can be attached. In my opinion, this wicks the heat up to the roof surface and melts the snow. I just bought a few hundred more dollars of polystyrene foam board and will attach it in these areas to try to insulate these rafter faces. Will see what happens.

I also had they icenyne added to an exterior wall of an upstairs bathroom in attempt to keep it a little toastier.

I didn't insulate any walls in the house in that most every wall is covered in huge windows -- OVER 80 OF THEM -- in this place. I figured what little wall space there was would not benefit from insulation in that most of the house is covered in glass.

February 7, 2008

Not Quite As Gothic

After thinking about it, I figured I should show you the fixtures that were used in place of the original chandalier in the last post. Part of me feels like I should have used the original fixture, but it was just too midevial for our taste.

As long as I save the original, do you think it's an OK compromise?

Here's a couple pics of the ceiling light & wall sconces.

Antique Road Show Comes to Town

The Antique Road Show is coming to town, so I hauled this old light out. I thought I'd email them a photo and see if it's worth hauling in. Probably not. It's fun to dream. Hey - - it's my birthday today - - I'm allowed to dream today!

It originally hung in our dining room, but PO had stashed it in the basement. I know I should have hung it back in its spot but it sooooo gothic/medieval looking... kind of spooky. It is non-ferrous, so it's maybe plated brass or copper. Another reason I didn't hang it, is that weighs almost 70 pounds! I just didn't have the energy to beef up the anchoring utility box when I was redoing the dining room ceiling. Another, another reason was that I would have had to rewire it, which seemed a little daunting at the time... kind of like ship building in a bottle.

I also have 4 wall sconces that match it. They were originally plumbed for gas but converted later to electric. Still have the pipes leading into the back of each of them. Our house was built in 1909, so electricity was not completely reliable. Consequently, the house was built with a smattering of gas fixtures as a backup to the electric.

I emailed an antique lighting dealer a while back and they said the style was "Tudor Revival" and that this particular style was known as a "theatre light." He offered me $500. I don't think I could sell it, in that it was original to the house. Of course, multiple zeros after that 5 could persuade me I suppose.

This dealer told me there was not much of a market for this style light, what do you think? Would you hang it in your house?

February 4, 2008

Butler's Pantry

This is the butler's pantry, which you pass through to get from the kitchen to the dining room. The copper sink is original. The PO had a chrome Delta 1970's special here. We replaced it with this copper one you see here.

All the cabinets were completely stripped of the original paint inside & out. The window in front of the sink seems to be original. It looks into the enclosed sun porch. I don't know what the purpose of the exterior window is, but it matches other originals in the house. Maybe they kept the sunporch windows open at times... which would explain the 2 floor drains in the tile floor of this room.

Anyway... we're happy with the way the pantry came out. Originally, the large wall of cupboards had sliding doors. Inside were slots where, we're assuming, they stored the leaves of the dining room table. This pantry offers great storage. There's even a hidden panel to the left of the sink. The door slides up into the wall using pullies and counter weights. Inside are narrow shelves.

The butler or house staff that evidently use to reside here were called with an electronic devise that plugged into the floor in the middle of the dining room (under the table). A portion of the basement appears to have been plastered and finished to accommodate house staff. The house staff has been greatly diminished over the years... down to 0! At least we have the pantry available if we ever win the lotto and hire a butler some day!