Working on the Old House #22 The Finish

So we’re getting to the end of this renovation. The major elements of a safe and ready to move in home are in place.

First we start with a new roof. The old roof was still serviceable for a few more years, but I’ve worked with these roofers on several projects and they are really good contractors.

The weather looked ominous all day, with rain clouds right overhead. But it never rained, not even a sprinkle.

They worked into the evening, but the next morning we had a nice brand new roof.

As with all old plaster lath houses, there are cracks that develop over the years from settling and temperature changes. All were surface cracks that have no structural damage, but still I could see them. So out comes the spun fiber tape and we get busy. My arms were sore from the overhead work, but to me it was worth it.

There was one room that still had old windows with some lead based paint that would need to be removed or covered before the new owners could move in. My original intent was to scrape and repaint the windows. But of course, that would never be acceptable to my OCD.

So with a lot of luck, I was able to find two new windows that were the exactly the right size needed to fit the window openings.

No more lead paint, energy efficient and low maintenance. That solves all the problems.

The carpeting was now in a pretty sad state, so time for that to go as well.

I decided to remove the carpet, but leave the padding, as it was better quality than the flooring company offered, and I had surplus padding to fill in the damaged or missing areas. I wanted to take out the carpet, not only to save the removal costs, but to really clean the padding and floor before new carpet went in – something the carpet layers wouldn’t likely do.

Of course, that left disposal of 1000 square feet of carpet up to me. Cutting it into 4′ sections made it easier to lug around and dispose of properly.

So the carpet is in and now that we won’t have any more workers traipsing through the house we can finish the back entrance.

We’ll add some waterproof LVT at the back door landing and work our way up into the kitchen.

Once the flooring is installed, new baseboards go in and we’re ready to work on the stair treads.

The treads were previously cut and fitted, so now it’s time to put a finish on the oak treads. A color wash and several coats of Varathane clear floor finish. I have used this product for over 30 years and really like it’s durability and ease of application.

While the stair treads are being finished, we finish up the risers and skirting trim.

Using pocket screws and PL glue, the stair treads are fastened from underneath to keep from having to fasten them through the front.

It’s still cold, but the new fence is going in and I cleaned up the patio the best I could in the freezing weather.

A good vacuuming and clean and the house is ready for a new family.

One final project was an iron pipe handrail for the back entrance stairs to match the kitchen shelves.

The retro stove works perfectly, and I hope the new family will enjoy this home for many years to come.

It’s kind of bitter-sweet. My brother bought this house in 1980 and I purchased it from him in 1992. He and his wife welcomed and raised two beautiful girls in this house. It was my first home I purchased, so yes it has a lot of history for our family. I will say it took 42 years for it to get as pretty as it is now, but that’s how life works, I suppose.

I plan on a final farewell party. A little table and folding chairs set up for my brother and our wives with a carryout dinner to enjoy and remember the life we lived between these walls.

May the next family be so lucky.

Working on the Old House #21 Attic Windows

Now that our retail gallery has made it through another holiday season, I can get back to the old house renovations.

First we tidy up the rear stairs – we left off here.

The raw red oak treads were cut and fitted. The air grill was installed. We turn our attention to the trim areas at the top of the steps.

We cut in the stair skirting to allow the base to slip into place. A little fitting and plaster removal – a grinder and some other gymnastics to get this far. Looks horrible, but it will work out in the end.

And we work the other side as well. A little plaster repair is in order.

We get the base trim to wrap around the column to meet the cabinets. Since the attic windows arrived, we’ll jump up there and see what kind of trouble we can get into.

The original windows for the attic are still there – lead paint and all. These things were terrible, but not terrible enough for me to replace them until now.

With the pandemic supply chain issues, ordering new custom windows would take many months to get. I searched around and found two of these slider windows that could possibly work.

So I lug my 12″ saw up to the attic and prepare to do battle. At 67 years old, this thing seems to be getting heavier every time I have to take it up a flight of stairs.

We won’t be making any sawdust this time, we’ll make PVC dust, as the frames will be made out of waterproof composite. First we make a casing and then figure out how to make the smaller window fit into the larger opening.

The face components were fabricated so that they would slip into the window channel, holding it in place.

One we figure out the framework, we can cut the nailing flange off the windows to have an accurate fit.

Once we have all the pieces cut we can assemble with some PVC glue and stainless steel nails and screws. The unit is given a couple coats of paint and it’s ready to go.

The slider window is fitted into the modified opening and fastened in place.

Although not exactly what I wanted, the windows work well and all the drafts are eliminated. Not a bad compromise.

So things are coming together at the old house. In a couple of months it will go on the market and I hope the new owners will appreciate my little efforts to make this house safe and comfortable.

Working on the Old House #20 The Floors

We’re getting this old house back into shape. I just can’t seem to cut corners and just get it done. I suppose I’ve had enough experiences with old houses that needed some love and no one gave it to them, so this one is getting a little floor love today.

We start by finishing any door casing trim that needs details or resurfacing – like this kitchen doorway to the dining room.

I back-banded to the casing to match the other doorway to the kitchen.

I have overlaid the original floor with 1/2″ plywood for stiffness and to level it out for the new covering. So a belt sander was used to even out the seams in the dining room. The other rooms will get new carpeting.

The kitchen floors were also sanded to keep everything flat for the new flooring.

I decided to use the same surface as was used in the bathroom. This Lifeproof Vinyl Plank Flooring is waterproof. Again a little more expensive than other brands, but worked well in the bathroom.

We’ll make a seamless transition from the dining room to the kitchen. A 3/8″ foam board is taped to the baseboard to act as a spacer that is required for flooring expansion. I’ll cut out the opening for the floor register.

To make this look professional, we’ll undercut the door casing and slide the flooring underneath. First we mark the plank.

Then we make our cuts and undercut the door casing.

We slide it in place. The kitchen will get new baseboards – because we left the base in place in the dining room, we’ll fabricate a shoe mold to cover the expansion gaps.

We continue the planks on into the kitchen.

Getting the planks under the other side of the doorway takes a little patience, but it goes in with no issues.

In a couple hours we have the dining room finished.

We bring the flooring over to the stove area. We’ll have to do something a little different under the stove.

The planks under the stove are glued in place with a little PL glue. This will prevent the possibility of the planks moving when the stove is moved, but can still be removed if the owners decide to change the flooring. Expansion is not affected, as the opposite side has the expansion gap.

Once set, the rest of the kitchen floor is laid.

All the plank flooring is in and now we’ll finish the dining room with some shoe mold to hide the expansion gap.

I took some old trim and ripped it down and then ran a profile on the top edge with a router. A little gel stain and a couple clear coats of finish and it’s ready to install.

A quick trip around the room and the trim is installed.

Time to start working on the stairs going into the kitchen. We’ll start on the stair treads. I use a stair tread tool that makes marking the cuts very easy. The back edge of the tool is set against the riser and the two grey blades are positioned against the skirt boards on either side. The clamps are tightened to secure.

You place the template onto the stair tread and mark the cut edges. these are solid red oak treads.

The first tread is test fit in place.

And the second one as well. The bottom tread is a little different. The tread tool won’t sit flush with the skirt board. So a little piece of flooring is used to make a template of the irregular end cut.

You place the template on the tread with the back points flush with the tread and place the flooring template against the edge of the floor tool.

You then simply mark along the template to get the proper measurements.

Test fit is finished. The bottom tread had to be angled on the left hand side to allow the back door to swing open. This is how the original treads were as well. We’ll remove these to finish and put the original treads back on until we’ll finally done.

So on we march – and speaking of March – that’s probably the time I’ll finally have the place finished. We’ll see…

Working on the Old House #19 Exterior Spruce Up

Well, we continue to get this place ready for the next owners. I hope they’re paying attention, whomever they are. We’ll do a little repair and painting and make the outside a little more presentable.

We’ll start with a little power washing. You haven’t seen the back before. Several years ago I decided to have zero grass in the back yard. So I had a concrete patio poured and then had one of the best bricklayers in town do a solid brick herringbone surface. Over the years the grime built up – time for a bath.

My wife found that she loves to power wash, so I let her have at it while I cleared the weeds and old plantings. A couple hours later it looks much better.

The space behind the garage needed a little cleanup as well. The brick pile is extras for the gallery building. The gallery is at the intersection of one of our city’s busiest streets, so occasionally we’ll get a car stuck in the building. These extra bricks come in handy from time to time.

So I loaded up the pickup truck with bricks and we’re off to the next task.

I had my mason friend come over on a Saturday and rebuild these stair wing walls. The one on the right we had to take all the way down – no photos during the process as I was pretty busy. Here we have the bricks reset and pointed. Power washing to get the dirt and grime off the surface for concrete repair.

A special concrete mix is used to fill cracks and smooth surfaces before new paint is applied.

The steps were repaired with fast set bonding cement to create a waterproof repair.

Everything repaired and ready for some color.

The old porch had aluminum windows and doors fastened to the brick with caulk. After chipping and wire brushing most of it away we start to apply the latex brick paint. You have to be careful painting brick – special paints are formulated to keep moisture from being trapped in the brick which could cause spalling in winter months.

After a couple hours using a brush, we have part of the porch painted.

For the exterior brick we’ll speed things up and use a HVLP (High Volume – Low Pressure) gun to spray the brick. The exterior painting took around 30 minutes total. This type of spray applicator is very precise and creates little over spray. A strip of cardboard in hand is all that’s needed to keep paint off the siding.

After two coats of paint, we cut in the exterior concrete paint for the porch. I used a roller to apply two coats to the field areas.

So we started here – early crack house inspiration.

And we ended here. New windows, exterior pvc trim above the porch and fresh paint iy’s starting to look more like a good neighbor.

Still more to go before this house becomes someone’s new home.

Working on the Old House #18 Bathroom Final – for now

Well, I have to get busy on the blog to catch up – I’m nearing a deadline ordered by my wife. Quit playing around with this house so it can be sold. So we’ll speed up these posts, as the potential buyer needs to know what’s behind the paint and carpet.

We’ll paint the bathroom with some really nice paint – Benjamin Moore Aura bathroom paint in Italian Ice Green. I had this picked out for our basement bathroom at Villa, but after painting a test wall, it just didn’t fit. I think it will be perfect here – and a gallon of paint waste is avoided.

A little drywall repair and the new paint is looking like it’s going to be a nice color for the space.

I picked out a simple medicine cabinet and a new light bar for lighting above. The textured clear glass shades visually keep it open and airy.

I went with Life Proof Luxury Vinyl Tile in a Dusk Cherry for the floors. It’s waterproof and has a built in cushion on the back that gives a much more solid feel. It’s a little more expensive, so don’t tell my wife.

My brother owned this house before me – and raised his two daughters with his wife for the first few years. He carefully stripped all of the lead paint off these doors – and all the trim and door through the whole house. But this side is a little too dark for the painted trim and vanity.

So we’ll just paint the one side of this door. No lead paint any more, but paint it we will. Here a good sanding is needed to get the topcoat finish off.

And back to one of my favorite tools. A dulled 2″ wide chisel. I use this for a variety of things – scraping paint out of door trim is one of them.

Then we prime the door for better paint adhesion.

Deep scratches and dings are easily repaired with MH Ready Patch. I’ve used this for years and it’s a great product.

New trim around the door is fabricated. I clamp the side pieces in place with the proper reveal. I then place the top trim and set it flush to one side and mark the opposite side to cut.

I Kreg Screw the top piece to the sides, aligning the top edge with the side. This makes the trim joints tight and they won’t leave a gap when attached to the jambs. I always glue this joint as well for extra strength.

We have all the plumbing and electrical out through the new drywall, so it’s time to put on the water supply stops and vanity drain.

Again, a little more expensive, but quarter turn stops are leak proof and open and close with a – yep you guessed it – a quarter turn. Much better than the screw down valves.

Before the vanity and toilet go back in we need to add the base. Sometime these inside corners are tricky to get the measurements just right.

I use a 10″ block of wood and place in one corner. Run the tape to the opposite wall and add the 10″ for a precise measurement.

The baseboards are in and ready to move on. I always paint all the trim before I install and fill nail holes and caulk the top and touch up after – it’s much faster and and much less work.

Plumbing all in and the toilet works as intended. A little more base trim and we can move on.

This trim by the shower is PVC, so it will be waterproof where water would cause regular wood issues. I’ll trim and fasten with silicone sealant behind this section for more water protection.

Little things left to do in the bathroom, but we’ll more on to the other areas of the house that need attention.

Until next time – stay safe and happy.

Working on the Old House #17 Bathroom Deuxième Partie

The second post on the bathroom – thought I would make this one a little more classy by throwing in a couple of French words via Google Translate. Won’t help this bathroom, but worth a shot.

As I noted above, it will take more than a couple of French words to make la salle de bains usable. Here the linoleum is ripped up and the non asbestos black mastic is leveled out.

We turn our attention to the large air supply register that is as ugly as it is puzzling why it was put there originally. (It was actually put there for the original gravity fed coal fired furnace)

So we pop that out before we repair the floors.

So to keep this post’s images to a minimum and not bore everyone, here is the new duct work run from the original location to a vent under the vanity location.

After test fitting the ducts, the old register opening is reinforced and filled level with the existing floor.

I’m posting this in sequence, so that is why the abrupt departure from flooring work and we stand up to address the single pane window situation.

We’ll replace this with a nice insulated unit, so out goes the old and then I can get accurate measurements to order in a new one.

And since it will take several weeks, we secure the window opening with a theft deterrent cardboard box. Now we move to the left – over to the medicine cabinet.

The small medicine cabinet location and the electrical receptacle will need to be reworked, along with that sad little light bar above.

But let’s get back to the floor and put in a new underlayment.

Now with a nice clean floor we can get back to the sink wall.

I went out and got a small vanity that would fit the space. I needed to verify the locations of the plumbing and electrical before we close up the wall.

And, as is usually the case – I’m way off on all counts. I ran the plumbing through the original holes in the wall cavity. Not going to work as-is. Time to get out the plumbing tools and make some revisions.

So after a few new solder joints and PVC drain adjustments, we’re ready to move one – and the house didn’t burn down – always a plus in my book.

Looked up and saw this guy – probably wondering why I keep reworking the plumbing.

The new medicine cabinet is a little larger, so a rework is in order. On these old plaster lath homes you have to be careful to not damage the back wall, or plaster repair is in your future.

A test fit to make sure the new medicine cabinet fits.

I got a call that the new window was in, so time to prepare the opening. 1/2″ PVC sill is added to the bottom. This will make an unbroken waterproof surface that the new window will sit on.

The new window fitted in place. This one has a textured glass bottom sash for privacy. It cost a little more, but I think it’s worth the price. We’ll trim this out later.

For the vanity, I added an extra panel and toe-kick vent to direct the air from our reworked ducts and register to under the vanity.

Now we have all of the rework finished. Plumbing, electrical, framing – so I’ve added back some of the cutout pieces of drywall. There would be no way to patch this and make it look good.

So we simply overlay the surface with new 1/2″ moisture resistant drywall. Clean, easy and smooth.

Now finally we turn our attention to the ceiling vent. This original didn’t vent out of the roof. So we’ll fix it right – but first we’ll just replace the old one.

The new one has a higher CFM rating, so it was larger. Hole and framing enlarged and the new fan box is in place. This again is much more involved and takes a few hours, but I’ll spare you the tedium.

The new one is much quieter and has LED lighting.

Time to end these shenanigans for now – we’ll keep marching along with this renovation that hopefully will make someone a nice home.

Working on the Old House #16 Bathroom Break

I know that some of these posts may seem tedious, but this is what’s necessary before I can get to the pretty stuff. This will be someone’s new starter home – I want them to enjoy this little place as much as I and my brother before me – we have a family connection to this old home since 1975.

As we leave the kitchen renovation for a while, we head back to the only bathroom in the house – Let’s assess the situation:

Well, this is kind disappointing. We have a old vanity and OK toilet – and what’s up with that huge air vent?

We have an ok – but filthy fiberglass shower.

Linoleum floor covering and just a variety of random stuff – like that Ice cube tray trying to disguise the poor decor. We can do better.

Now a closer look at the plumbing. I had the whole house plumbed several years ago – all in copper to replace the galvanized pipes. He was a licensed plumber, but wasn’t – how shall we say – motivated to do really good work. He ran the water supplies and drain up through the floor. And this is why that’s not a good thing. Lots of corrosion, hard to keep clean. We can do better.

We’ll take a look downstairs. The old galvanized pipes still in the wall, I’ll cut out the copper pipes and run them up and out of the wall – the drain pipe will be removed and reconfigured to drain more efficiently.

We’ve cut out the water supplies and drain in the floor and opened up the wall. That horizontal pipe was the original drain that is connected to the vent stack – it was leaking here. The old plumber wasn’t much better than the one I hired – they had plugged the end of the pipe with steel wool and pipe dope. Never a long term solution. You can see the staining on the wall from leaks. We can do better.

First we open up the wall a little more and get access to the old galvanized water pipes to take them out.

Now with more access, I can cut of the end of the pipe and add a rubber cap. Problem solved – or maybe not.

Now that I’m working in the area and have the wall opened up, I noticed the stain on the drywall – it’s in line with the plumbing vent stack. Well – I could just leave it – I mean I’m selling this house. A little paint and all will be fine. I’ve got two choices a little paint or possibly a lot of work and expense.

I’m going in.

And there you have it. Opening the wall exposes the plumbing vent stack. The large cast iron pipe that goes all the way up an out the roof to vent your plumbing. With my fingers I was able to push the paper thin walls of the pipe. That’s where the water staining was coming from. This is common when the horizontal pipe tees into the stack – water constantly flows over this area and the pipe is exposed to the air, rusting it from the inside out.

So we hop downstairs and do a little plastic (pvc) surgery. We’ll cut the drain and wye.

We cut out the pieces and run the new sink drain pipe up through the wall plate.And prepare the vent stack to be replaced.

So the nice thing about cast iron is that it’s very brittle. To make a clean cut in close quarters, you use an angle grinder with a meal blade and cut 3/4 through the pipe. Insert a large flat blade screwdriver in the cut and give it a twist and the pipe will break cleanly through. You can see I’m working inside a plaster lath wall, so you have to be careful not to damage the wall.

We reconfigure the drain and vent and run some new copper water pipes in the correct location and we’re ready to go back upstairs.

We add a rubber Fernco fitting to mate the pvc drain the the cast iron vent. We now have the drain and water supplies in and out of the wall instead of the floor. That’s better.

We continue on…

Working on the Old House #15 Final Kitchen (for now)

Well, the time race is on – I plan to have this place for sale in a couple of months. I’m a little farther ahead than the blog indicates, so I’ll try to post a little more frequently to catch up.

Back to trimming out the sink area. I want to preserve the wallpaper wall and because there were originally upper cabinets the wall paper was absent. I did a mock design up by using some of the same T&G siding and wrapped it around the corner. Because it would have to be aligned perfectly, I decided to go in a different direction.

A different direction as in vertical instead of horizontal. I added some trim blocks and did a mock up. Not loving it, but we’ll see….

Fully committed to the design, I did the opposite side. The T&G is primed for finish paint.

Once the sink was in place I added a trim board of PVC on the back wall. Once the band was attached, there was a little sliver of butcher block counter showing behind the sink. This would be an issue in the future – standing water and wood is never going to turn out well – no matter how well the surface was sealed.

So to eliminate the problem I milled another piece of PVC to bridge the gap and waterproof the area.

The sink skirt piece was attached with silicone and nailed with stainless steel nails to waterproof the area.

A little caulk and paint and the surround is finished. The iron and wood shelves were installed permanently and a black barn style LED light was added over the sink.

We won’t get into the details of moving the electrical, patching the plaster ceiling to move the fan position over to the center of the newly configured kitchen. Also the 3 different ceiling fans that were pilfered and painted black to make one working fan that would all visually work together.

Now we turn our attention to the stove wall. Time to put up a usable backsplash.

I chose a simple while subway backsplash. 12″ x 12″ sheets. The key is planning the tile layout to keep cuts to a minimum. I tape a couple sheets up on the wall and take some measurements. A straight ledger board is added tot he wall to keep the tile straight.

With a little adjustment, The tile lays out with full sheets so far. Wall mastic can be used here instead of thinset. I set the tiles and scrape off the excess mastic and allow to dry – it’s easier for me to get a nice uniform spacing this way.

The tile is up and grouted with a medium gray grout. No cuts at the top, so it worked out well.

I was planning to put in a new stainless steel stove, but after a few hours cleaning up this one I decided to keep it for the retro look. It has been in the house since at least the 1980’s – and works perfectly, so here it will stay for the new owners to decide it’s fate.

I hope whomever buys this place will know I did my best to make this little place a safe and happy home for their family.

Next – off the the bathroom.

Working on the Old House #14 Still in the Kitchen

Well my fellow renovators, time is slipping by and I have much to do. So let’s get with it.

We left off with the butcher block counters installed. Now we start to make a hole for the new drop in sink.

With a couple of cuts with the jigsaw, we have the opening – and test fit the sink to make sure.

Sink fits and now we’re ready to work on the two side counters that are on either side of the stove.

First we scribe and cut the right hand counter.

Then the left hand side.

Now we have the two pieces scribed and fitted into place.

I use a cardboard template of the stove cutout, so that I get the cut edge next to the stove aligned properly.

Once cut to size the two counter pieces are test fit one more time before finishing.

After a few coats of Waterlox finish, the counters are attached to the cabinets.

the Now for plumbing. The Pull down faucet is installed to the sink and the sink is set in place with silicone. Tape prevents me from making too much of a mess – something I’m prone to do.

New drain lines and water supplies are installed. The dishwasher drain line is looped and installed as well.

No leaks and everything works. Time to finish this kitchen and start on the bathroom – but just not yet.

Have a happy and safe weekend and I’ll see you soon.

Working on the Old House #13 Countertop Start

Well, the heat is on – outside for certain – and on me to get things done. So let’s get back at it.

We’ll start by getting the sink and faucet in house, so we can make sure we get the measurements right. I have Kraus sinks at home and really like them. This kit comes with the sink and faucet together.

I opted for a single bowl deep sink – I have this style at the Misadventures house and find it very handy, so we’ll use a top mount sink here.

To prepare for the counters, we attach all of the cabinets together and level everything, making sure we have the correct spacing for the new dishwasher.

We’ll get all of the new plumbing and electrical in place for the sink and new dishwasher. It’s much easier to do the inside cabinet work now before the counter goes on.

Once the cabinets are in place, we add attachment blocks. We’ll use these blocks to attach the countertop to the cabinets. Pocket screws are used to make the connection of the blocks and cabinet interior..

Once the blocks are in place we use some cardboard sheets to make the countertop template. Paint cans and clamps are used to keep things in place while I take measurements.

For the countertops I selected butcher block. To keep costs reasonable, I purchased two 8′ countertop pieces.

The two 8′ pieces will allow for the main counter and the remaining material will be used on either side of the stove wall.

One half is cut and fitted with the seam centered at the sink.

The two pieces are cut and scribed for the space. The left side has a tapered front edge to follow the cabinet below.

As always, checking level and plumb on any project is important all through the process. It takes a little longer, but doing it right the first time is less painful than having to rework a project.

To join the countertop, I fabricate a joining table from some plywood and lumber on a couple of sawhorses.This will make aligning the two top pieces much easier.

A plate joiner/biscuit cutter is used to add some strength to the countertop seam. Biscuits will be glued in the slots.

Gluing the seam face down, additional pocket screws are used to attach the pieces together. Since I work alone, scrap lumber is screwed to the underside of the counters. The clamps are used to draw the two pieces together, while the two levels with clamps are used to align the front faces together.

Once sanded and brought inside we start the finishing process. Next time we’ll add the sink.

Stay cool out there.