Working on the Old House #1

We continue to try and bring my neglected old home back from the brink. I have very few photos of the earlier process on this place, because I wasn’t intending to document this project. But as I wait to finish up the MisAdventures , this will keep me disciplined in making blog posts.

First we address the exterior – it all has to be sealed in before we can work inside. Lost siding, missing roof shingles all have to be repaired before the next step.

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This area of the exterior vinyl siding that was damaged in a storm. Broken pieces were removed and  replaced, using siding off the back of the garage to make sure it was a match.

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This was a pretty easy fix that took a couple hours – after a couple years of me putting off the repairs.

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The first step is getting the door secure so we can remove the old porch windows. I have no photos of removing the original old door. It was drafty and the original door and casing were held in place with 4 nails – apparently they were pretty stingy with nails in 1920. Here I’ve added a new insulated door. There was a lot of work here, with threshold transitions and lots of woodwork fiddling.

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Since the original door was over 8 feet tall – and the new door is a standard 80″ tall, some trim gymnastics were needed. I made new casings to cover the new opening while keeping the original plaster lath walls with wallpaper intact. I used the original back band trim on the outside edge. Since the door casing is wider than the original, the top back band trim was too short. I cut the trim in two and added a small center decorative element to take up the shortfall. The trim was gel stained to match existing trim.

And here we go – a modest start on a low cost renovation on my old house. It won’t be fancy, but neither am I.

 

So it’s time to pester you some more

My last blog post was October 21 of last year.

Some of you must have thought – “Well, that’s it for the old geezer- he won’t be back” and surprisingly, you would have been mistaken. I will admit 2019 was not a stellar year in the home renovating or health department. I did minimal work on my project last year because the hospital industrial complex missed me and my money. I did several small projects, but nothing that was show & tell worthy.  I did however, work on my old house –  which you will see seems more like an abandoned and sad little place. It’s a little one bath home that was built in 1920 that had seen better days – much better days. My brother lived here before me and ‘insisted’ I give up apartment life and live the life in luxury and buy this place from him. And I thought he liked me…but we’ll fix it up a little.

So until the weather warms up and I can get back to renovating the MisAdventures project, I’ll keep the blog alive with recent and current updates on turning this old house into a comfortable little place for a new family. It won’t be the no expense spared nonsense like the MisAdventures project, but we’ll make in nice.

We’ll  start with this.

Yes – my old home – for some reason, my wife likes the new one better. Here I’ve started taking the vinyl siding off the front. The siding guys thought a contrasting band of soffit would make a nice accent across the front, above the windows. It did not. Oh, and I’ve already removed the shower-curtain curtains that added just the right touch to the aluminum windowed porch. It had a 1980’s crack house kinda vibe. But we’ll see what becomes of this place. My neighbors will thank me.

See you soon…I promise.

Curt

I’m not done yet…

It has been several months since I’ve posted on this wacky renovation adventure. Sometimes life and a not so perfect body get in the way of things we plan to do.  And so it is for me – a few health related challenges, something I’ve grown accustomed to over several decades of Hospital stays. A little under the weather is my typical reply. I’ve chalked up my 40 something surgery (I forget the actual count) over the summer. But, no matter how much they try, the doctors have failed to kill me yet. So now that I’m whole again, I’ll be back at the MisAdventures project to finally show you – that after ten years of work – that I can finally finish something.

See you soon.

Curt

One of these place holder posts – Plumbing

Well my fellow renovators – it’s been awhile since I had a chance to pop in for a post. A couple of reasons – one, I have nothing really new and shiny to show you. I’ve been working on my not very photogenic original old home to get it ready for sale. Trust me, it’s not a Pinterest kinda home. The second reason is I’ve been kinda under the weather – so much so that they thought it would be great if I took a helicopter ride down to Vanderbilt for a little surprise surgical tune – up. So all is well and I’ll be back at the pretty house soon to finish up one room at a time. I did learn that a chopper ride from my house to Nashville cost just under 68,000.00 – I was kinda disappointed in the snacks, but the view was nice.

But in the mean time, I thought I’d go over some of the mechanical challenges and older home presents. Let’s start with plumbing – this subject cost me so much money and time that I’ve just been able to talk about it now.

As would be expected, a home from 1935 would be a patchwork of old and new – well done and poorly done. Cast Iron and PVC, galvanized and copper.

Of course the home inspection said this we just fine. I’m no plumber (yet) but this looked a little sketchy to me.

So, the project developed slowly. And before I knew it my home became a whole house renovation. I wanted copper for my supplies – I know many people prefer PEX, but I like my renovations a little more difficult. It’s a quirk of mine. Plumber #1 was someone I knew – that’s the first mistake. After 8,000.00 and showing up part time over 6 months – he stopped showing up at all. Here was the upstairs shower controls – wrong gauge copper – bad joints.  Not exactly to the plan.

 

On to plumber #2. Much better. Had to rip out all the plumbing that #1 did and add re-circulation lines. This looks right.

The only problem with plumber #2 is he was a commercial and industrial plumber and thought I needed shut off valves everywhere. Not really what I was looking for since the basement ceilings were going to be drywalled later. After 10,000.00 he moved out of the area.

In the mean time I was able to get the tankless water-heater up on the wall.

And #2 plumber did do a good job of getting it installed correctly.

I used a Rinnai 9.2 GPM heater with this set-up. Plumber #2 thought I would want an electric tank heater instead of the gas that was previously here. No, not very efficient, so I use it as a tempering tank for water as it enters the building.

I installed this several years ago, so technology is much better today, with some of the new tankless systems having built in re-circulating systems. Here you see the re-circulating pump and aquastat that regulates the temperature in the hot-water supply lines. There is a 6 gallon electric water heater that keeps water in the hot supplies at a steady temperature.

The great thing about the re-circulation loop system is that hot water is nearly instant at any tap in the house. I have three full bathrooms on three floors and hot water is never an issue. Insulated pipes keep the pump and heater from running much at all. I like the thermometers commercial plumber #2 used.

Now we’re on to plumber #3 as I have the basement plumbing rough-ins going on. It was after I wrote another check for 4500.00 that I thought it was time I sharpened my plumbing skills.

So now on my own I decided I needed to add  ‘plumber’ to my list of DIY skills. And so I took over the  basement plumbing. The good thing is – it’s a basement. If I messed up here I’d have some wet concrete, but no soggy drywall or ceilings.

So with a little practice and a handy torch, I started my new life as a plumber.

And my plumbing continues – with the addition of the steam generator for the shower.

So there is a snapshot of some of the other projects that has made this a 10 year renovation and counting . Every system – plumbing, HVAC, electrical, – all were removed completely and replaced up to current codes.  Obsessive? Sure But knowing it’s safe and efficient makes me happy.

Till – next time…

 

February is Finished

As another month has come to a close, there hasn’t been a lot going on at the MisAdventures project. I’ve been under the weather and a little bit lazy. It’s nice to have frigid days for an excuse.

But a few projects are finally ticked off the list, so let’s get them documented, shall we?

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We’ll go back upstairs and pick up on the master bathroom vanity. We left it at this point, with the door panels made and the face frame ready to be fitted to the space.

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We then test fitted the vanity face frame to make sure it fits before we continue.

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Since I’ve covered making a vanity from left over wood here I thought we would skip the details, as it’s nearly identical the the linked post. I’ve painted the vanity with BM Sterling, the same color as the walls. It’s then finished with several coats of Varathane water-base clear for protection. My wife wanted wider center drawers that turned out to be a problem for the top drawer/sink clearance, but I’ll adjust for that – perhaps in March or April.

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On the opposite side of the room I’ve got the sit down vanity shelf and drawer in place between the two closets.

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The counters were installed and are now waiting for me to tile the surround. Perhaps in March or April.

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This is the second set of sink faucets for the bathroom. My first attempt didn’t allow enough clearance between the counters and the mirrors…you’ll see.

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Because of the build up of the floor height and the counter height vanity, I have less clearance and needed the low profile faucets to make it work. Live and learn. Here I’m finishing up the plumbing – actually I’m taking a picture – but I was finishing up the plumbing.

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And to make it a little more interesting the sinks are different sizes. I stayed in a hotel that had a large and small sink and thought it would work with this 5 foot wide vanity. You know who gets the little sink – ( I’m raising my hand). It works pretty well, with more room for my wife’s nightly doo-dad skin cream washing the face – and other aesthetic gymnastics. Me I just brush my teeth.

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Still more to do up here, like tiling the mirror area. Something perhaps I’ll do in March or April..do you see a pattern here? The counters are quartz instead of natural stone that I have in the kitchen. The new quartz looks like natural stone and is low maintenance.

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The other item checked off the list is the staircase to the second floor. The antique railings and handrails are finished and in place.

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The floors are finished and I just need to get a presentable curtain by the tub. The bed sheet with painters tape is not quite the design statement I’m going for. The windows are tinted and you can’t see inside during the day – but at night I prefer not to show off to the neighbors. Something perhaps I’ll do in March or April..not the showing off part – getting the new window shades.

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Final prep and painting of the risers. As I covered earlier, I drilled pocket screws holes in the stringers to fasten the treads from underneath.

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The treads were attached with an ample application of PL glue on the stringers and Kreg screws were used the fasten the treads.

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I wanted to attach the back of each stair tread to the riser but didn’t want to use a glue that might mar the face of the risers. After a little research I used a 3-M VHB (Very High Bond) tape on the back of each tread. It was then fastened with 6 screws that were pre drilled in the riser and fastened from the back. They use this tape to hold glass windows in skyscrapers, so I thought it would work for my application. It makes for a very solid squeak free staircase. The tape is not only incredibly strong, it isolates the tread from the riser preventing any squeaks.

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The first tread was the only one I couldn’t screw to the stringer, so it was PL glued in place and weights applied for a couple of days. VHB tape and screws were used at the back.

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The final three treads from the mudroom into the kitchen were also installed. So we finally finished something!

And March is here and hopefully in the next few weeks it will be warm enough to get out the tile saw and get to work. We shall see…yes we will.

 

 

 

 

Closing Out January

So January is coming to a close – and what a cold one it is! I hope you, your loved ones and your plumbing pipes are all safe and warm. A warm up is in our future, so hang in there. Here’s a little recap of the shenanigans over at the Misadventures project – we’re getting closer to the finish – if that’s possible.

We’ll start with a small problem. When I drew up the kitchen island design, the cabinetmaker missed this little detail. I needed some extra room next to the dishwasher bay to add the receptacles and switches between the upper and lower countertops. I thought I could get away with these shallow switch boxes – but nope, not gonna work.

Looking at the back of the dishwasher bay, you can see a boatload of electric that needs to find a home and these little metal boxes just aren’t quite big enough. Oh the pains of free-style design.

I fabricated a 3/4″ panel to attach to the cabinet side to give me a little more depth for the electrical boxes. I changed out the metal boxes for these – the blue boxes have a little more room for wire wrangling.

So with a little persuasion we have all the wires where they belong – and the dishwasher fits as well.

Another little misstep. I thought the white controls and receptacles would work – but no. I’ve changed out these eyesores to black. The two receptacles are gfi protected on two circuits – just as code requires. The others are a speaker balance control and a 3-way switch for cabinet lights.

I was trying to get everything done before the countertops went in – it makes life so much easier when you can work from the top. I’ve plumbed the main sink and dishwasher and run electric for disposal and dishwasher.

Final work to get ready for the countertops I bought back in 2010 – Time to get rid of my cardboard counter you can see in the background.

Steel plates were glued and bolted in place to the counter overhang. I added a 14″ overhang at this end for a small seating area.

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Of course, the countertop install day had to be one with a rainstorm that wanted to tag along.

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So after a couple of hours the quartzite counters are in place, ready for me to start on the finish plumbing. I bought these stone slabs so long ago I had forgotten what they looked like. You can read the post about the counters here. The kitchen is 27′ long and opens into the 16′ wide sunroom, which makes for a 43′ long sightline – it creates a very open and bright workspace.

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The upper sink area is a standard 36″ with the lower level at table height (30″). The modified galley kitchen design with central island allows traffic to flow through the kitchen to any other part of the house without passing through the working side of the kitchen. Which is a good thing when someone is in there with a hot stove and sharp knives. The lighting may seem a little overboard, but since I do lighting design as part of my day job it was designed to create a shadow-free work area. The centers are 3″ MR-16 LED and the others are 4″ led recessed lights. The aisle lights are a schoolhouse design. Since the trim on the lights are the same color as the ceiling, they minimize the Swiss cheese effect of all those ceiling light holes.

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The little wine bar area is almost finished with the exception of the tile backsplash and the glass shelves. And the plumbing of course. Looks like my wife is already finding a home for her flammable liquids.

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The small deep prep sink by the stove will have a instant hot water dispenser. The tile backsplash and single shelf also will need to go in. Since my wife is Filipina, she likes to have one or more girlfriends over to cook together. The kitchen accommodates three in the kitchen to prepare food.

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Instead of hanging pendant lights, I opted for these schoolhouse style lamps that would have been used in the 1930’s. The lights allow for a multi-directional light to complement the directional recessed lights. 

The upper level cleanup sink is a single bowl with the dishwasher to the left. The lower drawers on the island are for dinnerware and serving pieces. This position makes it easy to load and unload the dishwasher. The island is 30″ wide, a little narrower than standard, but the 9′ length of the lower counter makes up for the width. My wife likes to work off the lower level, especially when rolling dough and preparing some of her more complicated recipes, as she has room to spread out. 

So onward we go, mare details and cabinets to build, but at least we’re getting to the pretty stuff. I promised some bling – it’s just taken nearly 10 years to get here. Stay warm and see you soon.

 

End of the Year Update

We’re coming to a close on 2018 and I’m now 9 years and 4 months into my renovation. We’ve moved in permanently in the basement, so that means the place is starting to come together enough to be habitable. I have a lot more to do, but here’s where we are at the end of the year.

After having the kitchen cabinets installed, we had to remove everything on the first floor for the final finish coat of the floors.

This is looking from the central kitchen area into the sunroom addition. This is the last time the house will be empty, and looking at this is bitter-sweet for me. I know that at my age, this is the last large renovation project I’ll do in my lifetime. Those of you who do your own renovation work know of the life-connection you have with your work. Many may see just wood and paint, but you feel within the space the effort, the thought and care, the mistakes and triumphs. It’s a satisfying feeling.

From the same camera potion, if I look to my left the original living room is finished. I finally installed the gas fireplace. It has been waiting since 2011. Fortunately it works.

And pivoting a little more, the view into the kitchen. The counters and tile back splashes need to be installed, and the dishwasher, and the three sinks, and the garbage disposals, oh and the hot water dispenser – the TV… I better stop, I’m getting exhausted thinking about my to-do list.

The stair treads are finished, but not installed. I put a lot of effort into having all the floors continuous throughout the house, another small element that makes the home visually flow from one room to the next.

All of the major trim is finished and just small projects remain for the rest of the first floor.

My office has the original plaster lath walls and ceiling. It took hours of grinding out cracks and plaster repair, but it was worth it.

My wife’s office. I was able to repair the plaster walls and ceilings in this room as well. The color is BM Wedgwood Gray- which is not gray, but it is a color we both like. It has a Scandinavian feel with the white painted trim.

And, as you can surmise, as the year closes I’m still holding a long list of things to do – and really, that’s the way I like it.

Here’s hoping that each of you have the best year yet to come – that 2019 will grant you peace, happiness, health and memories that last a lifetime.

Happy New Year!