About curt

Art Dealer and business owner by day - fanatic renovator the rest of the time. Endlessly working on a 1930 home in southern Indiana.

Working on the Old House #8

Happy Valentine’s Day to all! We continue on the old house renovation.

Having hopes that the old subfloors could rejuvenated and finished – structural issues and my typical ‘do it right’ voice won over. So down goes a new plywood overlay to stiffen us these bouncy floors.

The plywood is pl glues and screwed in place. Covering the kitchen and dining room.

The sheathing will help reduce the slope in the floor. Remember, this house is 101 this year.

All the floor sheathing is in place.

To meet current code, new 20a lines were run to receptacles on each side of the sink as well as by the stove wall as well.

This patch was in the wall to the left of the sink window – also notice something? Like zero insulation. This house was supposed to be insulated with blown in insulation years and years ago – but for some reason they decided this kitchen wall didn’t need any.

So we patch up the wall opening and start preparing for adding some insulation.

One other thing. This house has a combined neutral and ground – an old two wire system. The only way to meet current code without rewiring the whole house is to use this type of receptacle. An AF (Arc Fault) / GF (Ground Fault) fixture will give the required protection. They do not offer equipment grounding and must be marked at the receptacles.

These are what’s required in our area to meet code – check with local guidelines as they do vary.

So I rented an insulation blower and with the help of my brother, we added insulation for the kitchen wall. It was messy, but necessary.

I decided to fit the new sink base cabinet first before I started on reworking the plumbing. I’ll keep the supplies and drain outside of the exterior wall to make sure there is no pipe freezing in the enclosed sink base.

So the unfinished cabinet is put in place to start laying out the cabinets. It will be a combination of off the shelf cabinets and a few custom made to fit the space.

Stay tuned and stay warm.

Working on the Old House #7 I’m Floored

Well, the end of 2020 is almost here and I couldn’t be happier to say goodbye. Having a retail store has been a challenge – but we survived. So now I get a chance to wish you all a wonderful New year.

Now – back to the old house – where were we…

Now that we have the old cabinets out, we can see what we have going on with the floors. Old cracked tiles, some unevenness and some creaking noises here and there. Let’s investigate.

One issue is that there are floor registers in awkward places. Like this one that was next to the stove and steps. Not an ideal place for a register. We’ll think about how we can relocate this one.

Well, now I’ve done it – I could have just laid some click-lock vinyl over this and call it a day. I’m selling this place after all. But no – if there is a better (and more expensive complicated way) I’ll always choose that fork in the road. I’ll never learn.

The original subfloor was overlaid with 1/4″ plywood. This stuff was nailed down with hundreds of spiral nails. Not a lot of demolition fun right here.

But progress is being made. One painful nail at a time.

I kept scooting the old stove around the room – not sure why. Perhaps I needed the exercise.

As progress continues, so does the pile of spiral nails.

I decided to extend whatever the final flooring finish will be into the adjacent dining room. So this carpet needs to go.

So after a couple hours removing the hundreds of carpet pad staples we have the area cleared.

Another odd placement for a floor register by the entrance to the hallway from the kitchen. It looks like it was previously a larger air vent for the old coal furnace when the house was built in 1920. Now we’ll move it to a little more convenient place.

We’ll fill it that space and move it over closer to the wall.

Of course, we’ll have to revise the duct-work to accommodate the new register placement.

The one by the steps is also filled in – we’ll figure out a way to integrate a vent into the stair risers.

So that’s how we’ll leave the Old House in 2020 – clean floors ready for the New Year.

And I’m wishing you the same. A brand new year that will certainly be better than the last one.

Stay safe and productive.

Working on the Old House #6 Let’s Get Cooking!

Well, no cooking yet, but let’s rip out this old kitchen and make something a little nicer for the folks that will buy this place.

First we’ll make quick work of this old basement door. Messed up would be a charitable description. We’ll take it down, sand and resurface and give it a new coat of paint. We’ll remove and rebuild the casings.

OK, that’s done. Now on to the kitchen.

I started taking out the old metal cabinets before I remembered I needed some ‘before’ photos. So here’s a shot with one upper cabinet down and several more to go. These were metal cabinets put in the 1920 home probably around 1940. From a distance, they don’t look too bad, but the sink area was rusted through and they were pretty messed up. The Formica top and banding was worn out.

So a little later we have the uppers and lower cabinets out. Plumbing is a mess and the two side cabinets were built in place. I contemplated leaving them – but I think you can guess they won’t survive. I’ll also redo the plumbing – maybe I’ll add a dishwasher….hum…

The uppers were still in OK shape, so they got to go to a new home somewhere in Illinois.

Now let’s get rid of the soffit. I made a little investigation hole (OK a big investigation hole) and nothing was hiding behind the wallpaper but an old recessed light can and .a clock receptacle.

Still in the same day – out comes the rest of the soffit.

As always, while I’m at it – I might as well replace the single pane metal frame window above the sink.

It ended up being quite the ordeal to remove the window – apparently, the contractor at the time had a metal window meant for masonry installation and thought he’d just use it in the kitchen. A couple hours were needed to get this thing out without destroying the wall.

Since this house was built in 1920, it has traditional plaster and lath walls. This area needs some repair. Fortunately, I’ve worked on old plaster houses for 4 decades, so this is a pretty easy fix. First we plan where to make our repair and draw a plumb line for the cut.

Then we get out our angle grinder (please don’t do this at home – without the guard that is.) An old masonry grinder disc is used to cut the plaster but not the wood lath.

Once the cut is made, all the old loose plaster is removed from the wood lath.

You can use almost any stable material for repair. Here I’ve used two layers of thin plywood, shimmed to closely match the surrounding plaster surface. The plywood is screwed to the wood lath.

To make the repair, you mix up some ‘Hot Mud’ – chemical set drywall compound. It sets by chemical reaction instead of the air dry premixed compound. This is a harder material and works well as the bedding coat.

The first coat of ‘Hot Mud’ is used to bed the spun fiber joint tape. I use FibaFuse tape. This first coat of chemical set compound make a good bond between the patch and the surrounding plaster.

For the next couple of finish coats I use standard premixed drywall compound. The reqular compound is easier to sand and feather out. Here I’ve got a couple fans to speed up the drying process.

So there you go – we’re off to make a new kitchen. We’ll see what we can cook up in this project. It will be done freestyle, with no real plans.

I can almost smell the bacon….

Working on the Old House #5 The Serendipity Edition

Sometime things go a little crooked – you start out with a plan and it just doesn’t work out. Other times – those rare times – something goes magically right. In my world of existence, this is an almost nonexistent occurrence – but even I get lucky once in awhile. Take this post for instance.

The windows in this old house are original – 1920’s – most painted shut and with cracked glass and some not even in their proper place.

These two windows are on the front of the porch – I knew at least these would have to be replaced to make the home presentable. So I popped out one to check for measurements to order some new replacements.

I took out the second one to double check measurements to make sure they were the same – I learned the hard way in the past that some are not. These were the same, but the numbers seemed vaguely familiar.

If you recall (of course you don’t – it was 2010) I was working on the MisAdventures house and was replacing all the windows in the house. These were in good shape, so I kept all of them to use in a future potting shed for my wife. So out to the garage I went to retrieve one.

I brought it over to the the Old House – and it fit. It didn’t kinda fit – it fit like it was measured and ordered kinda fit. So back to the garage I went to retrieve the rest – there were four more.

So in goes the second.

Some surfacer, caulk and new paint, and these look pretty good.

Then in goes the third window – then the fourth & fifth – all fit. now that’s serendipity!

A little reworking of the interior trim and the old windows are replaced with newer energy efficient windows that actually work.

Since I saved money on these five windows, I thought I’d replace the three front windows as well.

A little more work, some new trim stops and these will be a big improvement over the broken single pane originals.

Inside a little trim, a refresh coat of finish on the woodwork and a dusting of the original valance and the windows are presentable again. So the renovation Gods smiled on me this day – perhaps I’ll get lucky again – time will tell.

Working on Old House #4 Outside

Well, this is not the most interesting project that I have personally strapped on a tool-belt for, but it will get a little more interesting, I promise.

Let’s do a little work on the exterior before we get back inside to make some cabinets and other fun stuff.

So to start on the outside lets go inside and look at this.

This is a square sheet metal duct for the kitchen – it’s a big square duct running horizontally from the stove area to outside. A surface fan was used on the wall and it was quite the grease pit.

Inside it looked like this after I chucked the fan – it was a mess. So I cleaned it up the best I could and ran a 7″ round duct through the square duct.

As you saw previously in this photo after the new drywall was up in the kitchen. A 7″ duct is in place.

Now we finally go outside. Here is the original exhaust to the kitchen fan. You’d pull down a chain inside on the fan and the exterior flap would open and the fan would start.

So changing out the square flap to a 7″ round duct exhaust vent. I used some PVC trim to make the new vent fit the larger opening.

Now we turn our attention to the roof. Some shingles had blown off a couple years ago which resulted in some deck rot. Here’s the photo after I’ve replaced the decking and some fascia structure. I didn’t have process photos because I was busy working on this solo.

Of course, I couldn’t find the exact same shingles, but fairly close. So after a couple hours we have the roof back to repelling water, like all good roofs should do.

Now we set up some scaffold on the back of the house. It seems the bathroom fan was never properly vented out of the roof. The bath fan just vented into the unfinished attic – not to code – and certainly an invitation to mold.

So after drilling a 6″ hole in the roof and adding the proper vent, we’ll have a way to get the bathroom breathing as it should.

Inside I’ve added the vent and reducer – ready for the new bath fan duct – which will have to wait until I get to the bathroom makeover.

One last item on the exterior to-do list until spring is refreshing the original porch ceiling. It is tongue and groove pine with the original 1920’s finish – the light fixture is original too.

So after a cleaning and a couple coats of gel stain, the ceiling looks like new. And while I was there, I scrapped and prepared the wood box beams and added new paint. I’ll refresh the brick porch in the spring.

So there you are – nothing fancy, or that interesting, but things that needed to be done. Hopefully, the projects will get a little more eye-worthy in future projects. But there’s still plenty of tedious work to be done.

Stay safe.

Working on the Old House #3

So to be a little more timely in my posts – here’s another one. Nothing spectacular, but as I bring the old house up to a more livable condition before it is sold, I wanted to record the process so the new owner could review what was done to the old girl. And to show – no matter how hard I try – that I could never be a house flipper. I’ll make economical decisions, but I can’t in good conscience cover up any defects or cut corners. This post shows as close as I can come to being a ‘flipper’

This was a door on the side of the house. An odd place for a door entering into what is now a small bedroom. It at one time had a stair and railings. Not sure why, as it is a small one bathroom home. Perhaps a room rented out during WWII when there were a lot of workers in our city for massive military manufacturing. But whatever the reason, here it is hanging three feet in the air, so I’ve removed the door and we’ll close this wall up for everyone’s saftey.

We’ll start by framing in the opening with 2X6 studs that have been ripped down to match the original wood framing.

Since the home has original clapboard siding under the vinyl, we’ll add a layer of plywood over the wall studs to bring it up level to the siding underneath. .

Inside we’ll finish the framing and prep for insulation.

We’ll add some faced fiberglass insulation.

On the outside, we’ll pull off some of the vinyl siding. And add a little foam insulation to match the existing material.

Here is my economical choice. The siding is 20 years old and is sun faded. I pulled some of the siding off the back of the garage, as it was the closest match. Still very obvious, and I wanted to painting the whole house to get an even color, but I will tell you it has lightened up significantly since it was installed.

Inside, I’ve started to overlay the wall with 1/2″ drywall.

Then a little preliminary tape and compound.

And after a coat of primer the wall is ready for final finishing.

So as I mentioned above, no eye candy here. Just a little more progress – and we won’t have to worry about the door to nowhere anymore.

And Time to Reappear

Well, did you think I was done? Finished? Pooped Out? A victim of the COVID? Well, not exactly. But my circadian clock must know when May rolls around and thinks it’s best for me to get some more surgery in Nashville during a pandemic. Well, OK. I’m not dying any faster than the rest of you – I’m not infermed to the point of not being able to pick up a hammer and making a mess. No, I’m just a medical hobbyist. So now that I have regained strength and 2X4’s are triple the price of last year, let’s get back to to renovating the old house.

Well, this doesn’t look like much, does it? Well, what do you expect with my IV holes not completely healed yet? The first piece of drywall overlay in the 9′ high ceiling. The blistered and loose plaster was removed to make a level surface for new 1/2″ drywall sheets.

I added the additional sheets of drywall to finish the back wall. I moved the old stove in position and attached the 36″ range hood I purchased 10 years ago to see how we will make this all work out. It will end up better than this mockup, I promise you. The original house had a large square duct with a surface fan to draw out the cooking odors – it did not work. So I’ve run a 7″ round duct through the square duct and now we begin the mental gymnastics to make this look respectable.

While we ponder that conundrum, I’ll sheet the side wall in the kitchen. Settling and age has taken a toll on this wall. I usually remove all the plaster and lath and drywall from the studs, but given my weakened state I opted for the overlay this time. The plaster on the corner chimney bump-out was in good shape, so we’ll just keep it with no overlay.

Of course, nothing is that easy – so this area was so deteriorated the plaster had to come off and a piece of same thickness plywood added before the drywall overlay.

And when you overlay a wall the thickness changes and openings will have to be modified. Here I’ve added a spacer to the door jamb and am in the process of making a new casing trim for the door. I cut the sides to size and clamp in place. Mark the top piece and assemble with kreg screws.

Add a little back band trim and we’re ready to move on.

We now wrap the other wall next to the range hood vent.

Trim out the opening and run the pipe for exhaust. Some tape and compound and we incorporate the new drywall into the existing plaster.

Add a coat of primer and we’re ready to march on. And I hope all of you are marching right along through this unpleasant year. I feel most comfortable right here, toiling away on my little projects. I hope you too find your bliss. Stay safe.

Working on the Old House #2

As we are all trying our best to get through this challenge, I hope each of you is safe and healthy. And since we are all staying close to home – you might as well spend a little of your free time with me – looking at an old home. We will continue….


We started with this fine example of Early Crack House architecture, circa 1920. Here I’ve removed the vinyl siding and the soffit banding covering the gable above the aluminum door and windows.


The plan is to put this back to an open porch as it was originally. It will not only cost less to renovate, but will also keep with the character of the house. Since we’ve secured the front door we can remove the offending elements. (Shown on the ground to the left).


The best way to get rid of unwanted building materials is to set them out on the curb and wait. These were picked up by a couple of scrappers in less than 5 minutes.


So with the porch opened up and the gable covering removed, we can see what we have to work with. And right here we have asbestos panels. The vertical panels were attached to the building with wood battens covering the panel joints. The appearance boards over the opening are solid, but need some attention as well.


The best course of action was to leave the original asbestos panels in place. It would cause more problems to remove the panels that were solid and well attached. So here I’ve covered the gable with sheet PVC with solid PVC trim.


I recreated the original trim design on the gable. All PVC, it will be much more durable (and safer) fully encapsulating the asbestos panels. The PVC header trim will also not rot at the attachment point of the pillars, where absorbed water in the concrete could be a maintenance problem.


Now that we have an open porch to work in, we can add a storm door and work on the severely weathered original clapboards. Exterior trim was also fabricated to cover the original 8′ door opening.

And on we go – we haven’t spent a lot of money and it is starting to look a little respectable.

Stay safe and I’ll see you again soon.

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.


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.


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


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.


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.