A Mid-April Update

Greetings fellow renovators! Boy. look at the time! The 1st quarter of the year is over and the deadline to move in this 9 year renovation is closing in. I still think it will happen in 2018 – but it might be a squeaker. No major progress to report, as my real job has kept me from devoting full time here, but that should change soon. So here is a Mid- April update.

I finally got the TV mounted in the Sunroom. A 55″ OLED from Samsung. I needed the brighter picture quality due to all the windows in this room. Fortunately this thing fits in the cabinet I built. It’s retractable so I can add a piece of art behind this so I don’t have a black rectangle staring at me every day.

Repairing of small dents and painting trim in the stair area. It had some damage from the flooring guys going through here to get to the second floor. Trim is Impervo White and wall color is BM Sterling.The textured glass bathroom door allows light into this area.

My office area trim is also getting the final paint coats. I still have to cut the door bottoms off since adding the new 3/4″ oak floors.

I designed this place with lots of large windows. The paneled walls help add shadow and dimension to the mostly white and light color rooms. The black chalkboard paint above will have a TV mounted. The wall eliminates the ‘black rectangle’ I’m not fond of.

My wife has already claimed the bookshelf windows for her orchids. Even in April, there’s still snow on the ground some days.

In a previous post I was contemplating getting this old 4′ wood horse up on the wall. I made a test bracket to see if it would work visually. I was OK with it, but didn’t like the Victorian look of the cast iron brackets. A little too fancy for the style of the room I thought.

So I found a pair of wood corbels and made a few adjustments.

Painted it the same wall color, but finished with a waterbase clear finish.

I made the bracket wide enough so that it could be attached to three wall studs. The 5″ deck screws made for a very secure mount.

I thought the design of the brackets mirrored the sconces in shape. They have a more Craftsman look, which I think complements the ornate elements in the room.

Having finished that project, it’s time to get the second floor installed. This is 6″ wide rustic white oak.

Because I’m on a time crunch, I also hired this job out. This floor will have unfilled cracks like the Scandinavian floors I have seen. The job goes fast over my new 1/2″ plywood floor overlay.

The stair moldings create the smooth transition to the steps. I have old French iron balcony panels I’ll have to figure out a way to mount them.

Of course the floor guy didn’t think I would want the under eave closet spaces finished out the same way. He was wrong. We used 5″ engineered white oak flooring in here. You can’t really tell the width difference, and besides this will be covered with countless storage boxes when my wife gets done with the space. I’ll crawl in here later and add baseboards.

The white washed oil finish is on. It’s a matte finish with gaps in the boards – it drives me crazy and I want to fill them, but it’s authentic to the ones my wife likes, so the cracks and gaps will stay – for now.

The soft finish has a nice look. The gaps no, but the matte finish is a nice look for our bedroom and closet.

A while back I posted about the kitchen design. Many of you had wonderful suggestions and some have been incorporated in the design. I told my wife one day we’ll get some wood cabinets, but we’ll use the cardboard ones for now.

This mock-up has been very useful and several changes have been made as my wife can see exactly how the work space will feel.

Locations of pot and pan storage, waster and recycling pull outs and the shelf size and placement were finalized for the construction of the cabinets and counters.

Being an art dealer, some things take priority over even finishing the kitchen. The life size oil painting called Victorian Tea is in it’s final hanging place after having it in storage for 29 years.

As well as an oil painting of a local historic landmark building by Kentucky artist Harry Davis.

So there’s an update. Some flooring, some horseplay and a couple of paintings. Here’s wishing everyone a very Happy Spring.





A quick update

Greetings fellow renovators and spectators! Sorry for the delay in posting. I haven’t given up the ghost, or finished the MisAdventures project – just yet. As I have a real job (besides doodling around here). I’ve had projects for the last few months that have taken up some of my sawdust making time. So I’ll just post a couple photos of an art display project that I haven’t had time to finish.

My original idea of renovating this house was to have a place to display my collection of art and antiques. So this project is to get this up on the wall. This is a large wood and gesso Tang Style horse that was made in the 1940’s for export. It is my Chinese Zodiac sign and was the second antique I ever purchased when I was 17 years old – that was 46 years ago.

So the plan is to get this old horse to stay way up there where my cardboard cutout now resides. When I have time, with a little experimentation and some construction, we’ll have him hanging around. It will be nice to have this old horse displayed for the first time in nearly half a century.

I’ll be back here full time soon to finish up the inside of this now nearly 9 year project.

What’s that? 46 years to display an antique, 9 years to renovate a home – perhaps I’m a little slow – but then again, that’s all relative. Stick around.



New Year – time to get busy

OK, my last post was my thumb with a smiley face on it – right. Not particularly relevant to this renovation blog – except to celebrate that I have been able to keep all my fingers and both thumbs while using power saws and nail guns. So let’s hope my good fortune continues into 2017.

1-sunroom-cabinetI have yet to get the plumber over to get my fireplace installed – no roaring fire yet. So let’s hop over to the next room and get that TV lift cabinet sorted out. That’s the lift mechanism in that dusty box on the floor – it’s been there for three years – that’s why it’s dusty.

2-cabinet-baseLet’s go over why this thing looks like this. This is used to house a retractable 55″ TV and there is also a cold air return built into this cabinet. The two rectangle boxes actually go through the floor and are connected to the return air plenum for the HVAC. The air returns from the top of the cabinet behind a false wall and the back plywood panel. It’s pretty convoluted, but the calculations for air flow are pretty good. Now the return air vent is on top of the cabinet and out of sight and the room can breathe – so it’s a win-win.

3-face-frameWe’ll start by making the face frame and doors out of poplar since this will be painted. The frame is cut and joined with kreg screws. The doors will be routed and have a panel. Here is the first door test fit. These are inset doors, so the fit is more critical than an overlay door.

4-door-partsI used a shaker router bit set to make the stiles and rails for the doors. A plywood panel will fill the rest.

5-face-frame-test-fitA test fit to check the fit of the doors. The door is not glued yet to just be sure.

6-face-detailThe face frame has a single opening with two side panels to cover the duct-work boxes. I’ve routed the back and added a ply panel on each side of the opening.

7-detail-close-upI cut down some poplar to make the cross detail. This is a simple applique glued and nailed to the panel.

8-frame-with-doorsAnother test fit of the doors and face frame.

9-doors-openHaving the door opening with no stile allows full access to the TV lift. I ran the speaker wires and communication cables to the cabinet, but decided to put the AV Receiver in the finished crawl space below this cabinet. So only a couple wires will enter this cabinet.

10-door-overlap-detailI made the doors slightly wider so that I could have them overlap. This is the same detail that is on the original fireplace cabinet doors.

11-working-roomI really like working in this space on a sunny winter day. One day I’ll have furniture in this place instead of tools.

12-paint-startIt’s a good time to get a couple of coats of paint on while this cabinet face is still unattached.

13-interior-paintI also painted the inside of the cabinet to make cleaning easier. The wires on the left go through a chase to the top of the bookcase. They might come in handy in the future for something – at least it will be there if I need it. The blue switch box and metal receptacle box on the right are for powering the lift and for a switch for the library lights over the windows in the bookcase..

14-hinge-detailHere’s the back of the face frame. You can see the kreg screws and the recessed panel. The inset hinges require this mounting plate attached to the face frame of the cabinet.

15-hinges-installedIf you had a frame-less style cabinet the plate would be mounted directly to the side of the cabinet box.

16-hinge-cup-hole-drilledThe doors are drilled for the euro style hinge. These are self-closing hinges from Blum. These are clip top, which allows you to remove and install the doors easily. They also have a three way adjustment that is important – especially on inset doors.

17-side-detailI’ll add some details to the cabinet sides to integrate it into the bookcases.

18-lift-installedI was thinking the TV lift was going to be complicated, but it’s pretty straightforward. I mounted the lift onto a 1/2″ ply backing board with carriage bolts. I then screwed the board to the back panel. This will make installing and removing the lift a lot easier, as the lift mounting bolt location is too low to get to easily.

19-lift-with-doors-closedSo here’s where I am as of yesterday. I’m thinking of a thick walnut or contrasting wood top – the center of which hinges open for the TV. There will be a piece of art hanging behind the lift, so when not in use I can look at something prettier than a black rectangle. That’s the plan – we’ll see if I measured this funky cabinet right, or did I miss something? Time will tell.

More to come – stick around.

Sunroom Window Trimming

Now that we are back on the ground we can trim out the big windows in sunroom. We have 7 in here and all will get the same design treatment – except the two on the end wall that will be wrapped with bookcases.

1 jamb jointFirst we rip the jamb stock to size – just a little wider than the surrounding drywall. These will be painted, so I’m using poplar – a very good wood for projects like this because of it’s easy workability and tight grain to make that Oh-so-smooth finish. You see that I have a routed joint – it will make your life so much easier when doing window jambs, as it keeps the joint perpendicular.

2 router spacerI always make as many jigs or templates to make the job go quickly. If you have more than a couple of anything – this is the best way to speed things up. Here I have a spacer that is exactly the width of the router base to the straight edge jig.

3 router jigHere’s a picture of a jig setup for routing the bookcase around the windows – but it’s the same idea. The template rests against the straight edge jig and is lined up with the marks where you want the joint to be. I’ll get into detail in the next couple of posts.

4 stool cutI assemble the three sides of the jamb – the top and sides. So you have a ‘U’ shaped piece glued and nailed together. I then make the stool – the sill of the window. I shim this at both sides of the window and set the ‘U’ on top.

5 loose stoolI shim and nail the ‘U’ in place and add the side casings to the windows as well. Here you see the window trimmed but the stool (sill) is removable. I do this because it’s easier for me to get the proper reveal on the sill this way. Most will set the stool first and work off of that. So I’m different – deal with it 🙂

6 tight stoolStools in place and fastened.

7 casing blockAs mentioned earlier – I use templates and whatever to make things go quicker and more accurate. I use this block of wood to get the reveal the same all around. Make the block flush with the jamb and you have a uniform reveal. The clamp comes in handy when the side casing might be a little bowed. A little pressure on the clamp and it will straighten it out.

8 octagon jambsThe octagon window jamb was easy. I had made two when I installed the same window in the upstairs closet.

9 octagon casing cutThe eight pieces are cut for the casing – looks like it’ll work.

10 pocket screw jigTo assemble I make one pocket hole with a Kreg tool. Only one is needed, as it’s mainly used as a way to clamp the pieces together.

11 finished octagonThe finished casing glued and ready to put up.

12 bookcase wallThe casing up and all the windows have been trimmed and back banded – all but these two, which get bookcases built around them – that I haven’t designed yet. Nothing like waiting to the last minute. But I have my yellow pad there…

12 window casing with back bandHere are the two big boys – 8’6″ each. All trimmed out with back banded casing. (That’s the piece that ‘picture frames’ the side and head casing) and the apron below the stool (sill).

13 waspAnd all the time this guy kept me company. I think it was his uncle I was swatting at when I fell off the ladder last year.

This time I left him alone – lesson learned.



No Rain for more than a Month

So the drought has hit Southern Indiana pretty hard this year. No meaningful rainfall in several months. Pretty good time to be building, don’t you think?

So let’s quit talkin’ and dig some holes.

Here’s where we left off – the now toothless front foundation.

Starting the dig for the crawl space that will be under the new sun room.

And here’s the general excavation. As all things renovation there are a couple of additional problems to overcome.

Take a close look at the precision brickwork. Looks like the patch I showed you in the basement post a while back. The best we can figure out is that the true mason did the interior walls and block work. A laborer was required to fill in the outside brick anyway he could to support the 8″ block that set on top of the interior brick basement wall. We’ll have to fix this for sure. Scary!

The solution was to dig a deep footer that extends all the way to the bottom of the basement footer on these two exterior walls.

This will be then filled with concrete to make this corner of the building extremely solid.

The other problem was that ding dang tree we cut down a couple of years ago. This was a black oak tree with a root span of 10 feet. It was in the path of the crawl space, and I didn’t want to leave it, as over time it would decompose and create voids in the soil next to the foundation. I also didn’t want a bumpy lawn years down the road.

After 4 hours of digging at this, Shawn called in the ‘equalizer’ from Randy’s Tree Service. Seems like the guys that cut down the tree didn’t do much with the stump. I never called Randy for a quote, but I guess I should have in hindsight. Live and learn. If you need a tree removed, make sure you ask about the stump – take it out if you can.

Here’s John – my really great neighbor that keeps an eye out for shoddy workmanship. He’s the best next door neighbor you could ask for – always ready to help lend a hand. This dude is over 70 and I just hope I’m in that good of shape when (and if)  I get there.

So the best way to end a drought is to dig a hole I say.

The day after we dug this we had the largest one hour rainfall in the city’s history. 2.3″!

I always wanted a swimming pool…

Just not in my basement.

Stay tuned.


WWTF? Why, that’s What’s With This Foundation?

So we have surmised that we have some problems to overcome. I suspect the front brick foundation is not adequate to support the load it is bearing. It’s worked fairly well for 82 years, but like people, old age and settling have made the front a little droopy.  First thing we need to do is raise the building structure to get at the sills. In this particular instance, there is a cross beam (right behind Shawn’s head in the picture below) that runs across six feet behind the front foundation. Between these two points is where we will place the jacks.

Shawn Thomas getting ready.  He is facing the front brick foundation which is directly under the front door. We are lucky as this space has a knee wall to use to support the jacks.

Here you can see the steel angle that is spanning all of the floor joists. This will allow for an even upward pressure on the floor system.

The cross beam is to the right and front foundation to the left. Uniform pressure across the steel angle will support the front of the building.

Two 12 ton and one 6 ton bottle jacks are used to raise the floor and wall system. This might look precarious, but it’s very stable – the jacks can’t move right or left, so we have a good, solid support. You can see daylight to the right. A good sign!

We used another 12 ton jack to raise the right hand side of the cross beam. We placed a temporary 1″ shim assembly to level the beam. By moving this one element we not only flattened the floor above, but it is now dead level – something I haven’t seen in too many new homes.

Of course, if you are moving the structure that much, there will be consequences – (like cracked walls). I anticipated this and took all of the plaster off the interior sheathing in the foyer.  This is the exposed wall you see when viewing the house outside. I’ll replace this with drywall when we get the house back down on the foundation.

We will be replacing the front door, so that old plaster would need to go anyway. You can see the crack in the living room drywall and casement separation when we shifted the floor 1″. Now the door frame is plumb. I’ll take out that door casing and fix the crack – a small price to pay for flat and level floors.

Here you can see Shawn easily removing the sill – all the pressure is off this front section.

Here is the front foundation sill (or what’s left of it). Easy to get to with the angle beam and jacks supporting the structure.

Time to explore just what’s down there below the brick foundation. Now is the only time you can do this right. Remember a large landing and steps will be placed in front of this foundation – tons of materials. If it’s not right – fix it now. Costs? Yes it will cost a little more now, but it would be impossibly expensive later.

So what did we find?

This is the front foundation (it’s upside down). This is all that was used to support the front of the house – about enough support for a small yard barn.  It’s amazing the floor was only sagging 1″. We’ll fix this, no question about it. The rest of the house has a full basement, so this is the only weak area of the foundation.

These posts might be a little too detailed for some, but it’s really an important – well the most important element of your home. Without a solid foundation, nothing else matters.

More to come – I promise to get to the mudroom addition soon.

When Wood Kisses The Earth

Sounds kind of poetic, don’t you think? Well it’s never a good thing when it involves an 82 year old house.

Warning: Some of the images below may be disturbing to some viewers.

I must say none of this will be that hard to fix –  It’s to be expected in old houses. This one was pretty ravaged by termites, so I’ve replaced many floor joists in this old girl already – they’ll be a topic of a future post.

The plan is to remove the concrete slab and front steps to allow for a proper foundation and crawl space storage for the new sunroom.

OK, not good already. The dirt was brought up to the sill level and cinder fill was placed on top to support the concrete slab floor and steps. The concrete was poured right up to the wood. I’m counting the dollars in my head as  I’m anticipating quite a lot of termite and wood rot issues.

As more is uncovered I can see some other potential problems with the front foundation.

So we have exposed the side wall. Looks like I’m going to have the privilege of showing you how to replace sills and floor joists.

Let’s take a closer look. You can see the sill is rotted away under the front door foundation. Someone tried to make a wood fill and caulking repair. Was that Stacey or Victoria? They are the ‘caulking queens” after all.

The sills (supposed to be wood – looks like dirt here) sit atop the brick foundation. The floor joists perch on the sill. The joists are rotted as well. No wonder there was a slope to the floor at the front door.

Outside corner of the step foundation looking pretty interesting. May look terrible to you, but it’s actually a pretty straightforward fix. – You’ll see. But that brick foundation has got to go.

Shawn Thomas concrete & masonry dude

One thing I would like to say if you are a homeowner and want to attempt any renovation – whether it’s DIY or you have a general contractor.  Learn as much as you can about what you want to build or remodel. Know the best practices of construction – it’s all out there on the web.  Knowledge is power – and it’s your Home we’re talking about here. Then find a good contractor to support the parts you can’t do yourself. I have this guy and I have to admit – he’s pretty darn good at what he does. He has the work ethic and knowledge to do it right. I think you can tell by now that I’m very demanding in quality – and so far he’s delivered. Here’s his site if you need some concrete or masonry work in our neck of the woods. Shawn Thomas Concrete and Masonry Service. Gee, I hope he gives me a discount for this testimonial.

Stay tuned fearless warriors – things will be looking up soon.