Sunday, December 25, 2011

First time rebuilding a light fixture.

Happy Holiday's everyone!  I haven't posted in a while b/c I have been spending quality time with the family for the holidays.  My latest project is the original gas/electric combo chandelier from the back entry foyer.  I removed the fixture and brought it to my other house for disassembly/cleaning.  Progress is great.  I am having a blast cleaning it up and re-wiring it.  All of my parts are coming from TX Lamp Parts.  They are a small outfit near Dallas and have been great in shipping small quantities at a reasonable price.  And quickly too!
I will be writing a new blog post soon with before/after pics.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Cleaning up a mess

Celia and I have finally finished removing the wallpaper paste from all of the back entry walls.  It was a messy job!!!  Most of the paste scrapings ended up on the floor so we decided to tackle cleaning it.  First we swept the floor, then carefully scraped any bits stuck to the floor with a putty knife. Finally we scrubbed it on our hands and knees with damp rags.  This floor is in really nice condition* so we probably wont get around to sanding/refinishing anytime soon.  Here is how the floors look now:

*As with everything old, nothing is perfect.  While these floors are mostly in great shape, at some point in history, the radiator leaked and rotted the floorboards beneath it.  The current plan (in the distant future) is to gather enough scrap pieces from other rooms that have incomplete flooring (i know the dining room has a huge patch and will probably need to replace the whole floor)

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Inside corner plaster repair

I just made a post over at OldHouseWeb Forums soliciting input on how to properly fix a gap in plaster (inside corner)

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Side Entrance Progress

This weekend Celia and I attacked the wallpaper paste on the side entrance walls. Celia likes to use the garment steamer and I use the Zinsser spray. As we have removed the wallpaper in this room (and the girl's bedroom) the we have been repeatedly surprised to find signatures on the wall.  This weekend, I found Nancy Strandberg's dated Mar 5 1990 and Celia found an unknown person dated Apr 24th 1913.  I have tried to reach out to Nancy since she seems to still live locally.  (No response yet. UPDATE 12/19/2011: We have been told that Nancy was/is a professional wallpaperer)
Apr 24th 1913

During our work on the entryway, I decided to take down the coat hooks.  It is basically a painted board with about 6 hooks attached to it.  It appears that it has been a LONG time since anyone had bothered to take it down. It turned out to hold a couple of surprises:
1. The board is walnut with beautiful grain.  I am looking forward to stripping the paint adding a few coats of shellac and hanging it back up in it's original spot.

2.  Under the coat hook were two layers of old wallpaper.  We like the blue one!  It is the oldest layer.  Both were carefully steamed off the wall and are being kept safe.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Untold dangers of old house ownership

Well, I was standing outside talking to my new neighbor today and his dog bit me :(

Monday, December 5, 2011

Our House's Dirty Little Secret?

We are just beginning to strip all of the doors and trim in this house.  "Just beginning" as in I have striped almost one single door and about 20 linear feet of trim.  The trim and doors seem to be made of pine and I had originally thought they were simply painted white or tan.  Unfortunately no fancy wood species underneath.  However, today while working on the closet door in the girl's room, I noticed that the door appeared to have a faux grain paint job (aka faux bois).  I didn't notice this earlier
a. because I dont think the trim has the same treatment
b. I worked on the back side of the door first.
c. Using the heat gun causes all layers to come up at once.

Take a look.  It looks like they were going for a golden oak look to me.  This surprises me because the stair cases are dark walnut. I would have never even guessed that faux painting would even been a possibility if I had not read about it on Craig & Yvonnes old house blog 6 months ago.  What should I do now?  Has anyone attempted to refinish their doors with faux wood grain?


During the purchase process, we obtained a termite inspection which found some evidence of termites in a.) three tree stumps b.) a garage 4x4 post.
The pest control company is onsite today performing the remediation services. Hopefully all goes well and I don't have to worry about termites ever again.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Back Entry - Before Pictures

Here are some "before" pictures of the back entry area before Celia and her mom started removing the wallpaper.  Sorry for the shadows.  They are cast by the bright work lights.
Back stairs

Door to the back parlor.

Side door to outside.

My Head is in the Gutter

Hello All!
Today I worked on my gutters.  Actually most of the house is lacking gutters.  The PO removed the built-in yankee gutters when they put a new roof on in 2009.  Since then the house has been gutter-less except for around the porches.  These gutters themselves are in pretty good shape, but were literally overflowing with leaves and pine needles.  So I cleaned them all out. (Not very exciting work).  Also, all of the gutters were missing their down spouts. Apparently they were never put back up after the house was painted.  I spent about $75 on parts and had the new downspouts put up in about 2 hours.
While I was working outside, Celia and her mom decided to start removing the wallpaper from back entry. The wallpaper was extremely thick so it pulled off the wall in full sheets!  Unfortunately, the wallpaper was applied with wallpaper paste and the paste stayed firmly adhered to the wall.  The Garmet Steamer that we are using is doing a pretty good job of reactivating the paste so that it can be scraped off the walls with a putty knife.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

SOLVED: Locked hallway cabinet.

Thanks everyone for helping me figure out the purpose of my locked hallway cabinet.  Yesterday a applied a bit of paint stripper to the illegible raised lettering.  It revealed:

It reads:
LeManquais Cabinets
In U.S. Feb.14.05
Canada Mar.28.05
A little Googling revealed the LaManquais made various electric components (although that info wasn't very easy to find)
Armed with this knowledge, I decided to be a little more forceful with the door.  Apparently I wasn't the only one to pry at it, and with relatively little force, it opened. Below is the picture of its' innards:

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Pleasure to Meet You, Mr. Leeson

Today while continuing the wallpaper removal in the girl's room, we uncovered a signature on the wall. It says:
"Nov 30 - 1892"
"Papered By"
"Harris J Leeson"

Click to Enlarge
For those, keeping track, this also seems to date our house slightly older than we thought.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Front of the House

Greg at The Petch House noticed that I didn't have any exterior photos.  Apparently I forgot to move it when when I brought everything over to

Strange locked cabinet

This metal cabinet is mounted in the wall of our hallway. Anybody recognize it? There is a patent stamp, but it is unreadable because it has been covered with too much paint. I think when I get around to stripping it down that will shed some light.
The doors are fairly heavy duty.  About 1/4 inch thick.  The locks (for which I dont have the keys) look pretty wimpy.

Ideas from people so far:
Wall Safe:  Probably not b/c it is in the hallway, locks not beefy enough, and the doors are not inset which would allow them to easily be pried open.
Medicine Cabinet: In the hallway?
Old Electric Panel: 
Cabinet for Housekeeping Chemicals:

Friday, November 25, 2011

Starting work on the kids room

Since we have a long weekend I have been anxious to make some progress on the house. Today I worked on a few more mundane maintenance issues. I am still fighting with the plumbing, and I replaced a broken window pane in the roof of our greenhouse/atrium.

This glass room is accessible from the 2nd floor bathroom, and features a door to walk out to an open deck. Obviously the greenhouse isnt authentic to the Victorian era, but Celia loves it and dreams of tending to a small flower garden.
The real excitement today though was that I actually started on an actual restoration project. I started removing the wallpaper and stripping the painted trim in the room that will become the girl's bedroom.
Bedroom Door
Closet Door

Awesome Light Fixture

Bedroom Windows

Another interesting discovery is that this room has always had painted trim. I found evidence that indicates that the trim was never stained/shellacked. Take a look at this next picture. What you are looking at is the right side of the door trim. Once I scraped the paint off, words stamped with ink into the wood appeared:
The words are "From:" "Feet" and "No."

Sunday, November 20, 2011

The Surprise in the Garage

Today we worked on a few more misc jobs. We are still battling water issues. We discovered that the hose bib was dripping. It was leaking from two places and wasnt repairable. When I tried to remove the hose bib, the galvenized pipe basically fell apart. Arrg! That meant that this is the second plumbing job that has turned into a big deal. Looking in the basement at the pipes, the trick will be finding a good place to tie in. This hose bib is basically the first branch from the water supply line. If I am not careful, I could easily break more galvenized pipe and be replacing more than I bargained for...
On a better note, I gained access to my garage for the first time. The garage is a detached 2-3/4 car building. Much newer than the main house. The sellers (Well Fargo) lost the keys, so I was forced to break into it. I watched a YouTube Video on how to drill locks to learn the technnique. I took me about 1 hour to drill the handle and the deadbolt.
The best part of the whole day came next. Sitting in the garage is a pair of pocket doors. Even better, someone stripped them down to bare wood! We didnt even know that the house was missing the doors. The doorway leading from the foyer to the parlor has molding covering the pocket door channel. Apparently they removed the doors before they put up the molding. Sitting near the doors were the missing pieces to one of our screen doors. We had been told by the neighor that one of the french screen doors had been damaged in a wind storm and presumably disposed of. The glass panel (2 by 6 divided light window) is removable from the door to be replaced with a screened panel during the summer. More to come on these doors in the future.

Friday, November 18, 2011

The Adventures Begin

We had the water turned on yesterday and I worked for a couple hours "dewinterizing". Since it was a foreclosure, they blew the water lines out with compressed air and put antifreeze in the drains. The process basically involves carefully watching for leaks as you open the shutoff valves at the fixtures. As luck would have it, the downstair half-bath toilet shutoff valve leaks. Pretty simple fix, but while I had it apart, I replaced the flush valve and the supply line. Should be great , right? No. After I got the toilet back together, I realized that it sucks. The flush is slow (drain/vent issue?) and the wax seal seems to be compromised b/c I get seepage under the toilet. So now we are trying to figure out our next steps. Either we start restoring the bathroom now (currently the bathroom is actually tolerable), or we just replace the toilet and move on to more important projects.

Thursday, November 17, 2011


Hi, My name is Jason ('ChooseOpen' on OldHouseWeb). My fiance Celia and I just purchased this wonderful old house. On this website you will find ramblings about our trials and tribulations as we restore her. Below are some 'before' pictures that we took as we showed the house off to our friends...

We LOVE these newel posts!!!

Main stairs

Stained glass window at the stair landing

Servant/Back staircase

Dining Room bay window. All doors and windows feature these mouldings which look awesome with the 11 foot ceilings!

Dining Room
Fireplace in master bedroom sitting area.
1980's Kitchen