Sunday, December 22, 2013

Today's Side project: Door stop

I get bored easily so my big projects tend to drag on forever.  To help keep me sane, I like to do small projects on the side.  Usually they are quick to complete which offera me a sense of satisfaction.  Today, I refinished a door stop.  It wasn't all that complicated... The doorstop had a zillion layers of old paint that needed to be stripped.

I then had to contend with the damaged wood.  I elected to use the belt sander to remove most of it.  This did change the shape of the door stop slightly, but I felt it was the best choice.  After a bit of sanding, I gave it a couple coats of amber shellac.  Here is the final product:

Turned out to be a pretty nice hardwood maple doorstop.  The damage is still visible on the tip, but considering it is probably 120 years old, I can live with it.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Odd and ends

This weekend consisted mainly of catching up on odds and ends. 

a) Started clearing the kitchen so that we can resume work in there.  We need to paint the ceiling so we need the floor space to navigate.

b) Swept up one of the basement rooms. This was actually an interesting little project.  Our basement was last remodeled in the 1930s when the funeral home used the space for embalming work. The ceiling and masonry walls have been plastered.  Unfortunately plaster and paint in such a humid space resulting in peeling paint. Feels like an abandoned building with the white paint literally falling off the walls in large pieces.  

Over the years this paint has crumbled and piled up with other dust/debris around the edges of the room. So anyway the whole basement is almost 2000 sqft so we decided to start with just a single room. We chose to sweep up the room that holds the new tankless water heater.  This room will be my winter workshop... To help prevent the mess from returning we first swept the walls to knock down the loose paint.   Then we swept the floors. It only took us about an hour and the room now feels a lot less spooky!

c)I also took out all my spare door hardware to see if I could piece together a set for the side door.  It has never had a lockset since we have owned they place! The only way to lock it was from the outside with a padlock. Lol.  This was how the bank secured the property when it was foreclosed...  I did buy an ornate set off eBay last year but it didn't quite fit so I had been dragging my feet installing it...  Well, here is the finished product...  

Old holes and stuff will be patched when we eventually get around to doing a full door restoration.  Also, I need to replace those steel/zinc screws with brass ones.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Hidden in the Walls!

Our master bedroom features a sitting room that is separated by a pair of pocket doors.  The doors have been taped shut since we bought the place.  Tonight I decided to remove the tape!!!  That might be a little dramatic, but it was a little suspenseful since we don't really know why they were taped up to begin with.  What secrets might they hold???  Some thoughts are:

Bees! We had a bee infestation and it is thought they might have found their way through the ceiling joints and into the room.

Energy - Perhaps these doors allow lots of cold air in from the unheated wall cavity.

Bats! - We get several bats in the house each year.  Maybe they find their way in from here...

Removing the grey duct tape turned out to be a pain.  It has dried out and will need manual scraping to remove.  I tried adhesive remover but it wouldn't reactivate the glue.  I guess I will add that to my project list.  Funny how everything with this house is complicated, lol.

Here are some pictures with captions.

Original hardware that matches the hardware downstairs.  Even a matching folding key.  Quite rare!

Whats that?  A newspaper!  It appears these doors were sealed on Saturday May 20th 2006

Very nice set of pocket doors!  Fancier molding on the master bedroom side and more plain on the other side.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Greenhouse Walls Reframed

I'm am making a concerted effort to finish up my outside projects before winter hits.  One of those projects is the 2nd story greenhouse.  It still leaks water into the kitchen below.  Over the past 30 years, water and insects have destroyed the 2x4 framing members and they all needed to be replaced.  I had done most of the demolition works earlier this year, but was dreading reframing it all.  Today I wrangled up a helper (Jimmy) and we made great progress.  Jimmy actually did most of the work.  We has lots of framing experience!

The wood is so rotten in just falls apart.

New 2x4 framing.  The siding will be replaced next year.

Jimmy framing up one of the walls.

Looking MUCH better!

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Unexpected plumbing work

We had a little unexpected plumbing work pop up this weekend.  I went down into the basement to check on a wet spot I found a week earlier.  Turned out that it as a pipe that sprung a leak!  I made my parts list and made the trip to the big box store to get all the parts/pieces.  Wherever possible I have been converting the plumbing to pex tubing.  This leak provided me another chance to do some pex upgrades.  The leaking pipe was an old galvanized pipe that transitioned to copper.  I figure the copper work is about 30 years old so this galvanized is certainly a lot older than that.

The galvanized pipe just disintegrated when I touched it.  It was also more than 75% clogged.
The new runs are connected to small 4-port manifolds.  I love how new construction is using a single giant manifold centralized in the basement but that just isn't practical in a retrofit scenario.  Instead I have been using the small manifolds and have been locating them in the area that work is performed. When I did the plumbing for the master bath (work done from underneath in kitchen ceiling) I added them to handle all the bath fixtures.  Now this is my second pair that handle the kitchen sink, pot filler, half-bath, and guest bath/laundry.   They are nice because I always have leave an extra port for future upgrades, and I also can add cutoffs at the manifold like you see here:

I started to think about it after I finished this work and I do believe I have eliminated 98% of the old galvanized pipe.  The whole house is now either copper or pex. The only exception is a main line that runs from the meter across to the other side of the basement.  I have a feeling that if I can get that replaced, then I will in pretty good shape!

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Everybody has one of these, right?

Well I fear that the neighbors are going to start talking about us behind our back...  Celia just bought an authentic embalming table off Ebay.  It came out of an actual funeral home in Mt. Sterling, IL that was relocating.  I haven't done any research but my guess is that is from the 1920's-1930's.
The big question everyone is asking us is "What are you going to do with an embalming table?" 
Initially it will be a Halloween decoration.  Our street is THE place for trick-or-treating.  Last year we had 1500 kids come by.  We plan on using it in the yard for some sort of gory display.  After that, we might try to incorporate it into our house decor. I think it fits pretty well considering our house operated as a funeral home from about 1935-1975.  It definitely would be a conversation starter...

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Bevel Wood Siding Details

After the bees were removed, I was left with a rather large hole in the side of my house.  The damage included pieces of trim, clapboard siding, and crown molding.

Fabricating the trim pieces were pretty straight forward.  I used scrap pine that I had laying around for the edge boards and some preasure treated pine for the 2x3 sill.  The bevel (clapboard) siding turned out to be a bit of a challenge.  First due to the size I needed.  My siding has a 3" reveal (4" board size).  The big box stores don't carry a very big selection of bevel siding.  They only had 6" and 8" available.  I finally found some in-stock at an old-school lumber yard - Sheridan Road Lumber.  Very nice people and they were able to load me up with 10 qty 10' lengths of the cedar bevel siding.
Of course since nothing on this house is simple, I couldn't just cut this material to length and tack it up.  Instead, my existing siding features a fancy beaded edge.  I had to hunt down the proper router bit and setup my Shopsmith for routing.  Here you can see the before and after:

The crown molding has been the other big challenge.  The molding is a pretty common profile, but it is 6.5" wide.  Corsaw Hardwood Lumber had been asked to make a custom set of molding knives.  Then the unthunthinkable happened... My father died. This has been devastating to my family and has put everything on hold for some time now.  We are now getting back to working on some projects.  Its been several weeks now with no word from Corsaw's so I guess I will have to find someone else.  

Water Heater and Bees Update

In my last post, I was whining and complaining about how much daunting work I have ahead of me.  I am happy to report good progress since then.

1.  Hot water heater has now been installed.  It was a pretty big project to run electrical, vent, water pipe, and gas lines.  I am quite happy with how it all turned out.  The performance of the unit is top-notch too.

Old worn out water heater

Misc water pipes that were removed

2. The bee removal is done too.  We purchased a 30' scaffolding tower and hired a beekeeper to remove the bees.  I spent all day playing assistant and we removed an estimated 60,000 bees. 

New trim boards with coat of primer

It feels really good to have all of this done. So good in fact that after 1.5 years of paying mortgage payments, we have finally moved our family into the house.  We still have a lot of work ahead of us.  Immediately, I have to close of the huge holes  in the side of the house...  then I have to get back to working on the kitchen...

Friday, June 21, 2013

Is there an end to this tunnel?

The pressure is on to get this house into some sort of decent/habitable condition.   Mainly the pressure comes from myself. I don't think my wife is too anxious to move into a construction site, but I am sick of making mortgage payments on a house I cant live in.  Over 1.5 years now!  We have identified two must-fix issues that we absolutely must get resolved before we move in.

1. The bees have got to be removed. - We found a beekeeper.  Now I just need to get him up to the bees (30ft) so that he can do his work.

2. We need a new water heater.  Of course, I cant bring myself to just replace it with a regular tank.  Instead we are upgrading to tankless.  (difficult install and more $$$$).  This will require a new electrical circuit, which I have now completed installation of.  Next week I should be able to order the new unit.


And that would allow us to at least occupy the space.  Still no kitchen.  Our cabinetes are still slowly getting built.  We have new stove.  We have a new sink.  Once the cabinets are done then we could actually install them...

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Home Invasion

Ok, maybe I'm being a bit dramatic.  I'm not talking about the ski-mask, gun-toting type of home invaders.  Instead I'm talking about critters.  We have been feeling a bit attacked/overwhelmed lately...

  1. The greenhouse was infested with wood-boring carpenter ants...
  2. Yesterday we caught the 4th bat in the house this year.
  3. The bee hive has returned which is causing some bees to find their way into the house.
We are trying to take it all in stride.  The greenhouse is under control and I have bought boric acid to dust in all the cracks and crevices to try and kill any other colonies. 

We have no idea how the bats are getting the house.  We get guano accumulation on the front porch, but we cant fund any evidence of them roosting in the area.

The bees have been evaluated by a local beekeeper.  We have come up with a plan to get them removed.  I just need to buy a bunch of scaffolding so that the beekeeper can do his work 30-foot up...

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

This greenshouse will be the death of me!

As loyal readers will know, our house has a little 10x10 greenhouse on the second story.  It is positioned over the kitchen addition and has been the focus of our attention recently as we have attempted to address water leaks.  These leaks have been holding up the progress on the kitchen remodel.

A few weeks ago we tackled a tear-off and replacement of the flat roof adjacent to the greenhouse.  That project required tearing off the 2nd story wood sitting deck, 3 layers of rotted roof decking and then rebuilding it all. To our dismay, some of the water leaks continued.  This drove us to take a closer look at the greehouse as the source of the leaks.  What we found is astonishing:

The tools and other junk in this picture are sitting on a built-in planter box.  We had to open it up to try and get a closer look at the back wall. Unfortunately we couldn't get to the problem area so the decision was made to demolish the planter box.

The demo work on this house never ends! The planter box was well built. The copper lining contained the water from the plants and should fetch a pretty penny at the scrapyard.

Extension rot from moisture and carpenter ant infestation!

The rot turned out to be WAY more extensive than anyone guessed.  This knee wall holds up the glass ceiling.  All of the wood... the studs, the double top plate and the bottom plate are completely disintegrated, except for one stud.  The wood just turns to mulch as soon as you touch it. We cant really figure out how this thing didnt collapse. 

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Old-school Rainwater Catchment

Hello readers!
I recently started investigating the cistern on our property.  I believe it to be designed to catch rainwater from the roof gutters.  I have 4" cast-iron pipe sticking up out of the ground in a couple places around the house that obviously used to have round corrugated downspouts going into them. The top of the hole is covered in a 4" thick flat, cut stone.  I stuck a camera down in the hole and took these picks.

Notice the 3 inlets at the bottom of this photo

Brick walls looks to be in decent shape

I have read about people pumping out the water and then climbing in and cleaning them out.  Supposedly you can find all sorts of artifacts in them.... and dead animals... and lots of grime...
Maybe one day I will get around to it  I will send Celia down...
I think it would be neat to clean it out and hook up an old cistern pump like this one.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

UPDATED: Refinishing the coat hook rack.

Now that the side entrance foyer is looking good, I decided it was appropriate to start a new project.  I justified this by telling myself that this wasn't a huge project (ie kitchen remodel, roofing, etc).
I started with this:

I began by using the heat gun to remove the paint.  It appeared to only be 3 layers.  The top layer is the same tan latex as all of the trim in the house.  The bottom layer was shellac.  This is the first piece of wood I have attempted to strip that was originally shellacked instead of painted.  This made the heat gun/stripping process go MUCH faster.  I knew the wood was walnut since the backside is unpainted, but as you can see, it is turning out to be a beautiful piece.
1st pass with the heat gun done in 30 minutes.

After the heat gun, I manually scrapped the surface with my Bahco
 Here is a link to my favorite paint scrapper: Bahco 625 ~$18 @ Amazon

So far, I have only spent about 1.5 hours on this project.
As you can see I have some light colored paint in the pores of the wood.  As a next step, I plan to wipe it down with paint stripper and then lightly sand.  The finish I am planning to use is amber shellac.

What do you guys think?  I am pretty excited to see this thing hanging back up on the wall again.

Saturday May 25th 2013:
Here are a few more "in-progress" pics.  Here is what the board looked like after cleaning it with paint stripper and finish sanding

And this next picture is after two coats of amber shellac.  This was exciting because it was my first time using shellac.  I bought it in flake form from

In total a have applied 4 thin coats of shellac.  I might put one more coat on, but it is basically done.  I now need to turn my attention to the hooks themselves...