27 November 2007

Kitchen Cabinets Bare

I found some more pictures that we took in February of 2006, just after mom and I finished sanding the cupboards, right about the time we started painting. This gives you a good idea of what the backs looked like before.

If you haven't seen what they look like now, check out this post.

Trimwork Question Answered

Recently, di asked...
"Hi again. Just curious: what color stain did you use on your trim, and what
species of wood is it? Thanks!"
Well di, all of the original wood trim and doors in the house are American chestnut. The few places where we had to replicate trim in a room full of chestnut, we used red oak. The floors are white oak with white pine centers.

As for the stain... the simple answer is that nearly every room is different. The long answer is that every room was made to match itself because of the variety of conditions. In some rooms the trim had been painted white, when this was stripped, there was some white paint that simply would not come out of the grain. So, what the guys did was to wipe a stain or dye on, and wipe it right back off. It stuck to the paint, leaving the rest of the wood mostly its original color.

In other rooms, the trim had been painted wild colors like lilac, mint green, and even black. Yes, black. We kept coming up with this black, tarry stuff as we stripped the living room and entry, including on the fluted columns. We might never have known if I hadn't had a surprise visit from some ladies who grew up in the house around 1950-1970. They told me their mother was the first to paint the trim. She loved the mint green wall color she chose to go with the black trim. I can only assume this took place during the 60s. Anyway, these wild colors required a bit more work to get the wood back to a normal color. Different stains and dyes were mixed, and different combinations were used for different rooms. I'm sorry I don't have a more definitive answer.

26 November 2007

House Tour: Upstairs Hall After

And now, today, the upstairs hall looks like this: This is the view toward the front of the house. At the far left we have the staircase to the first floor, the door to the linen closet, the door to the front bedroom straight ahead, and the door to the side bedroom to the right.

No huge changes here, just repaired plaster walls, a new plaster ceiling, the carpet is gone, the wood floor is refinished, and all the trimwork has been stripped. You may notice there is a transom above the door to the side bedroom. I do have the window that goes there, but I need to purchase the hardware to make it operable before I can reinstall it. Right now the space is filled with cardboard (classy, I know). This is only temporary, and was put into place to keep that room cool this summer, because we only have window units right now.

Speaking of keeping things cool in the summer, we have installed a lovely whole-house fan. I love this thing. I do wish it weren't plastic, but what can you do? I'm told this model is special because of the way it is made, none of the joists had to be cut, the center of the fan rests on one and the fan takes up the space between two joists. Anyway, I'm so glad we put this in because it really helps keep the house cool most warm days. It is only during the most sweltering part of the summer that we resort to the air conditioners.
From this angle you can see the staircase to the first floor at the far right, the chimney stack, then the bathroom door (yeah, the jamb still needs some work), and straight ahead is the door to the back bedroom.

In order to enlarge the bathroom a bit, we bumped the bathroom doorway out into the hall a bit and changed the door so it swings inward. This looks totally natural because it is now flush with the chimney stack. Before there was this unnecessary inset for the bathroom door.

It should be noted, however, that moving this wall 18" required a visit from a building inspector, and he is the reason for the new structural support beam in the kitchen. Which he suggested should have always been there. I was all too happy to have that beam put into place, I didn't want to always wonder when the bathroom was going to come crashing down into the kitchen!

House Tour: Upstairs Hall Before

In September of 2003...
This is the upstairs hall, looking toward the front of the house, door to the front bedroom straight ahead, door to the side bedroom on the right, door to the linen closet on the left, and just next to that is the staircase to the first floor.
This is a good view of bad plaster patching. Don't worry, that's all fixed now. The open door on the left is to the back bedroom, and the open door on the right is to the bathroom. We made some major modifications to this area to enlarge the bathroom, but nothing you would notice today if I didn't point it out. Which I will do. So keep this spot in mind when we get to the back bedroom and the upstairs bathroom.

25 November 2007

Newel Post

While I am on the subject of staircases, I have been curious about what treasure may be hiding in the depths of my newel post. Well, more than curious, ever since I read this post by Kristin at 1902 Victorian, who was disappointed when she didn't find the much hoped for old house documents.
Unfortunately, I didn't learn about this until after all the woodwork was refinished, and now I am afraid to mess with it. If I broke the cap while prying it off, I'm pretty sure we couldn't replicate it. I know we have saved nearly every scrap of chestnut wood, but I don't think we have anything that thick.On the other hand, there could be something very valuable in there. No, I don't expect to find money, but blueprints would be terrific.

So the question is: should I pry the top off the newel post? I might get lucky, but the odds are against it. If I don't, I'll never know. Maybe I could get at it from the basement ceiling?

What would you do? Has anybody done this with success?

House Tour: Staricase After

And now, in the fall of 2007...
All the paint has been stripped from the wood work, the plaster ceilings have all been repaired or replaced, that wallpaper border is long gone, as is the carpet from the floors and the stairs.
Funny story about the stairs. When it came time to strip the baseboard trim on the staircase, they couldn't get to all of it without taking the carpet out. Now, I wasn't in love with the carpet, but until this point I hadn't really thought about pulling it out. I mean, it was in okay condition, it wasn't quality to begin with, but still... When it was all said and done, all the carpet in the house was torn out. It made a good drop cloth to protect the lovely original wood floors hiding beneath.

So, back to the carpeted staircase. We started pulling the carpet off at the top, worked down to the landing, so far so good. Okay, this was going pretty easily and quickly. A bit of grotty padding, lots of staples. Down each step, closer to the bottom. I'm laughing, loving how great the treads look. I should have known better than to rejoice until the job is done. So naive.

It is all going great until we get to the bottom step. Oh, you aren't going to be live this. Wait, yes you will. You housebloggers know what horrible things previous owners can do to a house. You see, the first riser, first tread, and second riser were covered with more than just carpet and padding. Someone had tried to put sheet vinyl on the stairs. Yup. Sheet vinyl. And not just any sheet vinyl, it was that fake parquet-looking stuff. You know it. You've seen it. Oh I wish I had taken pictures. Why didn't I? Well, it is still vivid in my memory, almost three years later.

It took me four days, my favourite putty knife, some whining and crying, and many bottles of dollar store nail polish remover. Why nail polish remover? Because the acetone cuts through the adhesive pretty well. Just saturated cheap paper towels, laid them over the gunky steps, sealed it with dollar store cling film, let it soak for a few hours, went back and scraped till my arms were sore. Repeat.

That bottom stair tread is still darker than the rest. And of course it couldn't be flipped because it is the only one that has the curve. Figures, right?

You can see a close up of that particular stair here. Just look under the puppy.

24 November 2007

House Tour: Staricase Before

In September 2003... Bland carpet, painted balusters, painted woodwork...
The view from the upstairs hall, showing the landing and its window. Nice curtains, huh? Gotta love that skinny wallpaper border, too. Really. The crooked, aged plaster ceiling is where you want to draw the eye, right?

23 November 2007

House Tour: Downstairs Bathroom After

This is the downstairs bath, adjacent to Oliver's room. Now part of Oliver's suite. I believe this room (as well as Oliver's room) used to be part of the back porch. While two windows are definitely original to the house, and look like they have been in the same place since 1930, I'm not sure why they would have been on the porch.

Oliver spends hot days laying in the shower. Sometimes I run the cold water for a few seconds before I leave in the morning. The large shower head continues to drip water (not from a leak, just pressure) for a while, and I have seen Oli chase the drops, trying to bite them. So, fun and cool.

The shower pan, sink, toilet, and all faucets are from American Standard.

I love the taller toilet. I belive American Standard calls it right-height. They are between 17 and 18" tall. I think most "standard" toilets are between 12 and 14" tall. Trust me, those extra couple of inches in height make a big difference. I realize this might be a strange thing to talk about in some circles, but I want to let any housblogger out there know: if you are replacing your toilet, and going with something brand new, give the taller toilet a try. I'm not a tall person (5'4"), but many in my family are a bit on the tall side. My fibromyalgia causes pain in my hips, and I seriously appreciate not having to crouch so much. Okay, that's enough about toilet preferences.

The counter and the shower walls are Swanstone. The cabinets are from KraftMaid. The floor is cork.

Oliver likes the cork floors because they do help to insulate a bit better. It can get very chilly in this bathroom during the winter since it is over an uninsulated part of the basement.

I'm very pleased with this bathroom. We had it completed before we gutted the upstairs bathroom, so we would have a place to bathe and other necessities. I know it isn't very old looking, and I never intended it to be. We are fairly certain this bathroom was not part of the original floorplan, so it didn't have to look original. Instead, we tried to keep with the overall feel of the house. Quality cabinets, fixtures, faucets. High ceilings, and original woodwork.

House Tour: Downstairs Bathroom Before

The downstairs bathroom in September 2003... I was very glad to have a second bathroom in the house at all. And it served its purpose. But when we realized we were going to have to tear out the whole bathroom upstairs, I decided we needed to have a place to shower during the renovation of the upstairs bathroom.

This teeny-weenie sink and toilet would go, and they would be reversed in position before it was all said and done. This was the only way we could fit a sink, toilet and shower into this tiny space. Plus, it kept all the hot water lines along an interior wall.
Also, I'll never understand why they would have gone out and purchased a cheap, hollow-core door for this room when there were two five-panel doors, original to the house, in perfect condition, stashed away in the attic. Duh.

This disgusting little pantry closet (part of the back hall) would become the spot for the shower. I really can't believe they kept food there. It had no ceiling. It was just open at the top. Open to anything that might be living in those two feet above the drop ceiling. Ew.

House Tour: Oliver's Room After

Oliver welcomes you to see his room. Some doggies have a crate, some doggies get full run of the house. We have found this to be a happy medium. He has limited room to get into trouble. Oli gets to stretch his legs, look out the window, and from the gate he can see straight through the house to the sidelight next to the front door.
This is Oliver's gate from the kitchen to his room. The door right behind him leads to the back yard (after you go down some scary concrete stairs).
Oli can look out over his back yard from this vantage point...

This area used to be the back hall, but we took out the wall dividing it from the back porch room. It was not a load-bearing wall, and it opened up the space. Now you can do figure 8s around the downstairs. Which does happen sometimes, if I am chasing Oli when he has stolen something. He thinks it is great fun, I think it makes it hard to corner him.

We had to replace about four feet of floor boards in the back hall. They are not a perfect color match to the rest of the back porch room, but they are mellowing with age, and after only two years it isn't nearly as obvious as it was when the floors were first refinished.

We removed all the paneling: 1950s and 1970s. We took out the drop ceilings and gained 18-24" of height. And we added three spots of recessed lighting to this room. Mom had Jeff, our fabulous electrician, put nearly every light in the house on dimmer switches. A bit overboard, but often appreciated. ... or get a better view by perching himself a little higher while sitting on his chair.

You can see the radiator in the picture above, sporting its shiny new paint job.

All the trim work in this room is new pine. We tried to replicate the original profile as closely as possible. I can see the difference, but I doubt most people notice. We did not put new and old side by side anywhere in the house for this reason.

The tiny, non-opening trailer window was happily replaced with a beautiful set of new exterior French doors. They are wood with the exterior clad in metal. No, they are not true divided lites, they are double pane thermal, and they don't let a peep of cold air in during the winter. Right now they don't go anywhere, but someday I would like to put a porch on the back. Not a deck. A porch.
Now this space is light, bright, pretty, and gets great air-flow in the summer. Oli approves.

House Tour: Oliver's Room Before

In September 2003...
The view from the kitchen to the back hall. The open back door leads to the back yard.

This is the back hall, a tiny space with a big radiator, 70s paneling, vinyl flooring, and drop ceilings.

I suspect the wire hanging above the radiator was a place to dry clothes.
The back hall is adjacent to this room, which we called the back porch room for the two years before Oliver arrived.

The back porch room suffered many afflictions: 1950s paneling, no lighting, an ugly ceiling fan, no heat, another "trailer window" which did not open, a lowered ceiling covered in tiles. Remember my previous owner's affection for wall shelves?
However, this room did have some snazzy built-ins. Monsterously heavy drawers, built out of plywood and paneling, sometime in the 1950s. These had to go, but we kept the drawers, built new frames for them, put them on heavy-duty gliders, and they now house tools, painting supplies, etc. in the basement.
Take a close look at the floor in the photo above. That is a change in the flooring. On the left is the portion that used to be part of the dining room, then there was a transition strip of duct tape, then the original porch floor. They just had a piece of carpet loose over this floor- no padding.
The lovely French doors, painted white, that lead to the dining room.

I certainly wouldn't have wanted to use this room as my bedroom: no heat, no ventilation, no natrual light, no privacy. Nice, huh?

21 November 2007

Kitchen details- the cabinets

When I ordered cabinets for the bathroom, the generous salesman at Just Cabinets gave me several boxes of knobs. They were the basic brushed silver knobs that come with all KraftMaid cabinets, and they send them to the store even if the customer ordered something else. So they were just extras to them, but I estimated they saved me at least $50. The best part is that I would have been my top choice anyway.
I decided I really wanted handles on the drawers, even though they were a steep $8 each. I saw them in the store and I just knew they would be perfect. I looked everywhere for a cheaper substitute, but eventually sucked it up and ordered them= $68. The drawers are heavy, constructed of plywood with a front of some other wood. They also have no glides of any kind, so pulling them open with just a knob would have been cumbersome.

Oh, and did I mention that mom and I repainted the cabinets? Yup. And it only took us about six months.
We took all the cabinet doors off, sanded them, and set them aside. Then we attacked the cabinet frames. These cabinets were such a hodge podge. More than I had ever realized. The backs were that 70s paneling, which, by the way, paints beautifully. The doors were made at two different times. Some had rounded corners, and appeared to be made of maple. Possibly. Other doors had square cut doors, and who knows what they were made of. The shelves were quite diverse. Some cheap, warped, rough pine. Some scrap chestnut. Some particle board. The particle board was the best- very thirsty. Oh, and all of it had been covered by a hideous black and red print contact paper. It covered every surface on the interior. Every corner was crisp. We joked that it had been professionally installed, it was that thorough.

Mom and I stood and sat in every concieveable contorted position to sand, clean, then prime and paint these cabinets. I even stood on the counter. And got stuck. I'm not so good with heights, but I was fine while working. It was just when I would try to get back down that I would freeze. Then someone would have to come help me down. All three feet off the ground. How sad is that?

Our "professional" painter (the only person we ever fired) told us that we would need to sand the 70s paneling that formed the back of the cabinets. Well, we tested it: sanded and unsanded, and it didn't seem to matter. We opted for not going for the extra sanding, and it has been fine.
We used Kilz2 as our primer, followed by 2 to 3 coats of oil paint from Sherwin Williams. Yeah, yeah, I know. Oil paint bad. But I seriously don't think latex would hold up on such heavily used surfaces like a kitchen. We used foam rollers to apply the oil paint. It is possibly the nicest paint job in the whole house.

In all, I'm pleased with how they turned out, but I would have gladly torn them all out and replaced them, had our budget allowed. I'm also quite confident with the hand sanders now, too.

Kitchen details

Well, we replaced the trailer window with a nice boxy garden window. I love it. In the winter it is full of houseplants. They really thrive there. And now I get tons of natural light in the kitchen, and great ventilation.

I have six spots of recessed lighting in the ceiling, one pretty fixture over the sink, and small halogen spots under the cabinets. I kind of wish I had known more about LED lighting when we were choosing lighting. I have halogen or incandescent everywhere, absolutely no fluorescent. I realize that fluorescent is far more energy efficient, and I am all for that, but fluorescent lighting is a migraine trigger for me. So it was strictly forbidden.
When we tore the laminate off the walls we found several layers of wall covering. I'm not sure I even remember all of them, I think I've blocked it from my memory. My favourite was the genuine linoleum wall covering. I wish I had taken a picture, but later I recognized it in Jane Powell's book Linoleum. It was pink, made to look like square tiles, and it had neat shiny gold flecks. Not that I'd want a whole kitchen like that.

When we got down to the plaster, we realized it was pretty beat. It wasn't falling away from the lath, but it was just in bad shape. So, we decided to cover it with new beadboard. I don't know if this kitchen ever had beadboard walls, but I don't care. I like it, and I think it looks appropriate for a 1930 bungalow.

I've always loved beadboard. White bead board walls. But that wouldn't look right with the white cabinets. And I didn't want to commit the cabinets to a color I would grow tired of. I wanted a green kitchen. Depression green. Grandma's kitchen green. But I knew I didn't want green cabinets. So, I thought maybe we’d paint or do a green stain on the beadboard walls, something that will show the grain. Nobody else liked the idea. Well, I let the guys talk me out of it. I'm glad they did, I'm pretty pleased with the way it turned out, and I'm not married to any one color.
I've got a nice piece of crown to top the beadboard, and a plate rail runs the length of the kitchen. I decided I wanted to have the crown at the same level as the crown piece on the doorways would be. Nearly all the wood trim in the kitchen had to be replicated, the original, if it was ever there in the first place, was long gone. We used all pine for the kitchen, and it was stained much more red than the rest of the house. I like the more red tone to the wood.
The grey counter was chosen and ordered when I thought I was painting the beadboard walls green. I think it would look better now if I had chosen a green. Maybe someday. It is only laminate. I really wanted soapstone, but it just wasn't in the budget.

My stepmother, Kathy, kindly thought of me when her own daughter was moving out of an apartment where she had her own practically new (one year) appliances to an apartment that already had them. And while almond wasn't my first color choice, I'm so grateful to have them: they are far more energy efficient than the stuff left behind by the previous owners, plus they were free.

20 November 2007

House Tour: Kitchen After

I took these pictures early one Saturday morning, before I got the kitchen really messy again with cooking for a crowd.

We did so much to this kitchen, I hardly know where to start.

I'll just do a quick run down, details to follow.


garden window
beadboard walls
crown molding and plate rail
structural support beam
lighting, general and task
door and window trim
knobs, pulls, hinges
sink and faucet
range hood

Nearly New:

fridge (one year)
stove (three years)


wood floor

House Tour: Kitchen Under Construction

Kitchen in progress...
The new garden window; a view from outside.
Evidence of a window to the back porch. Vinyl floor torn out, ceiling tiles gone.
The plethora of wall surfaces we encountered. Notice the pink peeking out before the last couple of runs of beadboard were installed? That was sparkly linoleum.
Newly covered with beadboard.
The loss of lower cabinets for the sake of a dishwasher- well worth it. And the loss of upper cabinets because of a necessary new structural support beam- not really missed.
New blueboard with plaster skim-coat. New structural support beam. New recessed lighting. New crown molding and plate rail.
Another upper cabinet gone. Not a loss, really. It was impossible to reach without a ladder, an awkward size, and it made an already tight spot even more claustrophobic. (The cabinet was above the doorway to the entry- the one on the left. The doorway on the right is to the dining room.
The never ending tower of drawers waiting to be sanded, primed, and painted.
More to come...