The Office

1:53 PM
Very much unlike the weekly British-turned-American phenomenon -- this is OUR office. Or, rather, it will be when it is finished. The office is directly above our bedroom and bathroom. It is wee. So wee, that we forget about working on it. Also, it's quite cold this time of year.

Last fall/winter (2010), we were replacing floor boards that were too far gone to repair. Since our entryway and stair situation is far too victorian (read: precarious and narrow) for materials-schlepping, we decided to take the custom-run doug fir floorboards outside and load them in through the office window. The window, I might mention, was already in pretty poor shape .. Well, with D below, I was in charge of "catching" the boards and guiding them into the office and across the staircase into the adjacent bedroom. Long-story-short: I hit the window with one of the boards and broke the frame. Like I mentioned: It was fairly rotten to begin with, so it didn't take much to futz it all up. The window had to come out, or the damage would have been exacerbated. So, up went the plastic. (for a year or so, but that's neither here nor there...) The story has a happy ending. You see, the abatron miracle wasn't exclusive to the porch! It took some fine-tuned sanding on the mister's part (Because I already ruined it once.) but he managed to make it look as if it had never happened! Again: Dug out rot, treated the material with the two-part wood hardener, filled chasms low spots with the wood putty and VOILA! WINDOW! He matched the decorative profile perfectly with the assistance of sandpaper, and various dremel attachments. Yay! Crises (yes, plural) averted!

Before "the incident" (also, before all the nasty paint was stripped from the GORGEOUS 120 year old floorboards)
(SOME) Paint stripped. Now to sand this weird stain up... it's red... and deep.

Beadboard. And plumbing.

When we were stripping wallpaper, we (I) noticed the ceiling was weak, and consequently knocked several holes in the plaster. Why? Because fire.

knob and tube. oy veh...

Weak spots in the office closet were identified when we (D) pulled down the boards installed to hold up the shelves. Those'll need to be fixed.

In case you ever had plaster come away from the lath... this is how you fix it. PLASTER WASHERS! They're cup-shaped washers that you screw to the wall. They flatten as you attach the plaster back to the lath. Finding the lath isn't as easy .. but once you do, it's cake.

Like I said .. As soon as you find the lath ..


How do I even...


This is one of those "learn-as-you-go" things, isn't it?

Filled some holes in the bedroom while we were at it...

...And in the chimney column

What is this? I hate these!

Office ceiling: Before
Please note the hole(s) I punched in my quest for total paper removal.

Office ceiling: After

More closet interior

Washers in action!

More garbage! I'm pretty sure we've said (on multiple occasions): WHY DO PEOPLE DO THESE THINGS. DON'T THEY KNOW IT'S JUST MORE WORK FOR US?!

Holy walls...

Digging out ALL the loose plaster.

And THEN some..

Office ceiling: during (poor floors)


And THEN SOME MORE. (for good measure)

Please forgive the quality of some of these photos. I was browsing the photo memory card from my old phone and discovered these gems. As always, there's still plenty to do upstairs. But this is a great reminder of how far we've come. Like in building a chicken coop, there's so many hurdles to overcome. Like not knowing what the hell we're doing. And day jobs. Mostly the latter, because we can learn how to do this stuff. But it's harder to find the time when we spend most of our waking hours doing stupid stuff .. lke teaching kids how to read. (kidding!)

What's left to do upstairs? As I understand it, top priority is skimming the plaster to smooth the surface. If you look closely, you can see the lath-lines in some of the photos. If you are in any of the rooms in our house, you probably won't need to look closely to notice. We had a wonderful plasterman come out to the house and give us a tutorial. I don't think plasterman is his official job description. But his name is Kim, and he does plaster. He loves to see homeowners doing their own stuff. Especially when the "stuff" is THIS kinda stuff.

Heaven help the next person who says "PLASTER?! Whatcha gotta do is tear all that out and put up sheetrock..."


Flashback Friday: The dining room

1:57 PM
I feel like I've neglected to truly chronicle the evolution of the house. I haven't done the transformation justice. I want to show everyone (ourselves included!) just how far we've come.

Today, I'd like to take a trip down memory lane. Back to a time when the dining room was carpeted, and there was a Vino scooter living in it. Walk with me:

This is a view from the living room into the dining room. There was an awning over the patio, which was promptly ripped off. As was the cabinetry built over the original (GORGEOUS) woodwork, which you'll see in a minute...

Into the kitchen. This is before we stripped off all the wallpaper and carpet. The wall you can see in the foregrount on the left was added to close off a sweet little alcove and make it into a bathroom. It wasn't properly vented. The fan fed right into the dining room. Good job, guys...

It's free! Free of carpet and ridiculous, shoddily-built cabinets! Oh, wait... There's asbestos linoleum under there. Attached to the floor with TAR PAPER!

And they've painted the floor. Oy veh..

Good thing the tar paper comes off with water. Unfortunately, it wasn't until MOST of the work had been done that this was discovered.

Stripping isn't always as sexy as one might think.

Oops. There's a hole in the wall.

The bathroom wall is no more. It presently houses bikes and tools. It will not be a full-sized bathroom when we're finished. The wall will be built flush with the existing wall (the previous owners bumped it out, so it protruded into the dining room, making it...dumb.) and it will be our powder room. It will be properly vented so none of our dinner guests will have to tolerate any aromas not immediately relating to their predigested meal.

There's still much to do, but looking back reminds us of how far we've come... especially when we walk out and sigh because it smells like wood stain and there's a chicken coop living in the living room instead of us.

If you scroll up and look at the wall adjacent to the kitchen, you'll see another major hurdle we have yet to overcome. We're moving that wall, you see. Beyond that wall lies our closet. A little closet may have suited the wee victorians, but at 6'1" and 5'10" respectively, it does not suit us. It's nestled under the (steep) stairs, and isn't terribly modern or practical. We need to move the heat register and the wall, cutting into the dining room a bit. Perhaps about 5'... but those five feet will make all the difference in the world at 6 AM when we're rooting around for SOMETHING TO WEAR!

Enjoy your weekend!


The sill from hell ..

1:55 PM
The windowsill. Oy, this sill... We put this off so long because it was so intimidating. Looking at what we had to work with, who WOULDN'T be terrified?

So much of this wood was completely rotten. We spent a great deal of time scraping out the soft, dead wood, not knowing when it would end. It seemed a little hopeless, except we had a secret weapon. Until we discovered this product, we were both fairly certain we would have to pull out the sill and rebuild. To the owner of any old house, this is not ideal. (the owners of new homes are sitting back asking, "what's the problem?") We don't want things looking new. Our house is rounding 120 years. A new sill will stand out as bad as a salvaged one would on your brand new house in that cookie-cutter development. It wouldn't look right.

The product we discovered (On a trip to Portland, no less) is called Woodepox, made by a company called Abatron. Think Bondo, but for wood. We looked high and low for wood fillers, but generally found that they require the user to apply the product in 1/4" layers, and build up to the desired thickness. This didn't work for us for a number of reasons.

a: this is dumb, I don't have time for this.
2: I don't believe this will be strong enough. It's made by elmer's glue...
d: see point A.

(note the Home Alone reference, please)

Anyhow, we discovered Abatron's product and were thrilled .. except, when we tried to find it in town, things weren't looking hopeful. Until, lo and behold, IT WAS DISCOVERED AT THE PAINT STORE WE ALWAYS USE! (less than a mile from the house. Go figure.)

This stuff is pricey, but oh-so-worth it. Way less than the cost of replacing the window sill.
I'm not getting paid for my enthusiastic endorsement (not that I would complain if I was). This stuff is perfect for this type of job. It was truly heralded as a miracle. I can't recommend this product enough... It breathes with the wood, expanding and contracting, so you won't experience the issues you would if you used an inferior product. Well worth every penny.

The kit comes with a two-part wood hardener. Mix these together and saturate your soft wood (immediately) and apply just before you apply the wood filler. The wood filler also comes separately. (I'm assuming this is why it's called woodEPOX?) Blend the putty together in equal parts. Unlike most products, the thicker this is applied, the faster it dries. It generates heat, and for whatever reason, dries faster.

Check out the finished product in a sweet (low-quality) side-by-side comparison!

The pits we dug out were deep and soft (that's what she said), and were INCREDIBLY intimidating. It was a huge task that took a LONG time. Longer than expected, but that's almost always the case.

More photos:

You can see me loafing about in the reflection here. Also, corn!

This was an accomplishment of immense proportion. As evidenced by the pride you can see radiating here:

While we were at it, we decided to strip the asbestos off the north side of the house... (YES, MOM, we wore masks and disposed of it properly)Uncovering ANOTHER project: The exterior window trim. Sometime in the past (presumably the day they installed the asbestos siding?), the decorative trim was ripped off. Thankfully, they left the silhouette behind in the paint, so we at least have a jumping-off point.

Until next time...xoxo