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Preview: The Petch House

The Petch House



The story of life behind The Redwood Curtain restoring an 1895 Victorian Home.



Updated: 2017-11-16T07:40:49.672-08:00

 



Simpsonesque

2015-04-23T18:19:53.505-07:00

I've had it with this old Victorian crap. I decided to go with a pop-culture motif with the downstairs heat registers. I was amazed that I was able to find Lisa Simpson heat registers that had a patent date of 1894. Perhaps that's a typo. Maybe these are really 1994 heat registers.

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I installed five registers and the cold air return. I also had five register boots fabricated and so those are installed, as well.

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The worst by far was the one in the bathroom. I had to cut through the encaustic tile, cement board, and the subfloor. The encaustic tile is incredibly hard and dense. Even with a diamond blade it did not cut easily.

What made matters worse was that all of the registers are installed close to exterior walls, so you are working in the crawl space near the skirting. This area is kind of like the estuary of the underside of the house. For the most part, the crawl space is a barren, lifeless wasteland of fine, powdery dirt. Near the edges there is filtered light and some moisture, so life encroaches in the form of stringy vines barely clinging to life and spiders. Lots and lots of spiders. Not the most pleasant place to work while lying on your back.

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Finding a good spot for the cold air return was a real challenge. I didn't want it to be in a spot where people would have to walk over or around it. I also didn't want it to be someplace where it would occupy floor space that was a logical place for a piece of furniture.

This spot met both of those criteria, but from a functional standpoint, it is not in the best spot. It is too far to the front of the house. When discussing the location with the heating contractor it was decided that if this causes problems, a secondary, smaller return can be put towards the back of the house.

As far as I'm concerned, the worst is over. Cutting holes in floors is always nerve wracking. You only get one shot. I'm not sure when the furnace will get installed.

PS: For some reason I'm not getting email notifications about comments, so there were a few recent ones that just got posted today. That is, all of them with the exception of the one from AHMD who is begging me to seek refuge in Allah from the accursed Satan O mankind. I'll spare you the rest of his diatribe against non-believers.




And Greg said,

2012-10-27T12:34:33.024-07:00

 
Let there be heat: and there was heat.  And Greg felt the heat, that it was good: and Greg divided the heated, upstairs part of the house from the coldness.

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By the seventh week Greg had finished the work of cleaning out the attic, insulating, and installing the heating system; so on the seventh week he rested from all his work and watched football.

After rest and football, Greg will complete the downstairs heating project.




In Retrospect

2012-10-14T10:10:52.860-07:00

Where once there were pocket doors....

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Where once there was a grand opening....

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Next up, heating. Insulation was put in the attic this week. New heating system goes in next week.




What does it taste like?

2012-09-03T22:27:54.648-07:00

What does a finished room taste like? I'm not sure, but I'm so close to being finished with the front rooms I can almost taste it. I can say that the big front stained glass window is done. That tastes kind of like a mix between paint and glazing putty. Not that good.

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Megan the intern was here on Monday and did the glazing. She really did a good job. There are a lot of tight, tedious little angles to work with, but all of her lines are sharp and crisp. I was going to bring in a local glass company to it, because I just didn't feel I could do it to the level that it needed to be done. Megan nailed it. Two days before she helped to get the new glass in and then we both scraped out all of the old glazing putty.

Considering that I am nearly finished with the rooms and that Megan will be  leaving for Louisiana soon, there is a very good chance she will not be working with me any more {sniff}. I must say that she really does excellent work. Her attention to detail is only matched by her enthusiasm for the work. If I were in the business I would hire her in a second.

If you are in the business and you are looking for someone who knows restoration, hire Megan Carver for your next job. You will not be dissapointed.

I waited until Saturday for the glazing putty to cure before I painted, and then on Sunday I did a little scraping and cleaned the glass. I then cleaned the inside and scraped off some paint residue. The difference in the colors is night and day. Between the dirt, grime, and over-spraying of paint I have never really experienced this window as it was meant to be seen.

Aside from the window, I have spent the past two weeks doing a few big jobs and a lot of little jobs. The end of a project always has dozens of little things that are not worth blogging about, but still need to be done.

The big jobs were sanding the floors and installing shoe molding. Both are back breaking jobs. Once again, I said I would call in a professional for the floors, and once again I did them myself. Oh, when will I learn.

At this point the rooms are all but finished, sans furniture and decorating. The one thing that is not done are the drapes. I shopped several times over the past few months, both on-line and at local stores. I had sort of narrowed down the choice, and then when I went purchase this week I found that the store did not carry the 95-inch in stock. So they are on order, and should be here this week. As soon as the drapes are up, pictures will be forthcoming.

Finally, today I started the difficult and expensive job of buying furniture and thinking about decorative elements. I must adhere to my strict no-doilie, no-lace policy. In fact, nothing that screams nineteenth century will be considered.




Sigh of Relief!

2012-08-25T18:26:43.382-07:00

Ten years in the making and the project is almost over. It was more than ten years ago when I bought the replacement glass for the big front window with the bullet hole in it and we finally got it in today! I was very nervous. This was a $350 piece of red colored glass being installed in an 1895 stained glass window.

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So many things could have gone wrong, not the least of which was breaking the glass. It was a tight fit, so we did have to shave a little wood off to get it to fit in, but in the end it looks great. The wooden circle that holds the glass is made up of 4 pieces of wood, with each making up 90 degrees of the circle. Since the glass was out, I took the opportunity to squeeze some glue in to the joints.

Other fears were that I would find some rot in the muntins or frame of the window. It is surprisingly solid considering it was installed more than 115 years ago and faces east. Even so, I took the opportunity to drive in some nails and brads.

Megan came by to help get the glass in and to do the glazing. My past attempts at glazing have been barely passable and this is far too prominent a window to leave it for me to do. Megan has been restoring windows in a monster Victorian 6 blocks from here for the past two months, so it was an easy decision to let her do it. Not only that, I think she would have been mad at me had I not let her do it!

Only in Eureka will you be wearing a hoody and vest at the end of August!
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I feel like an expectant father as I watch her put on the glazing putty (Steady, steady. Careful now)
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After the big circle was safely in place and glazed we dug out all of the old glazing putty. It is my personal policy that I replace glazing putty every 117 years whether it needs it or not. In this case, it needed it in a big way. The old putty was almost effortless to get out.

Another thing we noticed when working on the window was that every piece of glass had a heavy mist of green paint on it. The idiots who painted the house 15 years ago over-sprayed on to the window. After Megan left I got back up there and cleaned each pane with paint stripper and steel wool. Most of the pieces are too heavily textured to just scrape with a utility knife blade. After the glazing has set, I will scrape minor paint residue off the interior side. It's going to be like a whole new window.

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Tomorrow I'm going to go back up and scrape and sand the wood, and then primer the whole thing. Megan is going to come back on Tuesday and glaze all of the little pieces of glass, and then I'll repaint next weekend. It is going to be such a relief to have this done. It is so nice to know the window is strong, the wood is solid, and every thing is securely in place. It will be good to go for another hundred years.

And no more bullet hole!




Bullet Hole Begone

2012-08-19T19:40:12.685-07:00

New from Ronco it's Bullet Hole Begone! This is a new, must-have product for any Crack House owner. Just spray it on and the bullet holes are gone! It's just that simple! Oh, if only it were that simple. The time came for me today to remove the large piece of colored glass with the bullet hole in it. The glass was installed in 1895 and hasn't moved since. The bullet hole was from a drug deal gone bad, sometime in the 1990s. Getting the glass out was a bit of a nail biter. As always, when doing something like this, my mantra is, 'Above all else, do no harm'. It was also more than a one person job, so fortunately Megan was here to add in her two capable hands. She may come back and re-glaze all 41 pieces of glass in the window once the new piece is in place. For the past few months she has been working at a monster Victorian six blocks away restoring all of the windows. This is another one of those projects which has been playing out in slow motion over the past decade. One of the first things I did when I bought the house was to buy a 32-inch square piece of red glass from Kokomo Glass to fix the window. Most glass makers only make glass in 24-inch widths, but Kokomo makes it in 32-inch widths. The problem was, there are no Kokomo distributers in the area, and shipping a single piece of glass would be crazy expensive. I found a distributer in the Bay Area who worked with Kokomo and had them order it with the normal shipment. I then had to make the twelve hour round trip to get it. All told, it cost nearly $350 for the glass. One thing lead to another, and I never did anything with it. It has been up in the attic for nearly ten years. Well, I'm doing the parlors, so I've got to fix the glass. Unfortunately I could not find red flash glass in a large enough size, so I'm putting in red cathedral glass. I think one of the reasons I never put this in was because I always hoped I would find a manufacturer of red flash glass. Flash glass is essentially normal plate glass like you would put in a window, but it has the color flashed on to the surface. This is opposed to colored glass which has the same color all the way through.  The glass shop owner in Arcata where I've gotten my other colored glass says he can get red plate glass in the size I need from a manufacturer in Germany. It would cost around $900 to get it. I'm hard-core, but I have my limits. That shop owner will be cutting the new circle for me this week, and hopefully I can get it installed next weekend.  I won't rest easy until it is installed and glazed. Note the classy piece of plywood. This is a piece of the same plywood they used to cover the failing plaster in the foyer. I have used and reused that plywood on soooo many projects over the years. If I ever do another house and it doesn't come with quarter inch plywood on the interior walls, I think I might just go buy a couple of sheets. It is very handy to have around. [...]



Justified

2012-08-15T18:25:27.443-07:00

I've fallen into Window Treatment hell. For me this is one of the nine rings of room restoration hell. I know choosing paint colors is one of the rings, and plaster work is in there, too. I can't really say what the others are, but I'm sure there are nine of them for old room restoration, if not more.

Google 'window treatments' and you get an eye full of styles and choices to choose from. My big issue with most of them is that they cover the millwork which surrounds the window. I guess in many homes this is not an issue. I mean, a lot of the times the millwork around the window can hardly even be called 'millwork'. In many modern homes it probably isn't even wood!

In my home the millwork deserves to be seen. At least I think so. Sure it looks nice with the 1X6' fluted casing and the complex head blocks which extend above the top casing. That's not really even the point for me. For me it is all of the effort that went in to stripping the paint and reproducing the head blocks. On one window, even the casing had to be re-milled and replaced. 

And now I'm supposed to cover it all up with window treatments!?!?!

I think not.

So, I've been flipping through pages of images of window treatments on Google trying to justify making the same choice on window treatments which I made in the dinning room. No such luck. In the dining room I had the drapes start at the inside edge of the casing.

What's odd, though, is that the more I look at the images on Google, the more I dislike the styles of window treatments which start a foot or two over the window and cover everything. I'm sure if I walked in to someone's home which had that style I wouldn't give it a second thought. But when you really start to look at something closely, the subtleties are exposed which may or may not rub you the wrong way. It's kind of like when you say the same word over and over it can begin to sound like you are saying it wrong. Hmmm, maybe that only works when you're stoned.

Anyway, I can not, with a good conscious, purchase and install window treatments which cover all of my hard work and 117 year old millwork. I can't and I won't. Let the traditionalist cringe and squirm all they want, and if they open their mouths, they will get an earful.

Now I just need to decide on the pattern and color of the drapes. Ugh! I think that is a ring in and of itself.



The home stretch

2012-08-12T20:12:43.240-07:00

Too...tired...to...type. {gasp!} Can't...seem...to...get...off...the...couch....

Must...reach...red...wine...{cough!}

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Next up, floors... Gasp!




Except...

2012-08-05T19:21:24.135-07:00

I started in on the painting first thing this morning. After I painted for a while I did a little more painting. Once I got tired of painting I switched to painting for a break from the monotony of painting. After that I did a little more panting.

I wish I could say that after all of the painting that I was finished with all of the painting, but I can't. Yes, that's right, there is still more painting to do. Everything that is nailed or plastered to the walls is painted, but there is still the picture rail and shoe molding.

I would like to say I finished making the picture rail, but I can't. I ran in to problems, which I won't go into, but I think most were related to fatigue. Yea, the painting. I deciding to just set it aside rather than damage the stock or an appendage.

Since I was not able to finish the picture rail I started in on installing hardware and light fixtures. All of the switch and outlet covers went on nicely, which is not always a given after a fresh plaster job. I got the two chandeliers installed, but then remembered that one of the sockets doesn't work on one of them. Actually the socket works, but the pull chain is missing and the chain is pulled in the off position. It will need to come back down.

I also discovered something very interesting today. Months ago I purchased six matching shades for the chandeliers from House of Antique Hardware. They were delivered in two boxes and at the time I only opened one to inspect. It had three shades and I assumed the other, identical box also contained three. I'm sure you can see where this is going. Today I opened the other box and it only contained two shades and a big wade of cardboard in place of the third. I ordered another shade today. I don't think I have it in me at this point to try and convince them they only shipped five instead of six. Had the shipment just arrived I would, but it has been a few months.

I want to get back in the shop tomorrow and finish the picture rail. If I can do that I'll still be on track to install it next Saturday. I still need to install the window hardware, and if I can do that this week, that means I will be done with everything except floors and window treatments.

You'll notice there was an "except" in that last sentence. There's always an "except". Someday I will write a post without an "except".

Pictures soon. I promise. It's looking pretty damn good.



On and on and on

2012-08-03T07:38:48.041-07:00

The painting is taking forever. I started Monday and worked on it every night this week after work and I still don't have one coat on everything.

Even if I'm able to finish up on Saturday there is still the two plaster medallions and the two plaster corbels. Right now I'm giving them one coat of the trim paint, which the chamomile in semi-gloss. I have never intended to do a High Victorian, multi color paint job, but I would like to highlight some of the flora. I can see that I won't be finished until mid-week next week.

I'm going to try and make the picture rail on Sunday because that needs to get primed and at least one coat of paint on it before I install it. Installation probably won't happen until next weekend.

In the mean time I'm making a serious effort to shop for blinds, drapes, and rugs. It just goes on and on and on. At this point I feel like this will never end.

One good thing is that I'm starting to really like the color. I'm not sure the pictures do the colors justice. If I had to do it over, I would have made the ceiling color a shade darker, but all in all, I really like it. Whew!



Antiquity

2012-07-31T07:31:15.563-07:00

The baseboards are in! All that is left for the millwork is shoe molding, which will go in after the floors are done, and picture rail, which will go in after the painting is done.

The baseboards were not all that fun. I had to replace long runs on two walls and then five short areas around the big opening and pocket doors. The long runs we're eight and twelve feet, and the short runs we're anywhere from two inches to a foot and a half. Each section of baseboard consists of a ten inch high main board and then a highly decorative, two inch high cap.

The top two or three inches of the main boards are comprised of a reeded areas and beaded areas. So of a twelve inch high baseboard, about half of it is decorative millwork. Because I was joining to existing baseboards, I had to do coped joints. It pretty much sucked. 

I won't go in to the details of a coped joints. You can Google it if you're interested. I will say that anyone who says coped joints are easy is either a highly skilled craftsman, only working with relatively flat stock, or doesn't really care that their joints look like crap.  

I read about and used the tricks like cutting a 45 degree miter to expose the profile and rubbing the edge with a pencil to highlight the edge. I clamped the boards to a workbench and used a brand new copping saw. It still isn't easy. My only saving grace was that I am painting the wood, so I could fill my less than perfect joints with caulk and putty.

The real benefit of being finished with the baseboards is that I can finally paint! That's right, I have paint on the walls. I had sort of settled on blue, but it never really sat well with me. For the past week and a half I've had paint chips pinned to the walls in my office at work. It is amazing how little I paid attention on a few long conference calls over the past week or so while I stared at paint chips. 

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In the end I made a hasty, last minute decision and went with Sherwin Williams's Antiquity for the field, Chamomile for the trim, and Lucent something or other (Lucent Technologies? No, that can't be it) for the frieze and ceiling. Anyway, I don't entirely hate it, so that is a good sign.

This type of decision making doesn't always work out for the best. I hastily chose butternut squash for the butler's pantry only to get it on the walls and realize that is the same color used for traffic cones. 




The 99%

2012-07-23T22:09:32.125-07:00

No, it's not that 99%, of which, I am firmly a part of. I'm talking about those aspects of the parlor project which I am 99% finished with.

If you've ever done a project like this, you'll know what I mean when I say it is like a big puzzle. It is rare when you can completely finish something before you move on to the next thing. Sometimes this can be because you just get so sick of doing one thing for so long that you need to take a break and work on something else. Paint stripping comes to mind. Most of the times though, it is because the aspect of the project you are working on requires something else to be completed before you can put on the finishing touch.

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The fireplace is 99% done. All that is left is the wood trim to be installed where the tile hearth meets the floor. That will happen after the floors are refinished, and the floors will be the last major project to be done. The fireplace mantel was refinished, new hearth tile installed, and the cast iron replaced.

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The electrical just needs to have the ceiling fixtures hung and that will be finished. The fixtures themselves were purchased and rewired years ago, along with new wiring, outlets, and switches.

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The plaster walls and medallions are all but done. I need to hang two new corbels, which should be arriving this week, and then paint. The plaster repair went on for a long time and the medallions I purchased years ago. The painting can't be done until I mark and measure for picture rail. Of course, I still need to choose colors.

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The pocket doors are the one thing that I can say are finished. This weekend I got them hung, shellacked and the hardware installed. That needed to happen before I trimmed out the opening. I didn't want to be fooling with big, heavy doors around the newly installed trim.

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The millwork needs the most work. I finished the casing, plinth and head blocks this weekend, but I still need to make and install picture rail. The little window was the last of the casing and head blocks. It had a Murphy bed nailed to it back in the twenties, so the casing was ruined. And of course, the head blocks were sawed off sometime in the eighties. They butchered these rooms over decades. I also need to install a few short runs of baseboard. I picked up the baseboard from the mill last weekend, so I may install it this weekend. I have to do some coped joints to meet existing baseboard and I am not looking forward to it.

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The windows need to have the hardware installed. I have antique sash locks and lifts to put on, which are just for show because the windows don't open. I made the management decision years ago that I would leave all windows for another day. This is another job which can't be done until I paint.

After all of that I have the floors left to do. With every room, I say I'm going to bring in a professional to do the floors. I'm saying that again with this room, and I may just do it.




The jig is up

2012-07-14T18:29:11.333-07:00

I started in on the pocket doors today. Each door needs to come down and have four things done to it before it is rehung. These are not the original pocket doors. Except for the track and a partial piece of hardware to hang a door, the original doors where long gone by the time I got here.

These are period salvage doors I purchased locally. They are redwood, but they were not originally meant to be pocket doors. They were a large pair of French Doors, most likely from some public building. This causes some problems. First they are too thin to have traditional pocket door hardware. Second, they are a little too wide for the space. Third, they were a little too short for the space.

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The size issues were not too difficult to deal with, but the hardware was another issue. I purchased the hardware above from  Charleston Hardware Company. These are really high quality reproductions and you'll notice that they have an edge pull instead of a mortised lockset. This is perfect for my doors because they are too thin for a pocket door locket. The real challenge was routing out holes on the face of the doors to accept the door pulls.

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I started by making a jig to use with the plunge router. On the router there is a half inch wide straight cutting bit and a three quarter inch wide bushing. The bushing is the sliver sleeve around the bit. The bushing rides against the edge of the jig, while the straight bit on the router removes the wood. The words 'Top' and 'Edge' are written on the jig to make sure I don't accidentally install the pulls upside down.

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When looking at the back side of the door pull, you can see that there is almost no room for error. I needed to make the hole big enough so the widest part of the key hole shape of the pull would fit in to the hole, but not so wide that the hole would be visible when the pull is installed. If the hole is too big it will not be hidden by the pull. This is we're the bushing helps.

The router bit is a half inch wide and the bushing is three quarters of an inch. That means that when the bushing rides against the inside edge of the jig, the resulting hole will be narrower in width than the hole on the jig by exactly a quarter inch. 

The widest part of the key hole shape on the pull is inch and three quarters and the width of the narrow part is inch and an eighth. I used a two inch hole saw and an inch and three eights hole saw to make the jig, so the jig would be exactly a quarter inch wider than the key hole shape on the pull. The really odd thing here is that I own exactly three hole saws. One was two inch and another was inch and three eights. What are the odds?

What all of that means is that when I run the router on the inside of the jig it makes a hole that is exactly the size of the key hole shape on the pull because the pushing accounts for the extra quarter inch. It is a thing of beauty.

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I hope to finish up the doors tomorrow and get them rehung. After that I can start to think about picture rail. Of course, I still need to decide on a paint color.




Fireplace B&A

2012-07-12T07:35:43.471-07:00

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Bling!

2012-07-09T18:45:40.321-07:00

The last of the hardware is in the house! The best part about that is that it means I don't need to spend any more money on that sort of thing.

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On Wednesday I will pick up the baseboard from the mill, and with that, everything will be in place except for paint and lumber for picture rail. Of course, I still need to buy window treatments, have the floors refinished, buy rugs and furniture. In other words, the hemorrhaging of cash is far from over.

Ok, so it seems any sort of celebration is premature. Just forget this whole post!




Ready, set, tile!

2012-07-07T17:25:50.864-07:00

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Believe it or not that represents more than four hours of work. I had to do a lot of cutting and went about it meticulously.

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The reason I was so meticulous was because I was afraid of making a mistake and running out of tile. Above is all that is left over. That is it!

During the week this week I spent most every night sanding, puttying, and priming the original millwork. Next I can begin to install the replacement millwork. I need to run to the lumber yard for some flat stock, and I want to get one coat of primer on it before it is installed, so that means that probably won't happen until next weekend.

I still need to deal with the pocket doors, but the hardware didn't come in, so that is on hold. Once the millwork is in and the new hardware is installed on the pocket doors, I can mark for picture rail and then paint!

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Speaking of paint, I saw the image above last week and I'm now leaning in that direction for paint colors in the parlors. I was considering blue. I would need a third color for the frieze and ceiling. My one concern is that it too closely matches the colors in the foyer, a.k.a. "The Pie Hall". The colors in there are Lemon Meringue and Banana Cream.

I am getting really close to needing to make a decision on paint colors.




Book Signing & Documentary

2012-07-05T21:06:58.989-07:00

At one time I had a fantasy about turning the Petch House blog in to a book. I dreamt of it becoming a best seller. I would be interviewed by Charlie Rose and Terry Gross. Then of course, I would sell the movie rights to some big Hollywood so-and-so. In the movie, I would be played by George Clooney, of course.

The point of this dream was not the fame, but the fortune. With all of the money I would make I could hire an army of craftsman and have them work on this damn house!

While this dream never came true for me, it did come true for Ron Tanner. Well, I'm not sure about the level of fame and fortune he is getting, but he did write a book about his and his wife's experience of restoring a spectacular 4,500 square foot Victorian in Baltimore.

In Ron's case, his home was not a crack house like the Petch House, but his was a frat house, which in some cases may have been even worse. I think people smoking crack and shooting heroin have less energy to thrash the house. Not so with those active, rambunctious frat boys. They really did a number on Ron's place.

So what do Ron and his Baltimore Victorian have to do with me and the Petch House? Well, aside from the weird Baltimore connection (I went to Baltimore for vacation this year, my interim was from Baltimore, and now this), Ron is on a book signing tour and will be in Arcata this Saturday at Northtown Books. You can read about the event here.

In addition to that, Ron is filming interviews with other clinically insane individuals who have an unnatural desire to fix up these old places. The interviews will hopefully become part of a documentary he wants to make. On Sunday he will be swinging by the Petch House to interview your's truly. That's right, the Petch House might make it on to the sliver screen even without me writing a book!

Of course, once that happens, the offers will come flying in. Does anyone know how to get ahold of George Clooney's agent? I want to make sure he is free for shooting.

And where is that girl with my latte?!




Bump And Grind

2012-07-01T16:42:38.953-07:00

I think the worst is behind me on the fireplace. I got the new surround installed today and boy was it a lot of work. Both the new one and the original are installed in the same way. On the back of the surround there are four eyelets. Attached to them are four rods which are embedded in the mortar. In order to get the old one out I must remove a lot of brick. This means grinding away at mortar, all the while being very aware of the tile which surrounds the cast iron surround. The one in the dining room was in better shape. This one had a lot of rust in places and started falling apart as I tried to remove it. In the dining room I was able to reuse the four hooks to install the new one. These were too far gone and so I had to make new ones. Below is what the new surround looks like with all of its pieces. Next week I want to install the hearth tile, and with that the fireplace will be finished! And for those of you who are curious, no, I will not be rebuilding the firebox and lining the chimney. There is not enough time or money for that this year. I also started to do some work on the pocket doors. Not only are these doors not original to the house, but they weren't even pocket doors when they were made a hundred or so years ago.  When I got them they were fitted for hinges and had a mortised passageway lockset and bolts, which would be used for a pair of French doors, which is what they were. Because of this, they are too thin for traditional pocket door hardware. So I need to hide the old mortise for the lockset on one door and the mortise for the catch on the other. The plan is to fill the mortises and then cap the entire leading edge of both doors. The second to last picture above is one of two eight foot long peices of trim I made yesterday to cover the edge. I spent a lot of time on the router, so I hope this works and doesn't look like crap. If it works, this will give me a fresh place to mount the new edge pulls, which I've purchased from Charleston Hardware Co.. If it doesn't, then I'm screwed. I'm hoping they come in this week. I will need to make a jig for the router to do the installation, but I can't do that until I have the parts. This week I'm going to concentrate on sanding. Well, maybe 'concentrate' is a poor choice of words. The mindless chore of sanding takes anything but concentration. And finally, I was able to get some of the new head blocks up. I have been wanting to do that for a very, very long time. The parlor project aside, the project of reproducing and replacing the butchered head blocks per-dates the blog. This has been a long time coming. [...]



The Good Mantle of the South

2012-06-30T16:57:39.311-07:00

I've decided to name the parlor mantle, Glinda, The Good Mantle of the South. This is in comparison to her evil twin, the dark mantle in the dining room {shudder}.

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Just look at how she glistens and shines! And all I had to do to get her to look like this was to click my heals together three times and say, There's no shellac I can't strip. There's no shellac I can't strip. There's no shellac I can't strip.




Sanding Tile

2012-06-28T20:59:13.975-07:00

No, wait, that can't be right. 'Sanding tile' doesn't make any sense. What that should be is, 'I got sick of sanding, so I started playing with tile'.

The plan was to sand all of the windows and get them ready for primer. If I can get the replacement head blocks installed I can measure for, make and install picture rail. That was the thought, but that doesn't make any sense either. I need to paint before the picture rail goes up.

I started working on the double windows in the back parlor and it turned out to really be a lot of work. Not only did I need to sand, but I also had to remove old rusty hardware, which was installed in 1895 and then had a zillion coats of paint put over it. It did not come off with out a fight. There are also holes to fill from old window treatments. The parts that didn't get stripped of paint didn't need to be sanded, but they did need to be washed. It just went on and on.

While I was working on the windows it also dawned on me that before I can put the head blocks on or measure, make and install the picture rail, I need to deal with the pocket doors. They need to be removed, cleaned, and I need to install the new hardware, which I haven't even bought yet!

Needless to say, after about an hour and a half working on the windows, the job was not only tedious, but it also seemed sort of pointless. I mean, it will need to get done, but it is hardly a pressing issue. Since the last of the salvage tile came in from Urban Remains in Chicago, I decided to play with that instead.

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The tile is sitting on a cardboard template, which matches exactly the concrete area of the hearth where the tile will be set. I have a finite amount of tile, and all but the blue tile with the frogs and dragon flies is salvage antique. What that means is, if I run short or break something, I'm screwed. 

The tolerances are very tight. Of the vintage tile, the only extra I have is one peice of the 1X4 dimpled green tile, and I have a half dozen of the half peices of the 1X6 mottled blue tile. That is it! The three outside boarder tiles will have mitered corners. One wrong cut and there is no extra on one of them, and I have one extra piece on another. It is going to be a nail biter.

On the plus side, it fills the space very nicely.




Hiding in plain sight

2012-06-26T21:40:17.296-07:00

It was right there in front of me the whole time and I didn't even know it. This mantel, and its sister in the parlor are the only two things in the house not made of redwood. Although I have stripped acres of paint off woodwork in the house, this is the first time I've done this type of work on anything but redwood. I could have finished this evening, but I ran out of paper towels.

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I would say I have between 4 and 5 hours of work in to it so far. Relatively speaking, this was effortless. I'm not sure if it had something to do with the way this was finished 120 years ago or if it is because it is oak and not redwood, but the shellac just lifted right off. Stripping shellac off redwood is pretty easy, but not like this.

The original finish was shellac, but it had turned black and was alligatoring in places. It was also filthy and very grungy, and had chips in the finish, along with wax drippings and ciggarett burns. If this were a piece of 18th century American furniture a finish like this would be prized and stripping it off would have destroyed the auction value. In the parlor, though, it just looked like crap. At least that's what I think. I'm sure some will disagree.

I used the same methyl chloride based stripper I used on the stairs, but this just worked much faster. The reaction time for the stripper to do its job is 10 to 15 seconds. I brush it on, wait 10 seconds or so, then wipe it off with a paper towel. That gets 90% of the shellac off. I then apply another thin layer and scrub it with steel wool.

The question now is, what do I do for the new finish. I'm not sure if this was originally a golden oak finish that had just really darkened over the years from the heat of the coal fire, or if the shellac was tinted originally, and then it darkened even more. What I am fairly certain of is, it was not intended to be the black color that it was when I started.

My real concern is getting an uneven finish if I try any type of stain or oil. If I don't clean this very well and very evenly, the oil or stain will penetrate differently and I could have splotches of lighter or darker color. My plan is to tint the new shellac before I apply it. This should give me an even finish.




Primed and ready...

2012-06-24T18:22:17.220-07:00

Good, bad, or otherwise, the plaster is done and the walls are primed. It is really starting to look like a real room. I had to do more sanding than I would have liked, but that's the way it goes sometimes. I would like to be able to blame it all on Megan the intern, but the fact is, the worst wall was mine. Even more, her work was as good or better than mine in many areas of the room. There was a point where we were competing for space, she was on the scaffolding, and I was trying to work the wall right next to her. Being the gentleman that I am, I gave up space to Megan. The bottom two or three feet of that wall nearest the bay was terrible. I never did the final pass with the trowel. I think I got it sanded smooth enough, but if not, that is where the sofa will go.

I also got the new outlet installed. Megan was not here for that and it is too bad. Learning how to retrofit an outlet in to a finished wall would have been good for her to learn about.

Megan has been out galavanting around the country, so she missed out on the outlet and all of the wonderful sanding. I thought about waiting on the outlet until she was back in town, but The mess must go on as they would say in show business if show business were more like old house restoration. She also has an upcoming bathroom remodel job and I turned her on to a Craig's List add for an old window restoration job. She told me she got the job the day before she left.

What all of that means is that I probably won't see as much of her around. I am happy to see her get real jobs, but I am going to miss the help. 

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I'm still waiting for the tile to come in for the hearth, and that should be next week, so that might be the next job. I am slowly coming to terms with the fact that I am going to need to restore the oak mantle. I got away without having to do it in the dining room, but the one in the parlor is not in as good a shape. If I do restore the mantle it will need to be done before the tile.

The mantle will be tedious work. I need to strip off all of the old shellac, and there are turned columns and other fancy millworker. It is going to add a week or so to the project. If nothing else, it will give me more time to stress over paint colors and window treatments.




Details, details, details

2012-06-22T20:31:40.966-07:00

I have worked every night this week on the parlors and except for the added tools lying around on the floor, I swear you would not know the difference. I'm at the point of doing prep for painting and millworker, so all of those little things that I've been putting off need to be done....

I need to pull that nail.
I need to scrape that paint stripping residue off.
That needs to be sanded a little more.
That needs a little more scraping.
That needs some putty.
I need to caulk that.

I did get the hearth ready for tile, but that is also one of those minor things that really doesn't scream progress. It is just one of those things that needs to be done. It did require grinding tile and mortar, so if nothing else it added to the mess in the house. That's something, right? I have progressively made the rest of the house more messy. That's progress.

I also finished stripping the paint off the baseboards. Most of it was done, but I saved the last pass until after the plaster was finished, because inevitably you will get plaster on the baseboards. So that is another one of those things that took several hours, but anyone coming in the room wouldn't really notice. It was almost done anyway.

I've also decided to install one more outlet. That probably should have been done before I plastered, but that sort of thing has become rather routine after ten years, so I don't expect any major issues. Now that I write that I picture large sections of plaster peeling off the wall as I cut the hole for the box.

This also means another trip under house. Oh joy!




Blue!?!?

2012-06-18T17:31:01.891-07:00

That's what my fist thought was this morning as I was laying in bed. I imagined these hideous plum colored walls and thought I must have been insane to even consider that color for the walls in the parlor.

I quickly got dressed and ran down stairs to look at the paint chips again. I saw the Windy Blue and thought, "Ok, that's not too offensive. I can see that color on the walls."

Then at work today, seconds after I called in a sandwich order to the bakery, I thought to myself, "Blue!?!? Was I insane?". I raced home after picking up my lunch to look at the paint chips again. Once again, I thought, "It's really not that bad."

It's going to be a long couple of weeks until I paint. I need to get some samples on the walls.




The part of the job I hate

2012-06-17T17:22:28.252-07:00

Naturally, when working on the walls with Megan over the past few weeks the talk turned to wall colors. As I've said many times over the years, I hate choosing colors. There are just too many choices and I agonize over it.  One thing I know I don't want to do is duplicate the color scheme of another room on the first floor. With its red walls and gold frieze, the dining room was my one bold color scheme. For the parlors I don't want bright, clashing colors, but at the same time I don't want the room to be boring or dark. This is an 1895 Victorian parlor, after all. I'm certainly not doing a reproduction of a Victorian parlor, but I don't want the room to be plain, either. So, for the past month or two, any time I got a magazine or catalog in my hands I scoured the pages for images of rooms that don't have boring white walls. There are a lot of nice rooms to look at, but many of them are utilizing colors I have already used, to some extent. I have rooms on the first floor that are green, white, cream, red and gold, and blue. I saw one room in a Ballard Design catalog which was charcoal or gray color with white trim. I thought it looked really nice, but as I was in the parlor slather on some plaster I mentioned it to Megan and as the description came out of my mouth I no longer liked it.  Megan said she would keep her eyes peeled for colors and I warned her flat-out that I would hate every one of her suggestions at first and to not take it personally. I hate every one of my suggestions on color when I first think of it, and in three instances I've hated it even after the color was on the wall and I then had to repaint! A day or two later Megan sent an email with a grayish blue paint chip she found someplace. Naturally, my immediate response was, "Ugh! No way!". Then the next night after opening the email a half dozen more times I started to think, "You know, that's not too bad".  I need three colors in the room. There is the field of the walls, the frieze and ceiling,  and the trim. The walls I think should be darker than the frieze and the trim lighter still. I was down at Sherwin Williams buying primer today, so I went up to the wall of terror (paint chips) and made some preliminary choices. This is very preliminary and could change many, many times over the next few weeks before paint goes on the walls. Hell, it could even change after the paint goes on the walls. Now, I know I said I didn't want to duplicate any color schemes of other downstairs rooms, but I'm not going to count the laundry room. It is the smallest room in the house and you must go through two other rooms just to get to it. So where I'm headed is blue walls, lighter blue frieze and ceiling, and white/cream trim. (You see, just writing that down makes me not like it.) For the field, sw6241 Aleutians or sw6249 Windy Blue or sw7601 Dockside Blue or sw6242 Bracing Blue For the frieze, sw6238 Icicle or sw6525 Rarified Air or sw6224 Mountain Air or sw6239 Upward I din't get any samples for trim, but maybe Honied White, which is what I used in the kitchen for trim and cabinets. Then, of course, there are the two medallions, which I will be giving an understated paint scheme to, similar to the one in the stair hall. I'm also revising the idea of clouds on the ceiling and frieze with skylarks streaking across the ceiling. Probably won't happen, but it is something I've always wanted to do. [...]