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Porch Floor Rebuild

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Garage Build

In summer of 2017, I finally got to demo my "cardboard garage" that was built in the 1980s. The roof was rotted, caving in, and the whole thing was falling apart. Back in 2012, I had disassembled a historic garage garage that was about to be demolished. I took all the dutch lap siding, carriage doors, lumber, and window from it. My plan was to use the siding, carriage doors, window and side door on my garage, upgrading from the cardboard siding. When I started taking measurements, I realized the entire walls of my garage, not just the door opening, were way too short for the carriage doors. I really wanted these carriage doors. So long story short, I built an entire new garage to fit the carriage doors. I also had enough slate leftover to re-roof the garage, which needed it, but the structure could not support slate. Studs were on 24" centers. It was literally the cheapest garage you could possibly build. It didn't even have a side door, let alone any windows. S

10 Year Anniversary

I'm a couple days late with this post but we have reached our 10 year anniversary! I don't have a completed project to report on but I have a bit of a sneak peak of my latest big project. It's not quite done yet but I'll be posting about it this summer when it's totally finished. I demolished my 1980s garage last summer, which was basically built out of cardboard. I built a historically accurate garage using some of the salvage from the historic garage that I salvaged a few years back. I built it using new dutch lap wood siding and a slate roof. I have the 4 carriage doors that I salvaged from the nearby historic garage. I am in the process of restoring the 4 carriage doors and hardware. Then I just have to install the carriage doors and the side door and finish painting it. I have some other good projects coming up this summer including the porch floor restoration, front steps, and balcony railing. Stay tuned...

9th Anniversary

Today is the 9th anniversary since I bought my house. I didn't really accomplish much this year. Needed a break after many years of slaving away. I did get new copper half-round gutters and downspouts installed. At that time, I also had square copper soffit vents installed. I've made a lot of headway on the built-in cabinet restoration in the dining room. 95% of everything has been stripped and most of it has been disassembled. It's mostly a matter of sanding and refinishing now. I'm trying to decide on how best to tackle that. I want it to look like an original finish so I'm leaning toward using dye rather than stain, followed by amber shellac. I received the Preservation Award from the city for the exterior restoration of the house. I have a lot of projects coming up. The next one, which I'm really looking forward to, is the new garage build. I am going to be demolishing my 1984 garage, which is made out of the cheapest materials ever created, an

New Copper Gutters

Today I had new copper gutters installed. There's no point in having a new slate roof without copper gutters to go with it. I had copper half-round gutters installed with round downspouts. While they were at it, I had them install the square copper soffit vents I bought back when I had the roof done but never installed at the time. I think it all came out really nice. It will look even nicer once I paint my house historic colors. But I think it's really awesome. Copper is at an all time low so I got a really good deal on it, $4k for everything.

Preservation Award

I won the Preservation Award this year from the city for the restoration work I've done to my house. The slate roof, the removal of aluminum siding and restoration of clapboard, the porch ceiling restoration, etc. They were really nice and said it was long overdue. I said I'm not done yet. I am getting new copper gutters soon (next week probably) and still plan to build wooden storm windows (to replace the stupid aluminum triple tracks) and then I'll paint the house a historic color scheme once that's all done. 

8 Year Anniversary

Not much to report on this year. I have a few more things left to do on the exterior, including getting new copper gutters soon, but I'm mostly switching focus to interior projects. I've been working on stripping the built-in cabinets in the dining room, a very tedious project involving dental picks and removal of all trim. I'm pretty much done stripping the main part of it. But I still have all the removed trim, cabinet doors, drawers, and shelves to strip (easier since they have all been removed). Then the process of refinishing and attempting to match other woodwork begins. I'll post all those pics when that project is complete. Made a pretty cool discovery this past week that I'm excited about. All the woodwork in my house was painted over without properly prepping the surface first (thankfully). Until this past week, I assumed that refinishing all the woodwork in the house would be a long, laborious process, like the built-in cabinets have been, and would

7 Year Anniversary

It has been 7 years now. These are the projects that were completed in the past year: I refinished the porch ceiling, which included a complete teardown of the ceiling, stripping, planing, staining, and varnishing the tongue and groove boards, and reinstalling.  Just recently I had a new flat-copper roof installed over the tiny back porch area. This is the floor for the balcony coming off the bathroom. I still have to install the railings before I write a post about that.

Porch Ceiling Restoration

I started this project in 2009. The ceiling, like every square inch of this house, was covered in aluminum siding when I bought the house. I removed the aluminum to reveal the original tongue and groove porch ceiling which had been painted over. I wanted to restore the porch ceiling to the original varnished look. This is not an easy task. Many methods were attempted, many failed.First, I tried a heat gun and scraper and tested a small section. That was going to take forever and it was too painful to do that upside down. Next, I tried Peel Away 7, a product I love and have used on several other projects. I made the mistake of applying the Peel Away to the entire ceiling at once. Then, for one reason or another, I waited a week before removing it. Most of it had dried out and wouldn't come off. For the rest, there was some strange chemical reaction with something on the porch ceiling which turned the Peel Away into this gloppy glue which fell all over the porch floor as I remov

6 Year Anniversary

It has now been 6 years since I purchased this house. This year is also the centennial anniversary of the house itself. Here is what was accomplished in the past year: I restored the rear of the house. This consisted of stripping all of the paint off, replacing or repairing any bad clapboard and trim, filling all nail and staple holes, replacing broken off window sill edges and drip caps, sanding all wood, washing with TSP, and priming. I installed a balcony door and trim where one had originally been but had been removed and closed over many years ago. I replaced two non-original French style windows from the enclosed back porch and replaced with custom built double hung windows to match the original windows. Installed new custom-milled window sills for both. I removed and closed off one French style window from enclosed back porch where I intend to one day install a door. I removed old, disintegrated roofing from porch roof, stripped all original roof decking (rotted), repla

New Slate Roof

This year marks the centennial anniversary of my house. What better gift to give it than a new slate roof? The slate had been sitting in my backyard for a year before I finally got the roof. My intention was to get the roof done as soon as the weather broke in 2013. But then I figured, "why do a roof in good, warm, dry weather when I can put it off until November through January of one of the worst winters in history?" No, I actually did try to do it in Spring or Summer but all the forces of the universe conspired against me so the project didn't begin until late September. The condition of the roof was pretty horrible. The original slate had been covered with asphalt. Yes, that actually happened. And there are quite a few houses here that have had their slate covered in asphalt. I'm not sure what actually goes through someone's mind when they decide this is a good idea... "Hey, let me cover up this beautiful slate, which would last forever, with somethi

Rear Restoration

The final side of the house! The rear (East facing) side of the house has offered some new experiences and challenges. Originally, the rear of the house was much different than it was when I moved in. There was an exterior open back porch originally, much like the front porch but smaller, coming off of the kitchen. At some point, long ago, that porch was enclosed. I typically HATE enclosures but in this case, it was done well and I need the added space in the kitchen so I'm leaving it enclosed rather than trying to restore the original back porch. The basement includes the area under this porch which I believe was the coal room. My house does not have a traditional coal chute and I cannot see an area where one would have been. However, the basement window on the side of this enclosed porch is tilted at an angle, and none of the other basement windows are. So I believe the window was used as the coal chute. Above the porch was a balcony. The door to the balcony was located

5 Year Anniversary

Hard to believe it's been five years already. Funny that I thought I'd have the whole house restored in five years. Now I see why people laughed when I said that was the goal. Here is what was accomplished in the past year: I painstakingly disassembled an entire 2-car carriage house in less than a week and moved all the materials to my yard where I built a rack for all the 2x4s and siding and it is stacked neatly. I acquired a lot of architectural salvage for resale or use in my home. The things I've acquired that will be used in my house someday are: a full size clawfoot tub, a very unique 2-basin 100 year old pedestal bathroom sink, coffered ceiling, wide crown molding, a big oak room divider with square columns, sandstone stair treads, heat registers, and some other misc items. I purchased 18 sq of new Vermont slate in random widths and historic color blend. I plan to have the new roof installed sometime in the next few weeks. The current roof, consisting of origi

Old House Journal

My story is in the June-July 2012 issue of Old House Journal. They had been following my story since the beginning and contacted me a few months back for an interview. Much thanks to Clare for contacting me and writing the story, and for all the support I've gotten from their online community. I am still in the housing diversion program. However, the city has been much more supportive of my restoration. They have been quite positive about the work I am doing on my house and the impact that it has on the community and market values of surrounding homes. I should have the rest of my house stripped and coated by the end of this work season. Again, I want to thank everyone for their support. Here is the story from Old House Journal: Restoration in Violation? by Clare Martin Nina Smith thought she was doing the right thing when she bought a 1914 Foursquare in Lakewood, Ohio, and carefully began stripping off its aluminum siding to restore the original clapboards underneath. So

South Side Restoration

The South side of the house was the simplest side to restore, yet the most difficult to access. The scaffolding just barely fits between the house and my fence and could not be moved once installed. So I'd have to dissemble it and reassemble it if I needed to move over. It did not fit at all in the area forward of the chimney, so that all had to be done on a ladder. Aside from that, very straight forward. There was a bunch of coax cable going to various bedrooms, I yanked all that out. I hate seeing exposed wiring on the outside of the house. And there was actually a pvc pipe going all the way from the basement up to the attic, with wiring within, as their way of running wiring to the attic. That had to go. Then it was the standard procedure. Strip the paint, replace the window sill edges and drip caps, repair clapboard, sand, wash, prime, caulk.

Drip Cap and Sill Edge Replacement

Two of the things ruined during the installation of aluminum siding are the drip caps above each door/window and the edges of each window sill. I had to have these custom milled by a local lumber yard. Finding the right profile is a bit of a challenge since I only had part of the original. I was able to find the right profile for the drip caps and had them custom milled in Cyprus. I primed all sides of them before cutting to length and installing. For the window sills, I had to cut a large chunk out of the middle of an existing window sill, cut it only as deep as the window sill edges are, and have long lengths of it custom milled in Cyprus, then cut each end individually for installation. I first coated all the edges in Abatron liquid wood to eliminate any chance of future rot due to my fear of water penetrating this seam.

4 Year Anniversary

Four years down and starting to see the results. I get a lot of compliments from people on the progress. Here is what I did during the year: I stripped all the paint on the 2nd story of the front of the house and the 3rd story dormer. I ended up sitting on the hot black asphalt roof for about a month during the hottest point of the summer, when the temps were in the 90s. I contorted myself into tiny areas under the dormer overhang, using an 1100 degree heat gun, trying to get all the paint off of everything. I got burns from touching the asphalt roof and burns from bumping the heat gun while trying to hold it in one hand and a scraper in the other and not slide off the roof without being able to hold on to anything due to the lack of a third hand. I also stripped the entire North side of the house down to bare wood in about a month, which I'm pretty sure is a world record. I can't say enough for scaffolding and the Paint Shaver Pro. I've had several people come over t

Cleveland Scene Magazine

My story was featured in Cleveland Scene Magazine. Below is the direct link: Lakewood Lady Ripped By City for Restoring Century Home Lakewood Lady Ripped By City for Restoring Century Home POSTED BY  MAUDE L. CAMPBELL  ON  WED, OCT 12, 2011  AT  1:00 PM Nina Smith and the City of Lakewood appeared to be a match made in heaven. With its streets lined with century-old houses, the West Side suburb is all about encouraging folks to restore homes to their original charm. Smith, too, is all about restoring the 1914-model abode she bought in 2008 partly because of the city’s commitment to maintaining residential character. But that was three years ago, and things change. An IT specialist by day, Smith is also a member of the Lakewood Historical Society and the Cleveland Restoration Society, a graduate of many restoration workshops and seminars, and a Lakewood auxiliary police officer to boot. She’s not short on love for restoring her home. She’s just short on time, what

Historic Preservation: A Criminal Offense

I was recently criminally charged by the city of Lakewood Ohio for the historic preservation of my house. More specifically, I was charged with noncompliance for peeling paint while in the process of stripping and repainting my house after having removed the aluminum siding that's been covering it for 40-50 years. I bought my house three years ago with the intentions of doing a restoration. I house-hunted for over a year and looked at around 200 houses before choosing this one because it retained all of its original architectural elements. I am a member of the Lakewood Historical Society and the Cleveland Restoration Society .  I run a historic preservation meetup group with a friend of mine. I've attended various workshops and seminars such as the Ohio Historical Society's Building Doctor Clinic , Bob Yapp 's seminars on wood window restoration and exterior paint, Cleveland Restoration Society's seminar on exterior paint, and more. I've even had the Clevelan

North Side Restoration

The north side was pretty straight forward. Because it is the side with the driveway, I was able to put the wheels on the scaffolding and roll it back and forth, which made everything really easy. The procedure was the same as with the other sides. I stripped all the paint with the paint shaver and heat gun. I replaced all the drip caps and window sill edges. I sanded everything with 80 grit sandpaper, washed with TSP, and primed with oil based primer. The only unique architectural feature to this side of the house is the milk door. I made some repairs to the door itself and replaced the brass butterfly hinges and latch. It will be permanently caulked shut for efficiency purposes. The interior side of the milk door was gone and drywalled over when I moved in. Also, planned for this side of the house is the removal of the steel door someone put on. It will be replaced with a historically accurate side door and trim.