Tuesday, April 3, 2018

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...

Saturday, April 1, 2017

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, and replacing it with a historically accurate garage or "carriage house." I'm using the salvaged materials from the carriage house that I disassembled a few years ago -the carriage doors, ship lap siding, side door, and window. I'm also using the leftover slate from when I got my new slate roof. 

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

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.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

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. They said to keep it up and they'll probably give me more awards in the future.

Friday, April 1, 2016

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 involve stripping down to bare wood and refinishing from scratch. I've tried basically every paint stripping method known to man over the past 8 years and so far everything that involved removing paint from the surface of wood, also meant removing the original finish on the wood. I decided to try one more method: steam. As an experiment, I ran out and bought a cheap $55 wallpaper steamer and tried it on a section of trim in an upstairs bedroom. It immediately removed the top layers of latex paint, with minimal effort. However, there is one or two layers of oil based paint under that which the steam doesn't seem to have much effect on. But, since the surface doesn't seem to have been prepped properly (sanded), that layer comes off with a bit more effort with the paint scraper, but not too bad. What I did find interesting though, is that someone had obviously already stripped this bedroom woodwork once before. After getting the oil-based layer off, I noticed gouge marks in the original finish that weren't coming from me. Fortunately, these gouges don't go all the way down into the wood, so I believe with some light scuffing and a new layer of shellac, they'd disappear. We'll see.

I then went and tested another area, downstairs in the dining room. The paint on the baseboard has areas that already flake off easily, so I had a feeling it would be easy to remove. I put the steamer on and in a matter of a few minutes, I was able to remove most of the paint (100% latex) from the entire face of the baseboard. It peeled off in large pieces with practically no effort. Right down to the original shellac finish, without having any effect on the original finish at all. Completely amazing! I then tried the trim around the window in the same room with mixed results. Some of it was like the upstairs trim, it had a layer of oil based paint that was more stubborn, and some came right off easily like the baseboard. It's as though someone has already stripped it before but then gave up half-way through and decided to paint again. Because some areas have a layer of hippy green oil-based paint and some areas of the same trim don't have that layer. I do think that I can remove it all, with some more coaxing though. So my plan has changed from stripping and refinishing all the woodwork in the entire house, to attempting to salvage the original finish on most of the woodwork, if possible, which would shave years off of the interior restoration.

The biggest hurdle is that at some point, they painted the top edges of baseboard the same color of paint as the wall (oil-based), but left the face of the baseboard original (too lazy to mask the top edge basically). Then, years later, they painted the face of the baseboard, which is why it's just latex whereas the edges and window trim have a layer of oil-based paint. And same in the upstairs hallway. That is the only section of the house that was never painted. All the woodwork is original, and the doors are the original finish. But the edges of the vertical trim are painted, even though the face of the trim is not. That is probably going to be the most difficult part of this procedure, removing the oil based paint from those edges without damaging the shellac. So we'll see if it can be done. So far it seems promising. If anyone has any ideas on how to remove oil-based paint from shellac without removing the shellac, let me know.

Another thing I've been doing lately is researching the history of the house. I will post an entire entry about this topic soon, I hope. So I'll just give some teasers for now. I'm still hunting for an old photo of the house (before the 1955 photo) and so far have been unsuccessful. I've done some genealogy research on the original families (2 related families owned my house for the first 47 years) and recently discovered that one of the original children who grew up in my house just died 2 years ago. I don't think I'll ever forgive myself for not doing this research sooner and speaking to her before she passed. But I have tracked down some of the grandchildren of the original owners and am reaching out to them, hoping for pictures and stories. I was able to find a picture of one of the original children of my house, sitting on my porch steps with a bunch of other kids, in 1925, in a book written about Lakewood. And I was able to find out who the owner of the tin toy car found in my attic was. The only boy to grow up in my house in the first 47 years (the toy was made in 1922). I believe they purposely put this car in the attic, after his death, for someone to find years later (me). The boy died at 21 years of age of a pulmonary embolism after having bronchitis. I have a picture of him and some of the other family members. I will post when I figure out more of this story.

While doing research on the history of my house, I managed to find the original building permit from 1914. In the comments, it said "duplicate of" and listed another address in the city. I went to that address and found that, sure enough, there is another house nearly identical to mine, without the dormer. Everything else, down to the style of leaded glass windows, is the same. Same fireplace, same front door, same layout, same flooring (narrow 1.5" wide tongue and groove oak). The owner was kind enough to give me a tour of his house and I was able to learn some things that I didn't realize about mine. For a long time, I've wondered why the edges of the molding at the top of the door and window trim (the little crown piece of molding), didn't touch the wall. I have all these little crown edge pieces on the sides of all the door and window molding, that go partially back to the wall but not quite. Well it's because there used to be picture rail molding all around the master bedroom, and possibly the living room. So that same crown molding, at the top of the door and window trim, continued around the entire room. The cut pieces happen to all be cut at the exact angles that the pieces attached to the wall would meet, all miter cuts. In the rooms where there was no picture rail, those little edge pieces of crown molding go back flush against the wall. So someone removed all the picture rail. Fortunately, I think I have enough salvaged, matching profile trim, to replace it in the master bedroom.

I also found some original wallpaper underneath some trim in a closet. In hours of online searching of historic wallpaper patterns, I was unable to find anything even remotely similar.

Stay tuned...

Saturday, April 11, 2015

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.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

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 removed it, stuck to the bottom of my boots, and my feet would stick to the floor. It was a nasty mess. Plus, now there was Peel Away stuck in all the grooves between ceiling boards.

I realized that the porch roof was leaking and the water was coming through the porch ceiling. So it made no sense to continue this project until the roof was replaced. The porch ceiling remained a blotchy mess until the new slate roof was installed in 2014.

This project was the last remaining large-scale exterior restoration project. As soon as the weather broke in 2014, this project was resumed.

I began by sanding with 80 grit on a palm sander, trying to get rid of the dried up Peel Away and leftover paint. This was being done upside down and was incredibly painful. I spent two days and sanded about 10 boards. However, there was still some white (either paint or Peel Away) in between each board and in all the small hairline cracks from weathering. I realized there was no way this was going to work. At the rate it was taking, it would take 14 days, morning till night, of upside down sanding just in the initial stage of 80 grit and that still wouldn't get the grooves between boards. I could not get between the boards with sandpaper or scrapers or a wire brush, nothing was working. And then I'd still have to go back and sand again in finer grit and then stain and varnish everything upside down as well. My entire summer flashed before my eyes. My entire list of projects for 2014 postponed until 2015 at this rate. I needed a better way.

I reluctantly decided on soda blasting, a method I had used before, on my fireplace brick. I already owned a soda blaster and compressor. But it is a HORRIBLE job. It gets everywhere. The entire porch would need to be enclosed in tarps, all the other parts of the house masked off. I'd spend a fortune in baking soda. It's not an enjoyable experience at all. I decided to give it a shot. Did a test and realized it would still take forever, cost a fortune, and after it was all stripped by the blasting, I'd still have to sand, stain, and varnish everything upside down.

I decided to just remove the porch ceiling boards entirely. This seemed incredibly daunting at first, but in comparison to the previous methods, it wasn't that bad. The nails were rusty and disintegrated and most let go pretty easily. I was able to remove the entire ceiling in one day. I numbered every board in hopes that they'd go back together perfectly. 135 boards total.

I then really began the restoration process. I washed the boards with TSP because they are filthy on the backside and inside the grooves. I removed the nails and glued back any important parts that split or broke off during removal.

I thought I'd just sand them each individually with 80 grit and it'd be a breeze since I could do it while standing upright. Wrong again. Sanding through the Peel Away and any leftover paint was pretty simple. But getting through the darkened, weathered wood and stain was taking FOREVER. I switched to 60 grit, still taking FOREVER. And there still remained the hairline cracks with white in them. I'd have to give each of those extra attention with the sander. It was going to take over an hour, maybe 2, of sanding like this PER BOARD. Multiplied by 135 boards. And that was just the preliminary sanding. I'd still have to go over them all again with finer grit before stain. Then the staining and vanishing steps. No way. Ain't nobody got time for that.

Finally, I decided to buy a planer, AKA "The Miracle Machine." Where has this thing been my whole life?! What an amazing tool! Stick a board in, it comes out the other end looking brand new!  Two seconds. Fabulous invention. I ran a couple tests on scraps and could hardly contain my giddiness.  My summer had returned. I might actually have a life outside of this porch ceiling project!

Since the edges of each board are tapered, the planer did not clean off everything. I still had to scrape and sand paint and dried Peel Away from the edges and tongue of each board which was time consuming. Each board was sanded with 80 grit, then 120 grit, then 220.

I then tried my best to find the closest color to original. First I was going to try an all in one exterior (deck) stain but they do not give the nice shiny, transparent finish. Then I tried a bunch of colors of Minwax samples from Lowes and wasn't happy with any of the colors. Then I went on Minwax's site and saw there was another color, Red Chestnut which seemed like it would be close to original since English Chestnut was really close but didn't have the red tint I needed. Returned to Lowes (again) in search of this color but it was not there. Found it at Sherwin Williams and it turned out to be about as close as possible to the original color.

I began staining the boards in batches of about 20. Followed with a semi-gloss Spar varnish. It still took forever. I'm not going to lie. I would discourage anyone from this project because it seemed like it would never, ever end. Each batch would take about a week to complete. Sanding, gluing, filling, sanding, staining, wiping, varnishing... on and on it went. Brutal.

The entire porch ceiling was restructured. There were originally only two 2x4s going lengthwise. These had sagged over the years. I removed all of the old 2x4s and replaced with three 2x6s. No more sagging.

Even though the boards were numbered when removed, nothing went back together correctly. So it was a lot of work to play with the spacing between the boards to try to get things lined up right.

But the results were pretty spectacular and I've already gotten several compliments.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

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), replaced several roof joists, repaired cracked ridge board, and replaced all roof decking.
  • I had the sagging eaves jacked up, and several rows of bead board replaced, to keep the eaves level.
  • Repaired rot on upper edges of fascia boards.
  • I had the roof completely torn off, replaced any bad wood, and had Ice and Water Shield installed on the entire roof. Then a new multi colored Vermont slate roof was installed. Copper flashings were installed along with copper ridge vents.
  • A new standing seam copper roof was installed on the small roof over the built in cabinets.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

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 something ugly which will need replaced every 20 years." I feel like there should be some kind of public service announcement on why this is a terrible idea. Anyway, I'm not sure when the asphalt was put on but it was disintegrating, falling off the house, and leaking.

The process began by trying to find a roofer, since the one I had originally planned on using disappeared a year ago and hasn't been seen since. I found this to be a trend with roofers. Most don't show up on time, some don't show up at all. I was really scared that I'd end up with half a roof and no roofer. So I think I met with every slate roofer in Ohio (well, the ones who showed up). Seriously, I probably met with a dozen of them. Some I liked but couldn't afford. Some were clearly full of crap and knew less about slate than I did. At times, I seriously contemplated doing it myself (even printed out two large slate manuals and watched a lot of YouTube videos). This process dragged out for months. In the end, I finally made a decision that I am quite happy with.

This was the first time I've ever hired anyone to do anything to my house. It was really hard, at first, to put my trust in someone else when I have invested so much of myself into this house for so long. I probably would have driven the roofers crazy by standing there, watching the entire time. Their only saving grace was that it was so cold that I couldn't be out there for more than a few minutes at a time. I did, however, set up a time lapse camera which took a picture every minute of the entire project. Thankfully, they were good sports about it. Actually, they are really awesome guys and I like them a lot.

It was a really long project, and the weather certainly didn't cooperate. I'm fairly certain that the horrible weather we've had this winter is entirely my fault, for having a roof installed. Blame the apocalypse on me.

I had already done the tear off and structural repair of the porch roof, and replaced all the decking. Then the roofers came and did the tear off of the main roof. They tore off the existing asphalt and original slate, replaced any rotted boards, and covered everything in Ice and Water Shield. Amazingly, there was very little wood replacement done on the main roof. Only a few boards. It was in really good shape.

The next phase was to somehow lift the sagging eaves. The overhangs on this house are held up entirely by the bead board that can be seen from the underside. And this supports the giant, thick fascia boards. For some reason, these bead boards only went in to the first rafter. So there was nothing preventing them from sinking down from the weight of the roof and fascia boards. The eaves had drooped down at least a couple inches because of this. It was quite noticeable and had to be corrected in order to put the slate on. The question became, how are we going to lift them back up and keep them up? Then I remembered, I own scaffolding! One of the best investments I've ever made. So I set up the scaffolding under the peak of each eave, we put a bottle jack on the scaffolding and used a 2x6 to lift up the peak until it was level. Then the roofers replaced about 5 courses of bead board on each side of the peak, bringing it a few rafters in and screwing it down with long deck screws. We then lifted the bottom two ends of the eave in the same fashion, and replaced another 5 courses on each end. We released the bottle jacks and crossed our fingers. It worked!

I opted to have the entire roof covered in Grace Ice and Water Shield (the best stuff on the market).  This is like a black, rubbery sheet that they peel and stick on top of the roof decking. It's pretty expensive. I think I paid about $130 per roll and required 8 rolls for the whole roof. I figured there was no reason to skimp, since I was going all out on a slate roof anyway. This made it possible to waterproof the whole roof while the slate was being installed. And it acts as an additional layer of roofing, if there are ever any leaks.

Once that was all done, it was finally time to put slate on the house. The rear of the house was done first.
There were no obstacles except one chimney and the stack pipe, everything was flashed in copper. At this point, the weather really took a turn for the worse. Below freezing temperatures, ridiculous wind chills, snow, ice, bleh. The roofers would have to sweep the snow off the roof before starting in the morning. It was crazy.

The front half of the main roof was more challenging, with the dormer, valleys, and another chimney. That's when the "Polar Vortex" came to visit. I've been back in Ohio for 9 years and had never seen such ridiculous weather until this. I don't know what's going on but I'm starting to wonder if it will ever end.

The slate was topped off with copper ridge vents along all the ridges, including the porch. It looks really good. Then I have square copper soffit vents that will go between each rafter, across the front and the back, 28 of them. So the attic will be very well ventilated.

The color of the slate is really awesome. So vibrant. There are greens, grays, blacks, and purples. And the width of the slate is random as well. It came out really, really nice. I can't wait until summer, when I can enjoy looking at it for longer periods of time.

There is a small roof over where the dining room built-in cabinets protrude from the house. I decided to have this done in standing-seam copper, which looks amazing.

When you are married to a house, as I am, getting a new slate roof is like the honeymoon. No project will ever top this one. It occurred to me, at some point during the project, that the roof was the best looking part of my house. Then I realized that after over five years of of putting my blood, sweat, and tears into this house, the best part is something I didn't even do. That was actually a depressing moment.

I still have to get something done with the balcony roof. I want to do it in flat-seam copper but I don't think I can afford anymore copper. It was probably tin originally. I'd be happy with that. Why don't people do that anymore? I can't put up the balcony railing until that roof is done.

And somehow I ended up with a TON of slate leftover. I'm not sure who miscalculated, me when I ordered it, or the slate company when they sent it. I supposedly ordered 15% extra, knowing that some would break. A lot of them broke and I still have at least 3 full pallets of slate left! So I think I have enough to do the carriage house when I build it. I just have to deal with it taking up space in my driveway until then.

Here's a rough breakdown of this entire project:

  • The project started on September 28th and went through January 14th.
  • I spent about 10 days doing the tear off, repair, and new decking on the porch roof.
  • The roofers spent about 5 days doing the tear off of the main roof, repair, and ice guard.
  • We spent about 5 days jacking up the eaves and replacing the bead board.
  • They spent about 14 days on the slate installation, including all the copper flashing.
  • Then one day doing the standing seam-copper roof.
  • The total cost, for materials and labor, was close to $25k.
I want to thank Above & Beyond Roofing and The Cleveland Restoration Society for facilitating the loan through the Home Heritage Program.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Hidden Chimney

This week the roofers found a hidden chimney (which makes 3 original chimneys) that had been removed from the roof-line up. It runs right along the inside of the fireplace chimney, with a separate flue. It has been blocked off on the inside. It is completely separate from the fireplace chimney which runs up the outside of the house. This hidden one is right alongside it but just INSIDE the exterior wall of the house, with the wall separating the two. I had no idea what it could have been.

It doesn't appear to have stopped in the attic (to be used to heat a finished attic).
It doesn't seem like there was ever a fireplace in my bedroom -there is a bump out in my bedroom where the chimney runs down the wall, but the plaster appears to be original (I removed the baseboard to check).
It couldn't go down to the basement because the firebox of the fireplace would prevent it from going down any further.

If it was the original chimney for the fireplace, why did they build another one?
And if the original one fell down, why not rebuild on the existing footprint?
The bricks of the current chimney appear to be original (except above the roof line because it has probably been rebuilt at some point, which is normal at this age).
And in my picture from 1955, the chimney looks exactly the same as it does now. It had already been closed off and removed in 1955.

Then I decided it must have been for a wood/coal burner in the bedroom. There was probably a hole, higher up the wall, where the stove pipe went into the chimney. I looked closer at the plaster in the bedroom and about 5' up there has definitely been some plaster repair work done.  Not as exciting as a fireplace in the bedroom, but the flue wasn't big enough for a fireplace. If there had originally been a fireplace in the bedroom, I would have it rebuilt, but I don't think it's worth it for a wood burner.

I still haven't found the clean-out for it. That's probably where the bag of money is hidden.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Porch Repair

This has been one of the biggest projects ever, but one of the most fun. I had help from my grandpa and an uncle, plus consultation with another uncle for this project. The porch roof has been leaking forever. The asphalt shingles were completely disintegrated. There was a big sag in the ridge. I knew there were going to be issues. Since the new slate roof is getting installed soon, I figured this was a project I could tackle myself to save a few thousand dollars. 

I started by tearing off the existing asphalt shingles. The original slate had already been removed from the porch roof, even though it still exists under the rest of the roof, and there were 2 layers of asphalt shingles over the porch, indicating someone had already attempted to repair some issues before. I stripped the asphalt off, no pieces larger than 3 sq inches. It just disintegrated and came off in tiny little bits. A lot of the decking was rotted, which I already knew would be the case. I decided that I'd just go ahead and replace ALL of it. At least half of the beadboard on the eave was rotten, which I had already known from when I replaced the cedar shake on the front. What I was more interested in finding out was WHY there was a big sag in the ridge. 

Once the tearoff was done, the source of the sag was obvious, a crack in the ridge board along a knot in the wood. I originally thought we'd have to cut the rafters away from the ridge board and replace it. I had a new one custom milled to the old wood dimensions but 2x8 instead of the original 2x6. Then I consulted with my uncle and learned of a much easier way to deal with it: put the new 2x8 underneath the original cracked ridge board and force it up, thereby straightening the cracked/sagging 2x6.

To do this, we had to support the porch while we worked. I placed two column jacks on the porch, lined up with a 2x8 that is directly below the cracked ridge, right on the top side of the tongue and groove porch ceiling boards. We had to make sure we had these column jacks directly under that 2x8 since that's what we'd be using to jack up the sag. Then we had to make sure that these column jacks were also sitting on the porch floor right on top of the joists that ran beneath, to transfer the load to a bearing area.

Once everything was properly placed, we tore off the 1x8 decking along the ridge so that I could climb inside. We sandwiched metal brackets along each side of the cracked board so that the new one could slide in underneath it and would not flip sideways while jacking. Then, pinning one end of the new 2x8 to the wall of the house, underneath the cracked board, we jacked up the other end with a bottle jack, about 4 inches to force the cracked board straight. Once it was seated along the bottom of the cracked beam, all the way across, and everything was straight again, we tied the two together with structural ties. Then installed joist hangers and other supports to make sure neither end will ever sink down.

After that milestone, I tore all the decking off of the north half of the porch roof. I had to leave the beadboard up temporarily as it was holding up the large fascia board. I removed all the old rusty nails from the rafters and cleaned up all the asphalt, slate chunks, dirt, birds nests, roofing nails, etc from the top side of the porch ceiling boards where it had collected for 100 years. I then reinforced EVERYTHING with joist hangers since the original nails that were used back then are getting rusty and disintegrated and can't be relied upon anymore.

After the teardown, it was obvious that some rafters would need to be replaced or sistered with new. Out of the 5 rafters on the north side, 3 had so much rot that it was best to just replace them, then I sistered one all the way, top to bottom, and sistered a 3 foot section at the bottom of the final one. After we had jacked up the ridge, a couple of the rafters had pulled away from the ridge so replacing the rafters also solved that problem. All the rafters were secured to the ridge with rafter ties or angled brackets. And 3" deck screws were added all over to tie things together that were originally nailed.

Once everything was structurally sound, the deck replacement began. There was no way I'd use plywood on my house (especially under a slate roof), so I bought all brand new 1x8 pine decking and beadboard. Rather than nailing it, I chose to screw the boards down with 2.5" deck screws, 2 per board per rafter. I also left a small (about 1/8") gap between each board to allow for expansion and contraction of the wood. 

Originally, almost all the beadboard (which is the only thing holding up that big thick fascia board), only came in to the first rafter. Over time, the weight of that large fascia board, the slate on top of it eave, and the lack of support, causes the eaves to sag down. It's a common problem in this city where apparently no builder figured out how stupid this was. So it is common here for roofers to have to jack up these eaves and replace some of these short beadboards with longer ones that go in at least a couple rafters. So when I replaced the beadboard, I used much longer pieces.

Then, I basically repeated that entire process for the south side. Plus, the end of the south side had always been sagging. At one point, someone attempted to fix this by sistering in some 2x4s but they were not level and only reinforced the drooping. I tore all that out and started over, making sure to level it and support it all with rafter ties. Also, the top of the fascia board on this side, a thick 2x8, was rotted. Removing it entirely and having one custom milled to those dimensions and reinstalling would have been a huge project. Since it was only rotted about an inch deep at the top, for a few feet in length, I just cut out the rotted section and glued and screwed a piece in that section (taken from a good portion of one of the removed rafters, so it was old growth and the correct thickness). Once the seam is puttied and it's all painted, it won't be visible.

This was a large job. It broke down something like this:
  • 1 day roof tear off and cleanup
  • 1 day pulling nails from deck and staring at cracked ridge, brainstorming
  • 1 day jacking cracked ridge and tying in new board
  • 1 day deck tear off (north side) and clean up
  • 1 day replacing and sistering rafters (north side)
  • 1 day installing new deck and beadboard (north side)
  • 1 day deck tear off (south side) and cleanup
  • 1 day replacing and sistering rafters (south side)
  • 1 day installing new deck and beadboard (south side)
  • 1 day misc

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Unopened 1915 Lightbulbs

I love finding old treasures. And the best place to find them in this house is in the attic. Lately, I've been cleaning the attic because my new slate roof is going to be installed in a couple weeks. Today I discovered these! Two unopened boxes of 1915 light bulbs. They were both underneath the floorboards. Amazingly, they survived the leaky section of roof, the mice, and the pigeons that used to live up there.

They were apparently made by Shelby Lamps, which was owned by General Electric. I just found that Shelby has a museum in Shelby, Ohio. Here is some info from their site:
In 1912, General Electric built a large production facility in Nela Park, Cleveland, Ohio and began absorbing many of the smaller lamp companies. Shelby's "Lamp works" continued to manufacture lamps until 1914, when they too, were acquired by General Electric. The "Mazda" and "Shelby" names and trademarks continued to be used at the Nela Park, Cleveland facility, because the Shelby name was widely known for quality.

Friday, September 27, 2013

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 in the bathroom. The door had long been closed off along with a small bathroom window which was right next to the door. There were clear lines of clapboards filling in where the door and window used to be. The balcony railings had been removed but you could see where they had attached to the house.

I salvaged an original balcony door and original storm door with frame from a house last year. When I removed the clapboard and sheathing that filled in where the door was, the new salvaged door and frame fit like a glove. Height and width were absolutely spot on! It was amazing. Once it was installed, the top trim lined up perfectly, and there was exactly enough space to fit the side trim against the ends of the clapboard on both sides. I haven't installed the storm door yet.

I scored some balcony railings from someone's tree lawn on garbage day. They match my original front porch railings but taller, EXACTLY what I needed for the balcony. That will be installed once the new roof is installed.

I will eventually put a window back where it was closed off but currently the tile for the shower is right there and I'm not demolishing my bathroom (yet). When I install the clawfoot tub, I will put the window back. I will install a separate shower on the other side of the bathroom.

There were 3 windows installed, one on each side of the enclosed porch. The windows were French style windows, not double hung like the rest of the house. I hated them! My plan has always been to replace the windows so they'd match the double hung style of the rest of the house. Of course I would never use replacement windows for reasons stated in a previous post. I wanted the windows to match the rest of the house as much as possible. Wood framed, double hung, pulleys, weights, the whole 9 yards. The best way to accomplish that? Take windows from another historic house. So on the 3 houses that I salvaged last year, I removed 2 windows, frames, weights, everything. The challenge was that the windows would need to be really short, since this room has a shorter ceiling height than the rest of the kitchen. And I wanted the new windows to be above counter level.

The 2 windows I salvaged were nearly identical in width but way too tall. Simple fix, I thought, just cut them shorter. Not quite that simple. Once you cut them shorter, new holes need to be cut for the pulleys. The little access doors for weight access were too tall once the frame was shorter. The sash, fully open, would have prevented the access door from being opened. So those had to be cut smaller. Then, of course, the sashes themselves would be too tall. I had to have custom sashes built (over $200 for one pair of sashes). The downside of new sashes is that they are new growth wood instead of the old growth that the originals were made out of. I considered disassembling the original sashes and shortening them but I don't have the time or patience for that job. The original sills had the edges broken off, for aluminum siding. I removed them and had new ones custom milled to match. The weights will need to be cut to balance the weight of smaller sashes (that will be an interesting guessing game). Then, after all that trouble, might as well put wavy antique glass in. So I removed glass from my collection of old rescued sashes I've recovered from people's tree lawns and had it cut and installed in the new sashes. Not really a fun job. It'd be nice if you could just go to the store and buy brand new wood old-style double hung windows, frames and all.

On the 3rd side of the enclosure, my plan has always been to install a small back door. I salvaged a 30" door and frame from one of those houses last year for just this purpose. However, there is no existing framing to accommodate a door, like there was on the balcony. Also, the central air conditioning unit is exactly in the way and needs to be moved first. So for now, I just closed off this window completely. I will probably revisit this back door project at a later date.

There was one interior corner of the enclosure where there was no corner trim. Every other interior corner has a small square piece of corner trim that the clapboards butts
up against. This one corner was missing this trim piece and the clapboard butted into each other at a 90 deg angle. This bothered me. I decided to install the trim. This is quite the challenge when the clapboard is still there. I had a piece of trim custom cut by the lumber yard to match the dimension of the others. Then I had to cut the ends off of all the clapboard to accommodate the trim, not fun when the clapboard is still attached to the house. Then I had to loosen the ends of the clapboard, remove nails, pry it away from the house, and try to slide the trim into place.

On top of all that, I still had to strip the paint, repair and replace clapboard, replace the sill edges on the windows of the built ins, sand, prime, and caulk.

In summary, the rear restoration included:
-Installing a balcony door
-Replacing 2 windows with custom built double hung windows
-Closing off 1 window
-Replacing 8 window sill edges
-Replacing 2 drip edges
-Repairing broken trim
-Installing interior corner trim
-Replacing a lot of clapboard
-Stripping all the paint
-Filling holes/cracks
-Sanding everything with 80 grit
-Washing with TSP