Tuesday, February 23, 2010

The Dining Room Part 1

The dining room is connected to the living room by pocket doors. For those of you unfamiliar with old house architecture and too young to remember, those are the types of doors that slide straight into the wall on a track. At one time they were very popular to separate one parlor from the next, but now if you see them at all in newer houses, they are likely to be used to separate a toilet and shower from the rest of a long rectangular bathroom, but I think even that stopped in the 1970s.

So once you walked through the pocket doors into the dining room when we first bought the house, it looked like this:

There was the infamous stained, stinky blue carpet accompanied by peachy tan textured walls and popcorn ceiling, all covered with a thick layer of dirt and grime. The doorway that you see there leads into the kitchen, as does the pass-through. I believe originally there was a swinging door in the doorway and a pair of cabinet doors on each side of the pass-through. This is based on touring my neighbor's house which has had very little modifications over the past 100 years. The cabinet doors I definitely want to replace. Even though I like having the pass-through to talk to people when they are in the dining room, the shelves there are completely useless because they get covered in dust in about 48 hours. It would be really convenient if I could put everyday dishes there, but as it is now, it just would not work. 

Here are a few shots of what it looked like just after we moved in. These were taken after the carpet was vacuumed and shampooed.
The door you can barely see on the far left is to the nursery, which at this point contains practical nursery furniture like a full sized bed and an 1800s wash stand. That room is a work in progress, and I will probably give a brief introduction of it in the next post, just to stay in order.

The drawers shown here are currently not being used because, frankly, I've never gotten around to cleaning them. I mean, I vacuumed all the mouse droppings out of them, but I just haven't felt like thoroughly disinfecting them. And now as I look at them from my couch while typing this, I wonder if they originally opened from both the kitchen and the dining room. I've seen this in old houses before, and they look like that type since they don't have front trim that would prevent them from being pushed in. Behind them currently is pre-fab Home Depot cabinets. Maybe one day I will find out, but not now. 

Also in the above and below picture is an exterior door which leads to the wraparound porch. Note the cords coming from the floor vent. There were several cords coming out of every vent throughout the house. I eventually cut them all out. The other ends of them are still hanging out in the basement. I think they were for cable (we don't own a television) and internet (we have wifi). 

This is the same wall with a glimpse of the pocket doors.

Here's a terrible picture looking through them into the living room.

The first thing we did was remove the popcorn ceilings. Though we could have done this ourselves, it was one of the things that the contractor had to do due to the 203k loan. We had them tested for asbestos before buying the house. Although asbestos in a popcorn ceiling will not cause harm as long as it is undisturbed, its safe removal by professionals would have been $15,000+. We would not have been able to remove it unprofessionally ourselves due to the 203k loan. The only other option was to just live with it, which to me, was not really an option. Fortunately the test came back negative.

The workers started by covering the walls and floors with plastic and spraying water onto the ceiling:

Then they began scraping the ceiling while it was damp:


Once it was done, the floor looked like this:

That was pretty much it for the removal process. They then puttied the cracks, of which there were not many. We did not concern ourselves with achieving perfect smoothness on the ceilings. After all, they are 11.5 feet high, not very close to the eyes. 

We then, with our own four hands, ripped out all the carpet in the entire house in one day due to an unforeseen flea plague. No, we don't have pets, but the previous owner did. Apparently fleas can live for several years on dead organic matter in a carpet without a living host. We discovered this flea problem by waking up our second morning in the house with our lower legs covered in flea bites, which we could not identify as flea bites until the town drunkard came by the house looking for work and asked about our flea bites, pointing to our legs. In that moment everything made sad, horrifying, perfect sense. It was a matter of minutes before our porch looked like this:

That is only a tiny fraction of the carpet. We immediately scheduled an exterminator for the next day. At about 10pm when we finished hauling it all outside, we went to an undisclosed hotel and jumped into the chlorinated swimming pool with all our clothes on, including shoes in an effort to kill the fleas on our bodies. It seemed to work. We have not had a flea problem since.

This was not part of our restoration plan. Though we of course hated the carpet and planned to get rid of it, we thought we could live with it temporarily since I did shampoo it twice -- once with my own shampooer and once with a Rug Doctor. My own shampooer and vacuum cleaner both broke while tackling this carpet monster. Though it was still yucky, it seemed livable enough for us as a short-term solution. We thought, "We're young. We're tough. We're not complainers. We don't have kids. We'll be fine with some smelly carpet." Oh, how wrong we were. Our plan was to get the ceilings, windows, and walls in good working order, paint everything, and then pull up the carpet and refinish the hardwood floors underneath as our last big project. But once the flea plague hit us, and we could not even sleep in our wonderful dream Victorian, we said forget the carpet and vowed to just live with whatever was underneath it. This is why in all my "after" pictures there is a painted brown wooden floor with lots of other paint colors splattered all over it. This is what was under the blue carpet, and this is what we live with.

It turns out the paint on the wood floor has really helped to protect it. I have no idea when or why it was painted. I think it was sometime in the last decade or two because one of the people we had come to give us a bid on restoring the floors said that it was a latex paint. Some rooms have an orange coating of what seems to be paint under the brown paint. I think this orange color is likely very old and perhaps even original, though I really can't be sure. It's in the two downstairs bedrooms and was on the back porch floor.

Our new plan is to have the floors professionally restored by Raphael Hardwood Flooring in April when we get our tax refund back. They are one of the few people we could find that were confident and had experience in dealing with old Fir floors. Fir is a much softer wood than most wood used for floors such as Oak. In fact, many people tried to tell us that our floors must have been a sub-floor because fir is just too soft to be used as a flooring material. Or that even if it was the original floor, it would quickly deteriorate if we tried to restore it. The guy from Raphael assured me that this was the original floor and that it is much stronger than modern Fir because it is old-growth meaning it was allowed to grow for a longer period of time which made it stronger. In addition they will seal it with a commercial-grade sealer, like the type used in gyms, to make it more durable. He said that there is a company in Sacramento that specializes in installing reclaimed old Fir floors from barns and old houses like mine into new construction homes, and that their estimates usually run into six figures. So that makes me feel pretty good about our decision to restore the floors. I would say at least 90% of people were telling us to forget about it and just cover it in laminate. When I told that to the guy from Raphael, he said he considers "laminate" to be a bad word. I like their company, and I look forward to sharing the results in April.

I will have to stop for now. I am trying to do more frequent, shorter posts. I will pick up here next time.

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