Wednesday, February 24, 2010

The Dining Room Part 2

While pulling up the carpet in the dining room, this happened:


It would seem that the wood stove tile surround was grouted into the carpet, because when we pulled up the carpet, tile went flying. In the above picture you can see pieces of the carpet still stuck to the tile. This really did not bother us much because we had talked about cutting off the corners, re-tiling it, or getting rid of the whole thing altogether. It is manufactured by a company named Efel which has been around since the 1970s. The reason I wanted to get rid of it was because it took up so much of the room, especially the pathway from the kitchen to living room.

Though I would have loved to replace it with something smaller and more antique-looking like this:

It would have cost a couple thousand dollars, so we decided to just cut off the corners of the platform. We edged it with slate, which I think was an improvement over the previous tile. Here is what it looks like now:

This job was actually much easier than I thought it would be. The cement pad had been poured onto a plywood square. I was really afraid that the cement might have been poured directly onto the wood floor because I thought it was likely poured by the same person that grouted it into the carpet. Had that been the case, we likely would have simply re-tiled it. Once we cut through the tile, cement, and plywood, the corners lifted off the floor with little effort.

The two cement cuts that we made produced an insane amount of dust. We sealed off the other rooms but dust still got everywhere because we did not do it before we started cutting. We did it more like halfway through. As a result, the most difficult part of this job was the cleanup.

While thoroughly cleaning behind and underneath the stove so that I could properly seal the tile, I realized there was a lot of junk crammed behind it. Here is what I found:

I wish it would have been something cool like a key to the back door, but no. Just some cheap plastic clamps and a melted screwdriver. When I find stuff like this hidden in dark crevices, I feel like my house will never truly be clean.

So I look at the stove now, and I think, "Sure, we did the best we could with what we have, and it looks okay. And it is certainly functional, but what was there originally?" Something was definitely there. I know this because in the Pearson house next door (with the exact identical dining room wall) there is a missing piece in the picture rail with a small collectible plate hung over the missing piece. This is located exactly where I have a missing piece in my picture rail due to my stove's smoke stack. See below the white picture rail to which I am referring:

At the Pearson house, there is nothing but carpet on the floor and nothing but wainscot on the wall. My house did originally have a brick chimney coming out of the roof around this spot in the house, which would make it seem there was a fireplace here, but that does not make sense to me because of the wainscot. It matches the rest of the house's wainscot identically, so I do believe it was originally there. When I asked the neighbor about the plate hung oddly on the wall, he told me it is where the old oil-burning furnace was. He had lived there since the 1940s, so I believe he might have been talking about that time period. But it does not really make sense to me. Being born in the 1980s in the South, I know very little about oil-burning furnaces. When I google image them, it seems they are rather unsightly and are typically located in basements. I cannot understand one being in a dining room, so right now I consider this a mystery. I have no idea how this house was heated when it was built. Fireplaces and stoves seem the most obvious answer to me. 

Moving on with the rest of the room's are a few shots of the priming process:


And here is what it looks like now in a counter-clockwise rotation around the room:

We have only painted the walls, frieze, and ceiling. We have not gotten to the wainscot or any of the trim. It will all be done in Navajo White, which is sort of a cream color and the color of the ceiling. The dark blue on the walls is called Daring Indigo. I believe the light blue is called Enchanting, but I will have to check that next time I am at the store.

As always I will have to end this post with some before & after.





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.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

The Office

Last post I focused on the living room. When you walk into the living room, the office is through a door on your left. The office is 12' x 12' with 11.5' ceilings like the rest of the first floor. Though you could use it as a bedroom, it is not legally considered a bedroom because it does not have a closet. It does have 3 beautiful windows, a great view, and is conveniently located off the living room, so we use it as an office. It mostly serves as a place to store and organize marketing materials for our work-from-home job. It is also where I have to use my laptop anytime I need to print or scan anything, and it tends to be the place where I bring the mail, file statements, and pay bills. Eventually we want to have floor-to-ceiling bookshelves with one of those cool sliding ladders on the wall. We also want to put two comfortable, regal wing-backed chairs as a seating area with a small coffee table that permanently holds fine whiskey in a crystal decanter. We picture a very old, large world map on the wall. We will also need cabinets in which to hide the explicitly modern marketing materials. But these are our far-off future goals. We don't expect these goals to come into fruition for at least 5 years, but I explain it so that you can understand my choice of paint color. Our office (at which point we will call a study) will be the strong, classy, masculine room of the house. I should probably just shut up and get on with the pictures already, since that really is all anyone sees anyway. Here a few shots of what it looked like before becoming officially ours:
You can see the house trying to puke up the carpet in the corner in the above picture. The house hated the carpet as much as we did. I will not digress into the story of the carpets. But here are a few pictures of the carpet removal process:
And here is what the ceiling looked like:

After removing the popcorn ceiling and repairing it where cracked, we had the walls skim coated to make them smooth. They had a sort of skip trowel texture on them which was put on over wallpaper who knows how long ago. So somewhere underneath all that is the original plaster walls, and knowing that is enough to keep my heart content. Here is what it looked like after skim coating, but before painting: (it looks textured due to the skimming material being thicker and thinner in different parts, but it was smooth to the touch)

After the contractors skim coated it, I sanded it myself and did a pretty bad job, mostly because I had no idea how to do it. I did a much better job in the living room and dining room. By the time I got to this room, I was thinking, "Surely I'm doing this all wrong and it's not going to make a difference...whatever." From other old house blogs, I got the idea that sanding was a huge pain and very difficult, and it seemed like what I had done in the other rooms was very easy, hence the attitude I developed in this room, and it shows. I wish I had put in the same 20 minutes I put into the other rooms, but oh well. Can you sand after you've painted? I have no idea, but I will probably try. This room isn't too bad, however. I'm pretty sure this wall color is Billiard Green, the frieze color is Mountain Haze, and the ceiling color is Navajo White. One of the reasons I chose to do the living room the paler green is so it transition well into the office. I kind of wanted a gray or gold living room, but I thought it would be too jarring of a difference; I didn't want the office to look like an afterthought. But I absolutely love the living room color, even more so than I do the office color, so I think it worked out great in the end. When all the trim work gets painted sometime before September, it will be Navajo White as well. Here is what it looks like now:


I think it's time for a before and after:

And another one:

After looking at the before and after, I realize something very important the before picture does not capture, and that is the smell. It smelled terrible like wet dog, soil, and mustiness. The carpets were completely disgusting and stained with what I believe was likely dog urine and feces. The wood floor underneath was painted brown and covered in paint spills like the rest of the house, but it will look awesome once it is refinished. This is pretty much how it will look for the next few months. After painting the trim and refinishing the floors sometime in the summer or fall, the only other improvements will be hanging curtains and art and putting our book collection onto the bookcases. The grander plans will wait a few years. Tune in next time for the dining room tour.