Sunday, October 08, 2017

Old House Update - October 2017

You know your house needs deep cleaning when the dirty footprints are leading OUT of your house.
It's been a busy couple of months since my last update.  School has not only been in full swing, but fall break begins next week.  Homecoming has come and gone, the senior has marched in his last parade and Sprite is getting ready for the school talent show this week.  The Diva has settled in with a new teacher and we are continuing to make progress on the old house.

I am not going to detail every bit of work as it would boring to read, but I will show you all we have accomplished.

First, we have a working, almost finished upstairs bathroom!!!!  We can shower at home now.

When we bought the tile, I wasn't sure if I would like it.  I wanted the standard sized 3" x 6" subway tile for the shower.  DH and J- were planning to do the tiling themselves and wanted something bigger so there wasn't as much to grout.  So we bought 12" x 24" tile instead.  I didn't like it, but figured that it would probably be okay.

My mother-in-law suggested that we talk to one of her nephews who was a professional tiler.  We hired him and he did a meticulous job.  We chose a medium gray grout to make the white tile really stand out.  It turned out so much better than I expected and I really love how it turned out.

We ran into a couple of snags in the bathroom.  First, the tiler discovered that there was a crack in the shower base.

We had to make several phone calls and found that repairs would not be covered under warranty as it happened after installation.  We don't know how it happened, but it wasn't there when the base was installed.  But we did find someone in Kansas City willing to drive out to our house to fix it.  It is barely noticeable now.

Second, when R- came to install the sink, he found that the water lines were installed to be 6.25" apart.  This would be fine for a sink set in a vanity, but we bought a pedestal sink for that bathroom as it is a fairly small space.  We had two choices:  rip up the new floor and have the water lines re-positioned or buy a new sink.  We bought a new sink with a vanity.   It is a little large for the space, but it will work and have storage for towels.

Then, after the vanity was installed, we found the new sink had been miscast and the overflow drain was so thin that it had a large hole in it.  I bought a second sink/vanity combo, we swapped the sinks and I took the old new sink and the new new vanity back for a refund.

The shower is divine and it was lovely to clean up at home after this last weekend of work.  We still have to rehang the door and install trim, the medicine cabinet, a plastic curtain to protect the window and assorted hooks and holders for towels and toilet paper, but the bathroom is usable and that makes me happy.

The kitchen is painted, both ceiling and walls.

Kitchen - North and west walls

Kitchen into the dining room

I have had a similar shade of green in my current kitchen and liked it so much that I wanted to use it again.  I think it looks pretty with the white cabinets.  We plan to add a 12" cabinet on either side of the stove to pull it away from the chimney.  In this room, we still need new counter tops, new floor and possibly a new sink.  I keep wavering between keeping the existing sink (which is really worn and rusty in spots) and replacing it with a stainless steel sink.  The steel sink is more practical for how I cook, but I love that old vintage sink and would spend the money on refinishing it if I knew that new finish would last as long as the original.

The kitchen and the bathroom are the only two rooms that get their own colors.  The rest of the house is being painted country white.  Our current home is like living in a crayon box:  Sprite's room is three shades of aqua, Senior's room is two shades of dark blue, Diva's room is lavendar, the kitchen is green, the living room and family rooms are beige and/or country white, our bedroom and bathroom are peach and DH's office is "IBM" gray (appropriate for an IT professional.)  I like it, but redecorating involves repainting and I dread having to repaint the Senior's navy walls.  The country white gives the whole house a fresh clean vibe and I plan to liven it up with colors in the fabrics ad rugs that we choose.

Dining Room - North wall

Dining room - east all

Dining room - south wall

Dining room - west wall, only one coat of paint at that point.

Dining room:  installation of  new ceiling tile is in progress

DH's office has two coats of paint, but really needs a third.  It still looks so much better than either the wood paneling or the sickly pink.

DH and I are using this room to sleep in until the addition is built next year.

DH's office - west wall and cubby.  This will look a lot nicer after the trim is painted.

DH's office -- this wall looks so much nicer with the new dry wall.  It was all cracked with lots of holes. 

The entry hall, stair case and upstairs halls are also painted.  All the pink is gone.  Mostly.

Entry Hall and Stair case

Looking Upstairs

Looking down stairs

This corner baffles me.  The area to the left where the wall juts out is just boxed in -- just dead space that can't be used.  We are not sure why anyone would configure the banister this way and figure they never expected to have to paint it.  There is still some pink and some wall paper left on the wall between the banister and that bit that juts out.  I was able to get to some of it with a thin narrow roller designed for painting trim, but just couldn't reach the last little bit.  It can't be seen unless you know how to look for it, so I will leave that little bit of history for the next owners to puzzle over.

DH and J- have been steadily working on completing the remaining wiring projects.  All the wiring in the upper two floors is done and I am so happy about that.  All the old knob-and-tube wiring and cloth covered Romex wiring is either gone or disconnected and no longer a fire hazard.  That also means we can finally insulate the attic.  DH and R- spent a Saturday blowing an additional layer of insulation.  No pictures, but the house will be much cozier when it gets cold.

The fun part of all the painting is finally getting to install some of the finishing touches, like the switch plates.   I have wanted to finish the push button switches for a long time, but couldn't find the screws. I figured that I would have to buy new screws and found some old ones to use temporarily so I could get the plate installed.  Guess what?

Found them! 
DH had put them where they would be safe and easily found.  Except we all forgot that bit.

All done.  
 We decided to use the new bronze plate instead of the original brass, but I will keep the original with the other original things found in the house.

We did a little home automation too:

To get to the basement light switch, you first have to go down three steps and turn.  If you have an armload, this could be a problem.  To make it a little easier, we added a motion sensor which will trigger the basement lights to turn on when it senses movement from either door.  If we are away from the house, it will also send a notification that there is someone in the house.  We used a SmartThings hub (NAYY - not affiliated, yadda yadda) so that we can remotely turn off and on lights and have a light come on in the house as we approach the house from outside (it senses our phones.)  We have one in our current home with lights programmed to turn off and on automatically, turn on the coffee pot in the morning and turn on a light when the garage door is opened (very useful with a teen driver who often leaves the garage door open.) I have had a lot of fun programming it and coming up with new things for it to do.

We are getting closer to the end of Phase 1.  I have only three more rooms to paint walls and all the trim.  We also need to stain the deck and finish the kitchen and next spring, we plan to begin restoring the twenty original windows.  I will be ecstatic to finally clean the house and just enjoy being there instead of working all the time.

We could not gotten this far without the incredible family and friends who have volunteered their free time to help with painting, heavy lifting and wiring projects and feeding us.  To protect privacy, I won't mention names here, but know that we are deeply grateful for all your help.

With luck, by the time I can get to the next update, we will be mostly if not completely done with phase 1 (restoring the original house) and planning phase 2 (the addition).

Have a great fall!

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Old House Update - July

As expected, July was very busy, dusty and dirty for the old house, but we made lots of progress and it is exciting to see it coming together finally.

First, we got our car back.  Yea!   DH missed it (Scout really missed it).  The repair shop had it two weeks then DH stayed at the old house for another two weeks to work on the house, so Scout was relegated to driving the van for a month.

All fixed from smashing into the deer.

The whole family spent the long 4th of July weekend at the house. It was a fun weekend with a lot of activity:  Sprite went with her grandparents to watch the parade, DH and I went to a concert at the park put on by a band in which two of his brothers are members and the kids walked to the school to watch fireworks.  

And we stripped wall paper:

Kitchen entryway into dining room

We found at least 8 different wall papers on the kitchen walls. We also confirmed an idea that I had that the arch was not original to the house.  You can see the right upper curve was filled in from a straight cut at one time.

The wiring is nearly done!  Only the outlets in the basement need wires pulled and hooked up and the outlets in DH's office only need to be hooked up.  The hardest outlets this month were the outlets for the stove.  Turns out that wall was originally a load bearing wall that someone decided to open up to the dining room.  It may be some of the reason for the sloped floors upstairs.  This happened well over 50 years ago, long before open concept floor plans became trendy.  So, our guess is that there was a full wall between the kitchen and the dining room with a door on the right.  That fits with the style of homes from that era where kitchens were normally hidden away from the living areas.

Most of the plumbing is finished with the exception of the upstairs bathroom.  We have a new hot water heater and I even have the washer hooked up and a new electric dryer. We also have a new natural gas line to the house so we will no longer need to worry about filling the propane tank.

The sheet rock started going up to cover the worst cracks in the walls.  


The kitchen looks amazing.  We probably didn't need to strip the paper after all, but it was interesting to see all the decor choices from the past 100 years.
Kitchen wow
Kitchen - look at that chimney!
Dining Room - North

Dining room - south

Upstairs Hall

Upstairs door is no longer an arch.

Bathroom Shower - getting ever closer to having a working shower!

Toilet area

Office/Bedroom ceiling - pretty and smooth
We aren't doing the sheet rock ourselves -- R-, son of the people we bought the house from, is doing the sheet rock  with his sons.  They still have some mudding to do, but the sheet rock is all installed and taped and looks so wonderful and clean.  

All this has taken most of the last several weeks and DH has gone up there alone or with Sprite every weekend.  He wanted me to go up to have a look at the progress for myself and make some decisions that needed to be made.  I left last Thursday afternoon and made it up there for bedtime.  Friday morning, I took a lovely walk around the property and decided to see if we had apples on the two trees.    I tasted on of the red ones -- not ripe, but they will have a great taste when they are ready!
Granny Smiths?

Red Delicious?

I also saw my brother-in-law's bees (from a safe distance), poked around the barns a bit to see what needed to be done to make them usable chicken coops and looked to see if there would be walnuts (couldn't see any).

I did have a goal for making some headway on the walls.  There were several holes in the plaster wall that needed to be repaired and I was determined to fill these.  I had purchased plaster and a plaster repair kit from Big Wally's Plaster Magic.  I watched every video they had on their YouTube channel and figured that I could do that.  The hardest thing was trying to figure out where my supplies and tools had been moved.   I did have to go into town to find hardware cloth -- a wire mesh needed to support the plaster where the lathe had been removed.  Finding that took longer than actually filling the holes.

I started at Orscheln Farm and Home.  I looked in their paint department as I thought that, since Big Wally videos showed hardware cloth being used for repairing walls, I would find it in with the Spackle and patch repair supplies.  No luck.  I went down to the hardware store on the square.  They didn't have it but directed me to the lumber yard.  The lumber yard didn't have it either and told me to go to Orscheln's.

"But I started at Orscheln's."

"You were in the wrong department.  You need to look in the fencing department."

Hmm.  I was starting to feel like the Boy Scouts in my son's troop during their first summer camp  who were sent from campsite to campsite to find the left-handed smoke shifter.   But I found the hardware cloth as right where the gentleman at the lumber yard said it would be.  Once I saw it, it made total sense why it was in the fencing aisle.  It is mostly used for making cages for small animals.  I bought the smallest roll they had and went on my merry way back home.

Per directions, I cleaned each hole, drilled holes to the lathe, squirted first conditioner then glue so the plaster would be re adhered to the lathe.  I fitted the hardware cloth to the hole.

Then I screwed in the clamps and mixed plaster to the consistency of peanut butter. and filled in the holes.

First layer
I found it works better if you let the glue dry and remove the clamps or you get plaster in the screws which makes it hard to remove them later.

I also learned that you can't mix your plaster too far ahead of time, because, of course, it hardens while you do other things.

Lesson learned. 
Final layer.  (Different hole -- this one didn't need gluing first).

They still need to be smoothed down and topped with joint compound, but it was actually a lot easier than I thought it would be.  Even with the wasted plaster, I had just enough to fill in all six holes.    I have five more tubes of glue that will be used for fixing the biggest cracks in the remaining walls.

So it was a very busy month and DH and I are very happy with the progress.  There is lots more to do but we have the whole school year in which to get as much done as we can.  Two kids started school this past Wednesday and the third will start this coming Thursday.  Scout is a senior so we will have lots of senior related things to do this year which may slow us down a bit, but I don't want miss any of those precious memories.

** Not affiliated with either Big Wally's or Orscheln Farm & Home -- just companies where I've purchased items that seemed to work.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Old House Update - June

Playing on the porch
 It's been a busy month for DH at the old house.  He, Jim and BIL Pat have been moving along with the electrical work while waiting for plumbing and HVAC to be started.  Both contractors are busy but both assured us that we were on their list.  We saw progress in both areas this month which is wonderful!

One trip to the old house was very exciting but not in a good way. DH made his usual trip, leaving after work Thursday night.  I usually check in on him using the GPS app on my phone and saw that he had made it to the house.  He called and I thought he said "I'm here".  I said "Good, I was watching you."  It took him a couple of tries before I finally understood he was saying "I hit a deer!"

Deer Damage

Thankfully, he was unhurt -- just a little shook up.  I am so glad because the area where he hit the deer is very rural and he might not have been found for a while (though my MIL also keeps tabs on him via GPS, so either of us would have noticed that he was stopped and not moving.)  The car was drive-able and he continued on his way to the house.

He was lucky. Right after he got there, a really bad storm rolled through with 80 mph straight-line winds and it hit that area the worst. We lost a couple of trees but other residents had much worse damage.  We were very lucky.  Our car has been in the shop for the past two weeks but will be ready tomorrow.
Cedar Tree in the middle of the pasture with the top snapped off
Upstairs, the wiring is done in both east and south bedrooms and new ceiling fans installed in both rooms.  The west bedroom (aka DH's office) has been roughed in and waiting now for new drywall to be installed over the worst of the cracked walls.  Once that is done, they will finish the wiring in that room.  CAT-6 cable has been dropped for networking -- DH wants the house to be fully networked for future upgrades later.    Only DH's office, the bathroom (roughed in and waiting for the plumber) and the hall closet are left for wiring.  I've requested a light and an outlet in the closet as that will probably be my fabric stash closet.

East Room ceiling fan - we bought the same fan for all three bedrooms

Downstairs, new light fixtures have been installed in the hall coat closet, porch and entry hall and a new fan installed in the living room. The hall and living room are done except for one switch (and maybe one outlet that I requested, but they didn't see.  The dining room has about half the outlets replaced and two new ones still to be installed.  We bought the same fixture for the dining room as we bought for the hall but we are waiting for the new dry wall to be installed in the dining room first which won't happen until after the plumbing is done for the bathroom (located right over the dining room).
Hall closet - eventually I'd like to replace this with a motion sensor so that it will light up when I open the door.

Porch Light

Living Room ceiling fan

Entry Hall light fixture - we have the same one for the dining room
They started cutting the holes for the new outlets in the kitchen.  We are adding at least 6 outlets on three or four circuits to the kitchen.  I am not a big gadget user, but when you have a big meal going, it is nice to have those extra outlets for appliances.

Original Switches and painted over switch plate.  The original switches have mother of pearl on the top button but they were painted over.

The house still had the original push button switches in the hall for the porch, hall and living room.  We loved the idea of the push buttons, but not the fact that the switches were not grounded.  I found reproduction switches on Amazon and ordered three.  One turned out to be defective, so I have requested an RMA and ordered two more to replace it (one to replace and one as a spare).  I did order a bronze switch plate as I wasn't sure the original plate would fit the new switches.

Cleaning in progress

DH brought the original plate.  I had read a tip that you could soak painted hardware in a crock pot of soapy water to soften and remove the paint.  I bought a used crock pot from Goodwill and soaked the old switch plate for a couple of hours.  The paint pealed right off!  The plate is brass and looks very nice now that it is cleaned up.  I didn't polish it to be very shiny, but wanted it to keep looking its age.
All cleaned up

Clean plate with new push button switches

Meanwhile, the plumber has been out several times in the past month.  First item on his agenda was to move the main shutoff from the southeast corner of the house (right by the electric panel) to the southwest corner.  Much safer!  He also buried the line so that it is now four feet below ground instead of one foot so it is more protected from freezing.  He also removed the cast iron and lead pipes and replaced the drain pipe going to the kitchen.  He wasn't able to come today as there has been some very heavy rain in the area (like 6-10 inches).

Best of all, the new furnace and air conditioner have been installed (cue angel choir).  The house has never had air conditioning before -- the previous owners were outdoor people and were comfortable without it.  But the Diva doesn't handle heat well and we need an even temperature for her, so A/C is necessary.   There is no duct work for the second floor, however, so we will continue to use window units until after our current home is sold and we have the cash to have the mini-splits installed next year.
Air conditioner
 July should be very exciting.  Hopefully, the last of the rewiring will be done, the plumbing will be done and the dry wall should be in progress if not completely done.  We ordered the tiles for the shower on Monday.  It arrived yesterday and is loaded in DH's car for the next trip up.  We are really hoping to have a working shower by the end of summer!