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!

Thursday, June 08, 2017

Ottobre 2014-03-35 "Miss Meadow"

Sprite has always had definite opinions about what she wants to wear.  When she was two years old, I made an adorable sundress set using a yellow and orange floral print and made with lots of ruffles.  She flat out refuse to wear it.  I insisted.  When I finally got it onto her, she shrieked unhappily as if the fabric was searing her skin.  After many tears, she told me what was wrong with the little dress:


I learned my lesson.  Never again would I make an outfit for her without consulting her on pattern and fabric choices.

Last fall, she decided to try out for the middle school talent show and planned to sing and play her guitar.  She requested a new dress for the event and together, we decided on the Miss Meadow dress from the 2014 Summer Ottobre. Sprite prefers clean lines, no fuss and no ruffles.  This dress fit the criteria perfectly. She wanted blue fabric, her favorite color, and we found royal blue rayon challis at JoAnns.

I managed to finish it before the talent show, but I really should not attempt to line up a zipper when sewing late at night. 
In my haste, I didn't think to match up the waist seams.

Also need practice making the top of the zipper come out right.
I didn't really catch the mistake until it was too close to show time to redo it.  Sprite was delighted with the dress despite its shortcomings and wore it to the show.  She performed beautifully and Mama cried a bit watching her.

This week, she entered three events in the 4-H Judging and Achievement Day:  judging, grooming and demonstration.  She wanted to wear her dress again for the grooming event, but I still hated that zipper and didn't want it seen.  We decided that I would make a belt and she found a similar weight aqua blue challis that both fit her aesthetic and looked good with the royal blue:

(If you want to enlarge the pics for detail, click once on any one picture and Blogger will take you to an album that will let you zoom in to details.)

The belt was just a simple tube that I interfaced with a fusible interfacing.  I narrowed the ends a bit to fit the buckle.  The belt ended up slightly too short so I added a snap to keep it closed.  The buckle covers the snap and it was easy for Sprite to get on and off.

Here are a couple pictures of her modeling the dress on the way to Judging and Achievement Day:


The waist seam slipped under the belt.  I wanted to tack the belt to one side of the zipper but ran out of time.

She and I both loved her look.  The judges did too, as well as her general poise and personality, and she received blue ribbons for both grooming and her demonstration (she made chocolate chip scones).  She got a red for judging but she had done that for the educational experience and was still happy with the ribbon.

The pink flamingos are not normally part of the landscaping, but we got "flocked" that day.  The youth group at our church has a great fundraiser where anyone can order a flock of pink flamingos to be placed in another church member's yard.  They also offer "insurance" so that members who don't want to be flocked can opt out.  It's all good fun and the money goes to fund the annual youth mission trip.  I was looking for our plastic Easter eggs to place under the birds to pretend they were laying eggs in our yard, but by the time I came up from the basement, they were gone.

That was a really good, fun day!

We are all back to the old house this weekend for more wiring, wall patching and a family reunion.  Hope you all have a good weekend too!

Sunday, June 04, 2017

Old House: April through June 4

I know, another old house post.  I actually do plan on a blog post about a dress that I made for Sprite later next week.  We've had a lot going on with the end of the school year plus the work on the old house, but now that the teens (yes, all three are now teens) are all out of school, the schedule should lighten up a little.  It helps that the Scout drives himself and can drive Sprite if needed.  He still has marching band and a job to keep him busy and Sprite is in at least three 4-H projects plus Junior Leaders, plus camp,  In addition, we three will volunteer at VBS this year..  The Diva starts back to summer school in a couple weeks and she will be happy about that.

We got good news in April:  the attic insulation tested negative for asbestos.  DH and Scout still suit up when going up there because the insulation is irritating to skin but we are no longer worried about long term health issues from the attic.

I haven't posted since April because most of the work in progress is the same project - rewiring the entire house.  We are trying to do this while disturbing as little plaster as possible.  So far, we've done pretty well.  I say "we" but I actually mean DH and his electronics instructor from Vo-tech, Jim H.  Jim truly is a gifted teacher and is teaching Scout the basics of wiring during this project.  DH is learning a lot as well and that will help with some of the projects that we need to do in the current house.

Starting back to mid April and updating through the end of May, this is what is now completed:

We've made a lot of progress with the rewiring:  The wire coming into the house was originally 60 amps, not quite enough for our modern needs.  The electric company came out and replaced that wire with three 3/4" thick wires for a 200 amp circuit breaker box.  Next, the electrician replaced the old circuit 100 amp panel (you read that right -- we had a 60 amp wire coming into a 100 amp box) with a 200 amp panel.

New wiring
Old box - saving for future garage
New box

We really didn't want to open up walls to bring the wires up from the basement, so Jim and DH decided to use the chimney to run wiring to the upper floor.  The chimney probably hasn't been used since the gas and wood burning furnaces were installed.  There was a roof leak around it  about 10 years ago.  It made sense at the time to tear down enough of the chimney to fix the roof and remove the potential for future leaks.  You can see the top of the chimney on the right side of this picture of the attic:

This turned out to be lucky for us as it meant that DH and Jim could run the wiring up from the basement to the attic through the empty chimney without touching the walls.  Then they just needed to fish the wire down to the bedrooms.
Brick Removed
Wired chimney

 They started with the bathroom rough in so the plumber would have easy access (and light!) to work.

Wires to switch

First wire in!
It works!

I truly will not bore you with pics of every light, switch and outlet, but we are excited to have ceiling lights and most of the outlets working in all the upstairs rooms (though it did just now occur to me that I do want a light and maybe an outlet in the hall closet we had originally thought to demolish but have decided to keep).  It is a relief to turn off the old wiring for that floor.
The three-way switch for the light over the stairs proved to be challenging.  The switch at the top of the stairs was easy, but the one at the bottom is on an outside wall that has two layers of plaster and lathe and outside sheeting that is over an inch thick.  After a couple of attempts to run the wire down the wall from above, DH and Jim gave up and ran the wire back down the chimney and up from the floor.   I don't seems to have pics from that project.  DH has been using FaceTime to show me progress when I am home with the kids and he doesn't always take pictures.  We are excited that the light can be operated from up or down stairs.  It's the little things that make me happy.

All we have left upstairs is a couple of outlets for DH's office which Jim would like to teach Scout to wire under his supervision.  As Scout had to work this weekend, DH and Jim worked on the ceiling lights in the kitchen and dining room which both now work, but need new fixtures installed.  They used the old ones for now.  They also replaced existing outlets on either side of the shared living room/dining room wall and found that the refrigerator was tied to those outlets as well so now they moved the fridge to its own circuit which it will share with a garbage disposal (next year, maybe).  

To do the wiring for the ceiling lights, they decided to take advantage of space under the ceiling tiles to run the wires rather than try to feed the wires through the floor.  They took down the tiles in the dining room and kitchen:

Dining room

Then they ran the wiring between the furring strips to the lights and inside the wall to the basement.  That worked with minimal damage. 

The ceiling paper was a surprise.  It is in good condition and we aren't taking it down, just covering it with sheet rock once the plumbing is done.  Seems that papering ceilings is a trend again -- just proves that old trends never really die.  

They still have to finish the outlets on the main floor, the ceiling lights in the living room, hall and porch and add some outlets to the basement,  DH estimates about 2-3 more weekends of work and then the wiring will be complete.  

DH needed a weekend at home and I wanted to see the progress, so he and I switched one weekend and he stayed home with the kids and I went up to the house.  I mostly cleaned and reorganized the tools, but did complete a couple small projects of my own:

I took down all the paneling and the remaining wall frame in DH's office.  He didn't care for it and doing that really opened up and lightened up the room:

Before.  The 2x2 were a simple wall.

West wall with cubby
North Wall
Bad plaster left of the chimney
\There are several shades of pink in this room.  Most of the house was originally painted in interesting shades of blue and pink which have faded to dull hues.  There is a lot of plaster damage in this room and it is obvious that the paneling was used to cover up the fact that the house has settled considerably.  The chimney is plumb, but the walls are pulling away from the chimney.  This should be fixed with the repairs to the foundation, so we can patch these walls or cover with sheet rock.  The steel wool stuffed into the cracks was used to prevent critters from coming into the house.  There was a lot more stuffed around the chimney.   We saved the paneling -- it is good quality and still in good condition for being at least 50 years old.

Since I was in demolition mode, I also took down the wallpaper in the dining room.  I was nervous about this -- we'd had the same blue wallpaper in a previous home that really didn't want to be removed from the wall.  This stuff, however, had been installed correctly and came down fairly easily.  There are a couple of spots that will need more work to remove, but overall, the walls just need to be sanded smooth and primed for new paint.



Still some left

The whole family came to the house for Memorial Day weekend and I completed a couple more projects while DH, Jim and Scout worked on the wiring.  First, I finally was able to remove most of the rubber backing from the old carpet pad from the east bedroom using a heat gun and metal putty knife:

In progress

Much better!

I mostly used the low setting on the heat gun to warm up the rubber and then it generally scraped right off.  The thicker layers pealed off easier than the thinner ones.  I spent most of the day on the room and got most of the rubber off in the visible spaces.  There is still quite a bit of rubber in the cubby, but most of it is gone in the room.  The room smells so much better -- that old rubber made the room smell like new blacktop on a hot day.  

If you use this technique, be sure to follow the directions on the heat gun to keep moving it, use plenty of ventilation to keep from getting sick from the rubber fumes and watch out for the barrel of the heat gun  and the blade of the putty knife as you can burn yourself easily.  I got several small burns from accidentally brushing the barrel while working.

I also replaced the faucets in both the half bath (the old one was leaking badly and unusable, so we were washing hands in the kitchen) and in the kitchen.  No pictures of the final projects here (forgot) but I was very sad to find this:

When I took off the old faucet, I found that the sink had completely rusted through and the old faucet was being held on to the sink with large washers.  I was able to install the new faucet, but I don't think this one can be refinished.  As we had already planned to replace the counters, I will also replace this sink with an under mount sink and move this one to the basement.  I think, with some work, it will still be usable.  

I found a couple of other interesting things in the house while we were working.  This hinge on one of the upstairs bedroom doors, for example:

Eastlake hardware?

I'd like to get more information about it and when it was made. 

I would also like to know more about this pair of windows:

Inside the closet
Outside the closet

These windows are a pair when viewed from the outside.  The bottom window is a replacement -- it has metal tracks instead of the weighted pulleys and has never been painted on the inside.  It is located to the outside of the closet by the upstairs bathroom.  

The top window is the right one's partner.  It's clearly never been replaced and is located inside the closet, only separated by a thin wall.  The odd thing about this window is that not only does it not match the one on the right, it doesn't match any other window in the house.

DH and I are starting to think this house is actually at least as old as 1890 like the sellers told us, if not older, but underwent extensive remodeling in the 1920s.  We are basing this on multiple types of plaster, (horsehair in some places, not in others), the bathroom and wiring obviously being added later, areas where there is more than one layer of plaster and this odd window.  I still have not found conclusive evidence so it is still just a theory, but it is interesting to me.

Things are really going to get busy over the next month:  HVAC and plumbing to be installed, the wiring to be completed and hopefully, the new bathroom will get finished over the summer.  Sprite and I will start working on patching and painting walls and we hope to start restoring the windows this fall. 

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Old House Update - Bathroom Demo Finished

DH went up to the house last weekend and got quite a bit done.

First, he finished pulling all the plaster and lathe from the bathroom walls.  We are now ready for the plumber to do his rough-in.

Then he took a look up in the attic.  He could see the knob and tube wiring laying on the insulation.  I am so glad that we are going to rewire all that.  Before we do, he took a sample of the insulation and we sent it off for asbestos testing.  We should learn the results this coming week.

The attic is a nice size, but not tall enough to consider using it for another bedroom.

You can see the chimney remains on the right.
Then he and his brother-in-law started taking down the paneling over the staircase.  Unfortunately for us, the paneling was glued to the plaster.  That was disappointing.  I was hoping the walls would be in better shape, but we suspect we made need to remove this plaster and replace with sheetrock.

They did find that the octagonal window was originally a full sized window.  I am really curious as to why it was changed.

DH also talked to the electrician who is going to replace the electrical panel and the plumber, so he made good progress last weekend.  This weekend and next, he is home for family activities.  It works out as we wait for the test results and the plumbing to get started.