A timid start

July 14th, 2014
Written by

Prior to this summer, we haven’t been doing much in the way of gardening. We had a few tomato plants last year but they were in awkward places and it’s a miracle they survived at all.

There are a few reasons for our lack of gardening. First, our garden will likely be on the south side of the building … right in the path of our eventual back porch reconstruction. We couldn’t bear to start working on a garden and then have to remove it!

Second, last summer we were still in the process of trying to buy the vacant lot on the east side of our building. It was very tempting to start a garden there, but we felt like we may be tempting fate if we began using the lot before we received the deed.

This spring, deed in hand, we took our first baby step toward a garden and built a raised bed. With the help of two very enthusiastic neighbor kids, we got the frame built and settled into the earth. We added a narrow plastic liner around the interior of the frame to protect the wood from damage caused by constant moisture, and our helpers did a great job tapping any crooked staples into place.

We have big plans for this vacant lot. Anyone who has seen the earlier project at 168 Elm Ave. may have an idea of what’s to come. Over the next year, we’ll re-do the porch and resolve some grading issues. We’ll need to talk about what portion of the property is for prairie, and what portion is for food. We also need to figure out if we need a garage.

Ultimately much of our garden will be on the roof. But that’s a long way down the road.

For now, we’ll enjoy the fruits of our small garden.

veggi-garden-001

Share

A patriotic piece of equipment

July 5th, 2014
Written by

I am talking about our energy recovery ventilator (ERV).

ERV-20

Patriotic because it has been engineered and is largely manufactured Ohio? That too – but I really had something else on my mind:

So far this summer the nights have been nice and cool, allowing us to open the windows and let the apartment cool down over night. That wasn’t an option last night, the night of July 4th. The fireworks kept going well past midnight, keeping us up … and even more so, the dog.

Fortunately, we have new triple glazed windows. Once they were shut, the thunderous fireworks turned into nothing more than white noise.

But how would we use the cool night time temperature to cool the place down? That is where the ERV has its great entrance with its EconoCool option.

ERV-09

EconoCool gets activated by flipping a small lever switch. A sensor in the ERV’s fresh air supply stream gauges the temperature, and if it measures between 55 to 70 degree Fahrenheit, the enthalpy wheel (heat exchange wheel) turns off. That stops the heat exchange process and brings the fresh, cool night time air into the apartment, even with all the windows closed.

We managed to drop our indoor temperature by four degrees Fahrenheit, from 73 at midnight to 69 this morning. That makes for a happy 5th of July!

Related posts:
Share
Anne Alt, Kermita Washington liked this post

Trimming nostalgia

June 30th, 2014
Written by

Salvaging, reusing, and repurposing materials can be hard work. That holds true for our effort in saving the 100+ year old original quarter sawn oak trim, restoring it to its natural beauty, and putting it back up.

But the moment when you step back and look at the finished product, you know it was worth it. Not only because we were resource efficient, or because you couldn’t buy that quality of trim anymore, but also because it adds a unique character to the building. This Victorian style trim fits this 1902 building like a glove. This trim has seen history—112 years of history. And it carries it proudly.

With that said, I felt a little bit of melancholy when Drew and I got ready to put up the last restored pieces we had saved for the half bath and kitchen back door.

Because the kitchen back door is an exterior door, we had to recreate the interior door buck, which came into existence with the added interior insulation. We also added some steel reinforcement around the strike plate. That will make it very difficult to break the door in.

That concludes our adventure around salvaging and restoring trim – for the 1st floor. And right now I would like to enjoy the fruit of this labor of love, and not think about the 2nd floor trim that is waiting for us.

Related posts:

Architrave installation

Window trim installation

Bathroom door trim

Lacquering what I like

Paint removal – Part 8: Sustained sanding

Paint removal – Part 7: Vertical trim

Paint removal – Part 5: Battling baseboards

Salvaging casings and trims

An expensive gap – or not?

Insulation update

Share

Rolling mechanism

June 11th, 2014
Written by

I alluded to the almost happy ending of the pocket door installation. Almost, because we had difficulties to get the roller mechanism to run smoothly. In other words, the pocket doors had a tendency to get stuck.

I was aware of it when we started installing the pocket doors, and attributed the problem to the roller mechanism itself.

Pocket-doors-09

There were a lot of metal on metal moving parts and my hope was that greasing the bunch would solve the problem – which it didn’t. It turned out that the metal components had nothing to do with it, and the issue was the wooden rails on which the wheels run.

Framing is not an exact science, and although it looked like the left and right rail were at the same elevations, they were not. If one rail is a fraction lower than the other, the whole wheel mechanism is tilted to one side.

pocket-doors-21

Because the structural two by ten headers sit right next to the rails, the tilted wheel mechanism was scraping along the lumber to the point where the pocket door felt stuck.

Once Drew and I identified the problem, we fit a thin piece of oak onto the lower rail. It brought it up to the same elevation as the other rail, et voilà, no more tilting of the roller mechanism.

pocket-doors-22

And the result was no more pocket doors that get stuck.

We have to see how long this success will last. Framing lumber has the tendency to move with the seasons and humidity. What was level in April may not be level anymore in July.

In any case, we now have refinished, fitting and functioning pocket doors. May be one day, we can afford to replace the plain glass with stained glass.

Pocket-doors-11 Pocket-doors-20

Related posts:

Power around pocket doors

Putting up pocket doors

Patching pocket doors

Pondering the pocket doors

Framing pocket doors

Stripping pocket doors

Picking pocket… doors

Rediscovering our living room – Part 1

Share
Drew Schmitt liked this post

Power around pocket doors

May 18th, 2014
Written by

Shortly after I published the last blog entry about the pocket door installation, Rob posted a question in the comment section:

“Until now we’ve ruled out installing pocket doors for our house because we thought light switches would get in the way. Have you had to deal with light switches here?”

This is great material for another blog post! And the answer to Rob’s question is:

Pocket-doors-15 Pocket-doors-14

… yes, we had to deal with light switches (and outlets), on both sides of the pocket doors. But neither the light switches nor the outlets were really in the way. And that may have to do with the depth of the pocket door wall.

Pocket-doors-16

I did not reinvent the wheel, nor did I really think about this. When I rebuilt the framing for the pocket doors, I kept the original wall depth, which was seven and a half inches from stud to stud (or eight and three quarter inches if you count the five eighths drywall on either side).

Pocket-doors-17

The seven and a half inches wasn’t enough space to accommodate the depth of the studs. I had to turn them sideways. But it was enough space to accommodate the one and a half inch deep electrical boxes. We also made sure to run the electrical conduit right behind the drywall so that it wouldn’t get in the way of the doors.

Pocket-doors-18

The only challenge emerged around the pocket door header, which also holds the rolling mechanism. We knew we couldn’t run the conduit inside the header, where it would interfere with the doors. To solve this problem, we did some planning ahead and offset the header three quarters of an inch into the wall. That gave us the room we needed to again run the conduit right behind the drywall and thus avoid any interference.

Pocket-doors-19

Once we were above the header, we kicked the conduit back to have enough room to make the 90 degree turn into the ceiling. Problem solved – and I hope questions answered.

Related posts:

Putting up pocket doors

Patching pocket doors

Pondering the pocket doors

Framing pocket doors

Stripping pocket doors

Picking pocket… doors

Rediscovering our living room – Part 1

Share
Anne Alt, Drew Schmitt liked this post

Putting up pocket doors

May 14th, 2014
Written by

We had taken care of the basic pocket door preparations a while back: the framing. We have the intimidating task behind us: adding the extensions to the pocket doors. All that is left now is the heavy lifting: Installing the pocket doors.

And the heavy lifting is meant literally, because those suckers weigh a pound or two.

The doors came with the original roller mechanism, and I built the new framing with an oak rail to match it.

Pocket-doors-08 Pocket-doors-09

Right in the middle of door opening is a 12 inch section of oak rail that can be removed.

Pocket-doors-12

That is where we lifted to doors into place, attached the rollers, and slid them onto the rails.
Once both doors were put up, we re-attached the 12 inch removable section, and thus closed the gap in the oak rails.

We also had to install a door stop, which prevents the pocket doors from sliding past the framing. It’s a small piece of oak, a little wider than the doors, that catches on the back of the door buck.

Pocket-doors-13

The trim that goes around the door had been restored and lacquered for a while. Now was the time to put it up, delivering the finishing touch.

That’s a happy ending, right? Except that we had difficulties to get the roller mechanism moving smoothly. That prompted Drew to comment: “This is why people threw their pocket doors out. They always got stuck!”

More about the un-stucking in the next post…

Related posts:

Patching pocket doors

Pondering the pocket doors

Framing pocket doors

Stripping pocket doors

Picking pocket… doors

Rediscovering our living room – Part 1

Share

Patching pocket doors

May 4th, 2014
Written by

I finally got around facing the intimidating task of adding extensions to the bottom and top of our replacement pocket doors. And because our friend Drew plays the enabler, there was no starting the job without him.

Pocket-doors-11

The pocket doors were exactly seven and a half inches too short. I had purchased some half inch oak stock that would allow me to add four inches to the bottom and three and a half inches to the top of the door.

The half inch oak stock wasn’t enough by itself to extend the two and a quarter thick doors. We took a piece of solid southern yellow pine framing lumber and ripped it down to one and three eighths inch. The yellow pine served as the core with the half inch oak stock as the veneer on both sides.

The top extension holds the rolling mechanism and has the rest of the door hanging on it. And those doors are heavy! To prevent the them separating from the extensions, we had to rely on some sturdy hardware and a fair amount of wood glue.

We also made sure that the extensions were a tiny notch wider than the door. That allowed us to sand them down and have a perfectly smooth transition between the old and new.

The finishing touches were followed by lacquering the doors. Of course we used a water based and VOC free product (Acrylacq by AFM Safecoat). While the lacquer was curing, we could start thinking about hanging the doors and getting the rolling mechanism to work.

Related Posts:
Share

Pondering the pocket doors

April 27th, 2014
Written by

The good old pocket doors – they have been weighing on my mind a lot and for a long time.

While we were deconstructing the 1st floor, we were delighted to find that our building once had pocket doors. The framing for the pocket doors was still in place, but the pocket doors themselves were gone (to our great disappointment).

living-2-archway-after-2

Finding antique salvaged pocket doors is an expensive proposition. But good fortune sometimes comes with time. And after checking Craigslist for about a year, we found an affordable pair of pocket doors we liked. A down side to the doors: they were painted and needed stripping.

Pocket-doors-02

With the pocket doors in our possession, I now could adjust the framing to fit the new doors. Along with it, I built a rail system that matched the original rolling mechanism of the doors.

Pocket-doors-09

So far so good. But another down side of the pocket doors was that they were a notch too short. I refrained from lowering the height of the doorway to fit the new doors, because there was a pleasant consistency in the doorway height throughout the unit. Altering that didn’t seem right.

Pocket-doors-11

I have been tiptoeing around adjusting the doors, i.e. adding an extension to the top and bottom to make them fit, mainly because it seemed an intimidating task that if not done right could ruin the set.

But there is no longer any avoiding it, and our friend Drew insisted that it would all work out just fine.

Related Posts:
Share

Architrave installation

April 20th, 2014
Written by

Restoring the architraves with what we had salvaged plus some replacement trim was a full success. After we sanded and lacquered the restored pieces it was time think about installation.

We had taken care of the trim around the windows and doors. Placing the architraves on top was straight forward.

I determined the location of the framing header above the door or window, pre-drilled the architrave, and attached it with two long finishing screws. A little bit of wood putty over the countersunk finishing screws, and you couldn’t tell where I attached the architrave.

Getting to this point – i.e. dealing with all the paint removal and refinishing – was tedious in parts. But the reward came once we could step back and look at the end product. Installing the trim and architraves ranks among my favorite tasks.

Furthermore, we now can put our work on the architrave restoration to the test: Is it possible to tell the difference between original and restored? And if so, when?

trim-020 trim-021

It turns out that one has to step up close to see the difference. But on first sight, they all look the same. Do I need to say that we are very happy with the outcome?

Related posts:

Architrave restoration

Window trim installation

Bathroom door trim

Lacquering what I like

Paint removal – Part 8: Sustained sanding

Paint removal – Part 7: Vertical trim

The race downstairs

Paint removal – Part 5: Battling baseboards

Salvaging casings and trims

Share

Architrave restoration

April 14th, 2014
Written by

Let’s talk about something other than ventilation for a change. Let’s go back to the finishing touches to the 1st floor.

We installed the window trim and had sanded the salvaged architraves - or what remained of those original architraves.

trim-015

The architraves were made up of three pieces: (1) an oak board, (2) a trim piece at the bottom, and (3) a crown molding at the top. That crown molding was the most delicate piece, so much so that most haven’t survived the past 110 years.

trim-016

What we mostly had left was the oak board and bottom trim piece.

trim-018

I went on a mission to find a replacement for the crown molding. I browsed various print and online catalogues without finding a match. I went to a specialist mill shop that had a large collection of custom knives in the hope to find a match there. Again – no luck. This was truly a custom production.

Someone suggested that I could have a custom knife made to mill an exact match of the missing crown moldings. That didn’t seem reasonable, considering the small amount I needed.

The next best thing I could come up with was to cobble something together that would result in a close match. Back in the mill shop, and with some help of the staff, we figured that we could break down the original crown molding into three parts:

trim-019

  1. a small corner trim
  2. a small piece of board
  3. a piece of colonial crown molding

I had enough salvaged oak boards at home, so all I bought was the corner trim and colonial crown molding.

Putting the architrave back together was a little involved because I now had to deal with the extra pieces of trim. But it was worth it, because it turned out that the cobbling together process resulted in a remarkably close match to the original.

Related posts:

Window trim installation

Bathroom door trim

Lacquering what I like

Paint removal – Part 8: Sustained sanding

Paint removal – Part 7: Vertical trim

The race downstairs

Paint removal – Part 5: Battling baseboards

Salvaging casings and trim

Share
Drew Schmitt, Anne Alt liked this post