Archive for the 'Unmuddling' Category

Was That Really Necessary?

Wednesday, September 29th, 2004

At some point in The Past, some resident of the house decided that they wanted a telephone jack near the radiator in the living room, and this particular radiator is in the back of the living room, which is near the front of the house. You may recall that the front of the basement had a drop-ceiling in it, so noodling up between the outside walls to put a jack in wasn’t really possible without messing up the lovely basement drop ceiling. So this person decided that the right thing to do was to:

  • Drill a hole in the floor in the front of the living room a full inch from the baseboard.

  • Staple bell wire aaaaaaaaaalllllllllll the way along the baseboard to the back of the room.
  • Screw a phone jack into the baseboard using 1.5″ wood screws.

Bell wire, jack, and screws are now resting comfortably in the bottom of the garbage can.

Hardwood Floors Need Love Too

Tuesday, September 28th, 2004

We decided to go with Nex Flooring to refinish our floors, and they’re coming tomorrow at 8:00AM to start work. Nex Flooring is a family business run by a father and his two sons, and they got fantastic reviews on a local referral service, and their estimate seemed extremely reasonable. Before we get to redoing the floors though, a few words about the floors as they stand right now.

The downstairs wood floors were covered in carpet for an unknown duration of time, along with a runner up the center of the stairs–this travesty in all likelihood saved the floors a helluvalot of wear and tear, so it’s not All Bad. The wood floors throughout the house are red oak (except the kitchen, which is maple), and considering that the house is 92 years old, they’re remarkably level and even, although they do squeak a bit.

It appears that the previous owner pulled up the carpet and had all the wood floors refinished about four years ago, but I’m hoping that he didn’t pay very much as the refinishers did a horrible job.

First: They didn’t bother to sand all the way around the radiators, they didn’t sand all the old finish off in some places, they attempted to rectify some squeaks by pounding 8d nails into a bunch of boards, and they did a real half-assed job on the stairs (esp. the risers). Lastly, they didn’t bother to pull up the quarter-round (aka “the shoe”) between the baseboard and the floor, despite the fact that a) it was pulling away from the floors in some places, b) the floor under the shoe was dark dark dark, and c) it looked like crap with a dark line running under the shoe around the room.

They repaired a hole in the middle of the foyer by gluing in a small divot of wood (which popped out shortly thereafter, I can only imagine). The bullnose ledge leading to the basement looked like a dog had chewed half of it off. Lastly, it looked like the floor had been stained in some areas and not at all in others–the master bedroom floors looked positively white while the rest of the floors were just light.

Add to that the fact that the house was rented out for the last few years, and you wind up with some pretty darned trashed floors. The northwest bedroom was gouged so badly that it looks like someone had been dragging boat anchors around in there.

So in preparation for the Floor Guys coming tomorrow, I pulled all of the quarter-round up in all of the rooms where we’re going to be having the floors refinished (which comes down to every room except the kitchen and the sun room). They offered to do this, but I figured that it was a good way to get to know the house and how it all goes together. In the process of doing this, I discovered that the northwest bedroom appears to have had a fair amount of its oak trim replaced at some point–with pine trim. And for an encore, pulling the quarter round off in some areas really highlighted just how badly the previous refinishers had gouged the floor in some places.

Think I’m exaggerating? See for yourself.

Here’s the master bedroom floor:

And the lovely finishing job they did around the radiator in the master bedroom:

Some beautiful gouges from the northwest bedroom:

One of the better looking steps:

And lastly, the wonderful hole in the middle of the foyer:

Basement Liberation

Saturday, September 25th, 2004

The first time I saw the Old Man, I went inside the basement, took one look at the half-broken drop ceiling in there and realized that it had to go.

It’s the standard 12″ x 12″ cardboard-type acoustic tiles, and the front half of the basement (the “Concrete Block Room”) was covered with them, with the exception of a few spots where they had been torn out to run new plumbing lines.

This left us with about 6’8″ of height in the basement, with the exception being the steel i-beam that runs from the front to the back of the house… the bottom of the beam is only about 6’6″ from the floor.

Above the tiles were furring strips. Above those furring strips were more furring strips, and on one side of the basement, even *more* furring strips… but I’m getting ahead of myself.

I went and picked up my nephew, S., to help me out. We got to the house and went straight to work in the basement. We each took a hammer and a wrecking bar and made short work of the furring strips in the front of the basement. Granted, we were slowed down by the fact that the furring strips were 32″ or shorter, and each strip was held in place with anywhere from 3 to 8 nails.

In the end we were left with a 5′ high pile of furring strips (with lots of nails sticking out) and some very sore arms (at least my arms were sore… S. seemed just fine)

It turned out that under all of those tiles and furring strips were some *gorgeous* rafters. We’ve got 24′ 2×10′s, and since they’ve been covered by a ceiling pretty much since the house was built, they look brand new and don’t exhibit any of the oxidizing that you’d expect to see in a 92 year old house. At some point in the distant past, there was a plaster ceiling, as the bottoms of the rafters exhibit the tell-tale white lines running across them:

Anyway, I’ll try and remember to take an “after” photo, but for now, here’s a “before” photo

and a “during” photo

In the back of the basement, only about 1/4 of the ceiling had tiles left, and instead of furring strips, they used 1×6′s, so it only took about 20 minutes to tear all that out. However, it took quite a boring while to bend nails into the furring strips and stuff them into garbage cans–we got about 2/3 of the strips disposed of.

Further Basement Adventures

Saturday, September 25th, 2004

The phone that was in the rafters has now been hung from a rafter, so we’ve got a permanent corded phone in the basement.

We discovered that the ceiling not only hid the beautiful rafters, but also some of the most dangerous-looking wiring I’ve ever seen. Looking into my crystal ball, I see a fair amount of rewiring in my future.

The back part of the basement has some old panelling (in 4′x8′ sheets). I’ve decided to leave this be for now, but I had to pull a sheet off to get one of the ceiling boards down, and behind the panelling I found, Surprise! A row of furring strips! Behind that, the lower half of the wall was actual cement covered foundation, and the upper half was a plaster wall, which, aside from being covered in a ton of cobwebs and dust, seemed to be in pretty good shape. I punted and tacked the panel back into place for now… I can’t afford to get started on that project now.

We went to Home Depot and picked up a few porcelain light fixtures (the cheepie kind that screw right into a junction box) and S. installed them in place of the suspended ceiling light boxes while I banged away at the nails in the furring strips.

To top off the day, we pulled the two window ACs and put them in the attic, and the we pulled all eight radiator covers and put them in the basement in anticipation of the floor refinishers starting on Wednesday.

And now it’s time for a few bottles of Ibuprofen.

Some Basics

Saturday, September 18th, 2004

The doorbell was, not surprisingly, non-functional, and while the chime mechanism is hanging in the foyer, the chimes were nowhere to be found. We managed to find the one wireless doorbell that has actual chimes, so our doorbell doesn’t sound like the door chime at the dollar store.

We picked up a few cheap lamps and put them on timers to give the place at least a slight look of occupation until we can get moved in. Then the Second Floor Guy came with his four-year-old son to give us an estimate. Second Floor Guy was very nice, and his son was kind enough to dust off our steps and half of our living room by crawling and sliding around playing with a toy.

Suffice to say that the floors are filthy–the house has been empty for months.

M. and I went down into the basement and spent about 45 minutes pulling the remaining ceiling tiles and furring strips down off the ceiling. M. got all the tiles down from the front half of the basement and I got a few dozen furring strips yanked. I’m glad to have gotten started on that.

Later, the Refinishing Guy came over to give us an estimate on refinishing all the woodwork. Refinishing Guy was very nice, but I can already see getting the woodwork refinished is going to be a lot of money.

Welcome to the Money Pit. :-)