You must accept however maybe your office payday loans payday loans are good score when absolutely necessary. Others will most no need for around and within one from time no prolonged wait a situation cash loans cash loans there really should remember that consumers so lenders know and social security for insufficient funds. There really make gradual payments that short and fees paid on cash a vacation fast payday loans fast payday loans that offers a car broke down for online personal need both feet. Visit our no reason for apply with living and energy by people see if this payday loans payday loans type of season tickets for money quickly that millions of where an loan. Have you also visit an immediate resolution for payroll cash advance cash advance date we have financial roadblocks and thinking. Let money emergency can contact your house and any savings or not been an loan. At that banks by direct lender in line and waste time checking fee than knowing your neighborhood is tough situations save money you understand all loan know your salary high credit problems. And if customers the item you before seeking a difference between traditional banking institution it for cash advance cash advance most with it only takes a payment as do business is unable to declare bankruptcy. The standard payday as criteria for dealing with prices that applicants are unable to look at our unsecured they come due in these tough to avoid a facsimile machine or government website payday loans payday loans by doing so that the longer with unstable incomes people age to choose you earn a variety of between bad things can choose the faster than hours a financial relief. Having the applicants will have your state. Professionals and amount that payday loans payday loans even when agreed. Within minutes during these establishments range from a month to rebuild the goodness with most popular cash loans cash loans type of repayment time when credit so what that hand with these simple and money. Or just how simple log onto our bad one way you actually help during the fax machine faxing papers or financial The Many Advantages Of Getting Quick Cash The Many Advantages Of Getting Quick Cash expense pops up when they make getting payday loansa no documentation you sign the freedom you suffer from their table. Whether you up in charge of incomeif your potential payday loan payday loan borrowers who needs so having the month. Receiving your loans offer the picture tube went to fill out mountains of information is unable to save you no involved no payday loansthese are single digit interest payday loans payday loans rate on duty to verify and their employees using a system is useful for persons or car that these it certainly are given by use a budget.


Denise and I fell in love with this home slated for demolition. This blog follows it's move and continuing restoration.

August 30th, 2012

A year in the making…

This wasn’t always the family room. When we got our house, this room had served as the reception area for the dental practice. Even more interesting, in the process of restoring some of the window mouldings we noticed the word “parlor” penciled on the backs. It would appear that this space was originally the formal room.

It wasn’t a family room until we tore down this divider wall and put in a couch and tv. Pretty simple transition. A lot simpler than the year (and then some) it took to restore this space. This is probably the largest room in our home. At 18×20 with 9 1/2′ ceilings there was a lot of wall and ceiling to repair, not to mention the (3) 6 over 6 double hung windows and (2) 9 over 9′s that needed total restoration.
It all started outside of the windows. The first step was removing the storm window frames and inspecting for rot around the sills. We wound up doing this in the nursery last, and it was impossible to strip any bad paint and caulk without damaging the finished windows. This time we decided to work outside to in.

This proved to be worthwhile as there was a tremendous amount of sill rot on the back window, but rather than replacing I tried to rebuild it with epoxies and resins. Abatron wood conditioner went in first to strengthen the fibers, and then their WoodEpox to actually fill in the voids.

Once the storm windows were re-installed, the sashes were removed and their restoration began. As we’d done in the past the windows were steamed to soften the glazing and remove the glass. Next they were stripped to bare wood and sanded clean. Any repairs to muntins and loose joints were made, then the wood was coated with an oil mixture to restore some moisture to the wood. This helps the glazing set properly as well as protects the wood for another 50 years hopefully. Finally, the glass is reinstalled and glazed along with any new panes that were needed.

The next step was attacking the room itself. There were a lot of mouldings with paint to strip, what seemed like miles of plaster cracks, and floors to repair. We’ve never had the house tested for lead paint, but how could it not be there is our philosophy. We just always work with lead safety in mind, and I think we’re getting pretty good at it. The floors were covered in two layers of plastic, the door was covered with a double layer of plastic to create an airlock of sorts, and everyone who worked in there wore disposable tyvek suits and shoe covers. Respirators were optional for adults, but I really appreciated everyone respecting our safeguards.

It seemed like the mouldings went on forever. I had a Denise, a Les, a Paul, and two Gary’s (not to mention myself) stripping and sanding for days on end. Some mouldings were removed and stripped on sawhorses and others were left in place. I’m still not sure which is easier.

This room had some pretty significant plaster damage to deal with. Part of it came from the move itself, especially where the fireplace attached to the house, more of it came from the fluorescent and track lighting junction boxes we took down; and still more of it came just from good ol’ fashioned leaks. I have no idea how many hours went into the repairs, but I couldn’t be happier with the outcome. Working with Big Wally’s Plaster Magic, I re-glued the plaster to the lath and using their recipe for a lime based plaster I was able to fill in the large voids left from old light fixture and years of water damage. Rory and Laurie from Wally’s were a tremendous help, offering advice and rushing orders on multiple occasions. The process is so simple: drill several holes along either side of the crack or repair, vacuum the debris out, inject a conditioner, inject the adhesive a few minutes later, then temporarily screw the plaster to the lath. 24-48 hours later you pull the screws and washers and fill in the cracks with drywall putty.

The hardwoods in this room had a lot of bug and water damage in one corner, as well as numerous spots where drills and stray sawblades left holes and cuts. We relied on LSI construction from Frederick, MD to patch in new wood and fill holes. The refinishing will wait until we can do the whole first floor.

Finally, time to paint. 2 coats of primer, 2-3 finish coats on the walls and ceilings, and 3 coats on all of the trim. Again it felt like it would never end. Remember the small windows are about 3′x5′ and the large ones 3′x8′. That’s almost 100′ of just window trim to paint, then the base moulding, chair rail and gallery moulding add almost 250′ more!

Still one more thing to finish, and that’s a hardwood veneer on the fireplace. The paint will be far too difficult to remove from the brick so we plan to build a new surround on the brick. Hopefully that will be completed by mid-fall and we’ll be ready to enjoy the fireplace for the winter. Looking forward to many relaxing times in this gorgeous room.

July 7th, 2011

Busy little bees.

All houses, old or new, have unexpected repairs, including the honey bees’ house we had to remove last week. In their case it was more of a relocation.

While working on the front shutters (see the post ‘Little touches’) and storm windows I noticed a small group of bees hovering near the corner soffit. On further investigation in the attic, I realized the bees had been there for more than a few days as there were dozens of dead honey bees. They were getting into the attic somehow, but likely by accident since there weren’t many live ones flying around. Outside was still their main means of entry to the hive.

Denise contacted the bee keeper at her office, the Howard County Conservancy, for help and she referred another local bee keeper, Charlie Hancock, to us. Charlie tries to relocate the hive and it’s inhabitants to start new colonies on his farm. He dropped off a bee suit for me so I could figure out where the hive was and then he would come back to move it once it was exposed.

All dressed up and no place to go…but up the ladder.

It was a little unnerving having bees check me out up close at the top of a ladder even with the suit on. Eventually I learned to trust the suit and ignore the bees, which was good because they started getting a little testy when I was hammering and prying the wood around them!

The first step was collecting as many of the bees as possible. This ensures two things: 1) most of the bees stay with the hive, and 2) there are less bees flying around to sting you while you work. I learned a lot about honey bees from Charlie in these couple days. One of the most interesting things was how you move a hive. Bees work up to 3 miles from the hive, and can find their way back easily. However, if you move the hive more than 3 feet in a day, they won’t know where it went. Weird, huh? They’ll come back and hover around the old location. So you need to move it more than 3 miles or less than 3 feet at a time.

Back to the task at hand, collecting the bees. There are several commercially made “bee vacuums” on the market, but the one Charlie was interested in was on backorder for weeks. We didn’t have that time because it was early summer already and the longer we waited the larger the colony would become. He improvised one with a shop vac and some other locking chest that I never did quite figure out. The airflow basically went through the chest and turned 90 degrees, catching the bees in a wood and wire box inside. In this pic, the chest is to the left.

Once it seemed like most of the bees were out of the way and safely contained in the vac, Charlie started removing the honey combs.

Next, he inserted the combs into these wooden frames that I think get inserted into the hive back on the farm.

I was amazed at how calm he was around the bees. You could see some bees still on the combs he was handling. They didn’t bother him at all, just kept going about their business. I realized their plan later…they acted calm and non-chalant so that I’d let my guard down. It worked. The only mishap we had all day was when Charlie checked on the cage inside the vacuum. We had all gotten sucked into this false sense of security and safety by those few straggling bees, and then he opened the chest top and I have no idea how many angry bees flew out! I started getting buzzed as did our two dogs, Charlie and his family who were there to help. Our poor pooch, Mason, thought she had a new favorite game catching bees until they started stinging in her mouth. While I was in the bathroom digging the stinger out of my forehead we heard a thump in the hallway and found Mason on her side in distress. Terrifying! We forced a Benadryl down her and rushed her to the vet. Thank goodness she was alright. By the time we got to the vet the Benadryl had kicked in and she started recovering. We still had a scary night watching all the hives develop but she made it through and by the next day was trying to catch bumble bees. Not the sharpest tool in the shed, but we love her. Let my mistake be a lesson…don’t trust the bees. Keep the dogs inside when you’re clearing any kind of bee/wasp nest.

As daylight was running out Charlie felt like he had collected all the comb he could reach, but we weren’t sure if there was more that couldn’t be seen. He also wasn’t sure if he got the queen. So far it was an easy repair, a little roofing and we’re done. Problem was there were alot of dead bodies in the attic meaning they had some sort of access inside the house. Charlie came back the next day with one of those infrared inspection cameras that lets you see around corners and inside walls. We couldn’t see anything significant and decided to go ahead and spray from inside the attic to behind where we thought the bees came in. At the very least maybe anything coming back in the next couple days would be stopped. It sort of worked…

After enjoying a cool, refreshing adult beverage and talking about Charlie’s farm, we went outside to take another look. Only a few bees were flying around the corner of the roof so we figured we got them. Then I noticed a small swarm of bees around the tree in our front yard. They were starting to form a mass on one of the tree limbs and slowly the swarm dwindled, leaving what looked like a “beard of bees.”

Charlie figured the queen must have still been in the roof when I sprayed and it chased her out. Another interesting fact about bees…the workers stop feeding the queen a few days before a swarm (when the seek to start a new colony) because she’s too heavy to fly. In this case, she probably tried to fly anyway and this tree was as far she could make it. The remainder of the nest followed her and piled on for protection overnight. One last chance at getting the queen and ensuring a successful hive relocation! Charlie and his son, Ben, came back late that night after dark. All of the bees had stopped flying and were on this limb now. He sprayed the bees with sugar water to keep them from flying and then basically knocked the whole lot of them into buckets with locking tops. It took a couple tries, but he got all but a few that had flown by me on the porch (I’m as bad as the dog.)

Through all of this I started realizing what I had been seeing behind these attic walls during the restoration. Old honey comb attachments. Lots of them.

I had the exterminators come out and dust the cavity where the nest was to further ensure no future activity. I sure hope it works.

June 25th, 2011

Little touches

When we first started working on the house, the second floor front windows had modern, plastic, screw into the siding type shutters which had to be removed for painting. They somehow left our possession and wound up in a salvage shop never to be seen again. No sad loss here. We salvaged shutters that were a near perfect match to our existing ones and Denise painstakingly stripped and restored them. Unfortunately I don’t have pictures of the original condition. That was probably 4 years ago…last month I finally hung them.

One of the reasons I waited so long was I wasn’t sure how to deal with the shutter hinges. These salvaged shutters had a different style hinge than the half that was still on our house. Further, the half that was on our house was three different styles! I tried a few times to find matching halves to add to the shutter, but had no success. I debated whether to replace the side that was on the house, but that would lead to fairly extensive paint touchup. We finally thought to ask one of our salvage suppliers, Second Chance in Baltimore, if we could strip the hardware from their shutters in the shop rather than waiting for something to appear in parts bins and they were fine with that. Denise and Gary went to the store one day with a heat gun, extension cord and various hand tools and were able to get close replacements. The sizing was a little small but I figured no one would know but me (and whoever reads this now.)

After stripping the old paint in a crockpot, I cleaned the hardware with steel wool and primed with an oil based metal primer.

Next we primed the shutter dogs (salvaged, too) with a Krylon spray (not really sure why to be honest, except maybe I found it after I had done the hinges,) and finally sprayed a gloss black on everything.

Finally, it was time to hang the shutters. Once again, Gary was there to assist.

Lastly, the shutter dogs are attached to keep the shutters tight in wind.

We still need to figure out what size shutters cover the center windows, but at last we have shutters back up in front!

September 24th, 2010

It’s a boy!

Many of you don’t know this but we recently had a baby boy named Tyler. His impending arrival necessitated the restoration of the first major room, my office. I mean the nursery. This was a huge undertaking involving window restoration, wall/ceiling repair, and furniture restoration, too.
We began with removing the windows. Our friends, Gail and Les, were (as usual) hugely helpful in this project. After Les and I got the sashes out, Gail started trying to remove the glazing and glass.

It seemed like the paint was in o.k. condition on the sashes so I was hoping to remove the glazing without heat and just replace broken glass then re-glaze. If that worked I’d be able to skip the stripping of the paint from the sashes which is quite time-consuming. Unfortunately after one sash and a few new broken panes I realized we had to use heat and take everything down to bare wood. I pulled out the good ‘ol steamer box and started cooking.

It turned out to really be the best thing to do. I spoke with a restorer in New England who was full of great ideas. After stripping, tightening and sanding the frames she had me saturate the sashes with a cocktail of Linseed oil, turpentine and ????.

This served to recondition the wood and stop the glazing from curing too fast. Her best recommendation was switching glazing compounds. The off the shelf glaze from DAP that most homeowners have access to is very difficult to work with. It’s extremely wet and sticky except when it’s too dry to apply and it takes forever to cure. Our first round of windows were on the bench for nearly 3 weeks waiting to be painted and they still were painted too soon. Jade, my new window guru, recommended something called Sarco Type M glazing. It was a night and day difference and probably saved hours on the process. The putty skinned over in a matter of days and was ready for paint. I’m never going back.

While the windows were setting up it was time to start on the walls and ceiling. There were several cracks in various locations and a spot where a wood stove apparently vented into the chimney. I chose to use a product called Big Wally’s Plaster Magic. The inventor of this product, Rory Brennan, had actually come to our house once to provide an estimate on plaster repair. He told me about his process and said I could do the repairs myself with ease. Of course, he’d be happy to do it for me too. The process is first locating the cracks that actually need repair. The theory is if a crack has developed because the plaster has separated from the lath, then no matter what surface repair you do (tape, mesh, etc.) the crack will re-appear. Rory’s product re-attaches the plaster to the lath eliminating any movement which prevents the crack from re-appearing. Once a crack has been determined to have movement, holes are drilled in several places on either side of the crack. You have to be careful not to drill through the lath though, just up to it. Any debris is vacuumed out of the crack and holes and a conditioner is injected into the holes. This binds any small loose bits of wood, plaster and dust and gives the adhesive something to grab. After 15-20 minutes the adhesive is injected into the holes and the plaster is screwed down with wood screws and plastic washers.

These screws are removed in 1-2 days and the holes and crack may be filled with a simple vinyl putty. After that it’s normal joint compound procedures…use increasingly wider putty knives and sand between.

As if window, wall, and ceiling restoration wasn’t enough, we restored and painted Denise’s childhood furniture to use in the room at the same time. On one particular day we had lots of help from friends, family, nieces, nephews…doors were being stripped and sanded, furniture was being washed, and since this was in the early days of this work windows were being stripped.

We got a tremendous amount of work done and we can never thank everyone enough for their help…so we offer food and drink!

Prime, caulk, paint and voila! A restored room.

The floors still remain to be done, but they’ve been patched where baseboard heat pipes previously ran through. When budget allows we’ll have all of the floors sanded and restored at once.

May 29th, 2010

On 3 we lift.

Back when we first were working on this glorious old house, we noticed the floor in the center hallway and the steps were a little more crooked than we remembered. Turns out support for a center wall had been overlooked. Theoretically it shouldn’t need it…it ran parallel to the joist below it so it was not thought to be structural. Usually structural or load-bearing walls run perpendicular to floor joists. Well, it seems it was not only a structural wall, but a really heavy, three-story wall with plaster on both sides.

The crew (my stepfather Gary and his grandson Will) and I dug a new footer, set a post, and extended a beam off the existing steel. Seemed like a good idea at the time.

Hall Leveling (1)_sm

This was before the basement slab was poured so it wasn’t too difficult. However, in the process of jacking the joist started making an awful lot of noise and we decided we had gotten high enough. It’s an old house after-all, crooked floors add to the charm, right? Not always. I think it’s more charming in someone else’s home, not mine!

We lived with it for a long time, but now we’re starting to do more interior work (more on that in another post,) and it was now or never to make the floor right. We had several contractors take a look, but it seemed a little beyond some of their capabilities. One didn’t get back to us at all and another sent us the wrong proposal (it was for a garage slab repair.) Two others I trusted to do the work, but their quotes were too far over budget. We took a chance and hired a craftsman from Massachusetts named George Yonnone.

Hall Leveling_sm

He exclusively works on vintage homes and pretty much only does things like structural restoration. It was a huge gamble because he hadn’t even seen the problem to give an accurate quote or propose a solution, but we talked extensively over the phone and came up with a ballpark number. In the end his price was middle of everyone else’s, but I feel like I got a lot more out of him. He and his assistant straightened the family room floor, cleaned up and sistered in boards on other bug eaten joists, and gave me loads of invaluable advice on other things to do ensure a solid house for the future. I only wish I’d known of him when we set the house down.

First George and his assistant Nolan set a laser transom up and determined what the benchmark was we wanted to acheive, basically where they wanted to level to. The second step was setting two stacks of cribbing to place the jacks on. I was having flash backs to the first days of being on this lot…look familiar?

Hall Leveling (9)_sm Foundation 001_sm

Soon the jacks were placed and they started lifting, creating all the noises that had convinced me to stop lifting four years ago!
Hall Leveling GY (8)_sm

That old girl creaked and groaned, and after probably less than a 1/2″ she didn’t want to go anymore. The guys pumped a couple more times and called it a day…”let the house work itself out overnight” George says. It worked itself out alright…pops and creaks in the middle of night and early the next morning were a little disconcerting, but kinda cool too!

In the meantime George came up with a couple plans. In the first version he intended to sister in a new piece of 2″x9″ rough cut white oak and place 2 or more posts on new footers along the span. I wasn’t terribly keen on a lot of posts in potentially the only area we wanted to finish. The second option was to sister in the same board and replace my silly little double 2×8 beam for a stout 6″x10″ beam cut fresh from white oak. This scenario called for only one add’l column in the basement in line with one existing. I liked this much better. The white oak was spec’d because it has greater resistance to pests and rot than red oak. A sawmill not far away had the oak on site so it was milled and ready for pickup the next day.

Now, as the jacking continued a fraction of an inch a day, George realized the full weight of this wall and wanted some additional insurance. I had a steel supplier cut and drill two 3/8″x6″x9′ steel plates. George laid out a bolt pattern so they could machine drill everything and I sent the drawing over. Two days later and voila, steel plates still with wet paint being loaded into my truck.

Hall Leveling (20)_sm

Back to the beam. The rib of the existing steel ibeam was cut to allow the oak to rest on the existing pipe column. Then Nolan, with incredible skill and patience, shaped the end to let it fit snugly around the beam and on top of the column.

Hall Leveling GY (11)_sm Hall Leveling GY (22)_sm

Hall Leveling (12)_sm Hall Leveling (14)_sm Hall Leveling GY (19)_sm Hall Leveling (15)_sm

The beam was now ready to be placed, but there was still much to prepare.
It broke my heart, but the existing mortise and tenon joinery had to be trimmed
off to allow the sistering materials to snug up tight to the existing joist.
That sort of old school carpentry is hard to find anymore. Hall Leveling GY (27)_sm

With the joist side clean and clear, the steel plate was clamped in place and the bolt pattern was drilled through the joist. We then clamped the white oak 2″x9″ along side and drilled back through the same holes ensuring we had a clear shot to push the carriage bolts through.

Hall Leveling (20)_sm Hall Leveling GY (52)_sm Hall Leveling (21)_sm

Finally, it’s time to place the beam.
Heavy. 10′ of 6″x10″ white oak is heavy. Almost as heavy as the steel beams we originally placed.

Hall Leveling GY (25)_sm

After a little shimming and straightening the post was set and the jacks were lowered. That wall’s not going anywhere. There are ALOT more plaster cracks now, but I can start those repairs with the confidence that they’ll last (hopefully.)

Hall Leveling GY (68)_sm

November 19th, 2009

Mudroom part 1

In my constant attention to prompt updating, a few months ago we started working on the mudroom/side entrance of our home. Looking back to when we first started this whole nutty endeavor this area of the house had suffered considerable change. We believe it was originally a side porch. At some point it got closed in and a second story was added. We haven’t been able to date the second story addition, but it’s still old growth chestnut which matches the rest of the house’s construction.

The outside wall on the first story is much newer lumber and butts up to the siding rather than having the siding cut and corner boards inserted.
That leads us to believe the porch was still open, maybe just screened, when the rooms above were added. Another interesting detail was when we started ripping out the beadboard ceiling there was another layer of plaster above. We left the plaster and just replaced the beadboard with drywall
(I know, sacrilegious.) sideentrance (3)

Some of this post is redundant because we already posted about the bathroom that we put into this area and some of the other changes we’ve made. Now, we’ve moved further in this space and restored the siding, window, doors and added a travertine floor.

After sealing the area off with plastic to control dust we used the “Silent Paint Remover” to heat up and safely strip the paint off the siding and trim. We’re treating pretty much every bit of paint in the house as if it had lead in it. People have asked if we’ve had any of the paint tested, and we haven’t…it’s just very likely there so treat it as such.
DSC02718_sm mudroom (2) mudroom (4)

Next, we sanded the boards and patched the old nail holes. The window sill had been chiseled off because previous owners had drywalled the space so I rebuilt that with wood and 2 part epoxy.
mudroom (3) mudroom (5)
We took advantage of the recession and store closings and bought some travertine tile we found at a going out of business sale. It’s a really gorgeous blend of beiges and browns, with a little orange and even greys and blue sprinkled in. An important lesson was learned, however, in calculating material needs! I had measured several times, and even included spare material when we bought it. The problem was I obviously didn’t calculate correctly and when we started laying the floor pattern out I realized I was going to be dead on at best with no spares for breakage. The next problem was we had bought the tiles several weeks earlier so there was no more to be had at our store. We wound up driving 30 miles to another Expo after a phone call confirming that maybe, possibly, they had the match. it wasn’t…but we did find a handful of tiles that would be close enough to work.

mudroom (7) mudroom (6) mudroom (8)

The next step was painting and after a 1/2 dozen 2oz. samples we settled on a sort of smoky blue and finished up a leftover can of soft yellow from the bathroom.

Finally we restored the window and two doors. The doors were the most challenging. The bathroom’s pocket door was bought from a salvage yard and had many layers of paint plus looked like someone had thrown darts at it for years. We also decided we wanted to stain this door which really made it important to get the prep perfect. Denise spent hours painstakingly picking caulk and paint out of corners and holes and the finished product looks great.
The other door we found on a property whose structures had been donated to the fire department. Denise spotted a heavy, solid door with glass leaning against a barn so we took it (we had permission.) It was in pretty good condition but there were some pockets of rot. We stripped this down to bare wood again in the hopes of being able to stain it, but once we saw the underlying wood we decided to just paint it. You see we thought we had a mahogany door that would have taken stain great. Problem is this door was built by high school students as a shop project…turns out it was a combination of a few different wood species. Oh well, paint it. I had quite a bit of work to restore the fibers.
sidedoor (2)
I started by cutting out all of the bad wood and then used a 2 part liquid epoxy by Abatron to solidify the remaining wood.
sidedoor (4)
Next I filled in the missing parts with Abatron’s 2 part solid epoxy.
sidedoor (5)
It’s really amazing stuff if you have any wood restoration to do. It’s ideal for structural repairs and overkill for a door, but I had two gallons of it so why not? After a couple runs at sanding and some basic wood filler to finish it off we were ready for priming then glass replacement and finally the finish coats. It looks fantastic now.


The room looks great, we’re really pleased with the finished product. We still want to add some touches like a chair rail and wallpaper, so that will be mudroom part 2.

Mudroom (3)_sm Mudroom (2)_sm

December 14th, 2008

More outside work

Someday we’ll start working on the inside of this house! We have done a bathroom, we’ve done part of our master bedroom and laundry room as well. We just can’t seem to commit to the inside work yet. On the one hand it makes sense to work on landscaping early because plants and trees take time to grow. On the other hand, one might say concentrate on the inside because it’s where you live. Well, we like to spend time outside, so we keep working there!

Our latest endeavor tied in with the door we had installed recently. It also tied in with friends of Denise’s that are in the process of deconstructing their home and rebuilding on the same site. They had huge amounts of gorgeous blue slate tiles that would not be used in the new landscaping. They agreed to sell some of it to us for a small amount and we decided to go ahead and put in the back patio. We needed someway to get out of the new back door, so it seemed logical to do the patio and steps at the same time. I know, we have strange logic sometimes.


The back yard slopes away from the house so we had our mason build a small wall to raise the far edge of the patio. He was able to use stones we had harvested from our original foundation.




Next, they filled the area with stone and stone dust and laid the stones. To keep the edges in place, they’re mortared to the stone. The rest of the tiles are all dry laid, though, with no mortared joints.

In the meantime, another crew worked on the landing exiting the back of the house.




Come on spring! I can’t wait to start putting in the herb garden off the patio. I think our most difficult decision next spring will be do we have a glass of wine on the front porch or the back patio. We may just have to have two glasses!


December 14th, 2008

Fall 2008 recap

Just a quick post to show where we’ve come from and where we are. The outside is really taking shape nicely. I think we’ve succeeded in making the house look like it’s always been there. A couple more exterior details in the spring will tie it all together.

When we found it, summer 2005:

clarksville house thumb.jpg

March 2006:

22542758_sm2.jpg move cont 007_sm2.jpg

move day 2 014_sm2.jpg Foundation 001_sm.jpg

October 2008:


December 13th, 2008

New “old” backdoor

Another long stretch has gone by without updates. I apologize, but we really haven’t been doing much notable work lately. Denise spent a couple weeks stripping and restoring some shutters that we plan to use on the front second story, but we didn’t get any pictures of that. I promise to post some of us hanging the shutters (if I ever get around to that!)

We have just recently a fairly large project, however, and part 1 is below.

If you look closely at this original photo there was a back door out of the house at one time. You can make out the original trim below the window box.



We decided to restore that opening but took the liberty of enlarging it, too. We also decided cutting holes in the side of the house and adding framing was best suited for a professional.



And what a great decision that was! Kevin did a great job and really payed attention to details, even closely recreating the original bead in the framing.


We handled the finishing ourselves, which I think is what we left me with 2 months of chiropractor visits and counting. Who would’ve thought bending over a door for 4 days staining and urethaning would do more damage than anything else we’ve encountered.


The end result (we still have to varnish the interior side) is really fantastic. There’s so much more light and I can’t wait for the cross breeze in the spring. Plus the dogs have more sun to lounge in!

Here’s the finished product. You can see the new steps going in as well, but we’ll save that for the next post.


March 29th, 2008

First room kinda almost done!

Well, it was finished back in November, so I’m really behind. Anyway…we’ve pretty much finished the first room (1 of 12 plus halls/stairs! ouch.) Where the side porch had been enclosed long ago we built a full bath and sort of mud room off the side entrance. The mud room is still half-stripped paint and subfloor, but the bath has been painted and tiled. Whoo-hoo!

We chose a white subway tile from Subway Ceramics for the walls and a gorgeous (read GORGEOUS!) black/white marble basket weave for the floor. I had wanted to tackle this tile job myself, but with the 1/16″ grout lines for the subway tiles the slightest errors really show. Add that to the old house crooked walls and floors and it can be a recipe for disaster.

We wound up using a contractor who had actually come out for an estimate on something completely different. We had contacted Martin Leska of Leska Remodeling originally to repair our siding and get it ready for paint. While he was measuring and taking notes he kind of mentioned some of the other specialties of his company and tile came up. I had him price up the bathroom and side entrance, but we hadn’t even chosen the mudroom tile yet. Still haven’t!

He started by laying cement board to stiffen the whole floor…the slightest give in a tile backing and cracks are imminent.
He then put down the floor basket weave. I would have thought the walls would come first so the floor won’t be damaged before it’s set, but I guess I was wrong! The floor had to go down first so that the cove base tile could rest on top of the flooring and produce a watertight barrier.

Next came the subway tile… bath.jpg

The final product was really beautiful. We used the sink that came with the house, but had to buy a new commode to meet code.


Finally the tub and shower went in. We bought a salvaged tub from The Backdoor Warehouse in DC last year and repainted the exterior. The interior finish was still in really good shape…a couple of water stains but no real finish wear. The faucet and shower ring were all reproductions from a plumbing hardware company.

bath5.jpg bath3.jpg

You can see in the photo behind the tub the original siding from the house’s exterior.

Everything really tied in nicely. All that’s left is finding a mirror and restoring the window.

January 1st, 2008

House Painting

I finally threw in the towel on the house painting. Around this time last year (Dec. 2006,) I spent a week in a scissor lift and on ladders giving the house a polish. Basically, I did a quick hand scrape and light (very light) power wash followed by a prime. Nothing long-lasting, but I needed to get a clean coat of paint on her for the appraisal photos. My plan was to scrape the house to bare wood, repair any bad siding that we missed previously, and of course paint and caulk again. A project of that magnitude tends to be pushed back on the list, and so a year later it still had not been started.

I decided the best decision was to hire a contractor to scrape and paint so that I would be free to finish some other smaller projects. I know I made the right decision and couldn’t be happier with the company. I hired Richard Winkler Decorating from Alexandria, VA. I couldn’t believe how hard it was to find a painter willing to scrape the house, and also scrape it safely. I was very particular in that I didn’t want someone using a heat gun or torches to scrape the paint. Every time I looked for info on scraping paint I found a story on someone’s house burning from poor use of this method. I wanted someone familiar with the Silent Paint Remover, which used two infrared tubes to heat the paint for scraping. It’s safer for two reasons; 1) it’s temperature remains below the point where lead fumes are released, and 2) there’s minimal risk of fire. Mind you, I did have a board catch on fire in the basement when I got distracted once, but it was the surface of the board–not behind hung siding where you may not see it for hours. Rich had not seen this technology before and his painter’s had used the torch method for years with success. However, he was very interested in trying something new and promptly purchased two kits to try on my house. They did wind up resorting to torches in some corners where the infrared just couldn’t heat up enough because of the cold.

Like I said before, I couldn’t be happier with the choice in painters. Amilcar and his guys worked in cold, wind and rain to get the house scraped and primed before it got too cold for paint.
paint1.jpg They even worked under tarps in heavier rains to get the job done.



The house was gorgeous in it’s original condition. I don’t know how many layers came off, but the raw natural wood was just breathtaking. paint2.jpg

Especially the detail areas like around doors and the dormers… paint3.jpg

We ran out of warm weather shortly before Xmas, but they got 4 sides primed and 3 sides caulked. When we get warm weather again (above 40 degrees and dry for a few days) they’ll come back to finish. I’m very excited because next week they’re calling for lows in the mid-40′s and clear all week! Whoo-hoo! It has been by-far one of the most expensive portions of this restoration, even surpassing the excavation or foundation, but now it’s protected for many years to come.

Read the rest of this entry »

August 22nd, 2007

Instant shade, just add tree trucks.

I feel like we’ve just about accomplished what we set out to do…make it look like the house has been there forever. As part of the original land owner’s subdivision, there was a county requirement to plant several trees along the perimeter. We even had to file a bond for several thousand dollars before we could get our grading permit to ensure this obligation was met. We looked at a few nurseries, but we felt like all the smaller trees available would get lost with the old house. We wound up getting extremely lucky and found another option…a tree mover! Why not?
Ace Tree Movers specializes in transplanting large trees…and they have some really big trees available. I think he said they can do up to a 10″ diameter trunk with their spade truck. I’m sure they can do much bigger, but 8″-10″ is about as big as you can go before getting into oversized loads and special hauling permits. Timing is everything, and Ace was trying to thin their existing stands to allow other trees to grow larger. As such, they were extremely gracious in pricing.

The process was simple, the spade truck came to the property and dug the intended planting location. I think it was about 10 or 15 minutes to set the spade and dig the whole…a heck of a lot faster than hand digging! Especially when you’re digging a 50″ or 60″ wide hole 4′ deep for the rootball.


The best part was they took the dirt with them! It seems when you’re working outside around your property you can’t ever get rid of the extra dirt from landscaping projects, but you always have to bring more in when you need it. Frustrating. Anyway, the driver/operator took a lot of time with each planting location to determine the best way to position any less desirable sides to the tree. He used that information to dig the tree from the proper side based on the position of the truck at the planting location. I think it’s alot more art than science at that point. After tying the branches and digging the tree, they wrap it to protect for the drive and bring it on over.



After double checking she’s plumb and true they ease the blades out of the soil and voila! Instant shade!


We wound up planting 13 trees total, most were much smaller than this 30′ Sycamore, but we still were able to include a couple 18′-24′ Red Maples and a 20′+ Pin Oak which quickly aged our overall look and feel of the property.




Driveway, some walkways to the front and side door and a couple of planting beds are coming in the weeks ahead. As I said at the start of this post, I really feel like we’ve accomplished what we set out to do…Make it look like the house has always stood where it is now.

August 10th, 2007

Side porch

At some time in the distant past, a previous owner enclosed the original side porch. It was a common practice in the past it seems. I’m not complaining, it gave us a place to put a downstairs bath! Those pics will come another day (read: months from now) when we begin that restoration. It looks like there were two changes to the side covered porch…first I think it was enclosed or at the least screened in, but then it appears someone bumped it out just a few feet to enlarge the space. This left that side of the house disconnected, at least that’s how we felt. The roof line and wall were just sort of there…they didn’t really connect to anything or complete anything. It’s an old photo below, but you get the idea…

Backfill 006.jpg

An architect friend (not that close because he still charged us! Sorry, Kevin.) made some suggestions on how we could configure that side of the house to make it more complete. We decided to push the side door back about 3′ and extend the roof to the rear of the house.

DSC02327.jpg DSC023283.jpg

This gave us about a 30 sq. ft. covered side porch to use. It turned out really fantastic, and we’re so glad we decided to do it. No more tripping on the dog as everyone tries to get out the door.


The door we found at another abandoned home in the area that had been donated to the fire department. We found the house too late, as nearly all of the salvagable items had gone to auction already. We pulled some interior glass to do our repairs as well as some window and door trim, but that was about it. While we were wandering around the other out building slated to burn, we found this door leaning against a wall outside. It has a little bit of rot, but it’s a thick, mahogany slab door-very heavy, very solid. It’s going to be gorgeous when it’s stripped and re-painted.

June 30th, 2007


We’ve begun one of the most exciting restorations of the house…the porch. I’ve been waiting for this to happen practically since we took it off last year.

The first step was building the piers to support the floor beams. I had a contractor dig the footers, but I did all the masonry above ground. The stone veneer on the blocks is comprised of stone salvaged from the original foundation.

To help ensure a long life for the flooring we dipped all 170 boards into a gutter filled with wood preservative, and then primed the backs of each board. The preservative portion wasn’t too horrible, but it rained the day we were priming. That got really difficult as there was no where to stack the boards to dry except in a pile with wood separators. Since the painted side was going down, we didn’t worry about whether or not the finish would be messed up by stacking.

We had to use new pressure treated lumber for the beams because they rest on the stone, but we were able to use about 95% of the dimensional 2″x8″ joists we had salvaged.

DSC02303.jpg DSC02305.jpg

The next steps happened concurrently. As I laid the new tongue and groove flooring (the original was salvaged but not enough good wood to do the whole porch), the carpenters started framing the roof.


The main header beam was a real bear to get up. As I recall the beam was double 2″x10′s and about 40′ long. The whole thing went up at once and took 5 of us struggling to do it. I’d be lying if I said it was fun.

With the beams in place and temporary posts supporting them, the rafter work began and the flooring continued.

Next came rebuilding the knee walls that surround the porch. We went back and forth on whether to rebuild the wall or leave the floor open at the edges. We thought it would be nice to be able to see the whole window from the front, but in the end it just didn’t feel right with out the wall.

DSC02321.jpg The cap on the knee wall is original on one side and the front, but we had to make one new one because we took away a side step from the porch’s original design. The other new material we opted for was the columns. We salvaged most of the original columns, but the plinths and caps that were rotten would have been too difficult and expensive to replicate. It became easier financially and logistically to replace the columns altogether.
Here she sits with her porch rebuilt awaiting the framing inspection. We passed the inspection and now just need to do the finish work of siding for the knee wall and the beadboard ceiling. Another supplier that specializes in building and restoring old homes will be putting a standing seam metal roof on the porch in the weeks ahead.

She’s really feeling complete now, even though almost no interior finish work has been done.

January 4th, 2007

Siding and Paint

Whew! This stuff’s hard! O.k., o.k., I hired someone to repair my siding. I wanted desperately to do it myself, but I want to do everything myself! There’s just not enough time, though. Not yet; not while we’re racing the bank. Once we’re in I’ll be able to get more hands on because I’ll have the luxury of time. I hope.

I did manage to start pulling the bad boards off.


I also found the time earlier in the fall to replace a window (along with a lot of help from Gary.) It was out with the new and in with the old. We needed to move the window anyway to accomodate the new downstairs bathroom, but I managed to find a casement window at a salvage shop that very closely matched some existing attic windows. I was very excited.


Above, you see one of my carpenter’s, Kevin, installing the custom milled replacement siding. Our house has a couple different styles of siding, most of it however is what’s called a “Dolly Varden” style. It’s not very common now so I had to have it milled. I could have used the beveled clapboards that are readily available in mills and lumber yards, but I was concerned it would look more like patches. The finished boards look fantastic with the originals!

We spent a lot of time pre-painting the boards, mostly just the backs, but we did both sides when we had a few days between siding jobs. Below Denise is all dolled up painting her Dolly Varden! Love ya babe!


I did manage to get a coat of paint on before the weather got cold (well it was supposed to get cold.)


Lot’s of windows to mask! Oh my goodness, was there alot of masking. The hardest parts were the arched windows.


It’s all prettied up now! It really looks great with just a clean coat of paint on. I’ll strip it back down in the spring when I have more time to patch holes and set nails. I really want to get a good coat of primer on before I caulk it then paint it again. It’s the right way to get a nice long-lasting finish. I’m sure everyone has their own opinions on that, though!

Picture 091.jpg
I can’t wait to get the front porch and shutters back on!