Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Every Old Home Owner's Dream Come True!

That's right - a year of research and digging has paid off, and we are going to live the one dream very few of us old house owners ever get to experience - a visit from the original family! Well no, not actually Norris and Lulu.... although sometimes I wonder.... but from several of the grandchildren who remember the place as kids (and lived here for a brief time), but one of Norris's son-in-laws too. Sadly both of Norris and Lulu's twin daughters died last year, but both of their husband are still around and kickin into their 90's. The response from the family has been better than we could have ever expected, and one of the reasons this blog was started, so they could follow along with the restoration of their grandparents home.

Yesterday, I received a package from one of the granddaughters (Nancy) in Florida and boy did she send a few goodies! Several early pics of the family, two with the house in the background. This one in particular answered many question about the back addition and how it was originally setup, and the mystery toilet drain. Thanks Nancy! And to the rest, see some of you next weekend!

Marian Hall and back of house - taken 1918

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

99 Gallons Of Mud On The Wall...

... sand one down and sweep it around.... 98 gallons of mud on the wall....

I've had this song in my head since the week before x-mas, and there's no end in sight. Maybe it's all the drywall dust I'm breathing, maybe it's the lead or fumes from paint stripping... either way I can't wait till this job is DONE.

If there was one job I could contract out it would have been this. But with the scale of this project, every penny I can save is a must in order to get it done in my lifetime. What would take a crew a week will take me several months, but the lost money may put the entire house on hold for much longer.

Anywho, here is the first room on the drywall mud crawl - the parlor. I'm using the mesh tape instead of paper. I've found it to be easier to use. I've heard it's not to be used in corners, but as long as you use your knife to tuck it in, it works OK. Most of the seams are factory, not butt joints, so in reality other than the curved wall, wasn't too bad of a job to take on - but I can guarantee I will do twice as many coats and three times as much sanding than the pros.

While waiting for the mud to dry I started stripping the column divider and window jambs. With the shellac base, the heat gun make pretty easy work of it. The shellac melts at a pretty low temp and all the above layers peel off. Followed up with steel wool and alcohol, it's 99% stripped - and I've been finding some pretty nice oak. Too bad the bastards cut off the ends of the sill to hang the panelling, so that will be another project.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Ridley Park - Then & Now #2

Here are some post cards of the old Ridley Park Methodist Church - this is where the Hall family attended and Norris was very active in. He played a major roll in the building of the newer building.




Saturday, February 24, 2007

1st Floor Plumbing Complete

The last item before the finish work was started on the powder room was hooking up the plumbing. To gain better access in the wall I removed the drywall sheet in the dining room directly behind the sink and toilet. From this side of the wall I could run the water lines and drains while the wainscoting was already installed on the bath side, allowing for a nice clean install, just make the holes where I need them, poke the plumbing through and call it good.

I did learn a lesson when plumbing from the other side of the wall... the "hot" is now on the right and "cold" on the left... dumb ass! Of course I figured this out after I was finished and turned the faucet on, and of course this was the one time that I didn't have to redo any solder joints - Murphy was on the job once again.

I didn't spring for the nice antique style shut off valves, but you just can't have it all and have to prioritize where you splurge. But it still looks pretty good even if it's stuff from the big orange box store. I purchased a flush pipe for the toilet from DEA Bath (and almost had a stroke paying for it). This pipe cost almost as much as the toilet itself! The tank came with an original 2 inch outlet, but you just can't get that size anymore. The new pipe is 1 1/2". I tried to get a reducer, but plumbing threads were not standardized at all back then, so will not thread on the original connector. I will end up buying a new flush assembly with spud to connect to the flush pipe from DEA Bath - as soon as I see how The Petch House makes out getting his. Check out Greg's site for a comical story about these characters (I'm glad I'm not the one going through it), but unfortunately they're the only place you can get this assembly from. The water supply is a standard shut off valve and then a stainless line and fitting to the tank.

Also found a nice (will be) original oak medicine cabinet with beveled mirror and a porcelain sconce. This is as far as I've progressed so far in here, will be back in here when I make my lap spackling the first floor.

Friday, February 23, 2007

More Hall History

L. Norris Hall Inc.

Having worked in the steel industry for Carnegie since the early 1900's, the entrepreneur Norris opened his own steel warehousing business in 1921 - based in Philadelphia and later also in Wilmington, DE. Surviving the depression, it grew into quite a successful company, later being headed by his son Wallace. The company was finally sold to a competitor in 1972 after 50 years in business.

Here is a matchbook cover from his business that I found on EBAY - you really can find just about anything if you look hard enough on there!

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Hangin' Tin

My next project in the powder room was adding the tin ceiling. We settled on a pattern from M-Boss that came in 2 foot square sections and crown pieces, plus nails with special finished heads for installation. After marking a cross for the center of the room, installation started from this point and fanned out from there. The key to a clean installation is overlapping your seams away from normal line of sight. Since you will normally see the ceiling from the doorway, all the seams going across overlapped the next one closer to the door from the far wall. In the other direction I started in with the middle panel and overlapped the seems towards both side walls. It's easier to see the results than to explain. I highly recommend only tacking in place till the ceiling is up since I had to make several adjustments to make the patterns transition cleanly between the panels. When I was happy with the overall effect and my seams layered in the best visually appearing manner, then I nailed down everything permanent. I was very happy with the results and the quality of the pieces. They were available in finishes, but I chose clear until I decide what color it will be. I set one piece of crown so I could get the tank to clear. These will be added after the walls are finished.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

80 Year Old "New" Powder Room

The funny thing with this bath was this would be larger and better than the main bath at the old house - and this will be just the smaller bath in this house. The object of this bath was to use all original items (except plumbing) no later than the 1920's to make a "new" old bathroom. And the ultimate addition will be an original pull chain toilet which I've always wanted to have. The walls will be wainscoted like the kitchen and the ceiling will be tin.

my new favorite tool - the drywall lift

The outside hose was moved from the dining room bowed wall to this wall, so first I had to run this line. Then I installed the vent outlet and duct work for the exhaust fan. Next was wiring for the light/fan, a sconce for the sink and a GFCI outlet. The final item was adding a return in the wall for the future AC system. I was now ready to start the wall installation. The ceiling had to be done first, and instead of drywall, I hung the same 7/16" plywood I used for the wainscoting nailer - this will be for installing the tin ceiling. Then a cutout was made for the combo exhaust fan/light. I really liked this piece cause it fits in with the room and I won't have to have a grill taking away from the looks of the ceiling.

Next was the bottom half plywood and the top half greenboard. Everything was in place then to start roughing in the sink, toilet and tub. I previously talked about the tub I restored for the room. I also rounded up an original American Standard pedestal sink (1926) from a local consignment store for $75 - like the rest of the pieces the porcelain is very clean. I bought new faucets for this from Vintage Bath, same place as the tub items.

Finally the highlight piece for me - an original pull chain toilet. The tank was another EBAY find, I think it was $135, with all internals still present and in good shape. I did have to find a pull for it. After some EBAY searching for a few months with no luck, I bought an original American Standard toilet from DEA Bath. It's stamped 1924. Another fine piece complete with a new rear spud, the $300 with shipping was a splurge but I was happy with it.

Next step, plumbing and a tin ceiling....

Monday, February 19, 2007

Splish Splash

At this point the first floor was pretty well roughed in ready for finish work except the powder room next to the kitchen. I had been gathering pieces for this room for some time and finally had a plan and was ready to get started. The first order of business was restoring the claw foot tub that I acquired on EBAY from a place out in Lancaster. The outside of course needed refinishing, but the porcelain was in great shape, just a little worn by the drain.

If I recall correctly the date is stamped 1920 American Standard. The wall side had never been painted and the exposed side had maybe two layers of paint. I scraped and sanded down the white layer, but the pink first coat was really on there, so once everything was feathered, I primered the entire outside and feet. For a finish coat I used semi-gloss white Rustoleum - 2 coats. Here's the results.

To finish the job, all new hardware was purchased. I bought a drain assembly and faucet from Vintage Tub and Bath. I was very happy with the quality, since these days most repro parts seem to be poorly done. The supply lines for the hot and cold are actually original from a faucet assembly I got a great deal but decided not to use since it needed refinishing, but the lines are in good shape and really won't be seen.

Here it is ready for it's new home.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Siding - Old School Meets New School

With winter approaching I needed to get the back of the house sided ASAP. Up to a week before I took on the project I still didn't know what materials I would use for the clapboards - cedar or cement board. I had talked to a few people who used the Hardiplank siding and were very happy with it. You get the best of both worlds, looks like clapboards unlike vinyl siding, has a fire rating, holds paint better than natural wood, and has a 50 year warranty. I located a Lowes not to far that actually stocked the hardiplank in the reveal I needed and at around $5.00 for a 12 ft. piece I was sold. Plus it is pre-primed too.

First step was to trim out the windows, corners, etc. in pine. Next I had to find where my starter would go and mark this line around the addition, then nail on strips to kick the piece out at the bottom - the first piece doesn't overlap anything, so would lie flat if the strips were not installed. I was now ready to start installation. Special blades are required to cut the boards, and found that multi purpose blades worked just fine and cheaper then the recommended blades. This stuff will kick up a lot of dust so mask and glasses are a must. My neighbor hooked me up with some scaffolding which definitely cut the install time in half, especially working by myself. I had to fabricate holders since I was doing this myself, and with long pieces that will easily snap, found that no way could I hang it accurately holding it from the middle. Here is what I came up with:

I would nail these at both ends, the first upper lip holds the piece being installed and the lower lip catches on the next piece down giving me the correct reveal every time without measuring each time.

I used standard roofing nails for the install and actually was not to challenging a job. I had taken pics of the process but some dumb ass left the camera on his truck bumper and drove to the store later that night! So here are the final results. All primed, just need to caulk and paint, which will be my first outside spring project. Manufacturer says you have 120 days - I may clean and do one more prime coat over everything though. Then bottom drip board will get done when I figure out what to do with stucco bottom, it's not level all the way around and sticks out further then the siding since all the layers of siding have been removed. I'm thinking of removing the stucco and doing a brick veneer. The deck will cover most of it.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Radiator Inspector

Yep, this one is workin' just fine...

Thursday, February 15, 2007

A-Plumbing We Will Go

By far one of my favorite 3 Stooges shorts, and sometimes I feel like I'm in the middle of this sketch when doing plumbing work.

Finally, it was time to bring some water service back to the kitchen. I started out working on the old kitchen sink. Originally these were mounted with cast iron brackets, which were missing on mine. I couldn't readily find one so I gave my dad some dimensions and he was able to fabricate one from steel for me. Once this accomplished, the next step was tackling the faucet. This ended up being far more trouble than it should have been but I could not find a new faucet with the mounted soap dish that would mount to the sink. All were designed to wall mounts, threading on to nipples that would normally be inside a wall cavity (a.k.a shower/bath style). My plumbing was to be exposed and not recessed in the wall, so I had to find a way to go from 1/2" copper to a valve, reduce to 3/8 tubing.... then with about an 1 1/2" clearance between the wall and back splash of sink, I needed to add a 90 deg. fitting, change to 1/2" pipe thread and leave just enough of a nipple to mount the faucet assembly so it was snug to the back splash and still have enough threads so that it would not leak. Now do this act for a hot and cold line and have them come out the center of the two existing holes in the sink.... and be plumb to each other.... not asking for to much skill here. Let's not forget I'm an electrician here, not a plumber by any means! Well it took a few tweaks but I managed to do just that and worked out swell. I wish I had taken a pic of the act, but guess i just wanted to get the sink hung and forget about it. Underneath was not so bad, hot and colds run through to the basement where they have isolation valves and tie into the existing plumbing. These were then insulated and strapped. The drain transitions to 1 1/2" PVC underneath, then ties into the existing cast drains with a rubber boot adapter - I was just able to squeak in the distance without getting into vent issues... that would have been a real PIA.

The other kitchen plumbing involved the dishwasher that will be located in the closet. We will be using a portable unit so it has a finished exterior since it will be exposed unlike a built-in unit, but the lines will be semi permanently attached. To do this I bought a pre-fab washer box which allows for two water lines and a drain. When installed and drywalled it make for a nice clean installation. The hot line was straight forward. For the drain, I installed the trap under the floor, so if any blockage occurs I can access it from the crawl space. This is right next to the stack, so venting was a non-issue.

"... hey Moe, I know what's wrong, there's wires in these pipes - nyuck nyuck"

Monday, February 12, 2007

The Kitchen Takes Shape

Once the construction was done and the ceilings hung, the kitchen really started to come together. After I laid out the final wiring which wasn't done yet, it was time to put up some more drywall. For lighting, which is critical in a kitchen, we finally settled on a ceiling fan/light over the kitchen table (with separate switches), a schoolhouse fixture to hang over the island, and porcelain sconces on each side of the sink. The island light and sconces are controlled by a 4-way switch located at the butler stairs, the back door, and the entrance from dining room.

Before the drywall was installed, I first installed 7/16 plywood 36" high that would be my nailing surface for the bead board wainscoting. Then I hung drywall on the remaining exposed walls. I had plenty of bead board, so I used it on the back of the pantry and built in shelving. Though I wasn't ready to add the bead boarding quite yet, I did have to install behind the radiators so they could be piped in before winter.

I swapped out the basement door with a correct style 5-panel that I trash picked (people still throw away solid pine and oak for hollow cardboard doors??!!) Next step was finally rebuilding the bottom steps that were hacked out when the butler stairs was walled off. The landing that the door jamb rests on had it's lip cut flush, so this involved carefully dismantling the jamb so the landing could be replaced. For material I was able to use the original heart pine plank sheathing I removed from the back addition. This stuff is hard as nails and will hold up to foot traffic no problem, and was the right dimensions to boot. A minor change from what was original, I extended the steps over another 6 inches and tied them into the built in pantry. Once completed the jamb was reinstalled, the door hung, and the butler stairs were back in action after 40 years.

Friday, February 9, 2007

The Daily Fur Show

Even the cats have succumbed to "reality" entertainment.... the daily morning woody woodpecker show

What could they be staring at??

Thursday, February 8, 2007

Back to the Kitchen

Well, now that the rest of the first floor had walls again, it was time to get back to the big kitchen project. During the time that I was drywalling, I was collecting the pieces I posted about previously and coming up with a few unresolved ideas. The first order o f business was once again leveling and drywalling the ceiling so I could get the step-back hutch permanently mounted. With the ceiling up it cleared by 1/2 an inch - prefect fit. I just did the old part of the kitchen ceiling first since I wasn't sure how I would tie into the pitched ceiling of the addition section.

Next problem to deal with was around the heater chimney and the kitchen "L" corner. I went through about a half dozen plans before settling on a design, after getting an old pantry cabinet that was in my grandmother's basement - thanks again!! The doors are a match to the other hutch I built-in and was a good fit for this area, plus added a good amount of storage space to the kitchen. I then came up with the closet idea between this cabinet and the powder room to house the dishwasher. The original idea was to house a dishwasher under the cast sink - but i didn't take into account the older sink's front face is too low for a built in dishwasher - good one dummy! Once everything was staged and happy I started framing this section.

After I started framing, it dawned that I really didn't have a good spot for a nuker and coffee pot. After some thought, I remembered I had some pine saved from what was left of the old pantry room, and that I could easily add a set of built in shelves in this space since their was a cavity between the wall framing and the heater chimney. I had installed the vacuum line feeding the dust pan outlet and the line to the upstairs bathroom in this cavity which had to be moved over. Plus thinking ahead (I can actually do this once in awhile!) , I installed a 4" PVC drain in this cavity as well for when the upstairs "kitchen" is converted to a master bath - this had to be moved over as well. Finally I built the shelving unit, which turned out better than I thought it would, and installed it in the framing.

Once the framing and cabinet/shelving were installed, I continued on with the closet framing. Now I was ready to drywall this section I just built... it was nice to be able to hang walls for once without having to shim every stud along the way. On the bottom section, I started installing the pine bead board. I found a great buy on EBAY for a lot of original pine tongue and groove bead boards that came out of a barn somewhere near Lancaster. They were all about 7 feet long and the final price.... $1 each! You can't get HD junk for that price and this stuff is the real mccoy. So the plan will be to have wainscoting 3 feet high around the kitchen and powder room. To trim out the built-ins I had just enough original 3 1/3" pine casing I took from inside the 3rd floor closet and basement entrance.

To finish up my framing work, I settled on continuing the ceiling straight until it merged with the pitched section. After marking some point with a level and running a string guide, I sistered joist sections to finish off the flat section of ceiling. Then I finished off the drywall work and now ready to start working on the walls. So far so good....

Tuesday, February 6, 2007

Another Drywall Post...

Just like these drywall posts, it seemed like the drywall work would never end...

The basement staircase was gutted and drywalled:

Next, the butler stairs got the drywall treatment, note the window to replace existing block glass that will get colored and/or frosted panes once installed:

Finally I worked my way up to the upstairs hall, check out the original doorbell I acquired:

Next post it will be back to the kitchen adventure. As for the present drywall spackling progress - I'm on bucket number 6, and probably sanded five off! You'll just have to wait and see as I get posts up to current projects.
Update on the fire... apparently house had been sold and the new owner was in the middle of converting back to a single (sounds familiar). How unfortunate when the place was this close to making a comeback, but this gives more hope of a rebuild than if it was a landlord.

Delaware County Times article:

Early-morning blaze rips through Ridley Park home

By Barbara Ormsby, Times Correspondent

RIDLEY PARK - Firefighters had to battle both flames and the brutal cold during the rescue of the owner of a house at 32 W. Sellers Ave. shortly after 4 a.m. Monday.
Borough police chief Tom Byrne said Cpl. Mark Bascelli was on routine patrol when he saw smoke coming from the second floor of a house belonging to Todd Bower.
Bascelli knocked on the door of the house and when no one answered, broke in the door and found Bower, 45, asleep on the first floor. Byrne said Bascelli was able to get Bower out of the house, which was heavily damaged. There is no estimate of the damage and the fire is under investigation. Byrne said the house was in the process of being reconverted from apartments back to a single-family house. "I got there at 4:30 and it (the fire) was ripping," Byrne said.The police chief said one borough firefighter was taken to Taylor Hospital for treatment."Assistant chief Tom Eckenrode suffered from exhaustion after he got back to the firehouse and was taken to the hospital," Byrne said.Byrne said Chester Pike, between Sellers and Swarthmore avenues, was shut down for three hours, right through the morning rush hour. "We not only had the trouble with the fire, but with the ice," Byrne said. According to Byrne, assisting fire companies were Prospect Park, Tinicum, Chester Township canteen, Brookhaven and Holmes.