Archive for the ‘Salvage’ Category

Salvaging tile

Thursday, January 7th, 2010

Reclaiming tile is pretty easy, actually. First you buy a house with five kitchens. Then you tell your husband that you are sure the tile in Apartment 1 can be saved. Then he saves it for you while demolishing the kitchen. Two years later you try to figure out what to do with it.

Old kitchen tile

We ended up treating it like hardware covered with paint. Put them in an old slow cooker (we paid $1.25 for ours at a garage sale), covered with water and some dishwashing soap. Cook for a while. Remove with tongs.

Tools for salvaging tile

Prop in a dish drainer because the tile is hot. Scrape off the mastic and glop with a table knife. (If it’s too hard, put it back in to cook for a while longer.) Let cool.

Cooling tile after scraping

Of course, this takes a long time so you should have something else to do while you work on it. Like snuffle around the house with a cold. I got 21 tiles done today. I think it may end up as a backsplash in our kitchen. Maybe. We picked out creamy yellows for the walls, ceilings, and cabinets that are compatible with the tile, in any event.

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Rebuilding Windows

Friday, December 11th, 2009

Ed. note: I wrote this post in April 2009, and didn’t post it because I wanted photos. Life happened. The photos didn’t. Here’s the post without photos although I hope to have an exterior photo series later. We have windows in all window holes as of December 2009, but some still need to be rebuilt and others have been rebuilt but not installed. We can do this because we have an excess of windows, having ended up with some new windows in the house rebuilding process.

We (Don, that is) removed more than half the windows in the house so we can tune them up and put them back in. It’s a good time, despite being winter when we started (it’s spring now), since there’s no plumbing to worry about freezing. (Or electric or drywall or people, for that matter.)

I wasn’t involved in the actual removal of the windows, although I understand that Don spent some of his time leaning out the 2nd story windows. We used our SpeedHeater to warm up the glazing to the point that it’s removable, and use a putty knife to get the glazing out. (We use a piece of thin plywood, wrapped in aluminum foil, to reflect the heat away from the glass. It seems to work since we haven’t broken any glass at the deglazing stage.) After Don removes the glass, we heat the window frames and scrape the many layers of paint off.

Then, we prime the window sash with a 50:50 mix of mineral spirits and linseed oil, let it rest 48 hours, and prime with oil-based primer. The primer has to rest for one day before we paint it with latex paint. Or oil paint, I suppose, but we’re using latex. We paint just the interior with the latex paint at this point because you can’t efficiently paint the exterior until the glazing is in.

Then, Don lays a thin bead of latex caulking on the interior part of the window frame, sets the glass in, adds a multitude of glazier’s points, and uses DAP 33 putty on the exterior. (He heats the putty in a garage sale slow cooker that we also use to strip the hardware. That makes it much more malleable and more homogenous.) The installed putty rests two weeks before priming. We’re letting it rest at my folks’ house so we can paint it at a reasonable height off the ground.

Speaking of my folks, that’s where we’re doing the work. Daddy has kindly let us borrow his garage for the winter.** (Heated! With electricity!* And lights! And, did I mention, heat!) We’ve borrowed their guesthouse for window work, too, including the hardware stripping. (Recipe: hardware, dishwashing soap and water in a slow cooker. Cook until the paint bubbles up and softens so you can sponge it off. This also works to remove the mastic from the ceramic wall tile we salvaged.)

*Well, it had electricity, except during the four days we spent there during the ice storm.

**We ended up borrowing the garage bay through the summer and into the winter again. First for windows and then more recently for additional storage. We borrowed the guesthouse for living in. I hope we are out of both before next summer.

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A Craig’s list with a sad story

Thursday, December 10th, 2009

I continue to post stale entries from my stash. I hope he found a buyer.

salvage materials from cabin (Morrilton, AR)
Reply to: xxxxx
Date: 2008-07-23, 11:09AM CDT

A wind storm blew down an enormous oak on my brand new cabin on June 1st.

the before & after pics can be seen at the above links. Make an offer for the cabin AS IS — or whatever portions you are interested in… BTW, the land is also for sale… it is 2 acres square. I will take $25K for the land & the cabin as is… or make an offer on the cabin or land.

I have an out of state number as I have moved to TX. you can call me at:


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Kansas City Architectural Salvage: Closed on Tuesdays

Friday, December 4th, 2009

We went through Kansas City en route to Chicago for Thanksgiving on a Tuesday so many of the best architectural salvage places were closed. Antiquities and Oddities Architectural Salvage, raved about by our architects, is open Thu-Sat. Urban Mining is only open on the first Friday weekend of the month, when their place is stocked with “our fresh inventory, displayed by over twenty hunter-gatherer-artists who have spent the month combing the urban core for wonderful finds.” Foundation Architectural Reclamation does seem to be open Tu-Sat (11-5), but it looked too high end for us.

Plus we had tickets to see Wicked. We’d missed it in Chicago, Memphis, and Tulsa so we made a special effort to see it en route to Chicago. We brought my mom, so she stayed with the Little One at the hotel-with-a-pool while we went downtown. Thumbnail: The concept was wickedly good, but didn’t really stand up to three years of hype.

And on Wednesday, we had miles and miles to drive. And to argue with the car’s GPS, which really, really, really wanted us to turn around and take the interstate to St. Louis instead of taking US36 to Hannibal MO, and then to Chicago. It was a good Thanksgiving.

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Flooring Letter

Monday, November 23rd, 2009

Dearest Reader,

I will try not to worry about catching you up on all that has happened since I last wrote five months ago except to say we have drywall, primed walls, color on more than half the walls (including ceilings), one flush toilet, one cold water sink, at least one electric outlet on each floor, switched lights in some places, and no heat. And Daddy is still dead. I will also not wait to post until I get new batteries in my camera. The Little One is asleep and I want to post before she wakes up.

We have no heat because the city won’t let the gas be turned on until we have passed our final inspection. Or until the weather gets real cold. Whichever comes first. The city claims to be concerned about people clogging their furnace filters with construction dust and burning out their furnace. We are grateful for the soy insulation since it keeps the house fairly warm, even with the single-glaze windows (which Don has rebuilt so they are much tighter than they were). And we are grateful for the working windows and good cross-ventilation since they let the house warm up quickly when we open them during the day.

So, we’ve been dealing with the floors since they are a dust source. We pulled and denailed most of the floors last year, but were planning to leave the living room alone. Were. Then we decided we should pull them while we’re at it so that we could install a border around the whole dining room/foyer/living room. It turned out most of the living room floors had dry-rotted, so it was good we had lots of Dallas flooring. We barely had enough Fayetteville salvage from four bedrooms, the kitchen, foyer, hall, dining room and living room to reinstall in the family room, kitchen, hall, and laundry room. We put down roofing felt which I hope will deal with the dry-rot. Previously, there was no moisture barrier between the downstairs rooms and the basement. (The Fayetteville floors are red oak, and the Dallas floors are a mix of red and white oak.)

We installed a nice log-cabin border, and learned how to fit pieces in between the borders. Much slower than straight laying of floors. Although the Dallas salvage floors were cleaner than the floors we pulled, they had more bad ends. (We had to pause while Don’s floor nailer spent a week in the shop, so he painted for a while. I was fairly picky about which pieces we used for the border, which also slowed us down.)

We’re refinishing the pine floors upstairs. They have no subfloor (or else they are the subfloor), but they’re old pine and they’re sanding out pretty. We laid a new floor in my sewing room, too, of mostly quartersawn oak because its subfloor was plywood and new. It turned out to be a good thing that I racked most of it before I got bifocals (progressive lenses, actually) because bifocals make all the growth rings and edges of the floor curve up around my peripheral vision. I was seasick after racking for about an hour with bifocals.

Don drove to Alma, Arkansas to pick up a U-Sander a week ago Thursday. It is supposed to be very safe for novice floor sanders to use. It is indeed safe, but very, very slow on newly laid salvage floors. After an afternoon of using it, we rented a drum sander as well. Our neighbor (who also helped us get started on laying floors and laying borders) uses the drum sander to take the edges and top layer of finish off the floors, and Don goes along behind with the U-Sander and palm sander to do the finish work.

We paused Saturday a week ago to go to south Arkansas to bury Daddy’s cremains. Or Don paused on Saturday – the Little One and I took Friday off, too, for a 15 hours in the car, touring Arkansas with my mother, brother, and niece. We missed the NE quadrant, but saw everything else: from Fayetteville, to La Hacienda in Conway, through Little Rock, to Monticello for the night. Then on to Fountain Hill, Crossett, Hamburg, Magnolia, Wickes, Duckett, Old Potter, and home. Deer season opened Saturday, so we saw a lot of dead deer and pickups on the side of the road and a lot of people wearing blaze. I wished we’d been wearing blaze at the cemetery – it was late in the afternoon, and I was a bit worried. However, nobody got shot. Always a good day when nobody gets shot at the cemetery.

Since then, Don and the neighbor have been sanding all day and into the night. We’re fortunate that the neighbor comes with one of the Little One’s best friends, so the Little One plays all afternoon and into the night. Don has just left (7:30 a.m.) for what we hope is the last push to finish the drum and U-sanding so we can return the rental sanders tomorrow and enjoy Thanksgiving without dust. I spent a while yesterday filling nail holes where we face nailed. I have some more to do today after the Little One wakes up.

I think we’ll sweep the floors and dust down the walls tomorrow morning so the dust can settle over Thanksgiving. After Thanksgiving, we will finish cleaning sawdust out of the house and apply a low VOC finish. (Hard oil, followed by wax, followed by a wax finisher.) We’ve decided not to stain the floors, although the hard oil packaging says it may add a hint of amber color.I hope it turns out as nice as I expect. Don keeps saying how much better the floors (and the house) are coming out than he expected. He’s right. A father-daughter house-hunting pair was walking through the neighborhood yesterday, and stopped to discuss housing prospects. (She’s a Vendorville transfer.) Our front door was open, and they both commented on how beautiful the floors were.

Perhaps I will post again soon. Hope all is well with you and yours this Thanksgiving.

All my best, Lisa

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We went to Mena, Arkansas and all we got was …

Tuesday, August 5th, 2008

a crummy t-shirt? No way. The days of buying t-shirts* four souvenirs are long over. Now we buy architectural salvage when we travel.

When we go to Howard County in south Arkansas for Duckett Decoration (first Sunday in June and the preceding Saturday), we always stop at Ri-Jo’s salvage place in Mena (in Polk County, but nearer to Duckett than most places in Howard County). This time, Richard sold us a light fixture.

I have been struggling with the Arts and Crafts vision for our house. Nearly all the lights I look at don’t suit my vision of the house. Don finally nailed my problem: I’m afraid it will look like 2008 when we’re done instead of 1908 (or 1916 in our case). Everybody is doing Arts and Crafts now — the new houses, the old houses, Renovation Hardware, the Home Depot. They’re all doing it. Plus, I still haven’t made it safely to the 20th Century, what with our last two houses being solidly in Queen Victoria’s reign.

We’re compromising with a transitional look, a hybrid between Colonial Revival and Arts and Crafts. What does this mean? It means we are buying fewer square light fixtures with divided lights, and more classical ones, while still having plenty of beams in the ceilings*** and nice oak trim. Here’s the fixture we bought from Ri-Jo … along with the great shades we bought from Rejuvenation. I love the iridescent look to them plus the shades were on clearance at Rejuvenation! (Sorry, I think they’re all gone now.)

ri-jo-light-fixture-colonial-revival.jpg rejuvenation-shade-on-clearance.jpg

Now we just have to figure out where it goes. Dining room? Foyer? Living room? (We might need a pair for that room.) Oh, we also need an acceptable canopy.

Meanwhile, here’s the Little One doing her part for Duckett Decoration, before dinner on the grounds. Don thought that eating at the cemetery sounded quite odd when he first joined me for Duckett, but he doesn’t hesitate these days. (I made her dress and hat.**)


We also went to the swimming hole at Cossatot State Park, where the Little One made s’mores. (I think this was Don’s first time to eat s’mores. I didn’t know that s’mores were a southern thing, but I can’t explain his lack of experience otherwise… By the way, when you search for s’mores, you discover that s’mores are a southern food. At least according to the recipe index on They may have inspired or been inspired by Moon Pies. I like s’mores better, of course.)

And we stopped by Duckett Schoolhouse, which was a one room schoolhouse for grades 1-8, which my grandfather, his siblings and many of his cousins attended. It’s in about the same state of disrepair that it has been in for thirty years.


* I think the Little One may have wound up with three Vacation Bible School t-shirts this year. Episcopal, United Methodist, and Bible Church. She was explaining heaven to me yesterday afternoon. Streets paved with gold and lots of magical thinking are involved.

**Shortly after we came back from Duckett, the Little One lost her hat. She must have been worrying about it for weeks. When we packed for Chicago in mid-July, I asked her to find her hat so I could pack it. She burst into tears: It was lost, lost forever! She lost it at Central one day, and maybe it blew away in a storm or somebody saw it and thought it was paper and thought it was litter and thought she had littered and threw it away! Or some other implausible event. Oh, the tragedy of it all. After the wailing and gnashing of teeth subsided, I offered to make her another hat, which I did while we were in Chicago, and then I made matching tops for her and her cousin. When we got back, Don checked at Central’s lost and found, and found her hat. (He says that the director said that lots of people complimented the hat while it waited for the Little One’s return.) These are the matching tops. I guess I didn’t take a picture of her new hat.


*** The Johnson Brothers are adding some functional beams in the living room in the next couple of weeks so the upstairs won’t fall down once we get the bathrooms installed. As many beams as they’re putting in, I think we won’t need any decorative ones.

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How to pull wood strip floors

Monday, May 26th, 2008

Don and I pulled the oak strip flooring from one of the bedrooms in Apartment 1 on Saturday.  We did half the other bedroom today.  I thought about his dad some while we did it. The last time we did this together, his dad cut church and helped while his mom kept the Little One for us.  I miss his dad.

Start by sweeping up the room. If you’re the floor puller, you will spend most of your time scooting around, and you don’t want to scoot into splinters.


Then, find the side of the room with the tongues exposed. Because the floor was nailed down through the tongue, it is easiest to pull from the tongue side. Start at the end which is exposed. Don uses two pry bars, and rocks them toward him to help loosen the nails. We like to work left to right, perhaps because the tongue end is on the right, perhaps because we are right-handed.  If there’s room, tap the pry bar with a hammer to encourage the pry bar to slide under the strip. Move the pry bars down the strip until the strip is removable.


When the strip is mostly loose, pause while wiggling the piece loose so your wife can take your picture with her slow-as-molasses camera. Wear protective eye gear and gloves like Norm tells you. The first few pieces are face-nailed, and much harder to de-nail than the later pieces. (So I left them for Don to do.)


After an hour, we had about a quarter of the room done. pulling-floor-4.jpg.

This photo illustrates the tongues on the short ends of the strips. The other ends have grooves.tongue-and-groove-ends.jpg
After a couple of hours, Don’s cell phone rang, so we took a break. You can see that sometimes, the nails stay behind, stuck in the subfloor.

What was I doing? Pulling nails and taking pictures. The still life below illustrates my equipment: a pair of bullnose pliers, a flat place, and a coffee can to receive the nails. (By the way, Don says our local IGA now carries Stewart’s coffee. He had been buying cans of it from Chicago whenever he went home.) I like to align the board with the groove near me since the nails are pointed toward me that way. Then, I pull and pull. Sometimes I use that piece of scrap as a fulcrum, but mostly it doesn’t help. I was able to keep up with Don’s floor pulling until I started a blister. Then, I slowed down. (Managed not to pop it.  The blister.)


Then, we went back and swept up. I pushed all the debris into the bathroom and left it for another day. Don pulled the nails that stayed in the subfloor.


Then Don folded up the tar paper (and helpfully posed for my slow-as-molasses camera).


Isn’t it interesting that the subfloor was laid diagonally? I suppose that decreased the odds that a strip would line up with the joint between the subfloor pieces. We left the room broom clean (another round of sweeping), and all nails pulled. (We even sorted about eighty percent by size and put them on one of Don’s carts.) The job took about five hours.


We got about half done with the other room today.  We have about a dozen ten-foot pieces, and, as the official floor layer-outer, I’m starting to think about the focal point of the floor that this is  destined for.  (Somewhere upstairs.)

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Referring to reference books

Thursday, May 22nd, 2008

Don spent a while Tuesday slowly and tediously pulling oak floor from the upstairs back rooms. They are the only ones upstairs without some sort of tile floor, and are riddled with gaps where various walls were, so he planned to pull the floors and re-lay the floor once the foundation work is done and the floors releveled. Tuesday went very slowly and tediously. (Oh. Did I say that already? Well, it did.) It didn’t sound like it went nearly as fast as when he and his dad and brother pulled four hundred square feet of quartersawn, narrow strip flooring in Kenilworth while I flung it out the window and loaded the truck, five years ago during a Chicago heat wave. Even allowing for more people, it sounded too slow and tedious.


(This is a picture of the same flooring, except it’s downstairs. I managed to skip taking pictures of the upstairs flooring.)

So, I did what people in my family usually do in challenging times. I looked up how to do it.* We have Unbuilding** by Bob Falk and Robert Guy and, because I bought it after moving to Arkansas, it isn’t in storage. I handed it to Don and suggested he look it over for clues or tools. Sure enough, as the book suggests, it is much faster and less tedious if you pull it from the tongue side. The nails come out easier, the tongues don’t split, and it is generally less frustrating. Hurrah for reference books!

* I am almost sure I’ve read a letter my mom wrote to her parents describing my next brother’s reaction to seeing a large spider weaving a web at my paternal grandparents’ house: Urgent dash inside demanding a book to look up the spider. He was about five.

**Does it strike anyone else as odd that Amazon is offering to bundle Unbuilding with Prefabulous: The House of Your Dreams Delivered Fresh from the Factory by Sheri Koones? Maybe the target audience is people who don’t know if they’re coming or going. Of course, the Koones book, like Unbuilding, is a Taunton Press book so I assume it’s well done.

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Craig’s List Week in Review

Wednesday, May 21st, 2008

Forty oak drawers (free, salvaged some time ago from the Chemistry Building on campus)


One jointer (that led my uncle to use exclamation marks)


One pair old French doors (true divided lights and glass interior doorknobs) with storms from Siloam Springs.  (Allegedly salvaged from a Simmons house.)  They’re probably going to be for our deck access, or our shop.


One sewing/serger cabinet (sewing machine and serger not included)


Also, a Danby Energy Star 18″ dishwasher for less than $150 from EBay (including shipping). A little bit broken, but I think it will turn out just fine.

And, from a garage sale, three Phillips Milk of Magnesia blue bottles for 75 cents for my future bottle tree. (Check out this bottle tree from a favorite garden blog of mine, located in Austin TX. She uses sake and water bottles. I like the finial she put on top.)

It’s been a good week. Or two, technically, but I was in Houston for four days so that hardly counts.

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San Diego with Excuses

Friday, April 18th, 2008

We were in San Diego the end of February, and then I needed a week to uncover my desk. And a week for Easter. And a week to re-cover my desk. And then we went to the Delta. And came back. And once I started to write again, the blog experienced technical difficulties in the middle of this post. (My computer now refuses to give me the thumbnail option. My brother can’t diagnose it long-distance. So, I’m working around the problem by uploading only thumbnailish-sized photos. Let me know how irritating it is. Huh. After re-exporting my San Diego photos as smaller jpg’s and uploading them, the computer now offers me thumbnails. Maybe it was a flaw in the way I exported them from iPhoto. Oh well. They’ll still mostly be smallish, I guess, just so I can finish this post and get on with life.)

So, San Diego six weeks later.

Sunday we spent with a college friend and her family. We went to La Jolla, and saw pelicans, seals, and a retaining wall with abalone shells. (Maybe we can do some concrete work like this.  Only with indigenous materials like beer bottles and pull tabs.)  Also the Scripps Aquarium.

pelicans-near-la-jolla.JPG seals-at-childrens-beach-san-diego.JPG abalone-wall.JPG scripps-aquarium-shark-with-us.JPG

We also rode the trolley (everywhere), ate Italian pastries for breakfast, walked along the beach, watched the sunset, and admired preschool pizza chefs.

san-diego-trolley.JPG don-and-san-diego-sunset.JPG preschool-pizza-chefs.JPG

Don toured the Marston House while I conferenced. I saw the Marston House Gardens. He said it was a great Arts & Crafts house. The gardens were quite formal.


We bought some architectural salvage, too. (We are such house geeks. My mother in law sent us some money to spend any way we wanted to in San Diego, and we bought drawer pulls with it.)

san-diego-architectural-salvage.JPG deco-drawer-pulls-san-diego.JPG

We had a little rain, enough that the natives complained, but we didn’t mind. Mostly, we had blue skies and good times.

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