Archive for the ‘Apartment 1’ 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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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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Unvented Gas Heaters for Petch House

Thursday, February 21st, 2008

Greg from Petch House asked after my bathroom gas heater — you know, the one that set my house on fire.  Or at least the bathroom door.  So I searched his website to find out why.  This is why.  As it turns out, we have at least four of them.  (I hear we have a fifth in the basement Apartment 5, but I don’t know what it looks like.)  Also, we have some bigger open flame gas heaters that don’t look quite so ceramic.

My memories of unvented gas heaters are ridiculous.  We had one in our bathroom (1963 ranch) when I was growing up. Somehow, I was sure that it was connected to the tub to keep the water warm.  Picture little flames licking at the bottom of the tub.  Yep, that’s what I envisioned.  Made me a bit nervous in winter.  Don’t really want one in our house.

So, Greg:  These photos are for you.   Let me know which one(s) you want and we’ll get it to you after they’re disconnected.  (I think the two non-white ones are a close match in color, and they are more tan than pink.)

Heater 1 Heater 2  Heater 4 Heater 4

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The Walls Are Talking About Asbestos

Wednesday, February 20th, 2008

I’ve been sort of assuming that the rear addition (1950s) comprised asbestos siding. It looks like asbestos siding. The timing is right so I figured we might as well treat it like asbestos siding and leave it alone.  (Based on the “walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, must be a duck” theory.*)

Rear addition siding

During Apartment 1 demolition last week, I came across evidence tending to corroborate my belief.

Cardboard shims in Apt 3 See up at the joint between the wall and ceiling? It’s a shim made of cardboard, but the words are upside down. Never fear, though, I can rotate and crop.

Right side up

But, for those of you who don’t want to click through, what does it say?

Rub Er Oid Asbestos Siding

Yep. Ruberoid Eternit Asbestos Cement Siding. Woo-hoo!

* Although James Whitcomb Riley, the Hoosier poet, probably coined the phrase first, we should also look to Douglas Adams‘ theory:  “If it looks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, we have at least to consider the possibility that we have a small aquatic bird of the family anatidae on our hands.”  As long as I’ve mentioned Riley, his Italianate house** is in Indianapolis and is open for touring.  It has exquisite examples of stenciling.  We always intended to go back for inspiration, but we never stayed in our Victorians long enough to do the finish stenciling.

**OK, it wasn’t really Riley’s house.  He was a houseguest who never left.  He lived there for 23 years with the family who did own the house.

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How to tell you are watching too much HGTV …

Tuesday, February 19th, 2008

… When your 5yo daughter finds some kids’ names chalked on the underside of the stairs in the grody, dark, scary hallway and says, “Mom! Now we can be on TV!”  So I took her picture with them.  I think we may be watching too much If Walls Could Talk.

Martin and Madalyn names Under stairs Grody under stairs

(names in blue chalk: Martin, Madlen [sp?], Tom J., Jack B.)  She also helped clear out under the stairs, wearing a dust mask and gloves that were too big for her, until I got grossed out by it all.  Then we turned to nail pulling.

Trust me.  It’s much grodier in real life.  It’s cramped, dark, dusty, and there were old mice nests in the ceiling.  (We washed her coat when we got home.)

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Kitchen stairs in mid-air

Tuesday, February 12th, 2008

We continue demolishing the house.  (I hope that it’s not the ceiling tiles on the walls that are holding the house together because they’re gone.)  Last week, Don called me at work to tell me about the kitchen door in mid-airwall.  To put it in context, below is the kitchen (looking north toward the scary, grody hallway) before we bought the house.

Kitchen facing north (Nov. 2007) 

Same view after our tenant left:

Kitchen facing north (post-purchase) 

Same view after Don took down the door to the scary, grody hallway connecting Apartment 1 to Apartment 2 and the layers of yellow tile:

Kitchen stairs 

Wait!  What’s that door doing there?  Hanging in mid-air? Oh, it’s just a second way to get to the stairs.  Or it was.  See the risers’ shadows?

Kitchen facing north (behind the wall) 

That explains the little bend at the first landing:

Foyer landing 

“An escalator can never break: it can only become stairs. You would never see an Escalator Temporarily Out Of Order sign, just Escalator Temporarily Stairs. Sorry for the convenience.” Mitch Hedberg (1968-2005).

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Dining room to kitchen to family room pass-throughs

Monday, February 4th, 2008

I have advocated for a pass-through from kitchen to dining room for most of my married life. My grandmother had one in her kitchen that worked pretty well. At Thanksgiving, you could put serving dishes and silverware and whatever on the pass-through and elves* would magically transfer them to the table, and the dirty dishes would return to the kitchen in the same way. (Her pass-through was actually a cabinet on wheels, so that you could remove it and roll wheelchairs through if need be.)

I forget why it didn’t work out in our Kensington kitchen, and our Ashland kitchen wasn’t actually attached to our dining room so it wasn’t possible there. (You had to go through the butler’s pantry.) And one of the criticisms of our Ashland Italianate was: “The kitchen doesn’t open into the family room.” (Don got tired of hearing that. He felt they should be grateful the kitchen wasn’t in the basement.) So, we are working out open, yet maybe closable, connections to the dining room and family room.

dining-room-facing-west.jpg Kitchen facing east

Above you will see two sides of the same wall, dining room and kitchen. The kitchen wall (with the yellow tile) had the tenant’s washer and dryer with the fridge to the far left, and the dining room wall had paneling and wallpaper. That bump out to the right on the kitchen wall is probably a chimney. There is a shallow bookshelf between the door and the chimney. I think we’ll be removing the chimney. (There’s another chimney in the bathroom in Apartment 1 that should come down. The chimney in Apartment 2 that is attached to the only fireplace will probably not be coming down, but it will need major work done.)

family-room-facing-east.jpg kitchen-facing-west.jpg Kitchen facing west

These pictures are of the future family room wall (facing east) and the west kitchen wall (before the tenant moved out – and as it looked last week). The bathroom door from the kitchen is just visible to the right in the kitchen shots. (The family room picture was taken after we got most of the closet out.  It’s all gone now.) You can see the clapboard and the former window. The former window is pretty much in the corner of the current kitchen. Below is another view from the second bedroom of Apartment 1. Don is standing in the bathroom door, the kitchen window is visible through the stud wall (load-bearing, btw), and the kitchen door is also visible. Barely.

Family room facing east

We’re thinking about taking over the bathroom to make the kitchen a bit bigger, and relocating the bathroom elsewhere. (Remember we have two full bathrooms on this floor right now along with two kitchens.)

You might see where I’m going with this. Restore the window-sized access to the family room, and either a window of similar size or bigger to the dining room. Centered, I think, because symmetry is important to me. I’d like to have storage on that dining room wall, maybe like this one (below) that showed up on Craig’s List in Chicago, only bigger and longer. Then I could keep my china in the dining room, and set it on the pass-through when it comes out of the dishwasher to put away. Maybe use some of the doors Don bought off Craig’s list last fall.


(Isn’t it nice? Craig’s list in Chicago. $3600. 77″ long by 66″ tall and 21″ deep.) And I could throw popcorn at the people in the family room, or whatever it is you do with a kitchen that opens onto the family room.

I checked out the Bungalow Kitchens and Bungalow Dining Rooms from the Fayetteville Public Library today. (We have B’Kitchens and B’Bathrooms somewhere in storage.) Examples of pass-throughs and built-ins abound. I’d forgotten how much the focus is on California in those books until re-reading them. I saw at least one where the pass-through was closable. Like a pocket door hung perpendicular to the ordinary way. I suppose tambour doors or sideways doors could also be closable if I wanted to close off the pass-through.

*Elves might be an even better idea than a pass-through, but they seem to be harder to keep happy.

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30+ Deco Kitchen Handles: Want some?

Wednesday, January 23rd, 2008

We have at least thirty of these kitchen handles (and corresponding cabinets and drawers) which we will be pulling out of the kitchen in Apartment 1 rather soon. Anyone interested? I think they would go well in a mid-century house since that’s when I think this remodel was done.  The curly window trim is another clue to its date.

kitchen-handle.jpg upper-cabinets-example.jpg over-kitchen-door.jpg

I haven’t checked the upstairs kitchen hardware in person, but my file photo (below) suggests that at least one of them has cabinets that are definitely of the same vintage, and may have matching handles, increasing the number further.


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Revealing Apartment 1′s Porch

Tuesday, January 8th, 2008

As I wrote before Christmas, we want to convert the left two-thirds of the house to porch, in part because it used to be porch. (Also, we love being outside without mosquitoes, and we hope to be able to use the space often. Heck, it got up into the 60s over the weekend here.)  The flooring from the original upstairs porch is still visible from the outside.

Exterior of our house

The inside of the lower past/future porch is inside Apartment 1 and you can see it through the arch from our future dining room. These pictures were taken before the tenant left and demolition began.  There was a window on the right side, and a closet on the left side.  (Also, three windows across the front.)

Before tenant’s departure Porch in Apartment 1 (right)

Don removed some of the ceiling tiles in the section beyond the arch and found …

Porch ceiling in Apartment 1

Green beadboard. So there is a little original fabric to the house that I think we’ll keep.

I removed the rest of the tiles from the lower front porch ceiling on Saturday.  And Sunday, I demolished most of one closet (also made of ceiling tiles) in the dry bedroom in Apartment 1.  And admired Don removing more ceiling tile walls in the wet bedroom* in Apartment 1.  Some of the walls in the dry bedroom were drywall over ceiling tile.  Not a lick of insulation anywhere. 

Wait.  That’s not quite true.  We found a ball of insulation in the interior wall in the wet bedroom about the size of a football, with a Diet Slice can next to it.  I don’t know where that came from, but I know it’s going into the dumpster. 

We had another gas meter replaced today.  For those of you counting, we have had three of our eleven meters replaced so far, all at the utility’s expense.

*The “wet” bedroom is so-named because, after the pipes froze New Year’s Day/night, we found a new drip in that bedroom.  It looks like the drip may not be coming from the pipes inside that bedroom’s ceiling, but from a leak in the bathroom above.  There has been standing water on that floor, and I am not quite sure where it came from.  I guess we’ll figure it out soon enough.

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The pipes are thawing (and not bursting)

Friday, January 4th, 2008

We have power to Apartment 1 now, and also to the hallway and Apartment 4′s kitchen outlet upstairs (on Apartment 1′s downstairs circuit for some reason). We also have hot water in the house although, as of noon yesterday, Apartment 4 still didn’t. No visible leaks (except, perhaps, in Apartment 5, which is the basement apartment, where we know we have a clogged sink), so no burst pipes yet. Only the Apartment 2 kitchen sink is still frozen.  (We thought we had lost power permanently in Apartment 2, but that turned out to be a blown fuse, so life is good.) Isn’t the stalagmite cool?  It was a stalactite until it started to thaw.

Ice in Apt 2 kitchen sink

Demolition and clean-up are progressing in the basement, where the water heater fired up a couple of times while Don was sweeping. Nasty, by the way (the sweeping).  Probably hadn’t been done in forty years.

The basement (not the apartment, but the basement part) is all cleaned and swept, with about 10 more minutes to finish cleaning the garage. Then, on to Apartment 5 (the basement apartment).

Apartment 2′s “switch” at the fuse box, for lack of a better term, is broken. The electric company guy said that can happen in the cold. Or maybe Don stressed it Wednesday with the 3 space heaters, and it cracked.

The electric company guy came by a second time, after turing the power to Apartment 1 back on, to change a bad meter. This is our second “bad” meter at this house.  We already had a gas meter replaced. I don’t recall replacing a meter in any of our other houses. Of course, we have eleven meters here, which would increase the odds of a bad one. Five gas and five electric meters for the five apartments, plus a sixth gas meter for the 95 gallon hot water heater, which is community property. Not sure which of the meters is new, but I do have before and after shots of the electric. Not the gas.  Aren’t they lovely?

Gas meters January 3, 2008 electric meters January 3, 2008 electric meters

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