Old House Restoration

A real family makes an old house their home...for the 2nd time
The Splendido's renovate, restore and rejuvenate their home with their own hands - all while living in the house
and balancing their family needs...you know...like most families have to do it!

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Flashback - Dining Room Coat Closet Converted to Built-In China Cabinet

It was July 2005 and Karen, Paige and I moved into our first house, a fantastic old home built in 1920. We loved that house. Our family has been lucky to have found and lived in two homes we absolutely enjoy(ed) living in each and every day. However - just because we loved these homes from day one, does not mean they did not need a lot of work.

Up until now I have only showed the work I have done on this current home on St Davids Lane. However, I honed my skills on Ray Street - only one mile from this new home. The first room we tackled in that house was the dining room.

Oh! That wallpaper!

Day 1 - The day we moved in
Green/gold/white medallion wallpaper that was in the dining room. 

It is safe to say we couldn't wait to get to work on this room because by Day 4 this is what I came home to after work (see above picture). Karen (and 2 year old Paige) peeled all the wallpaper off - revealing a pea green wall. Karen tells me this wallpaper peeled off like Christmas wrapping paper. I understand if those of you that have spilled your blood, sweat and tears getting wallpaper off hate to hear this...but take some solace in knowing not all the wallpaper in this house came off this easily...and every wall in every room had wallpaper on it when we moved in. Every.Wall. And by the time we moved out 8 years later there was no wallpaper remaining.

How to ruin a perfectly good window seat

The window seat - It is one of the reasons we loved the house. Don't get me wrong - we hated the window seat in its current state because it was SO UGLY - but we knew what it could be. The owners before us, used the window as an indoor greenhouse. They has grow lights along the ceiling and green indoor/outdoor carpeting covering the seated area. Such a waste of a potentially beautiful focal point of the room.

If you look carefully in above picture you can see the green I/O Carpet on the window seat.
How Silly!
I removed the grow lights and the carpeting. Under the carpeting the woodwork was painted white. I used paint remover and stripped the seat down to bare wood. Then I stained the wood and protected it with a polyurethane.

Repair the walls and paint a bold color

In the above pictures you can also see the wall patches that I made to the plaster walls. It was not as easy as it looks. The walls are old plaster. The plaster had become loose from the lathe. If you leaned against the walls the walls appeared to breathe. I used Plaster Washers (they are a real thing) to pull the plaster back and secure the walls to the lathe. Then covered the washers with spackle...As I did more rooms in the house I started to realize why there was so much wallpaper...it was holding the plaster  walls in place! I should have bought stock in those Plaster Washers!
Karen and I knew we wanted a bold color. There are so many shades of terracotta red...however when we found one named Warm Sienna (Benjamin Moore) we new we found our color. See...Karen's sister and our brother-in-law met at Sienna College. Long story short they moved to Albany in 2004. Karen and I followed them upstate in 2005. The color was meant to be.

We LOVED this color  ..................................for about 5 years...except we lived their 8! We spent our last 3 years saying how we wanted to change it, but I refused to until I finished the first pass through the other rooms.

Changed the ceiling fan/light

I like ceiling fans. Karen does not....you know where this s going right!?

Karen and I found this light online....after months (yes months) of searching. We liked everything about this light - the way the arms curved, the two tiers of lights and the brown/bronze finish - so much so This light is still in our dining room today. We bought another similar light and replaced it before we put our house on the market.

 Built In China Cabinet

Converting a Coat Closet into a Built-In China CabinetIn the above pictures you can see a coat closet on the right side of the window seat. It was not a very functional closet. It was small and a triangle shape inside...not rectangular. So Karen and I decided to it would make a great built in china cabinet.

Step 1: Find a French Door

Converting a Coat Closet into a Built-In China CabinetWe found an unpainted french door at the Bargain Outlet that was the correct size. I painted it the same color as the rest of the trim work in the room - Benjamin Moore Woodmont Cream in satin finish.

Step 2: Paint the Back of the Wall
I chose to paint the back walls of the closet - oops I mean cabinet - the same color as the walls of the dining room for some pop.

Step 3: Build the Shelves
Converting a Coat Closet into a Built-In China CabinetI used my Laser Level to line up the shelves with the cross bars on the French Doors to make sure I did not have the edge of a shelf lining up in the middle of a window pane. I marked the laser lines on the back wall and placed some shelve supports (wood strips) along these lines. I painted the shelf supports the same color as the walls. I then built the shelves to fit and painted them the trim color.

Step 4: Back Lighting
I got a little lucky on this steo because there was already electricity inside the closet...including a wall outlet! You never know what you will find in a old home!

I used A section of Rope Lighting that I tacked around the backside of the door frame. Cheap, invisible from the front and the perfect brightness. The rope lighting even had an on/off toggle switch. Simple and easy. I always made sure the lighting was on when we had visitors or on holidays.

Converting a Coat Closet into a Built-In China Cabinet

Step 5: Fill those Shelves
Decorate the shelves with that China you haven't seen since you registered for it!

Converting a Coat Closet into a Built-In China Cabinet
The built in china cabinet was a great addition to our dining room. It added another area of interest in the room and broke up the wall of doors that was on that end of the room. It also gave us a way to see the Lenox Faith china we so painstakingly selected during our engagement...oh the horror! j/k Karen ;-)

Of course now that we moved...it has been about 1.5 years since we've last seen them! At least this time we purchased a hutch to display them in...BUT of course there is no room in the hutch for the china...BECAUSE first the kitchen cabinets have to be refaced/refinished...THEN we can take the kitchen stuff out of the hutch...so then there will be room in the hutch for the china...oh how my world turns. Add that to Karen's ever growing reasons why I need to get back to work on the kitchen I started this past winter!

Thursday, September 18, 2014

14 Months of Procrastination

As I mentioned in my last entry - I have Post Its *elegantly displayed* on my kitchen cabinets. These annoying yellow reminders are my way of making sure I do not forget to do something. When we first moved in 14 months ago there were anywhere from 5-10 notes at a time. Each one with 1-5 items listed. Every once in a while I would combine the multiple notes into 1 or 2 neatly written notes...a form of procrastination. I may not have knocked off one of my many Honey Do's, but at least I organized them better!

Many of the tasks were suppose to be done before last winter. I didn't finish them all before winter. Then by the time spring arrived, I was on to bigger and better things: Restoring Wide Plank Floors, Building a BreakFast Nook Bench, Constructing a Slate Patio, adding Central Air and Installing a Ultra High Efficiency Furnace. Damn I've done a lot since February *excuse me while I pat myself on the back right now* 

I guess you can say I am "addicted to rehab"...oh wait someone else has already coined that phrase. I first watched an episode of Rehab Addict on the plane to a training trip to Las Vegas in February - about the same time I was about to start ripping up the kitchen floor. I have since watched every episode! The show takes completely run down houses - like condemned and about to be bulldozed - and rehabs them to there old glory. The host Nicole Curtis is entertaining, talented and knows how to turn nothing into something. It doesn't hurt that this single mom is attractive, takes no crap and knows how to use power tools! She is also very empowering - the whole family enjoys the show - and Paige and Lily think "it is really cool that a girl is doing all this." She has had a hand in 6/7 year old Lily becoming My Little Helper - that and the fact that we have fun doing the work together! Nicole should be sponsored by Nike, because after one of her shows I get into the mindset to "Just Do It." Her show gives me the confidence to say "what's the worse that can happen?" Can't wait for the new season to start on October 2nd. Didn't mean to turn this post into a DIY Network commercial, but at least now you know where I draw some of my inspiration from.

Back to my regularly scheduled blog entry - So now winter is just around the bend again - and I still have several items on my list to take care of...and 2 of them are from my original list 14 months ago! Slacker :-) In my defense - these jobs are some of those nuisance projects I mentioned last entry - smaller and not very sexy - but I decided it was finally time to tackle them...just in time for our home, but unfortunately not in time for Alvin, Simon or Theodore!? huh?

14 Month Old Task #1 - Hole near the Foundation - I wonder what lives in there?
I always wondered what live in here

I remember our home inspector mentioning that there was a hole in the foundation that we should correct "as soon as possible." Thus it was the first post it "To Do." I remember writing it the day we moved in. However, of course it was not more important than moving furniture, building beds, unpacking boxes, finding the kids cloths, tootbrushes... AND the toys they hadn't seen in the months since we packed them! So one thing led to another and my post it notes suddenly had many, many - OH so many! - projects on them - each one as important as the next (however real or perceived as that may be).

Next thing I knew - I never filled the hole before winter.  Even though Karen and I always wondered what might be living in there - I thought oh well it can wait...and as far as the house was concerned - it could wait. But then one day Karen asked, "what's that smell?" It was a rhetorical question, because we both knew it was the smell of death. Now I had to find it. Soon enough my nose brought me to the hole in the foundation. Inside I am sad to say I found one of the 10 million chipmunks "property pets" we have. The kids love watching them scury in and out of their holes (even the one that lives under the slate patio).  None-the-less I found the cause of the smell - the little guy (or gal) must have searched out a safe place to go to cross the rainbow bridge.

Repairing the Foundation Hole

Determined to not let that happen again - I removed a section of clapboard siding to reveal the true extent of the hole. Of course like anything else - simple projects get bigger by the second! The hole was bigger than I thought and there was rotted wood, too.

  • I took hammers, crow bars, large screwdrivers, wood chisels and my recipicating saw to chip away and cut away all the rotted wood. Sorry no pictures.
  • Then I cut some pressure treated wood that had to be hammered into place to form a tight fit. I also attached these pieces to the current structure with screws - again no pictures.
  • Then I measured a piece of scrap plywood to fit the missing piece of clapboard - pictured below. Note - technically I should have used clapbaord - but since I did not have any at my disposal - and it was only one small piece - I made do with what I had
    • I did have to fit in some filler strips behind the plywood to help allow the plywood to flare out at the bottom.

  • The wood came out fine, but there was still a hole between the wood and steps to the screened in porch. See below:

  • I filled the whole in with some cement and painted the wood to match. Finished. No more hole.

14 Month Old Task #2 - Replace Peeling Wood on Screen Door

This door was embarrassing. This door was splintering and separating. The splintered sections did not have any paint. It really looked awful. Unfortunately I do not have any truly before pictures - because I have always been careful to take my pictures from an angle so that this crummy looking thing was not in the shot! Even the picture below is a "retouched" version of just how bad it looked.

Here's a picture after my half-ass paint job of the worse sections (upper and lower left):


Even more embarassing than the door - is that I let it look this way for 14 months. It honestly took Lily and I less than an hour to fix. Re-dic-u-lous.

  • Removed the bad section of wood
  • Cut a piece of pre-primed wood to size
  • Attached the piece to the door (yay! another reason to use my new air compressor and brad nailer!)
  • I had Lily paint the door (just look at her concentration!)
If you ever wondered how I get so many projects done - well now you know...I have the Best.Helper.Ever.


Door and foundation hole - Finished!

Both these projects took me less than 3 hours of total work. Maybe next time I won't let a small project like these stare at me from my kitchen cabinets for 14 months. Maybe.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Every project WILL take longer than I think!

Let me save you some time, energy & money. When painting, if you ever wondered if you can skip priming when painting wood....the answer is an unequivocal, "NO!"

I could end this post now, because that is moral of this story. However, we all know that won't happen, because then it wouldn't be one of my excessively detailed (and hopefully partially entertaining) posts.

Now you may be thinking to yourself, "well duh John, of course you need primer on raw wood"...but in my defense, I thought I had this job well planned out, but then like all projects, Murphy's Law grabbed a hold of it and it grew and changed by the minute.

Winter Prep of Exterior Siding

After vacation, we really wanted to get back to working on the kitchen...however, unfortunately I have this ever-lasting nagging "To Do List" of outdoor jobs that I want to accomplish before winter sets in. These projects have resided on a various Post It notes stuck to a kitchen cabinet (classy!) for many months, and in one case a full year! *slacker*

All these projects are what I consider necessary evils. They are not flashy or sexy. Nobody gets excited about the finished product (except me...because I finally get to strike-though the item on those pesky Post Its). But if I don't do them the house will get run down looking...or worse...a chipmunk could lose its life (literally - more on that is a future post).

The first of these projects was repainting two sections of the exterior of our house. These two portions looked a little more weathered than the rest of the exterior and I was worried another winter would be detrimental to the old clapboard beneath...and they just happen to be very prominent from my hammock and new slate patio - so whenever I did get a moment to relax, I found myself looking up and saying, "ugh!" But in looking it over from the ground I figured it was nothing a little scraping and a new coat of paint couldn't fix. A few hours in one day. No big deal.

Step 1: Scrape any loose paint (Day 1)

I really thought it would just take me a few minutes to scrape the loose paint, however as I was climbing out my our bedroom window onto the roof to get a closer look two things happened:
  1. I remembered I am not a big fan of certain types of heights. Roofs are one of them. I love roller-coasters and any other scary amusement park ride that bring me a few hundred feet in the air, but put me 10 feet up on a roof and I am not comfortable.
  2. The paint looked much worse up close than I thought (see below picture)

As I started scraping, full sections of paint were just crumbling to the tarps I laid on the shingles.... and then as I continued to scape...even more paint chipped away...

...and then even more paint came off...

Paige keeping an eye on her daddy...she even brought me water and cookies to keep me hydrated and nourished

My initial thought was just to do the easy sections I could reach from the porch roof...however then I looked up and realized the area outside the attic was in horrible shape, too...as the fear of getting up to that height started to set in, I had a great idea. I will just take the attic window off the hinges and work from the window!


Here is the after scraping picture. Note: save yourself some sweat and heartache when scraping - instead of trying to get every last piece of paint off - just try to get the loose stuff off - especially if working on the 2nd floor. You will not notice any imperfections from the ground or from far away. Embrace the imperfections! They just add to the "character" of an old house!

Step 2: Paint (then realize you should have primed first) (Day 2)

There is only one scenario that I can suggest not using a primer. If you are re-painting over a paint that is the same color and is not a high gloss finish. Other than that, a primer should be used in all other scenarios. If you try to skip the primer - in the end you will have just found out that you wasted a gallon of paint - to then have to go back to Benjamin Moore to buy primer and another gallon of exterior paint.

I really expected to be in the "non-primer needed scenario." Originally I did not think so much paint would scrape off. I figured a little loose paint would come off and I would just paint right over the current paint -which was the same color and a flat sheen. The perfect scenario for skipping a primer....and just to be safe - I purchased a Benjamin Moore exterior paint that said it was "self priming on most substrates."

Of course more paint scraped off than I planned. I even mentioned to Karen my concerns, but after contemplating whether I should prime or not - I decided to test the self-priming characteristics of the B-Moore paint.
Wrong! While I was applying the first coat of paint - it may have just been my imagination playing tricks on me - but I really thought I could hear the slurping sounds of the paint being sucked into the exposed portions of our 1938 clapboard siding.

See all the uneven spots - the paint was sucked right into the wood - it looked like crap

Working hard from the attic window - all for naught. Looks terrible!

Even though the result was bad and it was going to take me longer than I expected...and cost more than I had budgeted - I did take two positives out of this unsuccessful first try:
  • Through some creativity I realized I can paint a lot of area without having to get too dangerous
    • Between hanging out of windows, extension poles and duct tape (what can't it be used for) I was able to reach all the nooks and crannies.
      • Especially proud of taping the paint brush to the end of my 8 foot extension pole and getting to the corners like I had Stretch Armstrong arms.
  • This small section acted as a great test area before tackling the whole house next year!
    • i.e.- I learned what not to do

Step 3: Prime with a REAL primer (Day 3 - the following weekend)

I went back to Benjamin Moore with a cell phone picture and explained what had happened. They said you definitely need a real primer (i.e.-not a paint that says it is self-priming). So they tinted a gallon of their Fresh Start Interior/Exterior Primer a dark grey. They said primer does not take browns very well - he said it turns pink - so the dark grey would be my best bet.

After applying the primer I could tell it was going to work. The primer was staying on top of the wood. It was not being sucked in. The can said it needed 4 hours to dry before you could paint over the primer so...

The twins and I headed over to Home Depot at 9am (yes I was done with the primer by 8:30am...I started at 6:30!) for a little birdhouse making! After all - the most important question to answer EVERY day is: "What are we going to do that is fun today?"

Future home improvement experts in the making

Step 4: Paint the Exterior of the House (Day 4)

By now I was becoming an expert at painting this section of the house. I painted the first coat in the morning and then we went on a family bike ride. That afternoon I painted the second coat (which is really the 4th coat of paint since the prior weekend!).

So it took me longer and cost me a little more than I planned, but in the end the paint looks nice and even. I am happy with the result...or course now it makes the adjacent sections of the house look worn out...I feel like a dog chasing its tail!

Now Karen and I need to figure out what color to paint the trim next spring/summer. We dislike the yellow (to put it nicely). Also the remainder of the house will get painted next year...we think we will keep it brown (Benjamin Moore Night Horizon to be exact), but not positive...let me know if you have any suggestions for the trim work or all new color schemes! We want to keep the color in character with house and the woodsy setting, but are open to suggestions.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Vacation over...To Do List minimizing commenced

I haven't forgotten about the blog...and I definitely have not gotten lazy! Busy, busy, busy as ever here in Splendido Land. Vacation, back-to-school, winter house prep...so much going on. I have no less than 4 projects going simultaneously....and not one of them complete! To be honest - it is testing my Type A personality a little bit. I like to finish one before I start the next...but between weather, work and family...the logical order is not always possible.

We took our annual pilgrimage to Cape Cod. It was so fantastic to just hang with the kids for 12 straight days. So.Much.Fun.

Sand Sofa on the Beach

Annual Photo
This Hydrangea Bush used to look a LOT bigger

Whale Watch off of P-town

...and as soon as we finished vacation...it was time to get ready for.....

the 1st Day of School!

Even though we had all this going on...I have still been starting a lot of projects. My before winter comes "To Do List" has a few items on it. Karen wants me to get back to "making pretty" inside the house, but we both agree we need to get a few more projects off the list first...

...BUT none of them a quite finished...I'll post project entries soon...but here are some teasers!

The custom pottery we collect during vacation....instead of refrigerator magnets!

 This boy's toy!

 I wonder what lived in this hole

  Scraping & painting the exterior...as one of my fans and supporters look on

Proof that I have found time to squeeze in some hard work amongst the late summer fun...this selfie was taken while hanging outside the attic window scraping badly weathered paint...fyi...I am not a big fan of heights (unless it is a roller-coaster...love them!), but sometimes a man's got to do what a man's got to do.

Hopefully I can finish up a few of these projects this weekend and start making pretty again soon. The kitchen floor and cabinets are calling my name...I think I heard them saying "John refinish me."....oops...actually that was Karen doing voice-over work.