Sunday, November 25, 2007

We got walls

In fact, we got some pretty good walls, if I do say so myself. Mudded, taped, and primed. My dad built houses when I was a kid, and luckily I picked up some drywall skills through osmosis-- I sure didn't get any by paying attention. The job's not perfect and we still only have the primer coat on, but I don't think we're going to need to do any texturing (touch wood). We also got the lower cabinets moved into place. (Apologies for the blurry pics-- I forgot to put new batteries into the camera, so I had to use the phone.)

I have to give credit where it's due-- I'm a big fan of the metal reinforced inside corner tape. We bought it by accident at the hardware store, but it turned out to be the perfect material for one particularly wonky corner. Some previous owners, many years ago, tacked a modular broom closet onto the end of the pantry. I wasn't a perfect fit, so once the plaster was gone, there was about an inch wide gap between the wood broom closet and the corner stud, with nails spanning the distance at an angle...we had to bevel the drywall and then I did some fancy footwork with the tape and...voila! a corner with only a ghost of a seam. We also ended up with an outside corner that was essentially too big for normal metal corner beading. I used the paper-backed metal instead since there was nothing to screw into...So far so good. I couldn't find any installation instructions, so I just slathered on a ton of joint compound, pressed it into place and got rid of the excess with a trowel-- I basically treated it like any other taped seam. We'll see how well it stands up to the refrigerator door.

Then, after mopping up the drywall dust, we got to see the floors for the first time-- we'd never mopped up the water-soluble mastic, so it was quite a nice surprise. We did a little bit of spot sanding under the lip of the cabinets-- the water damage is pretty obvious, but I think a darkish stain will hide a lot of problems. Then we sanded part of the cabinets-- the facing is indeed solid wood, and a careful pass with a belt sander does wonders.

Still not sure what to do about our living room walls-- we took the chair rail off to open the room up a little (it didn't seem like original molding) and apparently there had been a lot of painting around the rail over the years. There's now a lip of built up paint. We sanded it down some, but the walls have been textured at some point. I guess we'll try to match the texture. Time to start sampling!

Still a lot to do, but we're making progress.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Getting things done...

This last week was pretty productive in terms of getting the kitchen walled up. As I mentioned before, we can't get our final inspection until the kitchen has walls. Being 80 years old, the house doesn't have a square joint in it, so cutting the drywall was quite a process, especially for us amateurs, and there were a lot of little annoyances that kept making the job harder. We had to get a couple of rotted spots in the floor patched. Then we had the issue of an old doorway to what we can only assume was a butler's pantry-- you can still see the trim for the doorway in the laundry/mud room, which appears to have at one time been two rooms: a pantry and a small back porch landing. Anyway, we got that framed in and were finally able to hang the excessively heavy 5/8" drywall:

Yeah, there's some pretty big, gaping seams-- and we're no experts on taping and mudding. But most of the walls will be covered in appliances and cabinets and framed prints...and maybe even some textured paint to forgive the many sins that we and every other previous owner has committed in this room.

In addition to finishing our drywall hanging (which you can imagine involved a lot of cursing and quite a few ruined boards), we got the house cleaned up, made 2 trips to the dump, finished our backyard privacy fence, got one gas line added for the stove and removed a couple that were no longer needed. We'll get the gas turned on today, hopefully, so we can be sure to check every pipe that's been messed with; and we have the start up scheduled for our new heat pump tomorrow-- and just in time, as it's supposed to get wicked cold tomorrow night.

As you can see, we've started the mudding process, and one of my big goals this week is to get the next 2 coats on and sanded. I will also be sanding down the little paint strip left by the removal of the living room chair rail and primering as much of the house as possible. We'll try to get the kitchen floor sanded and the cabinets back in place. We still have a giant gable vent to build. We need to get the house as ready as possible for the inspection and for the big sanding and finishing of the rest of the floors. And then I think we'll be in a position to move in.

But I gotta tell you-- it's been awfully hard to get much done with the outdoors as pretty as this:

There's a ten year old girl in there somewhere...

Electrical Updates

Well, the electrician has gone as far as he can until the final inspection. He ran all the wires, added new boxes where necessary, and wired up our cheap, $4 light fixtures from Lowes. So before the final inspection can happen, we have to show that all the wires will be covered up, which means getting a lot further with the kitchen-- as in, getting the actual walls up.

So far, the money has totaled around $5000. More things were grandfathered in than were expected, and we asked for the bare minimum. Putting in a new 200 amp box and wiring our new heat pump cost $2k. And the rest of the house was about $3k-- lots of our outlets are in the floors because of the masonry walls, and they were left there; we also had smoke detectors hard-wired in, which is code but which is also going to totally suck the first time I burn some toast.

Now, we haven't had the final inspection yet, and once that is done, there may be more things needed that could cost extra. But we're keeping our fingers crossed that this is at least the bulk of it...

Friday, November 2, 2007

Let's talk kitchen hand towel at a time

We bought our house from HUD-- it was totally cleaned out with government efficiency, so there's nothing left of the previous owners. The layers of the structure-- especially the kitchen-- have been the only little "treasures" we've found. That's the glass-half-full way of looking at this, because in reality, I spend most weekends saying over and over, "Who the hell thought this was a good idea?"

When we first visited the house, we both tripped over the kitchen floor-- about 3/4 of an inch higher than all other floors in the house. Each owner just stacked another layer on the top until we ended up with the lovely black and white sticky vinyl tile:Now, before you say "Oh! I love black and white checkerboard and it's so retro!" you should know it was in terrible shape, matched absolutely nothing else in the kitchen, and showed the impression of the faux-tile flooring beneath it. So we did a little digging at this here location to see if the lovely pine floors were living underneath. They were! But that's also where we discovered that there were a few other layers culminating in some seriously sturdy black stuff that went right over the wood. Hmm.

At this point we decided that, regardless of the state of the wood, we needed the floors to be a bit more level or we'd end up face-first on that floor more times than we'd like to, especially if we were going to have to add to the pile to cover up that crap.

A little internet research, and we started peeling away. Below the top layer was another black and white sheet vinyl. Below that was my favorite-- it looked like candied fruits suspended in gellatin. Another plywood subfloor below that. Then yellow sparkly sheet flooring. We thought it ended there and went straight to the mastic but no-- TRUE linoleum. The stuff that was laid out and heated to adhere to the floor. It was very 30s and very cool:The black border is separate from the red trim is separate from the central art deco pattern. And each piece was put down with a different mastic. So we both spent a lot of time on the internet looking for way so get this crap off the wood, a lot of hours on our hands and knees trying out all the different things we found...

And here's what worked for us so far: Steam and Ace Hardware adhesive remover, which burns like a mofo if you're not careful. Wear gloves.

First, we peeled as much of the actual flooring off as we could. The central rug used a largely water based glue. I used a spray bottle to dampen the area; then I laid a wet tea towel on top. I took my old iron (good excuse to buy a new good one!) and ironed the wet towel on a high cotton setting until it stopped sizzling-- a few seconds, less than a minute, moving around the area so it didn't burn. I then pushed with an old scraper (going with the grain), and most of the leftover backing and mastic just peeled right off. Then I repeated the process and used a carbide blade pull scraper to get as much of the remaining mastic off as possible. It left a white/gray residue that smears with water, so hopefully that will sand off when we're ready to finish the floors. You can see that white overtone-- almost like the wood is simply dried out. But if you wet it a little, you can see the wood beneath it.

The black border areas were a different story altogether. They had no intention of coming off of the wood no matter what we tried. We used Kleenstrip (I think) stripper and adhesive remover. The stripper worked better that the adhesive remover. But then we tried the Ace brand adhesive remover and it seemed to do a better job. Just painting it on, waiting, and scraping with a good, sharp blade. Repeating where necessary. Unfortunately, this mastic was an oil-based one. So it has stained the wood, possibly further down than we want to or can sand. On the other hand, though, this is mainly around the perimeter where the floor will be covered by cabinets, appliances or overshadowed by the cabinet overhang.

Our next step is to sand the floors; however, as we all know, it's a process, and we have to get a few other things done first. Then I think we're going to try staining it a dark red mahogany...? The room is big enough that I think it can take the darker floor and darker cherry cabinets. We're just hoping the dark stain will mask the glue stains enough. We're ok with the floors being "rustic"-- they'll have nail holes from the plywood, etc. But hopefully it won't be crazy obvious.

And if it turns out heinous, we'll look into laying new hardwood-- even though that raises the floor back up to its previous level, we would have had to lay something over the ugly B&W checks, so we'd still be ahead. Or perhaps we'll give cork tiles a try...

I know the dreaded black mastic is a common problem of houses this age-- linoleum floors were so very "now." Any advise on finishing with this kind of distress in the wood would be greatly appreciated!