Saturday, January 28, 2006

What would you do?

We're continuing to wrestle with some philosophical and emotional issues concerning the house. First is whether we will want to put up wallpaper in the rooms that were originally papered. I'm not sure, V is leaning toward it, but I don't think either one of us is convinced--or convincing--enough.

Second, if my paint analysis shows that the molding finish was originallly just shellac (which is what I suspect) and not paint, are we going to strip all the way down and re-shellac? I've seen this done very well, and I've seen this done very poorly. Our trim is not crazy super elaborate, but the thought of stripping out all of those nooks and crannies gives me hives. On the other hand, I love the look of wood/shellac. V is concerned this might make the rooms appear too dark, but we've seen it in other houses that I wouldn't consider dungeonlike by any stretch.

Third, what to do with the kitchen? Temporary makeover or gut it out and bear it until we're ready for the real deal? I say temporary makeovers can really help make a room work until you're prepared to do better. Haven't asked V 'bout this one and probably won't until I can get a decent dollar amount in my head. Cost estimates may make or break my case!

Friday, January 20, 2006

Spring cleaning, a little early

V and I have decided to give ourselves until the spring to figure out what's going and what's staying. Having two houses' worth of STUFF is getting a little overwhelming. There are some lovely things here that, honestly, just aren't our style, so they'll probably go to a good home where they'll be appreciated.

Now our big worry is finding a good and reputable appraiser. There is such a wide variety that we don't know whether to find a really good generalist or whether we should start looking into folks who specialize in, say, ephemera. One more thing to overwhelm us! Mind you, I'd rather be overwhelmed by this than by plaster falling from the walls in great huge chunks or one of the other myriad old-house-related problems we could have. Honestly. But of all the plans we have for the house, this is the one I find the most challenging, probably because it's the one where I have the least amount of real knowledge.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Mommy's little helpers

I'm tired today. And I don't think I'm really thinking clearly. So instead of blogging, I'm just going to post some pictures of our cats. V and I are mere inches away from being the crazy cat people. It's really only a matter of time. But they have good stories.

Annie is a one-time feral. I found her in the middle of a blizzard, trying desperately to get into my parents' barn. She was very wild but decided (she's always been an extremely smart cat) to come in from the cold. However, she trusted no one until V came along and very patiently showed her that indoor life was cushy and to be savored. Now, she's the Queen of Sheba and is also known as the "fancy cat." She's very tidy--look at how white she keeps those whites!

Romeo came into my life when I was an undergrad tutoring in my school's writing lab. One night I thought I heard meowing. Being a softie, I went to check it out and found Romesie standing out in the rain waiting for a human to come along. He was just a doll. Sure that someone was missing such a lovely and giving cat, I posted flyers all over the place. Eventually a woman called me to tell him I might as well keep him "because I told my daughter he was probably dead." Uh, right then. Keep him I did! Doesn't he look like he ought to have a tiny pipe and smoking jacket? He really lives up to his name.

Birdie exploded onto the scene in June of 2002. We'd lost a very beloved kitty two months before and were not (not) looking for a new cat. Then a routine trip to PetSmart for food proved to be our undoing. There cowered Birdie, the only kitten amongst about 30 cages full of dogs. Poor thing looked terrified. She had just one eye and frankly, she looked pretty darn scrappy. But there was something about her. We took her out of her cage and she promptly climbed onto V's shoulder and perched there like she belonged. She came home with us that day.

Frasier is a momma's boy. He came around in January-ish of 2003 . Birdie was having some serious socialization-related issues and had taken to repeatedly pounding on Romeo. We thought having a playmate more her own age would be good for her. Besides, I told V, cats should always come in even numbers. Sounded perfectly logical at the time. Frasier became an internet cat date. I saw his picture on and just had to see him in person. In spite of his neurotic tendencies (he'd been adopted twice and returned twice) we thought we would be just the home for him, and we have been. He seems to have bonded especially much to me...not that I mind it. It's like V has his cat, and I have my cat, and then we share the other two equally. Works out nicely, I think!

Friday, January 06, 2006

The wish list and the project far

If you are an independently wealthy person and would like to contribute funds either to the wish list or to help us move projects along, I don't think we'd turn you down. This is going to be one expensive endeavor! Perhaps we should implement an "adopt a clapboard" program. Hmmmm.

The wish list.

  • Good plastering tools
  • Some supplier within 30 miles who carries Type S hydrated lime so I can make lime putty for said plaster and for mortar
  • Insulation for the attic
  • A tractor so our neighbor no longer has to mow our lawn (thank you just doesn't cover it...we have awesome neighbors!)
  • Silent paint remover
  • Good quality paint scrapers
  • Refills for our respirators
  • Tyvek suits
  • Tons of 5ml or higher plastic
  • New old windows (or custom new wood windows, but prefer old wood if we can find some)
  • A hot water radiator heating system
  • A clawfoot tub

The (partial) project list, not necessarily in this order

  • Replace windows (aluminum replacements) with good-quality historic windows, if we can find them, or well-constructed wooden replacements
  • Scrape and repaint (maybe, or shellac, depending on what our paint analysis shows) trim, doors, and windows
  • Patch holes in plaster left by electrical crew
  • Expand one-time porch (now utility room/bathroom) and add second story to whole thing to create master bath (and closet?) for upstairs
  • Pull up carpet wherever it is found
  • Kitchen—I don't even have a clue what to say here other than "kitchen"
  • Remove wallpaper and either paint or re-paper
  • Strip steel siding from exterior, then scrape and paint clapboard that is hidden underneath

Monday, January 02, 2006

Our attic is the coolest place EVER

I really, really need to get started on the historic structure report (HSR) for our house. It is supposed to be my winter project so we have a decent, prioritized list of maintenance and projects ready for when warmer weather hits. Instead, I have been Slacker Girl. Well, as of today I am Slacker Girl no more!

This afternoon I squeezed through the cubbyhole that is the only access to our attic and began the process of documenting the existing condition of the house. Overall, I couldn't have been more pleased with what I found. First, some good news--it was pouring down rain and I didn't see any drips anywhere, which means the slate roof is holding up well. I honestly expected to see a few here or there, but there's nothing. I saw a couple places where there's some very old water damage but it's not extensive. Over all, it looks like the old girl is holding up really well, thank goodness! We'll definitely need to get up there and insulate, which will be interesting considering that the joists are so close together. We also have dozens (not kidding) of old hornet/wasp nests up there. Hopefully they're empty. There's also a bat up there. Just one, which surprised me. I thought they mostly lived in groups. Guess not!

The house is, as we suspected, constructed very well. True 2x8 joists on 16-inch centers rather than the current standard (which is either 22 or 24, I always forget). I never felt so much as a wobble while I was up there. One of the chimneys looks as though it's had some problems over the years, and at one point it may have been patched with Portland concrete. We'll have to chisel that out and replace it with a lime-mix mortar.

Up in the attic, it's easier than ever to see that the kitchen is an addition. For one, it's not constructed as well. What's more fun to see, though, is the existing clapboard that they did not remove from the original house before adding on. And then there's the gable end trusses. They're just cut out to provide access to/from the addition, but you can see where they once met each other. Interesting stuff indeed.

V and I had some questions that I was hoping to answer as a result of going up there--a few of them I did manage to answer, but one is still a big mystery. We have been wondering if there had ever been a stairway or even a ladder mechanism going out of where our upstairs bath is (from the days when it was a closet) when I was in the attic I stuck my head down into the cavity to see. The existing stairway ceiling is all drywall and it's newer (I'd say within the past 10 years or so), which means it's been replaced fairly recently. BUT, there's plaster/lath ghosts on the backside of the bathroom wall. Isn't that weird? The walls of that cavity are also plastered, and plastered very nicely. I suspect those would not have been finished with such quality if that was never a "used" space. But there aren't any ghosts of joist notches, stairs, risers, or anything like that. So now we're more perplexed than ever. One of these days I'm taking a drywall saw to that bathroom wall! :) I'm wondering if maybe there was access, but if it was more of a haymow ladder type mechanism than actual stairs. The ceiling joists over that cavity are wider than the rest of the original house, and that makes me think there's a purpose behind the difference.

Next stop, the crawl space!