24 Fu/Return

The week of Christmas began with my house a wreck. The work week prior was very hectic and the weekend immediately prior spent in Columbia diverted all my energy and attention from housekeeping. Not that it was all that difficult to keep me from cleaning….So, after getting home last night, I immediately changed the catbox and did the dishes. Thus, justifying a deserved evening of rest. Before the festivities began this week, we spent some time (very little time) organizing a couple of the side projects for the mid winter restoration cycle. The 2 I picked were Side Project #5, the brass pan light fixture, and Side Project #7, the Crystal Olive Stove. My original intent was to have the stove professionally restored but it didn’t make it to the top of the project funding list for 2003. I’ve brought it in the house and plan to cleanup the rust and continue the disassembly. The bulk of the work will be refinishing but the most technical work will be reburb’ing the gas valves. Who knows, the whole shebang may make it to Georgia this summer for “real” restoration.

The brass light fixture was chosen because it’s an easy project to work on inside the house. Last winter, we stripped the 3 layers of paint from it and started the process of removing the tarnish. Latex paint applied over brass creates very dark and deep tarnish on the surface of the brass. So far the fastest way I’ve found to cut both the paint and the tarnish is rust remover with phosphoric acid. Soaking the brass parts for a couple of hours cuts all the paint which can be rubbed off with a green scrubbie. Another hour or so in clean solution removes the tarnish and leaves the brass with a matte finish. Final polishing with Brasso makes the pieces shine.

DeShawn and I were both pretty exhausted from spending the Christmas holiday in Columbia. He got to spend 2 nights with his mother, racked in the new toys, and got a lot of attention. While driving home last evening, he abruptly ended our conversation by saying, “I think I’m going to sleep some”, turning his head to the side and expeditiously falling to sleep.

The origins of my fatigue come from having worked a bit on Carole’s house. Two weeks ago, the electrical circuit powering her furnace went bad, most likely by effort of the squirrels that we cannot keep out of her attic. The squirrels, while guilty of the wiring fault, cannot take responsibility for the furnace being on a shared circuit instead of its own. Consequently, there were 2 electrical issues that needed attention: find/repair the fault in the original circuit and, put the furnace on its own circuit/breaker.

The electrician that Carole called rigged up a connection to the furnace with a surgically altered extension cord, running it out of the attic access door, down the hall, and plugged into a bathroom wall socket. Except for the fact that the furnace was generating heat, the electrician and the squirrels had about the same appreciation for electrical safety. Although the electrician promised a return visit to square things away, as of Christmas day, Carole had lived with the rigged system for 2 weeks.

Carole’s house on Maple street is an old farm house and built like a barn. The foundation was originally fieldstone columns, there was no subfloor, and the roof rafters/ceiling joists are spaced at 36″ centers. The attic is very spacious but difficult to get around in because of the wide joist spacing. While scoping the electrical work in Carole’s attic, I discovered the icing on this particular Christmas repair cake: one of the roof rafters was split and sagging. Needless to say, Wednesday before Christmas, I bought all the supplies I needed to do both the electrical and the roof rafter repairs.

Split rafter in Carole’s attic

Old man in the attic

The rafter repair was more fun than work. The hardest part was jacking the split rafter to eliminate the roof sag. After getting it stabilized, I sister’d a 2×4 to the rafter using 4 carriage bolts. Did he say 2×4? Yep, like I said, Carole’s house was built like a barn: the roof rafters are 2×4’s. Old fashion 2×4’s, but 2×4’s nonetheless. The sheet tin roof is nailed to purlin strips across the rafters, there is no decking under the metal.

The electrical work was more problematical. For sure, I’m not an experienced electrician. In truth, the only electrical wiring I’ve done is on 118 Henry Street. Over half the 6 or so hours spent on running the circuit to Carole’s furnace were spent figuring out which circuit had gone bad, where the fault was, and how to run the new wire. It’s field experience that speeds up these parts of electrical repair, experience that I’m still accumulating.

In the end, we got the furnace properly connected, put in an attic light (looking forward to more time in the attic), and found the fault in the other circuit. Things are stable and safe, but the next round is re-wiring the kitchen and hallway to replace all of the bad circuit.

Random notes about Carole’s house that we discovered this weekend:

1) The original ceilings in all the rooms are beaded board and still in place. The drywall ceilings are fastened directly to the beaded board.

2) The carpet in all the rooms is glued to the original floor boards. The boards are pine and not tongue in groove. The carpet can be removed, boards taken up, subfloor put down, then the floor boards re-installed flipped over. Both of this discoveries bode very well for continued restoration on her old house.

3) Finally, there is no evidence of leaks thru the metal roof. Always a good thing in an old house!

Too much XMAS