14 More Years

Our little non-nuclear family, Carole, DeShawn and myself, spent most of the weekend at the beach. We left early Saturday morning, spent the night, and came back today. DeShawn played in the ocean a good bit on Saturday afternoon, but for the most part we just laid around in the sun or went shell hunting up and down the waterline. The weather was nigh perfect, with high temperatures around 75 and lows 50ish at night. This was Deshawn’s first camping trip and he handled sleeping in the tent in excellent manner.

All the work on the house this week has been preparation for the mudroom project scheduled for April. After doing some detailed task planning for the week I’ll be off work, it’s very apparent that as much needs to get done as possible before the final demolition of the floor and plumbing in the little room. To that end, We’ve been doing the little things like stripping paint from the “new” door hardware and light fixture, purchasing some of the materials, and designing the final finishing details.

Stayed up way too late on Thursday night just passed, continuing to prep the “new” door. The mutin and panel molding trim has a very deep 3 line pattern in it that is resisting paint removal extremely well. I started stripping the paint out of the design with the heat gun and a metal, flat blade scraper, finding out pretty quickly that it couldn’t get all the paint out of the thin, deep grooves in the molding. After trying a heat gun/rounded blade scraper combination (not much better), I even resorted to some chemical stripper left over from early experiments on the west bedroom trim. Left on long enough, the chemical stripper did do a reasonable job getting the paint from the grooves but, what a mess! I’d forgotten how ugly using the chemical removers could be. What finally seemed to be the best overall compromise was softening the paint with the heat gun, then scraping it with a concave, gouge-like, carbide blade scraper. With all the experimenting behind me, there’s only about 40 linear feet or so left to work..sigh.

The one truly satisfying part of Thursday night’s session was patching the cat-door hole at the bottom of the door. Using my new jig saw, I cut a piece of old base board from the bathroom closet to fit the odd shaped opening left by the removal of the “cat flap”. A little trimming the wood patch here, a little shaping the hole there, and a couple of finishing nails produced a quite nice filler for the hole that also restores the structural integrity to the kickplate. On order is a 2 pint kit of wood restoration epoxy that will be used to finish filling the hole and providing the final finish surface.

No more cat door hole

Another major demolition task accomplished this week was removal of the aluminum awning over the mudroom door. Approximately 5′ wide with a 3′ overhang, at first glance, it appeared to be a good addition to the house, shielding the mudroom door from rain. Unfortunately, a significant percentage of the water caught by the awning, ended up flowing down its side and onto the sill of the breakfast nook window (see floorplan for detail). Over time, this diversion of moisture has almost completely rotten out the window sill and started to damage the window framing supporting it. No love loss between me and the awning (currently sitting on the curb waiting for Tuesday AM pickup).

Keeping the awning company on the curb is a good size pile of aluminum siding removed from the exterior wall of the mudroom and the back wall of the breakfast nook. To enlarge the door opening and mount the “new” door, access to both sides of the mudroom’s exterior wall is needed. The siding had to come off as part of this requirement. The good news is that the clapboards on the exterior wall are in relatively good shape. They aren’t “real” wood, more likely MDF or other composited material, vintage early 70’s when the porch was enclosed, but all in all quite usable.

Removing the al siding around the breakfast nook window and under the mudroom room door sill was fraught with less pleasant emotion. As previously indicated, under the nook window, the window framing is seriously rotted. Deeper surgery removing the pine clapboards and rotten window sill will be required to set all this right for another 80 years or so. Under the mudroom door sill, the al siding was hiding the insidious work of termites and moisture on the beam supporting the old porch floor (currently the mudroom subfloor). I expected some rot under the door frame, but it appears that the beam is completely disintegrated and i can feel the top of the brick foundation thru the wood chips. Now quite as big a problem as it seems, as I was planning to repair the floor structure anyway, just a bit more material will be needed.

Mudroom sill under the door


Although it seems there’s been no time to write, there has been a lot of progress around the house the last few weeks. This weekend and last have, in particular, been greatly furthering along our path.

Regards the mudroom, on Friday night after work, we de-constructed it as far as can go without disrupting the capability of doing laundry. There are a few pieces of paneling left on the walls but for the most part all the studs and clapboards are exposed. The yeoman’s share of the work Friday night was taking down the 1970ish cabinets over the washer and dryer. They actually seemed to be of relative quality in construction, thus making them a bit more of a challenge to remove. One of today’s last chores was to clean up the liberated shelf planks and prepare them for being re-installed in April as a traditional shelf with metal brackets.

“Clean up” in this case means scraping them with a carbide scraper and then sanding with the orbital sander. Most of the progress the last 2 weekends has been made with these techniques. Last weekend, while Carole took a nap, I finished removing the last of the paint and sanding the door to the upstairs bathroom linen closet. She came upstairs to check on me just as I had set it up on the worktable. Immediately after her nap, 2 hours later, still bleary eyed from sleeping, she returned upstairs. There are only a few times that I’ve managed to get an “oh” or an “aw” out of Carole with the work I’m doing. But this time, upon seeing the final sanded door, the very recent memory of it’s ratty appearance created enough of a contrast for her that she blurted out a subdued “wow”. Of course, I smiled.

The “door du jour” for this weekend’s heat-gun-paint-removal-carbide-scraper-orbital-sander makeover was the “new” backdoor for the mudroom. A couple of weeks ago, I had taken a window shopping trip to the architectural salvage warehouse to see what my options might be for an exterior door. My constraints for purchase were fairly tight, so I didn’t expect to find what was needed. Such is the nature of shopping for architectural salvage; many trips to the warehouse result in no particular purchase.

The prospective “new” door had to, of course, match to some significant degree the original exterior doors of 118 Henry Street. Secondly, and perhaps the more constraining characteristic, the “new” door had to be 32″ wide or less to fit in the mudroom with the washer. Those of you who may have been possessed to measure the doors in your home will know that almost all exterior doors are 36″ or bigger. Exteriors opening are this big because furniture has to move in and out of them.

Much to my pleasant surprise, there were several suitable candidates at the warehouse. So many, in fact, I had to return home and study my existing exterior doors to get just the correct design. The “new” backdoor appears to be from the 1930’s based on the hardware, has 3 wide flat panels, and 6 lights (windows). The only negative is that it has a cat-flap door cut in the bottom of it that will need to be remediated. No big deal.

While buying the door, I picked up 3 hinges, a mortise lock, a brass door knob set, a mail slot (for when I redo the front doors), and, quite expectedly, a “new” light fixture for the mudroom. I had planned to use a glass shaded one already restored and waiting, but the new one seems so much more appropriate. It’s a bare bulb fixture with a ring of what look like brass flower petals around the base of the bulb.

By Saturday evening, all 4 layers of paint were off the “new” door, except for the molding of the mutins. Between the woodwork in the upstairs bathroom and the 2 doors, all this paint removal has eaten up the last of my carbide scraper blades. I can’t remember which of the home supply companies carry this particular model. Guess I will have to check both out.

“New” exterior door for the mudroom

Some time ago, maybe 2 or 3 weeks, Carole and I extended the raised rose garden around to the front of the shed, enclosing about 30 square feet with landscape timbers. This to replace our container garden of the last 2 years, providing in ground planting of the tomatoes, marigolds, chives, thyme, etc. This weekend, we mixed cow manure and humus in with the dirt and did the first plantings of the spring. we have 3 short rows of onions, some mesculd lettuce. marigolds, pansies (for color), chives, and sunflowers. She started the grape tomatoes in little pots, expecting them to go to ground in a couple of weeks.

Garden extension and first plantings

Speaking of roses, they are going great! The Granby rose that had lain on its side in a pot in Carole’s backyard for 2 years has, no joke, about 150 tiny new leaves. The wild pink Chester rose that started out as a 3″ cutting is about 3′ of canes all bristling with new little thorns and hundreds of the tiny green leaves. We should have lots of flowers come June.