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This Old Crack House

From log house to farmhouse. Farmhouse to townhouse. Townhouse to apartment house. Apartment house to crack house. Crack house to our house. Our house to our home.

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Saturday, January 02, 2016

Stripping .... Wallpaper this time


There are two bedrooms upstairs at Helen's house. Both rooms were wallpapered and both rooms had experienced water damage in the past. The smaller bedroom looks like this from the hall.



There was some water damage where  chimney flashing had failed. Helen had this chimney taken down below the roof line at some point long before we bought the house from her.



The larger bedroom has three windows, all of which need new sash cords. It had two wall lights and funny enough, not a single wall socket except one on this sconce light.


This room had also experienced water damage from a leaking roof around another chimney and repairs had been done such that the one wall looked like this.


It was always my intention to try to preserve the wallpaper in these rooms but when I tried to texture the ceilings with joint compound and a roller, the paper on the ceiling peeled off and so I decided to strip the ceiling and the walls down to the original plaster so that I could paint the rooms.

The wallpaper was fairly easy to remove. I used a spray bottle full of water to wet the paper and a flat scraper to remove it after letting it soak for about 10 minutes. The small bedroom had three layers of paper on the ceiling and two on the walls. Here it is after stripping. That is an original gas wall fixture mounted on the wall.


The large bedroom had one layer of wallpaper but the history of wallpapering was revealed in two locations. It appears that the room was wallpapered in 1923 and then that was removed and the room was wallpapered again in 1939. These two pictures tell the story!



So, I plan to leave these areas exposed for posterity but will cover them with a picture or a mirror because one day this house will belong to someone else and they may have an interest in the history. I suspect the second floor was extensively remodeled in 1939. The bathroom was installed in what was formerly a closet. A window was added. I know this because I have photos from before 1940. Furnace ducts were installed to the second floor and the floor in the small bedroom was replaced or sanded. Tomorrow I get to paint the now textured ceilings in these bedrooms and soon I can show pictures of the finished rooms as soon as I decide on a color scheme! 

Thursday, December 17, 2015

The Bathroom Make Overs





Here are two pictures of the upstairs bathroom. This room used to be a closet and sometime around 1940, when Helen's uncle became ill, they converted it into a bathroom and added the window. I think it may have been painted these colors and the vinyl floor installed around 1971 since that is the date stamped inside the wall mounted toilet tank.




There is no shower in this room and as you know from the previous post, the plumbing had to be replaced. Here is a picture taken around the time the service line was being replaced. I was worried that my solder joints wouldn't hold in the shower when the water was turned back on with full pressure but they did!


Rather than tile the walls I installed aluminum ceiling tiles around the tub area, carefully caulking all the joints





Then I painted the surround with a high gloss paint and put molding around the edges.


The walls were painted two shades of blue. The sink was refinished with porcelain paint. Linoleum tiles were installed on the floor. All that is needed is a shower rail and curtains. Here is the new look!


While all of this was going on I was working on the downstairs bathroom as well. I did the same with the aluminum ceiling tiles. The downstairs bathroom had a shower installed though Helen told me it was never used. I have no before picture but the walls around the tub were wallpapered like the rest of the room ....


I took this photo this week from the stairway.I need a new toilet. The porcelain insert into that cast iron opening snapped off when removed the old one. Everything was sealed with some sort of putty instead of a wax ring.


 I refinished this sink in this room as well. This door wouldn't shut properly either. I had to lower the strike plate on the frame about 1/4 inch.



What else have I been doing? Stripping wallpaper. That can be the next post. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Helen's House Update



 If you have been following this blog for the last 10 years then you will know just how much I hate plumbing. Well, we had some plumbing problems with Helen's House. If you used the upstairs sink the bathtub would fill with water and then slowly leak through the ceiling in the parlor below. Drainage was slow and there was no water pressure throughout the house. The upstairs bathroom was installed in 1940. Unfortunately for me they used iron black pipe for some of the drainage lines and the joint fittings instead of galvanized pipe. So I had to get on a ladder and remove some ceiling tiles to expose these pre-existing holes. 







 I looked at these holes for several weeks before finally compelling myself to shut off the water and tackle the problem. I also started updating the upstairs bathroom at the same time. I had to borrow a pipe cutter because when I tried to remove sections of pipe with a pipe wrench they just shattered and here is a picture showing why the tub filled with water when draining the sink and also why the draining was extremely slow. The 3" and 4" iron pipes were in decent condition but anything less was all like this.



 I made certain to get all this done and the shower installed upstairs before having the water line replaced by a real genuine plumbing contractor. There are some jobs I can not do myself. (There, I said it!)
The water meter had to be moved to the front yard per City regulations and I even got a section of the drain replaced with PVC and an outside cleanout!








All this was going on in August and September so this isn't a new story but the good news is that now it is done I had to cover up those holes in the ceiling. Here is what the chandelier looked like before plumbing fix.



Here is what it looks like today!


So now I can add installing a tin ceiling by hand (using a hammer and cone head nails) to my list of accomplishments .......

Friday, September 18, 2015

Bad City Services Rant 2

Here is my second rant about the City of Dayton's Building Services Division and their total lack of professionalism and their inability to communicate effectively with their customers. On June 10th I received the following document from the city with the attached photographs. This is for a rental property that I own that is occupied by a widow and her three children. She was widowed a little over a year ago.




 The picture shows the front of the house and the area between the house and the adjacent vacant house. Within two days I was over there ripping the ivy off the walls and pulling up weeds. I took the brush to the City landfill site and went home. Then a month later I get the following bill from the City. Ignore the wife's handwriting and see if you can determine what it is for ...



It clearly states the due date for me to pay the City $75 for an unknown previous balance is August 15th but then around the 1st of August I get the following.



A court order. The reverse states that I can pay a fine and avoid the court. You can see that they sent 12 pictures to the judge but I only get to view one of them and it is from the back alley. I can't read the handwriting very well but nothing about the back of the property was indicated in the June notice. I went over to the house and cleaned up the mess. My tenant had not cut the grass since her husband died. For one month this winter the City trash collection did not empty her trash which may have been retaliation against me for this post. 
So she had placed her garbage along the garden path and animals got to it. Anyway, I cleaned it up and placed a pile of brush on what used to be raised beds in the back yard. I stacked some cut wood at the back of the property and attempted to exercise my abatement option. I called to find the status of that option on the morning of August 5th and again on August 10th. They left a message for me to call them back at 4:50 PM on August 11th. The court case being the next day. When I called in the AM nobody answered the phone. Here is what you will find at the Clerk of Courts site. I was being charged with a criminal misdemeanor and you can see the fine amount posted so before the arraignment I am presumed guilty. I haven't seen evidence of what I am accused of either.


So I go to court and there are many people there accused of similar things. Eventually I get called to go to a back room with a City employee from the housing inspection department. He presents me with four pictures. None of these are the original 12 taken in July that they sent to the judge. The evidence has changed and the crime that I am accused of has changed and they want me to go in front of a judge! Let me please ....


The above picture shows the same area of the back alley as the one in the court order after the grass was cut.



So I made it very clear that I was willing to go to trial since it was now part of the public record that I have been charged with a criminal misdemeanor and that public record will NEVER go away. The crime that I was charged with is not what these photos present and there was never any mention of any issue with the back yard with the original warning in June. Had there been any indication of such then it would have been taken care of. I presented all the above papers and stated that the communication was lousy and the whole process very unprofessional. I also presented a lease and all of a sudden the demeanor changed. The case was withdrawn, I was free to go.

So it appears that Dayton Housing Inspectors have the power to accuse you of a crime and change the evidence for their case to either force you to compliance or get you fined as circumstances change to meet their objectives. The way I see it, if the inspector didn't like my clean up job she should have sent me another warning with photos instead of wasting my time to appear at an arraignment. I planned to meet with the new city manager about this process and had a few ideas on how to improve communication by creating a checklist type of form (that the city already uses with it's "Dayton is Yours" citizen inspection program) so the inspector can check boxes like Front, Side, Back. Weeds, paint, gutters and I don't have to second guess where the problems are. However he left this week after just 9 months on the job without a new position to go to and the commission approved a severance package so his resignation is a little suspect. I know the interim city manager won't bother with improving customer service because she was disrespectful to me a few times when I was mayor and now I am simply Joe Citizen she could care even less. However, Joe Citizen has a voice and I choose to tell the story here so everyone can see it who searches.

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Bad City Services Rant 1

I'm not one to complain. I am pretty tolerant of most things but the time has come to expose the City of Dayton's Building Inspection Department for their total lack of professionalism and their disrespect for the citizens of this city that contribute to their salaries. I have two stories to tell. This one happened today and is absolutely pathetic.

Helen's House had no water pressure. The problem was the service line BEFORE the water meter in the house. After all it was installed around 100 years go. In the old days this was the City's responsibility to fix but they changed codes years ago making the line under your property YOUR responsibility. I bring this up because it is what most people would complain about. My story has nothing to do with this issue. I accept responsibility for what is mine. So, we hired a local plumber. John's Plumbing Service a minority owned small business here in Dayton to replace the line. He has done an excellent job by the way. Here is what the yard looked like yesterday.




Now this is not an inexpensive job. The total bill is over $2500 and included in that are permit fees to the City for an inspection of the service line and the placement of the external water meter.
Today the inspector showed up. Now he could of pulled up on the adjacent vacant lot off of the main road like the contractor and the gentleman from the water department did who had to sever an old lead pipe off of the shut off valve. He could have pulled up next to the garage at the alley in this open space and walked to the front of the house.

What did he actually do? A picture paints a thousand words and mine were not so pretty. I just bit my tongue, waved at the inspector and started taking photographs of all the damage.
He drove across my garden! Just follow the tire tracks .....



First hitting the raspberry bushes I planted this year.


Then across my fall crop of arugula.


Next he crushed a row of carrots.



Then hit the Brussel sprouts and red cabbage.


And finally a row of onions.


Obviously doing his job as lazily as possible is more important than the work I put in to maintaining my properties and trying my hand at the urban agricultural thing that the mayor thinks is the best thing since sliced bread. This is not acceptable in so many ways. First it is unprofessional. It is also disrespectful of my property. If I did this to someones yard I would be charged with vandalism. I paid for this service with my permit fees. The city leaders boast about how they are working to improve customer service. Well I will tell you where it starts. By treating people and their property with respect. If this guy worked for me I would fire him on the spot. He disrespected a customer while performing his job. If this guy was one of the contractors employees I would expect him to be sent home or have his pay docked to compensate the customer. In Dayton though, since he works for the City, he will probably get promoted.

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Saturday, September 12, 2015

Helen's House - The Kitchen and Basement

OK, I promised this months ago but sometimes life catches up with you and you lack the time to blog about what you are doing. The kitchen at Helen's house is not conducive to modern living. It is small. Has built in cabinets and the basement access door is in the floor. Perfect for a single person who has lived in the house most of her life but not suitable for a family with children.
It was modernized around 1940 with a new sink and plumbing. It was last decorated in the 1960s with wall paper and a new light. Here are some of the "before" photos. I remove a piece of paneling that covered the water lines to the washing machine that revealed the original yellow wall color popular in the 1920s and 30s.



These register  covers are interesting.


I peeled much of the wall paper off, sanded and painted the wood molding a gloss white. All of the hardware was stripped of paint and restored to the original copper finish.







After the room was painted a light green color the floor was tiled with linoleum tiles. I was going for a 1940s style with the kitchen. Helen approved of the new look. I remember showing her these pictures before she passed away. This work was done back in January 2015.






I took a light fixture out of the Old Crack House and put it in Helen's kitchen where it works perfectly with the color scheme.


I also promised you a look at the basement. It has been cleaned and swept a bit but here is what Helen left in the basement when she moved. Loads of old canning jars and bottles. Some are still full of food and one was labeled "Cherries 1939" so we won't be eating anything in these jars!


This was the original location of the stairs and the bulkhead doors when there used to be a back porch and the kitchen was probably just a pantry. Helen moved in with her Aunt and Uncle around 1924 and told me that this would have all existed before she arrived because she did not remember it as functional.


This was the water tank connected to the cistern and a pump to remove water from the floor well. The floor is below the sewer line which you will see in the pictures below. Water from laundry was collected in the depression below the cast iron grate and pumped out with this old electric pump.
There were some interesting local bottles in this collection that now are on display in the Old Crack House.






Still lots of work being done. Much of the summer was spent getting the yard in order and growing vegetables on the vacant lot next door. We had an excessive amount of rain this year which hurt much of what I was growing and it seemed that I was cutting grass and weeding every week.

The next thing I had to take care of was the bane of my existence. 
That can be the next chapter ......