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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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Monday, April 25, 2016

The Debacle of the Mud Room

There is what really appears to be an enclosed porch at the back of the house. Helen used to have a clothes dryer back there and a large cupboard on castors. There is also a built in set of cabinets. I have these "before" photos.

I don't think anything major has been done with this room since the 1930s. What's more, the room has no insulation other than some blown in rock wool in the flat part of the ceiling.
Last year I got the wood walls painted flat white but the wife wanted the walls insulated. That meant removing most of the drywall that was installed in a piecemeal manner back in the day. When the drywall was removed it revealed a roof leak that was going to have to be dealt with. Now I don't know which I hate more, roofing or plumbing but I had to deal with the issue.
This roof still has the original cedar shakes under ..... wait for it ..... four layers of shingles! I don't want to have to haul sheets of 8' X 4' plywood up a ladder so I have decided to strip the roof down to the original shakes and put a metal roof over those.
For anyone who cares, on election day I won in a local contested primary to run for county commission. The next day, to celebrate, I started to tear off the roof at the back of the house!

It took two days to get the shingle off and another day to get this far. Then it rained for several days.

Those bags left over from filling the wood pellet stoves sure came in useful this year. On the rainy days I went inside and installed insulation and drywall. Then smoothed out the joints.
As of today the roof now looks like this.

Only now I have to do the next section above the attic room where we have an existing roof leak. So I just need three consecutive days without rain to remove shingles on one half of the roof and install tar paper. These are the special attachments for my boots that I had to buy just so I could stand on the metal roof.

And here is the mudroom before painting the remaining walls and door white.

I think Helen would like the improvements to her house.

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Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Almost There!

If you recall, back in January I was stripping wallpaper from the bedroom walls and ceilings leaving the rooms looking like this.

Well, now they look like this!

We need a few more pictures hung on the walls but I am getting there. All the windows in these rooms were replaced with vinyl windows. Besides the energy savings the real reason I needed to replace them was to cut down on the noise since the house sits on a main thoroughfare and the traffic is constant. I even put an old time light in the one closet that needed it.

And to make life easier on the guests, I found these practical pulls for the ceiling fans.

I preserved the writing on the walls from 1939. The one is covered by the diagonal framed picture above the sconce light. The other will be covered by the dresser mirror after I restore the dresser top which was water damaged. The original top was faux grained plywood. I can replace with a piece of Luan board and try my hand at the faux graining or I may just paint it with a fancy pattern. So now I am in clean up mode around the entire house. Most of the things left to do are minor. Such as replace the smoke and CO2 detectors, get the doorbell to work, buy linens for the beds and get a TV for downstairs.Hopefully within two months we can promote "Helen's House" as a unique Air BnB experience. A step back to a simpler time.

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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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