Monday, November 30, 2015

Before and...not-so-before part 2

In case you missed Before and Not-So-Before, the renovation of our house is crawling along at a snail's pace.  So as much as I would love to share a "before-and-after" story, the best I've got is "before-and-not-so-before."

Today's feature:  the central hallway. 

Before:  1960's wood paneling all the way up and down, with a strip of trim about a foot down from the ceiling.  The central hallway connects both bedrooms and the dining room to the bathroom.  By way of orientation, the telephone nook is adjacent to the dining room door.  The bathroom is across the hall from the telephone nook.  The bedrooms are at either end.

Mom and Dad took down the ceiling tiles, but they saved me all the staples in the hallway. Believe me...I was thrilled.

Now...I know many folks would want to open this up because it is pretty narrow.  That's not an option for us for a couple reasons.  First, since this is not going to be a full-time residence, our goal is to preserve original features even if they aren't necessarily what is "hip" by today's standards (for example, who has heard of the drinking game where you take a shot anytime someone says "open floor plan" during an episode of House Hunters?").  Second, this appears to be a load-bearing wall.  All of the rafters in the ceiling meet at a beam in the attic that runs the length of this hallway.  

Because the hallway is narrower, you get a better sense of just how tall the ceilings are.

 Pulling the trim and the paneling off of the wall was relatively quick and painless.  The trim pulled off in long strips with just a little assistance from my handy seven-function tool.  (As an aside, I've never been able to figure out why it's called a seven-function tool.  I have only counted up to 3 or 4 functions.  If anyone knows all seven, please share with the rest of the class.)

Pulling off the paneling was seriously gratifying because most of the time it came down in large sheets.  Around the moldings and trim it got a little frustrating, however.

It took just a few hours to remove all the wallboard and clean up.  

I did not have enough steam at the end of the day to remove the paper backing that was behind the paneling.  But Mom and Dad came back on another day and finished it up.


That's all from Wisteria Bend for now.


Sunday, October 4, 2015

Happy Early Halloween!

Halloween has come early to WBC.

In celebration, I thought I'd share a creepy story.  Last weekend Larry and I were measuring the depth of the lower cabinets.  We opened the cabinet below and guess what we found....

A snakeskin!

One of us screamed like a little girl (but I'll leave you to ponder which one of us it was).  And then since we are both citified wussies, we shut the cabinet and left it there to deal with another day.

This weekend, with Mom and Dad there for backup, we decided to pull it out. O.M.G.  It kept going, and going, and going....

This thing was at least three feet long.

Here's his face.  Did you know that snakes shed the skin on their eyeballs?  I certainly didn't.

Here's the creepiest part of the story...Mom neglected to mention earlier that she found another snakeskin a few months ago while she was cleaning the cabinets.  This is the SECOND ONE and he was there RECENTLY....Think about that one the next time you open your kitchen cabinets!

That's all from Wisteria Bend for now.


Sunday, September 27, 2015

Before and....not-so-before

I love a good before-and-after story.  Unfortunately...I don't have one to share yet.  It has taken waaayy longer than I anticipated to find a contractor who could fit us into their schedule and get us a bid for the job.  To this day, we still don't have a written bid.  However, we did find out that the "ballpark" estimate is higher than the price we paid for the house.  OUCH!

In the meantime, we have been doing some prep work to clean the place and remove icky nastiness so that whenever we do get a contractor, it will be that much cheaper and easier for them (hopefully) to do their work.

So the next few posts will show the "before" and "not-so-before" of the rooms inside the house.

WARNING:  We all look grungy in these pictures.  You would too if you spent 7 hours cleaning decades worth of funk out of a house with no air conditioning in Texas in the summer.  Please don't judge. I promise we look way better than this most of the time.

With that out of the way, here's the before and not-so-before of the living room and main bedroom.

Before: 60s acoustic tile on the ceiling. 

Before: facing towards the street.

To take the ceiling down, they had to pull some metal trim, and then essentially scrape the ceiling tiles off of the ceiling.

 Each tile was held up by at least 4 staples.  When the tiles came down what was left was THOUSANDS of staples with bits of leftover decayed tile.  You learn very quickly, DON'T DO THIS KIND OF WORK WITH YOUR MOUTH OPEN.

All those little white dots are staples with white fibrous tile clinging to the ceiling.

We had to pull each staple out individually.  (I use "we" in the general sense here.  I didn't ACTUALLY do any staple-pulling in the living room.  But they saved plenty of staples for me in other rooms). No joke.  At first we used needle-nose pliers, but that was not a perfect solution.  Not only did it kill your forearms, at least a fourth of the time, we inadvertently pulled the handles off of the pliers.  Eventually Mom ordered a staple remover (originally designed for upholstery) on Amazon that made the process much easier.

But after getting the staples out, look how much cleaner and prettier the ceiling looked!

Ta-da!  Not-so-before of the living room.  Yes, clearly still work to be done, but significant improvement and it's ready for the pros to start working (whenever that might be...).

And in the master bedroom... 

Before:  Someone had already started working on the main bedroom ceiling when we bought the house.  But they had only pulled down a small corner so there was still quite a bit left to do.

I have no idea what these things were made of but it was fibrous and left a huge mess and a lot of dust as they came down. 

Not-so-before 1.

Not-so-before 2.

Not-so-before 3.  You may also notice the absence of nasty plastic mini-blinds that were once there. Window treatments are going to be an interesting challenge, I think.  We've got 32 windows total.  Privacy will be a huge concern for the rooms at the front that face the street, including the master bedroom.  But at the back of the house, not so much.  We certainly won't want to hide the molding on the windows, but because the windows are double hung, the frames may not be deep enough to mount hardware on the inside of each frame.  That's the up-side to things taking so long...plenty of time to decide...

Not-so-before 4.

That's all from Wisteria Bend for now.


Monday, August 31, 2015

Ode to a chainsaw

There are few things quite a scary as watching someone you love try to start a chainsaw. 

In this case, I stood by as I watched both my dad and my husband try and get the thing going.  The first time Dad brought it to the cottage, he tried to set it on the ground, pulled the cord, and we all watched in horror as it spun around as if to say “Do you feel lucky, punk?”  Then he tried to teach Larry how to start it.  This did not go well either, because once it gets started, they couldn’t really hear each other. 

This weekend, however, the chainsaw was the hero.  We decided to tackle a portion of the back yard that was fenced and so overgrown that you couldn’t really see through it, let alone walk through it easily.

You can just barely see the fence to the right of the tree because the weeds even hid he fence.

You can also barely see the red cistern house peeking through the weeds.

By the time Larry and Dad got the chainsaw going, they realized the chain was all chewed up and we needed a new one.  We drove to Round Top, where the general store had a surprising array of chainsaws and accessories, including “The Farm Boss” which would probably have caused us to lose our health insurance.  Unfortunately, we didn’t realize that the length of the chain is measured not by the actual chain itself, but by the portion of the blade that is exposed.  So we took off towards LaGrange.  Three stops later, we had our replacement chain (Tractor Supply seduced us into buying other junk as well, but Larry somehow resisted the temptation to buy Johnny Cash’s greatest hits at the register).

And boy did we make progress after that.

We unearthed several "treasures" leftover from the decades before, including part of an old cast-iron pot, part of a mayonnaise jar, some bricks, some chunks of granite, and many cans of tuna.

Not without incident, however.  Larry got stung by a yellow jacket.  We also found more patches of poison ivy, but everyone lubed up with Technu after we noticed it, and no one developed a rash.

By the end of the day, the back yard was mostly clear, except for the piles of brush.  You can now clearly see the cistern house on the right and the chicken coop on the left.

Near the cistern house is an old water pump.  Oh, yes.  It stays.

Even though the prior owner said they always called this the cistern house, he said it that was probably always a misnomer.  He told us that the time the doctor occupied the main house, a kid lived in the building during the school year so that he could attend the school next door.  In exchange, he milked the cow every day.  This area is fully fenced and had the clothes line. We think that at one point before the age of washing machines, the cistern house must have been where they did laundry.  

We also unearthed the "granite" (Larry says its technically not granite but granodiorite.  Whatever.) path that leads from the house to the backyard.  

The prior owner told us that the chunks of granite leftover from the company in LaGrange that made tombstones.

I also managed to get a few shots of the milking barn.

Towards the right of the picture above, you can see an open door.  There is a separate area to the left with another set of doors, but the door is wedged shut from the weeds.

Below is a shot inside the open door.  The ceiling is fairly low because of a hay loft above.

I kid you not, on the outside of the barn is a "toilet" That is a cement hole with a hand-made wooden seat.  We could not find any remnants of an outhouse building.  It appears that this was never protected or enclosed, save for being tucked behind the outside of the barn.

And to answer your questions:  1) no we haven't used it; 2) no I am not planning on lifting the lid.  

That's all from Wistera Bend for now.


Sunday, August 16, 2015

The Beginning

After years of longing to restore an old house, we pulled the trigger.  I had just finished my Masters in Construction Management in May.  One of the reasons I started the program was so that I could save historic properties.  I happened to see one on and showed it to Larry.  He said we should go see it that day.  I initially hesitated, but Larry convinced me we needed to make an appointment.

All I can say, is that it was love at first sight.  Not just for me and Larry but Mom and Dad too.  They joined us to check it out and it took no time at all for that little house to creep into all our hearts.

Since we've had so many questions about this crazy adventure, I thought it would be fun to start this blog to document our progress.

So this is the starting line.

The cottage is a 20's craftsman style farm house on the very edge of the Fayetteville city limits.  As you can tell right off the bat, something is a little wonky with the porch.  It also has asbestos tile roofing (!) that needs to be replaced.  It also presently has lead paint, and knob and tube wiring.  In sum, the place is not for the faint of heart.  However, the wood siding and front porch columns are cypress and are apparently good shape.

Around the right side of the house is a side porch with a pergola that is going to have to be completely replaced.  There's also the back door, complete with creaky screen door.

The living room has the original built-ins flanking the fireplace, and french doors to the dining room. As you can begin to see, the entire house--inside and out--is made of wood.  Most of it is long-leaf pine.  So though there has been some termite damage from prior roof leaks, the structural engineers said we had nothing to worry about because there is so much wood, it remains structurally sound.

]Here's another view of the living room facing the front porch.  The floors in the living and bedroom appear to be oak, and have never been re-sanded or stained.  There are some pretty nasty 1960's ceiling tiles in several rooms.

This is the original dining room.  The piano came with the house.  It doesn't work now, but getting it restored is on the to-do list.  Before we bought the house, someone had removed whatever was on the ceiling.  The strings hanging down and small strips just to the right of the piano are the remnants of cheesecloth.  Back in the day, they nailed cheesecloth to the boards to serve as backer for wallpaper. That's probably why the boards themselves have maintained such beautiful color, but the cheesecloth has so decayed that it comes apart in individual strands.

Here's the kitchen.  Nasty wallboard and ceiling covering up more wood walls.  Nasty linoleum floor covering wood floors. Cracking paint everywhere.  Nasty laminate countertop.  But check out those cabinets.  They still have the original crystal pulls. And how about that sink? Apparently under the countertop is a solid piece of cypress wood that we are probably going to up-cycle.

Another view of the kitchen. The jog in the wall hides an old chimney.  There used to be cast iron stoves the heated the kitchen and the smaller bedroom.

This isn't the best picture, but you can see the mudroom and back door to the left and a breakfast room on the right.  The breakfast room has the most water damage.  

Icky.  There's really not more you can say about it.  But where there is now a before, there will soon be an "after" (eventually).

Off of the kitchen at the back of the house is a sunroom with two walls of windows.  All of the windows are the original double-hung wooden windows that lift with the help of window weights and cords.  Most of them still open, though the cords have broken on some of them so we have to prop them up.  Quite a few work amazingly well for their age.

The smaller of the two bedrooms features 1960s faux wood paneling over icky 1940s(?) wallpaper.  It also contains the "upgraded" electrical boxes.  

Is this not the scariest thing you've ever seen?  The electrician who "upgraded" the electrical tied in modern wiring to knob and tube that had completely lost its insulation.  Needless to say, we have not yet turned on the power for fear of fire.

The interior hallway connects the two bedrooms, the dining room and the only bathroom.  The bedroom is through the closed door on the left.  The smaller bedroom is straight ahead.  The dining room is through the door on the right.  Notice the nifty telephone ledge.  Oh yeah, the phone nook will stay, but it might get upgraded with a usb plug for cell phones.

The bathroom.  Notice the prior owners left their cleaning products behind.  The walls and ceiling are probably the most disgusting in here.  Clearly a lot of work to be done.  But you can see the original crystal doorknob on the door.  We have all of the original doorknobs too.

At the front of the house, just off the living room, is the master bedroom.  The master bedroom is big enough for a king size bed and has a cedar-lined closet.

The house sits on just over an acre of land that has 10 (overgrown) pecan trees. There are 5 outbuildings.  Below is the garden shed.  The vines growing up the outside of the shed and on the tree to the left are poison ivy.  You can see the "modern" garage in the background on the left that probably dates from the 1950s.

This is the older garage that we think was built contemporaneously with the main house.  There is more poison ivy to the right of the garage, which Larry discovered the hard way.  But growing all along the fence is also a ton of wisteria that should look amazing (after the overgrowth is cleared).  I haven't yet summoned the courage to enter the back room of the garden shed.  

There is also a little red barn in the back, a chicken coop, and a cistern house.  I don't have any photos of them right now, though because the back is very overgrown and too scary to go poking around (between spiders, snakes, and poison ivy, the photos will have to wait until we get someone to clear the brush).

In sum, even though it's going to be an enormous project, we are pretty excited to start the journey and share it with all our friends.