April 29, 2010

Step it up to get home

If you live in Healdsburg you have passed by the house over the last month and puzzled in wonderment at the front stoop of the house. For those who have not had the pleasure of seeing it, it is a complete mess. The front porch is the last thing on the list for our builder Jim to finish. Roughly five weeks ago he built a form for the concrete base. The form was built of timbers and thick plywood, with heavy iron stakes driven two feet into the ground to hold it in place, but the ground was still saturated with water from all of the rain. After tons of concrete were poured into the form it looked just fine, proud and solid one moment, and the next moment the stakes gave way and the form burst outward on both sides. When the form was removed the next day we had just what we wanted, the crooked front steps leading to the crooked porch like some Dr. Seuss nightmare. Well not exactly what we wanted. Many discussions surrounded the topic of "what do we do now". We came to the conclusion that the best plan of attack would be to remove the steps and side walls using a jack hammer, and use the remaining concrete as a base for a new version of the porch built entirely of brick. Old used brick salvaged from the former foundation. The call to work rang out and the cleaning of brick began, one thousand, one hundred and forty brick to be precise, had to have the old mortar chiseled and scraped from all sides. Then brick by brick a new front stoop has appeared. Stylistically Jim built it to look as if it has always been there, rough and old. This took us by surprise at first, but we have warmed up to it and all who pass by seem to approve. Of course with addition of a new set of steps, no more climbing the ruins like a goat, and a stoop outside the front door, the natural progression is the reappearance of the columns and porch covering. It has been so long that we have forgotten what the house looks like with a front porch and a set of stairs. It will need a lot of work to make it pretty again, but it is there and we are looking less colonial and definitely more Victorian again.

Stairs, Stairs, Stairs.... who would have thought they could be so wonderful!

Although incredibly lovely, these are not ours

Could be these, but no, although this is an insight to my mental trains of thought

  These are definitely closer to the truth

 Not these, they give me a sinking feeling

Closer yet, but the wrong man at the bottom

 That's it! those must be our stairs! I am almost sure...

Ok, perhaps these are the ones

And the long forgotten porch has reappeared.

April 26, 2010

Ouch, oh, ouch, groan, ouch, groan...

We were on vacation for a week and had a wonderful time. The accommodations were splendid, the towels ultra soft and the food divine. We spent 9 whole days away from our day jobs and worked full time on the house. Which of course translates into our bed at the rental house that never got made after we had thrown our sad sore bodies into it and drug them out 8 hours later, towels that had to go to the wash daily due to the amount of grime still remaining after showering, and whatever food was available in Healdsburg after 9 pm. If you live in Healdsburg you know that the options after 9 in the evening are slim at best and most would turn this group of dirty filthy boys away at the door.

It was a very busy week with incredibly long days. Garry was with us again, up from Los Angeles for the week and Brent, our part time carpenter went beyond full time. We all had our chores to do and tried to stay focused. Garry was back at window restoration, working on the two west facing windows on the ground floor, Brent and myself were manning two giant floor sanders in a valiant attempt to flatten the old redwood floors in preparation for the new walnut flooring, and Phillip was exiled to basement with the massive tangle of electrical wires that waited desperately for organization, and organize he did! We did not see him for days as he stood perched on a ladder in the dark, a bare bulb barely lighting his way, as he untangled the mass of wires and one by one fed them into the electric panel.

After hours down in the dark hole Phillip poses with his masterpiece, albeit he looks a bit mad, as in crazy, coo coo, lost his marbles, as most artists are.

*Meanwhile back at the ranch*

Every floor in the house was sanded and sanded, and then sanded some more. Fine brick colored powder covered everything as layer after layer of redwood was removed from the original floors. In some ways they were quite pretty, in shabby chic sort of way... that is, if you're into that kind of crap, ooops, that was supposed to be inside voice... but the new floors were on their way and we needed to be ready.

And before we knew it, they were here. A big semi pulled up in front of the house and the door slid open to reveal stacks and stacks of wide plank, black walnut flooring. Brent, myself and our day help Fabian, lined up at the truck and carried the bundles of flooring to the living room bay window where we passed them through the open window to Phillip and Garry, who stacked and organized the bundles on the living room floor.

And then the work began. We all have a new found respect for those who lay hardwood floors for a living. At the end of the day each and every joint, muscle and bone hurt. I have never had knee trouble in my life... now I think I need new ones. Bundles of flooring were carried to the upper floors of the house, and we all gathered in a closet on the second floor to figure out how to lay our first board. First decide on a starting point, draw lines, with pencil, on the floor every sixteen inches, choose at random a width and length of board, apply lines of adhesive to the back of the plank, lay the board onto the floor and firmly press it into place, using the pencil lines as a guide drill two pilot holes in the floor board at sixteen inch intervals, drive square cut nails into each hole, and counter sink the nails slightly. Repeat. Repeat three thousand square feet of flooring. Leave it to say that we have completed bedrooms one and two, the second floor hall, the laundry room, the linen closet, the living room, gallery, kitchen and dining room, and we are only a bit over halfway finished... at this point we are all a bit mad, as in crazy, coo coo, lost our marbles, as most artist are!

Garry switched from windows to floors when we realized how long the job would take.

Phillip standing on the new kitchen floor just after completion.

The bay window in the living room, showing the floor chasing into it and back out around the edge.

April 06, 2010

A NEW look and "Plan B"

Just when you thought Spring was here the sky keeps opening up and pouring water on us. Wet, wet, wet, everything is wet. I have to say everyone around town has finally caught up with us and are no longer remarking how good all the rain is, or we need it so bad, everyone is sick and tired of it! Today the sky has cleared and sun has come out so we all scurry about in hopes that it will stay.

Big days are ahead at the house. Our friend Garry arrives from Los Angeles on Thursday to tackle more of the old window restoration. He will start in the Library and the Study, and we hope to see him on the second floor by the middle of next week. Phillip and I will be on holiday from our regular work beginning Saturday the tenth, and we will be working full time at the house for nine straight days. Now, this is a good thing, and boy do we need it. 

My Mother was here last weekend to create the leaded panels to surround the front door. We cleared the living room and set up a great big table to work on. Restoration glass and zinc were the the name of the game. Restoration glass is hand blown glass which resembles antique glass and has a charming, olde world look to it. The zinc came and surround I ordered from a stained glass company back east and was perfect to work with, strong, sturdy, and easy to manage in a six foot tall window.

I received a call last night from my Mom who was infuriated by the photograph of her that had been used here for this posting. She said it did not look like her and all it showed was gray hair, spots, and wrinkles. So I have agreed to remove it from the blog and replace it with another. I looked and looked through the photos that were taken and could not find another that she would approve of, so rather than go without, I have doctored the photograph, let's say I have given her a disguise. So please enjoy my Mom's new look. If you would like to see the original I can send it to you, but we must be very hush, hush about it lest "she" find out.

Geraldine Goff, with her new look for spring. You can find her down at the bowling alley, sippin beer with Dame Edna and Rue Paul


Carefully planned and drawn to within a 1/32nd of an inch, I had ordered the glass precut and ready to go. Tin snips, a hack saw, and a screw driver were all that remained. We quickly cut the zinc came that fit between the panels of glass, followed by the zinc surround, relying on the cut glass to give us our dimensions. In two hours we had all three panels laid out and held together with nails driven into the table. A few hours of soldering the next day and the mixing of a secret recipe grout were all that remained.

By Monday evening the panels were finished drying and ready for installation. Some said it could not be done, and would not hold together, they will sag, or perhaps break when the front door was opened and closed, but I have to say this was one of the most satisfying things we have done. Within a matter of two days we had created beautiful windows that fit perfectly into place and look tremendous. Its also wonderful to actually see something that is a finish detail rather than a rough in or a tear apart job.

All that remains is the new front door, or should I say the old front door. The door is a four panel double tombstone that is with our cabinet maker for restoration. it was found in the cellar of the house next door and it is possible that it is the original front door to the house. It will go the full height of the opening, unlike the current, more contemporary door that had been filled in above it to accommodate its shortness. 
Friday begins the mad dash. The bricks will be laid over and around the concrete base just outside the front door, and the floors are coming. The wide plank black walnut floors are arriving next Monday. They are not coming ahead of schedule, we are simply behind schedule. Our intention was to be signed off on our mechanicals, and have insulation and sheer wall complete before the floors made the trek across the country to grace our rooms. Well... plan B! The old floors have been screwed down for strength, we will sand them smooth and flat and fill any low spots this weekend, Monday we will begin the installation of the new floors and we will have to leave a space for the sheer wall to fit into. I suppose it could be worse, and I think I better start looking for something to cover the new floors with until we are ready for finishing.