Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Fumeless Indoor Paint Removal

The interior doors of our house are birch and were originally finished in a dark color to look like mahogany. At some point, they were all painted white. I had planned on stripping and restoring all of them this winter, but it struggled to figure out how to do so without creating fumes or using chemicals.

I started by taking one of the closet doors to the garage and attacking it with a heat gun, followed by soy gel in stubborn spots. I noticed that the paint would flake offs next to where the heat was directly applied.

I realized that the paint would peel away if I passed the heat gun over it at low temperature, leaving the original finish completely intact. The process also creates no fumes and the paint itself comes off in large strips. I use Gorilla Tape to pull off any stubborn spots that the peeling process leaves behind.

My disclaimer is that this process works because the surface was originally finished and no prep work was done before the doors were painted. If the doors had been scuff sanded, this probably would not work. That said, he are the results so far.
The rings you see in the dark area are reflections in the finish that each strip leaves behind. Once I add a top coat of shellac, these will disappear.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Looking for Lamps

Whenever I see period style bungalow interiors in books or magazines, it seems like there are always a bunch of perfectly placed antique lamps in every scene.

Given our lack of furniture/decor, I decided to start looking for some antique lamps for our place like the ones in the pictures. I soon realized that all the antique lamps I liked were ridiculously out of my price range. I really had no idea that authentic antique lamps sell for thousands of dollars in many cases. I just can't justify spending that much of a lamp, no matter how cool it is.

So, I realized I would have to get creative. Sadly, craigslist is pretty much the extent of my creativity. Luckily, I was able to find a posting from a great local antique store that was looking to clear out some extra inventory. Among this inventory were two lamp bases I liked. One was a student lamp from the 30's or so, and the other was a reproduction cast bronze arts and crafts base. The two bases cost me just under $100.

I then learned that finding shades is trickier than finding bases. The student lamp has a 2.25" shade fitter, so that was the easy one. For that, I started watching art glass shades on eBay. After about a week of watching, I found an antique Quezal shade I liked for a fair price ($120). This was considerably lower than similar antique art glass shades at local salvage stores. The finished product is shown below. I think it looks pretty cool and fits nicely on my wife's desk.

I thought I had done pretty well to keep it under $200, but then I saw this on craigslist. Dang.

The picture below shows the second base I bought. It isn't antique, but I really like the look of it. Finding a shade for it is proving to be painful though. I wanted to get a tiffany style stained glass shade, but I am finding those are very pricey. I have been looking at mica shades as well, but am not entirely sold on those either. If anyone has any ideas on where I could find an authentic looking arts and crafts lampshade for a reasonable price, please let me know.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Living Room: Before and After

The living room is finally "done". I use the quotes because I still have to refinish the door, clean the windows, and remove the horrible 80's door-thingee from the front of the fireplace.

I also realized that I started this project in fall of 2009, which is ridiculous. I used the same process as the dining room: 2 coats of dye stain, 2 coats of shellac (50:50 mix of amber shellac and alcohol), glaze with Old Masters Dark Walnut Gel stain, 1 more coat of shellac, and finally a layer of dark brown Briwax.

Here are a couple things I learned during this project
  • If you decide to use an alcohol based dye stain, you have to be very careful with the first coat of shellac to avoid pulling up the dye and causing streaks. The best advice I can give is to start with an extremely light coat of shellac so the alcohol flashes off quickly to avoid pulling up the dye.
  • Taping windows for refinishing is a waste of time.
Before (note the popcorn ceiling)After

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Exterior Update

I actually tore the aluminum off the 'ol bungalow at the start of the summer, but realized I never posted anything. As you can see by the precarious position of my ladder in the second picture, this work had to be done while my wife was not at home. As she just pointed out, I didn't actually tear it all off. I had some handymen help me with the high stuff.Since the aluminum was added in 1971, there were at least 4 pigeon nests, 3 hornet's nests and half a dozen dead sparrows in the soffits. Maintenance free my a%&.Check out this triumphant heap of aluminum.

The painters will be coming out soon. Hopefully that will prevent the neighbors from calling the city on us.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Impulse Porch Furniture

My wife and I went out to buy a chair we found on Craigslist yesterday and somehow wound up buying an antique 3 piece wicker set (loveseat, rocker, and chair) for our front porch. We got them from a great antique shop that is not far from our house. Here is their website - http://oddsnendsonline.com/. It is a fantastic store with great furniture, rugs, and very reasonable prices.

While each piece will need to be reupholstered and painted, they are all really solid structurally. I also think they have really great lines despite their current nursing home look.
Here is the rocker
Given the sad state of the upholstery, I started removing it from the chair and rocker after we got them home. This resulted in a number of cool finds. In the picture below, you can see that the chair was originally a blue color and also where the original cushion was as the blue outline on the back of the chair shows.
The underside of the seat cushion was also very interesting. It was clear that both chairs had been reupholstered numerous times and the previous upholstery was actually just covered up or reused in some way. The final layer was the embroidered piece you see on the seat. By the looks of it, I would say this dates from pre 1930 and may have been the original seat cushion or back piece.
The coolest find was in the padding on the back of the arm chair. There was a piece of cardboard with the words "Glen Lake Sanatorium" written on it.
From some internet research, I found that the Glen Lake Sanatorium was a tuberculosis sanatorium that opened in 1916. My bet is that this is where the chairs came from and that the note was put there by whomever reupholstered the chair. It was a huge complex and the top story of the building had a huge open air porch because fresh air was believed the help tuberculosis. It was converted to a nursing home in 1961 (which explains the nursing home look of the furniture) and was eventually torn down. I think a lot of people would be creeped out by this, but I think its great. I also think it is great the tuberculosis cannot survive in a chair after 50+ years.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Overanalyzing Paint Options

Now that a significant amount of the aluminum soffits and fascia are down, we have started to try to figure out how we are going to paint the exterior.

I also now have a pretty good idea of how the exterior was originally painted. The aluminum was put on the soffits in 1971, and underneath there were about 3 layers of slightly varying shades of cream. The green trim the house has now is a recent addition. The stucco was painted white some time ago and it is tough to tell what color it originally was. I am thinking it has probably always been a lighter color and there was never a ton of contrast between the trim and the stucco. The windows and storms appear to have been painted a bright, kelly green based on what is under the current white on the windows and the few remaining storms I have. We have waffled between about 100 color options at this point and the people at Sherwin Williams are starting to make fun of us for all the samples we have purchased. We also have one window in the back of the house with about 20 color samples on it. We have gone back and forth a ridiculous number of times between light trim, dark trim, light storms, dark storms, etc. The current frontrunner is a light green/olive color for the stucco, a light cream color for the trim, and a dark brown/olive for the storms and accents. One thing that is a bit tricky is that we need to make sure that we factor the color of the bricks and roof into our decision. In reality, this is probably a good thing because it helps narrow down our options somewhat. I also like this look because it is kind of a combination of how the house was originally painted and our own taste.
I think the possibility above looks pretty decent. We are trying to be very careful with the green so that our house doesn't end up looking like a giant tic tac.

Also, if anyone knows a reliable handyman in the Twin Cities to help me remove the remaining aluminum (specifically the high parts), please let me know. So far my handyman search is going very poorly. Thanks.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Behind Door #2

I decided it was finally time to deal with the aluminum soffits on the house. From building permits, I know the soffits were added in 1971, so I am a little apprehensive to see what they are hiding.

I started with the small side entry of the house to get an idea of how much effort this will take. Here is the before picture.It took a whopping 15 minutes to get the aluminum and all the nails down. I was extremely pleased to find the molding and beadboard underneath to be completely intact and in remarkably good shape. The after picture is below.
The wood is solid, but most of the paint has peeled off. I actually think this is great because it is going to make it easier to prep for repainting. I can only hope the rest of the soffit work goes this well (unfortunately I know better).

Close up after
By the way, if anyone knows where I can take aluminum scrap in Minneapolis (and hopefully get money for it), please let me know. Thanks.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Let there be Light!

The living room ceiling light is up and functional. It wasn't even that bad to install. I think it is interesting that the old mounting hardware on the fixture fit the old electrical box perfectly. While I have no way of knowing what fixture was originally there, I believe this one has got to be pretty close. I wonder how long the electrical box was covered up or how long it has been since this fixture lit anything.
The ceiling itself is also now painted (except for the edges near the trim). For the ceiling, we went with a Sherwin Williams color called Jersey Cream. We are usually awful at picking colors, but this one actually turned out well.

The other nice thing about having an adequate light fixture in this room is I can now work on the trim refinishing in the evening. Hopefully that will accelerate the process from its current 200 year pace.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Installing a Vintage Medicine Cabinet

The bathroom in our house has been remodeled numerous times over the years. Probably the thing I liked least about it when we bought the house was the cheap, tiny medicine cabinet. It was also ridiculously off center with the sink for no apparent reason. I forgot to take a picture of the wall before I took it out, so here it is on the guest bed in all its glory.Luckily, we were able to find a 1920's birch medicine cabinet on craigslist for a great price. It needed a new mirror and the hardware didn't really work anymore, but it was otherwise in amazing shape. Once I got it ready to install, I took out the old one which was held in by about 3 screws. Here is the sad looking hole it left in the wall. Once I cleared out the spacing boards, the opening looked like it does in the picture below. I got really lucky that the studs in this wall were 24" apart. The new medicine cabinet is huge compared to the old one so I was really concerned it would take significant demolition to get it to fit.
Once the space was empty, I just needed to add a couple boards to one side and two shims to the bottom so the cabinet would be level. It turned out better than expected. The only problem is that it is making the other remodeled features of the bathroom look worse. The antique nickel t-bar latch is from Guilded Salvage in Minneapolis. I just have to cut a couple tiles and put them back in place to complete the project (it will probably take me way too long to do this).

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Progress on the living room ceiling

We finally dealt with the popcorn ceiling in the living room last weekend. It was the messiest, most exhausting project to date. We started by covering all the walls in 3 mil poly and the floor in 4 mil. We then sprayed the entire ceiling with water using a hand pump garden sprayer. While we let it soak in for about 20 minutes, we put on tyvek suits, goggles, and respirators. We then started scraping. It took 7.5 hours, and many gallons of water. In the end, we wound up with a giant dropcloth full of popcorn ceiling debris that looked like a giant haggis and weighed about 200 lbs. For anyone thinking about attempting to remove a popcorn ceiling, here are a couple things that will help. 1. Have a small sample of the texture tested for asbestos. I have read online that some popcorn ceiling texture contains asbestos and some doesn't. We had ours tested and it did not. 2. Fill up garbage bags with the popcorn material as you go. The popcorn texture soaks up an insane amount of water and becomes extremely heavy.

Before - popcorn texture with no central fixture (beautiful 80's track lighting though)
With most of the popcorn texture gone, we noticed a suspicious looking patch in the center of the ceiling.
As hoped, it turned out to be the original electrical box for the central fixture. The whole thing was just filled with plaster, including the wires.
Once the plaster was gone, I had to figure out how to get power back to the fixture. My hope was that the mystery switch that did nothing near our front door was the answer. This is the inside of the mystery switch. I found that the disconnected black and white rubber/cloth wiring in the lower left of the picture below led to the ceiling box. Incidentally, I still have no idea what the red wire in this box does. I was able to reconnect the old wires and found that they did go to the ceiling box and that it had power! I still find it bizarre that someone would plaster over a central electrical box in their living room, but I guess I find the track lighting pretty strange too. I am looking forward to putting the fixture up. It is the one on the left in the picture below. We got really lucky and found it on craigslist. It exactly matches the original dining room fixture. If anyone is looking for similar polychrome fixtures, this website has a great selection, though they aren't cheap.