Wednesday, May 28, 2008

to Spiral, or not to Spiral

We've been planning on putting a spiral staircase in between the 1st and 2nd floors of our house, and having been getting lots of opinions for against the idea.

We've stared at the floorplans and doodled in stairs in a few different places, but in every arrangement we can fit a full staircase (even with switchbacks), we still lose some or all of a room.

Dan mentioned this conundrum to someone that lives very near us, with exactly the staircase we're planning on putting in! It's the same kit from the same company, in the exact 6' size we can fit! And he was nice enough to invite us over to walk up and down (and up and down and up and down..)

And if that wasn't enough, he even lent me a basket so I could walk up and down pretending I was carrying laundry!

I have to say, my concerns are totally erased. This staircase is perfect. Going up is no problem at all, and there's a handrail all the way down that if you hold onto it, also keeps you on the wide part of the treads.

Thanks very much Mike for making us jealous of all your beautiful walls, and also letting us play on your stairs!

In the meantime, we're 2 coats into side 2 of the doors and looking forward to another 2 days of fun.

Monday, May 26, 2008

How to kill a 3 day weekend in 3 easy steps

The plan this weekend was to stain and seal the doors and finish putting up the thin fin for the radiant staple up heat in the front part of the house. Final result: doors are stained, sealed on one side, and the thin fin under the hallway and bathroom is done. How could it possibly take so long to finish 4 doors?? (and for those of you counting along at home, we're saving the pre-hung self closing door to finish after it's installed.. it's an interior door, and since it's already hung it won't really be any different to finish it in place)

So the problem was, ss it turns out, water-based spar varnish takes a minimum of 4 coats. FOUR coats!! are they crazy?!?

So, it wound up taking all weekend, and we're still not done..

First we cleaned a room out and set up a mess of sawhorses, then cleaned off the doors with denatured alcohol to get all the greasy fingerprints off.

Then we lightly sanded all the doors, vacuumed up the dust, and wiped them down again.

Next up was the stain.
We went with a minwax waterbased stain in Rosewood.

It didn't come out as red as we were hoping it would, but it looks pretty nice.

Here they all are Saturday evening after being stained, before we started with the clear coat.

Sunday morning bright and early we started with the first coat of spar varnish. The water based stuff dries much faster than the oil based version, so we had a hard time moving fast enough to not wind up with lap marks.

But with 3 more coats to go, there was plenty of time to work out those lap marks..

After each coat we waited a couple hours, then sanded off the high spots..

..then vacuumed, wiped them down with a wet rag and brushed on another coat..


We only managed to get 3 coats on on Sunday, and were thinking we might've been able to get away with that.. at least on the interior doors. But we looked at them this morning and they definitely needed another. So we sanded them down, cleaned up, and got a lovely smooth coat on that looks a million times better, and that I have no pictures of. sorry! But we closed off the room with plastic so we could work in the garage and I didn't go back in.

We got a little further with the staple up (I'm still averaging about 40% of the staples going clean through, but in small doses it's less frustrating), and then we decided we'd earned a little fun and headed over to the newly refurbished Alameda Theatre for a movie. The 1932 theater hasn't shown a movie since 1977, and it opened this weekend after a beautiful restoration.

So it looks like this week after work will see a coat of varnish a night.

Friday, May 23, 2008

the Doors

Our doors are here!!!

The 6-8 week lead time turned into about 4 months.. first, it was impossible to get anyone to actually order them for us because we wanted 7" doors and that was apparently a difficult part number to find.

So Dan found the part number himself, and then it only took another couple weeks to get someone to actually place the order because apparently pricing was equally difficult to get. (The Simpson rep Dan talked to was interested to hear how challenging it was for us to buy his product.. )

Then, once the doors were ordered, it took another 10 weeks for them to show up. I called the day after they were due in and was told they'd be in the following week. ("great news! your doors will be here Wednesday!")

Thursday of the following week I called to find out if they were in and was told they'd be in next Tuesday in a similar happy, "great news!" tone of voice. (noticing a trend here??) We had one more go-around, but finally got the call that the doors had arrived!

<-- Apparently it was this guy right here causing the problem. It had arrived to the distributor all busted up, so the distributor held all the doors until Simpson was able to ship another one out. This is the only door we bought pre-hung, because we had to. It's the interior door between the garage/workshop, so it had to be 1 hour fire-rated, with self-closing hinges. Fancy, right? Heavy, too..

.. and really pretty!

<-- These are the 2 exterior doors for downstairs. We'll probably put some opaque film on the glass for the one at the front of the house, but we wanted to let more light into what is essentially a basement. We'll be staining these this weekend, and putting on a couple coats of marine spar varnish. Everyone seems to be surprised that we're not going to paint them.. but what's the point of having this beautiful wood if we're just going to slap a coat of paint on?! As it is, I've got a lot of work ahead to get all the years of white paint off the gorgeous molding in the rest of the house, I'm certainly not going to paint the one thing we have that's not already covered in it.

And we'll finally get to use the beautiful hinges!!
I got these from House of Antique Hardware in February! They're super-beefy, and so pretty!!

They don't match the hinges in the rest of the house exactly.. but the hinges in the rest of the house don't match each other anyway! I figure if the hinges and knobs on each floor match, no one will ever notice they're not the same as the ones on a different floor.

No one but me may notice the hinges at all anyway.. but I just have a thing for pretty hinges. Just look at how cool these are! And the feel super-solid!

Right. So.. it's not just hinges.. I've been plotting to get rid of the shiny brass knobs on the doors every since we had to install them to keep the evil grandkids out

These are from Nostalgic Warehouse, which makes some really nice reproduction hardware. Since we were getting new doors, I decided it would be much easier to deal with modern latches instead of mortising the doors.
I bought them from Shop4Classics online, because they had backplates with a fake keyhole cutout (I just LOVE that!!!)

And while I was at it, I picked up a matching handle for the front door. A "grand entry set," if you will.. this way I was able to get all the locks keyed alike.

I've been staring at this stuff for months, so it's very exciting to think that they'll finally be on doors! Plus, our super-classy plywood exterior will be replaced by actual doors that fill the entire doorway, and have actual doorknobs on them.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Kitchen Design Ideas part 6 million

Okay so our post asking for design help ideas went over like a lead balloon
We wanted to share with y'all where we are with the kitchen remodel ideas.
We've talked to several designers, a design-builder and we've got several more in the chamber ready to be interviewed.

Here's the exact existing layout of the room which will be our kitchen.
Now with dimensions!!! The big giant windows are great for morning light but they are a pain to plan around! That and the window on the south wall is to dang close to the corner.

Here's our best attempt so far at a realistic remodel. The whole bump-out idea from earlier was kinda quashed by reality....We managed to get a little bit more space in the kitchen by squeezing down the chimney chase by 6" and removing half of it. Now its an AV cabinet and a small chase to run wires to the top floor. This also freed up enough space for us to put a corner china cabinet in the spot. Now we have somewhere to put our fancy wedding china and glasses...if we can find them Notice also that the wall between the bedroom and kitchen has been pushed into the bedroom 21". By moving the walls we gained 30 sq ft not fabulous but not horrible either. It makes the bedroom smaller but we think still quite livable with the 10' ceilings. We still plan on recessing the fridge into the wall so that its flush with the counters. Along the back wall we also moved the existing window away from the wall to allow for a corner wall cabinet. We did a mirror image window and cabinet on this same wall. Now the stove is flanked by windows with a view to the backyard.

Here's a shot looking into the room from standing in front of the stove. You can see the china hutch in the newly made corner. That weird pattern on the ceiling is my attempt to make it look like a tin ceiling with my cheap-o home design program. Lots of counter and cabinet space here.

Here's the view from the sink looking to the left. Not sure about the glass door into the sunporch its just a thought. It is a 'sunporch' and we might want to let light in from that direction. This also shows the new window we added to match the existing window on this wall.

Here's the view from the table looking at the fridge side of the room. In this version the fridge and pantry cabs run all the way to the ceiling while the rest are just standard cabinets. One odd thing about this layout is the door to the bedroom is more in the kitchen than it was before.

Here's the view looking towards the sink and stove. Notice we brought the window away from the wall 2' and lowered it so that we can see out of it more easily.

Well that's it for now. We hope to be able to find a capable designer to see if they can come up with a better solution. Some questions we still have are;

  1. How much cabinet and counter space do we really need? Should all the wall cabinets go all the way to the ceiling to maximize storage?
  2. What the best place for the main sink and can we fit a prep sink in there somewhere? Do we even need a prep sink?

Sunday, May 18, 2008

back to the grind..

Another full day of grinding nails and stapling up aluminum thin fins, and we're still not done with either.
<-- Check out how filthy we are, and this was only in about the middle of the day! But those dust masks are doing a great job.. as dirty as they look in this picture, the air we were breathing was nice and fresh. And sweaty.. But aren't our his and hers grinders cute?? We went to pick up another grinder so both of us could cut off nails at the same time, and the Bosch 4.5 incher we were looking at was buy one get one free!! Someday we'll have some free time to play with metal again, and an extra grinder (or two) will come in handy. Meanwhile, the new grinders went much faster than the 4" Makita we have..

The irony of installing heat in the middle of a heat wave hasn't been lost on us.. but come January this place better be toasty!

Just past Dan in this picture is the bumpout in the living room, which extends past the downstairs wall by about 3'. We were thinking we might need to pry off the exterior siding underneath it to cutoff the nails and staple up the fins, but Dan was able to reach pretty far out with the grinder. We might need to expose the last foot or so, but we'll see if we can't get it all done without opening up the exterior.

One thing we noticed today was how the little scaldingly hot bits of nails we're cutting off look just like little rat turds falling from the ceiling. It brings back the whole nightmare of pulling down the ceilings in a shower of rat poop, with the extra bonus of getting burned by them as they fall!!

I started on the other side of the room, and worked towards where Dan has been..

I made it back to where Dan had started, so I thought we were done with the nails and picked up my friend, the pneumatic staple gun.. turns out that was wishful thinking, and 2 joist bays over was another forest of nails. But Dan took pity on me and finished that off while I stapled up fins.

I got through most of the rest of the hallway and the bathroom, and then we had a little stream of neighbors stopping by to say hello and give us a pep talk. We just couldn't bring ourselves to lift our arms anymore, so we called it a day. Man, we're out of shape!

We've had a few people come by to talk about the kitchen.. one was a design-build company to get an idea of how much it would cost to have someone come in and do everything. During the course of the conversation though, we started realizing a) just how far along we are, and how there's not really as much as we thought to be decided on, and b) how little there really is for someone else to do. Breaking the job down into the chunks we'd want them to do it got down to such a small bit that would still cost so much that it's just not going to happen.

We also had an interior designer come by, who we may see if she's interested in doing just some sketches for us. We're more interested in the ideas than a full design package for the whole house.. plus, we were a little put off that when we tried to show her the scrapbook of pictures from our old house to give her an idea of our style and what we were capable of building, she had no interest in it at all.

We did have a couple of ideas for making more space in the kitchen, but that'll be a post for another day.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Help! We need design help!

We are realizing that he have to step up our time table for remodeling-restoring our house. We can't afford to have it go on for-ever. The first step in having a project not go on forever is of course to have a well thought out overall plan......we don't have one of those yet we could use a lot of help. Please see the illustrations and notes below.

If we use one of your ideas you will receive a super-fabulous Chez Neumansky themed prize!

Here's the first floor of our house. We have to call it 'unit A' cause the city considers the house a tri-plex with each level being a separate unit. So, the bottom floor is Unit A the middle floor is Unit B and the top floor is Unit C.

<- Here's the bottom floor. This is the floor we just reconfigured when we re-did the foundation. This floor is pretty set in stone at this point but we are open for ideas on how to get an interior stair up to the 2nd level. This pic shows a spiral stair in the laundry area but we are not married to that idea, that's just the best idea we could come up with...

<-Here's the middle floor of the house. Here we need major help in the kitchen area. We need to figure out how to fit everything in there. We need it to be an eat-in kitchen also and fit a 5'by3' table. We are not against moving-changing windows-walls-doors to make the kitchen work.
We also need to figure out how to get a stair down to the bottom level with out totally screwing up the flow and original character of the house. The kitchen and sun porch have already been stripped of any original details, those rooms can be changed the most. The Front two rooms and bedroom are original and we are loath to mess with them too much.

<- Here's the top floor of the house. Remember we gutted this floor in the de-stankification of the house. This shows our proposed idea for a bathroom but we are open to new ideas.
Basically, we want the top floor to function as our 'master bedroom retreat' (man I sound like I am trying to sell a house in Danville). To us that means a bedroom, an office-den, a bathroom and lots of storage.
Irene does not like the set-up shown above because when one person gets up way earlier than the other they have to walk over to the closet area, then walk back over across the bedroom to get to the bathroom. She thinks that it will be impossible to not piss off the person still trying to sleep....since that person is usually me she might be right....
So that's it we would appreciate any useful suggestions that y'all have. If you are really interested I have pdfs of the floors above also but I can't figure out how to put them on the blog for downloading? If you would like the pdf versions please send me an email and I'll mail 'em right out to ya.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Up goes the Heat

All the parts for our 2nd floor heat came.. I'm bummed I didn't think about taking a picture when I got home from work to see 10 boxes busted open along the side of the house. Every single box was broken open, and several had their contents spilling out into the dirt. Yup, that would've been a good picture..

Basically, we need to staple these thin plates of aluminum, called thin fins up onto the underside of the floor. They have tracks that the tubing fits into, which hold it up and radiates the heat.

Sounds simple enough.. but here's a shot of the underside of the floor. See all those little pointy bits sticking down?? Those are nails. Lots and lots of nails. Which would hold the thin fin out from the floor and keep it from working nearly as well as it needs to. The aluminum needs to fit tightly against the floor to transfer the heat efficiently.
So all the nails need to be cut flush with the wood.

Wire nippers cut the nails, but they left little bits hanging out.

So Dan got to spend the entire day grinding nails.

Lots and lots of nails.

little nails


The nails are coming down through the thin strip oak floors we have in the front two "formal" rooms of the house.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the house..

I was able to start stapling up the thin fins under the entryway and in the hallway. I drew out the outline in chalk (no need to heat under the walls or stairs) and fired up the air compressor.

We're supposed to use 16 gauge staples, but our staple gun can only handle 18 gauge.. so it was pretty hit or miss getting the staples to go in cleanly. I kept trying to find the one way to hold the gun so it would work every time.. but no luck. Much as I fought with that thing today, it was still waaay better than a hand powered staple gun

The tubing needs to be 8" on center, and we get 2 in each joist bay which will carry a loop of tubing.

I got through the entryway and most of the hallway today before I was ready to drop. Apparently it's been so long since we've done actual physical work on the house that we're total wimps again! (In our defense, I'm getting over a cold and Dan's coming down with it.. so we're not at our best.. but still, we've got to ramp back up the housework action!)

And Dan's still grinding away at those nails.. there are still a lot of nails. After 8 hours of grinding there's still a lot of evenings after work to go.