South Stuy Reno
A couple years ago I proclaimed that the last remenant of purple would be purged. Little did I know that the purple would cling desperately and that it would take us close to a year to eradicate it. Things started off well enough. I was feeling confident.
I had all kinds of scrapers and dental tools.
I had all kind of chemical strippers.
I have a heat gun and the silent paint remover and I had EXPERIENCE stripping the downstairs newel post and the bannisters. I felt READY.
Here she is in all her purple glory:
First I hit the flat surfaces with the silent paint remover. Then I hit the curved ones with a regular heat gun. The seasons changed. The paint stayed put.
I slathered it with citrus strip. I scraped and scrubbed with 3 kinds of steel wool and denatured alcohol. I repeated all of the above. I called in T for reinforcement. He tried to defeat the post using his Army-trained powers of focus and sat for hours at a time picking out minute bits of paint from deep crevices and details. We toiled. The seasons changed. We toiled some more.
Our tenants shouted encouragement as they departed the building for fun in the night and fun in the day. It defeated us for a while. We had to take a break. The economy tanked. Bad things happened. It sat there mocking us for months.
We found the strength to scrape again. T and I worked together. We discovered more nooks and crannies. We discovered a cool eggshell-thin tortoise laminate over the mahaogony. We decided that was ok….at least for now.
We cleaned it up with denatured alcohol and sanded the heck out of it. And sanded it more. Did I mention how many nooks and crannies there are in this sucker? NOT easy to sand (just in case you were wondering).
But finally, all of a sudden--we were done--or rather we were finished doing all we were going to do. I joyously slathered it in teak oil. It joyously let it seep into its old dry self. We are coexisting peacefully now. Peace on Earth. Happy 2010.
Yeah, its been awhile but we are still alive and kickin over here at SouthStuy. We have had more trials, tribulations, and road blocks than we would like to recount but are thankful that we have made it through them (at least thus far) and we are thankful, not to mention considerably warmer, now that we finally have a ceiling on the parlor level.
When we bought the house, the parlor had a drop ceiling that was demo’d fairly early on.
Earlier this year, part of the tin ceiling was installed.
We also had insulation and soundproofing put in.
Unfortunately, the tin ceiling was neither properly installed (fish-mouthing throughout) nor even completely installed. In fact, that contractor measured the room incorrectly and did not order sufficient cornice panels. When we tried to order the missing panels several months later, we were disappointed to find that Abbington Tin had gone out of business (which is really too bad because the place was an old family-owned business). We searched the web and found Tin Smith in Bushwick and although they carried the same panel designs, they did not have them “pre-treated” as Abbington did. Another thing that made Abbington so great was that they built their own corner pieces on site, as well as providing a number of other basically custom treatments that they didn’t really charge anything for. The problem now, though, is we don’t know how Abbington treated them–we have tried a number of treatments to no avail.
As you can see, there is quite a difference in color between the treated panels and the non-treated panels (which are bare tin meant to be painted).
Any Brownstoners out there have any ideas how or with what the panels were treated or how we can get in touch with anyone who used to be at Abbington Tin?
Who knew that if one were to glob on some Peel Away 7 and spend 7 or 8 hours picking and scraping THIS:
That you would find all of this detail:
This is probably the most gratifying and surprising discovery I have made in the house. I honestly had no idea that there was this sort of detail buried under all of the glop (I put the peel away on the plaster just to see if it would work).
Hey all. Its been a while but we have not forgotten about our reno blog. We have just been pretty beaten down by our recent experiences and haven’t had the gumption to post. That said, I am so proud of Operation Pocket Shutters, that I am breaking the silence in order to do an expose on the project.
When we bought this house close to 2 years ago, we were pleased to observe that we had all the original pocket shutters —albeit caked in 100 years of paint. We brought 2 floors worth of them to “Lou’s in Hackensack” to have them dip n’ stripped (via zipcar) and have been working on them on and off for about a year. When our contractor flew the coup and T and I were demoralized beyond measure– we decided it would be a satisfying project to get started on and even more satisfying to complete (to quit would be letting the enemy win).
Here are the shutters pre-strip
Dipping and stripping is a great short cut to beautiful wood but its still a lot of work to refinish them. First you need to pick out all that persistent lead paint crud that is wedged in the nook and cranies. We did this with a couple of dental picks and many hours. Then you need to sand sand sand sand sand sand sand with 3 grades of paper AND if your shutters are pine like ours (beautiful golden pine) -you need to treat the pine with a prestain which conditions the wood (we did 3 to 4 coats on each side).
Here are some pics before and after the pre stain treatment and sanding
After the pre-stain, you need to do one more light sand as the wood grain raises a bit during the prestain treatment and then finally you get to stain. Although the original plan was to stain the shutters, we thought the shutters looked so good after the conditioning treatment that we abstained from the stain and went straight to shellac.
We decided on shellac because its all natural (Its actually a resin secreted by the female lac bug) and because it sort of acts like a combo of stain and poly with a built in primer, sealer and odor and tannin blocker (the more I know about it the more i like it).
On the “basement floor” shutters, we used a clear shellac in aersol form. Had we to do it again, we would probably only use the aersol on the louvers (we went through an obscene number of aersol cans). All and all, we did 4 coats on each side nice and thick to protect the shutters from the elements.
Note: we had to also do some stripping around the window frames as the paint build up prevented the proper opening and closing of the shutters. We do plan to strip the whole window at some point soon.
For the gorgeous tall shutters on the parlor floor, we decided to use the amber shellac on all but the louvers. We probably will not put these up until both windows are fully stripped and this floor is close to complete but we are going to go ahead an hang the MISSION ACCOMPLISHED banner across the parlor floor anyway.
P.S.Unfortunately we do not have all the original knobs –anyone know of a good resource for copper ones like these?
We haven’t posted much these last months because there has been a whole lot of not that much going on. Lots of starts and stops. And lots of frustration. But now that the air is getting crisp and actual work is commencing in the duplex (more on that in my next entry), I thought I would catch you all up with the doings over in South Stuy.
Most of the summer was spent bringing contractors in to bid out the duplex reno–but even with the market slowdown, it was tough. That said, we embraced the frustration, and with architectural plans in hand, we prepared for progress by tearing down, pulling up, and ripping out any wall, floor, or fixture that we knew we weren’t keeping.
To entice friends to help us with the demo, we decided to celebrate the destruction and hosted a couple of pretty fabulous bbq’s complete with marinated grilled shrimp, veggies, grilled radiccio with an OJ and honey glaze, garden burgers and tofu dogs, chicken, sausage, hamburgers, grilled eggplant wth goat cheese and basil (superb), fresh fruit from the Puerto Rican van guys on the corner on Beford near Atlantic, mojitos with mint from our yard, microbrewed beer, freshly made cupcakes from Abu’s on Fulton, freshly squeezed lemon ginger and watermelon juice (from the halal steam table restaurants also on Fulton). We figured a tantalizing, mouth-watering spread was the least we could do for our dust-covered-sledge-hammer-wielding-crazed-demolition-derby friends.
Some may say that we bribed our friends to do our dirty work and those folks would be right. And sure, some folks trekked out from Manhattan for some free dogs and ice cold beers, but a good number of them came donned in combat gear with DESTRUCTION on their minds and little else. We were surprised when our otherwise mild-mannered colleagues and friends showed up adorned in coveralls, dust masks, professional-grade eye protection, and their own sledgehammers and crow bars. One friend of T’s donned military surplus tanker coveralls and proudly showed off a fat multi-tool that he was sure he wouldn’t use that day but wanted to bring anyway. And we were awed by the gusto and might they used to bring down the walls. Special shout-outs go out to B-rad and Damon–the two mildest of mannered friends, who turned into virtual Hulks, grunting and swinging sledges, speaking sentences of no more than two or three syllables, most of which started with “me” and ended with “smash.”
In Demo BBQ 1, or The Rumble in the Urban Jungle (as T titled it), we knocked down the wall separating the bathroom from what will be our bedroom so that the the new plumbing, electricity, and pocket door can be installed.
In Demo Party 2, or The Walls of Jericho Part 2, we knocked down an oddly shaped closet (it wasn’t deep enough to accommodate a regular sized hanger but was at least seven wide) and the wall in the parlor separating the kitchen from the living room.
Finally, in a solo effort, I pulled up a the abused, glue- (from the linoleum tiles that had covered them, which we pulled up last year) and water-damaged parquet from the bathroom to reveal pretty nice pine sub flooring. I was hoping that we could do a sort of French-country look by restoring and finishing the pine subfloor, but the subfloor ended up being in too bad shape, so we’re going to tile it instead.
I am proud to report that the house has never looked worse.
Yeah, this kitchen looks a whole lot like the other two tenant kitchens, but the big difference is that this is the first one we did ourselves top to bottom. Although I assisted by building the cabinets, sanding and painting, this was T’s baby–and he did most of the work himself.
Because the space was originally a closet, we had to blow out the walls to create an alcove. I started off tearing down the falling plaster ceiling, but the 100+ years of dust and various dead, dried-out bugs and bug shells got the best of me, so T finished. We put up sheetrock and fashioned a basic square medallion from plywood for the lighting fixture. T then demo’d the floor down to the subfloor and put down concrete board for tile. He laid the tile, built the island for the stove from scratch, installed the sink and stove, connected the plumbing and gas, cut and installed the counter tops, hung the cabinets, etc.
Hey–it’s thirsty work.
Yes, it’s small but highly functional. We have been living in this apartment for the last 6 months and have added all kinds of handy Ikea organizers. We also fashioned some left-over butcherblock countertop into a cutting board that fits neatly over the stove to provide even more surface for food prep, necessity being the mother of invention.
Because we are living through the reno and already have tenants, we have had to do some things out of order of the way they are usually done. Case in point is the intercom/buzzer system. When it was just T and I living in the building the “scream and scramble” method of answering the door worked. Not so -when there are 4 other people living amoungst us. Our tenants were missing package deliveries and friend meet ups (the doorbell system that had been in the building was the home depot variety, had to be installed a couple of decades ago and didn’t always work).
The whole thing came to a head when we came home one night to find a rope hanging down from the front side of the house from the our 4th floor tenant’s apartment. We didn’t know what to make of it. Did they have to haul an item up the side of the building? Were they training for a mount Everest climb? When we inquired, they admitted it was their attempt at a Macguyver like doorbell (they tied a rope to a spoon and put the spoon in a pot so when a friend arrived they could yank on the rope which would then make a noise to signal they were down stairs). It was at that point that we knew we had to take action–and we did –by following up on a rec made in the Brownstoner forum and hired Antonio — locksmith and intercom installer extrordinaire. Although scheduling was a bit of a pain, Antonio was reliable and just a generally nice guy. He showed up when he said he was going to, called when he was going to be late or if he had to reschedule. He even made a conscious effort not to put too many holes in our walls. We also think his price for the work was fair. Let me know if you need his info or just search the forum.
The tenant apartments had audio intercom and buzzer systems installed–but we had him run a video wire in the event we ever wanted to upgrade. In our duplex we had video units installed. We went with the Aiphone mainly because they were considerably less expensive than their competitors. They work fine and the video is surprisingly sharp.
That said, I wish the interior units were a bit sleeker and not white plastic but they are no more cumbersome then the alarm control pad and totally do the trick.
The last rental’s bathroom!
As noted in my last post, we brought in a hired hand to help us out with the 3rd floor rear bathroom and……drumroll please…… he actually showed up, did the work and did it well.
Here are some pics to show the progression.
We decided to keep as much of the original subway tile as we could. We added the black border in order to blend the old subway tile with the new subway tile–which gave us the color scheme and design theme for the room.
We spent more on this bathroom than the others, and not just because me and T are going to be the first tenants. (We are movin’ on up into it to live like human people while work is being done on the duplex.) The main reason we spent more on this bathroom than on the two other rentals is because even though it’s the smallest of all the rentals and though its 1930s subway tile walls were in better shape than the others, the rest of the space was in the worst shape of all three. So money had to be spent since it was a complete overhaul. However, since we’re living there for the next 6-9 months, we did spend a bit more on materials and fixtures than we might otherwise have. That said–we did save some money by buying some of the white subway tile (200+ tiles for $45) and the sink ($10) at BuildItGreen in Queens. We also saved money on the light fixture (about $20, I think), the faucet (about $20), and the shower doors (a Kohler “brand,” $300) by hunting for bargains at Lowes and Home Depot–and using those coupons they keep sending us in the mail since we began dumping piles of money into their registers last year. However, we did splurge on the shower fixture.
After spending a day in a zipcar going all over Brooklyn to tile stores and being told that black subway tile is “rare” at the few places that even carried it–meaning it’s both expensive and has to be special ordered–”it’s just black subway tile, like the white stuff, but black,” T kept saying in growing disbelief and frustration–we found the black subway tile at our very own Home Depot a few blocks away in Bed Stuy (at which you cannot find, strangely, plain white and black 12 x 12-inch tile).
The black and white hex tile was found at Bella on the LES–a great no-attitude spot–much unlike the spots we went to in Bkln. The medicine cabinet and the wall-mounted cabinet are from Ikea. Actually the “wall-mounted” cabinet,is a vanity for the sink that was supposed to go there, which was measured and picked out by our first contractor (who we parted company with many moons ago now–a lifetime, it seems). It turned out to be way too large for the space (thanks for the great measuring work and advice, guys), so we re-purposed it to make up for the storage space lost by having a wall-mounted sink (although I still have the Ikea sink and faucet and am dreading the fight when I try to return them a year after purchasing).
The medicine cabinet and storage cabinet are not just hung on the wall, but are sunk into the wall. We built a new wall using 2 x 3s to frame it in order to hide the previously exposed pipes ( we did not want to go through all the trouble of tearing out the old tile and plaster). We simply cleaned up the piping, threw up new wall over it all, mounted the cabinets within the frame, then drywalled.
I say “we” but it was almost entirely our guy Henry. Aside from picking all the materials out and T assisting where needed and doing the clean-up so the expensive contractor wasn’t wasting time and money sweeping and picking up trash, our only other physical contributions to this little room entailed stripping the window frame and repainting it, which of course also meant pulling out all the crappy old caulk that was smeared on, globbed over, oozed in, and hardened all over the place, as well as doing some minor wood repairs on the frame itself.
T also had to rehang the door so that it opens out rather than in, so you can actually get into the bathroom AND also close the door. He was pretty hesitant to do it after the fiasco of rehanging his first door in one of the other rentals, which involved mounting it and taking it down at least 5 times. I participated by …well..nagging T to hang the door, helping with repairs of the frame and by boiling and stripping the door hardware.
Once everything was installed, we were both pretty struck by the differences in craftmanship and material quality between the old subway tile and the new. The old tiles were a full half-inch thick and were mudded into the wall with big dollops of cement. They barely showed a grout line and the wall itself was a perfectly flat plane. While our guy did a great job at a really faircprice, and though he himself is conscientious and cares about the quality of the materials and his own work, it just wasn’t the same. The difference is in the quality and price of materials these days and in the old-school know-how of the contractors who do the work nowadays. Of course, if you have the time and money, you can get anything and have the work look like a Renaissance cathedral, but for those of us at this price point, it’s always interesting seeing the differences between then and now.
I know some will say that we should have just torn all the walls out and retiled with new half-inch tile and new plaster walls (as did 3 of the 4 contractors who gave us estimates), but we aren’t restoring, we’re renovating, and while we’re very mindful of the original work and details, we aren’t out to replicate everything to bring back the original beauty of the house. (And besides, this work isn’t “original” anyway, it’s from the first major renovation of the house, done about 40 yrs after it was built.) We’re keeping what we can, and doing what we have to with the rest. I know it would look sleeker with conforming subway tiles but I like the idea of two eras coming together in this little bathroom and even like the aesthetic. So I’m glad we did it our way–because that approach is more in line not with just our wallets, but with who we are.
So while T and I are renovating the small kitchen in the 3rd rental ourselves, we had to hire some professional help for the bathroom. The job was just too big for us, involving plumbing, electrical, carpentry, tiling, the whole nine. Early on in the reno, we discovered a wicked leak where the bathtub connected to the drain and once we pulled out the tub, sink, and toilet, and scraped off most of the linoleum tiles we discovered that it had been a problem for a while. YIKES.
They ripped through the floor in a couple of places to get at the plumbing for the toilet and to move the tub drain in order to build an entirely new shower. The new wall is framed with 2×3 studs; it will hide the plumbing and make up the few inches we need for the 48″ shower base to fit correctly. The vanity we bought months ago at Ikea on the advice of our first contractor won’t actually fit into this bathroom, so T built a top for it (where the sink would’ve gone) and we’re mounting it into the new wall above the toilet as a storage cabinet. The floor is getting retiled, as are the walls in the shower area, though we will be keeping some of the 1930s subway tile from when the building was converted into a five-family. Some electrical wiring is getting moved so everything is up to code. And we’re changing the door so that it swings out, since you won’t actually be able to step in and close the door if it swings into the bathroom. New York, baby.
Basically there is very little that isn’t being done in this little room.
Because we know enough to know what we’re not ready to do ourselves, and we don’t have the time to spend the next several weeks or couple months learning how to do most of it ourselves (all but the plumbing and electrical, that is), and mostly because we simply didn’t want to screw it up, we brought in a number of contractors over the last couple weeks to get estimates. And of course, they were all over the map in price and plan. But we settled on one and he started yesterday and even showed up again today (I’m right now listening to the sweet sounds of him and his guy drilling the hell out of something upstairs), so here’s hoping for the best.
With the groundwork all but done in the kitchen–it is only a matter of days before the tiles
take their places.