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Archive for February, 2009

the kitchen redo

The Kitchen

We wanted a modern kitchen. Spacious, light, full of cabinet storage space and socially oriented countertops.  We also wanted to eliminate the moldy original cabinetry, bring the ceiling to its original height and create an open kitchen without walls.  John used to be a professional cook for years and was extremely helpful in designing the new layout.  Our architect initially drew up a rough plan of what we wanted and we then used that to fine tune the design ourselves.

Ikea cabinets can be space-specific designed and it can be done on their online kitchen design program.  The only problem is that it does not work on an Apple computer.  John downloaded a virtual PC on to his desktop Mac computer and we were able to do it that way.  It took a few months to figure out the exact layout and all the elements we wanted and then it took a while to place the order and about a week to have the items put on a truck and shipped to us from Seattle.  At the time there was no Ikea store in Portland, which now, of course, there is one.  Go figure.  We could have had a much easier time with the whole thing, since we had to drive 3 hours each way for different cabinets and accessories. Our contractor, although nice in the beginning and much cheaper than anyone else we talked to decided he would not worry about materials and we were left to fend for ourselves whenever anything came up too short or too long.  

old moldy cupboards

old moldy cupboards

old kitchen appliances

old kitchen appliances

doors and windows

doors and windows

tearing out cabinets

tearing out cabinets

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Back Porch

As the painters were scraping off the old paint and caulking all the nail holes in the original siding, John started demoing the back/side porch with Jeff, our helper.  It was an enclosed landing into the kitchen with stairs running down to the side of the house.  It was as old as the house and partially blocked the entrance to the back yard as well as the side and besides it was a wreck to look at and had the same terrible smell as the rest of the house.

old porch steps

old porch steps

 

gutting the porch

gutting the porch

Once the porch demo was complete we had a back yard full of old wood.  Some of it was donated to the Rebuilding Center in Portland which is a non-profit organization that resells their donations at a discount, as reusable, recycled materials and some of it was thrown away.  We kept some for the repair of the old siding, since they did not make these boards anymore.  

 

old porch wood

old porch wood

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colors

Choosing the paint colors was a very difficult job.  I had walked and driven around Portland endlessly taking photos of houses of that era as well as going to the libraries and the bookstores, ordering books, etc…I saw that any color, but color, not neutrals was what was needed.  I decided to paint the house some variation of the colors of a sunflower.  Out neighborhood was called Sunnyside and there were hundreds of sunflowers everywhere that summer.  I sketched a house I would want and then set out to match the colors at the paint store.  Nothing looked right as I experimented on cards and parts of the house.  Then something clicked and finally I knew that the colors were right.

 

my inspiration for the colors

my inspiration for the colors

more flower inspiration

more flower inspiration

colors on the siding

colors on the siding

Buy good quality paint for your exterior wood siding and trim, it will look richer and last longer.  We used three coats of Lambert Paint as well as a thick coat of primer.

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this is how it looks new

this is how it looks new

shower hardware

We were faced with an outdated moldy bathroom and the choice was not hard, we had to gut it.  Water had apparently been leaking from the toilet for a long time and was another reason the mold took such a stronghold.  Once we gutted everything we realized the floorboards suffered water damage as well.  We actually moved the bathroom to another location all together.  We moved it to where the old closet and chimney were.  Our architect helped us draw up the plans that would also include a large walk in closet.  The old bathroom was placed between the two bedrooms and  the new bathroom was going to be off the kitchen.  This was the best solution since the size of the house did not allow too much maneuvering.  Choosing the materials for the new bathroom and dealing with construction issues turned out to be nightmarish.  

 

 

another photo of the bathroom before

the bathroom before

Showrooms are full of nice but incompetent sales people that do not understand products and design.  Contractors often say they can do anything but end up screwing up half the work.  We fired and hired numerous people during the bathroom redo even calling the police once when the bathroom drywall guy threatened to come over and beat us up if we did not pay him the last few hundred we owed him.  We had not paid it because he did not finish the job.  The police actually called his cell number and told him not to come to our house or he would be arrested.  He was working without a license and had serious drunks and drug addicts as his helpers and we believe he was a meth addict himself.  He also did not finish the job even though we did pay him everything.  The many lessons we learned will still be told further in another section.

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stashed handgun

 

 

we found this gun

we found this gun

 

 

The gun we found tucked in the basement rafters, once everything was gutted added some fun to our otherwise devastating discoveries.

It was rusted and unusable and after doing some research I found out where it was manufactured and when but not much else.  Late 19th century, hand revolver, make H & A.  Hopkins & Allen top-break revolver.  Why would someone stash their gun in the basement and never retrieve it.  Maybe they were looking for a permanent hiding spot, maybe they had to cover up their crime.  All kinds of conjectures came up from friends and family.  This finding really felt exciting and I decided to go to town hall records to see who owned this house at that time, hoping to track down some interesting piece of information.  After spending weeks researching the deeds and titles associated with our house, I learned that this house was owned by many families, all the way back to 1907 where the trail went dead.  Between 1897 and 1906 I could not find any information.  The records were not kept as well.  Even the records from 1907 were all handwritten.  The gun was rusted and unusable, the Oregon rains took their toll.  Nevertheless I am planning to make a collage with the gun and all the other things we found, and leave it in the house as its own bit of history, a memento for generations to come of the history of a Portland Victorian.

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windows

 

we replaced all the old windows

we replaced all the old windows

All the windows were basically inoperable whether they were aluminum or the old original wood ones.  Some were simply storms, from a once complete set.  We decided to replace all the windows with brand new Wood Marvin windows.  They had a wood exterior and could be painted.  I had already started sketching the color schemes for the new paint job we would do and knew the windows would be some kind of dark red or orange.  Otherwise we would have bought a metal exterior window, which is tougher under constant rain conditions.  The windows took a while to figure out, size wise, as the old openings did not match the standard size windows available.  We worked with a local Door and Window company that specializes in vintage and antique houses.  The windows took about 2 months total to order and install.  Then another month to get them trimmed inside and out.  We had all the trim hand milled at a local wood shop, in trying to replicate the original from what was available as evidence on the ext shadows.  The interior window trim was brittle and caked with layers of paint and we made the decision to replace it as well.  The wood shop had a knife profile that pretty closely matched ours so we saved a few hundred dollars by not having to cut a new knife.

here are the new Marvin windows installed

here are the new Marvin windows installed

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John was extremely excited about gutting the basement, which was wet, smelly and dark.  The stench was unbelievable, and it permeated the whole house.  Even though we had the whole house cleaned 3 times before we moved in, the source of the foul order remained a mystery.  Not for long though.  As soon as John started tearing out the wall panels in the basement he uncovered black mold everywhere.  This was the culprit, unbeknownst to anyone we talked to before we bought the house, including our home inspector.  

I think in retrospect they all avoided mentioning it as a possibility, certain we would not have bought this house under those conditions.  Being from the East Coast, this was not an issue we had ever encountered, especially since our house in New Jersey did not have any such problems.  Portland gets a tremendous amount of rain and the pile of dirt near the foundation had created an ongoing stream of wetness seeping into the house and infecting all the wood and of course the walls themselves, which were made of paper and fiber.  We were extremely naive and completely clueless and were soon to discover an even worst nightmare caused by the water seepage.

old basement walls

old basement walls

 

john ready to gut basement

john ready to gut basement

wet basement

 

basement gutting

basement gutting

Well, the mold was obvious once we tore out the basement walls which were old drywall. there was a lot of black stuff on the other side of them.  The smell was the worst thing.  Then we tore out all the old insulation which was a big mess because it was fiber fill, the old style they used in the 50’s, pure dust.  

Our old house was built with strong old growth wood beams and sills which we found were rotten.  Can you believe it??  Such old growth strength gave way to water and its continuous destructive effect.  

corner post
Once the whole basement was gutted and everything disposed off, I bought a janitorial mold killer and hired a guy to spray it on all the open wood beams, toxic stuff but it kills the bacteria.  We left openings all around the siding for about a year so the air could get in and circulate the mold out.  Then the following summer we cleaned up the basement floor and filled in the large holes and painted it.  The holes were from people digging into it over the last 100 years and not repairing it and the smell from the wet soil was also contributing to the mold.  We also put in all new insulation and new walls.
gutting the basement

gutting the basement

replacing the original beams and sills

replacing the original beams and sills

replacing beams

replacing beams

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Front Yard and Overgrown Trees

It was not so much a yard but a piece of land with bushes and wild nut trees growing on it.  It looked like no one had touched it for 20 years.  Uncared for and untended, abandoned really, except for an overgrown rose bush that seemed to hold some potential, still.  This was March, 2006, early Spring and a handful of Japanese irises were beginning to shoot up next to the rose.  Otherwise there was nothing but weeds and overgrown wild self-sown trees.

We had to take the tree down immediately.  It had been planted by a squirrel maybe 10-15 years earlier and was a hazelnut tree that grew right next to the house.  Since the soil around it had piled up and created a hill of dirt that was above our foundation level we realized the water would continue seeping into the basement as it had for many years previously.  Our neighbor was very happy when we cut the tree down as she had been cleaning its nut deposits for years from her driveway and the baby nut trees it had been forming along side it. 

the tree that caused the damage

the tree that caused the damage

this was the other angle of the tree

this was the other angle of the tree

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the buds are a budding

the buds are a budding

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Siding repair

Siding repair

The siding was stripped of all the original paint and repaired. It took about 3 months!

 

the house after [paint stripping and repair, also some necessary trim was installed

the house after paint stripping and repair, also some necessary trim was installed

side angle

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Here are some photos of Portland’s fun things to do and see

 

and honey too

and honey too

 

 

 

there are many parks in portland and roses are abundant

there are many parks in portland and roses are abundant

 

 

 

farmers market at PSU

farmers market at PSU

 

 

 

pepper baskets

john stuffing himself at the farmers market   

a lovely meditative place

a lovely meditative place

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I spent a lot of time running around looking at houses, especially in the older neighborhoods,  taking photos of ones I really liked.

great roof detail

great roof detail

 

 

some pretty victorians in our neighborhood that were an inspiration

fabulous colors and detail

greens house

very cute rendition of original intent

peach housedeep red house

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how i saw the house

how i saw the house

 

 

Many Victorian homes are renovated with extreme attention to historical detailing. This can become a bit manic and extremely expensive. These Victorians are colorful, vibrant, quite wild and beautiful, while more modern, newly built Victorians have a simpler palate.  We wanted something in-between, non-traditional but also respectful of its history. We liked the idea of the tall 10 foot ceilings, typical of early Victorians.  Most homes in our price range were bungalows and had lower ceilings which to us felt a bit confining.  The attic was uninhabitable and there was no access to it but we thought we could make it into a living space eventually, which would add significantly to the square footage of the entire house.  The neighborhood was one of our favorites and since our first month in Portland, it was the one area we returned to to shop and enjoy a pleasant meal.

We knew the house had great bones but quickly became aware of some of the issues, especially after the “heady” feeling passed and we had our inspection.  The water in the basement, the unpleasant odor permeating the whole house, old fixtures and pipes and many other not so charming details suddenly loomed over us.

Siding

The siding was metal, pale blue, unattractive, and covering up beautiful original trim details and old wood siding.  We realized you cannot paint it, the paint won’t stick and you cannot paint or trim any detail on it.  The only solution was to rip it off.  Once we did we were happy to find the original wood siding in great condition, but the trim was missing.  Basically all the normal trim on a Victorian house was gone.  There were gaps everywhere that allowed you to look through right into the inside of the house.  The old paint also had to be stripped.  So our two painters took to their heat guns and proceeded to spend the next 3 months hand stripping the original lead paint off the entire house.

 

   

 

 

 

this is how the house looked the day we purchased it

 

 

this is how the house looked the day we purchased it

 

 

wow this was a huge shock! no trim whatsoever!

wow this was a huge shock! no trim whatsoever!

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