Turning the Corner

The Old House Web

(1) Salvage yard finds...
old radiators
(2) The plainer radiators that came with the house will be soldsalvage
(3) Mantels by the truckload
pocket doors
(4) Pocket doors -- up and workingdoor hardware
(5) Pocket door hardware.wall
(6)Ready for a second set of pocket doors.woodwork
(7) Stripping the woodwork
(8) New hearth

By Steve Ciccarelli
Saturday, March 11, 2000

We've turned the corner from repair to rebuilding. At last! We can now close our eyes and imagine what our house will look like finished. And in that pursuit, we've been scouring salvage yards in search of, among other things, radiators. Quite a fun pastime. To the right are some of the radiators we picked up for ten dollars a piece at a local salvage yard in the nearby District of Columbia. We will sandblast the old paint off and then refinish the radiators.

Of course with a house this size, we'll need lots of these radiators, and we're buying them by the pickup truck load. The ornate radiators will be used on the two main floors while plainer ones that will either be used in the attic and basement or sold. In the next picture are the radiators we are replacing. These will be sold.

Among our other salvage yard finds were a set of pocket doors, original hardware intact and a "new" door for our porch entry. The picture at right gives you an idea of a tiny portion of what's available at salvage yards if you have a little time to go picking:

  • Fencing
  • Gates and various architectural pieces
  • Pedestal sinks
  • Clawfoot tubs
  • Vanities and mantles
  • Bathroom and kitchen hardware
  • More toilets than one could ever need
  • Still more sinks, tubs and other fixtures
  • Radiators

Pocket doors -- Up and Running!

The good news -- the first set of pocket doors, the ones we found at the salvage yard, are up and running. To our delight, they work like they were always there.

In picture 6, a second wall is readied for pocket doors. This wall, 14" thick in two parallel sections, will function as the track for the dining room/family room pocket doors (the whitish nine-pane glass door to the right of the photo is one). Also hidden in the wall will be the air return holder for the first floor air conditioning, the stack and drains for an upstairs bath. Oh, yes, and it will also provide an easy, Romex-interference free channel for cable TV, LAN and phone wires. Lastly, a built in book case will occupy the left side of wall. There's more to a wall than meets the eye!

We've also begun experimenting with stripping years of paint and grime off the woodwork in the house. After trial and error paint and stain removal - we revealed clear oak as you can see in picture 7. Like new, after being under all that junk for 100 years.

A hearth is born

Work continues down in the basement, this time in the creation of a slightly raised hearth for the fourth fireplace. I can't say enough about the value of a good crew in getting work done. Scott Hash was absolutely instrumental in helping us get the demolition done, doing everything from tearing down walls to driving a bobcat. Scott is an incredible worker, it's very hard to keep up with his daily pace, even for 30 minutes. Mike Butler of Butler Carpentry is a positive genius when it comes to working with wood, doing everything from framing to cabinet building. And he's an absolute stickler for details, working very hands on with the other trades who work on the house. If there is any single person who is more proud of the house than Corby and I, it's Mike. And with good reason.

Also in the basement

The basement windows have been rebuilt and the outside stonework is being completed. The repointing is finished just below the eventual dirt grade line. Below that we'll build a block wall and back fill with dirt and concrete. Thus the walls, below grade, will be almost four feet thick. The foundation area under the front turret was dry laid -- never even mortared. No wonder we had leaks!

We feel certain that with the work we've done, we'll never again have root or water leak problems.

Fully 12" of dirt has been removed from the basement, and some gravel brought in. Preparations for the replumbing/groundwork for the house are officially underway. Meanwhile, the stonemasons, Hawkeye and Kentucky, are busy at work in the small room under the mudroom/bathroom area. The last bit of stonework to be done!

And, in the backyard...

Spring is near.... and soon all this renovation will be a memory. Good or bad - that remains to be seen... From the ashes of the debris removed from the stable/garage foundation, flowers are growing.

To see more of Steve's pictures, click here.

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