Front Garden & Picket Fence

In April 2015 we laid-out our garden plan for the front yard.  Given we have the septic tank and two overflow tanks, we needed to be sure the Main Septic Tank (the one with the two access covers circled in red) remained accessible.

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After the septic system was installed and graded over we ordered topsoil and I spread it at about 4″-6″.  I gave myself some extra for future flower beds:

berm & topsoil

We came up with a semi-circular plan. In the below photo, I’ve already set the 4″x4″x6’0″ pressure treated (PT) posts for the picket fence.

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About the Fence:

The yard is sloped slightly to the right and also toward the street (background) in the above photo.  I had to figure the 4’0″ maximum height, permitted by the Township, and determine whether the fence could be horizontal or if it would have to be stepped.  This meant each post would be set at a slightly different height but the tops of which would be level with its neighbouring post.

I also had to take the height of the pickets and set them as close to the ground as possible at the highest ground elevation so, at the lowest elevation there wouldn’t be too much space (or so I hoped).

I dug 30″ deep holes at 8’0″ on center; starting with the post at the lowest point since that is where the natural gas and water lines are located.  This way I would know my 8’0″ center wouldn’t be right on that spot I couldn’t dig.  That spot is the nearest (bottom right) post in the below picture.  One can also see the lines of rose bushes we planted just inside where the fencing is going up.  They alternate in colours of red and pink.


Using a post level and strings strung from the temporary lot-corner posts; set 12″ back from the property line, Marina and I would wrap the bottom of the post in a 4’0″x4’0″ piece of landscaping fabric and lower the post into the hole.  I poured small stones into the space between the post and fabric and carefully lifted the post out of the hole until its top reached the 4’0″ level string.  The stones would fall from the sides of the post and fill the cavity created when I lifted the post to the string.  Then, using a rubber mallet, I’d pound the post back down, to compact the stones, pour more stones into the space around the post, and lift it again to the string.  By the third time the post would be set.  Then I’d pack more stones around the post and compact these using a piece of 2″x4″ as a tamper.

We bought inexpensive, assembled 8’0″ sections of picket fencing and screwed these into the posts; pre-drilling holes to avoid splitting the wood.  During this process I realized the posts were between 8’0″ and 8’4″ apart, as a result of trying to center a 4″x4″ post in an 8″-10″ diameter hole, straight and set-back properly.  About half of the 8’0″ sections of fencing don’t abut its neighbouring section.  And, in those cases when it does, I see the manufacturer wasn’t exactly consistent in the dimensions of the horizontal wood supports and the heights at which they were set to the pickets.  Meaning, I had to accept a little imperfection:

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In most cases, I was able to fill the gab with wood putty.  But in cases like that pictured here, I’m not sure what to do to conceal the gab; if anything.  I might cut filler pieces from 1″x3″s to fill such gaps.  This is also a good picture to point out that the pickets of the fence we bought are shorter than I prefer.  We set the posts at a height of 4’0″ and, in a few years, may replace the pickets with something fancier and taller.  I know it looks odd to have the post so much taller than the picket but, “So what?”  I’m thinking of attaching a carved wood medallion or small decorative design of some sort to ‘take up space’.

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Above: This northwest corner has the largest gap between the bottom of the picket and the ground.

Below: This southwest corner (looking north) has the lowest gap.

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Above: Looking north from the driveway.  Actually, the pickets were touching the ground so I shoveled out a V-shaped ditch, lined it with landscaping fabric, and filled it with stones.

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I laid a brick walkway as a “placeholder” for when we have the asphalt driveway and parking area replaced with reclaimed brick.  When the driveway is redone we’ll have the walkway redone at the same time.  Also, by seeing the walkway there now, we might be inspired to how we want the brick pattern, as well as, whether or not to add seating or an archway of some sort.

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About the Garden:

This is what was planted, in early 2015, to see how we liked the selection and how they would hold up in that location.  (No, the house isn’t sinking; I’m not holding the camera level)

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We made sure there would be spaces to walk among the landscaping.  We’re still thinking about what sort of growing thing with which to replace the grass as it’s annoying to mow in arcs.



In the below photo, the birdbath is on one of the access lids to the main septic tank.  In the foreground left will be a gate to give access to it, as well as, give access to the side yard.


This gate will be to the left in the below photo.

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“Before” photo, taken when we bought the house:



Excuses! Excuses!

In July 2015, I got busy with a couple of endeavours that had nothing to do with the house, were time intensive, and are wrapping up now.

Nearly all of the remaining JAMA House projects require either open windows (to air the stink) or being outside (yard or exterior work). And Winter put them on hold. It would have been the perfect time to get the JAMA House blog up to date but, when one is writing (and reading) all day, it’s tough to write (and read) some more.

– We had a landscaper neighbour. His yard was an unkept jungle with a swampy, mosquito ridden in-ground pool.

– Our framing and siding sub-contractor’s wife was always urging him to finish the framing and siding projects on their own house.

Doing even the things we love to do are tough to do when one does them all the time, non-stop, and under pressure. “Under pressure” that’s the thing that can turn a love of something into a chore.

The other thing, about our remaining projects, is putting them in order so one doesn’t hinder the other. The “big” one we have remaining is renovating the first floor bathroom.
We’re removing the 1″ thick concrete walls. Yes, it’s concrete; keyed into a steel metal lathe screen that’s not too unlike that seen on steam radiator covers. One has to use pliers to bend it, it’s that thick. After the concrete is removed, I’m expecting some “bounce back” from the 2″x6″ floor joists supporting it (if they have any flexibility remaining…they are, at least, 76 years old).

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bath wall thick text


But removing the concrete, and the 1980’s tub, has prevented me from installing the pantry cabinets, across the narrow hall from the bathroom doorway, so we have room to turnaround. It also has prevented me from installing the door between the laundry and rec room as that’s the path all the bathroom debris will take to get to the dumpster outside.

North Extension edit

I haven’t finished installing the white picket fence across the yard so the truck delivering (and removing) the dumpster can get as close to the side door, to the rec room, as possible; so I don’t have to carry the debris farther than necessary. And, since the debris is mostly concrete, I haven’t finished the side porch so the tongue and groove flooring and the turned spindled porch railing of it won’t get damaged.

We have two pallets of bricks still in the driveway because I ordered all that was needed for our various walkways. But the walkway leading to the unfinished rec room porch can’t be put in until the bathroom is finished, the rec room porch is finished, and we decide where, in the yet to be installed picket fence, the gate will be.

In March we had three days of above 55 F degree weather and I worked removing paint from a set of French doors and three interior doors. The paint remover is stinky so I prefer to do that outside. Even so, after bringing them inside for the night, we could smell the paint remover until I could wipe them down with mineral spirits and give them a final fine sanding.

The French doors are not old, made of pine, and nothing I did would remove all the soaked in white paint. We’re fed up with those and are going to go with the “shabby chic” look since any more sanding will whittle them down to toothpicks.

The other doors are old and, now that the high-glow pink and green (and several layers of other colours) have been removed, look okay. I suck at determining wood species but I’m guessing they’re maple with a maple veneer over the panels.

I’ve been taking pictures so, when I’m caught up on posting the construction phase of JAMA House, I’ll post about all of the above.

There’s another thing I’d like to comment on:

I’m aware that there are people who don’t like that I’m posting the progress of our project after the fact rather than while it’s happening. I’m not sure why that could be important. In my case, it wasn’t reasonably possible or prudent.

– I lived onsite for all but, perhaps, 11 days of the 14 or so months of our project; much of which was without a roof or electricity and with only an extension cord, to the temp electric service pole outside, for my microwave, coffee maker, and a light. A modem and laptop had no place to be set-up and still be safe (every room was a construction zone).

– My days started around 4:00 or 5:00 A.M. and ended when it got too dark to see (sometimes an hour later than that). I’d eat a microwavable dinner and pass out on my cot for about six hours of sleep. I was just too dang tired (and sore) to blog even if I did have internet access (which I didn’t).

– Blog posts become history soon after they’re posted. That doesn’t necessarily make them irrelevant (unless the post is an announcement of an event about to occur). So, who cares if a post is about something that occurred last week, last month, last year, or 100 years ago?

– About every three hours I’d take a break and write about what was happening on the site; including my mood, joys, and concerns. When I post to JAMA House I already know how things ended and can emphasize what mattered and what didn’t. This is particularly important, from a legal and professional perspective, so that things aren’t being said that will be regretted later.

– JAMA House is about a process. That process doesn’t change in meaning because of when it occurred or when it is shared. If, years from now, JAMA House is still on the internet, I hope it will help others in their efforts. That is its only reason to exist and my only motivation for it to exist.

Birthday Presents

Normally, when people drive by, they probably think I’m a hired workman and say nothing to me about the house.  My wife, however, is immediately seen as the homeowner and people will express their admiration for the house to her.  That’s okay.

Today, maybe because I’ve been sitting on the porch with my laptop, people are stopping by to talk; four of them before noon.  Today is my birthday so the affirmation that I’ve done well with the house is particularly appreciated.  It’s a bit different because  homes are not often done the way we did it.

Ours is neither a Modern house or an old house.  It’s a New Old House; built around a young-ish old house.  Some of it was preserved; some reused.  Some pieces came from other old houses; some pieces are new.  It was not designed by an architect though, maybe, 100 years ago or so I might have been called one.

My original design couldn’t be built.  It was “too traditional” and the local zoning and building codes wouldn’t allow it.  Not all that the Township allowed could be done because the materials and knowledge weren’t locally available and, therefore, weren’t available for a price within our budget.

When it comes to the internet, there are house and home websites for those with old houses: Old House Journal , Old House Web , Old Houses (for sale) , Historic Properties (for sale) , Garden Web Forums – Old House (sub forum) , CIRCA Old Houses , (see my “followed” WordPress blogs).

There are websites for Modern houses: Houzz – Home Forums (and many others I tend to avoid)

Then there are websites that support doing lamentable things to old homes: This Old House , HGTV , DIY Network

But, to my knowledge, there are no sites or forums for people who’ve built a new house with the materials and aesthetics of an old house (vinyl siding and PVC trim immediately disqualifies such a home; an open floor plan could, as well).

While PBS‘s This Old House, HGTV, and DIY Network are among my TV favourites, they tend to demonstrate how to destroy traditional materials and workmanship in favour of what’s currently trendy and easy to accomplish; in an endeavor to appeal to the widest possible audience within their target demographic.

This Old House project solutions are largely governed by the companies that underwrite the show (ie. Home Depot, Lumber Liquidators, Glidden Paints, and Owens Corning) rather than what’s best for preserving the character of the old home.  Plastics have become a typical building component and traditional materials and workmanship are rarely a consideration compared to the early seasons of the show.

HGTV and DIY Network are both owned by Scripps Networks Interactive, which also owns the Food Network, Cooking Channel, Travel Channel, and Great American Country (which I’ve never seen).  HGTV is geared more for women (with a design and decorating emphasis) while DIY is geared more for men (with an emphasis on using tools and muscles).  Both require a suspension of disbelief regarding anything old.  It doesn’t take long to realize saying, “I can’t believe they’re doing THAT to that wonderful old…”, is going to sound like a broken record real fast.

[For you really young people, when a vinyl record gets scratched it would repeat the same word or words over and over.  That’s what would be called “a broken record”.]

But, for me, Scripp’s “Rehab Addict” with Nicole Curtis (which aired on DIY for the first three seasons and moved to HGTV for season four in 2014) is the one (and only) show that honours the integrity of old homes and building materials.  It is also the only show that portrays the type of work I’ve done, as well as, the thought process and budget constraints we’ve considered.  I don’t think I’ve ever seen Nicole Curtis ever do anything that with which I disagreed…and that’s saying a lot.

Dining Room Floor Renovation

We weren’t expecting to spend resources (incl. time) on renovating the future dining room finished flooring beyond levelling and minor patching and repairs.  But, as is typical with most major renovation projects, the discovery of the hidden is rarely a pleasant surprise.  But surprises can be opportunities to make a project better than it otherwise would have been.

MLSLI pic of Kitchen, looking north.

MLSLI pic of Kitchen, looking north.

MLSLI pic of Living Room, looking southeast

MLSLI pic of Living Room, looking southeast


The floor sloped to the left; toward load bearing wall dividing it from the Living Room.

Beneath the tile is 1/2″ plywood over the original pine tongue and groove (T&G) pine flooring.




The wall separating the Living Room from the Kitchen is out of frame to the left.  Beneath the wall-to-wall carpet is 3/4″ plywood and below that is a botched whitewash stain of the original pine tongue and groove (T&G) floorboards.


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Looking south; with the load bearing wall separating the Kitchen (left) from the Living Room (right) replaced with a steel I-beam & microlam.  New Foyer in background.

Note: gap between bottom of Foyer floor joists (FJs) and top of original Kitchen/LR

Black linoleum adhesive (which smelled like tar during aborted effort to sand) led to my decision to remove the original pine flooring.  Once the decision was made to replace the 200 sq. ft. of “tar” flooring, it meant I’d be removing the 200 sq. ft. of botched whitewash stained flooring in former Living Room (LR), also.  Those boards with “tar” on them would be reused outside and those with whitewash stain would be reused on the second floor.

We jacked-up the pre-existing, floor supporting steel I-beam under this floor, added three steel posts (on concrete footers) in the basement to support it, and installed 3/4″ underlayment (which these rooms didn’t have before) to support the new 3/4″ white oak T&G flooring.


Same picture as above (without the distracting labels).






Former Living Room (LR) floor looking north toward former Bed Room (BR) (future Kitchen);  with  former Kitchen to the right, after first pass with the floor sander.

Note how the white stain soaked into the pine floor boards.


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Same viewpoint, as pictured above, during first walk-through; before buying the house.





Having the steel I-beam extend below the finished ceiling was a necessity because of its overall height being greater than the space between the first floor ceiling and the second floor floor.  The 20′ x 20′ Master Bedroom (MBR) is above this room and there’s no wall in which to conceal the microlam had the steel I-beam been flush with the Dining Room (DR) ceiling.  The bottom of the I-beam is about where the original ceiling used to be.

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The “Ghost Light” is explained here.

The Dining Room (DR) was placed to be the most used room on the first floor.  It acts as a “Main Room” or “Central Hall” which connects the “public” areas of the Front Porch, Foyer, and (smaller) Living Room (LR) with the “private” areas of the Kitchen, Laundry Room, and stairs to the sleeping quarters on the second floor.

1st fl plan 15



I’ve never been a fan of having the stairs to the second floor come down at the front door.  While, at one time, it may have been an ideal solution to improving ventilation, doing so implies public access to private areas of the home.  I prefer access to the “upper sanctum” from some “inner sanctum” area; for which a dining room is the perfect, symbolic room (under the belief dining is a more intimate activity than a conversational visit in the parlor or living room).

In our case, the location and dimensions of the dining room were largely dictated by budget, the existing footprint of the structure, necessary location of the kitchen, and the nature and location of load-bearing structures.  It remains an unfinished space, waiting for built-ins that should reduce the reliance on the limited placement opportunities of free-standing furniture.


Rec Room Bathroom

The red arrow in the below floor plan is in the Rec Room Bathroom and shows direction of sight in the following photos.

Arrow showing location of former inside corner of exterior walls.

Arrow showing location of former inside corner of exterior walls.

I don’t have any ‘before’ pictures of the Rec Room Bath.  The first is after the new second floor had been installed.  The second photo is after we started demo’ing it.










I’ve written previously about the leaking roof cricket above the Rec Room Bathroom. Here.  The back wall, where the tub and shower were, had mold and water damage that made its way to the floor under the tub.  Once the tub was removed, it was obvious the floor tile sat on underlayment that was severely damaged.  Not originally part of the Scope of Work, Marina and I completely demo’d the bath….walls and floors.

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Because the wall separating the bathroom from the basement stairwell sat on the underlayment and had some water damage from “the worst weekend” , as well as, years of a leaking cricket; it became obvious the best thing to do would be to remove the wet drywall, framing, and replace the rotting underlayment.  This would be my job to do.

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Upon removing the flooring it was obvious the plumbing had been done by someone with little consideration toward the support needs of the structure.  All the plumbing runs through the studs were accomplished with 2-1/2″ holes which left about 1/2″ on each side of the hole (1″ total) for each of the studs in the load bearing walls.

The waste lines were unsupported.  There was a crack in the toilet PVC waste line which had allowed the creation of a “poopy” stalagmite on the crawlspace floor below it.  The cold and hot water supply lines crossed each other three times before reaching the shower body; by which time they had ended up on the wrong side of each other (‘hot’ on the right; ‘cold’ on the left).

We decided to replace the tub/shower combo with a shower (since we ended up removing everything anyway), therefore, all the supply and waste lines had to be reconfigured to the new placement requirements of a shower kit.

We found a shower we liked, bought it, took out the installation diagram, and put the shower parts in storage.

Aqua Glass shower kit #422010

I was a little nervous about finding the proper drain location for a room that hadn’t yet been built.  Taking the thickness of the drywall, etc., into account I did get the drain perfectly located.

The shower body and shower head, well, not quite so perfectly.  It’s a little off-center and the back sides of the shower kit don’t sit flush, in contact, with the wall.  But we got it to work with some nudging and shimming and a little suspension of our quest for perfection.

Some day, when this bathroom is finished, I’ll post the results.

Completing the Building Envelope

The framers considered the time and effort it would take to reframe new door and window openings on the front (west) wall, as well as, cut down the wall studs (about 4″) to make room for the double 2″ x 10″ microlam header.  As it turns out, they decided it would be faster to rebuild the wall so the existing one was removed.  With them doing the work at their convenience I didn’t have the opportunity to deconstruct the wall at mine.

[The picture on the right shows the centerline steel and microlam beam (seen in left photo); not the new microlam header that will be installed along the front wall.]








But I did deconstruct the future kitchen exterior wall as shown below.


















The MLSLI (Multiple Listing Service of Long Island) photo (below) shows the room as we bought it: a bedroom with two makeshift closets flanking a window.  I call the closets “makeshift” because the baseboard wasn’t removed when the closets walls were constructed.  Also, the closet on the right (not seen in photo) was built around the baseboard heater such that about 15″ of the heater was inside the closet.

Copyright (C), Multiple Listing Service of Long Island, Inc, 2004

Bedroom (future kitchen) w/ makeshift closets flanking north side window (to right)

The interior walls of the closets were unfinished (which made their demolition that much easier).  Unfortunately, several different sized nails and screws were used to build the closets and some of the screw heads were gone.  I ruined a couple pieces of wood flooring prying up 3″-4″ screws that didn’t have heads.



TIP: Since then I’ve learned to inject water into the wood, to loosen the fibers around the screw threads, to prevent widespread splintering of the wood.

The original windows sash had been replaced with vinyl Andersen inserts but I kept the original frames and sash weights for future reuse.

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A note about the “ghost light”:  The tradition comes from a simple pole light kept on at center stage of a theater.  It’s a safety issue but ghost light superstitions also accompany the practice (“theater people” tend to gravitate toward such things).  I picked-up the superstition from years of constructing theater scenery (sets) for the  Lucille Ball Little Theatre of Jamestown .

The magnet, of the “magnet on-a-stick” (Hillman Group Magnetic Power Pick from Lowe’s for $14.96), was wrapped in 6 mil plastic to facilitate the disposal of metal filings and staples which would otherwise be near impossible to remove without it.  By the end of all the exterior work, the “magnet on-a-stick” picked up about 10 to 12 of those red Folgers coffee containers worth of dropped nails, screw, and staples.  About two or three containers worth were of nails and screws that could be reused (or were just dropped, never had been used).  Some nails were found that were from the original construction of the building, in the 1940’s, or installation of the fiber cement shingles, in the 1950’s.

Kitchen siding


The siding from the kitchen front wall came off easily in large sections with a little patient finesse and care.






No one paints their house black.  I wonder why that is?

In the these two pictures the exterior envelope is framed and sheathed and covered in building felt.




The wood windows came with factory applied exterior white primer.

Next, the porch columns would be wrapped and railings installed.

Kitchen and Bathroom Windows

Choosing Gable Wall Windows

After trying literally dozens of floorplan iterations, putting the MBR and its en suite bathroom in the front part of the second floor was the most convenient and reasonable thing to do for several reasons covered in earlier JaMa House posts.  The most decisive reasons include working around the most desirable stairwell location while keeping the second floor plumbing as close as possible to the new wasteline house trap.  While following these considerations, I wanted to stack load bearing walls without cantilevering (offsetting) any [by the height of the supporting floor joist (FJ) per 2006 International Residential Code (IRC) 502.4] in the design in case we later decided to use wood I-joists which must be stacked (despite manufacturer’s instructions to the contrary).

Unfortunately, putting the MBR bath on the front façade wall meant the shorter (than other rooms’ 5’0″ – 6’0″ tall) windows of the bathroom would be facing the street.  However, I saw the opportunity to unify window sizes on the front facing gable wall since the first floor was the kitchen and the second floor was the MBR bath.  All the window sash (double hung windows have two) on this wall were made the same size.

P1000608Facade showing MBR Bath









The MBR bath double hung sash (top and bottom sashes are the same size) were used for the awning window sizes. The awning window on the right is in the shower and the one the left is over the toilet.  For safety and privacy reasons neither window would be desirable as a full height double-hung window but I had an idea (see below) to avoid a large, boring expanse of clapboard which would negatively emphasize the smaller windows.

The blue line in the above, right picture shows the approximate height of a plumbing run half-wall which restricts how low the window sill could be. As shown in the below interior photographs of the MBR bath, the half-wall creates space for the bathroom piping.  The 6″ deep shelf encircles the entire MBR bath and is what’s indicated by the blue line in the above photos

MBR Bath half-wallMBR Bath drywall








For the smallest double-hung windows we went with Pella because their stock awning windows were available in the same size as the double hung sashes we were using.  This would let us trim the awning windows to appear, from the exterior, as double hung windows but with a wood panel in the bottom half.


Amer's Ptd Ladies txt

I wasn’t sure if there were a precedence for doing this until I saw the cover of America’s Painted Ladies by Elizabeth Pomada and Michael Larsen:






As I said earlier, we also used windows of the same size in the kitchen, MBR bath, and the upstairs hallway facing onto the rear sleeping porch.  Doing so we’d have a better guarantee of quick framing, installation, and the ability to set aside any that were damaged and still be able to complete installations in rooms with the highest priority.






The picture to the right shows the applied “double hung” casing around the awning windows.  Below is a close-up taken during installation of the wood clapboard siding.

gable windows

It’s easy to imagine the first floor windows coming down to the inside countertop of the kitchen.  The future porch railing will partially make-up for the wide expanse of wood clapboard around the kitchen windows.


During the design process I imagined tall flanking wood panels (inspired by garden wall fountains or carved door panels) and they may be something I add in the future.


The above drawing is from one of my earlier concept sketches.  It’s one in which the wood panels around the first floor kitchen windows is most evident (where I cut-away the porch railing).

I’ve had a few old house fanatics harshly criticize the use of these smaller windows.  While I’ll admit I don’t like the visual problems they cause, to the exterior design, using traditional (large) sized windows would have made the interior arrangements problematic.

kitchen plan textMBR Bath plan text








The kitchen and MBR bath above are the same actual size.

Notes re: Kitchen – We couldn’t put a window on the left side of the stove because the electric meter needed to be attached to the exterior of that wall and Marina didn’t want to lose the corner wall cabinet.  Actually, she tried to have the window to the right of the stove eliminated in order to add a wall cabinet.  Contrary to the floorplan, that corner is where all the second floor plumbing wastelines come down and it is framed on a diagonal to hide these pipes.  A wall cabinet would have to be custom made to fit the diagonal of that “corner”.  Today, she appreciates having that north facing window for the indirect light and cooling breezes that come through it.

Notes re: Master Bedroom Bath – The dark green shaded windows are the same double hung sizes used in the kitchen; the light green are non-operating, fixed awning windows.  Actually, “non-operating, fixed” isn’t exactly true.  They didn’t come with the hardware to crank them open but they still have the hinge hardware.  An allen (hex) wrench will unlock and open them.

Exterior Colours

Victorian Era House Colours



There is a continuing debate regarding what ‘authentic’ Victorian colours looked like.  I subscribe to the well documented idea that homes were probably most often painted with inexpensive (at the time) ‘forest’ colours (a.k.a. “earth” colours) which tend to be a bit on the dark side of any given hue.  But this could make for a somewhat gloomy house.




There’s a potential problem with paint colour charts like the above.  Just as the paper probably faded from bright white the colours printed on it probably underwent fading, if not a colour change, because of acids in the paper, pigmentation breakdown (ie. through time), and other chemical reactions (ie. oxidation).

As a dramatic example, the logo on a Pepsi can will, from sun exposure, change from red, white, and blue to yellow, tan, and blue; sometimes the blue could fade to olive with some blue paint formulations.

But, for the most part, the above colour chart does reflect the general palette of popularly available prepared paints around the turn of the century.  Not all paints were pre-prepared off-site (ie. a paint factory).  Not all popular colours were affordable for all homeowners.  And not all colours were particularly stable over time and exposure.

Modern “Victorian” Colours

In San Francisco’s Haight-Asbury District it became fashionable, in the 1960’s, to paint Victorian homes in bright carnival colours.  By this time the modern home had become so plain and uninspiring that the contrast of these Victorian “Painted Ladies” evolved into the widely held misconception that they were painted authentic Victorian colours.

Modern paint manufacturers have taken liberties in redefining the “Victorian” colour palette to reflect a compromise between the authentic and the popular “Painted Ladies”.

For example,

 Colour Palette Compromises

Given we might have the only pre-Modern neo-Victorian (a new Victorian design uncorrupted by Modernism) in Suffolk Co. we didn’t want to overly diminish its curb appeal with a truly authentic colour palette which might make it seem spooky to the white vinyl and PVC loving majority here on Long Island.

We chose colours that would be a compromise between gloomy authentic and the typical vinyl siding palette of white, off-white, light gray, beige, and tan.

800px-Flag_of_Argentina.svgMarina is from Argentina.


Most of my family is from Sweden. Flag_of_Sweden.svg


It wasn’t intended but our colour choices seem to have been inspired, in part, by these two flags.








Glidden Early Morning Sun (yellow)

Behr Southern Evening (dark blue)

Behr Winter Lake (light blue)

Glidden Deep Garnet (red) [not available on the Glidden website]

Glidden Deep Forest Pine (green)

May 2012 – J. Benson (JB) Formally Begins His Work


On May 1, 2012, we removed the original window frames, in which the vinyl Andersen replacement windows were set, in order to resize and relocate the framing to accommodate the new window dimensions and locations.  I was surprised by the bathroom walls in that concrete (instead of plaster) was used.  Plaster wasn’t used anywhere in the original structure.  Cellulose fiberboard (ie. Homosote) was used in all the “dry” rooms and concrete in the bathroom.  What also surprised me about the bathroom walls was the thickness of the concrete.  The walls are 1″ thick to the metal lathe and another 1/4″ through the lathe for a keyway or key (to lock the concrete to the lathe).

bath wall thick textbath wall thick 2 text








From the exterior:

ext exist bath text






Normally, I wouldn’t have decreased the size of a window but, in this case, the window sill could end up being below the toilet reservoir or sink backsplash, depending on how we reconfigured the bathroom (which we hadn’t decided yet).  Thinking back on it, I think we should have installed a window the same size as those used in the kitchen.  Maybe, someday, we’ll change it back to the way it was or the current width but taller.

First Scrap Metal Load

First Scrap Metal Load








JB and I made the deal he’d take a truck load of scrap metal to Gershow for $50.00 + 50%.  This load brought $191.00, JB received $120.00 and we got $71.00

Arrow showing location of former inside corner of exterior walls.

Arrow showing location of former inside corner of exterior walls.


The dark red arrow (pointing down) shows the wall (yellow rectangle) of the following pictures.




This is how the Rec Room Bath looked after the framers had finished.  This room was added during a 1996 extension to the original house.  The wall straight ahead used to be below the roof cricket that leaked (about which I’ve previously written a few times).



This is what was underneath the fiberglass shower surround:INSIDE CORNER GHOSTING LARGE VIEW


The original cove clapboard siding hadn’t been removed.  The dark stains are mold from the leaking roof cricket.

Prior to the 1996 addition, I would be outside to take this picture.




In this close-up, one can see the ghosting left from when the right side exterior wall was sided with cove profile clapboard.


By the way, all this siding was saved for use elsewhere.  It’s still in storage.



Jim’s arrival indicated we needed to start thinking about colour schemes for the exterior.  Marina is a “white-to-eggshell beachy” kind of person and I’m a “darker-is-dignified” kind of person when it comes to colours and shades of colours.  I think this was about the time we bought America’s Painted Ladies: The Ultimate Celebration of Our Victorians and Daughters of Painted Ladies: America’s Resplendent Victorians both by Elizabeth Pomada and Michael Larsen.

Now, let me be clear, the whole “Painted Lady” ‘thing’ can look whorish to me.  Painting Victorians bright, carnival colours became popular in San Francisco in the 1960’s.  And a “painted lady” is a polite term for prostitute.  It’s application to brightly coloured Victorian homes is attributed to Pomada and Larsen.

From America’s Painted Ladies:

p. 44 – 100 Elm St., Malone, NY; This is also the house that made me feel better for having smaller windows on the front façade.  The trim colours are now different.

p. 51 – 39 Tompkins St., Cortland, NY; The attic level colours are now different.

p. 166 – 222 W. McClane St., Osceola, MN; I really like the dark blue trim with maroon accent.  But the cream colour is a common vinyl siding colour I didn’t want to imitate.

p. 174 – 212 W. VanBuren St., Gallatin, MO; This home is my favorite.  I’d love to see the floorplan.  We tried to find similar porch columns to wrap the steel support columns.  If there were a house, used as the inspiration for our project, this would probably be it.

From Daughters of Painted Ladies:

p. 36 – 515 South Avenue, Rochester, NY; Another blue and cream colour scheme which has since been repainted and is now derelict looking.

p. 65 – 229 Stuart St., Kalamazoo, MI; While I love the colours, the “spooky” was to be avoided by using yellow.  It, too, has since had a colour change.

p. 70 – 870 Mull St., Elgin, IL; The dark blue and red trimmed in cream looks nice to me.

Marina and I came up with the following palette:


Glidden Early Morning (yellow)

Behr Southern Evening (dark blue)

Behr Winter Lake (light blue)

Glidden Deep Garnet (red)

Glidden Deep Forest Pine (green)

We originally intended to paint the window sash either a maroon or a dark green or some combination of both.  The maroon turned out to require three coats before it stopped looking a pinkish-purple.





The Framers “Finish”

For some reason, once the framing was completed, the framers seemed unsure of what to do, when to do it, and how it get it done.  I’m not sure if they normally install windows but, for our project, they were contracted to do so.  The fact we weren’t installing vinyl or clad windows (which come with holed tabs for nails) caused a problem for them.  Even when we decided to attach the window trim (to create a substitute for a nailing fin) the framers demanded an extra $1,000 for “additional labour” to install them.

Toward the end of every project contractors tend to start looking at how the job panned-out financially.  Short projects tend to get no second thoughts.  Longer ones often end up with a contractor trying to find a last minute injection of income for whatever reason.  Anticipating this, I made several compromises during the project, to help keep it moving along, while trying to get something more than what we gave up.  So, by the time the framers demanded an additional $1,000 for installing 46 finless windows, I felt I had finagled sufficient “bits and pieces” along the way to soften the blow.

I think the real issue was the lost half day spent building the porch roof incorrectly and then fixing it.  I also noticed, by the absence of a full crew, their next project had started and the homeowner was causing some consternation, from the conversations I overheard, with the guys.  I’m sure that had an impact on the mood and performance of the guys on my project and I was glad they’d soon be moving on.

Monday, May 7, 2012 was their last day at the house; five days short of two months.  The last week they were here very little got done, by half the number of guys, during half days if they showed up at all.  In the end, they installed only the first floor windows before leaving for good.  I still gave Jim the full $1,000 because he and two other guys ended up putting in all the second floor windows after being abandoned by the framing crew; who could have done the job, with more people, much faster.

All in all, I would love to have these framers do another project with me.  I think they did an excellent job overall.  There are a couple of issues, like the front porch, which I’ll address in the future.  The project had some complex areas and I think there were plenty of opportunities for things to go wrong in a big way but didn’t.