24 December 2006

Front Porch Work ca 1995

Since Blogger was acting up yesterday and I couldn't post pictures I'll do another post today. Just catching up on some old projects that were completed a few years ago. This one is the front porch floor. First, a beautiful before we bought the house picture:

You can't see it, but there is a lovely plywood and plastic grass front porch, accented by wrought iron, a bare bulb fixture, and an aluminum screen door. With the two--possibly three--air conditioners hanging out the windows and the artistic fence, a veritable Ghetto Palace.

Here's another shot showing the condition of the faux structural beams and the ceiling.

I had to take them all down and reconsolidate the wood and rebuild some of them, as water had turned them into veritable shells. I love Abatron! That stuff is wonderful. I still haven't put a few of them back up, though.

That's tongue and groove cedar, and you can't see it very well, but we ran a bead on the edge of each piece with a router, just like the original.

For a while I thought that I might have to put in a carriage step because the old carriage drive went along this side of the house, but didn't have any pictures to prove it, so didn't. It would have been a nice touch, though.

We bull-nosed the edges of the boards. Why can't I find a router bit that makes a 1/2" roundover?

Of course, we built new stairs and rounded over the edges and split the treads down the middle for water runoff, but I don't have any pictures of the finished product. I just hate what the FO did with the piers on each side of the steps! There are granite footings for each of these with ROUNDED fronts. That means that the bricks these were originally made of had rounded edges. That will be a big problem when I get around to re-doing those. The corner of the house to the right of the steps has a rounded edge also, just like the left side of the front arch, above. It's a nice touch. The owner/builder was a brick mason originally. When I dug into the pile of crap under the porch I had hoped to find these bricks. No such luck. A few have turned up in the driveway, but I have no idea where the rest of them went. I also don't know what capped the top of these piers. Shaped granite? And why would anyone throw these away? They have not been found anywhere I have dug on the property.

Finally, here is a pic of the 20's light fixture we hung before we removed the aluminum door and stripped the oak front door, and the house number plaque we bought.

I know, it still looks ghetto with all that painted brick.

23 December 2006

Cracks & Holes

I worked for several hours in the stairwell today because there was beautiful, natural light coming in the window. Yesterday it was so dark and gloomy I couldn't do anything in there. I am filling in all the gaps left by the guy who put up my drywall the other day. I have gone through a whole gallon of mud now and have to wait til Christmas is over to get another. Except for the rickety scaffold I enjoy doing this--making rough places smooth and filling in holes. It's the sanding part I hate. I'm going to skim coat the entire drywalled area (I know, I should use plaster!) and then seal it good before I paint or paper. I just hate the look of drywall--especially roller-painted drywall.

For a change of pace, here's something that fell out of the ceiling when we took the old drywall down.

Looks pretty good, actually. Reminds me of things my mother used to make.

Another thing that fell out of the ceiling was a cancelled rent check from 1960 that shows the party rented my house for $100.00 a month!

Above my stairwell ceiling is a large empty space and a "secret room" that the FO's kids used to play in. We found a Michael Jackson poster and lots of books and a folding chair in there. The books are all school-type books, of which there were a lot dumped down the wall chases in the attic for some unknown reason. There were some lurid True Crime type paperbacks, too. I have also found two ancient croquet balls up there. Can you imagine what that sounded like when those kids were rolling those around? It was bad enough when we had squirrel races under the floorboards every morning before we fixed the big roof hole.

22 December 2006

You Get What You Pay For

This week my sometimes helper (the ex) came over to help me put drywall on the ceiling and side wall of my stairwell. Well it proved too much for my ladder and plank scaffold setup and our shaky legs and my girly center of gravity so he suggested he call a friend who does this for a living. Today he and the friend show up and I have drywall in about 15 minutes. Now all I had were some leftover pieces--not nice 4x8's because SOMEONE never would bring the drywall in from the garage for years and it got all warped and I had to take it to a dumpster. Man, I wish that stuff was lighter and easier to haul upstairs!

After they left I got a good look at what they did. . . . . . . . . . . . . . only about 3 screws in each piece. No wonder they were done so fast. So I spent a shaky hour trying to screw in drywall with a heavy screw gun over my head on a plank between two ladders--something I didn't want to have to do. This admittedly looks like a jigsaw puzzle, so I'm going to have to use a lot of mud and tape to make it look good. Fortunately, I'm pretty good at that. Sure wish I had that original plaster up there, though.

16 December 2006

Back to Work

Today I finally got a helper for a few hours so I put him to work taking down some ceiling drywall in the front stairwell. Here are some before shots.

That drywall was put up by the FO who was not handy at all and is not a nice job. I also have to move the light box, so taking it all down and starting over seemed the best bet. I'm also nailing lath to the inside of the wall on the left in the above pic and then putting drywall over it to make the walls the same density and thickness as the undisturbed ones.

Hopefully the helper will be back on Sunday and we can put up the new drywall. Then its skim coating it all and patching the plaster walls (being stripped of wallpaper residue and scrubbed in the pictures). I also have already scraped paint off the oak window and stair trim in this stairwell, so will be sanding and varnishing it, too.

This whole thing started up again because I got the perfect light fixture for this spot and didn't want to hang it in such an ugly space. It's looked like this for over 12 years and I need to finish something. Well, not finish exactly..... I still need to find a finish carpenter to build a bookcase in the parlor that makes a wall to this space and case in the exposed framing beams of which you can see one in the above pic. There is also a missing bottom step into the parlor that needs to be built.

This opening was created when I took down the wall the FO had added to separate this stairwell from the parlor while it was the front entrance for the upstairs apartment. A former entry shows this entrance. Who knows what happened to the built-in bookcase!?

Here's the earliest picture I have of the house from the WPA city project of 1929. All the houses in the city were photographed and surveyed for the tax assessor. A wonderful resource.

Also showing in the right rear is the former barn. The shingles were stained red originally, with black and light yellow trim. The first floor was red brick, so the house looked rather monolithic. I chose to go with a lighter palette when I painted it. I don't know what to do, yet, about the painted brick and foundation. The FO's handiwork. He said the brick "was dirty" so he painted it.

The oval window leads to my "secret room" above the stairs. It is in the overhang from the oval window to the closet in the master bedroom (with the double windows). If I knocked out the side wall in the closet I would be in it. Entrance now is gained through the attic and down a ladder, but I am going to take out a bookcase in the morning room (in the front corner) and gain entrance that way. Then the oval window will actually be in a room. I'll make the whole thing a closet. There was a closet where the bookcase is now, but when the third owners turned the upstairs into an apartment for some reason they put a bookcase in the closet entrance. Since the secret room is about 18 inches above the second floor level, my new closet will have a step up to it. There are at least 4 unused spaces in this house, owing to the overhangs and roof pitch, and I plan to use another one under the attic stairs for a built-in dresser in the bathroom.


While I was putting the trash out Thursday night (Friday morning!) at 3:00 am I saw something run through my front gate and across the street. It was low to the ground, kept its tail straight out, and wasn't a cat. It went into the neighbor's yard and seemed to be joined by a white plastic bag. When I put the other bag on the curb they were getting into my neighbor's trash. This is what I saw:

And this is the "plastic bag"
The whiter skunk was bouncing all over the place and looked like a plastic bag caught by the wind in the morning darkness. Now I live in western Michigan, 7 blocks from downtown Grand Rapids, and these skunks are indiginous to Mexico and Honduras! Granted, there is a large Hispanic population here and these may be escaped family pets, but isn't it strange that there is one rare one. It doesn't look like any skunk I have ever seen. It is mostly black and the tip of its tail is white--just like the picture. The whiter one also has the fluffiest, biggest tail I have ever seen on an animal! It stands straight up and is like a balloon--much fuller than the one in the picture--hence looking like a plastic bag.

The hooded skunk ranges from southern Texas, Arizona and New Mexico southward through Mexico, to Costa Rica. They inhabit scrub and dry grassland areas.

The hooded skunk is similar in overall appearance to the related striped skunk (Mephitis mephitis). Their fur is slightly longer and softer than the striped skunk. The hooded skunk has two basic color morphs. In the more common one, which gives the species its common name, the back is entirely white, with a white tail and white cap on its head, and its underside, face and legs are black. In the second color pattern, the animal is entirely black with two narrow stripes, one on each side, that do not connect to one another. The underside of the tail may be mostly white. Like the striped skunk, the hooded skunk has a white stripe on the top of its nose, which is present in both color forms. Though they are about the same average length, males can weigh almost twice as much as the females. Females range in weight from 400 - 700 g, while males weigh 800-900 g.
Cute little buggers. They eat my cat food. So do possums and coons. My outside cats just sit there and watch them. I think they are also the ones responsible for digging up all the dead squirrels and birds I bury and making off with the carcasses.

14 December 2006

Construction News

This notice appeared in The Grand Rapids Democrat, Muskegon Edition on Sunday Morning, May 22, 1892. The drawing is pretty accurate except for the little hood over the two windows on the North side. This wall is flat except for the oriel window in the attic. This is also the only picture I have of how the front porch looked.

13 December 2006

Why the name?

Charles Hauser in 1899.  He was elected Fire Commissioner.

Charles Hauser in 1913 Commemorative booklet from Owen, Ames, Kimball, when he retired.

Charles Andres Hauser was born 2 February 1855 in Lyons, Clinton County, Michigan. His parents were Hubertus Hauser and Maria Anna Bohr who emigrated from Baden-Wurttemburg and Westphalia in the 1840's and met and married in Detroit, Cass County, Michigan in 1852. They had 14 children, of whom nine lived to adulthood. Hubertus was a brickmason and his sons all followed him in the trades. Their house was a few blocks from where my house stands, across from St Mary's Catholic Church, which he helped build. When Charles got married to a woman who inherited a house from her mother things started happening for him. He started his own company as a general contractor and started building office buildings downtown. (The company today is known as Owen-Ames-Kimball, but it was Hauser-Owen-Ames at this time.)

As his reputation grew he wanted a bigger, grander house so bought some more land until his lot was 150' by 100' and hired an architect and put his men to work in 1892, when I hear there was a depression. The result was what you see in the picture to the left.

He must have spent all his money on the outside, because the inside is nothing to write home about. The one nice thing he bought was a 4' by 6' stained glass window that was pawned (stolen) in the '60's. There are two carved mantels, but no overmantels. And one sliding door. I don't know what kind of lighting he put in as that has disappeared too. Only the kitchen and dining room have hardwood floors: the rest were carpeted or probably early linoleum in the servants' part of the house. I understand there was an iron fence around the property, but it isn't there in the 1929 photo I have. I have dug the supports for the posts out of my garden--some of you will know what I'm talking about!

I got the house listed on the Grand Rapids Historical Landmarks Roster in 1996. I'm number 66, the Charles A Hauser House.

11 December 2006

Cement and Bricks

Update: I switched to IE and inexplicably am now able to post pictures. I had done it successfully from Firefox initially. Don't want to use IE, but am now forced to. It is sooooooo slow.

Since I've been at this restoration for 12 years now I thought I'd document some of the earlier projects. The first one will be the back porch, sidewalk, and patio project. This is going to go slow as I have to scan in lots and lots of progress photos as I go, one at a time.

OK, back, after several hours! First I'll show what the house looked like when we bought it in August of 1994.

Isn't that a lovely fence?

Anyway, this shows the Hauser Haus in all its bright white and red glory as we first saw it. I still haven't figured out a cost-effective, easy, accepted way to remove the red, white, and gray paint from the brick and foundation. The second picture is of the back of the house showing the waist-high weeds where the patio should be and various sized storm windows and doors closing in the back porch.

The next photos show the thin, cracked sidewalk that wrapped around the house from the front to the back. I started prying it up and digging it out and replacing it with five pound red paving bricks from the city dumpsite. When I got up to the corner of the house it was time to rent the jackhammer to remove the rest.

Near the back, where Numa the cat is standing, we had excavated a brick walk from the steps to the driveway. Good try, folks, but you used soft interior bricks. I had to dig them out.
The following pictures show the cement steps that were built up to a door cut into the front parlor stairwell to make access to the upstairs apartment, the cement from the sidewalk to the foundation of the house, and the back cement steps. The cement had to go because the basement flooded regularly spring and fall because the water was directed right into the foundation by the cement. I'll post later about the other side of the house.

An arty shot of the back steps.

I moved my entire garden from my former yard--that's some of it there.

We rented a jackhammer and compressor and a dumpster on a Memorial Day weekend and started removing cement.

He was good for the heavy lifting.

Yeah, like I really used this thing. I had trouble even holding it up!
He showed some real ingenuity in rigging up a way to jackhammer sideways!

When we broke into the sarcophagus that was the side stairs we found perfect desert conditions inside for preserving whatever was in there.

You can see what our bricks and foundation are supposed to look like--not painted with latex.

The owners at the time (probably the Marzolfs in 1959) painted and papered and remodeled the entire inside and created a separate upstairs apartment, and put some interesting things inside the stairs along with the black dust and sand. It was like an archaelogical dig. I've always wanted to be an archaelogist and save everything I dig up out in the yard. I have jars of marbles, doll parts, army men, metal toys, jewelry, coins, glass objects, metal objects, etc, all lined up on my windowsills in the kitchen. I know you are dying to know what I found inside this tomb, so here goes. I only have one picture of some of the haul.

Two 1" glass towel bars
Several glass shades (only one was unbroken)
Metal letters for stencilling that slide together to make words
Vegetable tin cans with paper labels
A wooden trim piece (from where??)

Evidently this is the time all the wall sconces were removed and plastered over and everything "modernized" in the bathrooms. I collect glass towel bars, so these will be used in my remodeling. I just wish they had thrown in the holders!

In the middle of this pic you can see the buried footing for the original back stairs. I dug it out. It was a chunk of water course worked granite just like what is on the house.

In the pictures you will see some large waste pipes against the foundation and under the sidewalk. I believe these carried rainwater to a cistern somewhere out in the yard. I followed the pipe from the front of the house all the way to the back door, but didn't want to dig up the grass to find where it went. The one by the back door was at the bottom of the downspout which went throught the overhang from the roof and just ends 4 feet into the yard. I excavated a pit at the end of it and filled it with rocks and covered it back up because I have a garden over it. It works pretty well getting rid of water from my back porch downspout. The one in the front can't be used because I don't pipe the runoff down through the house beside the chimney where the old downspout is, but have it further to the front of the house. Some stupid roofer long ago destroyed the catch boxes for these downspouts on the roof, so I'll never know if they worked better than the half-rounds I installed. You would not believe the amount of water and the speed of it pouring off my steep roofs! It overflows the gutters even when they are clean. I don't know what else to do besides some kind of diverters in the valleys, but haven't seen such a thing before.

The last pictures show the restoration of the back steps from cement back to wood. I inset the first step at the top back into the porch floor, which the existing joists seemed to indicate, and this brings most of the steps back under the overhang, which helps in the rain and winter ice buildup. We created a nest for our outside cats with straw bales under the porch with entry under the open steps. I diverted the downspout to go under the steps and out the other side to take advantage of the waste pipe. Otherwise, it would have drained right on the patio and made a giant lake.

Out of order, but the interim back steps.


The last photos show the making of the cement patio. I used a Walkmaker that had rectangle and square random shapes and used a 60# bag of Quikrete. One for each square. I don't even know how many bags I hauled home from Home Depot. And, no, my husband did not help me at all with this project. He maybe unloaded the truck once or twice--that's it. I found I really like cement work and used the leftovers to patch missing chunks of foundation and driveway sidewalk.

Oh, and halfway through the brick laying the city decided to close off its dump site to private parties and I had to go to a gravel yard and BUY the rest of my bricks--over 300 of them at 30 cents each! I had to climb a mountain of rubble, dig out bricks, toss them down, climb down, load them into the truck, take them out of the truck and pile them up, use a cold chisel to knock the remaining cement off of them to clean them up, then haul them to the sidewalk project. These things weigh about 5 # each. That's only one in each hand for someone that doesn't have gorilla hands and arms.

My best friend, Numa, who died this March at age 17.

And a final shot.

There's still the other back stairs! Bwahahahahahaha.

The Backstory

I bought my house in August of 1994. A week later I got married for the first time at age 41. Things went well for a while, new hubby seemed interested in working on the house, we got the roof on, the furnace in, the suspended ceilings and shag carpenting out, and stripped the front door. I had been "into" restoration for a long time--ever since the early '70's when The Old House Journal came out and I was volunteering at a historic house in my hometown, restoring the original stencilling. I also was an avid reader of home improvement books and restoration how-tos, so had a good idea what I wanted and what would and wouldn't work. I also knew about the Secretary's Standards...

Long story short--twelve years later, hubby gone, house still not done. We did manage to get it listed as an Historic District in our city, and last month I got a Most Improved House award from the neighborhood association. I had the outside second and third floors painted again this spring and built new bulkhead doors.
Halfway through this project my table saw motor died and I had to buy a new table saw. Buying a replacement motor was as much as the cheapest Craftsman model, so I got a new saw with the retractable legs and a sawdust bag. Two problems. One--the sawdust doesn't go in the bag much, and Two--the saw is too wide for me to maneuver into the house alone, so it has to winter in the garage. I don't like that idea, but putting it in the basement would be just as damp. This was my Christmas present to myself this year.

I also purchased three of these old factory lights from an antique store and polished and lacquered and rewired them and had an electrician put them up on the garage and back of the house for me. Normally I do all of this myself, but this time I wanted someone else to do it for a change because he could do it faster and I wanted to start building a relationship with this electrician because I have lots of more difficult things coming up I will need help on. Also, he moonlights when he does this and isn't a stickler for "code" which is important when restoring an old house for those of you who have run into trades who won't install old pushbutton switches or insist on other modern materials.

Here's a "before" shot of the garage. (I designed and mostly built the doors.)

This garage was built about 40 years ago from lumber taken from the old two storey barn that was on this site, but to the right and turned 90 degrees from the present garage. I wish it was still there! Here is what I put on the remaining cement pad of the old barn.

That's an old cement sink sitting in front of a porcelain toilet with Lamb's Ears in it. I haven't quite figured what to do with the sink yet. It would make a nice water garden, but I don't have any outside electricity for a pump.