Salvage

TBT: The original sink

In what I rank as the biggest salvage find thus far, we managed to get our hands on the original sink to our house. Finding good stuff can be summarized into two steps: being at the right place at the right time, and not being afraid to ask: can I have that?

Lucky for us, we happen to be walking down the street on trash day, when our neighbor asked us if we thought sanitation would take it. I am so glad we were able to grab it.

The two original bathrooms to our house are very very tiny. I’ve embraced that fact and let go of my old dream of a humongous bathroom. Who needs that? I’m over it. I want original, a fact that has been met with some opposition by the husband, who wishes to have a bathroom large enough so that he can towel off without having to open the door. Details!

Anyway.

Bathroom plan

This the original drawing for the bathroom by Daniel McDicken, the builder. As you can see, there isn’t much space.

(pardon the blurry photo. It was really hard to take pictures at the DOB and not be trampled by developers. A metaphor for what is happening in Brooklyn? Hmmm…)

Before finding the sink and the plans, we figured this must have been a small wall mounted sink. Turns out, it was a small sink with a darling marble counter:

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A tiny under mount sink. How cute is that?

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We have located a skinny bathtub (29 inches wide), and now we just need a toilet. And of course, to install everything. Details, details…

 

Haven’t you always wanted…

…a vintage stove?

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The Detroit Jewel. Before it became known as Motor City, Detroit was known as a place where stoves were made.

Second Chance in Baltimore had a huge selection of vintage stoves when we were there about a month ago. They were inexpensive, but in varying stages of disrepair – although they all looked like they could be restored.

I know exactly zero about stove repair and what it takes to get these puppies working safely again. It looked like cosmetic stuff,  but what do I know? I really wanted to get the Detroit Jewel one (the baking oven, the warming oven – I’m an oven kind of gal, I’m indifferent about the stovetop) but we are so many light years away from having a real kitchen, we ended up walking away.

(I’m pretty sure the Detroit Jewel it will haunt me).

(apologies for the crappy photos – my phone needs glasses, it seems)

An ode to our pine floors

(this is long).

(I promise I will make a point eventually).

(or not).

As part of the epic never-ending bedroom restoration, it’s time to tackle the floors.

The third floor of our house was covered with vinyl tiles. Way before we knew better, we had high hopes of peeling back the stick-on tiles and finding beautiful hardwood, just waiting to be re-finished. The reality was a sticky mess of 4 (sometimes 5) layers of vinyl tile and a couple of layers of paint on a pine floor. Pine! Not hardwood: we have pine. Sticky, icky pine.

After pulling up all the stick-on tile, and stripping the paint, we were left with a floor that was in OK shape, except for where it was not. We did some sanding and slapped on a coat of Tung Oil, figuring these floors would eventually get covered up with proper hardwood – after all, pine is soft and does not a proper hardwood floor make. We figured we’d probably destroy it with our chairs, our cats and their never-ending supply of puke. Yet 3 years and 1 2 5 cats later, the floors are still fine (except for where they are not, but that was a pre-existing condition). What I mean is that the pine held up beautifully – no nicks or dings and cat vomit cleans right up. The bigger problem is that some boards are splintering, which is not only unsightly, but also unpleasant to walk on in bare feet. We have splintering boards, broken boards and enormous gaps in some areas.

Floor Pic copy

Please excuse the filthy floor. This was taken in the bedroom construction zone.

Because wood floors will contract and expand, fixing the gaps can be tricky. Some suggest using sawdust and wood filler. A lot of people say to just leave them as is. The problem is that in some spots, the gaps are so wide that you can actually drop things in it – valuable things like heirloom jewels (not that we have any), and of course, the gaps also collect a spectacular amount of dirt (which we do have copious amounts of).  So the problem needs to be addressed.

A few months ago, when the house behind us was being gutted, I asked the demo crew if I could have some of their “trash.” I salvaged a huge pile of lumber (trim, crowns, fireplace mantels, wainscoting, shutters), and also a big pile of pine subfloor. The pine used for sub-flooring in these houses is not your average Home Depot cheap-o pine. It’s old growth/slow growth stuff. It’s the type of wood you can’t get anymore, since all those trees are gone (probably because the Victorians used ’em all up). In order to repair our floor we needed a stockpile of similarly old floorboards, of the same type of tree. This is what old growth pine looks like (this is a piece of the salvaged floor):

Old Growth Pine

Look at all those pretty tightly packed growth rings. This was a slow-growing old tree. The piece above is about 1″ thick.

Overachievers as they were, the Victorian-era builders ran their floorboards from end to end of the house: they go into the walls in the front and back and under all the walls in between; frequently it’s one board running most of the length (some really old, really tall trees). This also means that the demo crews destroy a lot of the floors when pulling them up (the tongue and groove usually gets broken and the boards just get hacked into smaller pieces). We salvaged a good pile, but in hindsight, I wish I had not been so picky and grabbed more. Regardless, we have enough to get us started on the upstairs projects.

The hubs did some research and came across the English way to fix old floors. Given that the Brits have lots of old buildings, we figured it was probably sound advice. So here is what we did (and by we, I mean he – my only involvement was befriending the demo crew, transporting and hoarding all this lumber).

First he took a stack of the salvaged floor to a wood shop, where things whirl and buzz and bigger things get milled town to smaller things, and tongue and grove thing-a-ma-jigs get made (luckily the boards salvaged were wider than ours, so milling them down and shaping new tongue/groove is no problem):

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The re-making of tongue and groove. These became the replacement boards for the broken ones. 

He also made a pile of very thin strips of the same old-growth pine to be used as gap-fillers:

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If flooring could be a potato chip, it would look like this.

Back home, he shimmied the strips into the gaps:

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Always looks worse before it looks better

He then trimmed off the excess and sanded everything down.

shimming the shims

Gaps gone!

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The broken boards were replaced in sections, so that only the bad parts were removed (given our limited supply of replacement parts).

Once all the shims have been trimmed and the bad sections of floor replaced, the whole thing will get sanded and finished.

(we can’t agree on what type to finish to use – but I suppose we’ll cross that bridge once we get there).

About the point I promised to make: floors are usually not too far gone to be brought back. No living trees were harmed in the fixing of this floor. This didn’t really cost us anything, except for some wood glue and sand paper. So there is that.

(I think that’s 3 points – and a whole lot of rambling)

But the bigger question remains: will this be ready in 42 days before our guests arrive?

Another find from the trash heap

There has been a change in the construction crew at the gut reno project in my neighborhood.

(I say this as if there is only one. Sadly, there are many, but that’s fodder for another soapbox).

The construction foreman, who was saving me the stuff, is no more. It’s back to chucking everything onto the pile in the front yard. Sigh. It seems the same law of physics that makes the toast always land butter side down also dictates that anything worth saving is alway at the bottom of the pile.

(I am trying not to think about the intact garden level trim that was so carefully removed, now tossed)

Once in a while, however, there is good stuff to be found at the top. Case in point: a broken medicine cabinet. I found this when I accidentally/on purpose took the long way to the bodega.

Medicine Cabinet1

The mirror is long gone, but the worst part is that this cute little medicine cabinet was basically ripped out of the wall.

Medicine Cabinet2The back is gone, as is one of the sides.

glass knob

It has a pretty knob (probably not original) and a pretty piece of hardware underneath (not sure original to the cabinet, but it is of the period because we have the same kind in our house).

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I think originally it had a locking latch, given the notched out part that has been filled (or is that the lock, hiding under all that paint?)

Peeling Paint

It’s covered in several thick layers of paint – but that’s pretty much every piece of woodwork in my life right now. I’m confident it can be made pretty again. As a point of comparison, this is what the medicine cabinet original to our house looks like mid strip. It too was shellacked in layers and layers of paint.

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(lame flash photo. The overheads were casting a huge shadow inside, and I was too lazy to drag the big work light over).

It has all the pieces, including the locking latch (see notched out part on the left?)

Victorian Medicine Cabinet

I’m really interested in the woodwork from that particular gut reno, because the house was built around the same time as ours, and by the same builder. I figured it’s the best chance to find the closest match for what is not longer here. Once I strip my little find, replace the plywood with a mirror, and cajole the hubs to rebuild the side and back, it will be pretty once again.

 

 

Tile carnage

While picking through a pile of house parts that were in route to the dumpster, a Brownstone Detective found this:

Paint covered tile

It’s a section of the tile that surrounded a fireplace, with the wall still attached to it. It was covered in silver paint, probably spray paint. I know from the real estate listing  photos that it was the tile that complimented the fireplace mantel  currently  disassembled in my cellar (one of the three Killian Brothers mantels I brought home). There was quite a bit of non-painted tile intact (not that it matters, because paint comes off tile quite easily).

It took about 15 minutes, some nail polish remover, a metal scraper and a Mister Clean Magic Eraser sponge. Now it looks like this:

clean tile

It’s the same style of tile of three of our fireplaces (parlor and garden), but it’s not an exact match: colors are similar, but it’s a much larger size. It’s also still attached to about an inch of cement. I have no idea what I’m going to do about that. I love love love love old tile. I have no use for it (due to the color/size discrepancy, not to mention the hunk of wall that comes with it) yet I’m happy I have it.

(which is probably what all headers say about every bit of useless crap they own).

(on a side note, I wonder if the people removing all this stuff know that one little piece of tile like this retails for between $7-9? And that the two large flower relief tiles that were part of this set sell for about $50 each?)

(sad)

9 Billionty Nails (and a quandry)

All the salvage accumulating in our cellar comes infested with nails. Lots and lots of freaking nails. It seems that no job was too small for a 3-inch nail; nor, it seems, were nails in short supply: better secure that little strip of trim with as many (gigantic) nails as humanly possible. So yes, 9 billionty nails pulled, or approximately a little less than half of the pile.

(9 billionty nails = 6 blisters)

(The nails win. For now.)

Anyway, while I was toiling way with the stupid nails in the cellar, the hubs was surprising me with a new (old) light fixture.

victorian light fixture

This purdy little thing was a salvage find from a couple of years ago, on a trip to Detroit. It was in need of a good cleaning and some new sockets and wires.

It is going in the bedroom, where it will be replacing the cheap and generic Ikea fixture that was there before. (one day we’ll be living in a house that doesn’t rely so heavily on blah-Ikea… Oh, I kid. That will never happen.)

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After a good cleaning, what looked like a gray rusty fixture, turned out like this:

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I like the subtle hints of green, gold and red, so I think we’ll keep it like this (rather than restore to full color).

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However, as you might have noticed in some of the photos, at some point someone was less than neat with their ceiling pant job and got a big slop of institutional beige on  the side (beige, the color of boring).

victorian light fixture detail

As someone who is fascinated with all manners of paint removal, I’m stumped by this one: how am I going to remove the ugly and keep the pretty?

 

 

 

Kilian Brothers part 2 (the updated version)

I found these ads in the Real Estate Record and Guide. A quick check of some of my neighbors fireplaces, and it seems that the Kilians’ were the go-to purveyors of fireplace surrounds of the late 1880s and early to mid 1890s.

7-6-1889 Killian Bros

Real Estate Record and Builders’ Guide (July 6, 1889)

1-3-1891 Killian Bros

Real Estate Record and Builders’ Guide (January 3, 1891)

 

Another house in my area is getting fully gutted. Hopefully they will keep the fireplaces intact. All the walls, trim, everything: gone. Trying to save what I can, will eventually run out of room to store all this stuff…

Update: they are keeping the fireplaces. Yey! Not only that, they have an intact one in the rear parlor (meaning it has the mirror topper, as pictured above). The demo crew was kind enough to let me peek inside. Befriending demo crews is becoming a skill I get to practice quite a bit as of late.