Thursday, March 18, 2010

Plaster and mortar

The work in the carriage house "basement" is proceeding apace, and as promised, here are some pictures of my technique, first a before on the right side of the central east door:
Then the after, which is the other side of the door, which actually had a much larger chunk of plaster missing:

The way I've been doing this is to fill most of the void with mortar (you can see some new mortar in the hole in the top picture, but that was a little extra from my last batch), leaving just about an eighth of an inch of space. Then I put a "topcoat" on with patching plaster. On the corner I push it around to be vaguely square, then after it sets I go back with a knife and straighten it up. The result is not as strong as proper topcoat plaster, but it's easy to work with, and the mortar underneath is so strong on the bricks that it seems to work just fine. Ask me again in twenty years, I guess.

But I'm reasonably proud of the appearance. I don't really care how smooth the end result is, because the rest of the wall is so irregular that truly regular plaster would look odd. But it's a pretty strong corner and square enough. Once it's all painted I think this is a pretty good look, and it's already better mortar and plaster work than I was doing in the fall. Another couple of years of this and I'll be good at it!

Possible Caribbean venue

We may be on the trail of a fixer-upper opportunity in Puerto Rico. Definitely my kind of house! On which, more later if we do anything with it. This one's not actually finished - besides landscaping, it needs windows.

I'm good at buying houses without windows, though!

So we'll see.

Update on the dining room and upstairs plumbing

You may ask yourself why the dining room and upstairs plumbing share a post, but I'll bet you can figure it out from this picture - yes, the upstairs plumbing is all above the dining room ceiling.

It's spring! And besides resumption of the drainage work (more on which later), that means it's time to finish the plumbing in the big house. And that means pulling all the water-damaged ceiling down from the dining room to expose said plumbing.

Looking straight up from the ladder, we see the supply lines to both upstairs bathrooms. We're standing under the toilet in the blue room's bathroom (the one with the microtub). I'm sure you'll be seeing plenty more about both bathrooms in the year to come.

At any rate, I was pleased to discover that the plumbing appears to be in pretty good shape. I found a leak in the shower in the microtub (or it looks like it - it's been dry for a year, so we'll see, this week, when I hook up the water again). But there doesn't appear to be any freeze damage from the foreclosure period, so ... we'll see what we see. The plumbing in the kitchen, which is on the same branch of the supply, froze badly and I've had to knock out a lot of wall to find it all, so it was a pleasant surprise that I wouldn't have to fix any plumbing thirteen feet above my head.

I do need a taller stepladder, though. I won't be able to fix this ceiling with my little one.

The structure of the ceiling is horrible. You can't get a good impression of it from the picture above, but there has been a lot of sagging. The previous owner just nailed drywall to it all and it was utterly invisible (I guess a ten-foot-tall man would notice, but the rest of us are so far from that ceiling that three inches of sag are literally unnoticeable), but I'm going to try to do a more solid job of restoration than that.

More on that later. I just wanted to prove I'm not dead.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Historical film

One of the neighbors clued me in on the existence at the public library of a short documentary of the neighborhood ("perhaps one of the finest still remaining in the Midwest" and that's the closest description of our location you've seen on this blog yet) and I gave it a look.

The house looked pretty much the same in 1989 as it does today, except the odd green color of the window trim was not yet in place and the porch was in better shape. It's shocking to realize that's been twenty years ago already.

At any rate, there wasn't much new information to be had, except that the house is a "typical Italianate of the type built between the 1870's and 1880's" and that the owners at the time, probably wanting to remodel due to the new Queen Anne houses being built, added the porch in that style around the turn of the century.

In terms of house building, it's been quiet on that front, hasn't it? Basically, it's the same plan today as it is every other day, Pinky: masonry and plaster. I did manage to get the bathroom sink anchored to the wall, but the drain pipe is clogged, so it's still not functional. But on the masonry/plaster front, things are rather nice, as I've been working on the east wall of the carriage house and getting rather good at it, in my humble opinion. I'll take some pictures soon.