Two Weeks?!

I’m sorry!

I am a week behind on posting new pictures.

It’s been a very busy fortnight.

Last Saturday, Ron and I prepped the front of the house for major surgery. We installed new windows and basically tore the front of the house off and rebuilt it.

Sunday, I went to visit Mom and Dad, while Sandy, Rachel and Jessica stayed here and painted!

All week small projects were done… Then, on Saturday, I was by myself and got a lot done.

Sunday we hit the place hard again….


For those of you who don’t recall, here is our front window. Its old, painted shut… who knows how long its been since it was open…


We opened the window, somehow without breaking it! … we also found out how long it had been since it was opened…


…June 29th 1952 was close to the last time this window worked. I found a bunch of newspapers that were used as insulation before the window was sealed. They were too crumbly to really unfold, much as I tried. Apparently though, a horse called Whimsical Mood had won some sort of honors at the races.


When our next door neighbor Andrea was outside, she said ‘woah, you really did mean a giant hole would be in the house…’ I then challenged her to a fight for doubting me.


We started to build out the framework for the bay.


Ron yelled out angles and lengths, and Uncle Mike answered with the noises of a miter saw…


Windows installed.


Drywalled! Check it out! It increases the perceived size of the living room, and makes it much breezier and brighter.

Yeah, but what’s it look like on the Outside?


Here’s the street view with the old window.


Here’s a closeup of the old window, with the proposed angles mocked up with bits of scrap on the porch.


Of course, that old siding was in the way.


Big hole…


You could probably drive a jeep through the hole we cut in the house


Framing in.


Outside trim installation.


Close up of the trim going in…


I put some waterproofing primer on the outside.


We took the good siding that we removed for the bay and used it to fix the bad siding. It’ll be ready for paint this summer.


Mom and Dad gave us a new motion sensor activated porch light.


Here’s a close up of the new light, man that siding is gross.


Rachel, Sandy, and Jessie painted the floor of the 3rd level.


The girls did a fantastic job of painting the floor.

The third floor is DONE!


Jessie painted the master bedroom, its a very calming color.


Here’s another angle of the master bedroom with color.

Saturday I spent the day by myself…


I finished a lot of wiring…


We got these cool chrome sconces for beside the bathroom mirror.


I got the fan and the recessed light over the shower to work.


I built and installed this new Hunter fan for the master bedroom. Go GREEN with energy saver bulbs! (They finally make them in the 4500k color range so they look incandescent, instead of blue)


This is why I spent the day by myself. Ron said he had a job to do that day. At the end of the day I got to see what he had done. He built this whole deck and stairway in one day.


We got the hole in the dining room patched.


A little mud smooths the edges nicely.


This is where the radiator was, it had been neglected for many many years. Ron is trying to feather out the plaster so it looks nice.


Jess painted the insides of the closets.


Here, Ron gives the chimney a final touch on plaster.


Mike came over and wired the new wall sockets around the house.




Jessie got a bird feeder to take care of the neighborhood avian friends.


Jess also got a cool hanging basket for the front porch


It’s starting to feel like the life is returning to a neglected hollow shell of a home.



All wet.

Ok, go.

Wait, I hear something….


This weekend was very busy even without the house project. Jessica and I worked a charity event to work to raise money for the Pittsburgh Children’s Museum. It was Totally Awesome 80s Bash part II, tiring, but a great time overall. Jess came home with jewelry, so it must have been a success.

As far as the house goes, on Saturday morning, Ron and I made a journey to the landfill to properly dispose of construction debris. Still several more loads to go, but a little better.

We tried to charge the furnace boiler and baseboard radiators for the first time, the front zone where we found the broken L pipe went first. It held pressure. So we left it overnight to see if there were any leaks.

Sunday morning, the front zone held pressure all night. So we tried for the back zone…

Leak #1


We found a huge leak under the kitchen floor, in the crawlspace, It was too narrow to crawl any farther, so we had to cut the kitchen floor out.


This pipe had blown the soldered joint right out. Why are these not insulated? We’ll have to do that before we close the hole back up.

Leak #2


This pipe was above the kitchen ceiling, found it when dirty water (shown in background) began cascading down the kitchen wall.

Leak #3


This leak was in the floor of the purple room, spraying more water into the kitchen ceiling and that bedroom floor.

At this point I also learned that the old natural gas line framework in the house was electrified. I got a pretty good arc from touching the gas line and the water lines with a screwdriver shaft.

Leak #4


This was the heater in the guest room, it was nice enough to break above the floor in this section.

Leak #5


Same heater different section of pipe.

Leak #6


Here’s another under the floor of the guest room.

Leak #7


So much for saving the hardwood.


Every time we found a leak the system had to be quickly purged of its pressure so it didn’t ruin the house. We had to pull the plugs out of this 1.5 inch pipe in the basement. Ron and I got pretty wet.


Not everything was doom and gloom though, here’s Miranda helping to prep these walls for primer, in the master bedroom.


Since I have a staggering lack of pictures this week from the busy-ness and the chaos, here’s a picture of shadow escaping from the deck, she figured out how to open the latched gate.



Beveled glass and nickel hardware.

Watch the margins.

This week was pretty busy, We got a new front door, a screen door, found the tiles we need for the bathroom, moved more kitchen cabinets, fixed more walls, and threw some more paint.


I came home from work to start an evening’s project, and noticed this giant hole in the house.


Ron got started early and picked up the door and tore the old one out


We had to widen the hole as the old door was only a 32 inch door, this one is 36 inch to meet code.


It’s in, but still needs some trim work.


Here is a little bit of detail on the glass.


Ron built a few cabinets out of salvaged ones for this side of the kitchen.


Ella and Scooby Doo came to visit today!


“Zoinks Scoob! It’s pretty hot, you should stay on the porch where it’s shady!”


Ella helped by washing a small section of the side of the house, for like 40 minutes.


Scooby is a very white dog, to be in such a dirty project.


I managed to finish priming the rest of the 3rd floor, so these fine ladies could toss on a layer of ultra white paint.


Sandy rolls paint on the ceiling of the third floor.


Hey! The third floor is white now!


A visitor came to check out the paint, but he was a troublemaker and was escorted out by security.


Time for a break, this is hard work.


Karin primed the bathroom today


Jessie paints the trim around the door


…and the closet door…


Who dripped white paint on the yellow wall???


Amy and Sandy removed the masking after they finished the final coat on the purple room.


Sandy collected all the tape so we could reuse it as a fun game.

We are all so tired.


A splash of color.

This week was fairly busy!

I missed a day or so because I was too sick to move. Mom, Dad, and Laura came for a visit on Tuesday to see the project. Then we had dinner with Ron and Sandy.


This was the best we could do for a painting light for Sandy to work as the flood lamp was on another floor.


Ron and I started to remodel the kitchen this weekend. We started by tearing out the cabinets.


We’re re-using the cabinets, just redesigning the layout. The stove will go here, and a cabinet needs to be built for above the hood.


I learned how to texture walls this weekend.

So bumpy.


Ella came to help Jessica paint.


The third floor walls are almost completely primed now. Jess, Ella, and Aunt Karin painted like crazy up there.


Jess paints up high, Ella paints down low…

Don’t go in that hole. Ella, there be dragons.


…and Karin paints the details.


The bedroom is now ready to be mudded and sanded, finally progress in this room. It’s been a staging area for the second floor’s projects.


Jessie’s Dressing room will have white shelving/rack units built on the walls, this rich purple is the background color.


It needs several coats because its so thick!


I like the contrast of the white trim and ceiling with the crazy purple. We ran out of this color and it needs another coat, off to home depot on Monday!


The girls coated the guest room in this sunny yellow, it looks so bright and cheery in there, much better than the dingy brownish yellow that it was.


Even those lonely flowers thought it was time for some color.



A hole of a whole different sort.

I bet it was loud.

Today’s work was minimal, Jess and I stopped at the house today to pick up the camera, and to paint the ceilings in 2 rooms before coming back to get some dinner.

Saturday, however, we got a ton of stuff done! Jessie’s aunt, uncle, and cousins came for the holiday and brought their work clothes!

The biggest discovery happened on Friday when Ron and I were preparing for a vacuum test of the heating system…


We had a wet spot on the foyer ceiling, after removing a few floorboards in the master bedroom we located this…


This is schedule 80 black iron pipe. This elbow was blown apart upstairs, most likely at the same time as the iron radiator in the dining room exploded. Ice is a powerful thing.


We replaced the elbow and broken pipe with L copper.


Uncle Gary and Ron put up blueboard (which is purple) which is a water/mold/mildew resistant drywall.


Here, Gary demonstrates the proper way to screw up drywall. (pun)


The tub surround is installed and walls are up around it. Also a linen closet has been built to the right.


LOOK! A tub has appeared!


Aunt Kim, Sandy, Matt and Ben tackled the primer in the guest room and the dressing room.


The awful yellow filth is gone, now covered with a nice clean chalky white. Hooray!


Matt and Ben are a serious force when it comes to painting closets and the lower halves of walls.



Drywall and downlights.

Put it back together.

This weekend was busy as usual. Finally we’ve reached a stage that things are going back together instead of being destroyed.


Remember those niches? The glass is gone… and wires are now poking through the top archway.


I installed 3 inch Xenon gimbal downlights into the top of the archway, Now when we put artwork in the niches we can control the lighting more accurately.


Mike and I framed this window in and cut drywall to match


After some fiberglass mesh and some drywall tape and mud, these are really starting to shape up.


Here are the lights with them angled at 90 degrees (straight down) they can swivel to 30 degrees and stay recessed. The right one is out for patching around the trim.


Ron and Mike patched the hole where the soil pipe was removed.


The fireplace was opened and cleaned out this week, it seems solid and safe, just needs some love. Also, if anyone has an extra gas burner, we need that too!


The dressing room is getting smoother and less cracked!


The new tub is in the guest room, this week it goes to its home in the new wall.


Ron gets ready to put in the housing for the recessed shower light.


The destruction on today’s episode of This Old House were brought to you by Milwaukee SawZall. It cuts through anything.



Here is where the mirror and sink will sit, 2 wall lights go where these boxes are.


It must be springtime, the trampled, poorly maintained flower-bed in the back of the house shows signs of life.

Well, this week we get measured for carpet, and the plumber comes to finish the pipes and water lines. The wiring should be just about done, and the dressing room and guest room should be ready to be primed!

Moving along at a great pace.

Steady as she goes.



The weekend of holes.

We did wiring and plumbing. There are several areas with giant holes in the floors and walls. The plumber came and started to add new drains and supply lines for the bathroom on the 2nd floor.


This hole is directly below the bathroom. A leaky box trap caused the ceiling to be wet and basically destroyed it.


Looking up from the dining room, you’re seeing where the toilet will be. Protect your eyes.


The fake stained glass windows have been removed, soon this will be framed in and drywalled.


The soil pipe from the bathroom was crumbly. That had to be replaced. The plumber tapped the old pipe with his hammer and most of the pipe crumbled into the living room.

Super. Gross.


The kitchen wall is down and the drywall is up! Soon all of the mud will be dry and sandable.


Jess began the tedious process of stripping the 5+ layers of paint from the original woodwork.


The stairs will be carpet but the railings will be stripped and re-finished


Finally after 3 weeks we have real electricity! The former occupants did not pay the electric bill for several months, which caused the service to be disconnected. They decided to use jumper cables to bypass the box. We spent weeks trying to convince the power company that we were in fact new owners. Oy.


The cast iron tub was nearly impossible to move so I had to break it with a big sledge. Holy moly it was loud.


We cut up the floor for new pipes in the bathroom.


The new tub, the upstairs sink, the new toilet and vanity will all drain in these new lines.


The new wall is framed in and almost ready for drywall, the new tub has to go in first.

The plumber comes back tomorrow and we’ll hopefully have running water and be ready for fixtures. Drywall should be hung in the bathroom tomorrow.




The weekend of destruction is over.

On Saturday, Phil came over and we tore out the plaster and lath in the kitchen, and the wall between the bathroom and master bedroom. Also, the sink, cabinets, lights, trim, and vanity from the bathroom were removed.

On Sunday, we started with a full crew. Jessica, Ron, Sandy, and I began the day. Soon Aunt Amy arrived, then Aunt Lynne and Michaela arrived to help too.




Here’s the wall in the kitchen after Phil and I removed the lath and plaster.


Here’s the wall in the kitchen from the front door side.


Ron had a big Sawzall which made quick work of the nails and wall studs.


The kitchen almost doubles in size with the wall removed.


We’ll have a nice 12 light door when this construction is done, and it will go in the angled doorway from the foyer to the new larger kitchen.

Master Bedroom/Bathroom


From the bedroom to the bathroom. This wall has to get out of the way so the bathroom can expand.


From the bathroom to the bedroom.


The old tub, I think we’re going to have to smash the thing to get it out. Too bad.


This is how much plaster and lath we tore down and cleaned up at the end of Saturday’s work.



Jess uses her trusty hammer to destroy the wall above the old tub.


Amy swings her hammer like the wall called her a name she didn’t like.


Sandy found the best dirt above the ceiling, also, probably the most danger!


This is the back of the junction box in the hall, we’re going to move it over to this side and install breakers when we pull the new wiring.


The last of the bathroom lath.


Wow someone should clean this bathroom.


Watch your step!


We found a massive bird’s nest up in the rafters. Yes, you could see daylight.

The bath tub is full of plaster, lath and nails. Maybe we can get it cleaned tomorrow night.


Here are a few of the old wires in the wall that need to be re-done.



Some of the old valves for the water pipes were broken, so we had to install new ones.


Ron solders caps on the lines we had to cut off that went nowhere.

Wallpaper is the devil.


Amy has a wallpaper steamer thing, that can remove those stupid wallpaper borders really easily!


Michaela came over with Lynne so she could help by hanging with Jess and coloring pictures.


Hopefully I’ll have more pictures as things progress. Tomorrow night is more wiring, probably no pictures. We should finally have electricity on Monday or Tuesday.


Insulation Day

What a MESS!

This weekend of March 15th and 16th 2009 was insulation day. The age of the house (and some probing) indicated that there was no insulation inside the walls. Being that many of the walls needed to be patched and re-painted, we decided on blowing recycled fiber insulation into the walls.

How in the world do people do this with carpet/furniture in their houses?



Here is Uncle Mike feeding the green beast that was the blower/hoppper for the dustiest and messiest thing ever: Recycled “green” insulation.


This is what the entire floor of the house looked like as we fed the walls with this dust.


Holes were drilled at the top of the outside walls at 1.175 inches in diameter between studs. Then a small air-escape hole was drilled nearby.


Here, Nick seeks cover in the living room as Aunt Amy covers her mouth and nose to keep from breathing the dust.


In all of the pictures and documentation of this machine, nowhere does it say how often the nozzles will clog and blow dust all over the room.


Jessica was at work today, she has NO idea what she’ll walk into when she gets home to see her kitchen.


One small step for man, one giant leap towards the completion of this project.


A large mechanical chopper breaks up the loose insulation before a smaller blower chopper forces it into this long tube.


It took about 10 hours of work to get to this final room. Lights were needed. The house still has no power, so the generator that ran the blower was also running this light tree.


I was completely covered in this dust as I crawled along the floor and scooped up the wasted insulation, and carried it in a 35 gallon can back to the blower. But, Ron had the worst job.


The blower nozzle would constantly clog, probably once every 30 seconds. Probably one whole bail of insulation was wasted because of this.


While the boys played in the dirt upstairs, The girls worked to remove the horrible linoleum from the kitchen floor. Unfortunately it seemed it was several layers deep in some spots.


Not as many pictures for Sunday. Mainly today was Clean-UP from yesterday. But, Ron and I hooked up the plumbing.


I climbed up on the roof to remove the old satellite dish from the house and noticed exactly how much of yesterday’s insulation had blown out the windows and landed on the roof.


Still no heat or light, but today, Ron and I officially activated the water and plumbing! Here’s some proof!

Monday is a busy day so there won’t be any work done. Tuesday its time to get ready for wiring inspection.

Drywall patching will begin because its warm this week.


Day One: Project Start

Closing time, get to work!

We signed papers yesterday (Monday March 9th 2009), and began renovations on the house shortly after.

It was pretty tough work, so when we ran out of light it was time to quit.


On the previous post, I forgot to take pictures of the kitchen! Here is a view looking over the fridge.


These are on the opposite wall in the kitchen, I think we’re going to move the stove onto this wall.


Here is the gas range, we have to move some things around because our new refrigerator is wider than the current one.


There is a pantry through this door, the basement stairway is on the left, and a built in cabinet is on the right, I don’t have any decent images of this room except one area of damage (shown next)


Someone had put a washing machine in this pantry, it really was too small of a room for such a machine, but these faucets are very damaged. They will probably be removed anyhow, and the plaster will need to be replaced. It would appear they tried to torch solder these connections right against the plaster, it’s amazing the house didn’t burn.


Now we’re in the dining room, you see the built in china cabinet from the previous post.  This doorway leads back into the kitchen.


This is the outside wall of the dining room with the triple window. If you notice the radiator is damaged, it looks like it was frozen and exploded out the side at some point. This will need replaced.


I ripped up the carpet and found this tile patch. It appears to have had a wood stove or gas heater here at some point. (update, I found a second chimney in the attic that has been abandoned. There was definitely a small fireplace here at some point.)


The floor section starts now, We had hoped to be able to save the original hardwood floors, but it doesn’t look like they’re in great shape. This is the front foyer. We will probably lay ceramic or slate in this area.


This is a close up of the wood, its pretty dry, and there are some splintery gaps, so its probably beyond cleaning and painting. Carpet will probably have to cover the dining room and living room.


This is photographic proof that I was working. Attention: this was not a faked photo, on a timer, with a tripod, when I was working by myself. (ok, it probably was fake)


This is the back yard, today Ron helped the image by cleaning up all the trash. The neighbors already thanked him. This picture is taken from the parking area.


There’s the top of the chimney, and a piece of the flashing is missing. That satellite dish has to go, it’s is on the top of the front porch.


The deck could use some paint. We may replace it sometime with a brick patio and maybe a brick pizza oven or something. I think it’ll do for the summer.


These are the front steps, they have a crack in the middle, but seem very sturdy. Perhaps some day when we re-do the front porch we will match the railings.


This is the side of the house, the siding needs some love. We’re going to see which is more economical, painting the siding or recycling it and replacing it with vinyl.


These vines grow up the side of the house, they might look nice in the summer but I’ll bet its bad for the side of the house.