Friday, July 24, 2009

decrepit building of the week

I've had my eye on these four buildings for a while, which I suppose is odd because they're easy to miss. With exception to the third one down, they look fairly unremarkable. One thing I go back and forth with is how buildings here for some reason or another have been radically altered for no particularly good reason. You see this most often in downtown -- alot of businesses only have any real income potential from the bottom floor and so property owners have taken heart to completely forgetting the rest of the building to the point of bricking/concreting/removing all detail on the upper floors. I've never understood this but it is what it is.. These commercial buildings are actually victorian. Two italiante, a romanesque, and a queen anne to be exact. Look a little closer.

This one right here I'm particularly interested in. Mostly because it still retains the majority of its detail with exception to the bricked in windows and paint scheme. It has a high style victorian look that I just adore. I have dreams of buying this building and doing a complete restoration. I'd live in the top floor of course..

The corner building is the queen anne. Don't see it? Note the steel girders running along the clipped edge. That was the previous home of a turret my friends. The windows have been possibly shortened and the entire building is covered in concrete (stucco?), further obscuring the original detail underneath. This would be an awesome project, but I wouldn't want to think what it would cost to restore this one properly. The turret alone would be ridiculously expensive to recreate.

Here's an old picture I found from the public library archives (aultman collection). If you look lower right you'll see the buildings in question. Well you mostly see the corner turret building, but you get the idea. How times have changed.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

window restoration pt3

Ok, now we're finally getting somewhere. The next step in my window restoration is to apply some wood hardener. In this case my tool of choice is LiquidWood by Abatron. This stuff isn't too hard to work with, just mix an equal amount of both the A and B parts and you're good to go. You have about 30 - 60 min to get the stuff brushed on so only mix what you need. You probably wouldn't want to waste anyway as it's pretty pricey. However it works like a dream so it's worth every penny. At least until I have to buy another batch and I'll moan over how freakin expensive the stuff is.. The consistency is kind of like syrup and dries to a glossy sheen. Try to put it on when it's a bit overcast or try to work when the wood is in shadow -- with the heat of the sun this stuff actually gets hot (which means it's starting to harden quicker). Don't be shy and get it in all those nooks and crannies.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

window restoration pt2

The next step is to apply some kind of fungicidal treatment to the exposed wood. This is probably an optional step, my windows have a lot of splitting and soft punky rot. It's a good move to stop this process from going on undetected behind fresh paint. That said, it couldn't hurt and will probably make your paint job go that much further before some maintenance down the road. I like to use Wolman's Woodlife Classic -- it's designed to protect against rot and decay and repels water. It has a milky consistency, but dries to a clear sheen. My windows just soak this stuff up. Be sure to apply liberally.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

window restoration pt1

There are many resources online that highlight what is involved in restoring original wood window sashes. I won't do anything groundbreaking here, rather this is more of a timeline of what's involved to restore a window properly. I say that knowing full well that this isn't a truly accurate restoration. I'm not planning on having the downstairs windows operable and so they will be painted shut. I plan to go all out for my upstairs windows though. The process will be much more thorough as each sash will have to be removed and fixed one by one.

Step one in the process is scraping and sanding down the wood (duh). Depending on how hardcore you want to be these could go all the way to bare wood or just a light scraping. I choose to be middle of the road here. These three windows took about 10 - 15 hours of work. If I can't get the old paint off by careful scraping and sanding, then the paint is still in decent enough condition to stay on for a fresh coat. Get off any old glazing around the glass if needed and expose any gouges down to bare wood if at all possible. This should get them ready for the next phase: dry rot treatment.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

old sunset heights

I was browsing the Hall House blog and saw some cool photos of the author's street from 100 some years ago. That gave me an idea to put up an old photo too -- this one is from pretty far away though. This would be looking down from the top of the hill towards juarez, mx (hills and mountains in the background). The photo was probably taken shortly after 1909. In the distance lower right you can see the elementary school (big tan brick building) which is directly across the street from me. The big red brick victorian house two houses down from me is there too, and looking left an empty lot (which now sits a 1940s adobe style house) then mine (which is also empty lot). You should be able to see just the edge of it, which leads me to believe this photo was taken between 1909 (when the school was built) and 1914 (when my house was built).

Much of the neighborhood in its current form doesn't even exist yet. Mostly you see victorian homes in this pic. They tend to have been concentrated on the lower sides of the hill (both east and west) and are of a more modest cottage style. That's what's interesting about this neighborhood is that it was platted late 1880s (I think), but you don't really see too many homes pre-1890s. They tend to be mostly concentrated near downtown then as you go further north they thin out somewhat about halfway through the neighborhood (about where my house is). You start to see more of the classical revival, bungalow, and foursquare construction on the north end of sunset heights. The highest part of the hill is where the more affluent lived. The mansions constructed there are a decade or two younger. I guess it was fashionable in the 1890s for the well to do to still be "in town" as this neighborhood was considered off in the boonies.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

leaky basement

Anyone out there have a leaky basement? I do. But it wasn't always like that. Remember a few months ago when I was basking in the glory of my newly completed landscaping project? You may remember I mulched the area adjacent to the house which seemed like a good idea. Unfortunately I decided to create a little hill or berm (I think that's what they're called). The idea was to get rid of some excess dirt from my excavation and create a little focal point for that area of the yard. Come monsoon season what I got was the perfect storm.

The slope of the berm going towards the house combined with landscaping plastic underneath brought the water unabated into the basement window. My little brick barrier is completely inadequate for keeping any water out -- I'm going to have to put something in solid concrete in its place eventually. In my defense we did create a channel running along the foundation so as to pull any water away from the window. That didn't work too well though. Well maybe it did, but it's still not good enough. In the meantime I'm going to have to level out the berm. :(

Over the years water has slowly been messing up the interior finish on my basement wall. That's a future project. So what's the lesson here kids? Water should always drain away from your house, not towards it.