Tuesday, July 19, 2011

In the Dining Room of the Cheney Cottage

The Dining Room of the Cheney Cottage

Stripping paint is an arduous job, but ultimately, extremely rewarding.

The process involves long hours with the heat gun. I've learned that the best way to use the heat gun is to wear gloves, as the paint strips tend to be pretty hot (the heat gun has a range of 500 - 750 degrees). As you point the gun at the painted surface, the paint bubbles, and you slide a putty knife underneath it to lift ift off, while moving the gun to the adjacent painted surface. Often, I can pull off a strip of paint that is several inches long.
The wainscoting after initial paint stripping

Once the paint is removed, then the entire surface has to be scraped down to remove the last bits of the paint. On Saturday, Lisa Wahl came over and volunteered a couple hours to scrape paint with me. It's again arduous and pretty boring, but the results look even better, and you can see the woodwork returning to life. It was kind of fun doing it with Lisa, having someone to talk to. And Lisa is meticulous, so did a great job scraping all the tiny bits of paint off.
The wainscoting after most of the scraping is done

Next, we'll have to wash the woodwork with alcohol. This removes the top layer of the shellac, and will take off any haze of paint left on the surface. Then the completely stripped woodwork will be ready for shellac.

The dining room has wainscoting that is about 4 feet high, plus wood trim around the doors, plus two wood doors that need to be stripped, and the built in cabinet. All of it takes time, but all the wainscoting is stripped, one of the doors is stripped, and the trim around the doors. Between Lisa, Tom and me, we've scraped probably 1/3 of the wainscoting,
The half stripped built in china cabinet

Outside, things are happening as well. The biggest change is that the scaffolding is finally down from the front of the house, and the newly painted front can be clearly seen. Except for the bandboard (which is missing one piece), and some smaller areas that need to be touched up, the front of the house is done, and looks great. The colors are bright and vibrant - a major change from the grey facade the house presented for so many years.
A new paint job for the Cheney Cottage

Tom also has been working on replacing the siding on the west side, and he's probably about half way done. The new siding (obviously) will not need to be scraped, and it comes pre-primed, so we should be able to paint it as soon as it's up. Then we'll replace the 2nd story trim, and paint that as well.

Still no new roof, still no porches. But the place continues to come together.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Mr. Home Energy

In the past week, we've made pretty good progress on the Cheney Cottage.
The west wall of the Cheney Cottage, nice and warm

Tom has put on his Home Energy hat in a big way, and spent the last three days getting the west wall to meet energy standards. With the siding off, it was the perfect time to install insulation, but Tom went beyond that. He cleaned out the debris that generally sits in stud bays, then caulked and sealed every crack he could find. Insulation came next, cut carefully to fit each stud bay. Finally, a vapor barrier covered the entire wall, carefully trimmed to fit around the windows.

So the siding is still off, but next weekend we'll be replacing the old siding with new pre-primed siding, and the west wall will be ready for paint.

Inside, the work continues. I have done about 75% of the stripping of the woodwork in the front room, and it all looks great. There's still a long way to go, however. We'll take a second pass at removing paint, going over each area and removing the small particles that remain, and trying to get the wood all clean. Then we'll use an alcohol wash to remove the top layer of the original finish, which will take with it the slight haze of paint that often remains behind. Then Tom Piedemonte will do his magic, and spray new shellac on the woodwork. The room will go from how it looked when it arrived on 62nd Street (streaked with dirt and water marks) to how it looked when it was built on College Avenue in 1902.
The opening between the living room and the front hall

The main beam and the west window

The bench seat in the living room

I also started stripping the paint in the dining room. The dining room is probably my favorite room in the house, with its cove ceiling and redwood wainscotting. As the paint has started to come off, we found that the dining room was painted orange at some point in time. Not a gentle soft orange, but 1960s psychedelic orange.
The dining room

It should take only about 8 hours to strip the rest of the dining room, and probably 3 or 4 to finish the front room. This excludes the ceiling in the front room: at present, we're thinking we might hire someone to help strip the ceiling. Holding the heat gun and stripping paint which then falls into your face and hair gets tiring quickly, and maybe this is one of the jobs that we'll hire out. Of course, we say that - then we end up doing it ourselves. But for now, as sore and stiff as we both are from working pretty solidly all weekend, it's a nice fantasy.

Once the siding is up, the breaker box can be installed, and we'll get to start hooking up all the wiring I've installed. And we're about ready to start installing plumbing in the kitchen and the two bathrooms.

Outside, the purple has gotten mixed reviews. Our neighbors mostly seem tolerant of our somewhat unorthodox choices in colors. But the house does seem to have originally been purple (although we also think that the wood was originally just stained and sealed). This matches a recollection of one of the Cheney grandchildren, who visited the Cheney's house and told researchers he remembered when it was purple. So maybe May and Warren liked purple houses as much as we do.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

A Question of Trim

At the Cheney Cottage, I've been painting on the outside, and stripping paint inside. Surprisingly, it's all very satisfying.

The parlor has beautiful woodwork, all of which was painted at some point in the past. We've been slowly stripping it, and most of the paint is coming off relatively easily - but it's still a big job, and going to take a long time. So I try, every time we're there, to spend at least part of the time stripping paint. I'm using the heat gun that we bought to strip paint on Wool Street in San Francisco, back in 1983.

The reason the paint is easy to remove ("easy" being a relative term - it's still hard work) is because the wood was originally shellacked. The original finish kept the paint from adhering permanently to the wood, and, once heated, the paint tends to peel away. But in places where the wood was never painted, the paint grabs and is almost impossible to remove. This is also true in places where the wood was damaged, and then painted.

Every time I strip a door frame, I come across the same thing: When I strip the top piece of trim (the lintel), there are two vertical marks directly above the side pieces. Clearly, there were two pieces of trim that at some point in the past were removed. Now that we're removing the paint, the unfinished wood refuses to give up the paint, so I can clearly see the marks left where the trim was.

See below for some pictures of what I'm talking about. We've never seen trim with this pattern before, so I'm hoping someone on the blog has a house with similar trim, and can send me a photo of what it looks like.

The door to the dining room, in process of being stripped.
Detail of door trim - note the two vertical marks above the capital

As for today: despite the fact that I'm up so early, we plan to get a lot of work done over the next two days. The exterior siding was delivered yesterday, so we plan to replace the worn out siding on the west side of the house, and then continue working on putting up the half timber trim that we removed to cut the house. Most of that trim has been replaced on the east and north sides, but we still have several pieces to put back on the south side (the back of the house) and the west side.