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.


  1. OMG! - You guys are awesome. I don't read the blog as often anymore, but whenever I do I'm amazed at your energy levels and ability to stay positive. Keep up the good work!

  2. Thanks Andus. Sometimes I think the only thing we're positive about is that we're crazy to take on this project. But our love of old houses has outweighed our desire to be sane. Stay tuned.

  3. Tuning in again, I see now you continue to strip. Mind if I come watch?

    Just kidding - I know you'd put me to work and I have plenty to do at my house. Just finished putting in six new replacement windows. Now I have to scrape, putty and paint - it never ends!

  4. I've just downloaded iStripper, and now I enjoy having the best virtual strippers on my taskbar.

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