Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The Last Lift

Tomorrow the Delaney House is moving again. I know I said there would be five moves, but when the Delaney House was moved to the back of the lot on 62nd, it was not lifted up in the air - it has stayed at the same height it was at the front of the lot (minus the rotting basement walls).

But tomorrow, the house will be lifted an additional 6 feet in the air, leaving about 12 feet of clearance under the house. Then the foundation goes in, the walls go up, and the house will be lowered down onto the new walls.

If you're in the environs of 62nd Street, stop by and take a look. It's a pretty amazing process.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Karen's Tree

I've been cruising Craigslist lately. Not looking for love,or concert tickets, or a new car. I've been cruising the Free Stuff listings.

A lot of people are remodeling houses, and they don't want the materials they're tearing out to end up as landfill, so they often list it on Free Stuff. We've had some good luck here: we got a replacement sink, some windows, things like that. But last week, when I was looking at Free Stuff, I saw that someone was giving away a Satsuma Plum Tree.

Most people "giving away" trees have the caveat that you have to come and dig it up. I'm a nice guy, but I really have no interest in landscaping someone else's yard to get a tree, so I have never responded to those ads.

But this one was different. The owner had gotten the tree out of the ground, and the root ball was wrapped and ready to move. The tree was heavily pruned, but healthy, and her gardner said it should survive being transplanted. So I contacted her and asked about it, and Tom went over to see it.

Karen had lovingly named the tree "Samantha", and it had indeed been heavily pruned. Karen wanted to take the tree out of her yard in Rockridge, but she had grown it from a pup, and didn't want to cut it down. She wanted to find a new home for Samantha.

So on Saturday morning, we got a City Carshare pickup, and Tom met Karen's gardner and several other guys, who loaded the tree into the truck. Then he brought it to 62nd Street, and we got it out of the truck and into the yard. Then we paid our neighbor Jamal, and his friend Mario, to help us drag it from the front of the house around to the back. Jamal dug a beautiful deep hole for the tree, and we planted it today.

Karen's tree, transplanted to 62nd Street

The tree is on the south side of the Cheney Cottage, shielded from the wind but where it should get plenty of sun. When it leafs out again, it will block the view of the apartment building to the west, and it should produce wonderful tasty Satsuma plums. It is in line with the incredibly prolific Meyer lemon tree in the side yard. The tree is out of the path of construction, so it shouldn't be damaged when the work on the Delaney House resumes.

Speaking of the Delaney House, we hope to begin the lift of the Delaney House this week. It has been sitting on cribbing, about 6 feet off the ground, for the last year and a half, since we moved it to the back of the lot. Now we're poised to have Phil Joy and his crew back one more time to raise it up another 6 feet in the air. Then Eric and his crew will dig the new foundation, and build the walls of the new first floor, and Phil will gently lower the Delaney House down onto its new structure.

Meanwhile, at the Cheney Cottage, we've been stripping paint, scrapping the woodwork, and getting the wood ready to be refinished. A lot of the woodwork is in near-final form, ready to be re-shellacked.

We also picked up the restored mantle from Tom Pedemonte. Tom is a true artist: he replaced all the missing pieces and shellacked the mantle, and it looks beautiful. The mirrors need to be reinstalled, and then the mantle will be waxed. But for now it's waiting in the basement on Parker Street for the living room to be done, and then it'll be re-installed.
The restored mantle for the Cheney Cottage

We've also been working on the front porch. The original steps only had a railing on one side, but the railing has a distinctive pattern, so we wanted to replicate it on the other side. Now the stairs have a railing on both sides, railings that match and fit well with the porch railings.

The original stair railing

The new railing on the other side of the front stairs

Eric's crew has been working on the retaining wall out front as well. Hopefully we will get that installed in the next two weeks, and then the dirt from under the Delaney House can be moved up front and become the Cheney Cottage's front yard.

Things are happening on 62nd Street!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012


We get excited about bathroom fixtures. Go know.

This past weekend, we picked up the bathtub and the sink for the Cheney Cottage. The sink for the downstairs bathroom has been in the house for quite a while, but the bathtub and corner sink for the upstairs bathroom have just arrived.

The bathtub is particularly cool: because the bathroom is so narrow, the tub needed to be narrow as well. Most clawfoot bathtubs are 30" wide, but the tub for the Cheney Cottage is only 24" wide. It isn't really much thinner than a normal tub - it's just that the sides are vertical (most tubs have sides that slope outwards) and the rolled edge at the top is significantly thinner than on most tubs.

We picked up both fixtures and moved them in. The sink is heavy, but I could carry it myself, and carted it up the stairs with no problem. But the tub was more problematic: Tom and I moved the tub from the truck to the foot of the front stairs, then muscled it up the stairs and into the house. We managed to do this without exacerbating Tom's back problems nor giving ourselves hernias.

The sink in the upstairs bathroom of the Cheney Cottage (at dusk)

But the thought of carrying the tub up 16 stairs to the second floor was beyond us, so we put the tub in the living room. We figured we'd work around it for a while (and it could be a handy receptacle for all the stripped paint).

But then on Monday, two of our neighbors Ron and Dave, were outside their house, and they offered to help us carry it up the stairs. With a heavy cast iron tub, having more than two people made a huge difference: Tom didn't join in, due to his back issues, but the three of us carried the tub up the stairs pretty easily, and set it in the front bedroom (half way up the stairs, Ron asked, "It had to be cast iron? A fiberglass tub wouldn't work??"). Then I attached the feet, and the tub is ready to be moved into the bathroom, as soon as the plumbing is done. The sink is already hanging from its clips on the wall, so soon the bathroom will be looking finished.
The Cheney Cottage bathtub, sitting by the windows in the front bedroom

The stripping of paint is pretty much done: the dining room and living room have been stripped, the stairwell is done, and there are just a couple more pieces of trim to strip in the upstairs hallway. The scraping is underway, but it is labor intensive and tedious. Tom spent some time scraping the window ledge and window frames of the 5 windows in the living room. They look great, but there is so much more to scrape.

The wiring is done, and soon we'll put a box on the outside of the house and make all the electrical hook ups. Then we should be able to get the service moved to the house and get rid of the temporary power pole in the front yard.

We met with Bill Rayno, who installed the boiler system that heats the radiators (and provides domestic hot water) in our house on Parker Street. In both the Cheney Cottage and the Delaney House, we're going to use radiators in the bedrooms upstairs, but use underfloor radiant heat on the first floors. We sure could use it: the Cheney Cottage has been freezing cold, and with rain coming to town tomorrow, it's going to get even colder. So Bill may be starting work soon. Bill also is giving us the name of a plumber he works with, who will give us a bid on installing the DWV system as well as assisting in running the supply lines. The plumbing system is actually not that complicated: two bathrooms, the kitchen and the laundry.

We plan to use PEX for not only the hot water for the heating system, but also for the supply water for the kitchen and bathrooms. PEX is significantly easier to run through walls and snake into tight spaces than copper, and has the advantage that people don't want to steal it to sell it for scrap.

Eric and his crew are starting to work on the retaining wall at the front of the property, and Phil Joy will be returning soon to lift the Delaney House another 6 feet in the air. Then Eric's crew can put in the foundation and build the first floor walls, and the house will be lowered down onto its new first floor.

Another project that got finished was replacing the back window in the laundry room. At some point, the original window had been removed, and a greenhouse window installed. The greenhouse window was long since gone, replaced with a large piece of plywood. So this weekend, we found a fixed window that would fit, and reinstalled it in the opening. The trim had been removed, so I made new trim, which will soon be painted to match the rest of the house.
The restored back window of the Cheney Cottage

The project list seems endless, but we're making progress. We're going to finish these houses in 2012. Keep watching.