Thursday, April 30, 2009

Wasted space





During a recent hot spell, A. brought up something that I've been in denial about for a while - namely, that my workshop may not be the best utilization of the basement space.

The basement has seven and a half foot high ceilings, which have been finished with mortar. As a result, the space remains cool in warm weather and warm in the winter. Further, recent plumbing work revealed that the walls behind the paneling are in reasonably good condition. With a bit of work, the space would be a perfect family room - especially once the ugly paneling is gone.

Basement toilet

While the basement bathroom does not have a sink, it would be trivial to move the wall out but a little bit and add a corner sink. I see the sink as going on the wall just to the left of the drain line. Tying it into a vent line might be more work, but this seems like a perfect place to use an AAV. I envision a vintage corner sink fitting the job quite well. I'm not yet sure as to the appropriate material for the walls, though if we could afford it, I'd like to see them covered halfway up with recycled bathroom marble slabs from Buffalo ReUse. The existing doorway - the location of this photo - would be made into a wall and moved back a bit. A new doorway would be framed into the wall on the right in this photograph. The changes to the wall to the right would also involve moving it out a bit, so that the wall would enclose the vent line, if code permits.

My vision du jour for the space is as follows. We'd rip out the carpet, the ugly linoleum underneath, and the paneling on the walls. We'd expand the bathroom slightly as mentioned above. The floor would be either some sort of floating laminate, or, if we could figure out how to make it work without having major moisture issues, a light colored hardwood - perhaps white oak or maple. I also still like the idea of doing something crazy, but that somehow fits in with the house, with Armstrong commercial vinyl flooring.

The two walls framing the doorway seen in first photo are not loadbearing - they could easily be removed to open up the space. I see the television, couch, and chairs going in that area - perhaps with built-in corner bookcases to hold the movies. Toward the center of the room would go the pool table. Perhaps we'd even put a mini-bar in, over in a corner.

Along this line of thought, the style of the space would be Tudor Revival-ish. I see faux beams covering the pipes, with a few extra beams thrown in for visual balance. The walls, I think, would be white, mostly. I'm tempted by the idea of wainscotting, but I worry that it would make the basement too dark.

I'd like to take out the wall separating the stairs from the room and install a salvaged railing - perhaps something like this one.

With all this done, the living room on the first floor could become a more formal space, perhaps even with room for the piano I fantasize about, though neither A. or I know how to play one.

The problem is how I will fit all the junk from my workshop into the garage. A well designed table saw stand could easily house all of my tools, combined with a basic toolbox that would remain in the house. Even all the lumber could fit, I think. The problem, however, how all of this fits once our children have bicycles and other things they want to keep indoors. A. has made it clear that she will continue to park her car in the garage, so gaining space that way isn't an option. Perhaps by hanging out-of-use things from the ceiling when not in use.

Seeking feet for Ikea Mammut bed

Before we moved to Cleveland, we purchased an Ikea Mammut bed, to go in the nursery. It's cute, bright blue - very Ikea. It remained in the box, in storage, until finally we bought the house. Only then did we learn that only two of the four feet required were present. I called up Ikea, I whined, I begged, and the net result is that they don't sell parts, and don't allow returns for products purchased more than 90 days ago.

Do you have two feet for such a bed? The blue color would be preferable, but I think that I could paint the pink ones to match. I'll pay a reasonable sum for them.

Otherwise, my son will just have to have a wobbly bed. When he complains, I'll tell him that that is why we don't shop at Ikea anymore.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Buffalo ReUse

One day, a while, back, I stumbled upon Buffalo ReUse's account on Flickr. Buffal ReUse is a non-profit in Buffalo, New York that specializes in green demolition and salvage. They appear to have a very extensive inventory at very reasonable prices. This piqued my interest because there simply isn't anything like that in Cleveland. Given their prices and selection, it almost seems worth the drive.

The following are but some of the items that have caught my attention.

Vintage garage doors!

Old marble - perhaps for the basement bathroom.

And this lovely little sink, with brass faucets, but 14.5" square, and for a mere $125

A massive selection of spindles, at $3-8 each.

Interesting tile at $1 each.

Where else would you find window frames like this?

Salvaged dimensional lumber

Even hand-hewn beams!

So many bathroom ceramic bits.

Two pedestal sinks with great faucets.

Lots of misc. hardware.

Many decent sinks. See the purple one in the corner?

Wouldn't this sink be perfect for the paint room?

Prices? You wanted prices? Doors: $10-200, most $40. Tin ceiling: $2/sqf. Ceramic tile - about $1/sqf. Lumber: 2x4s .20/lf, 2x6 .30/lf.

Many salvaged windows.

Antique icebox. Alas, it is sold.

A perfect combination of sink and hardware.


Apron, or pedestal bath tubs. When I called to enquire about them, I was told that decent ones could be had for about $200.

The John W. Heisman birthplace

Not the John W. Heisman birth site

Historical markers are one of my other interests, so much so that I'm an editor with the Historical Marker Database. Of course, that may be due less to my level of interest and more to get me to shut up...

I'd long heard the occasional rumor that the historical marker for the John W. Heisman birth site was in front of the wrong house, an error which occurred due to a change in the street addresses in Cleveland some time in the early 20th century. Heisman is the namesake of the Heisman Trophy. The house in question is in the Ohio City neighborhood of Cleveland, on the near west side.

Not the John W. Heisman birth site

The marker is in front of this 1910s Cleveland duplex on Bridge Avenue, at W. 29th Place, where it has been for the past 30 years. I thought it would be worth doing the legwork to determine whether this was, in fact, the site of Heisman's birth.

The Cuyahoga County Recorder maintains a database of all real estate transfer documents dating back to the early 19th century. I was able to locate the deed transfering the property to the Heismans, which included a specific lot number. Utilizing historical maps, I was able to determine exactly which house the Heismans purchased. I came to the conclusion that the Heisman birthplace is, in fact four tenths of a mile to the west, at 3928 Bridge Avenue. I've documented the history thoroughly on the page illustrating the marker at the Historical Marker Database.

Birthplace of John W. Heisman

This is the house at 3928 Bridge Avenue. Historically, this house is more interesting, as the main part of it was built in the 1850s. This means that it is the actual house John Heisman was born in, rather than merely the house on the site of his birthplace.

Birthplace of John W. Heisman

This angle illustrates the main portion of the house in a slightly clearer manner

Monday, April 27, 2009

Current projects

The once and future pond

I'm in the process of digging out the space next to the garage that used to be a pond. This was a project I planned to address in the distant future, but our plumber quoted us such a reasonable price to get the fountain and hose fixed that I went for it. I'm still not sure how the pond drains or circulates, but I'll tackle that when I come to it. It's 16 inches deep. The soil will be making its way into various raised beds and other parts of the yard.

I'm waiting to get a quote on having a couple of the trees in our yard removed. They're dead. I'd assumed they'd been dead for quite a while, but it seems that the two on our back property line have only been dead a year or so. The utility company wanted to remove the entire tree, but the previous owner said no. As a result of the work they did on the tree, it died. I hope that I can convince them to remove it, as it might fall on their lines. If not, I'll get an estimate or two.

It's Spring!

Our House

So it's spring. Summer, really. Too hot to think. I've been taking out the storm windows and installing the screens. I've found that there's a lot more noise from the street than I'd previously realized.

I met one of the two neighbors who shares our back property line today. It seems that she's been living in her house about as long as the previous owner of our house. (It seems like everyone in this neighborhood has been living here forever. Really.) Further, I learned that she's been reading my blog. Guess this means that I'll have to keep it updated so I don't look like such a slacker.

I've found that many of the windows lack screens. The screens that were covering the window wells, which I had assumed were old, were not. Doh! I've purchased a hundred foot roll of window screen, and I'll be getting to the windows slowly, as I'm able.

Our house

Our garden is doing very well. I can't believe how many flowers and things are sprouting up. We've got about a gajillion ferns.

So far, we've planted herbs, grape vines, and a couple of other fruit vines.

Soon to be the turtle patch

I've also been working on an enclosure for our turtle habitat. The framework is done and installed - I just have to put on the top. It's about as big as the area enclosed by the boards and the stepping stones here. I should complete it tomorrow.

Monday, April 20, 2009

And a photo update, thanks to the lovely wife

New radiator valves
New radiator shut-off valves

new radiater bleed valve
One of the new bleed valves

new pipes for the fountain
The new plumbing for the faucet outside our garage and the fountain. Yes. Fountain. I can't believe it either.

Finally, an update!

There's been a fair amount of work being done on our house recently, unfortunately, most of it is the sort of stuff that doesn't lend itself terribly well to photography.

We had the previously-discussed plumber provide us with an estimate regarding items on the city point-of-sale inspection as well as a considerable amount of work with regard to our radiators. Many of the radiators, you see, have valves that either don't open, don't close, or are leaking. Further, many of the bleeder valves won't bleed. A couple of the radiators, in the attic, didn't have shut-off valves at all.

His estimate seemed very reasonable, so we decided to go ahead with the work. When I did a final walkthrough with the plumber before he ordered the parts and began the work, we found a few more valves that needed to be fixed, as well as several bleeders that didn't bleed. He said that he could get all of this done, at the price he had estimated originally.

There was some additional work required - the baseboard radiators in the library had to be replaced, as they didn't have a hot-water return line, and had become clogged. This was done at reasonable material cost.

The entire time, the plumber kept us well informed of his progress, consulting us at each step along the way where decisions of aesthetics might be involved. He is quite comfortable dealing with the issues involved with older plumbing systems.

As this work was nearing completion, we had talked about the repairs that I hope to have done on the roof. I thought that the plumber might know someone who could do the repairs on the roof at more reasonable rates, given that his rates were lower than what I might have expected. He talked to a roofer with considerable experience with slate and came up with an estimate considerably lower than the other estimate I received. The plumber would act as the general contractor and would be doing some of the basic work on the job. His estimate was such that it seems we'll be able to get almost everything done this year!

I came up with a diagram of all of the areas of damage that I saw on the roof and discussed this with the plumber. On Sunday, we went over everything again, including my specifications, and I wrote him a check for the cost of materials. He's begun assembling materials and tools in the garage and will begin work on the roof on Wednesday, if weather permits.

I'll be sure to keep posting as the work progresses.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Finding the right words

As you may know, I'm a librarian. Theoretically, I'm good at wading through the mass of junk to find the desired information. In practice, this is usually true, but there's one word that has been giving me real trouble - antique.

Somewhere along the way, someone decided that "antique" was the perfect word to describe the finish the finish on a bit of plumbing hardware. As a result, when trying to search for, say, antique plumbing fixtures on eBay, in the category Home & Garden > Tools & Home Improvement > Plumbing & Fixtures (because this seems to be where all the good stuff is), you get too many new fixtures with an "antique" finish. Within this category, decent results can be obtained by searching for "(vintage,antique) -new" and limiting to auctions.

However, there are many other areas of eBay where things are not limited so easily. Further, larger plumbing fixtures like tubs and sinks might be better procured locally, via Craigslist, which cannot be limited so easily. The word "vintage" seems to be one generally agreed upon replacement, but it's not so widely used as to be reliable.

What will we do when people start referring to something as having a "vintage" finish?