Final Review Drawings!

Hot Off the Press! Doing our final review on the rental units. Take a look: 2261-zeiss-lofts-phase-1-10-6-16-review


Latest Finds in the Loft

So, for most of the month of March, due to other obligations, we didn’t work on the loft. The lack of noise must have made this dove very comfortable, as she had two wee eggs in her nest.

Hopefully we didn’t startle her too badly. Heath went up for a bit to work on the loft on Saturday, and our friends’ toddler and our kids were running amok. The poor dove kept leaving her next to dash across the alley to the building behind us. As long as she or her babies doesn’t come inside the window, we’re fine.


Momentarily placated with chips and electronics

We’ve got a big work weekend coming up April 16th and 17th, so please feel free to drop in for that. As usual, we’ll feed you and beer you, and give you a place to shower and crash. This weekend’s fare will include some great boudin, straight from the LA source. You don’t need any skills, just a pair of work gloves, and a willingness to work. Our aim is to get all of the ceiling pulled down, the last few remaining walls, and pull a lot of nails from a lot of lumber. If there’s time and enough people, we might even get to start taking a look under the floors. Check your invites on Facebook if you want to join in on the fun, or comment on this blog post.

In the meantime, Heath will be spending every spare minute in the loft. We need to get as much work done as we can before the Texas temperatures make it unbearable for working in an un-airconditioned building.

Many of you have asked when our project will be finished. We really have no idea. I’m hoping by Christmas of this year, maybe even Thanksgiving. A lot depends on how the floor structure looks once we expose it.

Seeing the Light at the End of the Demolition Tunnel

For St. Valentine’s weekend, we decided to celebrate by breaking down walls – literally! Our dear friends Scott, Charity, and Mike visited, and we had help from our local friends, too!

In all honesty, it has been hard for me personally to see the end of demolition. I thought we’d be doing it forever and ever and never move on to construction. We’re still not there yet, but after this weekend’s demo party (and previous work done in February), I think I’m beginning to see the light. There’s a ton of changes, so take a look!

Let’s start at the top. Here’s a ceiling in progress of being taken down.


Center rooms ceiling coming down.

And here’s how it looks now.


Cleaned up center room.

You can see that we still need to the rafters in this picture, but by the end of the weekend, the rafters were exposed. Still have that massive air unit hanging from the ceiling, though – going to be a challenging job to get that beast out. There’s also the giant York air compressor, which will have to be disassembled entirely before removal.


Anybody want a 2-ton air compressor?

Next we have the dropped-ceiling in the SW corner room. Previously, the ceiling tiles were removed, exposing a bunch of nasty old brown insulation, 2×4 cross-pieces, and oddly enough, a bunch of tongue-and-groove panels that must have been repurposed from elsewhere in the building (and we’ll repurpose them again!).


Heath and our friend Scott nearly single-handedly removing the dropped ceiling. The brown insulation dust clouds were awful, and filled that whole side of the building.


These bags are all filled with old insulation. UGH!

Oddest find of the demolition this weekend? A butter knife in the ceiling. I forgot to snap a photo of it. But when Scott and Heath were taking down the ceiling and insulation, a silver butter knife fell out! I’d love to hear the story about how that got up there!

We still have some of the lower ceiling structure that needs to come down (the lighter beams on the bottom in the picture below), but above them is the original structure from the original second-story construction in the mid-1800’s! The beams are beautiful and larger than the rest of the ones found in the roof structure (the other 2/3rds of the second story was constructed later than the west side). Forgive my lack of technical terms, but look at those lovely criss-cross structures! So exciting.


We’re hoping we can leave some of the beams exposed.


Exposed beams, you say?

Next, we have the changes in the north-east corner of the building. All of the walls in the bathroom above the front stairwell have been completely removed.


No more walls protecting the stairwell – watch out!


Only thing left are sewage pipes, which will need to be removed and/or repositioned.


Lunch Break!

Unfortunately, there was rather extensive termite damage in the bathroom areas, so we won’t be able to save all of the flooring in this area. That’s okay, though – we’ll probably be doing some tile in the bathrooms and kitchens.


Termite Damage in former bathroom.

Next we have this wall in the front third of the building, near the stairwell on Main Street. I don’t know why I don’t have a decent “after” photo, but it is GONE! Here’s some photos of demo in-progress.


View from the NE corner of the building – no more walls on the right foreground, and Tony and Mike are headed towards the last bit of wall to be taken down.


Tony poses with the wall before he destroys it. Mike does not look amused (just tired – we worked them hard).

After the wall came entirely down, we found something really unique, that I don’t think we’ll be able to uncover any where else in the project: hand-stenciled designs painted directly on old plaster.


Design painted on plaster, hidden behind a wall for 100 years.


Less clear design painted on plaster.

We’re not quite sure why one side is faded, and the other much brighter. Obviously, the pattern probably continued along the wall, but layers of paint and wall paper on the plaster will make it impossible to uncover more. Hopefully we can find a way to leave these interesting sections exposed.

Speaking of wall paper, we found even more of it. I’ve already sent the best samples off to a framer to have them matted and mounted.


Even more wall paper: a brown leafy design, then a brown and red floral border, and underneath and reddish brown pattern.

We also made a realization that not all of the brick is the same. To recap – the first level of the Zeiss Building was built in 1850. Sometime in the 1850’s a second story was built above only the west third of the building. We know that sometime before 1885 (we have a fire map of that date), the second story was added to the other two thirds of the building. For the west (first) side of the second story that was built, the bricks used are very crumbly and dry, and will simply come off in your hand. We uncovered a brick in the rear stairwell (part of the original) that had a stamp on it.


Brick with stamp reading SEL RE CAN

Unfortunately, we can only read one section of the three lines:




So, some research will need to be done there.

The rest of the brick in the upper level is different – not dry and crumbly, and a darker, less rich color of red. Supposedly one of these two kinds of brick is local Brenham-made brick, and the other is a brick imported from England, that was originally part of a ship’s ballast. Again, something I need to research more.

We also met some more of our neighbors, one of which told us that an elderly family member tells lots of stories of gambling going on in the saloon and/or Elks Lodge that was located on the second story.

For our demo party, we ordered up another 30 yard dumpster, knowing we would fill it. The company messed up the order, and gave us only a 20 yard dumpster, which we filled really quickly.


Full dumpster seen out the window on the left, and stack of more debris that didn’t make it in on the right.

I’m still waiting to hear back from them regarding pick up, and to confirm that they know they delivered the wrong size, and will only be charging us for the smaller dumpster. We didn’t see it being delivered this time, and they are closed on weekends, so we couldn’t have them fix their mistake. Oh well, next time. Because we still have a lot that needs to go:


Debris waiting for an empty dumpster, and ladders positioned to take down more ceiling.


Dry wall that needs to go into the dumpster, and wood to be sorted for reuse.


Random stack of flagpole bases found.


A still life: Afternoon light drifts over a table that Heath constructed for folks to eat at and dump keys on, etc. A broom, which has just finished sweeping up masses of nasty brown insulation, leans on the table.

 Normally when we are working on the building, my primary job is watching the kiddos (mine and anyone else who brings theirs), running errands and supplies, and cooking and/or delivering meals (and cleaning up after said meals). Occasionally when someone needs a break, or there’s a spare teenager, I get to head up to Zeiss Lofts to help out. This weekend, my job was pulling nails. Lots and lots and lots of nails. We have a ton of wood of all sizes that we want to reuse in the project. The wood has been pulled down from all manner of structures, and generally has at least a few nails hanging out of it. Our pile of “lumber to have nails pulled from it” had been growing steadily, so myself and several other workers were assigned to nail-pulling.


Say hello to my little friend. I love this tool for nail-pulling. That, and a good hammer.

We managed to completely clear a huge pile of usable lumber of nails, and sort it for reuse while the rest of the demolition was going on. Yay!

My husband Heath and I have to take a moment to thank a very special family, the Tavary’s. Either they like us very much, or are very bored, because nearly every weekend, for at least a few hours or more, we’ve had at least one Tavary family member come up to the lofts and help us out. Tony and Heather and their five children have not only helped with demolition, but they’ve also contributed to meals, helped baby-sit smaller children, and even run errands. We met this lovely family through our eldest’s son’s participation in youth football this summer.


Tony and Heather Tavary – our newest and coolest friends here in Brenham, and not just because they’ve been helping us out with the Zeiss Lofts Project.

Thank you sooooo much, Tony, Heather, Brittney, Jordan, Andy, Joey, and Patrick! Us Westfields owe you BIG time!

And last, but not least, announcing our next demolition weekend on April 16th and 17th! Please come join us – no skills needed, just bring a pair of work gloves or gardening gloves that fit you. We’ll feed you, beer you, wine you, and entertain you. We’ll even give you free lodging at our place, should you need it. Need an invitation? Check your Facebook Events page, or drop us a line. We’d love to see you!

Post-Demo Days Update (and Announcing a Demo Day for February)!

So, for two weekends in January, we had a huge crew of our friends come to Brenham and help us smash, bash, and chuck debris into a dumpster. The changes are colossal, but there’s still more to go.

First, we had to butter up the crew by showing them a good time in Brenham. Those early arrivers on the first weekend got introduced to our local Home Sweet Farm Market where we got to catch up, and those who didn’t know each other introduced themselves.


Our friend Miranda and my husband Heath in the biergarten of Home Sweet Farm Market.


Our friends Scott, Charity, and myself getting wacky at Home Sweet Farms Market in Brenham, Texas.

Many of our friends (including us), have at least one very little child, too young to help out at the Zeiss Building. So they got to have play time with each other at our temporary home.


All the “littles” stayed home out of the way, playing video games and running amuck.


Younger kiddos hanging out while the teens and adults worked.

We are so lucky to have found a place to rent that is a short walk from our renovation project. Made it very easy to run supplies, and helpers who needed a break (or injured themselves) could come back to take a break.


Miranda, the dog-whisperer, taking a break when she reactivated an old foot injury.

Here’s our entire crew from the first weekend, including my uncle, who is a licensed electrician, two of my husband’s coworkers (and one of their wives), a collection of friends old and new, and a pile of their teenage children.


First January 2016 Demo Day Crew

After work, we fed everyone, and those who were staying on to the next day showered off the dust. And then most of us moseyed back to Home Sweet Farm, which is also within an easy walking distance.


We had the sillies!


Very tired after a day of hard work.

Our crew made some awesome finds, like wall paper, and old signs.


Several different wallpaper samples that were uncovered. We’ve sent some to a framer to preserve them and hang them up in our new place somewhere. Fascinating note: They all had fabric backing.


Found between drywall and brick: House Rules for the Elks Lodge that was located on the second floor for many years.

Our crew the second weekend consisted of some of the same folks, and a few new ones. Due to a huge wine festival the first weekend, we were unable to occupy parking spots outside the building for a dumpster, so we had one for the second demolition weekend. My husband, Heath, built a great chute using leftover air-conditioning ducts. In addition to tearing down more walls, our crew filled an entire 30 yard dumpster in one weekend!

So many changes happened over those two weekends, it’s hard to document them all. The next four pictures are part of my “four corners” series.


View from the NE corner. All remaining drywall from this area is gone, and half of the shiplap and walls have been removed.


View from the NW corner. Half of the light fixtures are gone, thanks to my uncle. The walls in the center of the building (just behind the orange ladder) are nearly gone, as well as a lot of the unneeded duct work.


View from the SW corner. In the foreground is a pile of metal we’re collecting for recycling. The wall between this area and the dancefloor is gone, as is an unused AC duct and the drywall surrounding it.


View from the SE corner: Original window openings now exposed. All shiplap and drywall has been removed. Most of the debris will probably go in the dumpster, but any usable lumber will be reused.


View from the middle of the east wall. On the right are hand-made sawhorses that my husband constructed. The stack of lumber in the corner is waiting to have nails pulled from it so we can sand and reuse them. Straight ahead, this hallway is no longer a dark storage room, but flooded with light.

We have another demo weekend on Valentine’s Day! A lot of folks have off on Monday the 15th for Presidents Day, so we decided to throw together another work weekend. We’ll be working only a half day on Saturday, February the 13th, so anyone who is going out that evening will have plenty of time to clean up and relax. Sunday the 14th we’ll be up in the Zeiss Building as early as we can manage, but will put in a full day. We’ll do another half-day on Monday the 15th. Feel free to join us if you can – check your Facebook Events Page to find more details and sign up. Don’t make our kids do all the work! 😉


Our three kiddos (no, we don’t really let them work in the building).

So what’s next? After we take the last of the walls down, we’ll finish taking down the dropped ceilings and remove the ceiling tiles that are glued up in the main dancefloor area. We’ll also need to remove any remaining fans, lights, AC units, etc. And get even more debris out of our way. Hopefully, with a little help, we can knock out most of that list on our next demo weekend.

After the walls and the ceiling, comes the tricky part – removing flooring. We need to get a look at floor joists and parts of the subfloor. We’ll be soundproofing the floor, running plumbing and electric lines (as far as we know, there aren’t any right now), and anything else that needs to be done under our feet.

Removing the floors will be nearly the last step of our demolition process. The very last demolition section will be removing the wall that is on the back deck as well as the only existing (and functional) bathroom on the second level. Can I dream and say this will happen in April? Hah! Of course, before we remove the walls of the deck, we need to fix all of the flooring issues so we don’t flood our tenants on the ground floor.

Our Valentine’s Work Weekend will likely be the only official work weekend of February, however, we usually spend at least a few hours every Saturday and Sunday pounding away. Some of our local neighbors have been very diligent about helping us out at these times. So very grateful to get to borrow Tony and his teenagers!

Between our eldest’s birthday, spring break, and Easter, March is pretty much a wash as far as work goes, so look for future demo days happening in April.

After the floors are exposed, construction begins. When? I have no idea. For how long? Again, no idea, but I really dream of being settled in to our new home by Christmas 2016. A big dream. A very big dream.

Four Corners


I don’t have some fancy video software for morphing pictures, so here’s my best take on it. I’ve been taking a shot from each of the four corners of the interior of the building periodically to keep track of the progression. The three consistent dates I have so far are:

  • August 2014 – we first viewed the building when it was still for sale
  • November 2015 – after the asbestos and lead paint removal
  • January 2016 – mid-demo, but before the big demo day

And here’s a description of the corners:

  • NE: This started out as a pink bathroom. In the first photo, I’m actually standing in a bathroom stall, and you can see some of the lead-paint pink stall on the left. Not much to see from this angle right now, but after those walls come down this weekend, you’ll likely be able to see all the way to the other end of the building.
  • NW: This is where I hope to have my corner office/craft room. I love that the windows look out on a pretty part of Main Street with a tree just below. This area held lots and lots of dances and balls at one time. In the second picture, the paint is stripped down to the plaster, and doors removed. And in the final one, we’ve got walls down.
  • SW: I’m standing in what possibly will be the master bath eventually. This room was carpeted, and there was a closet where I stood, which is now opened up. During the asbestos removal, the plaster was taken off the brick wall, and the lower half of the wall separating this area from the dance floor was removed as well. And the carpet, too. Then Heath got all of the ceiling tiles down (though, the dropped ceiling remains, and needs to go), as well as a whole bunch of pipes and electric lines.
  • SE: This was most recently a kitchen for a small apartment that was upstairs I think in the 80s. All of the lead paint was stripped, as well as the cabinets. I didn’t get a chance to take a picture of the wall post-lead paint removal, because Heath took out the whole wall. Eventually this will be part of the deck belonging to one of the two apartments that we’ll be constructing in addition to our own.

So that’s all for now. Time to go clean house before house guests arrive on Friday.

Lots of Changes!

So, to update you all on what’s been going on on the project specifically before we have our big demo weekends, let’s look at some new pictures I snapped with my cell phone yesterday while we were up in the loft meeting with a roofing contractor.

Heath has taken down nearly the whole wall between the front and back half of the building.


Parts of it were challenging, as not all of it was dry wall. Some were huge wood planks that we’ll happily reuse elsewhere in the project. Heath also has taken out most of the old air ducts, and tons of ancient electric cords (don’t worry, everything was cut when the pros came in to turn on a tiny bit of electricity for us).


We’ve also removed all of the ceiling tiles in the large room on the south-west side of the building. Next up will be to remove the drop-ceiling structure, and reuse the wood. Heath also took out the wall to the closet that I’m standing in.

And I forgot to snap a picture of it, but about 2/3rds of the drywall on the east side of the building is gone, now, too. Historical documents suggest that there used to be a door on the west side between our building and the Bassett and Bassett Bank building next door to us, but we’ve yet to find it. Maybe it will be found this weekend during demolition?

Still to be done? Tons! We have to remove all of the ceiling tiles in the huge “dancefloor” area on the north east side, carefully remove shiplap and tongue and groove panels from the north west section, remove the dropped ceilings on the south half of the building, carefully remove 2 air units hanging from the ceiling, and remove a few more walls. Hoping we can tackle all of these tasks this weekend.

The following weekend we’ll have a dumpster ordered up. We’ll finish work not done one the previous weekend. And then we’ll need to empty the loft of all of the unusable bits, and there are a lot.

The (nearly) final item on the demo list will be taking up the floors. Huge project, as we want to save as much of that gorgeous hardwood flooring as possible. Last demo item I believe is removing the current rear wall, windows, and bathroom where the deck will be, but we have to repair and seal up the floor first, and construct the new rear wall further in.


Really old bird’s nests in the walls (nope, not insulation – lots of feathers and related debris). This is a rear wall that will be removed once we finish out the deck.

I might have forgotten something on the demo list, but there you go.

After demo, we’ll likely start from the ground up, starting with installing a soundproof sub-floor, plumbing, and electric. Then walls, ceiling and insulation. Easy-peasy, right? 😉

Again, anyone who wants to come help, we welcome an extra set of hands. Just bring your own gloves!

Big Update

An update is long overdue here on our Zeiss Lofts blog. There’s so much news to report.

First of all, lead paint and asbestos removal is complete. Yay! The changes made inside the loft are astounding. Check it out:




With the removal of the window trim, our window situation has become a bit more urgent. This week we’re meeting with window contractors to get quotes for replacement. None of the windows can stay – they’re all a mess – but we’ll be giving them to a reconstruction company who can reuse them, rather than throwing them in a dumpster. Win!

Another important bit of news: we have received our first two building permits (you need a permit for every little thing, apparently). The first is for construction of a wall in the lower level storage area, at the back of the home health care office. We needed a secure place to store the doors and some of our tools, and eventually strollers, bikes, etc. The second permit is for DEMOLITION! Woot!

Which brings me to the last topic – labor. We will accept any and all assistance for labor, whether it be in the loft, or watching our kiddos while the both of us work. We’ll pay in room and board and beer or wine. Nearly every weekend for the foreseeable future we will be spending  time up in the loft working. That’s where you, our friends and family, come in. If you offered to help, please get in touch with us to put you on the calendar.

Here’s some of the pictures from demolition today:


This pile doubled by the end of the day.


Found a pretty copper pipe.

There's a lack of connection between these two walls.

There’s a lack of connection between these two walls.

Nails found behind a wall, left from a previous project and walled up.

Nails found behind a wall, left from a previous project and walled up.