Jumping in to 2017

The week before Christmas, Heath took off from work and with the help of our friend’s eldest son, did a bunch of odd projects, including completely removing the front stairs, nearly completing ceiling reinforcement in the east wing of the building, reorganizing our lumber stash, working on sanding paint off of more antique doors, bolting massive beams to support some of the existing ones that were partially damaged by termites, and a few other items on our list.

After Christmas, we pooled our gift certificates for home improvement stores and picked up some shiny new tools for our loft. We got a high-quality planer that does really beautiful work (but we’ll still need a table sander because we keep finding nails in planks that are dinging up the blade already and causing ridges along the wood). And we also got a small router table to use with a router that we already owned. These will help immensely! I believe that there’s only three tools left that we’re going to need – an infrared paint remover, a tile cutter, and the aforementioned table sander.

Currently we’re getting quotes from plumbers, HVAC companies, and window installers for the eastern wing, and it’s on my list to compile our quotes from our fire sprinkler companies to make a decision on that. And I’m also doing tons of historic research, looking at original deeds and documents to continue piecing together the history of the Zeiss building. I need to get all of my work completed in the first half of the year so that I can submit it before the September deadline to apply for our historical marker.

We’ll also soon be announcing several demo and construction weekends for January and February, likely taking a break in March. We’re going to need help removing the ceiling in our downstairs tenant, and installing a new one, as well as completing masonry upstairs. Once we get rough plumbing and electric in, we can get to work on flooring and walls. We’ll be tapping our previous helpers, and hoping those of you who’ve not joined us will jump in, too!

Happy New Year and Happy 2017 to all of our readers near and far! I posted on January 1st on my Facebook page that my wish for the new year was to celebrate my birthday this fall in the living room of our completed project. Here’s hoping! At the very least, I hope we get Phase 1 complete (or at least habitable) before our rental lease is up at the end of May. It will be so much easier to work on Phase 2 once we are living there, not to mention saving a bunch of cash by not paying rent.

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Slowing down

So, as many of our readers know, it has been unusually hot here in central Texas. While many other parts of the country have started to cool off, we are still in the 90’s every day, and not getting out of the 70’s at night. This makes it very challenging to work in the loft, even early in the day. Consequently, work has been slowing down somewhat.

We need to do masonry, but that’s an all-day job – once we mix a batch of mortar, we need to use it all up. Heath is doing a side project of stripping the paint off of the doors, but it is extremely slow work. He’s still not finished the first door – and we have 30. We’re determined to reuse all of them, though. They’re great heavy soundproofed doors.

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Heath scrapes paint stripper off the trim on our first door. He’s already done the other side of this one. Doesn’t it look lovely?

We’ve also been doing minor structural reinforcements to the roof as required by the structural engineer.

Oh! And as of this Thursday, we SHOULD have a completely leak-proof roof! YAY! No more problems dumping water on our neighbors, no more leaking into our tenants’ spaces! And when we finish renovating the upstairs, we don’t have to worry about all of our hard work getting leaked on, either. Yaaaay!!

Really what we’re waiting for is the plans from the architect for the layout of the fire sprinkler system, plumbing and electrical for the two apartments on the east side of the building. Once we have those, we’ll be working with our very patient tenants, Kulow’s Woodworks and Chiropractics, to tear down the drop ceiling in their retail space, and replace it, adding the sprinkler system as we go. We’ll also be cutting in to their space slightly to alter the rise of the stairwell that comes out on Main Street. Once we get their ceiling in, we can worry about plumbing, electric, insulation, and then replacing the floors in the east wing, building walls, oh…. I’m getting ahead of myself again.

One of our other projects is updating the office of our lawyer tenant. We’ll be turning our attention to repairs caused by the leaky roof. Luckily Heath is able to do all of the repairs himself. We’ll also be trying our hand at tiling, tackling both the breakroom of the office, and the front stoop. For the latter, we’ve decided to go with a really classic black and white hexagon “penny” tile that was first popular a century ago.

I think that’s about it for now. Nearly every weekend for the foreseeable future we’ll be working up at the loft. If you want to try your hand at masonry, or help us with various other projects, we’d love to have your help, and will bend over backwards to house and feed you. Just let us know which weekend we should make up the spare bed. 😉

Even More Destruction!

Okay, not really destruction, but selective removal of wooden components for use in the future. I missed updating last week, so the pictures below will show two weeks worth of work.

On a side note, we picked up a new tool that it bonkers fun to use! I wish we had bought this way back at the beginning! The Air Locker AP700 is the best tool I’ve found to remove nails! It has an air actuated piston that punches the nail back out of the wood. On thin lumber, it will shoot the nail out of the wood, across the room, bounce off the wall, and come back to hit you in the chest. Don’t ask me how I found this out. Oh, and make sure you’re not aiming the board towards your feet or… crouch area. We’ll chalk these up to OTJ training. On thicker lumber (2x), it will punch a driven nail out so you can grab it with the crowbar. All you need is a little bit of the nail sticking out of the bottom so you can aim and pull the trigger. Anyone planning on recycling lumber, I highly recommend you get this little guy. We picked ours up off Amazon for under $60.

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AirLocker – Get yours TODAY!

I started where we left off with the porch ceiling/floor. I still can’t believe this structure was/is still standing with the original rafters/joists in place. The best I can guess is these have to be over 100 years old. All the ends where they connect into the wall are heavily rotted and only being held in place by luck. The hard part here is working over an existing shop that is in operation. As you can see, our renters, Mr. & Mrs. Kulow operate two business below. On is Mr. Kulows wood working office and the other is Mrs. Kulow Chiropractic office.  Trying very hard not to drop anything on their heads!

A special thanks to the Tavary family for all their help! Once again, they have been more than helpful in this project. We never could have gotten this far with out their help!

By the end of these last two weeks, I would say we’ve removed 2/3rds of the apartment flooring and 2/3rds of the old ceiling/flooring structure.

Under the front room flooring, we’ve had some good news and some bad news. Good news is that “sometime” in the past (guessing before 1930’s) structural steel columns & beams & a big 9×9 solid wood center beam were added to the flooring structure.

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BEAMS

This has really beefed up the structure, to the point that (I believe) we will pass the structural review by the licensed engineer without having to add anything to the floor. Still waiting on that report. Based upon those findings, I put together a quick sketch (Floor Joist Details ) on how I thought I could finish out the ceiling below and the floor above. And now for the bad news (maybe, still researching). After running it by our Architect, she had to say the dreaded words “fire code”. She is doing the research, but believes that their can not be non-sprinkled voids between two different zones. So, we may have to rip the ceiling off of Mr. & Mrs. Kulows place and attach it directly to the floor joists. I broke the news to Mr. & Mrs. Kulow and they were quite happy to work with me on this. Currently they have a drop ceiling in place, and would be happy to have the extra 3 feet of vertical height and insulated structures to limit their HVAC bills! It actually could become quite a design feature with the structural steel beams showing.

That’s all the news that’s fit to print. Here’s some pictures for your viewing pleasure:

 

From existing to missing!

Slowly this floor is coming up. We’ve finally learned how to remove it quickly without causing major damage. Would you believe the sledgehammer is the answer?

And for last, I leave you with cuteness overload!

Guess What Day it is!

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My lovely wife more than happy to stop by Chip & Joanna Gains place (Magnolia Market) in Waco, TX to peruse and pick up some clothing. As readers may remember, we tried to get their show Fixer Upper to come down and do our project. Unfortunately, they declined our request, as they did not want to leave their base in Waco.

Saturday was a family day, with Dance recitals for our daughter and a birthday party for our eldest son, so I was only able work at the Loft on Sunday. Started at 8 am trying to get to the cool part of the day, but it was no use. The Texas heat is upon us for now, with a big touch of the Gulf Coast Humidity, making the upstairs one big sweat bath. I did get some accomplished, but had to take lots of breaks and gallons of water to survive. Hopefully we get a cool weather break soon.

The only cool find I discovered was an old 1940s lighbulb fixture still wired into the knob and tube wiring system.

Sunday I worked on the back porch rooms. When we pulled up the flooring, we discovered the structure to be dangerously rotted. We will have to pull all the wooden floor and flooring structure down and build it back up properly. It appears that the back porch was “fixed” in 1999, based upon the date stamps on the newer lumber pulled up, but it was only a BandAID.

As you can see in the next few pictures, I have to first pull up the 2x12s, then take out the 2×6 “old ceiling” sloped rafter and then take out the 2×6 “old ceiling” joist. Under that is a 2×4 ceiling joist with 1×8’s nailed at a spacing for old acoustic tile (now missing). All of these are tied together with vertical nailers and cross bracing between the old 2×6 joists. The 6 sections I removed took me 8 hours. I left the 2×4 ceiling to be removed from the downstairs.

We’re going to try and salvage as much of the 2x6s as possible, as they appear to be old growth lumber, judging on how heavy the beams were trying to pull them out. And of course we will reuse the 2x12x18′ beams. Reuse and recycle, that’s the game on this project. Not only to be a little bit green, but most important for me, to save money!

Speaking of saving money, if anyone has these type of 4x8x2 red bricks, please send them my way. We have a lot of holes in the brick walls that need filled in. Many Thanks in Advance!

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And Finally, here are the after pictures, kindly taken by my eldest:

Floors coming up

We decided to post-pone the removal of the middle section of ceiling for now for a variety of reasons, and have gotten started on carefully removing the floor beams in the eastern third of the building. This eastern third will eventually contain the efficiency apartment and the two-bedroom apartment that we’ll be opening up to lease to the public. Take a look:

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View of the back room (south-east corner). After we redo the floors and seal them, the windows will go, and this whole area will be a deck (foreground), part of a bedroom for the two-bed apt (middleground), and a small balcony for the two-bed apt.

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Closer view of the back room. Unfortunately, the ceiling in the shop below is in very poor shape. But on the up side, we will be able to access everything underneath this third of the building easily, replacing the ceiling for the tenant in the process.

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View looking into the rear-room. You can see that it is slightly higher right now. We’ll be lowering it to meet with the rest of the building.

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At the top of the stairs (left side of photo) coming up from Main Street, floor boards are slowly being removed to expose the beams. A temporary walk-way has been created with some recycled plywood boards.

At this point, our plan seems to be that we’ll be completely building out the eastern third of the building so that these two living spaces are complete. We’ll then put most of our belongings into storage, and live in these two spaces while we finish completing our own space. Of course, plans may change. But that’s what we’re thinking right now.

The big question is when. We still don’t know. As the months get hotter, it will become much more difficult to work up in the loft for any length of time. We’re trying to avoid as many social commitments as we can for the month of May so we can spend every spare minute picking away at the structure. I’d like to hope that we’d be finished with the eastern section by the end of November, but I could be severely under-estimating our progress.

In the next few weeks we’re supposed to have our next meeting with our architect, which will also include a consultation with his structural engineer. We’ll be examining all of the beams that have been exposed in the ceiling and in the floor, and any plan of action that might be needed. So far, in our uneducated opinion, our girl looks great! There’s one beam that is badly damaged by termites that will need to be replaced. And another beam got butchered where an over-zealous plumber got really creative installing indoor plumbing. But other than that, we seem to be okay so far.

As usual, if you have some free time on a weekend, we’d love to have some help. You don’t need experience, just a willingness to work. We’ll feed you, give you a place to sleep if you are coming in from out of town.

Progress!

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Finally opened up doorway from front to back area on west side of building.

We’ve been super busy having two of our three children in school and in extra-curricular activities. But that doesn’t mean that our renovation project has come to a standstill. We’ve made some progress and have started some forward momentum.

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Our two youngest play with a bag of toys we discovered in a sealed cabinet.

First, we’ve picked our architect: Upchurch Architects, Inc.  We really like their style, and their passion for restoring the past and bringing new life into Brenham. We’ve already had a few meetings with them, and plans are slowly starting to take shape. The planning is very complicated for many reasons. The challenges include working in a perfectly square space, floors at different levels, a few permanent walls that can’t be moved or removed, giving access to both stairwells, and having an entire side of the building without windows (the wall that connects to the building next door).  We think that Mr. Upchurch and his team are up to the challenge, however, as evidenced by his past work.

We’re also in the process of setting up the lead paint and asbestos removal. We’ve had three companies evaluate our project. All have said that pretty much all of the walls, and sadly all of the trim has to go due to lead paint. Unfortunately the cost to remove the paint from all of the trim would be astronomical. Luckily, most of the trim we should be able to recreate. There are a few doors and doorknobs we’ll have to remove ourselves and have a wood specialist take care of, such as the adorable Dutch (split) door in the kitchen. The asbestos spots are very small, and they appear to be the easy part of the job.

Once the lead paint and asbestos has been removed, we’ll be setting up work weekends, where we’ll ask friends and family to come down and help with deconstruction and even some of the renovations. We’re hoping to get all of the deconstruction and window replacement done during the winter months, because it gets so super hot up there right now. If you are interested in helping, just drop me a line.

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We have discovered more areas where there are original wood floors. Yay!

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And the best find yet was when my husband uncovered a plain dry-wall column to discover this bead-board treasure underneath!

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Unfortunately, someone destroyed the lower half of it, and damaged it significantly when they added electrical. We hope we can remove the plug and wiring and restore the column as it was originally.

 

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We’ve also run into a problem. We were hoping to leave all of the brick exposed as we uncovered it, rather than putting it back behind drywall. Unfortunately, when we started tearing off some of the walls, we noticed that the brick is very dry and crumbly. If you just gently run your fingers across it, dust will come off on your hand. We’ll have to seal the brick with a special process, and may have to consider covering up some of it with dry wall.

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And lastly we popped open a cabinet above a closet that had previously been sealed shut with paint. Inside we found all sorts of odds and ends, including a really nice volleyball net, an angel food cake pan, a grocery bag full of parts for a children’s train set (practically new!), a box with someone’s baseball cap collection (nothing seemed notable, other than the smell – hoping nothing is dead at the bottom), three brand-new professional sling-shots, a nearly flat bean-bag, and a bag of just an odd assortment of junk. Surprisingly, nothing was dusty, moldy, or eaten by bugs or mice – it seems the cabinet truly got sealed up with paint, probably since the 1980’s.

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That’s all for now. Hopefully our next update will have pictures of the project after the lead paint and asbestos removal.