Well, I think it’s about time we make it “blog official,” we’ve added a new family member to our DIY crew!
Ever since we lost our beloved Scottish Fold, Mel, on Thanksgiving morning 2017, our house has felt a little off. For weighing in at around 7 pounds, Mel was an anchor in our home. He was a part of our family since 2001, was Lulu’s best friend, and was a constant companion to each of us.
We feel like we’ll never be able to find another cat that lives up to what we loved about him, but we’ve been considering adopting a second dog for a while now. The only problem with that idea is the fact that we had to find the right personality to fit in our home.
You see, Lulu is, well, how do I put this kindly, high maintenance? She doesn’t have a lot of friends, doesn’t get along well with others, and has been the only dog in our household for nearly nine years now. And to put it bluntly, she can be a bit of a territorial jerk when interacting with other dogs.
For this reason, we had to find just the right dog, with just the right personality, or we were at constant risk of a battle royal that would likely result in an escalation of tempers typical of a classic drunken barroom brawl, with about the same level of coordination. The only problem with this equation is the simple fact that Lulu is terrible at being a fighter. She’s all posture, no substance. You could say, she’s all bark, no bite (or at least only failed attempts at bites). She’s your stereotypical schoolyard bully, but she’s our bully and we love her. So when it came to finding the right dog, we had to find someone that was submissive and didn’t mind putting up with Lulu’s crap.
After many months of searching, Wendy stumbled across a cute pup on PetFinder named “Snowden.”
Snowden was at a local rescue and had been with them for a few months. Though his name may suggest he’s a well known leaker, rather than a. potty trained doggo, he was found wandering around in traffic during a snow storm, hence the name. Wendy felt an instant connection to his adorable photo, and the visible tooth in the next one, and filled out an application to adopt him.
While we waited for word we started the second guessing and what if game. Was he the right dog? What if Lulu hated him? What if he hated us? How much extra work is a second dog? Do we have the time? What the hell were we thinking? Well, that was all for naught when we received word that Snowden had many applications and the rescue was adopting him out to a family with children. We didn’t understand the logic, but shrugged our shoulders, felt it wasn’t meant to be, and went on living our three family member lives.
Over the next little while Wendy kept thinking about Snowden, and the rescue was on the lookout for another dog that might work for us. They called our references (Lulu’s vet, Lulu’s oncologist, our friends who can vouch for our ability to successfully raise and care for dog and place them on a pedestal unlike most people could experience in life), and we waited and kept looking.
A few weeks later we received a call that was very unexpected. Snowden’s new family wasn’t working out for him and we’d been moved to the top of the list if we wanted to meet him. It was shockingly similar to Lulu’s entrance into our lives, so much so that we couldn’t ignore the possibility that fate was bringing him into our lives. We decided, with Lulu accompanying, to drive up to the rescue on the Eastern Shore in order to meet this pup to see if he’d be a good fit for our family.
When we arrived the in-house trainer walked him out and we got to see his friendly face and snaggletooth, a result of his rather pronounced underbite, live and in person. We held Lulu, let them sniff each other, and then walked them around the yard on leashes for a few minutes. They seemed to get along without issue, so we let them off leash in fenced play area and they were romping and having a great time before we knew. It was more or less neutral territory, so no real concerns about territorial disputes. Both of them ran and played endlessly, only pausing long enough to check in with us and make sure everything was good. They were like old friends.
Upon our first meeting Wendy wasn’t so sure about him. He had a *lot* of energy on display that afternoon. Over the last six or so years we’d settled into a very comfortable life with Lulu and Mel, one where we all understood each other. Wendy worried that adding Snowden to our pack was going to be like welcoming the Tasmanian Devil into into our otherwise peaceful but already hectic lives, seriously upsetting the apple cart and rocking our wonderful balance.
On the other hand, I saw a young and very cute dog that was romping and getting along swimmingly with our typically difficult Lulu. Above all, I saw potential that we’d found a dog with a personality that would be a good fit and able to get along very well with our #1 daughter.
Wendy side eyed me at one point and said “if you want to leave, we can.” What she was really saying was “omg I’m not sure this is right and I’m sort of freaking out, so how about we forget we ever had this idea and call it a day?” I looked back at Wendy and said “I don’t know, I think we should do it.”
After about 45 minutes of watching them play in the yard, no fights, no disagreements, lots of compromise, and a whole lot of fun, we decided to take the plunge and take him home. Here's our first family photo as our newly established family of four.
On the car ride home I let Wendy in on an important secret. Before meeting this pup at the rescue, before having our application accepted, Wendy told me “we have to agree on this, this isn’t a done deal just because we’re applying or meeting him, the decision isn’t mine, it’s ours, and we can walk away if it’s not right." What Wendy didn’t realize is that I'm soft, and simply by meeting him at the rescue, by driving out to see him, and by having Lulu play with him, it was sort of a done deal for me. Pretty much, if we met him and he wasn’t a total jerk, and he and Lulu played and didn't fight, I wanted it to work out. Decision made. I’m weak for dogs. Nothing can be done about this.
When we got home that night the fun continued. We went on a long walk around the neighborhood with both of them before going into the house, then made sure we introduced them to the house slowly, putting Lulu in charge, and letting him know that she was Queen. Lulu and the doggo formally known as Snowden kept romping and having fun. It seemed like everything was going to work out perfect. He was used to being crated at night so we put him in his crate where he's most comfortable, and Lulu went up to sleep with us. It was our new routine.
As part of bringing this little pup previously known as Snowden into our home, we also started working on a good name that might fit a bit better for us. While he may have gotten used to Snowden, we didn’t feel it was necessarily the best name for him, aside from the inevitable "leaker" jokes that would never get old. “No” is an important command in a dog’s life, and we were worried that the name “Snowden” has too similar of a sound to “No,” which could cause some major confusion.
After talking it over on the phone, Wendy’s mom suggested Truman. We felt it adequately captured the “grumpy old man” look this little pup possessed, was a good two syllable name, and seemed a good fit. We agreed we’d start calling him Truman and started getting used to it as his name.
The next day we woke up, went downstairs, woke him up, and we all went for a long morning walk. It was a handful. Three or so miles of pulling craziness in dog form that obviously not used to walking on a leash. We started to see the work we’d have ahead of us in terms of training, consistency, and routine.
When we got home from the walk I caught Lulu silently staring across the room at him. She was glaring, fuming even. She started to puff out her chest and circle him, then she attacked. She’d had so much fun with him in her house just 12 hours earlier but now she realized this unwanted guest was apparently a more permanent fixture in her home than she’d preferred, and she wanted him to know this was not okay with her. With a glance and a flinch Lulu was instantly barking and trying to fight with the new little pup. He responded with timid barking and confusion, not knowing why this new friend of his was now out to kill him. We quickly separated them with no actual contact, but were confused as to what Lulu was thinking. Sadly, these were shades of what we’d worried about and even expected. We hated seeing it, but we also weren’t surprised.
Over the next 36 hours we watched these two pups like hawks, but we worried this might not work out. They seemed perfectly fine one second, then Lulu would start staring him down. Though he may have initially tried to show dominance on day one, after their first altercation, Truman was showing how submissive he was. He’d roll onto his back giving yo his belly, he’d check where she was before entering a room to make sure he wasn’t walking into a trap, and he’d only play with his own toys, no longer even attempting to play with Lulu.
It was sad to watch them, almost like watching defeat. Truman had thought he’d made a fast friend the day before, but now she was just being a jerk. A lot of people would say that Lulu was showing dominance and letting Truman know she was in charge, but it was more than that. Lulu was not backing off when Truman was accepting his role and asking for peace, she was just being a bit of a bully.
Truman, as a result of Lulu’s bullying, even started acting out. At one point he was walking through the family room with Lulu in the kitchen. Wendy glanced over to see Truman peeing on the floor right in front of Lulu’s dog bed. He didn’t have to pee, had his own bed, and knew Lulu wasn’t nearby, so he was letting his displeasure with the whole situation be known.
The altercations and stare downs continued, and midway through day three in the house one of our and Lulu’s favorite people, Amy, came to visit and meet Truman. Amy and Lulu have a true bond. We’re pretty sure Lulu likes her as much, if not more than she likes us. When Amy arrived, as usual, Lulu was completely excited. Amy met Truman but also gave Lulu the attention and love she wanted.
A few minutes after Amy left it was like a switch flipped and suddenly Lulu no longer hated or was threatened by Truman’s presence in the house. Within the hour Lulu was once again initiating play flighting with Truman like they’d had on day one. It was almost as if Amy’s visit reassured Lulu that her life was still intact, that her people were still her people, and she didn’t need to fear the addition of Truman to her pack.
We moved forward with cautious optimism. Truman started to lose some of his fear of Lulu, but still consistently let her know that she was in charge. They continued to play almost non stop and we started to settle into our new routines as a two dog child house. It was touch and go there for a few days, but Truman was able to cement his place as a new member for our family.
We have a lot of work to do with Truman. We need to leash train him, help him with commands like come and stay (though he’s mastered sit and shake/paw), and help get him used to encountering other dogs on our walks. But at the same time, his energy is great, he loves Lulu, and he’s a very sweet dog that really wants to be by us whenever possible.
And for those of you that have been around for a long time and might notice the resemblance that Truman bears to our first dog, Ollie, it's a little bit crazy for us. We have a photo of Ollie from 2010 when he was in the middle of chemo for lymphoma and we were home cooking his food. This is one of those quintessential memories we have of Ollie, in spite of his too brief time with us.
In the first few days we had trump I was making some lunch at the stove. I looked down and seeing him begging for food pretty much took my breath away. They look similar, certainly not the same, but close enough that it made me pause for a moment.
So like I said, let’s use the 8th anniversary of our blogging lives to welcome Truman as a new contributing member of Old Town Home. You’ll likely see him in many photos here and on Instagram, looking oh so snaggle-toothed.
If you’ve been following along since the early days, or if you’re relatively new to our blog, thank you for interacting and supporting our endeavors. We can’t wait to share more projects, fun, and adventures as we continue on our many ongoing efforts.
Have you ever searched for years for just the right piece of furniture, only to find it in an unlikely place?
Well, we have. We spent the last five years or so looking for the perfect sideboard for our dining room, but we had a case of sentimentality combined with utility that kept getting in our way. As a result, the hulking buffet/sideboard from the photo below remained in our dining room, in spite of its scale.
Shortly after we bought our row house in 2003, we discovered the amazing antique and salvage row of Cleveland's Lorain Ave. Nestled just a stone's throw from downtown Cleveland you could find yourself smack in the middle of shop after shop of affordable vintage finds. Whether you were looking for a little architectural salvage or a full room of vintage furniture, you were bound to find something your heart desired.
Today, as Cleveland has undergone an urban revival, many of these shops have shuttered. Victims of the rejuvenation of the trendy Ohio City area and the rising rents, their closure ultimately means progress for a city that had fallen on hard times in the late 1990s and early 2000s. But at the same time, the amazing antique resource that was Lorain Avenue, is a dwindling memory from our newlywed and first home honeymoon days.
During one of our visits to Cleveland in the early 2000s, after we'd owned our home for just a short time, we found ourselves a vintage dining room set for only about $1,100. A beautiful table, six chairs, china cabinet, and a large buffet. A matching set, they were all from the 1940s, built by a furniture maker in Youngstown, Ohio, and in pretty decent shape overall! The whole set's scale was large for our 15' wide row house, but it was a great price and has moved from room to room as we set up our dining room in a few different areas of the house.
In addition to antique shopping during those early days of old home ownership, we were also welcomed into our neighborhood by many of the wonderful neighbors we'd get to know. Whether attending gatherings in neighbor's homes, or enjoying their company around our Cleveland dining room table, getting to know our neighbors, many of whom have become lifelong friends, was the unexpected element of homeownership that we were fortunate enough to find ourselves amidst.
Sometime during the last six or so years, we looked at our vintage dining room set and said, "You know what, as great as this set has been, it's not quite right for our house. I think we need to make a change. And that change needs to start with the buffet...It's always been way too big for our house, so what about getting something new?"
Yes, the large buffet has been the workhorse of our dining room for years. The amount of storage it offered allowed us to look beyond its clear and ever present flaws. Its gargantuan width somehow fit between the window and door casings with only millimeters to spare, as if it were divined to live in our dining room. It even doubled as a storage area during our dining room renovation.
Much like a beloved car with 200k miles, that smells a little off and is always a quart low on oil, but has always successfully shuttled you from point A to B with little fanfare, our buffet could only be replaced with a piece of furniture that's juuuuuuust right! It's not that there aren't better buffets, it's just that this buffet was "good enough" and we had developed a bond.
From antique store to auction house, every piece we'd ever found had some inherent flaw. Too fancy. Too big. Too delicate. Too small. Too modern. Too rustic. We knew we wanted something smaller that would fit well in the space, but we still needed storage. Beyond all of that, Wendy had it in her head that whatever we chose needed to have a white and gray marble top.
We'd literally searched for years, and were starting to give up hopes of finding the right piece. Our sentimental attachment to the oversized buffet, not to mention the plethora of utilitarian storage it offered, seemed to be thwarting our efforts as much as our exacting desire to find that perfect piece. This may sound corny, but we had what seemed an unrealistic need for our eventual find to fill the storage and sentimentality void giving up our buffet would mean. A pretty impossible task when the search is more or less scrolling eBay, FirstDibs, or auction websites.
About a year and a half ago, one of those neighbors that we'd mentioned, whom made us feel so welcomed in our new home, and that we'd become lifelong friends with, passed away. He was elderly and in failing health, but it still felt sudden and unexpected. He was one of the first people who'd invited us to a party at his home after we'd moved into the neighborhood, and we'd always enjoyed chatting with him and catching up.
After our friend's passing, we had the opportunity to get to know some of his wonderful family, including his nephew who was handling the estate. During this time, and after his family had selected the items they wanted to keep as mementos, our friend's nephew asked if there was anything from the estate that we'd like to purchase before it went to auction.
Hoping to find something that would be meaningful and would remind us of our friend and neighbor, we looked over his remaining belongings, hoping to find something to remember him by. To our surprise, we found several wonderful items. He had owned a mid-sized antique marble topped cabinet that he kept in his dining room. It was really lovely, and we were very surprised nobody in his family had wanted it. After speaking with his family, measuring the piece, and deciding it seemed about right right, we realized we'd maybe found our unicorn. Wendy snapped this photo and we decided it might be perfect, but even if it wasn't, it would be perfect for us.
The piece not only looked great, had a marble top, and offered some needed open storage, but it also had the sentimental connection we'd hoped for. We'd always be able to think about our departed friend and neighbor when we looked at it nestled in our dining room.
In anticipation of the new piece we had to clean out the old buffet. With four large drawers, two cabinets, and two smaller drawers, all completely full, to say we were shocked at the amount it held is an understatement.
We had napkins, candles, tea lights, and placemats galore...
...Bags of table linens, runners, and pillow cases...
...And More liquor than we can ever reasonably drink. After removing and re-homing a majority of those items, and reserving the new cabinet as more of a napkin and liquor home, we moved the old buffet from its longstanding location and wished it well. The location for our new sideboard was ready, and looking quite empty.
After gingerly carrying it from its prior home into our home, we placed it to get a sense of scale. It was a shock, as we'd grown used to the monolithic monster completely covering the wall between the window and door, but this was a breath of fresh air. The size seemed to be ideal for the room.
We rejuvenated the dried and cracked finish a bit by using a little Howard's Feed-n-Wax, an placed the marble top. It really was perfect!
The cabinet is a solid antique with dovetail joinery, and what I believe is a mahogany or walnut veneer.
The finish isn't perfect, but the small chips and dings do nothing to detract from the piece.
At first it felt small, especially while we got used to the scale in comparison with the old piece. But before we knew it, it felt just right, ideal for the room.
If you're wondering what happened to the old buffet, don't worry, it's not gone and separated from its set for good. Wendy's parents needed a larger piece for their dining room, so they took it off of our hands. It's now right at home in their dining room. Like our Mustang that they bought off of us back in 2012, we get to visit it every time we're back visiting Cleveland.
We'd nearly given up, but stumbled into the right piece that not only met our needs in what we'd hoped to find, but also provided us with a tangible connection to a dear friend.
We like to think that our friend, in lieu of his family taking the cabinet, would be happy to know that it's sitting in our home just a few yards from the home he lived in and loved for so many years. At the very least, we like knowing that we'll always have something in our home to remember him by.
What better day than April Fools to post a long overdue update on our basement progress?
Yes folks, this blog post isn't a joke, so don't worry, you're not going to be had in the last line or two. However, this post is a bit out of character, as it largely involves how closely we worked with a great contractor to accomplish what we wanted to accomplish.
If you'll recall, back in November we told y'all about working on a major basement overhaul in our Old Town row house. It was about the time of our last blog post that we somehow reverted to the ways of our 20 year old selves and went full bore on renovation work.
Here's the #1 April Fool
I'm talking 8 hour day job work, 8 hour house work, a break or two to eat, some long days, late nights, raw hands, and lots of sore muscles. And though we hired out a good amount of the work we were doing, that certainly didn't stop us from participating as much as if we were doing it all ourselves.
The goal of our basement work is to turn the space into a wood shop. Everyone on HGTV talks about a basement "man cave," but I'm sorry, that's just too cliché. In our house we're far more interested in a unisex and utilitarian space that will work as a separate shop and laundry. Let's collectively get over the idea of "man cave" and instead go for "gender neutral room where necessary, productive, and cool shit happens." Deal?
For our project and working with our mason, Sean Moore of Moore Stone LLC, we had to devise a plan of attack. Our basement walls had been covered in thick and failing waterproofing paint. We wanted to remove the paint and have Sean and his guys repoint everything. This meant we had a good amount to get done before Sean and his guys could start work. Naturally, we went ahead and set a start date as encouragement to get everything done.
Since we bought our home in 2003 until now, that old waterproofing paint had gone from bad to worse. But I'll tell you one thing, removing waterproof paint is not an easy task. While removing the paint, we noticed it had adhered with an especially strong bond to any of the cement mortar that had been used, so we also wanted to undo some of the cement mortar repointing that had been done years ago before it began destroying the brick.
If you're a fellow old house enthusiast, a casual reader of old home magazines, or even a viewer of historic home renovation shows, you know that using the right mortar is about the most important thing you can do when it comes to caring for historic masonry. This is due to the fact that historic bricks are inherently soft, and the mortar that cushions the bricks from one another needs to be softer than the brick, lest you end up forcing the microscopic natural movement of the brick to cause deterioration.
We talked about proper mortar selection as far back as 2013 when we were trying our hands at repointing some of our brick ourselves. The idea is simple, user proper historic mortar and DON'T use any Portland Cement when it comes to mortar with old bricks. There are several options on the market, but all involve using a lime based mortar rather than cement mortar. Since cement mortars cure harder than the brick itself, and the brick moves naturally during the normal freeze/thaw and expansion/contraction cycles of the seasons, cement mortar can cause soft bricks to be destroyed from within...and there's no coming back from that.
When working with old masonry, Sean typically works with type S lime mortar in a color that will look good with the brick. However, in working with us we'd hoped to use one of the specific mix of colors that you can get from DeGruchy's LimeWorks.us. We got ourselves a sample pack of their Ecologic mortar colors and chose one that we felt looked best.
The standard colors are fine, but too consistent for our taste. Old mortar was mixed with sand that had plenty of natural color variations from stones and other elements. LimeWorks has a few options that mimic with look by mixing a few colors and then adding in flecks of coloring. The final color we ended up choosing was their 90%/10% mix of DGM 050/SGM 250 with XF slag flecks (3rd from the bottom I believe).
Okay, I'm getting too far away from what we were accomplishing, back on track.
Quite a bit of the paint came off relatively easily wherever the wall is below grade and on an exterior wall. This is proof that the brick absorbs and releases moisture and moves enough to fracture the paint's bond. But the area where the brick had been repointed with cement mortar, and it wasn't exposed to mortar (party wall with our neighbor), that damn paint was like a friggen rock! I started by trying every different type of paint stripper. Peel Away, SmartStrip, Soy, Caustic, steam, heat, Infrared (Speed Heater), nothing worked!
The strippers just make a mess at best, and I swear the heat and steam are just absorbed by the brick, making it so the paint never heats to the point it needs to release or soften.
Eventually I just ended up using a good old hammer and 5-in-1 tool as a chisel along with the pull scrapers.
Then I added a tool that worked really well to my arsenal. At the advice of several people on Instagram, including the guy who invented the tool itself, I picked up a Porter Cable Restorer. It's basically a handheld drum sander with different attachments and dust collection.
Once I got the paint removal started, I grabbed this sander with the paint removal wheels to grind down/burn off any remaining paint. It worked really well, and is a tool I'm very glad to own now. They're also coming out with a Craftsman version of the tool with a new styling and more powerful motor, so be sure to keep your eyes open for it if you think it might work well for you.
As projects in our house tend to go, paint removal was slower than I expected. Our buckets of dry mortar arrived and Sean and his two other guys were slated to begin. I told them I wasn't as far along as I'd hoped, and if they didn't mind my working in their space while they worked, I was just going to keep moving along.
The next several days I worked on one side of the basement on paint and cement mortar removal, while they worked on the other walls on the repointing process.
On my side of the equation I was using a Dewalt Rotary Hammer like a surgeon to carefully chisel away the solidly adhered cement mortar, which was fracturing the paint in large swaths. It was the best tool for the job by far, and beat the pants off of a brick hammer and pointing chisel. But it was loud and grueling work. I would cut a channel with the grinder and then chisel out the cement mortar with the hammer.
On the other side the guys were using various scraping tools as well as an angle grinder to cut away the old soft lime mortar. They were experts with the tool and there's little if any evidence of an errant grinder wheel hitting one of the bricks. Meanwhile, I kept working on my paint horror.
While I had repointed previously using a pointing trowel, it's slow work. The masons preferred to use a mortar bag to squeeze the mortar into the joint, and then strike the joint using a tool to give it the classic look of a concave joint.
During the work, I introduced Sean's guys to an angle grinder repointer's dust shroud for the DeWalt angle grinders that facilitates dust collection and prevents the level of dust that's usually associated with messy repointing work. This is the shroud in action, where you'd normally see a spray is dust!
The shroud, coupled with a dust extractor vacuum, cuts down on a good 70%-90% of dust you'd normally see. I also figured out that the shroud, through not really meant to fit the smaller grinders, fits nicely if you remove one of the set screws on the grinder's locking collar.
Sean and his guys worked fast, and then caught up to me pretty quickly. the last day we were all working on the final wall at the same time. They were above me raking out the joints, raining a shower of lime mortar down on my head and hair while I was trying to remove the last of the paint I'd be able to get off. I'd long since given up on perfection and decided to embrace the remaining white paint as a level of character that will tell the story of our house for many years to come.
I can't tell you how much I appreciated their willingness to let me be in their way and work with me on this project. They said they didn't mind, and even picked up a few ideas for tools they wanted to add to their approach to repointing, so that was cool as well.
Most people want to hire someone because they want to have the job done for them. For me, I want to do the job myself, but it's all about time. When I hire someone I want to be involved in the process to learn and experience. I know a lot of contractors don't like this and feel like they are being watched or slowed down. I also know that we sometimes pay a premium or "involved homeowner tax" for being involved, but I personally get so much more out of the process by being involved that it's well worth it to me. We'll eventually repoint something else in the future, and there's a good chance I'll use what I learned by working alongside Sean's guys, and I appreciate that.
After the repointing was done I had to keep the mortar wet, especially on the party wall, to ensure it didn't suck all of the moisture out of the mortar and cure too quickly. To keep water on the mortar I used a garden sprayer and walked the basement walls every hour spraying them all down. I did this as I could over the next two days and watched as the mortar slowly took on the light gray color we were expecting.
The end result of our effort to remove the old paint and cement mortar, and Sean's team to repoint everything, is pretty spectacular. It may still be a basement, but I'd say it's a basement with some walls that have rather breathtaking character.
We no longer have mortar crumbling and falling on the floor. Paint is no longer crumbling into our belongings. I look around this basement now and I see a space that will be an amazing space where we will create a lot of very cool things!
Now we just need to take care of everything else that's needed before we can call this project done. What's that you say? Oh, how about...move plumbing, install boiler, radiant heat, insulate, move stuff five thousand times, laundry room, storage, work benches, tool storage, more work benches, omg we have so much to do! More in our next blog post...that will be in fewer than four months. :-)
We've been keeping people updated on a lot of our progress real time over on Instagram, so if you're on Instagram and don't follow us, be sure to add us to see all we're working on. We've also been adding a lot of tips and tricks via Instagram Stories.
Also, this is not a paid advertisement or partnership or any sort. If you're in the DC area and are looking for a good mason, give Sean Moore at Moore Stone LLC a call. We can definitely recommend them.
And here are some links to the tools that we mentioned in this post that really helped the whole process.
It's hard to believe just how quickly this year has flown by, but given that holiday decorations are popping up around town I suppose it really is time to deck the halls for the holiday. Each year, I try to have most of our decorations and two trees up by the annual Scottish Christmas Walk Weekend here in Old Town.
Many people near and far come to Old Town this weekend to enjoy the festivities, and I like the exterior of our home to be ready for the occasion.
This year's Scottish Christmas Walk Weekend kicked off on November 30 (the parade is always the first Saturday in December), so it felt super early to be buying our trees. But it also served as a great deadline to get us motivated since we also throw a formal scotch tasting and dinner party on the Friday night of this weekend! With all of the work on our basement project it's been tough to divide our time between fun and function, but by our party that night we were in pretty good shape as far as holiday decor goes.
Just like with our fall decorations this year, I tried to make use of as many fresh greens as possible. Our home in Maryland is a great source for fresh greenery, so I made a quick trip there to snip some evergreens and boxwoods, and cut a few berry-lined twigs.
I'm not sure what the berry branches are exactly (my guess is some kind of invasive plant that while choking out surrounding vegetation, happens to look pretty this time of year). With my stash from the other house, the branches we trimmed off our live Fraser firs, and two dozen roses and a bunch of berries from the grocery store, I was ready to start making fresh arrangements.
Out front I added some of the fresh greens and red berries to our two urns, adding a colorful, festive feel. It was as easy as sticking the branches into the dirt. No wire, no tape, just a little elbow grease.
I put a little more effort into decoration for the front door. Using a two foot long piece of scrap wood, I wrapped it in a red ribbon (affixing it with hot glue), and then using our staple gun tacked on pieces of fresh greenery and fresh berries.
I had intended to make two of these, one for each French door out front. But time was short before the party so I made just one for our interior door. A few years ago I picked up an antique horn in a junk shop, so I added this to the greenery to give it a little more visual weight and interest, topped it with a homemade plaid bow, and called it done.
But back to the flowers I bought from the grocery store. I divided the two dozen roses and sprig of berries among three vases.
I created a low, densely packed arrangement for our dining room table.
For the living room I made a slightly taller arrangement adorned with the same plaid ribbon I used on the front door.
I also created a tiny arrangement for the family room, but in a total blogger fail, forgot to snap a photo of it. I can assure you it was lovely. (Sigh.)
I also created a small natural arrangement for the kitchen. It sits behind our sink, next to the framed Christmas ornament box that was passed down to my grandparents.
Like we've done in years past, we put up a smaller live tree in our sun porch that features clear and mercury glass ornaments and white lights.
And while we were able to put up our main tree, we simply ran out of time to decorate it before guests arrived. In an effort to make it look nice for our dinner party, we adorned it with lights, garland, our tartan topper, and a simple skirt made from a few yards of rough burlap.
We did put the ornaments on the tree (a week or so later) but I have to say I really liked the look of the tree in its more natural form. Maybe that's me just being old and tired, or maybe it's me embracing simplicity this year. But while we took a much simpler approach this year, with all of the projects we have going on including our massive overhaul of our basement, I think it's okay to cut ourselves some slack this year. After all, the holiday season for us is about spending quality time with friends and family, and making new memories while celebrating the past...regardless of how many projects are completed or how decked out our home may be.
Have you ever had a project you've badly wanted to work on, but you never thought it would actually happen?
As long as we've owned our homes we've always had a project list a mile long. Some of those projects are things we are going to work on in the near term, and some of those projects are things we dream about eventually tackling, but have no real concept if we'll actually get to that point. But if there's one thing you need to know about Wendy and me, when we set our minds to something, we don't like to stop driving toward that goal until we can make it happen.
Over the course of the summer, and now into this fall and winter, we've been planning and working on one of those projects we've always really wanted to take on, but weren't sure would ever happen. That project? A complete overhaul of our row house's dark, musty, dirty, crowded, and inefficient basement. You remember this gross space, right? The room in our house that could most easily pass for that of a hoarder's hideaway.
Back when we purchased our home we didn't have any sort of budget to put into the unfinished basement. The walls were covered in failing waterproofing paint, portions of exposed mortar were crumbling, and the ceiling height of the basement ranged from 6'11" at its tallest point in the center, to 6'3" at its shortest at the back wall.
In order to get ourselves set up and working, we quickly built some shelves out of plywood and two by fours, and a workbench out of the same. Ever since, our basement has played triple duty as a storage area, laundry area, and our workshop. This triple play was less than ideal, essentially making the space fight over all three, doing none of the three particularly well. Not to mention that due to the shared space with the workshop, the storage and laundry areas were perpetually covered in a layer of saw dust. Needless to say, it was less than ideal.
Over this summer we needed to address some of the issues that have been impacting our basement, which included installing a French drain and sump pump to resolve periodic water infiltration following heavy rains, and correcting the out of level floor by working with a contractor to remove the old slab and pour the new.
While we're at it, we're also removing the old and horribly inefficient forced air furnace. We're replacing it with a high efficiency boiler that will heat the first floor of our house with below floor radiant heat, and the second floor with a hydronic coil on our attic heat pump. We're looking forward to having a more efficient heating system, and the bonus is that switching over to radiant heat will free up a lot of space in the basement because the bulky ductwork is no longer needed. This is another project I've wanted to take on for about 10 years or so, and we're finally doing it!
If you've been following us on Instagram, you've seen a few of our in progress shots that involve the restoration and repointing of the 130+ year old beautiful masonry walls. This is a tall task that involves stripping old Drylok waterproofing paint, removing some cement mortar from an old (and bad) repointing job, removing what appears to be plaster from other attempts at repointing, and generally trying to clean up all of the masonry.
Basement wall in 2003
This whole project has been a tremendously time consuming and exhausting undertaking. This, coupled with other projects and a very busy work schedule, have kept us pretty quiet on the blog the last several months. We're also working with a few contractors on this project, which is a bit outside of our norm. But if we want to get this done in a semi-reasonable amount of time, we've had to figure out what we should hire out vs. what we should take on ourselves. It wasn't an easy decision by any means, but working with a few good contractors that we know and trust certainly makes things much easier.
So, what's the plan? We're turning the basement into two truly separate areas. One third of the space will be a laundry and storage area for bulk grocery and cleaning supplies, a few of Wendy's real estate staging items and signs, and other household items that we want to keep clean. It will be separate from the workshop, away from the dust and grime that is unavoidable when working on projects. The other two thirds of the basement will be a real, actual workshop. The workshop space will be about 20'x14' and will house several moveable cabinet and workbench components that I plan on building over the next several months.
The whole project is major and will take a good while to complete. Our goal is to keep you all updated as portions of the project progress. So, are you ready for the fun? While it's not your typical fancy Pinterest-worthy before and after kitchen or bath makeover, we can't wait for this project to come together. After all, this is a project we weren't sure would ever actually happen, so seeing it in the middle of the chaos is truly exciting!
If I've said it once, I've said it a million times, fall is my absolute favorite season of the year!
After what has felt like an endless summer of intense rain and humidity here on the east coast, fall's cool, crisp days are more welcome than ever. And while I'm not quite ready to drape our home in the traditional orange and black of Halloween (give me another week for that), several seasonal touches of autumn have begun to make their appearance in our home.
Given all of our rain this summer, our gardens are looking remarkably lush this year. As a result, my pre-Halloween decorating approach has been to bring the outdoors in, and to celebrate the change in seasons with cuttings from my garden and small pumpkins purchased from a local farm stand.
When hatching my decor plan I took a few minutes to walk around my garden to snip florals and leaves that I thought would make an interesting statement. This included a few stalks of pink sedum and branches of deep purple weigela.
I also nabbed a couple stems and leaves as well as a couple dried blooms from our giant hydrangeas, which grew like crazy this year (but failed to produce more than a handful of blooms). I rounded out my picking with a few pieces of fern leaves, dried Black-eyed Susans, and a little ivy.
Using the garden cuttings, I created a small arrangement that hangs on the side porch, next to the door we use as our primary entrance to our home.
I picked up this metal container in a shop last summer during a visit to Morrison, Colorado just outside of Denver, and I love how I can change out the contents based on the season.
I carried this same natural approach Inside our house. our fireplace mantel also received some attention.
Making just a few slight modifications transformed the look from summer to fall in just a few minutes. In our home I much prefer this look to an over-the-top display that covers the entire mantel. It's easier to assemble, we tend not to tire of it over time, and it doesn't cause a big mess when it's time to clean up.
I'm looking forward to creating a full-blown Halloween look later this month, but will be appreciating a softer approach to celebrating autumn these next few weeks. It's such a simple way to augment our decor with a little touch of autumn, and a great way to begin appreciating the change in season. Who knows, maybe next year we'll be using more of our own natural elements? I'm thinking planting a small pumpkin patch of our own is in order!
If you too are thinking ahead to Halloween, check out our Halloween Page for more details on past projects, party favors, and costume ideas for my favorite holiday.
Have you missed us? Were you worried about us? I bet you were! ;-)
First, not to worry, we're here, and we're all fine. Second, wow have we had a lot going on! Over the last month we've wanted to write several blog posts but it has been so crazy the last little while we've just not had the time. Don't know if you know this, but it turns out topical blog posts require some inordinate level of time and concentration that we just haven't had the last few weeks.
Rather than trying to do a topical blog post about window glazing, a project that took months but we creatively make it look like a weekend, or a new recipe that we can't get enough of, we're going to get back on track by kicking it old school blogging style. "What's that" you say? We're going way back to the chronological journaling style roots of blogging, back before blogs were all shooting for compelling linkable content angling for pins and shares. Yes, we're going to look back over our last six weeks or so and summarize some of our highlights. If you follow us on Instagram there's a chance some of this may be familiar, but it will certainly have a bit more detail and far fewer hashtags. One thing's for sure, we haven't just been sitting around doing nothing the last several weeks. More on where these guys fit into the story in a bit.
Our last blog post was back near the end of July, when we did a little video home tour of our foursquare. Since then we've continued on several projects, experienced a few cool events, and we went on a handful of small trips.
The whirlwind started when a friend of mine invited me to attend the opening of DC United's Audi Field downtown. As a lifelong soccer fan I've been anxiously awaiting the new stadium's opening for many years now, so the experience was a ton of fun, in spite of the torrential rains that greeted us upon our arrival at the stadium.
If you're a DC area local, and/or a DC United fan, you should definitely make a point to get to a game. It's a great stadium with wonderful crowd noise and energy, and it seems like there's really not a bad seat in the house.
Right at the end of July, Wendy and I loaded Lulu up in the car and we headed out on the first of our small weekend vacations. Our destination was to visit one of our closest friends, Katie, down near Morehead City, North Carolina.
Katie's parents have had a cottage down on Bogue Sound for her whole life, and this was our chance to experience the place we'd heard much about for so many years.
This was both Wendy's and my first time visiting the North Carolina coast, and what an amazing time we had. Katie and her husband Colin used to be neighbors of ours in Old Town, and we've been friends with them through several of their deployments, at least three moves, two kids, and more bottles of wine than we can count. Having the unique opportunity to experience Katie's childhood getaway through the eyes of a local was a true treat.
From local fare (the shrimp burgers are not to be missed), to great antique shops...
...to some beach time with Lulu just behind Fort Macon, this little trip was just a few days long but was incredibly fun and relaxing.
This is what pure bliss looks like.
While visiting we had the chance to stop by the historic town of Beaufort where we walked around town gawking at the amazing historic homes.
It seemed like everywhere we turned there was a new place we liked better than the last.
Everything happening with Hurricane Florence and how it is impacting the coast and nearby inland cities has us heartbroken and worried. We had such a wonderful time while visiting and simply dread how significantly the people in that area are being impacted. A 10' storm surge will have an extreme impact on those area that we enjoyed so much, and this is simply terrible.
As we left town we drove through the city of New Bern, North Carolina and loved every minute of it. We took a half hour or so to drive around town and quickly tour the historic district.
Some of the homes of New Bern date to the mid 18th century and the architecture as a whole is absolutely impressive.
Wendy and I both want to make a longer trip and stay in New Bern the next time we head down there just to get to know the city a little better. It certainly seems worth the time.
Once we returned home we used our relaxation as re-energization and turned it into progress on some of our projects. Most notably, we've continued to move ahead on the main hallway of the Foursquare. We learned one very unfortunate (for us) fact. The underside of the 3rd floor staircase, above our main staircase, is beadboard. Well wouldn't you know it, someone decided it would be a good idea to wallpaper the beadboard. Then someone else thought it would be a good idea to paint over the wallpapered beadboard. None of this was a good idea.
So now we're taking care of that by slowly stripping all of the paint and paper off of the underside of the stairs.
Beyond that absolute mess, one of the aspects we've covered at length in the past was the built-in bench build to disguise the new HVAC return duct and our crawlspace access. After hanging our antique Galway "Fishing" sign we still had the large opening for the air return. A while back we'd found an antique cast iron grate to fit the opening on eBay and previously spent a bunch of time cleaning it up and spraying it white. So I finally got around to mounting it in the opening to finish off the under stair project.
We still need to put a final coat of the trim color on the grate, as well as on the large screw heads holding it in place, but this felt wonderful to finally have this checked off of the list.
We also made some major lighting decisions in the hallway (like the fact we don't need any recessed lights in this room), and test hung the new light fixture Wendy found for the space some time ago. This step made the whole project start to feel real.
It's important to remember that we're covering the summer in this description, so we did many of those wonderful things we like to do in the summer. We took in Nationals games...
...we went for walks around Old Town...
...we watched classic movies projected on our neighbor's garage (North by Northwest and Sabrina)...
...and I got a bad case of poison ivy that tortured me from the day before we left for North Carolina for the next three weeks. I have no idea where I got it and I apparently react somewhat terribly to the plant's oils. Oh summer traditions of prednisone.
In the middle of August we got to do something that was a ton of fun. We headed up to Baltimore for the Stanley Black & Decker launch of the Craftsman brand. Stanley Black & Decker bought the Craftsman brand from Sears in 2017 and have been working on their overhaul ever since.
We were covering the event for Popular Mechanics, Charles & Hudson, and ToolCrave.com and wrote up a summary of our #CraftsmanLaunch experience over on Charles & Hudson. If you're a tool fanatic like me, or have some memories of Craftsman from your past, you should definitely check out the article. If you've noticed, this is also why you've been seeing Craftsman pop up a lot more in Lowe's, Ace Hardware, and on Amazon lately.
Aside from the tools, this turned out to be a chance for me to live out one of my childhood dreams. Craftsman is sponsoring a few cars in NASCAR on the Joe Gibbs Racing team. As a result of this sponsorship several JGR drivers were in attendance, including Erik Jones and Ryan Preece.
Now I don't know if you know this about me, but I am a lifelong NASCAR fan. I've been attending races and watching on TV for as long as I can remember. Part of this Craftsman launch event involved a stop the Autobahn Indoor Speedway all electric indoor go kart track.
Not only were we able to have a little fun racing go karts, we had the chance to race against NASCAR drivers on the track!!
The outcome of our races? Well, I am not bashful in telling you that I beat Erik Jones in my race with him, and my time for our morning session was 2nd fastest out of all event attendees. I was only bested by Ryan Preece in top lap times for the morning session, and that was only by 0.1 seconds. Based on this, I think my best and only course of action is to immediately quit my job and begin pursuing my dreams of driving NASCAR in a professional and full time capacity. (Kidding not kidding.)
Left to right Murray Kruger, Erik Jones, Wayne Carini, Ryan Preece, NASCAR's new oldest rookie
I could go on and on about the Craftsman launch as it was both a lot of fun from start to finish, and a ton of great information. One of the best parts of any event of this type is the opportunity to get to see old friends and meet new friends from all over the world that we normally only get to talk to on the Internet. The YouTube, Instagram, and online tool/maker/diy community is a wonderful one to be a part of. Best of all we got to do all of this up in Baltimore, which allowed us to bring Lulu up to the event, which allowed some people who only know her from Instagram the opportunity to meet her. How weird is that?
A litter later in August we took a day trip out to the Shenandoah Valley area in Virginia. Some of Wendy's wonderful clients were looking at a great house in the country on some land, so I tagged along and we decided to make a whole day of the outing, rather than just driving there and back. Boy did we have a great time! We found so many great places to stop and explore by taking a less direct route home. We stopped in antique stores in Berryville, VA...
...explored 18th century graveyards...
...had lunch at an 18th century pub...
...and found an amazing antique store called Red Schoolhouse Antiques. This place is not your typical antique store where you have so much stuff sitting on top of other stuff that you can barely see what you're searching for. This store is in an amazing old schoolhouse and is full of European antiques brought over by the owner's of the store, who live in Scotland full time.
If you find yourself nearby, it's an excellent place to stop. The prices are extremely reasonable, especially given how high end the pieces in the shop are.
Over labor day weekend Wendy, Lulu, and I took our final trip of the summer when we piled into the car and headed to Cincinnati. We were going for two reasons, the wedding of Wendy's cousin, and to visit the Cincinnati Zoo for something I had gotten Wendy for her birthday earlier in the year.
The wedding was held at the Cincinnati Nature Center's Krippendorf Lodge. The historic lodge from the early 1900s was a perfect wedding setting and allowed us to take in the wonderfully preserved building in addition to enjoying the celebration with friends and family. Not to mention the fact that the wedding had an open Graeter's Ice Cream Truck in the driveway!
In addition to the wedding we took a trip to the Cincinnati Zoo for a chance to do something really special. We enjoyed an interactive experience with some of their Penguins and their two toed sloth named Moe.
Back when I was trying to figure out what to get Wendy for her birthday, I was wracking my brain for something unique, fun, and memorable. Wendy is a huge fan of the Cincinnati Zoo (and Fiona the hippo), penguins, and sloths, so I figured, why not get a chance to actually meet them in person. It's a great way to give a unique gift that's also benefiting zoo and animal programs.
Buddy the Magellanic Penguin even gave Wendy a gift of a completely custom painting! Unfortunately, Buddy did lay down with his chest in the paint at one point. Nothing a quick swim won't take care of.
Our giant whirlwind of the end of our summer wouldn't be complete without a little more work on the main hallway project. For that we launched into finishing up the plaster work throughout the hallway.
We've spent the last several weekends we've been in town applying coat after coat of plaster in hopes of having this hallway project completed before we're solidly into fall. While it's slow going only getting to work a day or two per weekend, we're making some solid progress and it feels like we're moving along.
While the last month and a half has been a blur, we anticipate much of the same over the next two months. We'll be doing our best to keep you all updated on our latest goings on, but our apologies if it's not as regular as we would like. We also have a few big projects on the horizon that we can't wait to share more about. Until then, we're just enjoying our finished dining room project every chance we get.
So that's what we've been up to. What did you do to close out the summer? Anything fun? Any big projects?
We've been in our 1908 Foursquare for just shy of four years now. Throughout our time in the house we've completed projects, both large and small, hatched plans, and had a lot of wonderful opportunities to enjoy our time in the house either on our own or with friends and family.
Now that we're a few years into the project, we wanted to give you a little glimpse into our home with a video home tour. Seeing the flow of walking room to room, how the spaces work together, and where we are in the process should give you a good idea of how far we've come, and how much we still have ahead of us.
1908 Farmhouse Foursquare Home Tour - YouTube
This home tour video gives a pretty complete picture of our house. The only rooms not in the tour are the utility and laundry rooms off of the office. We have a ton we hope to accomplish in the near future and hope our video gives you an idea of the direction we're heading.
If you have any questions about our home's layout, our plans, or anything else, be sure to ask below and we'll do our best to answer. We hope you enjoyed our video and found it to be interesting (thought it was admittedly a little long). And we hope you have fun following along on our progress as we keep moving through our giant list of projects.
Over the last several months we've been working towards this very happy moment. Yes, it's true, we've officially finished our Foursquare's dining room project!
This project officially kicked off back on December 10, a short seven months ago. At the outset, the dining room had yellow drywall on the walls hastily covering original plaster, a 25 plus year old fruit and floral wallpaper border, outlets falling out of the walls, a weird section of repainted ceiling, haphazardly applied molding, and a collection of holes in the ceiling and walls where things like ceiling fans, lights, and thermostats once lived. This is what the room looked like on the day we moved in, October 2014.
Way Before: October 2014
Since 2014 this has been our living room then our dining room. And though we were using the room as a dining room with all of our furniture, every time we were in the room the only things my eye could see were the border, missing fixtures, or problems with the room. I was thrilled when we decided to finally move forward on our renovation of the room!
Before: December 9, 2017
We counted it up and our seven months of effort actually spanned about 35 actual whole or partial days of working on the project. Seven months may sound and feel like a long time, but when you look at the number of days we were actually working on the room, we took just over a month of time start to finish. The end result is a room that not only makes me smile, it makes me downright emotional!
After: July 8, 2018
Yes, December 10 was the day that we decided to lay down some flooring protection and launch into the dining room renovation, removing the yellow layer of drywall.
...and searched for many one-of-a-kind pieces of furniture and accessories for the room. Like this antique machine shop cart that will make the perfect drink cart.
After all of our effort it's been wonderful to see the whole room come together over the last several weeks.
When we take a step back to look at the room as a whole, it's easy to lose perspective when considering everything that goes into an overhaul like this. At first glance we just have different color paint, new lighting, different furniture, and items hung on the walls. But when we really get down to the effort and detail that goes into a room like this, my heart starts to smile at how everything has come together.
One of my favorite accessories in the room is the boat painting hanging on the wall by the kitchen. This artwork was a gift from my mom several years ago. She painted it for us back in 2014 as a housewarming gift and I've been looking for the perfect frame and the perfect spot in our home since we received it.
We ended up ordering a weathered grey wood frame to embrace the waterfront theme I'm going for in the house. The frame is meant for canvas paintings and it was very each to mount the painting in the frame.
When it comes to hanging anything on these plaster walls, we don't want to leave anything to chance. Driving nails into plaster can easily cause cracks due to the pressure the nails tend to put on the wood lath behind the plaster. As a result, Alex likes to make our holes for hooks and then drills a pilot hole for each nail (all the while ignoring basic common sense when it comes to ladder safety).
On the other side of the room we hung two antique broom drying racks from a broom factory. These both came from Forge Industrial Works in Old Town Alexandria, and were an anniversary gift from Alex. We'd been looking for champagne riddling racks for this part of the room, but when Alex saw these they seemed so much more unique and he thought they might work well in the room.
These drying racks are old, cracked, crusty, and have a beautifully worn patina about them. To hang them we simply attached a picture wire to the back and hung it on hooks rated for up to 30 pounds.
Since this is a dining room, the focal point of the room is also one of our most favorite new pieces of furniture. We'd been searching for the perfect antique table for some time. In the interim we'd been using a table given to us by Alex's parents, that was used in their home throughout Alex's childhood. As you can see, when we had it temporarily in the room it was a little too small for the space.
Though we'd been expecting to search for our perfect table for months more, we lucked out and found our new table at European Country Living in Springfield, Virginia. This store used to be on King Street in Alexandria, but it recently opened in a new warehouse space in Springfield. The store's owner makes several trips per year to Europe and sends back containers full of amazing antiques. Our particular table is about eight feet long, was built around 1910, and is from a Monastery in Antwerp, Belgium.
We'd initially thought we would cut the table down slightly, reducing the overall length by about a foot. However, once we had it in place, we changed our seating plan and bought ourselves four new X back chairs, forgoing the seats at either end of the table. This makes the table's current long length work really well in the space.
The other corner of the room is home to an antique cabinet given to us years ago by Alex's parents, and a mirror we scored at a yard sale in Alexandria last summer.
We softened the room up with a few inexpensive white IKEA drapery panels hung on black metal rods from Target. These are the same rods that we used in the living room, and the hardware for these rods work well with the metal accents on the hanging light fixture in the center of the room. We hung the curtains at 96" high and then used our wallpaper steamer to steam out the wrinkles.
When I look at this room I ignore the items in the nearby rooms that are unfinished, such as the plastic hanging in the doorway to the hallway (our ongoing project), or the kitchen just behind the room (that we hope to tackle later this year). Instead I just appreciate how far this room has come in a relatively short amount of time working on it. And we can't ignore the thing that really makes this dining room amazing. The view this room offers over the back porch and onto the water.
This view, no matter the season, is a stunner! The setting for a meal is so wonderfully picturesque and I feel like we've done a good job of embracing the calm and nautical feel of the setting with the decor of the room. We've attempted to layer in antiques, personal items, and eclectic accessories give the room a very relaxed and comfortable vibe.
Most of all, this room, along with our living room renovation on the other side of the house, and our light office and bathroom renovation at the back of the house, have me excited for what the entire first floor will eventually be. If we're able to finish the main hallway and the kitchen later this year, as we're planning, we will have finished all of the first floor living areas.
What do you think of our overall renovation? How about the table and its length, does not having a chair at either end of the table work for you, or are you a head of the table person?
If you've missed some of our other posts on this project and want to get caught up:
It's been a hot minute since our last window restoration update, but we're rounding the last corner and are on the home stretch to a fully restored and functional antique window sash!
All of the prior posts are summarized and linked at the bottom of this post, so if you need to get caught up (because in true Old Town Home fashion, this is a super ridiculous long running thing) you're all set.
Now I don't know if you've ever done any window work, or if you generally get excited at the prospect of applying glazing putty...but you should, you most definitely should! Applying glazing putty is a wonderfully soothing and fulfilling prospect that provides an immediate sense of gratification and discernible progress. As a DIYer, there are few things that make my heart grow three sizes like that of a sense of gratification and progress.
But before we could begin our glazing process, there's a little glazing product selection and prep that we're going to cover today (the actual glazing post will be up next).
You have a ton of options when selecting glazing putty. From DAP '33' to "Glazing in a caulk tube," there are a lot of products out there that you'll want to stay away from. (Here's a hint, don't use glazing in a caulk tube...no matter what the person who swears by it says.) Many of these products are difficult to work with, prone to failure, or generally don't work the way old windows need them to work.
When I'm glazing I like to use one of the products from Sarco Sash glazing putty. There are two types to choose from, either the "Dual Glaze" or the "Type M" putties.
Both putties are soybean and linseed oil based elastic putties that improve on the difficult to use calcium carbonate putties of the olden days. You can still find these old linseed based calcium carbonate putties on the market, but they don't offer the elasticity that works much better in the expansion/contraction process of wood windows.
The Dual Glaze type is a slower setting glazing putty that can be used in wood or metal sash, and can also be applied to sash that remains in it's opening. Think of it as more of an all weather glazing putty for when you need to fix a broken pane in place. Duel Glaze can take weeks to skin before painting. It's a very user friendly putty, but you certainly have to be patient with the cure.
The Type M product is a faster setting and far less oily version of the putty. It's meant for glazing in the shop/workspace where you can let your sash set up and skin before painting and reinstall. It's pretty easy to work with and I really don't notice a difference in user friendliness between the Dual Glaze and Type M. The real advantage is that the sash are ready for paint just three days after applying the putty.
For our first window I used the Dual Glaze on the lower sash and the Type M on the upper sash. This way I'll be able to compare over time once it's reinstalled. But for all future sash, I'm definitely going to be using the Type M.
Keeping Glazing Putty Fresh
Okay! With the glazing putty of choice selected, there's something I like to do to keep my putties fresh. Since glazing putty isn't cheap, and there will be lulls between when we use them, there's a little trick to make your putty live a much longer life in its bucket. These Sarco glazing putties will live indefinitely in their bucket as long as you keep air away from them. Air will allow them to skin and cure, so even if you have them in a bucket with the lid on, the small bit of air in contact with them will eventually ruin your bucket. I've had it happen, and you don't realize your putty is ruined until you go to use it...which is sure to ruin your day.
My old bucket skinned over and was ruined.
To solve this problem I protect it all with water and I create three buckets. These buckets are for use "Now," "Later," and "WAY Later."
To do this I grab a few additional smaller container buckets with lids, then grab several handfuls of putty and form them into both small and large balls. The idea here is separate out the putty among these several containers. From a 1 gallon bucket of putty I'll split about 1/3 to 1/2 out into balls in these other buckets. The balls should be somewhere between the size of eggs and baseballs.
Once the balls are all split into the buckets I flatten out the main gallon container by pushing the putty down. This gives a good surface on the top that is devoid os major cracks and crevices. Next I add enough water to the bucket to give me about 1" of water sitting on top of the glazing putty. This water barrier will keep the air away from the putty and will keep the putty fresh in the bucket until the next time I need to use it.
I can put the lid back on the bucket and then put it on my shelf and leave it undisturbed until I need it again. When that time comes all I need to do is open the bucket and pour the water off of the surface, then grab my next handful.
For the smaller buckets with the balls of putty I can do pretty much the same. I just fill the buckets with water until all of the balls are completely covered. With these buckets of smaller balls of material the advantage is that I can just grab individual balls of putty as I need to use them. All you need to do it blot them dry with a paper towel and you're ready to glaze.
Since I have both Dual Glaze and Type M putty, I made sure to clearly label my buckets with marker. This will surely make it easier when I need to go grab my bucket off of the shelf.
This is the most effective way that I've found to keep our glazing putty fresh and ready for the next sash. Since the putty is oil based the water doesn't hurt it in storage and simply keeps the air away from the surface, keeping it fresh and pliable.
As I mentioned, we'll give more detail on the actual glazing process in our next post. I'll be sure to cover the tools and techniques that have worked well for us. Most importantly, it should be right around the corner, not weeks away. Getting the glazing putty figured out is just the first major step in doing glazing the right way.
Have any horror stories of your own working with glazing in a caulk tube or something similar? Would love to hear.
If you'd like to go back through our window restoration series, here's our complete list of posts.