Legacy Post: Replacing the Sewer Pipe

May 28, 2018

Here's a seemingly uninteresting post, a post about replacing the sewer pipe at 173.  I say seemingly because there actually are a few interesting things about this project that took place 'round about 1999.  Here in my city, the sewer system is antiquated and is becoming a serious problem for the famed Hudson River.  Most of the sewer system here was built in the 19th century, when horses were common in cities, meaning that horse dung was a public health problem. The sewers allowed for dung to be pushed into any nearby storm drains, which would carry it to sewage treatment plants.  And of course, 173's sewer line was put in way back in 1927, not too far into the automobile age (fewer horses - less sewage).  Here's the story...

Not long after purchasing 173, I was mowing the front yard and noticed a little divet in the yard next to the sidewalk coming from the front door.  I didn't think much of it at the time, but it did register.  Maybe a year later, I noticed the divet had become a depression, and still later a bit of a hole.  Then, somewhere around '99 I noticed that the hole really had become something of note.  So I called the City and they sent a crew out to scope the city sewer line.  What they found was the sewer line that comes from 173 to the city's line had dropped off the sewer main, right at the dotted line that says "Sewer Responsibility":

Picture from Kenmore Community Club
That meant, replacing the pipe was my responsibility, and at a time when finds were limited, this was no small undertaking.  And, as you can see by the picture above, the city's line is significantly deep underground, so it was certainly not something I could do myself.  So I hired a company that does this stuff and they took care of it over the next three days.  Here's the first picture:

At this point, they had removed the sidewalks that go from the house to the city sidewalk.  It looks like they are digging gingerly, although as we will see - there was no need for caution yet.

And there's the new pipe that went in.  A far difference from the original clay pipes!  Oh, and look - there's the old birch trees when I first put them in.  They were here until 2013 when I cut them down after learning that their roots had a tendency to grow right through pipes!  Remember how I commented about how deep these things went. this picture is when they were maybe half way there:

The hole was so deep, they had to put supports in to protect against cave-ins:

They eventually had quite an interesting setup to get the pipe changed:

It was like an archaeological dig site!

But after a few days the job was done.  Interestingly, since this was done here at 173, I've seen maybe a dozen of my neighbors have the same issue over the years.  The one upside is...this gave us an absolutely clean slate for the front yard!

Legacy Post: The Living Room

May 26, 2018

Because this blog is primarily a vehicle for me to keep track of what was done and when, as well as what products were used at 173, from time to time I post about a project that was completed before this blog was established.  I call these posts Legacy Projects, although they've had a couple names over the years.  Back in 2011, I posted about the 2001 back yard fence project, which was called a Retro Project.  "Retro" was a very popular word (or prefix as the case may be) a few years back, but as time has passed it dawned on me that those projects weren't retro as much as they were just done before the 173 blog got started.  So, now we have Legacy Projects!  And this post is just such an entry.

Whenever I can, I like to include the Moshers, the previous and only other owners of 173.  Here's a picture of the son of Mr. Mosher and his family in the living room:

Now that's Retro!  I love the old sofa and the fish tank in the corner, but I really like that painting.  By today's standard it might be a little out of scale for the sofa, but it's an interesting picture.  And here's another Retro picture:

That's the pater familias of the Mosher clan with the Christmas tree in the front corner of the living room.  Interestingly, the wallpaper in the hallway behind Mr. Mosher was still there when 173 changed hands.  Sometimes I wish it wasn't removed.  But, as it turns out, the wallpaper throughout the house was removed first thing in 1997, and the living room walls were painted an ever-exciting white:

Sorry for the leg shot, but as is so often the case - I have very few "before" pictures, thus - the legs.  And yes, my legs are almost always that white - it isn't trick photography!  Anyway, come about 2004 it seems it was time for a change.  It all started out with having all the ceilings in the house (except the kitchen) sheet rocked.  By '04 the plaster ceilings had become cracked, mostly with those hairline cracks that drive me batty, and I've never been a great sheet rock-er so a couple of friends of a friend did the work.  After that, as you can see in the old journal entry, the ceilings were painted:

$16 for a can of paint!  I dunno, maybe that was cheap even back then!  And, I gotta ask - what exactly is a paint warranty for?  What are they going to do 23 years later when the paint fails?  If the company even exists won't they just say - where's the receipt?  Or, can you prove it was applied properly?  Sorry...I digress.  Here's a shot of the ceiling during sanding:

The it was time to wallpaper.  It turns out this was when it first occurred to me that old houses were almost always wallpapered because it's unavoidable that the plaster walls will develop hairline cracks.  As we already established - those tiny cracks drive me nuts!  So the living room was set up for papering:

The I studied how to hang wallpaper and, as you can see, I was either confused or thinking this is crazy!

There's my old Binford Tools hat.  Some of you will understand the reference.  For those of you who don't, check out the old Home Improvement TV show.  When it came to wallpapering and color selection, we decided we wanted a kind of Tuscan feel for the living room, so we went with Wallquest's Sunny Tuscany, as is so conveniently logged into the old journal:

And here's the pattern going up:

After the wallpapering was done, the radiator needed scraping and painting...

As did the pipes that weirdly run up the corner of the walls...

Then we found the perfect ceiling fan to install.  It was a Hampton Bay from Lowes and just works beautifully for the look and feel of the room.  It was my first time hanging a ceiling fan, so I kind of over-did it in the stability arena, but that thing has never budged - barely even a shake!

Then it was time for new furniture, decorating and so on.  Here's a picture from just a couple years ago.  I had one person say it looked dark, but it really isn't.  We went with an oversized, overstuffed chair, sofa and ottoman for comfort, and I think we achieved the cozy feel we were looking for.  Oh, and look - there's the Linus-Monster!:

Here's a couple recent pictures.  After almost 15 years, the wallpaper looks as good as ever, although I did notice there's a couple seems that need to be addressed.

And one final wider shot:

 Dang it!  that one picture on the left is crooked again!  That thing has issues!  Okay, there's the living room!

And one last bonus picture:

Hallways: Working on the Details

May 25, 2018

So I was wrong.  In the last post I said there'd be one final post about the halls and stairway, and yet - here we are!  Instead of one epic post, I thought I'd show some of the details I've been working on.  For instance, both window sills in the stairwell were getting dull and faded:

A little cleaning and three coats of amber shellac later, much better!

Next was the corner protector.  I bought this thing several years ago, just waiting for the day I' be able to put in in the hallway.  It was bare oak, so I stained it with the stain formula I worked out for the baseboards on the dining room built-in which turned out to be a pretty close match to the wood here at 173.

After three coats of amber shellac (three seems to be the magic number), it was time to install it.  Everything I read said to pre-drill holes and attach with finish nails.  Why don't I ever listen the first time?  I thought if I used my nail gun, there'd be no need for pre-drilling.  Well, with the very first squeeze of the trigger, I blew out a little chunk of wood.  Back to the workshop, repair, restain, reshellac, predrill holes and ta daa!...

And for good measure...closer view...

And finally, I got the curtains hung.  The neat thing is the finials on the curtain rods are birds!  Just felt a little whimsical!

So, with any luck, the next post really will be the final in this series!

Hallways: New Lights, Outlets and Switches

May 20, 2018

At long last 173 has new lighting in the hallways and stairwell!  Not only that...all the outlets, phone jacks, switches and plate covers are changed out!  Let's start with the switches and plates.  These first couple pictures were taken right before painting, but they show the new plates really well:

I went with brown switches and outlets...

We went with Imperial Bead Aged Bronze set from AmerTac.  They didn't score great on Amazon (3.5 I think) but they're fantastic.  A nice solid metal and the finish is gorgeous.  Of course, they went on after the switches and outlets were replaced.  I'm always nervous about messing with electricity, but I'm glad I did.  Some of the outlets and switches had no ground, and now all of them do.  Here's a shot that'll show you why working with electricity here made me nervous:

What a mess!  I had to clean it all up, reorder the wires and, just for safety sake, wrapped them with electrical tape!  And here's a sampling of some of the switches that were still here at 173!

The one on the left was at the top of the steps and worked the stairwell light.  it was ceramic encased and the wires wrapped around from the back and screwed into the front of the switch!  At the same time, the switch on the right was at the bottom of the steps.  In that one, the wires screwed into the top and bottom!  And I gotta tell ya' - the positioning of the wires on both were in no way analogous to a modern 3-way switch.  It took me two evenings and several lost hours of sleep to figure out where each wire went on the new switches.  And that was after watching several YouTube videos!

That brings us to the lights.  Check this out, less than a year after moving into 173, the first round of hallway and stairway remodel was done, and the most modern lights we could afford went in...

Those notes are from my pre-blog house journal.  $80 for all three lights!  Certainly there were better quality lights back in '98, but like I said - the best we could afford!  The downstairs hallway light was one of these:

Remember those?  Hey, back then they were in style!  And by-the-way, according to the Huffington Post, some of the fashion styles of the 90's are back in style - including brass fixtures.   Anyway, the new light is in and here it is!

I've mentioned before that the woodwork here at 173 is kinda Mission style, so we decided to go with mission lighting.  This light was gorgeous, but it came with a single post from the base, so requisitioned the base from one of the bedrooms because it was a much more substantial-looking base:

Then there was the upstairs wall sconce.  Again, back in '98 the style was...

Now...and I love this...

The Tiffany-style lighting is very representative of the Mission style and just looks fantastic at 173!  But there's another lighting look for the Mission style that tends toward Prairie style and is a beautiful compliment to the Tiffany style.  To keep from making 173 too cutesy-matched, the chandelier would be Mission style, but lean toward Prairie!  But, before we get there, here's the '98 chandelier:

Yep!  She was a beaut!  But alas, times change, styles change and the chandelier changed!

I love the lines!!  And now, I have to tell you, not a single one of these lights was simple to install, not even the sconce!  Just how it is with old houses, but it was well worth the effort!  Finally, the bonus light.  You see, I originally found the chandelier after days of searching.  I just couldn't find the right one on Amazon, so I started looking on lighting websites...also no luck.  Then I searched local lighting stores and finally found the chandelier that seemed like it would work.  At the local place, the chandelier was about $140.  Not bad, and less than what was budgeted so - yay!  I was going to pick it up the next day.  But the night I found the light, I was laying in bed and thought - I wonder if this can be found for even less, so I googled the company, style name and product number.  Prices came up at different sites from $125 to some $400.  Then I put the info into Amazon and wha-la!  There it was...exact same company, product number and everything, but the price was different.  $45!  Yes, that's right - $45!  So of course I had to buy it then and there.  But when I clicked to pay, there was some other kind of Amazon discount automatically applied and the chandelier ended up costing....wait for it....$38!!  Can you believe it?  That's even less than the chandelier from 1998!

I mentioned the bonus light.  Because of the incredible savings, I picked up a light for the phone stand in the front hallway!

See the little squirrel?  Iconic of the little boogers that tease the pooch!  So, there's the new lighting for the hallways!  Now it's time for wrapping up little details for this project, so there should be just one more post on the hallways!

Hallways: Meet Sherwin Williams' Lily!

May 13, 2018

Ta-daaah!  And at long last, the hallways and stairwell are painted! A few weeks ago (April 22nd to be precise) I mentioned that the plan was to paint the walls Sherwin Williams' "Lily".  Usually, early-project color choices don't pan out, but this time it did!  "Lilly" is a beautiful light yellow that, depending on the light, looks like butter, or lemons or a light green, or white...but for the most part it looks like a yellow lily!  So this post will be mostly pics.

Looking down the stairs...interestingly, in this next picture you can see the edge of the corner.  It looks white but it's actually painted - it's just a matter of how the light hits it!

And...you guessed it - up the stairs!

And from a little farther out...

I was trying to get the view from the living room.  You can see a bit above the window - 

So that's a few pictures...love the color!  Now it's onto choosing window treatments, replacing light switches, outlets and installing lights.  Of course, the lights haven't been selected yet, but I have a vision!

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