So Lucky: A New (old) Built-In

Sometimes you just get lucky and today would be one of those days. I have been working on the dining room for quite some time and trying to bring it back to it’s original glory. This has meant among other things, building new wood paneling as the originals were removed probably some 50 years ago. I’ve been making quite a bit of progress on that front and will share some more pictures on that later on. But one of the more annoying problems has been the built-in. Or, more correctly, the lack of the original built-in. Back when they removed all the paneling, they also ripped out the built-in and replaced it with this crappy 1950’s model.

1950’s dining room built-in, in a 1910 house. Ugh.

The house next door to us is in the process of being remodeled and flipped. Being the inquisitive (read nosy) neighbor, I’ve asked for a tour or two of the house. On my first tour, I mentioned what a beautiful built-in they had in the dining room and the GC mentioned that he wasn’t sure what their plan for it was as it would most likely have to be removed. Fast forward to this morning. For the 19th time, I mentioned in passing that if they didn’t have a plan for it, I would be more than happy to take it off their hands…

Well, for $100, I have procured a new (old) built-in. And upon close inspection, I have determined that it must be nearly identical to what I used to have. I kid you not – the size, style, trim, paneling, shelves – it is a damn near perfect match.

$100. A HUNDRED DOLLARS! I can’t believe I pulled this off.


The thing is in really good condition. I think it had been painted at some point but somebody did a pretty good job removing it all. There is a bit hidden in a few cracks but nothing I won’t be able to get to. All of the hardwire minus the lock on the lower drawer is still there. No cracks, no nothing. Seriously, what the heck. So after confirming that that beautiful piece of awesomeness was really mine, I returned home and made a big hole in the wall. Actually, I started out by drilling a small hole in the back panel of my 50’s built-in to see what was behind it. And what did I find?

Hmmm. That’s not the back of lath.

That would appear to be nice wood. Knowing that, I then approached the removal with caution.

Well well. That would be the back of the original built-in.

The spots missing stain would be from the missing rails and shelves.

Goodbye 1950’s.

I have since removed that old back and de-nailed it. I believe that’s quarter sawn 3/4″ fir. Needless to say that I will be saving that for something special down the road. I obviously have a ton of work to get this new built-in to fit perfectly and blend in but I still can’t believe it. The construction guys and a few of my neighbors are going to attempt to move it tomorrow morning. It weighs a ton. I’ll be removing the doors, and a few other details so we don’t break them and then it’s just finagling and jiggering it into place.


Staining New Fir

Making a bit of progress in the dining room. I have all the panels cut, assembled, sanded, and have began the finish work. The details around the windows and the bump out will be a bit of a challenge which I will be tackling this weekend.

Here is a glimpse at where we currently stand…

Two coats of stain have been applied, but pre finish. Quite a bit of trim is missing from this photo, but it’s still progress.

Full gallery is here.

A New Year, A New Project

It was the day before the Rose Bowl and I had a lot of pent up stress and had to channel it into something productive. So much to the chagrin of my wonderful bride, I decided to tackle the dining room. Admittedly it was a bit unplanned. But I also know that if I actually thought about how much work a room renovation really is I would never do it. So furniture was moved, plastic was placed, and the dining room rehab has begun.

Dining room sheathed in ominous plastic.

Dining room prior to a mess.

After wallpaper removal.

Evidence of wainscotting & plate rail as well as original size of the original built-in.

Evidence that there used to be a high window in the middle of the bump out (just like my neighbors house across the street).

As you can see, the wallpaper removal was, by all accounts, pretty easy. I have been peaking around at small details in this room for some time and, combined with looking at a few of my neighbors houses, had developed a pretty good idea of what the room was like originally. But I must say that upon confirming my suspicions, it definitely put me in a bad mood. To know that somebody purposefully went through the entire room and removed the stained wood paneling and plate rail along with a great window just hurt my soul. They did the same in the adjoining ‘music room’ as well. What were they thinking?!?!? And to remove the original built-in cabinet and replace it with a smaller 1950’s piece of garbage? Ugh.

The key word for this project is STAGES. Initially I will fix up the plaster and get it primed. I haven’t decided yet if I should skim the walls or not. For now, I am going put a fresh coat of paint on the box beams until some other point down the road I will hire somebody to strip them back to their original glory. The window and door trim all needs to be stripped and stained while adding in a few pieces that had been removed back during the first ‘remodel.’ ¬†I haven’t decided yet if the wainscoting/plate rail will be added back now or in stage 2 but it is definitely coming back. If anybody has some suggestions on the best method of building paneled wainscot/plate rail system then let me know. Also, a good place to source material here in Portland would help. I have my ideas but I’d appreciate your input.

I’ve uploaded a new photo set to document the progress. Wish me luck and Happy New Years!

Christopher’s Room Done*

Done! Or at least until this summer when I finish off the other window but I’m not thinking about that right now. What began in September and was originally going to just be a bit of paint and lipstick on my oldest son Christopher’s room turned into the classic rehaber project. But I must say, as with every room rehab we’ve done so far (Aiden’s bedroom, living room), this is my favorite room so far. It involved layers and layers of paint over layers and layers of wallpaper all on top of calcimine paint on top of plaster. There was paint on doors, on windows, on trim. Lots of stripping, sanding, staining. Cursing. New lighting (over old gas pipes). Some new hardware, some old hardware cleaned up. And for the most part, I actually enjoyed working on it. Christopher made for a good supervisor and the occasional assistant and is a great tenant (although his rent check is a bit late).

Take a look:

Isn’t this the point? My son Christopher playing and enjoying his recently completed room.

The two beautiful doors, picture molding, and new fixture courtesy of Rejuvenation.

Picture moulding finally reinstalled.

Christopher lounging on his bed. We’ll decorate soon but he does love his map.

The original 1910 wall color (green) and the first layer of wallpaper that I uncovered during the removal of layers of paint and wallpaper. The wallpaper has a bunch of names written on it and I thought I would preserved the whole find just for fun.

And a reminder of what it was when we bought the house:

The day we bought the house.

I’d like to say that I plan on taking a bit of a break but I’m pretty sure I’ll start another project. Potential projects include the dining room, entryway, upstairs hallway, or the sunporch/office. If you would like to see all the pictures documenting the rehab process of Christopher’s room, the gallery can be found here.


Admittedly I was a bit burnt out around New Years. Combined with the final push to open up Pilot Wealth, a man can only take so much sanding, pre-conditioning, staining and finishing. It looks great – don’t get me wrong, but I was (am) going through one of those classic home rehaber phases where you start to imagine evenings without house projects. Or weekends filled with…I don’t know…things that have nothing to do with your house.

But waxing poetic and pity parties won’t cause the dust cap above the base molding to magically finish and install itself. So what shall one do? That’s right: get distracted.

We got the new windows installed in the living room and dining room and they look outstanding! Did you know that you are actually supposed to be able to open double-hung windows? Who knew. I still have a little trim work to do on them but they look great. They do however highlight how crappy the old windows in the house look. But one step at a time.

The new Marvin's just installed

1st Floor Windows = Neat. 2nd Floor Windows = Not Neat.

With the windows out of the way and woodwork calling my name, I opted for some electrical work. After a quick visit to the Rejuvenation sale this past weekend I came away with a new fixture for our entryway. Check out the before and after! Hmmm….the paint looks a bit drab and the trim is awfully white…

The former first impression

A little bit of living room and a little bit of entryway

Since I was doing such a good job of ‘woodwork denial’ I continued on my lighting journey and finally replaced the fixture in the upstairs hallway.

There were 4 of these fixtures in our house originally


Minor change but seriously, that old fixture was bad. And you can see that even the hallway will be a huge project in itself one day.

With that completed, I must say that this house has quite the stories up it’s sleeves. I have now replaced 3 light fixtures in this house and found old gas pipes each time. Does anybody have any pictures of what these old lamps looked like that would have been here originally? It’s amazing that there are any houses still left from this vintage with all that gas throughout the house.

More gas piping.

I’ll probably get back to the living room this weekend: those final steps are the hardest. But I may just blow off the whole weekend and go for a bike ride and kick it with the family. Photos are here: Living Room, Entryway, Upstairs Hallway.

Sushi Restaurant Drinking Contest

You’ll probably get a crack out of this. I am actually sitting here having a beer resting after ‘one of those evenings’ on the house. I’m finishing up the main part of my baseboards (just stained and oiled the last pieces of the 1×8″ this afternoon). As I’m getting ready to apply the danish oil – I realize that I’m pretty much out. BUT – I do have a can of the exact same danish oil (same manufacturer, color, everything) that has got to be 20 years old. Being as I’m lazy and don’t want to go to the store, I decide to open it up. And it looks and works good…and smells like nasty fish oil. Whatever. Finish the trim. So I do, head out for dinner with the family and some friends tonight. And when we get home, it smells like 3 sushi restaurants got into a drinking contest and 2 of them lost and lost bad. The whole house smells horrible. So after moving all the drying trim to the porch in the freezing weather and throwing out all remnants of the fish oil fiasco, I am now attempting to cover up the odor with a beer. All in the name of good looking woodwork. ūüôā

Oh, and GO DUCKS!

Deadlines? Pffftt

Finish the living room by Thanksgiving?  Of what year?

Living Room Window Trim Partially Installed

We are making progress though and it’s beginning to come together. We didn’t realize how tired and dirty the room looked prior to our efforts.

To the punch list:

  • Ceiling painted.
  • Trim detail in the ceiling that was too ambitious to strip has been painted.
  • Walls stripped, cleaned, repaired, taped, skimmed, sanded, primed and painted.
  • Original window and door trim has been stripped, repaired, sanded, and stained, and for the most part installed.

Corner window with partially installed trim.

The missing cap moulding and stop moulding are purchased care of McCoy Millwork and are currently in the basement being cut, assembled and stained. I couldn’t wait on staining and finishing these pieces so I temporarily installed the top case moulding to get a much needed pay off. You know, some reward for all the work? I can already tell that there will be a bit of artistry in blending new wood with old wood via the staining process. Any tips? So far I’m just thinking a couple extra coats of stain. The baseboards are still in need of being sanded and stained but they should go relatively fast compared to the 400 pieces for the windows and doors openings.

As with every project, we deviated slightly from our intended route. An ongoing conversation in our household has been stain color. With Aiden’s room, we went with a mahagony stain that looks great but bordered on slightly too dark. This time around we went with Minwax Red Mahogony Gel Stain and I think we found what we were looking for. With the danish oil for the finish it should gently age and darken over the years and be perfect.

Close up of window trim prior to oil finish

Windows are loosely scheduled to be here around December 16th Рhopefully everything else will be wrapped up by then.  In the meantime, here are the pictures.

I hope the holidays have been treating you well!

Living Room Odds & Ends

We’re making progress. The walls are done and primed. The trim has been stripped. The windows have been ordered. It’s still a disaster but that’s progress, right? RIGHT?

Mudding the living room

After fixing the cracks and loose plaster, we ended up taping all the walls with a fiberglass mesh. The plaster was in pretty good shape but hopefully the fiberglass will prevent any future cracking (and yes, I know it’s total overkill but I had to do it at least once). Once cut and applied we set about mudding the walls. This was my first time mudding and it definitely took awhile to get used to but after applying 1/3 of the compound to the floor, I finally got the idea. We knocked off the ridges, gave it a second coat, and were able to sand that down to the smoothest wall I’ve ever seen in a 100 year old house.

I then set about stripping the window stools in place as if I had tried to remove them I’m pretty sure I would have cracked them into pieces. ¬†With 100 years of hideous paint removed, Christopher and I then sanded them down. ¬†They should look great!

Dad and Christopher sanding in the living room

We finally submitted our window order. We ended up choosing the Marvin Ultimate Insert. We were torn between the Marvin and the Milgard Wood Clad window. They were both great windows but the Douglas Fir Marvin was that much more period appropriate – we were even able to get them with ogee lugs on the top sash. ¬†We opted for a two tone window on the outside with a different colored sash from the trim. The inside will of course be stained fir. After much debate, we decided to tweak the large middle window in the living room. ¬†Instead of the typical, equally tall sashes, we went for the short top sash and tall bottom sash (oriel style?). ¬†I think it will break up the huge expanse of windows nicely and add a little more flair (always need more pieces of flair). ¬†The only drawback to awesome windows: the wait. Hopefully they’ll be installed by Christmas. Luckily we’ll be able to take advantage of the tax credit which equates to 30% credit on materials that qualify, up to $1500. Needless to say we will be utilizing the full credit.

The only known distraction left (that is planned) will be the addition of some some in-ceiling speakers. Thanks Bungalowcious for that inspiration.

I’ll begin sanding and staining the trim this week as well as purchasing some trim which was removed during some horrible late night party back in the 1950’s. ¬†If I’m real ambitious, I’ll finish painting the ceiling…but I hate painting. ¬†Especially ceilings.

Christopher wearing ear protection while Dad sands with the vacuum

Trim Removal and Wall Repair

We have removed all the trim in the living room which, as usual, turned into a little bit bigger of a project than anticipated. ¬†There were times when I seriously thought the baseboard and window trim was a structural part of the house. ¬†The original builders used what felt like a billion railroad spikes to affix the trim which made removal a little bit tedious. ¬†And the 100 year-old, dry, straight grain fir is prone to splitting so I had to go slowly. ¬†I then decided that since the trim was removed, I should just have it all dipped at Houck’s. ¬†They’ll do a better job and the fact that the process includes bleaching will save me a ton of time and be a lot better.

About 1/3 of the living room trim removed

But with the trim off I of course slightly altered the scope of the project. ¬†Originally I was going to strip the sashes and re-hang them. ¬†But I got to thinking…always a dangerous thing to do. ¬†And decided to replace the windows. ¬†The question is where to stop (just the living room? first floor? entire house?). ¬†Any suggestions on which manufacturer? ¬†At the moment I have narrowed it down to either Marvin fir windows with aluminum cladding on the outside or Milgard Fiberglass windows with a fir laminate on the inside. ¬†All are double hung, fold in for cleaning types. ¬†I’ll be staining the inside so the wood is a must. ¬†Thoughts?

With the trim off though, we have tackled the walls.  I was fortunate that early in the houses history somebody wallpapered the room and I was able to remove all the paint and wallpaper in one fell swoop that took all of 20 minutes.  It honestly peeled off so easily in huge sheets.  I guess that slightly made up for the previous wallpaper removal fiasco.

Wallpaper pulling off in huge sheets

Our friend Chris stopped by and we set about removing loose plaster and fixing cracks. ¬†Tomorrow we’ll be taping the entire wall and doing several skim coats to make them strong and new.

Plaster repaired and ready for skim coat

As always, photo gallery here.