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Friday, July 17, 2015

And this Summer's (2015) project is....

Fixing our stormwater runoff problems and recreating the landscape

a short history of the
front face of the house
Last year we did a somewhat major remodel of the river house. It was supposed to be a simple bathroom remodel, but if you watch even a little HGTV you are likely familiar with what can happen once the walls are opened up. 

Our house was built in 1978 as a cabin on the river. In its nearly 40 years it has had many, many owners with many of them putting their own personal stamp on the property. It also spent an unknown number of years as a rental, with some of those years as a student rental. Some of the changes for the good and others not so good. 

The previous owner re-sided the house and garage in a lovely cedar and added a  false foundation, a decorative element that after only about six years was degrading and starting to fall off the house. Since we hired contractor to oversee the bathroom remodel and we were removing the exterior door into the bathroom and replacing more windows we decided to remove the false foundation and deal with the stormwater issues we were experiencing. 

We had already gone way over budget on the bathroom remodel and decided we would do the demo and the remodeling company would add insulation to the foundation and waterproofing, and re-side where needed. Removing the concrete blocks was a tremendous amount of work especially considering we also did the demo on the bathroom just several weeks before.

Then we had to have the discussion of do we rebuild the decorative element or go with a simpler option of adding the waterproofing elements and filling in with siding. The simpler option won for two reasons - 1. it was much cheaper, and 2. it was more compatible for this style of house. We were happy with the decision and really like the new look.

Now, on to fixing the stormwater issues this summer. Our problem is that with the very large, high pitch roofs of the house and garage there is very little space for the water to go in a heavy rainfall. The house and garage are less than six feet apart, the concrete sidewalk was about three feet wide with a foot and a half on either side - not much room for the water to go, so in heavy rain it would flood the garage. Additionally, that same owner had added a new entry with foyer just several feet from the back corner of the garage which essentially stopped any natural flow of water through the area. There was drain tile on either side of the sidewalk, but it didn't work.

A better water management system was developed and installed in June. The sidewalk was removed and the area dug down 3'-4' where larger drain tile and a catch basin were set into a deep layer of river rock to collect the rain water and send it to the back yard to a rain garden. On top of the river rock is a high quality landscape fabric which keeps the 4" layer of pea rock from settling into the larger rock. The sidewalk was installed on top of the pea rock with pervious pavers that allow water to flow more freely into the drain tile and on to a rain garden. Overkill? Perhaps, however no flooded garage last week with a 7 hour - 7" rainfall. 
Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Thoughts and lessons learned on the chandelier project

What an incredible project this turned out to be!  First, the fabulous find in a local antique store, followed by several weeks of just studying how the chandelier was put together, strategizing, dismantling, cleaning, rewiring, rebuilding and finally getting it hung in its new home. It was a fun project and we would definitely do again. In fact we have a line on another that is sitting in someone's garage.

To tackle a project like this you need several things: 

  • patience
  • a basic knowledge of lamp wiring, a friend that has more knowledge than you and Google for questions that come up along the way
  • a strategic mind and knack for organization
  • an ability to work with small parts and pieces with the manual dexterity to wire them together
  • a tall, strong person with electrical knowledge to help hang the finished product 
  • a love of reusing or repurposing broken, worn out or old things
Oh, and a love of puzzles is critical.

How we did it

We have rewired lamps and a simple chandelier before, but had never attempted a project of this scale. A total of 344 pieces had to be removed without breaking (or losing), cleaned, sorted and stored while the frame was restored and rewired. This is where the strategic thinking and organizational skills came in. We studied the chandelier for several weeks, took at least a hundred pictures, and came up with a plan before we took anything apart.

For information about the history or what the chandelier originally looked like we visited antique and antique lamp repair shops and talked to the experts. We also did a lot of trolling the Internet for photos, information, history and purchasing parts.

I found 24x36 heavy paper at the local art supply store that proved invaluable. Drawing a template as we removed all the parts made the project doable because it allowed us to  catalog everything and give us a plan for reassembling. I'd also like to give credit to the Ziploc storage containers that kept the parts safely in usable chunks.

The first arm of the chandelier I cleaned with dish detergent and a toothbrush. It was a lot of work and the pieces didn't get as clean as I had hoped. So, onto the Google to find out how to clean soot covered glass. The answer is -- soak in an ammonia solution and the soot dissolves in seconds, with no hard work at all.

Re-pinning the crystals and pinning the flat crystals and rosettes to the frame renewed my wire wrapping and jewelry skills that had gotten rusty. I was a pleasant surprise how quickly the skills came back.

The holes in the frame that the electrical wires had to go through to be merged were too small for the plastic insulated lamp wire to wire each candle individually. We rewired each arm in series. The original wiring was done because of this. When we finished and plugged the chandelier in to test we found that with incandescent bulbs the individual lights were only getting half the power they needed. Our solution, rather than taking everything apart and rewiring, was to use LED bulbs. Brilliant solution as they require so much less electricity and pass more electricity onto the second bulb in the chain. If we do another project like this we will not wire in series.

We were going for more of a preservation rather than restoration approach for bringing the chandelier back to life. One thing I would do differently next time is re-silver the metal cups that cover the wires and the center candle as I did with the frame. I may do it sometime in the future if it bothers me too much. It was a conscious decision not to silver them, but after seeing the chandelier in all its gloriousness and turning out much better than we ever expected, it somewhat detracts from the overall effect.

We did not use the crystals that came with it for two reasons. One was that there were only 27 and we needed 32 for the bobeches and with a lot of Internet searching we couldn't find any to match. The other reason was that we didn't think they matched the style of the chandelier very well.

You may notice that one of the candles is quite crooked. We did not attempt to straighten it for fear of breaking the metal frame. We were discussing with our very talented son who said we possibly could have heated it up to soften it and then try to straighten, but even that would have been risky. Shorter candles may have hidden the defect somewhat but we weren't willing to rewire at the time.

All in all we are very happy with the job we did and smile every time we walk into the room and see it sparkle.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

What I did with the ugly chandelier

Now that the crystal chandelier has been hung and the old chandelier has been set aside it was time to have some fun with it. A few weeks back I was perusing Pinterest and saw the coolest re-purposing idea. 

Turn it into a garden light! And all it took was a can of Dope, a few solar pathway lights and a little silicone adhesive.

The Dope alone made the chandelier look great, but adding the solar lights made it awesome.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Hanging and decorating the restored crystal chandelier

Chandelier hung but not decorated
This past Saturday, the strong young man (son, Matt) came and helped us hang the completed chandelier.

When we finished wiring the candles I thought that the candles were too large and out of scale and enhanced how crooked the candles were. We used 4" medium socket candles because that is what the chandelier originally had. I ordered 2" candles and they would have looked great but Todd was very concerned that he wouldn't be able to wire them because how the sockets sat in the candle cups and the lack of access space to attach the wire to the sockets.

So we looked for a workable solution. The chandelier had obviously been taken apart and reassembled at least once because a some of the rosettes were attached backwards and the crystals really didn't look like they were original to the piece. What we ended up doing was taking off the half inch spacer that sat at the bottom of the bobeche and before the candle cup. This adjustment made the candle a tad bit shorter and also made the bobeche not as wobbly, which was definitely a definite plus.

Once we made the minor candle adjustments, the chandelier was hung and we started decorating this amazing piece. We may add another crystal chain at the bottoms of the bobeche, change the middle crystal on the lower arms to a larger pendalogue and then move the small crystal balls to the very top where the small teardrops are. We are also looking for a finial for the top center so that we can hang a small crystal ball that will hand down just above the crystal chain.

Here is our masterpiece:

Fully decorated and lights aglo

On another note....

The chandelier we replaced is
destined for rehab
We were worried the crystal chandelier we had spent the last several months restoring was too heavy or would be too heavy for the ceiling supports. Turns out we had nothing to worry about because the beast of a chandelier we were replacing was much heavier and the junction box was correctly installed for the weight of heavy lighting.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

It's that time of year again. Time to rebuild or repair the garden totems

Still my favorite adhesives!
As we did our annual Spring walk of the property to see the damage done by the Wisconsin Winter, we made quite a list of things that needed to be repaired, rebuilt, replaced or simply thrown away.

I admit I am not good about putting things away for the winter, like the garden totems and other decorative items. Winter took its toll on a few of them and a little repair and rebuilding had to be done. So I gathered them all up, grabbed my favorite adhesives and looked through my inventory for new parts and ideas.

Here are the fixes and rebuilds:

This used to be a funky red, white and bluebird bath. The center came unglued a
while ago. I changed it up by adding a clear bowl and using the top of the following
totem that came apart.

This totem had the salt shaker and candle holder that I repurposed on the
first photo. They fell off during the winter. I remade with the glass bird because
the small bowl caulking wouldn't come apart. The bowl slipped while curing when I originally
made it, and the angle bothered me. So I put a bird on it to make it seem more aligned.
The bird and glass dish were originally attached to a wine bottle that I had cut. The
bottle and top fell off over the winter. I reattached to the wine bottle - but put it on
the stake before it fully cured - so the wine bottle fell down the stake.
Oh, well. How about sticking it on a brass flower pot?  I like this better.

Got Pine Pitch? Here's how to deal with it

You see there's this gigantic pine tree that hangs over our driveway and parking area. Beautiful tree, but it likes to spit at us -- a lot. I've asked others how they deal with removing pine pitch and searched the Internet on numerous occasions and last year found the best and easiest solution.

In the past I found that isopropyl alcohol would get the job done, it took a while but it did dissolve the the pine pitch. I was always concerned that it would ruin the paint finish as using it especially on dried pitch took quite a bit of time to remove it. Now my worries are over even though I am using another form of alcohol because the removal process is much shorter.


Yep, Purell the hand sanitizer. I wish I could retrace my search or remember who posted this amazing solution  to give credit. He was a genius.

Purell is a gel form of alcohol, a product most of us have in the house or our purse. It works much better than the isopropyl because it pretty much stays where you put it and doesn't evaporate as fast as the liquid. You also don't need a rag or cotton ball to apply, just use your fingers.  (see the photos below)

Fresh pine pitch can be dissolved in less than a minute, older dried pitch such as in the photos below takes around two minutes. Give this a try, you will be amazed how fast and well it works.

A good size, dried out spit of pine pitch
from last summer gets the treatment.

As you rub the Purell on and into the pitch it dissolves rather quickly.
Don't be afraid to use a little light fingernail action
if it is stubborn.

Wipe off the Purell and dissolved pitch.
Do multiple treatments if needed.

When pitch is gone, do a good rinse with the hose,
then wash the car to remove any residue that may be left behind.

Monday, April 13, 2015

A Great Design Idea Found At The Home Depot

I had to make a Home Depot run the other day and saw this amazing wall in the paint department.
Wall decor made of paint stirring sticks
I've been looking for a unique wall treatment for our garage apartment entry area ever since we finished the remodel. Ideas that came to mind were paneling, re-purposed wood, corrugated zinc siding.

Well I think I have found the answer. Yes, it is made of paint stirring sticks. Now onto collecting and soliciting sticks from everyone I know.