We’re In!

We moved half our apartment into the garden floor of the house last weekend. They worked hard finishing all the moldings and painting the bedrooms.  Even though we only had one working toilet and no kitchen, sinks, or working showers, we were happy to be there and not paying rent anymore.  The A/C in our rental apartment broke in the middle of the heatwave so to sleep in our nice cool bedrooms with our new split A/C system (which is awesomely quiet and cool) in our own house felt pretty good.

The shower in the rental unit did work after we cleaned months of construction grime off of the tub but it only provided at the temperature of unheated New York City tap water, aka freezing cold.  Only one of us was brave enough to shower in it (not me).  Since we were only half moved in and still paying for our old apartment we went over there to shower even though we would be hot and sweaty all over again by the time we got back.

The plumber was scheduled to come every day last week and had not shown up as of the day we left for a week’s vacation visiting family up north.  The only dedicated worker we have is the foreman, who has been doing all our moldings.  To compound our frustration, the electrician has been too busy to finish up the things that we need in order to go forward with finishing sealing up the brick in the back of the building.  If it wasn’t for our foreman actually doing work everyday, we’d be losing our minds.

Toward the end of our week off (it is more a week off the house rather than work) the project manager sent us a photo of the plumber working.  There is hope for warm running water and a sink!  But we home renovators know there is a reason hope was in Pandora’s box.

The finished bedrooms:

front bedroom

front bedroom in a distorted panorama shot.

Master pan finished

Master bedroom (all nice clean, new and white)

Crowns, Astragals, and Casings

For the last couple of months we have been picking out molding.  Our architect specified two inch flat stock in the plans for the new rooms.  In other areas they were supposed to match the molding already there.  This is something for new renovators to be aware of: when you get your plans you will be overwhelmed with the details but at least specify that moldings should match the rest of the house because period molding is much more expensive than the flat plain sort.  When the project is already overdue a contractor will not be happy that they need to substitute fancy hard-to-install molding.

A few months ago, we had signed a change order for the contractor to replace the plaster ceilings with drywall and match the crown molding.  Big mistake.  Contractors always want the easy way out and that is dry wall.  Don’t fall for it.  The subcontractor (now gone) said he could easily match the molding but this has not been the case.  As an alternative we may have been able to replace the center of the ceiling with dry wall and save most of the plaster moldings.  What’s done is done.

Now, you may wonder why it took us months to pick out the moldings.  Let’s just say there was a difference of opinion.  Different rooms required different moldings because of their height or the distance between the window casings and the ceilings, so we had a lot of choices to make.   For the doorways, we were torn between trying to reuse old moldings that would need to be cut down in size and new moldings that did not match but were easy to install.  For the ceilings, we were trying to recreate the original plaster molding and this was no easy task.

Despite the fact that our contractor was supposed to match existing moldings, (promises from earlier in the project) they had not lifted a finger to do so, so we began our research.

In our Brooklyn neighborhood there is not a lot of places to find moldings.  We went to Dyke’s Lumber first but did not find exactly what we were looking for.  So it was off to New Jersey to Kuiken Brothers where we found most of what we needed. They even give free samples.

This is what we are trying to mimic:


These were of course plaster.  In some areas they were in great shape like here and in others not so good.  We wish we had had the money to lovingly restore them but we  we needed other luxuries, like bathrooms.

After about three trips to NJ (because we need at to go to each vendor at least three times) we had all our molding picked out.  We had to use three pieces of separate molding: a crown, an astragal and a picture rail to get this look for the small bedroom.  For the parlor floor living room we are going to do something a little more detailed (our contractor doesn’t know yet).

We explained how we wanted everything to the one guy that was going to work on it.  We were a little nervous when we saw this lying around!

bookDid this guy know what he was doing?  My husband took pity on him and lent him his compound sliding power miter, which was more advanced than the one he was using and was a back saver since it had a table.

Well, he did a decent job.  Nothing in the way of molding will ever be perfect enough for my husband who actually knows how to install molding (which he will be doing in all his spare time up in the rental unit for the next several months).  With the choices we made and the worker’s basic skills it all worked out OK.  We’ve discovered that if we keep our expectations low then we are sometimes pleasantly surprised.  I know, that is kinda messed up when you are paying this kind of money.

In this photo they had not yet put up the picture rail.small crown

We Are Still Here

After two weeks of progress we went into limbo for a week.  The countdown ran out and we are still not moved in.  For some reason our GC likes to do a flurry of work with ten guys working and then follow it by sending one guy a day to the house.

We, on the other hand, have been hard at work stripping off the paint from the marble fireplace in the small bedroom- feel free to ooh and ahh at the before and after photos.

small room before

small bedroom fireplace

Ignore the centerpiece, it was painted with a gold super-paint and has been hard to get off, I am still working on it.  We do intend to rip that inner piece out but want to wait until after the inspection because we can’t just have a gaping hole and we don’t know what is behind there.  This fireplace had no summer doors like our others.

I tried a product called Peel Away.  It is environmentally friendly like Lead Out but has no strong odor.  It is not for lead paint since there was only a couple of coatings on it and we figured it was probably not lead-based.  It worked fairly well considering it sat in the house all winter with no heat.  It took me three rounds to get it this clean.

What would the holiday weekend be without out a problem, right?

While were at the house we turned on the split ac system for the first time to test it out.  It was cool and quiet.  Heaven on a 90+ day.  Since our crappy rental apartment has only one small air conditioner that we found in the street (yeah we’re garbage pickers) the luxury was taunting us.  For about a minute, then my husband discovered it was leaking in the basement.  So we tried the one in the other bedroom.  Leaking too.  We could only assume that the ones on the parlor floor leaked as well.  The contractor had just sanded and primed all the walls!  The thought of cutting through the walls to get access to the pipes was more than we could bear.  Of course, this was the 4th so the company was not open.  To give them credit though they were there on Friday, showed up promptly at our house. and fixed the problem.  Apparently, the brass fittings that were installed did not work properly and they had to replace them with stainless steel ones.  Hopefully the problem is solved.