Monday, April 27, 2009

More reclaimed material

After a long search, we recently secured a set of reclaimed bluestone steps for the front entry. And after an unexpected phone call, we were able to attain some sizable slabs of slate for the rear yard as well.

The stone steps for the front entry are Pennsylvania Bluestone, a fairly soft stone that polishes up beautifully. Originally, they were the entry steps (two steps and a landing) off another, larger house that was demolished. We purchased the set from Provenance Architectural Salvage, who also has a tremendous selection of other reclaimed material as well. The best thing about the steps is that they are over 4 ft wide. The existing steps at the Montrose House were removed a long time ago and brought to a marble shop on Washington Avenue to be refinished. The only problem we saw with reusing them on this project is that we now have a larger front door (over a 3 ft wide opening) and the old steps were only about 33-34" wide. We never felt it would look right to have a door wider than the steps. Locating salvaged steps wider than 36" turned out to be a more difficult search than we originally imagined.

As for the original Montrose steps?? Well... they are actually going to be installed in front of our own rowhouse, which has 2 steep concrete steps. Because our doorway is only 31" wide (real fun for couches!) the Montrose steps will work nicely. And we will always have a reminder of the project.

The images below show us loading up the stone steps at Provenance. They needed to be loaded with a forklift as each step weighs about 400-500 lbs and the landing is around 1,000 lbs. We will be cutting the steps down to an even 4 ft in order to get rid of some of the broken edges.

Also, our new sidewalk is now poured and the stormwater planter is framed out. More on that in an upcoming post.

Now you can see in the image on the bottom right that the steps are resting on some other stone. Well...last week, through a connection from an artist friend of ours, Andrew Jevremovic of Octo Studio, we were able to get a hold of some beautiful old slabs of slate. Andrew is currently working with another designer to help renovate a bar at the corner of Girard Ave and Montgomery Ave, and they alerted us to all the extra slate from the demo that they needed to get rid of but wanted to go to a good use.

Well, it just so happens that we have been mulling over paving ideas for the rear yard at the Montrose house. So, off we the rescue! Of course, this venture turned out to be no easy task. You see, the slabs were all about 2 ft x 3 ft and about 3" thick, each weighing 200-300 pounds or more. It would not have been that difficult except that all the stone was in the basement of the bar and was the old floor that they had broken out. The only way out was up a narrow old stair. When I got to the site, I was initially hoping that the slabs would be larger for paving purposes, but then I quickly realized that if they were any bigger, I don't think we could have carried them.

Below are some pictures of Justin, Merlin, and me loading the slate slabs out of the building and onto the truck. And then back at the house, looking rather pleased to be unloading the last stone.

For the backyard paving, we have been going back and forth about what type of material to use...flyash cement pavers, porous concrete, a recycled material of some well as reclaimed stone. As time goes by, we keep coming back to the idea that a reclaimed material would be the most appropriate. Additionally, the rear facade of the house has a very clean, contemporary look with the vertical running bond fiber-cement panels, so a more 'natural' feel to the ground treatment would balance out the overall feel of the space. Stay tuned for the final decision.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Wood floor installation

Well, we are knee deep (no pun intended) into installing the cherry floors. The quality of the wood is impressive. Cherry tends to have a lot of sap wood, a light colored portion in the wood, which results in drastic variations in the color as it takes stains and finishes different from the heartwood. But we are about halfway through the installation and frankly there seems to be no evidence of sapwood anywhere. The color match I gave them is dead on and the finish is gorgeous. I am also glad we went with the wider planks (6") . It has a more classic feel.

Below you can see what the bundled floors looked like after we hauled them into the house. Also, there is a glimpse of the finished third floor...pardon our dust!

We had a couple of great carpenters, from our friends at K Group, help us out with the third floor as we had not installed floors ourselves before. We wanted to acquire the technique as well as some of the tricks when it comes to installing floors. The guys were very helpful and now we are on our own, making our way through the rest of the house.

Since ordering these floors I have since turned at least 4 other individuals onto the Collins Companies as a source for their projects. It turned out to be a great find.

Of course, except for one minor detail.

As I might have mentioned before, the mill at Collins is not set up to do end-matching (tongue and grove on the ends of the boards...just like the sides). Therefore, the ends of the floor boards would simply butt together when they meet. Well, with a 6" wide plank, this simply won't fly. You see, if you did lay them just as they were delivered, you would inevitably get 'cupping' at the ends of the boards...if not immediately, it would occur within the first few months. This would be disastrous.

So, the gluttons for punishment we are (or maybe just diligent), we decided the only way to resolve this was to double biscuit the ends of every board using a biscuit jointer. Essentially, this creates the T&G situation needed to keep the boards stable. We created a jig and are going through the stacks of floor boards in a production line like you can see below. Our good friend Justin, who is pretty much helping us full time now, can take all the credit for being so incredibly organized in stacking the biscuited boards.

I have been talking to the guys at Collins about this dilemma and they are being very receptive. I told them that no 'end matching' would inevitably be a reason why folks don't buy their product. They have since begun taking steps to get their mill set up for end matching (go figure, it's after we're done!) and hope to be set up soon.

We will have some more updates on the floors very soon as well as the tile, which is going in now. We also have some interesting adventures to relay regarding procurement of the reclaimed stone for the front steps and the rear yard. Stay tuned!

Monday, April 6, 2009

Steel Stair Installation

A few photos of the steel stair installation...The whole process was completed in just a few hours. After the hardwood floors are installed, Bill Curran & his crew will return to install the steel railings. The final step is to clean the steel by hand (an eco-friendly cleaning agent like SimpleGreen was recommended) and to apply a coat of beeswax to give the metal a slight sheen and more finished look. The wood treads in the images are temporary 2x4s- the final ones will be fabricated from reclaimed oak beams and will be about 3" thick. We are extremely pleased with how the stair turned out and will post additional images after the railings and final treads are installed. enjoy!

Check out this video....these guys make it look so easy.