Tuesday, November 22, 2011

A New Project!

So I was going to blog about the paneling or other projects, but I've got a new project I'm excited about and hope to complete this week. 

We were driving down the road and saw this china cabinet set somewhat near the road.  Not on the curb though mind you.  I LOVED it.  But, no one was home and it wasn't at the street so we weren't sure it was really being thrown out.  It was still there the next day, and there was someone home, so we asked.  And he was throwing it out!

So we loaded it up and lugged it home.  Did I mention the other half of the cottage crew (my husband) was less than impressed?  I still loved it. 

So, today in 30 degree weather, I washed it up (it was a bit mildewy and had barn ick).  I wouldn't suggest washing your wooden furniture, but I wanted warm water...and it was pretty dirty.  I plan to paint it in a shabby cottage style and replace the broken glass with chicken wire.

Here's my latest find, from the Paramount Furniture Company in Warren PA in as found condition:

It wasn't originally black by the way...check out how the laminate is peeling on the door:

Broken glass:

Look at the beautiful handle:

See the detail work:

The original shipping label information with the model number:

Friday, November 18, 2011

Who needs a gym?

So, I've figured out one of the best work outs there is.  Wood stoves (or fireplaces).  Really.  During the past summer, we picked up many, many pieces of wood either from free listings on Craigslist or dumb luck (driving by as someone put pieces of their cut up tree out to the curb).  We figured (mostly) free heat is good.  Generally speaking, most were about 16"-24" long and range in width from a few inches to are you kidding me (a few feet-very HEAVY in other words).  We brought them home in our truck and "stacked" them next to the driveway.  From there, we cut the bigger pieces with a saw (by we, I mean I moved them into a cutable position and DH ran the saw).  Then we took all the log chucks and split them into firewood size (again, by we I mean I brought them all over to DH who ran the splitter).  THEN I got to wheel barrow them over to our stacking area and stack them all.  We put up several cords to season.  And bought several more face cord (a common way to sell firewood in these parts.  Face cord=4' high x8' long x 16"-18" deep whereas a regular cord is 4x4x8) of seasoned wood which we loaded into the truck, then unloaded and stacked. 

If you are new to wood burning, seasoning simply means what it sounds like.  Leaving your freshly cut wood to dry for a season or two.  Burning unseasoned wood isn't good.  First, it burns cooler so you get less heat.  It's also a pain to get lit and keep burning, especially if you're going for a long burn time and damp down the stove or fireplace (which is really good for EPA type stoves to get a secondary burn going-meaning, you burn the smoke and get more heat and less creosote).  Speaking of creosote, that's another downfall to unseasoned wood-you'll get more of it.  Which is bad because it can cause a chimney fire and that can burn down your house.  And nobody wants that!

I also ran across something called Eco Bricks while reading about good wood burning techniques and how to get the longest over night burn (we are using the stove exclusively for heat right now and we've had some nights in the 20s already).  SO, we bought about 100 packs of them too, which needed to be loaded, unloaded and stacked (easier than cord wood though, 24 pound bundles wrapped in plastic, and in neat little rectangles).

And today I sent DH out to collect several truck loads of free wood again (I had to work, darn).  I decided I didn't need a gym membership.  I just needed a wood stove!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Jumping ahead a little...

So, I'm going to jump ahead of our MAJOR project of replacing the flooring and floor joists-remember what I said about foundation issues-and land here with building a natural lake stone hearth for our new wood stove.  We put a beautiful Lopi Republic 1750 in to help heat the place, and to add romance to our living room.  I always wanted a wood fireplace, but I'm more than happy with the stove! 

We had a lot of options for a hearth pad.  We could buy a premade one, or make one from tile or store bought materials.  However, in the spirit of living lakeside as well as in the interest of being frugal (we won't say cheap, lol) we decided to take advantage of our own resources.  Granted, we would need to buy the mortor and grout, but we could make it whatever size and shape we wanted AND save $$ on material costs vs buying tile, etc.  Also, it would feel more connected to the location by using materials from our own front yard.

We built it bigger (about 6' long by 4' deep) than needed for clearances, to give us a raised place for wood storage.  The base pad is simply 2x4's built in a square (there are two additional 2x4's inside of the square for support) and covered in Durarock. 

We started by picking a LOT of relatively flat rocks and setting them out on the Durarock to get an idea of pattern and to see if we wanted larger or smaller rocks (the picture below shows the small ones on the left and the larger ones on the right).  If you are building your own hearth pad, be sure to check your local building codes and the stove manufacturer's guidelines for clearances.  We chose the Republic because it has a VERY close rear clearance (4" from back of stove to combustibles with a double wall pipe), and even though our living room isn't small, it isn't large either so we wanted to take up as little floor space as possible with the pad. 

Once we had an idea of the layout, we set the stones using a mortor made for natual stone (there are different types, depending on how porous your material is).  It wasn't really that bad once we got going, although getting it out of the bucket with the notched trowel was a bit of a pain, so I used a paint stick.  What we did was get a pattern laid out for a general idea, then we took all of them off the pad.  I know it sounds like extra work, but we wanted the basic plan laid out-did we want all bigger stones, all smaller stones, or a mix?  We chose a mix.  It would have been nearly impossible to lay them back in the same pattern, so it was just easier to take them all back off.  Then we worked in 2' x 2' areas, toweling on the mortor with the notched trowel, then laying the stones into that.  We did "butter" (put some extra mortor on the back side) some of the stones as well.  I'd say this process took a few hours, and I was the only one laying them, to avoid two different patterns emerging (like certain painting techniques, everyone has a slightly different method of laying the stones).  We then allowed the mortor dry for 3 days, per the instructions.

After all the stones were set in the mortor, we leaned a few pieces of our "reclaimed" paneling up against the wall to see how it would look.  I am in LOVE with the paneling.  I'll blog about that later, it's a take on white washing and pickling on natural pine, and it was done not only to lighten the room, but because we didn't have enough of the old paneling after doing some work in the room.  It's done to resemble chippy, worn barn wood siding.  There is an old barn we pass every day which has weathered white siding and it really reminds me of that.

Once the mortor was dry, we sealed and then grouted the stones.  The sealing was simple-just paint on the sealer with a brush.  This step was supposed to prevent the grout color staining the stones, and it did for the most part.  Grouting still took TEN hours, even after sealing the stones!!  Typically it wouldn't take this long to grout I'm sure, but because the stones are so porous each stone had to be "scrubbed" to remove the grout from them, then the grout had to be finished (I used damp rags for this).  To grout, I used a rubber grout float that had some "give" and fit to the natural contours of the stones.  We used a lighter grey grout called "Delorean gray" (yes, like the car from Back to The Future).  Then we fitted the paneling in around the hearth pad after the grout dried (please excuse the "orbs" in the photo-there's still a good bit of construction dust floating about). 

Once the grout was dry, we got the stove installed, and put a neat vintage crate next to it as a wood box.  I *LOVE* old crates.  If you follow along, you'll see them in other places too.  The brass fireplace tools are also vintage.  We picked up the crate for $2 at a garage sale before the whole crate frenzy took hold, and the tools were bought from an architectural salvage company many years ago (they used to sit next to our gas stove at our old house for that "real" look) for $20.  We had the fireplace distributor install the stove, that was one of the few things we decided not to DIY.

We still have to finish the sides, but we're waiting to do that until we have the floors in.  That will be a while, we've been using the sliding doors to bring in materials, so we figured we'd leave that until the end to avoid doing too much damage to them.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

And here we are...

Ok, I think maybe it's just time to make a long story short!  We have begun work on the cottage and there are so many fun projects and ideas I want to share, so I think I'll just get to the point.

In early 2011, we decided to check on that one bedroom cottage with the out of town owner and foundation issues.  We hadn't seen anyone there all winter and began to wonder if the sale we thought had happened fell through.  So, we checked the tax records, and low and behold-same owner.  We double checked with the county, but they also showed no record of a sale.  So we decided to take a chance and write a letter to the owner.  It took some time, but eventually we came to the conclusion that the cottage was worth it (the owner wrote back quickly, but his asking price and what we wanted to offer were way different, so at first, we back tracked and decided to keep looking).  We did look at several other places in the mean time, which only helped cement our choice.  After months of back and forth, lawyer and contract snags, we finally closed on the place in late September.  It was a VERY odd transaction.  We mowed the lawn and did the landscaping and maintainace on the cottage all summer long, beginning in July.  In fact, we received the keys from the owner's brother's ex-wife (figure that one out!) in July as well, so we had access to the inside of the cottage during that time too (although we really just came in to use the fridge which had been left on anyway).  We weren't even at the closing!  I will probably add some details from this unusual sumemr later, but like I said, I want to get to the fun stuff.  I mean, I'm working on cleaning up an old steamer type trunk and making curtains from drop cloths (looks rather like sail cloth) and I'd love to show someone all these fun things!