Sunday, February 28, 2010

The Book Nook

I love the back bedroom at the Einsel House. Probably because it reminds me of my childhood bedroom, which also had a a sloped ceiling. My childhood bedroom also had small doors in each knee wall providing access to the space behind for storage. Storage space is extremely limited at the Einsel House, and at some point I wondered aloud if we could copy this idea in our new home.

My mom thought this was a wonderful idea and she ran with it. We will have two small doors in the south knee-wall. Below is a picture of my brother working behind what will be the left door in the knee-wall:

The door to the right will open to a small storage unit, but the door to the left is getting much more attention. My mom has dubbed this space "The Book Nook" and the little girl who will be getting this bedroom is in love with the area already. She spent the entire afternoon Sunday helping her grandma frame out The Book Nook:

If you know my mom, either in person or from earlier entries here, then you probably won't be surprised to learn that she has grand plans for the Book Nook. It will have built in shelves, and it is already wired for an outlet. There will be carpet on the floor and rope lighting along the ceiling. Most of that is still to come, though. Here's the Book Nook in its current state:

Saturday, February 27, 2010


At about 3:00 this afternoon I sanded the last piece of trim around the front door.

Afterward, I toured the house with a tape measure in hand, and by my rough estimate we have sanded 1,142.1 linear feet of woodwork since late December. That includes baseboards, window trim and door trim.

Not included in that number (but also sanded) are 6 doors (front & back), 2 more doors (fronts only), 14 stairs (treads & risers) and the bannister at the top of the stairs.

There is still a lot of dust that needs cleaned up.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Almost Finished

It's been more sanding at the Einsel House. Of course. But we are getting so close to being finished. When I left the house tonight there were only two walls left in the last room that still needed more attention. So, in anticipation of finally moving on to number next one (to borrow a phrase from my high school history teacher) here are a few more pictures taken while sanding.

First, a close-up of the bannister at the top of the stairs. I'm so thrilled at how that bottom board cleaned up.

Next, the living room, taken at some point last Saturday:
From last Sunday, an action shot of my mom working on the middle window from the above picture:
And I have to include a picture to give some idea of the dust:
Although the last picture may make this hard to believe, we do attempt to control the dust. We close or block every door to whatever room we are working in and then rig the set-up pictured below in a window, attempting to blow the dust out of the room. This does help some (although obviously not enough).
Enough about sanding. Moving to the back bedroom, below is a final progression picture of the studs from the south knee-wall. These pictures show the same stud in about November at left, December at center, and last weekend at right.

And finally, the current state of the dining room.

And with that I'm off to bed. Sleep is always a welcome thing after another evening spent sanding.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Nothing halfway

(But I think there's room for one more clamp near the top.)

Friday, February 19, 2010

In Other News

Although our time at the house has been dominated by one activity for the past two months or so (see yesterday's post), our contractors have kept busy with other jobs. Here's the north end of the kitchen:

Even in person you can't tell which beams have been there since we bought the place and which ones are new.

The dining room ceiling is also going back together. The new joists were delivered last Monday, and before leaving the house I snapped the following picture of them waiting to be put up:

Our contractors almost had the whole ceiling covered before we had a chance to see the new joists in place, but luckily my mom stopped by the house yesterday just in time to snap the picture below before the last section of drywall went up to cover the newly installed joists:

And although I don't have pictures for the rest, the following signs of progress also merit mention here:

-the new dining room chandelier arrived earlier this week and is waiting patiently in its box

-the new front door has been ordered and should arrive in about 2 weeks

-the sidelights and transom for the front door have new (wavy) glass in them, and they are resting in a safe place while the new glazing "cures"

-the ceiling in the back bedroom is now under drywall

-my Uncle J has been busy rerouting plumbing lines, cleaning out the sub pump pit, and continuing electrical work (we now have light switches for the living room and office, and 2 switches for the dining room)

-there are about 14 new inches of blown in insulation in the ceiling above the south end of the kitchen

We're getting there!

Thursday, February 18, 2010


In her grandchildren my mother has found a second generation with which to share the children's book "The Digging-est Dog". Since I've spent plenty of time with the same, both as the reader and as the read-to, I knew exactly what my mother was talking about when she turned to me during a lull in our sanding last Monday and said, "I keep thinking about reading to the kids the other night - 'My eyes and nose were full of dirt, my paws and claws and elbows hurt.' "

Yep, I knew exactly what she was talking about.

It's nearly the end of the week so I've had plenty of time to contemplate this post. I could simply say that the three day weekend just past was spent doing more sanding at the Einsel House. I could gush for a few paragraphs about the beauty of the old walnut wood. I could even devote a couple more paragraphs to describing how lovely the old wood will look once it’s refinished.

But I won’t. Instead, I have to come clean and admit it – I’m sick of sanding.

First and foremost is the dust. Somewhere, under a layer of reddish brown, is my house. It covers the floors, the walls, the ceilings. It hangs in the air. It collects on your clothes and in your hair. It causes muddy trails of sweat down your forehead, and a lingering feeling of grit in your eyes and in your mouth. It shows no respect for cleanly swept floors, nor for freshly primed walls. It laughs at attempts to contain it within one room.

Dust is also to blame for the second great annoyance of sanding – respirator masks. All I’m going to say here is that this annoyance is multiplied by ten when your sinuses are whining and you need to blow your nose every 10 minutes.

Sanding also denies you the distraction of listening to the radio while you work. Oh, I suppose you could have a radio playing in the background, but it would be pointless once the random orbital hand sander comes to life.

Which brings me to the actual process of sanding. It is work. Hours of holding the hand sander leaves a residual Parkinson-esque sensation. And the person holding the power sander must apply a constant pressure against the wood. The old finish doesn’t give in easily. It seems simple enough at first, but after a few hours you realize your entire arm aches. Still, you soldier on, and hours later when you finally kill the power to the sander the silence hangs heavy in the reddish-brown haze. Your arm hangs limp at your side, your fingers still tingling as though you slept too long with your arm at the wrong angle. And then the real work begins, because when the power sander is put down, the hand tools are picked up.

Your new collection of tools includes scrapers with perpetually dull blades and sanding blocks in multiple different shapes and angles, even metal picks that look as though they came straight from some dentist’s office. Your tired arm goes back to work, pulling the scraper against the edges and corners the hand sander could not reach. As you work you scan the wood for reminders of the random orbital sander – reminders in the form of scalloped half circles that taunt you with their sideways smiles. Each smile must be rubbed out by hand. When the smiles disappear you step back to check your work, and from your new angle you can see four new grins laughing up at you. You grab a fresh sheet of 60 grit paper and settle back down to work.

At some point you become aware that the sandpaper is having the same effect on your hands as it is on the wood. Perhaps this occurs at the kitchen sink during a snack break – the soap touches your hands and they’re suddenly screaming as though they’re on fire. Or perhaps it occurs sooner, as it did for me on President’s Day, when you drag the sandpaper against the wood for the 3,521st time that day and look down to see a narrow crimson line soaking into the wood you just attempted to sand. (Remarkably, I think this was the first time I've actually christened the Einsel House with my own blood.)

When you finally have all the old finish removed, all the edges, corners and marks left by the random orbital sanded out you get to repeat the whole process again, this time with a finer grit sandpaper. And when you've finished everything the second time you get to give everything a third go round, with a still finer grit sandpaper. And then - if you're sanding every square inch of woodwork in the entire house like we are - you move to the next room and start the whole process over.

At some point the next step would be putting away the sandpaper and scrapers; stretching your aching hands, and beginning the cleaning job required before any painting or refinishing can begin. After eight straight weeks of sanding, we're not at that point yet. We're getting closer, but we're not there yet. Soon, I keep telling myself. Soon.

In closing I'll admit that any post I've had four days or more to plot is liable to be a bit melodramatic. (Although I did practice some restraint when I took out the line opining that trying to shampoo walnut sawdust out of your hair with raw and bleeding hands is a torture worthy of at least the fifth or sixth level of hell.) In all honesty, for the first 4 or 5 weeks I actually found sanding enjoyable. It's been dirty work from the start, and I've been sore at the end of every day spent sanding, but it wasn't until the past two weeks or so that I've felt totally DONE with sanding. Still, I have no regrets. The wood is beautiful. And I suspect that the memory of these long weeks will fade very quickly once we are living in this house surrounded by the fruit of this current labor.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

A Bright, Bright Sunshiny Day!

Somehow, I have a six (!!!) year old son. Part of his birthday present was having his new bedroom be the first room at the Einsel House to be painted. This boy has loved the color yellow right from the start.

We told him he could pick whichever color he wanted for his bedroom walls. His response - "Great!" ...(pause)... "But they're all yellow. I want to use them all!" Then he suggested we do a rainbow using all the different shades of yellow! Thankfully, we eventually got him to pick just one color.

And it started going on the walls:

Until the whole room was bright and sunny!

So thank you Neil for the sunshine you bring! I loved seeing your color go over those walls, and I loved even more seeing your smile when you walked into your room yesterday. : )

A little sunshine is a wonderful thing, especially when it looks like this outside:

(picture taken at my parents' place, a.k.a. The Farm)

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

The Nerve

Two hours ago I was blissfully sanding woodwork in the living room at the Einsel House. Upstairs in our son Neil's future bedroom lay the sleeping bag I slept in last night; beside it a stack of old issues of home improvement magazines, above it a freshly painted ceiling and surrounding it freshly painted walls. Outside the wind was picking up, quickly drifting shut the long driveway. I took a break to glance out the window one more time, and my heart pattered contentedly at the thought of being snowed in alone at the Einsel House for a second night. All being right with the world, I turned my attention back to the door frame I was sanding.

Did I hear something?

I turned off the orbital sander, and by the time I looked up she was already standing in the room smiling at me. My defenses went on immediate alert. Winter storm warning and Level 2 snow emergency be damned - she said she wanted Neil to be able to see his newly painted room. So we went upstairs. And as I hoped, Neil was clearly thrilled with his new yellow walls.

Back down in the kitchen, she asked Neil if he wanted to stay and help work on the stone house. Predictably, he didn't. He just wanted to go back home. She looked at me and said, "Well, one of us will have to go back." Ah - there it was, the ulterior motive. "I brought everything I'd need to stay," she said with another smile. But I wasn't giving in that easily. I opened my mouth to reply but before I could say a word she played her trump card.

"He's been missing you a lot today, you know."

I glanced out the window at my son who was struggling with a snow shovel in the drifts and wind, and I knew the battle was over.

So here I sit, wearing warm flannel pajamas, with the dust washed out of my hair, a well stocked kitchen available when dinner time beckons, and a real bed to sleep in when the sun goes down. And yet, but for the hugs from my kids, I would trade places with my mother in a heartbeat if I could.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Why Einsel Indeed....

What an interesting weekend! Thanks to mother nature we did not spend any time at the Einsel House, but that doesn't mean I'm without fodder for a blog post.

Late last week I got an email from one of my uncles. It was a message he had forwarded from his nephew. This nephew had checked the Ohio Historic Inventory for the Einsel House and he struck gold. A copy of the inventory sheet (dated 1981) was attached to the email. I'll save almost all of the little tidbits contained on the inventory sheet for another post, and focus on just one here. Namely - according to the Ohio Historic Inventory, our house is the Noah Rinehart House. The name Einsel isn't on the form at all.

My first thought was that it was the wrong house, but after a quick review of the rest of the information it was clear that it was indeed our house. My second thought was that it was a mistake, it was probably supposed to be Noah Einsel. Regardless, I decided to see what I could find out about Noah Rinehart. I had several handicaps, though. I was housebound due to a snowstorm, so the library was out of the question. My own collection of genealogy books are packed in a storage unit about 5 miles away. And I canceled all of my on-line genealogy subscriptions to save money to spend on the Einsel (Rinehart?) House. Undaunted, I clicked my way to the website of another genealogist who has every cemetery in the county indexed on her site. There is no Noah Rinehart buried in this county. Next I went to the county history book from the 1880s that is available at Google Books, and checked the index to see if Noah Rinehart was included (or even just mentioned) in the biographical sketches for each township. Again, I came up empty. Finally, I did a simple Google search combining Noah Rinehart with the name of our county. Nada.

To reassure myself I went back to the 1874 county atlas (which also is available online) and checked our property again. I was reassured to see that it did indeed say N. Einsel. Shortly after the sheriff sale last fall I had gone to the county recorder's office. I had looked at the original deed showing that Noah Einsel inherited land in this township from the estate of his sister, Lydia Einsel, and that she in turn had inherited that land from the estate of her father, John Einsel. Reassured, I turned my attention to the other information on the inventory.

But then my uncle emailed again and admitted that he was getting pulled into the mystery. Attached to his email was a copy of the 1850 census showing a Noah Rinehart family living in our township and county. Hmm........ With this bit of information I went back to digging. Eventually on another (free) genealogy website I found several trees including a Noah Rinehart whose wife Rebecca was a daughter of one of John Einsel's first cousins. Hmmmmmmm.........

At this point I went back to the 1874 atlas. This time instead of zeroing in on our house, I began scouring the rest of the township, trying to figure out where Noah Rinehart lived. I never found him. But I did find something else. And suddenly it all made sense. Barely a mile east of the farm labeled N. Einsel was another farm, this one labeled MisL.Einsel.


Miss Lydia Einsel.

I had looked at the original deed showing that Noah Einsel had inherited land in this township from the estate of his sister, Lydia Einsel, and that she in turn had inherited that land from the estate of her father, John Einsel.

Oh my. John and Elizabeth Einsel didn't build our house. Apparently Noah Rinehart did. John and Elizabeth Einsel never even lived in our house. Oh my.

It (obviously) never even occurred to me that when Noah Einsel inherited the family farm he might have already owned other property in the same township. Had I delved into the legal descriptions on the deeds I pulled in the county recorder's office I probably would have noticed something was off, but legal descriptions are horrid things and I glossed over them. I shouldn't have. They are horrid things, but important things.

So now I have another family to research - the Rineharts. As for the blog, I'm going to leave the name Einsel House on it. I'm used to it. And an Einsel family did live here - not the exact Einsel family I first thought, and not for as long as I first thought, but they were Einsels nonetheless.

And one final note to this post - the mystery of why the value of John Einsel's real estate rose so drastically between 1850 and 1860 now makes perfect sense. The true John Einsel house is still standing, and in my opinion it has a slight Gothic Revival feel to it. (I'll have to snap a picture of it sometime, it's a place I've always sort of liked.) I can easily believe that it was built in the 1850's.

So it's another on the list of unexpecteds here, but at least this time it doesn't involve any additional work to the house! : )

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Lemons and Lemonade

It's another entry in the list of unexpected repairs at the Einsel House. First was the broken stone lintel over the front door. Second was the sagging roof over the north end of the kitchen. And third is the dining room ceiling/back bedroom floor.

Truthfully, "unexpected" is probably a bit of an overstatement. From the start the back bedroom made me nervous. There is a bit of a bounce in the floor, and of course we knew the studs along the south wall had dropped significantly. The south wall has been raised and a new support added in the basement, but the bounce in the floor remained. It shouldn't remain for much longer though.

The story here is a bit like a game of "Telephone". Charles and I are almost never at the house while our general contractor is working. So my mom often relays messages from us to our contractor, or vice versa. Several times I had asked my mom to double check with B that the back bedroom floor was safe. Every time mom told me that B had assured her the floor was fine. At the same time, mom mentioned to me several times that B had asked if we wanted him to take out the dining room ceiling. Now, the ceiling had no cracks in it, or any other obvious reason to replace it, so I always had mom relay to B that we saw no need to replace the dining room ceiling.

At this point, you can perhaps see where this story is going.

The dining room ceiling and the bedroom floor are one-and-the-same. It seems so obvious now, but keep in mind that the conversations related above occurred sometimes weeks apart, and we were preoccupied with the 6,741 other projects we have underway at The Einsel House. It was our contractor who finally connected the dots. Once again, I had brought up my concerns about the safety of the floor in the back bedroom. My mom took B up to the room to point out my concerns and B said, "I agree. That's why I want to open up the ceiling below this and see what is going on." Ah ha! The clouds parted and the sun appeared!

So last Tuesday the dining room ceiling came down. And it's now quite obvious why the floor felt a bit bouncy. The area of particular concern is pictured below:

At left is another picture of the problem area. If we had any doubts about the original layout of this portion of the house, uncovering this ceiling has laid them to rest. The current dining room definately had a wall along the north part of the room that was later removed. Originally, that wall served as the support for the floor joists of the bedroom above. When that wall was removed the joists were simply sistered together for a length of about 6". And (as you can see in the picture above) sometimes the joists did not even touch each other, so a small block of wood was placed between them. In the picture at left the joists on the right side of the photo are under the north knee-wall of the back bedroom and the joists on the left side are under the bedroom itself.

The wall in the dining room came down years ago and obviously the bedroom floor never caved in, but we would rather be safe than sorry. And the bedroom above this has only been used as attic storage for the past several decades. We plan for the room to house a bubbly preschooler with a known penchant for jumping on the bed.

So what's the plan? The obvious solution would be to place a beam under the sistered joists. But the walls that the beam would need to be anchored in are both stone walls. We could put the beam on supports placed against the walls, but the dining room already has one corner boxed out for ductwork and we don't like the idea of adding two more areas like this to the same room. So, B and his crew came up with another idea. They are having new floor joists made that will be long enough to span the entire width of the back section of the house. (That's the dining room and bathroom on the first floor, the bedroom with the area behind both knee-walls above.) There will be eleven of these new joists, and each will be sistered alongside an existing joist.

In other news, this week was the first time I've ever seen horsehair plaster:

At least three different horses contributed to this part of the Einsel House. We found the white hair pictured above, some black hair and some red hair.

And in still other news this week, my uncle informed us early in the week that because of the new ductwork and the location of a main beam in the basement, he was having difficulty placing the drier vent. He wondered if we had considered moving the laundry back into the basement. So say hello to my future laundry room:

You know the saying, "What do you do when life hands you lemons?" Well, if I had posted this last Monday or Tuesday it would have been a pretty sour entry. But by the end of the week I had found the sugar necessary to make lemonade. With the dining room, it came in simply seeing the ceiling opened up. I'm simply fascinated by seeing how this house is put together. And peace of mind is a nice thing, too. I'll sleep better at night knowing my daughter isn't going to wake up on the dining room table.

As for the laundry area, yes, it will be in a 160 year old basement. But, that means it can be messy and company will never know! And I will have so much more room, both in the now open room upstairs, and for the laundry itself. (I can leave my ironing board up all the time!) And best yet, we can now finish a laundry shoot in the bathroom that the previous owners had started. Lemonade is a pretty good drink after all!