Thursday, March 31, 2011

The Sun Is A Cruel Master

So now it's on to the first floor of the south side, which is even more sun-thrashed than the tympanum, and for the health of the house I can't put any repairs in this area off until later. A lot of the work the contractor left undone [see Journal] involves the trim on this part of the house, either new pieces that were left off or old pieces that were supposed to have been replaced. Some of the old trim has been so ravaged by the sun that it has the consistency of stale cornbread; you could drive a nail, or for that matter a sharpened pencil, right through it with your hand.

To the left is a typical problem I face: five different pieces, each out of alignment with the others. The two flat pieces on the bottom aren't even the same size, and most of the pieces are too spongy to hold a screw. I've already managed to pull them into a somewhat better alignment with a few screws and shims, but now I must consolidate the spongy pieces by soaking them with liquid epoxy, a process I hope to getting around to explaining one fine day, God willing and the river don't rise. Then I will restore the original profiles of the trim with epoxy putty. I'll never be able to make the bottom edges of the bottom pieces align, but at least the result will be vastly improved cosmetically. More importantly, it will be sound, stable and weather-tight.

South Side Tympanum Painted

I've finished the south side tympanum (gable area), and a miserable task it was, with windy Winter weather and no scaffold from which to work. A close look at things up there revealed that all the shingles and much of the trim need to be replaced. 125 years in the blistering Pasadena sun have turned those shingles into tortilla chips; they are so brittle and warped that all I could do by way of surface preparation was to scrub each one carefully with a brass brush to remove the oxidized paint. The wood of the vent casing is quite fragile as well. 

Because I need to keep this project moving along, and it took forever just to brush the whole thing by hand, I decided to skip the plastic surgery work for the time being; I can come back to it after the rest of the house is done, and I have longer, warmer days to work in. It's so far up there that it's hard to see the flaws anyway.

North Side Painting Finished


Yes, the north side is now sporting a new coat of paint (except the foundation, which I will do at the end of the job). Compared with the monochromatic olive-drab the house wore for over fifty years, the change is dramatic. This is basically a textbook High Victorian color scheme, but the colors are tweaked a bit to mirror colors found in the huge pine trees that dominate the lot. Note how pretty and graceful the bargeboard looks, now that it is properly picked out with a nice dark contrasting color. It's like curls of hair framing the face of a pretty girl.

I have noticed that the body colors are highly changeable depending upon the light hitting them; at times, the red component comes out with an assertiveness I did not anticipate. This is undoubtedly a function of the green trim color; as the Victorians well knew, complmentary colors serve to strengthen each other. Since green and red are complimentary colors, the red in the body colors is naturally more apparent than it would be otherwise. I am hoping that the addition of the dark brown foundation color will pull the colors back into proper balance. Not that the matter is terribly crucial aesthetically; the scheme looks great in any event. I only mention it to illustrate the truth of the precept that you can't be absolutely sure of your house colors until you see them on the house. These colors are precisely what I wanted; I knew of the complimentary effect, and thought I had accounted for it. Well, we shall see. Context is everything.

Farm House Exterior Painting Underway

The next three posts after this are updates moved from the Farm House Journal home page; they discuss the ongoing exterior painting project.

A little back story: back in July, we received a command from the City to paint the exterior, and gave us a generous three weeks in which to get it done before they started assessing fines.

Needless to say, I greeted this with extreme consternation. This action was egregiously wrong in many ways. Nevertheless, to make a long story short I got right on it, and after about three months of constant torment, my wife Lydia and I wrestled the City to an accommodation: I would get it done as fast as I can, and they would back off as long as the job continued to progress in a timely manner. Since then, they've only bugged me once—the work stopped completely for several weeks while I recuperated from a nasty fall—and that contact was entirely cordial once the code compliance officer saw the lurid bruise along the entirety of my right arm. I didn't even have to show her the other 75% of the injury.

The next post picks the story up from here.

Introducing The Farm House Journal Blog

As it says above, I am establishing this blog to supplement my main site, The Farm House Journal. That site documents the ongoing restoration of our Victorian home in Pasadena, California, the 1885 Keil-Wilson House.

I intend to use this blog to circumvent the structural and technical limitations of the Journal. First of all, despite its title, the character of the Journal is rather schizophrenic; Volumes I and III are written in a present-tense, journalistic style, but Volumes II and IV are written more like a book, in a past-tense, narrative style. This wasn't a problem when the narrative dealt with the immediate past, but with it having fallen now four years behind the present time, the Journal is morphing into a dinner-theater production of Intolerance, with whiplash-inducing transitions between the past and present threads and sometimes even within them. Moving current business here will leave the Journal free for the narrative of the Farm House restoration.

Another limitation of the Journal is that, as a practical matter, it is limited to carrying text and pictures. Here, I can link audio and video as desired.

And finally, it's much quicker to post an entry here than on the FHJ. As I've mentioned there, I often find myself too busy working on the Farm House to have the time to write about what I'm doing. That's how I fell so far behind in the narrative. Here, I can post a quick entry whenever I have something to report, and when I get to the narrative, I'll have its rough draft already half-written.

And so, away we go! A little traveling music, Sammy!