Five weeks into it, the project already feels like ballet dancing while rounds of live ammo fly overhead.

Our schedule called for almost everything to be finished in 100 days, a time table that was tight but allowed for ten days of leeway. But the wet spring pushed the starting date back to the last week of June, nearly a month later than anticipated. Worse, that cold, rainy weather also delayed our contractors' work for their other customers, making everyone now very busy bees. The result is that any glitch can easily cascade into a freeway pile-up. Everything almost came to a halt when we discovered (A) there wasn't enough of a custom piece of trim, which (B) the painter had to paint before (C) the carpenter attached it to the house which had to be done before (D) the roofers could roof. If the good folks at Redwood Lumber Company hadn't been able to hustle through additional moulding on short notice, we easily could have lost a project week as the delay rippled through everyone's schedules. A couple of problems like that and the roofing project might be pushed dangerously close to the usual start of the autumn rainy season.

(RIGHT: Full house on the scaffolds, with five contractors)

Although it seems that there's always more repair work needed than expected, the job is mostly on time, here at the halfway mark. Filipe Garcia of Ridgeline Roofing finished the western side of the roof on August 6, just short of six weeks after the new rain gutters were installed (to be discussed in the next update). Jeff Patton of Patton Painting has continued the faux painting he did for the trim on the upper floors of the north face. Jim Scotchler has shingled all of the west gable, as well as finishing the last remaining sidewall. Except for the porches and upper floors of the east face, all of the Eastern White Cedar sidewall shingling is complete.

The main challenge of this phase was solving the mystery of the bargeboard, which is a subject of its own essay over at the "Restora Obscura" blog. Not far behind was grappling with the windows. We found the cathedral windows were in pretty good shape (thank heavens), but all other windows on the upper west face were verging of collapse. All had at least one mortise and tendon joint open (detail of the little shed window seen at right), the redwood frames in advanced decay from years of exposure to the elements, and the glass barely held in place by the remains of crumbling putty. Not to worry, though; we had already wrestled with a badly failing window as our first restoration project back in 2007, so we knew the techniques and materials needed to fix them like (almost) new.

Not so clear-cut were the problems of the leaded glass windows in the master bathroom. Every attempt at repair only served to reveal something worse. The glass in both windows was sagging and bowing. Candice resoldered the many broken joints in the H Came, which firmed up the window structure - but found she was unable to repair the broken reinforcing stained glass rebar in one of the windows. Then while cleaning out the old putty to reglaze, we discovered that the crucial U Came (the "U" shaped strip of lead that both holds together the assembled glass structure and is joined to the wood frame by glazing) was mostly gone, the material both crushed by an earlier repair attempt and oxidized into nothingness where the glazing putty had fallen out. We were left with no choice but a complete rebuild. This was another surprise that could have delayed part of the project, but were fortunate that Bob Tutone, president of SGO Designer Glass & Doors in Santa Rosa was game to personally handle our job. (This company really knows artisan glass; check out their portfolio of doors and ceiling panels and window overlays.) The outcome of his craftsmanship is a pair of windows that are probably in their best shape since FDR was in the White House.

LEFT: Candice resolders a broken joint on the leaded glass window
MIDDLE: Closeup of the smashed U Came, which must attach the window to the frame
RIGHT: Closeup of the window showing the warping

A final project in these busy weeks was small but rewarding. Despite the chaos of demolition and reconstruction, the summer of 2010 has brought family visitors, and the main guest bedroom lacked a single window with a wire screen for ventilation. The screen that had been on one of the windows was disintegrating (once I swatted a fly and watched as a large patch of wire mesh crumbled into dust) and the wood frame had the same peeling paint and rot as other exterior wood. All of that frame - including the half-round trim around the screen - was redwood, and probably custom built for the house in 1905.

Our research suggested that lacquered bronze mesh was the material of choice for window screens in that era, and that's what we used for the rescreening. We were happily surprised when we found a bit of the old screen still in original condition under the half-round trim, and sure enough, it was exactly the same kind of bronze screen as we are using. In another little way, Comstock House is again beginning to look as it did when new.


I would like to appreciate you for sharing the useful link regarding faux painting.

August 19, 2010 at 4:57 AM  

The lacquered mesh is no longer available with TWP, I got some here with Belleville Wire Cloth:

January 9, 2012 at 1:43 PM  

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