Start Here. All Will Be Explained.

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Okay – so I can’t figure out how to make an archive or search feature. Bear with me. If you click on one of the pages there are tags that will take you to similar topics. I’m inserting some links to create a basic synopsis of what is going on with this blog, house and situation:

I bought this house in the fall of 2016, and moved here in November 2016.

https://blackpicketfence.org/2018/10/31/trying-to-leave-toronto/

https://blackpicketfence.org/2018/11/08/looking-for-a-home/

https://blackpicketfence.org/2018/11/08/why-did-you-buy-such-an-old-house/

The heritage tag is a grab bag of related topics. My house is currently under review for Heritage Designation :

https://blackpicketfence.org/category/heritage/

This neighbourhood had some problems, that was obvious. It still seemed less bad than where I had previously been.

https://blackpicketfence.org/2018/11/13/east-of-adelaide/

https://blackpicketfence.org/2018/11/18/john-troubles/

https://blackpicketfence.org/2018/10/28/nightmare-apartment-nightmare-neighbours/

https://blackpicketfence.org/2018/10/28/preface/

I thought the house had some really great things going on with it. I loved all the original details. I liked that while it was in plain sight, that it was also private, and far enough away from neighbours, or so I thought.  I knew I didn’t want to live near student rentals, frightening rooming houses, an Air B n B, or anywhere that there was a lot of human intrusion. Commercial neighbours seemed ideal.

The house had a serious case of deferred maintenance, and some unsettling color choices. I was prepared for all the undoing and re-doing. It only took three years to get this point.

I did as much as I knew how to do, which was sourcing vintage or antique salvaged materials, stripping paint, plaster repairs, prepwork, basic demolition and more painting. I had a series of exasperating experiences trying to find professionals who would even work on my house in this area. The contempt and derision from professionals who I would be potentially paying hundreds or even thousands of dollars to work on my house was pretty astonishing. I did not hire anyone who with a bad attitude towards me or my house. Your loss, dudes !

If you are THAT interested the DIY tag will take you through the greatest hits:

https://blackpicketfence.org/category/diy/page/1/

The Before and During tag will take you down a similar route:

https://blackpicketfence.org/category/before-and-during/page/1/

In context of the whole, it shouldn’t matter whether I spruced up the entire house, or only changed a lightbulb.

What I didn’t expect to butt up against were the grave deficiencies in bylaws and building code within the City of London. I didn’t expect that Site Plans from 70 years ago, that do not even have a written record, would be considered acceptable without periodic review for modern industry. When I bought this house, my neighbour was a used car lot that sold a little gas. It was open 8 hours a day, 6 days a week. The lot was sold, then renovated by a gas station flipper then sold again to a buyer who I suppose wanted a turn key business. I am now living next to a 24 hour gas and convenience store.

This was possible as the City of London does not require a site plan review if a building is renovated, and there is no change of use. The City also does not require any sort of community input from businesses that want to operate 24 hours a day, even if they are right next door to and/or close to other residences. This is a real problem in areas with a history of street prostitution, drug dealing, drug houses and petty crime. Things like 24 hour convenience stores create a plausible deniability for the creepy johns and drug buyers that cruise my neighbourhood, especially after dark.

The City’s only concern is the correct zoning for the land usage. Yet this planning creates a two tiered standard of development. My new neighbour would not have been permitted to create what they made in a new development from the ground up – there would be guidelines for the square footage, traffic control, buffer zones, lighting, garbage containment and so on.

https://blackpicketfence.org/2019/02/08/city-of-london-site-planning/

https://blackpicketfence.org/2019/02/07/site-planning-and-gas-station-design/

You can wade through the whole stinking mess with the Hey City of London ! tag:

https://blackpicketfence.org/category/hey-city-of-london/

What it comes down to is that the City of London offers NO protection for a residence that is next to a commercial property. A residence thusly located does not have the same rights as other residences, with regards to quiet enjoyment, privacy, safety or even darkness. A residence next to a commercial lot has no rights to freedom FROM their commercial neighbour’s activities. The City of London does not even have ANY bylaws about light pollution or infiltration. Ask me how I know:

https://blackpicketfence.org/2019/10/02/light-blight/

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I complained when the headlights from gas station customers shone in my dining room and kitchen windows. My elevation was about 48″ lower. The gas station manager said they would put up a fence. No one ever shared quotes with me or asked for a carpenter or post hole recommendation. Decisions were made unilaterally – though the gas station manager first expected that I would contribute $ 2500.00 towards this fence – quotes unseen. This is the fence my commercial neighbour erected – then demanded I contribute $ 1000.00 towards. I refused ! This the fence that I see when I look out my dining room, kitchen, back porch and west bedroom windows:

 

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The 4 x 4 posts are not even securely or properly anchored. Do you trust this construction method ? I do not trust this construction method:

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This is how the front section looked 6 months after it was built. The entire fence flaps back and forth in the wind, as there are no posts set into the ground, and only a small amount of DUCT STRAPPING tethers it to the previous chainlink fence posts:

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Did you know that the City of London’s fence bylaw does not even have a clause which addresses structural stability ? And that there is no requirement of a 24 hour commercial business with vehicular traffic to erect an opaque fence, if they are next to a residential neighbour ? There might be, for a new development, built from the ground up – but not for the Site-Plan-Absent ones that get grandfathered in.

The Hey Look At That Fence tag will take you through the saga:

https://blackpicketfence.org/category/hey-look-at-that-fence/

An even worse discovery was made after the gas station renovation was complete. The vent pipe for the gas station’s underground gas storage tank had previously been located on the northeast corner of the property – next to the industrial neighbour’s parking lot. In the 13 months I lived here, while the used car lot was open, I only smelt gasoline vapours once during a tanker fill. This was a day we were working on the kitchen, so we were in and out of the back door many times to access the saw which was set up outside. We could smell this in the yard. I never smelt gasoline in my house.

(That single pipe sticking up over the roofline was the vent location for the underground gas storage tank until spring 2018)

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When the station was renovated, the vent location for the underground tanks was changed. It was now located 4 feet from the property line. I thought little of this. That was until the day in August, 2018 when suddenly my entire house was flooded with gasoline vapours, which entered through my open windows. It was horrible. I photographed the tanker doing the fill and the driver was not even using the vapour recovery system, as required by law. This is where the real nightmare begins.

(Those three silver pipes on the left are the new location for the vent pipes.)

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https://blackpicketfence.org/2019/02/02/first-gasoline-infiltration-august-11-2018/

https://blackpicketfence.org/2019/02/10/boring-but-important-gas-station-vapour-recovery-system-explained/

I contacted the TSSA – The Technical Standards and Safety Association. They are the only entity with jurisdiction over liquid fuel handling. They are so opaque as to be obstructive:

https://blackpicketfence.org/2019/02/02/hey-tssa-thats-not-okay-part-1-july-2018/

At first I was told they would not answer my questions without a fee of $ 120.00, and I would have to wait 120 days for a reply ! After much phoning and emailing I was finally given an excerpt from their Liquid Fuel Handling Code – which is not available through any library system, including University collections. I could purchase my own copy ($ 135.00 plus HST) though, from them. Their code, as it pertains to the vent location states:

ventpipescode.png

There was not even a code which addressed residences next to a gas station, bulk loading facility, etc. There was NO CODE for residential neighbours.

It took about a year, but I also discovered how far from a property line an underground gasoline storage tank was permitted to be: 1.5 m. That’s a little over 59″ ! Again there was no separate code for a residential property line. Despite the decades of documentation of LUSTS in North America – Leaking Underground Storage Tanks – that poisoned communities, contaminated groundwater and created clusters of Acute Myeloid Leukemia – this is acceptable code in Ontario in 2019 !

I made multiple complaints to the TSSA and the Ministry of the Environment Pollution Spill Reporting Hotline whenever gasoline vapours entered my home during a tanker refuelling. As the weather got colder, I discovered this would happen even with all my doors and windows closed ! And I had storm windows on most of my windows, weather stripping, and doors and windows that fit properly. The gasoline infiltrations would happen whenever there was a wind from the west or northwest.

Eventually the TSSA sent an inspector to my house. He came without any testing equipment whatsoever, and said that he was relying on his sense of smell to assess the issue. It turned out that this inspector was the same person who had approved the vent location to be relocated to 4′ from my property line, adjacent to all my doors and windows. How he had the authority to inspect his own work is beyond me.

When I purchased this house, I did not expect that my home would be periodically infiltrated by volatile and carcinogenic gasoline vapours, as a result of the TSSA’s actions, and that they would claim this vent location is acceptable within their code.

Wade through the Hey TSSA ! It’s Not Okay ! tag at your own risk:

https://blackpicketfence.org/category/hey-tssa-its-not-okay/

I did not expect that my pets would become ill or gravely ill after the renovated gas station opened in July, 2018:

https://blackpicketfence.org/2019/02/26/canaries/

https://blackpicketfence.org/2020/01/04/two-more-canaries/

I did not expect that I would need to consider the implications of waiting for my own Acute Myeloid Leukemia to happen. Benzene is an additive to gasoline. It has been known for over 100 years that workers, children and animals exposed to chronic levels of benzene develop blood cancers, cardiovascular issues, neurological problems. Some light reading about the effects of benzene exposure, and the effects of living close to gas stations can be found under the tag Health Questions, Serious Ones:

https://blackpicketfence.org/category/health-questions-serious-ones/

I have gone in circles phoning and emailing municipal, provincial and federal government entities about my issues with the gas station next door. Without exception, they have all deferred to the TSSA.

The City of London has a bylaw that smoking is not permitted within 9m of the entrances to municipal buildings and recreational facilities (https://www.london.ca/city-hall/by-laws/Documents/smoking-recreation-areas.pdf) but nothing on the books that a commercial entity is not permitted to fill an adjacent property with volatile and carcinogenic vapours.

There is nothing I can do to correct or mitigate the vent location. If I attempted to sell my property, I would need to disclose this extremely serious defect – that is not even a result of my own actions.

This blog is a documentation of my experiences with this matter, but I hope the information can help other people in this situation. This is disgraceful.

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Heritage Designation Notes

This what the notification from the City said (address redacted):

“Last Date for Objection: January 6, 2020

“The house was constructed in 1897 and was first occupied by the Warren family.

” The property…is of significant cultural heritage value or interest because of its physical/design values, its historical/associative values. and its contextual values.

“The property …is a representative example of the Queen Anne Revival architectural style, with expression of influences of the East Lake School, in East London. The Queen Anne Revival is demonstrated in the form, massing and detailing of the home. While the Queen Anne Revival architectural style is common in Lindon, the execution of the detailing of the building, particularly its demonstrated expression of influence from the East Lake School, distinguishes the property…from other examples of the Queen Anne Revival architectural style. The property…demonstrates a high degree of authenticity as a representative example of a Queen Anne home in London as its heritage attributes areaccurately displayed. The property…has a high degree of integrity, as the property’s heritage attributes have been preserved and continue to support the cultural heritage value of the property.

“A concentration of decorative elements applied to the home…demonstrates the high degree of craftsmanship and artistic merit, particularly as it executes the Queen Anne Revival architectural style. In particular, the applied wooden details of the gable, the fretwork of the porch and the stained glass windows(particularly the front window) demonstrate a high degree of craftmanship and artistic merits with excellent integrity. The property…also demonstrates a higher degree of applied detail than found on other nearby properties of the same vintage.

” The property has the potential to yield information related to an understanding of the history and evolution of East London and the Hamiton Road area as it relates to Victorian period development that characterizes the area’s development.

“The property is historically linked to the nearby properties at 23 and 35 …Street, as the buildings located on these properties were constructed for children of Charles Warren who lived at .. ……. Street prior to their construction.”

“Heritage Attributes

Heritage attributes which support and contribute to the cultural heritage value or interest of this property include:

– Form, scale and massing of the one and half story L-plan residential building

– The setback of this building from……..Street

–  Steeply pitched cross-gable roof

–  Buff brick veneer exterior cladding, with voussoirs above the window and door openings in the facades

– Entry doorway set in an umbrage with the gable roof projecting above, supported by a decorated fluted wood post set on a base of buff brick masonry with brackets and fretwork in an off-set rectangular pattern

– East Lake Style painted wood entrance door with glass lights framed in scroll with trim and dentil below, a brass ringer/door bell and mail slot, and nine recessed panels below with nail head detail, and transom with water glass texture

– Wood windows and storm windows, including:

– Large plate glass window on the front of the building, set in segmental arched opening with pierced line and dot detail, with a curved, oblong transom, carved floral motif in the spandrel of the transom, and stained glass with colored and textured glasses in a scroll motif with floral accents, a painted stone sill

– Queen Anne style windows in the front gable, with plain lower sashes and colored glass in small squares surrounding plain centre lights in the upper sash

– Wood sash windows and storm windows

– Decorated front (west) and (north) side gables including wood details:

– Bargeboard with naturalistic foliated scroll motif at terminal points

– Raised panels with accented squares with daisy/floral or sunburst patera

– Pierced or perforated details in the corbels/consoles

– Bracket course below the window openings with East Lake style brackets below the two windows, as well as above and between the windows to flank the window frame or stile

– An enlarged or exaggerated bracket course above the window openings

– Alternating courses of square or scalloped wood shingle imbrication

– Ribbed or reeded parallel convex projected mouldings (with the appearance of timber) in the apex of the gable

  • Wood tongue and groove soffits
  • Buff brick chimney in the rear
  • The following interior heritage attributes: The glass vestibule door with Queen Anne style stained glass with textured glass centre panel

The first occupant of the house (1898) was Charles Frederick Warren (b 1832, Devon, England, died 1920, London, ON). The house was owned by his son, Charles F. Warren ( b.1865 – died 1953, also identified as Charles S. Warren), who seems to have been a builder with a business on Talbot St. in London. His father first occupied the house with several adult siblings – Edward, Ethel, Melville and Phillip. By 1900 another sibling – Florence – had moved in. The children ranged in age from 17 – 27. The adult siblings had jobs like boilermaker, car builder, brass finisher, and sewing machine operator. The youngest – Florence – is identified as a dressmaker, but there is no information whether she worked from this address or was employed by a factory or local business.

IF the house always had a full bathroom with running water, in the present location on the 2nd floor, this left two modest bedrooms on the second floor. There is a small room on the first floor, off the dining room. Where did everyone else sleep ? Only one bedroom – the bedroom that faces west, is big enough to permit two single or antique 3/4 sized beds in the room. By 1909 the household had thinned out to father Charles, with sons Edward and Melville still living at this address.

The Warren family owned several houses on this street that were built in the early 20th century. They lived right next door – at a residential address that is long gone, absorbed by the commercial bakery,  across the street, and down the street. They also owned a very nice house on Anderson Street, one street over, and one or two very close by on Hamilton Road.

Records show that Charles Sr. had lived in several houses nearby – two on Rectory Street – before moving to this house to be the first occupant. It is unclear whether he owned those houses, or if they belonged to his son or another family member.

The last of the Warrens lived at this address in 1923. After this came a rotating door of rental occupants – grocers, bakers, carpenters, porters, CNR workers, and even a musician. In 1963 Kenneth Kelly, a jeweller, moved in with his family. They later bought the house and lived here until 2005. By all local accounts, the previous owner to me never lived at this address. It was said that he intended to flip the house – but probably discovered that this was not like on t.v.. – with a seemingly insurmountable number of repairs and improvements needed. It is said the house had been rented to a family for a little while, with some disturbing goings on with the police being called numerous times. The garden was full of strange buried things – many plastic toys from the early 2000’s, more than an average amount of cutlery, and very large shards of broken window glass. The window glass was in several spots in the back yard – each discovery was by accident and utterly terrifying.

After this the house was vacant, though the owner’s adult son may have lived here for a little while in the year before it was sold. It seems miraculous that during the years it was obviously vacant, that it had never been squatted or seriously vandalized.

This a video about the history of the Hamilton Road area that offers some insight about the development and industry of this area. My house isn’t in it – but there’s lots of historical photos of nearby locations:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Heritage Questions

(Photo found on FB of the adult male grandchild sitting where his grandmother, Peg, once sat, 60 or more years later.)

Just after I bought the house (fall, 2016) I contacted the City of London to inquire about the heritage designation process. I wasn’t from London, so I wasn’t sure if my house had any value as a heritage property or not ? It was on a list of heritage inventory, but I believe it was misidentified as a bungalow. After moving, and beginning on the fixing, pursuing the heritage designation research was on the list of things to do, but not a priority.

I bought the house BECAUSE it was old, and looked old, and retained many original details. I can’t explain why, but I have never felt comfortable with new buildings. It often has to do with the space – the low ceilings or ridiculous cathedral ceilings – but also the building materials themselves. Unless it was built with real architectural and design considerations (ie very expensive) things like hollow core MDF doors just make me inexplicably angry. The ripples and flaws in an old pane of glass make me very happy, however.

I was the very youngest grandchild, so my grandparents were much older than my friends grandparents. Their final house was a modest late 1940’s or early 50’s house. Despite being Saskatchewan farmers, they liked to travel, and brought home souvenirs and curios. My grandfather made a museum in his basement, that often had out of town callers, who had to sign the guestbook. It was a mishmash of homemade folk art (a farm made completely out of small cut and polished slabs of stone, including the people and animals), things like a shark’s jaw, unusual rocks, antique bottles and things from the farm and other oddities. I visited it many times, even though I knew every item by heart.

The town I grew up in was a small, boring grain farming town. People were very suspicious about old things, unless it was a farm implement. There was not much to do except go to the library. The library had the regional museum on the 2nd floor. It had a chain across the stairs, but if you asked the librarian she would let you go upstairs, unescorted, and she would turn on all the lights. The displays never varied. There were WW1 items, and photos and steroscopic viewers, and some antique clothing and dishes. I don’t know how many times I looked at the displays. As a kid in the 1970’s it was hard to imagine living with a kerosene light fixture, or a curling iron that had to be heated in the fire ! In context – these items predated me by about 60 years. I don’t know if kids these days are awed by a 1959 light fixture, for example. My father (b.1919) grew up in a house with no central heating, and an outhouse. Just the state of oldness really fascinated me. There was a surviving sod house, built around 1910 or 1915 that was still inhabited by the family that built it. I remember as a kid visiting the house. It was normal for local residents to call up other local residents to see if they could bring company to look at a local thing – like Bert Johnson’s stone fence, or the sod house. I remember the sod house residents as being somewhat eccentric – old men brothers. They had a cold cellar that was accessed through a door in the floor, down very steep stairs. In the basement you could see the slabs of sod the house was built from that still grew grass or peat. The exterior was stuccoed I think – it didn’t look like a dirt hut – but it had old windows and doors. I found that house very strange – a real contrast to the fake wood patterned melamine and shag carpet in all the newer homes in the area. I could not understand why those men lived in a house like that.

Now I am one of those geezers.

Perhaps it was the desire to distance myself from the psuedo suburb I grew up in, and everything it represented.

Ask artist Dean McDermott. His entire career has been built on the fascination with living in another time:

Anyhow – I contacted the City of London to begin the Heritage Designation process.

I sent photos and received an interested reply. A couple of representatives came over to have a look. They seemed happy to encounter a house that was quite intact – except for the kitchen and bathroom, of course. Those rooms are always the first casualties of “improvement” and “progress”.

They gave me some research about who they believed the first owners to be – a family named Warren, and a successive list of occupants. The Warren family lived in the area in several houses – and the children stayed close to their parents as adults, one living two doors down (in a house long gone).

Old houses and storefronts are the survivors, the rebels. Somehow they managed to keep going without interference or interruption. Usually the upgrades create the most damage, and undo the integrity of the building.

This house has been here since 1898 or so. I’ll do what I can to keep it going.

 

 

Despite Everything…

…I continue to fix my house. Even though I believe its value is greatly diminished due to the infiltration of gasoline vapours. Even though the air quality may be periodically unsafe. Where else could I go ?

At present, my bedroom overlooks the gas station parking lot. I can hear the tire compressor, loud car stereos, conversations, idling delivery trucks, and it all drives me nuts and interrupts my sleep.

I am switching rooms to move my bedroom to the quietest location. However, this means I have to fix two rooms to do this – as the future bedroom had to have the contents displaced, and my present bedroom has sloping ceilings that my bookcases would not fit under.

The first room in progress is the west bedroom – the biggest and brightest of the bedrooms. It also had a tragic ceiling and rough walls, painted with that dastardly “Jackson Tan” chocolate milk color. The previous owner tried to fix the ceiling with really incomplete knowledge of what this entailed. There were large areas of shaggy, half scraped off wallpaper, painted over, NINE patches using drywall that was too thick (affixed with wood screws that were too short, not even drywall screws), lots of blobs of joint compound and visible fiberglass mesh tape.

Since the space upstairs is limited, I had to work around the three large bookcases that were already in the room. I emptied them, and pushed them around as necessary to access the wall or ceiling. All the books were displaced, which meant tall stacks in the bedroom. The contents went into the rest of the house, everywhere, a big mess.

I don’t know how many plaster washers I used, or how many buckets of joint compound I went through. I skim coated, and re-skim coated, then skim coated some more to minimize the frankenstein monster ceiling. The walls had the same terrible plaster present in the rest of the house, with the crumbling scratch coat and the 3mm thick finish coat.

All the trim had been painted with the same water based enamel, the one that had the iffy preparation upstairs in the hall. I had to scrape and sand that, then paint it all out with adhesion primer. The Queen Anne style windows each had 16 small panes of stained glass, 1/3 of which were pressed pattern glass on the inside, so these all had to be carefully cut in as it is very difficult to scrape paint off textured glass.

Every step went so slowly and laboriously. I could only fix 3/4 of the walls and ceiling, because of the bookcases in the way. This meant I had to work to finish one area while another area hadn’t been touched yet. This made the room extra ugly and chaotic feeling.

Sanding was horrible, especially the ceiling. Because of the large areas that were skim coated I had to use extra stinky oil based primer, which stuck in my hair, skin, glasses.

Finally the point came where the walls and ceiling were unremarkable looking again. They weren’t perfect, but they weren’t shaggy and cracked, with visible drywall patches anymore.

Realtor’s photo expressing the “potential” for this room, with very lightened wall color, and an inflatable bed impersonating a bedroom suite. It looks pleasant but the actual reality of the wall and ceiling situation was minimized, to say the least:

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The ceiling after scraping off the loose paint and remaining wallpaper:

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How much repair the walls needed. They were all this bad:

broomprogress.jpg

Finally the room was done enough. Not perfect but fine:

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Now I get to repeat this process in the future bedroom, which has equally bad walls but a slightly less bad ceiling. No textured glass to paint around at least:

Futurebroom.jpg

There is an iffy bulkhead (not shown) I am trying to leave alone and three sconces attached to giant, large, thick wood needle – like objects. I suspect there were major incisions made in the plaster to wire the sconces, so instead of fixing the plaster these goofy things were made to cover that. Are the electrical boxes properly and safely situated ? I’ll have to get those clunky things off to find out…

To get away from the gas station noise and light I will do this.

Dodged A Bullet ?

When I bought this house it had an ancient gravity fed furnace. It was probably original to the house. It had been converted from coal to gas in about 1960. The pilot light was an open flame, with no safety sensors whatsoever. You can backtrack through this blog to read all about it, or just look at its picture again:

furnace.jpg

I wasn’t confident about lighting the pilot light, and no furnace company dudes I called for quotes would light the pilot, either. I got a new furnace installed.

I much preferred cooking with a gas stove. The one in the house was electric. Before I moved here, I was searching for a nice vintage gas stove. In my previous home, I had a 1920’s Acme gas stove, made in Guelph. Older gas stoves can be primitive (depending on the age) in that they do not have a regulator, so you have to light the oven with a match. You light the oven, then it tells you how hot it is and you adjust the setting accordingly – the opposite of more modern stoves where the oven will heat to what it is set to. They have a pilot light which is a small flame that stays on all the time. I don’t do any gourmet cooking or baking that I need a fancy chef’s stove for. The Acme stove had been more than adequate for what I needed it to do – make food hot.

I spotted an utterly stunning and rare late 1940’s Odin Beautyrange (gas) for sale on Kijiji:

odinbeautyrange.jpg

I don’t know much about the manufacturer. I had seen other Odin stoves in typical white porcelain, and an Odin catalogue. I don’t know if these amazing all chrome stoves were made as a luxury item, or for store display, promotional contests or what. I have seen a couple of others online, but with no information. All I knew was that I was deeply in stove awe.

One important detail about owning a vintage stove is that unless you have a skilled mechanic who KNOWS vintage or antique stoves, or have the moola to have one shipped across the country to a mechanic/restorer, it is very important that you are able to test the stove before you buy it. The seller had got it from somewhere, but didn’t have it hooked up, and had never personally used it. I contacted the used appliance store that had sold us the 20’s Acme 11 years previously. The son had taken over his dad’s business, and had THROWN OUT decades of old stove parts. He was willing to have a look at the stove if I paid him to make a service call to somewhere where the stove was hooked up to gas. A stove like this weighs 200 or 300 lbs, with steel construction, and heavy parts. They are not exactly portable. There was a lot of back and forth with the seller, but ultimately we could not make this transaction work as there was nowhere to test the stove. I called used appliance places for miles around but could not find anyone who was experienced or competent dealing with a vintage gas stove. The brand was uncommon, so finding parts if it needed them would be tough. I can’t describe how it broke my heart to NOT have such an amazing stove. With a stove like that it wouldn’t matter how terrible my kitchen was – visitors would only be able to gaze at that stove.

As I have been researching the implications of the location of the vent for the underground gasoline storage tank, and dealing with the infiltration of the vapours into my house, I started coming across articles like this, about the flashpoint and volatility of gasoline vapours:

https://www.cob.org/services/safety/education/Pages/gasoline.aspx

and this, about many fires that were a result of spilled gasoline or solvent in a garage, storage room, etc. that became explosive when in contact with the gas water heater’s pilot light:

https://www.courant.com/news/connecticut/hc-xpm-1995-07-01-9507010380-story.html

or this:

https://lasvegassun.com/news/2011/jul/31/two-men-injured-gasoline-fumes-flash-fire/

All the advice I could find is like this:

http://www.esfd.org/index.php/facts-and-safety-tips/fire-safety/flammable-substances-facts-tips

but I couldn’t find anything about when a large volume of gasoline vapours are coming from OUTSIDE the house, from a higher level (ie the gas station’s vent), then sinking to a lower level inside a house, with appliances with a pilot light.

What could have happened if I had that ancient furnace still up and running ? What could have happened with a vintage stove with a pilot light ?

I will say this: no one from the TSSA or the licensed Petroleum Contractor ever knocked on my door, or left me a note inquiring about what kind of gas appliances I had, or how old they were. No one asked these questions of the neighbours across the street either. There is at least one house that I would not be surprised to discover has an old or ancient gas furnace and/or gas water heater and/or gas stove and/or gas dryer in use.

Yet no one even asked !

Here’s the Mythbusters(with UK narration), trying to test whether a mobile phone can create an explosion at a gas station. This isn’t super relevant to my concerns, but their demonstration of the ignition of gasoline vapours with a small spark, like static, is pretty alarming. Imagine a pilot light instead, with gasoline vapours rolling in from above:

A fireman training exercise gone wrong, with accelerant vapours in a house:

Scraping Paint

It took awhile to feel confident on the scaffolding. It felt sturdy, but due to the projection of the corbels and whatnot, there was an 18″ gap between the scaffolding and the house. Even with the safety crossbars I worried that I would make an oblivious turn and step, tumble and fall off the edge.

Most of the wood detail on the front of the second story was sound, which was a major relief. A few areas were dried out or fragile, but nothing was mushy or hollow. I started scraping with a putty knife, then moved on to a heat gun for the areas that were large enough. The edges of the wood are the most vulnerable to igniting, so I brought a spray bottle of water with me, to wet any areas that seemed to smoulder.

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Work on the scaffold was further complicated by my aversion to the sun. As a pale redhead I burn. Migraines are easily induced by a glare in my eyes. I worked for a few hours here and there in the morning into the afternoon, before the sun moved to direct exposure, and after supper.

I discovered that some of the decorative shingles had an embossed pattern, of what appeared to be a flower in a vase. I had never seen this detail before, or noticed it on other local houses. This must have looked extra fancy when the house was brand new – another decorative detail on an exterior loaded with them. I wondered about who built this house – and why there was such an intense amount of exterior detail ?

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The areas that had been under an overhang had paint that was still very sound. I was quite surprised that it was holding up so well. I didn’t know when the house had been last painted – definitely not by the previous owner (c. 2005 – 2016) – and possibly not by the previous- previous owner (1974 – 2005). For all the issues with toxicity, those oil based alkyd paints really performed well.

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I scraped as much as I could reach. John was back up north, so I was waiting on his return for the rest of the scaffolding. More of it went up late in October, but it was a wet and cold fall, so my scraping ended there. In theory I had thought that it would take me (working alone) three weeks or so to get the front scraped and primed, then painted. This might be true – weather permitting – but other variables like waiting on scaffolding slowed this down. The storm windows needed to be removed, and the putty repaired, but  this also meant that the scaffolding would need to get raised a level to reach properly.

I ruminated about whether it was better to prime all the areas I scraped, or to just leave those areas bare until next spring, when I could resume, and work in a continuous fashion upwards. I did know that primer should be painted fairly soon after application – otherwise it accumulates surface dirt, which will impair the paint adhesion. I worried about whether the exposed wood areas would be more damaged, or if a winter of exposure would mean little ? (You can see the weather won, by where the scraping stopped.)

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One night I slept really badly, and kept waking up from vivid nightmares. One of the nightmares was that a man had broken into my house, and was standing over my bed, reaching up to take something off the wall. I woke up from this just before 7:00 a.m., spooked and got out of bed. One of my cats had knocked a box of screws off the  worktable downstairs, and they were spread out over the floor. I looked out the window in my front door – like I do every morning – as if my missing cat might be waiting there – and I could see that the ladder was laying in the driveway. It had been firmly attached to the scaffolding, so it wasn’t like it just blew over !

I went out in my pyjamas and moved it to the backyard, and felt deeply unsettled. Did the sound of the screws hitting the floor spook the thief and they abandoned it ?

I knew that creeps will suss out a place, particularly any place that was having work done, to assess how many tools might be on site to steal, security (if any), etc. Anyone walking by would have seen me using basic hand tools, and basic corded tools. I was more concerned that they planned to steal the scaffolding components and the ladder.

Was it a lazy opportunist planning to pawn or a creepy contractor stealing what he needed ? Both scenarios made me uncomfortable. EOA.

 

 

Starting On The Exterior

Many of us have been socialized to get all swoony about “potential”. When I first saw this house the peeling exterior and all the other issues were obvious – and I couldn’t shake those notions of just happily fixing it myself. I know how to prep and paint. I know how to reglaze a window – not a problem (right ?).

Finding competent tradespeople, who will do ALL the necessary steps, are scarce. The actual cost of the paint would be several hundred dollars – that seemed doable. The true cost of the exterior repairs would be the labour, which I estimated to be at least 10x the cost of the materials.

I spent the first summer emailing and phoning around about renting a scaffold. When my ex and I had painted that exterior (in Toronto), the scaffolding rental company delivered it, set it up and took it down. However – at the local places I inquired this was just not done. This was a problem. I had never set up scaffolding, so I had no clue about how to do that safely, or even what components to rent.

I wondered about an alternate approach, like renting a cherry picker or scissor lift. The cherry picker seemed like overkill – and I wasn’t clear if an operator’s license or certification was needed, which I did not have. Scissor lifts seemed to be used only on very flat surfaces, like pavement, or indoors.

Experienced US members on an old house forum recommended pump jacks. This is a kind of basic scaffolding that that the user can raise and lower by themselves. No one locally seemed to sell them or rent them, and the only thing that was identified as a pump jack was the hand operated device for moving pallets. Nope.

My experience on tall ladders was limited. I didn’t think I had it in me to paint the peak using an extension ladder, which is almost three stories off the ground.

But I had to paint my house !

This spring John said that I could use his scaffolding. This was complicated by John working 9 hours north through the summer and into the fall, where most of his scaffolding parts were.

We got the first of it set up in mid September. I felt like I was going to have a nervous breakdown. I had NO excuse to not paint my house.

In the summer, while I waited for the scaffolding, I started stripping the living room window. This house has an odd detail that I have not seen on other local houses: carved flowers in the upper corners. The paint on it was very old, faded to a sort of ochre color. As I started to strip it, small traces of red were discovered around the flowers, and the ochre paint was more of a russet brown in the shaded areas. I worried that I might gouge up the carving but I didn’t. I managed to knock off one of the dentil pieces though. I looked for days and even sifted the soil below the window but never found it.

The window was looking pretty rough. The sill had been parged with cement, but had some adjacent rot that needed to be filled. The brick mould was gunked up with caulk and paint, and much of the glazing putty was loose or missing:

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The complex surfaces were challenging. I used the most flexible putty knife and a small slotted screwdriver to dig the paint out:

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When it was all stripped it looked even worse. What an accomplishment !

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During this time, major roadwork was being done on Hamilton Road, so gravel and dump trucks were routed down this street. The sight of a woman working on a ladder was apparently so startling that several drivers had to slow down to ask questions about the task at hand.

Once the holes were patched, the old pitch caulking replaced, the glazing repair in progress, and the window primed it started to look a little better:

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I was uncertain how to paint the window, exactly. If I painted the sash parts like the other windows, the flower detail would be lost again in the black. I wasn’t 100% about painting the carved sections with a contrasting color, but I thought that if it looked terrible I could paint over it. I thought it looked okay ? I used the door paint. The original colors around the window seemed to have been a very dark green, almost black around the window frame, then that tawny brown on the sash. The flowers might have been multicoloured, with the flowers having been red, with red paint in the grooves. The flowers themselves seem to be a product of artistic license, with the leaves and stalk of a tulip, with the flower being a sort of a daisy or cosmos ?

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I painted over the not-liked burgundy with the same dark green – Benjamin Moore Essex Green. As a whole I thought the house was starting to look more cohesive ?

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Trim, Benjamin Moore HC-188, Essex Green:

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Door, Benjamin Moore HC-02, Beacon Hill Damask:

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New Numbers

The house numbers that came with the place were never to my liking. They were brass that had oxidized from years of exposure, screwed onto a piece of varnished wood. The font was bad.

I always really liked the vintage number signs that were reverse painted on glass.

vintglassnum.jpgSometimes a person gets lucky on Ebay or Kijiji.

BUT – London city bylaw says that house numbers must be 12.7 cm tall. All the vintage glass house numbers were considerably smaller.

https://lfpress.com/2014/12/23/a-closer-look-according-to-londons-bylaw-street-numbers-must-be-at-least-127-cm-high/wcm/f651fba3-5f3e-b308-57e2-fc0fdccbd4c0

How they were made was quite primitive. The numbers were made with a crude stencil, and there was mirror, leaf or even textured foil in contrast to the black. I don’t know if the scalloped edge was done with glue chipping, or just a pair of pliers.

A long time ago I bought a bunch of thick bevelled glass panels, from french doors. The neighbour who was selling them had a late grandmother who was somewhat of a hoarder. How did she come to have dozens of bevelled glass panels but no french doors ? Did the doors rot away to nothing in her leaky garage so she saved the glass ? I will never know. Why I felt compelled to own them is another question.

I printed out numbers until I had ones that were the correct size. I forget where I learned this, but I oiled the paper to make it transparent. I taped the reversed numbers to the front of the glass and carefully painted the back (flat side) of the glass. I didn’t have One Shot Sign Painters Enamel – only plain old hardware store oil paint for metal, so I needed to do two or three coats to make it completely opaque. The nice thing was that any errors could be razored off once the paint was cured. I crumpled up aluminum foil until I was happy with the texture and  glued that to the painted areas with contact cement. I spray painted some mirror clips black, and hung up my new number sign, right under my light.

Despite this, cab drivers and delivery truck’s GPS routinely sends them to the far end of the block. This street is only one block long ! When I am waiting for a cab I now know to stand on my steps and frantically wave. The new postal carrier thought no one lived at my address. Why is my house is apparently invisible ?

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Fixing the Foyer

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There it is – right when you walk in. More chocolate milk colored paint. More awful plaster repairs and problems.

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Like the powder room, there were a lot of repairs needed in such a small space. This area is perhaps 5′ x 6′ ?

I patched, and skim coated, and sanded, and patched some more. I didn’t even take any photos – the area is so small what is there to show ? Eventually the walls and ceilings were smooth enough, so I primed and painted them Benjamin Moore “Queen Anne Pink” (HC-60) with BM “Lancaster Whitewash” (HC-174) as both the ceiling and trim color. The transom is pressed glass, in sort of a pinkish amethyst color. This made the beige pink look pinker than expected. The trim color is sort of a light clay color on its own, but this read as almost white. Neither was exactly what I expected, but it was brighter and not the color of chocolate milk. There was a lot of brushing with three doors, three transoms, textured glass, and lots of trim.

 

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Fixing the Living Room

The living room wasn’t a major ordeal. The plaster needed repairs, of course, but it wasn’t so bad, compared to the other battles I previously fought here.

It was a relief to get rid of the chocolate milk color, another room gone. There were the familiar dings and holes but it was more of a minor situation. At least in this context this was minor.

The realtor presented this room the most realistically:

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This is what the extent of the repairs looked like:

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The walls and the ceiling needed repairs. Of course.

Then I primed and painted it (with BM “Castleton Mist ” HC-1, same as the powder room) and it just looked like a room:

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There’s that other cabinet, that matches the one in the kitchen. It’s the perfect size for storing record albums.

One night, just after John had started work in the fall, I was out looking for my missing cat. I spotted a victorian chaise sitting by the side of the road, about 5 blocks away. It was covered in drywall dust, but didn’t have any bad smells. I didn’t know anyone who I could persuade at 11:00 p.m. to help me carry this thing home. I woke up the next day still thinking about it. John arrived, and drove me over to where it had been spotted – and it was still there ! It needed to be reupholstered, but the frame was sound. We loaded it into the truck:

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I had been looking for an antique settee for ages. This wasn’t exactly what I was looking for – but it was free. The seduction of free. I had (wisely) planned to buy an antique settee that already had good, professional upholstery in the color I wanted, as this was much cheaper than paying for it to be upholstered. But it was FREE and I had been looking for a year, and the only settees that met my criteria were too far away. Did you know there is a huge amount of fabulous antique furniture in Ottawa ? Yes, it is NOT close to London, at all.

I started working on it in the winter. This was after spiralling into a neurotic state related to the imaginary color  of upholstery velvet I wanted. Years ago I had bought some velvet ribbon, probably from the late 1960’s – which was sort of a minty lime green. This particular color has not been seen since. I sent away for fabric swatches far and wide. A Toronto fabric store advertised some upholstery velvet in this exact shade on their site. I had shopped at this store many times, and they often bought auction lots from businesses that were closing out or selling off excess inventory – so sometimes you would find vintage materials there. I sent a Toronto friend in pursuit, but what they had in stock was a really disappointing synthetic avocado.

Finally I located exactly what I wanted, from a disagreeable place in Missouri.

I worked hard on it. My upholstery experience was limited to basic seat recovering on kitchen chairs. Thank goodness for the internet. I had to pull out what felt like thousands of tiny tacks, from the last upholstery it had. Being an insane person, I re-used these tacks to attach the new upholstery.

It turned out okay ?

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