Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Stripping, Sanding, Painting and More - Voila an Orange Door!

Over the course of last summer and early fall, every paintable exterior surface of the Retro Ranch got at least two coats of paint with two notable exceptions. The patio ceiling and walls were only first coated (a correction of an earlier blog) and we ran out of time to do the front doors. 

As you may recall from a blog last fall, we had the front doors rehung and the deteriorated weather-stripping replaced. The interiors of our front doors are a beautiful mahogany, however the exteriors were painted black (start singing a Rolling Stones’ song here) and in need of lots of TLC. We decided we wanted to strip the black paint off the doors to see if the exterior wood was as beautiful as the interior. If it was, we would stain and varnish them. If not, we would paint the doors.

Stripping the doors meant taking them off of the hinges which also meant we needed a nice day. Despite Portland have a record number of days over 90° this summer we did not have a sufficiently warm enough weekend to pull the doors down until July. After thoroughly researching the pros and cons of various ways to strip the paint, we borrowed some saw horses from our friend Daniel Molder and on July 14th the fun began. I bought the chemical stripper, gloves, plastic putty knives, respirators and more from our friends at The Home Depot. After taking all the hardware off the doors I removed the hinge pins and holy sh*t, I discovered that these are solid, heavy as all get-out doors! Somehow I managed to get the first one up on the padded saw horses and the stripping began.

As I was a novice to stripping (insert your snickers and bad jokes here) I didn’t do this a section at a time but rather the entire door. The black paint bubbled up and came off easily however it also dried very quickly. So I reapplied the stripper and continued to work. What I discovered quickly is that the exterior wood was: a) a veneer that was not anywhere near as beautiful as the interior of the doors, b) the veneer was not in great shape (which was why it was likely painted black). Before Beth even saw the doors I knew we would be painting them. 

So after doing all the stripping I could on the left door I tried to rehang it. OMG are these doors heavy and trying to lift them just high enough to get them back on the hinges was more than my flimsy arms could handle. Fortunately I had some thin scraps of wood that I used to prop the door to its correct height and get it back on the hinges. The same process took place on the right side door and you can see the results. We discovered several areas where the veneer had broken off or had peeled away so some repairs were in order. 

Beth had various 1960s colors from the Eischler color palette for us to consider and the samples came home from Dick’s color center (Benjamin Moore paints – of course) and after much debate we decided on orange (Pumpkin Cream). With several applications of plastic wood, extensive sanding and a serious coat of primer, the doors got their first two coats of orange on July 27th. A third, finishing coat was applied several days later. Although it took Beth a while to acclimate to the color, I think it makes the front of the Retro Ranch pop! We hope you agree. 

We have contracted to have brass trim strips added to the bottom of the doors, not so much as an accent but rather to keep the veneer from peeling up. It may be a month or two before this gets installed. Soon we will do the complete blog on the front of the house with the new exterior accent lights but I am very pleased with how the door turned out. Orange you?

Sunday, August 26, 2018

The Insulation Project

Well hello out there! Did you think we forgot you? Or more importantly, did you think we stopped working on the Retro Ranch? Although this year’s projects haven’t been quite as dramatic in their immediate result there have been a number of improvements made in our ongoing restoration of the Retro Ranch.

As you may recall there never seems to be a “simple” project at the Ranch. It always seems that to accomplish one project involves multiple side projects, or as they say in the corporate world – scope creep. We knew we needed to insulate the attic as heat rises, the house could have been warmer last winter and what limited insulation there was had collapsed or was removed during the bathroom project of last summer. So hiring an insulation contactor and getting 16” of insulation seems simple enough you say? Silly reader, this is the retro ranch so…

Attic Access and Storage

The Retro Ranch is several hundred square feet smaller than our previous townhome and we were challenged with where to store offseason, seldom used and bulky items. The attic, though not tall had been made accessible by some pull downstairs in the hallway. Unfortunately they were rather flimsy and didn’t close completely making them unsightly in the hallway. There was also access to the attic in the garage. However this required a ladder to the access panel and the space had no decking to store things on. 

We decided to install pull down stairs in the garage and replace the old stairs in the hallway opening before we insulated. A quick ring to our favorite contractors, Northwest Home Concierge, and Troy, Gordon and crew were on the job. They spent a day removing the old stairs, the random decking and walk boards scattered on the beams, framing the opening and installing the new pull down stairs. 

They installed some decking in the main attic for an off-season storage area and a small walkway to get there from the stairs. And we repurposed some closet shelving as decking in the garage attic to maximize storage space.

Lighting and Wiring

There was a rat’s nest of old wires in the attic, remnants of several old alarm systems, TV antennas, telephones, cable and internet, and more. Beth and I removed most of the old wiring without issue - hundreds and hundreds of feet of wire. And in our exuberance we accidentally clipped the wire for the back doorbell. (A couple of ding-dongs you say?!) 

So in addition to adding lighting in the attic (both the hall area and garage) and additional accent lighting for the front of the house (which will be highlighted in an upcoming blog) we needed the doorbell reconnected. Our friends at Coho Electric spent a day with us adding the lighting and switches in the attic spaces, reconnected the back doorbell and adding accent lighting to the front of the house. In performing this work, they managed to crush a section of the return air ductwork as they accessed the eves. It’s always something.


Finally ready for the insulation, the crew from Gale Contractor’s Services came out and were very efficient. It took half a day to build the dams and blow in 16” of insulation. They also fixed the crushed section of ductwork. The house is much tighter and stayed cooler this summer even with a record number of days over 90° in Portland. We are eager to see the difference it makes this winter.




Were these projects as visible as repainting the exterior of the house or rebuilding the bathrooms? Or as much fun finding the bottle glass doors for the kitchen? Obviously not, but hopefully we will stay toasty warm this winter and have easy access to Beth’s retro Christmas tree and ornaments stored in the attic. 

Stay tuned for more updates on projects done earlier this year at the Retro Ranch!