Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Our Nemesis

Oh dear, it has been a month and half again already since the last post! Apologies! Happy New Year!

We finally got a tiny bit of snow last month:

And then again yesterday:

but it melted very quickly. Bummer. 

Great news on the floors I wrote about last the two downstairs rooms, the floors and joists have been examined and found to be solid, so they have been blocked up and the house no longer shakes when we walk across the living room! Our neighbor and friend, Jake, has been helping us out with this. There is also a vapor barrier down everywhere.

While we did have to cut big holes in the floor to get under them, the fact that they were able to be saved was such a relief to me, as these are the original poplar floors from the 1850s. We honestly are trying to work with what we have and restore, rather than replace.....but this leads to the big topic of this post.....

......our nemesis......

.....the fear of all old-house restorationists......

....LEAD PAINT, of course.   Just typing those words makes me shudder. We have two of them just about to turn 3, and lead poisoning is extremely, extremely dangerous.

Anyway, I finally went down to the mega hardware store and bought the lead check kits...they are swabs  that you rub on the area you want to test.  Not only did I find it on the floor, and the door trims as I suspected I would, but it is pretty much everywhere. Remember the cool shiplap-type siding in the kitchen? Lead paint. The door trim that I stupidly scraped with a heat gun without a respirator? Lead paint. Stairs? Lead paint. It is pretty much poison everywhere.

I have to look on the bright side. It does make some of our my design decisions more straightforward. Where I would have sanded and stained the front room floors, they will now be painted. Same with the baseboards, chair rails and picture rails. It's all about encapsulation, people.  AND extreme caution with the kidlets. The little one was in the house today and I was afraid for her to even touch anything. Lead is not dangerous unless ingested but you know how kids are. They stick their fingers in their mouths sometimes for no good reason.

There are some options to remove the lead paint including a cool-sounding soy gel product that renders the lead inert. The problem is that it is $100/gallon. What?!   Another option is the good ole heat gun, but now I know that lead fumes are really, really seriously bad and I NEVER should have gone that route without a respirator.  Then, there is a cool device that I heard about from Jack the window guy. He is my restoration guru now because I've called him on a number of occasions to ask questions and he always patiently answers my million questions. (I ask questions pretty well, I's part of my paying work.)  His recommendation is an infrared heating thing that I'm not going to name until I use it. I read about it too on my favorite magazine's website too. (This Old House, if you must know. ;-) )
It costs a pretty penny, but we feel that it is our best option given all the woodwork that needs stripped -- in technical speak, the price/performance ratio is the most attractive.

In many cases, we will just carefully remove the old, leady (is that a word?) woodwork and replace it, possibly adding a little bit of fancy here and there...but not too much. Our house was a true farmer's home and a modest one, which is one of the many reasons we fell in love with it. It is charming and simple and strong -- just like we imagine the Tash family was that built it. That said, I'm excited to give it the polish it deserves and a little bit of bling, here and there -- detail on the picture rail, for instance.

I fear I have gone on too long and lost some readers. This happens in real life too. Someone will ask about the house and I will start talking until I realize the person's eyes have glazed over. Oh well.

Here are more pics to entertain you!

Thanks for reading!


A Chambers stove we are considering for the kitchen:

Putting some poly on a sample of our bathroom flooring:

Oscar, our California boy, hiding from the snow:

Yet another floor that definitely needed to be torn out. More on this in the next post:

Upstairs floor. We finally removed the old Congoleum. We love the dark finish!

Oscar, Tabby, Indiana and Yogurt:


  1. Oh, a Chambers range! Straight out of my childhood until age 10, when it went to my grandmother, and 8 years later to her sister. Does it have the cooking well? There was a special pot with a locking lid that went down into that well and cooked the best beans ever. How I wish I had a Chambers instead of the stupid electric. Only drawback would be the heat it puts out in the summer.

  2. love your farmhouse, especially those beautiful winter photos you took........hang in there with the renovation, it will all be worth it! Old stoves? Got one, except mines electric....can't beat them for character, and they heat up the whole room!! :)

  3. Thanks for stopping by! I do see some light at the end of the tunnel. I just have to keep reminding myself that we just need to get the house in a good enough condition to move in -- there will be projects for years to come. The hubby checked out a different stove today for $50 but there was a broken knob so we passed. And it wasn't just the knob but the thing the knob connected to as well. We know we will find one that is within our budget.

  4. I've been using Peel-Away 1 to remove our lead paint. It's about $25 a bucket (not sure how much is in the bucket) at Home Depot, Lowe's, etc. It's a cream that you spread over the paint you want removed. Then you apply the special wax paper provided with the bucket over the cream. Let it sit for about 24 hours and peel it away. All of the paint and cream adheres to the paper,so you don't have any dust. Apparently whatever is in the cream reacts with the lead, making it safe to throw away in the regular trash.

    I've been using it in our living room. It does take some getting used to (I used basically a whole bucket on half of a fireplace because I wasn't sure what I was doing and wasted a lot of it), but overall, it's a pretty cool product..

  5. Thank you so much for your comment about Peel-Away. I was wondering if it really does work. We have so much woodwork to strip, along with restoring old windows, I may give it a try.

  6. your farmhouse and blog are just lovely...found your blog looking for inspiration for my own little farmhouse. It's late, I'm tired but cant wait to read more later!

  7. Just found your blog . I actually ended up with a lead-poisoning phobia because of an older condo we had bought :'(. So not fun. You are so brave ... How is everything going to date ? I do think your house is so charming. Keep an eye on your kiddos lead-levels with lab work :) you might have lead in your water, too so ck that as well.