Saturday, October 15, 2016

Soffit and Fascia Demolition and Reconstruction

A view of the exposed soffit, after demolition.
The next phase of the project is well under way. Over the past couple weeks, demolition was completed on the soffit. When we took down the old beadboard, we found significant rot on the beadboard as well as the fascia and soffit supports. The soffit was also previously supported by 1x4 material and was sagging. The house looked a bit like Droopy.

We always wanted the soffit to be varnished beadboard so that the wood character was visible but if the soffit wood were in good condition, we were willing to save it and paint it. Unfortunately, there just wasn't enough to save to make it worth it so we are sticking with the plan of replacing the soffit board with new that matches the old exactly.

Rotted beadboard, ready for the dump.
Rotting soffit with squirrel nest above.

One "discovery" during demolition of the soffit was that the eaves had been filled, by squirrels, with a mixture of insulation and mulch to create huge squirrel nests. The mess and smell were nauseating. I am glad that the squirrels never made it into my attic and I am glad that we removed this problem from the house.  

Reconstructing the eaves.
A detailed view of the front gable and eaves during construction of the new supports and fascia.. 

The soffits were reinforced with new 2x4s and were leveled as much as possible. The fascia boards were also rotted so those needed to be replaced on most of the house as well. These too were replaced with boards that matched the size of the existing ones.  
The straightened out eaves on the front of the home.
The Droopy look is now gone and it makes a huge difference to the appearance of the house. I am happy with the work so far but can't help but still have that anxious feeling about the project. The weekend weather does not look like it is going to cooperate so I am not sure how much we will accomplish this weekend.   

Meanwhile, my basement and garage have become a staining and finishing area for the new beadboard. We are using a light "cedar" color for the stain and I am using the same brand of stain and varnish that I used on the interior of the home. I have about 2/3 of this work done now but am not sure when we will put it up.

Sunday, October 02, 2016

Color inspiration on my morning run

I am very fortunate to live in a neighborhood that has no shortage of well maintained landmark homes to draw inspiration from. Even outside the historic districts, there are plenty of excellent examples of bungalow paint colors and exterior renovations that are really well done. This morning, I decided to take some extra time, and log a couple extra miles, looking for some paint color inspiration in the neighborhood. Here are a few of my favorites.  

Saturday, October 01, 2016

Exterior Siding Demolition is Complete

Demolition of the exterior siding was completed this week. There were a lot of great discoveries and a lot of not so great discoveries. All in all, I think we are in pretty good shape. 

Lets start with the great discoveries. When they removed the siding, they revealed that the gable is clad in shingles. It is a nice contrast from the 3" exposure clapboards that clad the rest of the house. They also seem to be in pretty good shape. 

The demo also revealed that we have corner boards and a frieze board trim around the house. Mose of the clapboards are also in good shape. The finish on them isn't so great but it is far better than what I feared I might find. 

The worst part of the demo reveal is the eaves. All of the beadboard soffits are rotted. If they were in better shape, I might consider keeping them but instead, we have found a beadboard that matches it perfectly and will replace the beadboard with a replica. We will be staining it so it should provide a nice accent around the entire home. 

We've always had a single door to the cubbie hole beneath our front porch. The demo revealed a second door but there are some challenges with how we make this workable. 

Most of the window trim is in good shape. I think that I have three sills I have to replace but that shouldn't be bad at all. All in all, I am happy with the window areas. 

One of the window's trim was cut apart to make the siding work. The small window in the dining room bay will have to get new trim so that is looks "right" again. 

There is a skirt board at the bottom of the bay window that is missing. We will have to reconstruct that. 

There is a molding that used to exist at the edge of the beadboard. It framed the beadboard at the soffits on the eaves and at the gable. Luckily, there are two homes on the street that have the molding intact so I can figure out what it is and replace it to look like it once did. 

The cove molding on the capitals and on the gables is all intact. I may need to replace some of it but that work will be minor. 

Parts of the back of the house are in rough shape. Clearly, this area never saw much attention. I have a few pieces of clapboard to replace and a lot of minor patching to do. 

The eave returns at the back of the house are a complete mess and have to be completely re-framed and trimmed. The birds will not be happy. 

Carpentry work begins on Monday so I have been busy choosing stains and finishes and getting lumber ordered so that they can start work. I am having people that know what they are doing take care of the eaves and I will tackle a lot of the rest. I am glad that the demo is over but probably won't be completely at ease until the eave work is completed. There may be more discoveries come Monday! 

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Anatomy of a Hancock Bungalow

In order to understand some of the opportunities we have with restoring our home's exterior woodwork, I took some time to put together the research I have about the home and look more carefully at the neighboring structures. At first glance, you notice a group of similar modest structures that have changed over the hundred years since they were first built. Closer inspection reveals that some have been muddled beyond recognition while others have been carefully restored. No matter what condition, it is a group of buildings with great variety on their single bungalow theme.  

There are thirty of these bungalows, on two blocks in Oak Park's Frank Lloyd Wright Prairie School of Architecture Historic District. They were all built by Raymond Hancock. Hancock built hundred of these types of homes in Oak Park and the city of Chicago. These particular homes were started in 1915 and finished in the following two years. The resulting in a distinctive appearance. All of the homes have aligning front porch or front porch windows flanked by columns and almost all of the roof heights are the same. This creates a streetscape with a horizontal character, where your eye is led from house to house, across an array of varying details. 

One of Hancock's marketing ideas was to give the owner a hand in the design decisions that went into the home. While the advertisements boasted amenities like cement basements, laundry tubs, and elaborate sideboards, many of the elements on the exterior of the home could be customized. Prospective owners could choose the style of bungalow and embellish it with brackets, various materials, and column styles. Hancock was able to maintain a standardized production method for his homes with almost identical floor plans in each but also offer the variety and personal appeal that new homeowners wanted.  

There are three primary styles of Hancock home that are found in the historic district; a front gable a side gable, and a hipped roof. Those with side gables and hipped roofs have a variety of front dormers. Those with front gables have different expressions of the gable depending on whether it had a full second floor or a smaller attic space.   
Side gable Hancock home with a front dormer. The dormer with three windows, exposed rafters, rafter tails and brackets. 
Front gable Hancock home with center window and brackets with intact eave beadboard soffit.
Front gable Hancock home with shingles above three windows, tongue and groove eave and brackets.
In addition to the stylistic varieties offered by the gable placement and number of rooms, each detail of the home was also customized. All of the homes have distinctive columns supporting the front of the home or flanking the front porch. Some run from the ground to the eave, others from the ground to a freize board and others are only the height of the adjacent windows. Ours happen to be stucco, a very unique feature for the street.
This is me ripping the aluminum siding off of the top of our front columns to reveal the cove molding. 
A wood column the same height as the adjacent windows.
A wood column the same height as adjacent windows but with a suggested clapboard-clad pier below. 
A full-height wood column from the ground to a freizeboard.
A column clad with beadboard and a wood pier below. 
Almost all of the dining rooms are given a more gratious interior appearance by a side bay window. There are both angled and square bays. Some extend to the eaves and some have their own roof. They provide added interest to the side facades of these homes.

Side dining room bay with dorner moulding, banding and brackets and exposed rafters above. 
Side dining room bay with dorner moulding, banding and brackets and exposed rafters above.
Our side bay is tucked under our eave and it doesn't appear like it had any detail or brackets. The skirt moulding, just above the bottom trim board was removed before they put on the siding though. We will have to replace that. 
The amount of detail that used to be on these relatively modest homes is surprising. Many of the more overtly "Craftsman Style" homes with exposed rafters and and bracketing are intact but very few of the soffited eaves exist in their original state. These eaves were clad with beadboard and had an intricate cove molding along the fascia and a small quarter-round trim towards against the main house. Our home had a soffited eave.

View of a soffited eave on a stucco home.
View of a soffited eave with beadboard on a central dormer.

We know there is beadboard under our eaves because we still have it in our porch. The eave restoration is the part of this project that gives me the most angst.
Though many of the homes on the street have been severely altered and have lost many of their details, there are still many that appear to be lovingly cared for. and retain much of their historic integrity. To my fortune, this will be my "library" as I move ahead with more work restoring the outside of my home.

Hopefully it won't be too long before the Tiny Oak Park Bungalow is a great example of historic restoration.