Before We Moved In, Sept. 2002

Meet the house that stole our hearts along with our wallets and free time!

Before and After, Restoration Diary

before_01Jeannie and I paint my home office

These are the very first photos of us working on the house. They were taken the week before we moved in. We were trying to get the house clean enough to live in. I have this goofy “I can’t believe I’m a home owner” grin on my face!

before_03David stripping the fireplace

Our restoration SWAT team included Jeannie, a long time family friend, who flew in from Indiana for a week. She was amazing. She cooked meals, spackled like a pro, painted, sanded, spent more time with me at Home Depot than either of us probably care to remember and she even helped peel up old linoleum from the bathroom floor!

before_02Living Room

David’s brother Chris flew in from Utah for the weekend to help us paint and whatever else we asked him to do. He said it it was “fun” but he has’t come back to visit since. We think he is waiting until the house is finished.

before_02aLooking into the den from the living room

Our friend Jeff also dropped by for a few hours to help paint. I think he went on a McDonalds run or two for us. We lived on McDonalds the first 3 weeks we had the house – especially after Jeannie left.

before_04Looking into the den from the living room

before_05Extra large register vent in the floor between the living room and dining room

before_06Dining room’s built-in china cabinet

before_07Dining room, box beam ceiling

before_08Den

before_09Den floor

before_10Kitchen

before_11Kitchen counter was built right up to the pantry cabinet door. Obviously, the door to the cabinet can’t be opened.

before_12We found a phone jack every 3-5 feet, running all around the upstairs bedrooms. Wonder what all those phones were used for?

Comments { 10 } August 1, 2003

Getting New Furnace, Nov 2002

Restoration Diary,

Two months after we moved into the house my Dad drove out from Indiana and installed a furnace for us. We had no heat in the house and I don’t think my Dad could stand the idea of me freezing out here in Southern California (hey, we do get cold nights and I am usually wearing a coat by November).

At that time we couldn’t afford the 10K + quotes we were given to purchase and install a new furnace so my Dad purchased the equipment at a fraction of the cost in Indiana and we (mostly he) installed it ourselves. We have had a few minor set backs due to the DIY installation, not that I am complaining.

Not the most flattering or even informative photo of me with the new heater.

Comments { 1 } August 6, 2003

Cherry Wood Stairway to Heaven

Well, restoration heaven anyway

Before and After,

The old stairs were made out of plywood, not original to the house and in horrible condition. At one time they must have been covered in carpet. At least I hope so!

We had a carpenter replace the old plywood stairs leading to the top floor with nice steps made from cherry wood that was generously donated by my dad.

Comments { 1 } August 8, 2003

Realtors

Find out more about realtors working in the West Adams area of Los Angeles

Resources, ,

I’m sure there are other realtors working in West Adams but here are the two we know personally. They also both live in West Adams. I think it is an advantage to work with a realtor who personally knows the area you wish to buy in.

Jim Weber (The realtor who we used to purchase our home)
Jim Weber is a great guy. He has lived in West Adams for many years in a beautiful old home which he and his family have restored. He is very knowledgeable and excited about older homes.

He gave David and I a tour of the area before we were sure this was an area we wanted to live in. We worked with him for over a year before finding our house. Did I mention that he is also a patient man? I’m sure I drove him crazy on many occasions but he was always very kind to us while we searched for just the right home. He did send us a Christmas card so maybe (hopefully) that means we are forgiven?

Because he has restored his own home and is involved in the restoration community, Jim has a lot of resources that he has shared with us from who to call for redoing your floors to title changes, and everything in between. That is the benefit of working with a realtor who lives and works in your area.

Jim Weber Realty Group
P.O. Box 15971
Los angeles, CA 90015
phone: 323.735.0700
email: [email protected]
website: http://www.craftsmanhomes.com

Adam Janeiro
Adam Janeiro lives in the West Adams area in a bungalow that he and his wife have spent the past several years restoring. Adam has firsthand knowledge of the joys and challenges inherent in restoring an older home. When we first moved into the area they referred us to contractors, salvage yards and introduced us to some of our neighbors.

Adam works for City Living Realty (a brokerage with over twenty years experience in the neighborhood) and writes a blog about architecture, neighborhoods, urban issues, and real estate market conditions. The url is www.recenteringelpueblo.com. That’s right: Recentering El Pueblo.

Adam Janeiro
City Living Realty
323-401-3952
[email protected]
www.recenteringelpueblo.com

Comments { 0 } August 13, 2003

Antique Bricks

A resource for antique bricks in the Los Angeles area

Resources,

bricks

Over the last three days we have been frantically looking for antique brick that will match the original bricks on the porch. While I was doing some searching on the internet yesterday I remembered that the recent LA Magazine had mentioned a stone store which sells high quality stones for construction projects – Bourget Brothers.

I gave them a call to see if they carried bricks. They do. They also happen to be conveniently located in Santa Monica so I visited them this morning and I think I’ve found a match. Heather and I will be returning to the store this afternoon to take a closer look and purchase the 100 bricks we need to continue our porch restoration.

Comments { 2 } August 22, 2003

John L. Welsh and Family

Restoration Diary,

Something about living in this old, neglected house makes me wonder about who lived here before me? What were they like? Were their years here happy ones? Maybe I’ve seen too many episodes of HGTV’s “If These Walls Could Talk”?

Their original building permit was applied for by Henry Gatz, who is also listed as contractor, on November 23, 1911. The house was completed in 1912. The entire cost of the building is listed as $1950, about what we pay for our mortgage every month. The home was built for John L. Welsh. He lived on our street at 2938 Hobart Blvd at the time this house was being built. I wonder if the 2938 Hobart house was an earlier home that John Welsh had built or if the family was renting?

In 1916, a sleeping porch was added by extending the present dormer on the rear of the house. That work was done by H. V. Wright of 3933 S. Hill St. John L. Welsh applied for a permit to build a private garage with a dirt floor and a paper roof in April of 1919. He is listed as the contractor and architect. The garage is no longer standing so we can’t see his handiwork.

Those are the facts but they don’t shed much light on the personalities of our house’s original family. I can get a sense of their preferences or at least the prevailing tastes of their day by peeling through layers of old paint and wallpaper to the home’s original color palette. They chose fairly dark, masculine colors: a dark orange-brown color that looks like the spice cinnamon for the living and dining room walls with a dark, dark brown-black mission stain on the douglas fir woodwork. The den was a medium orange, terra cotta color with a similarly colored wallpaper ceiling that has hand painted silver designs on it. It’s still intact but badly damaged and more than likely unsalvageable. The kitchen, in 1912 a woman’s domain, was a more feminine salmon-pink color – at least on the ceiling.

I get the feeling of a strong male presence having lived and left his mark in this house. Maybe because John L. Welsh’s name was the only one listed on the paperwork we received when we purchased the house, that’s who captured my imagination? I wonder if he would have approved of the choices we are making?


According to the 1920 Federal Census John L. Welsh was the head of the household, a white male aged 53. He was born in Pennsylvania (I guess around 1867). His parents were also born in Pennsylvania. He was a furniture salesman. By the 1930 Census, he had begun selling carpets. I wonder what beautiful furniture and rugs our house was decorated with? I would love to see a few photos of what our house looked like in its heyday or to be able to put faces with the names. Ida K. Welsh was listed as John’s wife. She was a white female aged 44 in 1920. Her place of birth as well as her parent’s was Pennsylvania. There was no occupation listed for her.

Magdalen Catudal was listed as what appears to be wife’s daughter or perhaps it is wife/daughter, white female aged 22. Her place of birth was Pennsylvania. Her occupation was listed as music teacher with own students. There is a beautiful piano window in our den which I can imagine an upright piano sitting under. Dan (or Don) F. Catudal was listed as son-in-law, white male aged 23 with a birth place of Nebraska. His father was from Canada (English) and it looks like his mother may have been from California or perhaps Canada? It’s very hard to make out since all the records are hand written. Dan was a shipping clerk in the automobile industry.

By the 1930 census Magdalen and Dan had 2 five year old boys, Ray L. and Roy F. This might explain all the marbles I find as I open up long ago sealed walls, remove layers of linoleum from the floors and once while digging in the yard. The house has only two bedrooms. I wonder how a family of 6 managed to live within its 1800 square feet? Maybe the downstairs den was converted into a bedroom? Or maybe the boys slept on the sleeping porch? The boys would have been born in 1925 and they could still be alive at almost 80 years old. Catudal is a fairly uncommon last name so maybe I.ll be able to get in touch with either Ray or Roy to find out what happened to the family who built our home?

Comments { 4 } September 22, 2003

Silent Paint Remover

Stripping paint with an infrared heat paint remover

Products, Removing Paint

In an online forum someone posted a link to an episode of “This Old House” which used a product called the Silent Paint Remover to strip off paint. They were using it outside of a house but I thought I would try it inside on my woodwork. Silent Paint Remover uses infrared heat to soften paint. It’s environmentally friendly. There are no chemicals involved, it works at a low enough operating temperature to prevent plumbic (lead) gases that may be present in the paint from being released and like the name says, it’s silent.

The first thing I should say is this product isn’t cheap. It’s $375 to own it or $22 a day to rent it. It’s not widely available retail yet. I ordered it directly from the manufacturer and it was back ordered for 2 months.

It’s fairly easy to use. You plug it in, turn it on and hold it over the area you want to strip for 20-60 seconds. There are adjustable bars on the side to help stabilize the tool. It covers about a 12″ x 4″ surface area. The paint will start to bubble up or blister and smoke as the Silent Paint Remover starts to work. Then you need to take a scraper and scrape off the paint. It works! It cut through about 8-12 layers of paint right down to the wood. I think this process goes a lot smoother if two people are doing it, one to loosen the paint and another to scrape it off. I was also happy with how light in weight the Silent Paint Remover was.


I did find some drawbacks though.
The Silent Paint Remover doesn’t loosen all the paint in the 12′” x 4″ surface area evenly. The middle part gets done sooner and you have to go back over the edges, several times. The company who manufactures the product recommended wearing gloves, which I didn’t, and the handle got pretty warm. The front and sides of the tool are metal and they get HOT. It’s pretty easy to accidently brush your arm against the metal and burn yourself (which I did). I had a hard time in corners and detailed areas where the surface heights were not even. The Silent Paint Remover was too bulky to fit into corners.

Overall, I like the product. I think I would like it better if it stripped the paint evenly instead of working better in the center and not as well on the edges. It’s frustrating to keep going over the edges to remove all the paint. It’s also easy to bake on some of the paint. When this happens, it looks black and I panicked thinking I had burnt the wood. I found that the baked on, blackened paint will then need to be sanded off which is additional work. Fortunately, these baked on paint areas are limited so it’s not necessary to sand all of the woodwork.

My final analysis is that this product works best on flat surfaces such as clapboard siding. On interior trim pieces I feel a chemical stripper performs better.

Comments { 13 } October 3, 2003

John L. Welsh Descendants

Learning more about the family who built our home

Restoration Diary,

Ida K. Welsh was born on August 12, 1872, in Pennsylvania. That would actually make her 4 years older than what she reported to the census takers in 1920. She died on May 1, 1962, in Los Angeles. Her maiden name was Boll and the “K” in her middle name may have stood for Kuhler, her mother’s maiden name.

John’s Daughter and Son-in-law
Upon further research I’ve discovered that John L. Welsh’s son-in-law Don Catudal, of 91345 Mission Hills, Los Angeles, CA, born on May 26, 1896, died in November of 1976. John and Ida’s daughter, Mary “Magdalen” Welsh Catudal was born on December 2, 1897. She died on December 14, 1957 at 60 years of age.

John’s Grandsons
Ray Catudal died in September of 1986. His birth date is listed as December 30, 1925. Roy F. Catudal died on November 9, 2002, just two months after we closed escrow on the house. His last residence was listed as 96051 Lakehead, Shasta, CA. The odd thing is his birth date is listed as October 6, 1924. In the 1930 Census both boys were listed as age 5 so I had assumed they were twins. Being born 14 months apart may have felt almost like being twins? Another interesting fact is that their social security numbers were 1 digit apart so they were obviously applied for at the same time.

It saddens me a little to discover that all the people who first lived in our house have passed on, along with their memories.

Comments { 5 } October 3, 2003

The Body-Sized Hole

Why is there a huge hole underneath our house?

Restoration Diary,


Not a photo of the actual hole underneath our house, but this is the way it appears in my imagination.

Our home inspection turned up many things, none of them good, but the strangest discovery was, to quote my husband, “a body-sized hole” in the crawl space underneath the house. I never actually saw the hole but made my husband describe it to me several times in detail. The hole was as wide as a man’s shoulders and at least 6 feet deep. How did David know it was that deep? Because the building inspector crawled over to the hole and poked a long stick into it. They didn’t discover a body, just some discarded rubble.

All old houses hold their mysteries but a body-sized hole wasn’t exactly one we wanted to know more about. Lying in bed that night, David and I speculated why anyone would dig a big hole underneath their house? Being a secret fan of true-crime murder novels (a guilty pleasure) and Court TV’s Forensic Files (a morbid fascination), all kinds of wild thoughts sprang to mind. The home’s present owner, Mr. Jolly, said he inherited the house from his grandmother and his uncle. Did we really know what happened to them? Plus, who has the last name of Jolly anyway? Maybe it was an alias or an attempt to hide a darker side? What if there were bodies buried under the house?


In the light of day, rationalism took over and we pushed those thoughts aside. We requested that Mr. Jolly have the hole filled and forgot all about it during the hectic time surrounding the move into our first home. Going back through the paperwork we recieved from the title company a contract to lease subsurface oil and gas caught my eye.

On February 1, 1957, John V. E. Santo and Antonia N. Santo entered into an agreement for the duration of 10 years with Union Oil Company of California “for the purpose of prospecting, exploring, mining, drilling and operating the land leased for oil, gas and other hydrocarbon substances” lying below a depth of 500 feet. The Santo’s would collect a royalty share of 1/6th of whatever was found. Although we don’t know for certain, we speculate that the body-sized hole was where they drilled for oil. For those of you who are wondering if it would be noisy or troublesome to have a search for oil going on underneath your dining room, the Santos owned the house but they didn’t live here. Their residence was in Pico, CA. This is probably around the time the upkeep on our house started to decline.

The house changed hands again and on April 20, 1964, Mr. Jolly’s grandmother, Winona M. Jolly, entered into the same contract with Union Oil Company of California for the duration of 10 years.

I don’t know if any oil or gas was discovered during those 17 years? Judging from the condition of our house, there didn’t seem to be a lot of money available to make necessary home repairs. I don’t think anyone struck it rich!

Comments { 2 } October 5, 2003

Recommended Reading

These books have been invaluable during our home restoration

Resources

These are the books that I refer to time and time again:
Bungalow Kitchens
Bungalow Bathrooms
Bungalow Colors Exteriors

Other great books:
Outside the Bungalow
Inside the Bungalow
Dare to Repair

Magazines:
American Bungalow
This Old House
Old House Journal

Websites:
American Bungalow Magazine’s Online Forum

Other home restoration websites:
HouseBlogs.net

Comments { 1 } October 5, 2003