Creeping Forward

As you’ve probably noticed, progress has been kinda slow. I’m still waiting for the structural engineer to finish up the seismic retrofit design and I’ve been using my time to demolish elements that are either beyond repair or too modern to suit the vintage nature of the building.

While removing non period plywood wainscotting in the saloon, I did not locate the bag of gold coins that was rumored to be hidden someplace. Instead, I discovered a letter from 1939 that discussed the Worlds Fair. I also found a mummified bat with a rather annoyed look on its face.

I figure the previous items do not warrant a new post so I’ll toss in some ideas of what I think the future floor plan may be. C:Data rescuedUnion HotelDesignnew base plan 1st (1)

This first floor shows a rather ample saloon at 20′ x 30′. We’ll just call it a Texas sized family room that will sport a rebuilt version of the original bar, game tables and possibly a pool table if I find an old one that suits my design sense. The Kitchen beyond will be of a country design with a large harvest table in the middle to make the room worthy of a Sunset Magazine foldout. I’ll also put in an old wood stove for decoration. It won’t be functional other than being a neat place to display my cast iron cookware.

C:Data rescuedUnion HotelDesignnew base plan 2nd (1)

The second floor was originally a maze of tiny rooms but with a bit of judicious wall removal, I’ve turned it into 3 bedrooms with 1 bath and his and hers office spaces. Special attention is paid to placing the laundry room on the 2nd floor with the bedrooms. There were, originally, two other laundry hookups, one on the first floor near the back door and one in shed at the far end of the garage structure. The idea of lugging a laundry basket up and down 13 vertical feet of stairs, however, was not so exciting.

Now, the big question is do I want forced air or radiant heating. I’d love your opinions if you have a preference.

Dust and Treasure

The seismic retrofit plans are still in the works but, in the meantime, I’ve been keeping busy with prep work. This week saw a minor victory in making demolition more safe. The scary electrical wiring has been disconnected at the source and I now have two new J-boxes with GFIs to safely power my tools. A big thanks goes out to my electrician.

breaker box

With that done, it’s back to the plaster demolition on the second floor without any fear of lighting myself up like a Christmas tree.

I’m sure most of you are familiar with lath and plaster but for those who’ve not experienced the pleasure, the following is a brief description of what it’s like.

lath front

This image is of what a lath and plaster wall looks like after being whacked a few times with a crowbar. It’s basically a 1/2″ thick layer of very soft cement that’s been troweled onto a series of 1 1/2″ wide slats which are nailed to the wall studs beyond. The fun patterns that you see are many layers of wall paper adhered to the exterior face of the plaster and, in this case, it’s mostly what’s holding the old plaster together.

lath back

On the back side of the wall, you can see how the plaster spludges through the lath. Is spludge a real word? Well anyway, the spludging is what causes the plaster to anchor to the lath thus making it stay in place for a hundred years or until someone like me whacks it with a crowbar. Why you don’t see this material used anymore is that it is very labor intensive to apply and requires a highly skilled craftsman. A typical house could take weeks to plaster and months to dry. With the invention of drywall or gypsum board, the process of covering walls could be done much more rapidly with less skilled laborers thus leaving the skilled craftsman out on the street corner selling pencils.

Now, back to the project. I’ve pulled down about as much plaster as I can by myself and I’m hip deep in rubble. It’s now time to call in my contractor with his crew of very strong guys and a dumpster to clean up the mess. While I’m waiting for a window on his calendar, I’ve taken the time to start scrounging whatever elements that I can use.

Scrounge 02

Scrounge 01

It’s a shame to let any of this stuff go to waste particularly when you see the prices for this sort of thing at the architectural salvage places in Berkeley. Oh, and lest I forget, this little beauty came out of the Guv-Nor’s-Sweet and will look fabulous once restored.




Shear Testing

As part of the engineering plan for seismic retrofits, a shear test is required to determine the strength of the original mortar in the hotel walls. In preparation for this test, one brick is removed from the wall and one vertical mortar joint is removed from the far side of an adjacent brick.

Shear 01

Into the hole left by the missing brick, a hydraulic ram is inserted.

Shear 02

Shear 03

A hand activated pump will cause the ram to exert force against the adjacent brick with the goal of sliding the adjacent brick into the space left by the missing mortar joint. Once that happens, a gauge on the pump will report how much pressure was exerted before the mortar failed allowing the brick to slide.

Shear 04

Something to note on this particular test is that the wall is painted with latex paint which, in this case, served to protect the brick making it one of the strongest walls of the building. This runs counter to what I’ve been reading about old brick walls and their need to breath. Moisture being trapped inside bricks by paint is supposed to hasten brick deterioration but apparently, Nevada is so dry that moisture doesn’t get trapped in the first place. This makes the project a lot easier since I don’t have to worry about removing all that latex paint from the masonry.

Now, everyone please send your good thoughts. Once the test results are in, the structural engineer will create his plans and we’ll know if this project is financially feasible.