R & R

R & R does not mean we that are taking a well deserved rest. In this case it means rebar and roofing.

The rebar is being woven on the front and rear walls of the hotel in order the strengthen the shotecrete.

It’s a bit complex and has to be entirely contained within 4″ of shotcrete which has led to a bit of vocabulary I can’t repeat. The result; however, will be magnificent and, sad to say, totally invisible.

As for the roof, it has to come off completely including the layer of brick that is on top of the sheathing. The good news is that the mortar used on the brick is the consistency of dried mud and comes off with a good swift kick or perhaps a shovel for the more genteel.

On a final note, the greatest news of all is that our interior remodel permit has been granted complete with a bill for school tax, road tax and park tax. It could have been worse though. I hear that California taxes are about ten times those of Nevada.

Concrete and Doors

It’s been a busy week. On Tuesday, the contractors poured the footings at the north and south ends of the hotel.

These will not only support the shotcrete on the walls above but also provide additional support to the wood floor. I would have liked to witness the pour but I was off picking up some doors that we found in Amador City. My wife and I had been exploring the gold country the previous weekend and ran across an estate sale that just happened to have three half lite exterior doors of the proper vintage.

These look like they were leftovers from another restoration project because they were already stripped of paint. The joinery; however, was in pretty bad shape so I’ll have to glue and clamp the stiles to make them more solid.

A little patching and priming will make them look good again and we’ll use them to replace the exterior doors at the front and back of the building where the originals had rotted away.

Oh BTW, if you’re interested in becoming a neighbor, one of our friends is selling a house around the corner on River Street.

The seller’s description reads:

Potential abounds in this turn-of-the-century home, constructed in Virginia City and relocated to historic old-town Dayton by horse and wagon.  Established in 1900 and currently surrounded by period correct construction, this charming home is replete with opportunity, affording a chance to own a quintessential piece of Dayton and Virginia City history. This home resides in close walking proximity to restaurants, parks, and shops, including the old Union Hotel currently undergoing a substantial residential makeover. This listed River Street property is being sold as is; interested parties are strongly encouraged to seek professional guidance before presenting an offer to purchase this unique home and restoration project.

Or, if you are more ambitious, the Odeon Hall is for sale as well. If you’re an old movie buff, this is one of the places where Marilyn Monroe, Clark Gable and Montgomery Clift were filmed in the movie “The Misfits”.

Coming Unglued

There is one thing we have lots of and that is ugly exterior doors. Most of them are toast but a few can be saved with a bit of imagination. As a case in point, the front door to the old barber shop was as ugly as they come but remained structurally sound. The existing mortise lock was repairable, despite having been kicked in at some point, and the frame was still square… mostly. The one real problem it had was that the plywood on the lower panel had become unglued.

Even though this fit with our look of “Ghost Town Revival”, the old plywood was likely to trap water inside the door leading to further decay. So, looking around at salvaged materials, I hatched a cunning plan.

The first step was to carefully remove the old plywood panel.

There was wood molding holding the panel in place on the inside of the door which I removed with a chisel. This allowed the panel to come out while leaving the molding on the exterior of the door intact. Once that was done, I salvaged some tongue and groove boards from the original saloon wainscotting.

With a bit of cutting and scraping, the boards were reading for their new task.

Once tacked in place, I applied new trim to the back of the door to hold the boards in place.

With priming and paint, the tongue and groove boards will really make the door look nicer.

Got it Pegged

Now that the side foundations have been poured and the windows boxed out, it’s time to place the anchors for the shotcrete. All the holes that the contractors drilled previously are now being filled with epoxy and reinforcing bar dowels. The shotcrete will be sprayed around these dowels thus providing a solid connection between the shotcrete and the existing brick wall.

The act of gluing these dowels in place is the second easiest job in the operation. The easiest job is performed by the inspection engineer who watches to make sure that all of the dowels are glued in correctly. This is only a formality since I trust my contractors to do the job right the first time but the code book says I have to have the engineer present or the job does not get signed off. The hitch is that engineers are expensive, work by the hour and I won’t know how many hours until the project is done. The budget hates this.

At the edges of the shotcrete walls, there are more anchors that will eventually become part of a web of reinforcing bar inside the shotcrete walls.

PS: We cast no aspersions. The engineer is a really nice guy and we’re happy to have him on the job. Just wish I could have gotten my own engineering degree when I was in college.

Well Supported

In my last post, I was proud to announce the pouring of the new footings. You can see the result in the picture below. The floor joists are now firmly supported by a continuous concrete beam and the rotting wood blocks are gone.

This is the basement view.

Now that the footings are done, the next step is to apply the shotcrete to the front and back walls of the hotel. On the first floor, the shotcrete will be 8″ thick and all the windows and doors require forms around them to keep the rough openings square during the pour.

The forms give you a good idea of how thick the shotcrete will be and our cats agree that the increased windowsill depth will give them plenty of space for sunbathing. The second floor will receive only 4″ of shotcrete providing less space for this feline pastime but they will just have to make the best of it.

Meanwhile, up on the roof, we’ve completed a bit of exploratory surgery. The challenge was that we could not get a bid on removing the old roof without knowing exactly what was under the tar paper. We did know that there was a layer of brick on top of the sheathing  because we could see it from below through knot holes in the sheathing. This made everyone a bit nervous so we pulled a section of roofing apart to see how horrible it actually was.

As it turned out, there were two layers of asphalt roofing on top of one layer of tin roofing. Under that was a layer of mortar on top of the same bricks that we could see from below.

This could have been a disaster but instead, the mortar turned out to be so soft that one could crumble it in one’s hand. I suspect that this roof will be easier to remove than a typical asphalt shingle roof.

Starting On the Right Footing

Last week, the first of the concrete trucks arrived and we poured the east and west footings inside the hotel. This was not part of the seismic upgrade but it was done as a “best practice” to replace the old method of supporting the ground level floor joists

The new footings replace the old wooden shims that originally held up the mud sills under the floor. The old shims served okay for the last 150 years but they were really a makeshift solution that should never have been.

As you can see in this view from under the floor, the mud sill is about 8″ above the top of the stone foundation wall and the gap was filled with a length of 4″ x 4″ and several scraps of pine flooring hammered into place. This has been replaced with rebar and concrete.

The new concrete replaces all the old shims and supports the mud sill directly. This is a top view showing how the floor joists rest on the mud sill and new concrete beam.

The next concrete addition will be sprayed on concrete on the inside of the north and south walls. The prep work for this will be building a grid of rebar and bolting it to the interior of the walls. The concrete will be sprayed over this creating a rigid wall that supports the existing brick wall if and when the big one hits.

Obsessive Restoration

Now that the contractors temporarily own the interior of the hotel, my wife and I have focused our attentions on the wood front of the post office structure next door to the hotel. The idea is to do only conservation to this structure to retain the ghost town feel but while prepping for paint, it’s apparent that some of the wood siding is in need of help.

In this case, the second board from the top is missing a chunk at the bottom edge exposing the interior of the wall.

This is what it’s supposed to look like. You will note that the top of the siding is tapered and the bottom is notched to mate up with the tapered board below.

Since finding vintage siding is difficult, I’ve tried my hand at repairing the damaged boards as best I can.

Here we have the original damaged siding along side a salvaged board which I will splice on. You can see the damaged edge of the siding that I intend to replace.

The first step is to cut the notch onto the salvaged board so that it replicates the damaged edge of the siding.

Then, I cut off the crusty bit of the old siding. I’ve shown this from the back so you can see that I’ve beveled the cut to provide a larger gluing surface. The bevel also stops rain water from intruding into the siding.

The replacement piece is then cut with a matching bevel and glued to the siding with construction adhesive.

Finally the assembly is held together with the world’s oldest clamping device until the adhesive is dry.

Now, if that seems like a lot of trouble, it is and perhaps it’s a good reason to purchase a router table so that I can make my own siding from scratch.

Let The Games Begin!

One more check paid to the county and the permit is issued! The blocking is progressing and the saloon ceiling looks pretty impressive.

The new blocking with the steel straps is pretty massive when compared to the original X bracing which remains as a reminder of the past. As expected, I’m hoping that we never have an earthquake but part of me would really like to see how this works during the big one.

On the exterior, the repointing on the hotel structure has been completed and it looks a heck of a lot better than when we bought the place. You will note that the left parapet has been rebuilt and there is no more hole in the wall below the downspout. Also, the 1950s carport will, eventually, come down and the back of the hotel will be displayed in all its glory again.

The Pony Express building could use some help as well but that is for a future project. The plan is to repoint the stones, rebuild the window and then add a concrete bond beam to the top to hold together the loose bits and prevent rain from seeping into the interior of the wall. With that done, the wall should be good for another 150 years.

Even after the repointing, the hotel walls retain that original wild west look. The interior of the Pony Express yard shows it the most with the remains of the original plaster. I’d like to leave it this way to show the age of the building. The front and the east side wall are currently painted and I will probably repaint them a brick red which is historically correct.


Flushed With Pride

We are so happy. The sun is shining, the new porta potti has been delivered and there are contractors on the horizon.

This means that the permit for the seismic retrofit has been submitted and we’ve been given the green light from the county to start with the prep work. This includes some of the preliminary blocking to reinforce the floor and roof joists that have been carrying the load since 1870. I suspect they need a breather after all that time.

The other big event came this morning when the county reinstalled the missing water meter so that we now have a working hydrant on site.

The old water meter was removed years ago apparently for plumbing leaks in the hotel. I don’t doubt the veracity of this claim; in fact, when I tried to cut some of the old water lines in the basement, the vibration from the saw caused the pipes to break at the joints before I could even cut through the metal. This is a very good reason to wear a hardhat on site and possibly a set of football shoulder pads for good measure.

Of course, the need for my labor on site has decreased since the demo is mostly complete. My current job is writing checks and watching contractors until they get nervous.

Spring Is Here!

Now that the thermometer has reached 77 degrees and the birds are singing in Dayton, it’s hard to imagine that I was scraping snow off the windshield just last week.

The sun is back and work has restarted on the hotel. We’ve selected a contractor to do the seismic retrofit and our mason has returned to finish the repointing.

As for the interior, my wife and I worked all winter to prepare access for the seismic work and in so doing, discovered that the sub floor was in pretty bad shape. It was worn thin in many places and even though it was covered by another layer of wood floor which we removed, it still smelled of dog pee. New plywood was the best answer.

The back wall is still wet from the winter weather which is actually an historic problem for this structure. The building never had downspouts where the water pours off the roof and the rear wall is absolutely soggy. We’ll be fixing that with tin scuppers that the Historic Commission has already approved.

In a previous post, we talked about colors and to add to that, we are now collecting sample materials. In the basement, I found several samples of the original Linoleum.

The black sample was used as a kitchen counter in the post office. It’s a mystery where the green sample was used but I like it and Armstrong has a modern version of it available. Perhaps we’ll find a place for it. It’s interesting to note that real Linoleum similar to these samples is coming back into style. The driving force behind this trend is that it’s a natural green product made of linseed oil and jute backing unlike modern vinyl which is a petroleum based product.

Another product that is making a comeback is encaustic tile. Encaustic tiles are hand made from colored cement that has been cast in patterns. The tiles are thick and heavy but they have a quarter inch thick color layer which can provide hundreds of years of use without wearing through the pattern.

My wife and I have selected this pattern as a candidate for the upstairs living room.

The tiles would be used as a backer for the wood stove. The frame around the stove is a teak door frame from India that I found years ago but never quite figured out how to use. It will work perfectly in this location and provide a bit of Jack London to the interior. In his home in California, Jack used numerous architectural elements gathered on his world travels and this eclectic eccentric look is just the sort of thing my wife and I love.