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Weekend Update with Sue & Tom

August 2, 2010

What did you do this weekend? Swimming with the kids? Shopping? Clean the house or mow the lawn? Before BAB, I spent Saturdays rummaging thrift stores, Sue spent Sunday mornings reading the paper. We’re looking forward to normal weekend schedules like that. But now our weekends are hard to predict. Ya gotta learn to go with the flow – even the best plans need to allow for some flexibility. Here’s a rundown of this past weekend.


In the middle of the week I told Franco that I could probably get down there one day to help out. He was eager for the help as he wanted to remove security infills for a window and strip the existing frame still in the wall. Unfortunately, work schedule didn’t allow me to get away until Friday.

Franco went with the traditional wax-on, wax-off approach for the interior frame – which is lots of spraying, lots of waiting, then lots of scraping, and finally lots of goo-picking-up. When it was time for the outside, i suggested that instead of using stripper, that perhaps we could use a power washer and just blast off the paint. He was game.

But it didn’t work so well. Perhaps we didn’t have enough water pressure, perhaps we didn’t know how to adjust the borrowed power washer. So we stopped and went back to the old way.

However, Franco wanted to try power-washing the stripper gel off. We checked the labels and the stripper – nothing hazardous. Moved a few things in the red room that might get damaged by moisture, and he went to town. It looked great – the original galvanized finish sees the light of day. (The only downside was that water inside the building drained down the holes in the floor (from the now-removed radiator pipes) and when i went down to the basement, I saw that some of our belongings stored there were getting wet.)

While this paint stripping was going on, I had another task: I needed to cut & weld at the new security gate (see this post) and make it so that it could be locked.

It seemed simple but took a lot of drilling and cutting with the metal grinder; then I had to prime and paint the area because the heat of my oxy/acetylene welder heats the surrounding metal and the finish peel off.

It's really a half-inch dia eye-bolt

Painted and locked.

We wrapped up the work around 3:30 – had to put the security infills before leaving. I told Franco that Sue & I planned to come down Saturday and do some work in the basement – we realized that there were so many old steam pipes running around the ceiling that it would be a lot easier for subcontractors to install plumbing, ducts, etc. if they were all cleared out.

I also told him I planned to be in all day Sunday – cleaning up the red room because I wanted to mop it. We are hoping to have our permit early next week, and we need to remove all that hide glue from the linoleum before we put in new construction. I was out by 6:00pm – long day of labor.


Sue and I got to the building around 10:00, surveyed our work. Brought tools and lights and extension cords to the basement. Then determined we had to move all of our stuff.

Way back when, when we were moving out of our little house, we put all of the contents of the garage down in the basement. And there was this large elevated platform that seemed like the perfect place to put it, and it allowed some things to go below. Unfortunately, this platform was directly below the red room. Dang.

Silk screen frames left by previous owner

Then we thought about all of the silk screen frames stored there. Yep. Better move all of those too!

It took us a few hours to clear out the floor area – side benefit was that we got to sort out the garage stuff and organize it at it’s new location – about a hundred feet away at the north end of the basement.

It was nearly 1:00pm – I forgot to mention that we were expecting a visitor around 2:00 – so we took a lunch break. Gotta love Jimmy Johns – you can show up sweaty smelly and dirty and they’ll let you sit at their tables. Sorry for the next guy!

The visitor was an artist that we contacted through roundabout ways – we bought a silkscreen print of hers at an auction, Sue researched her signed name and found she had a blog, I saw a post post about experimenting with silkscreening on plastic, and VOILA! we have someone I contacted about getting some free ink. We gave her and her boyfriend the full tour of the building, they were very nice and were excited to see the improvements (whenever THAT is!). She couldn’t get the ink yet – she needed to check on truck borrowing and may get it next weekend.

So before you know it, we only have an hour before Sue needs to get back home to cleanup for a work event. So I drove her back home (to Mary’s) and then I would go back to BAB.

Some people have said that they’ve been creeped out by the basement, and don’t like being down there very much. (Patrick?) But I had a fan going (to keep my safety glasses from fogging) so maybe it was the “white noise” from that – but I spent at least three hours cutting pipe, and it kinda grew on me. At least it’s the coolest part of the building. I guess I better get comfy with the basement since Sue says I get to do whatever I want with it.

Maybe it was due to cost, but I started counting how many 2″ pipe cuts I could make with a metal cutting disc in the grinder vs. a fresh sawzall blade. I call it a tie; the grinder disc got me 4 cuts easily, but had access limitations. The blades with get me 5, almost 6, BUT, at the very end of the cut, would VIBRATE the HELL out of everything and was hard to keep the blade from bending. I bent a few blades.

Also – when I hit the stopping point, I thought I’d try the “South City” recycling program – I knew that guys drove around the alleys looking for material to salvage, so I took a short piece of pipe upstairs and stuck it partway out the new security gate – almost like “bait” in case someone drove by. (I didn’t want to drag ALL the pipe up there if someone wasn’t picking it up.)

So while I was gathering tools and picking things up in the basement, I hear a voice at the top of the stairs at the security gate – “Yo – got any more pipes down there?!”. I ran up and recognized the guy from previous pickups and said “Sure! I’ve got a LOT!”. So I unlocked the gate, and he helped me pick it all up and load up his truck. Nice – no dumping charges or time spent at the recyclers. I took his name & number for future scrap. Maybe I should nickname him “Scrappy” for future posts? It was time to change shirts again – it gets so hot that I bring extra t-shirts – they get soaked with sweat and then really uncomfortable. Today – it was a three-tshirt-day.

I started picking up the red room for the next day’s task – didn’t get away until 8:00pm; though I thoroughly enjoyed a cold Corona from the fridge upstairs before heading out.


Today – my main goal was to mop the red room floor with the mopping/scrubbing machine. And I would need to rig up some kind of sink/basin in the dock to empty the used/dirty water. Sue had her monthly knitting group gathering and then some shopping with a friend.

About 10:30 or so, Sue gets a text message from a gal in her office. Her sister has had a 50’s ranch house under contract; it’s in one of those parts of town where the land has become worth more than the house so it’s considered a tear-down; not very environmental in our minds, but we can’t change capitalism. So we have been given permission to take out anything we’d like to salvage. It’s been in the works for a few months – Sue got to preview it a while ago and said that the kitchen cabinets are metal and original and some cool wall cabinets over the laundry area. All useful and cool today in a retro sense.

But we weren’t sure when all of this was going to happen – the buyers needed neighborhood approval of their new house, so the sellers were hesitant to let us demo anything before that approval. That’s what the text message was – the neighborhood approved, and we now had until the closing date to remove everything we wanted. The closing date was this Thursday. ACK!

So I was out & about when I got the message, and then called Sue – asked her to change her plans, thinking we need to forget about everything we had on the table and get over to this house. She agreed.

We arrived and did a walk-through, listing what we wanted. We prioritized on the kitchen cabinets, since they would take the longest. They were interesting – base cabinets had cool handles, but the wall cabinets were very simple.

Original cabinets

Even after removing all of the screws, the wall cabs wouldn’t budge. We left them alone for a while and tackled the base cabinets. Lots of screws to remove there. Finally the counters were loose. But the stovetop was still connected to power; I took the easy route and just left it connected and slipped it to the floor. Once the counters were removed, it was pretty easy to get the base cabs out (aside from the occasional electrical line cutting causing a few sparks) and after a few hours we had all the base cabinets gone.

The wall cabinets – different story – the seemed cemented in place. We finally figured out that the cabs had a metal lip that was originally against the wall; and sometime later a brown tile backsplash was installed, OVER that metal lip. So basically, cemented to the wall. We broke out the demolition bars and sledge hammers. Lots of smashing. A couple more hours and we had the wall cabinets out. Other details involved removing the double ovens, cutting away live wires of the under-cabinet lights, and hidden screws. Oh, and our last wall cabinet practically fell – Sue had the pry bar behind it, I was just walking up as it popped away – stuck my hand out to slow its descent, and as it lightly landed on the dishwasher below, suddenly the garbage disposal kicked on. (Wha?) We couldn’t find any switch anywhere that controlled it, so I resorted to another live cutting of a circuit. Done without sparks. 🙂

We asked if we could come back before Thursday – we had lots of things we’d like to take out before the bulldozers came. We got permission; so we could focus on some other cabinets.

But we picked up everything so far and loaded up the truck and Sue’s wagon.

We have everything, INCLUDING the KITCHEN SINK!

Everything INCLUDING the kitchen sink!

We plan to use these cabinets in our new apartment – after we paint them of course.

It’s 7:00pm, (did I mention there’s no running water at this house?) and we decided to gather some more of the goodies. There was a small wall safe in the master bedroom closet. I took the sledge and the sawzall – some bangind and sawing and 30 minutes later – we have a new safe. Fortunately some previous owner left the combination written on a piece of paper taped next to the safe. I guess criminals can’t read.

Sue started working on some LARGE mirrors in the master bath – they were probably 7′ x 5′ – two of them. We couldn’t take them – maybe when we return on Tuesday. We took lots of little odd things – brackets, light fixtures, hooks, and so on. When we get back there, we’ll write more about it.

Around 8:00 we left the house, agreed on destination – we drove both her station wagon and the BAT. Hunger pangs were setting in so we headed straight for our cheap chinese food place over by BAB – we remember they’re open later on Sundays and we were STARVING. And they wouldn’t care that we were dirty sweaty and smelly. (Sorry for the next guys!)

After dinner, it was just two minutes across Carondelet Park to BAB and we unloaded everything by 9:00pm. We kissed good-bye, headed to our vehicles and we both agreed that “today was a good day”, even though it was NOTHING like we planned.

18 Comments leave one →
  1. Nancy permalink
    August 5, 2010 8:54 am

    The BAT looks so familiar to me. I used to have a 1984 Ford F250 with an 8′ bed and standard transmission…..don’t ask why. I never had trouble with the brakes, but the drive shaft fell out one day when I was riding down the road, fortunately it was a country road and not the interstate.

    P.S. Love the kitchen cabinets.

    • Sue permalink
      August 6, 2010 10:09 am

      Next your going to tell me you have camo at home in your closet!

  2. Maurine permalink
    August 4, 2010 3:01 pm

    Just read the latest weekend edition. Makes me tired just thinking of it. I still worry about one or the other of you getting hurt there–keep your insurance cards hand at all times!! You do have a first aid kit there don’t you? Love, Mom

    • Sue permalink
      August 4, 2010 3:58 pm

      Maybe we need to change the name of the blog to “Things Mom Can Worry About.”

  3. Dan permalink
    August 3, 2010 12:29 pm

    Very cool. I love blogs for the very purpose you all are using it! I look forward to my next visit to see this place. I am convinced I will see you both on extreme homes some day.

    • Tom permalink*
      August 3, 2010 12:35 pm

      Thanks Dan! Pack your workboots next time you’re passing through STL!

  4. Sue permalink
    August 2, 2010 10:21 am

    The one thing Tom forgot to mention- just as we pulled up at the end of this adventure, the brakes on the BAT blew! It is a bummer that we have to get them fixed, but the good ol’ truck waited until we got home. I can only imagine what we would have done with a truck full of kitchen and no brakes on the interstate!

    • Tom permalink*
      August 2, 2010 10:29 am

      I wanted to end the story on a GOOD note!

  5. Susan permalink
    August 2, 2010 8:46 am

    Hate to admit it, but I’m tired just reading this! :o)

    • Tom permalink
      August 2, 2010 9:08 am

      And we hate to admit it, but going to work on Mondays is now the most RELAXING part of our week!

  6. Dave permalink
    August 2, 2010 8:02 am

    I think I’ve seen that truck-full of cabinets before…


  1. Metal Cabinets | B. A. B.
  2. Where we ‘shop’ « B. A. B.
  3. Alley Magic « B. A. B.
  4. Color, Cabinets and Carpet « B. A. B.
  5. Filling up fast « B. A. B.
  6. No more scraping, at least for a while « B. A. B.
  7. Our project makes sense to 8th Graders… « B. A. B.

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