Monday, September 18, 2006

The owner calls

The owner calls

The continuing saga of life in a Frank Lloyd Wright home.

After I got home this evening the phone rang and I went to pick it up. The caller ID said it was the original owner and I knew it was his wife. I had sent her a note recently with a clipping from the Cincinnati Enquirer's Sunday Sept. 10 edition about endangered modern homes in the Cincinnati area along with a blurb about the 50th Anniversary of the Boulter House construction. She was very gracious on the phone and thanked us for sharing the home with many events. She said that the master of the home also liked to share the home. "It must be a guy thing," she remembered. We'll get together soon, Janet and I hope.

We just got back from the Frank Lloyd Wright Conservancy annual conference, which was held, in Detroit this year. Compared with two years ago when Janet and I could get away, it was a better event for us. Being seasoned owners by now with three years under our belt, I was more confident about adding my two cents worth. That was quickly put in its place after listening to the presentation "Maintenance Planning for Wright Homeowners." Although I do a fair amount of documentation about the projects I do, I need to do a better job and she passed out some excellent forms to fill out along with a schedule of maintenance. My biggest concern is the roof. Although the easiest solution would be to put on a new roof, we don’t have the money to do that or don’t want to spend what we do have on it until it starts to fail. This is not unlike the experience John Payne, the owner of the Richardson House experienced when he patched the radiant floor heating only to have it last 8 years and then fail in river of water flowing under them while the supply valve was desperately trying to make up for the loss in pressure. It seems silly that I'm trying to wick away the ponding of water on the roof but it hasn't been successful yet. A Ben Dombar home owner and the owner of the Penfield Home are also interested in my experiments. The best thing I've found is a large mop head. It wicks off about a gallon an hour. Smaller 5/8 to 1-inch diameter wicks, barely a pint an hour. Well that about ends the experimentation this year. I put a couple of gallons of latex paint on the Styrofoam roof insulation over the last three weeks, covering the spots that were eroded by the sun over the summer or picked out by birds. Don’t ask me why. Nest material? I hope I can confirm again this winter that the insulation has reduced our energy use by 25% although cost went up last November by 38%. The only thing I changed was to insert corrugated plastic roofing material under the areas of the roof that have standing water in a effort to cut down on the water absorption. The panels weight 5 pounds new and when completely waterlogged weight 60 lbs. Keeping them up out of the water doesn’t seem to help much, rain water saturates the top panel anyway. The roof has two layers of 4" x 4' x 8' panels. I got an estimate to put an aluminum roof over the whole thing, $29,500.

My number one fall project is to replace the windowsills on the south facing windows. Our cabinetmaker, milled some of the reclaimed redwood from the carport studio tearout (don't worry it wasn't original). It now has a bevel to direct the water away from the windows. After consulting with two architects I chose the Abatron system because it comes with a pigment which will match the brown redwood color if in the future I plan to sand the surface. Once removing the old sill I'll use Abatron's consolidant, fill with the pigmented epoxy to restore the wood to its original dimensions. After cutting to fit I glue it in with paintable silicon elastomeric latex caulk and nail it in. I may also use pure silicon since the fine edge won’t need paint. Any help with this would be wonderful. The idea is that the sills can be removed and replaced in the future with the door itself intact.

Later in the fall after I can’t use silicone anymore, I plan to dig out the north west corner paver walk which has dropped 1 1/4 inch since they installed the walk. I really don’t know why it sank. Maybe I'll find out when I excavate.

The repair on the west side floor slab looks great. The presentation on the radiant floor heating revealed what I was looking at when I was preparing the edge of the slabs for edging. I say edge of slabs because I could tell that there was a base pour, maybe two, and then a topcoat of pigmented concrete. The water is pooling there now on the surface so that at least won't corrode the radiant heating pipes for now. One other thing I learned from the presentation was that the cracks in the floor are where the pipes are and sure enough I can see the curves and other details now that I notice. I hope Janet and I are lucky in that the steep slope caused the water to drain away. Before the back wall was excavated and the north walkway created the north living room wall was damp and that is where the big crack is which I measured as .045" 2/2/05. I think that the exterior of the pipe is rusted there. The fourth pipe from the wall has the large crack. The third pipe has hair line cracks. Now the center of the floor as dropped 3/4". Maybe that is why there is a large crack. The concrete had to open up somewhere. An architect and his wife were walking along Rawson Woods Lane yesterday and I invited them to a quick tour. I love to get architects to stop bye and I immediately start grilling them on the structural details. "After coming back from the conference I found there are more questions than answers about radiant floor systems" I said. "Yes, it is that way," the architect replied. My final thought on the situation is that you need to look at nature and see what has lasted the longest. I'm looking for an example of radiant floor heating in nature if anyone knows of one. The Roman baths may be a good example. Please hand me the lead pipe.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

The Heat Goes On

The summer drought has settled in. It has been two weeks since we had a good inch of rain. I was just using the drip hose to water the trees and scrubs but that doesn't get the job done fast enough so I'll resort to the fan sprinkler. My goal of having a drought resistant yard is coming along and I learn a bit each year. My lesson lately has been to avoid planting in the late spring. It is best to plant in the fall. We planted a small Bottle Brush Buckeye in the west yard but it hasn't done well and will need extra watering. We had a few landscape architects give us their opinion on the best trees to reforest the canopy and it looks like the Black Locust has won the competition. The tree does well on the lot as evidenced by the many stumps. It won’t last forever but will be a good interim tree until the oaks, resistant elms, walnuts and hickories take over. The ashes are questionable with the impending ash borer spreading south. It should be here in five years. The entrance garden's Shasta Daisies are exceptionally tall for the bed and will be moved to our new "cutting garden" to be located on the south side between the main house and the addition. This was another good idea by our selected landscape architect. Other thoughts were to plant Boston Ivy on the terrace wall. The wall will have to be painted before we do that and that won't happen until the existing paint needs more attention. We also selected understory trees, scrub and groundcover species but the first job will be to plant about a dozen Black Locust in front of the terrace this fall. I'll work to make the most organic arrangement I can with clumps of two and three trees with the occasional loner. The other fall project will be to move the tall daisies, poppies and milkweed to the cutting garden and move the smaller flowers to the entrance garden such as our Bloody Cranesbill, Threadleaf Coreopsis, smoke plant and English Daisy. Separating and expanding the ConeFlowers, Stiff Goldenrod, daisies and hyssops will finish the fall work on the south lawn. Oh yeah, I want to move the path stones from the southwest side to fill out the paths on the southeast side. I never really use the paths on the west side and with a bit of newspaper and mulch in between I think I can simplify the paths and make them easier to use all year long. One last thing, we did finally succeed in finding some plants that grow on the southeast corner of the lot that has the two utility manholes on it. Lamb's ear and Yucca are doing well. I'm also letting the groundcover succulent weed go ahead and live there.

It's great to have an indoor project for the heat of the summer and the carport restoration has filled that nicely. Its been several months of work but we have removed the small studio that was constructed in the carport by the second owner and just last night put the first coat of paint on the south side where the new cabinets are going. It would have been nice to remove all of the old enamel paint and acid stain the raw concrete red but removing the paint was impossible with sandpaper and the exposed concrete was too soft. I think the chemicals in a paint remover would have removed the cementious material needed for acid staining. In the end, Janet made the executive decision to paint the floor since it will be covered mostly in carpets. The design of the cabinets will allow replacement of the windows either sooner or later. Sooner the more I think about how nice it would be to have thermopane in there and later when I research just exactly how the windows should be constructed and who should make them. Cedric's room has the best operating set of gate opening or French door style windows in the main home. Similar double pain windows were used in the addition window replacement but they don't seal very well and have to be puttied every winter. Double gate opening windows aren't a common style and seem a custom build. My research will pay off later when we restore the 10' tall living room doors. The next indoor project will be to construct the light boxes designed for the living room but being installed first in the workspace and then in the carport. They are a shallow box construction with the sides angled at a 96-degree angle to mimic the outward slant of the gallery parapet. Approximately 3 foot on a side and 4 inches deep, each contains four 20" indirect dimmable florescent around the perimeter and five down lighting halogens in the center.

I go to Beck's Hardware several times a week and Stan, Chris, Don, Rick and Dave have been great with the tips and tricks. Recently they saved me a lot of grief by suggesting an orange oil based carpet adhesive remover. I didn’t think it was going to work but sure enough it dissolved the old adhesive saving many hours of sanding. Which didn’t work any way because it just ate away at the delicate concrete finish. Thanks a bunch guys.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Progress On Many Fronts

All the flowers are out in full force. It really does take three years. I've learned a technique for reclaiming the yard. Cut down the grass or other ground cover, spread some fertilizer, cover with several layers of newspaper and then cover with grass clippings or mulch. So far I've reclaimed the north bed, enlarged the flowerbeds on the south side and created a nice bed around one of the Ash trees on the east side. I get excited as the grass gets longer and longer planning my next reclamation.

My dozen tubes of silicone expired at the end of May and just in time I ground out all the nasty black caulk from the south side of the home and laid down a beautiful bevel of silicone. I'll be able to finish repairing the east and west sides of the slab before the silicone hardens up too much to get it out of the tube in the next week or so. It's my number one project at the moment.

The carport restoration is coming along well. Having an open room and uncovering the window to the workspace has entirely transformed the space. The next stage is to build a shallow cabinet along the south wall. It will be similar to Cedric's window treatment, the workspace woodwork and the living room seating kickplate. The next thing for me to accomplish is finish tearing out the carpet, patching, sanding and staining the concrete pad.

The roof is another matter. I repaired the damaged insulation, painted the bare spots and raised the portions that were sitting in standing water. The EPDM paint that I applied to the portions with standing water has debonded in several areas. I'll try to figure out why that happened, do a better job of preparing the surface and repaint it along with sealing an edge that leaks later this summer in the dry season.

On July 1 we are having a 50th Birthday Party for the home. It will be a members only event for the newly formed CF3 (Cincinnati Form Follows Function) modern homeowners and lovers of mid century modern design non-profit organization. Check out their site at

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Be Gone Garlic Mustard

Janet and I pulled the last bit out last night. Now we are on to the Yellow Thistle, I think. It is taking over the top of the east side hill. Yellow Thistle is also a plant that lives two years. The seeds stay in the ground for many years but as long as you don't let the plants go to seed they will finally stop.

I've been using the mower clippings as a mulch around my traditional hardwood mulch flower beds. The strategy is to kill the grass below and then mulch it with hardwood later in the fall. That way my beds will slowly get larger and larger. Four cubic yards, eight cubic yards and finally I'll just have the park board make my corner a mulch depot.

The Bottle Brush Buckeye is doing great in the west yard under the trees. We liked the look of the ones at the Cincinnati Civic Garden Club when we went to the plant sale on Sunday last. Purchased some giant hostas and another Bottle Brush Buckeye. Got a four foot cedar tree from my brother. Time to start my seedlings. Frost threat will be over next week.

Sunday, April 30, 2006

A Little Tap Will Do Ya

Success with the faucets. I replaced the other two valve seals with new ones and got four leakers. Took them apart again and cleaned the brass seals off and applied a bit of grease. Better success but the odd problem was that the left hot water valve didn't work at all. Very puzzling. I took the valve off and turned on the water a trickle. The water came out. Put the valve in and it wouldn't come out of the faucet. There must be some calcium blocking it. Reached under the sink and felt around behind there. A small pipe feeds the valve and another small pipe feeds the faucet. Tapped it and a trickle of water. Tapped it some more and more water. Got my small hammer and tapped more and more as more and more and more water came out. Finally got the flow up to match the other unclogged valve. So a little tap was all it needed. All the valves seal now.

Mulched the Shasta Daisies and the white azalea. Started to rain so we called off going to the ending sale at the flower show. I did enough planting for the weekend.

Now back to the carport project. The rug needs to be pulled up. Dan Kreimer and Chris Magee are going to come over next week and survey the project.

Saturday, April 29, 2006

My earlier post did come through, Google does it again.

Planted Black Eyed Susans a neighbor gave me today. Also some Lamb's Ear they gave me in the southeast corner bed that is very dry. It should do well. The grass fertilizer I spread around the yard by hand doesn't look too bad. It did help in the weak spots and you don't see the variation too much. The Black Eyed Susans were planted in a row out front and along the north wall in back.

Worked on the faucets upstairs. Had one leak and replaced the seals on two valves. Now I have two leakers. Maybe the leak was in the hot side valve. Janet got two more sets. Beck's Hardware directed me to Knoll's Plumbing at 12th and Walnut. They know their stuff.

I need to get to work on cleaning the black caulk out of the terrace and replacing it with the Dow Silicone I purchased last fall to seal the terrace joints. It only lasts six months in the tube.

Will go to the flower show tomorrow after it closes and look for ideas and bargains. Wish me luck.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

This blog crashed yesterday so back up your data before you post.
o Pulled four 30-gal bags of Mustard Garlic out of the west border Sunday.
o The Myrtle south of the drive has grown 3 inches since I fertilized it.
o Azaleas also south of the drive are blooming. The white one south central also.
o Tore out half of the carport studio. Very large room. Needed a shoring jack to relieve the pressure on the central 2" x 10" pine shelf divider. Figured the 1/2 turn of the screw was 1/8". No sound or visible change once removed.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Garlic Mustard Be Gone!

Not so fast. I hand pulled four 30 gallon yard waste bags on Sunday. At least it is a nice way to get to know your yard. I found a Jack-In-The-Pulpit and a hornet's nest. I have about four more bags to go. I found that the tap root grows horizontally north-south and has a 90 degree angle in it of course. If you grab the root below the bend you have a good chance of getting the whole root. Which is the only positive way to get rid of it, I read. The crop was 10 times larger this year than last. I didn't pull it out last year. We'll see next year.

Other projects around the house include tearing out the carport breezeway studio structure, acid staining the floor and designing the cabinets. I'm taking off afternoons this week to get it done and hope to have the designer Chris Magee and cabinet maker Dan Kreimer in next week to start the design. I'll stain the pad next week if I don't get to it. There may be quite a bit of patching since I've found quite a few concrete nails from the framing and carpet edge hooks making craters in the floor. Probably need to acid stain before patching.

The other project is the north-west corner undermining. The cabinets inside are at about a 6 degree angle. The floor in that corner must have dropped an inch and a half. One inch since 1997 when David painted the inside. You can see where the shelves used to be. I need to get a solid time line together as to when everything was done. I swear the pavers on the outside have dropped one fourth an inch in the three years we have been there. I'm going to patch over the gutter there on the roof, I think. Need to find a way to accurately measure the drop and then monitor it.

All in all it is another wonderful Spring with the boiler off and the windows open. The trees have their leaves coming out and all the flower beds look good.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Esric McNeal and her mother from Scotland stopped by last night. Mother McNeal is a tour guide for Charles Rennie Mackintosh's design school in Glasgow, Scotland. She was very familiar with Mackintosh's life and times and it was nice to have someone give me a short biography. Another daughter graduated from the Mackintosh School of Architecture. The homes second owner David Gosling was the Dean of Architecture at the University of Glasgow. He was only persuaded to come to the University of Cincinnati to teach because he could live in a Wright home.

We are still in a quandary about how to handle the strange view you get looking up into a room 1/4 a story higher. I searched all of our books and never found a similar example. I'll continue looking plan by plan in the William Allin Storrer book "The Frank Lloyd Wright Companion." We are thinking about a set of shelves that focus your view to a more narrow range. Can't wait to get the rest of the room cleared. It will have to wait until Thursday, I'm cutting grass this evening.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Rained 1-1/4' last night. Sunday I fertilized the lawn with a weed and feed. Spreader broke so I hand spread it. Strictly against the bag instructions. We'll see.
Also spread last fall's leaves over the the north east bed west of the shed. Those yellow, daisy like flowers bloom in October. The rest of the north bed is Rose of Sharon.
Didn't find any more carpenter bees' holes.
Opened the windows in the addition by removing the Mortite putty I sealed them with the the fall. Very nice sleeping weather.
Worked a bit on tearing out the carport studio. Researched in two books last night for any other house with a 1/4 story window. Found none. Funny, the view up 1/4 story to the carport is very unusual. Your eyes are at knee level. My last inspiration was to have louvers that block the view straight ahead but let the window light in to the south. Once we show the house to two Irish guests this evening I'll proceed with tearing the closet out. That will really start to open the room up.
Until then wishing you: no leaks, no drips and no cracks;)

Friday, April 14, 2006

Finally got the hair ball out!

Over the last few weeks we feed each other a steady stream of clog reports. It's the bathtub up stairs. Or it is the oil the girls like to use. No use, the anti clog compound doesn't work, just really cleans the pipes. After taking my nap after dinner and missing the refrigerator drawer replacement request, I felt that I needed to redeem myself by having a look at it. Down to the basement where I'm looking for that clog getter "ZipIt" which is a piece of plastic 3/8 inch wide with hook like edges. When you stick it down the drain the hooks catch the hair and you can drag it out. Stan Beck told me was the latest thing a year ago, so I purchased one. Finally found it behind the tool chest, got a hanger and a wrench collection and up stairs. Easy enough to get the drain plug unscrewed. Remove the small of amount of hair near the plug and stick the ZipIt it in there. Can feel that there is something but its bigger. Fashioned the hanger into a small hook and after several minutes pull out a small rodent size hair ball. Proud of my accomplishment, I show it to Janet who doesn't even wince. Off to the trash and cleanup. What a relief and I get to revel in my genius at least for the weekend. Happy Easter and Passover.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Well Spring is here and so are the carpenter bees. Not as many as last year. I remember one of the other FLW owners relating how their yard person took care of them. They mixed insect repellent with putty and filled the holes with it. I just spray the stuff into the hole and putty over it with caulk.

We had the 50th Anniversary of the house yesterday. A group was over for a reception from a DoCoMoMo lecture at DAAP of the University of Cincinnati. Learned more about how much David Gosling had put his heart and soul into preserving the Boulter House. The stories never end from the current staff that remember. It was kind of depressing how many horror stories modern home owners experiences were reported as. Personally I love the house and think one day of inspiration and beauty are worth everything Janet and I go through. Of course without the work David put into shoring up, removing too much backfill and replacing the foundation I would never have purchased the home. The main part of the house is in pristine condition. Janet and I get to do the fun part of Franking it up. Restoring the kitchen to the original finishes, laminate counter tops and exposed block set the tone and we hope that when we are done, one won't be able to tell the difference between where the house ends and the carport and addition take over.

Janet and I are in the middle of tearing out the studio David put in the carport. We are keeping the wonderful glass wall and windows. Opening up the window to the carport/breeze way as it had to be referred to to meet code back in 1956.

Inspected the roof and found everything was in good order. The insulation came through the winter in good shape and should last for years and years.

I'm sort of using this blog as a diary for the home. Setting it as my home page should encourage me to add a little each day for history.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Monday, July 04, 2005

The Best Gardens Have A Gardener With A Vision

The Best Gardens Have A Gardener With A Vision
Here are a few photos of the south garden as it is during our third summer. My vision comes from wanting to have a landscape that is like a natural hillside in the region. Normally covered with grasses with spots of wild flowers lining the terrain. Not formal beds with carefully arranged patches of color. More broad strokes of color. Full canopy and understory trees with perennials that match the shade conditions. It took the neighbors some getting used to but they have come around. The lot has a lower portion and an upper portion that I continue to mow but the steep hillside was the first to go. Over the last two years I have planted some perennials from seed and this spring from the Hamilton County Parks Wildflower sale and Civic Gardens on Reading Rd. I'm continually trimming the grass back and encouraging the flowers and small trees to grow. Pleased with the result, there is no count for the time needed to have flowers really start to grow. Finally the Hollyhocks are blooming after two years. My thoughts for the headline come from a landscape book on Wrights' homes, "Wrightscapes" by Charles E Aguar and Berdeana Aguar. Frank seldom offered landscape plans for his houses. The best ones were tended by owners that had a vision and worked hard to achieve it. Here are a few pictures: A view to the northwest with the Coreopsis in the foreground the Serviceberry on the right and the Hollyhocks behind. The Oak and the Deciduous Redwood we planted in the front yard are starting to grow rapidly. A view to the east showing our first year's Christmas tree. Alongside of it is a volunteer Oak. Behind a Hackberry has also volunteered. Last spring we cleared this view of Honeysuckle. There are some Columbine further back. This view gives a better sense of the strip of grasses and flowers on the hillside in the front. With the Serviceberry and the Bottlebrush Buckeye framing the view it does have the look I was searching for. Janet and I planted two Variegated Dogwood Bushes along the hillside. They will get to be 5-6 feet tall. Behind it I've planted several Lilac bushes. It will be some time, but I look forward to them being 15 feet tall and sort of a globe of color in the spring as well as a contrast to the strip of Diablo Ninebark (Physocarpus opulifolius 'Diablo') we planted to the east. All meant to break up the hugh concrete block wall which forms the

5/1/2005 Honey, Will You Paint The Floor This Weekend?

Honey, Will You Paint The Floor This Weekend?
Third times a charm as they say. More in the continuing saga of maintaining a Frank Lloyd Wright home. When we purchased the home, Miriam, told us that she added red pigment to Johnson Wax Futura and coated the concrete floors with it. This was recommended to her by Pat Boulter, the original owner. It was suggested that this was in homage to the headquarters Frank had designed for the Johnson Wax Company in Racine, WI. Mirian handed over a quart container of the pigment. The first time I coated the floor was while the carpet was still on the floor of the main room. It covered over 2/3rds of the room. I wasn't sure how much to add so I probably added too much. It matched perfectly and filled in all the wear marks. Later in our first winter I pulled up the old carpet hoping it would improve the heating of the in floor radient heating and it did. It raised the temperature by at least 5 degrees. By and by we wanted to wax the floor again but we couldn't find the pigment. Janet had squirelled it way somewhere safe we were sure. I looked everywhere for the powered pigment but couldn’t find it anywhere. My only recourse was to purchase 50 pounds of it from a concrete supply company. Not wanting to go to that extreme I settled on a red liquid concrete pigment from Beck's Hardware The color was not the same. More of an orange. We finished the floor anyway and it has been like that for a year. Since that time we found the pigment in one of the under seating storage bins in the livign room. As luck would have it Mark DeJong, our kitchen cabinet refinisher, gave us a half gallon of the pigment Landmark Finishes LLC. Mark's mother is a potter and she had it. That is probably a better source of supply. Now we had enough pigment to last us several years. This year I wanted to do it right so I worked out a plan. Move the furniture in segments rather than stacking all of it on one half which was easier when we didn't have the area carpets. Vacuum, wash and then use a brush to paint the edges and seams. Then I used a Clorox Squik Washer with the fliud container removed to apply the "paint" to the floor in the four foot by four foot squares. The effect was great and the color was perfect. Three coffee scoops per 27 fluid ounce bottle of Futura.

Follow up to the Tree Life
The Ash trees never showed any leaves. Not even a bud. I had an event coming up and didn't want a couple of telephone poles out front so I took the afternoon off and went to Lowe's looking for a Maple. They didn't have any tall trees so I went to Benkins It was nearby in my old neighborhood. I may have gone there before but they recently were at the Cincinnati Flower Show They still didn't have any Maples but a great selection of other trees. Janet was partial to a Service Berry so I selected an Alleghany Serviceberry (Amelanchier x Grand). Nearby there was a Buckeye which reminded me of a tree on the site. The Buckeye is a Bottle Brush Buckeye (Aesculus Pariflora). Both trees will grow to about 20' x 20'. They will be a nice addition to the front of the property. Back futher, near the front of the home we have planted larger trees meant to shade the home. Oaks and Deciduous Redwoods.

When You Ask For Volunteers, Maybe A Pulse Doesn't Matter.

Maybe, I've been a victim of plant love! In my continual searching for trees and shrubs to landscape the lawn, I met an interesting neighbor. She's a good soul and means well but I wonder if my plea fell on fertile ground. "I'll give you two Ash trees if you come over. Saturday," we agreed. At the appointed time, I arrived in a drizzly rain. One of the trees had fallen over against a rock wall and both didn't look too good after the Cicada attack last spring. She also promised a bed of better looking smaller trees. Late that night, I poured over my gardening books, trying to learn how to dig up and plant trees. "Dig a ring around the base about two feet in radius and carefully reduce the root ball to a manageable size," the book said. "Roll a burlap sheet under the ball and after leaning the tree over it and rolling it out, wrap it tightly around the ball and fasten," it followed. "Do the reverse during planting," finally. Armed with all the necessary gear, I played hooky from work, and went to the site of the crime. After starting the operation, I quickly found that there was no root ball! Only a few strands of root about twelve inches long. There was no soil, only a layer of mulch and a base of clay. How I was faced with a decision. Put it back and say, "I didn't want the tree," or cut it up for firewood. But my nurturing nature got the best of me and I put it in the car. Off to home and after driving a steak in the ground to attach it to, along with two bags of topsoil, I thought that at least its last days would be kind. The eight-foot tall bare tree looked good in the yard though, in an area devoid of anything. At least its friends looked the same with no leaves at this time of year. It looked so good that I went back and got the other tree, which was twelve feet tall. The situation was the same. Even fewer roots and areas of bark that bared the wood. A bad sign. Back home, I cut a stout stake and tied it in a few places. Now the disaster had a friend. At least. Now the base stakes would be no match for the spring winds so I put guy wires on both trees the next day. What an exercise in futility. There is no way the trees would grow. No roots. No bark. No buds. Why was I doing this? To add insult to injury my friend arrived just as I finished the work with a dozen small Box Elder trees that she said, "I just couldn't throw away." These were only six inches tall, bare root, wrapped in wet newspaper and stuffed into orange juice cartons. I worked until nightfall planting them in the best asymmetrical Wright manner I could around the yard. For all my work. Janet said, "I don't like Box Elders, my brother built a tree house in one that died." We can only pray that my love and effort with the landscape will grow and evolve as Nature always does. Blog back for a full report!


Why, You'll Only Save $130 By Keeping Those Old Cabinets!

More on the kitchen restoration by the Frank Lloyd Wright home owners, Chuck & Janet. While interviewing cabinet makers and general contractors for our restoration work, a few estimators literally couldn't understand why we wanted to preserve all of the existing cabinet fronts. We actually hoped that they could be reclaimed with exactly the fit and finish they had aged into. Having just toured Taliesin West in Scottsdale, we learned how often Wright would design furniture or various architectural elements that his apprentices would make from wood scarps. While Wright did work during the Depression, he was never one -- before or after -- to discard perfectly good building materials.

Not to over do any refinishing required, trying to match the Pella window advertisement which states, "I just replaced all of my windows, and no one noticed." Finally, we called "Dan the Cabinet Man," actually a friend of the original client -- that's so typically two degrees of separation here in Cincinnati! I had already started the project with a little too-over-ambitious complete set of plans on my desktop computer. Many errors and mistakes from a person who hasn't built a cabinet ever! But it all helped later -- I had actually memorized of all the steps that would be involved. We let Dan begin with the lower cabinets and wondered how we could actually make it all work. After seeing the finished product in his shop we gave in and let him remove the remaining upper cabinets. Staring at the bare concrete walls Janet and I (mostly Chuck) were inspired to go at the concrete block with X-acto knives trying to remove the construction adhesive and paint. While we picked paint, Dan selected Mark, an expert wood refinisher to finish the job -- and the results are superior. Mark had earlier worked on restoration of the Indian Hill Wright-designed home. Dan introduced many new features to our near 50-year-old cabinets like magnetic catches and pull-out pantry drawers. Dan's is both an artist and inventor -- he fit the cabinet pieces back together while creating an interesting latch for our new two-tiered cutliery drawer. Funny, Janet and I toured a home designed by Edger Tafel, a Frank apprentice, in Racine, Wis., a commission where he much attention to kitchen details -- a wonderful home. We will be enjoying the features for years to come. "The quality of the work entertains you many years after the shock of the bill wears off," is our motto.


A Stomach May Be The Way To A Man's Heart, But The Kitchen Is The Key To The Woman's

Another post from Chuck & Janet in the Frank Lloyd Wright home. We've just (almost) finished restoration of the kitchen ("Workspace"). New appliances all around and a stunning new "Chinese Red" Formica countertop as specified on the original plans. (That color is now called "Stop.") Previous remodeling was unusual in its placement of a sink which was hard to reach and a dishwasher door that wouldn't open all the way to a set of double ovens placed so high we needed a stepladder to get to the top oven. Our adventure started with an incredible deal on a set of 30-in. wide double ovens Janet bargained for, but that's another story. They (double ovens) arrived shortly after we purchased the home and occupied prime real estate - the glass-to-glass corner of the kithen and living rooom -- blocking the view to the terrace because we were hiding them with the drapes. We were going to just rebuild a former counter cabinet (added by the second owners) and stick those massive oven in there right out in the entrance of the "Workspace" but after a distinguished architect and fellow "Frank-O-Phile" came by to photograph the home, he told us that was the "Wrong" thing to do and that we should just bite the bullet and put those ovens where the plans called for. That meant repositioning the sink and dishwasher. With those reoriented, we could then replace that off-the-shelf cabinet with a custom design (in the Wright style) and place a gas cook top there. Three months and many thousands of dollars later the effect is stunning. With the corner open you feel as if you're working outside. Of course it's an improvement on the traditional work triangle arrangement of a kitchen -- "stand in one place and you have access to all" method. Literally you stand in the center of the Workspace and you can take something out of the frig, braise it on the cooktop, place it in the oven, put it in serving dishes on the sink then place the dirty dish in the dishwasher without moving a foot! Sounds silly but true. We still have to get our moonlighting electrician to finish the wiring but we're getting by with some extension cords for now. Good thing the kitchen was designed for an electric cooktop. The 40 amp service it used has been broken up into six 20 amp services to supply the code required. That's two circuits for a kitchen and one each for each of the other appliances as codes require: the microwave, lights, cooktop. That leaves one extra for additional service. We tried to pull new wires in the concrete embedded conduit but that wasn't budging a bit. To solve the problem we took the old electric cooktop service to the basement in a hole cut in the floor for the new sink drain and added a new distribution box there. The new cooktop was easy to service with an unused gas line from the addition going up through the floor below. The addition is now heated with hot water baseboard heating. That gives Janet the coveted gas cooktop and electric heat for the oven. And coveted she is every time a new cook sees the finished product. I hope she never gets tired of showing it off while I continue with the tours of the rest of the home.

Paint & Decorating

There's No Wright Way To Remove Paint From Concrete Block

Post from Chuck and Janet new owners of a Frank Lloyd Wright home in Cincinnati and constant visitors to Beck's Hardware and Paint!
It’s been a long (and expensive) story, but we decided to restore the kitchen. Most real estate folks will tell you to improve kitchens and baths and it's no different in a Wright-designed home. We spoke with a number of contractors, before selecting a furniture-maker who agreed to reclaim as much of the original cabinetry as he refit the kitchen to accomodate new (and somewhat larger) appliances. As we speak, Dan is revamping the "carcasses" to add more conveniences such as rolling drawers and integrated lighting while restoring the original doors and hardware. Much trickier was the work we saved for ourselves. The home's previous owners had also redone the kitchen during their 15 years here. Our task was to remove granite tile applied to walls and countertop so that we could get closer to Wright's original design intent and materials -- exposed concrete block walls and plastic laminate countertops as indicated on the original plans. After removing the 12-in. square granite tiles, we discovered red tile (installed by the original owners) before we got down to the concrete block. What we were left to contend with was a layer of adhesive over a layer of paint. After staring at it for a month or so I finally started trying to figure out how to remove all that gunk. I started scrapping and chiseling. After a while I got my torch out and that really helped. It softened the adhesive making it much easier to remove with a wire brush. The paint, however, was much harder to burn off. It seemed to be flameproof. I had some gentle paint remover, which is applied thickly and then let to sit for 24 hours with plastic film over it. Most of the paint scrapped off easily. But none of this really got it out of the cracks. I used the torch more aggressively but this caused another problem: the block was developing brown stains. Nothing seemed to remove it. I tried bleach, nothing. But bleach did clean the block quite nicely and it almost looked new. I tried ammonia after reading on-line about alkaline type removers, nothing. I tried oven cleaner. That also made the block look better, but didn't remove the stains. Regardless to say I didn't use the torch anymore. Finally I just ground off the stains with a grinding wheel. That didn’t remove all of it but enough to make it less noticeable. Tried some more bleach and let it soak behind some plastic wrap. Same with oven cleaner again. I was at a Porter Paint store asking about a concrete sealer stain when I spied a pressure washer. Professional-grade paint remover companies use gasoline-powered pressure washers, kind of tough in our small kitchen. If I could find an electric one the water could flow through the hole we cut in the floor for a new drain. Nevermind, Janet and I finally just got out two X-acto knives and went at it. After wetting the block the paint in the cracks really stands out and you just pick and pick and pick and pick. It's taken several weekends but the block is looking good. I bought some Porter silicone-based concrete sealer the guys said wouldn't leave the block with a wet look. We know we'll never get it all out. So, why did we go though all the trouble? Frank liked his materials to be "honest" and without ornament. Especially in his later Usonian homes. That meant wood was left untreated and stone unpainted. Here, the previous owners were inspired to paint all the block the same color as Fallingwater, his famous house built over a stream deep in the Pennsylvania woods south of Pittsburgh. I don't know why Wright painted that poured concrete, or for that matter the lily pads in the Johnson Wax Building in Racine, Wis., but both of those works were far earlier buildings than ours. Frankly, neither Janet or I want to remove all of the paint from the home after what we experienced in the kitchen .A small spot in the addition was left unpainted joined now by the small area in the kitchen "Workspace." Janet doesn't care for that yellow color and we've decided to paint another section of the block in the kitchen entrance a cool gray roughly matching the block. I think we'll use a textured paint.

Posts for Beck site

Building Materials Blog

Why Is It That Architect's Are Remembered For Their Leaky Roofs?

Post from Chuck and Janet (mostly Chuck), new owners of a Frank Lloyd Wright home in Cincinnati and constant visitors to Beck's Hardware and Paint!
One of the first things I noticed was the roof needed painting. Now Frank Lloyd Wright was famous for his flat roofs. He felt that roofs didn't add to the lines of the home as it blended into the landscape. He continually lowered roof lines in his first design style, The Prairie Home. As he transitioned to his Usonian style, he abandoned the roof all together. No attic meant costs to build the home would be less as well. Roofing materials in the 1930s did not lend themselves to a waterproof design though. Our home was designed with two layers of felt with tar in between and on top. A layer of pebbles protected the roof from sunlight. I learned the original owners painted a later non-pebbled roof every year with linseed oil paint, but it still leaked. The second owners replaced the roof seven years ago with a 4-mil asphalt shingle-type material. It was installed well and only leaked in two spots on the overhanging eves. I cleaned the roof of some leaves and painted it with aluminum paint. Over the winter the aluminum paint came off in areas that had standing water, which was about 20 percent of the roof. One especially bad section had about an inch and a half of water standing on it. In the spring I tried EPDM paint on the leaks and it solved the problem. I was lucky that the low spot for the major standing water was over one of the large overhangs. I cut a new drain in the eve and that solved the major pooling. Next, I painted the areas where water stood after a rain with the EPDM paint. We'll see how well it holds up over the winter of 2004-05.

From Hidden Detail To Major Conversation Piece - The Fireplace
Post from Chuck and Janet (mostly Chuck), new owners of a Frank Lloyd Wright home in Cincinnati and constant visitors to Beck's Hardware and Paint!
One thing about Wright’s designs is his emphasis on the hearth. From his original home in Oak Park, Ill., to the major statement in Fallingwater each had a central fireplace - the major focal point of the home. The fireplace in our home had started as planned with a cantilevered grate, but was then replaced with a flattened front insert, which didn’t take advantage of the protruding flue design. We removed the traditional front and donated it to a building re-use store, then added a custom wire mesh screen following the lines of the opening. This also allowed for the log holder to be rotated 90-degrees into the room. The effect is wonderful. Now, fireplace heat radiates outward 270-degrees and I must admit we are clustered around it on cold winter days conversing late into the night. Of course, the fireplace consumes enormous amounts of firewood and we’d welcome any sources of low-cost firewood. Janet and I look forward to rebuilding the original log grate to Wright’s envisioned design. It’s completely cantilevered and doesn’t touch the floor. It’s attached to the rear and the sides of the fireplace in three places.

When Heat Comes From The Floor - Keep The Rugs Off
Post from Chuck and Janet (mostly Chuck), new owners of a Frank Lloyd Wright home in Cincinnati and constant visitors to Beck's Hardware and Paint!
When we purchased the home, the main living area was covered with near wall-to-wall thick carpeting. It had been there for more than 40 years and we looked forward to replacing it. One night my brother and I rolled it up and used a saw to cut it into manageable pieces and stuffed it into my truck and dump it. Wow! Ambient room temperature raised five degrees within the hour. Seems the carpet and padding blanketing the floor acted as insulation! Janet and I have replaced the large carpet with two smaller area rugs. Most likely we will pull them up for the winter.
Janet and I purchased this Frank Lloyd Wright-designed home in the summer of 2003. It was a big decision for us, but one of the reasons I fought for it was that the last owner had done a great job of preserving it. I felt all it would need was continued tender loving care. Built over 1955 to 1956, the two-story house features concrete block construction with a large expanse of glass windows. In 1958, a separate playroom was built next to a two-vehicle carport. Second owners of the house enclosed the carport and adjoined it to the carport.

Cheap Energy Meant Little Or No Insulation!
Post from Chuck and Janet (mostly Chuck), new owners of a Frank Lloyd Wright home in Cincinnati and constant visitors to Beck's Hardware and Paint!
As Janet and I toured the home before purchase some of my friends would warned me the home could be cold in winter because of the large areas of glass. I told them not to mention anything to Janet. I knew it was going to be tough, but my motto comes from one of Thomas Jefferson's quotes, "How much pain never occurred evils cost us." As winter settled in the addition was especially cold. The main part of the house had radiant heating in the floor and it worked find after I replaced the expansion tank, which maintains the 20-psi pressure on the system. Pressurized water holds more heat. The addition, which we were using for our bedroom was cold because I assumed that it didn't have any insulation in the roof. It did have double thickness thermopane windows except for the corner. Wright always butt-jointed beveled glass for corner windows. His idea was that it broke up the box. The thermopane glass was added when the addition was rebuilt because the foundation failed. Baseboard heating was installed replacing the single gas-fired stove. The addition was designed to be a guesthouse but it started out being a playroom for the original occupants' young children, and then later a study for the owners. As the winter got colder and colder, I caulked the roofline and everything else I could around the rafters. There was some one-sixteenth to one-eight inch gaps in some places. The sealing helped a great deal. The baseboard heating didn’t function very well because the water was not at the temperature designed for such a system. The main home's radiant heating works best at 120 degrees, but the baseboard heating works best at 180 degrees. I tried throttling the systems, but it didn't help. I had to insulate the roof, but how? After looking into the various types of foam available I found that closed cell foam generally came in 2-inch thicknesses. It would take a lot of pieces to add several inches to the roof at that rate. I finally decided to have some custom sheets of closed cell expanded polystyrene four-inches thick and four-foot by eight-foot. Thirty-two sheets would cover the addition roof to a thickness of eight inches. That would be an R factor of 40. Energy efficiency in the Ohio area calls for about 38 R. My brother and I just put the sheets on the roof and weighted them down with concrete pavers in mid December. The effect was astounding. We could easily keep the room comfortable with use of a 750-watt electric oil heater. The room also had a heat exchanger and air conditioner that we used when the temperature registered in the low teens.

Can A Space Blanket Replace Trees?
Post from Chuck and Janet (mostly Chuck), new owners of a Frank Lloyd Wright home in Cincinnati and constant visitors to Beck's Hardware and Paint!
The home was designed to be what Wright termed a solar hemicycle design. The 10-foot by 40-foot windows face south but were designed to have deciduous trees block the sun in the summer. Unfortunately many of the original trees died over the years and no new ones replaced them. Now we are faced with the full force of the sun during the summer. We needed to keep the drapes closed during the day. We were planning to replace drapes some time in the future because they are getting old and fragile from handling. On thinking about design of the new drapes I thought about adding a layer of reflective Mylar to them. It would be an alternative to tinting the windows. Janet remarked that the existing drapes were open at the bottom so I dragged out my emergency space blanket in my camping gear an inserted it into the space between the inner decorative fabric and the exterior white lining. The effect was remarkable. The heat on the surface of the drapes dropped six degrees. I ordered 24 space blankets, taped them together and made linings for the drapes. The main room was much cooler in the heat of midday, and consequently the air conditioner kicked on less frequently. One unexpected effect was the heat gain in the second floor was 10 degrees lower. I had thought the heat collecting upstairs was due to a lack of insulation, but it was caused by the drapes heating up and the rising of that heat to the ceiling. Janet and I are also looking forward to being more comfortable in the winter because the Mylar will reflect the radiant floor heat back into the room. As a long-term solution we have planted many new quality trees on the south side, but it will be many years before we can experience the home the way Wright designed it.

How To Insulate A Perfectly Fine FLAT Roof
Post from Chuck and Janet (mostly Chuck), new owners of a Frank Lloyd Wright home in Cincinnati and constant visitors to Beck's Hardware and Paint!
The success I had with emergency insulation of the addition roof last winter with exterior panels of expanded polystyrene begs the question of how to add insulation to the existing roof. The current roof is made up of an inch and a half of pine sheeting on the 3-inch by 12-inch Douglas Fir roof beams. The original plans called for two inches of Celotex insulation. I found no insulation when I cut a hole in the roof to install a new drain over an eve. Maybe it was removed when the existing roof was installed. The roof has been replaced a few times over the life of the home. The current roof is a one mil tacked layer applied to the wood and then bonded to a 4-mil shingle type three-foot roll material. The roof is very well applied and doesn't leak. I wanted to encase the expanded polystyrene with an EPDM membrane but with research I found that the expanded polystyrene absorbs moisture at the rate of three percent. I feel that it has gained even more weight. I wouldn’t be able to dry out the foam before encasing it. Encasing it would provide a perfect environment for mold to grow. After consulting with some fellow builders it was considered that just leaving the foam on the roof exposed to the elements would be a possible alternative. The foam has eroded over the last year losing about one sixteenth of its depth. Also the foam doesn’t allow the roof to dry out. Moisture is trapped beneath it and the roof during even months of dry weather. Because the existing roof is not designed for continuous moisture I am worried about just leaving the foam on the roof. Enter the EPDM coating. It is designed for continuous moisture. It is applied in a 20-mil film and is essentially a synthetic rubber. I have applied it to all the area of the roof that has standing water for several days after a rain, about 20 percent of the roof. It has been two days since the last rain and there is still water on the roof. My plan is to purchase more foam to cover the roof, but to paint it in order to encase the foam. Painting the entire roof with EPDM along with the painted foam should be a good choice. All because I don’t want to replace the existing roof. There is a new form of shaped roof that is custom cut in a very shallow gable shape for flat roofs. That’s the way I will do it when it comes time to replace the roof. Until then my ideas will be a temporary effort at a fraction of the cost.

When Good Block Goes Bad.
Post from Chuck and Janet (mostly Chuck), new owners of a Frank Lloyd Wright home in Cincinnati and constant visitors to Beck's Hardware and Paint!
Wright used plain concrete block originally for his Usonian Home design. It was an alternative to his more custom "Textured Block" which were uniquely designed concrete blocks molded on site. The idea was homeowners could save money by doing it themselves. Still the concrete was designed to be plain and unsealed. Concrete is a porous material and absorbs water. If the climate freezes the block will erode. If moisture is present mold and other organisms will grow. It may be great for dry areas but not for the majority of the US. Wright’s "Dry Wall" foundation construction is a good point in case. A dry wall is constructed above the freeze line. Fist sized rocks are placed on soil carved out in a drainage pattern and then the block or stone wall is built on top of it. The trouble arises when the freezing and thawing of the soil lowers the dry wall foundation. In dry areas where the soil doesn’t retain any moisture the idea works but in all others it fails. I'm not sure from the plans whether the method was used on our home but in any case the foundation was not adequate. The terrace foundation was replaced and the addition foundation was entirely inadequate. This was primarily because of the soft shifting shale foundation material typical of this area in Ohio. But I digress from the concrete block problem. The home was designed to have a two-foot backfill on the north side. The builder put four feet of earth back there and subsequently the home was pushed down the hill. The back wall is bowed two and a half inches over the forty-foot wall. This also bowed the second floor balcony one and three quarters inches to the south. The added earth on the north wall allowed moisture to penetrate the wall and discoloring and organic growth caused unsightly staining. The second owners painted the interior walls with a color drawn from Fallingwater. A light tan yellow color. I like the lighter color effect of the treatment. It adds light to the dark colored woods in the main room. Janet and I are at odds regarding removing the paint. We have learned that you can remove the paint by a blasting with corn husks and almond shells. It will not blunt the edges of the block. Not that the block has no blunt edges to start with. I have seen some new designs that use plain concrete block and they are perfect. When our home was built, no one was using concrete block as a finished material and the block shows it. There are huge chunks missing from the corners and the effect is one of crudeness. Not at all like more recent examples that have crisp edges and perfectly parallel lines and consistent sizes. If we ever do remove the paint we will seal the block with modern sealers that will preserve the appearance of the raw aggregate while sealing it from the environmental elements. Wright always tried to use materials that were in perfect harmony with their environment. The proper use of natural materials can allow this but one wonders what Wright would have done confronted with modern composite structures. When does cement morph from its chemical elements and come out a true high performance composite material that is the new natural material? Everything from metallic fibers and plastic threads to ceramic pigments are currently being added to hydrophilic stone coming out more plastic and tension resistant than anything imagined in Wright's time.

A Good Hardware Man Should Be A National Treasure
Post from Chuck and Janet (mostly Chuck), new owners of a Frank Lloyd Wright home in Cincinnati and constant visitors to Beck's Hardware and Paint!
By now I was making near daily stops at the hardware store on my way to work. Buying seed and such I stuck up a conversation with the owner and shared purchase of the home with him. "The original money pit," he exclaimed. I was jerked back to reality by his comment. I hoped he wasn't right. The previous owners had done a great job preserving the home and I didn’t have visions of a Tom Hanks/Shelly Long movie being in my future. Nevertheless, Stan Beck has become a wonderful resource for my troubles. After looking all over the net for the unique wooden screen clips typically used in homes five decades ago, Stan faxed me in a few hours the exact piece I was looking for. Stan's father purchased the hardware store more than 50 years ago. It won a "Cincinnati's Best" award for the best hardware store in the city. Big box stores are great for the most common building materials, but just try to find some unique hardware and you'll find they just don’t go there. This home is a special kind of place. With everything being custom and not a piece of drywall in the place, Janet and I treasure trying to live up to the home's character and adjusting our lifestyle to one of more "Less Is Better." It is a delicate home. The four, 10-foot tall doors to the terrace are more wood attached to glass rather than the other way around. One of the most astounding things is the wood mullions on the south fa├žade. They are nearly one and a half inches wide and eight inches deep but they support the entire home. These 10 beams rise 15 feet and are sandwiched by the three-inch by 12-inch dual roof beams. The second floor is suspended from the roof. I estimate each board supports a 4000-pound load. Such thin beams would bend under such a load so Wright designed a two-inch by four inch inside beam to maintain the straightness of the load carrying boards. The stiffening beams were doubled to four-inch by four-inch pieces during the construction.

Be Careful What You Wish For
Post from Chuck and Janet (mostly Chuck), new owners of a Frank Lloyd Wright home in Cincinnati and constant visitors to Beck's Hardware and Paint!
Although the windows and doors of the home have nice interlocking seals they still aren't up to modern standards of hermetic seals. During the first winter I went around the inside of the home pushing a flexible caulk into the gaps around the windows and doors. It worked well but the white putty did not look good against the dark stained wood. I wished out loud one day to Stan Beck, of Beck's Hardware, Paint and Decorating Center in Walnut Hills, Cincinnati. "They have that in brown," was his reply. I immediately ordered a case of Mortite Weatherstrip and Caulking Cord. I don’t mind getting what I wished for and we'll be much cozier this winter and not so embarrassed by the unsightly white caulk.

Don't Try to Put That Hydraulic Cement In A Grout Bag
Post from Chuck and Janet (mostly Chuck), new owners of a Frank Lloyd Wright home in Cincinnati and constant visitors to Beck's Hardware and Paint!
Our home is on the National Historic Register. It meant a great deal to David and Miriam Gosling to get it on the register. They had rebuilt the front terrace. Excavated the back wall and repaired it. Stopping the home from walking down the hill. Replaced the foundation on the addition. A feat not unlike picking up a small home and replacing the foundation. All that along with a new roof and drive. One of the things you have to do for the Register is to assure the regulating bodies that future residents will not alter the exterior of the home. An easement was sold to the Cincinnati Preservation Society for the exterior appearance of the home. The second owners only received $700 for the easement but it includes annual inspections and approvals for any physical changes and requests for opinions on paint and other cosmetic treatments. I got quick approval for my insulation efforts. It didn’t change the existing structure and could easily be removed. We recently received our first inspection letter. It stated that we needed to fill the cracks in the concrete block, which have grown between the carport and the addition. They were visible last fall but appeared to grow 30 percent over the last year. I’ve been contemplating how to fill them. Most of the home’s cracks have been filled with cement so I chose to do the same. On a recent visit to my neighborhood, Do It Best Hardware Store, Beck's Hardware I inquired about a grout bag to squirt the hydraulic cement into the cracks. Stan Beck, the proprietor, suggested against it for hydraulic cement. "It may be great for expanding in the cracks and sealing moisture out but it hardens very quickly and you're cement will harden in the bag." Stan said. I nixed the bag and just pushed it into the cracks with gloved covered hands. With a little brushing and washing, I'll be ready to touch it up with matching paint.

Lawn & Garden Blog

Save The Trees - Water Your Lawn
Post from Chuck and Janet (mostly Chuck), new owners of a Frank Lloyd Wright home in Cincinnati and constant visitors to Beck's Hardware and Paint!
After a wet spring, it’s been exceptionally dry in Cincinnati this summer of 2004. We haven't had any rain for three weeks. As part of my reeducation effort I’ve been listening to homeowner radio talk shows. A local nursery, Natorp's, sponsors such a show and I learned one Saturday that a lawn needs one inch of rain every 10 days. Now I’ve been going around and watering each tree and flower bed several minutes with the hose nearly every day but it seemed hard to get into any rhythm. One day of a missed watering and the plants would droop. Taking the talk show host's advice I now water each area of the yard to a one-inch depth and move on. By the time I’m done with the yard it’s time to start over if it hasn't rained. I took his suggesting and put out a "Tuna Can" (read cat food can for us) and move the sprinkler when it is full, in about five hours. The results have been great. Now the yard looks greener and the plantings don't get dried out overnight. We do hope to save all the trees we have and encourage the new ones we’ve planted. Having to cut the grass a bit more frequently is a small price to pay.

From An Open Grass Lawn To A More Natural Landscape.
Post from Chuck and Janet (mostly Chuck), new owners of a Frank Lloyd Wright home in Cincinnati and constant visitors to Beck's Hardware and Paint!
After our initial reforestation project of planting ten trees including major oak and deciduous redwoods to understory redbuds and dogwoods in the fall of our first year we made a statement to the neighbors that we intend to reforest the lot. The original owners, Cedric and Pat Boulter, enjoyed their privacy and let the half acre lot grow over naturally with honey suckle and other shrubs. By the time they sold the home in 1986, 30 years later, we learned that the lot was a solid wall of vegetation which hid the home from view even a hundred feet away. The second owners, David and Miriam Gosling, wanted to show off the home and cut the overgrowth down and planted grass. There still were many trees on the lot but they were primarily locust and elms which slowly died off because of decease or other natural causes. As the last straw, the thirty-foot Osage Orange tree blew down in a windstorm a week before we closed. Now the home was completely exposed. I continued to cut the grass out front but in the spring of 2004 I stopped cutting the steep hillside and let the grass grow. Our plan was to plant native trees, shrubs and other perennials. Full of anticipation that by summer we’d have a wonderful hillside of blooming seasonal flowers I started hundreds of seeds in the spring. Here it is in the fall of the year and all we have is 50 percent of the seeds started and only a few flowers to show for it. I haven't been much of a gardener in the past and have much to learn about the sport. It was interesting reading about other Wright owners and their efforts to landscape Wright's designs. On one occasion Wright was asked where to plant some trees on the lot. "Take a bushel of potatoes and throw them into the yard. Plant a tree in each of those locations," he said. Well we haven’t done that exactly but I have tried to plant the day lilies and other perennials in rows and not clustered design groups. I want to have the yard look like a natural hillside. One that you might see while driving through the Kentucky and Ohio countryside. Next year I will plant some perennials from seed because it is fun but I'll try and get faster results by purchasing beds of species that have already been started. After reading a book on Wright landscape designs or the lack there of, I learned the owners themselves played the greatest role in landscaping. It was the owner's love of gardening and their continual efforts that have made those homes the great examples of Wright's ideas in Organic Landscape Architecture.

Paint & Supplies Blog

Things You Never Knew About Stain Morphing Into Paint.
Post from Chuck and Janet (mostly Chuck), new owners of a Frank Lloyd Wright home in Cincinnati and constant visitors to Beck's Hardware and Paint!
The Boulter House was originally designed to be maintenance free due to its use of natural materials such as plain concrete block and redwood. The block got painted over the years. On the inside with a "Fallingwater" yellow and on the outside and a matching concrete block gray. The discoloration and staining on the concrete block just got out of hand. Modern treatments of natural concrete block use clear sealers. Regarding the redwood exterior woodwork, original plans called for a low solid content stain. It too must have suffered from discoloration and streaking. Some caused by the inaccurate construction of the balconies. Wright designed his wood structures to shed any water because all the exposed surfaces were sloped away from the house. Just like a sloped cut to a fence post lets the water roll off instead of seeping into the wood and during the winter freezing and splitting the wood. I don't think the carpenters believed the plans when there were no horizontal surfaces. They built the series of small ledges on the parapets with horizontals, thus letting the water build up and enter the interior of the parapet. The result is that I have to treat some dry rot on the balcony parapets. Also the house was painted with what I originally thought was latex house paint. We were disturbed by this treatment. The wood surfaces had none of the texture of the original wood, as was Wright's vision. On further study it was learned that it was a high solid stain. That explains why the paint was not pealing. A high solid stain is somewhere between a pure stain and latex. This was explained to Janet and I when we were touring a Edgar Tafel designed home in Racine, Wis. Edgar was a Taliesin apprentice for many years. The owner's painter explained it to us. I plan to use a lower solid stain as needed to treat any needed surfaces.
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