Pocket Doors – Dining Room

We opened up the wall between the kitchen and dining room to improve flow and light. The opening was matched to the entrance/living room pocket door opening at 9′ height and required some significant search work to find an appropriate set of pocket doors. After calling salvage yards all over the country including the Bay Area, Oregon, Detroit, Boston, NY, New Orleans, etc – common places to find salvaged Victorian items. We finally found two doors right in our backyard in Petaluma (Heritage Salvage) that fit the spec at 30″ wide x 9′ high. These were originally from a historic Victorian in San Francisco so made their way back a second time across the Golden Gate bridge. Each side is different, one a little more contemporary (for the kitchen side), the other more ornate (for the dining room/parlor side). Thick beveled glass sits in each door. They are about 3″ thick Redwood and heavy…each had 7 large hinges on it. Our GC Brendan O’Reilly is shown here cleaning up the edges, trying to avoid nails and screws with the Skilsaw.

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Once cleaned up, we had them stripped and then patched holes with wood filler, stained and added replica hardware. The pocket door pull hardware came from Van Dykes, an Eastlake “rice pattern” set

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We salvaged the ornate trim around some other door openings in the house that were reconfigured in order to recreate the same look as the set of pocket doors in the parlor.


The doors were hung on barn door hardware from Rustica Hardware in Utah using their J Track and top mounted riveted wheels mounts, 2 wheels per door. Final product:


Shear Walls

In order to reinforce the narrow width of the house for seismic conditions, several shear walls were added at strategic locations while the walls were open. One of the more challenging ones was in the master bedroom next to the staircase leading up to the attic. In order to fully extend it per the engineer’s spec, we had to remove the upper stairs, place the new wall, then replace the stairs all in the same intense day in order to still have access to the living space in the attic where we partly retreated during construction.

Here is the gaping hole created next to the staircase and the start of constructing the shear wall.

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Here is the temporary balancing beam across the staircase to get into the attic. And the finished shear wall constructed of 3/4″ plywood.

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Old Growth Redwood

Most of the house is made up of old growth redwood and Douglas fir, materials of choice in California in 1892. The redwood in particular has a natural advantage in that the termites hate it. All the original redwood windows have very little rot around them. Other than scraping off the old lifting paint, they were remarkably intact. Here’s a photo of our painter replacing the glass in one of the bathroom windows.


The other advantage of the old growth Redwood is the sheer length of the spans possible back then. Here is a photo of joists just below the turret on the roof in front of the house. The joists run almost 30′ long as one solid piece.




Original wainscoting buried under some layers when we did demolition.


Remnants of a built in “pneumatic speaking tube”. which was placed just outside the master bedroom to communicate with the kitchen. Each end of the tube was covered by a whistle valve into which you would blow and produce a sound like a whistling tea kettle. The person at the other end would know to open their valve and have a spoken conversation through the tube.


Electrical wire tag circa 1908 found in the walls.


Newspaper in renovated section of house circa 1963.


Knob-and-tube wiring was the standardized method of electrical wiring in homes in North America from 1880 to the 1930s. It consisted of one copper wire run through a protective porcelain insulating tube drilled through a joist or stud, and the other wire separately wrapped around a knob. The knobs and tubes separated the wire from potentially combustible framework, facilitated changes in direction, and ensured that wires were not subject to excessive tension. Because the wires were suspended in air, they could dissipate heat well. Knob and tube wiring was eventually displaced because of the high cost of installation compared with use of power cables, which combined all wires including a ground in one run.


Also found in the walls were wires that were part of an early electrical buzzer system between rooms.


We mounted a collection of these artifacts in a shadowbox displayed in the entrance. History captured for all to see!



Pocket Doors – Parlor

Another of the more difficult challenges was restoring and fixing the pocket doors that transition from the entrance to the parlor. When we bought the house, one of the doors had fallen off it’s rail and could not operate, stuck in the wall. First we removed the doors and refinished them – stripping down to Mahogany. There were 7 layers of paint and stain, including the faux wood paint you see on the top layer. We re-stained them with Bona stain in Rosewood color.


The hardware pulley system was broken (see broken metal on the wheel below) and we had to find a new solution.


We ended up going with barn door mounting hardware sold by Rustica Hardware – their J track with top mounted pulleys that are riveted, which would all sit inside the pocket opening. To install the track, we had to open the walls yet again, remove the old system, place the J track at just the right height for the doors to sit properly with the wheel mounts, then close it all up. Now it slides gracefully with ease.


We kept the original Eastlake hardware on the door pulls and repaired the push button activated brass pulls.


You can see the holes we had to make to insert the track including several in the intricate trim at the top that were hard to repair.


Final product, 9′ high x 36″ wide each 7 panel Eastlake mahogany doors.