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.



Gas Chandeliers

We decided to restore the gas chandeliers on the main floor. We contacted the experts in this field, Quality Lighting’s Paul Ivazes. Paul does work all over the country. He had just been to the Governor’s Mansion in Sacramento and the UN building in San Francisco when he came over to work on ours.

Here is the dining room chandelier getting cleaned. Over time, deposits build up in the gas tubes and the valves need grease. While we had them down, he changed the electrical sockets and put in new electrical wiring as we suspected a short circuit was occurring somewhere. This one is a hybrid gas/electric made by Bradley & Hubbard and dates from the late 1890’s.

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We moved one that was in the family room into the parlor. It’s a McKenny combination 8-candle gas and 8-electric chandelier dating to 1893. The electric shades are deep acid etched.

There was already a gas pipe in the ceiling medallion and we plan to eventually fire up the gas lamps again. Some adjustment was needed to raise it higher which Paul took care of.

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The entrance chandelier is the most ornate of them all. It is a 6-arm Mitchell Vance jeweled aesthetic gas fixture with Moorish influences dating ~1882.


A safety improvement we made while the walls were open – we tied the ceiling gas pipes together, removing sections that were no longer being used, and added a shut off valve to enable easy shut off in case of a problem. This is the same key shut off valve as for a fireplace.

New gas shutoff for chandeliers

Zoned Furnace

One of the challenges with an old house – how to run new HVAC ducting to replace old electric baseboards or in a few rooms no heat at all. Our solution: we decoupled the upper two floors from the lower by adding a new furnace in the attic loft and dropping ducting down to each room while the walls were open. We made it 4 zones – one for each floor, 2 zones on each furnace. It was a difficult installation with much custom ducting in order to create an even air flow across zones and work in tight spaces. In a new home you would plan for all this ducting to be placed easily and neatly out of the way in openings. Back in 1892, houses were heated with the fireplaces only. The new furnaces are controlled with wifi enabled tablets that monitor usage and even display the outside weather forecast.

The installers – Air Flow Pros (Jose Sandoval and his crew) were just awesome. Fast, quick to respond, creative and great work. They deserve the 145 five star reviews on Yelp.

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