We've been fortunate this year to find ourselves involved in a pretty decent mix of projects, and I recently started working on a relatively small job, a nice break from having to deal with complex challenges, big material deliveries, finding space to set up what seems like 100 different saws, and dealing with all the headaches of a big job in general. Making a long story short, I got asked to rebuild a transom window and replace a threshold.
The house, located near Tower Grove Park, is plenty old and as is the case with most of the homes from that era, had a transom window above every door. A renovation to the house following a fire about 15 years ago saw the then-owners kind of go low-end/cheap on the new work, and do you know what's cheaper than rebuilding a transom window? Covering it up and pretending it was never there. Fortunately, the current owner - a designer by trade - has an appreciation for period correctness, and wanted the transom window over the back door rebuilt.
I knew there had been a transom window there at one time, so I dug into the drywall to see what, if anything, was left of it. Unfortunately, what was still there was in such rough shape that I had to rebuild everything. Further complicating matters was the issue of pretty much everything - door, door jamb, etc., all things needing to stay pretty much as-is to keep the cost down - being noticeably out of plumb/level, which meant splitting a lot of differences; building the transom window perfectly level and plumb would have made either the transom window stick out like a sort thumb relative to the door or vice versa, and building the transom window square to the door and door jamb would have necessitated me building things very much out of square, level and plumb, which I couldn't bring myself to do.
After giving myself sufficient room to work, I built a window "jamb" out of pine inside the existing transom window space, and routed some custom trim to serve as the pieces of wood that would hold the glass in place. The client picked up a piece of glass and after a few nails and a little caulking, she was ready for paint. Unfortunately, the renovation work that took place 15 years ago involved the use of rosettes at the corers of all the door casing, which neither myself nor the client really care for, but in an effort to keep things as uniform as possible, I went ahead and used those on the interior door casing. On the exterior, I did the best I could with what I had to work with and kept the finish trim pieces fairly simple.
The second part of the job was replacing the original oak threshold, whose useful life had ended some number of years (decades?) ago.
The challenge of replacing a threshold is that during the installation of a door, the threshold is usually put in first. Pulling out an existing threshold and properly replacing it sort of requires one to, essentially, put the threshold in last. This is not an easy task.
Once I removed the old threshold, to make life halfway easy, I removed a fair number of deck boards; that was going to be the least painful way to install a new threshold that sufficiently extended underneath each side of the door jamb, covered the full depth of the foundation wall the threshold sat on, and wouldn't require any sort of cutting of the existing door jamb. This allowed me to cut a full size threshold, which required a decent number of passes through the table saw to get the shape and slopes just right, and slide it in place from the deck side of the threshold (and which the deck boards would have gotten in the way of). Once the threshold was installed, the deck boards were put back in place and everything fit pretty well.
In the coming days, the door will be replaced and the brick around the door will receive some tuckpointing; once that's complete everything can be caulked, painted and dressed up as needed.
The best part about occasionally doing construction work in restaurants is finagling some lunches on the house into the deal. We spent the past week giving a west St. Louis County restaurant a little bit of a facelift, which mostly involved the installation of some simple wainscoting...and eating meals that were significantly tastier than the usual peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.
Every now and then we find ourselves on a commercial project, and for a good portion of the summer we were holed up in Maplewood, GC'ing a commercial build-out/renovation for a business owner that's expanding their operation.
The client, Amber Sky (that's the name of a business, not a person), had decided to lease the space next to what they were already leasing when that space was vacated by its tenant. What is Amber Sky, you might be asking yourself? Well, it's a portrait photography studio, a studio for local student and pro photographers, and a baby boutique that offers salon services, classes, groups and all kinds of resources for parents. If you need pictures taken, hairs cut, makeup done, baby stuff, information on essential oils, you name it...somebody there can help.
Anyways, the building in the above picture is Amber Sky's home, a couple blocks south of downtown Maplewood. Before the expansion, they basically occupied the left half of the first floor. Expansion saw them take over the right half as well, with the newly acquired territory becoming - this is what we GC'd up until it was time to paint (then the business owners leasing space from Amber Sky took over) - an event space that is rentable for birthday parties and whatnot, a chiropractor's office (Transcendence Family Institute), a nutrition and wellness consultant's office (All Out Nutrition & Wellness), a lactation consultant's office (Sweet Pea Breastfeeding Support) and what comprised the bulk of our efforts, the new home of a group of massage therapists (Sole Shine Barefoot Massage Therapy).
While some of the work we did was fairly pedestrian - take down a wall here and there, build a wall here and there, open up a closed doorway, close up an open doorway, have the electricians come in and move some lights and switches to new locations, etc. - getting the massage therapy side of the operation built was a laborious endeavor. In the cavernous, empty space shown below...
...we had to construct 2 relatively soundproof rooms that would maximize the usable space for the massage therapists while navigating the complications of construction within 1, a building that was built in 1917 and 2, a building that had been remodeled a number of times over the years.
We also did some work converting a relatively unused utility space into an office, as well installing doors in original door jams that were missing the original doors, a painstaking process to say the least. Tracking down a set of matching vintage doors wasn't too complicated, but cleaning the doors up and bringing them back to life, and then getting them hung, was very much like fitting square pegs in round holes. Regardless, we finally got the job wrapped up a few weeks ago and what had been a relatively vacant space is now home to an expanded Amber Sky and 4 additional businesses.