Little spit and polish perks up ‘60s home

#543 in a series of true experiences in real estate
November 2007, Hills Newspapers

Our most recent project, a house we’ve been getting ready for market, was custom built in the early 1960s. The gentleman who designed it for himself included quite a few marvelous features, all of which are still intact and functioning but in some cases, no longer looked as good as when new.
Scrubbing over the years had, for example, left bare patches in the finish of the copper-colored vent and fan hood located over the original Frigidaire “cooking top”. It looked tacky. The two mesh side screens were dirty. The size and shape of the unit are different than those available now so we couldn’t change it out; besides, it looked exactly right in this kitchen. We just wanted to make it look shining clean again.

We were able to remove the mesh screens and run them through the dishwasher multiple times to get them clean. We did some research and found that painting the metal hood would be the best fix. Spray painting would probably be fast and effective except that the parts could not be easily removed and masking would be difficult.

We found that Rustoleum makes a paint named Hammered Copper that can either be sprayed or painted on. The finish is not completely flat; it has a light texture to it that is attractive and closely matches the original.

There is also in this kitchen built into the wall an electric can opener. Originally, it had the same finish as the hood but most had worn off. We were able to remove the cover plate and paint it with a brush using Hammered Copper, and it worked perfectly. We painted the hood in place and it looks great. Fixing turned out to be simple, easy and fast – once we had the right product and know-how.

Another problem that had us stumped was a broken ceramic tile at a bathroom threshold. A chunk had been chipped from the middle of one tile only but its placement made it very noticeable. When our wood floor people arrived to refinish the oak floors we asked them if they had any ideas, and they did! The foreman cut an oak threshold matching the adjacent bedroom floor. He fitted it over the tiled doorway covering the broken piece. The new threshold looks like it has always been there. Problem solved.

The original linoleum on the family room floor, a pretty pattern named Terrazzo, is made up of “chips” in brown tones. It has held up extremely well. There was however an edge that had come unglued; not much, maybe a section five inches long, but we could see that if something caught under it, there would be a big rip in the flooring.

We asked our contractor Shaun if the spot could be glued down again but he had a better idea. There are matching sliding glass doors in the family room that face one another. Their frames are the old, heavy silver-colored aluminum. Shaun knew (which we didn’t) where to buy strips of aluminum that look just like the door frames, strips about 1-1/2 inches wide.

He attached strips to the floor along the linoleum edges, the full width of the door frame, making the flooring snug, and he put them in front of both doors so they’d match. Looks great. We had the doors cleaned with quadruple-o steel wool so they are now polished and quite wonderful.

We’ve found that the small details in a house can make a huge difference. Even when you don’t see them, you do, and so we try to make all details pristine. The furnace outlet covers were banged up and scratched. We replaced them with new. A small investment, around $60 for all in the house; well worthwhile. All light switch and plug plates are new too and the switches themselves cleaned – no paint or grime was left on them.

A couple of closet light pulls were broken, a small thing, but noticeable and therefore important, and we put in new ones. Anet spent a few hours making sure the outside of the house was well lighted after dark. Exterior mounted floodlights were already in place. She put in new bulbs, adjusted the positions so that light would not glare inside the house but would light paths and porches outside, and she programmed timers so lights would go on and off automatically.

We were at the house one evening to check the lighting when we found that the porch light got us to the door fine but when we wanted to unlock the door, it was too dark to see key or lock. A new challenge for Anet. She went to the hardware store and looked at all sorts of plug-in lights until she found the perfect thing: a small fixture in a metal casing that plugs in to an outlet near the front door.

It’s on a stake pushed into a flower bed. The light is concentrated in the right spot and, after trying different light bulbs, she found one that is coated so that it gives adequate light when you’re coming into the house but doesn’t blast you right in the eyes when you’re going in the opposite direction.

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