How we came to purchase our home.

WPA Photo

A Works Progress Administration photo offers a glimpse of our home's past.

Reproduction Windsor Chair

Finally, a dining room set.

No Power, No Heat.

Our first snow storm and it's aftermath, October, 2011.

Lead Poisoning

Updates to our son's lead levels.

Bit By Bit

My wife's blog on being pregnant, giving birth and raising our first child with all the complications, hardships and joys that life throws our way.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Parlor Renovation, Part IV - Paint Stripping

March, 2014...

The parlor is coming along.  It is a mess right now, but still, I can picture the final look in my head.  My wife, though she tries, is more annoyed with the time it has taken to get to this point.

I keep bouncing between different aspects of the room.  Plaster repair, wallpaper removal and paint stripping have been tackled at the same time.  For this post, I'd like to focus on the paint removal from our paneled wall.

The wall was unpainted when our previous owner moved in.  After hiring an interior decorator, the two decided (perhaps in a drunken stupor) that a dark green colored room would be best suited for the Asian themed Americana home (see here for photos before we purchased the home).  As with previous posts, it now becomes my task to undo their horrid decisions.  The panel was painted with a primer and a coat or two of that green/gray paint.  For several months I chipped away using an Amazon.com sourced paint scraper for detail work.  The results were pretty decent.  As I became cocky with my scrapping, I began to gouge the surface damaging the wood.  It didn't matter what the profile was, one slip was all it took to make the scar.  Knowing that the surfaces were painted in the last 20 years, I was confident that there was no lead in the room.  I took a test just to be sure; the result was negative.

I was about halfway through this job when I began researching lead paint removal for a future project.  This would've been for the exterior yet would also work on any painted surfaces.  The contraption discovered was called a Speedheater.  The company's advertising can be seen on youtube and on their site:  eco-strip.com.  It's a $499 tool that heats the surface, much like a heat gun or a heat plate would, except, the temperature is much less.  Since lead vaporizes above 1000degF, this contraption heats the surface to 200 to 400 degrees, just enough to bubble the paint.  Since this temperature range is far less than the vaporization point of lead, it makes sense as a lead removal tool.  They also sell a scraper kit for an extra $99.  The combined kit, for the most part, does a decent job but is not perfect.

Where the scrappers from Amazon.com were simple, effective tools; one slip and the surface was gouged.  With the Speedheater, the surface sizzled and bubbled during a 20-second exposure.  The bubbled paint came off very nicely with no gouging of the surface.  However, there were times when the process did not work.  Instead of making large bubbles that peeled away easily, the Speedheater created small bubbles that made the surface tacky and extremely difficult, if not impossible, to scrape the paint off.  Additionally, if one leaves the Speedheater on the surface for too long, it does burn the wood.  Several times, my wife would poke her head into my work area and comment, "why's it so smoky in here?" Eventually, the tacky areas, the mildly burned spots and the gouges gave way to a good sanding.  I took my finishing sander and loose pieces of sand paper and went at it.  I hated doing it, having had the desire to keep any semi-original finish, but after realizing that large portions of the paneled wall were a more recent reproduction, my objective changed to a clean, fresh surface.  I worked on the entire wall over the next few months, nearly the entire surface was bare except the dental molding.  Becoming annoyed with the tedious paint removal of the molding, I ventured to other painted surfaces.  I had previously tested the plaster walls, wood paneled wall and windows with the D-Lead lead test kit, all coming back negative.  I started removing the paint from the window trim...

...June, 2014...

It was around this time that our son had his next periodic lead test.  To everyone's surprise, it was slightly higher than last time (see here).  Everything STOPPED.  As a precaution, I washed down every surface immediately at our front entrance, washed down my tools and sealed the room.  I looked at the lead test kit I used previously and noted that the kit was defunct!  It was either expired (though it was in-date on the package) or tainted.  I have to stop this insanity, I give up!  It's my child's health at risk.  I called in three lead abatement certified painting contractors and am awaiting estimates... I'm done with the "Parlor Renovation"  ...to be continued...

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Parlor Renovation, Part III - Water Leak Repaired

November, 2013...

The hole in the wall had become larger due to my eagerness (see Part I).  I had contracted with Sunderland Period Homes to repair the south facing parlor window.  As promised in Part I, the following are the procedures that were taken to repair the window frame:
Sunderland Period Homes

The crew of two started with the removal of the siding. Each board was removed, numbered and stacked in the front yard. The boards were scraped for a clean edge while the paper around the window was torn off.  A product they had called "ice and water" (branded as Protecto Wrap) was used as a first layer of defense around the window.  The product is a tacky tar-like membrane that helps secure the joint between the clapboards and window frame from water.  It came in a roll and was placed first along the bottom of the window, then the sides which overlapped the bottom and finally across the top of the window, overlapping the sides.
Siding removed, "ice & water" partially installed, storm window being removed. 
Rotted wood on the frame was marked for removal.  The marking delineated an area that was easy to cut and replicate. A scraper was used to remove paint to expose the wood's surface.  A straight edge was then used to complete the mark out.
Scraping the paint off the damaged area.

Using a straight edge for mark out.  

Once the area to be removed is marked, it is then removed using a router.  
The depth of the router is adjusted prior to the removal.

Starting from the outside edge, the carpenter carefully routers the wood to the indicated shape.

A stock piece of wood slightly thicker than the area being patched is used.  It is laid against the frame and the cutout is traced onto the stock wood.  A jigsaw was used to cut it out.
Scrap of wood being cut using a jigsaw.  Note the clapboards on the sawhorses.

Perfect match.

 With the patch ready, time to install.  The carpenter recommended that a 3x construction adhesive be used instead of stronger adhesives (such as the 8x) as the stronger varieties tend to be too gritty for this application.
Construction adhesive, 3x strength.

The application of the adhesive into the cut out.
The previously sized stock piece of wood is squeezed into the fresh adhesive.  The carpenter pre-drills screw holes and secures the patch with stainless screws.  Once the adhesive sets, the patch is planned flush with the original frame.
Pre-drilling for the screws.
This process was repeated several times around the perimeter of the window's frame.  Once complete, the crew moved on to the siding.  
Patchwork complete.  Note the Great Stuff insulating foam in between the planked wall boards.

It was suggested by the carpenter that while the siding is off, we should fill the gaps between the planks with foam.  What an excellent idea.  Now, I realize this is not going to be anywhere near as efficient as R15 insulation batting; however, compared to having no insulation versus this sprayed into the one inch cavities to help button up our home, I was all too eager to go out and purchase a whole bunch for the crew.  I was told to purchase the blue bottle for windows and doors.  This is because, per the carpenter, it was formulated to fill the spaces around windows and doors without making them un-plum.  The regular red can applies more pressure to the surfaces it comes into contact with which can cause alignment issues.  
Great Stuff, Window and Door.

Felt paper is now installed as a secondary wind and rain barrier.  It's installed with small siding nails.
Felt installed overlapping each other.

Siding nail.

Flashing installation is done in the same manner as the "water and ice" except the flashing needs to be scewed into the side of the house.
Flashing is installed over the "ice and water" membrane and under the frame's lip.  It is secured through the window frame.

The flashing is installed similar to the "water and ice" membrane starting at the bottom, overlapping the sides onto the bottom and then the top overlapping the sides.
A clear caulk was then used to seal the perimeter of the window.
Clear caulk.

Once caulked, the clapboards were re-installed with new pieces being added where needed.

For the next couple of days, this is how the side of my home looked.  The work finished within a week with the installation of lead flashing above the window (sorry, I ran out of vacation time, no photos of that installation).  The remaining clapboards were replaced and the work was done on the outside.  However, in the estimate, Sunderland Period Homes specified rosehead nails for the siding, the carpenter used regular siding nails.  It was a deviation that was very disappointing.  Upon pointing this oversight to Edward, he ordered the correct nails and had his carpenter install them.  His reasoning for not using it was because even though he wrote it down in the estimate, the existing nails in the siding were regular nails so he didn't think that he needed to install the more expensive rosehead nails.

On to the inside...
Interior face of the south exterior parlor wall before any repair work.
Sunderland himself worked on the plaster patching.  He took a sample of one of the window's trim and had it replicated exactly.  He also did the same with the sill.  Both of the components were damaged by yours truly in my feeble attempt to "fix" the window.
Plaster placement in progress.

Plaster material used.

Done.  Plaster and trim completed.

Once Edward and his crew were done, now, it was my turn to fix the cracks in the walls.

Big Wally's Plaster Magic, Contractor's Pack.

So the total cost for Sunderland Period Homes was:  $3,450.00 (does not include the Plaster Magic).  Pricing included an extra $250 due to there being more plaster repair than Edward had initially thought.  I don't yet know how much a 50 pound bag of Structo-Lite costs, but I doubt its anywhere near that price.

This truly was very expensive.  I have to admit that towards the end of this project, I lost my temper with Edward.  He tended to want to do 'this' and 'that', seemingly pull numbers out of the air and make me feel quite idiotic on a continual basis.  He didn't realize that we are not one of his wealthy clients that are restoring their vacation house.  This is our home, we live here and we only have so much money to spend.  I snapped at him one evening and told him that I just cannot afford him.  With his posh attitude, he didn't seem to care and we haven't spoken since.

Now with that being said, he was able to stop the window leak, perfectly duplicate the trim and do a decent job of plaster repair.  He also did not mind that I was asking questions of his crew most of the time and also did not mind the photographs.  Would I hire him again... eh, simply because of the expense, I think I'll shop around next time.  At least I was able to get a decent idea of how to seal a window.  I thank Chris, the lead carpenter, for being so educational.

Future plans are to prime the exterior surfaces left exposed and continue working on the interior of the parlor myself with paint removal and crack repair.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Outdoor Spigot Replacement

A couple years ago, upon moving into our home, our outside spigot was removed to allow the installation of a new sill. That same contractor refused to re-install the spigot for one reason or another (see Structural Repairs, Part II). A friend had the right bits to drill me a hole through our new sill. Once complete, he also soldered the copper pipe back into place. Done, right?

A few months later came time to use the spigot. A surprise awaited me as the spigot was now streaming a leak. I only fear how much water was wasted since I last saw it.

Easy fixes first. These spigots have a rubber washer under the knob that seals the joint. Likewise, there's also one at the end of all garden hoses. A trip to Walmart got me a cheapo set of rubber washers. I come home excited, took out my pliers and wrench, turned off the supply valve and.... broke the nut holding the old spigot together. I just have no luck. Damn thing had been in the sun too long, been made of cheap metal or perhaps my neutrinos weren't spinning the correct way... whatever the case may be, now it was time to replace the spigot.

Sometimes, these things just don't go as well as we hope.

There are two general types of spigots, ones that are threaded on much like a shower head and the other, soldered on. The threaded type are the easiest (obviously). Unscrew the old one with wrenches, clean the threads, wrap plumber's tape and screw on the new spigot. The other type is a bit more complex having a soldered connection which needs to be de-soldered with a torch. Guess which one I have…

I ventured to my big-box-store to get some needed supplies:

  • Propane torch
  • Lockable vice-grip (or pliers)
  • Non-leaded plumber's solder
  • Plumber's flux
  • Pipe cleaner (sandpaper works too)
  • New spigot (obviously)

Warning: If you are not a "handy person", I suggest hiring someone who is. Changing out a soldered plumbing part is not overly hard, but can become dangerous when you factor in the torch. It may be best to have a fire extinguisher nearby, just in case.

Read the directions on the propane torch and get use to turning it on and off. It's imperative that this is done to avoid potential issues later on, such as burning down your house. Do not use the torch around hazardous materials nor in confined spaces (i.e. with no ventilation). Lucky me, my spigot is near my oil tank in the basement with sealed windows...

Tip: The hottest part of the torch is not the tip of the flame and not the metal tip of the nozzle. It's the area at the 1/3 point from the tip of the flame. Without this knowledge, you'll spend more time waiting to heat the metal than needed and you'll also use more fuel than you have to.

Once you are comfortable with using a torch, let's move on to the repair.

Remove the section of copper pipe from the system.

Find the connection couple closest to the spigot. Using the torch, heat the copper connection. Once hot enough, using pliers (not your hand... lesson learned), gently rotate the spigot end of the copper pipe connection. If hot enough and the solder has liquefied, it will rotate and can be pulled a part easily. Depending on the thickness of the copper pipe, and amount of solder used previously, the heating process may take some time.

What Not To Do
For my situation, my plumbing is located between the wooden joists, close to the floorboards above. I tried to use a protective barrier to avoid scorching the underside of the floor, need I cause the above-mentioned home fire. I took some aluminum foil as a heat shield. My knowledge of metallurgy is limited so it was a surprise to me when the aluminum became molten and then vaporized. Apparently, aluminum melts quite easily (1,220.58°F) in the heat from a propane torch (3,450°F). So don't use aluminum foil as a heat shield.

De-solder the spigot from the removed copper pipe. 
Same procedure as above. Since our exterior paint is leaded and the old spigot had some paint on it, as a precaution, I made sure I was upwind of any fumes. The de-soldering process heats the copper-spigot connection. I wasn't sure if any leaded paint was present around the spigot but didn't want to risk breathing in vaporized lead.

Clean the de-soldered copper pipe.
Copper tarnishes over time, hence why Lady Liberty is green. For a decent bond, it is best to have a clean (bare metal) surface. Various home stores sell cleaning tools. They look like torture devices, really, with a thick metal wire covered in spiky needles and the other end, a hole with spikes as well. However it appears to you, it's still an abrasive tool to clean off tarnish and light debris from the to-be soldered ends.  After cleaning the ends, the surfaces should look like a brand new penny and slightly roughened.

Apply the Flux.
Flux looks like a jelly paste.  When heated, it sizzles and a vapor is released which should be avoided; something about skull and cross bones being on the label made me assume this.  Really though, best used in a VERY well ventilated area.  Flux works by "attracting" the molten solder throughout the joint. Using a disposable brush, paint the surfaces that are to come into contact.

Assemble the spigot-copper pipe.
Simply insert the copper pipe into the spigot. Twist it a little to ensure adequate spread of the flux.

Solder the connection. 
It is best to secure the spigot and pipe to free your hands during the soldering process.  A clamp or vice should work just fine.  I used a bench vice to hold the pipe steady and the flux around the spigot was just enough to make a snug fit while soldering.  The connection to the system was a bit more complex since there wasn't a bench to work over.  Instead, I jerry-rigged a vice to keep my hands free (see below).  Then, I soldered away after applying the flux.  Its difficult to take a picture while using the torch for obvious reasons (Safety First!).

Test the spigot. Turn on the water and make sure nothing is leaking. Turn the spigot on outside for satisfaction. Done.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

RRP Rule

After the scares with leaded paint, my wife felt that it was prudent to have me take a class in lead safety, just so that I know the current standards in protecting our family from lead dust.  Doing research online, I came across many classes meant for contractors at varying costs.  Some were a week long program for heavy lead abatement (think Hollywood style HAZMAT/alien invasion with plastic rooms and space suit-like attire).  I was not about to spend a week's worth of vacation time to sit in a HAZMAT training class.  Instead, I came across a one day class that, since 2010, has been a requirement for persons to either earn a contractor's license or receive a permit in certain towns.  This one day class is for the RRP certification, or Renovation, Repair and Painting Program.  The one day class instructs contractors on how to identify potential projects where lead may be present, how to test for lead, how to inform the customer of the presence of lead, how to prepare the area being worked on to avoid the spread of leaded dust, how to protect yourself and, lastly, how to clean the work area.  The information is provided by the EPA and is taught by EPA certified companies.  Some states run their own program directly, like Rhode Island and Massachusetts.  In Connecticut, the regulations are set by the Federal government (based out of Boston, go figure?)

After having taken the course this past June, I reflected on the two separate contractors that have worked on our home. Only one of them have actually followed the RRP rules.  The crew that did (seen here), did preparatory work by the book.  The other, more recent contractor (seen here), did nothing; even after being told that there was lead present.

The RRP class is one vacation day and around $200.  You're certified for 5 years and a refresher course (4 hours long) is required every 5 years to maintain the certification.  The class was hosted by Fuss and O'Neil, an engineering company in Manchester, CT.  They, specifically, charged $190 (2014) for the class and provided lunch.  The information is public information as it is from the EPA.  Below, I have listed out the procedures that one must take when dealing with a leaded project.  These are the rules as stipulated by the EPA for a contractor to follow.  For the rules of a home owner, scroll to the end...

1.  Upon arrival to the project, ask the owner when the home was built.  If they tell you it was built prior to 1978, test for lead.  If they don't know, test for lead.  If it was built on or after January 1, 1978, it magically doesn't have lead and the RRP rules no longer apply; you may commence work.

2.  Test for lead using EPA approved test kits (seen here and here).  Document the areas tested and record the results.  If negative, RRP rules no longer apply.  If positive, inform the homeowner and provide them with a government sourced brochure regarding lead risks to children (Renovate Right).  Within 30 days of the completion of the project, a copy of the results are to be submitted to the homeowner.  The homeowner is now fully aware that there is leaded paint present.

3.  Purchase:
6-mil thick plastic sheets (100 feet x 10-foot roll is roughly $60 at Home Depot)
Contractor trash bags (again, Home Depot, 3-mill thick 42 gallon bags, 50 count for $26)
HEPA certified shop vacuum (no, not a vacuum with a HEPA filter, that doesn't count!, Amazon, $250+)
Swifter wet mops (cheapest functional)
Swifter dry mops (cheapest functional)
Duct-Tape (extra wide painter's tape is more safe for floors)
An empty spray bottle (for water wash downs)
Protective coveralls, hooded, and booties (roughly $10, per laborer per day)
Sticky pads (120 sheets for $100). 
4a.  If working on a leaded exterior, protect the ground with 6-mil thick plastic sheets a minimum of 10 feet from the building, 20+ feet when at the second floor.  A contractor is suppose to use their judgement beyond 10-20 feet, where working on a third floor, for example, may cause leaded dust to fall beyond 20 feet from the house.  The edge closest to the building should be duct-taped to the exterior to ensure no gaps.  Cover any wall openings, i.e. windows and doors in the immediate area with the plastic and duct-tape.  The plastic on the ground is to drape over all landscaping, including bushes and vegetable gardens.  Ensure that the sheets are weighed down and never work in windy conditions.  At the end of each day, use the HEPA vacuum to remove all contaminants that fell on the plastic.  The plastic sheet can be re-used, so long as it is cleaned daily, kept in good condition and not transported around the building.  Do not remove the plastic while having contaminated material on it, a risk of the debris falling out and contaminating the ground exists.

4b.  If working on a leaded interior, protect the floor 6 feet from the surface being worked on.  Cover all openings with plastic and duct tape.  Turn OFF any force air A/C or heating system and cover with plastic and duct tape any vent openings in the area.  Access to the room can be made by cutting the sealed plastic at one doorway straight down the center.  A flap is then installed (black contractor's trash bag, cut along seams works perfect) and double hung from the door frame.  Place a sticky mat at the entrance to allow removal of any dust from the feet upon exiting.  Clean up at the end of each day using the HEPA certified vacuum. Vacuum yourself before you leave then dispose of any coveralls used in a contractor's trash bag.

5.  Commence work.

6.  Upon completion, clean up is required.  Always work from the top down.  HEPA Vac the entire room.  Then, using the spray bottle, wet the ceiling surfaces and wipe clean with a white cloth.  Keep wetting and wiping until the white cloth remains mostly white.  Then go to the walls and work your way to the floor.  Once complete, carefully remove the plastic on the doorways, windows and vents and gently roll the plastic from the floor ensuring not to disturb any potential dust remaining on it.  Throw them and all the used cloths into the contractor's trash bag.  Use the wet swiffer to mop the bare floors until the white swiffer mop is no longer picking up dirt (still white after being used).  Focus on a 20 square foot area at a time.  The room should be cleaner than when you arrived.  Seal all used contractor bags using a gooseneck closure.  Dispose of in a hazmat container.  

7.  Retest for lead.

If you are a homeowner, RRP rules do not apply (go figure?).  A homeowner can dispose of leaded waste, in their municipal trash, up to 30 cubic yards!  That's insane, but legal.

There are little details here and there that are discussed in the class, but the critical issues are:
Information - be knowledgeable of what you are dealing with.
Test - test, test, test.
Protection - ensure your family (including the furry type) is safe.
Clean - make sure you wipe down EVERY surface.
Disposal - throw the leaded material, wipes, plastic, etc. out in accordance with the law.
More information can be gained from the EPA:  EPA.Gov - Renovation Repair and Painting Rule.

Saturday, May 31, 2014

4-Poster Bed

Since moving into our historic home, so much time has been spent on the physical structure that very little has been devoted to furnishing it (we still have a couple empty rooms).  Our bedroom has a hand-me-down dresser from a college friend that is packed full of our necessities, a solitary night stand from a recycling yard and a metal bed frame sourced from Craigslist.  Rather sparse for a modern bedroom yet my wife has been content (at least that's what I thought).

After two-plus years, my wife had enough.  Her birthday was arriving and when I asked for her preference, instead of the usual textile items, she blurts out FURNITURE!  My wife's wish for her birthday was a piece of furniture for our bedroom.  Having looked through sample sales of period furniture, she gave me a limit of $3,000 (as my wife and I share approval in our expenses, we do not make purchases without the other's approval).  She said that it was time we got something and whatever it was, it had to be for our bedroom.  

We sat there each night scouring EBay and other sites for authentic period pieces.  For decent period pieces, even at our limit, it was just a little out of reach.  Not to mention fears of potential leaded paint and, along the same lines, protecting an $8,000 dresser from a hyper toddler.  We decided to shy away from true antiques.

We moved on to our bed frame.  A year or so prior, our bed and box spring sat directly on the floor.  It was a habit from our former days of apartment living when buying furniture for a year-long rental wasn't needed.  Also, our cat loved clawing the underside of the box spring (even climbing inside).  Then, however, our cat matured and as being on the floor invited spiders crawling over us at night (ew), we purchased a basic metal frame and elevated our bed away from the arachnids.  Now, it was time to have a formal bed frame, no more low-rider beds in cahoots with spiders and manic cats.  It's time for a mommy and daddy bed.

$3,000 is a lot of money for most people (it's a lot of money for us as well).   I realize that we do not live centuries in the past, but I would like to stay true to the appearance of the past and there is an associated cost with that level of quality.  There really isn't any sense in owning an 18th century American home and filling it with modern Japanese art (like our previous owner).  In my opinion, for a home that a person owns, their furniture should compliment it.

In a prior post, I commented on D.R. Dimes.  Though beautiful furniture, their pricing was just out of reach.  So I searched online through various vendors for reproduction furniture.  I came across quite a few and many having the same prices close to D.R. Dimes or of mass produced varieties that just look too "modern" for our home.  I finally came across a furniture maker who's pricing is much less than that of D.R. Dimes, but still of a quality equal to the of the famous maker.

Out in Lancaster County, PA, is a furniture maker with an impressive inventory of reproduction pieces.  Their site, GreatWindsorChairs.com, shows off their collection of period pieces for every room of a historic home.  They are not IKEA-like furniture with particle board components.  Like with many things, authenticity and quality do not come from low-cost chains.  I ventured to their site, found their bedroom furniture and noted a little highlighted blurb about discounts being available.  I submitted a questionnaire through their site and soon received a call... that's when I met Michael Rice.

Michael was patient with me.  I was flopping back and forth with choosing between the available tiger maple or cherry wood construction (trivial:  both were the same price, another differential from D.R. Dimes).  In the end, I settled on the tiger maple with a canopy shipped to my living room.  Pricing was great.  Michael described to me that the discount applied to their current inventory only and returns were not possible.  They had a tiger maple king size canopy bed in stock at 10% off their regular pricing.  Shipping was through an outside delivery service for an extra fee.  All together, $2,990.50 was charged to my credit card.  Within two weeks, the bed was in my home and I came in under our budget.

It took roughly 2 hours to assemble as each part was nicely wrapped heavily in bubble-wrap.  Unwrapping the parts was time consuming.  Once all exposed, assembly went quickly.  It's easier with two people (per the directions), but with the other able-bodied person caring for our little one, this was a one-person job.  Besides, it was her birthday...

All the parts came wrapped in bubble wrap, held together with tape.

Each bundle was labeled making it easier to grab the right part during assembly, eliminating the guess work.
Unwrapped headboard and corner posts.  I used the bubble wrap as padding.
Bolts that secure the posts to the rails.  They came with a tool to aide in installation.
Final assembly of the parts.  I had to use books to support the rails during the "two-person" stage while attaching the bolts.

The partially assembled bed.  I couldn't place the canopy on top because the finials that attach the bars are too tall for our room.

Being in an old home with (plus or minus) 7-foot ceilings, a four poster bed with 7'-4" posts was not going to fit.  Discussing the height issue with Michael, I learned that the finials can be easily trimmed.  They are basically a decorative peg about 6 to 8 inches in height that support the canopy.  No screws, no bolts; just a solid piece of maple, turned on a lathe.  I measured the clearance that the finial needed for installation above the canopy.  It's simply the length of the peg from the bottom of the finial.  That distance was measured on the top of the finial.  I drilled a hole into a price of squared scrap wood to hold the finial.  I then used a miter hand saw to cut off just enough from the finials to fit our ceilings.  The final appearance is more sedate than the original form, I actually like it better.

Removing the top of the maple finial using a common hand miter saw.

A cut finial compared to it's former size.  The removed top allows just enough room for the installation and it's appearance actually looks quite attractive.
I am very pleased with the bed frame from Great Windsor Chairs.  The quality is impressive.  It is solid maple and the "tiger" finish is absolutely gorgeous.  The bed as a whole is not 100% hand-made.  It's a hybrid of machine and hand tooling.  Considering the much greater expense with a completely hand made piece (and with a toddler around), I'm OK with a hybrid approach to the construction.  Having said that, what really is quite exciting are the details that a lay-person may over look.  On the flat surfaces such as the head board and even the canopy frame are the tool marks from the hand plane used to flatten the components!  I realize that reads a bit dorky, but those "imperfections" just add to the quality of this piece.  It truly is an heirloom to pass down and money well spent.  It also satisfied my wife.  Take a look at some of the details below:

Photographing very fine details in wood is harder than I thought.  The light has to be just right to reflect the undulations for the camera lens to capture.  Above, the bottom bar of the canopy support show the marks left by the hand plane.  Simply awesome.

Finial installed a top a corner post with canopy bars.  I think it looks great!

Lamb's Ear detail of the corner post.

Bolt cover detail.  Some manufacturers offer metal covers for an added expense, these were included and pre-installed.

Rope hole detail.  For an added touch of authenticity, a large diameter rope can be added to mimic a rope bed.  

Headboard closeup.

The king size canopy bed from GreatWindsorChairs.com.  With the cost of the bed being what it was, there was no more room left in the budget for a quilted colonial blanket.

Disclaimer:  I have not been reimbursed by Great Windsor Chairs, nor by Michael, for writing this entry.  I have received a 10% discount which is readily available to any consumer when Great Windsor Chairs advertises a sale.