Starting over

The Old House Web
Editor's note: Nancy Platteborze is sharing the story of her restoration of a 250-year-old house with The Old House Web. When we last left her, she had a gaping hole to the outside where the kitchen used to be...

By Nancy Platteborze

Nancy's kitchen addition
Nancy's new carpenter, David Pelkie (on ground) supervises the building of the kitchen addition. Pelkie designed the addition from Nancy's description of an English cottage.

David Pelkie and his helper Dana Ellsworth marked the beginnings of my recovery from some very dark days.

They replaced my rotted sills, designed and built my kitchen addition, and helped me pull off the asbestos siding, replace the rotted sheathing and finally put up the new clapboards.

I worked with them from 7 a.m. to 3 or 4 p.m. Monday through Friday.

I told David I wanted my kitchen to look like an English cottage and he built it out of his head. I knew the lean-to we removed was not original or even very old, so I wasn't married to replicating that.

And I did not want to try and make the new addition look old. I had read that one restoration rule was not to try and make the new look original -- it should be distinct -- and I agree with that.

Pouring footings for kitchen addition

Forms for the foundation walls
Foundation walls are poured
building addition
Starting the kitchen addition
Raising the rafters...
...and now the roof

The addition takes shape

Nancy Platteborze
And by the time the snow flies, Nancy's house is (more or less) weather-tight.

(Click on pictures for a larger view)

So, I chose English cottage style. First, because I love it. And second, as a quirky historical twist. It's great fun for me having the "new" be English and the "old" New England.

I was happy to find Norco windows because they were reasonably priced, well made, and beautiful. I went with six over sixes because aesthetically they fit the addition. Eventually -- unfortunately it will be long after I finish the siding -- I want to replace the windows in the old house.

I will probably use nine over sixes, if they're not too skinny, to help distinguish the new from the old.

I put a lot of thought into the design of the addition. I didn't want it to stand in stark contrast with the old part of the house. It had to look like it belonged, but still be distinct.

And I'm very happy with how it looks.

I love the angles of the three peaks, and love my secret little old country/new addition, new country/old house quirk.

The little doghouse is just the entry to the storage space under the kitchen. I lamented not putting a badly needed mudroom at the front door, but couldn't live with changing the old.

There are liberties I feel legitimate taking and constraints I feel bound by.

The white stuff all over my house in early pictures is asbestos siding. I'm replacing it with clapboards.

David and Dana have been giving me some heavy handed help this time because the weight of those things makes my arms feel like lead. And then I get shaky on the ladder and, well, it just gets less heroic from there.

And yes, I painted each and every 16' clapboard in my 14' kitchen over the winter. My son took a picture of me painting the last batch. Can you hear my spine crackling?

At one point I had them up on horses because I feared I'd never stand up straight again, but we couldn't get around them to use the bathroom. The rest of the house was filled with, well, the rest of the stuff, so that was the end of the horses idea.

You can see we rigged up a drying rack in the 14-foot dining room where there's a closet -- so the clapboards fit length-wise.

Nancy painting
Can you hear her spine cracking? Nancy paints clapboards in her new kitchen addition.

drying rack
A drying rack fixed up in the dining room.

damaged posts
Damage from powder post beetles

(Click on pictures for larger view)

Every part of my body has seen muted mulberry at one point or another. Picking up each freshly painted clapboard, maneuvering it through the doorway and over mounds of indecipherable mounds and one great big wet saw, getting it up on the rack and sliding one end into the closet was treacherous.

But it sure beat painting only four at a time and spreading them out across the floors and risking our lives or cracking the clapboards while walking from one room to the next.

One night, it was about 11:30, I had just finished painting number four, and trying to set it down on the floor between the other three without touching them, my foot almost came down on one of them, and trying to save it, I lost my balance and knocked over the bucket of paint. I spent an hour scooping as much of it up as I could with the paintbrush, and then smeared what was left with paper towels. Necessity is the mother....

We found extensive powder post damage in the beams adjoining the addition. You can poke the soft part of your finger right into some of those beams. I didn't want to take them out, though, so we framed around them. We had all the wood sprayed with borax before we started.

I wish now I had known to use only 2x4's to frame downstairs because the
windows are going to be deep set. Also, the interior wood that made up the
walls around these windows had sliding pocket shutter markings -- which I want to put back - and now David and I are trying to figure out how to do that.

Should we go through the 2 x 6's? Build them on top of the 2x6's, making for an even deeper window? Al was thinking structural soundness which is a good thing, but it's added another kind of challenge to re-creating the character of the room.

It was my deliberations on clapboards, and character that lead me to my decision on my house's new color.

Index to all stories in this series

Next: "Just give me white..."->

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