Voices of Experience

The Old House Web

Setbacks and progress...

first.jpg (9471 bytes)
The house, minus the parlor
chimney from roofline up

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Rebuilding the parlor chimney.

Kitchen chimney work
twoa.jpg (7715 bytes) Basement fireplace, being cleaned and relined.07.jpg (7958 bytes)
Stone sill in basement
threea.jpg (5810 bytes)
Drainage trench

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The porch roof, which needs replacing.

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Porch, with "mystery wall."

Monday, February 13, 2000

Two more lessons learned from all of this renovation:

  • Don't do it in winter time,
  • or if the renovations are massive, don't try to live in the house at the time.

We're six months into this massive project, and the stress has been incredible. First,with selling our prior home without a ratified contract to buy, the negotiations topurchase this house, the struggling for a loan to buy property that banks didn't want totouch.

It's cold and snowy or muddy outside. Inside it's cold and dusty. There are times whenit all seems overwhelming. And then there's the setbacks and surprises...

So we are grateful for the support we've received from people who have read our story.

The progress over the last few weeks has largely been in the areas of the rear porch,the chimneys and the exterior basement.

The my last installment, we were looking down at the pile of bricks that used to be theparlor chimney. Our attempts to reline the the 100-year-old chimney, which had alreadybeen weakened by water damage, led to an unstable structure which had to be pulled down.

In the first picture, notice the platform for the new chimney on the roofline of themain house section. Happily, we've rebuilt that chimney and made progress in many otherareas since then. At right you can see Bill Alderman, master brick mason surveying thehole in the attic floor where the rebuilt chimney now exits. We decided to build itstraight this time - it won't come through the peak of the roof, but I'll be able to walkinto the attic with out bumping my head.

As you can see from the second and third pictures, Bill would have had plenty to doeven without the chimney disaster. The rear (kitchen) chimney was badly decayed. In thispicture, it is being rebuilt completely from the middle of the 1st floor. And in the nextpicture, the basement fireplace, which also feeds into the rear chimney, is being cleanedand relined.

News from the depths of the house

We discovered, much to our dismay, that the boiler which we were told was a year oldwhen we moved in, is, in fact, substantially older than that. In fact, it's old enoughthat the company who makes it no longer sells in the US!

In addition, the burner for the unit is notoriously temperamental. Some of its finickynature is probably worsened by the fact that the seams between the boiler sectionsappear to have rusted and to have been leaking for some time. This is NOT considered goodnews. We've removed the now-worthless boiler and circulating pumps.

Also in the basement, the stone sill for the rear large windows is being removed. We'lltemporarily fill this with insulation and plywood, but we're cannibalizing the stone forother areas of the basement, and at the same time, preparing this area to be the openingfor an addition going on later this summer or fall.

On the outside again

We had roots almost 1" (2.5cm) thick coming through this wall, in the picture atright, but we removed the dirt and stumps and roots and are going to seal the wall. Nomore leaks, we hope, when we're done.

More bad news

The porch roof is shot. It needs to be replaced, it's leaking badly and rotted inseveral spots.

In other porch work, scaffolding and pump jacks have been added in preparation forenclosing the structure. From the vantage point of the second porch picture, you can seewhat we've been calling our "mystery wall."

The bathroom adjacent to this porch appears to have had a very colorful history. First,the floor is sloped 1 1/2 inch towards the outside of the house, indicating this areafirst probably started its life when the house was new as a porch, the slope being fordrainage. Then we think walls were added to make an indoor bathroom. We're completely at aloss, however, to explain just why this wall was framed the way it was. Window? Heater?Chute of some kind?

The wider pitch siding (less of a scallop, more of a broad, flat, area) webelieve to be newer than the more scalloped siding. So it looks like the wall startedintact, then a large square area was cut out above and below. Without the siding thewall's patchy history becomes a bit more clear. The wallboard isn't diagonal like thehouse's original work. It's definitely a more recent modification.

In other positive news, the wall between the bath and porch has been removed, andtemporary plastic tenting is soon to be replaced with...proper exterior walls!

To see more ofSteve's pictures, click here.

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