The start of something new

At long last, the foundation work is underway.  The long, cold, wet spring has put us a little behind schedule but hopefully we’ll make up some time with the nice weather as of late.

Vanessa and I were sitting at the breakfast table last week when this hauled up outside our house.

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We stopped traffic on Highway 2

The huge carrying beams had arrived, the excavator was already delivered – so it was time to get underway.

First, make a cut in the topsoil to provide access to the sills – the first to be replaced.  Once all of the old sills are removed and replaced and the walls are re-supported, the house can be lifted and the excavation can start.

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So I thought I’d take you on the grand tour of what’s under our house before it all disappears.

Go ahead....after you.

Go ahead….after you.

The original foundation is hand-cut sandstone, dry-stacked to about 5′ high.  The mortar you see in the joints was applied sometime in the past in an attempt to keep some of the moisture out.

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All of these stones will be removed and salvaged from the foundation and stored at the back of our property.

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A lot of these stones will be used in-and-around our property as part of our landscape design as garden borders, retaining walls, walkways and steps to the deck.

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The stones are beautiful – all hand shaped and fit precisely for the foundation – and will have a prominent place in our garden.  But still – that’s a lot of rock.

The whole process for the new basement will take a few weeks, but while that’s underway, we’ve kept busy building our gardens.  The plants we started inside need to be transplanted so our first job is to build the garden beds.

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The areas we’re working in have never been farmed before.  Decades of grass growing waist-high and dying back every season has made the digging difficult (to say the least) but because of this, I suspect the soil is going to be very fertile.  We’ve easily got a couple more days of digging and tilling the soil before we actually plant anything.

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There are some vegetables that should have been planted by now, but with the disagreeable weather and the house demolition monopolizing our time, we will just have to make do.

Fortunately, out seedlings have been thriving inside our grow-op.  We’ve slowly acclimated the plants to living outdoors by daily increasing their outside exposure.

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Hopefully by this time next week, the veggies will be all planted and we’ll be starting on the new shed/chicken coop.

So, things are looking up.  We’re turning that corner that we’ve been waiting for – restoration instead of demolition.  We still have a lot ahead of us, but it’s a nice feeling that we’re into a new stage.  Until then, though, we continue working in the garden and getting our beds planted.  That in itself is like therapy.

Vanessa says: "ever feel like you're being watched?"

Vanessa says: “ever feel like you’re being watched?”

"No idea what you're talking about."

“No idea what you’re talking about.”

 

The week that was….and will be

Monday.  Cold.  Rain.  Sounds like a recipe for a quick update on what’s happening at our old island home.

Last week we finished all of the outstanding little demolition projects – the rear deck is now gone and cleaned up.  Not much to show from there, but we did find a couple of old things under the deck.

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That’s kind of cool – but I have no idea how old it is.

While the weather was on our side, we also got the front porch off and cleaned up.

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We covered the areas where there is no siding to keep the weather out for the next few weeks – both on the front and the back of the house.

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Vanessa’s also been busy tending the compost piles as well – mixing the fresh manure in with all of the yard waste and grass clippings.

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The manure is too green to add to our garden at this point – it will need some time to further breakdown before use.

And finally, the last of the chimney was removed.  We had already removed the portion through the roof, the attic and the second floor level.  To remove the remainder on the main floor, we erected some dust containment in our Living Room (future Dining Room)

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and opened up the wall to expose the bricks.

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Then, like above, remove the chimney brick by brick.  Fortunately, unlike upstairs, we could just toss the bricks out the window as they came down making our cleanup and project quick and painless.

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So with that said, today the last dumpster we’ll need for a while has been taken away.  It’s nice to have our driveway back – for the first time in almost four months.  But here we are – everything done to date in anticipation of our house being supported, lifted off the old foundation and having a new foundation built underneath.  Today we rest, because later this week….

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That’s right – all of our prep work and anticipation is coming to a head.  Tomorrow we enter a new and exciting phase in our renovations.  For the next three weeks or so, we’ll be focusing on some of the outside projects because our house will be up in the air with excavation and foundation happening below.

So, that wraps up this uncommon beginning-of-the-week update, but safe to say, we’ll have much, much more to report as the next few days and weeks progress.

Excuse us while we go do our happy-dance.

"Please.  No dancing."

“Please. No dancing.”

And there she was, gone!

It’s been a while since my last post, but we’ve done so much.

And there she was....gone

And there she was….gone

I sit here trying to collect my thoughts and put something to paper, but frankly, I’m exhausted.  My body aches and my brain is foggy, so I think this post will rely heavily on pictures and quick captions to let you know what we’ve been up to the past two weeks.

We’ve really taken advantage of the beautiful weather and the longer days.  Now that it doesn’t get dark until almost 9:00, we’ve been putting in some long hours to get the last push done before the foundation starts.

Under the watchful supervision of Jill and James

Under the watchful supervision of Jill and James

My last post showed the removal of the chimney above the roof.  Since then, we’ve removed the remainder of it from inside the house.

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With a little help from the air compressor and an air-hammer, I made quick work of busting it down, brick by brick.  Vanessa sorted and stacked the bricks we were keeping for reuse elsewhere.

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Then we turned our attention to outside – the addition. We started with the roof and worked our way down.  Nothing overly complicated, just a lot of effort and grunt-work.

"GRUNT"

“GRUNT”

Strip off the roof, remove the roof boards, wall sheathing and framing.  The demo took longer than we originally anticipated because we did decide to salvage as much of the material as possible.

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Rather than “grip-and-rip”, we dismantled everything, cleaned, sorted, denailed and stacked the material for our new garden shed/chicken coop that we’ll be building later this spring.

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Minus the rot

Minus the rot

We’ve also been cleaning up the yard in anticipation of our vegetable beds and gardens.  We picked up several wood pallets from the building supply store for free (the best kind) and built a couple of garden composters.

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We’ll still have a few more to build around the garden, but it’s a start.  Our neighbor was kind enough to give us some poop, too.  Well, his cow’s poop to be exact.

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We’ve got our blueberry, raspberry and blackberry bushes, as well as two cherry trees, a pear tree, three cherry bushes.

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Our Honey Crisp apple trees should be arriving soon as well.  Our little grow-op has been a tremendous success this spring – the best ever, actually.  The only problem we’ll have is deciding how many of these little guys make it into the garden.

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As you can tell, I haven’t the energy to put into this tonight – my apologies – but I also didn’t want any longer to pass before updating you on our progress.  So before I face-plant into the keyboard, I wish you al. bjhbsk rch p ccczzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.

Jokes.

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Today I ate a worm

I thought that would get your attention.

There it is.  Up on the roof.

There it is. Up on the roof.

Now before anyone calls PETW (People for the Ethical Treatment of Worms), I didn’t actually consume an earthworm.  It’s a metaphor (or a simile….or is it an onomatopoeia).  Sorry, English class was never my strong subject.

No – it’s a metaphor.  Imagine you’re on a long journey and you’ve reached a point where the only way you can progress any further is to eat a worm.  That’s where we found ourselves this week.  I had a worm to eat and there was no putting it off any longer.

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With our foundation guy ready to start in the next couple of weeks, I need to get the old chimney torn down – and that means starting at the top.  I haven’t been looking forward to this.  Not by a long-shot.  And excuses have been easy: “too cold”, “too windy”, “too much snow”, “still lots of time”, “I’m too hungry”, “I’m too full”, “my nose is itchy”.  You know how it is – lots of reason to not eat this worm, but it needed to be done.

So far, so good

So far, so good

Today was the day.  The sun was out, the roof was dry and the winds were calm.  The weatherman is calling for rain for the next few days – so here we go.

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I had to build some “steps” just to get some traction on the steep roof.  I tried a few times to just scramble up to the ridge but couldn’t get any grip.  These cleats gave me something to climb on, but needless to say, a 13/12 roof slope is still hard to get up.  That’s more than 45 degrees.

"Yeah - that's not too bad", said no one ever

“Yeah – that’s not too bad”, said no one ever

I’ll be honest, it’s not the heights that bother me – it’s the risk of falling.  Duh, right?  Seriously though, I’ve never had an issue with heights – bridges, buildings, CN Tower – no sweat.  There’s no risk of actually slipping overboard.  But perched up on the roof, swinging a hammer with nothing but the chimney you’re knocking down to hold onto?

Not pictured: a happy guy

Not pictured: a happy guy

Here’s the part where I say: it’s now done, I’m safe.  The chimney is down below the roof line and the hole is patched in until the foundation is done, then the roofer can do his thing.   I didn’t mention previously that I’d be doing this this week – my Mom’s reading this post afterall, but needless to say, I’ll be grounded on terra firma for the next while.

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Just ignore the missing shingles

Quite a view, though

Quite a view, though

With the roof now enclosed, we’ll be spending the next couple of rainy days taking the remaining chimney down from inside the house.

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We’ve got the rear addition completely gutted now and the shingle siding and trim removed.

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So the plan is to remove the chimney when it’s raining, and when the weather’s good, we’ll dismantle the remaining portion of the addition.

And only 1,823,522 nails to pull

And only 1,823,522 nails to pull

Vanessa’s been busy cleaning up the yard – raking up the old dead grass and straw – and burning whatever we can – including the cedar shingles from the addition.

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Murdoch’s been enjoying hanging out with us while we’re outside, too.  It’s been a long winter for him as well.

Enjoying the shade of the barn

Enjoying the shade of the barn

So, back to my original point: how do you eat a worm?  You just close your eyes and swallow.  Unless your “worm” means getting up on your roof.  In that case, I’d suggest keeping your eyes open.

Not so tough now are you, chimney?

Not so tough now are you, chimney?

A Change of Plans

So the demolition is underway on the back addition.  Initially, we thought we would simply remove and dispose of the structure altogether.

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What we didn’t know at the time was that the addition was near-original to the house.  A covered walkway/wood shed leading from the back door to an “indoor outhouse” was it’s original intent.  Past owners insulated and finished the space, and it’s current condition and use is not practical for our needs.

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So once we removed the interior finishes, we both had a change of heart.  We’ve decided to carefully dismantle the roof and walls to relocate and reassemble it near the rear of the property.

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I think I’ve settled on nesting it under the trees and use it as it as a woodshed/garden tool storage.  We do need (and planned on building) some garden/outdoor storage – and in using the original structure, we get to maintain it’s character and save some serious moolah since the material for the structure is already here.

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I will have to build new footings and floor, but the majority of the walls, roofing – and even sheathing – is reusable.

We’ve never wanted to just ignore the historic significance of this old home we bought.  But in the same breath, we also recognize that it’s current condition necessitates a full gut and renovation.  It will be our dream-home after all, so it still needs to meet our needs.  In relocating this structure and repurposing it for our needs, we can keep its historical ties and fill a need we have by reimagining it for another purpose.

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As part of our desire to be more self sufficient, we will eventually have laying hens for our egg needs and the new shed will be modified to incorporate a coop.  All in all, it seems like a win-win scenario for us.

Another week and another disposal bin in our driveway – although this will be the last one for a while, at least.  We spent a good part of today cleaning up around the back of the barn.  I just don’t understand how people can use their backyard as a dump.  Earlier this year (before the winter really settled in) we cleaned up as much as we could at the time.  Windows, flooring material, mattresses, a piano, wire, tarps, cans and bottles, Styrofoam and countless pieces of wood were left there over the years.  And now with the warmer weather and the grass having died back, we’re able to finally get rid of the last of the junk.  And wow – that feels good.  The only things left there is the oil-drum fire pit and the remains of an old tree trunk – now hollowed out and housing little critters for Murdoch’s enjoyment.

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In fact, while we were cleaning up, he flushed out a vole and quickly dispatched the little guy.  No, no sympathy here.

We also burnt away some of the tall, dead grass around the back yard.  The house has been though two summers without much garden care, so when we arrived in the fall, the grass was waist-high in places.

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Burning off the dead stuff seems to be the most practical option.  Either that or rent some sort of brush cutter before we put the lawnmower to it.

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We also uncovered our driveway.  We had “patches” of asphalt showing through our dirt driveway.  Turns out, our driveway is paved – just buried under years of grass, dirt and pine needles.

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Now cleared away, we have a nice, clean parking pad.  Raking up the old tall grass, we’ve also discovered a few spots of garden plants poking up.

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Looks like we’ll have at least a few beds of lilies around the house in a short while.

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And finally, fishing season opened here on Tuesday.  And yes, I did wet my line.  No, I didn’t catch any fish.  On the weekend, our temperatures soared to nearly 20 degrees and severe runoff from the snow pack thawing, combined with rain on Monday, caused quite a lot of flooding around the rivers.  All of the watersheds around our home had gone from babbling brooks to raging white-water rivers.  Needless to say it was difficult fishing.

It wasn’t all for loss though – Vanessa saw and took this beautiful picture of a heron in the river behind our house.

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We’ll give it a try again soon as things settle down in the rivers.  But I like the way my wife thinks.  She says the sooner we get the demo done, the more time we’ll have to go fishing.

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OK.  Where’s my hammer?

Spring is in the air….man, I hope so

Well, we’ve completely finished the demolition on the second floor.

Awesome

Awesome

That is other than the stairwell.  I’m debating whether or not to gut this area – as it’s adjacent to our living space on the main floor.  It would be easy enough to demo this little area when we tackle the entry/hall on the main floor when the time comes.

Master Bedroom: before

Master Bedroom: before

The Master Bedroom was previously gutted as part of an older renovation so when the first swing of the hammer revealed drywall instead of lath and plaster, I knew this room would be quickly gutted.   And it was.

Master Bedroom: after

Master Bedroom: after

In one day, we had this room stripped and cleaned up – whereas the rest of the second floor took about three weeks!  It was just nice to wind up the demo with a relatively easy job.

When we took up the laminate floor to uncover the original plank floors, we discovered an area that appears to have been a secondary stairwell.  Lath and plaster runs continuously down the exterior wall and a section of the floor has been patched-in.

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Right under the window….

When we gut the kitchen ceiling below, it will undoubtedly show us what was originally there.

For now, it’s just really nice to have the demolition phase done inside the house – at least until the new foundation is in place.

We’ll be meeting with our foundation guy next week. I want to show him what we’ve done to date and see what his timeframe is like to getting things underway.   At this point, I just want to get this house in the air and start excavating for the new basement.  Our repairs will be on-hold until the house is back on a firm foundation.

Vanessa and I went to the PEI Provincial Home Show last weekend.  It’s funny that we already knew a couple of the vendors there.   We also made contact with a spray-foam insulation guy.  Without a doubt, I’d like to foam the house: there’s no need for vapour barrier, it will plug up any holes, it maintains continuity of the insulation/vapour barrier around the balloon framing and it will essentially “glue” the frame together giving some rigidity.

I also had a chance to chat with the owner of the local Winmar in Charlottetown.  Winmar would have been the competition to the company I worked for in Ontario – CRCS Disaster Kleenup.  With my certification and experience, I’m sure I wouldn’t have any issue picking up some work with any of the local restoration contractors on the island.  Ultimately though, I’d want to pursue my own renovation company – or perhaps “freelance” my restoration experience.  Although for now, all I can think about is the house.

So with the demo finished upstairs, where do we go from here?  Well, to lift the house, we’ll also have to remove the front porch – so we’ll start there.

Got to go....

Got to go….

The small addition and deck on the back of the house will also have to come off, and we’ll carry on with that.

This too.

This too.

That will bring us very close to the time to start the foundation, I imagine.  I’m just hoping and praying for decent spring weather until then.

We took a bit of a mental break last week too and went ice fishing.  I promised pictures if we caught anything, so….

ice fishing

Nothing spectacular.  Half a dozen smelt – which we kept, cleaned and fried up.  Vanessa (who is not much of a fish-eater) tried them and liked them.  We’ll give it another go in the next week or two, but really, it’s only a month until trout and salmon season opens, so given the option, smelt will soon be off my radar.

We got our last load of firewood this week – and I’m counting that it will be the last for the year.

I have no idea where it's all going....

I have no idea where it’s all going….

Finally, we’re getting the odd spring-like day and it feels like winter is slowly departing.  I’m not too optimistic that yesterday was the last winter storm we’ve seen, but it is nice to see the days lengthening   We had another beautiful day here in the valley – so with that, here’s how our day ended.

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View from our Bedroom

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Spring-wreath and the new Lee Valley catalogue

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The moon rising over Pleasant Valley

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Almost full

Small victories (and sore backs)

Whew!

I mentioned briefly in my last post that we’ve finished gutting the second floor of the main cape.  I can’t tell you how good it feels to get that completed.

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At times it felt like the demo-that-wouldn’t-end (much like our winter) and frankly, it’s been very tiring – and extremely rewarding at the same time.

We started in the Spare Bedroom.  The ceilings were already falling down, so it seemed like the obvious place to start.

bedroom 2a Collage bedroom 2b Collage

From there we went into the Bathroom….

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Then the Den/Office/Bedroom….

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And finally the Hallway.

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I figure we removed approximately 18000-20000 pounds of drywall, lath and plaster from the second floor in the last few weeks.  That’s if you believe Google’s opinion that lath and plaster weighs about 8-10 pounds per square foot.  My back is telling me that sounds about right.

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And that doesn’t count the lumber and framing materials removed – nor the trim, doors, hardware, nails and 64 contractor-sized garbage bags of loose-fill insulation either.  All in all, we filled three 20 yard dumpsters to date – although to be fair, the first dumpster was mostly filled with junk left behind from the previous owner.

With the main cape now complete, we’ll move into the Master Bedroom to start removing the wall finishes.

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A previous owner at some point in the past had attempted some renovations/repairs.  From what I can tell, the Master Bedroom was previously gutted, insulated with fibreglass batts and drywalled.  That’s going to make our job of demolition exceedingly easier in this room.  We should have that done by next week, easy.

Once the bedroom is done, I’ll frame in a temporary platform and remove the last of the lath and plaster in the stairwell.  That will complete the demolition of the second floor.

I also mentioned previously that the partitions on the second floor were built under the original lath and plaster.

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Once the finishes were removed, the stud wall had no top support since the plate sat almost 1-1/2″ below the ceiling joists.

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Simple enough to reframe the partitions, so we removed the walls, too.  That affords us an opportunity to tweak that layout slightly, too (add a closet here, move the wall there, etc).

Unfortunately with the floors out of level and some sagging here and there, we won’t be starting any reconstruction or repairs until the house is raised and on it’s new foundation in the spring.  Not that we’ll be short of things to do.  We’ll finish gutting upstairs then move outside:  I have to remove the front porch and small rear addition before the house can be lifted.  That will be our next big step.

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For now, I’m happy with what we’ve accomplished.  Vanessa’s been solid help with the demolition.  Aside from a few aches and pains, we’re still smiling and having a good time.  Although the winter is wearing on our nerves, we realize spring will be on us in no time, so we keep pressing on.

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I think we earned a day-off, so the plan is to go ice fishing on Friday.  That’s part of the reason in making the move we did – having time to spend together and enjoy the beauty of the outdoors.  We’ve talked about going fishing for a while now, but with the windchill in the -20 to -30 degree range for the past few weeks, we kindly postponed those plans.  It’s supposed to warm up (to near-zero) on Friday, so that looks like the day.  I’ll let you know how that goes.

The view from our Bathroom window

The view from our Bathroom window

For those of you who have “Liked” our Facebook page, you’ve seen some of the posts Vanessa has shared from Reclaimed Wood Blog and other design sites.  RWB has a great website with lots of design and project ideas using old wood reclaimed from different locales.  I’ve got quite a collection now of old reclaimed wood from our demolition and lots of ideas.

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For now though it will go into the barn for storage.

Once again, I just want to thank everyone for the great feedback and comments.  I really do enjoy reading each of them.  We’re also approaching 1500 page views on our little blog.  That’s exciting!  And from all over the world: Ireland, Hong Kong, Singapore, Thailand and throughout Canada and the US.  Amazing!

Hope you all have a good remainder of the week and a fantastic weekend.

Dark windows, Snow-chi olympics and moving walls

I’ll apologize in advance for some of the pictures in today’s post.  Until today, the pictures of our renovation were taken in the daytime so we had the benefit of natural daylight.  Today’s pictures were taken tonight, so the lighting is a bit….shall we say….creepy.

Nah - nothing creepy here.

Nah – nothing creepy here.

The truth is, something spooked me so I took the pictures and got out of there as quick as I could (I’ll show you later).  So, on that note:

Production has been a bit slow on the home-front this week.  Although we want to spend as much time as possible as we can with demolition while we await spring’s thaw, we’ve been pulled away from the house a couple of times this week.

As you read in our last post, Sunday was a snow day.  The snow didn’t stop until late in the evening so Monday became our day to dig out.  And dig we did.  I’d say if snow shovelling were an Olympic event, I’d be a contender this year.  Forty centimeters of the white stuff fell, but drifted to almost three feet in our driveway.

There was grass here last week

There was grass here last week

I thank the good Lord for our neighbor….and his tractor-mounted snowblower.  In three quick passes, he cleared the snow from our driveway and we only had the side-yard and back-yard deal with.

Seriously - gold medal contender

Seriously – gold medal contender

Mind you, Monday was also a holiday here in Prince Edward Island.  I expected to be shovelling for the better part of the day, but with Orville’s help, that was cut down to less than three hours.

I call it "Mount Russmore"

I call it “Mount Russmore”

And since it was a holiday, we just enjoyed the rest day off and watched some of the Olympic coverage (go, Canada!).  Then there was the bird.

A starling, in an attempt to escape Sunday’s storm, made it’s way into our attic – only to get trapped there.  I was tempted to lock our two cats up there with it and let nature take it’s course, but Vanessa wasn’t agreeable to that.   So, garbage bags in hand, we headed upstairs.  No, we weren’t going to try to catch the bird – the bags were to blackout the windows – except one, which was opened to the outside.  Within minutes, the bird was out, and I’m presuming warning it’s friends and family about the old white house with bird carcasses in the attic.

Tuesday on the other hand was a typical demolition-day.  The main cape of the house is almost completely gutted now – just a little lath and insulation to remove from the front bedroom and we’ll move into the hallway and Master Bedroom.

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Curiously enough, I was surprised with the order of the construction of the house.  In today’s construction, the house would be framed completely and the wall finishes (typically drywall) applied.  Here’s the order I see in our house:

  1. Exterior walls and roof framed complete
  2. Lath applied to the exterior walls and ceiling
  3. Frame the interior walls
  4. Apply lath to the interior walls
  5. Plaster complete

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Not a big deal, right?  Right.  Except the top plate of the interior walls were only fastened to the ceiling lath – so, as we remove the lath, the tops of our interior partitions have no connection to the ceiling joists -and with the lath and strapping removed, the stud wall is about 1-1/4″ shorter than height of the ceiling joists.

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What does that mean for us?  The easiest thing to do is simply re-frame the interior walls.  We were going to make some small changes to the spare bedroom closet and introduce a linen closet anyhow – so replacing the remaining walls will be actually be easier than working around the existing framing.

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The beauty of it is this – there are no interior load-bearing walls in the main cape, so we have the freedom to move or relocate the walls as we see fit.  We likely wouldn’t change the layout much from what’s currently there – although adding an additional 12″ to the width of the bathroom would make a huge difference.

It’s not surprising to find some remnants of the previous owner’s life here in the house.  Removing the ceiling and insulation from the attic has left a small pile of someone’s history.  No, nothing exceptional, and no buried treasure map either – but it’s still pretty neat to look at.

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The funny one was a Radio Shack flyer from the ’80s.  A mobile cellular phone for $1000, a 40MB hard drive, and a $800 VCR.

Technology.

Technology.

So, there you have it.  Aside from the snow – and another 20 centimeters of snow forecasted for tonight, it’s been a good week.  Oh yes, you’re wondering what spooked me upstairs tonight, correct?  Remember, the light was dim – and it is a bit creepy up there at night – when something caught my eye in the window:

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Seriously!  Wouldn’t this guy staring at you from outside your window frighten you, too?

BOO!

BOO!

Now something to cleanse your palate: Monday was Islander’s Day here in PEI – Family Day in Ontario.  So with the snow, holiday, demolition, freeing trapped birds and old discoveries in the attic, what was the highlight of our week so far?

Drummer, #1 Mom, Model, Best Brother, (soon-to-be) Sis-in-law

Family

There’s a mummy in our attic

Dear reader:  At the risk of me causing you feelings of general icky-ness, I’ll let you know now – if you continue to read today’s post you will shortly see pictures of a few dead animals.

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but not here

I’m not talking anything overly gross or graphic – just a few critters that made our attic their final resting place.  If you follow us on Facebook, you’ve already seen the picture of a starling that met it’s maker in our roof – so it’s nothing worse than that.

It certainly not unexpected, either.  We bought our previous house directly from the builder and I can’t begin to tell you how many mice and voles we caught in the ten years we lived there.  Even the brand new, shiny, modern construction practices and materials were no match for those determined rodents – so obviously over the past 100-plus years, a few varmints would find their way into our old island home.

not here, either

not here, either

So with that being said, we’ve obviously gotten through the layers of drywall, plaster and lath and are now exposing the insulation and framing.  That’s when we uncover this….

"I'm not putting my hand in there!  YOU put your hand in there!"

“I’m not putting my hand in there! YOU put your hand in there!”

and this….

A-maze-ing.  Get it?

A-maze-ing. Get it?

There are innumerable tunnels, burrows and nests in the insulation.   What more could a little critter want than to be cozily nestled in a pocket of warm insulation?

We found birds.  Lots of birds.  Big ones, little ones, whole ones and partial ones – but they were all old, dry and dusty.   Each kind of like a little avian Tutankhamen – if you can imagine our insulation was the desert sand and our attic a pyramid.

Here.  Here they are.

Here. Here they are.

Then there was the squirrel.   Yep.  Vanessa didn’t know exactly what she was holding in her hand.  A big clump of “hair.”  A wad of chewed up newspaper.  And then the revelation: teeth, nose, eyes….OHMYGAW-

sorry you had to see that

sorry you had to see that

I almost felt sorry for the little guy.  Almost.  Then I saw this.

What a dirty....

What a dirty….

And this.

little....

little….

And this.

RAT!

RAT!

That little bugger could have destroyed the house before we even got to buy it.  Wires stripped of their casing all over the attic.  Not a big problem in the broader scope of our repairs – we were going to rewire the majority – if not all – of the house anyhow.

But I digress.  So, demolition continues.  Soon, we’ll have the majority of the second level exposed and ready for repairs.  I’m so looking forward to getting to build something rather than tear down.  But there’s still quite a ways to go.

As soon as the weather warms a bit and the ground thaws, we start on the foundation.  Really, it’s the first thing we need to do in the reconstruction of the house.  After we raise the house and jack the floors level again, we can start the framing and drywall repairs.  And I can have something else to write about.

I hope you can bear with us through the demolition.  Perhaps not the most exciting or interesting stage of a renovation, but just as necessary as any other step.  I’m already planning the next few posts and I’ve got a few interesting things in mind.

In the meantime, I just finished setting up our Facebook page.  Please look for Our Old Island Home on Facebook and “Like” it.

"Like" it

“Like” it

I’ll be using our Facebook page to fill in some of the gaps between these blog posts – daily updates, photos and some of my favorite renovation ideas we find around the interweb.  We’ll also be having an occasional contest or giveaway – so remember:

FacebookOur Old Island Home“Like” it…..or else, ol’ mister bird-mummy will haunt your dreams!

"Don't close your eyes"

“Don’t close your eyes”

It’s a dirty job

Say it with me….

Smash.  Toss.  Cleanup.  Repeat.

And so it goes.  Gutting still continues on the second floor.  We’ve pretty much finished the interior walls and started dropping ceilings now.  That’s tough.  I mean ripping off drywall is one thing – but we have the original lath and plaster buried behind a layer of drywall that was also plastered over.  It’s all heavy and it’s all overhead.

IMG_0802

It may seem tedious, but I rather remove a layer at a time, cleanup and dispose as we go, rather than rip it all down and try to clean up the “wreckage”.  It keeps the work area clean, and makes disposal much easier.

IMG_0805

The drywall comes down in 2′ x 4′ sections – which we fire out the window into the front of the disposal bin.  The plaster comes down in pieces not much bigger than the palm of your hand – shovel that into buckets and send it down the chute.

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Then pop off the wood lath.  We’ve thrown out a lot of the lath – most of it is damaged/rotten/broken.  Anything around 12″ makes great kindling for the woodstove – but we have saved the whole pieces.  I’ve got a few ideas to repurpose this reclaimed wood in our home.  I’ll keep those ideas close for now – but it’s safe to say it won’t be the last time you’ll see this lath in our house.

The plans I have for you....

The plans I have for you….

Once we have the remainder of the ceilings down, the attic will be exposed in all it’s glory.

Magnificent, isn't it?

Magnificent, isn’t it?

It’s actually not a bad space.  Although previously never used for anything but storage, I’m sure we can come up with a few ideas.  The brick chimney will be removed as part of the renovations.  It’s old, cracking and likely won’t respond well to being lifted off it’s foundation when we raise the house in the spring.  Besides, we’ve already relocated our woodstove to an exterior wall with a new insulated steel chimney/flue.  A bedroom is not an option in the attic as we won’t have room for a staircase (making emergency egress a problem) – but another use wouldn’t be an issue.  There’s plenty of room to walk around in there.  Perhaps a music room for me to practice without disturbing Murdoch.

"He calls that music?"

“He calls that music?”

Needless to say, we’ve chosen a difficult path.  And it’s certainly not for everyone.  Demolition is dirty, heavy, hard work – but for us, this is a source of tremendous satisfaction.

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And of course, the full-home renovation is almost like building from scratch – you get to make the house exactly what you want.

I like what a friend of mine said recently: “you can judge a day by what it looks like when you blow your nose.”  Or in our case, “what you shake out of your respirator.”  It’s a dirty job – but I’m glad to do it.  Soon we’ll be up to our knees in insulation – I guess that’s better than all the horse hair they used to add to the plaster.

WHOA, Nelly!

WHOA, Nelly!