Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Out with the old...

It's been another long two weeks of silence, but work has still been going on at the house. I've been extremely busy at work since a co-worker has been out, so I've had little time to take or post pictures.

A welcome sight of progress. Since our last dumpster fiasco with the car incident, I can no longer have a dumpster sitting outside my house. So I must collect the debris in the front and then hire the dumpster for the day. Sadly, though, what you see here is mostly flooring.

The Great Room

I only had two and a half rooms left in the house with flooring, one being the Great Room. But I knew it would have to come out because part of it was damaged, a wall was removed, there is a huge hole in the middle where the fireplace was, and also two small coal closets came down. All of these things left nasty scars and voids.

The Fireplace Remnants

I have water drainage issues, which I believe I touched on in an earlier post. These issues are what have eroded my foundation piers and caused the house to settle these past 99 years or so. It's all been jacked up now (thanks to the Flu Contractor) and is perfectly level as can be, but the piers need to be rebuilt. All of them.

The Little Bedroom (that could!)

So the rest of the floors have been demoed. I have new walls and no floors. And I need new piers and quite surely an entire foundation wall along one side of the house, where the water problem originates. And maybe some sort of weeping tile/french drain. All of this before any other progress begins. On the plus side, the absence of floors should make the plumber's job easier. On the minus side, we've uncovered even more joists that need attention, which means more money.

And all in all, it's fine. I'd rather have a strong, new foundation that an older, questionable one. Same goes with the floor joists. And with my new walls, I'll have a truly solid backbone on which to begin again, when I put back. The only downside is that most of the money I'm spending, no one will ever see. Well, except for those who stop by my blog. But I guess that's what it's about, too.

I have to fix what needs to be fixed. So yes, some of the superficial, cosmetic touches I'd been thinking about in finishing the interior (and exterior), will have to be downsized or replaced with more inexpensive choices in order to stay in budget. And maybe down the road I'll be able to upgrade.

I know that this will all be worth it one day, when I move in. There have been a lot of two steps forward and one step back going on. Yet, I try to remain optimistic, but realistic.

I still have a long way to go.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

on 'building a new house'...

It seems like sometimes I am building a new house.

My manager at work today said the same thing, when I answered his question about what was going on at my house this week, work-wise.

Almost a new house. The majority of the structure is original, though, and all heart pine, its rafters, joists, studs, and exterior siding. The Flu Contractor even remarked about how strong and solid my house was, and how, other than cosmetically, my siding was in great condition.

He asked me when the house was built, and I told him 1910. He said, "If I was a hundred years old, I'd look like this and need some work, too".

But it didn't really hit me until today that my house is 99 years old. Next year, it will be 100.

The tornado two years ago lifted and threw two newer homes across the street into a ravine (no one seriously injured). But my house didn't seem to even flinch. Sure, it needed a new roof, but other than that, nothing.

There's something to be said in saving something old, of investing time and money into keeping a part of history. It may not be somewhere that a famous person slept, and may have even been a poorer person's house at the time it was built, but it was built back when things were made to last.

And it has.

It just needs a little bit of work to keep existing, a one hundred year makeover, if you will.

I'll update it for my own needs, modernizing it where I see fit. After all, I'll be living there. It might not be a replica of life a hundred years ago, or a purist's dream, but it will reflect my needs in 2009 and beyond.

But, no, I'm not building a new house. I'm saving an old one.

on doorways and floor joists...

Yesterday I had one of the Flu Contractors come back and put a doorway into the little bedroom. This is a load bearing wall, and although there was a door here to begin with, it was closed up when the P.O. (Previous Owner) divided the house into the 2 apartments. So I had a licensed contractor come out and open this back up for me to satisfy City Hall. I shouldn't complain too much about City Hall because I know the new law was put in place to protect me, the homeowner. It was basically put into effect after the tornado two years ago when a lot of shady contractors from out of town (and out of state) came in and ripped people off. But its still annoying.

The new doorway is on the left. Next to it was another old doorway. I don't really know why the P.O.'s went back and forth on doorways into this little room... It's nice to have a doorway here, though, instead of walking through studs. The door on the right is what is serving as my front door, and will be where the new front door goes back. It was in Apartment B.

Front door again. Note the closed in upper section. Either this doorway had a transom or was a window or something. The doorways with transoms are the same height as the windows, that's why I say that. This doorway will have a transom again because...

This is Apartment A's front door. It lives in the little bedroom we just saw. This wall will be a solid wall and the exterior trim and moulding (and transom) will be used on the front door, which we just saw. The current front door's moulding and trim will be used for the back door in the kitchen.

The floor in the master bedroom is up. The demo contractors started here because sections of it were already gone, and then the Flu Contractors had to take even more out to replace the sills in adjoining rooms.

Same room, this is taken from the room's doorway in the kitchen, the wall I had the Flu Contractors move. See where the old wall rested on the sill?

So not a lot happening this week at the house. Hopefully my demo contractors will work on the house this weekend, again, ripping up the rest of the floors and maybe even starting on rebuilding the piers for the foundation.

Oh, and it makes sense now why there was so much trash up under my house. When it rains, there have been small streams that form from the rainwater running downhill up under my house. So it makes sense that trash would ride in the rainwater, too. Unfortunately these rainwater streams have also wreaked havoc on my pier foundations and so they all need to be completely replaced. It's been going on for almost a hundred years, since the house was built.

I hope it doesn't really take the whole six months that both the Flu Contractor and the demo guys estimated for me, separately, to get the house in move-in condition.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

The beginning of April

The Flu Contractor and his men wrapped up the week I hired them for on Thursday. I went over before work on Friday for a walk through with him and we talked for about an hour and a half. He is a source of a lot of good information and he's really helped clear the way between City Hall and my house. There are a few things I might get them to come back over and do for me, but they're finished.

Today I had my demo contractor and his helper over there, cleaning up after the Flu Contractor and tearing down the back porch. They're also ripping up the floors in the 2 1/2 rooms left that still have some sort of flooring. All of my foundation piers have to be rebuilt and replaced, not repaired. And it's much easier to accomplish this without the floors down, and not even a third of the house still had floors. Plus plumbing will be easier.

A backyard shot. I'm standing at my property line. It looks like I need to pay attention to the weeds back here. But notice the porch walls are all down.

A little closer in...

And even closer. I remember when I couldn't even get in the backyard, it was so overgrown, much less on the back porch. RIP back porch, one day I'll have you back.

Another angle. I know its progress, but it was a little sad to me, today.

So, here are a few examples why the foundation piers need to be replaced. On this side of the house, they would up jacking it up a whole 8 inches! See the 4x4 running long ways? That's where this floor used to sit.

This is the corner that failed, causing all the problems in the kitchen.

It's also the corner right by the back porch. Its so... open.

This is what was my back porch. And the debris left over from Flu Contractor. They hauled a dump truck away, but remember my saga with the dumpster? We're making piles to later throw in another rented dumpster and or Flu Contractor's dump truck.

We had to move the doors and mantels to the front porch as the floor ripping up commenced. I hope they're still there tomorrow.

These next three pictures are of the Great Room. I'm trying to give you an idea of the space and light here. The demo contractors are coming back tomorrow, so this may be the last time you see a floor here for a while...
The entry door is to the left of these double windows.

The single window above, then down to the double window in the dining area.

That stuff you see in the corner is against the wall that stands here between the dining area and the kitchen.

Of course, here's my back door and back yard shot. I can't help it. I love this, even weedy.

Master bedroom, where they began removing the rest of the floor today. The Flu Contractors had to rip up some of it to rebuild the sill in the closet and move the wall out into the kitchen.

This is the view from my back porch, standing in the kitchen doorway and turning left. It's a city park, and beyond it, you see the mature trees of a large, old city cemetery. This park was badly damaged during the tornado two years ago, and they're actively replanting and redoing it.

The view a little zoomed in. This will be so pretty! And it's the same view, mostly, from my kitchen window, too.

I may have some more pictures from tomorrow's progress. I spent the whole day at home Spring Cleaning, and while the end result was definitely worth it, I'm ready for bed.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

5 Days...

It's been very rainy here for the past week, it seems. But still, work is going on at the house. I stopped by on my lunch break today because I hadn't been down there to talk with the contractors since Tuesday, my last day off. After work, I managed to take a few pictures.

Walking in, I customarily turned to my right to see the back yard more clearly. Nothing has really been done here, but the contractors gently encouraged the back door on what was the screened-in porch to give up the fight. And this gave a more cohesive view out of the back of the house.
Also see how the wall on the left bumps out about two feet? Then bumps out again? That's the original layout of this wall, I chose to use it to my advantage in moving the bedroom wall out in the kitchen, where this will not be noticeable, once its all sheet-rocked.

This picture seems a little dark, but the flash was on. A weird play of natural light verses the flash happens in the great room, as it is now. You can make out the outline (the dark wood) of the doorway into the kitchen, where through it, you can see the outline of the back door (new wood) in the kitchen. See how this will beckon you outside?

Just to the right of the doorways, you can see the side profile of the wall they moved out into the kitchen from the bedroom. This wall is fully in the kitchen--- it is behind the bump out I mentioned earlier. The other new wall you see to the right is the one with the doorways to the bathroom and utility rooms off of the dining area, the first bump out.

I had to squirrel across the exposed floor joists again in the kitchen to get this shot. It's a front on view of the moved bedroom wall, the old one behind it having been removed today.

Looking down, you can see the joists reattached to what was the bowed out wall, but I was trying to show just how much they jacked up the house and leveled it here...

I didn't have a measuring tape but found one of the contractor's cups to place on the 4x4 along the bottom. This was the P.O.'s previous attempt to acknowledge the problem of the unattached joists and bowed out wall. But this angle still isn't right.

Knowing how big the cup is, you can maybe better estimate the difference in where the floor was and where it is now. But maybe not. The cup is sitting on the level where the joists use to rest. And now they have been lifted almost an entire Styrofoam cup. Not the best tool to use, but I had to use what I had and I'm not MacGyver.

Back to the walls, then. This is the other side of the bedroom wall. These are small rooms with high ceilings, but its hard to capture them in pictures. The space in person seems bigger.

They did a lot of smaller things today, in addition to jacking up and leveling the opposite side of the house, too. For instance, they replaced the 4x4 that was in this corner with an old one, taken from another wall that was removed.

They also began rebuilding this wall in the bathroom/laundry area. Not big exciting changes to most, but a small succession of big deals to me.

I stayed there in the quiet house for a long time after I took these pictures, contemplating the new spaces, what they would look like finished, and what my life would be like living here. I spent a lot of time looking out back into the yard, watching it rain and just as much time imagining the bathroom, utility room, closet, and kitchen areas. I kind of figured out where appliances would go and along what walls the furniture would fit in other rooms. I envisioned a new back porch on the house and a fence in the backyard. I played around with where I wanted light fixtures...

It was very peaceful today, to me. I was able to touch the progress, to stand in the spaces that I had only imagined two years ago when the house was two apartments. It was all so real to me, so tangible, so within reach and nearer to completion. It was all very satisfying and I felt like everything so far, all the waiting and worrying and budgeting, has been worth it. Today, for the first time, standing in the sawdust, I saw not my house, but my home.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Day 4 brings Doorways

Walking up to the front porch today after work, I immediately saw proof of the work being done.

The contractors had made a makeshift sawhorse/workbench. Look at all that progress on the floor!

When I walked in, I immediately looked up and saw that the contractors had replaced the ceiling rafter where the chimney for the fireplace was. This particular section of rafter had been pieced together all sorts of ways when the house was built, and was stable, but once the chimney came down, the pieces kind of scissored apart.

When I looked down, I noticed the glow of daylight from outside. I decided to go back in the yard to investigate this.

I passed this pile the way; obviously the sill here had failed, too. This is the same wall that was bowed out in the kitchen and had been rebuilt.

They did a good job of it, though. It looks like they came down this wall until they found good wood, and then kept going just for good measure. This was a happy find. I'm glad the contractors are as thorough as they are.

Back inside I found DOORWAYS! for the bathroom and the utility room. I think this wall is almost finished, if not already.

Straight ahead, we find the back doorway framed up. It lines up nicely with the kitchen doorway from the great room, and once the back porch is finished being demoed, it will be a really nice view.

The wall between the kitchen and master bedroom was also moved today, out about a foot. This may not seem like much, but in a small room it will make a big difference. Otherwise this space would just have been wasted 'walk-by' space in the kitchen, due to all the doorways.

Same wall, opposite view. You can see the old wall more clearly here, still in place. They had to build the new wall before taking down the old. They also moved the door from the center of the wall to one corner, to allow more wall space in the room for furniture.

A top-down picture, here. My foot is on the old wall, the new one is in front of me. It's a solid foot gained, maybe a few inches more. I'm glad we could do this.

Here is a view of the wall and doorway going into the master closet. It's a little room, but it will be a big closet. I don't have much storage space in the house, and the attic will be taken up by duct work, so this will be overflow storage as well as a huge closet.

This is a random shot of a piece of dead wood I found on the floor. I wish you could have seen it in person, it literally feathers out like bad 80's hair. It was more air than anything. It's scary to think this was somewhere in my house, supporting something.

So much difference a day makes! Already I'm awaiting tomorrow's work.