Archives for posts with tag: Old House

Last week’s work was all about anything to do with the floor.

I’ll start this post with showing how the space looks after a week’s worth of work on the floor. After alot of hard work, we have a sub-sub floor down. I took this photo late this afternoon as I was in the shop looking around. (Still keeping windows covered with bad curtains to keep interested townfolks out.)

Glenn The Carpenter (GTC) isn’t afraid to deal with what are to me the most discouraging of problems. Like 200+ years of moisture that has caused some of our beefy floor joists and the a couple areas of some sills to deteriorate. He assures me that while it may look bad, it’s not so bad. (famous last words) In fact, some of the floor joists are still biggers than today’s floor joists just because, well, this place was “overbuilt” as GTC likes to say.

Some areas of the plank floor had to be cut away and replaced with glulams. On Tuesday I came home and found a variety of holes cut open and I could look straight down into the basement.

The area in front of the door was particularly in need of repair. Based on some of the old framing, shading on the floor and overall deterioration of the plank floor, chances are very good that when the house was first built the entry had an exposed vestibule of sorts where the floor immediately in front of the door outside was exposed to the elements. So, what does GTC do? He just cuts it out and patches the floor with some glulams. I came home on Wednesday to GTC yelling, “don’t come in!”, as I opened the shop door….because I would have fallen right into the basement. Or down there:

Different angle view looking through floor into the basement.

Entrance to our basement is usually accessed through a door and then down some stairs via our mud-room. Thankfully, GTC cut a hatch in the floor so he can go up and down without having to drag a mess into the house. We’ve decided we’re going to frame a trap door in the shop for direct access to the basement when all is said and done.

This week’s work was also about finalizing the design for the front of the shop and having a visit from an engineer who our architects insisted we had to involve. There were some concern that with new codes and our need to buy hurricane proof storefront windows, we might also have to frame out the whole storefront in STEEL. Ugh. The dollars just kept adding up in my head and lead to much anxiety. Here’s our architect John talking with the engineer.

We ended up with a different solution which does involves some structural panels being built into the wall…but it appears they will be a fraction of the cost of what the steel would have involved.

We have settled on a revised storefront design based on some of the structural requirements. We’ve also settled on some interior specs. While the majority of the shop’s interior will be left wide open, we are adding a new bathroom and a small kitchenette, and the architects have included what will be likely area for some sort of reception desk for our eventual hobby!

But again, alot of good progress this past week. Next week is all about the basement. We’ve decided since things are still relatively “opened up” we are going to add some support in the basement for the floor joists and likely poor a cement floor. We have a dirt basement floor that we covered with vapor barriers a few years back. But we may poor what is called a “rat-floor”, in the biz. ūüėČ

We’re still at the dirty work phase. In fact, by the looks of things, I think we’re going to be here for some time. Big loud sigh.

I should know better after so many years of projects.

Watching one whole side of the house sway back and forth in an unexpected storm back in 2000 after we’d cut away the sill and jacked up the walls and excavated down to the dirt seems like childs play to me right now.

It’s that old house “well, we won’t really know ’til we open up the walls” line of thinking that always gives me a knot in my stomach, or more accurately — knot in my wallet. This week it happens to be, “well, we won’t really know until we pull up the floor.”

The storefront walls and ceiling are pretty much gutted. And starting this past Monday, Glenn The Carpenter (GTC) started taking the floor apart. The old black and white linoleum tile floor (for the record I love original linoleum…but these had to come out to get to the floor(s) underneath), sits on top of a subfloor, which sits on top of what was probaby a gorgeous tongue & groove wood floor, which sits on top of strapping, which sits on top of the original three inch thick massive plank floor. Add 200 years worth of nails…which GTC reminds me of every time he tells me he’s had to get another new saw blade because the nails ate the last one.¬†It’s not a good thing when he brings home a credit appication from our local hardware store and suggests I open a charge because we’re going to be shopping there often over the next few weeks.

Here are some shots Vince took today of GTC’s floor removal progress.

  

Add in new concerns about “well, we have everything opened up so let’s put some more support in the basement” and I’m wondering about this can of worms.¬†But then I remember how this place is so much a part of us and I fall back into old-house-steward mindset.

(That steward mindset stuck around for about 5 minutes.)

Did I mention there’s the work we’re going to need to do to sure-up some of the massive ceiling timbers/joists before we even begin to think about framing the walls? Three beams/joists will need to be doubled up, or cut back a couple feet, and then we’ll create a “T”, by using some kind of bracket and as equally old looking beams to connect back to the weight bearing sill. I’ve found a blacksmith who is coming to the house on Saturday to take a look at creating some original looking brackets that can be used to make the “T”. If we weren’t exposing the ceiling beams this would not be an issue…but we are…so.

One of the three ceiling beams that will need repair/support is the one pictured below. See the brickwork inside the wall? At one point probably close to when this place was built in 1798, and John Atsatt or some other owner was using the building as a carpenter shop to assist in some part of the whaling ship building process at the shipyards in our backyard, there was a chimney in that wall connected to a fireplace or a stove in this room keeping people warm. And clearly there was some sort of fire based on that beam damage. Glass half full — I’m glad the whole place didn’t burn down.

The way I see it — it’s the same thing as if I was into restoring an old car. Or if Vince was obsessed with collecting something. We’re pretty passionate about bringing this place back to the way it was…and some day soon we’ll make the shop as strong as the rest of the house, and certainly more beautiful than it is today.

Our old house has always had a commercial influence. Built in 1798 as a carpenter/block shop to service the whaling shipyards in its backyard, over the years the house has been all sorts of things from the town post office to dry good shop, dentisit office, bakery and more. When we bought the place we converted it to a private home but kept a portion of the first floor for the storefront. Having rented the storefront to a family member’s real estate business for some time, and then deciding it was time for us to take back the storefront and use it for something we’d enjoy doing, called for some renovations.

The storefront, or “shop”, is really the last part of our house to be renovated. Aside from some new plaster, floor polish and paint, we haven’t done the hard work needed to bring the space back to its glory.¬†As we prepare to open Craft, the time has come to roll up our sleeves and get to work. Which is what we did yesterday.¬†Working with our carpenter Glenn, who doesn’t seem to be intimidated by any old house kind of problem, we started the demolition phase.

We’ve decided to use an architect this time around because we’re bringing the storefront design back to the way it (probably) looked when the house was built. Some old photos from 19th century books on our town give us a glimpse of what the storefront may have looked like. And this photo of our house from the 1930’s is likely consistent with the original design. So this is what we’re shooting for.

1930's

Not yet wanting to take out the heating floor radiators because it’s still pretty cold, we covered ¬†and worked around them for the time being.

Prep work

Our plan is to completely gut the space from the ceiling down to the floor, and redo the bathroom. There are years of layers of walls and flooring. It is going to be a very messy job ‚ÄĒ 200 years worth of dust and debris.

This weekend’s work was focused on just opening up the north wall and a couple feet of ceiling so the architects can get in this week and take proper measurements. So thats what we did. Here’s carpenter Glenn starting to cut away a small portion of the ceiling.

Carpenter Glenn

Signs of some ornate details from the past were found behind layers of walls.

Plaster relief

One wall and 2 feet of ceiling ‚ÄĒ just a dent in the work to be done ¬†‚ÄĒ created an enormous amount of dust and debris. One saving grace is though the space is connected through our mud room door, it is completely separate from our residence so hopefully we can keep the mess contained. Vince worked hard to keep up with the falling debris.

Shovel-man Vince

As we cut away the ceiling, you begin to see the impressive wood that went into building this place. Since this is a post-and-beam structure, the beams and other wood were likely either cut down in the shipyard, or over in the forests in Rochester and brought to the site via horse. The beams are carved with roman numerals which served as early instruction on the best way to assemble them.

True to this kind of timber framing, the weight of the building is on the gable walls and rests on the corner posts. Timber framing or post-and-beam construction is the method of creating structures using heavy squared off and carefully fitted and joined timbers with joints secured by large wooden pegs. The methodology comes from making things out of logs and tree trunks without modern saws. Using axes, adzes and draw knives a carpenter could a assemble a building capable of bearing heavy weight without excessive use of interior space given over to vertical support posts. Like this guy:

Man with adz

After some ceiling demo, here’s a corner post. The wood is still as strong as it was 200+ years ago.

Corner post joinery

Here’s a wind brace in the ceiling and that “nail”, or spike, is about 8″ long.

Windbrace & spike

By 3:00 p.m. and after 3 dump trips, we’d gutted the north wall and 2 feet of ceiling. What a hodge podge of framing. But this entire wall will eventually be cut away, reframed and windows replaced…consistent with the original design above.

North wall gutted

Lots more work to go. But a productive start.

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