Sunday, May 23, 2010

One Month Later

Hello all. My blogging skills are sub par apparently. It turns out it is difficult to gut a house, work more than full time, stay sane AND keep up with a blog (Jess, I don't know how you do it).

Well, I've made some serious deconstruction progress in a month. The place is basically fully gutted. I've been saying it will be done in two weeks for about the last 3 weeks but I really think that it will be done in two weeks now.

The third floor is fully gutted and even "cleaned". At the end of April, when I moved out of my apt in Cambridge, I cleaned the attic so that I could live in there while I gutted the rest of the house. That plan didn't really work because even cleaning that floor didn't really leave it all that livable. The rest of the house was covered in a not-so-fine layer of fine dust that carries throughout the entire place. The attic is open, both through the floor boards and the hallway to the second floor and within a few hours there was a layer of dust on the floors I had just cleaned. To be fair, all I did was sweep and quickly vacuum them so the majority of the dust probably just settled back down after the sweeping but either way, I decided it was too dirty and hot to reside up there.

So instead of staying in my house I decided to stay in my generous parents basement. My first week out of Cambridge I split time between Winchester in the basement and my friends Emily and Brian's place in Medford around the corner from mine. That seemed like it would be a good plan but I was so discombobulated having all of my stuff spread between my house, Em and Brian's, my folks and my old apt in Cambridge I decided I had to consolidate. Em and Brian offered me the option to stay at their place when ever I wanted, which is incredibly generous but I felt guilty actually living there (although their office is where I currently sit typing this). So I logically moved into my garage.

My friend Mike helped me or more like I slightly helped my friend Mike re-roof the place first. I knew the place leaked a little because there was a small puddle of standing water in there will the huge rain we had in late March but I wasn't aware how bad the leak was. While still at Em and Brian's I woke up early one Saturday morning to a thunderstorm. I lay in a nice relaxing dust free environment listening to the storm until I realized that I had just moved all of my possessions out of Cambridge and had them stored in my garage, which may or may not have a legit leak. I popped out of bed and headed over to check it out. I opened the door and sure enough, the garage had a legit leak. I first tried to locate my rain coat and boot but couldn't find anything in the chaos of black garbage bags filled with all my clothes and everything else I own so I began trying to "tarp" the roof in loafers, jeans and a tee shirt. I didn't have a ladder tall enough to get me on the roof so I propped it up on a patio chair I had and tentatively climbed up to the top step and tried to step up on to the roof. All this was made more difficult by the weight and awkwardness of a 20'x30' tarp in tow and torrential rains soaking me. After an hour I somewhat successfully aligned the tarp enough over the roof to keep new water from entering. I moved my wet chair and suitcase to the mostly dry basement and headed to NYC for a bachelor party. Not a very relaxing start to a long weekend.

Back to the house, I'll make this short from here on out. This is what happens when I don't write anything for a while, I have lots of stuff to fill people in on.

The place is gutted beside the kitchen and the baths. I pulled the carpet on the stairs and in the second floor hallways because I was getting covered in plaster dust that would rise in a plume from the carpet as I walked back outside. The wood under the carpet looks good, it just needs a sanding.
This is my makeshift kitchen currently.

After Mike helped out pulling down some ceilings on the second floor, which was a vile job, and coughed up blood for a few days I switched to full face respirators. I should have worn them from the beginning. It was almost pleasant to pull down the ceilings and have clouds of soot rain down because I felt like I was in a little protective suit. In reality, it was still terribly disgusting but at least my eyes, nose and mouth didn't get covered.

I haven't found too many more exciting discoveries as of late, besides a little wainscoting in the hall way down stairs.

I had my first dumpster hauled away, there was over 15,000 lbs in there. That is a lot of garbage buckets full of plaster.

I'll try to keep these up to date more regularly so they aren't so long because if I was reading this I probably would have stopped a while ago.

For those energy efficiency folks reading this, check out the air movement between the drywall and the sheathing in the addition. This is why not to use fiberglass.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Making progress

It is harder than expected to keep up with these posts. Actually and not surprisingly, everything is harder than expected these days.

Life is still good in the renovation world. I've been spending most evenings over there tearing down the walls. I've been lucky enough to get a tremendous amount of help from friends which has not only made the work more enjoyable but makes it all come down a lot quicker.

So far, the attic is completely gutted and "cleaned". There are no more walls up there anymore, it is one big room for the most part. I think that current plan is to turn that into a "master" suite type area with a bathroom, a large closet, plenty of space for a bed and dressers and probably a little space for a sitting area. All of this sounds good until I have to actually do it I'm sure. There are currently great floors up there, heart pine I think, but only in the two original rooms and the little hallway which is no longer there. I'll have to either try to patch in new flooring to match or pull it all and try to use it else where. I'll also remove the chimney, which will be another hole in the flooring but will allow the space to be wide open.

I plan to move into the attic space in a few weeks and try to keep it relatively clean up there. Currently, it is "livable", at least to my standards, although it will not be a very luxurious existence for the summer I'm sure.

The hall to the second floor is stripped. Half the hall on the second floor is stripped of the plaster along with the front bedroom, most the second bedroom and 90% of the third bedroom. Hopefully, by the end of tomorrow all of the walls will be clear of nails and plaster.

The 30 yard dumpster I have in the driveway is basically full. I'll keep that for another weeks and then get a new one. It costs just over $500 to have it for two weeks which isn't too bad.

I've found some pretty cool stuff in the walls so far. Most notably a Playboy from 1989! Just kidding, I did find it but it really was the least exciting find. The walls in the attic were lined with news paper from 1898 which were still readable. On September 24th, 1898 there were trips to the White Mountains for $5, a one way ticket to Newport from Boston for $1 for Labor Day and the best burlesque show in Boston was only 2 bits (that's for you dad). 1898 was probably when people stopped calling a quarter two bits.

I thought that was exciting but then we found another paper all folded up from 1882! Clearly this house is older than 1910. The headline in that paper was about the wrangling and philibustering going on in the Senate. Some things didn't change much over the last 130 years. Although, the current tensions are not caused by relations with Indians.

So, things are progressing along. I hope to have the place fully gutted in two or three weeks which I think is totally doable. I'm trying not to spend EVERY night over there because I don't want to burn myself out.

If anyone is bored tomorrow, walls and ceilings will be coming down!

(I'll figure out how to integrate pictures better next time around)


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Friday, April 9, 2010

This is going to be time consuming, surprise, surprise

I'll start this by saying that there is no way, or at least no way that I can find to get an email alert when I post a new blog. Very annoying. If you want me to email you when I post something new, send me an email at and I'll put you a distribution list. Now, on to the blog.

I'm exactly two weeks into now. Two weeks ago tonight I stood on the steps as the previous homeowners told me I'd have to come back in the morning since they needed another night to pack up. The short version of the story is that they packed up and got out of there at 10:30 PM.

The place looks pretty different in two weeks. If I can keep up this pace of change, I should be done with the whole project in about three months! That clearly is not going to happen.

I'm definitely delusional about this whole project and continue to think it is going to be easier, smoother, faster and cheaper than everyone who has done it before tells me it is going to be. Not sure how I'm going to pull it off.

The answer is...I'm not. I'll continue to hold out hope until though until shit really hits the fan. Then I'll admit that it is not going as smoothly as I has hoped but I'll still make the best of the situation and plug on.

It was fun to walk through with all four members of my family today and try to figure out how to restructure the layout and decide whether to make a larger living room, a formal dining room, rearrange the kitchen, make a master bath, a master suite, a master bedroom, etc. There are lots of possibilities!

I'll post some more pictures over the weekend.

I'll be in demo mode so if anyone is feeling frustrated come on over and toss a hammer through the wall. Seriously. The address is 77 Quincy in Medford.

Oh yeah, the reason this is going to take longer than expected is because...well, lots of things but I was taking some trim off tonight and to preserve a window trim it takes about 20 minutes a window. I did a quick walk through and I have about 6 hours of trim pulling left and that doesn't count all the baseboards, although those are hard to save because they go below original floors.

I'll give more details about the daily demo efforts shortly; like details about the old pictures I found behind the mantel, the pockets doors, the crisp, dead bird I found in the turret, etc. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Change of plans

Alright, here goes, my first blog post of my life!

Thanks to all of you guys that made it out to the staple pulling party. Your efforts and company were both appreciated.

Once all the staples were gone, I got down to peeling away the layers of wall panels and drop ceilings. The first room, the middle room at the top of the stairs on the second floor, looked better than expected under the facade. There were lots of mails that needed to be pulled and some plaster that needed to be repaired but all in all, not bad. It was also quick to strip it all, only a few hours with the help of a friend.

The second room, the smaller bedroom on the second floor by the bathroom was also easy to strip. However, the plaster had been cut away and replaced with dry wall that was just slapped up and not finished. I decided that I'd have to take down all the walls in there because it would be easier than attempting to patch it all up.

The wall panels in the "master bed" on the second floor were glued to the walls opposed to the other two rooms which were nailed up. As the panels were taken off, the plaster crumbled and the only option is to pull it all down and put up new drywall in there as well.

With a few friends help for a few hours and just a few nights of work, I made some good stripping progress. I knew two rooms would need new drywall and one that could be salvaged.

I then moved to the stairs leading from the first to the second floor. I left the hallway alone on the second floor because it is the best section of the house. The paneling came off easily on the stairs but the walls didn't look great behind there either. As I got down to the first floor hall, I realized that all the new wiring was done below the original ceiling and above the drop ceilings that are all coming down.

It was a little discouraging because it would be a significant effort to get all those wires back above the original ceiling.

So, with all the discoveries I started to think about taking down more and more walls. After consulting with my Dad, who has lots of experience in home improvement, I decided that I'm just going to gut the entire house!

It is going to be a messy job getting all the lathe and plaster out but it will be cheap. I have a dumpster coming tomorrow that I'll fill up over the next few weeks and then have clean slate to start with.

Having the walls all opened up will allow me to rewire correctly, add outlets where I want them, run plumbing for a bathroom on the third floor, insulate correctly and get a much better sense of what walls I can open up.

I have lots more to say but I'll end this here and talk about some of the neat discoveries I've made so far in the next couple days. The rest of these will be far shorter.

I see this house purchase and fix up as my next big life adventure, similar to hiking the Appalachian Trail. While walking, before the word blog existed, I'd send weekly emails updating friends and family on my progress. I'll use this blog to do the same since people seemed to enjoy that. Feel free to pass this along to anyone or send it directly to your trash on your computer, I won't be insulted in the slightest.