Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Demo Changes Everything - Excitement and Trepidation

I'm always excited about demo day. Why?  Well, it's the start of a new project, we get a preview of how the new floorpan will look (because we're always tearing out a few walls!) and there are always some discoveries.  But unfortunately, those discoveries can also be bad news - so I approach it with a bit of trepidation.  It's that nervous feeling you get in the pit of your stomach.....just waiting to see what's wrong.

But we had a lot of work to do to prepare for the big day.  As usual, before we got started, we donated everything we could.  I love it when someone can give a second life to  materials from these houses.

Next, I had to mark up what needed to be demo'd.  And that includes lots of notations about what needs to be saved (aka antique trim) and what needs to go.  The demo guys don't take out any load bearing walls, that will be done later, when we have temporary support in place.  They just focus on removing the plaster and non-load bearing walls and ceilings.

The team from Rainbow International Restorations had their work cut out for them, because this job had some challenges.  The ceilings in the house look really good - no cracks after 80 years.  I assumed that was because they had been replaced at some point in time.  But turns out, there is a layer of metal lath under all the ceilings, covered by a layer of drywall and then two coats of plaster on top of that.  That's great for a high quality job, but I can tell you the demo guys had a huge challenge getting that kitchen ceiling down!

Farewell old kitchen!!

And what did we discover?  Should I start with the good news, or the bad news?

Let's start with the good.  First of all - removing the 3 main walls on the first floor makes a HUGE difference!!  Suddenly the house feels much more open and bright and well.... just better connected.  I had a note from a reader who lives in a similar house, she said she loves the house, but always feels isolated in the kitchen.  That's not the case in this house anymore!
The kitchen is now open to the Dining Room and Living Room
Yup - it's a long, narrow kitchen!
You can easily move between living, dining and kitchen space and see from one room into another.

Can you believe how much nicer the foyer is, now that it's open to the Dining Room?  I can already envision the new owners entertaining with this circular layout.  It's a great party house!!  The house feels so much bigger!  And do you notice how clean everything is - so unusual after demolition.  That's because the Rainbow team brought in a giant HEPA air filter that took all the dust out of the air!

Hidden under that glue is nice original fir flooring!!
Next bit of good news, we have wood floors in the kitchen.  Woo hoo!!!  This is pretty rare - usually we find 4-5 layers of various tile and then the subfloor below.  But this time, there was only one layer of vinyl and then the wood floor.  Oh, and it's fir - not oak like the rest of the house.  That's not super surprising - remember back when this house was built, the kitchen was the domain of the cook - not guests, so you wouldn't spend as much on flooring in that room.  And I love how fir cleans up, so I'm hoping it will be pretty sweet when we get it refinished.
Dining Room with wall opened up to Kitchen

You can see from the living room through to the kitchen and dining room now!!!
Upstairs, I can start to see how the new bathroom will fit in the upstairs hall.  And remember the wall I wanted to remove in the front bedroom - to unify the two center windows?  Look at what a nice change that is!!

Finally, the demo crew said they usually find a dime above the kitchen doorway in many of the houses they do.  Sure enough, they found this mercury head dime!  Pretty cool, don't you think?  But there's a bit of a mystery.  You see, the city records show the house was built in 1938.  But this dime is 1943.  How could they have put the dime in later?  And was this house really built during World War II?  I need to do a deed search, to see if the records are wrong.  In the meantime, I've saved the dime.  It will be nice for the future homeowners.

And as usual, we also had some not-so-good discoveries.

First - the house has NO insulation in the walls.  We saw evidence when we bought it that insulation had been blown in the walls of the attic stairwell - so we assumed it was throughout the house  Bad assumption.
No insulation in the walls!!!  Yikes!!

And since this is a cold climate, we need to figure out how to get this place insulated for the future owners.  It's the kind of behind the wall work, that will really make a difference for energy efficiency and overall comfort of the home.  It wasn't in the original budget, so we need to figure out where to make some other changes to get this done.

There is also a big hole in the wall between the kitchen and the garage.  There was a shelving unit against that wall in the garage, so we never noticed the hole.  Not sure why it's there!!  But once the kitchen cabinets came out, it got really breezy in there and with the crazy cold temperatures we are having, it's an issue.   I've temporarily stuffed some insulation in there, but we need to fix that soon.

And then there are the fireplaces and the flues.  My fireplace expert came out and delivered the bad news.  For heating, they need a lining.  That's particularly important when we'll be installing a new boiler.

The No's have it by a huge margin!!!!
This is good and bad news - because at the Open House, the vast majority of people thought we should get rid of the current wood burning insert.  But I think they wanted it to be just a wood burning fireplace.  Now we need to figure out the best go forward path and the budget for an insert and liner - or other approach.  (On a side note, with the crazy cold temperatures we've been having, a wood burning insert would be nice, even if the current one isn't very pretty).

And then there is the issue with the second floor ceilings.  Although the first floor ceilings look great, the second floor has this 'pillowed' effect.  Evidently, since the house didn't have insulation for decades, the plaster expanded and contracted and created this effect.  It's really solid, so no danger of falling down or cracking, but looks odd.  I'm getting a quote to have it replastered, to see if we can even it out.

So there you have it.  I've got a lot of number crunching to do, to figure out how to do some of these critical infrastructure projects.  But somehow we will make it work and still ensure a safe, energy efficient home for the new owners!!!

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  1. Love this post! I feel for you having to do this with the frigid temps we've been enduring. I'm excited to follow this project.

  2. Why were dimes put above kitchen doorways?

    1. This is the first time I’ve heard of dimes! My guess is it’s a local tradition to mark the year of construction. I know some houses used to put a silver dollar under the medallion in the newel post as well (we have had a couple of houses like that, but never found anything!!).

  3. Another great project already looking great. Keep warm. I know you're having fun.

  4. Is there natural gas available on the street? Love my natural gas heat as well as my gas fireplace. But if no natural gas available I would love to see a wood burning fireplace or insert.

    1. I wish there was natural gas! I have to confess that I love the convenience of flipping a switch to get a fire going. So we need to figure out how to get something that works safely with wood.

  5. enjoy watching the progress. interesting about the fir flooring. I own a cape cod style house in MN. the house was built in 1949. it's the craziest thing....they put oak floor in the two bedrooms and pine throughout the rest of house. have you ever seen that?
    keep up the good work!

    1. Wow!! That seems totally backwards! I wonder if the bedroom floors were replaced at some point??


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