Tuesday, March 9, 2021

Demo Days at the Bungalow - Lots of Discoveries

I always have a nervous feeling in the pit of my stomach when we start demo.  No matter how good things look when we start, inevitably we find some surprises - sometimes good, but usually not so good.  

So what did we find this time?

Let's start with the good news.  1) The hardwood floors are GORGEOUS!!!  I know people hate wall to wall carpeting, but nothing does a better job of protecting old floors.  As soon as the guys peeled away the old carpet and padding, I gasped.  Isn't it great? 

We are guessing it's yellow birch - but we need to sand down a spot to see the bare wood.  That will help us be sure.

Gasp - look at those amazing floors!!!!

2) There isn't any knob and tube wiring.  That's a nice surprise, with old houses it's pretty typical to find some somewhere.  Most of the wiring is armored cable (cloth covered wires, covered in a metal sheath.  It   can also degrade over time as the cloth wears thin - particularly where it's connected to light fixtures).  That's not to say that we don't have a lot of electrical to do - there are only a few grounded outlets in the house and most rooms only have 1 or 2 outlets.  Shockingly, there isn't an outlet in the bathroom!!! But we budgeted for electrical work, so we are in good shape.

The not so good news. There isn't any insulation in the walls.  As they started ripping out the plaster in the kitchen (because we need to rewire it), we realized the cavities were empty.
 I'm actually shocked, because we've had some super cold weather lately and when I put my hands on the exterior walls, they didn't feel frigid.  And my infrared camera didn't show really cold walls.  So maybe it was those steam radiators heating up the old plaster? I'm still a bit mystified.

What does that mean?  Well now we need to open up a section across all the walls so we can install dense pack cellulose insulation.  I'm a huge fan of dense pack - it provides great insulation value and also deadens sound, a win-win.  But that's a budget item I hadn't expected.

And we were disappointed that we didn't find any clues on when the house was built.  We found some old newspapers (I tracked them back to 1954 because they talked about a Doris Day song that was nominated for an Academy Award), but nothing else to help us define when it was built.  

And we found some quirky things.  The odd bathtub/shower was removed - as well as the medicine cabinet.  Behind it, we found a whole history of the bathroom.  The original medicine cabinet was probably one of those tiny metal ones.  At that point the wall was painted what I think of as 'old house green' - because seriously every house I've ever worked on has had that shade of green somewhere.  The original cabinet was replaced, probably in the 50's or 60's with a larger one - that covered the oh-so-trendy pink paint.  And probably in the 80's, a larger golden oak cabinet was installed.  I'm not exactly sure what I'm going to install.  I have to confess - I'm a bit of a medicine chest hoarder and need to see if I have something that will work.    
Medicine chests have gotten bigger across the decades!

The bathroom feels so much bigger with the shower walls removed!

And then we found this little bit of pristine wallpaper in one of the closets.  Isn't it sweet? 

And of course we donated everything that we could, so they can have a second life in another home. Habitat for Humanity's ReStore picked up the kitchen cabinetry and some appliances - as well as that medicine cabinet!  

Our local South Portland Food Cupboard needed a new stove - so I was thrilled to donate this one to them!

And here are a couple of sneak peeks of what a huge difference we'll have when the wall between the kitchen and dining room disappears.  The stair wall can't be removed until we get a supporting beam installed - but it's already pretty great, don't you think?
Next step - putting it all back together! 

Doesn't it look great already 😂

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  1. Will you be keeping the steam heat?

    1. Yes! The boiler is only 7 years old and in great shape. I LOVE steam heat - it's so comfortable throughout our cold winters. We'll be installing a mini-split heat pump on the new 2nd floor.

  2. Curious about the steam heat too?!

  3. Will you install modern radiators?

  4. Insulation is a relatively modern invention. Old houses used to have hollow walls and the interiors were comprised of lath and plaster walls and ceilings. In the case of steam heat, plaster walls and ceilings act in tandem with the radiators in absorbing heat, and then radiate it back out into the room. Once the boilers get a house up to the thermostat setting, they then shut down. The radiators will continue for a period of time to provide heat and, after they cool down, the plaster walls and ceilings step in to radiate heat. Only when they cool down does the boiler restart. It was considered an efficient system for the time. Having grown up in old homes that had this type of heating system, I can attest that they can be very comfortable in northern climates.

  5. Thanks so much for this! Now I understand why steam heat feels so comfortable. The plaster really helps maintain the warmth!


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