Sunday, April 16, 2017

Old House Update - Bathroom Demo Finished

DH went up to the house last weekend and got quite a bit done.

First, he finished pulling all the plaster and lathe from the bathroom walls.  We are now ready for the plumber to do his rough-in.

Then he took a look up in the attic.  He could see the knob and tube wiring laying on the insulation.  I am so glad that we are going to rewire all that.  Before we do, he took a sample of the insulation and we sent it off for asbestos testing.  We should learn the results this coming week.

The attic is a nice size, but not tall enough to consider using it for another bedroom.

You can see the chimney remains on the right.
Then he and his brother-in-law started taking down the paneling over the staircase.  Unfortunately for us, the paneling was glued to the plaster.  That was disappointing.  I was hoping the walls would be in better shape, but we suspect we made need to remove this plaster and replace with sheetrock.

They did find that the octagonal window was originally a full sized window.  I am really curious as to why it was changed.

DH also talked to the electrician who is going to replace the electrical panel and the plumber, so he made good progress last weekend.  This weekend and next, he is home for family activities.  It works out as we wait for the test results and the plumbing to get started. 

Monday, April 03, 2017

The Old House Update - End of March

My desire to sew seems to have disappeared and I have been in a general funk for the past year.  I suspect that the stress and grief of losing both parents, settling their estate and then buying the old house with all its issues had just taken a toll on my mental health.  I am going to have to force myself to go down to the sewing corner and do something because I know that I will feel better once I start creating pretty clothes again.  I think I will start with something simple like skirts and tees for the Diva.  She needs the clothes and I need to get myself motivated again.

Taking precautions

DH has made two more trips to the old house by himself and has made good progress with the help of his dad and brother-in-law.  He has almost completed the demolition of the upstairs bathroom:

Making progress

DH found one piece of lathe with the name of the lumber company on it. 

More progress

I love this window.
After this weekend -- mostly done.

We discovered the bathroom had also been a nursery for critters:
Mouse nest from old newspapers

Birds nests

Mud daubers nests

We also got two new breakers installed for the sump pumps (temporary until the new breaker box is installed) and the cistern was filled with sand.  No more worries about little people falling down the well when they come to visit.  We will still need to replace the cover on the other well to make that safer..

Filled cistern.  Next step is to level this and cover with a layer of gravel, a layer of dirt and seed it for grass.

We got a lot of much needed rain over that weekend and DH was relieved that the sump pumps worked perfectly.  Basement stayed dry.  While he was in town, he also talked to R- about doing drywall and other carpentry and we followed up with the plumber and electrician. 

Brother in law Pat opened the wall over the drain while DH worked on the bathroom so that it can be replaced.  The drain pipe had been wrapped with newspapers dated July 6, 1922.  for insulation which confirms our theories about when the plumbing was installed.  The town had its first sewer system installed in 1923 and we had noted in the abstract the owners ("Sig" O- and his wife Rosa) of the property at the time had mortgaged the house for $1,000 in October 1923.  Combining these facts with the newspapers we found under the stairs, we think that they installed the plumbing, maybe the electricity and dug out the basement in 1922 or 1923.


After some more research, I did find that one of my theories about a former owner of the land was incorrect.  There were two men named W. H. R- living in R- at the same time, both owning land in the same township.  The one that owned our land had the middle name Holt and was married to Mary.  He was a farmer who only lived there a short while, then moved to Kansas.  He died young, only 40, and his widow remarried and moved to Wyoming.  The second W. H. R-, the one that I thought was the owner of our land, had the middle name Henry and was married to Joanna.  He was the minister who founded the town's First Christian Church.  He died in 1914 and is buried in a local cemetery.  I'll update my history later.


DH is going back up this coming weekend while I continue to manage things at home, then he is planning to stay home for a couple of weeks to be around for Easter, the Scout's Eagle Court of Honor and other obligations. I probably will not make it back up to the house until after school is out as it is that freakishly busy time where beginning of spring activities overlap with school activities and 4-H projects getting underway. Our weekends are booked from now to mid May.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Upstairs bathroom and cistern demolition

I am sorry for blasting with posts about the house.  We've done a lot that I wanted to document before I forgot everything and I wanted to get all the pictures organized.  This post brings us up to date so far.

DH went up to the house by himself last weekend with two demolition projects planned:  the upstairs bathroom and the backyard cistern.  We are waiting for the final bid for the plumbing but he wanted to get a head start on the demolition of the upstairs bathroom.  While the half bath downstairs provides the necessities, the upstairs bathroom has been completely unusable since the water was turned off.  We need a working bathroom, preferably one with a shower, as the downstairs half-bath will be removed to make way for the addition. 

You remember the sewer gas smell?  When we went up for Sprite's birthday, the smell was worse than ever and definitely stronger in the main floor of the house.  I suspect it was coming from a corner of the dining room where the drain pipe for the upstairs bath goes up the southwest corner.  I didn't find it stronger in either the basement or in the bathroom itself.  I don't know if the gas is coming from the bathroom or a crack in the cast iron drain pipe.

We've had one bid for the plumbing which would require removing the chimney that runs through the middle of the house and down through the kitchen.  The bathroom is in the south west corner of the house and I am concerned that this plan would require cutting through floor joists to reroute the drain to the middle of the house.  The option does make sense to me in that the drains and water lines would be more protected from the cold than the current layout.

We are still waiting on the second bid which would replace the drain and water lines but leave them where they are and protecting them more from the cold.  We also requested that water line coming into the house be moved from its current position in the southeast corner of the house to the SW corner (and out from its current position just under the circuit breaker box - dangerously against code) and burying it two feet deeper than it is now.  It is only 12 inches below the surface now -- it should be 36 inches underground.

In the meantime, DH and his brother-in-law have been gutting the bathroom.

Original bathroom

Nice sized corner cubby
They removed the sink and vanity first then turned their attention to the tub.  It turned out to be tin and very lightweight. BIL easily carried it downstairs alone.

It also turned out to be harboring a huge mouse nest.

That pile in the corner is the mouse nest.
Between the bats and the mice, we will be calling an exterminator.

But the best news was that there was perfect wood flooring under the tub matching the living room floor!  As I don't want wood floors in the bathroom, I plan to scavenge that flooring to fix the broken pieces in the living room.

They took a break from the bathroom to join FIL at the well.  Just behind the house is an old cistern which probably has not been used since the house was connected to city water.  The foundation people both thought that the well could be contributing to the water problems in the basement and we felt it would be best if that particular cistern were filled with sand.

Last summer, the cistern top made a nice plant stand.
My FIL brought his tractor over and they removed the top in preparation.

The cistern was originally built with the same type of brick as the foundation (and the chimney) and then lined with concrete.  The pipe to the left leads into the basement, but is no longer connected to anything in the house.

The sand was brought today and it took about half the load to fill it.  We will top it off with gravel and dirt and plant grass there.

We have a second well on the property should we ever need it.  It needs a new cover, but we were told that the pump does work.  We will keep it for watering our future chickens and any other live stock we might acquire.

After lunch, DH went back to plaster removal.  No more surprises other than some funny wall paper.  

He didn't get done and is planning another trip this weekend to work some more.   Once he has the walls done, he will carefully pry up the flooring.  We need to open up the floors to inspect the floor joists for water damage.  I feel like this is not the first time the bathroom has flooded and we need to know if there is more to be fixed.

We'd prefer not to gut the entire house of plaster and most of it can be fixed, we think.  But there are some areas which just need to be replaced and this room is one of them.

I am caught up now.  Hopefully my next post will be sewing related.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Fox and Floor, Bat and Door

The weekend after the foundation repairs were complete, DH and the kids and I went up to the house to check out the repairs and figure out our next step.  As we came in, I thought I caught a whiff of the smell of sewer gas.  We'd had an issue when we first took possession in that the grate covering the basement drain.  We fixed that at the time and didn't have any more problems.

The drain was replaced by the sump pump and there should not have been any more problems but I definitely caught the smell on that trip.  I returned by myself the next weekend to start cleaning the rubber stuck to the bedroom floor and to check out the new basement steps and the smell was overpowering to me.  (Think port-a-potty on a hot, humid Missouri summer day.)  Opening windows helped, it was a nice day for early March and I ran the fans all day which made the smell more tolerable.  I checked the basement and the upstairs bathroom, but never found a source.  It actually seemed stronger in the dining room. 

The new basement steps were perfect.

Hand rail!

I didn't get as far as I wanted with the bedroom floor.  I spent most of the day scraping, soaking with Goo Gone and Goop but no luck removing much at a time.  The next time I go up, I am going to try a car buffer with an abrasive pad and the Goo Gone and see if that makes a difference.  I am still trying to preserve the old finish if possible, but I am beginning to wonder if it is possible.

One of many odd things in the house was that there was no door to the east bedroom, the one that DH and I chose for ourselves.  We asked the sellers and they remembered taking it down, but didn't remember what they had done with it.  We looked in all the sheds but no luck.  DH and his dad bought a door from the lumber yard, but it had a frame and wouldn't have matched the existing trim.  I started checking the local Habitat for Humanity Restore to see if I could find a replacement.

I got lucky and found not one but two solid wood six panel doors for only $5 each.  They even still had the hinges and part of the original frame with the hinges still attached.   The hinges alone would have chose me more than the $5.  I brought the doors with me on my solitary trip.  The only bedroom to have a door is Sprite's.  It is a four panel door instead of a six but I don't really care.  Once the doors are painted, no one will notice anyway.

DH had made a trade with R-, the sellers' son who also built our ramp and the new basement steps, that he could have the wood burning furnace in the basement if he would remove it and replace the opening where the stove pipe exited the house with a block window.  I brought the window with me as well and left it in the front hall for him.  He stopped by that Saturday to check the window and confirm when he could come to the house to get the stove.  While he was there, he offered to install my door!
I dusted it after I took the pics.

It shuts!

I was particularly glad for the door that night as I found that I was sharing the house with a bat.  Despite attempts to get him/her to go out the front door into the night, the bat hid somewhere on the main floor.  I was glad to be able to shut the door on the bat (after making sure it wasn't in the room with me.

Buddy the Bat

Bats, by the way, really are silent when they fly.  I saw the bat fly but never heard it in flight.  Really amazing. They are amazingly sound sleepers as well -- the bat never moved from this spot despite my making lots of noise and flipping the curtains around.  He was still there when I left -- my father in law helped him out the door later.

In addition to the bat, I was also lucky to see a gorgeous fox trotting across the field next door to us carrying breakfast to its nest.  The picture is terrible (cell phone and I was too far away).  I heard a lot of owls overnight and recognized a barred owl.  I am looking forward to watching the wild life in our new home -- at least until they get into my gardens.

We came up again the next weekend as a family but didn't do much with the house as it was Sprite's birthday and we wanted to celebrate with a family get-together at her grandparents.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Fixing the foundation

It seemed to us that the best way to approach fixing up our house was to work first on the structural issues.  It makes sense to us that there first had to be a solid foundation.  We've been very lucky with our first homes that we've never had wet basements (knock on wood -- we haven't sold our current home yet.)   But an old house is bound to have some problems and this one has a leaky basement.

Our sellers were awesome.  Each time we visited the house, they both took the time to point out not only the good features, but also the problems and what they tried to do to correct them.  It was great to get the sellers' disclosure in person because we could ask questions and get their advice on how to maintain the home.  They are both really nice people and we were glad that they stayed in the area.

Our friend Kevin came up one weekend soon after the closing to help take out carpeting and move in some furniture.  He had grave concerns about the foundation and suggested that we contact a structural engineer to check it out.  We contacted a couple of companies who both came out to assess the situation and provide recommendations.  

Both companies found issues with the basement.  The east wall was bowed inward by almost 3.5 inches and the north and west walls were bowed in an inch.  One company pointed out that there are two distinct foundations, indicating that the basement had been dug out after the house was finished.  The original foundation was brick.

You can really see that there were two walls in this picture.

Each company had different methods of dealing with the issue and I think either would have been good, but one company went a bit further, suggesting an additional steel beam under the main floor to help support the weight of the house and new supports under the original beam.  We chose that company not only for their recommendations but also due to their solid reputation and the fact that the warranty was backed by a national association.  They scheduled a time in February to come out to start the repairs as we needed to get this done before the spring rains were expected.  

Before they could start work, we had to tear out the old coal room as  it would be in the way of the new clamps that needs to be installed.  I hated doing this as I hate removing a part of the house's history, but it needed to be done.  It only took a couple of hours.  While we were at it, we removed some vinyl flooring that had been put down as well as general clean-up to get as much out of the basement and as much room as possible.  I didn't get a good clear picture of the coal room intact, but these show the room after demolition.

The repairs did not go quite as smoothly as we hoped.  DH went up to the house the weekend before they were to arrive to spend the week.  He logged in to work from the dining room (we've had internet installed) for the day and was planning to do some things around the house that evening.  As the foundation people needed water to conduct a leak test, my father-in-law and brother-in-law came over to turn on the water and clear the drains of antifreeze.  DH was involved in a four hour conference call when he realized that the light fixture above him was dripping.

He started frantically texting me, his parents, his brother in law for help, towels and buckets.  The sink in the upstairs bathroom had been left to run to clear the drains of anti-freeze and either clogged or sprung a leak resulting in water all over the floor in the bathroom which then dripped down into the dining room.

FIL and BIL turned off the water to the upstairs bathroom and my saint of a MIL cleaned up the water on the dining room floor before the floor was ruined.  DH had to remain on the conference call during the whole event.

Thankfully, he didn't get electrocuted from the light, though he did let it dry for several days.  We knew we would have to remove at least part of the dining room ceiling as part of the rewiring project so now we will have to replace most if not all with dry wall.

The foundation company scheduled three days to repair our foundation.  They ended up spending five days.  On day 1, they arrived to find that the power was out in most of town, including our house.  It was after lunch before power was restored.  It snowed slightly on day 2, making work cold and damp and miserable as they had to shut down the furnace.

Snowy day 2
Days 1 and 2 were spent digging holes and installing the anchors that would pull the walls back into place. On day three, they started the trenching around the perimeter of the basement to get ready for the sump pump.  They found that in most of the basement, there were at least two layers of concrete, some areas had three layers and one section had 4 layers.  This issue took them two extra days and two crews to finally chip through all that concrete. They installed the sump pump and told us we may need another one later in another part of the basement.  They covered the walls with vinyl sheeting and left us rolls of tape as we will probably end up putting holes in the sheeting.   We also got new windows which don't leak cold air!

New window!

To install the last anchor, they had to tear out the basement stairs.  We were expecting to replace that eventually but not quite so soon.
The landing is being held up by car jacks and scrap lumber.  Unfortunately the entire staircase had to be removed as it was rotted.

When they were finally done, the basement looked pretty good.

South end of east wall

North end of east Wall

New steel beam and south and west walls.

Sump pump with back up pump.

They finally finished late Saturday afternoon and DH came home on Sunday after making arrangements to get new stairs built.

It wasn't the fun kind of renovation, but very necessary work that had to be done to preserve the house going into the future.  The repairs are warranted for the life of the house and we hope that will be a very long time.