Sunday, June 04, 2017

Old House: April through June 4

I know, another old house post.  I actually do plan on a blog post about a dress that I made for Sprite later next week.  We've had a lot going on with the end of the school year plus the work on the old house, but now that the teens (yes, all three are now teens) are all out of school, the schedule should lighten up a little.  It helps that the Scout drives himself and can drive Sprite if needed.  He still has marching band and a job to keep him busy and Sprite is in at least three 4-H projects plus Junior Leaders, plus camp,  In addition, we three will volunteer at VBS this year..  The Diva starts back to summer school in a couple weeks and she will be happy about that.

We got good news in April:  the attic insulation tested negative for asbestos.  DH and Scout still suit up when going up there because the insulation is irritating to skin but we are no longer worried about long term health issues from the attic.

I haven't posted since April because most of the work in progress is the same project - rewiring the entire house.  We are trying to do this while disturbing as little plaster as possible.  So far, we've done pretty well.  I say "we" but I actually mean DH and his electronics instructor from Vo-tech, Jim H.  Jim truly is a gifted teacher and is teaching Scout the basics of wiring during this project.  DH is learning a lot as well and that will help with some of the projects that we need to do in the current house.

Starting back to mid April and updating through the end of May, this is what is now completed:

We've made a lot of progress with the rewiring:  The wire coming into the house was originally 60 amps, not quite enough for our modern needs.  The electric company came out and replaced that wire with three 3/4" thick wires for a 200 amp circuit breaker box.  Next, the electrician replaced the old circuit 100 amp panel (you read that right -- we had a 60 amp wire coming into a 100 amp box) with a 200 amp panel.

New wiring
Old box - saving for future garage
New box

We really didn't want to open up walls to bring the wires up from the basement, so Jim and DH decided to use the chimney to run wiring to the upper floor.  The chimney probably hasn't been used since the gas and wood burning furnaces were installed.  There was a roof leak around it  about 10 years ago.  It made sense at the time to tear down enough of the chimney to fix the roof and remove the potential for future leaks.  You can see the top of the chimney on the right side of this picture of the attic:

This turned out to be lucky for us as it meant that DH and Jim could run the wiring up from the basement to the attic through the empty chimney without touching the walls.  Then they just needed to fish the wire down to the bedrooms.
Brick Removed
Wired chimney

 They started with the bathroom rough in so the plumber would have easy access (and light!) to work.

Wires to switch

First wire in!
It works!

I truly will not bore you with pics of every light, switch and outlet, but we are excited to have ceiling lights and most of the outlets working in all the upstairs rooms (though it did just now occur to me that I do want a light and maybe an outlet in the hall closet we had originally thought to demolish but have decided to keep).  It is a relief to turn off the old wiring for that floor.
The three-way switch for the light over the stairs proved to be challenging.  The switch at the top of the stairs was easy, but the one at the bottom is on an outside wall that has two layers of plaster and lathe and outside sheeting that is over an inch thick.  After a couple of attempts to run the wire down the wall from above, DH and Jim gave up and ran the wire back down the chimney and up from the floor.   I don't seems to have pics from that project.  DH has been using FaceTime to show me progress when I am home with the kids and he doesn't always take pictures.  We are excited that the light can be operated from up or down stairs.  It's the little things that make me happy.

All we have left upstairs is a couple of outlets for DH's office which Jim would like to teach Scout to wire under his supervision.  As Scout had to work this weekend, DH and Jim worked on the ceiling lights in the kitchen and dining room which both now work, but need new fixtures installed.  They used the old ones for now.  They also replaced existing outlets on either side of the shared living room/dining room wall and found that the refrigerator was tied to those outlets as well so now they moved the fridge to its own circuit which it will share with a garbage disposal (next year, maybe).  

To do the wiring for the ceiling lights, they decided to take advantage of space under the ceiling tiles to run the wires rather than try to feed the wires through the floor.  They took down the tiles in the dining room and kitchen:

Dining room

Then they ran the wiring between the furring strips to the lights and inside the wall to the basement.  That worked with minimal damage. 

The ceiling paper was a surprise.  It is in good condition and we aren't taking it down, just covering it with sheet rock once the plumbing is done.  Seems that papering ceilings is a trend again -- just proves that old trends never really die.  

They still have to finish the outlets on the main floor, the ceiling lights in the living room, hall and porch and add some outlets to the basement,  DH estimates about 2-3 more weekends of work and then the wiring will be complete.  

DH needed a weekend at home and I wanted to see the progress, so he and I switched one weekend and he stayed home with the kids and I went up to the house.  I mostly cleaned and reorganized the tools, but did complete a couple small projects of my own:

I took down all the paneling and the remaining wall frame in DH's office.  He didn't care for it and doing that really opened up and lightened up the room:

Before.  The 2x2 were a simple wall.

West wall with cubby
North Wall
Bad plaster left of the chimney
\There are several shades of pink in this room.  Most of the house was originally painted in interesting shades of blue and pink which have faded to dull hues.  There is a lot of plaster damage in this room and it is obvious that the paneling was used to cover up the fact that the house has settled considerably.  The chimney is plumb, but the walls are pulling away from the chimney.  This should be fixed with the repairs to the foundation, so we can patch these walls or cover with sheet rock.  The steel wool stuffed into the cracks was used to prevent critters from coming into the house.  There was a lot more stuffed around the chimney.   We saved the paneling -- it is good quality and still in good condition for being at least 50 years old.

Since I was in demolition mode, I also took down the wallpaper in the dining room.  I was nervous about this -- we'd had the same blue wallpaper in a previous home that really didn't want to be removed from the wall.  This stuff, however, had been installed correctly and came down fairly easily.  There are a couple of spots that will need more work to remove, but overall, the walls just need to be sanded smooth and primed for new paint.



Still some left

The whole family came to the house for Memorial Day weekend and I completed a couple more projects while DH, Jim and Scout worked on the wiring.  First, I finally was able to remove most of the rubber backing from the old carpet pad from the east bedroom using a heat gun and metal putty knife:

In progress

Much better!

I mostly used the low setting on the heat gun to warm up the rubber and then it generally scraped right off.  The thicker layers pealed off easier than the thinner ones.  I spent most of the day on the room and got most of the rubber off in the visible spaces.  There is still quite a bit of rubber in the cubby, but most of it is gone in the room.  The room smells so much better -- that old rubber made the room smell like new blacktop on a hot day.  

If you use this technique, be sure to follow the directions on the heat gun to keep moving it, use plenty of ventilation to keep from getting sick from the rubber fumes and watch out for the barrel of the heat gun  and the blade of the putty knife as you can burn yourself easily.  I got several small burns from accidentally brushing the barrel while working.

I also replaced the faucets in both the half bath (the old one was leaking badly and unusable, so we were washing hands in the kitchen) and in the kitchen.  No pictures of the final projects here (forgot) but I was very sad to find this:

When I took off the old faucet, I found that the sink had completely rusted through and the old faucet was being held on to the sink with large washers.  I was able to install the new faucet, but I don't think this one can be refinished.  As we had already planned to replace the counters, I will also replace this sink with an under mount sink and move this one to the basement.  I think, with some work, it will still be usable.  

I found a couple of other interesting things in the house while we were working.  This hinge on one of the upstairs bedroom doors, for example:

Eastlake hardware?

I'd like to get more information about it and when it was made. 

I would also like to know more about this pair of windows:

Inside the closet
Outside the closet

These windows are a pair when viewed from the outside.  The bottom window is a replacement -- it has metal tracks instead of the weighted pulleys and has never been painted on the inside.  It is located to the outside of the closet by the upstairs bathroom.  

The top window is the right one's partner.  It's clearly never been replaced and is located inside the closet, only separated by a thin wall.  The odd thing about this window is that not only does it not match the one on the right, it doesn't match any other window in the house.

DH and I are starting to think this house is actually at least as old as 1890 like the sellers told us, if not older, but underwent extensive remodeling in the 1920s.  We are basing this on multiple types of plaster, (horsehair in some places, not in others), the bathroom and wiring obviously being added later, areas where there is more than one layer of plaster and this odd window.  I still have not found conclusive evidence so it is still just a theory, but it is interesting to me.

Things are really going to get busy over the next month:  HVAC and plumbing to be installed, the wiring to be completed and hopefully, the new bathroom will get finished over the summer.  Sprite and I will start working on patching and painting walls and we hope to start restoring the windows this fall. 

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