Archive | June, 2007

Can You Dig It

June 30, 2007


I have to say that I have the best kids in the world. Every mom probably says that, but I really mean it! They are working so hard on our drywell project that they make a mom and dad proud.

This exceptionally beautiful, cool, dry weather is perfect for outdoor work. The kids have been digging and digging and they’re at 41 inches deep now! It has not been an easy task. The soil is heavy, wet, compacted clay. Rocks the size of soccerballs are buried in the soil, too.

Here are some photos of our hole.

Here’s our rock group. Believe it or not, we are still finding old bricks in here. I cannot believe all the bricks we constantly find buried on this property. Where did all these buried bricks come from?

This is a definite team effort.

I’d say we have about 8 to 12 inches more to dig down. Here’s hoping we don’t hit water before then. After the hole is done, next project is digging a trench for the outflow pipes. That should be easier. We hope!

Thank God the weather has been so nice. When it finally does rain again, we’ll continue our chimney/water damage repair inside. And soon we plan to take a few days off and do some traveling again!

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Mrs. Mecomber, Tear Down This Wall

June 28, 2007

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Well, the heat and humidity eased a bit today, enabling us to take down more of the wall surrounding the chimney. We’d already taken down a good portion of the plaster and lathe in the kitchen that surrounds the chimney. We’d removed plaster and lathe from one wall in the living room, but more had to come down, since some previous remodelers had laid the chimney on top of a wall with wallpaper and then built another short wall on on side. It’s very difficult to explain… it’s difficult to view… I’ve drawn a primitive diagram that I hope will explain how things look.


This is a bird’s eye view of the center if the house. You can see the different rooms (Living Room, Breakfast Room, Kitchen). The central chimney is tucked inbetween these three rooms. Water damage and mildew growth is labeled. The blue lines along the walls show where plaster and lathe needs to be removed. There is a false wall, too. After the chimney was put in, the owners built a false wall on top of the original wall between the LR and Kitchen.The only reason I can think of why they did this was to widen the space to insert a furnace heater duct in the wall between the chimney and the stairwell.

The problem is that they built the chimney and this false wall on top of a plaster wall that had old wallpaper on it (as shown by the blue lines in the above diagram). The wallpaper is so water damaged from the leaky chimney that the mildew has eaten the wallpaper away in spots.

So we’d already torn down some of the plaster and lathe in the Living Room that surrounds the chimney. We’d torn down the false wall and the plaster and lathe on the Kitchen side. Today we finished the Living Room side, by removing two studs from the wall on the other side of the chimney. We then removed the plaster and lathe and wallpaper from this section. In other words, we’ve now got three out of four sides of the plaster/lathe surrounding the chimney down.

Here’s the section before:

Here’s the section after:

Below are photos of the sections of wall we took down. You can see how old the wallpaper is and see the extensive water damage from the chimney. This side of the wall faced the chimney– they built the chimney on top of this wall with the wallpaper left intact. It was doomed to fail, not to mention a great fire hazard.

We still have a small portion of plaster/lathe to remove (the part of the wall toward the Breakfast Room). That will be our most difficult job, because the walls are in total disarray in that area. Originally, there was a full wall there, not a half-wall with doorway. Originally, this was not a Breakfast Room, nor was the Kitchen the Kitchen. Whenever this area was redone, the owners chopped only half of the wall (the bottom half) to open up the space to make a Kitchen and a Breakfast Room. The upper part of the wall is still intact, covered with paneling. Under the paneling are busted sections of old gypsum board, shims of scrap wood, and loads of joint compound.

Once we get this figured out, the rest won’t be as bad. We just have to figure out how to cover the chimney.

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Good News, Bad News

June 26, 2007

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Well, the bad news is that we aren’t going to rip apart the whole place all at once. It is just too expensive and too messy for us to handle. Doing the house piece-meal has its drawbacks, but on the good side, we can go at our own pace and avoid debt. So right now we are handling the most crucial of repairs: water damage and mildew growth from a leaky chimney.

We’ve removed the one wall from the Living Room, and part of a wall in the Kitchen. I’d wondered if the chimney was original to the home. We’ve discovered it is not. Bummer. This means that the chimney is of a lower-quality build. The original builder was very careful and thorough with his work. All owners after him were not. This is classic remuddling.

The chimney was built over an existing plaster wall. The plaster wall still has the original wallpaper. I can’t believe they built a chimney on top of a wall with wallpaper! All it took was a little leaking, and the paper rotted. Mildew growth all around the chimney must be removed.

You can see in the above picture the lathe and the plaster. The wallpaper is that brown papery stuff behind the bricks. That blue stuff is paint. After they built the chimney, they smeared joint compound all over the brick, then painted it over. Through the years, they painted it sterile white, then mustard yellow, then pink, then that Eisenhower blue. In the 70s, they smeared paneling glue all over it and stuck fake-wood paneling on top. I could scream in agony.

After days of indecision, we decided not to remove the chimney (yet). It would be a much larger and more expensive undertaking than we are prepared for. I also need my Kitchen and Living Room back soon. We will install an interior chimney liner to vent out hot-water tank vapors. Then we will remove all the plaster and lathe around the chimney, replace the walls with drywall, and paint. I have no idea what I am going to do with the actual chimney, how to cover it. That joint compound is like concrete. I could try scraping off the paneling glue, but that would be weeks of painful work. I sure am open to suggestions.

Here are some close ups of the wallpaper.

Actually, that wallpaper is not even the original wallpaper. There is another layer of wallpaper beneath what you see (it is hard to peel the two apart, but the original looks flecked). I think the layer that you see was put up in the late 1910s or early 1920s, as it has that Art Deco/Art Noveau look.

Even the layers of wallpaper border, at the top of the wall, remained intact.

The good news is I can finally install some electrical outlets since we have the walls open.

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Buried Treasure

June 26, 2007

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We are digging a hole outside the house, in an inside corner where two exterior walls meet. The corner is a juncture where two very steep gable roofs meet. During a rainfall, thousands of gallons of water come rushing down the roof right into this inside corner. My old stone foundation can’t handle it anymore, and has begun to cry into the basement.

We cannot install gutters beacuse the fascia (this is the original 1855 fascia) is angled, and the boards are too soft from age now, anyway. The only thing we can do (short of installing new fascia and siding, which is impossible right now) is direct the water. We are making a drywell. But it is an inverted drywell system.

We are digging a 5′ x 3′ hole where the water from the roof falls. Then we will dig a narrow, deep trench from the hole out to the open yard. Once everything is dug, we will insert a large rain barrel with a 4-inch hole in its side toward the bottom. A long perforated pvc pipe will be inserted into this hole and laid into the trench we dug. We will then fill the rain barrel up with the tons of rocks we have around the yard and top these layers off with a few inches of gravel. The trench will be filled in with gravel and dirt.

My theory is that the rain barrel will fill up with roof runoff water. The pvc pipe will direct and disperse the water out into the yard, where the soil will absorb it. Thus, we will direct most of the roof runoff water from this inside corner and away from the foundation.

I looked up drywells online, and found this cool video at The only thing is, the homeowner in the video has gutters and is dispersing his water via pipes to a drywell. I am doing it inversely, by collecting water in the barrel first and dispersing it via pipes.

Well, what does all this detailed explaning have to do with buried treasure?

My son found an old 1900 Indian Head penny while digging. It is in very poor shape, but we can read the date and see the Indian head. It is a very exciting find for a youngster.

This is what an Indian Head penny looks like in good condition. My son’s is very worn and discolored.

Discovering treasure is also very helpful for this parent who needs to find ways to constantly motivate her budding PhDs to keep digging. Heh.

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