A Day Off Today

May 25, 2010

framing, interior work

Today is our Sabbath rest day from work. We chugged along for nine days, packing up the kitchen and dining room, setting up a temporary kitchen in the garage, and demolishing the kitchen and dining room. What a wild ride! It’s like life just STOPPED during that time. I even forgot to water my baby tomato seedlings, and they died. šŸ™ I guess I’ll have to buy plants from the home center this year.

Anyway, we are thrilled that the demolition is DONE! We are now entering the planning stage, now that the walls are open and we can see exactly what’s going on within the structure.

Kitchen From DR 2

The gutted kitchen, as viewed from the dining room.

The very good news is that few partition walls in this house are load-bearing. It’s rather odd. The house seems post-and-beam with balloon frame walls. In case you are wondering what balloon frame is, I wrote a post about it: Up, Up and Away. It’s called balloon frame for two reasons: one, the studs along the exterior of the home start at the sill plate (the top of the stone foundation) and go allllll the way up up up to the roof rafters; two, the hot air balloon was just coming into vogue at the same time as this unusual style of framing. The history of the balloon frame design is interesting. It is, however, an inefficient method for home building today, because it requires vast lengths of solid beams, which is not economically attainable. The balloon frame house also has two things against it: the second storey relies on the strength of nails to hold it up on ledger boards; and the long voids created inside the walls from the basement sill to the attic rafters is a fire hazard– there is nothing to stop a fire from racing up the walls to the attic.

Cut Nails1

Old style "cut nails." These were some of the first machine-made nails in this area.

Cut Nails2

This is a machine-made "cut nail"; these nails were manufactured in the U.S. from 1820 to 1910. Nails were previously hand-forged.

My home has some slight variations of the balloon frame that make it a little stiffer and safer. For one, instead of relying solely on nailing the second storey floor system to ledgers, the builder created beams with notches to set the floor joists. That was swell of him. Secondly, inside the first floor walls, the builder installed brick noggin. I assume this was for the purpose of making fire stops. It also helps to keep the house very cool in the summer. However, it’s also cool in the winter. :S And the noggin interferes with the placement of plumbing, electrical, and insulation (all these were implemented into housing decades after my house was built). If you are interested in reading about the history of Mr. Rogers– the guy who built my home– you can read about it here: Our History. I often wonder what Mr. Rogers would think if he knew his house was still standing.

The studs are still very straight and stiff. I’m impressed that, after 155 years, the studs are so straight. I recently (this week) discovered two support joists that have serious cracks, however. We have to fix these immediately. And the house does sag in the center– it has ever since we bought it. I think the sag is due to the inept “improvements” of previous owners, who hacked into the support structure and had no idea what they were doing. Before I can replace the walls, I need to meticulously inspect them and add support where necessary. After this, we can add electric, plumbing, etc. I’ll have loads more on this to come.

Straight Studs

These studs are incredibly straight after 155 years.

P.S. In case you are wondering just how much stuff we removed from these two gutted rooms: the weight came to over 3.5 TONS!

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5 Responses to “A Day Off Today”

  1. a Says:

    Good for you! You need a day of rest after breathing plaster dust all that time. Been there, done that. It ain’t fun.

  2. Janiss Says:

    Three and a half TONS!?!? Wow.

    I find it really interesting that the initial builder had a lot of good ideas for his time, and those who came after him didn’t think things through as well. Then you come along and try to bring it up to the standards of a new millennium… but you’re doing it the right way. It kind of reminds me a little of the house I had before this one. Newer than yours – 1935 – but the last owner, who had lived there since the early 1960s, had done every hideous 60s and 70s thing to this nice, traditional two-story semi-Tudor home. Covered the ceiling with popcorn, put awful, cheap texture-coating on the exterior, covered the beautiful hardwood floors with ugly carpet, fixed the plumbing in the most rinky-dink way imaginable (that resulted in flooding and destroying the living room ceiling when I tried to fix a slow drain). My whole time there was spent trying to return this house to its vintage beauty… and just when I was pretty much done, the house that I always considered one of my neighborhood “dream” houses went up for sale… so I moved! Funny how things sometimes work out.

    In any case, I’m sure that once you’re done, YOU’LL have lots of lovely years in your home, and you’ll have the satisfaction of knowing that your efforts have made it far better than it was when you moved in.

  3. Marg Says:

    Oh that is so great that your are taking a day off. I need the rest. LOL And very sad that the tomato seedlings died. There just aren’t enough hours in the day.
    Take care.

  4. Mom's Cafe Home Cooking Says:

    Oh my your renovation is bringing back very vivid memories or our turn of the century home renovations. It was a lot of work but well worth it in the end. I can’t wait to see how you do your kitchen! Be sure to take lots of pictures šŸ™‚

  5. Carole Says:

    It’s been fun and interesting to get to follow your renovation step by step – thanks for taking the time to show us. That balloon frame idea scares me – I’m glad for all the things that were done wrong to your house, that at least the builder took a few extra steps to make your house a little more sturdy by shoring up the balloon frame. The old nails were cool too. Hope you made the most of your day off and got a good rest. Looking forward to following your progress!