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Patchwork and More Framing

June 7, 2010


One of the most beautiful sights in the world:

Its Level

Sunday was another big work day. We finished the rough framing for my 48-inch by 60-inch window, WOOOOO!!! Next week, we’ll remove the siding and install the window. I’m really looking forward to that.

Rough Framing Window

I’d ripped out must of the old wood from this opening. It was all just nailed chunks of bits and pieces, and was in my way. I do try to reuse the old wood, but in many cases it is either so brittle or rock-hard, because it’s *only* 155 years old, ya know. All I could use for the window was one 6 x 6 beam, in the center. This has got to be one of the best-supported window frames EVAH. We joked that if a tornado ever hit the area, this framing would still be standing. It’s immovable. AND it’s level, AND the rough opening is EXACTLY 48-inches by 60-inches, just as the window manufacturer instructions state. I went the extra mile to constantly check things again and again.

Window Rough Framing

In the evening, after cleanup, we allow Livvy to come down and inspect the work.

The Hubs moved the sink away from the wall under the window, and reconnected plumbing. It was his first experience with PEX, and it went pretty well. He needed me to hold the clamps down over the PEX tubing, however, because the PEX crimper requires two hands to use. Someday those PEX guys MUST make a tool that requires just one hand. I hope I don’t have to follow Hubs all around while he makes PEX connections… :S

LIvvy Inspection

She likes her new “door” to the living room.

Vent opening w Livvy

The electric is going well, too. We FINALLY have lights and electricity in the basement, complete with a switch!

Light Switch

One of the biggest conundrums is trying to remember what all this old and newer wiring goes to…. I know I put it in there for a reason, three years ago… ugh! Most of my week will be spent unraveling the mystery of the wiring. When I finished the living room in 2007, I added some wiring for the other rooms, before I closed up the walls to the living room. Problem is, I now don’t remember where the wires run. I’d written it all down at the time, but we cannot find the notebook. šŸ™ Ugh ugh ugh. That’s one of the foibles of piecework and patchwork in an old home.

Crazy Wiring

This week I have to finish building out the walls in the dining room to accommodate for the electrical wires (the code requires certain clearance from the wall). And I hope to get some outlets working in the upstairs bedrooms.

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June 4, 2010


Marg, I know you keep telling me to take a break. I promise, I will!! Sometime soon. šŸ˜€

Actually, things are moving at a slow pace this week. Between the cooking and the laundry and the multitude of household things, and trying to “make do” without a kitchen sink and dryer… plus, working on my job… and researching how to do things (like framing a window and bringing the electric up to code, whatever that may be!)… I’m finding that I only get a few hours a day on the house right now. But things are at least progressing, and I am happy for that.

Right now, I’m working on “construction,” which is basically shoring up supports, building out walls to meet the electrical codes, etc. My attentions are divided into three portions.

First, the kitchen window. We’d removed the window on Sunday. Since then, I have been researching on how to construct a rough opening for the new one, which will be twice the size of the old. But I’ve discovered a few problem areas, and have to address them before I can begin adding new lumber for the new window.

For one, the support beam over the window (and kitchen sink) was hacked into years ago, and never supported correctly. šŸ˜ I cannot understand the psychology of the previous owners… they didn’t remove the ugliest of partition walls in the laundry room because they feared it was a support wall (it wasn’t), but hacked into an exterior support wall and beam in the kitchen to plop in a tiny window (and plugged up the original window as well). ??? Weird.

Anyway, the support beam has dry rot and is missing THREE support studs. It is probably difficult to tell what’s what in the photo (sorry) because the wood is so dark and the light so bright. But this beam supports this side of the back of the house, all two stories!! And about 1/6 of it was missing support! As soon as I realized this, I placed in two 2x4s at the end. What I really needed was 2x6s, but I didn’t have any on hand.

Repairing Kitchen Beam

Last night, I bought some 2x6s and will be replacing the 2x4s with those. Once I am sure that the beam is stable, I will start the rough opening for the window. And believe you-me, it will be one heck of a honking, supported rough opening.

Right below this section of the wall was the kitchen sink. We removed it, to access the beam and to be able to build the rough opening for the window. As soon as we moved the sink back, this is what we saw:

Kitchen Sink Area 1

Yeah, that’s it. No plaster, no drywall, no insulation… nothing. They had installed the cabinet directly onto the lathe. No wonder I got frostbite when I had to wash dishes during the winter! :-p

This is the area after we removed the lathe and brick.

Kitchen Sink Area2

It will be terrific to insulate this and make it weather-tight. I don’t like working with fiberglass batts (the fibers irritate my throat terribly!), but it’s worth it to have a warm, weather-tight home! I look forward to insulating the walls.

I’m also working on building out some of the walls. According to the National Electric Code, electrical wiring must be at least 1.25 inches from the surface of the finished wall. Because some of the studs here are only 2 inches deep (the builder turned the studs around, very odd), I have to add a layer of studs to accommodate for the wiring. This will also help with inserting the insulation, which requires 3.5 inches of stud depth. It does add to the expense, though. LOL, my arms are bulging.

Finally, I’m learning more about the electrical codes (there have been changes since I did the electric in 2007). *sigh* It’s difficult to find exactly WHAT is code. There’s no manual online… you’re at the mercy of the electrical inspector, who (most times) is harsh and too impatient. Plus, talking on the phone doesn’t help you understand much– in some cases, you need a visual representation. Like a manual. WHY isn’t the code online for viewing?! It’s a little frustrating. It’s like the code is thr Holy Grail that we all must abide by or pay through the nose for transgressing, but the code is shrouded in mystery, inaccessible to the average layperson. It’s insane.

Anyway, I’m making due. I did pass inspection in 2007 (I was very, very nitpicky). This year, I’m not as nitpicky, and there are new codes that have passed that I am unsure of. We’ll see how this develops.

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The Day of Progress

May 31, 2010


Enough with the “uprooting, tearing down, destroying, and overthrowing”– it’s time to build and plant!!! Here are some photos of Day 15 of The Kitchen Renovation of All Time. šŸ™‚

Tell me this is cool. THIS is cool, ladies and gentlemen! It’s my new Laundry Alcove! Oh, it may look like just a skeletal wall of lumber and nails, but I see my washer and dryer in here, happily chugging away, concealed behind lovely beige bi-fold doors. *undulations of ecstatic contentment* ahhhhhh Thanks for doing this, guys!

Laundry Closet Framing

Here we are, removing that lousy kitchen window, the bane of our existence here. I was practically dancing with glee to see it go!

Removing Window

Removing Old Window2

Even the hole in the wall is an improvement.

Removing Window3

The new window will be 60 inches by 48 inches, double the size of the old. AND it will have sliding panes, so I can open it. We are in the process of creating a rough opening for it– not an easy job. Old homes were built with lumber sizes that are no longer standard today. We have to make adjustments for these; the old beams are a true 6 inch by 6 inch, and old studs are a true 2 inch by 6 inch; who makes these anymore?! Everything is machine-planed now, so while lumber may be called a 2 x 4 or 2 x 6, it is actually 1.5 x 3.5 and 1.5 x 5.5. The discrepancies make for an, uh, exciting time. I think I finally figure out the dimensions for our new opening, but it will take some fanagaling… *sigh*

During a break, I wandered out to the garden. Ugh, it’s quite weedy. I haven’t done a thing to it since we planted the crops and repaired the fence, three/four weeks ago.

Weedy Garden

And we have electricity in the downstairs bathroom again! Yay!


The entire Dining Room has been wired! We intend on running wires up to the bedrooms in the next few weeks, too. Once this is completed, all the electric in the house will be completely modernized.

Things are starting to take shape! o/

My plans for this week are:

  • Work on the rough opening for the window
  • Run wiring to the bedroom above the Dining Room
  • Buy materials needed for the next work day
  • Talk to the town codes guy about running gas lines for direct vent gas heaters (more on this later)
  • Repair bad floor joists above and below the kitchen
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Kitchen Before and After

May 29, 2010


It’s probably difficult for you to “see” exactly how the walls and floor plan of the house look. Pictures can only do so much, it seems. I’m trying to take “before” and “after” photos to help you visualize the radical changes we are implementing here. Here’s one:

This is a view of part of the kitchen before we removed all the cabinets. Note the laundry room wall to the right of The Hubs. I have hated that room ever since we bought the house. It’s a long, narrow little hallway with a washer crammed in one on side, and a dryer crammed in on the other, and two doors in between them. Very awkward.

Kitchen Before LR Wall

My daughter is standing where the laundry room door once stood. It was quite an adventure to get that wall down. You can read a fanciful rendition about it at Chuckella Norris Strikes Again. Actually, the entire demolition scenario was hair-raising and hair-pulling all at the same time. :S Ah, but now it is over. I’m praying for smooth sailing.

Gutted Kitchen

Opening up this area makes a world of difference. And we also removed a small partition on the other end of the kitchen, leading to the dining room. The original entry into the dining room was a very narrow, cobbed-up doorway. It was knuckle-scraping to carry a laundry basket through the doorway, let alone have four kids clear the dining room table after dinner! So we removed the two studs there (they were not load-bearing) and opened up the space. WOW what a difference. The kitchen is really huge (12 x 23).

Ugliest Kitchen1


In Kitchen Looking to DR

We removed the wall where the refrigerator stood in the previous photo.

We intend on installing a half wall where the refrigerator once stood. I’ll have plants there and a base cabinet or two, for the purpose of serving dinnerware for the dining room. I think the flow of the kitchen will greatly improve.

Our rebuilding process begins this week!!

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A Day Off Today

May 25, 2010


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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May 20, 2010


Kitchen and Laundry Room are gutted! Glory to God! Yay!

Kitchen Gutted

This is what is was like two days ago:

Kitchen DAY2

We worked 6 hours today with one break. I called it quits early. We are totally beat. Wow. Thank God for coffee, which is perking right now.

And to the brilliant dudes who invented sheetrock? ILOVEYOUILOVEYOUILOVEYOUILOVEYOUILOVEYOU. People, there IS a reason why plaster and lathe is not installed any more. Rest assured, it is a very, very good reason.

I’m also very hapy to report that we now have running water once again, thanks to the brilliant Hubs. AND we have a washing machine hooked up in the basement! Hurray! Hubs is actually very good at plumbing, because he is such a neatnik and loves detailed work. He shoulda been a cabinet maker or a watch maker. He’s good.

We took SHOWERS and are relaxing this evening. We still have the dining room to and downstairs bathroom to gut… and we have two days in which to do it. The race is on…

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Not a Load Bearing Wall

May 20, 2010


Good news for me this morning!

In the kitchen, there exists a small wall, about 6 feet long, that severed the kitchen from a cramped laundry area and back entry door. I’ve hated it all the 10+ years we’ve lived here. Because it runs perpendicular to the floor joists, I’ve wondered if it was a load bearing wall or some kind of structural support. Which would mean that I would have to leave the blasted wall in place.

We removed the ceiling so I could get a really good look at the structure of this wall. And I am THRILLED to report that it is not a load bearing wall! You have no idea how ecstatic I am! Woooooo!!!!

Partition Wall2

Partition Wall

I am 100% sure that it is not supporting anything, but I had a guy come look at it anyway; and he seconded the motion.

And so this is where we are in the kitchen today:


All that is left to do in this room is to remove this lathe.

The Hubs is working on the water supply problem (it will be *fun* flushing the toilets today, I tell you what). And we are planning on finishing the demolition of the kitchen and laundry alcove TODAY. We might even begin the demolition in the dining room, if we are not too exhausted. The dumpster is due back Monday morning, so we need to keep up the pace until then.

And here’s a photo of the damaged joist that I mentioned yesterday. The knuckleheads hacked a floor joist in half to install a shoddy plumbing job. People, NEVER allow a plumber to do this. Never.


The upper floor support is severely damaged due to this crap job.

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So How’s That Kitchen Planning Coming Along, Eh?

February 18, 2010

Comments Off on So How’s That Kitchen Planning Coming Along, Eh?

Kitchen planning? What kitchen planning?

I thought so!

Ugh. I haven’t even mapped out the room onto graph paper or made an electrical schematic yet. šŸ™ I’m working full-time right now, and also trying to keep up my blogging ventures. Wow.

I do see the entire room, all in my mind’s eye! I have one small problem that needs to be worked out, though: there’s a tiny wall that juts out into the kitchen (the washer and dryer are in there), and I think it may be a load-bearing wall. :S It’s only a 5 foot-long section, so I am not 100% sure. The problem with renovating old homes is that you NEVER know what you’re going to discover until you start ripping things apart. *sigh*


Yes, the previous owners cobbed that all together. Ummm I don’t know why, either. Maybe they OD’ed on diet pills or something, does that alter the logical functioning of the brain at all?

Well, it’s just a 5-foot section of wall and it doesn’t continue anywhere else along that section of the home, so I’m not sure if it’s a load-bearing section. It DOES run perpendicular to the floor joists, and all the home experts say that walls that run perpendicular to the joists are load-bearing walls. Because I am not sure WHAT purpose the wall serves, I am loathe to remove it, just in case.

The problem is– it’s right in the center of my new kitchen. I would look awful to have a post in the middle of the room…. I want to open this room up and ditch this ugly wall… I’m kind of baffled and it’s prevented me from progressing with the design of the floorplan. šŸ™

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Chinese-Made Drywall Causing Headaches

October 15, 2009


News is out today that Chinese-made drywall is causing severe headaches for homeowners– physically and financially.

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. (AP) – James and Maria Ivory’s dreams of a relaxing retirement on Florida’s Gulf Coast were put on hold when they discovered their new home had been built with Chinese drywall that emits sulfuric fumes and corrodes pipes. It got worse when they asked their insurer for help – and not only was their claim denied, but they’ve been told their entire policy won’t be renewed.

Thousands of homeowners nationwide who bought new houses constructed from the defective building materials are finding their hopes dashed, their lives in limbo. And experts warn that cases like the Ivorys’, in which insurers drop policies or send notices of non-renewal based on the presence of the Chinese drywall, will become rampant as insurance companies process the hundreds of claims currently in the pipeline.

At least three insurers have already canceled or refused to renew policies after homeowners sought their help replacing the bad wallboard. Because mortgage companies require homeowners to insure their properties, they are then at risk of foreclosure, yet no law prevents the cancellations.

What a disaster! The law requires homeowners insurance, but what do you do if no insurer will step up to the plate? You lose your home, that’s what. Moreover, the sulfuric-emissions coming from the drywall is affecting homeowners’ health and ruining the rest of the house.

During the height of the U.S. housing boom, with building materials in short supply, American construction companies imported millions of pounds of Chinese-made drywall because it was abundant and cheap. An Associated Press analysis of shipping records found that more than 500 million pounds of Chinese gypsum board was imported between 2004 and 2008 – enough to have built tens of thousands of homes. They are heavily concentrated in the Southeast, especially Florida.

The defective materials have since been found by state and federal agencies to emit “volatile sulfur compounds,” and contain traces of strontium sulfide, which can produce a rotten-egg odor, along with organic compounds not found in American-made drywall. Homeowners complain the fumes are corroding copper pipes, destroying TVs and air conditioners, and blackening jewelry and silverware. Some believe the wallboard is also making them ill.

I have to wonder– how the heck does a homeowner know if one’s drywall is from China? Is there a “Made in China” stamped on each sheet? If not, do homeowners now have to call drywall manufacturers, researching exactly where the drywall originates? It’s crazy! The best bet would be to STOP all this importation of CHEAPO Chinese crap! Between the toothpaste, the pet food, the milk products… haven’t we had enough toxicity in our products yet? But that would require that our government to cease their special interest with the Chi-Coms. It’s all just another symptom of how Americans are cattle, to be corralled under the guise of “the economy” but we’re only just servants of the Big Government and their Chinese profiteers. It all makes me SICK.

ABC News has a video about the story, if you want to see it.

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Is the House Floor Plan Software Worth It?

November 11, 2008

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I’ve always preferred drawing my house plans and ideas on graph paper, by hand. As much as I love the computer, and as much as I have incoporated a lot of my tasks to it, I just can’t seem to leave the age-old tradition of graph paper and pencil (and for me, a big eraser). I have seen some pretty fancy computer software in stores recently, that promise to help you design, plan, envision, and do everything for your home plans. I tried one of these programs, about 10 years ago, and I hated it. Software has come a long way, I know, but… is the software really worth it? Has anyone tried it and liked it?

The software is pricey, too– I’ve seen it listed for over $50 and some is as high as $100. Consider that when you realize that graph paper is $3 for 50 sheets, and pencils are just pennies (and if you are really cheap, you can always grab some of those promotional pens that businesses give away, for free).
The only problem with hand-drawing a floor plan are the multitudes of changes that you make on the paper. I like my plans to look neat; and a paper can only take so much erasing. So I have drawn tons and tons of floor plans, each with various changes. I’ve lost track of them all. :S Software has the benefit of instantly saving everything. But the software programs just don’t seem to be precise enough, unless things have changed and programs have realy improved. I have to recreate another floor plan for my first floor and I’m dreading having to draw it all over again. But on the other hand, I really wonder if software will be accurate and if I can learn the program quickly enough. What do you think?

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