Monday, October 13, 2014

Cathy Loves Dan 3-18-78

It's been a busy couple of weeks.  I am used to unexpected new problems cropping up.  It is not unusual to discover new problems while fixing other problems.  This issue was totally unexpected and unrelated to any of the other work that I've been after.  The seal on the main waste pipe going out of the house failed and we had some water on the basement floor.  This is an old school lead and oakum seal that finally failed and was now leaking.  We we're able to resolve it with the help of a plumber - this one I wasn't qualified to handle myself.  The bulk head was cut off and clean fittings we're added. 

Plumbing aside, we have come to the conclusion that this chimney be removed.  We considered using it to vent the pellet stove that we are planning on installing upstairs, but the clay lining has a huge crack and at the end of it, we felt that it was no longer useful and in the way.  It used to vent the oil burning furnace that was located in this space, but that is no longer how we will heat this house.

Here is the same chimney.  This was hidden behind the firewall for the wood stove.  We later discovered that the hole that we would have use to vent the pellet stove had an impossible crack.  We now wish to reclaim this space.  There is also some black mold and water damage around where the chimney goes through the ceiling, which means the flashing was letting in moisture.  So, the idea of having more space and sealing up the roof from moisture penetration is all very appealing to us.

Here are the chimneys protruding from the roof.  

Prior to the chimney shenanigans continued progress on the floor.  I felt good about the work that was done on the foundation and so I began rebuilding the sub floor.  There we're 3 layers of sub floor which seemed to have been applied at different times.  Removing those layers and laying down fresh sheets of 3/4 " sub flooring proved to be the way to go, and will act as the first layer of sub floor.  With the joists beneath reinforced and new sub flooring applied, the floor is very strong and resilient, no bounce.  And it is level.

One row completed, 5 sheets of plywood.  It will take 6 more to finish the area from where this shot was taken.

The kids are inspired and are trying to make a brick oven in the forest.

Back to the chimney work.  Yours truly shot by Aiden.  This is where the cinder block chimney once stood.  Together with my friends Jim and Dan we we're able to take it down and haul it away one chunk at a time.  Now the object is to get the deck clean so that new foam insulation and roofing can be applied.  The work is a little tedious removing old tar and flashing.  It was as tedious as cutting and fitting the patch that closed the holes from the inside, I'll tell ya that.

With both chimneys gone I am now in a race to redeck from the inside and apply a patch to the outside that meets the thickness of the rest of the roof and get new roofing on - before it starts raining!   

Monday, September 22, 2014

Trust me, I'm an expert

The main goal in what you have been witnessing over these past few posts is to have a radiant heat system humming under our feetsies where we live on the upper floor.  We have known for a long time that the basement area would need a major overhaul in order to realize this goal.  The impacts are systemic in range as the following pics will show.  

In the living room there existed a pretty major floor issue, where along one side - between the living room and family room, and along the front windows the floor sloped up, pretty sharply in some places.  The elevation difference from highest to lowest must be a few inches .. I haven't measured it, but it *was* significant.  Putting in any sort of hardwood flooring, even manufactured, would have been impossible.  This line of thinking is running in parallel to that of the joist work down below.  I knew the day was coming where I would need to open up the floor to remove the floor from sitting up on the built up stone foundation - which accounted for the dramatic slop which was present in our living room from about 5 feet back from the window to the window.  Somewhere I have pictures of the floor from underneath at this point - and literally the joist that *should* be supporting weight at this point is indeed nailed to the floor, but is floating above the steel beam.  That is because the floor is resting on the built up foundation which is about 2 inches higher then the rest of the joists resting on the steel beam through the rest of the house.  

On the chopping block is the lovely fake stone work that also contains asbestos.  I know it's asbestos by the way it tastes.  NO No no, we knew this when we bought the place.  There was an enormous wood burning stove in this corner.  We'll pick up a nice little pellet stove in its place, which will warm the place in the interim before the radiant heat is operational. 

In order to get at the foundation areas where the floor is sitting on, I have to begin removing layers of sub-flooring.  Measure the depth of the first layer, set the blade height, and begin buzzing away checkerboard-like sections for (somewhat) easy removal.  

I believe that this corner was host to a bathroom at one point .. probably many many years ago.  Just below this area was where the vat that was part of the cheese making process.  I don't think there was a bathroom in this location at the same point in time when the cheese making was happening just below.  That would be gross.

I have seen a lot of this sort of thing while working on the house.  There is what looks like wallpaper glued to the surface of these boards.  Maybe these boards once belonged in an interior wall before they we're used here?  It's odd, but not surprising in this old place.

Further back shot of the fake stone area where the wood stove once stood.

Ok, shit's gettin' real.  I've buzzed off enough of a section to expose the foundation that I'll be working on.

This is the beginning of may alarming discoveries.  This is the corner where the south and west foundation walls meet.  On the tops sit huge wooden timbers that bear the weight of entire sides of the house.  What I find is a large cavity filled with bits of bedding that animals, rodents have dragged in over the years.  I have known that the foundation suffered from this sort of thing, that mice have a labryinth of tunnels in and out of the foundation walls.  This is different and needed immediate attention.  I was surprised how for down I was able to shop-vac out bedding and deteriorated mortar.  In the hole I could see some of the exposed, ancient hardware that was used in securing the beams in place once they we're placed on this foundation who knows exactly how long ago ...

This is my major find.  In the exposed wall I found these old-school fuses.  60 watts!  AND I found a penny in that hole that was made in 1917!  I'll take a picture with a better camera, but yeah - 1917.

Here is a vertical crack in the foundation.  No good.  What could be causing that??  While gutting the basement I discovered some major holes in the mortar between these foundation stones such that you could see from one side to the other!  Check this out.  This is the vertical crack with the holes near the bottom.

A closer shot of the cavity.  That white dot in the middle is light shining through from the other side of the wall!  This is an extreme example.

This is a shot of the same area, but pulled back so you can see a vertical crack in the foundation.  The crack coincides with the cavity pictured above.  There were several rather scary cavities that I addressed one by one, so as to not destabilize the entire column.  Care is taken to brush and vacuum out each hole and wet it to prepare for the lime mortar mix.  Once set, the filled in cavity will strong and rigid, impervious to critters, water tight yet breathable.

You can see a crack that runs do the corner below where this rather large abscess was.  This is where I found the old penny.  Eventually, this gets cleaned out and filled with mortar.  

That beam holds the floor up through the middle of the house.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Jackpine Jamboree!

I was so fortunate this past weekend to be able to travel north with the family to attend and participate in The Jackpine Jamboree!  This is a sort of neo-bluegrass/old-time musical festival run by my long time friends, Stef and Jimers from the new-bluegrass/old-time musical group, Sloppy Joe.  Stef called me and said, 'you HAVE to get up here and play with our friend from Georgia, Ralph Roddenberry!'  I said, 'OK!'  It did my heart a whole lot of good to get up there and reconnect with some of my dear old friends.  

Wisconsin is full of this kind of thing

The campground was quite nice.  It's amazing what people can do with their campsites.  The lake was beautiful and warm.  We brought the kayak up so the kids could explore. 

Next to the lake was a porta-potty that looks like it might be older than I am.  

Look out for jugalows!

Rain was the bane of the festival, but these Wisconsin folks are pretty hardy.  There was quite a collection of people in the early afternoon and tons more in the camping area.  They came and went as different artists took the stage or as the rain dictated.  Despite the rain, people we're in great spirits and endured the elements.

Horseshoes and Handgrenades we're incredible!  They are very tight, very fun, high-energy juice!  A great bunch of guys as well, I'm very happy to have met them and hear their music.

Later that night I took the stage with Ralph Roddenberry, Jeff Sachs and Jamie 'Scallywag'.  Wow.  Just, wow.  Ralph, we love you!  I cannot wait until our next encounter!  It was a pleasure and an honor to work with ya!

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Sub Floor Blues

Looks like I will have to replace some joists or do some sistering / splicing.  Shouldn't be too much trouble.  I mean, it's going to be an awful lot of trouble, but I'm pretty sure I know what to do.

This was pretty funny .. here is a view of window sill in the foundation.  I was cleaning up around the window and checking the overall scene and I noticed this material that was apparently stuffed under the form when they poured the base of the sill.  

Here you can see the scruffy old, worn material.  Upon detailed inspection.. 

.. it looks like someones old undies we're used in the process of pouring the sill in the basement window??  That f&^^ explains ALOT of what I have found over the years in this crazy old house.

Anywho, here is one fix in progress.  I'll spare you the details.  Suffice it to say that its quite a chore to splice a new piece in with a sister, moving the jacks and ladders and all that as you go with just one person to get the material in place.  I just gotta get all this sub-floor work finished so that I can get the radiant heat system installed and working before winter so I can be cozy and play my guitar upstairs to my new baby boy!

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Basement Teardown

A lot of time has passed since the last update.  The summer and fall we're busy and updating the blog took a back seat.  I lost hundreds of photos, too, which we're destined for this space, so all in all I lost the desire to take all new shots to post - the spirit had left me.  Oh, well.

During that time, however, the reality of the basement was looming in the near future and we knew that it was a matter of time before we would finally have to break ground on the gutting process.  The basement project consists of gutting it to its bare limestone foundation and poured concrete floors to its open ceiling joists.  Only then will we be able to level the floor upstairs, install radiant heat under the floor, fix the upstairs bathroom, etc.  The state of the limestone foundation is of concern, as well.  The entire foundation needs to re-tuck pointed and a new coat of mortar applied.  There are tunnels throughout where mice and other things freely enter the house.  Having the basement bare I will be able to begin forming a plan for supporting the ceiling, addressing our heating needs, and everything else that needs to happen in order to solidify the integrity of the house.

Eventually, the foundation will be new, smooth, and painted.  All surfaces will be easy to clean.  The basement will be a wonderful environment to grow my shitakes and oysters!

The last remnants of flooring remain in the photo.  This used to be the kitchen and the floor was tiled in linoleum.  Very curious what was done here.  If you look closely, you can see that the wooden floor is really a deck that has been sitting over the top of this concrete floor.  The concrete underneath is highly irregular, so the deck-floor is supported with blocks of wood of various heights.   

Once the remainder of the decking was removed we can see evidence of the operations that we're once part of the old Rock Hill Cheese Company.  We have often puzzled about the small concrete stub wall that you can see in the far center of this shot.  Now, with the floor-decking removed you can see that there was what was a tub and the stub wall is all that remains of it.  They kept it, I guess, for its inherit aesthetic qualities.  It formed the base of some shelf space when the kitchen was here.

The concrete down here is all sloped toward the front of the house where I discovered an old drain.  The low end of the tub has a large slice in the bottom of it that is angled toward the drain.  I would be curious to know what the exact function of this structure was in the cheese making process.  My guess is that this is where the cheese was finally pressed to remove excess moisture.  Any takers on this one?

It is clear that we can remove the rest of the stub wall.  The wall is built from bricks that are hollow inside, so it should come down easily.

This shot is taken from near the back of the basement toward the front, looking past what was once the laundry area, past the bathroom and the kitchen.

Next steps are to clean up the ceiling, removing and tidying up electrical, spider webs, any old ducting that may still be up there.  There are a few issue with the floor as well, places where some concrete forms we're poured that need to go.  Pretty soon I'll be setting up my shots to put in new beams and support posts and eventually a new heating system so we can stop freezing our asses in the winter.  Yay!

The end goal is also to make this area inhabitable for growing edible gourmet mushrooms.  Once it's all clean, re-tuck pointed and smooth, cleanable, this area should make a fine base environment.