Gutting the Cottage.

pile

Here’s how I thought things would pan out with the cottage:

1. Finish the exterior.

2. Take a week off from the cottage, maybe.

3. Gut the interior.

4. You know, the rest of it.

It was all going to be very orderly and civilized.

That’s not what happened, though. Instead, it rained. That’s all it really took. I was about halfway through building the planters outside and I had some extra hands with me, and after an hour or so of working outside in the rain and the mud, I’d hit my limit. It was wet and cold and I had to just call it. Screw civility and order! Let’s wreck some shit.

Demo-ing the interior of the cottage was bittersweet. I feel like a normal gut renovation usually entails removing beautiful and/or salvageable materials and sending them to a landfill, only to be replaced by new stuff that will never have the same quality or character as what was there before. It’s wasteful and destructive and horrible, generally. But that doesn’t really apply here. I’m pretty sure I saved everything worth saving (and probably some stuff that wasn’t), but there wasn’t much. I hated sending so much stuff to a landfill, but it really was trash—broken, beyond the point of repair, with no potential for reuse. Sad.

BUT. It was all very very exciting, too. I’m guessing the house saw a pretty major overhaul sometime in the 40s or 50s (and then some other changes later on), so everything was finished in (very, very damaged) drywall. The kitchen was already pretty much gone, the bathroom fixtures were all inexpensive and lightweight…considering the entire interior of the house had to go, none of the work was all that grueling. And stripping the scary cosmetic stuff away felt good. Underneath the damage and grime and mess, this house looks more or less like any other house. Probably way better than my house would look without walls! It already looks way better, at least to me.

kitchenbefore

Remember where we started off? That kitchen…shudder. It was bad news.

kitchen

See? Better! The studs and joists and sheathing are all in good shape, which is great to see. This isn’t how windows and doors are framed nowadays, but they’ve been holding up fine for a long time and I’m not worried about them. It should be grandfathered in when the framing gets inspected. The whole house is balloon-framed, too, meaning the studs on the exterior walls go all the way from the sill plate above the foundation to the top plate below the rafters. Also not how things are done anymore, but it’s sort of fun to see! It also makes running electrical a little easier, which is nice I guess.

You can’t tell from the picture, but the opening to the kitchen from the dining room has NO support! None. This is a load-bearing wall, and the studs are just cut off at the ceiling. That’s not good! It’s sort of surprising there isn’t a sag (or, you know, the whole thing didn’t collapse). It’s totally fixable, though…just need to beef up the opening and add a header and we’ll be in business. That was actually part of my plan, anyway—to make this opening a *bit* smaller and more defined. Right now it’s sort of trying and failing to be “open-concept” and I don’t want that for this house. Even though this renovation is going to be about 90% new (I reserve 10% for the floors, doors, and windows), I want it to feel old and authentic to what could have been here.  I’ll obviously talk a lot more about that later. Like probably too much. Like probably so much that you’ll want to set me on fire.

upstairs-2

ANYWAY. It was very hard to take a lot of pictures during demo, partly because I was covered in grime and pulling things apart and partly because maybe millions of photos aren’t that necessary. Piles and piles of debris. That’s pretty much it.

This is the middle section of the upstairs, which is the oldest section of the house.  The ceiling here is LOW—like 6’8″, so on the agenda is sorting out the framing in the ceiling and hopefully gaining at least a few inches in the process. It’s nice to see the chimney, but it needs some repairs and I think I’m going to have to repoint it. I’d like to maintain it, though…it’s one of the few original things left in the house and I think exposing the brick will add some nice texture and character to the renovated space.

upstairsroof

Check out that cobweb situation! I wish it had been possible to get better shots of this stuff, because the structural stuff up in here is bonkers. The roof in the middle/oldest section of the house pitches oppositely from how the roofs in the front and the back pitch, leaving some very strange framing in the middle. Nothing was done correctly when the additions were made, so a lot of the framing just got hacked away at over the years instead of properly supported and whatnot. Half of the rafters are sort of just floating there, and the collar ties are floating on the floating rafters, and the whole thing is just insane and bad.

upstairs3

This is the new view from the big bedroom in the front to the back! See what I mean about nothing really being supported in the middle there? But it’ll be OK. The framing job is definitely going to be more extensive than I’d really bargained for, but it’s all fixable. It’ll be solid as a rock soon enough.

By the way, that opening on the right side in this picture, close to the stair banister? That’s the doorway to the old bathroom! The whole thing is GONE and it feels so good! This master bedroom is going to be so amazing without a big bathroom carved into it. I’ll put together a post soon with before/after floor plans so you can get a better sense of this stuff. I’m sure this is a little confusing.

debrispile

So…the debris piles were MASSIVE. There were very large vent holes in the floor in both the front and back bedrooms (to allow heat to travel to the upstairs), which proved SUPER helpful during demo since we could just throw almost everything through the holes and down to the first floor.

Since I sort of jumped the gun on demo, I wasn’t totally prepared with, say, a plan to get rid of all this waste. I’d asked about dumpsters at the Department of Public Works back in mid-September when I first started working on this house, and it sounded simple enough. Since this property doesn’t have a driveway, I’d need to get a permit to place the dumpster on the street, but the folks at Public Works made that sound fairly fast and painless.

Then it came time to actually get the dumpster, and it was not fast and painless. Everyone I’ve dealt with in Kingston city government has been wonderful (and very supportive of this project!), but I think the Public Works folks are a little underfunded and overworked and even just getting a call back was a little difficult. Not having a dumpster was starting to become a problem on my end, since the house was so overloaded with debris that nothing could really get done. And then I finally did hear back and…no dumpster. They’d decided that the street was too narrow to place a dumpster even for a very short period (I offered to fill it in a day or two), so I’d have to figure out something else.

Entire house, completely gutted. No dumpster. How. Why.

This was not terrific news.

The only work-around I could really think of was putting the dumpster in my driveway and somehow transporting all the waste from this house to my house, but that seemed a little insane. It would probably have taken like 30 Bagsters to clear out the whole house, and since those wind up running about $200 per bag here, that was also not a good option. So the only thing left was to take it all to the dump ourselves.

One of the guys who’s been working for me mentioned that his dad had a small-ish trailer for the back of his car that we could use, and my wonderful contractor Edwin offered up the use of his monster truck, so that’s how it started.

truckdumpster

Nice, right? We parked the truck right on the sidewalk, hoped we wouldn’t get ticketed (we didn’t), and brought stuff out on wheelbarrows. We had a few people and two wheelbarrows, so it worked out. A couple people worked on filling the wheelbarrows, and a couple of people moved them from the house, up that wobbly ramp, and into the truck. It wasn’t horrible! Then we strapped a tarp over the whole thing and drove it off while a few people stayed behind to load the trailer. The dump (technically, the Transfer Station) closes at 2:15 in the afternoon here, so we only got three trips in on the first day, but it made a surprisingly big dent in the mess. I should probably get myself one of those trailers at some point. So handy!

dump

The dump was nuts, by the way. I feel like every single person should be required to go to the dump at least once. Schools should take field trips there. It’s not like I’m totally unaware of where my garbage goes, but it’s a different thing to really see it in action and on this kind of scale…and Kingston is not a big city. Huge trucks bring huge loads of garbage into this huge warehouse space. Then huge backhoes push it around and into a pile. Then other huge backhoes take the pile and drop it into a huge hole in the floor, where a huge tractor-trailer is parked. When the tractor-trailer gets full, it drives the trash out to…I don’t even know where. A landfill in some other part of the country, probably. It’s impossible to even fathom the environmental impact of all of this…and the fact that it’s like this here pretty much all day, everyday, and there are places exactly like this everywhere else, too. The whole thing makes my head spin, obviously.

So anyway. Be mindful of your waste. Compost. Recycle. Freecycle. Don’t tear down old houses. The end.

goodies

I did scoop up a couple of treasures from the dump, though! Can you believe someone was throwing these away? So frustrating! The thing that was really aggravating was that one of the workers told me I technically wasn’t allowed to take them, but he’d make an exception. I mean, I sort of understand that they can’t really have people rifling through the dump around heavy machinery and stuff all day looking for crap to take home or take to a scrap yard and get paid for, but come on. There must be a better way! The whole thing is just upsetting. But anyway. I don’t even know if I’ll end up staging this house for sale or what, but a pretty vintage fan and beautiful antique sewing machine for free? Don’t mind if I do.

Oh! Somehow I didn’t get a picture, but the city did end up throwing me a bone and letting me use a city dump truck for a couple days. It was the smallest of the city dump trucks—essentially the capacity of 2 pick-ups—which was the biggest thing they were comfortable parking on the street. They also waived the typical fee (which I think is like $50 a day) for me, presumably due to my good looks and charm, which was super nice and they totally didn’t have to do. So I only had to pay for the disposal fees, which are calculated by weight, and it made things a little easier since I only had to load the truck, not unload it on the other end. Thanks, Kingston!

scrapyard

I also made a couple of trips to the scrap metal yard! There ended up being a fair amount of metal left in the house…the old baseboard radiator covers, a few of the radiators themselves (which are a copper pipe with aluminum fins attached), and a little bit of copper plumbing. The scrap yard is a little more heartening than the dump since you get paid for what you bring (based on the type of material and the weight), and everything is getting recycled, but it was still maddening!

stove

I spotted this beautiful antique wood stove sitting at the top of a scrap pile (terrible picture, sorry!) and offered to buy it back (for what purpose, I don’t even know), and they wouldn’t let me! So frustrating. Again, I sort of get the liability issue and all that, but it seems more than a little ridiculous that beautiful, probably still useful items can’t just be reused instead of melted down or whatever. Right? I’m aware that lots of scrap yards actually have shops where they keep stuff like this so people can do that very thing, but that doesn’t exist at either of the two scrap metal yards I’ve been to in Kingston. Super annoying, right? I’m just glad I didn’t see any clawfoot tubs or I might have actually had a heart attack.

So anyway. Getting rid of the garbage was in many ways a bigger project than the demo was. All in all, between 1 Bagster, 3 loads in the city dump truck, and 7 pick-up truck loads, I’ve had to dump about 14,000 pounds of trash. That’s a lot of trash. I feel shitty about it, but I don’t think there was really any way around it.  All of the disposal came out to the tune of $853.64, which is a decent amount of money but probably about half what it would have been if I was renting a dumpster on top of it, so I guess it all came out for the best. I also made back $254.10 in scrap metal (who woulda thought?), so that helps offset the dumping cost a bit.

upstairs

But hey look! After lots and lots of sweeping and clearing and sorting and mess, the house is pretty clean. It stayed this way for about .5 seconds, though—framing actually began the same day as the last day of demo work! Madness! So it felt like as soon as one mess was kind of almost cleaned up, another mess started. That’s kind of just how it goes. A huge part of my life these days is just managing mess. I go through a lot of respirator masks. And contractor bags. And I come home looking like I’ve been down in the mines all day. It’s way cute.

That big pile of wood in the corner got saved, by the way! I was really careful about trying to get all the trim out in full pieces and save it all, which ended up being a TON of wood (this is just one of multiple piles). A lot of it is very dirty and some of it is flakey and it’s all very multi-colored, but there’s nothing really wrong with it and I figure I can probably reuse a lot of it when the times comes for that! Keeps it out of a landfill and keeps me from having to buy all that trim which would end up being very costly. It’s mostly just 1×4 or 1×6 or some weird size in between, but I figure I can always rip pieces down, maybe add some detail with my router, that kind of thing. I’m sort of excited to see what can be done with it all. It’s like a big puzzle! In the meantime, I’ve finally finished pulling all of the nails out of it all so that the pile can be a little more orderly and easier to manage.

bathrom

Diary time? Are we over this yet? I feel so woefully behind but I’m trying to catch up!

Day 15: Worked outside with Chris setting deck blocks while Kodi, Mike, and Mikey worked on moving dirt to my backyard. I worked on planters with Kodi while Chris began demo’ing pink bedroom with Mike. Need to pick up 4 more deck blocks.

Day 16: Chris and Chris on demo duty inside. Mike and Mike on excavating yard outside. Me and Kodi finished planters. Edwin came with power washer. Took a break to move bluestone hearth into my library. Cody and I began installing decking. Finished excavating yard with Edwin’s truck. Cody and I finished deck but are one board short.

Day 17: Chris, Mike, and Mike worked on demo-ing master bedroom. Cody and I ran to Lowe’s to purchase plants before they are out of stock and 21 bags of topsoil for planter boxes, along with missing deck board. Finished deck. Unloaded soil and sent all workers home at 12:30. Went to Department of Public Works to try to get dumpster. No luck.

Day 18: Demo’d upstairs bathroom. Sealed planter boxes, spread topsoil, and planted plants. Guys worked on clearing backyard and disassembling shed. Laid bluestone path to door. Entire crew has head cold, including me.

Day 19: Got mulch and pea gravel and pavers for front walk. Edged garden bed, planted, and mulched. Continued clearing backyard.

Day 20: Day off. Everyone is sick. Ran errands and started working on restoring front casement windows. Plan to boil hardware overnight.

Day 21: Kodi’s dad came with trailer and we went to dump with demo debris. Edwin brought truck. Got 3 trips in before closing at 2:15. Went to scrapyard with metal—$129. Went back and continued demo-ing interior.

Day 22: Worked on clearing out and gutting basement. Separated salvageable wood from garbage wood, pulled nails from walls studs and ceiling joists. City dump truck coming tomorrow.

Day 23: City dump truck came in morning. Filled twice. Demo’d more of interior and loaded stuff from backyard. Started removing rotted kitchen floor and tin ceiling for paint to be stripped. Plaster ceiling discovered above—will demo tomorrow.


85 Comments

  1. 14,000 pounds? You and your team must be the buffest of buff by now.
    It’s hard to believe how quickly you’re making progress!

  2. Woo Hoo!!!! Big difference, and what a great feeling to see progress I am sure!

  3. Yay new post! This project is moving along so fast!

    I seem to recall that you said you didn’t have much (or any) experience with projects this scale before you began your first house. Would you write a post about what sources you used to learn things and any words of advice you have for someone who wants to be crazy and fix up an old house with no experience?

    • I’ll try to do that, Kaitlyn! I keep meaning to at least put together some kind of resource list.

  4. Makes me SO PROUD of your amazing hard work ethic and to see how much you’re getting done. But, when you’re sick please take some rest time and take care of yourself. Your wonderful readers and the house will both still be there. I love you.

  5. Whoa!
    Theoretically, could the city have let you park the dumpster in your yard or is that just not done?
    A

    • I don’t actually know, Adrien! I think maybe, but this house doesn’t really have a front yard where that would be possible anyway because it’s two feet above the sidewalk. They’d have to lift it in with a crane!

  6. Hiya, first time commenting, but maybe you can connect with ariele, she does a ton of awesome things with old lathe, etc http://brooklyntowest.blogspot.com/ I don’t know her at all, but love her work.

    • Yes, Ariele and I have talked a couple of times about this! I’ve read her blog since the very very beginning—so proud of everything that’s happened for her since! She’s so great. This house didn’t actually have that much lath, so I’m holding into it and thinking about ways I could perhaps reuse it in the house. But if not, maybe she can take it off my hands. :)

  7. Tell that young man in the hoodie to pull his pants up.

    • I do! All the time! I seriously don’t know how they’re still on his body. I asked him once and he doesn’t know either.

      • Bahaha. This is strangely, weirdly validating. I have always wondered that and THERE IS NO ANSWER.

      • They stay up because of the friction being bigger than the force of gravity pulling at it. ;-D

  8. Listen to your mama.

  9. Daniel I don’t even really know you and I’m proud of you! You are SUCH a hard worker! I’m not doing any projects right now (cause I’m prego) and I really miss it! The cottage is coming along so quickly, can’t wait for your next post! : )

  10. The photo of the collar tie situation makes me nervous…and i’m not even an engineer (only a DIY-prone architect). Can’t wait to see what you do to remedy the structural situation (please show details). I am living vicariously through your renovation, btw. I would volunteer if I lived closer!

    • It makes me nervous too, haha! You don’t have to be an engineer to see that it’s just all sorts of wrong and bad. I’ll try to be detailed about the framing…it’s also difficult to photograph in a way that really shows what’s going on, but I’ll do my best!

  11. I have a clawfoot tub story that will break your heart…we were renovating our upstairs bathroom and in it was a giant heavy cast iron tub…beautiful but didn’t fit in with my plans for a modern bathroom…so our contractor was all ” I know places that will buy these from you”…so already spending that found money on tiles etc I went to work anticipating seeing it gone that night and my purse filled with bills.
    Sadly the tub was so heavy he couldn’t manage getting it down the stairs in one piece so he had to (on the floor of my bedroom) cut it in half with some kind of buzz saw….so what I came home to was two pieces of lovely clawfoot tub on my curb.

    I’m sort of freaked out by the cobweb situation….and how about critters…did you find any during the demo?

    • That’s so sad, Debbie! He should have known he’d need a few guys to lift that thing!!

      You know, surprisingly the only things we really found were a very small mouse nest in the corner of the kitchen (replete with tiny mummy mice) and a huge (abandoned, luckily!) wasp nest inside a wall. Oh and the dead cat in the bathroom, but I knew about that one. I was expecting worse!

  12. the dump where my in laws live has something called the “swap shop” or “the swappie” as my MIL calls it. basically if you’re dropping something off to the dump that is still useful for someone else, it goes to the swap shop and anyone can come and just take whatever they want. it’s only open two mornings a week and let me tell you, it’s the place to be, not only for scoring totally rad stuff that would normally end up in the landfill (my MIL scored us an amazing persian rug that is in perfect condition), but also for the local gossip. people bring coffee and pets and make a morning out of it.

    • That sounds like the most fun ever! It’s really too bad we don’t have that here.

      • C’mon Daniel!
        On your list of next career moves: opening a swappie for Kingston!
        When I lived in Munich, Germany there was a sort of small in-town dump where you would take stuff that was too big for normal trash. They sorted it and sold it at thrift store prices. I still have a side-table I made from a washing machine drum….

  13. Wow, this is so exciting. I do wish there a way to recycle all that stuff…. maybe as we get more and more efficient with recycling, there will be… I can’t wait to see the next phase of construction. Amazing how fast you are working!!!

  14. Terrific work! My project is mirroring yours in so many ways. I’ve had brick masons for three weeks tuckpointing foundation and walls. Roofing begins next week (EPDM in the box gutters, thank you!). Yesterday I was wielding a chainsaw for the better part of the day. It’s turning bitter cold tonight and will stay that way through the end of week, so we’ll be demo-ing plaster and lathe. I live for this craziness!

  15. Such a good read, is it not just mind-boggling the amount of functional items that gets thrown away? I practice the no-asking policy. I once sneaked in to grab some jam-jars. Scandinavian mid century. Actually a finnish design with pretty green apples, my best find to date. Looking forward to see the planters. Also how you will solve that construction. I do not get what was going on there….

  16. I really love that you’re being so conscious about what you can save, and then actually saving it, even if it’s inconvenient and kinda ugly and maybe WON’T work…you’ll find a way to make it happen. Good on you! So many people just don’t want to see it anymore, and are more willing to pay for the luxury of ignorance. Good Job :)

    • It’s a big pain in the ass! Everybody thought I was nuts sorting through these enormous piles of lumber and keeping so much of it, so I really have to prove them wrong now! It’s all kind of an experiment. We’ll see!

  17. Daniel,

    How absolutely amazing that you’re attempting to save and restore both culture and history! I just stumbled across your blog and I love it. By the way, of course non of the pictures are perfect, you’re capturing the true struggles of renovation: nothing is ever as easy as you think it’s going to be! I have done a similar project with my dad, who was a contractor, and I know that the results are worth every ounce of work put into it. Your work is wonderful!

  18. Crazy story about the dumpster. Bureaucracy can be such a pain in the butt, especially when government departments are so underfunded. It is nice to hear that so many people went out of their way to help you out, however. Human kindness does still exist.

  19. I hear you on the dump experience! It’s pretty neat watching the whole operation and just thinking about the shear amount of trash that goes through there every day. I do wish that they would allow us to take some of the salvageable stuff. You are lucky that they allowed you to pick up that awesome fan and sewing machine! Can’t wait to see more of the progress on the cottage!

  20. I honestly check my feedly.com account daily hoping to see your next post. I’m excited to see what happens to this little cottage: vaulted ceilings on the second floor, perhaps? Hmm, I can’t remember what your wrote.

    But more importantly, I’m always most excited to see the progress on your own house. I work with college students and live on campus in a very small apartment so your place is a wonderful little imaginative respite for me. Thanks for that.

    • Yes, second floor ceilings are getting vaulted! It’s going to be so pretty. I can’t wait!

      And thank you! I’ll try to get more posts up about my house (and more posts generally…) moving forward. Progress has definitely slowed on that front but it’s still inching along. :)

    • oops, the name is Eric, not “erc”

    • I check my feedly account more than once a day for these posts. But, hey, no pressure:). The longer you take the longer we get to savor the process.

  21. Kingston has a lot to offer with so many beautiful old homes in need of love. I admire what you’re doing! I drive past the cottage almost daily and I enjoy monitoring the progress in person and on your blog.

  22. The wood stove may have been part of a buy-back program that requires the old stove to be scrapped. Why? Because old wood stoves are very bad for both indoor and outdoor air quality. There are tax credits in many states that encourage folks to buy newer/more efficient stoves to reduce pollution.

  23. Looking good. Happy you’ve taken everything down to the studs and fixing it all. I’m convinced some part of the building is 19th century because of the old back door, stairs, old doors upstairs, cellar, and tin ceiling (though that could be early 20th century too). I guess the brick chimney was probably for stoves for heating.

    • Yes! I think the middle section of the house is probably mid-19th. That section is built pretty much like my house…post and beam, clapboard nailed right on the studs and no sheathing. No nogging this time, luckily! I think the back and front sections might be later 19th or early 20th, maybe both. Turns out the tin ceiling is not original—it was covering an original plaster ceiling above it!

      • Wow, old! Curious how big is that original section? One room deep and two rooms wide? (And two stories of course.)

      • I absolutely love your blog. Always a jolt of happiness in my day when I see it has an update. It has also given me the courage to do some (minor) modifications to my own place I previously too scared to do myself.

        As a side note, please tell me you didn’t scrap-metal the tin ceiling… if so, lie to me and tell me it went to live on a farm in the country.

  24. Loved reading this today while eating lunch at my desk…. imagining how much more fun it would be to be DOING stuff instead of pushing the keys and talking on the phone… living vicariously thru ya!

  25. So glad you were able to demo & get all that trash out before the really crappy weather set in. Imagine doing that in the snow!
    Noticed the finished planters with the baby plants in that truck-loading photo-LOOKS GREAT. Timing-wise, does appear that your perennials had a little time to root & settle in before a freeze. I’m keeping my fingers crossed.
    Are you still shooting for a vaulted ceiling on the 2nd floor? You mentioned that a number of the beams are floating. I can guess what that means, but have no idea if shoring up a vault would still be viable. The women who owned my house before me converted the 2nd floor (an ATTIC) into a vaulted loft with skylights and an asymmetric cube of a bathroom thrown the middle. Done modestly, but it was pretty much the reason I bought the house.
    If you have to keep the low ceilings my kid could pretty much paint’em with his hair on a quick walk-thru.

    • Yep, vaulting is still the plan for both of the bedrooms. The middle section might have to be flat, which I’m OK with…it’s just a hallway and the bathroom, and as long as the ceilings are higher than they are now, I think it’ll be fine.

  26. I wanna see pictures of the basement!!!

  27. Very instructive text and images. Sometime in the dead of winter possibly lets discuss how to formulate best practices that communities and municipalities can adopt to further recycling and reuse of older/historical materials, especially by everyday people. A topic very near and dear to my heart.

  28. Here’s how someone like me reads this post. Happily, I’ll hasten to say.
    “Blahblahblahblahblahwreckedeverythingsomanytechnicalwordsdustdustdustmoretechnicalwordsaren’twegladthatDanielisdoingthisandnotmeblahblahblahsoeciting!!!!”

  29. “I feel like a normal gut renovation usually entails removing beautiful and/or salvageable materials and sending them to a landfill, only to be replaced by new stuff that will never have the same quality or character as what was there before. It’s wasteful and destructive and horrible, generally. But that doesn’t really apply here. I’m pretty sure I saved everything worth saving (and probably some stuff that wasn’t), but there wasn’t much. I hated sending so much stuff to a landfill, but it really was trash—broken, beyond the point of repair, with no potential for reuse.”

    This is why what you are doing will never, ever be flipping. It is what renovation should be *happy sigh*

  30. I had almost the same dump situation when i needed to replace my roof! The 1925 roof had 5 layers of roof shingles (including the original green stained shake shingles so there was a lot to tear off before we could resheath and shingle. I checked about getting a dumpster, and it seemed easy enough. I have a shared driveway with my neighbor but we were friendly and talked a lot and I just needed him to sign a paper giving me permission to park the dumpster in the driveway for 4 or 5 days. I slipped the paper in his back door but it was still there a few days later and I hadn’t seen him for a while. Turns out he took sick suddenly and after a couple days in the hospital he died. It wasn’t a total surprise since he was HIV positive but he had seemed stable and it was just so sudden. Since I couldn’t get permission from the owner and only had a few days until the demo started I asked about parking the dumpster in the street. Turns out that wasn’t permitted because we live on an arterial. The street is plenty wide (50 feet curb to curb) but no dumpster in the street. My yard is also higher than the street and I had just planted a number of established perennials in the front that spring so i didn’t even what to try the disaster of backing a dumpster into the front yard.
    We ended up doing exactly what you did – transported the debris to the dump in a borrowed trailer. My family were all such good sports helping to load and unload the shingles and my uncles also chipped in to pay for a few of the loads. I think the final count was 6000 lbs.

    I’m glad you saved the wood that you could possibly reuse. And even if you don’t someone might be able to. I was in an old house that vaulted the 2nd floor ceilings and it really made the upstairs feel so much bigger (that house had a crumbling foundation though – not sure how they missed that before listing it for sale…)

  31. My house has balloon framing too! Only, my windows aren’t framed at all, really. They’ve got a 2×4 underneath, and then just the studs on the sides and nothing above. So yay! We’re probably going to have to replace about half of our windows, thanks to lots of neglect (some are salvageable, some are not – sadly). We found really nice wood replacement windows though, and most of the ones that are in worse shape don’t have original glass (it’s obviously newer, so…?). <– This is me trying to look on the bright side after pouting for a couple months and consuming too much ice cream. And I'm planning to reuse as much of them as possible into some kind of greenhouse frames or something.

    My ceilings are possibly even lower upstairs (but almost 9ft high downstairs), so I might borrow your idea of vaulting them :)

  32. This is all very exciting to watch. I look forward to some of the “boring” stuff to come like what type of heating/cooling system you will install (mini-split, humidification, spacepac, conventional forced air), venting/insulation in the vaulted areas (closed cell spray?) and whether you are required to run conduit for electrical. Does the house currently have any soffit venting or did it have a “cold attic”?
    Keep it up!

  33. My first time commenting,but you are totally living my dream.I’m still in the midst of a never ending reno of a 70’s style house.I’m living vicariously thru you,and love your ideas.

  34. Your trash situation reminds me of the film Alice’s Restaurant which use to be on tv every year at Thanksgiving. As for your cobwebs, that’s nothing. Last week I spent 3 days cleaning our unfinished basement and vaccuming 90 year old cobwebs from between the beams. Yummy.

    Thanks for the post, I love seeing the progress/mess.

  35. Since ceiling height is such premium for this house – it seems to be that your upstairs is begging for a combo of dry wall and exposed beams.

    Something like this, perhaps: http://takingnotes.squarespace.com/home/category/our-house?currentPage=17

    Thoughts?

  36. I am so excited for more progress! Demo is my favorite. I don’t know if I’m “over” the diary posts at the bottom, but I do feel like they don’t sync up as well with the rest of the posts they are attached to. I feel like they are spoilers sometimes, that tell about something you have worked on but haven’t shared yet. Tell, but no Show. I can see how it would be valuable to have a daily log to go back and look at to remind you of all the process. Just my 2 cents.

  37. Australia has a brilliant system where we have dump shops at most dumps. They sell (v.cheaply) things that people have dumped that are still useful. I LOVE them. Some of my favourite possessions have come from dump shops. You guys should definitely adopt the concept!

  38. IN my small town they have a salvaged wood pile which you can add any wood and they chip it up and give it away for free (to use in yards and gardens.) Some of the beauties that land there are heart breaking!! Sadly the won’t let you take the wood whole but they give it away free chipped up. So so sad!!

  39. I used to work at a Transfer Station during the summers I would come home from college! haha . All I had to do was sit in the office and do clerical work. I basically read 15 books each summer. You’re right though, I had no idea where our trash went or how much trash a small town accumulates, it’s eye opening. Also, tip, don’t ever visit on a city trash day when its raining. Water and trash do not make the best smell!

  40. Last summer I had my first trip to the dump experience, and I’m totally with you that it’s something everyone should do at least once. School trips, sure. My mind was blown by the shear volume of stuff, and of course the stank!

  41. I’m such a big fan of what you’ve been doing with these houses. I grew up in crumbling old houses that my parents would (try to) fix up and it’s so nice to see someone taking it seriously.

    I was wondering if you’ve seen this article in the NYTimes where a family in Maine based most of their decorating around stuff they picked up from the dump? It’s honestly one of the most beautiful houses I’ve seen:
    http://www.nytimes.com/2011/09/01/garden/in-maine-gifts-from-the-sea-and-the-landfill.html

  42. “10/9: … Cody and I began installing decking.
    10/10: … Finished deck.”

    Wait, there’s a deck now? Where, in the front yard? I can’t remember if you had much space in the back/a back yard.

    • I know; I’m so curious I went back to the pic of debris being loaded in the truck to see if there was a reflection in the windows in the house across the street. Nada. We’ll have to wait.

  43. Why on earthwould someone through away the sewing machine! In Boston this happens too, but we put it to the curb about 2 days before pickup and that way people will take them. An item like that would last about 10 minutes and it would be gone. That’s why we all have basements full of 100 year old chairs that we cant sit on but we intend to fix.

  44. My girlscout troop took a trip to the dump when I was around 9 years old! We were all grossed out at first but ended up having the best time, the experience really left an impression on me and has made me a super recycler.

    Great job with the cottage so far, can’t wait for more updates!

  45. Daniel do you have a Habitat for Humanity store in Kingston? They are another good place to take items, that may have use to someone else, that you find difficult to part with at the dump. Also good place to pick up used and vintage finds for bargain prices.

  46. I do enjoy your blog and the nitty-gritty process, and if that means you have to talk and talk some more (at length) about it – that works for me. I’m happy with your 1-2 week posts, and the fact that they’re long makes it worth the wait – no setting you on fire as you feared :)

  47. Hi Daniel; It looks great. You must be having a whale of a time.
    Also for your reclaimed wood, some ideas, straight from The Source: http://pietheineek.nl/nl/home
    Just so you know. Now carry on.
    Have a wonderful day!

  48. Good post. Good work on house. Thank you for sharing.

  49. Ohmygosh. Stop it! I am just like a star-struck teenager and wish that we were BFF because this is exactly the kind of trouble I would get myself into if I didn’t have three smalls!!! I do admit to eating a bowl of chili while reading this and gagging a bit at the cobwebs, but hubs and I have done balls-to-the-walls crazy renos before and I think it is a sickness – an addiction you never quite shake. Like you personify a place and feel sorry for it and take up for it since nobody else will. (Since I don’t have time for that anymore I took up hoarding instead.)
    Anyway, three cheers from the sidelines over here in ATX as you kick ass on this little cottage! I’m living vicariously through your blog! So fun to see!

    PS) I don’t have any desire whatsoever to set you on fire.

  50. Yes yes yes on the mandatory dump trips! Wendy and I took our demo debris from our guest bath to the dump. I can honestly say that our relationship is better for it, in some weird dysfunctional way. I think the moment of realization that the two of us were perfect for each other (and probably only suitable for each other) came when Wendy was moving the bags near the gate and I was picking them up and tossing them like the world’s weakest Olympic hammer thrower into the great abyss of construction debris. Flocks of seagulls fluttered above while giant bulldozers worked to better distribute the trash while we were small specks in the giant wasteland. It felt like a scene from a Stanley Kubrick movie. Then on the way out of the dump I realized they didn’t take credit cards and forced Wendy to hand over the Christmas money her grandmother had just given her to pay the kind man in the weight station booth. I think she only handed it over because she feared he’d make her stay and work off what we owed.

  51. Fun Read, as always! I love the demo parts as much (maybe more) than the rebuilding. Can’t wait to see the deck! (aside, how did the fencing for your back yard work out for your pups – easier?).
    Sorry about the sick, ugh. I hope you are taking care of yourself, daily vitamins, drink veggie soup each day, and at least one citrus fruit drink (fresh lemonade, tea with lemon, orange juice..). Avoid dairy for that sinus, made a huge diff to my hubs cronic stuffy. Ok, now I sound like your grandma…geez
    I read twitter, a laundry chute would be cool! I admit I googled too! haha

  52. I’ve been reading and lurking in your comments since the Raccoon Fur bathroom in the apartment that, I believe, was actually THE Manhattan Nest (And, yes, my bathroom is painted Raccoon Fur because of that bathroom. Who decided that raccoon fur is navy? No idea.)

    Anyway….Like many others have stated, I click on your page several times a day eagerly awaiting new posts. Yours is the only blog I read from start to finish. Who knew that plumbing and lathe and demo could be so scintillating, but you make it so. Truly. I can’t get enough. It’s kinda weird. And I’ll put in another vote for a how-to book because I would be all over that shit. My husband and I are hoping to buy our first fixer-upper in the next year or so, and your blog is my current go-to guide (Don’t worry: I’ll, you know, look stuff up and work with tradesmen and all that).

    Thank you for always entertaining and educating us!

  53. This is going to sound strange, but—- If you ever are in Cape Cod, you should check out the Eastham Dump. It’s beyond organized and there’s a swap shop where people bring perfectly good items that someone else might want. I used to live in Eastham during the summer– and I got a bicycle and stemware and all sorts of cool old stuff there. Because they have limited space, they try and not needlessly throw away items. It’s great.

  54. I love seeing the walls and ceilings opened up! It must be a great feeling to know that when it’s all finished everything behind the new drywall will be in order.

    Have you considered leaving the ceilings on the first floor open too (maybe painted white)? It would add a few inches of height and create some interest. Also adding a little antique wood burning stove to that brick chimney (if you can find another one) might be a nice touch and would provide an alternate heat source.

    If you took more photos of the house all open after the demo, I hope you post them. Seeing the interior framing is so fascinating! I look forward to the floor plans!

  55. Based on the dates of your diary in this post…your faithful readers are ONE MONTH behind on the actual work you’ve been doing! Hurry up and share, please! :)
    Signed: A faithful fan

  56. I love your blog so much! Thanks for posting!!

  57. I’ve never posted a comment before but I’ve read your blog for a good few months now and I love what you’re doing with your own home. I’m also interested to follow where you go with the cottage renovation. I’m commenting now because I saw this Albany CL listing and swooned over the large wood mantel. I was looking for potential headboard candidates (thinking outside the box and all). Unfortunately I don’t have any place for a mantel and it seems like sacrilege to turn ithis one into a headboard rather than making it the focal point of a living room or dining room. Maybe you or one of your local readers might have a vision for it?

    http://albany.craigslist.org/mat/4753172247.html

  58. Wow! So much progress! Your comment about your contractor’s “monster truck” made me chuckle… That’s pretty much a basic truck high school kids drive here in Texas… I probably just validated so many stereotypes (if it helps DH and I have never drove anything but small sedans), but I guess stereotypes become stereotypes for a reason sometimes – LOL.

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