I hate my mudroom. Like lots.
This is the mudroom shortly after moving into the house. Look at Linus! So cute.
I’m the sort of person who tends to think most spaces are workable and potentially charming with a little bit of TLC, but the structure attached to the back of my house has never really felt like one of them. There was a time when I felt like replacing the floor tiles with leftover VCT from the kitchen re-do, painting the paneling, installing a cute-ish light, and building out some super simple storage would make this space sort of nice and useful. Clearly that never happened, and in the meantime I decided I just wanted the whole thing to disappear.
Oof…sorry, house! This is not one of your most flattering angles. I’m sure I’ve said this before, but I think the front of my house is really pretty, but the side and back have suffered over the years from some weird additions, and alterations to those weird additions, and then the vinyl siding and chain-link fencing happened, and the trees in the hell-strip came down, and…ya know. It doesn’t look so great. This angle is the one that will definitely change the most during my time in the house, though, and I think I can make it attractive and much more cohesive with enough time and energy and, of course, money. Right now I’m sort of running low in all three departments, so while I wish I could tackle everything at once, it just isn’t possible.
The mudroom, though, is structurally unrelated to the house itself and should come down pretty easily, so you can imagine how much self-restraint it’s taken to even let it survive this long. It has admittedly been a nice place to just throw crap when I’ve felt too lazy to find a better spot for it and just want it out of the way, but that’s pretty much the extent of its utility as a room.
Anyway, back to before pictures…this room was pretty gnarly. The paneling was the cheap 70s luan variety, the floor was this super ugly vinyl tile, and I don’t even know what that tape on the wall was about. The roof leaked (and still does), the ceiling is only about 7 feet and slopes toward the front corner, the door had a broken pane of glass (I can’t remember if I put up that scrap of plywood or if it was like that…), the tiny window on the back wall was also broken…I think maybe the only nice things about the room are that it has a wide-plank beadboard ceiling and the old door, both of which I plan to reuse elsewhere.
Demo on this room actually started a while ago…like maybe a year ago. I’d just had it with all the luan paneling and the tiles popping up off the floor and figured that I’d at least gut the interior and get that out of the way.
One nice discovery was that the original clapboard was right under the paneling on the back wall of the house! I expected it to be there, but houses have a tendency to throw weird curveballs so I was still relieved to see it. I wonder if the whole was painted this mint green color at some point.
Since the foundation under this room is definitely old (stacked bluestone, like the rest of the house, but not part of the adjacent foundation under the kitchen), I always sort of figured that this used to be a summer kitchen. Having a covered but outdoor space to cook during the summer is relatively common in old houses, I think mainly as a means to keep the main house cooler in the warm summer months. Seeing the vent hole for a stove on the outside of the house (there’s a chimney behind that wall) is confirmation of this, I think.
The other walls were pretty much just paneling nailed up to the 2×4 studs—no insulation or anything. The whole construction of this room is super wonky—usually 2x4s would be nailed in with the short side facing the interior and exterior, and you’d see a top plate that support the ceiling joists, etc. etc.
It’s sort of hard to tell, but you can see here that some of the clapboards on this wall look to be newer, particularly as you get toward the door, and some are the originals. I think this is because the entire back wall (where the little window is) was added at some point to fully enclose the space and then the door had to be added to create access to the backyard.
Once I’d gotten all the paneling down, I could’t help but dive into the floor! The tile is laid on top of plywood, which is laid on top of what are essentially enormous shims that were put in place to level out the floor. Since this was a semi-open space originally, the entire floor slants toward the back corner to direct water away.
CHAOS! It’s amazing how gutting even relatively small, simple spaces seems to create so much garbage! I wish I could just have a dumpster rented in my driveway for the next…decade? This was back when I used Bagster bags (I’ve since switched to just borrowing my friend’s pick-up and hauling to the dump myself, which is MUCH cheaper), which are thoughtfully designed to hold 4×8 objects perfectly. I do miss the convenience of Bagster bags, but also a little sick over how much money I spent on disposal during the first year in the house by relying on them. It could’ve paid for my own rust-bucket pick-up truck! Oh well.
See how all the clapboard on the wall with the window is newer? Without this wall, the 2×4 ceiling joists would have been supported by a single 2×4 top plate resting on 2×4 posts in the outer corners. So flimsy! It’s sort of amazing that the roof has lasted so long, particularly through heavy snow loads and whatnot. I wouldn’t necessarily go so far as to say this room is a structural hazard (after all, it’s been fine for many decades before I came along!), but it’s definitely a far cry from the way we’d build anything today! Even if I were interested in restoring this space as-is, I’d be looking at a lot of serious structural work (maybe even rebuilding it entirely), so I really don’t have any qualms with just losing it and giving the space over to something that will actually be used and enjoyed (porch! porch! porch!).
Underneath the vinyl tile and plywood and huge shims was more plywood! At first I was just inclined to leave it, but…curiosity. Weird bursts of energy. Little impulse control. Same old story.
Hey, cool! The original floor is old wide-plank pine. It’s in solid condition, too, so these boards will definitely get salvaged and reused somehow.
Outside, I finally started removing the vinyl siding a week or so ago! Removing vinyl siding is shockingly easy—you really just need a hammer and a pry bar. I think I had this whole wall un-vinyl’d in maybe 15 minutes? You just start at the top and work your way down.
Underneath the vinyl siding is a very thin layer of foam insulation, which is nailed into the clapboard.
Here is where I will mount my soapbox:
Vinyl siding is not good for old houses, and the last two pictures kind of sum up why. Often people think that covering a house in vinyl siding improves the appearance (agree to disagree there…), helps with maintenance, adds energy efficiency, and might even preserve the underlying materials, but very often that’s not the case! Regardless of how you feel about how vinyl siding looks, the fact that it’s so effective at disguising potentially very serious issues makes its continued use sort of alarming to me. When water and moisture get behind the vinyl, the vinyl and foam insulation are great at catching that water, trapping it, keeping it next to the wood, and even advancing decay by keeping it dark and warm up in there. Yuck! So what you get is a nasty hotbed of mold and rotting wood. And if pests like termites and carpenter ants aren’t already hiding behind the vinyl (which they totally might be and you wouldn’t really know it because you can’t see them), well…they’re known to enjoy chowing down on some decaying wood now and then so they might decide to join the party too. So underneath a wall that just looks like clean, fresh, wood-grain-embossed-plastic, there can be all sorts of crazy activity that can not only affect the clapboard but also wreak serious havoc on underlying framing and potentially anything else in the wall like electrical and insulation.
ANYWAY. As much as I’d love to rip down ALL OF THE VINYL RIGHT NOW, that’s a huge project involving careful lead-paint-containment and lots of time and potentially money and it’ll have to wait a while longer. I’m hopeful that most of the underlying clapboard will be in good shape and just need to be stripped, primed, and painted, but of course there’s no real way of knowing until I see it! For the sake of this summer, I think I’ll remove just the vinyl on the back of the house (leaving the vinyl “cornerboards” in place) and use that as a test run for how the rest of the house will be. I’m a little scared to look! I’ll salvage any of the good older pieces of clapboard from the mudroom for patching in elsewhere on the house if/when necessary, and hopefully it’ll all work out and be so beautiful and not so difficult and I won’t rue the day I wrote these words.