Fixing the Back of the House: Part 1!

 

insulation4

So…I kind of dove head-first into fixing the back of my house.

step1

Quick refresh: it looked kind of like this after the big mudroom addition came down. Not adorable! After removing the vinyl siding, it became very clear that I needed to do something with the door and the window on the second floor, since they’re clearly later additions that are neither functional nor attractive.

So the plan became a classic rob-Peter-to-pay-Paul scheme: I’d tear out the double casement window in the kitchen, replace it with a cheap stop-gap window (down the line it’ll get a nice, enlarged 6-over-6 to match the rest of the house), and split the casement sashes into two individual windows for the second story—one on each side of the chimney running up that wall. As you can see from the pictures, all of this would involve a lot of clapboard patching. Patching clapboard is kind of like patching wood floors or something—you don’t want to end up with an obvious patch, so you need to feather your boards so they vary in length and joints are staggered.

I was planning on re-siding just the top half of this wall to accomplish this, and leave the bottom half intact since the clapboards (especially the green parts) were in relatively good condition, just with a ton of old crusty paint that needed to be scraped and stuff before repainting.

Peelaway

I had this idea that I’d use Peel Away, which is a great chemical stripper that’s widely used in restoration projects. It’s basically a thick paste that you apply fairly liberally and cover with their special magic wax paper and leave for about 24 hours. I decided to do a test sample before committing to the whole wall to see how it would work.

peelaway2

After about 24 hours, you start, well, peeling away. The paste stripper binds pretty well with both the paint and the wax paper, so it all kind of sloughs off in chunks.

peelaway3

So, it worked…okay. Since the green part of the wall was inside the mudroom for so many years, it only seems to have a couple coats of paint on it and the Peel Away worked flawlessly there. The white part, though, has about a billion layers of paint…and caulk…and tar. I guess as boards began to split or rot, a previous owner opted to smear them with tar which is super sticky and probably not the greatest substrate for new paint.

Peel Away is very effective on paint but doesn’t really do anything to caulk or tar, so I was left with decent but not great results. I figured I’d do it anyway and then just scrape and sand a LOT to get things ready for repainting, which sounded like the opposite of fun but short of replacing all the clapboard I wasn’t sure what else I could do.

windowpainting2

While I mulled over that, I shifted my focus to replacing the window. I told you, nothing fancy! The idea was to buy a replacement window that would fit in the frame of the old window so I wouldn’t have to do anything crazy like totally re-frame and redo the trim on the outside and destroy my kitchen on the inside and all that.

I found a window that was the right dimensions at Lowe’s, where somebody had special ordered it and then returned it. Since it’s a non-standard size, Lowe’s unloads these at a deep discount…I guess this window would have run about $175 for the person who bought it, but it was mine for about $25! Cool.

windowpainting3

Even though I think of this window as temporary, it’s going to be on the house long enough that I figured I could put a little extra effort into making it look better, so I also picked up a can of gloss black spray paint (Valspar brand that said it would work on plastic), covered the glass with paper and tape, roughed up the plastic a little with a sanding block, and hit it with a few coats of paint. I think it looks WAY better and since the other windows on the house are already black, I think it helps it blend a little more even though it’s vinyl.

newwindow

When it came to actually putting in the new window…I messed up. I measured wrong! So the window that was supposed to fit in the old frame to make my life easier did not, and I didn’t want to go out and buy a new window and eat the (small, but still) cost of the new window that I’d already spray-painted. Doh! So the old frame came out, the old exterior trim came off, and I furred out the framing so the new window would fit snugly. I also managed to install it 100% by myself (turns out it’s kind of hard to hoist a big window into its rough opening, make it level, and screw it into place with only two hands) which I was pretty proud about.

ANYWAY. As you can see, at this point I’d removed a fair amount of the old siding to redo the trim around the new window, and I was finding that taking down the siding intact wasn’t so bad.

tar

I was also noticing more and more that the condition of the old clapboard was not good. This is an area under the window where the siding meets the cornerboards, which was so caked in old paint and tar that it didn’t really even resemble wood anymore. Argh. I actually kind of like when old clapboard houses have that scale-y texture from being scraped and repainted over the years, but this level of disrepair seemed a bit beyond that and not a good candidate for scraping and repainting.

clapboardremoval1

So one thing led to another.

clapboardremoval2

And I took down all the clapboard.

A couple of years ago, seeing the house like this probably would have sent me into major panic mode…but I gotta say, this was all kind of fun and thrilling. Like, oopsie! Now I just have to fix it! No biggie!

You’ll notice that my house doesn’t have any sheathing at all, which would typically be between the studs and the clapboard. In my case, sheathing either came later or just hadn’t really hit Kingston yet…I don’t tend to see it on houses around here that were built before about 1890. My house and a lot of others is just clapboard nailed to the studs.

You might also be wondering what the hell all that brick is about? Well I’ll tell you. It’s called nogging, and was a fairly common practice during the 19th century. Basically the frame of the house would be built, clapboard applied to the outside, and then the wall cavities between the studs would be filled with brick and mortar from the inside before the lath and plaster went up. Crazy, right? It’s not structural—instead it was a form of insulation and pest-proofing, since rats and mice aren’t super keen on chewing through bricks.

The problem with the nogging is several-fold. Firstly, as insulation it has an R-value of less than 1, so it’s not all that different than just having no insulation. Because the walls are already jam-packed with this stuff, there really isn’t any way to install better insulation without removing it all, but access to it is the obvious issue since tearing off all the clapboard sounds mildly insane and tearing out all the necessary plaster inside would be a huge amount of energy and expense and, to me at least—lover of plaster walls—super sad for the house. The nogging is made out of what are called “salmon bricks,” which are basically garbage bricks that weren’t close enough to the heat as they were getting fired, or broke during production or transport…stuff like that. The vast majority of them do not hold up to any kind of moisture—instead, they absorb it like a sponge and then break and crumble, which is not really the kind of thing you want lurking behind your walls!

insulation1

ANYWAY. It’s the 21st century! We have lots of insulation options now that are better at insulating than garbage bricks. The nicest option is closed-cell spray foam, but it’s also really expensive, and would ideally be done from the inside in a larger application than this to make it worth it. Normal fiberglass bat is also an option but I was concerned about how it would fare on a wall without sheathing—it has a tendency to kind of compress itself and become useless when exposed to moisture and it’s no fun to work with. I read online somewhere about using a combination of rigid foam insulation and canned spray foam, and that seemed like the best option for here.

So I picked up some 4’x8′ sheets that are 2″ thick and supposed to have an R-value of 10. I know 10 is still fairly low but it’s a huge improvement, and I think one that makes sense for a house that will always be somewhat drafty no matter what. Each sheet was about $35 (I used 5 on this wall for both levels) so the price was also manageable.

The process of installing the foam insulation was really simple: measure the width (each was a little different), rip it down on the table saw, and put it in place. They fit snugly enough that no other fasteners were required.

insulation2

After a bunch of panels were in place, it was time for the Great Stuff! Great Stuff is, well, pretty great for sealing gaps and cracks. I sprayed it around each edge of the foam panels and waited for it to expand and dry. It served kind of a dual function of locking the panels in place and really buttoning up the whole installation.

insulation3

Before re-siding, I went around and used my handy flush cut saw to remove parts of the spray foam that had expanded past the studs. It’s also easy to cut this stuff with a box cutter. Just make sure it’s dry, because spray foam is a sticky nightmare if it isn’t.

boardsbefore

OK! SO! Finally it was time for the magic to happen! I had my pile of boards that I’d removed from the house, and then more clapboards I was hoarding in the basement that came off of the mudroom when I tore that down.

I experimented with a few different methods of trying to safely and relatively easily remove the paint/caulk/tar special plaguing most of these boards, and all of them basically sucked.

planersetup1

Until…the planer!! I bought this DeWalt planer secondhand about a year ago for something else. It’s a really fun tool to own because the gratification is so instant and the transformation is so dramatic! I hooked it up directly to my ShopVac fitted with a HEPA filter (VERY important because there is definitely lead paint involved), put on a respirator and some ear protection, and started feeding boards through.

planersetup2

DUDES. SO EXCITING. Each board took about 2-4 passes, but being able to totally strip down 10 or 12 foot lengths of clapboard in about a minute? Awesome.

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So the boards go in one side looking like this.

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And out the other looking like this. Ahhhhhhhhhhh.

shavingsfromplaning

The ShopVac set-up was very effective, by the way. Small paint chips still escaped but the vast majority got sucked right into the ShopVac and most importantly it was extremely good at keeping the really fine dust out of the air. No system of dealing with lead paint is perfect but I feel good about this one.

sawrip

The final step in prepping the boards for installation was to run them through the table saw to shave off just the tiniest amount on the bottom of each board where there was still paint, since only the face of the boards got planed.

newboard1

The actual installation went surprisingly fast and was totally fun and made me feel like a cool wizard. I used this DeWalt siding and trim nail gun (borrowed from Edwin…have I mentioned how great it is to live next door to a friendly contractor?) fitted with 2″ siding nails. The nail gun was essential since I was alone, but even with another set of hands I can’t really imagine nailing all of this by hand. It’s extremely important to use nails specifically for siding—framing or finishing nails will rust.

By the way, I considered adding sheathing and weather wrap but nixed it because I didn’t want to add thickness to the wall and then end up with my clapboards protruding past the elements of the cornice at the top of the wall. I know that might seem iffy but this is how the house was built and I guess it’s been fine so far.

boardsprocess2

To conserve as much material as possible, I laid out all my available boards in order of size (this was the area for small boards—there was another for medium-sized boards and another for the really long guys). That way I could easily find the piece closest in length to the one I needed and end up with a smaller off-cut. This project generated really little waste, which always feels good!

endcut

After selecting my board, it was over to the chop saw to cut it to length! A lot of the boards had really rotted or split ends but were fine in the middle, so I’d usually cut a little off of each end.

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The boards are about 6″ wide (they vary) but the reveal is 5.25″. To keep the reveals consistent, I just ripped a piece of scrap wood down to 5.25″ and used it as a guide to correctly place each board.

newboard2

With each run I tried to pay special attention to where the joints would fall in relation to the previous boards so that they’d look staggered and random. The disadvantage of doing things this way is that you want to get rid of any “bad” parts of each  board, so I ended up with more butt joints than there used to be, but I’m OK with that if it means being able to retain the original boards.

newboard3

Not bad for wood that’s been outside for 150 or so years, am I right?

newboard4

I’m so happy with the way this project is shaping up! Wait until you see the top half…it’s not totally done yet (some painting and caulking still to go…) but I think it’s going to look great.

So, am I crazy? I honestly feel like I could do the whole house this way (maybe tweaking some parts of the process)—restoring the clapboard and insulating one wall at a time. Right?

This post is in partnership with Lowe’s! Lowe’s has kindly provided me with merchandise credit, but specific product selections, opinions, designs, and stupid ideas are all mine.


131 Comments

  1. If I had a planer I would be constantly running random pieces of wood through it just for the satisfaction of having it come out the other side looking so good! Definitely speaking to my mild OCD/neurosis in a good way.

    So impressive.

    xx

    A

    • omg, I get it! When I brought it home I immediately started just running whatever I had through it because it was so exciting to watch! I’m glad I have a good reason now. :)

    • OMG me too! That is seriously amazing!

    • Me too! And I totally don’t have any tools anywhere and am afraid of lead! Maybe you could set it up as a tourist attraction!

  2. Yay! :) Before too long it’ll perfectly prestiene. I don’t think I would have been that brave, but it’s looking good!

  3. So exciting! I think you did an excellent job, especially with only two hands! Also, I like the guest appearance by Linus checking out the work.

  4. well…yes you are crazy but in a good way…

    looks amazing…the planing on the boards is genius….and yes you could do the whole house…just not necessarily in your lifetime>

    the window looks fine..love me some spray paint.

  5. You are a hero Daniel. This is super-impressive to me. What a process this is! Keep up the good work!

  6. Daniel! You’re an amazing man! Who’d have thought this is where your little rental DIY blog would take you? Installing windows and using kick-ass power tools! I feel like a proud mamma looking at your progress (except I think we’re about the same age) and it fills me with hope that I can learn some basics and get stuck in to our much much less extreme 1970’s reno. xx

    • Aw, thanks CC! And you can! This seems like a really elaborate process but each part of it is actually pretty simple and easy. Most renovation stuff is like that! Just take it one step at a time, and have someone to call if you need to throw in the towel! :)

  7. Wow, wow, wow. I love this! You actually are totally crazy to think that you could do the whole house this way, but I wouldn’t be surprised at all if you decided to just BE that crazy. Did I miss something above or are you saying that you didn’t have to buy any replacement clapboard? My hubby and I are working slowwllllly, but hard on restoring and repainting our 110 year old house and are having the hardest time sourcing good quality patch material.

    • Thanks, Kari! I got lucky that I had clapboard salvaged from the mudroom addition, so I actually didn’t purchase a single piece of lumber for this entire wall! I honestly don’t know a ton about where one goes about buying boards that match the thickness/profile of old boards, but maybe another commenter does? I’ll try to look into it too..

    • Some salvage places actually have clapboards from old houses, and if you’re looking, they might be willing to pull it off their next project.

  8. Unbelievably impressive. You go, Daniel!

  9. This looks amazing. I am just in awe.

  10. That detail picture scared me like woah. Turns out that was totally unnecessary because this looks super sweet. I don’t know that I’d have even thought to try to plane 150-year-old clapboards, but I’m glad you did, because seriously, this is awesome. I second the idea of doing the rest of the house like this by stages, once spring rolls back around. Eagerly awaiting the finish reveal on this section. Nice score on the window, too. A little furring strip is a small price to pay for a beautiful discount.

  11. You have way more patience than I every will. But if you think you can manage it, I say take on the entire house! It seems like the ultimate restoration project — using the wood that was originally put on the house. This is going to turn out fantastic. Great job!

  12. Im so excited to see when it is finished! BTW, you didn’t mention if your kitchen felt any warmer to you now.

    • Oh man, the difference is HUGE. I’ve only ever known my kitchen to be frigid once the weather starts getting cold, but even just with this one wall insulated it’s really changed everything. The real test will come a little later like in January/February, but we’ve had some cold days and nights and I definitely feel a major impact.

      • Yay for toasty kitchens! Hopefully there will be no more winter mornings where you can see your breath. Ha-ha.

  13. I mean, really? Can you just live near us already?

    A planer has been on our wish list for far too long – I always forget to look secondhand when we need tools like this!

    • We’d never get anything done! Dog cuddles 24/7.

      Planers are the bomb. Lowe’s has a Porter Cable one for like $250 that’s supposed to be really good! I’ve always loved my Porter Cable tools.

      • I have the Porter Cable planer and I’ve been really happy with it thus far and it’s a great buy! Plus, so satisfying peeling away old layers and seeing what’s below :)

  14. Holy crap….it’s always an adventure for you! A project starts one way, takes side turns, back steps, and somehow you always pull it together and turns out amazing! It’s so much fun to read your adventures!

  15. Wow, super impressive (as always). Did you also insulate up the wall as you worked on the second floor?
    Come visit already!

    • Yep, the whole wall is now insulated from the foundation to the roof! Pretty exciting for this chilly old girl!

  16. Bravo!

    I love these posts where you just dive in. I learn so much. I mean, who knew the Dewalt planer tool could clean decades of gunk off clapboard?

    The disastrous back wall is taking shape. I can’t wait for the next install.

  17. Yes, you are totally crazy. But I love this! What a labor of love. I saw this post pop up in my feed and went to get a fresh cup of coffee so I could properly enjoy it. ;) You did not disappoint! Looking forward to part 2!

  18. Nicely done! This is going to turn out sweet.
    Loved the nogging explanation and how you used the planer.
    Just a side note. I insulated to R-19 behind the knee walls in an attic bedroom that was frigid and still remained frigid after the insulation. I then hit the books hard and came back with a new game plan–I air sealed using canned foam and wrapped the back of the re-installed insulation with weather wrap. The drafts stopped and the room now can be heated and cooled effectively. I didn’t notice it adding much to the depth of the studs in that wall. Just writing this so you can think about it for future projects.

    • Thanks, Donna! Was this with fiberglass bat insulation? Just trying to picture the process! Sounds interesting for sure!

    • @donna Our attic knee walls also only have the fiberglass and when we had an energy audit they told us that the thing that would make the biggest difference was air sealing between the knee walls and the ceiling below (like how you described using the wrap and expanding foam). I haven’t done it yet because we have to rewire but plan to as soon as we’re done with that. It’s good to hear that it really makes a difference. BTW, do you have any attic access doors in the knee walls, I’m not really sure how to insulate those since we have to be able to open them.

      • Rigid insulation on the back of the doors (assuming they open into the room like ours do). Then a loose, roll down type of something that covers the door inside the “attic” part. Ours is an old moving blanket that’s quilted and thick. It’s not perfect, and there’s still a space around the door frame that leaks air, but it’s much better than it was.

  19. Looks great! If you do more siding yourself, you might want to consider priming the boards first. See here:

    http://www.oldtownhome.com/2013/8/15/All-Aboard-the-Siding-Project-Express—Destination-Meltdownsville/index.aspx

    • Yes, that might be true! I thought about it but ultimately didn’t both because I was worried about time (this is/was a bigger project than I was anticipating taking on so late in the year!) and because I figured the wood had been OK for this long and maybe it didn’t matter so much. But yes, priming first is definitely best practice with siding in general!

    • I think he mentioned maybe using the Cabot stain in white on the clapboards in an old post. I’m not entirely sure, but I don’t think it needs a primer. :)

  20. Oh man that planer looks so fun! Our 100-year-old clapboard siding has about a million layers of paint on it too, and I also happen to like the scale-like look of it all. Someone once asked me if I would ever consider putting VINYL SIDING up over top of it because the paint can flake. I think it took everything in me not to tell them they were insane!

  21. I’m sure there is something wrong with me since I’m reading this post while stuck in my boring office cube and feeling so JEALOUS because I want to be ripping down clapboard siding and making my house all shiny and new!

    Alas, my old house (built in 1948 so just a baby compared to yours) has shingles and those are much less efficient to replace/repair than clapboard. It does feel sort of bad ass to look at your house when it’s all exposed and instead of having a meltdown, just shrugging and thinking, “ok, well, let’s get on with it then.”

  22. You are my hero. I seriously love watching you do all this shit, because it makes me think I can also tackle house reno. I don’t think I ever would have reached this point if not for years of reading your blog. It is a lot of hard work, and you get (maybe too used to) living in a construction zone, but it’s definitely doable. And for someone with champagne taste and a (very cheap) beer budget, that opens up a whole world of possibilities.

    Which is to say I’m about to gut half of my living room and basically redo EVERYTHING from floor to ceiling and get rid of all the awful old cheap 70’s crap. It’s gonna be great. (And don’t worry, I practiced by knocking out a wall in the pantry, reframed the whole area, and learned how to drywall.)

    • Aw, that’s so nice to hear, Lori! And good luck!! Sounds like you know just what you’re doing!

  23. Yikearooney! I learn so much from you, Daniel! That Planer is really a magic tool! Wanted to ask you about the Peel Away though. I decided to strip the front door and the pocket doors in our new house. I really don’t want to remove the pocket doors mostly because I can’t figure out how to do it. So if I use this stuff will it not drip and make a big mess like the glop on stuff does? I can take off the front door without too much trouble, but the others…hmmm. What say you?

    • Peel Away has about the consistency of joint compound, so once it’s up it stays put nicely! Applying it to a vertical surface is kinda tricky just because you might drop some, so I’d put down a drop cloth for sure, but otherwise it shouldn’t run or drip. It’s still kind of a pain in the butt to neutralize the stripper after it’s off…stripping paint is just one of those things that’s a mess no matter how you go about it! Much easier if you can literally hose something down afterwards but I know people use peel away all the time on interior stuff and get through it.

      Side note, too: Peel Away often discolors/darkens wood, so it’s really best for if you’re going to repaint or do a dark stain or something. Just head’s up!

  24. If I don’t see some interior work/ pics of Blue Stone soon I’m gonna . . . keep checking back until I see some. :(

    • I know I know I know I know I know I know I know I know. The checking will pay off, I swear. I’m sorry!

  25. Its looking amazing! Love how things are changing/developing :)

    (It took my parents 9 years to build our house from an old farmhouse so it seems like the pace you are keeping is perfect. :)

  26. Every time you post, I feel the need to comment because I see so much of my own crazy in your crazy. My husband thinks I am insane, like 80% of the time. And if I lived close I would be volunteering to help because crazy DIYs are my fave. Anyway, this project is awesome and your posts never fail to teach me a new trick (planers ftw.)

  27. Goodgod I love you & your blog. It’s silly how excited I get when I see a new post on your site :)
    Keep up the great work & awesome blogging – and don’t forget, we can’t get enough pictures of your fur babies along the way :)

  28. OK, so I am not jealous of your planer at all….. I live in an apartment with my husband and I have my fair share of power tools… But I dream of one day buying an old house up the Hudson River Valley as a weekend getaway and fixin it up like you are doing. Apartment living presents a lot of challenges and limitations, and I am sure I test the patience of my neighbors from time to time as I power up my compressor to shoot nails into new moldings for the plaster walls or cut into the floor boards with my oscillating multi tool, but I long for the big toys like a table saw or a planer!

    Have fun with this, it is a lot of work, but the joy of seeing the results is so very rewarding.

    • Thanks, Devyn! Being able to live in a place where I can have big tools and space to work is awesome after my years in Manhattan and Brooklyn—I know I’m not helping matters, but I wouldn’t trade it! My garage looks like a lumber yard, my basement looks like the tool section of a small hardware store…there are still things on the wishlist (when won’t there be?) but it’s pretty great to have most of my bases covered tool-wise, space to store them, and outdoor space to use them that isn’t the roof of a Brooklyn apartment building! I’m a lucky duck. :)

  29. Impressive! And why not all the way around, one side at at time?!
    And you have seriously single-handedly made me fall in love with Lowes!

  30. You are a rock star. I’m very impressed with your fearlessness and tenacity. I’ve been kind of a lurker but I wanted to speak up and say how much I enjoy your posts. Keep it up.

  31. Can I just say, you do an excellent job of advertising Lowes. Its never annoying, unnatural sponsored content; but after each post I have a good impression of their brand, an interest in the products you used, and feel grateful they sponsor you. How rare is that in blogland?

    Also, planer! Flush cut saw.. you have so many cool tools. I would love to see you make a tool room one day, just ignoring momentarily the three houses on your to-do list. Imagine.. supremely practical like your pantry and laundry, but super stylish like everything on Man-nest..

    • Thank you, Jacquie! That’s really nice of you to say. Lowe’s has been a really wonderful partner to me—it really is where I (happily!) do nearly all my shopping regardless of whether it’s sponsored or not, and they’ve always given me total creative and editorial control which is sort of amazing. It’s always been important to me that sponsored content (which I know can be frustrating as a reader) be treated like any other post on the site, so I appreciate the kind words!

      I really should show my garage and basement soon…they aren’t gorgeous, but all those tools and supplies have to live somewhere, and keeping them semi-organized takes a considerable amount of effort!

    • Totally agree re. the sponsored stuff–this blog and Yellow Brick Home are super impressive to me in the way you guys incorporate sponsored content and it’s actually useful and legit, instead of seeming really forced like I’ve seen elsewhere.

      • Ditto on the excellent use of sponsorship! I never feel like it’s forced, and that makes it so much more effective as advertising (it also gives me a much higher opinion of the brand!).

      • Likewise. I’m about to call them for a chunk of fence replacement based almost solely on the good experience/reviews here.

  32. Way to go! It’s so obvious how much you’ve grown since this great blog started! I too feel like a proud momma :) I think it makes sense to do it a wall at a time if the results are going to be like this. Can’t wait for part 2!

  33. I love remembering how bold and energetic I thought you were back when you were doing shit like upholstering an IKEA bed frame. That was in an apartment with a roommate and a grumpy landlord who was so strict that he painted over your white paint with different white paint.

    Now that you have so much freedom with your own house (and like three other houses?), I can only imagine how itchy you were back in Manhattan to rip things apart. It’s just super fun to watch.

  34. This is such a great idea and looks AMAZING! You could totally insulate the rest of the house this way. No doubt it would take forever, but it would be totally worth it. Did you consider the pros/cons of wrapping the insulation in Tyvek before putting the siding back up?

    Also, now I totally want a planer, and I’m not even sure what for since I live on a boat.

  35. You are a magician. You never cease to amaze me!

  36. Not bad! Can’t wait to see the 2nd part…
    Just a random question – what happend to Bluestone cottage? Still renovating it?

  37. You are a total rockstar. Superhero. Holy cow, this is amazing. The things you tackle on your own, and that you do such a fabulous job on and that always come out looking freaking awesome – it blows my mind. Oh man, come help me work on my house. I always feel pretty good about it until I see your work and then I realize how much shoddy, corner-cutting work I’m actually doing. You are incredibly inspirational.

  38. Can I just say how proud I am of all your amazing brilliance and hardwork? I think everyone here already knows I’m one of your biggest cheerleaders but you continue to surprise me everyday with your new found talents and exploits. So PROUD. And so MUCH LOVE. (Where’s the emoji for Jewish mommy happy tears?)

  39. Heh heh you said butt. (Yes I am 10 years old. At heart.)

  40. you are having WAY TOO MUCH FUN!. ;o
    no seriously, as another commenter work – sitting at a desk with three monitors and an ipad to monitor…
    i wish i were tearing things off and rebuilding.
    alas i dont even own an apartment – so i too live vicariously thru your blog (since the CU apt days!)
    i agree with the others – seeing your post in my feed.!!! yea daniel has a new post… i got my lunch heated and slowly savored each para as i scrolled down munching my black beans.

    wow is so inadequate.
    you are my DIY God!

    cant wait to see the beautiful reveal!

  41. YOU ARE SO AWESOME! No seriously this is the coolest. I second everyone else in saying that watching you rip stuff apart and put it back together 1000000x better is just so inspiring! Also how insanely satisfying was it to watch your awesome 150 yr old clapboard come out of that planer?! So cool, what a great solution!

  42. Kudos! I can tell how happy you are with this.
    And you should be!!

  43. Awesome work Daniel! Looks great, can’t wait to see the end result :)
    Quick question; have you thought about flipping the clapboards and use the unpainted backside, so you potentially have less passes on the planer to make?

    Example in this video (around the 2:20 min mark):
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_0emFslXunk

    Paint could dull planer blade like madness according to this video (around 1:55 min mark):
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aORaC5C7V7Y

    Could be worthwhile checking out if you consider doing your whole house.
    Rock on!

  44. I have really enjoyed reading your blog over the past few years — I even have my own 110 year old house to fix up now! Like Vanessa asked…did you ever consider adding a vapor barrier under the siding?

  45. Look at you tearing apart the exterior of your house this late in the season and not giving a flying f*ck. Wish I have your guts! Man, that clapboard looks *so* good… I can’t wait to see this all come together!

  46. You are not crazy at all (any more so than the normal, highly entertaining level) for thinking to do the whole house. Perhaps over time, or in one gloriously tiring push, either way: great idea and you’ll probably not regret it for a moment.
    Also: HURRAY LINUS! Always good to see him. I have a senior bichon-ish fluffy white little man myself who loves to help with all projects. Thank goodness for the puppies. :)

  47. You are AMAZING. Just sayin’.

  48. I LOVE planers! I bought a mini cyclone (“dust deputy”) that is amazing at making it easier to empty chips and keeping the filter from clogging up when planing a lot. Its a little cumbersome but I like it.

    Good insulation is the best, isn’t it? Probably the biggest difference will come from the air sealing you did. For any walls in the future, you might be able to get away without sheathing (though it would make the house stronger) but I would do something to keep the siding away from the studs. Maybe be something as simple as a house wrap?

    • Yes that is a good point, there needs to be some ventilation behind the wood (2 cm). A house breathes and a lot of humidity is produced in a house that needs to be able to get out/ becomes manifest (condensates) in places where there is a big change in temperature (like a wall between inside and outside). The chimney effect behind the wood will transport the humidity out of the house. (At least that is what they taught me when I was in school.)

  49. Stunning results! You could make a fortune as a specialist who planes and replaces caked up siding on other old houses!

  50. That’s so awesome. Way to go Daniel. I can’t wait to see you finish up the upper floor, then break out the paint gun and spray that puppy.

    On the other hand, I am totally freaking out for you because I thought that rigid insulation foam was super flammable and best not to use in places where people sleep, such as residential construction. Hopefully, I’m just a worry wart.

  51. It already looks SO good, it’s such a huge difference!! It feels like the house just took a huge sigh of relief. I’m so excited to see that door to nowhere be gone, too. Are you still pushing through with making that room your main bedroom?

  52. Cannot wait to see the door to nowhere gone!

  53. Daniel, What a lucky day for your house when you came along. You are not only lovingly restoring her, but improving her. It’s so exciting to see the outside being so carefully brought back to life. You are nothing short of HEROIC. Don’t keep us in suspense too long for Part 2, pretty please.

  54. Daniel, WOW WOW WOW! You continue to blow me away with your attitude and determination. I love the blog and love the inspiration! Well done!

  55. Hi Daniel; Wow, this blog is becoming less and less about design and more and more about stamina and character and resoursefullness and inventiveness. And you obviously have all of these in abundance. I found the before pictures quite shocking to be honest, glad you rounded up the post with a picture of how beautiful it turned out. Very clever reusing those clapboards. If had a Walt planer like that I would also be planing my days away with all of the pieces of wood I could lay my hands on.
    Do you really have an opening toward your cellar under your kitchen or is there a door in there somewhere? I personally am also very curious about how your other projects are turning out, but I don’t mean to pry (honestly). Have a wonderful day!

  56. Wow Daniel! How brave you are. From you little digs in your first apartment to this hardcore renovation. you rock!

  57. Dropcloths under scraping sites to keep lead-rich paint from entering soil? Not clear to me if you did much in situ scraping — thank you for posting this series of images and annotations.

    • There wasn’t much scraping, but paint chips do fall as the clapboards come down. I use 4 or 6 mil plastic as a big drop cloth and then just bundle the whole thing up and throw it away when I’m done.

  58. The work you have done (this time, as always) is awesome! I will echo the other commenters who have said how exciting it is to follow you on this journey – from apartment diys to house renos. I. Love. This. Blog. Thank you for what you do. :)

  59. This is so awesome for so many reasons- congrats. Can’t wait to see the rest!

  60. Make sure you have someone lined up to re-sharpen your blades. They are going to get dull pretty quickly. You also might want to find a cheap metal detector to sweep for random metal before you run them through. I built one of these http://makezine.com/projects/infrared-paint-remover-v2/ and it works great for getting rid of lots of old paint quickly without a huge gloppy mess, it would probably make short work of the tar too if the planer isn’t working long term. This looks great though, you are really going to feel a difference in winter after sealing up those walls. Keep up the great work/posts.

  61. Yep, you are totally nuts! But, also amazingly talented, tenacious, and have more patience than anyone I “know”! I am married to an “Edwin”, and can just hear the string of commentary he would be spouting, if he were reading this! Contractors just have no patience for reusing / restoring materials! (Much to my repeated disappointment.) Edwin is probably continually shaking his head, but at least he helps you out some, and more importantly, lets you use his tools occasionally! It’s so fun to follow along with your restoration, done in a manner that would probably be something similar to how I’d do it – if I didn’t have previously mentioned “Edwin” at my side, saying NO to everything. lol! Keep up the good work!!!

  62. Maybe you talked about it elsewhere but I can’t remember – why did you opt to use the kitchen window for the new upstairs windows instead of splitting up the existing upstairs window?

    The clapboard looks great! So satisfying to see it like this – you must feel very proud. Your arms must look like Popeye’s by now, too!

  63. Yay! This is going to look SOOO GOOOOOD. You are a GENIUS.

    I found myself thinking today, if only Daniel were a Mormon, he’d be done by now. Those Mormon bloggers seem to finish up a house every other week. ;-)

  64. The 150 year old wood looks good back on the house. The ugly green is almost gone and you are wearing your work boots!! Very successful project.

  65. This is going to look fantastic – and you won’t believe how much warmer it is. My family lives in a tiny house in Northern Minnesota that was built in the early 1940’s. We added foam and Great Stuff to our previously-uninsulated crawl space last fall, and the difference was INCREDIBLE! (We went from wearing wool socks AND slippers all winter to running around barefoot on our toasty-warm floors.)
    Thanks for letting us follow along on your journey!

  66. I am such a renovation novice, I never would have thought you could just reuse those old boards! I would have taken them off, tossed them and bought all new ones. I love learning on this blog!

  67. HOLY COW! This is amazing. I realize how much work clap board is. We just noticed after painting the living room that one corner of the house is rotted completely. And will require a redo. It’s sad too cause it’s original to 1864. You are very inspiring and give me hope we can tackle it. Nice work!

  68. PHENOMENAL!!! The work, the new post already, and your awesome use of a planer. It’s amazing how great the new temporary window looks just being painted black. The foam/foam approach was genius for this, and since it’s full air sealing the wall the effective R value will be higher than 10. Also not using sheathing was correct too, the foam serves as a vapor and air barrier and you don’t want to double up and trap water, which could rot the studs. Also the salmon bricks do provide some value by providing thermal mass… So architects thought on the approach overall: NAILED IT. Totally do it for the full house, way better than the blown in cellulose approach. Nice work, and so excited to see it coming together!

  69. Is it just me, or is a ladder leaning right on the glass of your new window in that last photo?

  70. Your blog is just about the only design/renovation blog I follow who’s text I actually read, rather than just look at the photos. Thoroughly enjoy all your posts :)

  71. We are restoring a house built in 1904 one wall at a time too!
    We are almost done with the exterior… reading you blog makes me feel sane!
    Like we are not the only cray people out there. Thanks you!
    Love your great attitude too… that is how we survive.
    Keep up the awesome work!

  72. This is amazing! I am just so impressed with everything you do! I also love that you have no shame about your errors and tell us how you go about fixing them. Pictures of the dogs don’t hurt either.

  73. You have such fun tools. It’s super inspiring to just see you go step-by-step doing things without hesitation and getting such great results.

  74. You amaze me. I would have had a serious panic attack about the time you realized you removed all of the clapboard without really planning to do so. This is making me miss getting my hands dirty and hair full of sawdust. I’m on toddler wrangling duty while my husband plugs away with finishing our basement (framing now). I keep offering to swap, but he’s not taking me up on my offer. :)

    • PS: Your mom sounds awesome from her comments and your descriptions of her previously!
      PPS: I want a planer!

  75. I never cease to be impressed with what you do.

  76. This is my favorite blog. Your creativity with words, ideas, and hands always shines, and your mom, your pups, and your readers’ comments are value added. Hope you have time to post part 2 soon and then fit in something about the cottages. If not, well, we all understand that winterizing your house in the Northeast, and that pesky necessity of earning a living instead of just entertaining us, have to come first. (not to mention just having a life) Stay well, stay warm, and stay Daniel doing your Daniel thing, because nobody does it better.

  77. The house is looking put together–I am jealous. DH wants one of these (http://www.silentpaintremover.com/spr/index.htm) because he is tired of using his paint grinder. I am tired of him using his paint grinder, as things tend to fall off the wall and break if I forget to take them down.

  78. Ohmygoodness Daniel! This is so impressive. I love your drive and how you see it in your mind and just go for it. You are so talented and it’s a absolute joy to read this blog, honestly.

  79. They say every old house tells a story and you just wrote the best chapter in this house’s story. You and your posts are some of the best that I have read.
    Well done Daniel and wee done Mom!

  80. Well done Mom, fail for me.

  81. I’m glad you’re recycling and insulating. I know it often comes across as if I’m raining on your parade, but I am merely trying to bring an outside perspective, and you have *a lot* of fangirls, praising every move.

    Today I bring the raincloud of fire safety. EPS/XPS is so flammable that it’s illegal to use for this purpose in most european countries. Not in France, but recently a small fire in a trash container next to an apartment block ignited the plastic insulation, and within minutes the entire house was on fire. So parliament is reconsidering. When exposed to heat it release toxic, flammable gasses, thus creating risk of a explosion and “early” death from inhalation. “Early” in the sense that it’s before an optic firealarm would be triggered, and before “regular” smoke would cause death through suffocation.

    It’s not the end of the world, though. Just be sure to always cover it with a fire retardant barrier.

    Comparison of how EPS, XPS, glass and stone wool react to fire: http://i.imgur.com/23GIMk0.png

  82. When I saw this post I said out loud, “Ah, he’s all grown up!” You’ve learned so much and now jump in without fear, because you have all that work and knowledge behind you. I’m so proud of you!

    FYI: One Victorian we had, the previous owner just flipped the clapboards around. He left the old paint on them, but it was fine. The planer is wicked cool, though.

    I’ve been reading your blog since the Kingston house. (I’m probably your mother’s age. I love houses, and have had about a million of them. My friends thought I was crazy, but I had to TRY them ALL!)

  83. Oh my gosh- I’m exhausted just reading about this! You are amazing – I can’t believe how much energy you have! Things are looking great – I’m looking forward to seeing the back of the house painted.

  84. Daniel,
    You are my hero! I could read your blog all day long.

  85. Is it weird for a 47-year-old woman to want a planer for Christmas? I don’t think so…and if nobody buys me one I’m totally gonna treat myself.

    • Do it! I’ve now tried a the Porter Cable machine available at Lowe’s and it’s GREAT! Such a workhorse!

  86. My favorite things in this post:

    The line “So one thing led to another,” before you started taking your house apart.

    And the photo of that beautiful smooth clapboard coming out of the planer – who knew?

  87. Cannot wait to see Part II of this story… the planed boards look fantastic! What a smart idea since you are basically working with very old “new” boards. The paint should look fantastic on them. I’m checking back every day for the update :-)

  88. It’s looking fantastic! (And really creepy to think about what the insides of our (my?) old walls really look like! All that rot and yuck!
    When you pull this all together into a book, which I will totally buy brand-new, in hardback, at full price, you should call it “One thing led to another.” My favorite line in this post!

  89. Great blog, Daniel. But once a month? Let’s see more, please. Don’t save it all for a book!

    • Barb, it has been SUPER mild in the Northeast & he’s probably taking advantage while he can. Once the snow & freezing temps are here I’m sure we’ll get caught up on the backlog.

      • Glad you posted this, Chris. Like Barb, I feel impatient and can hardly wait to read Daniel’s next post(s). But when I check the site about once a week and there’s nothing new, I quickly google ‘weather in Kingston, NY past 10 days’. When I see that it’s been workable temps there, I say to myself, “Go, Daniel, get it done and post later; we’ll wait!”.

        Meanwhile, Happy Hanukkah to Daniel & his family and all of his blog-fans who celebrate the Jewish Festival of Lights!

      • Thank you so much, Suzy! This weather has been absolutely insane, and you’re totally correct—so much trying to wrap up before the winter really hits! Thank you so much for being patient!!

      • ding ding ding!!!!!!!

    • I’m with you Barb! Every day, I check this site hoping for an update… I cannot wait to see the entire wall finished. While we live in Canada, we are quite close to Daniel’s location and it has been an incredibly warm fall. The day time temperatures are more representative of mid-October.

  90. Daniel… Please post.. PLEASE?

  91. Daniel, are you okay? At least post some dog pictures!

  92. Nice job and explanation. I am going to do this insulation method in a finished attic. I have read where you should use the “window and door” foam cans because they flex and sometimes with boards shrinking and expanding the foam can break loose from the boards and cause a gap where wind air can blow through.

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