All posts in: Bluestone Cottage

Framing the Cottage: Part 2!

Following up on one framing post with…another framing post?! I shouldn’t have!

No, really, I probably shouldn’t have because I know this stuff is kind of boring and technical and the pictures are crap, but here it is anyway. I guess I like that sort of thing. I promise I’ll show you something pretty soon to remind you why you are even here.

framingbefore

The framing situation on the second floor was even more insane than it was on the first floor, so I’m so glad I had Edwin and Edgar’s expertise on my side. I mean, take a quick gander at that photo above and you might get a sense of what I mean. The huge gap on the right (next to the stair banister) of that wall in the foreground was the old bathroom doorway. The gap to the left of that was the old bedroom doorway. The only thing that really needed to be done was have the new bedroom doorway basically shift to where the old bathroom doorway was, enclose the old bedroom doorway, and call it a day. But look at that wall! The original top plate is missing a huge section in the middle, meaning that the original rafters beyond are pretty much floating in space and held together with collar ties that are…also just floating in space. One of the other big goals with the upstairs was getting the ceilings as high as possible, and vestiges of the original roof were in the way of that…ANYWAY, it doesn’t take somebody with a lot of construction experience to look at that picture and know that something ain’t right.

bathroom1

While the first floor was being framed in, sections of the second floor were temporarily supported by upright 2x4s. This is because of the balloon framing—the remaining studs that you are seeing in that first shot extend down through the first floor, too, so before they were cut out down there, the load had to be supported up here so everything wouldn’t collapse.

bedroom1

One of my favorite moments during the whole 10-day framing event was when so much of the old framing was removed but before the new stuff was put in…it was just so weird to see the house like this! This is the view from the top of the stairs into what will be the “master” bedroom, which is going to be such a great space. I’m SO glad I removed the closets on either side of that bank of windows—they really provided so little storage and the room looks and feels so much more open and large now. Remember, new closets are getting built on either side of the doorway, which will provide a TON more storage and be out of the way, too.

bedroomwall1

Edwin and I talked a lot about exactly how things were going to go upstairs. My original plan was to vault all of the ceilings up here, but it quickly became clear that because of the crazy angles of the roof (and the amount of framing required to properly support everything), the best plan was to vault only the ceilings in the two bedrooms and leave the future-bathroom and hallway area with flat ceilings. The problem was that the ceilings in that middle, original section of the house were only about 6’8″—super low! So the goal became getting maximum ceiling height while supporting the weight of the roof and all that.

Edwin and Edgar started by cutting out more of the original top plate on either side and then started building a wall within the opening. The new wall is higher (set in from the outer edges because of the angles of the roof above), giving the bathroom/hallway space a new ceiling height of 7.5 feet! It’s still cozy, for sure, but it really is fine in this house. I think it’ll feel very sweet as opposed to oppressive or claustrophobic.

oldandnew

Here you can kind of get a sense of how the new framing is interacting with the old. Sorta cool, right?

raftersawing

Fast forwarding many hours…studs are in place, toe-nailed into the top plate and sole plate, so the wall is rigid and strong and the top plate is supported. The wall opposite (between the bathroom/hallway and the smaller bedroom at the back of the house) was rebuilt the same way. Next, 2×6 framing lumber was run between the top plates of the two walls and secured—hello, higher and level ceiling joists!

The original rafters got nailed into the new ceiling joists, so now the middle section of the roof is actually supported! Fancy that! After everything was nailed into place, the excess length of the original rafters could be trimmed down with a Sawzall, which is what Edwin is doing in the photo above. Higher ceiling, a-go!

rafters2

For some reason I don’t seem to have any pictures showing how things got totally finished up, but this is pretty close to the end! The closets in the master bedroom still needed to be framed in when this picture was taken (and the bedroom doorway isn’t framed in yet), but hopefully you get the idea. Edwin is standing in what will be the large hallway linen closet. I didn’t have them do anything other than leave a big space for it—I think I have a pretty simple plan for how to build it out without too much additional framing work, but I haven’t quite solidified it. It’ll probably be one of those things I have to figure out a little bit as I go.

That about wraps up the framing posts! All in, the framing came out to $5,700 plus materials (which I haven’t fully tabulated, but framing lumber is pretty inexpensive). So it definitely wasn’t a small expense (and more than I’d originally factored in to the budget, so I’ll have to compensate elsewhere…I like a challenge!), but it was pretty necessary. And considering that we re-framed the kitchen floor, added entirely new basement steps, rebuilt every interior wall, framed in two bathrooms, raised ceilings, took out a load-bearing wall, added closets, raised collar-ties, and reinforced an exterior wall…I feel good about it! This house is probably more solid than it’s ever been as a result, and it feels so good to embark on the next steps with such a strong foundation.

Now c’mon, heat! It’s coooolllldddd out there!

Diary!

Day 30: Edwin and Edgar worked on second floor bath, hallway, and master bedroom. I went to Lowe’s for more lumber, back at noon. Spent rest of day cleaning and clearing crap.

Day 31: Built fence in backyard. Filled hole in basement.

Day 32: Made two dump runs and a scrap metal run in John’s truck. Cody worked on pulling nails from trim lumber. Worked on putting backyard compostable waste into yard bags—filled around 20 bags.

Day 33: Dump run in John’s truck in morning. Spent afternoon sorting, de-nailing scrap pile and loading into John’s truck for storage in my garage.

Day 34: Edwin and Edgar finished framing and I worked on cleaning up. Huge mess inside! Must borrow truck again to haul lumber crap and make another dump run.

PS—If you’re working on a renovation project in the Hudson Valley/Catskills region and need a contractor, feel free to shoot me an email for Edwin’s contact information. He’s a delight to work with.  

Framing the Cottage: Part 1!

I realize that this is maybe not the most exciting post to kick off 2015, but hey, I don’t make the rules!

Just kidding. I MAKE ALL THE RULES. On this blog anyway. Live it, love it.

Anyway, happy new year, folks! I feel like I’ve been hearing this from almost everyone I know, but 2014 sort of felt like a jumbled confusing mess of craziness and turmoil and general lunacy and I’m happy to see it go. 2015 is going to be better. I don’t know exactly how and I don’t know exactly why but I feel it in my bones and I feel it in my loins.

Between all the holidays and travel and stuff that comes with the end of the year, I stepped away from the cottage renovation for a few weeks to work on getting the library/living room to a done-ish state in my own house. I should have a working camera by the end of the week (long story), so I’ll take a bunch of pictures then! Taking that amount of time off from the cottage wasn’t really how I intended things to go, but getting a little more of our own house in order has made such a big difference. Worth. It.

When I bought the cottage, I figured I could reasonably slow my roll on our own renovation while I worked on that one, but what really happened was that I didn’t do anything in my own house while I was working non-stop on the cottage. And as much as I like renovating, coming home at the end of the day from one construction site and walking into another turns out to be something less than fun and relaxing, so minimizing that feeling a bit has already made me feel exponentially better about things. It also gave me some time to think and plan and fine-tune how I want the cottage to pan out, which is also fairly motivating. I’m ready to jump back in!

LumberinTruck

SO, let’s get back up to speed, shall we? The last major thing that really went down with the cottage renovation was framing—turning the SketchUp models (here and here) I’d been playing with for a couple months prior from virtual reality to reality-reality. Originally, I thought that the framing would be a pretty minimal task: shift and widen a doorway here, remove a non-structural wall there, add a half-bath…nothing too crazy. But as demo progressed, it became increasingly clear that everything was more involved than I anticipated. I’m sure this shocks exactly nobody reading, so I’m not sure why this sort of thing is perpetually so shocking to me. I learn slow I guess.

Because the cottage is essentially the product of an original (I’m guessing circa 1850s) structure and three later (I’d wager early 20th century) additions, things had gotten funky with the structure over time. Exterior walls became interior, but the new openings were never properly supported by framing. The wall that didn’t look like it was load-bearing in the early inspections definitely was. There were places where it sort of seemed like the house probably should have collapsed, or at the very least shown some significant sagging/settling, and I’m still sort of impressed that neither of these things ever really came to pass. Point is, it was a big job requiring more experience and know-how than I could reasonably claim to have, so again I brought in my main man Edwin (and his cousin, Edgar!) to take the lead.

When I asked Edwin what materials he thought we’d need to get started, he thought for a second. “100 2x4s and 40 2x6s…to start.” I thought he was kidding. He was not kidding. It seemed like an insane amount of lumber at the time, but (spoiler) it didn’t end up being nearly enough! I thought I more or less grasped how this framing party was about to go down, but I understood…nothing.

Demo

Not that this is all that relevant, but the first day of framing will pretty much forever go down as the craziest day of the cottage renovation. Edwin was ready to start the job before demo was entirely complete, so I met Edwin at Lowe’s when they opened to buy the lumber, then came back to the cottage, unloaded everything, and delegated demo-duty tasks to six other people while Edwin and Edgar got to work…it was just chaos EVERYWHERE. Lesson learned: 8 people is too many for me to manage at once.

Everyone cleared out by mid-afternoon, and Edwin, Edgar, and I got to work on the kitchen floor. I know that for most people, the whole point of hiring contractors is to do work that you aren’t capable of, don’t want to do, or don’t have time for, so it makes sense to stay out of the contractor’s way while they do their thing. I take the opposite approach, though: I watch, I ask tons of questions, I assist wherever I can, I ask to use the tools…I’m sure it’s hugely annoying, but it’s such a good way to learn! I feel like I can absolutely take on some of the smaller framing projects in my own house now.

kitchenfloor

Back to business: the kitchen floor had some serious water damage and rot issues happening in the back corner—probably due to a combination of plumbing issues (the old sink was in this region) and that window sitting wide open while the house was vacant. I’d prepped by taking up all of the wood flooring (it was either fir or yellow pine) and about half of the subfloor to expose the joists. I was planning to salvage and reuse the wood flooring that wasn’t rotted, but sadly the salvageable boards got thrown away that day by accident. BUMMER. I had too many cooks in the kitchen! The boards weren’t in very good shape and were coated in old linoleum adhesive (which, yes, could have contained asbestos…), so it’s not a HUGE loss, but I still get grumbly thinking about it. Everything was just so nuts that I didn’t even notice until the next day!

KitchenFloorLVL

Edwin and Edgar used a reciprocating saw to cut the existing joists roughly in half (they were structurally fine on the other side of the room), removed the rotted pieces, and placed an LVL beam perpendicular to the original joists. “LVL” stands for Laminated Veneer Lumber, meaning that the beam is made up of many thin layers of wood sandwiched together with super-strong adhesives. They’re much stronger, straighter, and more uniform than regular framing lumber (which is typically a soft wood like pine, fir, or spruce), and less inclined to bow or shift over time. Cool! Once the LVL was in place, Edwin nailed through the back of it into the ends of the joists, and later went back in and added joist hangers for extra stability and maximum support.

nailer

After the LVL was in place, a new 2×8 was installed against the inside of the sill plate, and the new joists were run between the LVL and the new 2×8. That kitchen floor is going to be SOLID. I decided to just go ahead and rip up the rest of the original subfloor, figuring it would make plumbing/heat easier to install and would just be easier to put down a new uniform plywood subfloor rather than patch in around the original tongue-in-groove one and end up with any inconsistencies in depth and whatnot.

At some point in here, Edwin and Edgar also completely rebuilt the interior kitchen wall—the one that’s shared with the dining room. It’s a load-bearing wall that had NO support on one side where the doorway was and inadequate support on the other side where the pass-through was. What a mess! Now it’s strong and solid, though!

LVLbeam

Before the day was out, we worked on placing the other LVL beam up at the front of the house, where the load-bearing wall in the center of the new living room was being removed. Sometimes when removing load-bearing walls, the beam will just go beneath the joists that need to be supported, but with only 7.5 feet of ceiling height in here, that wasn’t an option! Instead, the beam is getting pocketed up into the ceiling—running alongside the existing joist, which runs perpendicular to the joists that need to be supported. This stuff is hard to explain, so apologies if I’m speaking gibberish here!

joisthangers

The next day, Edwin and Edgar face-nailed the beam to the original joist, further secured it using large bolts (I think 12 of them?) and then secured the perpendicular joists to the beam with metal joist hangers. Considering that this load-bearing wall was previously being supported by about 3 2x4s, it’s MUCH stronger and more solid now!

basementstaircutout

Then we turned our attention to building and installing the new basement steps! YAYYY! The old basement stairs were horrifying and only accessible through a trap door in the kitchen floor, so both for the sake of space in the kitchen and to promote the basement as accessible, usable space (laundry machines and other utilities will live down there), I made the decision to relocate them under the main stairwell. It wasn’t a huge deal, but it wasn’t a small thing, either! The opening had to be cut out (yes, it was terrifying to watch Edgar go at it with a Sawzall while he was standing on the parts he was cutting away, but these dudes play fast and loose and I like it) and framed in, and a doorway had to be framed in on the kitchen wall for access to the new stairs.

Basementstairbuilding

Then we had to build the stairs! I thought this would consist of either buying pre-made stringers or cutting our own, but instead the stairs are just two 2x10s (Edwin said he wanted 2x12s, but I swear that’s not what he told me when I went to buy the wood!) for the stringers and smaller lengths of 2×10 for the treads. The treads are secured by nailing through the stringer into the short edge of the tread, if that makes sense—super simple. They’re very sturdy, though, and Edwin assures me that they’ll pass inspection, so I guess we’ll find out!

temporarysupportwall

Then it was on to re-framing the wall between the dining room and the new coat closet/half bath! This is the kind of thing I was talking about before—I figured this wall was more or less fine the way it was (it’s been standing for 150 years, right?) and we just needed to shift the doorway over a bit, but NOPE. The entire thing got rebuilt better and stronger than it was before. That’s actually true of every single interior wall in the house—they all had some problem or another that just made it easier and smarter to start over, even though a lot of the walls didn’t change locations at all. Now the only original walls in the house are the exterior ones, which is pretty insane!

Anyway, the basic process of removing and replacing these load-bearing walls was essentially to throw together some temporary support on either side of the original wall to bear the load while the wall was removed. After the old wall framing was removed, the new one could be assembled in its place (with fancy things like standardized stud-spacing, solid lengths of wood, headers, etc.), and then the temporary supports could be removed. It was actually fairly simple, even though it sounds pretty overwhelming. So anyway—the photo above is of the guys putting the temporary support in to hold up the dining room ceiling.

diningroomwall

Here, Edgar is nailing in the new header—you can see the temporary support walls on either side of them.

doorways

Framing in the half bath went pretty quickly, and that was about it for the first floor! The house is a DISASTER, though! Between the framing happening at such a fast pace and not really having adequate time to completely clean out the house after the demo, I seriously have my work cut out just to get ready to dive into the next phase.

downstairssketchup

Not that this is terribly convincing or at all good-looking, but JUST FOR REFERENCE, this is the same view in the SketchUp model, just so you can get an idea of where you’re oriented. Make sense? It’s really exciting to see the the framing in real life, at least in person—it’s nice to finally get a sense of how the space will feel when things are done!

nailpulling

One of the things I spent stupid amounts of time on during this period was de-nailing and stacking/sorting alllllll the many pieces of trim (from around doors and windows) that came out during demo. There isn’t anything wrong with it, aside from the filth aspect, and reusing it will keep it out of a landfill and save me some money when I get to installing molding. Pulling nails out of old lumber is generally pretty easy—the trick is to use end-cutting pliers (I have these) and pull the nails out from the back. Trying to hammer them back through the front usually just causes more damage to the wood and is more labor intensive.

trimandlumber

Since the cottage isn’t very big, this stuff needs to get OUT so that there’s space to work and maneuver! This is maybe about half of it—I still have to go back and sort and haul the rest! On the left is the old framing lumber (FOR WHAT I DO NOT KNOW) and on the right is trim. Now it’s all festering in my garage until it’s time to bring it back over to the cottage, but that’s a little while off. There’s still a ton to do before I’m at that point, clearly!

Obviously, getting the framing done is a HUGE step in the right direction. I’ll talk about the upstairs next time, but the next steps are getting the heat system in, plumbing, electric, insulation, and then finishing work like walls and tile and fixtures and all that fun stuff can start. YAY.

Diary time!

Day 24: Met Edwin at Lowe’s at 7 to buy lumber, nails, and joist hangers. Dump truck came in morning, worked on filling with debris until 2. Unloaded truck with crew and Edwin and Edgar started repairing kitchen floor and reframing interior kitchen wall. Went to Herzog’s for LVL beams and 2×8 and 16′ 2x4s. Loaded scrap metal in Edwin’s truck and went to scrap yard with Chris. Sent all workers except Edwin and Edgar home at 3. Edgar and Edwin and I finished framing interior kitchen wall and header and then dry fit LVL on load bearing wall in front.

Day 25: Edwin and Edgar and I worked on framing basement stairs and kitchen floor. Went to Herzog’s to buy more lumber.

Day 26: Worked on cleaning house alone, pulling nails from trim, and organizing things for next work day. House was a disaster!

Day 27: Painted sunburst pediment outside, caulked/bondo’d around door, and painted deck.

Day 28: Edwin and Edgar are back, working on removing load-bearing wall and re-framing wall and opening in dining room.

Day 29: Edwin and Edgar remove load-bearing wall, frame in downstairs half-bath. I went to pick up more lumber in morning and chased mess rest of day.

Planning the Cottage Interior: The Second Floor

Now that we’ve gone over how the layout of the first floor of the cottage is going to change, let’s move on to the second floor (which we toured here!)! I appreciate the feedback on the first floor—even though the basic framing work is more or less complete already, there are still a million and one things to think about before I start really putting things back together. Luckily I have some time since I still have to get all the mechanical stuff (HVAC, plumbing, electric, insulation—oh my!) sorted before I can start beautifying, but hopefully not too much time. I want to move on to the fun stuff!

As with the first floor, the major framing work has more or less been completed at this point on the second, but I still think it’s important to get a sense of this stuff before I dive into the process of how it all actually went down. I’m psyched about the first floor, but I’m really excited about the second floor. I feel like I’ve had a better sense since Day 1 of how I want it to look and feel up there, and it just has so much potential. I think it’s going to be pretty spectacular.

I wanted to get this post up a few days ago, but then I got obsessed with trying to make the SketchUp models more accurate by showing the pitch of the walls and ceilings. I DID IT FOR YOU, SO TRY TO ENJOY IT. It was really hard because I’m bad at computers and it’s not perfect but I have to tear myself away and move on. Playing with SketchUp is a lot like how I played The Sims for hours on end as a kid, except there isn’t a virtual person you can create and then brutally starve at the end of it all. Kids are monsters.

exterior

Anyway, the reason the ceilings are so important is that there’s no attic in the house, so the plan is to vault the ceilings! I’m so excited about this, and just how much bigger and brighter the whole space will feel as a result. I’m including this sketch of the exterior (excuse the lack of windows or doors downstairs…you get the idea) to show the basic shape of the roof line. Funny, right? The way it pitches in two different directions?

I’ve mentioned before that I think this house was originally some sort of secondary structure for one of the neighboring houses, like a carriage house or something. The “middle” section, where the roof pitches oppositely from the back and front, is the old, original part of the structure—this is the area that currently houses the dining room and staircase downstairs and will become a bathroom upstairs. The front section of the house appears to be a product of two separate additions, and the back of the house (where the kitchen and smaller bedroom are) are another addition. I think that the original section dates from about the mid-19th century and the additions all seem to be early 20th. I’m trying to get more information about it.

ANYWAY, you might be able to tell on the renderings that the whole roof situation causes some funny quirks with the space, but I don’t mind!

secondfloorbeforeandafter

These before/after renderings don’t take into account the pitch of the roof, since I thought it was easier to see what was going on without that. As with before, the bottom of the photo is the front of the house, so let’s start there!

Welcome to the new master bedroom! It’s large and wonderful. The old space was so weird and chopped up, what with the two closets at the front of the house and the only bathroom in the house basically built into the room. The bathroom was the real problem here—the bathroom itself was small, and it made the rest of the room feel cramped and unpleasant.

bedroombeforeandafter

If you take the front exterior wall of the house away, this is more or less how things look! That bed in the “after” rendering is so ugly. Oh 3D Warehouse…

SO. The two closets in the front flanking the windows get removed entirely, and traded for closets along the back wall of the room, flanking the door. I originally planned to keep the existing closets, but they seemed to take up a lot of space without actually providing very much storage because of the sloped ceiling, and made the whole room feel a little closed in. The new closets are much bigger and have some usable height for shelving and whatnot, and are more out of the way. Obviously they’re going to have doors and stuff…I think I have a plan for this all to look great and not awkward like it does on the plan.

One thing to note is that I didn’t include the collar-ties in the rendering (the horizontal framing pieces that tie the rafters together), but those will be here and will be exposed. I’m planning to just paint them white and I think they’ll be nice! I’d definitely rather see the painted collar ties and have the ceiling go all the way up to the peak of the roof than do a flat ceiling, even though Edwin thinks I’m crazy.

The bedroom door gets shifted over a couple of feet, basically to where the old bathroom door used to be. I’ll reuse the old 5 panel door, of course!

hallwaybeforeandafter

Moving toward the back of the house, this is the area above the dining room. If this house were bigger, it would have been nice to leave this area totally open as a nice reading nook kind of zone, but that would just be a big waste of space here. Instead, I’ve narrowed the hallway somewhat (it’s still 4 feet wide, so the size is still fairly generous), and added a little over 6 feet of closet space that will go from floor to ceiling. The closet is about 18″ deep—perfect for linens and just general storage. I know firsthand how difficult storage can be in a small space, so I’m trying to take any opportunity I can to build it in!

Spoiler: originally I wanted to vault all of the ceilings in the upstairs, but once we gutted and Edwin and I talked (and talked, and talked, and talked), it became clear that vaulting the ceiling in this middle section was not a great option. There were so many crazy angles with the two different roof pitches and a LOT of necessary framing to get everything stabilized and safe…you’ll see. It’s totally fine, though—we were still able to raise the ceiling several inches from what it was, and I think it will be somehow more interesting and dramatic to vault the ceilings just in the bedrooms.

bathroom

There isn’t really anything to see in the “before” rendering of the bathroom. Essentially the room was a bit narrower (because the old hallway was wider) and was being called a third bedroom, but it was really small and weird as a bedroom. This bathroom is going to be NICE, though. It’s definitely pretty spacious (especially for an old house and one of this size) but not stupidly huge, and I think it’s just going to be all-around really great. The plan is a toilet, tub (I’m picturing something kind of 1920s, with a curved corner preferably!)) and double sinks. These sinks aren’t at all what I’m picturing—they were just the first ones I could get to load in SketchUp. I’d love to do two vintage pedestal sinks or wall-mounted ones or something, although I know people will shit all over me if I don’t build in some storage. I’ll figure it out!

Anyway, I’m excited about the bathroom. I spend too much time thinking about fixtures and materials and endlessly debating whether to put in a tile floor or not. I’m leaning toward yes…I have LOTS of flooring to patch in elsewhere so I could use the old boards, and it would be pretty luxe to do radiant floor heat in here, and it might brighten things up a bit besides. It wouldn’t be very expensive.

backbedroom

The second bedroom (which is smaller but still a nice size and easily fits a full bed) undergoes the fewest changes of any room! The ceiling is getting vaulted in here, too (again, with exposed and painted collar-ties), and you’ll notice that I did decide to lose the closet. I know, scandal! I mentioned this back when we toured the second floor prior to demo and a lot of people gave me virtual stink-eye, but it’s the best thing for in here. I checked with the building department and there is definitely no requirement in Kingston for a bedroom to have a dedicated closet to be called a bedroom, so that isn’t an issue. I don’t think buyers necessarily expect it here, either…old houses typically don’t have closets, and pretty much all the houses here are old! The rendering might help (or not?) show that the closet didn’t actually provide a lot of storage space, but it was really large and sort of took over the room. It feels SO much bigger and nicer without it. There’s still space for a nice freestanding armoire, which will achieve the same thing but just fit the space so much better.

So there it is, the second floor! I’m excited to show pictures of the space all framed out—it’s so exciting for me at least to see it at this stage, when you can really get a sense of how the space is going to pan out.

Planning the Cottage Interior: The First Floor!

It’s been a minute since we checked in on the old Bluestone Cottage, hasn’t it? This time of year always feels especially warp-speed-ish. I can’t be the only one who feels like this. It’s like October lasted 10-15 minutes, November went on for roughly the blink of an eye, and now it’s basically 2015, which more than likely means another year has gone by and, once again, I failed to make good on any of my resolutions. I have still used my gym membership exactly once, my email inbox remains a total disgrace for which I have yet to devise an effective system, my body has still never been cleansed with juice for multiple days…WHERE did 2014 go? I guess for 2015 I’ll just roll over everything from 2014 and maybe add “avoid attacks by swarms of leeches,” just to feel like I have new and accomplishable goals. Anyway, not the point. Ignore me.

I kind of wish things were moving faster in renovation-land, though.

Good News:

1. The cottage is still standing.

2. I’m still alive.

3. My house is also still standing.

4. Spoiler: the framing at the cottage is pretty much DONE. And has been for a few weeks.

Bad News:

1. Ideally, the next steps would be running the new HVAC system, roughing in plumbing, diving into the electrical, insulating, and starting the real fun of new walls and fixtures and finishes and all that jazz. Unfortunately, I need gas to do the HVAC, and the gas line running from the main at the street to the house needs to be redone. For reasons that are almost too complicated and definitely too annoying to even really get into, I’ve been trying to get the utility company to do this for about 6 weeks at this point, and I really don’t know when it will happen. It’s mega-annoying. It’s also probably the worst time of year to try to be booking the plumber, since winter usually means burst pipes and emergencies and everyone trying to get their heat systems working at once, and I’m not really an emergency. Anyway. Hopefully the next couple of weeks will see more progress than the last few have!

2. It is COLD outside. And without a heat system, the inside of the cottage is exactly as cold as the outside. Which makes it a very difficult place to work. Hence the lack of progress. I’m trying to muster the strength to go over there for a few hours for a good pre-plumbing-extravaganza-clean-out, but I’m a wimp. I really just need to bundle up and bring a little space heater and completely dissociate from my body and it’ll all be OK. Or I’ll die. One of the two.

3. The exterior of the cottage is close to complete-ish, but not quite there. The windows all still need lots of work, some of which might be above my skill set and necessitate the abilities and tools of a professional. There are still a few things I need to paint, but I’m worried it’s too cold. Maybe we’ll get a warm day when I can bang it out.

4. The stall caused by the HVAC/plumbing stuff at the cottage has forced me back inside my own house, thereby forcing me to confront all the work that I still need to do. Progress seems freakishly, comically slow and drawn-out. There is still no library, no pantry, nary a wall has been painted since the dining room, and I’m getting antsy and impatient. I’ve been chipping away at some stuff, though, so my goal is to check some big items off the list before the cottage consumes me again. If our own house was even a little less under construction, I think I’d feel a lot better, but right now the amount of stuff left to do is kind of overwhelming and the house is a damn mess.

SO. I haven’t really been sure how to blog about all the new framing work. It’s hard to just show pictures of it happening because it won’t make a ton of sense, and the pictures themselves are sort of hard to decipher. I’ll be back in a separate post to talk about the process of it all, but I figured a logical place to kick this thing off would be reviewing the floor plan. We’ve already done a pre-demo tour of the upstairs and the downstairs, but I know that it’s difficult to understand the space as a whole without seeing it all laid out! Hopefully this will help. This post is kind of long so I’ll save the second floor plan for next time.

Sound like a plan? GREAT.

Oh, FYI, my SketchUp skills are really elementary and these renderings were just for my own reference, the building department, and for me to help explain stuff to Edwin as we actually built it. None of the furniture is even remotely what I see in here; it was just helpful to have a sense of how things would fit. So ignore the ugly.

1STFLOORBEFOREANDAFTER

The bottom of the picture is the front of the house, just in case that wasn’t clear!

So—some big changes! Pretty much the only thing I was sure about when I bought the house was that the wall in the front had to go. It created this small, awkward room at the front of the house that just felt like completely wasted space. This house is really just too small to have some sort of entrance space like that, or a sun room different than the living room, or whatever. In the new plan, the wall gets blown out and the space becomes part of the living room.

Naturally, everyone who looked at the wall prior to demo said it didn’t seem to be load-bearing, but as a few readers guessed the first time I mentioned taking the wall out, it was load-bearing! That doesn’t mean that the wall can’t come out, it just means that a beam needs to go in its place to carry the load. I know that sounds like a huge deal but it really wasn’t.

frontview1

This is just a section cut showing how things look when you take the front wall of the house away, and the effect of removing that first interior wall. I know this living room looks very stupid and ridiculous in the model, but it won’t be in real life! It’s a nice size, but I didn’t want to make it too big…since the ceiling height is so low, I think it would feel really strange if the room was too expansive. Like someone’s finished basement. This feels right for this house, and it’s plenty big for a normal couch, a couple chairs, and a credenza or bookshelves or something. I intentionally designed it so there would be multiple possible/practical furniture layouts, which is sort of a luxury for a relatively small space.

One of the most significant changes to the first floor is shifting the through-traffic to the left side of the house instead of sort of awkwardly cutting through the center. It’s obviously a very simple plan but I think it will work a lot better, especially with furniture. Wouldn’t it be annoying to get from the living room, through the dining room, and into the kitchen with the old plan? Once you put a dining room table in the middle of the room? I like this much more.

iso

You might notice that a window disappeared in the living room area! I really resisted moving or replacing any windows, and ideally would have done it before the house was painted, but I wasn’t sure about the interior when that was happening and it ended up falling right in the middle of that wall. I’m still considering whether I should put a couple small windows back on that wall…the large windows in the front let in lots of light, and that view on the side isn’t nice, so I’m sort of inclined to just patch in the clapboard outside and call it a day.

I went back and forth on putting a half bath in this house, but it’s one of those modern conveniences that people like, should increase the property value, and shouldn’t cost a ton to do. That small space before it I’m picturing as a small coat/storage closet. I know it’s sort of a strange arrangement to walk through to get to the bathroom, but I think it makes the bathroom feel a little more secluded and out of the way than having a door right in the living room. It also preserves that wall in the living room as a place you could put a couch on or a sideboard or whatever. I think if I buy or build a wardrobe thing with doors, it won’t feel awkward.

The dining room is staying more or less the same, except for the wall to the right of the chimney (elegantly represented here by that square pillar thing). I went back and forth on this, too…pre-renovation, it had been opened up as kind of a pass-through bar thing, which was sort of nice for the amount of light it let into the dining room. I know opening up spaces like that is popular with modern renovations, but I don’t really like seeing it in old houses, so I decided to close the wall back up! I think aligning the doorways and creating a straight shot from the front door to the back of the house will actually make the house seem more open than it was before, even though it’s really more closed up. Anyway, I like the idea of building some kind of storage into that space, like an old china cabinet/hutch situation. Maybe I can find something good salvaged, but if not I wouldn’t mind trying to DIY it. I’ve never built cabinets before!

kitchenbeforeafter

The “before” rendering of the kitchen is pretty generous since there weren’t actually cabinets or a sink when I bought the house, but I think this is similar to how things might have been set up. In any case, the big decision in here was whether or not to cover over the old basement stairs. Those stairs were originally on the exterior of the structure, but the addition of the kitchen brought them indoors. Maintaining the original stairs would have meant either boxing in the opening with walls, a banister, or devising a clever trap door solution…all of which were not really ideal solutions in my mind. I didn’t want to make the kitchen feel smaller with more walls and the trap door makes the basement sort of lousy as usable space (since access would be a hassle) and means that that area of the kitchen couldn’t really be used for anything else. I asked Edwin for a separate quote to add new basement stairs stacked under the original staircase and it was $800, plus another $400 to frame in the old opening and do some significant repair work to the existing joists under the kitchen floor, some of which had rotted due to water damage. It’s another one of those costs I wish I could have avoided, but that price seemed really reasonable and entirely worth it. The kitchen can be so much nicer as a result! So in the new plan, I have the fridge and some tall pantry-type cabinets on that wall, and a straight run of cabinets (lowers, but no uppers) with the stove and sink opposite. I think the kitchen is going to be great! I love a good kitchen renovation.

I hope that clears up the first floor! I’ll be back with second floor plans ASAP and we can all find out together how many horrendous SketchUp models we can look at before our eyes start to bleed. It’ll be fun!

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.

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