Thursday, May 31, 2012

And Now for Something Completely Different....

This past weekend was a holiday weekend, so we did just that: took a holiday from working on the house. I realized that it has been 6 weeks since we really started tearing this place apart, and we're almost to the point of being able to put the pieces back together!

Though we did not do any work, we did have a team of contractors on site to get some of the heavier lifting done. Our front walkway was concrete, but the tree roots in the front yard had really done a number on them, raising and cracking a number of the pieces. These aren't the best pictures, but you can at least see the walkway and how close that one tree is to it. 

The walkway that ran between the garage and the house was pretty bad as well. We think that the previous owners had used a great deal of salt during the winter to keep the walkways clean, because the garage wall adjacent to the sidewalk is actually eroding. We're gonna have to add that to the "to fix" list that keeps growing...

The contractors came in with an excavator and a jackhammer and chopped the concrete to bits. We now have mud pits around the front of our house, but we've got plans to take out the trees and re-do the walkways.

The excavator was pretty busy this week. In addition to working on the walkways, it did some needed work on the foundation of the barn. 

We have a barn, by the way :)

It is in much better condition than it may seem. Dad hired a team of Amish men to fix the barn during the crazy warm winter we had. It has a new roof and new supports and floor where it was needed. A chicken coop on the other side of it was torn down, and the collapsing wall was repaired. There was one part of the barn that they were not able to fix, due to a huge tree that grew right into the foundation. Our contractors took out the tree stump that had pushed the foundation wall into the barn. 

The Amish team is coming back this week to repair the wall using the old stone that was there.

These guys are completely amazing for the work that they do!! After they have finished, the barn will be suitable for animals. Dad has had a few people ask him about renting space in it for their horses, so it looks like there is a good chance we may have horses in the barn soon! Right now we are using the upstairs of the barn to hold furniture that has been given to us, as well as furniture from a few college students while they are away for the summer. I'd much rather put animals in there, maybe someday we'll have some of our own :)

The other big news this week was the addition of our downstairs bathroom. Oh the drama surrounding this tiny little room! The contractors finished putting up the walls and roof over the new bathroom, but promptly had to take them down again because they did the floor incorrectly.

They put the floor at the same level as the living room floor, so that once the sub floor and the tile went down, you would have to step UP to get into the bathroom. Dad wasn't very happy, so he made them re-do everything. It's all set now, though we were disappointed with how small they made it. Not sure where the miscommunication was on this one, but we're going to have to do some serious finangling to get a shower, sink and toilet in this room!

The other "fun" thing about our new bathroom is that it is right smack in the center of the living room wall. We were under the impression that we would put the door to it in the corner of the room, but instead it looks like we'll have a door in the middle of the wall, which completely throws off the way we were going to set up the living room. Dan and I have to sit down and draw it out to see if we can make it work as a living room. There is a good chance we'll have to turn it into the dining room. Grrr and bother. We'll see where this goes.

Lots of fun coming this weekend! My brother Jake is coming from NY to help on the house. He is pretty fantastic at this type of thing, so having him around for a few days will be a huge help!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012


It was a slow weekend, forcefully reminding me that certain things in life take time to complete. Blah. To put it nicely, I did NOT like this weekend.

We were supposed to go on Saturday and put in a full day of work, but I'd been experiencing such crippling jaw pain from the wisdom tooth surgery on Monday that I could barely function. The painkillers weren't getting rid of all the pain, so I was pretty miserable. Daniel made me curl up on the couch for the day while he went in search of an all natural remedy that I'd read about - clove oil. Let me tell you, that stuff is heaven sent. My mouth tasted like an old fashioned Christmas, but it killed the pain.

Moving on...

We were able to spend Sunday afternoon working in the farmhouse, but we were not able to finish up all of the destruction as we had hoped. Bryan and Daniel worked on taking out the living room chimney, which turned out to be an all-day ordeal. There was a support post at every corner of the chimney. Once the plaster was removed, they had to chip through another layer of cement-like rock to even get to the chimney.

From there it was take the bricks out one by one. We're keeping all of the bricks that are still in one piece and disposing of the rest; we'd like to make a fire pit or BBQ out of them someday and we thought that it would be neat if we could use the original fireplace bricks.

One down, one to go...

The men weren't able to completely destroy the dining room fireplace before we had to wrap up for the day, but it is almost gone. There was a ridiculous amount of dust and dirt and loose brick in this one. I'm really glad that we didn't want to keep this fireplace because it would have needed to be completely redone.

On a side note, once this fireplace is gone, we plan on putting a picture window on this wall. The dining room currently has one window that looks out on the porch and down the road, but it doesn't let in enough light to suit my taste. The picture window would look out over the backyard, which is one of the best features of this place, and I want to display it!

My absolute favorite part of the day was the three hours that I got to spend in the attic sucking out the remaining insulation with a shop vac. I couldn't stand up straight, I kept hitting my head on the nails sticking out of the roof and to put the cherry on the ice cream sundae that was my afternoon, the darn shop vac kept plugging up. Every few minutes I would have to climb out of the attic, down a ladder, pull the 40 feet of vacuum hose down and try to figure out where it was blocked. Words that I would normally never say kept coming out of my mouth. I wasn't even able to finish the vary back section, but at that point, I really didn't care one bit. We'll put some plywood over the rafters to make a floor up there and use it for storage. No one will care whether or not I was able to get the rest of it out or not.

We have some exciting stuff happening this week while we're in Pittsburgh. We've got someone coming with an excavator to pull up the concrete sidewalk that has broken and shifted over the years. They are also going to pull out the stump of the tree that grew into the side of the barn so that we will be able to fix the foundation. Another guy is coming to give us a quote on putting up all of the drywall in the house, AND he will be starting on our downstairs bathroom! Dad sent us a picture last night of the work that had been done so far with the bathroom.

It's being build right off of the living room. It's small, so we probably won't make it a full bathroom, but it will be awesome anyway. After growing up in a family of six people that all shared one bathroom, I'm just happy that we'll have another!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Almost There....

It has been a crazy week here. So much has been done! This post will be full of pictures for a few reasons.
1) We worked for two days and had some extra help, so we really made a lot of progress on the house!
2) I am in an Oxycodone fueled haze due to wisdom teeth removal on Monday morning. Words aren't working so well :)

We finally started getting rid of the two chimneys upstairs. Luckily neither of the chimneys went through the ceiling, so we won't have to do any roof repairs. Dan would chip the bricks out of the chimney and pile them on the porch roof, where I split my time tossing them off the roof and putting the ones on the ground into the golf cart and hauling them to the barn. 

 Once the chimney was out of the nondescript bedroom, the last thing to do was to clean out the walls and shop-vac whatever was left. I took a broom to the walls to brush out any remaining insulation, dug out a few piles of plaster between the floorboards and the walls, and it was a wrap!

The Blue Room was finished in a similar fashion. Brushed out the walls, cleaned the mess off the floors, and officially closed the room. 

Our friend Bryan dropped by Saturday afternoon to lend a hand with some of the destruction. He and Daniel worked to finish cleaning the Master Bedroom. 

I was so excited about finally finishing the destruction upstairs that I may have gone just a little overboard. The bricks I had been tossing out of the window had left some pieces and dust on the porch roof. Dan caught me vacuuming the roof *grins sheepishly*

We came back Saturday night to put in a few more hours before the sun went down. I missed a shot of the plaster removal in the library, but Bryan and Daniel really made short work of the plaster and the clean up! Mom and I were able to start taking down the lath and insulation. 

Daniel and Bryan began taking down the plaster in the living room AKA the room of death. The walls were a nightmare to get down. Two inches of plaster over a layer of drywall. Full arm blows were needed just to make a dent. 

We had two very exhausted guys on our hands after their attempts at tearing apart the living room. Too tired to even crack peanuts!

Sunday afternoon was going to be spent celebrating Mothers's Day, but Dad wanted to get rid of the rest of the plaster in the house. Mom was very patient and obliging (after promises of red velvet cake and cream cheese frosting next week!), so we attacked the living room and dining room. Literally attacked. My brother in law Aaron went all firefighter on our dining room walls.

Dad took care of the incredibly useless closet in the dining room. This house contained two closets that were one foot in width, one in the Blue Room and one in the dining room. You couldn't hang anything or fit boxes in them. Closets 'o' uselessness indeed!

 Aaaand we uncovered another fireplace. As you can tell we already started taking it apart. Once this is down, we are going to put a big picture window in it's place. 

Made more progress on the living room too! 

We filled a second dumpster with the fruit of our labours and called it quits for the weekend.We made so much progress that I am confident all of the destruction will be completed by the end of next weekend!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Welcome to the Disaster Zone

Messes. Definitely a part of life. Whether it be things like dirtying the stack of clean plates by using them for dinner or jumping in mud puddles, mess happens. You clean things up, and they inevitably get dirty again. Anyone who has lived with me for longer than a day knows that I am a neat freak. I hate dust and dirt on my floors. I don't like scum in my tub or residue left on my cups after washing them. One of the most difficult parts of this whole house business is the mess. We clean up as much as we can after a weekend of work, but inevitably leave a mess. It's all I can do sometimes not to get down on my hands and knees with a dustpan and broom and leave no dust speck behind!

After last weekend, things didn't look too bad in the house. When we got to New Castle this past weekend, my heart broke just a little. And my inner neat freak cried. 

That was the master bedroom on Saturday morning. It was like walking though a disaster zone. It looked like a flood had wiped out the upstairs of the farmhouse. I thought that the insulation we shoveled the last two weeks was bad... this was 10x worse. This was a combination of the nasty old insulation, fiberglass insulation, cardboard and 60 years of coal dust. 

Dad had taken out the ceilings in the master bedroom and one of the spare bedrooms. The attic space was filled with the stuff. Thankfully we had a dumpster delivered Saturday morning, and we were able to bag the nasty and throw it out the window. Between the plaster we had been bagging the past two weeks, the insulation and the fiberglass/coal dust all over the floor, we filled the entire dumpster. 

We were also able to get rid of the old carpets covering the floor in the Blue Room and the other spare room (heck, I can't figure out what to call that room; it has no distinguishing features). That's the carpet in the dumpster, not a dead body :) 

The carpet removal revealed beautiful wood floors underneath. They need a good cleaning, but they are solid wood and in great condition!

The heat vents in the floor are really unique in this house. Some of them are broken, but I'm hoping that maybe we can find some antique replacements for those and clean up the ones that are currently there. 

I think that the worst part of this weekend was spending time in the attic. Since the ceiling in the Blue Room isn't bad, we decided not to tear it down. We had to pull out all of the insulation above this room by climbing into the rafters of the attic, balancing on the beams,  and stuffing it into bags, all while trying not to fall through the ceiling or stab yourself on the nails in the roof. It was hot, uncomfortable, itchy, and cramped. I can't wait until this part is finished. 

Just for laughs, here is a picture of what we looked like after a day of work in the house with all of the coal dust. It took a long time to get clean, and I now have an official set of work clothes, but hopefully we won't need to get this dirty again. I don't think my OCD cleaning could take another round of that! 

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Up Is Down!

We've turned the 2nd floor of the farmhouse upside down and inside out. The innards are the outards and the outards are now in pieces all over the floor and in plastic bags. We put two days of work into the house this weekend, successfully removing all of the plaster and insulation from the remaining two bedroom walls. We are leaving the destruction of the ceilings until the end, primarily because that will be the messiest part of this whole business - more to follow on that next week.

Earlier this week while Dan and I were at work, Dad took down the plaster ceiling in the master bedroom. I spent part of my Saturday helping to shovel pieces of the ceiling into bags.

Those bags look so innocent - barely full. Each one weighs a ridiculous 100-150 lbs! My arms really got a workout with these. 

We tore apart the other two bedrooms. Bedroom #1 (which we call the Blue Room) had one wall of drywall and a few smaller ones of plaster. Removing drywall was a bit more challenging, but Mom took it down like a boss!

We uncovered a fireplace in the Blue Room, It wasn't a surprise - we knew it was there, but we were really surprised by the amount of nasty in it. When the previous owners boarded up the fireplace, they neglected to block the chimney, so there was about 50 years worth of petrified birds nest, dirt, decayed bricks, and maybe some dead animals? Pretty gross. 

We are going to leave the fireplace open in this room. It needs a bit of brick repair, but I think that it could be really charming to leave it where it is, perhaps giving it a mantle. We'll block the chimney so it will be decorative rather than useful. And obviously we'll clean it out!

While I was digging out one of the walls, I found our first mouse. Scared the jeebers out of me, but I didn't have the heart to hurt it because hanging on to the mouse's tail was a baby mouse. It was so cute, and way to fast for me to get a picture of it. 

Bedroom #2 was a mess. That didn't stop my husband or my mom and dad in law! The three of them took down three wall and a ceiling worth of plaster. 

There was a bit of a surprise in the corner that my mom in law was working in. When the lath was torn down in that room, lo and behold, a 3-4 foot long beehive. 

Thankfully, it was abandoned, and there were no pesky bees or wasps to deal with. I can't wait to seal these walls to keep the mice and the bees out. 

Once we clean up all of the plaster on the floor, it will be on to the destruction of two useless chimneys, ceilings and tossing everything out the window!