Thursday, August 27, 2015

Mowing the lawn and pulling nails...

We have a new lawn mowing service.  It is not particularly cheap, we have to provide room and board, clothing, education, etc.  

As I write this, I realize it's not that good of a deal for us, but gosh, he is cute!  
Wythe mowing our lawn

child labor at its best

I mentioned in a previous post that we were pulling up the new hardwood floors to find the original floors.  They were actually in better condition than we expected.  We have several sections that need to be patched, some loose boards to fix but nothing that we can't fix.  The biggest issue right now is pulling out the billions of tiny finishing nails they used and scrape off the areas where they glued plywood to the floor. 
scraping off the glue and plywood 
These are the nails we are pulling out. Some are so tiny you can hardly see them, you have to run your foot or hand over the floor to find them.  The only way to get them out is to grip them with nippers and slowly roll the nippers to ease the nail out of the wood.  

These are the nails I pulled out of an area less than two square feet.  As you can imagine, it is time consuming.   It is also frustrating.  Why anyone would cover up such a beautiful old floor?   

My kids really have been troopers during this project.  Many times we spend the entire day in a construction zone and they are left to fend for themselves.  For the most part they do an excellent job of finding a way to entertain themselves. 

a pry bar makes a good bridge
'til next time...

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

We are plastered...or is it plastered out...or out of plaster...?

We are just about out of plaster to smash. 

And we aren't sad about that at all.

We have a little more in the bathroom upstairs but we haven't pulled the wall out yet to get to the plaster and lath. 

plaster and lath removal
I find our plaster clean up crew absolutely adorable.  Just to be clear...she doesn't always look this 'put together' while working on the house.  My kids wear whatever they want to the house.  Usually we all look like a bunch of squatters milling about the house.  In fact, we have noticed that after a day working on the house, the homeless no longer ask us for money.  When we are sitting at the stop light they are likely to ask us if we are ok..."rough day?  do you need a water or something...?" 
You know you have sunk to a new low when the homeless feel pity for you. 
The plaster clean up crew

I don't remember seeing this on the '5 year old chore list' but...
removing plaster from the chimney
I worked long and hard at removing the plaster from the chimney.  It is not easy work.  The bricks are so old and the mortar so crumbly that it is a slow process.  I found that using a pry bar (my favorite tool EVER) and a hammer worked the best for me. Using the tip of the pry bar I would angle it is toward the brick, tap with the hammer until the plaster starts cracking, work the end of the bar under the plaster and keep hammering until you get a chunk of plaster to break loose. You quickly get the feel of it and can feel the difference between the layers of plaster and the edge of the brick.  You want to scrape along the brick to get the plaster off but being careful not to chip the brick.  It isn't easy work on the hands, especially not for those of us who have arthritis in our hands!  I would work on the chimney for an hour or so, or until I couldn't grip the hammer and pry bar any more, then I would have to let my hands recover for a bit. 
I was a little sad about the shape of the chimney, way more cracks than I was hoping for but we are still hoping we can get it fixed and working. 

living room chimney

Meanwhile, we continued removing and hauling plaster. If you look on the internet you can find the "best" way to do the job. Actually, you can find several different "best" ways to remove plaster.  I'm sure the best way depends on the house you are working in, number of people involved, time frame, etc.   We found that the best way for us was to smash and break loose the plaster from the lath. Then stop and shovel all of the plaster into five gallon buckets and haul it outside to our plaster pile.  Then we would pry the lath off of the studs, stack and carry it outside to our lath pile.  Once the lath is off you have to do another plaster cleanup to get all the pieces and 'fingers' of plaster that are behind the lath. 

hauling plaster, 10 gallons at a time

pouring plaster into the pile

conquering Mt. Plaster

The kids, the plaster pile and stacks of lath in the background
'til next time...

Monday, August 24, 2015

We have a new's called House Jenga

In the evenings we gather together as a family and play a new game.  

It's called House Jenga.  

The rules are similar to plain ol' Jenga, the main difference being if you remove the wrong piece your house falls down on your head.  

It is exciting though, and there is nothing like the fear of imminent death to foster family bonding. 

'til next time....
                               (if there is a next time...)

Thursday, August 13, 2015

If you think the dust bunnies at your house are bad....

I think I can confidently say my steps will never be this dirty again!

I think. 

I hope. 

This mess was from the insulation that fell down out of the ceiling.  It is nasty, filthy stuff to work with. It coats you with layers of grey dust, sometimes it takes a couple showers to scrub all the layers off. 
staircase full of insulation

We are peeling back the layers of flooring on the first floor.  They had prefinished hardwood installed in two of the rooms.  We are pulling up that floor and the plywood underneath to see if we can locate the original hardwoods.  Ainsley was quite handy in pulling up the floor.  She would pull and pull with all of her might.  When a piece was particularly difficult we could hear her chanting to herself, "focus Ainsley, just focus!"  

She's also quite handy at smashing plaster. 

So, after putting the temporary kitchen back together for the umpteenth time we decided we have to have all of the plaster off of those walls at this point.  I think we were just avoiding this room but the "plaster" is really just concrete.  At least taking it off of the walls wasn't as hard as taking it off of the ceiling.  The strange thing is that when we opened up the wall that faces the front door the house instantly shrunk in size.  That answered my question about opening up more walls!
plaster removal in kitchen
walls open now

'til next time...

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Plaster removal is......messy

Now that we have the financing on the house sorted we are able to really start tearing it apart! Finally, it is time for full scale demolition!   We began upstairs in the room that will be Wythe's room.  
Everyone will tell you that tearing out plaster is messy work but there really isn't a way to understand how messy it is without seeing it.  We seem to have a system that is working for us.  We smash and chisel the plaster off of the lath.  Then shovel the plaster into 5-gallon buckets to be hauled downstairs and around back to the ever-growing plaster pile.  
We had this idea for a chute that would run from the upstairs window down to the ground.  It seemed like a good idea, it probably was a good idea except for the logistics of getting it up to the window.   The idea was a frame built out of wood, with metal sheathing to form a chute for the plaster.  The problem was it had to be 32 feet long.  32 feet of wood and metal is difficult (impossible) for two people to manage.  So we tried to lift just the framing up to the 2nd story, thinking we could then nail the metal sheathing in place.  But we learned that we aren't as strong as we thought we were. We couldn't stand on the ground and lift 32 feet of wood into the air.  We tried using ladders to get more leverage, we tried jumping, we tried dragging it by rope from the 2nd story window.  Most everything we tried only resulted in me yelling at my husband "please don't die today!! don't you dare die and leave me with all this work!!"   So, we eventually abandoned the plaster chute and went back to the old fashioned method of hauling it out by the bucket full.  It is not a terrible option but you have to either go down 2 flights of stairs or one flight and then walk around the house to reach the plaster pile.  By the end of the day it feels as though you are walking up and down the steps of a high rise. 
Once the plaster is removed, then we start on the lath.  Once we have pried the lath off of the studs we stack it and carry it outside to be stacked on a pallet.  
The plaster removal on the ceiling is particularly messy because of the insulation in the ceiling.  Once you begin to pull down the lath large clumps of dusty, messy, insulation fall in your face, on your head, down your shirt, coating everything, turning your skin a greyish-black color.  

This is Wythe's room, before and after plaster removal. 

I'm excited about the space in the eves, I'm hoping to utilize as much as possible for closets, cupboards, or drawer space. 

We also learned a few more things about our electrical.  Namely, that the electric we had turned on upstairs believing it to be new wiring, was, in fact, the original wiring.  We had been using the overhead light fixtures until we saw what was behind the plaster.  Unbeknownst to us, the old outlets in the baseboards were also hot.  It was a little scary to see the old wiring behind the baseboard, the insulation is cracked and probably dry rotted.  There are singe marks on the wood from the wiring, it really makes you wonder how this house never burned down.
original outlet...still works...kind of scary

this is what the working switches look like

We moved onto Ainsley's future room, the room we will use for a time.  I was eager to uncover the section of chimney in that room to see what condition it is in.   We are hoping to leave the brick exposed on the chimney depending on the condition. 
first look at the chimney in the bedroom
Under a few layers of paint, over top of the plaster on the chimney, we found this wallpaper.  

knocking the plaster loose
one wall down to the lath
window in A's room
window in A's room
closet space in A's room
closet space in A's room

A's room, door to hallway
A's room, door to hallway

We were very grateful to have extra hands this past weekend!   My dad, his brother, and my brother-in-law all came to help!  My sister stayed at the house with the kids enabling me to work uninterrupted at the house.  It is amazing how much easier it is with extra hands, extra legs carrying loads of plaster up and down the flights of steps.  We were able to get the plaster and lath removed in the former upstairs kitchen and start on the hallway.  We have previously removed the tile floor from the upstairs kitchen but hadn't been able to get the sub-flooring up that was nailed into the original pine flooring. That job alone took several hours, Peter ended up having to cut it into strips in order to pry it up. 
This room was the kitchen for the upstairs unit.  We will use it for a bedroom for now, eventually it will be a laundry room and hallway to the master bedroom. 
Over the next few days we continued to work in the hallway removing the plaster and lath. 

Before-former upstairs kitchen
After plaster removal

before - former kitchen

After - will be converting into a bedroom

Before - upper hall
After - upper hall

Before - upper hall
After - upper hall, chimney exposed

upper hall

Removing plaster and lath isn't that hard.....just messy and time consuming.  But even 5 and 7 year olds can do it!
W & A, removing lath
Sometimes you have to pull really hard!
our little helpers!

  'til next time...