We laid conduit from the pole in the back corner of the yard for new underground data and electrical service to the house. It was bitter cold - around 12 degrees for the days we were working out there. As you can see in the pictures, we found the old property well with a hand-carved cap. The walls were formed of hand-rounded rock - really incredible. We saved the stone cap for later use (firepit?) and filled in the well for other home-renovation wackos to find in the next millennium.
I should just leave some things alone. It’s just that… well… I can’t.
After finishing the electric all along the outside walls, I decided that would be a good time to change my mind about the insulating approach for the house - we really need to focus on really sealing up the house and adding some stronger insulating factors. Soooo, out comes the new electrical and in will go a 2×4 studded wall to allow for a cozy R-14 insulation.
In the process of prepping the space for the new walls, I found myself paying more attention to the ceiling in the front half of the house. It was once part of three different spaces: the kitchen, the hallway and the front bedroom and over 100 years has added 2 layers of drywall, some ratty cardboard fiber tiles, plaster and lathe. The upper sill for the new wall was being completely swallowed by this 3.5″ inches of ,may I say, “history”? Granted, those layers have created their own version of insulation but they also hold an incredible amount of unknown material and potentially toxic debris. I told myself to ignore it and just let it go - knowing that it would be a massive job to remove the entire ceiling. But yet, a night of sleepless anxiety convinced me otherwise and I just couldn’t help myself.
Rachel’s parents kindly came out to help a bit more on the house and I sprung the idea on removing the ceiling as soon as they asked “what can we do?”. Well, 4 hours of extraordinary dust, a emergency call to “Dumpster Mike” (seriously, that’s his name) for a dumpster, some marveling at the energy level of my in-his-fifties father-in-law, and (as noted in the picture) a bit of sweaty mess - you can see the rather satisfying results in the photos. You may also be able to see in the photos the new wall and header span that separates Rachel’s studio and the laundry room.
Whew, I feel much better. Now, I can sleep.
One of the things that bothered us about the layout of the front yard was that the walkway cut across the front of the house rather than straight from the sidewalk to the front door. We decided to completely revamp the front yard by re-laying the walkway, planting grass where the old walkway was, and building a landscaping area below the front windows.
I decided to tackle this project with the help of our good friend Don–a man with landscaping experience and plenty of muscle. Our friend Jason stopped by with iced coffees and helped us figure out how to lay the new walkway using the flagstones from the old walkway. We dug everything out of the front yard, including layers and layers of old brick. While digging the path for the new walkway, we hit a large piece of flagstone at least a foot down that looks as though it might have been a header for a window. We used it on the far left side of the new walkway.
I transplanted all of the lilies to the far side of the yard, leaving a few under the front windows. We’re in the process of figuring out what to plant there, so more pictures to follow…
This is an old house and of course everything is completely out of square. I’ve had moments of nausea if I stared too long at the floor and ceiling upstairs because they were both so crooked. So, I decided to try to straighten things up a bit.
Armed with a 4,000 pound lift capacity floor jack I slowly lifted the upstairs ceiling support beam back into place. Delirious with my success I moved downstairs to do the same to the beam supporting the upstairs floor. It didn’t even budge. So, I went to the auto-parts store and picked up a bottle jack that had a 40,000 pound (what are people lifting other than a house that they need 40,000lb capacity? ) lift capacity jack. That certainly did the trick. You can see in the bottom right-side photo the separation between the old studs and the newly shifted beam and in the middle photo the paint separation as the moulding desperately clung to the shifting ceiling. Both beams were moved nearly 2 inches and now the downstairs ceiling/upstairs floor are nearly perfectly level.