Uncle Hub

DeShawn playing in the snow

Events have been unfolding very rapidly of late. So rapidly, in some cases (at work, in particular), we’ve not had the opportunity to sit down, reflect, and organize. It took the worst winter storm of the year to slow things down a bit so we could catch up a bit.

Snow starting falling this morning about 7 AM. Never really stopping all day, and mostly coming down hard and fast, by mid afternoon, we had had about 4″ on the ground. DeShawn and I went outside for about an hour before supper, throwing snowballs, skidding on the driveway and generally goofing off in the way only playing with a child can be. We left footprints all over the yard, running here and there recording our movements. Not 15 minutes ago, I looked out the dining room window at the driveway. Enough new snow has fallen since this afternoon to completely cover and obliterate our 3″ deep tracks on the asphalt. The weatherman says the snow will stop tonight so the promise of tomorrow surely includes shoveling the snow off the driveway to facilitate a return to normal mobility.

On the house restoration side of our lives, we’ve managed to get quite a few smaller things done. In typical fashion, a couple of ongoing older projects are being worked, even as we plan and start new ones. I’m genuinely envious of our cyber-neighbors at the Brickman house and the Chiu Bungalow who seem to be able to focus and accomplish so much in such a short time. Still, at 118 Henry Street, we continue to plod along, for sure, enjoying the scenery and the journey.

We did complete the excavation phase of the back-bedroom-moisture-mitigation-sill replacement project. The big square hole outside the bedroom windows has been grown to its needed breadth and depth. Requiring a total move, since Thanksgiving, of 20+ wheelbarrows full of soil, the elevation of the hole is now low enough to begin work on the sill. I joked with Carole that the sight of the brick foundation, uncovered of 15″ of dirt, was the best thing I had seen since seeing her for the first time. I was so relieved that the back of the house was not sitting directly on the ground that the (very) poor condition of the foundation and sill under the kitchen window (left side of the hole, see floorplan) didn’t immediately depress me.

The foundation under the kitchen window

It looks as if the foundation under the kitchen window has been repaired at least once. There was a 2″ diameter (no exaggeration) root from the big oak tree in the back yard penetrating the foundation. Lots of concrete sort of sloshed around the opening the root had broken thru the bricks. The sill, exterior wall sheathing, and wall studs are so badly rotten by moisture that very little of the wall’s weight is being supported by the foundation. Overall, the good news about this project: no more musty bedroom when it rains AND most of the revealed foundation is in great shape. The bad news: the foundation under the kitchen exterior wall will need to be rebuilt AFTER the kitchen is demolished to fix the structural timber issues.

The floor in the mudroom/laundry room has gotten much softer over the winter. The cold water connection to the washer has leaked since day one of our occupation, no doubt leaking long before even making our acquaintance. In April, we’re taking a week off work to realize the plan to redo the floor and remodel the little room. Originally the back porch of the house, when the addition was built it was enclosed enough to inspire the PO’s to put up some cheap paneling, some utility cabinets, and a door frame for a storm door to the outside world.

Looking into the mudroom from the kitchen

Most of what’s under the faux pine paneling is the original clapboard exterior of the house. The room ceiling is old fashion beaded board, and under the 1970’s OSB/carpet floor are original pine floorboards. The wall behind the washer and dryer is actually part of the addition and has normal wall studding, insulation, etc. The plumbing connections for the washer are pipes sticking straight out of the floor and the dryer vent is a rough cut hole.

Original clapboards under the mudroom paneling

The plan for this April includes tearing out the whole floor, repairing the obvious water damage, and re-covering it with yellow pine flooring (stained to match the rest of the house). The walls covered in clapboards will be revealed, cleaned, clapboards replaced as needed, and painted white to match the original house exterior. For the wall behind the washer/dryer, since it’s not original, we can be a little more creative. If possible, I’m going to put the plumbing into the wall space, building an access box for connecting the washer. Replacing the pine paneling will be beadboard approximately 5′ up the wall with normal drywall the remainder. Goodbye cheap cabinets, hello, historically correct shelves.

The final touch will be replacing the Walmart-like light fixture with one purchased from architectural salvage and restored by yours truly. Although Carole is somewhat ashamed of my “dumpster diving” everytime we see a house being worked on, even she likes the art-deco glass light shade I scored from the “remodeling” of a 1920’s style brick house in Columbia. Hopefully, she will like it even better on the light fixture in the mudroom.

Of course, work continues on the upstairs bedroom and bathroom. Last weekend, I got under the house to look at the base of the water pipes that feed the upstairs bathroom. It looks like we can unhook and cap the water pipes without plumber intervention. Not only will we save a little money by doing it without help, but also the experience will extend our knowledge a bit more. Nevermind the wet, dank, moldy classroom.

Over an hour spent on hands and knees in the bowels of the house was well spent for other future projects as well. For example, removing the knob/tube wiring and rewiring all the electrical outlets downstairs seems like it will be relatively straightforward. Virtually all the outlets are fed by circuits accessible under the house. Another example, most of the water pipes have already been replaced with copper. Only the water feeds to the 2 bathrooms remain iron pipe.

To completely digress, check out a couple of movies: “Holes” and “Secondhand Lions”.