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Friday, January 30, 2009

new wall, old boards

I meant to post this yesterday but got caught up with work and other things. So you get two pictures today. Below, you have a major moment of note: the very first new wall got put up upstairs. It's a tiny little wall, but it's still a wall nonetheless. Fortunately, we were able to reuse some of the old boards from the walls we tore down, and will continue to do so as we're moving forward with the framing upstairs. We'll still have to buy some wood, but hopefully not as much as we might have had to if the old wood had proven unusable. The wall they're finishing up in the photo below is the wall at the top of the stairs; it encloses what will someday be the master bathroom.

Picture number two is the usual end-of-day shot -- I'm loving being able to take this same shot from the same place every weekend and being able to document the changes like this!

I'm told that this weekend they'll take down the old wall you see in the photo -- it's the wall that divides the master bedroom from its closet, and it's precariously balanced on not much at all. So it'll come down, as the bathroom wall did, and once the joists and subfloor have been built all the way across to the far wall, it'll be rebuilt, complete with new doorframe for the closet. Not too much else going on this weekend, as it's Super Bowl weekend and the Brinkley men must have their football.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

a subfloor at last

After the first few pieces of insulation went in on Saturday, Don and his dad were able to put in the first piece of subfloor upstairs, a fairly momentous occasion. The hardest part of putting the subfloor itself in, I'm told, is heaving the gigantic pieces of plywood from their resting place in the living room ("lumber central") up through the joists into the upstairs. It involves some gravity-free hang time for the boards and a great deal of muscle on Don and his dad's part.

Board-heaving aside, as the insulation went in, so did the subfloor. I posted the picture below to Twitter on Saturday, with the caption "happening right now!" It was pretty exciting to see the subfloor slowly taking shape across the master suite.

It's starting to feel like real progress is being made around here. It's all very exciting!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

the first insulation this house has ever had

Once Don had pulled the wire for the new front porch overhead lights and fans, he could start putting insulation between the new joists over the front porch, to keep us from freezing in our bed once we open the porch back up to the elements. It's practically the first insulation that's ever been put in this house (there were some random bits stuck inside an interior wall, doing nobody any good, at one point).

Don and his dad joked that it already felt warmer after the insulation was in, a joke that turned cruel at around midnight on Saturday night when our heat broke. The furnace upstairs just stopped working. Just in time for snow! On Sunday morning, we called BGE Home (we intend to get a service plan with them, as they're sort of the only game in town), who told us they'd get to us on Tuesday (today). They sent a very nice service man out early this morning to tell me that a) we needed to put some "flooring" up in the attic before he'd go further than the fourth step up the attic ladder (there's a piece of plywood up there that gets moved around as portable flooring -- not good enough!) and b) there was a gas leak somewhere so he couldn't look at the furnace without that getting fixed anyway and c) the service division no longer fixes gas leaks -- and, ironically, neither does the utility division. They just find it for you. The utility people, I mean. The service people don't have any equipment at all for dealing with gas. The service people of the gas company. Whatever. He was very nice about the whole thing, and didn't charge me for the visit since he couldn't do anything. He recommended that we call the utility people, have them pinpoint the leak, and then either fix it ourselves or call a plumber.

We elected to bypass the utility people entirely and just call Len the Plumber, who had a plumber out here by 9:30 AM (I called at about 8) -- no two-day wait here! He fixed the gas leak -- there was a defective part in the line, an angled piece of pipe that had apparently been deformed from the start with an almost miniscule hole -- and then, out of the kindness of his heart, fixed the damn furnace too. Two days of huddling under the blankets and being miserable, gone in the blink of an eye.

In any case, I have a lot of photos ready and waiting to be posted about Saturday's work day, but have been too cold and miserable to do anything about it until now. So stay tuned -- my typing fingers are toasty warm!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

how the cat spent all day saturday

Apparently huddling nervously under the blanket avoiding the construction noise is much warmer than her usual practice of huddling nervously under the bed.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

brave new floor

Remember this? What a difference a few weekends can make! Don and his dad spent this Saturday working on the upstairs floor, and they got a truly tremendous amount of work done. Our friends at the Lansdowne Home Depot delivered a big pallet of lumber on Friday (with a truly excellent forklifting performance by one Randy, witnessed by yours truly) and at precisely 8 AM on Saturday the work began.

I don't know how many of you remember when we did this downstairs (what would we do without the Internet to help us remember?), but we are doing things a little differently upstairs. Rather than keeping the old joists in and sistering new ones to them to make the attached subfloor level, we elected to rip out the old joists and put new ones in. The reasons for this were many, but the important ones were that the old joists were in incredibly bad shape -- worse than the ones downstairs -- with cracking, rotting, and sometimes just plain bad installation. Additionally, there was the issue of the random change in the joists' direction in the middle of the house. So, all in all, it was deemed more sensible to just replace the joists upstairs.

The first few joists around the staircase and in the future master bathroom were ripped out ASAP, and the first piece of wood went up against the exterior wall of the house.

Here's where the clever part came in. Using that first joist as their baseline, they were then able to install a sill on the front wall of the house, creating a level base to nail all the joists into. The edge of the porch ceiling provided another level base, to end the first joists (front of house to mid-master bedroom) and start the second (mid-master bedroom back to center of house). In the picture below, they're setting the first of the mid-house joists. There's a lot of measuring involved. The end of the joist is resting on the wall that divides the center of the house downstairs, between the living room and everything else. When they do the back half of the floor upstairs, they'll install an end cap against that layer of joists for some extra stability.

I had honestly expected them to just get the wall cut down, move the lumber inside (Home Depot will only deliver to your driveway), and get the first few joists laid, mostly in the front section. But you can see what they accomplished by the end of the day on Saturday below -- Don was installing the last few pieces of cross-blocking when I took the last pictures of the day. Check out the difference between the picture below and the image from the 'vast wasteland' post linked at the top of this post! They're taken from the same place (squeezed into the tool closet which will someday be the guest bathroom) and the changes are awesome.

As a final note, I'd like to point out that anybody who follows me on Twitter, particularly on Saturdays, will generally get the play-by-play commentary of all of this stuff going on as it happens. It's a fun time.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

a strange shot

This picture came out so interestingly that I had to post it. I was standing on the first floor, in the living room, shooting almost straight up. Don's dad was in the second bedroom upstairs, handing something up to Don, who was perched in the attic. Really drives home the fact that the house is really, truly completely gutted!

Friday, January 16, 2009


Ever since the plaster got cleaned out of the front porch ceiling, I've been hearing mysterious thundering from above while I work during the day in the office downstairs. Come to think of it, it sounds awfully like one small and yet mysteriously dense cat jumping back and forth on the the loose plywood pathway over to the construction side, where she is very definitely Not Allowed. But she's always sitting innocently on the bed when I go up to check on her, or she comes down to twine around my legs and look cute before I can get up there.

I'd given up catching her in the act, so to speak, until one day I heard her howling miserably like she does when she's gotten stuck somewhere. I grabbed the camera and went upstairs and lo! Finally, proof! One small Cat, being quite Bad.

And yes, she was howling because she'd gone over there to sit and had somehow immediately forgotten how to get back. Even though she'd been running back and forth for a week. I did not rescue her. She howled for about fifteen minutes, then got up and figured it out as soon as she heard me in the kitchen downstairs, preparing food that she was convinced might be for her, despite years of evidence otherwise.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

please don't do this

It's really not safe.

Don and his dad employed this extremely dubious ladder-balancing tactic to put up a header for the middle wall yesterday afternoon (I know, working on a weekday! Crazy!). It's not much of a header -- just a large piece of lumber nailed securely to a couple of uprights that aren't going anywhere -- but they assure me that because it's not holding up much of anything other than the joists above it (as opposed to, say, an air conditioning unit, a person, or several adventurous and fat cats) it will be fine. I've given up worrying about things like this; my attitude is "well, if it falls down it probably won't hurt anybody since we don't go over there, and if the house is ruined we can collect our insurance and move somewhere finished." Works for me.

They'll be cutting out the studs of that wall this weekend, I assume, and I just got a call confirming that a vast amount of lumber is going to be delivered here tomorrow. Very exciting.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

plaster accomplished

I'm really far behind in uploading pictures, I'm sorry. This one's actually from last weekend, when Don and his dad spent the day finally getting rid of that plaster in the master bedroom. It was a fairly messy job, but it's all gone now.

The picture above is what it looked like when they'd finally gotten all of the plaster out and were cleaning up. Never have we appreciated our ShopVac more! What the builders did was just put in a little mini-floor between the joists, which, alas, I didn't get a picture of. Rest assured there were only like four inches of plaster, not a foot or so, thank goodness. All the joists and "floorboards" in this section are gone -- the verticals you see here involve the front porch ceiling somehow -- although you can see bits of the joists from the next section sticking out from under the plywood in the foreground. The mini-floor was there solely to hold the plaster they poured. Very strange.

Up next, they'll be ripping out that middle wall you always see in these upstairs pictures. It's bearing, so they'll need to build a header first. I hear that's happening today. Then it's on to the "chop-and-drop" -- tearing out old joists and installing new ones. The first joists to go in will be in that front half of the master bedroom over the porch; before the plywood subfloor is put in on top of those joists, Don will run wiring for the porch's ceiling fans and lights, since this is the only chance we'll really have to access that area. Then insulation, probably, and the subfloor. The joisting and subflooring will continue over to the edge of the stairs, which is where the original floors are still intact. I think the master suite framing will come next, and we'll move our bedroom in there from the back bedroom. Then ripping up the floors and more chop-and-drop.

Don thinks that the upstairs floor will be done by mid-February. We'll see how it goes. Once the floor is done it's all a downhill race; the plumber will come and install the bathrooms, we'll run the electrical stuff in the evenings probably, and then it's insulation, drywall, and hardwood. But you all know that already.

Monday, January 05, 2009

progress, of the miniscule variety

So. Hope everyone had a nice holiday season. Ours was lovely, with lots of family time, both here and elsewhere, and lots of giving and getting of nice things. And lots of food. Oh lord, the food. Anyway. It's over now, and it's back to the daily grind, or something. I haven't got much to say today, and no picture, alas, but Don and his dad did work on the house on Saturday and managed to get all that plaster up from over the front porch. All that's left to do there is pull out the boards the plaster was resting on -- Don says he'll try to do it after work this week, we'll see how that goes -- and then they're going to put in the new joists for that room and pull the wires through for the front porch's ceiling lights, since once we put the floor down that area will be inaccessible again. Having the wires pulled through and the boxes installed will make it a lot easier to finish up the front porch when we get there.

Measurements have been taken, a list has been made, and Don will be going out relatively soon -- probably this weekend -- to get all or most of the lumber for the upstairs floor. Hopefully the whole thing will go fairly quickly and we can finally move on with our lives. I'm SO ready to have the upstairs bathrooms installed.