Posted: January 20th, 2011 | Author: eliza | Filed under: excitement, kitchen, progress | Tags: carpentry, contractors, kitchen, paint, plaster, progress, walls | 4 Comments »
We took a big plunge and decided to hire a few contractors to help us get the kitchen up and running. We still want to try and do most everything ourselves, but it felt like a week or two of hired help could help us get a huge kick-start on the kitchen, just to get to the point where we can survive through the winter in here. Consulted our budget (ie. how much money we can borrow from my parents) and decided we could (just barely) afford to hire some help from a carpenter and a plasterer, to get the kitchen walls finished up quickly so we can move on to installing cabinets, counter, sink, all the good stuff! My dad had recently bumped into on old acquaintance named Lynn, a master carpenter who happened to be looking for new projects. And my sister Alicia recommended a plasterer friend, Laura, who had done some good work in their house and could help us whip up some kitchen walls. So we made some phone calls and… Voilà! December began with a house full of skilled tradesmen working away in our house. Lynn and Laura working on the kitchen while Nate and his helper worked away on the bathroom plumbing and basement drainpipes. We can’t afford to have them do a whole lot of work, but they can quickly get a lot of basics finished and get us further along the road! It was weird and fun to spend a few weeks with a crowd of workers in the house, we had to try and stay out of their way so they could work, and I was almost constantly employed in answering zillions of questions about “will you want to put some molding here” or “how do you want this wall to meet the ceiling” or “where should this pipe run” or “can I rip this out” or “should we plaster over this or go around it” etc etc! There were so many questions that we hadn’t thought about – it’s like a full time job just figuring out how to orchestrate and direct the contractors. At night when everybody had gone home, we’d drag two chairs into the empty kitchen and sit by the woodstove eating dinner on our laps, then in the morning we’d have to wake up super early to clear away everything from the kitchen again, drag the chairs and everything out of the worksite and start up the woodstove so it would start to get warm by the time everyone turned up for work. Then once it started snowing we had to clear and sand the driveway every morning so the work vans could get up the driveway. Mike had to stay in the bedroom to work most days, since his workday is filled with conference calls, can’t really do that in the middle of a construction site. The puppy made friends with all of the contractors and clambered all over them while they worked and tried to steal their lunches every day, but had to be locked up in the bedroom with Mike most of the time, or else she certainly would have chopped off the end of her pretty little nosy snout by getting it too close to a sawzall or a drill.
Lynn’s work in the kitchen was mostly getting everything totally finalized and prepared for hanging wallboard – in an old house, no walls are straight, no two wall segments line up quite properly, no doorway is straight, no two pieces of wood are on the same plane. There’s an infinite amount of little discrepancies to be evened out and tidied up. With a plane and impressive speed and skill, Lynn straightened out our doorways, replaced missing studs, missing bits of strapping, made walls level and plane and square, furred-out short bits and sawed off other bits, took out old broken wood and replaced it with new strong wood. We’d done our best to do the pre-wallboard preparation ourselves, but it was remarkable to see how many things we’d missed!
1-inch insulation and strapping on the ceiling, all ready to hang blueboard.
Then Laura and Rick hung blueboard all over. Blueboard is a special wallboard that’s intended for plastering over. Here’s what the kitchen looked like with all the wallboard up – what a dramatic difference!
all done with insulating, now the blueboard is up, and all is ready to plaster!
Work got slowed down with Christmas and then a big snowstorm. Just before New Years, Laura and Rick started to put up the plaster, and finished up in the first week of the new year. The plaster is kind of a mysterious and magical thing. It starts as soup and ends up as rock-hard walls. They had a bit of a struggle to work on the ceiling and walls above our woodstove, as it’s blazing hot and dry up there, and the plaster needs to complete a chemical hardening process before all the water evaporates out of it. We had to spritz the walls lightly with a spray bottle for an hour or two after they finished, to make sure it didn’t dry out too quickly.
all done with plaster!
Laura grew up learning plastering from her father and her grandfather, who were plasterers too. She said when she was just little, she would do the bottom of the walls while her father and grandfather worked on the top part. These days plastering is much less common, most people just do wallboard now, but it works really well for an old, crooked house – it fits with the history of the house, and works nicely up against the exposed beams and it helps to fill in some odd gaps and smooth over some of the irregularities.
Back when we were in the destruction and gutting phase, we found this beautiful huge beam when we ripped out the old wall by the chimney. We’d originally imagined having cabinets along this wall, but then it seemed like a shame to cover up this amazing beam, so in the end we took a few days trying to figure out whether it made sense to do some carpentry and plaster magic to keep it exposed, or just cover it over for the sake of getting work done more quickly. In the end we decided to take the time to expose it and we are really happy with how it looks now!!
before and after.
Historically speaking, this kind of exposed beams are not at all authentic, it has a fun old-timey look but the original house never would’ve had its beams showing like this. We think it looks cool anyway!
priming the kitchen walls
So… early January and we’re ready to paint the walls! This felt like such a huge exciting milestone and we were SO pumped to get started!! but turned into a huge job because the fresh plaster absorbs a TON of paint. It took something like six gallons of primer to cover the whole kitchen. I also had to tape off and mask off ALL of those precious exposed beams, a hellishly tedious process that involved balancing on top of a ladder, sweating in the heat and weirdly contorted to reach the beams overhead, carefully taping along the edges of every beam while wood splinters fall down in my eyes.
taping the ceiling for painting is really annoying
color deliberations, part one
We went through some lengthy indecision about colors, we tested EIGHT different color swatches and ended up liking this light-blue color.
benjamin moore, yarmouth blue
judy helps with painting
Posted: September 28th, 2010 | Author: eliza | Filed under: excitement, fun, heating, kitchen, progress | Tags: hearth, kitchen, woodstove | No Comments »
We’ve started laying the kitchen hearth!!!!! The weather has started getting crisp and cool, and now that we’re living here it feels like time to focus on getting the woodstove in. Evenings are feeling pretty chilly around here. Before we can set up our woodstove we just need to build the hearth to set it on.
So we have these beautiful blue penny tiles that we got back in may. First we looked up size requirements and clearances for our stove. Drew up plans, then taped out the hearth plans at actual size on the floor using green painters’ tape. Ripped out the yucky vinyl flooring in the spots where it was covering up the hardwood flooring. Measured, cut and screwed down cement board.
laying down cement board. with some help from pups.
We were lucky enough to have some handy visitors at this point, so Gaurav’s partner Caroline pitched in and helped out a whole lot! Before mixing the mortar we had to build a temporary wooden frame to keep the edges of our hearth nice and neat. We did a dry run first, just to figure out how all the tiles fit on the hearth. Then mixed the mortar and slathered it all over the cement board, trying to get an even layer all over, which turned out to be a little harder than expected.
Caroline measuring tiles
And then laid down the tiles! This also turned out to be a little tricky, and we didn’t get them quite perfect, but we did a pretty good job for a first time. We had to let the mortar dry for a while (we gave it a full 48 hours since the weather’s so rainy) and then mixed up the grout. We picked a greyish color called Sahara Beige. It’s a pretty good match for the tile color, I think. Grouting was fun! The whole project was fun.
laying tiles on the mortar; tiles all set and waiting for grout!
spreading the grout
wiping off the excess
It’s really our first project actually building something finished, rather than just demolishing or doing behind-the-scenes stuff like wiring and plumbing. (that stuff is fun too but the results aren’t quite as spiffy.) Now the fancy-looking hearth looks wildly out of place in our messed-up, gutted old kitchen. I still haven’t really worked out what our kitchen will look like, haven’t decided on paint colors or anything. So I’m a little unsure whether this fancy hearth will fit in with the rest of our kitchen, hopefully it won’t stick out too much.
Now the grout’s dry, I think we need to put on a sealant. Then take up the frame and then set up the wood stove! Hoping to have our first fire by Sunday, when the weather’s supposed to turn cold again. And soon we should put some molding around the edge of th hearth. We’re thinking it should be hardwood so we’ll have to make it ourselves, in my dad’s workshop.
Posted: April 25th, 2010 | Author: eliza | Filed under: kitchen, slow progress | Tags: dog fence, free stuff, kitchen, organ, organizing, plans, stuff | 2 Comments »
it’s starting to feel like spring!
What else is new? I think we’ve finished removing all the lath from the kitchen! We had to break it and saw it away from the walls so we can get in there to run electrical wiring and insulate. It’s perfect for use as kindling in the woodstove; I sorted and boxed it up neatly to pack it away til the fall. Did lots of clean-up and organizing that’s made the place feel more civilized and house-like; our work spaces had gotten completely chaotic with all the destruction and debris and activity and no place to store things. I got a cheapo wire shelving unit to help hold some clutter, and we dragged in a work bench from the ell to use for storage and work space in the dining room which has become our de facto workshop room. We dismantled the cabinets from one of the apartments in the ell, we will clean those up and refinish them and use them for our new kitchen. Dragged the counter tops and sink off to the dump. Found a rickety set of four bar stools at the dump and brought them home. It was a good week for free stuff; we also found a cool wooden crate (dated 1905) in the dump, found a sweet little old wooden chair by the side of the road with a “free” sign, and on craigslist we found a free working electric organ! It’s a really kitschy 1970′s looking thing, it’s no piano but it is pretty hilarious to look at and fun to play with- we plugged it in and it really plays!
kindling boxes, our new electric organ!
We also stopped by Pete’s Place salvage yard in Hollis and got a few extra storage crates, they’re beautiful old wooden soda crates, and a vintage wire card rack for me to sell my cards at craft fairs. It’s pretty fun having a pickup truck and a whole empty house to fill up!!
pete’s place salvage in Hollis
Pulled up the carpeting in the area that will become our new bathroom, and knocked out some of the back wall there. Mike mowed the lawn for the first time! And stapled down most of the invisible dog fence line that runs around the property perimeter. Now we need to start the tedious process of training the beasts to understand and respect it. And… I did some more work on the kitchen planning. I’ve been working on some floor plans but I felt like we needed to see a sketch of what the room will actually look like… it’s a hack job but this is what I’ve got so far. Don’t laugh!
And… the rhubarb patch is starting to look pretty impressive! Time for pie, really soon.
rhubarb and blackflies, mike & dogs in the back yard
Posted: April 22nd, 2010 | Author: eliza | Filed under: gross, kitchen | Tags: bugs, fauna, ferrets, gross, kitchen, yuck | 1 Comment »
asian lady beetles
Today at the house: we finally conquered a stubborn radiator that we’d been trying (and failing) to get out of the kitchen for a few days. The winning trick was using a 5-foot-long crowbar. This enabled us to finish getting the last of the wallboard off the last wall! I firmly believe that we are FINALLY done removing sheet rock from that room. It was a gorgeous warm day which brought TRILLIONS of ladybugs out of hibernation to swarm the insides of our windows in a truly revolting manner. They’re actually Asian Lady Beetles, which sounds like something really sweet and lovely but is kinda gross when there are so many of them covering every window in the house. According to the internet, in nature they like to hibernate in cracks and crevasses in rock faces, but they’ll happily settle for squeezing themselves into any opening in anything large and pale-colored, which apparently includes every crack and crevasse around ever window of our house. Luckily they don’t breed in there, and they don’t eat anything, they just go to sleep and in the spring, on warm sunny days, they all wake up and crawl sluggishly around the windows and window-frames and ceilings until they make their ways outside (or drop dead, littering the floors with bug carcasses). We vacuumed up about 5 gazillion of them from the living room, then did another 3 trillion in the kitchen, and by the time we made it back to the living room there was a whole new crop of them covering the windows! Impressive. Hopefully we will have time to do some caulking and sealing to reduce this invasion next year.
In other wildlife news, as the weather warms up we spend more and more time wondering what the hell peed all over ever single inch of the entire house! (and reminding ourselves that the purchase price was so cheap that we don’t mind dealing with pervasive piss stink). Really, every single room, even the closets. Well, today in a box of old junk I found a purchase certificate for SIX ferrets. I don’t know anything about ferrets or their habits but I feel like it might be hard to house train one of them, let alone six of them. Mystery solved?
Posted: April 22nd, 2010 | Author: eliza | Filed under: kitchen, photos, slow progress, structure | Tags: construction, doorway, kitchen, mike, photos, richard | No Comments »
men at work.
modifying the wall near the chimney. Moving a beam, cutting open the doorway to make it wider and higher. All to make room for our new woodstove!
Posted: April 20th, 2010 | Author: eliza | Filed under: kitchen, slow progress | Tags: door, kitchen, mike, mudroom, progress, structure | No Comments »
man the kitchen destruction never ends. eliza’s parents did a really nice job at fixing up this beautiful old door, but before we could hang it we had to take out the door frame because it was messed up, but in doing so, we saw we also needed to repair the threshold and taking that up showed us we needed to rip out the floor below it. in order to rip out the floor we had to take out the walls (which we had wanted to do anyways since we needed to add insulation) and then once we got down to the subfloor we saw it was all messed up so we have to put new subfloor down.
buuut once we started that, we saw that it was pretty slanted so before we could lay down the subfloor we’d have to go down in the basement and jack up the house a little to straighten everything out… but before we could do that we had to go ahead and widen the doorway between the kitchen and dining room, which we’d been planning for awhile and because it involved moving some beams it had to be done before starting the structural work in the basement.
so, now we’ve moved the beams and laid the concrete in the basement that’s going to support the columns and we also propped up some temporary columns in the basement. now we have to wait until the concrete dries in order to do all this and THEN we can start putting the floor back together. and then we can fix the threshold and then the doorframe so we can hang the door.
we did get a new oak threshold which is beautiful!
Posted: April 13th, 2010 | Author: eliza | Filed under: photos, progress, slow progress | Tags: ceiling, chimney, destruction, dogs, kitchen, progress, woodstove | 1 Comment »
Feels like things have been moving slowly these past few weeks. Lots of things have happened but so much remains to do! We’re STILL ostensibly working on the kitchen, but I think we’ve spent equal time working on other various projects lately. So the kitchen still needs more destruction before we can start rebuilding! After tearing out the counters and cabinets we got the sink out and saved it, thinking we may reuse it. It’s not pretty but it works.
we got the sink out!
We’ve gotten wallboard and insulation off two and a half walls, one more wall left to tear out. We need to strip down to the studs on all exterior walls so we can put in new insulation, as the existing insulation looks at least 40 years old and a lot of the old pink fiberglass batting has been eaten away by critters. (how hungry do you have to be to eat fiberglass?!)
left: smashing things is fun! right: peeling away an entire sheet of wallboard
Once we got most of the walls gone, we realized we wanted to take down the ceiling too. It didn’t look too bad in the first place, but once we started poking around in there, we found that billions of rodents (probably rats and chipmunks, maybe mice, who knows what else!) had been living above our ceiling and eating the delicious pink fiberglass insulation, chowing on birdseed and sunflower seeds and piling their empty shells everywhere, building cozy nests filled with chewed-up old shirts and shiny things (mainly quarters and candy wrappers!) and peeing and pooping everywhere. Once we got up on ladders and got close to the ceiling we noticed it really did smell like a rat bathroom. Yuck! So we decided to tear it all down.
pulling down the kitchen ceiling
It was nasty work, you’d get a crowbar under one edge of the wallboard and start to pry, and then maybe you’d have to pry out 5 or 6 nails before it would budge, or maybe you’d just pry one nail and whoosh… without any warning the whole thing would come crashing down, sending the dogs running in terror and showering a massive load of shredded fiberglass, sunflower seeds, rodent shit and chewed sunflower shells all over your head. We took to wearing old parkas with the hoods up while working on the ceiling so that at least the sunflower seeds couldn’t go down the back of our necks and leave us shaking chipmunk debris out of our shirts and pants all day.
a sudden cascade of sunflower seeds and rodent-related debris
bare ceiling after we got all the wallboard and insulation and chipmunk nests removed!
really scary old wiring revealed when we pulled away all the insulation
We bought our new woodstove!!! We figured that spring was the best time to get a good price on a wood stove. We were tempted to get an old one, but we’re hoping to use the woodstove as our primary heat throughout the long Maine winters (we do have an oil burning furnace in the basement but we only want to use it for back-up), so we felt it would be best to get the most modern, efficient woodstove possible. We ended up going for a welded steel Regency woodstove, it’s not pretty like the old-time cast iron stoves but it has a nice big firebox so that we can load it up and only have to feed it a few times a day, not every few hours, and hopefully it will even burn through the night until morning! Also, the new woodstoves burn much more efficiently, wasting less energy and causing less air pollution and less creosote build-up in the chimney, so they’re just cleaner and safer. And I don’t mind the modern look too much!
the new woodstove, peeling back the layers on the chimney
Now that we’ve got the woodstove, we need a chimney. The kitchen chimney had been cut off at some point (probably when the roof was replaced) so it needs to be rebuilt from the second floor up through the roof, and lined and insulated (for safety) and we need a new thimble installed in the kitchen for the woodstove to plug into. We’ve met with a mason and he should be coming back to do the job within a few weeks! So we needed to expose the brick chimney, which had been covered with wallboard. Behind the wallboard we found a frame of 2x4s, behind that many many layers of old wallpaper covering an inch of horse-hair plaster which Mike chiseled off very carefully to reveal the bricks and mortar.
Meanwhile… we’ve also spent a ton of time working on dog fencing. We’re installing invisible dog fencing around the entire perimiter of our 2 acre lot plus our next-door-neighbor’s 1-acre lot. She has three dogs! And we figured it would be impossible and annoying to try and keep them apart, so it’s best to have them all share one fence system so they can play together. We’re so glad to have great neighbors who are into doing stuff and sharing stuff together! Our dream is to let the dogs run around our giant back yard anytime, without having to worry that they’ll run into the busy street in front of our house. They’ll have the whole back yard but they won’t be allowed in the front yard (near the street), only as far as the front porch. Here’s hoping they will enjoy the backyard and not sit on the front porch and bark at passing cars all day… It’s a pretty long process to map out the edges of our property, run electric wire around the whole perimeter and staple it down or bury it, and meanwhile it takes at least a month to train the dogs to understand and respect the invisible fence (they wear collars that beep, then shock(!) if they go near the invisible perimeter). We’ve been training on the fence system that’s already installed at my parents’ house in Gorham and I think they’ve pretty much got it down pat already!
Beatrice is one of the dogs next door! She’s an English Sheepdog puppy, like a crazy happy muppet! She comes to visit us a lot.
And… stacking next winter’s firewood in the sunshine. Still another cord and a half to go. Best to get it done before the weather gets hot.
seasoned wood is already stacked, now we’re working on the green wood.
Posted: April 4th, 2010 | Author: eliza | Filed under: history, photos | Tags: design, history, kitchen, wallpaper | No Comments »
we’ve been absolutely totally busy working on the new house all the time! Lots of details and stories over here: http://www.limingtonfarmhouse.org/blog/ among other delights, It’s been great discovering layered bits of old wallpaper around the house.
peeling back the layers of wallpaper on the old chimney in the kitchen
a tiny snippet of wallpaper in the attic
the old chimney in the kitchen was covered with wallboard; behind that we found many layers of wallpaper and horsehair plaster over the bricks!
old wallpaper in an upstairs closet
in an upstairs bedroom
more wallpaper from the kitchen
layers of wallpaper in an upstairs closet
We got a tour of our neighbor Mike’s place, also a historical house undergoing renovation. He had some great old wallpaper too!
at our neighbor Mike’s house
at Mike’s house
Posted: March 28th, 2010 | Author: eliza | Filed under: excitement, slow progress | Tags: before & after, demolition, kitchen | No Comments »
We’ve gotten pretty far into demolishing the kitchen! I’d love to start re-building soon but there is actually more destruction to do first. We got the counters, cabinets, sink, wallboard and old insulation out; we still need to get some remaining tidbits of wallboard out, and maybe the ceiling too. Also thinking of demolishing a bit of a wall, between kitchen and dining room. Right now there is a wall with a big wide doorway; we’re thinking of leaving just 1/3 wall and the other end wide open. The soon-to-be-exposed chimney would be all that remains where that end of the wall is now. This would make it easier to place the wood stove smack in between the two rooms, to heat both kitchen and dining room!
kitchen, before demolition
kitchen, in the early stages of demolition.
I want to keep that memory curve over the sink! It has been carefully set aside and hopefully we can fit it back in when we’re done. I’m drawing up floor-plans for the new kitchen and trying to think about what we want to do for the new kitchen – it’s so exciting to have a blank slate but also I have no idea what I’m doing and I’ve never really thought about how to plan a kitchen before. I wish I had more inspiration materials to look at but whenever I look at magazines (or apartment therapy or any of those websites) I just think “ugh, I don’t want to live in a magazine house with a magazine kitchen!” They all look too sterile and trendy and over-designed. I guess it’s best to just let our kitchen evolve, rather than trying to design it.
no more kitchen! Just windows and plumbing!!!!
One of the best things about this whole project is that pretty much every day I come in to start work and I look at the task before me and think, “Uh oh, I don’t know how to do this. I better wait until somebody else comes along to help me or show me how or do it for me.” Then I look around for an easier task, and everywhere my eye falls, I think “That looks really hard. I don’t think I can do that right now.” And then I realize there is nothing easy to work on, it’s all complicated and messy and unfamiliar and difficult, and then I’m like “OK, I better just try and figure out how to get started” and I make a first cautious attempt, and next thing I know I am knee-deep in plaster and figuring out how to get it done! And then afterwards I’m all “That was easy!”
taking apart the sink!
Posted: March 15th, 2010 | Author: eliza | Filed under: excitement, photos, progress, slow progress | Tags: beginnings, carpet, destruction, gross, kitchen, yuck | No Comments »
We’ve only just begun… but we’ve finally begun! We’ve started to form some ideas about what to tackle first. There’s so much to be done! There is one upstairs bedroom that had wall-to-wall carpeting that REEKED of piss. So gross! This past week we got in there with a utility knife and started by ripping the carpet into three big strips (thanks Judy for the strategy advice!), then rolling them up and dragging them out. Tough going because two sides of the room have baseboard heaters and the nails holding the carpet down are under the baseboard heater, which is all fragile (take off the cover and it’s just copper piping with billions of delicate little fins that are ridiculously easy to mangle if you even touch them) so despite our best efforts we kinda messed up those heating fins, oops. This was the worst part of the process, the carpet is so heavy and clumsy that we ended up getting way more up-close-and-personal than anyone would want to get with something that thoroughly pee-soaked. Then there’s another layer of stained and stinky batting, and underneath there is a layer of stinky and crumbly particle board, nailed down to the floor. Had to pry this up gently with crowbars, we developed a good teamwork strategy and figured out how to ease it up in relatively large chunks. This also presented further complications with the baseboard heating pipes. And underneath… beautiful wood floors! Covered in lead paint, of course. But still lovely! We opened up some windows to get the smell out.
Before & after… we ripped out the carpet!
Mike got the cabinets out!
At the same time, we got started on the kitchen downstairs. We’re gonna gut it completely, since the exterior walls need to be insulated, it needs new electrical wiring, and everything in there was super gross and old. We smashed out the fake bricks and tore out the old cabinets, saving some for possible re-use and just tearing others into firewood. Found tons of rat poop, one entire rat skeleton, one mummified rat, and one box of shaw’s orange jello powder. Also found a weird birthday card and a five-year-old 7th grade report card for a little boy who had a very bad academic year. It’s just so weird to find yourself picking through bits & pieces left from someone else’s life. Who were these people? Where did they go to? Why did they install wall-to-wall carpeting and who peed all over it? Why did they leave a plastic christmas tree atop a sea of baby clothes in the upstairs bathtub?
So, lots of trips to the dump! It’s so satisfying to destroy all the crappy stuff and rip it out and drag it to the dump. Sometimes I feel bad about throwing things away, I don’t like to be wasteful but… it’s really satisfying to hurl the stinky carpets and chunks of stained particle board into those dumpsters. No guilt about that.
As of this writing, we’re done working on the upstairs for this year, focusing all efforts on the downstairs. Still need to rip out a few more cabinets from the kitchen, rip out wallboard and plaster and insulate, run new electrical wires (with Richard’s master electrical guidance of course) and then install some recycled cabinets (found some in good condition in one of the apartments in the ell). Found a good price on beech wood counter top at Ikea (cheaper than Formica!), perhaps we can use the same stuff to build a matching island or kitchen table?! Very excited about designing and reconstructing the new kitchen. Then… on to the downstairs bathroom!!! Again, we’ll need to completely destroy and rebuild.
Oh, also… in the ell apartment, there is a REFRIGERATOR FILLED WITH FOOD FROM LAST YEAR. My mom of course opened it up to show us… and it smells BAD. We have a date to put on respirator masks, long rubber gloves, drag it into the front yard and tackle it. (in order to drop refrigerators at the dump you’ve got to remove the door and empty them!) Next Monday afternoon. Ugh.