Demolition Phase IV // Plaster and Insulation and Snakes

3.11.2015

Snow shovels in the living room became quite commonplace.
After we demoed all the nasty paneling, we discovered plaster walls which were in okay shape.  I figured I could fill the big holes and skim coat the whole thing and we'd have lovely original plaster walls.  Plaster makes me so happy, it is just right.  However, that wasn't going to be an option.  Noticing the walls were a bit chilly and since we already had massive holes in the walls where doors once were - I decided to do a little exploratory demolition just to make sure nothing was going to be a problem in the future.  I bashed a huge hole in the plaster and to my dismay, I discovered only a big, cold, black void.  No insulation.  None at all.

The exploratory wall - mid-excavation.
The exploratory wall - post-excavation.
(sorry about the blurry picture)
A little more investigation revealed that yes, there was insulation, but it had settled drastically over time.  Basically, there was only insulation in the lower two feet of the wall.  Assuming the whole first floor was this way, we decided it would be best to rip out the plaster and lath, add insulation and sheetrock on the exterior walls.  Not exactly a small task, but it allowed us to see everything which was wrong with the electrical, structural, or other aspects of the home construction hiding under that plaster. 



This is a prime example of something that was wrong.  See that bright spot next to the electrical outlet on this lovely wall?  Know what that is? Know why it's so bright and shiny?  Because it's a huge gaping hole to the OUTSIDE.  I get a little worked up when I look at this picture because it is precisely because of that hole that we had snakes in our house.  Snakes in our house!

One afternoon, I was happily vacuuming the loose insulation out around that wall - when I uncovered a live, half-hibernated garter snake.  Oh, man.  I can handle a lot of things but snakes are not one of them.  So, whilst I was screaming bloody murder and simultaneously trying to decide if I could just vacuum the snake up with the Shop Vac, the previous owner had, unbeknownst to me, come to the (open) screen door to talk to me.  I was a little embarrassed, to put it mildly.  I should have asked him to throw the snake outside but I chickened out.  When I went back to look for the old boy (the snake, not the owner) he was gone.  GONE!  I didn't see him again until the next morning as the husband and I were brushing our teeth.  I saw something out of the corner of my eye and turned around to see what was going on.  As I turned around, I saw Toaster (our giant cat) whip the snake over his head into the air.   It spun a complete 360 and landed across the room.  Horrified, I could only scream and grab my husband.  Of course, he calmly took the snake away from the cat and put an end to the darn thing's misery.  We now have a hammer christened "Snake Bite."  Enough said.

Now, after 7 months of renovation, we've encountered two more snakes.  One very much alive, and one very much mummified.  I'll take surprise snake mummies any day.


Back to the demolition.  Plaster and lath create a huge mess.  I'm happy we were going to refinish the floors anyway, because there's no way they wouldn't have been destroyed by all the dust and debris.


This is the hellacious mess that was my kitchen for about a week.  Needless to say, we ate a lot of grilled food and Casey's pizza.

After all the horrible demolition, patch work, etc., it was time for the insulation to go in.  We went with recycled un-faced batts so that there would be proper air movement.  Old farmhouses are drafty, and they will always be drafty, and the key is to let them breath a little.  Otherwise you'll get mold.  Lots of mold.  




Another hugely beneficial thing we did was use Great Stuff all around the windows and any extra drafty areas we could find.  We joke we should have invested in Great Stuff stock, we've purchased so much.  I think we should have purchased a pallet full at a discount, we've used so much.

See that yellow stuff gloobing over the top of the window frame.  That's what I'm talking about.  Great Stuff is an expanding foam sealer and it really is great.

Here's a little before and after(ish) of our north window.



I know it's just insulation, but it looks so nice and clean and uniform!  No more tin foil!  Hooray!




Moral of the Story:
Don't Try to Shop-Vac Snakes.
That's Just Ridiculous and Inhumane.


Library Before and After // A Little Break From Demo

3.02.2015



Hello, there!

I'm going to take a little break from documenting the demolition process and show a finished before and after.  This room is the Library.  When we moved in, it was the master bedroom, or so we were told.  It is a small room (about 11' x 13') and it had two doors, one coming in from the living room, and one going in to the bathroom.  The bathroom already had a door and the second door was just... awkward.  We had no need to keep the master on the first floor, and weren't in need of another "room" down there, so we decided to turn it in to a library.

Demolition Phase III / We Struck Gold! // The Popcorn Ceilings Get the Boot

2.19.2015

This house, having been "remodeled" in the late 1970s, was sporting some rather intense popcorn ceiling situations.  The living/dining room had normal popcorn, the library had glittered popcorn, and the bathroom has painted popcorn.  Heavens, they could have just at least tried to make it a little uniform.

Popcorn ceiling texture.
Needless to say, popcorn doesn't fly in my house, so we had to come up with a plan to remove it.  As we were contemplating it, the husband noticed that the ceiling in the kitchen (which was tiled - yeah, gross too) was quite a bit higher than the ceiling in the rest of the house.  This wouldn't make any sense unless there was a drop ceiling put in.

There are a few reasons why people will put in drop ceilings, the main reason being the need to hide things like duct-work or electrical wiring.

One night at about midnight, after a long day's work, we were once again contemplating that drop-popcorn ceiling.  The husband grabbed a hammer and, well, the rest was history.  We bashed a few holes in the ceiling that night, enough to let us know that we were, indeed, in the possession of 9' ceilings.  We crossed our fingers that we wouldn't find any ductwork the next day when we really got into demo and we went to bed.

Turns out, there was a lot going on under that ceiling.  However, to our delight, there was really no reason to have a drop ceiling.  It wasn't hiding any ductwork or electric lines.  It was just there.  My guess is the previous owner, when remodeling, wanted the 1970s look - low and "modern" and installed the drop ceiling.


Demolition - Phase II - The Faux Wood and Faux Stone Paneling

12.18.2014


From what we can figure this house sat in it's original state until the family who owned it came in to some money in the late 1970s.  Using my old real estate law office sleuthing skills, I discovered that the family sold a large amount of the farm in 1978 - probably around the time the father would have been retiring.  What do you do when you have excess cash and are a retiree?  Why, you redo your house, of course!