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Demolition Phase IV // Plaster and Insulation and Snakes

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.