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I realized I’d posted about the possibility of finding things in the eaves, but never actually listed what we found there after we opened them up.

Well, here goes (the highlights)

  • A victrola horn.
  • A pair of black leather mens shoes
  • A magenta/rose colored plastic umbrella
  • Wire springs from a twin size mattress
  • A mission style twin sized bed, the slats have come loose and the siderails are cracked, but it looks reparable. We plan on using it
  • the back and a few spindles from a broken pressback chair
  • A heavily rusted kerosine stove (a full size kitchen stove, not a portable camping stove. To precise, a New Perfection #33 stove), missing the burners
  • Some miscellaneous empty bottles and cans, mostly broken.
  • Random scrap wood
  • A book titled ‘the complete guide to universal knowledge’
  • Beginner violin music
  • A school grammar work book (do you know the proper usage of ‘will’ versus ‘shall’?)
  • Some advertisements and scrap papers which look like they were used by a young boy for passing notes in class
  • A sunday school pamphlet
  • A bayonet from a rifle probably used in the time around the mexican-american war.
  • An empty tin of ‘Chi-chesters diamond brand pills’

The bayonet is M’s favorite, and probably the most valuable, though still only worth $200 or so.

The last is my favorite (though the bed and the complete guide to universal knowledge are close seconds) The tin is complete with an extensive instruction booklet which at no point mentions what the pills are supposed to do, only how wonderful they are, and how to use them. Some internet spelunking revealed that they are, in fact, abortion pills, which were not legal to sell, and thus they do not mention their intended use. Actually, they were sugar pills. The name has recently been changed from ‘chi-chesters pennyroyal pills’. Because, while pennyroyal is at least somewhat effective for the intended purpose (at least insofar as they were poisonous, and if someone gets the precisely right amount of almost dead, they will sometimes miscarry without completely dying themselves). However, the recently instituted FDA (or it’s predecessor) had forced the name to be changed since the pills didn’t actually contain any pennyroyal. Fascinating. And a really neat looking little tin to boot.

The most inexplicable item is the stove. It was Up Stairs. It was completely inaccessible behind a wall. I guess they were just using the space as an alternative to paying to take the thing to the dump, but I can’t get the scene out of my head:

woman: “honey, could you haul the old stove upstairs? I think behind the wall in the bedroom is the perfect place for it”

We didn’t keep the stove. I felt a bit bad about it, as it was an interesting item, but it was in very bad condition, and too large too keep around indefinitely while looking for someone with a use for it. We do have most of the rest, depending on how damaged it was. I really want to find a good use for the Victrola horn.

So there we go. Our mini-haul from the upstairs.

Remember when I used to post about working on our old house?

We actually did start on this again sometime around August, when we realized that we had a finite date at which point we would need those additional bedrooms to be operational.* M has been great about it, spending a ton of time working for the past six months. I…have been less involved. Initially, when I was still small and mobile, the work was mostly demolition, and not knowing what, precisely, was in the walls we were tearing out we decided to play things safe and not expose me to them. What wasn’t demolition was heavy lifting of drywall and OSB that I have never been particularly useful for. Now that we are on to less strenuous and toxic part of the process (i.e. mudding an entire story’s worth of drywall) it’s much more difficult for me to do simple things like, ah, pick anything up off the floor. Plus, energy-wise I’ve been pretty much tapped having sole responsibility for cooking, laundry and basic maintenance. Also? I have no work clothes that fit. I did pitch in a bit in the middle pulling electric wire and installing windows, which made me way more proud than it should. The hardest part of the windows was grabbing tools and shims off the floor.

Anyway, what we’ve accomplished:

  • Tore out plaster walls deemed unrepairable
  • Tore out additional walls to extend rooms under the roof slope and add floorspace to the smallest room
  • Patched flooring where it was previously exposed joists in the eaves
  • Installed a pull-down attic access door more than a foot and a half square
  • Installed doorframes and OSB sub flooring in new closets in the eaves
  • Reframed the walls where the existing framing was incompatible with hanging drywall.
  • Run electric to appropriate number of boxes in all the rooms
  • Hung new drywall on ceiling, in new closets, and on demo’d walls
  • Replaced all 7 upstairs windows (more on this later)
  • Removed strange hump of cracked boards in one room and patched with OSB in preparation for new flooring
  • Laid new shims/joists to level the floor in another bedroom (I need to take a picture of this, both because it clearly illustrates how crazy-uneven that floor was, and because it’s hard to describe)
  • Patched and repaired the repairable plaster walls
  • two coats of drywall mud on every single wall up there

What we have to do yet:

  • Have floors refinished, or replaced where applicable.
  • final coat of mud
  • install light fixtures and outlets in the electric boxes
  • replace balustrade along top of stairs
  • paint
  • trim on everything
  • flooring and clothes rods in the closets (probably prefinished wood, or vinyl or something inexpensive)

For the first time, I feel like this is doable. Particularly since everything after ‘paint’ isn’t strictly necessary for habitation and thus can be done post-baby. Even a lot of the painting could be done post-baby.

The floor guy is supposed to be starting as I type, which is a huge relief. Polyurethane fumes are a a big no-no for the gestating set, so I’ll be staying at my parents’ house when he gets to that stage. One of my worst-case scenarios was going into labor while not able to access my own house, and that seems like it will be highly unlikely at this point.

Anyway. Windows. Windows are probably the most interesting part of all this. We ended up replacing everything with vinyl. I feel somewhat bad about this, but the upstairs windows were in terrible, terrible condition, and were never as nice a quality as the downstairs ones to begin with. So they had to be replaced, and it was just not in the budget to buy seven high quality windows at this point. Tearing them out revealed some of the most interesting framing (or lack thereof) we’ve found in the house so far. It’s lucky M has experience installing windows, as he had to completely rebuild the frames for almost all of them. Once that was done, I was amazed at how easy installing the actual window was. I don’t know what I thought would be complicated, but you just set them in the frame, push them until they are flush with the wall, shim the corners if there are gaps or they aren’t quite square, and put in four measly screws. You do need someone on the outside so you don’t push it all the way out the hole, but it’s really easy work. All the bother is in the framing and trimming. As I said, hardest part was picking up the tape measure and shims from the floor.

Another interesting bit to the windows I found today when looking at the trash bin of old trim/framing bits. This is the stuff that was either on the exterior and painted, or entirely inside the wall. It was almost all walnut. WTH? I guess this somewhat explains the door, because apparently they were just using walnut for anything that was wider than 6″ or so. The upstairs is new enough that I don’t think it was that they were literally milling trees from the property anymore. It also seems unlikely that they would have kept the original lumber from building the house that long. Really, I’m stumped. Why would they use it for framing upstairs and not for the rest of the downstairs trim where it clearly matched?

Anyway, we saved it. I don’t know what for, but it is gorgeous and irreplaceable, so we kept it. Honestly, I’m such a wood junky that I’ve had a very hard time throwing away the dimensional oak 2x4s they used for framing, but we have limited storage space for scrap lumber that doesn’t have a purpose. I couldn’t bear to part with the walnut though.

Strangely, M can’t tell the difference. I don’t know if this is a ‘women see color better than men’ issue or what, because he’s clearly been in more contact with the wood upstairs than I have, but he was convinced it was all oak. Well, no, it’s purpley instead of orangey, and the grain is different. How? I don’t know, it looks different. Indescribable, but pretty clear to me even on the fairly degraded pieces. Maybe it’s just that he’s grown numb to looking at wood after all the work he’s been doing.

*The Original plan was to finish said bedrooms before starting to make people for them, but a hard deadling proved much more motivational.


A project I’ve been working procrastinating on lately is stripping the bedroom door. Because the paint is peeling and nasty, and probably full of lead.

For a while, all was going well. I mean, apart from the terrible backache from the too-short saw horses.The biggest trick is to set up a putty knife somewhere so you can clean you scraper off one-handed. Otherwise, you keep fuddling about trying to hold the heat gun and the putty knife with one hand while you clean the scraper with the other, or wiping the scraper on less effective things, like the edge of the door, or your pants. Since doors, conveniently, have doorknob holes, it is quite convenient to stick the handle of the putty knife there, and with a little practice you can de-gunk your scraper with nearly a flick of the wrist.

The other trick is covering the chemical stripper with plastic wrap, so it soaks in longer and better without drying first. I had two patches going. I would pour on some stripper (the semi-gel kind), put the plastic on top, and mush it around through the plastic until it was pretty thin. Then I would switch to the other patch, which I’d done the same thing to before, pull the plastic off and set it aside. The top part of the stripper is still pretty fresh, so I push that onto a new part of the door, pour on a little more and cover it again. Then I really scrape off the loosened paint and used stripper.

Cleaning the knife is an issue again here. You will quickly run through a lot of paper towels if you choose that method. Likewise, while the stripper does not dissolve the plastic wrap, it does dissolve solo cups. Just fair warning here. An empty tin can worked well.

Lots of work, but the results are encouraging. These pictures are after one pass with the heat gun, and one with the chemical stripper. I started doing a second round of chemical, but it seemed like I might as well just sand at that point, I was getting to bare wood assuming in places the scraper made good contact, but a squeegee it is not.

There appeared to be, from the bottom, a fairly thick layer of dark translucent varnish (or shellac, or whatever, I didn’t test it) a layer of gunmetal gray paint they covered everything in, and three layers of white paint.

I don’t know if walnut was my favorite wood before we moved here, but it certainly is now.

But wait, did you see that at the top? That didn’t look like walnut, lets look closer…

No, definetly not. In fact, it even feels softer. Like…poplar?

Why would anyone make a giant door out of an expensive, hard wood like walnut, and make the top two panels out of poplar?! Particularly when they were planning on staining it instead of painting over it? Even if they were going to paint over it,  why wouldn’t you make the whole darn thing poplar? Was walnut just what they happened to have around? Seriously?

Unlike many things in this house, I am pretty sure the door hasn’t been tinkered with in latter years. It’s all fitted together with tennons and wooden pegs, which I do not imagine would be easy to take apart and back together again without showing.

I’ve also since inspected one of the unpainted original doors laying about (yes, there are plural) and when you look close under the dirt, it seems like it has lighter top panels too. They stained them darker to make the match better, but I’m pretty sure it’s different wood.

So… again, why?

Oh well, guess I need to start on the other side if I want to be able to close my bedroom door.

Ayse posted over at casa decrepit recently about looking into the dropped ceilings and finding a great plaster medallion.

Too bad our ceilings are just a tight sandwich of crumbly plaster, wallpaper and asbestos tiles, and not a real ‘drop’. There’s absolutely no chance of cool original artifacts hiding up in them.

Well, the bathroom ceiling is actually dropped. But that’s probably full of mold like hers too. I’m not going to go look any time soon.

I do think I can one up her on the wiring though. Ours actually went out the bedroom wall (like, outside) to the front porch light, then in again to the outlet in the office. Yeah, that’s disconnected now…

But anyway, we were talking about things above. And while I’m sure there will be no pleasant surprises in the ceilings, there might be in the eaves.


Technically, I’m not sure if they’re called eaves. They’re quite easy to describe with a napkin sketch, but rather hard to do verbally.  Since I’m fresh out of sketcking napkins on this blog, I’ll do my best.

Out house is two stories, and the roof comes down to the top of the first floor. So from the end, it looks like a triangular second story sitting on top of a square first story. However, the second story doesn’t have angled walls following the roof lines. Instead, they just made it smaller until the entire square of the room fit inside the triangle of the roof. So you have the square second story, and a triangle attic on top of it, but then you have a triangle of empty space between the wall and the roof on each side too. I’m calling those the eaves.

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Some of those eaves have been made into finished closets. One of them has access to the unfinished area, where strange things like an extra door (mmmm doors), and the township meeting minutes from the 20s (gripping excerpt: cow killed by dogs. Paid witness 1 cent a mile to testify) are stored. These things make me think there *might* be neat stuff in the other eaves too.

We’d always planned to add access to the empty eaves and turn them into closets. (All! That! Space! We will be the one and only 19th century house with more than adequate closets), but winter moved that priority up a bit.

Because, y’see, one of the first things we did when we moved in was dump a bunch of insulation into the attic,  because there wasn’t any, and insulation is good for heating bills, and attic insulation is the biggest bang for your buck and all that. But, it didn’t do nearly as much as we expected. Because, as we stupidly realised a year later, we were only insulating that top triangle, (which happens to be on top of the second story to begin with) not the side triangles, which are on top of the empty balloon framed walls. This causes exciting effects like a breeze of cold air that comes in  around the foundation, flies straight through the walls where it picks up all the warm from the rooms, then rushes out the open attic.

Yeah, we’ll be fixing that soon.

Cross your fingers we find cool stuff!

Summer is over. The relative blog silence is due to the fact that we did absolutely nada since we moved in. Nothing. At. All.

It was nice. After nine months of turning down all sorts of fun things because we had to work on the house, and staying up almost every night, we stopped, and started saying ‘yes’ to practically invitation that we got. And watching a lot of mindless television. It was a good break.

But it had to stop some time. Because, well the short list is we had no insulation in the crawl space and it was getting darn cold, and we had no door on our bedroom nor rod in our closet because we never got around to putting up trim in that room. Also, the bathroom door didn’t close, which wasn’t a huge pain for us, but a little awkward for guests. We will, for these purposes, completely ignore the exposed duct work going through the office, the lack of any outdoor outlets (for, say christmas lights) the kitchen doors without working hardware, and the kitchen sink that drips into the cabinet below, because, well, duh, that has a pan under it, so it’s not a problem. We will also ignore the entire second story. Thanks.

So we finally did something about it. Well, mostly M. To start with, he put covers on the crawlspace vents. While said vents are quite a necessity in the summer for mold prevention, in the winter, they mean there is literally nothing but an inch of pine between your feet and the winter winds. And even less between the duct work and said winds. I do not believe it was doing good things for our heating.

He also planed the edge of the bathroom door, and set up the bedroom door in the garage for stripping. Said stripping is only, oh, 1/10 done, but it’s a start, and I think we’re getting back in that swing again. Which is a good thing.

Also, we got our first christmas tree.

She did, didn’t she?

Well, part of it is probably the same reason she had a little needlepoint hat for the toilet paper – because it was the 70s/60s/50s/decade of your choice and that was cool back then. But I now have a new theory.

1) Your grandmother probably had well water. Well water is *cold*. This will be important latter.

2) Your grandmother probably did not have air conditioning. She probably had windowshades, and fans, and other things to make this bearable (honest to gosh, we didn’t think it would be possible, but it completely was) but windowshades and fans don’t do a darn thing about humidity. Again, I promise this will be relevant soon.

3) Your grandmother probably had one toilet, and seven people in the house. That toilet was seeing a lot of action.

Ok, that last one is at least related, but still, what does this have the least bit to do with toilet fashions? Imagine, for a moment, a nice glass of ice tea sitting out on a humid summer day. Refreshing, Yes. But also dripping all over the table with condensation. now realize that a toilet being constantly refilled with nice cold well water sitting in an unairconditioned house has a lot of similarities to that cold glass of tea.

Primarily, that it will drip all over the floor and make it look like you have a very serious plumbing problem. Ok, most people probably don’t suspect septic disaster while observing ice tea, but you get the drift.

For two people, this isn’t too much of a problem – the water must warm up enough between flushes to not cause problems, but if we have guests, we get puddles on the floor. And when guests are over is exactly when you don’t want to give the impression of a malfunctioning bathroom.

However, since it’s not the 50s anymore, the shag rug aesthetic isn’t really our cup of tea (there we go again with the tea…) In fact, we threw out the shag rug that was attached to the toilet when we bought the house, because, among other things, it was so thick the seat wouldn’t stay up. Obviously, one solution is air conditioning, but that seems a bit overkill.

Anyone have ideas less expensive than cooling systems, but less fugly than shag rugs?

We moved last Monday. We slept *in our own house* *without any spurious relatives* Wednesday night. It is good. It is also continuing to be comfortably cool without air conditioning. (not that our sub-80 days have been testing it…) Nothing is put away yet. Particularly, we noticed some of the kitchen shelves we warped and needed replaced, so nothing can go away in the kitchen. Also, there is no trim in the bedroom, and thus no rod in the closet, so nothing can go in there either lest it ‘get in the way’ when we have to put the trim back on. So it’s still in boxes scattered across the bedroom floor, not getting in the way at all. Note how I am not being cranky or anxious or upset about these things at all. I am letting M handle them as he finds time and considers them important. (between dinner with his work friends, frisbee with his work friends….). I feel very virtuous.

And now, for something completely different – we’ve been discussing purchasing a chest freezer some time now. One purpose of such would be to store things like beef, purchased half a cow at a time. In general, chest freezers are nice things for keeping lots of frozen food and minimizing grocery runs, but it wasn’t exactly urgent. Then, two days after we moved, our neighbor knocks on our door.  They’re moving, and have a couple things they don’t want to take with them. One of which is: a chest freezer! For free. We tied it too the dolly and rolled it down the road home.

I’m currently sitting on the back porch waiting for an air conditioner and dishwasher to fall from the sky as well.

Back in my intro to engineering drawing course (required for everyone getting a degree from the engineering college, including us computer types), the T.A.s would constantly rail on us ‘your scale is not a straightedge!’. We were supposed to be learning to draw straight lines freehand, but the scale was so handy and right there!

Yesterday, I wished I’d had a TA like that standing over me all winter when I was scraping all the things downstairs with a putty knife.

To begin at the beginning: The wood floors are done, and M declared we would move this week. I thought that was a little tight, and in any case, he couldn’t get help then, so it’s next week, but still, SOON. In order to do this ‘moving’ we need to clean all the construction miscellany out of the living areas. We’ve got the tools out of the kitchen and the laundry, leaving only the garage, which is filled with larger things like drywall, scrap lumber, and insulation. the plan is to move those things upstairs, so we can use them fixing those rooms.

However, the bedroom they need to go in is a mess. It’s full of nasty degraded carpet padding which managed to adhere itself to the floor in large chunks. We had a small spot of this in the downstairs bedroom, and it took us ages to get off. It also turns your clothes red with dust, and re-congeals to your shoes. (yes we mask-up when working with it).

Before, we were getting it up with putty knives, or sometimes pry-bars, because that’s what we had, and they looked a bit like scrapers. Today, we were used the scrapers we’d bought for stripping the trim.

Night and day. I won’t say it made stripping nasty carpet padding off a 10 x 17 foot room fun, or easy, but we did get it done, which is more than we’d have been able to say using the putty knives.

So, tomorrow we carry things upstairs, and SOON! we move.

I added the images to the first entry on the floor sanding. Feel a little silly as having seen the finish sanding on those areas, they look so much better than they even did at that stage.

(no, really, it’s not that)

So, yesterday, they laid and poly’d the last piece of floor – yay, right?

Well, maybe not so much. See, I didn’t think they’d get to it quite yet, and my herb starts (you know, from *february*?) were upstairs… and needed watering. So, our bathroom has one door to the bedroom (which had been done earlier and was dry), and one to the dining room by the stairs, and we figured we could, with a bit of acrobatics, jump from the bathroom door to the bottom step without touching the fresh poly in the dining room.

See, those childhood ‘don’t touch the lava’ games were training for real life skills.

But wait, it gets better than that. We could have gotten to the bedroom – except that in a rare feat for us, we locked the front door. And as all our knobs are on the flaky side, we use the deadbolts. So, that just got harder.

A little thought, and M realized there was a third way into the bathroom. They’d installed a cabinet that backed into the basement stairwell, the back of which was pulling off and needed replacing anyway. (it was, get this, a piece of sheetrock finish-nailed to the wood as the only structural backing in the cabinet). Off it came, out came the shelves, and there we were. M, undeterred that he had to essentially leap the stairwell to get there, entered the bathroom, unlocked the door, and up we went!

The floors do look very nice, though the stain doesn’t really match what it was previously – the grain is darker and the places between lighter. I’m guessing this is evidence of a non-penetrating type stain in the past? The new floor blends in well enough which was a worry. Personally, I think that the scribbly-twisty grain in the new stuff makes the old look that much better, while M prefers the tight, crack-free fit of the new.

Other, more mundane, but probably useful activities involved finally beginning to organize the tools and ‘miscellaneous house parts’ in a manner conductive to living in the house, rather than just working there.

Also, we found someone willing to install a 12×12 vinyl floor for under $1000. Which saves us from a nasty, gluey mess diy-ing the room that was supposed to be the ‘cheap and easy’ one.

This weekend, we’ll probably start – dare I say it? – moving things.

(though we won’t move in until the kitchen vinyl is in – probably a two to three week wait on the materials)

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