Wednesday, May 30, 2012

House Archeology and Floorplan Improvement

We don't know much about our home's history.  I've never been interested in looking at county records to see how many times it has changed hands.  The little I do know about it has been gleaned from the neighbors and the MLS listing.  After months of working on the house we've come to realize the the MLS was not entirely correct. 

According to the county and the MLS the house was built in 1953 which matches a note the builders left on the bathroom framing.  But after months of working on the house it has become clear to us that part of the house is much older. We think that the original house was build in the 20's and only measured 16'x32'.  We're guessing that in 1953 the area was starting to boom and the old house was torn down so that only the cellar and floor remained.  A new house was then built over the old cellar and the newly poured north crawlspace.  The 1953 house would have been a 2 bed/1bath and measured roughly 930 sq.ft. 

The county records do not show a house on the land prior to 1953 but Butte has notoriously bad record keeping, especially for buildings that were not near the mines.  So why are we so sure that there was an older house?

1.     Our basement is constructed from concrete blocks but both crawlspaces have poured      concrete walls.  Block foundations were very common during the 20's and 30's in Butte.

2.     The crawlspace access points are actually old windows.  We have since removed the window frames but the windows that open into the crawl space are an exact match for the windows looking at the back yard.  And the window placement would only make sense if the house did not have an addition on the north side.
3.     The floor joists above the old part of the house are all 2x8 rough cut lumber.  The rest of the house has planed lumber that is obviously newer.
4.     The entire 50's house had oak floors.  But under that is a diagonally run shiplap subfloor.  And the shiplap is different between the newer and older parts of the house.  This is very evident in the bathroom where the old and new shiplap form a seam.

During the 70's another crawlspace was poured on the west side of the house and two more bedrooms were added to the first floor.  In order to reach the bedrooms the office closet was removed to create a hallway.  32" might be as generous depth for a closet but it makes a very narrow hallway.
The main bathroom is on the right hand side of the hallway.  We were fortunate to have an oversize bathtub so the whole bathroom was wider than normal to accommodate the long tub.  We gutted the bathroom over memorial day and since we will be using a standard 60" tub were able to move the plumbing wall and enlarge the hallway to 40".
But we were left with the problem of the headers.  Luke removed the first header because it was not load-bearing.  We think it was there for a linen closet.  But the second header was a problem...because it wasn't a header.  This was once an exterior wall of the house and has the weight of the old roof resting on it.  And all that is supporting that span was a pair of 2x4's.
Luke built a new 2x8 header and we set it into the wall for support.
Don't you just love the pink and purple color scheme we've got going at the end of the hall?
We'll be changing this layout eventually and this pink and purple hall will be part of the guest room.  For now it's just one more thing that would annoy me if I wasn't too exhausted to care.
All our work this weekend has just confirmed our opinion that the pair who built the main part of the house in '53 did a great job.  The walls are square and everything is well supported.  But the later addition was done by someone who either didn't know what they were doing or just didn't care.  I wonder what people will say about our work in 30 or 60 years.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Goodbye Old Bathroom, Hello New Bathrooms

We had planned to spend Memorial Day weekend mudding and taping the sheetrock in the garage.  But with our snowy/rainy weather and no garage door it was just not going to work.  We abandoned any plans of working in the garage and tackled a completely different project: the bathrooms.  Since we now have a finished bathroom in the basement we can finally rip out the upstairs bathroom. The whole house we disgusting when we bought it, but the upstairs bathroom was especially cringe-worthy.
We had a lot of mold to contend with on the tub, the floor and in the walls.
If you've eaten recently or would like to you shouldn't look at this next picture. Dead mice, mold and I won't even talk about the toilet.
We pulled up five layers of flooring and found mold between each layer. We didn't have time to build a new bathroom before moving in so we did our best to get this room functional. We ripped out all the flooring and subfloor, put down new plywood and stick-on vinyl tiles. We also replaced the toilet and swapped out the door. It was ugly, but functional so we've used it like this since August.Without towels bars or curtain rods you can really see how terrible the sheetrock job was.
 And removing the baseboard did not improve things at all.  On the plus side the stick-on tiles have held on well after nearly ten months of use.
Years of water from the bathroom has badly damaged the oak flooring in the doorway and caused the hallway floor to buckle.

I started tearing everything apart.  To on one's surprise I found mold by the vanity.


The bathroom was remodeled quite a few years ago, probably when the addition was built in the late seventies or early eighties.  But while tearing everything out I found the opening for the original window.
 I also found out the ceiling looked so terrible because someone had covered the sheetrock with painted fiberboard.  Removing the fiberboard damaged the sheetrock so much that it will all have to come down.

And my favorite find, a note from the builder's.  It reads: "House Built By: Jim Lerry and Roland Jones, Aug 53"
The pipes aren't really a find because we knew they were there.  Still 3" copper pipes are always nice to see.  The money from recycling them should partially offset the cost of the new PVC lines.

The old bathroom was 66" wide but we needed to expand the adjacent hallway so we built the new plumbing walls at 60" wide.  The 2x6's were salvaged from the old garage roof.

Once the main bathroom was framed and ready to have new drain lines installed we turned our attention to the other future bathroom.  The main floor is currently configured for four bedrooms and one bathroom.  We want to have an actual master suite with our own bathroom.  After playing with the floorplan a little we decided to steal five feet from the future guest room.

We cleared a space for framing the bathroom.  Unfortunately we decided to hang the chandelier for our future dining room from one of the many hooks in the ceiling.  Luke gave the hook a good pull to make sure it was sturdy before hanging the chandelier but while I was wrapping it with a dust cloth the hook failed.  I foolishly tried to break the chandelier's fall but my hands are a little slower than my legs (apparently I still have good soccer reflexes).  The chandelier survived by I have a cut and nasty bone bruise on my shin.  I'll spare you photos of my pasty white legs and show off the future bathroom instead.
The floors in the addition are 5/8" plywood with a second layer of chipboard to match the height of the hardwood floors in the rest of the house.  We will be replacing the chipboard with oak floors in these bedrooms and marble in the bathroom.  We needed to get the chipboard out before framing the plumbing wall, but whoever installed it decided to compensate for the inferior quality by nailing it every four inches.  It took an hour with both of us working to pull it up.
After removing paneling, sheetrock and buffalo board the new bathroom will measure 9'9" x 5'.  We framed in the new plumbing wall but the lighting and foil-faced insulation really ruins the photo.

The master bedroom is on the other side of this wall.  The door will fit between the wall and the old window framing.
We have the rooms framed and will be installing drain lines in the near future but finishing the bathroom is still months away.  We still have to finish a a garage, install underground sprinklers, remodel all the bedrooms and build a new kitchen first.  Until then we can use the 3/4 bath in the basement.  It will probably be 6-8 months before I can take a long, hot bath.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Garage Work Continues

Replacing the garage roof made a huge difference in the interior of the garage. The new ceiling is nearly 9' tall and the 20 x 20 space feels larger without the posts and beams in the way, but the interior still has a long way to go.  We finally got around to insulating. Our walls are 2x4 but R19 insulation was on sale and cheaper than R13 so we opted for the thicker insulation.
On Friday night we bought sheetrock and hung the ceiling.  Luke managed to get half the ceiling hung before I even got home from work.

Of course all work was supervised by Loki.  She loves any excuse to climb a ladder.
The walls needed a little more planning than the ceiling.  Whoever built our garage used 8' studs with a single bottom plate and a double top plate so the wall height ended up being 8'4" after the ceiling sheetrock was hung.  After a little debate we hung the top row of sheetrock.  (A certain Malamute decided to lunge in front of the camera)
The we got out some of the 1x8 shiplap that had been on the old flat roof and ripped it down to 4" wide.
We ran the cut pieces all the way around the garage.  This will be a convenient place to put in hooks and nails for tools, extension cords and shovels.
And finally we could put in the lower row.
We still have a lot of tape and texture work to do over Memorial Day weekend but I'm very pleased with how things are progressing.  It's amazing how much more work gets done when I'm not working alone.




Tuesday, May 01, 2012

Garage Windows - The Exciting Conclusion

I am pleased to report that our window saga has a happy ending.  The guy we got our windows from was very understanding when we explained our predicament.  He still had a half-dozen windows left and let us trade for a smaller one.  So we don't have to look at this forever.
It did not take long to install the second window
And the garage looks a lot more complete.  In fact, these windows don't look like they belong on a garage.  Our neighbors probably think we are converting it into an apartment.

We still have to trim them out with 5/4 board.  Maybe tomorrow.