Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Chapter the Fifth: In Which We Discuss Log Structures

Since our house is partially a log cabin that was then added onto to form a countrified version of a Federal Style house, we decided to remove the plaster and lath in the front hall to reveal the logs. This was an after-supper-hey-let's-start-a-demolition-project-right-before-bed sort of job. We're eventually going to remove the rest of the hallway plaster to expose that whole log wall. The inside cabin dimensions are roughly 20x18, there is a fireplace on the west wall and doors on the north and south sides (the south side door is long since boarded over). There is an upstairs sleeping loft with fireplace and faux grained walls.
To the left is the chimney in what was the outside of the house originally

I learned that in East Tennessee there are basically 3 notch types that were used pre-Civil War, the Saddle Notch, V-Notch and Half Dovetail Notch. These logs are, I believe, the Half Dovetail. You can read about notching here.

a close-up of the notching
The logs are 13"-14" high, but only 6"ish deep, this was a fairly typical way to build these structures, I've been told.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Mid-August Update

We finally, after much agonizing, decided to take down the plaster in the parlor. It needed patching, but was in decent shape overall; the need to insulate and rewire trumped our desire to keep it intact in the end. It took us one short afternoon to tear down what had stood for 130+ years and I still feel remorse about it. Once the plaster and lath were out and we could really see the "bones" of the house we were amazed to see such varied building techniques and a lot of recycled lumber.
Notice the recycled beam in the corner
Removing the plaster gave us a good shot of how plaster keys should look from behind.
Plaster keying from behind

The parlor is definitely not balloon framed as we were told by someone who came to look at the house. It is actually modified post and beam construction.

Gill and the boys also began work on the front porch. They tore off the flooring and are replacing the rotted out sills with treated 4x4s.

In researching ways to remove creosote from wood I discovered a fabulous cleaning solution that works better than anything I've ever tried before. Into 2-3 gallons of very warm water you mix 1 cup oxiclean and 2 tablespoons trisodium phosphate. Another bucket should be filled with lukewarm water. Dip your sponge in the chemical bucket and scrub the wall until the sponge is dirty, rinse it in the cooler bucket and repeat until the wall is clean. The results are *seriously* amazing. Need proof? Here you are!


Thursday, August 8, 2013

Chapter the Fourth: In Which We Discuss the Filth

It's a no-brainer that renovating/restoring a centuries old house is going to be dirty work, right? We knew that, or at least thought we did anyway, but nothing could have prepared us for the level of absolute filthiness that we are in on an almost daily basis. I don't think we've tackled a job yet that didn't require a bath and change of clothes afterward. Many of the ceilings here are constructed this way: previous owners pull down the ceiling plaster but leave the lath, nail 1x4s over the lath, put up drywall ceilings. The problem with this is that it drops the ceiling enough to cover the top half of the window frame, not exactly the aesthetic we're shooting for. So, ceilings have to be torn out and put up with just drywall. It is dusty, sweaty work.
Micah & Levi pulling down the parlor ceiling

Levi, filthy with plaster dust

And then the kitchen. Under the fiberglass wall and ceiling covering there are layers upon layers of wallpaper. Under the wallpaper the ceiling and top parts of the wall are crusted with thick, sticky creosote. It's as though one day long ago some distant resident thought that they really didn't feel like washing the ceilings again this year so.... let's just wallpaper over it! It can be scraped off and scrubbed off, but it's slow work. Micah and Katie got about a 10 foot stretch done in an hour while Levi was removing more of the fiberglass ceiling (Micah's skin can't handle the fiberglass).

Levi, Katie & Micah working in the kitchen


And this is how I really spend most days.  :-)

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Chapter the Third: The Kitchen

 The kitchen as it appeared when we bought the house was a small, dark, depressing little space hardly big enough to function in. We wanted to remove the wall that separated it from the pantry/utility room, being reasonably sure that the wall was a later addition. When we began demolition we found that we were right. The partition was rough cut boards that looked like they had been repurposed from some long crumbled barn or something. They were papered with newspapers from 1918 and then multiple layers of wallpaper and finally drywall. When we began removing the drywall from the walls we found the same beaded edge paneling that is in the living room and then we removed the ceiling drywall and we found more of the same paneling! The *entire* kitchen is finished in wood paneling and there went my visions of a 1930s/40s kitchen and instead I'm gifted with an 1830s/40s kitchen! The kitchen is now a generous 15x17 space, big enough for my cookstove and farmhouse table as well as the usual kitchen appliances.

We have decided to remove the flooring back there, it was a hard decision but it has so many issues that most of it is unsaveable. There is rot from generations of leaking sinks and water heaters, they had glued Luan plywood down and since we need to replace some joists anyway it just made sense to take up the old floor completely. We are replacing it with 2x6 tongue and groove pine flooring, as close as we can get to the original while staying within the budget. What flooring is salvageable I am thinking of turning into cupboard doors.

Here is a short video I took of the kitchen, I just couldn't get pictures to show how big and bright the space is now.