Cool Things

I don’t expect to find altogether too many cool things during renovations, since the house has been remuddled so many times over the last 100 years. But I have found a couple of things of note, and I’ll post photos of whatever I find here.

Note found in the stairs -April 20, 1940, “Your’n truly, Frank”

I would love to know the relationship between Gladys and Frank. Was it a brother to a sister? My records show that in 1940 the house was occupied by Joseph Roderick Roy. He died in 1957. I’ll do some research to see if Frank and Gladys are children of Mr. Roy.

Razor package, found behind a baseboard
Coal from basement
Iron cylinder with notches.
Found in kitchen crawlspace.
Tin can embedded in concrete. Found in kitchen crawlspace.
Bunny colouring pages. Found in kitchen crawlspace.
Broken bottle bottom. Found in kitchen crawlspace.
Newer adjustable crescent wrench. Found in kitchen crawlspace.

Baby steps

Three weeks after asking the builder to provide the 7′ basement he promised, he is still waiting for a new drawing from the engineer. I don’t understand the processes involved here, but for whatever reason the original drawing (acknowledged as crappy, done by a ‘designer’) would not do if we are digging down a foot, so the engineer had to do an entirely new drawing. It may have had something to do with the vague references on the old drawing regarding roof trusses and basement entry way.

In any event, the engineer is now on week two of completing the new drawing and the builder is still waiting to dig down. Properly, he won’t do it until the engineer formally approves the change.

Last week I took down what was the coal room. It had been used more recently as a cold storage room. I took off the door, the shelving, and part of the wall. This is where the door to the new basement is going to be.

Coal and cold storage room
Shelving in coal/cold storage room








View into corner of coal/cold storage room where gas meter is usually located









Coal from the wall where the shelving came down

The builder started framing the main floor and today broke through the basement wall. Very cool.


Where the doorway to the new basement will be

Also good news is that the builder has hired back the project manager that he had lined up for the previous fall. This man is much better at explaining what is going on and I have a bit of confidence now that the builder actually intends to move the project forward. Since the project manager arrived on the scene, work appears to be getting done and the work site itself is cleaner and more professional.


Baby steps.

Concrete walls are in

Pouring of concrete into the ICF  (insulated concrete forms) started yesterday around 8am. The builder showed up alone. He had paid his helper the day prior, which resulted in a classic post-payday “sick day” for him. Luckily for the builder, one of the concrete supply guys offered to help.

I know the builder expected the job to take only a few hours, because he booked a second-opinion plumber to come at 10am. But it took until 3pm to finish pouring the walls, and what a mess they made! I have no idea if this is normal, but since my plan had been to leave the ICF wall as is/uncovered in the basement (particularly if all I’m getting is a crawlspace), I will now have an ugly mess for a wall. They also kicked the walls everywhere to ‘tap’ the concrete down to the bottom. The kicking left indents on the styrofoam wall. I don’t know anything about ICF, but I’m pretty sure that kicking the wall wasn’t the inventor’s planned means to get the concrete to the bottom.  A Fine Homebuilder post indicates that multiple helpers, tamping rods, and a vibrating attachment on a drill are what are used to settle the concrete properly in the form. In that post, their forms were filled in 2 hours. Mine took 7 hours and was only three walls.

Concrete that missed its mark

Anyway, at 3pm, the builder disappeared without a word. Since I had been waiting all day at the house to let the second-opinion plumber in for a tour, I was quite annoyed that this tour didn’t happen and that the builder left without telling me he was done for the day. And, since this is a long weekend, I won’t see or hear from him until next Tuesday and am left hanging on the important question of whether this can be a full basement or not.  Am I allowed to swear on a blog?

Somebody is bad at their job

Yesterday my builder told me that my new 7′ ICF basement is actually going to be just under 6′ high.

I don’t think something under 6′ constitutes a basement, but rather a crawlspace. Certainly with me being almost 6′ tall, I won’t be able to walk freely down there, and my son, who at 13 is 6’2″ tall and continues to grow, will have to crawl. It’s shorter than my current basement. It’s a crawlspace.

How is this not something the builder could have assessed at the time we discussed basements a year ago?? He knew the current building code, he knew my present basement height, so how could he have promised me a 7′ basement?? He’s trying to pin it on the designer.

I’ve asked him to go back to the engineer to see whether we can dig down a foot between the footings, which would give us about 10 feet in the middle where we can walk and maybe play ping pong.

Also, the said builder has not worked a full day yet. Every day there is some reason to leave early.

Creepy Crawlspace

I don’t seem to be able to focus on a project until it’s done, and instead start new things on a whim. The whim I entertained recently was working on the kitchen crawlspace and removing some of the cellulose.

I promise it will look really nice when it’s done!

Granted it was a very hot and humid day and I was in full sun, but after a couple of hours of work I only had a few bags of cellulose removed and have many many more to go. I gave up.

Two hours of work and that’s all I have to show for it?!

Two interesting discoveries in the crawlspace: First, as noted in another post, the space had been supported by a significant beam in 1999 (after seeing the beams I dug out the receipt, kindly saved for me by the previous owner).

Support beam

Second, aside from mice and spiders, something nested in there. At least I think it’s something other than a mouse, as I don’t know that mice make nests like this.

Kitchen Floor Fiddling

Man, this kitchen floor will not give up the ghost easily. I’ve struggled with removing 8 layers of previous flooring, layer by layer, including the last layer of plywood that often had to be removed splinter by splinter.  Honest to goodness I counted 22 nails along one 24″ edge. See my previous post on this topic for further laughs.

This weekend was a little better. I got the flooring beneath one side of the lower cabinets off without much difficulty, because it only had three layers of flooring, and then the cabinet re-installed easily, albeit an inch and a half lower than before. I also cleaned my extremely dirty stove and put it back into place. Nothing like cooking grease caked with renovation dust. It was satisfying to get it cleaned up.

Base for west wall cabinets.
Bare floor under west cabinet

I didn’t tackle under the other side of the cupboards because that side has the plumbing – sink, water filter, and dishwasher.  Since whenever I touch something I wreck it and the whole cabinet system would be dropped an inch and a half, I decided I didn’t want to be in the position of calling a for-real-plumber on the weekend.

It’s unfortunate, because that side has the major mouse activity – a superhighway. I’d really love to seal that off, but because of the plumbing that will have to wait until I think the situation through and psych myself up to do it. Maybe next weekend.

Exit ramp for mouse superhighway. Carcasses of many accident victims located under cabinet.

Several interesting discoveries in the kitchen! What I thought was a single porch turned into a kitchen ‘bump out’ was something else. Not sure yet what, but the pieces of that puzzle are coming together.

The kitchen ‘bump out’ is made up of two structures. The newly revealed floor shows that a structural wall (long since removed) divided the two spaces north to south. The east space has painted narrow plank hardwood installed perpendicular to the kitchen flooring, which runs north to south.

East side narrow plank hardwood, perpendicular to Doug fir kitchen floor

The west space has original siding on the outside but on the inside the floor has a sheet of plywood overtop an opening to the crawlspace below. I wasn’t able to get that plywood off yet because it glued down with industrial strength adhesive, so don’t know if the crawlspace extends under the east space as well. I haven’t bothered climbing under the space, because it’s filled with cellulose, spiders, and mice. See my next post for more on that topic. Anyway, finding out whether the crawl space extends under both sides of the ‘bump out’ will help solve the puzzle, once I figure out how to get the plywood off without wrecking it.

So, my guess now as to the origins of the space is that the east side was always porch, and the west side was built as an addition to the kitchen in the 1960s. The reason I say the ’60s is because there is a wood threshold that fills in the space where the exterior wall was removed and that piece of wood has a stencil on it that says “Western Cabinet Ltd.”.

Western Cabinet stencil

With a tiny bit of internet research in between prying off layers of floor, I saw that this was a company that was in business in the ’60s.

I wasn’t able to track down when it ceased business, so a trip the library will be required.  Complicating this theory is that the second to last linoleum (yellow-y) was only installed in the east space, while the west space had a sheet of plywood.

Strip of yellowed 1980s linoleum between hardwood and sheet of plywood

Both spaces were not covered with linoleum until the last owner put it in the late 1990s. But for now I’m going with a kitchen remodel in the ’60s that took out the exterior wall of the house and the east wall of the porch and added the east space, resulting in over 60 new square feet in the kitchen, and of course brand new cabinets. The work wasn’t permitted, as I’ve checked on those. Anyway, this scenario explains the different roof configurations between the east and west space. The west space (the former porch) is sloped, while the east space is not.

The 1960s cabinets are gone. What I have now is 1990s oak in Shaker style. Nice enough but the carpenter routered the inner edges, eliminating the clean edge of a simple Shaker, and also the hardware is polished brass. Not my fave, although I’ve seen in a few magazines that polished brass is making a comeback.

Beveled Shaker with brass knobs

The major difficulty for me in the long run will be the sunshine ceiling. The cabinets were built to that 7 foot height, instead of to the 8 foot ceiling, so they won’t be tall enough and will look awkward when I take the sunshine out. Also, the electrician who installed the lovely fluorescent fixtures in the sunshine ceiling simply stapled the wiring to the popcorn ceiling. So, lots of work when it comes time to take the sunshine out.

After I accepted that the plywood floor was not coming off today, I got out my belt sander and had a go at the fir. Quite exciting! It will look very nice when it’s sanded. My plan is to shellac and wax it. The idea of re-waxing my floor once a year makes me feel good. Connects me to my mother and grandmother. A feel-good day.

Sample sanding