Tuesday, March 8, 2011

All Cold and No Heat Makes Renovation No Fun

Our dedication to this project and our drive to make progress may be superhuman in size, but it really can't compare to the beast that is winter in Vermont. The cold and snow have challenged us every step of the way. Spring has never seemed as sweet as it does this year.

Below I will post links to slideshows #4 and #6. They show our work in the house once the temperatures really dropped into the sub-zero zone. In the sixth album you will find pictures of some really lovely ice formations on the windows. These were taken from the inside on a Saturday morning when the temperature was -1 outside, which implies it was definitely colder inside. The house seems to be operating under the ice box principle of yore. Cold air, once trapped inside, remains there. Great when the perishables are food, not people.

 Album #4 welcomes the arrival of serious snow. Our accomplishments that weekend didn't translate too well from real life to film. We spent the greater portion of Saturday outside cleaning up piles of unknown items scattered throughout the backyard. We couldn't take any photos because everything was covered in snow by the time we had finished. We uncovered a great amount of wood, which we hope to reuse, antique mason jars, wrought iron fences, tools, and basic garbage. Everything was organized by type of item, and then left for mother nature to blanket over. We'll be checking in with those piles again in the spring.

Before the snow set in, Tony took me up into the hills behind the house to survey the landscape. Our lovely property is home to some serious ice-age boulders, rock walls formerly used for grazing cattle, and an incredible and intricate maple tree tap system. Check out photos Tony took of the tubing below. Once the house is finished, we hope to re-tap these trees and put this incredible system to use. Dallaryan Acres' Pure Vermont Maple Syrup, coming to a store near you!

The rest of our work that weekend was performed indoors, although I can't say the basement was much warmer than being outside in a snowstorm. We used massive pipes to hammer even more massive support columns into the area of concern in the basement. The digging proved difficult as the ground actually had ice cycles coming up from it. We are able to do some support work, but ran out of house supports. With the closest Home Depot almost an hour away, that work had to wait until the following weekend.

Click here to see a slideshow of snow-covered Jamaica and one cold basement.

Our most recent weekend at the house can be seen in the sixth slideshow. Steve put on his thermals and his brave pants and returned to the house for another weekend of freezing renovations. While we made some big progress in the front room with the bay window, we also spent a significant amount of time huddled around our kerosene heater. The house was so cold nearly every bottled liquid we brought inside froze, with the exception of a bottle of Orange Crush which obtained a sort of slushy texture. This ended up being fairly delicious, but it makes the contents of said soda pretty concerning. They must put some serious chemicals in Crush if it can avoid freezing solid in those temperatures. 

Our initial plan for the weekend was to complete the basement supports, but nature wouldn't allow such progress. We discovered that one corner of the basement, the only corner that was not treated to new foundation work by the previous owners, is sinking in one part but raised in another. This is due to the high frost level, which is getting in between the bricks and causing them to separate. To level the house, we needed to kick out part of brick wall supporting that corner, allowing it to settle a little lower, and then level it using house supports. Once it was level, we could leave it be until the spring, when a mason could come in, repair the brick work to the proper height, and then remove the house supports.

On paper, the plan sounded fool-proof, but the reality was quite different. The ground was completely frozen, and kicking out the brick wall would leave that corner of the basement completely exposed to the elements. A hole in the wall nearby already had snow pouring in, making our new plan look less and less like a good one. We opted to put it aside until the spring, which was a difficult reality to accept, and go to work on the opposite side of the house. 

The rest of our weekend was spent demo-ing the front room. We still have one wall of lathe and plaster to remove, plus the ceiling, but once these are knocked down we will be ready for insulation! Insulating the front room will actually be a huge step for us, and we are excited to have at it. The insulation has already been ordered, and we plan on getting that done this weekend. 

The clock is ticking to Insulation Saturday, as it will forever be known. We'll be updating again with new stories and photos soon!
- Melissa

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