Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Demolition Derby

Sunny skies, breezes traveling through open windows, and falling plaster smacking you square in the face. Just another weekend at Dallaryan Acres!

With the long awaited spring season finally taking hold in Vermont, Tony and I spent the past weekend working our tails off in temperatures nearing 70 degrees. The sun beating down on us was truly a gift after the winter we suffered through up there. -1 degree days and ice formations on the inside of windows seemed a lifetime ago. Of course, the house is still pretty chilly after having its windows nailed shut for 30 years, but by the summer we hope to have at least one floor of windows operational. Bring on the warm air!

My initial hope for the weekend was to spend a pleasant weekend outside, digging up trees and replanting them along the property line, knocking down thorn bushes and tidying up the yard. With sunny skies and warm temperatures, it seemed like the ideal weekend. Of course, Tony provided me with a reality check and reminded me that we still have a slight bit of work to do on the inside, and making the property pretty isn't quite as urgent as having a heated place to stay by next winter. So... inside we went with crowbars in hand. The goal for this weekend was to demo the front room. After this weekend, I can truly say... I've had enough of demo. Too bad we have an entire floor left to do.

Inherited but unwanted antiques for sale!

We kicked Saturday off by hosting a very unsuccessful yard sale. We attempted to sell off the items left in the house that we didn't plan on keeping. We earned a few dollars, enough for a nice lunch, but certainly not enough to say, pay for a new foundation wall. Some of the items that were worse for the wear, including a very broken accordion, were given away for free. And amazingly, some items we couldn't even give away. People wouldn't take a box of old plates, but 6 months ago they helped themselves to a pile of stained old mattresses. Go figure. The 'sale' lasted two days, and while it wasn't a yard sale for the record books, it did allow us to clear out the front room to make space for demo. A win-win in the end. 

The two main objectives for the weekend were: demo front room, meet with masons for pricing on foundation work. While Tony met with a handful of masons and concrete men over the course of two days, I met with bruises and bumps at the hands of falling plaster and lathe that just didn't want to quit. This room truly put up a fight. We managed to get all of the plaster and lathe down, cleaned up and thrown into their respective piles, but not without taking a few hits first. During the demo process, I managed to knock off a large piece of plaster near the ceiling that dove straight for my face. My reaction time did me no favors. I also was smacked multiple times in the face by lathe that whipped outward as I attempted to pull it off the walls. I am truly considering bringing an old hockey helmet to wear next time I demo. It will be the final step in my descent to wholly unattractive restoration woman, although in the end it might save my face, or better yet, my life.

While we were demo'ing, Tony took the crowbar to the plaster surrounding the chimney, just to see how this mighty tool worked against the stubborn plaster. Within seconds we knew my hammer and chisel method was a joke by comparison. Not to say that the crowbar made this process a piece of cake, but after an hour of backbreaking crowbar swinging, the front of the chimney was totally free of plaster. Take that, Shake Weight! You've got nothing on the process of exposing brick. We were thrilled to see the chimney in such great shape. It's small moments like these that make what we're doing seem like a good idea. This room will be beautiful someday!

That exposed brick will look gorgeous against a finished wall someday!

The dark side of demolition showed itself in a water damaged area in the front right corner of the room. This section of water damage runs straight down from the master bedroom upstairs. After seeing what's become of the support beams in this corner of the room, it's safe to say there must have been one heck of a leak at some point, and it must have lasted for quite some time. Ideally, support beams don't crumble to the touch, but that is not the case for these poor fellows. Since it is impossible to remove them, new support beams will have to be 'sistered' to the wall and ceiling supports before dry wall goes up. A new and exciting process to explore! Judging from the multiple water-damaged sections of this house, it won't be the only time we have to provide the support beams with some support of their own.

Despite the house fighting back in every way it could, the end result of our weekend of work was worth it! We now have a totally demo'd front room, minus the ceiling, and a nearly demo'd library. With the plaster and lathe knocked down on the adjoining wall, you can now step from one room into the other without use of a doorway. This is only temporary, of course, but walking through the walls is fun while it lasts.

Coming up, we face more demo and SERIOUS renovation work in the backyard. To have the house prepped for plumbing, which is supposed to potentially start in June, we first need to excavate the area around the back wall, support the house from underneath, have a cement wall poured, and put down a few layers of brick to match the rest of the house's foundation. All of this work has to be hired out, although the idea is floating around that we may attempt to excavate the area ourselves to save money. While professions use excavating machines, we might use a few strong people and some shovels. Will this idea pan out? Probably not, but we're contemplating it. 

Correcting the foundation means plumbing and heating can go in, a new kitchen floor can be laid down since all will be level, and drywall can also go up. It's a huge hurdle that needs to be cleared, and soon! Stay tuned for updates on this massive project. Who knows, the next slideshow might just feature us in over our heads, literally, digging out the back wall... or, you might see big construction machinery roaming about the back yard. Either way, it's a change of pace from the typical crowbar and exposed wall slideshows we've been putting up recently. Brace yourselves!

There's a sweet smell in the Vermont air these days. Is it wildflowers in bloom, or... progress?!
- Melissa

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