The door and window switcharoo

All work on the inside of the house has stopped as we take advantage of the summer weather to focus on everything related to the exterior of the house.  One of these projects is the continuation of the window restorations.  Yes, that project is STILL going on. I completely restored the interior sashes more than a year ago, but there are still 14 storm windows (28 panes of glass) that need to be removed, reglazed and repainted.

The slightly more exciting news is the completion of a little project that we have been thinking about for the past two years.  First, a little background.  There are three exterior doors on our house.  The main front door, the back door that leads to the kitchen from the back porch, and then a very odd door located on the side of the house (facing the street) that opens directly into our current playroom.

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It didn’t take much detective work to figure out that this door was probably not originally there.  1.  The trim on the exterior does not fit right.  2.  The door did not seem to be installed very well and the carpentry work in general seemed way inferior to the rest of the house.  3.  A quick survey of other houses from the same time period and house style indicate that a window should have been there.  4. There is a window that looks out over the back porch that was obviously not originally there.

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How to eat an elephant

This spring we began the overwhelming task of renovating the exterior of our house.  It is a massive job that we will tackle “one bite at a time.”  Up to this point, our work on the exterior of the house has been pretty limited.  We have removed the asbestos siding from the gables when we added new windows to the new rooms we created on the 2nd floor.  And, of course, I’ve done a ton of work on all the windows.  But for the most part the exterior looked pretty much like it did when we bought it.

Here is a reminder of where we started:

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The previous owner of the house, who let the house sit abandoned for a decade, did complete some important work on the exterior.  He put on a new roof, removed the fake brick siding, primed the whole house to protect the original wood siding, rebuilt some areas of trim that must have been removed at some point for the “brick” siding, and rebuilt the front and back porch decks.  We are thankful that he took those steps to keep the house dry and to protect it from further deterioration.

There was a time when we thought we would pay someone to do the exterior rehab work, but our desire to have anyone else work on the house faded a long time ago.  Like many rehab jobs, the outside of the house is going to be extremely tedious and time consuming, but not rocket science.  The only part we will hire someone to fix (if we can find anyone who actually WANTS a job) is the structural issue with the front porch.  The porch seems to be pulling away from the house a little and there are also some visible issues with the porch roof.  But I feel pretty confident in our ability to do all the prep work for painting, do the carpentry work on the remaining missing trim, and do the final painting.

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Spring Break, No Break, Back Break

Joe and I are teachers, which means we have a good old fashioned spring break penciled in each year to get a jump start on warm-weather projects. This year we had a long list of projects that we wanted to do on the house, but we have learned over the past two years that there is a time and a season for each job. As much as we might have wanted to do some other projects, such as finishing our downstairs bathroom or installing trim in the master bedroom, we know enough now to temper those ambitions and replace them with sensible and seasonal plans.  NOW was the perfect time to work outside and get ahead of the spring growth.

For two years now we have been been waging a war against weeds, weed trees, and weed moats. I’m not talking about dandelions here. We wage this battle multiple times a year and frequently in the heat of a mosquito-infested summer. This year we planned to end the war once and for all.

Here is a reminder of what our landscaping looked like when we purchased the house.  Keep in mind, this picture was taken in the winter.  I can’t imagine how much more overgrown it looked in the summer!

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Taming the backyard… again.

Week 53  (Joe)

One of the very first projects we did a year ago was to try to make the front and backyard of the house not look so…  abandoned.  The house had been vacant for more than 10 years and it definitely looked like it.  Weeds had turned into trees.  Parts of the yard were so thick with brush that you couldn’t even get through it.  The picture below doesn’t do it justice.  This was taken before there were any weeds, leaves,  or other normal summer growth.

The back of the backyard

The back of the backyard

We spent three weekends with a chainsaw and other assorted sharp items cutting down everything we could.  There is still a lot of work to do, but at least it doesn’t look completely neglected anymore.

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“My room is broken”

Week 21 – Joe

While the work continues on the hvac and plumbing, Amy and I have been busy preparing for new windows!  If you recall, the front gable of our house had been butchered with a gigantic fan and vent opening.

Before removing the fan

Before removing the fan

That room will be Lucy’s room so it needs to have a window that complies with egress requirements.  Same goes for Aiden’s room, which currently only has a tiny window opening.  The bathroom has a window the same size as Aiden’s window.  In addition, we want to add a window to the highest gable to provide light to the upstairs common area.  This all seems straight forward enough, but as we have come to expect, it involves research, demo, framing, calling a guy, meeting a guy, meeting with the architect, decisions, and then….  waiting.  In addition, this part requires approval from our local historic preservation committee because it deals with the exterior of a house in a historic district.

Before anything could begin, we needed to remove the existing siding to the four gables that would eventually have new windows.  The exterior of the 1st floor was originally covered in fake brick asbestos material, but the previous owner had already removed it.

A last remnant of the fake brick siding

A last remnant of the fake brick siding

The 2nd floor is still covered with asbestos shingles.  I guess we should be thankful for all of that because it is the reason our wood siding is still in such good shape.  Our goal last weekend was to remove the asbestos shingles so we could gather evidence of what was once there and also clear the way for larger new bedroom windows openings to be cut.

We started with the front gable.  It was the easiest to access. First, we had to get up there and remove the vent opening for the fan.  That proved to be pretty straight forward.  It just involved removing some tiles, prying off a few pieces of wood, and then unscrewing the vent.

Removing the vent for the fan

Removing the vent for the fan

We were able to move the fan off of it’s pedestal (actually, we just broke the pedestal) and cleared the way.

The fan!

The fan!

Side note – when our two year old, Lucy, first saw her room after we removed the vent (leaving a gaping hole) she solemnly declared that her room was broken.  She now says that every time she sees it.  Or whenever she feels like telling you about her room.

Once we had the fan removed we went to work on the siding.  The reoccurring advice we have read and heard about asbestos siding is to try not to break the tiles and to make sure you wear a respirator.  If you read guidelines on how to “officially” remove asbestos it involves full body suites and, in my mind, some type of set up like the end of the movie, E.T.

 

How you are "supposed" to remove asbestos

How you are “supposed” to remove asbestos

I think everyone that rehabs a home has to come to terms with the potential toxins you are going to face.  Usually a good respirator and common sense will do just fine.  Although, I have to admit that every little cough I develop makes me wonder if it is a cold or some lung disease I have acquired.  We are lucky that we are not LIVING in the house and we are pretty careful about what we bring in to our current house.

We did the best we could, but the siding would not come off without some breakage. There wasn’t much to be excited about with this gable.  Underneath the asbestos is just the actual side of the house.  Not even old siding.

 

Revealing the side of the of house

Revealing the side of the of house

It did allow us to see clear evidence of the windows that had been removed and filled in to create the opening for the fan.

You can see evidence that there were originally three windows on the front gable

You can see evidence that there were originally three windows on the front gable

The next goal was to remove the asbestos from the highest gable.  This was the next easiest because we could access it from a valley in the roof line.  We actually tried to do this part the week before, but the roof was so hot that it was impossible to sit or kneel.

All smiles...  even though Amy is not keen on heights

All smiles… even though Amy is not keen on heights

 

This actually worked out pretty well

This actually worked out pretty well

We were excited to immediately discover the original scallop siding underneath the asbestos!

Our first peak at the scallop siding

Our first peak at the scallop siding

The siding is in good shape and will just need a little scraping and painting. We were also able to prove what we already assumed, that there was originally a decent sized window in that gable.

Trying not to slip

Trying not to slip [Edit from Amy: …to your death.]

We will definitely use that opening for new a window.  That window will bring much needed light to the area at the top of the stairs.

Inside view of the old window

Inside view of the old window

The last task was to remove the siding from the gables on the side of the house.  This was going to be a little difficult because it involved using a ladder.  It ended up not being as difficult as originally thought, except for the fact that to reach the higher tiles the ladder had to be extended all the way and I had to stand on the 2nd highest ladder rung.  Still, not too bad…  just had to be a little more careful.

Removing siding from the north gable

Removing siding from the north gable

[Edit from Amy: Upon inspecting this picture I would like to motion for the previous use of the word SOME to be reconsidered when describing how many asbestos tiles were broken (ahem…shattered) in this process.]

In the end we decided to only remove what was needed for the windows.  We figure we will use a scaffold when we paint and that we can just remove the remainder of the siding with the aid of the scaffold.  We still need to remove the asbestos from the back of the house, but it didn’t have anything to do with the new windows or the historic preservation committee so we bumped it down the priority list.

Making way for a larger window

Making just enough room for a larger window opening to be cut and framed out

Once we were able to see evidence of the original windows we could get everything together for the proposal to the preservation committee.  Our architect has completed the sketches of what the gables will look like with the new windows.  The front gable will certainly have a huge impact on the curb appeal of the house.

Front gable and Lucy's new windows

Front gable and Lucy’s new windows

 

North and South gables

North and South gables (Aiden’s room and the bathroom)

We are also looking forward to seeing how much more light there will be on the 2nd floor.

Completely unrelated to windows, look what was found in the crawl space…

 

Milk crate that was found in the crawl space

Milk crate that was found in the crawl space

The crate has “The Polk Milk Company” engraved on the side.  A quick Google search revealed interesting information and a great article by Cottage Home resident Joan Hostetler.

Meanwhile, we have been busy coordinating and consulting efforts with the hvac and plumbing as well as tracking down information about insulation and drywall.  I have also been working on the windows most nights in our basement.  Every once in a while we wander into the appliance section of the hardware store and try to narrow down our search for appliances.

Next, we need to decide what type of windows to get….  Apparently that is not as simple as I had hoped.  So many things to consider!