It was disconcerting to see a house with no second floor. Or rather, it had a platform that you could stand on so you were at second floor height, but there were no walls to speak of, nothing that made it seem like a legit second floor that would ever be livable.
Thankfully, the new gable walls showed up quickly to reassure us that yes, in fact, we would one day be able to have a real second story.
In these initial stages of gable-raising, you’ll notice that the roofline is fairly similar to that of the former roof. The only difference is that we increased the roof pitch (from 8′ to 10′) to provide more livable square footage). That said, the real change will be apparent when you see the dormer go on the river-facing side (in a future post). The dormer will raise the ceiling height of the two upstairs bedrooms and prevent us from having to squeeze things underneath the eaves.
As you can see above, the guys started the day with basically a second floor platform. They built the entire gable wall on that platform and then raised it up and into place. HOW they managed to avoid pushing the wall too hard (and down onto the kitchen) is beyond me, but that’s why they’re builders and I am not. Also, please forgive the less than ideal quality. I was spying on the process from the window at my parents’ house up the hill!
Wall is raised and in place! The guys then spent the rest of the afternoon securing it into place – again, how the wall stayed upright and didn’t somehow fly over, I will never know.
The shed to the right of the main house structure was dilapidated at best. Consisting of a small storage room and a crumbling porch, the whole thing sat on top of literal piles of rocks. Other than those rocks, there was no foundation to speak of.
Before getting a new foundation in place, we had to take the whole thing down.
First things first, get the tar shingles off the roof. We were possibly a bit too delicate about this process; it would have been a lot faster to use our contractor’s hand-saw demolition method.
As my dad and Steve scraped shingles off the roof, I had the wonderful task of picking up the shingles, corralling them into a bucket, and running them over to the dumpster. They were surprisingly heavy!
Also, somewhere during my shingle-shuttling, I dropped my phone into the dumpster and didn’t realize it until the very end of the afternoon. At that point it had gotten dark and my call was most definitely frozen (and dead), so attempts to call it and listen for it were fruitless. By the morning I had given up all hope that we would find it intact. The dumpster was full of exposed nails, and I had been stepping on top of everything as I loaded it in an effort to tamp down the materials to make more room for future debris. Surprisingly though, we found it intact!! A demolition miracle.
Above, my dad, the demolition king, surveys his domain.
By the end of the weekend, almost that whole structure was gone. We left the front step for temporary convenience so that you could easily hop onto the main structure, but that came out the following week!
Up next, we resume our coverage of roof and wall reconstruction on the second floor.
As you may remember, the original roofline of the house was very low. With a deceptively mild pitch (8′?) and no dormer, the usable space in all of the upstairs rooms was extremely limited. The mild pitch meant that the knee walls came pretty far into all of the rooms and made the remaining open floorspace feel claustrophobic, particularly since the ceilings were significantly below the peak of the roof (creating unusable attic space).
Ultimately, the plan for the roof is to “kick out” the back portion to create a dormer. This plan will allow us to drastically raise the ceiling height in the river-facing rooms. In addition to the dormer, we’re going to increase the roof pitch so that we can have even more livable space on the second floor, and the knee wall will be less invasive.
In addition to making the space more easily usable, the installation of a new metal roof will take care of some of the maintenance issues that were creeping up: leaks, various rodents taking up residence, etc. Also (!) we chose our new roof material (standing seam metal) so it could easily accommodate solar panels.
Even though there are so many things that will be improved by the new porch, it didn’t make the removal process any less intimidating.
The crew used hand saws to remove the material between the rafters. They made much faster work of it than we would have with crowbars!
Doesn’t everyone want a house where they can stand above and between their roof rafters? Here’s a short video to give you a different perspective. You can only hear slight panic in my voice!
The next day, things got even more interesting. The crew pulled all of the rafters down and we were left with a blank slate.
It looks bleak, but the good news is that the crew quickly got to work constructing the new second floor walls, complete with their new pitch and dormer. Before that happened though, we spent one of our final “demolition weekends” taking down the final remaining piece of the old structure: the shed. That’s up next!
The kitchen walls are up! When it was the “schoolhouse,” the room was divided in half and was pretty dark, but now that it’s one continuous space (and you can see through some of the existing walls) it feels so much bigger!
Much of the kitchen workspace and appliances will be on the left side of the room as seen in the above image. In the original plan, the space to the right of the side door was going to be used as a small office area, but we’ll likely put cabinetry there and utilize it as a small pantry. The kitchen won’t have any upper cabinets (not enough space and they’d make the room feel heavy), so having the pantry will free us from having to store food what will already be limited cabinet space.
The sink will live underneath the above window facing the river. If you have to wash dishes, you might as well give yourself a view to look at (as seen below).
We’ll have another small window above the cabinets on the south wall, and the fridge will live just to the right of the side door (as seen in the above photo).
The rebuilt schoolhouse/kitchen structure can be seen above on the left. Once she gets her roof back on, things will start to make a bit more sense, but before that can happen, the roof of the main structure has to come off. Brace yourself for it; things got weird. That’s coming up next.
Before getting new walls laid our and built on the first floor, we had to iron out the floor plan. Throughout this process, we learned that when dealing with such an old house, architectural plans can only take you so far, and decisions often have to get made in real time when new discoveries are made in the walls. Case in point, the configuration of the first floor bedroom, staircase, and bathrooms. We moved the staircase to the opposite wall (I’m sure our architect was really impressed when we broke that news to him. Sorry Patrick!), moved the laundry upstairs, and reworked the bathroom layouts. All of this is to say that if you ever have the pleasure of taking on a significant renovation, particularly of an older structure, go into the project with very flexible ideas and expectations. Sometimes you’ll find yourself designing a bathroom around a toilet that can only be in one particular spot, and that’s OK! These decisions that feel absurd and frustrating in the moment will hopefully just become the cute quirks of your house that you can roll your eyes at later.
In order to pay for the house and renovation costs, we had to take out a construction loan. As many of you are likely aware, an appraisal is part of the loan application process. The bank wants to make sure that its money is being spent wisely, so an appraiser comes out to assess the “as is” value of your property, and then they take your construction plans into consideration to come up with a value for the home when everything is said and done.
If you’ve taken the first floor “before” tour, you’ve seen the bathroom and “fish” room (named for it’s whimsical wallpaper). We didn’t think much of them at first, but as demolition progressed, the rooms increasingly appeared to belong to an entirely separate structure.