With a new concrete wall in place to support the back of the house, work began to replace the rear floor system.
Above you can see what the floors looked like once upon a time. Please note the distinct slope of the floors from the upper right of the image down to the lower left. Even if the boards were in great shape themselves, the wonkiness would have been nearly impossible to overcome.
What would probably have taken my entire family a whole weekend to demo with crowbars, our construction crew handled in a day. If I’ve learned nothing else from this renovation process it’s that hand saws make light work of demo. No need to be delicate about it with a crowbar!
The crawlspace underneath the back half of the cottage is filled with a fine, powdery dirt. After a few minutes of messing around down there, you come out looking like you got a spray tan of silt.
After the floor system was removed, we shoveled and raked the dirt to form a (somewhat) level surface that could more easily and efficiently accommodate an insulation membrane later on in the process. We also spent a good portion of the time removing smallish rocks. Nothing like letting your perfectionist tendencies manifest themselves in a place that will literally never see the light of day.
Thank you to my family, but particularly my brother and sister-in-law, who spent a good chunk of their weekend raking dirt and doing demo without complaint. It takes a village!
Next up, shiny new floor joists for the back of the house!
As a native New Englander, I’m familiar with the cold and consider myself to be relatively unintimidated by it. That said, for most of my life, my concerns about cold extended to my body. How do I stay warm? What kind of boots should I wear so that my toes won’t freeze off? How many pairs of long underwear is too many?
When you own a house though, and that house is currently open to the elements and is in more ways a rundown shack than a real house, cold temperatures become a larger concern. See, the thing with having a newly poured concrete floor in a basement that is not heated, in near zero-degree temperatures is that it’s problematic.
Since the house wasn’t heated, moisture in the ground permeated the basement walls/floor, froze, and then caused small cracks in the new cement floor. A few cracks aren’t the end of the world, but if left for too long, the cracking and freezing could have caused real damage.
Without the means to close up the house (please note that many walls were cut open a few feet above their sills), we had to get a propane heater to blow heat into the basement, warm up those walls and the ground around them so that the moisture would leave us alone.
Over the course of the next few days, our conversations frequently turned to the basement and how we could keep it warm. There were frequent calls to hardware stores to see if they had propane tanks of the appropriate size in stock, lots of trips down to the house to “check on the basement’s temperature” like it was a sick child, and covered the hole to the basement with blankets of tarp and large sheets of blue insulation.
All of this is a long way of saying, if your basement is freezing cold (and has been for awhile), beware of cracks in your concrete floor! We’ll continue to take on water in the basement after strong storms until we can get a curtain drain installed across the front of the house, so it will be a spring of getting friendly with the Shop Vac! Hopefully we don’t run into further cracking though now that we know how to properly baby the basement.
When you install a new sill, you’re going to need to install new floor joists. And when you have to install new floor joists, you first need to completely remove the old floor. Then while you’re at it, you need to take the opportunity to pour a new concrete floor in the basement. This is beginning to sound like that book “If You Give a Mouse a Cookie,” but just like that book, construction projects create the domino effect that when something happens, a string of others must follow.
The original flooring from the front two rooms was in fairly good condition, so the removal process was done carefully so we’ll be able to reuse some (hopefully most) of it in the the house once everything is put back together.
After the initial demo work in the two front rooms, we moved out way to the some of the smaller spaces in the center and back of the house. It’s tricky to get the proper wind-up on a crowbar when demolishing a closet, but what we may have lacked in finesse, we made up for in repetition and, on my part at least, brute strength. Kidding, kidding.
You’ve made it to the end of the tour! Lucky for you, I’ve saved the best for last.
The cottage itself is cute, but what makes this property so special is its proximity to the Connecticut River. There is no way that we’d legally be able to build a home in this location, so we want to make sure that we’re maximizing the river view opportunities that we have.
The stairwell leading upstairs is immediately on your left once you enter the side door. You go up a single step and then turn right to go up the rest of the staircase. The stair treads are extremely narrow (even my size 6 shoe can’t completely fit) and make the ascent feel fraught with the very real potential that you might lose your footing and fall. Tilt your body forward, power your way up, and we’ll all be fine.
For a home that may look rather tiny on the outside, it has more rooms than you’d expect. The first floor contains a bedroom, a living room, a kitchen/dining space, a hobby room, and a full bath. The second floor contains another two (small) bedrooms and another living room. Let’s take a tour. I should note that the rooms are rather tight, so please forgive the lack of photos that show complete rooms in one shot. Note to self to rent a wide angle lens!