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.
Level floors are in sight! Once the old flooring came out, the crew put a new sill on top of the concrete foundation wall. Then, after a couple of months of resting on temporary bridging, the back wall was brought back down to rest on the sill. Sigh of relief.
With the new sill in place, floor joists went in quickly and a new, level floor system was born.
Throughout the renovation process, this structure continues to surprise me with its ability to expand and contract. In the previous post, that dirt floor looked so small! It’s always so surprising when the house can seem like a different size from one day to the next. The joists look so long and spacious!
It’s difficult to walk on joists and film it all at once:
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!
The cottage’s rear foundation was as astonishing as it was nerve-wracking. It’s amazing to consider that for 187 years it held up a structure. It’s terrifying because it was essentially a pile of rocks placed haphazardly next to each other that would crumble a little if you looked at it the wrong way. I kid, but it was fragile at best. In order to bring the building back to a stable place (physically and emotionally), the old foundation had to go, and new concrete had to come in.
Now we’ve come to the day when the cottage became a funhouse with the ability to give vertigo to any who entered. The floor that went from the center of the house towards the river was very tilted. Not quite to the point where you felt like you’d fall off the back of the house, but it certainly wasn’t a reassuring slant. As with the front of the house, we had to jack up the back wall so that the floor system could be rebuilt, raised up, and restored to a comfortably walkable angle.