Thursday, April 07, 2016

Victorian Farmhouse - Days 5 & 6

With the following post, I'm now all caught-up with what's happened so far at the Farmhouse. For those who are curious about the "proper timeline" I'll just post that here (mostly for my own documentation):
Day 1 - March 20th
Day 2 - March 26th
Day 3 - March 27th
Day 4 - March 28th
Day 5 - April 1st
Day 6 - April 3rd

I think I'm headed to the house again this Saturday, but I haven't confirmed this yet.


On day 5, we really didn't get much accomplished. We went shopping for some electrical supplies, and did a bit of planning, but no actual physical work on the house. I think we actually only got to the house around 4pm. On the 6th day, we demolished the ceiling in the front hall (where the staircase is), and we started working on some of the electrical. Angie & Pierre also picked up a plain white vanity top for the bathroom, and a toilet.

For the most part, we're still waiting for the electrician to show up, as well as seek advice for a few plumbing issues (mostly to do with the kitchen, I believe).

As usual, before I continue, some more mixed photos.

I'm pretty obsessed with old houses, so I'm constantly documenting as many of the little details as I can. Original hardware, construction details, and millwork are the things I really focus on. Since I'm used to working in fine cabinetry, I have just about every woodworking hand tool you can imagine, and this includes one called a profile gauge. You might have seen one of these at some point before, and not really known what it was used for. It's nothing more than a series of wires held in a tightly tensioned frame. The wires are pushed against a shape, and this gives you both a positive and a negative on each side:

Using the tool, I took tracings of all the historic mouldings in the farmhouse (with the exception of the plain rectangular ones upstairs).

Here's the list:
1. Secondary original casings
2. Primary original casings
3. Later casings on the living room archway
4. Later casings on the Kitchen addition doorway (as well as around the basement door in the kitchen)
5. Original rosettes
6. Later (non matching) rosettes on living room archway (on the office side)
7. Trim detail on staircase wall
8. Original baseboards on main floor

I think the only other thing that would be fun to have is a tracing of one of the staircase fretwork brackets. They're a fairly standard pattern, but it would be fun to have a life size copy.

Here's the "thumb latch" side of the "under stairs closet" door. Not the best picture I'm afraid (due to the lighting). There's one more of these on another door, but I think it's a bit different. I'll have to have another look. I don't remember which door it was.

Angelina posing with our hoard of crown mouldings for 40$!

As mentioned earlier, all the cement that had been slapped around the exterior of the stone foundation is being chipped off by our historic mason, and it's all getting repointed with lime mortar. It will also look a lot nicer with the stonework showing. This is the area where the small deck was.

The foundation in the basement (when I first saw it) looked a lot like what you see here. You could see that the stones all looked fine, and that the wall was straight, but almost all the mortar was gone.

The trees by the front porch are GONE! I was very happy to see these go. We still need to remove the rest of the dead vines. One of the vines actually grew THROUGH the small section of decking.

Here's another corner of the foundation.

Right, so back to the front hall ceiling. I originally really wanted to save all the original plaster work in the house since it was in pretty good shape, and there's not all that much of it (2 1/2 rooms). The decision to remove this ceiling was not a rash one, but rather a practical one. First, the adhesive was taking an eternity to scrape off. Even if we did scrape off all the glue, the ceiling still had a popcorn texture to sand down, and then re-skim coat and sand. Second, there was a large and poorly patched hole from an old heating grate or stovepipe in the centre (not easy to see). The third issue with this ceiling was the nail in the coffin; we had to run electrical through here, and there isn't easy access from anywhere else. Not just one or two wires, but several wires and boxes. Clearing out this small ceiling means that we can easily pass electrical into the office w/o damaging anything in there (original plaster walls and ceiling).

Pierre and I demolished this ceiling in about 30 minutes, but it took something like 2 hours just to clean up all of the aftermath. In the process we also managed to completely clog the furnace filter. Pierre loves to yank out nails and screws from boards, so I had him save all the lovely old square nails from the lath boards. I can use the nails for repairing clocks or antiques.

With this ceiling open, we now have easy access to run electrical into the office, as well as to a new light fixture and 2-way switch which will hang in this hallway. You will notice a gap in the strapping (which is 1 1/2" thick solid white ash, btw) and that's where a round vent or a stovepipe went through the floor. This corresponds with the patch in the master bedroom floor above.

This is a fixture that may end up going in this hallway. We don't like the newer (and very frilly) shades, but the fixture itself could look quite nice here. We will likely shorten the chains a bit). This is one of 2 fixtures that Angie & Pierre picked up at an auction for 15$. The house never had electrical originally, or even hanging oil lamp fixtures, so it's hard to say what would look best in here. Once the electrical is installed, the fixture can easily be changed later (and as often as we like). It would be fun to find some fairly "period correct" lighting (since there will only be 2 hanging light fixtures on the main floor, and one in the staircase that are very visible in the oldest parts of the house, but for now, money is being allocated to more important projects, so lighting can always wait a few years. This fixture is from around 1910-1920 and cost them nearly nothing.

Unfortunately we didn't get very far with the electrical. I had forgotten that we need 2 lengths of 3-14 wire for the 2-way switches, and we also bought the wrong type of hexagonal light fixture boxes (we got the kind made for conduit cables rather than standard Romex wiring).

I did, however, get several boxes ready.

I had to make a small(ish) hole in the hallway wall to drill through the top plate to pass the wires. I was also not sure if there were horizontal braces in the wall (so far just the standard "fire wall" at 48"). Because old plaster walls have so many lumps and inconsistencies, the stud finder tends to be very unreliable.

Pierre stayed busy by installing plaster buttons where they were needed (near casings and electrical boxes, as well as on each side of any cracks). He also helped me pass wires in the walls and ceilings, and took out around 1000 nails from the old lath.

I didn't love the idea of cutting an outlet box into the original tongue-and-groove wainscoting of the living room, but I also can't stand not having enough outlets in a house. Code also requires a certain number per room, and per wall. Luckily I can cut nice clean holes with my multi-tool. I can't imagine how much of a pain it would have been without it.

That's it for now. Hopefully the next time we're at the house I'll be able to get a lot more of my wiring passed. The electrician still can't tie most of it into the panel until we know if it's being relocated, but there are lots of connections and boxes we can install in the meantime.

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