Plumbing and Electric and Ductwork – Oh My!

Redoing all the house’s systems

It has been awhile since I’ve written an update on the restoration of our Victorian home. The reason for the long absence is — we were waiting for tradesmen to finish their work. Now I can proudly say that we have all new systems roughed in the house, and inspections passed.

Cutting one of our 35 rolls

Yes, that’s right ALL NEW systems. A “temp pole” has occupied our front yard for a year while the whole house was re-wired. We found knob and tube, wiring from the ‘70s, and two rooms that were re-wired via an extension cord. Former owners had drilled a hole in the floor of a room, and ran an extension cord to an opposite wall, and viola – another outlet, in our family room.

In our bonus room, which used to be empty space above the kitchen until the 1980s , when a former owner created a whole new room, we found extension cords behind paneling supplying power to the far ends of the rectangular room. Both of these wiring short cuts present fire hazards, and would not have been found if we weren’t prying paneling off of walls and prepping for ductwork under the house. All wiring is now new, up to code, and passed our basic trades inspection.

One layer of 3 in ceiling

All new plumbing is installed now too.  A leaky roof in the back of the house and a few leaky pipes had led to rotten wood in the back of the house. And it had been rotten for years. The plumbing rough-in took 12 months and we went through three plumbers. It wasn’t as simple as replacing pipe, as we re-worked the master bathroom and added an additional bathroom with a shower downstairs. And we relocated our laundry room.

And finally, we had a heating and air specialist draw plans for the entire house, and then hired an excellent heating and air conditioning company to install new ductwork under the house. Prior to our ownership, the home had been heated by electric. Now it’s approved and ready for natural gas. The problem is, we cannot install our new units until our electrical systems are finalized.  But the inspector has passed our trades “rough in” and we’re ready for the next stage.

We have one working toilet and two working sinks – which makes our restoration labors at the house all day much easier! A utility sink in the laundry room and one in the bathroom – small but much appreciated conveniences.

Scott and I have spent the past five months adding insulation to the outer walls and to all ceilings and floors in the back of the house, while we waited for the tradesmen to finish. We started with 35 rolls of R-19 insulation, and now have four rolls left. Also we installed 120 foam insulation boards, and have about 10 left.  It was stacked in our dining room, and family room, and took nearly the entire space of both rooms to store it all.

Laying insulation has been the hardest work I’ve done on the house so far. It’s not just handling the pink fluffy stuff, — it’s the tiny bits of fiberglass imbedded, that grabs onto your shirt and pants, and itches my skin. So Scott and I wore two layers of clothes, then a protective microporous coverall that zips up the front over all our clothes, and gloves and filter masks over our mouths and protective eyewear.  It was stiflingly hot in the summer, even with fans going. We’d be dripping with perspiration, and itchy all over. It wasn’t so bad this Fall once the temperature dropped below 70.

During this phase, which seemed to last forever, I’d measure, cut and hand the long strips to Scott, who placed them three layers thick in the ceilings, one layer thick in the walls. We burned through a sawzaw, wore the motor completely down, and dulled several blades of a hand cutter. Several sets of clothes went straight to the trash. Even after laundering them, I would feel the sting of fiberglass itch when donning them again.

Over Thanksgiving weekend, we spent two days at the house and finally finished insulating our last wall. We swept, vacuumed, and mopped all floors, a three hour job! I forgot what color the kitchen floor was – it was covered in pink insulation strips, puffs and dust since winter. Since this was the measuring and cutting room for the insulation, several layers of that linoleum peeled up easily since it was used as a base for my slicing.

So the back of the house is all snug and insulated, ready for drywall. Even though “systems” aren’t sexy to write about, they are the core of our home. We’re rebuilding her from the inside out, effectively refashioning a “new” house while keeping all structural and decorative elements of the grand old 1911 home intact that we can.