Infrastructure and Insulation

March 13 –
It’s been a few months since I’ve written about our progress on this blog site, and several friends have asked to share an update. This winter we’ve been continuing demolition work and it feels good to have old rotted wood torn out. The thing is, nothing is replaced yet.

This area, once a back porch and then a laundry room, will be our master bedroom.
This area, once a back porch and then a laundry room, will be our master bedroom.

In December, we hired some great workers to tear out the laundry room since the roof had failed in several places and soaked the floors and walls. This room had originally been a porch that was covered and made into a laundry room in mid-century. But the asphalt roof had given way and once we began uncovering the mess, we found rotted wood and mold.
Another room adjacent to the laundry room had an even bigger leak. It used to be an open courtyard with a well in the center. Later it got covered with a roof and was an entry room with a back door and with a wood burning stove raised on a brick flooring inset. Huge leaks left that room a total mess, and former owners no longer entered through that door.

In demolishing both rooms, our work team found that a six foot portion of our foundation was nonexistent, and work came to a halt. The building inspector was called, and we learned we’d have to dig out a new trench, put in cement, cinderblock and rebar supports, and rebuild the foundation there. Since we hadn’t planned on this, we decided to expand the back room, and called our architect Davidn Maurer for updated plans. He drew a lovely master suite with a cathedral ceiling and gabled roof to match the front and side gables of our home. We loved it. After getting approval from the town of Zebulon, we hired a masonry crew who finished the foundation job in a week.

We've expanded the room and foundation is now complete. Green clapboard will be back wall of master bedroom.
We’ve expanded the room and foundation is now complete. Green clapboard will be back wall of master bedroom.

In the back area, while demolishing steps and a small back porch leading to the back door, we found a lovely and intact set of earlier steps inside the home’s footprint. We also found the round cap from the well. We have filled up five dumpsters with construction trash, and are on our sixth. We had planned only for two!
While on site, the masonry crew rebuilt

Masons rebuilt our front entry brick pillars.
Masons rebuilt our front entry brick pillars.

our front entrance brick pilings along the steps, and removed the rusted iron bars on the front port railings. They are such small changes but a big improvement to the look of the house! A round cement patch remains where each railing used to attach to our brick pillars, and we will fix that later when we build our balustrades for the front porch.


Masons removed rusty iron bars on front porch.
Masons removed rusty iron bars on front porch.

In October, all of the venting from the HVAC system was removed from our crawl space while we were remediating the mold problem caused by the leaking roof. So this winter, the only heat in the house has been from electric heaters that we’ve brought in. With the roof off over the back three rooms of the house, and just a thin sheet of wood holding back the great outdoors, it’s been cold inside.

Foil turkey roasting pans catch water from the open roof in the master bathroom.
Foil turkey roasting pans catch water from the open roof in the master bathroom.

We also removed most of the plumbing piping in October, since we needed to re-fit both bathrooms and to add a third half bath. I turned on the water from the city of Raleigh in late October, and pay our $57 each month for “services” even though there is no running water yet. But there is no worry about freezing pipes this winter either!
Framing on the back rooms will start on Monday, and once that’s up, we will have a new standing seam roof installed- hopefully in late April. The old master bathroom has seen its shower, sinks and toilet torn out, but now has no roof and is only protected from the elements by a tarp. And we’ve had a lot of rain this winter. We’ve placed five large turkey roasting pans under the open roof area, and empty them frequently. We’ll have to wait until the new roof is on to determine if the floors and ceiling will dry out enough to save them. A former owner had torn out a third of the beadboard ceiling and several floor boards were rotten and needed replacing when we took ownership in September. So we hope we may feather in new boards and that we can keep the rest of the heart of pine flooring in that room.

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10 18 15_4127 In October Scott purchased a truckload of three types of insulation for our attic, and we deconstructed the attic down to its studs. We’ve spent the past four months cutting fiberboard, gluing down foil, and laying these between the rafters three boards deep. Foam core has filled any gaps and holes. I’ve been to the big box stores and bought 40 cans of Great Stuff Gaps and Cracks filler, and we’ve used 30 cans so far. Our labor team who started this job for us got busy with other client work, so now we are finishing the job ourselves on weekends. Scott wants to have this finished attic insulated to R52 level. To explain, most house walls are R11, so the attic will be nearly 5 times the insulation effectiveness. (That’s his Engineer Talk to me, but it means that it will be warm and save on our energy bill.)

DSC_0156_0894Our old work clothes – old jeans and shirts that only get worn for the Finch House projects – are full of stains and dried on foam – which doesn’t come off even after washing. And it’s into the shower after these work days – the insulation itches our skin! Even with wearing safety glasses and an air mask, the fine particle dust of this cut insulation finds its way into my nose and ears, and looks and tastes gritty!
The downside of this insulation work is that the 110 “Foam boards” fill our entire parlor and the 29 rolls of two different kinds of fiberglass insulation fill the entire dining room. There’s room to walk around the perimeter, but nothing else. We need to finish the attic so I can get these rooms back and begin working on them! Any extra insulation that’s left from the attic project will go into the back three rooms while we rebuild them. Today I counted 39 boards left – and we started with 110. But they still tower over my head in the room.

DSC_0157_0895So infrastructure – we have no back roof, no plumbing, no heating. We do have electricity, and that was put into the house in 1920, 1950, and 1970. We will rip it out and have the whole house re-wired at some future point, perhaps this summer. Wires are naked and dangling from the attic, the front hallway, and an arc of flame shot across the kitchen during the summer’s due diligence period before we bought it. The power goes off in the attic if we run both electric heaters and a circular saw, forcing us to run down to reset the fuse box.
So… the house looks pretty bad right now. I can’t wait for the framing to start this coming week and for us to turn the corner into getting this back section rebuilt.

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