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Monthly Archives: February 2012

The Pinnacle of Destruction: It’s All Uphill from Here

For the past 2 weeks, the focus of renovation activities has been destruction, rather than construction. These activities reached terminal velocity on Thursday, February 23, with the removal of most of the joists supporting the second floor. The result, as you’ll see below, is a complete transition of a house (that was, frankly, pretty nice), to an empty hull. In the words of one of our young nieces commenting on the blog, “the house looked so sweet before and now it is a catastrophe!”

The photo below is during the penultimate step of demo. It’s a view from what used to be the dining room, through what used to be the master bedroom floor, to the exposed rafters. The skylight to the left is above the stairs, and will remain (although it’s not original to the house, like the one in the center, above the old bathroom).

Dave, the site manager, consulting with Mary, the project manager, at what remains of the second floor. We intended for the original railing to remain, but you’ll see what happened to that in a few pics. (Note the stained wood newel post barely visible to the right of the of the white railings . . .).

And then, in the words of Gracie – a catastrophe! No more floor. No more joists. No more much of anything – we’ve reached the peak of the demo activities with the photos below.

Because of the age of the house, the walls are solid brick, so the joists slotted into the holes shown here. Although the joists were all sound, they needed to be removed and replaced with ones that ran north/south (between the front and back), rather than east/west to accommodate the new mechanical and plumbing design for the open floor plan on the first floor.

Looking down from the top of the staircase to nowhere after the catastrophe.

The extent of the joist and framing removal between the first and second floors.

This is a view from the first floor of the remains of the linen closet on the second (the entry to which was through the world’s narrowest 5-panel door, which is the only door we’re retaining and refurbishing, since it’s so cool).

The stairs and railing on the first floor will be retained as one of the only original elements of the old house, so it’s being protected.

The small upstairs hallway and railing before renovation:

Here’s what’s left of the upstairs railing – just the old newel post as a lone sentinel watching over the destruction.

Evidence of earlier renovations. A few years ago, we installed recessed lighting in the living room – these are the electrician’s holes through all of the joists from the front of the house to the dining room to run electrical.

Dave, Ben (our first architect), and Natalie (our new architect) reconsider the joist height spec’d for the second floor.

A view all the way from the first floor to the exposed rafters and old skylight hanging forlornly from the second floor ceiling.

The hulk of a house – view from the front:

And, view from the back:

The stairs to nowhere:

Lisa checks out the new view.

Some friends came over to check out the house-that-is-no-more and debate space utilization on the future first floor.

Someone had commented at the house that the remainder of the upstairs landing looked like a scene from Romeo and Juliet. Definitely an apt comparison (and Phyllis makes a fine Juliet).

Very surreal view through the gutted house from the street:

A quick video from within the empty hull of our house is here:

 
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Posted by on February 28, 2012 in Interior Demolition

 

Bathroom? We Don’t Need No Steenking Bathroom!

The next area to demo was the framing on the second floor, including the bathroom on this floor. This is a “before” view of the small hallway at the top of the stairs, facing north (toward the front of the house). The door on the right (which may be the narrowest 5-panel wood door in existence) is the linen closet; the door in the middle leads to the guest room; the door on the left leads to the upstairs bath.

This is the bathroom before demo. One of the best features (the only good feature?) is the original skylight with bead board walls. This is one of the features we fell in love with when we bought the house in 2000.

Here’s the bathroom during demo. The radiator from the master bedroom is on the left – pretty much the only remaining element at this point.

The framing at back (but in the middle) is the old closet from the guest room (which was occupied by vents and the mechanical elements of the old Jacuzzi tub).

Faux closet door on the guest room side.

Looking through the closet door during demo, through the master bedroom, to the back of the house.

View to the back from the bathroom.

So – a better view of the skylight. The great thing about our beloved bathroom skylight? There are open vents at the top for ventilation, and a glass window on a swivel in the ceiling that can be open and closed. The annoying thing? There are open vents at the top for ventilation and a window on a swivel in the ceiling that can accumulate all of the pain-in-the-ass willow oak leaves from Wolfe Street. Every so often in the fall, we’ll swivel the window to release the leaves, and it would be like sitting under a tree in autumn during a wind storm.

We are definitely retaining the skylight, but will be repairing the superstructure above the roof, and, in the process, making some adjustments to keep out the leaves.

Original closet door frame to guest room on north wall of bathroom.

When the house was built, the second-floor bathroom was narrower, and the west wall ended before the brick party wall, leaving room for abutting closets for the two bedrooms. Over the decades, the closet space was usurped by the bathroom, but vestigial elements remain. In addition to the old closet door frames, this included the plaster patterns on the brick wall to the west – the bare brick between the plaster was where the interior closet walls were.

Exposed joists on the second floor. This used to be the first two thirds of the master bedroom (the rest of the bedroom floor dropped off the face of the earth with the demolition of the old sleeping porch).

 
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Posted by on February 26, 2012 in Interior Demolition

 

Mr. Gorbachev: Tear Down this Wall!

This past week, the main floor of the house got demo’d. Definitely the most traumatic part of the renovation. We actually loved the main floor of the house, including all of the original elements, like the staircase, trim, and doors from the ’20’s. Unfortunately, the space didn’t work for us – particularly the allocation of square footage to a dining room we didn’t use, at the expense of space in the living room, which we do.

Posted below are before and after shots of the demo’d main floor. As significant as these changes were, wait ’til you see the final demo step in the next post this weekend!

The exposed  brick strip is where the wall between the living room and dining room was located. (Our future keg-bearing refrigerator still stands as a lone sentinel to the left.)

 
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Posted by on February 25, 2012 in Interior Demolition

 

It’s the End of the Rear as We Know It . . .

After the old sleeping porch / rear half of master bedroom was removed, the guys moved on to demo the old porch / kitchen. Here, you can see the old, sloped porch floor on which sleepers had been installed to support the subfloor (which a friend put in) and oak flooring, which we installed shortly after we moved in, and tied it to the original oak floors in the rest of the main floor. When we bought the house, the floor in this area was crappy yellow pine running perpendicular to the oak flooring on the rest of the floor, and with a distinct slope to the rear of the house.

Viewing the demolition from the old master bedroom.

At this stage, the entire old porch, including joists, have been removed. New joists that run the entire width of the house will be installed before framing.

This used to be our kitchen and powder room. The kitchen door to the backyard was, quite obviously, between the two stair railings to the right.

This was the rear of the house at the end of January.

The rear of the house at the completion of this phase of demolition. Although none of the lights or recepticals in the house work, our orphaned refrigerator is still running, plugged into a temporary, waterproof electrical panel that replaced the one that was hanging just inside the basement door (and that would have been exposed at this point if it were left there). The refrigerator ultimately will migrate to the basement, answering a higher call than chilling food. This baby will hold kegs for a tap that will be installed in the kitchen wet bar.

 
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Posted by on February 20, 2012 in Interior Demolition

 

Taking Off Our Top

Below is the master bedroom before complete demolition. For the past 87 years, the sleeping porch on the top floor and the porch on the main floor have been attached to – but not really a part of – the brick structure of the main house. Although we and many of our neighbors have successfully integrated these structures into the house, there have been drawbacks, including poor (or nonexistent) insulation, inconsistent structural construct, and, most importantly, inconsistent dimensions. Namely, the west side of the porches (right side of house looking this direction) did not extend entirely to the wall on the other side.

Truncated original back wall of house. Originally, this brick wall extended completely from east to west. However, a few owners ago, the wall was knocked out on the first and second floors, to only this vestigial section (there’s a smaller version on the opposite side).

This slot separated the house proper from the porches. For the past 20 years or so, this slot was occupied by an 8″ – 10″ strip of the original brick rear wall, sandwiched between the floors and joists (and generally unsupported, other than by some patched-up wood beams, hidden by drywall.

Master bedroom / old sleeping porch roof and windows removed.

Looking back into the old master bedroom.

The chimney for our boiler is now starting to be demo’d while the other sections enter oblivion, as well.

Demo is done – our top is off.

Looking down from what remains from the master bedroom to the first floor and basement.

Exterior of the house during the top floor demo. The modern clapboard siding also has been removed, revealing the awesome, faux-brick asphalt shingling that used to clad the house. Sweet! Maybe we should do a retro look for the renovated house.

 
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Posted by on February 19, 2012 in Interior Demolition

 

Original Sleeping Porch Exposed

So, on February 9 and 10, the guys ripped apart the master bedroom. In the process, the original 1925 sleeping porch on the second floor was revealed. There were a few other surprises, as well.

The master bedroom before demolition is below. The rear of the original brick house is defined by the dropped area to the left of the built-in bookcase. The owner a couple of decades ago had the brick wall between the bedroom and original sleeping porch demolished to create one, larger room.

During demolition:

And after. This is the original sleeping porch, with wainscoting walls (in a slightly vomitous sea foam green color).

The windows are original, and still have their weight-and-pulley systems intact:

Here’s a closeup of the weights. Although the back windows will be replaced, the original front windows with the same system will be kept and refurbished.

West side of the original sleeping porch, with a higher wainscoting wall, for some reason (perhaps because this side abutted a neighbor [with an identical house], while the other side did not).

The demolition also revealed a trap door to the roof. This had been completely drywalled over. We suspected it was there, since one of our neighbors has one, but didn’t know for sure until now.

North side of the bedroom before demolition:

And after. In addition to the ceiling, the walls for the air handler closet and clothes closet have been removed.

In addition to drywalling over the trap door to the ceiling, the original closet door for this room also had been drywalled over. The demolition revealed the original casing. There’s an identical closet door in the guest bedroom to the north, but there, the door remains.

 
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Posted by on February 12, 2012 in Interior Demolition

 

Dining Room Demolition

So, here’s a few “before” pictures of the dining room before demolition:

The dining room entrance from the kitchen was boarded up during kitchen demo, since we were still using the room to store and box stuff up while we were moving out. The plywood barrier and hallway door (open in the photo) established the border between the work site and our remaining living area. Regardless of the barriers, we always come home to this quasi-post-apocalyptic scene, and find everything we own covered in a layer of white dust, like nuclear fallout.

Dining room before demo, looking into the kitchen:

Demo begins:

Original 1925 framing exposed:

No more parties in this room, like this one in 2005 (during the dining room’s Purple Period):

Perhaps the most illustrious function the old dining room ever served was to accommodate the turducken that Bill and I made for a Christmas party. Here’s the trussed-up beast, after 12 hours in the oven:

And here’s how it looked inside – a turkey, stuffed with a duck, stuffed with a chicken, with cornmeal stuffing between every awesome layer:

Ah, but there will be no more dining room for future turduckens. Instead, we now have this blank canvas:

The hallway between the dining room and powder room before:

And, after:

The doorway to downstairs (the other half of the original French doors to the dining room [the first half is in the basement, separating the quasi-enclosed under-porch area from the furnace room]). The wall to the powder room added in 1999 is to the right.

After demo of the powder room (the chunk out of the wall is from some preliminary exploratory work to see if the bricks that form the east wall can be exposed – jury’s still out on this):

 
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Posted by on February 11, 2012 in Interior Demolition

 

Basement Construction Begins

With excavation complete, construction of the block wall at the basement level begins.

I think there’s someone walled up in the opening under the steps, and the workmen used this niche like the one in “The Cask of Amontillado” . . .

Site meeting among Dave, the site manager, Mary, the project manager, and Natalie, our new architect. The outdoor furniture is now protected by a wooden framework that also serves as a work table.

In addition to the west wall in the basement that was removed earlier in the week, the small east wall next to the plumbing stack has now been removed, turning the entire area into an open space (to hold more bikes, of course):

The finished product, ready for framing to begin on top. The opening in the front will house the new basement windows. The only thing left is demolition of the rest of the chimney – the bricks that are visible to the left of the steel support. This will occur after the demolition of the rear of the first and second floors.

 
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Posted by on February 10, 2012 in Excavation and Basement Work

 

Kitchen Demolition

During the week of February 6, our kitchen went from functional (but suboptimal) to non-existent. Here are a few “before” pictures:

Other than the backyard, the kitchen has always been the focus of parties we’ve had over the years. This included hosting a bunch of our environmental microbiologist colleagues when the American Society of Microbiology held their annual meeting in DC a few years ago:

This is pretty much the same vantage point during demolition. The hanging cabinets are gone and counter tops removed, but the island cabinets are still standing, as is most of the drywall:

A kitchen before pic from a holiday party a few years ago:

And, after:

The desk cabinetry has been removed, and the guys are ripping apart the backing against the wall niche:

Former location of the stove:

Insulation? We don’t need no stinking insulation! So, check this out – our entire kitchen was enveloped in walls with almost no insulation. It’s no wonder our main floor was so cold all the time in the winter. Virtually the only insulation to be found is in the lower corner here. This was our futile attempt to at least take advantage of an exterior home repair, when we pulled some rotting sheathing off the house, to shove some batting into the area of the wall that was exposed outside. It made absolutely no difference, of course, but at least we tried.

Removal of drywall complete:

Location of the old island. We had oak floors installed in the kitchen and tied in with the rest of the house in 2001, shortly after we moved in. Since the island was already there, the new floors flowed around the cabinets.

Before:

And after. You can totally see what was here originally. The back of the kitchen occupies what used to be the old back porch in 1925. It was enclosed over time.

Before:

After:

 
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Posted by on February 10, 2012 in Interior Demolition

 

Excavation Day 5

Three actions are on tap for Excavation Day 5:

  • Demolition of the original, 1925 south wall of the house
  • Inspection of the rebar and trench for footers
  • Pouring concrete for footers

Regarding the first item, the crew started early enough that we could capture the action.

Going . . .

Going . . .

Gone!

Rebar was laid in the footer trenches and the city code inspector approved it that morning.

Poured footers:

A before shot of the furnace room with the original 1925 back wall, before demo began:

The same location, 5 days into demolition:

Demo of the chimney for the boiler exhaust also began (although it won’t be completely removed for another week).

The pile under the exhaust vent is actually decades-worth of willow oak leaves from the Wolfe Street side of the house that have blown into the chimney and created their own little Pleistocene era layer of leaf fossils.

A legacy of hydronics past. These are radiator supply and return pipes from the baseboard radiator in the kitchen that were routed through holes cut in to the old brick exterior wall. The bricks couldn’t be removed without damaging the pipes (we’re still living in the house, and could use the heat, inasmuch as it’s February), so these hangers-on remain for now.

 
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Posted by on February 7, 2012 in Excavation and Basement Work