Thursday, September 9, 2010

This Old House

“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven: a time to tear down and a time to build.” Ecclesiastes 3:1, 3

Our house is old.

The courthouse says it is older than I am by 6 years, but I believe that to be true for only parts of it.

I believe the closets are from the 1930s judging by the wallpaper and plasterboard walls behind it.

So that makes it WAY older than me.

And then there’s the upstairs.

Strangely more modern but with impossibly small, steep stairs and creaky floors.

Was an architect or general contractor even consulted for this mish mash project??

Who knows?

Needless to say, every time we try to do an “upgrade” it turns into something a bit more than what we’d bargained for. But we always learn a lot. So, today, I thought I would share what we’ve learned living in our home about its past and life before us.

1. Our neighbor, who has lived in his house since 1955, says that there was once a house on our property that burned to the ground, and then they moved in a house and built on to it. I’m guessing a house built in the 1930s and moved to this location in 1970, the year on file with the courthouse.

2. For 15 years, my house had a porch and the entry faced west.

3. In 1985, the upstairs’ two bedrooms and bathroom and two-car garage were added, creating a laundry room downstairs and a North-facing front door.

4. This occurred shortly before the previous owner bought the house. He was a bit of a do-it-yourselfer.

5. We bought the house in 2005, and moved in on December 31st. We had two mortgages for one month because our other house had not sold yet. Our other house was brand-new when we bought it.

6. The first room we “upgraded” was the kitchen. We started out with appliances since the stove had to be turned on with at pair of pliers and was harvest gold in color. The dishwasher was so loud that you couldn’t talk over it, and during the rinse cycle it would belch out a column of steam into the kitchen like some kind of deranged dragon. It also had a sea foam blue interior and was more of a glorified rinsing machine, as it never actually “washed” any dishes.

7. The walls of the kitchen were covered with lattice-patterned fruit and floral wallpaper down to a chair rail. Below the chair rail was fireboard that looked like white brick. Fancy! There was also a fake enclosure built above the cabinets to connect them up to the ceiling.

8. One night, I threw a crowbar through that fake enclosure and ripped it all out.

9. Another night, I got mad and ripped out all the wallpaper.

10. Beneath the wallpaper we found that our kitchen had once been lime green, and so it was again, much to my horror! We also found that wallpaper and fireboard hides a lot of imperfections in drywall.

11. And then there were the beams. Two big dark wooden beams running across the length of the ceiling. We didn’t like them, so we ripped them out too. The only problem was that even though the first beam was decorative, the second was not. Ooops! So it had to stay. We drywalled over it and it now matches the ceiling.

12. The chair rail was attached to the wall with three-inch nails. Guess they were afraid it might not stay put.

13. The fireboard was GLUED to the wall and then nailed. Guess they were really afraid it was going to take off.

14. Oh, and the lime green walls matched the Holly Hobby themed green contact paper that lined all of my kitchen cabinets. Holly Hobby had to stay, as she had become a part of the cabinets and could not be removed. Holly Hobby must have been a stubborn girl.

15. Our pharmacist’s husband does excellent drywall work on his days off as a fireman and had our whole kitchen finished with new ceiling matching old in three days.

16. Making walls smooth again is called “refloating” the walls.

17. Dark red paint covers anything lime green very nicely.

18. It takes months to recover from “updating” any room of your house.

19. Several, and I do mean several, months later, we started on our downstairs bathroom.

20. Our bathroom used to be some kind of porch. We found the porch floor when we tore out the top floor.

21. The earthy smell that my bathroom had had when it was damp outside was actually the remnants of what had been quite a large rat’s nest in the walls and subfloor.

22. We found lots of rat droppings, an empty box of D-con, rocks, and a sock in the walls. Not sure on the rocks or the sock.

23. We also found rat bones under the tub and sink.

24. Sometimes a room will never be clean, no matter what you do to it, until you tear out all the walls and fixtures.

25. I wrote our names and date on the lower porch floor so that if someone ever decided to do it again, they would know they weren’t the first.

26. We also found a window behind the tub. It could not be resurrected, so it is still behind the tub enclosure. Only this time it is insulated and boarded up properly. We hope!

27. That disgusting feeling can sometimes be eliminated with a fresh coat of paint, or a ShopVac.

28. Our living room had a huge draft from the window behind (yes, behind) our entertainment center, so since the weather has been nice, we decided to “fix” it last Saturday.

29. The window was broken and installed in such a way that the window could not be fully closed.

30. The trim boards were (again) nailed to the walls with three-inch nails.

31. There must have been a big sale on three-inch nails.

32. Our drywall in the living room was placed directly over the paneling that had once covered the walls. It was that lovely shade of brown-gray so popular in the 1970s.

33. If a tornado ever comes, we have lots of wall reinforcement downstairs.

34. Our luck it will be the only house still standing.

35. You should always measure and have a replacement window in hand before tearing out an old window.

36. Nothing is standard size on my house.

37. Home Depot and Lowe’s take up to three weeks to get a custom window in.

38. The Habitat for Humanity Restore might have what you’re looking for, but it will be at the bottom of the pile, and your children will become very cranky.

39. A standard sized window can work if you have a husband and an uncle that are so inclined to remove the outside covering of your house, trim down a vinyl window to just the frame, move the header of the window and several side boards, and cut through the drywall inside the house.

40. We now have one standard-sized vinyl window.

41. And all the other windows on the downstairs of the house are encased in rock on one side.

42. Should make for interesting window replacement in the future.

43. More window replacement will not occur for several, and I do mean several, months.

44. Oh, and the old window frame had turquoise blue paint on it. What a colorful life our house has led!

45. The more work we do to our house, the more it becomes “ours”.

Happy home remodeling, if that so happens to be what you’re doing today. Otherwise, be thankful you’re not in the throes of updating!

Oh, and don’t come over just yet. We haven’t put everything in the living room back in its place just yet, since I’ve decided to paint it while the furniture is all moved. And then there are two more windows to replace, which will require all new trim… It could be several, and I do mean several, more months!

“The wise woman builds her house, but with her own hands the foolish one tears hers down.” Proverbs 14:1


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