No Guts, No Glory

Oh what a week it's been! On Saturday we had the Taper walk through the house with us to talk about what in the world we could do with our beyond-cracked ceilings and walls.  We were pretty certain that the upstairs was beyond help (the ceiling in our bedroom resembled the state lines in a map of of the USA) but we were uncertain about what to do with the now acoustic-tileless ceilings downstairs. Plus where the old roof had ostensibly been leaking its freaking face off there was more of that adorable mold on the plaster on the north side of the house under each window.  Oh! And the giant holes in the two smaller bedrooms.  And the crumbly plaster over the fireplace...So yeah, we had a few questions.  As predicted, the Taper's advice was simple: gut it.

I happen to quite like plaster- I think it has character that drywall can't imitate,  plus it's great for sound insulation.  When we bought the house my strong inclination was to try to save as much plaster as feasibly possible to keep the integrity of the house's aesthetic.  But a funny thing happens when you sign on the dotted line and take ownership of a place- you start thinking about the stuff you can't see. You think about it A LOT. You think about termites and rusty pipes and asbestos and creeping crawling lurking issues that are just waiting until you and your babies are all snuggly moved into the place and you've spent your last 2k on a fancy fridge to rear their ugly heads.  Long story short, after the overwhelming impression we've reached that this house has been neglected for at least 30 years, we needed to know what was going on in there.  And since they don't make an MRI machine big enough, that meant getting the old walls off so's we could see what we could see.  Plus once the walls were open we could re-wire the seriously scary outlets and insulate and all that good stuff.

So we made a compromise- instead of gutting the whole thing stem to stern as the Taper suggested, we kept the foyer intact -the plaster in there is in the best shape and I truly feel like it's the part of the house with the most innate character. Oh, and then there's the fact that it's one less place for us to spend money. Yeah- that might have something to do with it too.  We also left the upstairs hallway, and, if you can believe it, the back room of hideous blue and brown flowers and stripes.  Wait- I haven't showed you the famous blue room? How could I have left it off??! Here you go:
To quote my brother, "Dang.  That is so ugly it's almost back in style."
That room has, if you can believe it, the most current reno on it- it's got modern wiring and the walls are very much intact.  Also, it's current life will be as my work-from-home office, so it frankly doesn't warrant the money to love it up.

But everything else is out, baby.  The next step was figuring out just how to make said gut-job happen. Gavin was more than willing to do most of the filthy job himself, but he only has 2 weeks off coming from work, and he is only one man.  I have next to no time what with the kids and work, and even if the two of us worked 12 hours a day I don't think we could even begin to make a dent in two measly weeks.  So we decided to call for some quotes to see if we couldn't get a crew of guys in to knock the whole job out and cart away the resulting garbage while they were at it.  

We called a few guys and got demoralizingly expensive estimates- literally all of our budget's worth of money just to destroy the house we were trying to fix.  We were just resolving ourselves to doing the work as best we could with whatever friends and family we could bamboozle into helping us when the sky parted, a perfect shaft of sunlight broke through the clouds, and standing in that light was a wee man named Israel.

He was recommended to us from friends of my Mom who swore by him; we had little faith at this point that we could afford anyone but figured it couldn't hurt to have one more guy take a look. He's a small, soft-spoken man of very few words.  He listened patiently while I told him how I wanted to save as much of the molding as I could, and unlike the men who came before him, he didn't tell me it wasn't worth saving and I should just "buy some new molding at Home Depot". He agreed that the foyer was fine to save and just needed a little polish coat to fix some minor cracks. He walked around the place with me for about 15 minutes, took notes in a little spiral notebook, and then proceeded to quote us a quarter of the price of all the other contractors. He told me he knew we were on a budget, and he could also see we had plenty of projects for him in the future, so essentially, he was giving us a break(!).  I almost couldn't shake his hand fast enough, and by THE NEXT DAY,  he had a crew of guys and a dumpster in our driveway, and the great gut began (forgot my camera so excuse crappy cell-phone pics):

Our scary-full dumpster.  Almost 6 TONS of plaster and lathe.

Dining Room- they pulled the mantle off and saved it! :)
Notice the window INSIDE the living room wall from when it was part of the porch.  
Dining Room Some More- that's all molding they saved.
Some will be re-usable, some won't, but we'll find a purpose for all of it...
Pocket Door.  Still in Pocket. :)
Wesley's (?) Room
The Bathroom.  It actually looks better this way...
Really, if you have never experienced demo-ing plaster and lathe, it is one of the most backbreaking, dirty jobs imaginable- dust, heavy lifting (plaster weighs 85lbs a cubic foot, btw), lead paint- you name it.  Israel's crew worked like freaking machines and in just a couple of days accomplished more than we could have in a month.  Amazing.  Suffice it to say, if you need a good reccommendation for work on your house, drop me a line- I have a guy.

In other news (cause, like, taking the guts out of the entire house isn't enough for one week) the guys came back to do the aforementioned tar-job on the chimney.  They climbed up there and then called to Gavin who was standing on the ground below.  One guy took his pinky finger and with it pushed over one whole corner of bricks on our chimney.  Basically, the whole bloody thing is shot.  New chimney must be built.  For a fireplace that, as it turns out, was coal-burning and so will not be able to be used for wood any damn way(maybe gas one day?). There goes another 2.5k out the window.  Awesomesauce.

But! On a happier note! We actually completed something! You may recall that our prior cellar door was an experiment in rust and debris covered over by a tarp and bug larvae? Yes? Well, with the help of my wonderful Uncle Andrew, Gavin replaced it with a strong, clean new door.  One thing can be officially checked off the master list.  We'll take small satisfactions where we can get them:
Old Crap Doors!

New Wonder-Doors!

Uncle Emerging Like Handy Bear From Cave!
Yeah, so it's been a pricey, exhausting week.  But we have a certain sense of peace now, knowing everything there is to know about what our house's inside's look like.  Some of it aint pretty (is that asbestos I see wrapped around our ductwork???) but now we know what we are dealing with.  We are not naive enough to think this means there will be no more surprises (I'm looking at you, plumbing) but at least we can make our list of priorities based on reality and not assumptions.  Or something.  Anywho, next week- Gavin is off! His folks come to see our crazy house! We may put up a wall or two! Huzzah!


Leigh said...

First off, I love that blue and orange wallpaper. It looks like an Anthropologie dress that I would snap up without even thinking about it. Secondly, I love that you're keeping us posted on this monstrously huge job you've undertaken. Thirdly, I want to be involved as soon as possible. XO

Ash said...

Ha ha, I agree with everything that Leigh just said!