5 min read

The house gods giveth, and the house gods taketh away.

Oh boy.
The house gods giveth, and the house gods taketh away.
The snow came pouring down all of a sudden, but Bob the oak tree didn't mind one bit.

We spent much of yesterday – Sunday, my 58th birthday – cleaning out all the lathe and plaster of the kitchen ceiling at 615. If only we had decided to do this earlier, we would have saved some money on plumbing and electrical.

On Friday, with the electricians tearing holes into the lathe and plaster for the new overhead lighting, it finally became evident we had to give in and take down the whole ceiling to make everything simpler: the electrical; the plumbing; the framing.

So, we did it yesterday. This was after my annual 6-mile birthday run, which I somehow did 80 seconds faster than last year. I can only imagine 615 is what whipped me into such cardiac shape. By the time the day was done, I had done almost 22,000 steps (10.5 miles). And the kitchen ceiling was clear.

It's hard to describe what a mess it makes when you take down a 1923 ceiling, but here's a view of the "in progress."

The pillows were there to protect the granite counter tops. They worked. The dust was monumental.

By the time it was all out, the ceiling looked like what the contractors really want to be working with:

Now the drywaller will be able to take the drywall all the way up to the studs, which means a very tall kitchen – a kitchen of the original height. And it means a clean scene for the wiring and plumbing, which saves money. And it means not having to pay for any ceiling framing. All of that is really helpful.

So, with the ceiling gone, this morning the plumber came and moved the water pipes for the second floor bathroom up into the kitchen ceiling, meaning the soffit in the kitchen for the plumbing (i.e., the drains) is going to be quite petite compared to what it would have been.

Even better, we discovered today that because of where the new first floor bathroom's interior walls have landed, the plumber can hide the hot and cold water pipes for that bathroom in the same wall space between the breakfast nook and the refrigerator where he's hidden the vent pipe for the second floor. This is going to greatly simplify the look of the plumbing in terms of the kitchen – most of it will be well hidden. This will also save us money on framing and drywalling.

I would show you photos of the new framing of the first floor bathroom – serious progress was made today - but I am too pooped to go shoot more photos. That's because I spent the day working with the framer's assistant cleaning out the lathe, plaster, and blown-in insulation in the garage ceiling, under the new first-floor bathroom space.

That was a nightmare because of the blown-in insulation and the wires of unknown provenance. We were very careful with our masks and our tools.

On the north side of the garage, the ceiling and wall have been stripped of extraneous material. What did we find but another old window space! That wall will all be covered with fresh insulation and drywall before we are done.

Normally, I would have let the framer's assistant do all that messy demo without me. But I found I had to hang around 615 all day anyway because of all the complex decisions having to be made about this and that, so I figured I might as well work on demo. Plus, I know contractors respect me more as I put in the sweat equity and am there to witness the challenges they face throughout the day.

By mid-morning today, the framer and I decided we really need to create a warmed storage space in the garage in order to take proper care of the drains for the first floor bathroom. More on that plan at a later date. For now, I'll just say it greatly improved the mood of the plumber to hear of this care plan.

We did find a few rotten boards here and there while dealing with the extension space (in and above the garage) but the good news is that none of it was wet – there is no fresh rot. It was all old. That's a lot easier to deal with than active leak problems. You pull it out and replace it. It's not that complicated or expensive.

The other good news is that the electricians came back today (after I basically begged) to work on the second floor bathroom in the hopes we can move on there to HVAC and drywall and then tiling.

The terrible news is that, when the electricians started dealing with the second-floor bathroom today, they went into the attic to run fresh wires and hit vermiculite insulation. While this may not contain asbestos, the EPA says it should be treated as if it contains asbestos because of the chances of contamination.

So, five phone calls later, I have found a company that does residential asbestos abatement. They're coming tomorrow morning for a look and an estimate. This is bad.

But it is what it is, and we're not going to fool with people's health.

Now, I have taken the equivalent of three showers to wash the dust off myself. I have washed out my eyes with saline solution. I am having a beer. Tomorrow is another day.

Oh, one more thing: I thought, when I stripped for my shower, I had somehow cut myself on my leg or foot because there was blood smeared over my lower leg and foot. Mostly this concerned me because I felt no pain down there – which suggested I have bad nerves in my lower right extremity, to feel no pain.

After the shower, I discovered that, in fact, the meat I had taken out of the freezer to thaw for dinner – because I need serious protein right now – well, the packaging had leaked and dripped blood on my leg while I was moving it from kitchen counter to refrigerator! That gave me a good laugh, and a fair bit of mental relief. I cleaned it all up to avoid any pathogens. Dinner comes soon.

Here's the wall treat of the day.

Does the number 1921 refer to the year or the card's membership number? We don't know. The house was built in 1923, and the card doesn't seem to have been filled out.

We also found a few of these (below) – antique black walnut hulls enjoyed by a rodent decades ago. Not too many, which is a good sign. And all of them very, very old. Also a good sign.

Digging into an old house is a little like getting a full-body MRI. It reminds you a little too much of your mortality.