Wednesday, March 27, 2013

In which we have encouraging visitors, some interesting discoveries, and the stairs come down.

We love having intrepid friends who come by and exclaim "Holy Sh*t!" when they see the mess we have gotten ourselves into.  One such friend came by yesterday, telling us that he had clicked on Greg's  link to this here blog thingy and just had to come by and see for himself.  He got the whole tour and didn't shake his head once and tell us we were crazy.  He actually had a big smile on his face, like he knew what we were doing.  Thanks for stopping, reader...come by anytime.  

We also had a visitor whom we had called several weeks earlier and asked him to come by and look at the foundation.  As a mason, he has a great reputation.  It also helps that he knows us and knows our friends and is in-laws with one of our besties.  He has been dropping by for a few days when we happen to be gone from the building.  Finally, he found a scrap of wood and wrote "I WAS HERE......WOW!"  and put down his phone number.  
We called immediately and he came right over.  This particular gentleman has a lot of experience with Belfast real estate.  He told us of his conquests in town and kept marveling at how much space there was, at how every window had a view of something, and at how much work it would take us to get where we want to be.  Then we went to the basement to see the foundation.  The wall I wanted him to look at turned out to be original, and in not too bad shape, some loose concrete could come out and then repointing in places, and some foam insulation over top...same way we did our first cottage foundation wall, so I am familiar.  What I did not expect, or...a better way to put it is that I never thought about that the entire exterior wall of the basement is not a wall after all, but rather sheets of plywood and (more) cardboard!
So the red wall you see below at the level of the RV, is simply a plywood and cardboard wall and the building sits fairly straight on its original sill supported by cedar logs every 4 feet.  
If you know where I am going with this, you will understand why I am relieved and happy about that discovery.  For one, it makes putting in windows along this wall very easy.  two, the access to this area of the building is perfect for the heavy machinery needed to dig out and replace the concrete frost wall and build up from there.  Our wise friend also told us that we should replace the sagging beams at the same time as we will have the space open to the elements and it will be easier to have a 25 foot beam zipped right through the hole in the basement wall at that time.  He also conceded that the job would be better suited to a larger foundation specialist firm that had the heavy machinery already to come in and do the job.  He actually thought we may have "lucked out" about the foundation and told me it wouldn't cost nearly as much as I was thinking it would.  Anyway, the basement space is 25 x 50 and with nice windows that blend in with the building and perhaps an entrance on Federal Street, this will make an excellent retail space for downtown.

Our friend kept telling us that when we came up with the plan for spaces, we needed to be aware of all the potential access points in the building and create our interior spaces with mind towards how people will use the building.  He affirmed a lot of the ideas and plans we already had and affirmed what had to be taken care of first (the foundation and the beams) and the rest would fall into place.  He did tell us to get as much weight out of the building as possible and when we said we had removed about four tons of debris already, he had a big smile on his face.  Then he gave us a very sage piece of advice when he said..."working with old buildings like this, don't worry about getting the building square or perfect cause you will drive yourself crazy.  Do what the building will allow you to do to make it stable and leave it there."  This drives my perfectionist husband a bit crazy!  He also told us to take out the wooden room as the ceiling was sagging. He said that we should just take the building down to the studs since there wasn't anything historic left about the place.  
That made me sad, but knowing it's true.  We will number the boards and store them and decide if we want to put them back after getting all the electrical and insulating done.

We then went back to tearing out the stairs so we could leave the building knowing we made some more progress.  These are the steep, dangerous stairs from the second to the third floor.  I can't believe that they've been there for so long and were only attached to the floor above by one nail!
In the photo below, you can see the stairs in the very right of the photo behind that last section of sheet rock and lathing.
 Here is the scary photo of the stairs from the other side.  this whole heavy box of stairs is held to the third floor by one nail.  
with the wall part way down.  We decide to deconstruct the stairs board by board so it won't be as heavy when it comes down.  

and it comes down!

Yay, more light and we can really get a sense of the size of the space...1250 square feet with 8 windows.  Notice our temporary support beams to hold the third floor up!
 Lots of space!  We are holding out on taking those last two walls out on the right, because that is our tool storage area.

Project done. Time to go home!

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