Tuesday, April 30, 2013

In which not much happens.....except for concrete removal

Other work and family obligations have kept us from Slum and Blight for the weekend.  I spent 21 hours in the car over the last four days, driving to Portland twice and to New York and back.  Greg has been busy with a benefit fashion show going on in Rockland on May 11th.  We met with the city planners on Thursday morning about the barn coming down and so we are now slated to go before the Belfast beautification committee to get approval to take the barn down.  The city planners codified some of the questions we had about a few things, so we are raring to go again.  Yesterday and today will find us back at the building, moving our broken up concrete out of the basement.
We made good progress yesterday and got about half of the space shoveled out.  We are going to try and dig down as far as we can in places as the front of the basement has a foot less headroom than the rear of the basement.  Our favorite contractor is going to bring over his excavator to help with the bigger pieces of concrete...he can reach in about 10 feet to get the stuff out, so we cleared the rest yesterday.

As an aside, my renovation fitness regime must be working as I have never felt this old and tired in my life!  Greg also complimented me on my legs the other day...which hasn't happened in years!

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

In which we continue to pull up concrete

As I lie here in bed taking stock of my sore muscles and scrolling through the photos from yesterday's concrete-breaking fest, I am heartened by how much progress the two of us make in a day, doing this work by hand.

We had our favorite neighbor stop by yesterday to check on our progress and she looked in and exclaimed "Are you two doing all this by yourselves?"  Just the two of us, a pick axe and a pry bar!  
For me it is like cooking...I like to hand beat and hand chop.  I don't like the noise of machines and my back certainly could not take the constant hammering of a jack hammer.  

So, as Greg puts it...we are pick-axing mother f*#@ers!

The whole basement space took us about one full work day, spread over two days, with the help of our favorite contractor.  We had to leave the floor under the furnace for now, but plan to disconnect that soon in favor of a gas heating system.  
I got stuck working in the area under the building where there happened to be three friggin' layers of cement.  The top layer was about 2-3" thick in places, the middle layer was only about an inch thick and then the underlayer...shown above in brown, was another 3" thick!  We think it may have capped off a water cistern or something else because the whole section is rimmed with a short brick wall covered over in concrete.  While Greg was madly breaking up the floor in his section, I was breaking up sections and then repeating the same, twice over.  It was kind of a frustratingly cruel joke.  

Now of course, we have to remove the broken pieces

Monday, April 22, 2013

In which we get confirmation of what we kind of knew in the back of our minds

It is official, the barn must be demolished

In order to comply with  building codes and fire codes and everything else, we would have to throw so much money at this deteriorating structure that it does not make sense to keep it.  This has always been one of the possibilities in the back of our minds, but the structural engineer confirmed it, as did our favorite contractor and our favorite architects.  It has taken several days to wrap our minds around it, and now we have...and we are cool with that.  But we will be sorry to see it go.

Many new ideas have emerged. Can't wait to explore some new possibilities!

Saturday, April 20, 2013

In which we have come to a difficult decision

We had some overwhelming news last week that kind of threw us for a loop, even though it had always been in the back of our minds.  We met with a structural engineer who spent two hours going through the buildings with us and really explaining about what beams needed to be where and what projects should be prioritized.  We will continue on with the foundation work for now.  Our engineer did give us a lot to think about.  We took the rest of the day off to recover from what he said and then decided today that we should just get in the car and drive and chat about it.  We ended up on the beach in Deer Isle trying to lure the dog to the water's edge.  No good! 
What was good though was the epiphany we both had.  It now seems that we have agreed on the major  plan for the building, which is somewhat different than it was last week. But, our plan has solidified, and the mantra that we should all be using applies here:  Simplify, simplify, simplify.  We need to speak with a few more people and with the town first before we do anything.  

Will be back soon with news.

Friday, April 19, 2013

In which my arms feel like rubber and Greg says "This was a blog worthy day"


6:30 am and I can't get the tinglies out of my arms this morning.  My wrists hurt, the back of my legs are tight, tight, tight, and the rest of me is tired.  I spent all of yesterday under the building chopping out sections of a really poorly poured concrete floor.  Sections around the walls where moisture was getting in were mere centimeters thick, other sections were at least 3 inches.  Right before stopping for the day we found a section of floor that was three different layers of concrete.  
I was in bed asleep by 8:15.  

I spent all morning yesterday working on a section of the floor that not even three of us could break up by the late afternoon.  I had the bright idea after and hour or so of working on that section to go onto another area to make sure I wasn't doing something wrong....I broke up more floor in 45 minutes than I had all morning!!  I used a 5 foot long metal bar, either smashing straight down repeatedly to create cracks in the floor, or using it as a crowbar and pulling up the cracked sections.  Needless to say, going to the gym in the next few weeks would be a needless task.  

We are saving ourselves money by using the broken bits of floor as fill out off the edge of the parking lot.  We have enough room out back to make perhaps three or more parking spaces.  This stuff is $90 a ton to dispose of in a landfill, so we figured we'd save about $1000 by filling in our own land.  

Right as I was beginning to fade and think of quitting for the day, our favorite contractor came by at 3:00 with a concrete saw and said he could help us for a while....shit, I thought,  just as I was day dreaming of a nice hot shower and an advil cocktail.  We got back to it and Greg joined in and the three of us made good progress...about a third of the floor is at least broken up.

Here we see our favorite contractor working on the section that I couldn't break up by myself.  He could hardly get through it with the saw, so the three of us heaved and hoed and worked it until the frigging section moved a bit.  We'll get the excavator to come in and pull it out.  

Greg, swinging his trusty pick-axe.  I prefer the long crowbar approach myself.  Note that he is not wearing his steel toed boots...Tsk Tsk Greg.

In other news, we have new stairs!  Greg made a good set of stairs to replace the steep and narrow set that went up to the second floor.  Note his new table saw under the chop saw in the foreground.
We have now decamped back down to the barn where Greg has set up a nice "break area" for Miss Mae and ourselves.  The dog has her own chair and is quite comfortable being the junk yard dog.  Her tired was hangin' out last night as well.  We got home and she immediately had dinner and then went to sleep in her chair...didn't move a muscle until bedtime.  

Meeting with the structural engineer today.  That should be interesting.  

Thursday, April 18, 2013

In which I pull up a tiny piece of concrete and it weighs a lot!

 I have arrived at the much dreaded task of pulling up the floor in the basement.  With my trusty crowbar and hammer, I pulled up a 50 lb section of floor that measures about 2 feet by 1 foot and is, unfortunately, 4" thick.  Needless to say, I exhausted my back with that one feat of strength and I had to call it quits until I get the proper tools, ie back brace and knee pads.  Our favorite contractor is coming over soon with his concrete saw, which should be a good time!

I am hoping that the floor is not as thick at the front of the building where the granite ledge is.  We will try and use the flooring bits as fill out back rather than try and dispose of them for $90 a ton.  We have just filled our fourth dumpster with old wood and plaster bits with each weighing an average of 2.5 tons a piece...meaning that we have removed about 10 tons of material from the building already.  

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

In which we start on the basement and there is more CARDBOARD!

Yesterday we met with our favorite contractor and our new favorite foundation guy who told us we should start prepping the basement for work.  The foundation of the main building is first on the list of major projects for the building because we can just go "up" from there.  Luckily, most of the foundation seems to be in good enough shape...at least good enough to have minimal work done.  As the Foundation man said...Dunno what we are going to find here, might as well have your favorite contractor start to play and see what happens.  That has been and will be our mantra with this building!

So, I started on the dark and scary basement.....we hope to get a 1000 square foot rentable space out of this dank and musty cardboard filled dungeon.

This is a view to the front of the building with the original 1860s foundation walls at the front and to the left side.  We will have to pour a couple of steel reinforced supports for the wall to the left to keep it from moving.  At least one of the beams you see holding up the building will have to be replaced.  We are hoping to get away with a steel I-beam and two rather than three support posts.  We are not sure how much headroom we can get at the front of the building, because it sits on a granite ledge (the major reason the foundation hasn't moved much...thank you Mother Nature!) and we won't be able to dig down further than the ledge to get more room.  

 This cardboard and plywood wall fronts on Federal street and is about to go.  Once we get rid of this, the basement will be open to the elements, so I will tear out the cardboard and plastic, while leaving the plywood until we disconnect the furnace, which is directly behind me in this photo.  

Oh Joy!

The original stone soft red brick wall that holds the building up.  Lovely town sewer pipe too.  

After working for a while, I decided to break out and let the light and ventilation shine through!  I was later chastised for this.  

This is approximately where the new shop door will go and what the visibility will be for the business that rents the space.  

 Straight shot to lower Main Street.  An easy walk to Rollies Bar after work!

and of course the ever present view of the bay from the front door.  Think of all the tourist traffic coming from the docked cruise ships during summer months. This will be one of the first shop stops on the way up the hill from the harbor.  

This is my favorite shot of the space because it reeks of possibilities.  The shop will open up on Federal Street here, and also onto the back parking lot, giving us a double whammie of possible foot traffic and places to park for customers.  Of course, the door will line up with the new window above and there will be at least two more windows aligned under the same above, giving the space a lot of light.  This view is taken from Main Street and so whatever  business eventually rents the space will have great visibility.  We hope to have this particular space available by August.  

Friday, April 12, 2013

In which I remember projects past

We have spent the last several days cleaning up errant plaster and dirt from the nooks and crannies of the second floor at Slum and Blight.  It is back breaking, monotonus, and time consuming, but this is where we save our money.  I have been getting the shop vac into tiny little spaces to suck up whatever debris is there and Greg has been taking out nails from the rafters and the studs. The floors are coated with at least a 1/4 inch of grey dust, and staples, and small pieces of cardboard...  We have an electrician and a foundation guy coming on Tuesday to have a look at the ole girl, so things are afoot!

I sat down the other day and started to go through old photos of renovations past and so I thought I would share some highlights.

These are from the first renovation project, Little Bohemia, a 1907 Arts and Crafts cottage located in Bayside Village about 3 miles from where I sit now. Here is the house in about 1910.  about four of the birch trees still survive.

 I had always coveted this property and when I heard the price dropped on the place, I snatched it up.  We rent it out now, but the old girl is on the market....time for someone else to love her.  

This is the family room before photo.  Why mint green??  Awful color. I think I wouldn't want to be in this house alone.  The walls in this room were so rotted out with mold that I literally ripped one whole wall out in one piece and walked out the door with it. In 2006, they were renting this sad house for $600 a week.  I get double that now. 

Homosote walls and rotted wooden floors

We took the room right down to the old boulder foundation, and then dug down three feet.  (I say we, but I didn't do the digging)

We also decided to open up the kitchen to the the family room, making the whole downstairs more open and light filled.  It was the single best decision we made for that project. 

The room turned out bright and sunny...it still has an "underground" feet to it, but it is now open to the kitchen (where I am standing taking the photo) and has a nice porcelain tile floor and bead board everywhere.   Note the bookcase where the TV is.  That is part of something we removed from the house that is pictured in another photo in this entry.....can you guess what we repurposed...or mor accurately, what Greg's nephew repurposed when he was here.  (He also made a nice small cabinet too!.

Here is a view of the room from the "renovated" kitchen.  The counter tops are figured birch plywood and have worked great so far!  See what I mean about opening up the kitchen?

This was the guest bedroom when we bought the house.  Though the bunks were fun to look at, they were not original to the house and really tied our hands as to how to rent the place.  Plus, the bunks blocked the window!  Out they came!

The walls were finished and painted behind the beds, so we knew they were not originally there.  

I painted the room a bright peach color with white trim and made the decor a bit folky.  This is my favorite room in the house now.

Oh the horrors of the bathroom!  Ewww

It took me a long time to get up this nailed and glued down floor!  
The toilet was the first thing one saw when one walked into the bath.  The next was its stink pipe!

This was Greg's first slate floor job.  It helps to have a design background and about double the time needed to put a  floor down.

Notice that we switched the sink and the toilet positions

We have also added a new roof, lots of new paint and some vintage wicker and needleworks that I found various places.  I also has a burst of mission furniture collecting and that is all in this house too. 

Enough for the day, back to cleaning!

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

In which we finish the gutting of the second floor, get another visitor, and do some Spring cleaning.

Gutting of the walls and ceiling on the second floor is finally done!  Now we just have to clean up the plaster bits and the dust and move on.  We now know every inch of the second floor space and have great satisfaction in knowing that the space is almost ready for renovation rather than removal.  We did find some areas of dry rot, but not too bad.  You can see it the right of the door in the photograph below.  The studs and surrounding boards are all in need of a bit of propping up.

We had another visitor today, this of the canine variety.  Miss Mae came to spend the afternoon.  I don't think she like all the dust, and having to make her bed outside in the barn.

It was a gorgeous Spring day yesterday and one that I didn't want to waste upstairs in dust all day, so I got to the building early and performed my Spring cleaning dance in the downstairs of the barn.  Since I hadn't spent too much time in the barn since it was vacated last week, I haven't really felt connected to it.  It was simply a pass through space to get to work...and a dusty and dirty one at that.  Someone else's mess there meant that the space wasn't ours yet.  It might seem quite pointless to sweep a dirt floor, but it worked wonders for my mental state!  I even uncovered the large window that opens up to Cross Street, and let me tell you, that extra light is astounding.

We've gone from this:

To this:

To this:

and it makes me feel so much better about the space...took me about an hour to sweep the dirt from the floor and chuck out all the debris, but for some reason, just doing that made me feel less overwhelmed by the space and even a bit proud of it.  Of course now the floor has to come out and new support beams put in place, new windows, get rid of the doors, perhaps a raised floor for one of the spaces.  We have about 1500 square feet to play with here. One thought is to divide the space in two and raise the floor about four feet on the side of the barn that faces Cross Street to the height of the window in the corner. and make one long retail space there and then have two other spaces that open out to the parking lot  in back with a deck that overlooks the water.  The space under the raised floor could hold all the heating and plumbing and electrical for the building, thus saving us some valuable space.

The red wall you see is a very well poured cement foundation wall....I am thankful for the little things that work!