So.  The place is ours now, and all the planning we have done in our heads must become work done with our hands.  Priority number one is in fact not the roof (which is now temporarily patched with painted plywood and catch bins placed under small leaks), but the power service.  Work on the roof will be much easier once we have electricity.  The problem is that the Buffalo Fire Department also cut the power lines leading from the pole to the house as part of their training, and seem to have removed the breaker boxes as well.  So we are starting from the backyard, where the pole is.  Fortunately, we have an electrician we trust, so no nightmares expected.  Having lights, running power tools and heating water for hot cocoa will improve conditions inside the house immeasurably.

Since the weather seems to have come on strong days after our closing, the roof may have to wait until the spring.  Fact is, there are no finished spaces in the house, so the roof issues are mainly in keeping framing and electrical dry during the demolition phase.  The plywood and catch buckets are working for now, and I hardly want to be on a roof during this time of year.  In fact, I would prefer my roofing crew to be nice and dry and comfortable, so they can do a thorough job and not a rush job.  Timing is everything.

Speaking of demolition phases, it turns out that the plaster in this house is in bad shape.  You are not surprised.  But even worse than water damage are the years of neglect and shoddy repairs.  Just about every wall in this house is covered in layer upon layer of wallpaper that was then painted over.  With the continual changes in heat and humidity, that paper is peeling all over.  To get down to something that is worth finishing would require hours and hours of scraping, scraping, scraping.  And then removing the myriad sloppy patches to the plaster, and then doing proper, smooth patches.  And there are a lot of walls in this house.  Meanwhile, we are going to insulate this house; code and common sense require it.  Add to that the other building systems that need to be redone and the conclusion I come to is that most of the plaster, especially exterior walls, will have to come down.  I would prefer to leave it, no only because that would mean less dusty, heavy work, but also because it represents a large commitment of human and material resources expended by those who went before us and I think that is worth preserving whenever it makes sense.  Nevertheless, it must go, so if anyone has use for old wood lath just let me know.  A. and I now own plenty.

Bad plaster.

Planning for demo means planning for removal, and with the amount of debris we will have a dumpster is the way to go.  The beauty of dumpsters is that they drop off a big metal box, you fill it, and then it goes away.  Hauling trash to the transfer station yourself could potentially save a buck, but once you factor in the logistical challenges (timing, vehicles, etc.), the extra time it takes and the extra strain on your back, then for large amounts the dumpster is my choice.

But to get a dumpster next to the house (we own the lot next door as well, for just this sort of reason), we need a proper driveway.  We are lucky that there is a large driveway approach leading into our lot (leftover from the house that used to be there), but it leads into wet, sloppy clay at the moment.  We need something that a truck can drive on without getting stuck.  So first we need to get some stone down there.  We will go with recycled (crushed) concrete, which is mostly the stone aggregate from concrete with little bits of crushed cement mixed in.  Works well for this sort of thing, promotes reuse of concrete instead of filling up landfills, and is cheap at $15.50 a ton for 1″ crusher run, which is to say  screened so that no pieces are larger than about 1″.  Now it is just a matter of wrangling a truck and dump trailer to get the stuff from the gravel yard to our yard.  But only after we get a break in the weather.  That’s “order of operations.”

Lots to do, and none of it is the “put on a roof and paint the place” stuff that would really look great on the block.  We will get there, someday.


7 thoughts on “Beginning

  1. Great. When you get to the insulation, please look seriously at sprayed in foam. There is a serious cost here, but we believe it is a great way to go. Over the years we have used glass fiber, (cheap, and easy to instal.) When we service these houses years later. We often find that the glass has settled, or become compromised in other ways. Also the NEW electrical codes are a bitch. You are gonna need a large (many slots) main panel, or sub feed smaller panels.

    • Good point on the spray foam. We’ve talked to a few folks who have went that way and they have been very happy with it. And since we’re gutting the place anyway, this will be the time to do it.

    • Thanks for the suggestion; MRT’s radiant floor system seems to have a lot of advantages. For us, that would have to be a ten or twenty year goal. The house we bought was retrofitted with forced air sometime in the last fifty years and that is the one building system that is mostly intact. For budget reasons, we will probably have to stick with forced air for a while. But radiant floor is something to look forward to someday, even just for the improved air quality.

  2. What a beautiful house! I was actually just notified of your post because I’m an artist in Brooklyn who builds furniture from reclaimed plaster lath. And I’m always looking for more! It occurred to me that perhaps you would be willing to toss some in the back of my truck instead of in the dumpster? I would be more than willing to drive up there, and even lend a hand pulling it out if you would accept some help! I know you mentioned that a lot of it is water damaged, but if there are any wall that are not Id happily come save you some dumpster space 🙂

    Here’s my website so you can get an idea of what I do. I would also happily make you guys a little wall panel out of the wood from your house as an exchange!

    Feel free to email me:

    Thanks so much! ~ Ariele

  3. god bless you and the work you are doing with that house. i wish you the best of luck and think you’re doing a great service to the community of Buffalo.

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