Building a Bedroom

For the last couple weeks, the major project has been the two bedrooms and bathroom that make up the front half of the second floor.  For the time being, the plan is to finish the front half of the house and leave the back rough.  As two people we do not need anymore space than that right now.  We also need to turn our focus from working on the house to working on making a living; both of us are starting big projects this coming year.  So the back half of the house will remain a framed box, which will also give us the opportunity to plan the next phases thoroughly.  Working without a rush is nice.  Of course, we still have to finish up the exterior painting and repair the porch this summer.  It never really stops.

Here are some photos of the second floor.  I, with help from friends, have insulated with fiberglass batts between the exterior wall studs.  Half inch polyisocyanurate foam boards with foil facing are over the face of the studs, to provide additional insulation and insulate between the wall studs and the drywall.  That’s called a thermal break, because it hinders the travel of heat from the inside of the house to the outside, through the framing.  That type of direct contact heat travel is called conduction.  The foil face is to provide a vapor barrier and to reflect heat back into the room.  Before the drywall goes up, all of the seams will be taped with a foil tape as well.  Polyiso foam has a good R value (resistance to heat travel) per inch of thickness, but it has had issues in the past with shrinkage over time.  That’s no fun.  Hopefully the manufacturers have worked on that, but it is still a good idea to tape seams for air sealing and to create a continuous vapor barrier.  I often use fiberglass batts with kraft paper facing behind the foam, because the paper holds the fiberglass in place and prevents slumping over time.  I put a slash in the paper facing every two or three inches, so any moisture that gets trapped between the facing and foam board has a way to get out.  That’s the theory, anyway.

The photo below is of the front bedroom.  The room off to the left is the bathroom.Image

Looking from the front bedroom toward the stairs and hall.  The pocket doors to the left will open into a walk-in closet, which was my solution for keeping the pocket doors but not having them travel between two bedrooms.  I am a simple man; I prefer bedrooms that open into halls, not other bedrooms.Image

Looking down the hall, toward the stairs.  The yellow is the curved plasterwork that we left in place.  It is the most worthy plaster in the house, so I will attempt a repair instead of starting from scratch.  In the ceiling is R-19 fiberglass between 2×6 ceiling joists.  The attic is walkable and has a floor, but was not built to be a dance hall.  It makes for good storage right now, though it would be neat to someday take advantage of the view of Lake Erie that can be had from the one west-facing window.Image

And here the back half of the second floor waits, dreaming.  Note the new plywood visible between the “barn wood” or skip sheathing.  And the lack of sunlight pouring in.  These are good things.Image



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.