Monday, December 13, 2010

Reconfiguring the Duplex

One of the first things we wanted to change about the house is the front facade.  The second front door that was added to change the house into a duplex, and that really took away from the curb appeal of the house.

 Before: note the two front doors.

There was a window that we found in the house that was a precise match to the downstairs windows.  So we replaced the second front door with that window.

After: only the center front door remains.  The original facade of the house is restored.  Some cracked and water damaged siding was replaced on the front as well.

 We plan to keep the house as a duplex due to its large size, but we will re-organize the floor plan.  One part of the duplex will use the front entrance, and the other apartment will use the back entrance.  Luckily, the house has both front and back stairways, so this allows us to split it up in this way.

The back stairs are very narrow, and their ceiling height was only 5'7".  Because this is a historic house, the stairs are grandfathered and can be used as is.  However, we chose to increase the ceiling height to meet modern code requirements.  After several people have hit their heads on the ceiling going down the stairs, we decided this just needed to be done.

Before: the ceiling is low in the stairway.  

 After: the ceiling was cut back to meet the modern code requirements.  Note the new railing that was added to match the original.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Preparing For Heating/Air Conditioning

The house has no air conditioning or heat.  It was heated with space heaters and air conditioned using window units. This means that there are not ducts in the house.  We plan to add central heat and air, so this means the all new duct work will need to be added, as well as air returns.

We investigated various heating/air conditioning options to try to minimize the number of ducts needed and to minimize the space lost due to adding ducts.  We looked at using mini-split heat pump units which are completely ductless. We originally favored this option because it allows you to adjust the temperatures separately for every room thus saving energy.  But we decided against this option.  We received some negative feedback which indicated that it was very difficult to find experienced technicians who could install these units correctly.  The failure rate of these units if very high if they are not installed properly; they also have more failure points than the traditional HVAC system.  We also looked at using small duct systems including Unico and SpacePak, but we found these systems to be very expensive.  So their cost prohibited us from using them.  

In the end, we decided to go with a traditional HVAC system.  So we knew that we would have to come up with a location where the ducts and returns could go from the attic to downstairs.  So we decided to give up a portion of the upstairs kitchen.  That unit is smaller, so the kitchen could also be smaller.

Raceway from attic to the bottom of the house was created to run the ducts and returns.

We also needed to find a place for the outdoor HVAC units.  The house still had the original brick walls that were previously used to hold up a cistern.  The cistern was no longer there, but the brick walls remained.  We decided to repoint the old bricks and then build a platform on top of them for the HVAC units.  The other option would have been to knock down the old brick walls,and place the units in their place, but we wanted to keep the old historic brick walls.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

After the house is gutted...

The house looks really different with all of the wood paneling and drywall gone. All of the walls are made of interlocking solid wood pieces (shiplap). This old-fashioned building technique adds to the overall strength of the structure.

Removing the 8 foot ceilings exposed the original 11 foot ceilings upstairs.  All of the ceilings upstairs are now 11 foot ceilings.

The old chimney was removed to make more space for a new Jack and Jill bathroom upstairs.  The chimney was no longer functional and was no longer connected to the roof from a previous remodel, so removing it did not take away any functionality.

The window in the upstairs hallway was once a door.  This shows that this house once had a second floor porch/balcony.  Before the house was raised, this was probably the front door.

The downstairs is shiplap is different from the upstairs; this again shows that the downstairs was added after upstairs.  Every room upstairs has tall ceilings now. The downstairs ceilings are still 8 feet tall, since that is the original ceiling height of when the house was raised and the first floor was added.

Here is the downstairs dining room.  Note the ceiling beam which is where the two houses were joined together.  We will turn this dining room into the new kitchen, since it is much larger than the original tiny kitchen.  The original kitchen will be turned into a laundry room.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Termite Damage

We felt our wood floor was feeling pretty soft in some places, so we decided to pull it up to see what was happening.  We found live termites under our wood floor!

Termites eating the wood floor.

Termite damage in the upstairs kitchen.

Next we discovered termites were eating a structural beam in the bathroom.  It was time to call in the exterminator.

More structural termite damage

The exterminator treated the entire house for termites and identified our termites as Formosan termites.  This is the worst kind of termite because it eats wood so quickly. Formosan termites can do major structural damage in a house in just months.

As the workers started doing the demolition, they also found much more termite damage.  The upstairs bathroom floor and floor joists were so damaged that they could have collapsed.  The entire floor and floor joists must be replaced.

Upstairs bathroom with floor removed.

With everything this house has gone through in its years, nothing did more damage than the termites.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Uncovering the Past

While cleaning and doing some initial demolition, we uncovered some interesting things about the house.  Based on the structural members, it is obvious that the house is made of two rectangular houses which were attached to each other to form one L shaped house.

In addition, the two houses were one story houses originally.  After the houses were attached together to form one larger house, the house was raised and a bottom floor was added.  Based on the city records and drawings, the house was raised sometime in the early 1900s.  We are trying to find some old pictures of our house in the city records, but so far no luck.

You can tell the the downstairs windows are different from the upstairs windows.  When the house was raised and the bottom floor was added, they used different windows. The older windows have smaller panes of glass.

The ceilings upstairs were 8 foot ceilings. We demolished the ceiling of one room and uncovered 11 foot ceilings upstairs.

We uncovered some cute old wallpaper under the drywall in the upstairs bathroom.

The upstairs and downstairs hallways in the back of the house were once porches, and the back stairs were once outside. 

We uncovered old newspaper clippings glued to the inside walls under the drywall.  This newspaper article discusses Prohibition.

More Before Pictures...

Here are some more before pictures to show the extend of the damage and what needs to be done.

Termite damaged wall and floor in the dining room. And yes, that is a vine growing inside of the building.

Upstairs hallway - short ceilings and wood paneling everywhere.

Downstairs bathroom is mostly gutted.

Downstairs bathroom - you can see through the wall cracks to the outside.

Upstairs bedroom - short ceilings, wood paneling, and moldy ceiling from previous roof leak.

Upstairs bathroom - the ceiling collapsed due to roof leak and termite damage.

Damaged ceiling in bathroom - up close.

We hope there is no structural damage from the termites, but its not looking good.  We won't be able to tell the extent of the damage until everything is fully gutted and the walls are opened.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The Before

The house had multiple broken windows and had been vacant for an unknown period of time.  Birds resided in the house and made quite a mess.  It looked like squatters may have lived in the attic at some point too; there were lots of old mattresses up there for make shift living quarters.  The house was partially gutted and was in desperate need of cleaning and renovations.

The wood floors were badly in need of cleaning and are termite damaged.

Old fashioned bathroom upstairs.

The house was divided into a duplex at some point approximately in the 1950's or 60's. The house was remodeled with wood paneling, ceiling tiles, and a wall was added at the front stairway to subdivide the entrance.

A second front door was added for the second apartment's entrance - not very attractive.

Outdated upstairs kitchen.