Fun reminder–as I discovered while working on the living room–with a house like this, you don’t really get to go room by room, but you kind of work on all of them at once and nothing ever gets finished and everything gets dirtier and more covered with plaster dust, hahah.
But that’s okay! As we approach our August 29th moving date (yikes), we finally have a couple finished rooms, and I get to share one of them now: the bedroom! Yes, that’s right, when we move in at the end of this week we will have a place to sleep. Thank god.
Compared to some of the other rooms in the house, this one really wasn’t so bad to start with. Like it wasn’t great, and don’t get me wrong, it was full of old dirt and peeling walls, but you know, it wasn’t actively rotting or anything. So it wasn’t so bad.
Rio still had some walls to patch, though! Here’s some fun progression photos.
Naturally, like all older houses, the room had a weird “3-different-shades-of-off-white” issue, so we went with ONE shade of off-white in the re-paint and added green accents because we already had green paint from the living room downstairs.
This changed the room a lot, I think! And also…. I had to draw attention to that view out the window. So dreamy.
I love the difference between these last two photos! The green walls and white accents were my idea (and a calculated risk), but I think it brings a lot more life to the room.
When my brother came to visit, he let me know immediately that he is *not* a fan of the color, hahaha, but I kinda like it. It’s sage not slime. Oooor perhaps it is a slime green and Rio and I just happen to like slime.
And with that, we’re ready to move in (to this room)! Our final step today was to get a rug, because unfortunately, this floor is…. not very pretty. But we have to move in now so we figured … let’s just cover it up.
Oh, and we got a window AC unit because…. MA summer, haha. Gotta keep at least one room from being a wretched swamp hell.
As always, thanks for tuning in (and for still bothering to check in on us, since we update, like, monthly).
I’m going to tag along with Megan’s quick post about the floor and do a short one on “The Wall.” This particular project was one of the biggest unknowns we had to tackle. It was a clearly rotten wall, but the big question was, “what is causing the rot?”
Rot is a tricky beast, and the numerous Youtube videos I watched preparing for this project reaffirmed that belief. The big issue with rot is identifying the moisture source. It doesn’t matter how much repair work you do, unless you cut off the source of moisture, the rot will continue to grow. With this particular wall, there were two possible sources for the water: the window, or the siding. Basically, either water was coming in through the window panes, or leeching directly through the wall. The window would obviously be the more desirable of these options, but either one is problematic.
This is the wall under the window. You can see the white streaks under where the paint has peeled away. This is the fungus that’s working its way through the wall. The paint has almost completely disconnected from the wall due mostly to the moisture. When I tried poking at the wall with an awl I was able to easily push the tip 1″ or more into the wood in several places. In some cases is slipped in up to the handle with little resistance. So, it’s in pretty bad shape, but here’s where the historical side of this whole project starts to play a roll. Usually, I would tear into this wall, determine how deep and wide the rotten wood extended, and rip out everything compromised by the water damage. Then I’d replace the missing wall with new construction and clean it up from there. But due to the historical nature of this building, I’m really not supposed to pull and trash a 300 year old board used in the original construction. So whatever the cause, however extensive the damage, I have to practice the gospel of Repair vs. Replace.
So as I mentioned, the first step was to determine where the water was getting in. We started and ended by having Megan spray the window with a hose. We found out immediately that of the 20 panes of glass in the window, every single one of them leaked on at least 2 sides. The result was water absolutely POURING down the inside of the glass. That pretty much answered my questions on where the water source was!
Reglazing the window actually took the longest out of any step in this project, but it’s not particularly interesting so I’ll just hit a few bullet points. Point one: Old glazing putty dries like fucking concrete. Point 2: We used reproduction single pane glass, made in the historical side, for pieces that had cracks. Point 3: It took about a day and a half to get the 20 panes removed, scraped clean, replaced and reglazed. Not quick, but a quick spray with the hose told me we did a good enough job to hopefully stop the rot from spreading
“The Wall” was a comparatively quick repair, but more interesting in my opinion. We used a process I’d never practiced before which involved locking the rotten wood in place with epoxy. It’s an old boat builders trick that allows them to fill and repair rot and beetle damage without removing and replacing portions of their boat. Essentially, you drill a series of holes into the rotten wood and then use them to pour in epoxy, saturating the wood until it essentially can’t hold any more. Once the epoxy dries, you can sand down and bumps or lumps on the outside and repaint the wall like normal. It essentially locks the wood in place preventing it from crumbling or breaking away. Assuming that you found the moisture source and prevent the rot from growing, the epoxy will keep the existing wood in place and solid. Pretty neat!
Here’s some pictures during the process that illustrate what we did. I ended up dumping the better part of a quart of epoxy into this wall, but by the end, the sound it made when I knocked on the wall had changed from sounding like a drum head, to something more kin to concrete. I took that as a good indicator. And here’s the final picture after we got it all painted up!
As with all of these projects, we will need to keep an eye on them and make sure the repair sticks. This will be no exception and we will have to be diligent making sure that the window repair took and remains sealed, and that there is no indication of water seeping through the siding. Fingers crossed that it keeps looking as good as it does now!
Here’s a quick slide show of all the progress pictures from this saga.
Tune in next time for more exciting before and after pictures!
Hi everyone, and welcome to our shortest update yet.
I think my last post pretty much explained everything that needs to be known about the living room, but I had to share the final before/after photos of the living room, because after 2 days and 3 coats of floor finish, we have preserved the old floorboards AND created a room where I feel safe walking barefoot. Woo! Celebration time!
The ONLY things we have left to do in here is match the ceiling beam color to the floorboards and some window touch ups, and this room is ready to be lived in!
Hi everyone! Sorry for the looooong delay–I wanted to save posts for once we’d actually FINISHED a project, but everything is taking longer than expected. (Well…. okay, longer than *I* expected. According to Rio’s much more experienced timeline, we’re doing just fine.)
Really, the issue is that it turns out that when you’re working on an ongoing project like a house restoration, you end up starting several projects at the same time and working on them simultaneously. Each one gets a little closer to finished, but none of them have a neat satisfying ending that allows us to move on to the next project.
To explain: the first part of the house we decided to tackle is living room. This took half of May and the entire month of June! Ultimately, the whole living room required a series of lengthy tasks (as explained by Rio in a previous post), but I tried to divide today’s explication into floors, ceiling, and then walls.
Here’s the living room as it looked on my first tour. To put it nicely…. it’s a cave.
But also, this is an old, old house, so the floor has decades (if not a whole century) of wear on it, so we decided that the first thing we should do is sand the fading varnish off the floor.
The added bonus for this is that we can stain it a lighter color, since this dark greatly contributes to the cave-like vibe of the room.
So, we rented a power sander, got suited up in our plastic work suits, and got to work!
Honestly, sanding the floor was the quickest task. We had a four hour rental, and we sanded that whole floor in 3 and a half hours. It still needs some hand sanding in a few hard-to-reach places, and we’ll still have to re-stain and varnish it, but before that, we moved onto the painting.
As I’ve mentioned (and will mention again and again) the living room was a bit of a nightmare. In addition to an incredibly ugly paint job, we also had to address some lead paint, a peeling ceiling, and a giant rotting section of the wall under the window.
I’ll let Rio write about the window repair since that was his project. The painting, however, we handled together.
Part #1: The Ceiling.
My parents were visiting, so naturally, instead of doing fun things like going to the beach, we spent at least three days scraping several decades of peeling paint off the ceiling.
Also, shout out to Mom & Dad–they were VERY thorough. The worst part of about this old paint is that you can technically chip away at it forever, but eventually we had to move on.
Here’s where we landed. SO MUCH PAINT scraped off the ceiling!!
Next up, we needed to coat the walls with a lead-blocker/sealant primer.
We would have needed to prime anyway to cover the horrible dark olive pain on the trim and cabinets, but the lead-blocker helps us feel a lot more confident about, you know, not getting lead poisoning.
We also painted the sealing with a different sealant that basically just glued the chipping paint in place.
Here’s the priming process:
Following the several-days-long priming process, we got to work on the actual painting.
Rio started a number additional projects during this time because it took us, ugh, several weeks to choose our paint colors. We wanted a semi-traditional looking sage color and in the process of fining one we didn’t outright hate, we collected 30 paint strips and tried a good 5 samples. Do I 100% love the color we ended up with? Uh…… it’s fine. It looks nice. Ultimately we just had to move on.
Also once the paint actually gets on the wall, you kind of like it just because at least SOMETHING is there.
We *almost* didn’t choose this nice shade of white because the creep who named the paint color called it “mayonnaise” which totally nauseated us both, but it’s the only warm white we could find so we went with it anyway.
So, with that, here’s the part of the blog everyone is waiting for: comparison photos!
And that’s the living room–for now.
Next up, we have some work to do in the kitchen and bathroom, but then we’ll make our way back into the living room to stain and varnish the floor, fix the wooden ceiling beams, and figure out the best place for a standing lamp.
In the meantime, thanks again for tuning in!
Hope to be back in the next two weeks with more exciting ghost house updates!
Ok! I’m back to bring you the first installment in a new series I’m calling: “Holy S**t There’s A Lot To Do!”
On this week’s episode I will give you an overview of the projects and work needed on the PB House. This list is, in part, derived from my initial walkthrough of the house from back before we committed to moving in and it’s broken up into a room-by-room analysis of the work that needs to be done. This walkthrough resulted in 6 pages of bullet points that I will supplement with pictures and some extra details. For me, this the meat of a project like this. I LOVE diving in and analyzing and getting a game plan, and I can talk about plans and schemes all day! If you don’t enjoy woodworkers talking about woodworking, or DIY-ers talking about the challenge they ran into and the clever solution they came up with, then you likely won’t find much joy in this episode. But if you, like me, are fascinated by just how dirty, screwy, complicated, bizarre, out of square, cracked, peeling, sticky, bumpy and funky a 300+ year old house can be, then strap in and enjoy!
The first stop on our tour is the kitchen. Out of 3 possible doors into our section of this old house, ostensibly the “Main Door” leads into the kitchen. This portion of the house is actually the newest, though it’s not known when exactly it was added. It is well known that the original house did not include this room, nor the adjacent dining room, but the oldest existing picture of the house, dating back to 1866, does include it. So we know it’s at least that old. Any other information on this addition seems absent from the public record and so it’s up to us to speculate on when it could have been added. My only input in this regard is that it must have been built in a time when people measured closer to 4ft tall than 6ft, because the “front door” comes in at a whopping 5′ 4″. The kitchen measures only about 10′ wide, but stretches nearly 30′ long giving ample room as long as you don’t mind cooking side by side.
In the kitchen, here’s a quick list of some of the work that needs doing:
Wash the walls
Repair cracks in plaster
Repair water damage in plaster
Seal peeling paint on ceiling and walls
Repaint all the walls, trim, baseboard, ceiling and cabinets
Fix the hole in the wall
Fills gasp around the doors
Get the windows to open and close
Realign window clasps
Remove cabinet doors
Replace and reattach pulls
Clean under toe kicks
Replace sink plumbing
Affix floor vent to the floor
Glue down vinyl floor
Fix vent fan
Repair broken glass panes
Clean up rusty fridge
SO MUCH CLEANING!
That should keep us busy for a little while.
The Dining Room
This room is lined with pegs. They look like they are meant to hang coats on, which would make sense because this room has yet another exterior door in it. But it’s been speculated that they were actually for hanging up the chairs after dinner to make the room usable for other things. Keep in mind this was most likely where servants and staff would have eaten.
Technically a dining room, this little space with a cute wallpaper boarder will likely be an office or workspace for us. Or possibly something called a breakfast nook 🤷
This room was built at the same time as the kitchen and so is in better foundational shape than the earlier era rooms. The checklist here is fairly short:
Clean and wash walls and windows
Wrangle that cable
Scrape peeling ceiling paint
Prime and paint walls and ceiling
Repair plaster cracks
Paint floor? (Maybe?)
Repair broken window pane
Deal with whatever that door mess is
Once the house’s kitchen, this monstrous room is now a sizable living area. Complete with two whole windows at one end and a fireplace at the other, this 10,000ft long room features a ceiling that towers above at a cavernous 7ft tall. It’s not like a cave at all. This room is probably the one that needs to most love. While not having a particularly long list, every project in this room is amplified due to its size. It also includes one of the worst areas of the house: “The Wall.” OooHoOOOoHhOhoo…
This is “The Wall.” The wind and water has wreaked havoc and taken a toll from these old timbers… It is literally falling apart… If you think it looks bad now…wait until we start trying to make it look better!
I had Megan spray that window with the hose to see if it was leaking. What we discovered was that at least 2 sides of every pane in that window (20 panes) were basically made of cheese cloth. The water, even when directed from above, water absolutely RAINED down the inside of the glass. So that answered the question of why that wall was rotting away.
Now we just have to get it to stop…
So here’s the list for the living room, starting with “The Wall.”
Remove all the panes on both windows (40 panes)
Re-glaze the windows
Replace all 10 broken window panes (with era appropriate glass)
Clean off the foam “insulation” from between the sashes
Scrape clean the widow frames
Get rid of those curtains
Peel the desiccating paint
Infuse rotting wood with epoxy
Fill, sand, and smooth
Paint with Lead Blocker Latex Paint (oh yeah, did I mention there’s exposed peeling leaded paint in this room?)
Prime and paint walls
Repair plaster on ceiling
Scrape ceiling and beams **SO MUCH LOOSE PAINT**
Prime and Paint Ceiling
I’ll pause the list here to bring a moment’s attention to another feature of this room. The Floor
The floor is actually one of the most amazing true features of this house. Unironically, its beautiful and made from old growth boards, not one of which is narrower than my spread fingers. The unfortunate reality is that these 300+ year old boards are not in the shape to show off their beauty. Years of familiar patterns have worn through the utilitarian finishing, leaving the wood worn, dirty, and disheveled. The fireplace brick flooring has also suffered from age and use. One area is sinking and much of the dust in the room comes from the pulverized brick. It’s a lot of square footage, but it’s some of the work I’m most excited about.
Nail down loose floorboards
Sand wooden floor
Reset brick in the fireplace
Clean brick floor
We’ve got some fun and new projects in the Living Room. I’m really excited to get into these projects and see what’s waiting under the paint and stain and finish.
Hey this place has a washroom! Washer and dryer not included. It’s small, musty and actually super useful! It’s got a work sink, washer and dryer hookups and storage. In a house like this, having a place to store tools, paints, materials, extra window panes, etc., is going to be helpful. The space is a workroom so it doesn’t need to have the same level of attention (or time pressure) as the rest of the house. Despite that, there’s still plenty to do.
Clean junk out of cabinets
Wash walls, floor and countertops
Refit cabinet doors
Fix plaster cracks
Fix broken window pane
Clean work sink
Repaint walls and cabinetry
Fix window counterweights
This post is already too long so I’m going to call it here. We’re basically done with the “Downstairs” list (keep in mind there are 3 floors to this house), so we’ll pick up with upstairs next time. We’ll also have some posts coming up soon with the progress we’ve started making!
Thanks for reading this episode of “Holy S**t There’s A Lot To Do!”
Hello readers! I’m excited to be able to write my first post for our little blog! Megan has put her updates on hold waiting for me to give a little background info on this whole project. So I’ll step up to the mic for a minute and tell you a little bit about how we got started on this adventure.
As we start diving into this project and begin to get a better sense of what we’ve gotten ourselves into, the question arises: “How exactly did we get involved in this?”
The truth is that we got involved through happenstance. We really only know one person here in North Andover (and she has since moved away -sad face emoji- ) . Through a series of coincidences and conversations she learned 3 salient facts in a fairly short period of time.
That I, Rio, was a general handyman and woodworker and would be coming to join Megan in a few short weeks.
That I, Rio, would not be employed when I arrived nor would I have any prospects for getting employed in the near future.
That the North Andover Historical Society was looking for an unemployed handyman and woodworker to come live in their ghost house as a caretaker.
Being brighter than the average mammal, she put these facts together and swapped my contact info with that of the new Executive Director at the NAHS. Over the next few months, and after I relocated to MA, Brian the ED, and I, met a few times, interviewed, did a walkthrough of the house, and got to know each other, the house, and the upcoming project. There was a LOT that needed to be done…
As it turned out, the previous caretaker, and those who came before him, were a good hand at the historical aspects of the house. They gave tours, dressed up in period costume, fired off muskets, and helped promote the National Historical Society and its events. What they did not do was repair the leaking windows, fix the cracking and falling plaster, or prevent the squirrels from making their home in the walls. So the new ED, decided to go in a different direction and got us, two newbs with 0 historical literacy and a below average interest in dressing in period clothing, but with a wealth of experience in repairing, replacing, fixing, tinkering, caulking, painting, building, tightening, scraping, mowing, cleaning and just generally maintaining.
So, now here we are. We move into the house in July, and we have until then to do as many of the large, disruptive, and necessary projects as we can. I’ll go into more detail about those in a future post. Between now and July, we are providing a combination of paid labor and volunteerism to get the house livable again. There is a lot to do but it’s fun to see the house start to transform. Once July rolls around, we will be living rent free in an historical house built over 300 years ago! In trade for living without the cost of rent, I will maintain the yard and gardens, plow snow, do routine maintenance, and keep the house in good working order. I’ll also consult with the NAHS regularly and recommend, oversee and perform larger tasks that need doing over the coming years. Anyone who knows me is probably thinking about what a perfect position this is for me and they would be 100% right. I love this kind of thing, and despite the fact that the projects needed to get this place livable are many and challenging, I’m already having a blast diving into them!
So thanks to our friend Leslie for connecting the dots. And thank you to Brian for giving us a chance! I can’t wait to see how it all turns out.
One thing I’m particularly excited about is that the PB House sits on six acres of land. Sure, most of it is some kind of conservation land that is totally impassable once the wetland plant life grows up over the summer, BUT there is still plenty of space for us to play around–and that means gardening!
The historical section of the house has a series of gorgeous garden beds in the front yard, so Rio’s only responsibility over there is mowing the lawn.
The gardens are cool though!! They’re a traditional herb and dye garden maintained by the North Andover Garden Club. I’m excited to see what they look like, and if you’re interested, you can see more about them here.
The back of the house (where we’ll live) technically had two garden plots set up, but…. they were not in great shape. So that’s been my first project since we got the keys.
The first plot is located down the hill a way from the house and it was only recognizable as a garden plot because it wasn’t covered by grass.
I’ve seen worse (the other garden plot, for example), but it wasn’t a quick fix.
I got to rake up at least one season worth of leaves, tear out A TON of weeds (including a truly horrific thorny one that burrowed into the ground with its branches?), and then excavate and pull out all the rotting boards to replace them with new ones. By the end of the first day, it *was* looking better, but … still not ideal.
The next day we hit up Home Depot for some 2 x 4s and soil, and we went back to work fixing up Plot #1. This meant taking out the black ground cover and adding a layer of top soil while Rio cut and nailed the boards together.
It all came together surprisingly quickly, so I got to celebrate by planting a few early weather seeds, too! Hopefully we’ll have something to show for that in a few weeks once they make their way out of the ground again.
So that brings us to Plot #2, which was even more of a hopeless pile than the first plot. This one was located right up against the house and seems to have come with some free, yet unidentified shrubs.
If the first plot had more than one season of leaves covering it, this one had more than four. The more I raked, the more leaves turned up! It got kinda gross.
Also, the degraded black ground material in this garden was also under the soil, so most of it is probably still under there, but I tore out a lot of it.
Next I tore out a plastic garden border that had been mostly consumed by shrubs.
Post leaves/plastic/actual garbage removal, we put in some new boards to line the plot, and then added a layer of top soil.
…So more raking. Yaaaay. But it turned out pretty well!
We’re still missing a little bit of the border (actually, really what we’re missing is a second step to the door), but Rio thinks he can get a nice piece of scrap wood to finish outlining the garden plot.
As you can see, there are 5 mystery shrubs which are starting to bloom. I’m kind of looking forward to figuring out what those are.
And once the weather is a little more predictable (did I mention that it SNOWED on Friday? April SIXTEENTH), I can plant some herb starters here, so we’ll have a small herb garden right outside our kitchen.
And there you have it! One project down… some 15… 20(?)… or so to go.
We got the keys about two weeks ago, and Rio’s been making regular visits and check ups on the property. Already there are several big details that need work.
The first is that the whole property is in kind of a gulch where all the neighborhood trash gets blown on a windy day, so somebody (Rio) has to pick it up. And unfortunately for said person (Rio), we have had a lot of windy days this winter.
The second is that the house is full of squirrels! Turns out if any dwelling around here is empty for longer than a month, somebody else is going to move in.If you know me, though, you know that this is my cue to get excited about this project.
My first real visit to the house was to aid in the capture and release of this charming neighbor:
He was SO MAD. Also, we came by on foot that day (our current apartment is only a few blocks away), so we had to carry him for two miles before releasing him into the woods surrounding an old cemetery.
The odds of him coming back are actually pretty good, but squirrels are really smart, so we’re hoping his night in squirrel jail taught him a thing or two about trespassing.
That said, Rio pointed out that one wall of the house is a massive walnut storage area, so we’re going to be packing that with steel wool shortly.
I’m actually really impressed with the house itself. It’s got three bedrooms, one-and-a-half bathrooms, and some decent light throughout the day. And, I mean, okay, it’s FILTHY, like, horrifically filthy–as in, the walls are covered in stains and the ceiling is peeling–but that’s okay, because our move in date isn’t until July. So we have some time!!
A few friends have already given me the “oh whoa, are you SURE about this, bud?” talk, but honestly I think once it gets cleaned out everything is manageable. (Um. I think. Like I’ve said, it’s an adventure.)
Rio went and got a push broom right away and shoved a pile of dirt the size of a small child out of the house last week, and we’re looking at the pros and cons of just hiring a cleaning service to deal with the accumulated scunge across the house (like, in the corners of cabinets and embedded in the windowsills).
But some of the cleaning is fun!
There are two partially built garden plots that need to be cleared out–my main focus this week–and I’ll get to paint a bunch of rooms. We’re looking at kind of a colonial inspired style to match the front part of the house, so if you wanna flip through my pinterest board (I know what I sound like-and I hate it) here are some ideas for colors and looks:
In the mean time, I figure it might help to add a few additional photos, so here are some I took myself (my phone is really old, so these aren’t great).
Also, keep in mind, spring hasn’t really hit here yet, so I’m imagining that the yard and everything will be much prettier once the trees aren’t, you know, all dead and snaggled and once the grass comes back.
With that, thanks for tuning in! Our next update *should* be about gardening, and I’m really looking forward to it!