Posts Tagged major

Layers upon layers

An unexpected vacancy in one of my upstairs units prompted me to consider what more I could do with the space. The carpet was always more functional than anything else, so I decided to see what the floorboards underneath looked like and go from there.

Curiosity may have killed the cat, but here it just sent me down a rabbit hole of hard work, muffled curses, and occasional laughter at yet another roadblock. (Spoiler: it all ends well.) The previous owner’s recollection of what was under the carpet he’d laid was ‘the heaviest padding [he] could get’. Marvelous, I thought. Pull up the carpet and the padding, and the floorboards will be mine!

The carpet wasn’t tacked, just attached to tack strips on the edge. The padding underneath was… very, very thin, but perhaps, thought I, it was just pounded flat after years of use. And then I saw what was under the padding:


Five-eighths inch thick particle board. When you absolutely, positively
have to frustrate every [person] working on the project… accept no substitutes.

I debated stopping the project and shopping for new carpet instead, but decided to expose at least a little bit of the old floor. If it the original boards looked to be in good condition, it was probably worth proceeding. If there was laminate, or deeply scarred boards, or ugly knotted pine or something else, then carpet it would be.


Beneath the particle board seemed to be just a layer of tar paper, and then original, 100+-year-old nice, wide floorboards. The project would move forward…

… slowly. There were four full 4’x8′ sheets of particle board, several large sections, and a couple of smaller fills. Each was thoroughly nailed down:


So to recap: pull up the carpet, roll and remove; stuff 120+ square feet of padding into trash bags; pull a lot of staples from the particle board; pull all the nails from the boards; then lift and remove all these heavy boards (cutting up some water-damaged ones for disposal).


No, I don’t think I have too many tools, thankyouverymuch.

All the effort was, I think, well worth… the… effort. Aside from this one cracked board – the result of a window being left open during one or more storms years ago and water soaking into the particle board underneath a heavy cast-iron radiator – the old floorboards are in pretty good shape.




The floor – and quite likely the floors in the other upstairs rooms – were partly painted, a common decorating approach a century ago. A large area rug covered the center of the room and the floorboards were only painted around the rug. In this case, the room was redecorated at least once – a slightly different sized rug was used and a new color painted over most of the existing ‘frame’. You can still see the earlier brown color inside the orange that was used later.

The boards in the center were never finished in any way and have just grayed with time – they look to have interesting grain, and with their age they’ll be nice and hard regardless of the type of wood used. This’ll wind up looking good.



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The worst thing on the outside of the house

At least I hope that’s the case.

There are two big picture windows in the living room, both with some stained glass. The one on the west wall (which is the most exposed to the elements) looks like it hasn’t been touched in decades – when I moved in, I could see some separation between the glass and the wood framing elements; the caulk is severely damaged on much of it.

Now, the storm window that’s coming will go a long way to protecting this, at least for this year. I’ve had good success with plastic sheeting in the interim to keep the rain and some of the wind away. Tape on the inside plugs the biggest gaps to prevent drafts. I don’t plan on working on restoring or in any way fixing the two sashes anytime soon – painting the exterior frame and getting the storm in is likely all I’ll do this fall. However, there are two questions that this window raises.

The first is the obvious – how to best go about fixing the sashes, especially the multi-framed stained glass one up top? Any resources anyone can point me to would be much appreciated. The second is a historical one. Everyone who’s looked at this glass has said the same thing – it’s not original, and likely went in well after the other stained glass in the house. Is there a way to narrow down when the glass was installed – the color, the style of framing?

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Four rooms

Three, actually, but some with 4 walls. Okay, all with four walls, but the point is – the painting in the bedrooms is done. Hey look, it doesn’t look like a tenement anymore!

Only a couple of small projects left upstairs, but I’ve been bogged with actual work (Alumni Council Weekend this weekend is sucking my office’s lifeforce) and a minor cold for the last couple of days. Mofre updates next week, fingers crossed

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More on the attic

This is a project list more than a list of work done. Call me on it if I haven’t followed up on any of this stuff in the next month.

1) I’m planning to replace much of the wiring in the attic – some of it is just old, the insulation on a couple of pieces appear to be a little gnawed (a while back – there’s no signs of a recent critter infestation up there), and none of the old stuff – which is most of it – is grounded. Plus this is the easiest section to reach and replace since it’s all exposed. Of course, it’s probably over 100 degrees most days up there.

2) Once the wires are taken care of I figure I’ll put in some more flooring as wanted to access the whole attic easily. I’m looking into insulation numbers too. A friend said that you typically need something like 7+ inches of blown insulation to achieve a satisfactory rating, but that would require me to either scrap all the flooring or build rails off of the joists and lay flooring on top of that. I’m wondering about the insulation factor of 2x4s, pink foam (or maybe those eco-friendly recycled blue jeans), and perhaps carpet or foam layers over the wood.

3) Question: How bad is this?

4) And here’s a fun one. The house was built around 1894, remember, so it originally had gas lights before electricity was run sometime in the 1900s. The previous owner pulled out the old piping in the rooms he renovated, but there’s still a long stretch in the attic. Actually it used to be longer, and interfered a little with the attic entrance, but half an hour with some Liquid Wrench and a real wrench got rid of 10′ and an elbow joint. I’m looking forward to pulling up the rest, including an old valve that’s still attached to one length up there. That’ll go in the curio cabinet.


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I’ve decided on a new plan of action. Each day, I will do at least one thing on one of the larger projects that face me right now – scraping and painting the outside of the house, rewiring the attic (and a few other places), puttying a few holes so that paint can be reapplied as needed, etc. My thought is that in doing this I will a) keep myself moving forward and b) make some of the potentially overwhelming projects much more manageable over time. It’s easier to paint the side of the house when 3/4 of it is scraped and primed, even if it took me 3 weeks to get there.

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