2014 Project

It feels good to be done for the season!  I began last March by disassembling the building and finished yesterday afternoon by wrapping the exterior in plastic.  I went into the project unsure of how everything would go— after all I have never “restored” a building as rotten as this one— but looking back everything went pretty smoothly.  The building was a complete wreck when I started.  It sits in a low area where the water has a difficult time draining out and away.  Each spring the cellar fills with about five feet of water.  And over 3/4 of the logs were rotten.

For better or worse, I made the decision to keep the original foundation.  To fix the drainage problem I hired an excavator to dig out the original walk-down storm door and trenched from that point 150’ down the slope to an area of lower elevation.  And this was after I spent about 120 hours tuck pointing the cellar walls.  We then lined the base of the trench with drain tile and filled it with rock.  We also filled the cellar with rock to grade.  The top of the rock is lined with a plastic vapor barrier.

With the foundation squared away, I then laid a foot of stone atop the original foundation walls.  The old house sat at grade, which was no doubt responsible for most of the log rot around the lower courses.  I used 4” bed platville stone from a quarry outside Spring Grove, MN.  It’s pretty nice stuff.  I was able to keep the old floor system in place.  Someone had replaced the old rotten floor beams in the 1980s with pressure treated 2”x8”s.  Looking back, I should have gotten rid of the whole thing- it was simply too weak.  So to strengthen it, I laid a log underneath midspan (atop the rock-filled cellar) and blocked up to the bottoms of the joists for support.  Notice the vents in the stonework.  These are essential in a basement-less building to keep humidity low.

I replaced over 3/4 of the logs.  Most of the long pieces came from an Amish sawmill.  The replacements closer to the ground are white and red oak, but the pieces throughout the second floor are white pine.  Oak is hard to come by this year.  The price has increased significantly; apparently it’s all being shipped to China.  The other replacements are from a building I took down back in 2007.  That building was pretty crappy and had a ton of door and window openings, so I decided to piece it out for this project.  Every log is held in place with bur oak pegs.  I make the pegs out of old oak 2”x4”s, which seems to work pretty well.  They’re dry as can be and won’t shrink.  The pegs are 1.5” in diameter and I bore the holes using a big-ass auger bit connected to a 36v cordless Dewalt drill.  And somehow I managed to not break my wrists.    

The 2nd floor beams were also deflected and needed to be replaced.  They turned out pretty great!  The second floor is now a loft that covers half of the footprint.  The original beams were 5”x6” and were totally inadequate given the span (and the resulting deflection).  I kept two of the beams the original size, and upped the middle beam to 5.5”x7.5” and tapered the joist over the end two feet so they’d fit into the original 5”x5” mortise pockets.  And the joist ends are dovetailed to keep the walls from splaying.  The Amish mill was able to make me some near flawless eastern white pine pieces.

I framed the roof with white oak 2”x6”s and the roof boards are a combination of oak and pine.  The roof is covered with metal.  It’s cheap and gets the job done.  The soffits are boxed in with 1”x6” boards.  The interlacing joints at the corners are pretty great.  The downspouts are half-round galvanized steel.  And the gables are sided with salvaged clapboard siding.

Most of the window sashes are original with their wavy glass.  I took the old sashes to a local contractor who stripped the paint and reglazed them.  Next, they went to an Amish guy (Crist, who’s made the doors and windows for all my other projects) who made new oak frames and screens. They’re beautiful.  And the front door with the two side windows turned out pretty fantastic.

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