In Nearly a Month’s Time

Leave a comment

To begin this update, let’s actually back up a few steps.  Close your eyes and picture yourself driving down a quaint little village that you have never been in before.  The homes are nicely painted and the lawns with their flowers and what not are beautifully manicured.   But there’s always one house, isn’t there…. one house that for whatever reason stands out like an eye sore from everything else.  It seems like every town has a place that has either been abandoned or not taken care of well or for whatever reason has just been left alone.

Our house is a current “eye sore” of the village.  In the earlier part of the summer, the town decided that due to safety reasons the house really needed to come down.  And they gave the owners of the property ~that would be my father in law who JUST acquired it~ until September to please take it down.

Although we haven’t talked too much about it on this blog, Chris and I did step into this project with that time constraint on our mind.  In our minds we did have the thought of lets gamble…. lets see how much of a dent we can make in the limited time that we have.

In the beginning of September, Chris sent a letter to the town’s Selectman Board knowing that deadline was nearly due, outlining the project and expectations from it as well as the hope for an extension.  He attended the next selectmans meeting and a long story short, we have through the fall, winter and into spring 2011 to try and get the house down.

We certainly appreciate all the support and well wishes that we have received from the town and others alike.  I have been stopped in the grocery store more than once with the question:  Are you the one who is taking down THAT house in the middle of town?  🙂  Often times the answer is followed by  either “Well its about time that place came down” or “What a shame that place has to come down!”  In some ways, I agree with both sentiments.  It is too bad to loose that piece of history, but because the place is so far gone, it will be nice to see the property used for something else.  No more “eye sore”!

While Chris was working at the house the other day, the girls and I stopped in quickly.  I cannot believe the amazing transformation on the inside.  Peeking at it from the outside, it looks as if nothing has been done to it at all.  The dumpster seems to just sit there and sit there, but inside… Wow.

Chris continues to focus on the upstairs of the house.  When you walk up the stairs… suddenly you can see from one end of the house straight to the other!  All the lathe and plaster is gone.  All the inner walls with the exception of support beams are gone.  It’s literally just one big open room with two big chimneys in the middle.

Even the floor boards have been taken up.  Interestingly enough, and if someone knows why this was done, I would love to know….  the mopboards were put down before the final floor boards so in order to take down walls, Chris had to work from the floor up so to speak.  With the floor boards gone, I am happy to report that Chris has only had one foot fall through the floor once; the other time was just a near miss.  Now, big bright orange paint marks the spots of where NOT to step.  However, with all the demolition, the paint is under dust and debris so you really have to look…. but they are there!

As part of the recycling effort, Chris has taken the time to make bundles of lathe to use as kindling for wood stoves.  Many people in the area use wood stoves during the cold months of winter in this area and Chris has put these bundles out for free.  Again, we are thankful for the people in the area who have taken these to use rather than having it go to waste.  There was also a pile of wood that wasn’t fit for our reuse and another family in the area said they could use it so now that’s gone too.

One of the things that Chris was talking to me about was how time consuming the project can sometimes be.  One can’t just pick up the floor boards for instance and pile them up.  The nails have to be taken out to prevent gouge marks.  We are also still working on storage options for the reusable lumber so it takes a little thought on where to put things downstairs so everything isn’t in the way of everything else.  The upstairs plaster that comes down is scooped up into a big plastic tub.  The tub, once full is so heavy that it takes time to lug it over to the pulley system that Chris constructed.  From there it is lowered by hand down to the first floor where the tub is put onto a cart with wheels.  Then Chris walks down the stairs and carts out the plaster into the waiting dumpster outside.  Then he comes back in,  hooks the tub back up and starts the process all over again.

Because he is there everyday, sometimes he comes home feeling very frustrated and that “nothing got done”.   I wish he could see it through my eyes because all the hard work he is putting into the project really does show!

It may not look like it on the outside, but things really are moving along!  I’ve asked Chris to take a few pictures of the upstairs of the house and so hopefully in a few more days those will be posted.  Perhaps then he can share a little more of Our Recycled Home from his point of view.

Until next time~ Cheers! 🙂


The Plaster Is Down

1 Comment

Well, upstairs anyway. There is still so much to do. I’m at a point where the items I’ve salvaged need to be taken out of the house. I did some research on the piano and in it’s current condition it’s pretty much worthless. Water has been leaking on the top of the open piano and the sound board is warped and rotten through in some spots.

So next step is emptying out the downstairs of items, then shoveling up the plaster. Conservatively, I estimate about two tons of the stuff. It’s deceptively heavy.

So here is what the house looks like sans plaster.

So, what do you think?

August? so soon???


Apologies to everyone who have been asking lately about the house.  Although Chris continues to get over to the house when he can, life has sort of swooped in on us and by the end of the day, our brains begin to turn to mush.

Truly, I can’t believe that it’s August!  Every weekend from now until the girls start school in September is filled.  And with it being the last few weeks of summer vacation, we are focusing on what sort of fun we can have before our schedule turns back into “School Mode”.  Even though we want to have fun, we know we have to balance out our time with house time as well.  So…..  here’s the latest update:

1) Everything (but the PIANO!) is still waiting to be taken out of the house.

2)  All the woodwork upstairs with the exception of the baseboards has been taken down and we’ve saved everything from it that we can.   Now it’s finding a place to store it.  Chris and his father are tossing around a few ideas on this.  From my point of view, if it works, we’ll have some free storage for some of this lumber.  Yay!  The only downside is that some of the lumber will be in one place, more will be in another place and so on…  I wonder if it will become hard to keep track of everything we have this way.


3)  All the inside plaster on the upstairs walls and ceilings have been taken down (with the exception of the curved wall of the staircase).

What a job removing the plaster has been!!!  If you saw the video Chris posted August 1st,  he mentioned the number of animals who had inhabited the house over the years.  When he walked through the door after just that first day, I swear he smelled worse than if he had gone to a zoo and rolled around in a variety of animal pens.  He certainly caught me off guard with that one. 🙂

Although Chris has been removing some of the plaster as he goes, there’s more to be shoveled up and taken out to Dumpster #2.  Then he wants to take down all the wooden lathe upstairs.  After that, it’s time to do the same thing downstairs.  Towards the end of the month,  our girls are going to be enjoying some time with their grandparents and that will free me up to be able to help out over at the house.  As much as I am looking forward to a little hands on experience, at the same time I’m not fond of the thought that I may come home smelling like I’ve just rolled around in the sewer system… or worse (shudder!).

I’ll be sure to let you all know how it goes!!!!



That Plaster Takes It Out A’ya


Hi Everyone. It’s been a while since I’ve been able to post an update on the project. Sorry about that but I had to take a weekend off. I’ll unfortunately be taking the first weekend in August off as well.

Don’t fret, here’s a new video to make up for it. I took this video after working all morning without water on an almost 90 degree day. Not a wise thing to do. Just by way of explanation I want to point out that above every ceiling on the top floor is about six to eight inches of poop. The grey shirt I’m wearing is actually blue. Gross, right?

Tune in next time to hear me say:
“Dear God, won’t someone take this damn piano?”


Do You Dare Go Into That Spooky Old Tree


You know you want see what it’s really like in the house.  Well, wonder no more.  Take the video tour.

The difference between you and me is I have to shower when I’m done, you guys just get to click off.

Tune in next time to hear me say: “How much trash can one room hold?”


Clean Up Continues and Visitors



It’s been an interesting week.  I was only able to work one full day at the house this week.  My niece had her birthday on Saturday so we spent the day driving and visiting with family, so Friday was the only chance I had to do some work.  As you can see from the pictures the downstairs is now free from trash.  No small task I can assure you.  My father was nice enough to spend an afternoon helping shovel papers and junk so that helped speed things along.  The upstairs is next and I fear it won’t e as easy as the downstairs.

Nothing to do but soldier on.

Elizabeth stopped in to help me take some pictures today.

Kitchen sink is removed. The water drained out on the dirt. You could do things like that back then.

The work continues. Can you see the pitch in the floor?

All cleaned out.


Monday was interesting.  The house is next door to my office which is half a block away from our administrative office.  I often go from one to the next to file paperwork and whatnot.  As I was driving by I noticed a van in the driveway of the house.  The back door was up and the side doors were open and there were several people milling about outside the house.

I made a u-turn and pulled in not sure what to expect.  A young woman and her two small children watched me walk up and an older lady asked me who owned the house.  I said my father owned the land an I had the house and asked why she wanted to know in the first place.

A young man, presumably the husband and father to the young woman and children stepped around the corner.  The older lady explained that she used to spend her summers in the home and was trying to figure out what was going on.  During an awkward pause the little girl said “Daddy broke in and went inside.”

“Oh, how’d you do that?”  I asked.

He answered and seemed to have no ill intent so I let it roll off.  Obviously he hadn’t taken anything and was just curious.  What the hell, it’s a small town and I had a meeting to get to so really wasn’t in the mood for a fist fight.

I explained that I was dismantling the house, relocating it and building a new home from the recycled wood.  Well, that’s all it took.   They seemed to love the idea of the project and were excited that the home, which held so many memories for their family, was being put to good use after all.

I ended up taking them on a tour of the house and the lovely lady whose childhood was spent in the house recanted wonderful stories of the bathtub in the corner, the kitchen stove and on and on.  It was so heartwarming to hear the love and remembrance in her voice as she told the stories.  Of course her tone was peppered with disgust for her relatives who let it get this bad.

It ended with me giving them the web address and inviting them to watch the progress of the house.  As I handed the man the web address, he handed me a twenty dollar bill, his contribution to the project.  So thanks again, and if you are reading this, please leave a comment below and say hello to everyone.  I’m sure they’d love to hear from you.

Gotta run for now.  Tune in next time to hear me say:  “I still have to move that damn piano.”


At the moment

1 Comment

One of the things that Chris and I, as parents, want to make sure is that our daughters have involvement in this process.  Kaitlyn and Nicole, while only 6, may not fully comprehend the process, but their older sister, Elizabeth all ready wants to start choosing the colors for her new room.  🙂 Every time we drive by the house, we acknowledge that… “Yes, there it is!  The beginning of our new home!”

Last week the girls and I stopped in while Chris was working at the house.  He has been working so hard because I can’t believe the change in the appearance of the downstairs.  It’s…  nearly CLEAN!  No gingerly stepping from one place to another….  One could walk, could waltz even from one side of the house straight to the other!  It’s wonderful! It was nice to watch the girls walk around and get that sense of what was, what is and what will be.  Without all the “stuff”  diverting the eye,  I also have a better idea of what we do have.  I’m excited!  Some of the hardwood floor is so much more beautiful than I thought.  I just hope it’s not so brittle that we loose a lot when we take it up.

While Chris is working very hard in the present moment with the house, I’ve been taking more of a “what needs to happen in the future” approach to things.  I wonder if there is a how to build your own house for dummies book out there??  🙂  There’s a lot to take in and digest.  One only gets so much information from reading and looking at websites and books and such.  And there is also choice after choice after choice that you have to make that is going to affect you for the rest of your life!  Oh no, no pressure there whatsoever…..  :p

Take heating systems for example.  We’ve been considering a masonry heater as our main source of heat.  Here in Maine, we pretty much need some type of heat 8-9 out of the 12 months of the year.  Therefore, this is a very important decision.  And obviously, we want the least expensive but most efficient means of warming our home.   From what I have read and seen a masonry heater is an interesting choice for us to consider.  Drawbacks include: a) in the middle of winter with snow, biting winds and below freezing temps, it’s going to take more prep work to leave the house if we choose to go on a week long vacation to a warm sunny location,  b) a masonry heater could really eat up a lot of precious square footage, and c) although Chris may have some masonry experience, in order to do this right we’d probably need an actual mason to come in and put it up for us which means investing more time and a decent hunk of money into it.  Positive aspects though -from what I understand- it requires little maintenance once it’s there, it is using a renewable fuel source (a HUGE plus in my opinion), it can be a wonderful focal point in the home,  we can even put an oven into it if we choose and be able to cook with it during those nasty winter power outages, it’s not that messy, and coming in from tending the horses on one of those super cold winter days and being able to put my frozen toes (okay, fine…my big ole rump, too) on basically a heating pad to warm them up…  Now just how awesome would that be???

If you heat your home with a masonry heater or have dealt with them at some point, I would be  so VERY interested to hear your opinions about them. Please leave a comment!  Nothing is as good as real life, hands on experience!  🙂

Another thing that I have been focusing on is the new home, itself.  Design, layout, look, square footage, and whatnot.  We certainly can’t get the ground work done and foundation taken care of if we don’t even know the dimensions of the house!  I admit to perhaps feeling a little sad, maybe even guilty to a point, that we aren’t going to take this wonderful house down and build it the same way again.  I feel responsible for “taking away” a piece of history even as we salvage bits and pieces of it.

Chris and I really do enjoy an open floor space (especially if we indeed decide on that masonry heater!).  To also use the lay of the land for the best passive solar options, we’d like to have most of the living space on the south/west facing sides.  We are also trying to keep all the plumbing in one area to help cut down on costs and to do the most we can by ourselves, we need straight simple roof lines.   We’re hoping for basically one story living with a loft space above the bedroom areas for not only storage but additional living space in the future.

We are looking right now at a simple farm house/ country style house with two dormers and a nice covered patio or deck across the front.  Gone are the thoughts of a solarium, luscious library, craft room, second family room even that extra huge walk in closet.  Sure, they’d be fun to have, but are they REALLY necessary?  Why not take the time to perhaps simplify our lives just a little more?  I’m sure I have some quality versus quantity type of quotes somewhere in my head, but for the life of me, I can’t think of a single one.  Ah well….   maybe just simple is better????



Older Entries