Pennsylvania Limestone Farmhouse Renovations to an 1863 farmhouse built of limestone

June 23, 2013

Good-bye to Wall-E

Filed under: Basement,Deconstruction,Stone house restoration — Duane Diefenbach @ 4:46 pm

Since we renovated the roof of the stone building, the heat for that part of the house has been the pellet stove in the basement. That means the bedroom upstairs got pretty cold in the winter.  And because most of the chimney was torn down, we  had a stainless steel vent that emerged out of the chimney about 3 feet aboveground.  The vent looked like Wall-E from the movie and looked ridiculous… but it’s now gone.

We have decided to install a geothermal heat pump in the old part of the house (when we did the renovation we drilled 2 sets of wells with the intention of later installing a heat pump for the old part of the house).  That means a lot will happen this summer.


1. Remove the pellet stove and all the 1950s ducting from the basement.

2. Move the basement shelving that stores paints and another shelving that stores Lisa’s canned goods so they are not in the way when the heat pump is installed.

3. Clean ALL the furniture out of the old part of the house. Which means where do we put it? And so…

4. Clean up the old classroom in the barn (when Lisa homeschooled the kids).

5. Remove the last vestiges of the chimney (and Wall-E) from the outside of the house.

6. Gut the rest of the interior of the old house. Such as tile ceilings, sheetrock over plaster, and the staircase added in the 1950s.


So to start the whole process, today we began with cleaning the old classroom in the barn and cleaning out the basement.

We then started in the basement by removing the woodstove.  We put it on a pallet, then slid it over to the bulkhead and attached a towing strap to the pallet and used the tractor to pull it up out of the basement.  The following photos show the sequence.






And now the basement looks like this…


I can’t seem to find a photo of Wall-E, probably because it was pretty ugly and I didn’t think of it until I had ripped it out of the ground. But you can see the old chimney in this photo (just to the left of the door – cast concrete sections with no liner – great 1950s technology!). All that is left now is a hole in the basement (the goes nowhere) and this outside.



There is still cleaning to do in the basement, but it’s pretty much ready for the contractors.  Expect more posts in the next few weeks, especially when the old house gets completely gutted!  Exciting but dusty times ahead!

March 27, 2011

More Restoration – Roofs and Windows

Filed under: Deconstruction,Exterior,Stone house restoration — Duane Diefenbach @ 9:46 pm

Now that the old addition is down we now have 2 tasks at hand: 1) remove the soffit and roof on the old part of the house and then rebuild it into something that will stand the elements for (at least) the next 30 years, and 2) restore windows that are now exposed on the front of the house.

To fix the roof on the old part of the house we brought Lee Cowan back to remove the old (rotted) soffit and roofing (including all the bat guano and bird nests), tear down the cinder block chimney, remove the metal roof and install asphalt shingles (the original roof was cedar shakes but we can’t afford that right now), and then rebuild everything.

Here’s Lee and crew dealing with major rot around the old chimney.

You may ask, what is the black and gray box on the left side of the stone house? It’s a bat box. When I looked early this week it had 1 lonely small brown bat inside. And it has been miserably cold all week. Right now (9:50pm on 3/27/2011) there are no bats inside and it’s 29.5°F outside. I hope the poor little bugger knows how to find bugs in these conditions…

But back to the house. I have (at least) two competing tasks at hand. First, the house sparrows are very upset that the roof is being disturbed because this was a very good place to defend a territory, build nests, and raise young. We had holes into the attic on both sides of the house so we had male territories on both the north and south sides. But now that is changing fast and they need to look  elsewhere.

But birds are resourceful and the northern male discovered that he didn’t have to look far and under our porch (see left photo above) there is access to the insulated cathedral ceiling of the master bedroom.  Consequently, I now have to get the tongue and groove hemlock ceiling installed (easier said than done – I have to mill the tongue and groove boards, finish them, and then install them).

Second, I need to install windows in the old part of the house. The learning part for me is to figure out how the original carpenters installed the interior window trim BEFORE they plastered the walls. In some ways you don’t have to worry about details because the plaster can “fix” anything out of alignment. On the other hand, just how firmly attached and aligned does this carpentry have to be affixed?

Here’s my first attempt that trims the old passageway from the dining room to the old kitchen.

Upcoming posts should provide details on installing the porch ceiling and more progress on the roof before rain arrives mid-week. Stay tuned!

March 20, 2011

We’re Done Deconstructing!!

Filed under: Deconstruction — Duane Diefenbach @ 8:48 pm

This weekend was a lot of hard work but we completely removed the 2-story addition and  cleaned up (most) of the resulting mess. That sounds easy but was not. Thanks to Jason, Franny, and Katie for their help!

Today (Sunday), we had the second story joists and subfloor to separate (we pitched the subfloor but salvaged the joists) and then we had to separate the 1st floor joists and flooring. The first floor (our old kitchen) had 1×12 subflooring with linoleum flooring attached. Above that was a layer of luan and another layer of linoleum. Above that was another layer of luan and a third layer of linoleum! I ended up sacrificing a circular saw blade by running a cut parallel to each joist through the flooring. With each section of flooring (with a joist attached) the kids took a sledgehammer and separated the joist from the flooring. I saved the joist and pitched the 3 layers of linoleum into the dumpster.

Before we took it all apart Lisa and I suggested to the kids that we bring out the kitchen table and have a last supper in the “old kitchen.” They were not amused.

What you don’t see now are the 2 pickup truck loads of vinyl siding sent to recycling, the 2 pickup truck loads of metal taken to recycling, and the 3 pickup truck loads of dimension lumber that now require the removal of thousands of nails (these boards are piled in the pole barn).  The rest of the house was removed in 2 30-cu-yd dumpsters. Unfortunately, all the 1×12 sheathing was just too brittle to remove intact. And the asphalt siding was best sent to the landfill.

Now that we are ready for Lee Cowan to remove the metal roof and rebuild the soffit it is suppose to rain all week. We’ll keep you posted on how that goes.

March 19, 2011

More Deconstruction

Filed under: Deconstruction — Duane Diefenbach @ 8:56 pm

This Saturday was beautiful weather for working outside. Cool, slight breeze, and beautifully sunny. One of my grad students, Jason, arrived at 8am and helped with removing the roof. Then Franny arrived after lunch and we took the whole addition down!

Here are some photos of what happened. I’m too tired to do more right now and hope to update things soon.

Photo of Jason removing the roof framing and after completed.

Franny pitching ceiling material into the dumpster (left). Using the tractor to pull the 2nd-story framing over (right).

Using the same method, trying to pull over the 1st-story framing…

And then using the bucket to really push it over.

And a photo of the conquerors… (just prior to the beer break)

March 12, 2011

Deconstruction – Phase I

Filed under: Deconstruction — Duane Diefenbach @ 6:36 pm

When my brother-in-law and sister found out we were planning to start demolishing the 1950s addition to the house they had to come! They drove from Kentucky, arriving very early Saturday morning, but arose early to start gutting the upstairs bathroom and bedroom. We found that  not all walls were insulated, some places were wonderful wintering quarters for flies, and past and current roof leaks were caused a fair amount of rot.

The cousins helped haul materials to the 30 cu yd dumpster and pack it in as efficiently as possible. The best quote of the day was by Jonah, who said “I love smashing drywall, I think I found a career!”

We then started demolishing the old mudroom, which was originally a porch. By taking out the windows we could drive the tractor bucket up to the window. And Pete got to use his new GMC truck to pull down the chimney.

We eventually removed the metal roof and sheathing. And then it was time to use the tractor to pull down the whole the walls.

So now the dumpster is completely full and we have a few piles of metal and plastic siding to recycle and nails to pull from a good pile of lumber that can be saved.

Next weekend we plan to start on demolition of the 2-story structure – unless my sister and brother-in-law can’t resist doing a little more demolishing before they head home on Sunday!

March 5, 2011

Oops… More Dust!

Filed under: Deconstruction,Masonry,Stone house restoration — Duane Diefenbach @ 9:28 pm

This week the mason finished making the doorway to the basement a window. He did another beautiful job!

This second window was a major task and took Dave 2 weeks to do the stone work. He had to chisel away some of the concrete (that Lisa and I poured about 10 years ago to prevent the stone from collapsing because the heating contractors 40 years ago knocked out a duct chase that resulted in no support of 2 stories of stone above) so that he could face the exterior with limestone. I would love to “talk” to the contractor who busted out that stone with no regard for the integrity of the home! 🙂

So now that the first floor doorways have been made into windows, we only have to make the upstairs doorway into a window. This upstairs doorway was how we used to get to our only full bath and Molly’s room. So before we  made the upstairs doorway a window we thought it wise to gut the bathroom and Molly’s room of major fixtures. Out came the doors, toilet, vanity, and shower surround. This is what it looked like when finished. That little space include a toilet, tub/shower, and vanity. Barely enough room to turn around!

So why more dust? And an ‘Oops’?

Well, when Ethan and I were opening up the upstairs doorway we were doing our best to keep the dust to a “minimum.” I was taking the sledgehammer to some plaster (plaster in the 1950s consisted of metal lath nailed to underlying wood and is very difficult to remove) when the whole “shebang” went flying down the stairs… Here’s where the mess landed and me looking on… (my mouth is not aghast – I’m wearing a dust mask!)

Fortunately, Ethan and I cleaned up the mess before Lisa returned with Molly from shopping!

Here’s some photos of current conditions:

Do you like the piles of trash?  A 30 yd dumpster arrives on Monday to take care of some of this!

And this is most of the stone we have left to fill the upstairs doorway

Now that we are ready for the mason to make the remaining doorway a window I am going to try to finish the kitchen area where the refrigerator will reside. Stay tuned for photos.

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