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!

February 26, 2011

Dust, Dust, and More DUST!!!!!

Filed under: Basement,Interior,kitchen,Masonry — Duane Diefenbach @ 6:44 pm

Did I mention it’s dusty around here?  Sorry for no recent posts but it has been a busy month. Since the last post (Feb 7th!) a lot has happened – Lisa’s stove was delivered and the propane gas was installed, the mason started on making the doorway to the basement a window again, and I have made some progress on the kitchen cabinets (but not as much as I would have liked – but a trip to Oklahoma did crimp my spare time). I’ll get to the dust story eventually.

First, THE Stove. It arrived the 16th of this month and the propane guys arrived on the 17th to install the gas line and hook up the stove.  Too bad they showed up 2 hrs late and basically made me miss a whole day at the office… but the stove works great (and looks great). It has 2 ovens (full size and a smaller warming or cooking oven), 6 burners (including a simmer burner), and a griddle. The side benefit is that Lisa is motivated to cook!  My mistake was to leave 3 days later for a meeting in Oklahoma.

Since the stove was installed we have completed “the move” from the old kitchen to the new kitchen even though the new kitchen in incomplete.  As in interim step some of the old cabinets and countertop have moved into the new kitchen so that Lisa has sufficient counter space.  Just so everyone knows, noone took us up on our offer for naming rights on a burner (see this post from January 29, 2010)

Also, Dave (the mason) completed the window that used to be the doorway from the old kitchen into our dining room. The stone work turned out beautiful and he was able make it look like it was always a window. One view is from the dining room (left) and the other is from the old kitchen (right)

So on the 19th (the Saturday before I left for OK) Ethan and I had to deconstruct around the doorway to the basement so that Dave could start work on making the door a window. However, before that we had make a new path to the basement, which consisted of removing the bookcase in the living room, opening up the original stairway to the basement, and fixing the stairs so they were useable again. What follows are a series of photos of our efforts.

We think the leather couch nicely accentuates the basement stairs (and provide a nice safety railing – fyi, this house is not child safe at this time).

So now that we can walk into the basement just as they did 150 years ago. Ethan and I next began deconstructing the doorway to the basement. This involved a lot of sledgehammering and sawzalling.

What a mess.  Plus when we bought the house 10 years ago Lisa and I poured a lot of concrete where the heating contractors punched out a bunch of stone (with no support!!!) to run ductwork. However, the mason had to do A LOT of  chiseling of the concrete so that he can re-face this area with stone.  This made MAJOR dust throughout the house and we will be dealing with the mess for weeks (months?). Here’s a close-up of the concrete and the area that needs to be filled with stone. You can see the concrete that Dave had to chisel away and the fact that the concrete completely supported 2 stories of stone above the chase that was cut out from underneath. Only idiots would do such a thing.

So to get ready for the coming week, Ethan and I hauled stones into the kitchen. We had saved these stones from the windows where we made doors to go from the stone house to the new addition. It takes a LOT of rock to fill those doorways.

February 15, 2010

First Task on the Addition

Filed under: Basement,Interior,solar kiln — Duane Diefenbach @ 7:46 pm

Today started out with clear skies and 2 degrees F.  But a faint wind from the east was the prelude to the snow predicted to arrive in the afternoon.  The crew arrived at various times today, with the first here at 7:30am, to try and finish the roof framing and then sheath it with plywood. Progress went quite well and by the time the crew finished and the snow started falling this is what it looked like.

Today I ran some errands to pick up items at the hardware store for the house and wood kiln. Our local hardware store couldn’t get a wall vent for the range hood and dryer in anything other than thin aluminum and an unreasonable price so I ended up ordering that online. But they did have a single gallon of foundation tar sealer so I could finish the doors to the wood kiln (I used up the 5 gallons on Saturday).

While the crew worked on the roof I cleaned up the bat guano on the first floor and what had fallen into the basement. Also, there is a 24″x30″ access from the full basement to the crawl space that needed an insulated door.  That’s what I constructed (so the education from constructing the insulated doors for the solar kiln came in handy). It came out quite well (I think), in which the door has 3-1/2″ of insulation and I constructed a stop around the door with silicone weatherstripping.

Then I worked on the solar kiln by cleaning some metal roofing and coating it in flat black paint (the dogs provided encouragement and quality control). When I stack lumber in the kiln this goes on top as a solar collector.

It is supposed to be cloudy all week so I’m in no rush to get the kiln loaded with wood. However, tomorrow afternoon I may go up and download my temperature/humidity data because this morning it should have been pretty warm in there.

Tomorrow most of the windows should be installed – except for one to allow us to get sheetrock in the 2nd floor. The prediction is for 4-6″ of snow (up from 1-3″ yesterday).  The kids are predicting a school delay or cancellation.

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