Pennsylvania Limestone Farmhouse Renovations to an 1863 farmhouse built of limestone

December 28, 2012

Lots of Doors

Filed under: Exterior,Front door,kitchen — Duane Diefenbach @ 3:23 pm

The doors that have been completed in the past couple of months include all but one kitchen cabinet doors, the front door to the addition, and a storm door for the front door of the old house.

The front door is essentially complete and here is a photo. Note the pull for the doorbell is installed and I have a brass plate that says “Pull” to install.

The kitchen doors took a lot of work. There were 7 in all.  Almost every door is a slightly different size and I made the panels out of a single piece of cherry.  Here is a photo of the doors with the panels with 2 coats of finish installed in the frames (unfinished). I had to fit each door and make adjustments with a hand plane.

After they were fitted I finished them and here they are installed.

I still have one door to complete in a corner of the base cabinets. This door has to be a bi-fold door to open near the fridge so I have been putting it off, although it won’t be too difficult.  The other to-do item is a series of cherry panels above the range hood. Then the kitchen should be complete except for possible cabinet above the prep sink (above the base cabinet lacking a door).

The other door I have been working on has been a storm door for the front door of the old house. After a year of being exposed to sun (and rain/snow) the interior paint has really taken a beating, especially the side exposed to the west.  It’s clear that a storm door is a necessity to protect the entry way.  I designed the door to be similar to a four-panel door except that the top 2 panels will be windows that can be replaced with screens (if you so wish). I used antique cast iron hinges and modern brass doorknobs.

Here’s a photo of it installed. I used the same paint I used for the storm door in the rear of the stone house. It is a green similar to the green we used on the addition but darker.  I think it looks ok – decide for yourself.

Now we just need some stone steps to the front door of the old part of the house (although it would fit in well in Vermont without a front stoop)! And we’ll see how often I have to restore it because of damage from sun and rain.

September 29, 2011

Porch Ceiling

Filed under: Exterior,Porches — Duane Diefenbach @ 7:46 pm

Last weekend my parents visited and Dad helped me finish the front porch ceiling – we milled the hemlock into tongue-and-groove boards, finished them, and then applied to the ceiling. We almost finished but it was a very warm day (in the 80s) and by 5pm I was too tired to fit the last row of boards. On Monday my arms and shoulders let me know they were there! Here are some photos of our efforts.

Later in the week Ethan and I  finished up the last row and half after dinner. It took 2 days because it got dark on us the first day, and we just finished the second day when it started raining (again!). So no pictures of those efforts.

June 1, 2011

New Puppy – New Windows

Filed under: Exterior — Duane Diefenbach @ 3:15 pm

Memorial Day weekend we picked up a new English setter puppy. Her name is Roxy (named for the Vermont town of Roxbury). She is 8 weeks old and doing a good job of peeing in the house and basically revising household schedules. She is comfortable playing with Hazen but still has to keep her distance from Windsor.

For the house I have been working on a number of items, including making sure the sump pumps keep working as efficiently as possible because of the extremely high water table due to the 3rd wettest spring on record. However, the major house accomplishments involve installing windows in the old part of the house. I have 4 of the 5 windows installed (see this post for, except for some painting. It makes the house look less like a burned-out shell and more like an 1863 stone house.

Of the 6 windows installed (2 were done a couple of years ago before we started the addition project) I still have some exterior coats of paint to apply. I have to install the window that used to be the access to the basement and I need to restore the trim around the front door.

Restoring a window first involves removing everything down to the wooden frame that is built into the stone structure. I first have to make some half-inch thick trim that serves to support the top sash and is what the storm window will seal against when installed. Because these are single hung windows the top sash will be fixed. It’s hard to see details with everything painted white, but hopefully this photo gives you an idea of the exterior trim that holds the top sash in place.

However, installing this trim is not that simple because in order to do it correctly I have to have all the parts in place (trim, both sashes, including parting strip and bronze weatherstripping) so that I can make the necessary adjustments to make sure everything fits correctly and is installed (with cut nails) in the correct location. However, assuming we can treat this as a step-by-step process I next have to fit the sashes to the window.

Fitting the windows involves trimming them to be just slightly oversized so that I can do a final fitting with a hand plane. Also, I cut dadoes in the sides and bottom rail for the bronze weatherstripping to fit. The two following photos show the side weather stripping and the parting strip that separates the two sashes (photo left) and where the weather stripping meets to form a seal between the sides and bottom of the window (photo right). When I’m done the windows aren’t nearly as airtight as a modern window but they are pretty good, especially with storm windows installed. They’re much better than the windows that existed when we bought the house!

Another task is that I have to do something with the front door. It fits in the door frame improperly because the house settled where too much stone was removed for utilities to pass from the stone house to the 1950s addition (now gone). I’m not sure if I can use the existing door unless I make the stop around the outside larger because the door frame is out of square. It’s something that has to be addressed before winter (to prevent major cold drafts) so I have some time to figure out how to solve this problem. You can see the sunlight coming through the gap between the door and frame – this winter that will be cold air – unless I fix it!

May 24, 2011

Slow progress

Filed under: Exterior,kitchen,peninsula — Duane Diefenbach @ 7:43 am

Tasks now take more time because it takes several days to construct a door or drawer and then finishing takes twice that. Besides last week involved treating the cows for pneumonia and coccidiosis and the weekend involved moving the pigs to the outside pen, moving the meat birds to the pasture pens, and then cleaning the stalls in the barn. At least the dogs now have their kennel back.

The pigs are adjusted to their new pen. They found they can fit under the shelter (for now) and they can climb up in the shelter to get food and sleep. The rooting in the pen has begun.

I have also started working on replacing our boarded up windows in the stone house with single-hung sashes using old glass I acquired. The first window I was able to install this weekend was where we used to go from the kitchen in the old addition into our dining room (lower left in photo below). The other window used to be a closet in the old mudroom (lower right).

And I finally have the doors and drawers (almost) finished in the kitchen peninsula. I still need to install some trim around the dishwasher and install a cover in the toekick area.

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!

May 10, 2010

Mother’s Day Weekend

Filed under: Exterior,Geothermal,Interior — Duane Diefenbach @ 5:12 am

This past week the drilling crew returned to try and finish up the underground piping needed. After a day and a half they are still working on the same hole and are making a big muddy puddle next to Lisa’s garden. We hope this operation works as planned.

Now that the painting is completed, the pump jacks are down, and the power lines have been moved underground this is what the house looks like. If I had the time and skills I could probably photoshop the old addition out of the picture to see what it will look like completely restored. Sometime when there is no rain in the immediate forecast we’ll have the excavator return to finish grading around the exterior of the house and get rid of the remaining dirt pile in the back.

So my work has been in the interior to continue to get ready for the drywall crew. The drywall should arrive this week and the crew will probably start next week. This weekend I framed the master closet doors because I told Lee I wasn’t sure what we were going to do. Since I had to get this done I decided to make the doors unusually tall (so you don’t have to use a periscope to figure out what is on the shelves above the clothesrack (that means they’ll have to be custom made when I get to that about 3 years from now).

It’s a little difficult to see what’s going on with all the exposed studs but once the drywall goes up it will make more sense (I hope).

I also had to install the pocket doors before the drywall goes up. There is a pocket door for the powder room off the mudroom and into the laundry room. Both of these openings have been framed 2-3 times by Lee’s crew because the first time they framed the openings for a standard door and then something else was wrong.  Well, this weekend I made it 3-4 times because with a pocket door you need an extra 4-1/2 inches of rough opening to accommodate the track to hang the door. So I tore down the header and re-installed it to the proper height. The installation is actually pretty easy.

Here’s  a photo of the powder room door

And here’s the laundry room door.

Please note all the doors for the house will need to be stripped to remove the many layers of paint (although the green powder room door may have original milk paint on one side) and then painted.

I still have a list (but shorter!) of things to do before the drywall goes up but there’s no problem getting that done. Plus I still have plenty of insulating to do (all the ceilings in the crawlspaces).

Oh yeah, and for Mother’s Day I made the following for my kid’s mother (with the assistance from Ethan and Molly still has to paint it).

April 21, 2010

The Last Backfill

Filed under: Exterior,Interior — Duane Diefenbach @ 5:33 pm

After living with 3+ months of stepping out our back door and looking at a 9’+ drop, we finally have been able to backfill the “front” side of the house. This is because the geothermal crew was able to run their piping into the house (because they were able to drill enough footage of well casing!) and our excavator returned from Vegas to fill the gap!  😉

So now we are unlikely to break our neck going out the door, maybe just twist an ankle

Plus Dave Walker our mason finished his work.  Here”s a photo of the first floor addition-to-old-house access. Disregard the possessed look of Windsor.  The stone wall between the doorway and french door will be where our woodstove will be located. Windsor loved Dave because every time he opened a bag of portland cement she thought it was dog food and he fed her some of his lunch (and he let her out during the day to pee).

Our current subcontractor task is to find someone to install drywall. Stay tuned.

April 3, 2010

Bats Arrived but the Woodcock are Gone

Filed under: Exterior,Porches — Duane Diefenbach @ 8:18 pm

I took Windsor for a walk this evening and noticed 2 bats flying around the field. But up in the pasture no woodcock were singing so I guess they have moved farther north to their true breeding grounds. At 8pm the kiln was still quite warm so it must have been really hot in there today. The hemlock is below 10% moisture content but the hickory is still about 15%.

This week has been a blur, but I think I snapped enough photos to help remember what happened. The big news is that the geothermal company gave up on drilling wells. Even after bringing in a big rig to drill.

They put 80′ of casing in one well and only got 77′ of pipe in the ground. So after several thousand dollars of casing we might have enough pipe installed to heat/cool the addition. But for the rest of the house we need to dig trenches out into the pasture. As of the end of the week no decisions have been made about how to proceed.  The other glitch for the drilling company was that the PA Fish & Boat Commission showed up because their drilling put water and sediment into our ditch (technically it’s a “channel” for Nittany Creek that is dry 99.8% of the time). It has been pretty much a disaster trying to get this system installed.

This week on the house Lee’s crew finished the front porch and siding the house. Here’s a photo of the front porch pretty much completed.

So then I needed to complete the posts and beams for the rear porch. I had a little more confidence making the various joints. Here are photos of the tenon for the  bridled scarf joint and the return beam at the corner

Assembling the rear porch beams and posts was not quite as easy because the roof had been built long ago with a temporary beam.  So Lee’s crew had to jack up the roof and install the beams.

With the posts and beams installed they could also install the sliding French door and finish the siding.

Today (Saturday) I installed the 1-1/2″ line for the sump pump in the basement, filled in the ditch between the house and the barn, and started to clean up the yard. This Tuesday (6 April) the power company is coming remove the overhead lines and hook up the underground utilities. That means the electricians can finish their work, the siding can be finished, the plumber can finish the upstairs bathroom, and the mason can finish the basement opening. Stay tuned.

March 25, 2010

Moment of Truth

Filed under: Exterior,Porches — Duane Diefenbach @ 6:10 pm

Today Lee’s crew installed the posts and beams I cut for the porch. I was wondering what would go wrong but Lee told Lisa (something like), “Holy crap, they fit together perfectly and if I had done this something wouldn’t have fit.” I was hoping everything went ok because Lee didn’t call me at work with questions. However, Lee did have to spend some time figuring out how to put everything together (I had them numbered with Roman numerals but that only goes so far) – I had to go to work early because I was hosting a job candidate otherwise I could have saved a lot of time.

Here’s a picture of the porch with the rafters installed

Here’s a picture of a bridled scarf joint assembled. Next time I’ll get the gap smaller.

And here are a couple of other joints

If you come and visit us I’ll gladly show you the screw-ups:

1. the concrete floor wasn’t formed correctly

2. there were some mismeasurements in beams so that some joints are showing (fortunately, I left some length in some beams so that Lee’s crew could cut them to the proper length

3. the support beams were cut too short by about 1/2″

4. extra pilot holes were drilled in the beam attached to the house

My goal is too hide all these mistakes before you visit.

February 28, 2010

Slow Going Until Next Week

Filed under: Exterior,solar kiln — Duane Diefenbach @ 5:02 pm

The weather this Thu, Fri, and Sat meant little work got done on the house except the plumber did accomplish some installation of drains and vents. Saturday Ethan and I moved a load of cherry up to the kiln. What an event trying to haul an overloaded pickup truck up into the field with 6-8″ of wet snow on the ground. We only had to reload the truck once.  Below is a picture when we were done. Also, we installed the homestead pole from where power will go underground to the house and barn.

However, on Sunday the front door was installed. We “like” the Penn State blue color. Also, the siding will start going up quickly.

This week I have business in New Orleans all week. I hope to provide the electricians as much info as possible so that I don’t have to try to make too many long-distance decisions.

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