Pennsylvania Limestone Farmhouse Renovations to an 1863 farmhouse built of limestone

July 14, 2013

Miserable Weather for Renovating

Filed under: Stone house restoration,Upstairs — Duane Diefenbach @ 8:12 pm

It has been mostly sweltering and rainy in central Pennsylvania.  Not perfect weather for remodeling a house. Most of the work since my last post has been upstairs. Ripping out plaster and walls and rebuilding and wiring.  The bummer is that I was hoping most of the plaster could be repaired but it turns out most has to be ripped out. And I just don’t have the time or money to do anything other than drywall.

When you start removing things you begin to see some interesting repairs in a 150-year-old house.  For example. Here is where the stovepipe from the first floor used to go up through the second-floor master bedroom for heating.



And here are a couple of patches for what appear to be knotholes in the floorboards



And my favorite is the fairly numerous holes chewed by rats. Some were stuffed with rags but if you look just to the left of the white baseboard you can see where the top from a tin can was nailed to across a chewed hole. Of course, you can see numerous other chew holes to the right.


To date, we are fairly certain we are free of rats and mice.  However, when we bought the house in 1999, the day we took ownership we went down in the basement and saw a rat get up out of its nest in the window well!

Upstairs Ethan and I installed flooring to replace where the stairs came through to the second floor. Ethan got good at measuring and marking floorboards and we filled the space except where we had to leave an opening for the HVAC ducting from the basement to the 2nd floor.


While Ethan and I worked on the stairs Lisa was ripping up particle board that was nailed about every 6″ in Ethan’s old bedroom.  This was painfully slow, backbreaking work and you can guess why Lisa looks a little stiff in this photo.



Now that a good part of everything was ripped out. It was clear we needed to remove some wallpaper. Upstairs there were about 3 layers of wallpaper on the ceiling that came down fairly easily.  The wall had 3-4 layers but some were painted and there was a coat (or two) of latex on top.  Downstairs there were 4 layers on the ceiling and 2-3 layers on the walls. Very time consuming to remove, and it was a hot and humid day, and it took ALL day.


Our old bedroom has wallpaper under yellow paint under blue paint. Not fun!


I finished up at 10pm on Sunday night in the downstairs dining room.  Lisa couldn’t take any more but if I returned the steamer by 9am on Monday it was only a 1-day rental for the weekend.  In the room below you can see that there were a number of repairs with plaster of Paris (the yellow plaster).


Lisa cleaned up the disaster on the floor (it’s black because we covered it with roofing felt) on Monday.

On Thursday (July 9th) I took the day off to work on the house and came to the conclusion that most of the yellow plaster wall in our old bedroom had to come down. Most of the keys were broken and the layers of plaster were separating. So this is what it looked like when I finished.



However, I think removing the plaster might have been meant to be, because behind the lath I noticed a bay full of “stuff” that had fallen down behind the attic stairs. So I pulled a few pieces of lath off the wall and started pulling junk out. Most of it was chewed up by mice and rats, but I found some interesting items.  The first thing that fell out was a bottle of Wildroot Dandruff Remedy (40% alcohol!). The bottle and labels are in almost perfect condition, including the cork stopper and glass pull on top.



All in all, I found a leather belt and buckle, suspenders, parts to a rimlock, an enameled bakeware catalog with recipes, tin lids to some containers, Christmas card sample (from Chicago), a sales letter from B. A. Noll, General Merchandise in Zion selling animal medicine (to Mr. Frank Lutz who lived here 1902-1920) , a ladies footstocking, a grocery bag from a Bellefonte grocery store, and some old agricultural newspapers. Unfortunately, most of the paper was chewed up pretty badly by mice and rats.



Most interesting, was a letter I found folded up and stuck behind the old doorway to our old bedroom (and covered in plaster done in the 1950s) was a letter written to the Lutz’s in December 28, 1902. I haven’t had time to completely decipher the letter (chewed wherever folded and faded and written in pencil) but the stamp was $0.02. The letter writer was from somewhere warmer than Pennsylvania because they wrote about frost at night but it disappeared as soon as the sun came up.

This past weekend we began rebuilding the house with wiring (more than 1 outlet per room!) and drywall to cover the spaces made by removing plaster. More info on that effort coming soon.

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