Monday, June 19, 2006

Yard Work

Not only do we have our work cut out for us inside, the outside is in serious need of TLC. We plan to add a new roof. New siding is farther down the schedule. I can't wait to do some serious work in the yard. The last years my folks were alive they were not able to keep up with it like they used to do. The orchard has died; Dad let the garden go back to grass. Mom's flower beds are mainly weeds and a few hardy perennials. We cut down the volunteer sycamore that came up in the edge of the flower bed, but I see it's growing back with a vengance.

Definitely the place needs some TLC. I hope to post "after" pictures that show it was worth it.

Horsehair Plaster

Last summer Pat and our brother-in-law, Robert, began The Project. Pat has worked in construction for over 15 years, but he had never met horsehair plaster before. The first room they tackled was the living room. Ok, the ONLY room they tackled was the living room. (My old bedroom, the kitchen, the utility room and the bathroom will be stripped of their horsehair plaster at a future date -- a very future date!)

When the house was built in 1903, plaster was mixed with sand and horsehair to give it body, then laid over the closely placed lathes you see in the picture. Pat and Robert only stripped one room down to it's lathe, but they took many, many trips to the dump with barrels of plaster. One load alone weighed close to a ton.

Pat had worried if the walls could support the gypsum board replacement he intended to use. After finding out the weight of what they took off, Robert declared "The walls will heave a sigh of relief to only hold gypsum board."

I don't know about the walls, but Pat and Robert were heaving sighs of relief when all they had to do was put up gypsum board. The walls were easy; then they had to figure out how to do the ceiling. They didn't have a ceiling jack for that part, but they found that Robert (6'2") standing on a low scaffold of boards and concrete blocks was just the right height to balance the gypsum sheet on his head while Pat (5'9") quickly ran in the screws to anchor it. (Gee, am I glad I had to work at the library while they were doing all of this.)

Robert had to return to his home in Mississippi after the major work was done. Pat called in two of our granddaughters from Indiana to help him paint. The living room never did get painted, but the girls painted all the bedrooms.

They found they liked small town living. They particularly liked that the swimming pool is only four blocks from the house and the branch library has computers they can use and books and videos to check out. The best part, though, was going downtown on Friday nights, eating pizza and singing Karaoke at the pizza place.

Sunday, June 18, 2006


Here we are, Pat and Iris, resting while we can. If we look a bit tired -- it's because we're contemplating renovating the house I grew up in.

The story goes that the original owner handbuilt the house for his bride in 1903. There were four rooms and a large front porch. By the style of the porch and columns I can see it was inspired by the Arts and Crafts Movement Bungalows. I don't know how much of the inspiration took, because the front porch is about the only Bungalow feature left. Our goal is to put it back to what it should have been.

Over the last 113 years the house has seen lots of changes. Two of the original rooms had the wall removed to make the large living room that we now enjoy. A dining room, kitchen and bath were added and a porch was enclosed to become the third bedroom. When my parents purchased the house in 1960, Dad removed the chimney from the dining room, and turned the doorway to the living room into an archway. He made an arch out of the door on the other side of the dining room as well. Shortly after that the dining room became our new, larger kitchen and the kitchen became the utility room. Just before they died the folks renovated the bathroom, making it more "senior" friendly and had a larger back porch added.

The house is sound and has become rectangular instead of the original square. Inside, I want to restore the wide woodwork and add some columns in the archway from living room to kitchen that will bring out the Bungalow flavor. Outside, I would like to restore the front porch and add railings and columns to the back porch so it will match the front porch.

We have quite a bit of work to do to bring it all together. It won't happen overnight, but we'll have the fun of living there and doing the work ourselves, watching it come back to what it should have been.