Monday, March 5, 2007

Visions and ideas...

Wow, third post today!

The general idea is to turn the not-so-old outbuilding into liveable space that looks like roughly 1910 construction, a somewhat upscale rural home with some elements that were fancied in the city back then.

I've always been into salvage (as a school kid I started browsing every dumpster for useful stuff, mostly electrical). At the age of 18 I had a huge project - helping my parents turn two apartments into one huge and in the process doing a more or less full restoration on both. That got me towards architectural salvage - I no longer only looked for electrical stuff but for doors, wooden flooring,...
When my grandmother bought that house in 2005 I had a place to use all that salvage... and the idea to create a beautiful house, my dream house, out of a ruin was born.

The basic concept: add a full second floor, hallway, stairs and tiny bathroom, topped with a gable roof.

So that involves: clean out everything, take down roof, store tiles somewhere as well as reuseable (i.e. not rotted) lumber, take down second floor walls and ceilings. Dig a trench all around the building down to the foundations to isolate against moisture and add French drains. Dig and pour foundations or slab for addition after running all new electrical service, water, sewer line, water and gas.

Dig out the interior 1-2' deep and backfill with coarse gravel to prevent any moisture seeping up.

Tear new openings for doors and windows. The existing door is too narrow, IIRC it's about 80cm (31 1/2") and I'd like to widen it to a (rough standard in 1910) 92cm (36"). The first floor windows are practically non-existant, so new openings have to be made. Since there won't be much wall above the future windows anyway at that point it won't be a problem.

Build all new walls for addition and second floor. We're not yet settled whether we want brick like the original building or wood frame - most likely depends on the cost. Brick offers cheaper material but is more labor intense, wood frame is MUCH more expensinve in materials but will go up a lot faster. Wood frame also poses the problem of how to finish the interior - plaster and lath would be the only original finish, but adds the cost of the lath. Chicken wire just isn't going to do it on a wall... brick could be plastered directly.
An option would be Heraklit board, basically coarse wood shavings pressed with concrete. Comes in 1" or 2" thick boards and can be plastered over with just a finish coat unlike brick that needs two coats. However, that stuff is expensive too.

Put on new roof framing and tiles.

Pour slab or screed in hallway and bathroom.

Add new first floor ceiling - don't know yet at what point this is going to happen and what that ceiling is going to look like - wood would be perfect.

Add second floor interior walls - we're thinking of turning it in two smallish rooms (roughly 140 square feet each) and a tiny hallway. Next problem: what to build them of? Brick would need steel I-beams below and above and be pretty substantial. That's the way it was done in the 1913 building where I'm sitting right now.
Or wood framing... expensive (wood is about the most expensive building material here)... and what to cover it with (like the exterior walls).

I hope that about covers the rough work... oh yeah, forgot the chimney. Since I don't think the extremely crooked gas heating system of the main house (basically they added a pump and heat exchanger to a standard gas water tank to run a central heating system!) is capable of supplying another house I intend to get an alternative heat source. I already bought a wood/coal fired boiler off Ebay, but that turned out to have several severe flaws, thankfully we managed to back out since the seller hadn't disclosed damage.
The biggest problem of all: such a boiler needs someone to throw in fresh coal every few hours. That's ok while we're there, but we mostly only spend the weekends there if at all, so plenty of time for the pipes and radiators to freeze and burst.

So right now it looks like we'll get a gas fired combi boiler (small wall mount unit containing a central heating boiler and tankless water heater). That can be put on a thermostat and kep everything above freezing.

Finish work... I already scrounged enough panel doors for the entire house, 4 of them match, the others don't. Can't really do much about that... but hey, it adds character.
Frames and trim will mostly have to be built new.

Floors are ok too... the hallway and bath will get salvaged floor tile. The second floor will get a wide plank pine floor in the hallway and one room, the other will get tongue & groove oak flooring (4" planks).
Only the large downstairs room (storage and work shop) will get new pine T&G.

The bathroom will be tiny... so there won't be that much detail. A walk-in shower with tiled walls, a floor drain and IKEA shower curtain, high tank toilet and a cheap wall-mount sink, if I get lucky with vintage fixtures.

Windows: we're intending to use salvaged old windows. My uncle is an architect and has a huge old farm nearby where he stacked an entire room full with old windows. I guess we'll continue the old scheme of casements, two sashes each with upper lights.

Electrical: since at least the first floor is built VERY sturdy I want to go with surface mount conduit. Otherwise I'd have to trench all the walls... and I think I mentioned how hard the concrete is. Besides... it looks so 1920s.
Only my future bedroom will get a special treat I don't know yet how to realize... maybe run it on low voltage (24V)... I salvaged 1900 wiring, twisted cloth cord on glass insulators, with rotary switches made of porcelaine and brass... unlike US knob&tube that kind of wiring was not concealed inside the walls (not really an option with solid brick walls anyway) but run exposed on the walls!

I guess that should give you some ideas of what I'm planning to do...

When I manage I'll post pictures of all my salvage (most of it hasn't yet made it's way out to the pigsty but still resides in our basement in Vienna or the stuff that can't stand moisture in my bedroom), details of the pigsty as it stands now, inspiration from other houses as well as some plans I slapped together in Autocad.


I promised pictures and here they are...

First an outside view as I first saw it.

The open space in the middle used to house the manure pile... I guess it was more like a pit judging from what the neighbors still have. The PO had it filled up (mostly with plaster from the renovation I discovered upon digging up roots of evil stinging nettles that had invaded everything... you dig into 4" of topsoil and the get bricks and plaster chunks). The white part of the house was once painted blue but that faded away... and that's about all that will be left when we're done. Note the outdoor light switch for the inside light (to the right of the door)...

Next one... view from above. Here you can see how the grade slopes and the house constantly gets wet when it rains...
The windows are tiny and have to be replaced - they're made of something that looks like concrete.

Now the inside...
You can see how much crap there was... the only good things are the trash can and the windows - actually the old storm windows for the kitchen. The trash can hides the refrigerator and range. As well as the falling plaster *sigh*
Oh, and in the corner you can see the weeds I mentioned in the previous post...

Not visible: the severe hole in the ceiling (to the left of the photographer) and the sloping ceiling in general...

The floor is concrete with something like an 8" slope towards the door to ensure runoff of whatever got there... remember, they actually kept pigs there.


Well, that's my very first attempt at blogging, specifically house blogging, after reading several blogs for years.

I guess first I have to clarify one thing: the house I'm talking about here is mostly fantasy yet and probably won't be built for at least a few months, if not a full year. So I can't guarantee frequent updates and merely think of this blog as a place to collect ideas and some pictures of pieces I already gathered.

Now to the house itself...
My family owns a (very) small farm house in Northern Austria, just 400m from the Czech border and pretty close to Slovakia. The house itself has 3 rooms, 2 bathrooms and a kitchen. That's pretty small for a family of 7. SO already when the house was bought there were plans to extend it. The first thoughts involoved finishing the attic, but that would require a complete new roof over the entire house, basically turning everything into a huge war zone. That simply involves too much work and is too expensive.

So eventually we turned our attention towards the outbuildings. There are two of them, one probably once house goats, is tiny, damp and doesn't have much natural light.

And then there's the old pigs stables or whatever you want to call it... and that's what this is all about.

Built in 1971 this stands as a rectangle with a small bumpout for the outhouse (yes, that's right, that house didn't have indoor plumbing until 1997!), built of concrete and brick.
The foundations and walls maybe 3 feet above the floor are concrete. And not the usual farmer's mix (1 sack cement, 10 sacks sand) but real full-blown air raid shelter grade concrete. How I found out? I whacked that thing with a heavy sledge hammer just for fun and all I saw was a white mark on the surface.
Above it's double wyth brick, going back to single on the second floor.

It's more than half built into the hill, so the ground on the rear side is on second floor level.
That, in cinjunction with absolutely no gutters makes for severe moisture problems.

The second floor is merely an attic - maybe five feet at the entrance and 8" on the other side. In dry words unuseable. The floor is wood, severely sagging because the joists were cheap wood and undersized to even support their own weigth... and from severe roof leaks it has a huge hole.

The roof itself is a tile roof. Same cheap and undersized lumber as the ceiling, and waaaaay too flat. Besides, they never replaced broken tiles. So now, the wood is partially rotted, sagging and the roof leaked severely. When I first walked in during rain I stopped counting at the 10th leak.

First thing we did was buy 100 used tiles for half the price of new ones and I spent an afternoon on the roof replacing tiles since the roofer refused to go up there. That got it more or less waterproof for the time being.

The first floor still has the old stalls inside, solid brick half walls and wooden doors with huge bolts, a clay watering trough in every stall. When we got the house it was mostly used for storage - leftover bricks, tiles, the garden hose, old ironware, bags of plaster (that was useless because it had gotten moist), rotted doors and windows, bales of straw, dried weeds of unknown origin (and incredible amounts of them (the plants must have been up to 6' tall and one of the stalls was filled up to at least 3' with that stuff) and other trash.
We tried to get rid of some of the trash and put in lawn furniture, lawn mower and all that stuff.
Oh, I forgot two things in there... a working 1970s refrigerator we've been using extensively as a secondary and a brand new never used 1960s or 1970s electric range we don't have a real use for - in the kitchen we have a gas range we prefer by far.
How I can tell it was never used? The burners still have stickers on them...

The attic is even worse... almost only wood scraps, either rotted from moisture or eaten by powder post beetles. The only remotely useful thing might be a roll of tar paper. Yeah, and two replacement asbestos shingles for the roof of the main house (about 1/4 of the main house was covered in asbestos at some point, we won't touch it since it holds up noticeably better than the tile roof even though it's FUGLY).
There were also empty fertilizer bags galore, and by all means broken window glass and roof tiles!
We scrapped the tiles but decided to keep the larger pieces of wavy glass.

There's no running water, the drain goes straight to where the manure pile once was (the bottom of the outhouse just opens into that hole too, but the hole is no longer there) and the electricity is pathetic - merely an extension cord buried in the ground - it's a miracle that thing never crumbled away and shorted out. Inside there is a single receptacle and a 40W bulb above the door.
The attic doesn't have electricity at all - well, on the other hand, it doesn't even have a door, so what can you expect...

Wow, that's a monster post... Pictures to follow in the next post where I'm going to talk about our visions and plans.