Monday, February 28, 2011

Update: our own place

Since it's winter and we don't have any heat, not much has happened. Our Mason did dig out all the dirt floors and pour new concrete floors everywhere! Now we have a solid and level surface to work on. Yay! No more ladders sinking into the ground while you're working! Unfortunately, pouring concrete means water. LOTS of water. As the concrete cures, this water evaporates and goes into the room air. All doors and windows expanded enough they're a bear to open and close now. One door was so bad my dad hacked up the trim with a chisel - the very first salvage door we'd installed... that's going to be a lot of work with a rabbet plane and wood putty! *sigh*

He also fixed the trouble wall in the small room and I got all the remaining plaster down. Now the only room that still has plaster is the front hall and that's original plaster. Oh, and of course the leftovers in the big room (see photo)... at least the cement is gone.

One result of the extremely moist air and cold temperatures outside was that we could easily find cold spots without a thermography - all cold spots were frozen solid! Such as this door handle (and for that matter the whole door)...

In the small room the POs closed up an exterior door and installed a built-in bookshelf where it used to be. We were quite suspicious of it since small pieces of styrofoam kept coming out through gaps in the beadboard... that reminded us of the ant invasion in the garden hut and prompted us to take down the beadboard (cheap 70s stuff). We didn't find any ants or other unwanted inhabitants, but we did find some seriously creative attempts to insulate the space. The first layer behind the wood is Heraklith, magnesite-bound wood shavings. Not too much of an R value. Any gaps between the Heraklith and the surrounding brickwork were filled with... you guessed it... 1976 newspapers! Or actually magazines. Behind the Heraklith we found a layer of 25mm styrofoam and wood slats. The brickwork behind the styrofoam was (again) frozen solid. Moisture condensing behind insulation is something you absolutely don't want! So we have to find some creative way to improve this. Maybe we'll even end up bricking up the whole opening, don't know. That's about it until it gets considerably warmer! The we need to get the plumber to finish the hot/cold plumbing and start on the gas lines (we have to trench the walls for the gas lines first) and we have to do the drains (WC sink, bathroom sink, kitchen sink and boiler condensate drain). Then it's wiring and door frame building/installation and we might be ready for plaster... no wait, there's still the window issue... *sigh*

BTW, I got a first bid for replacing the rotted casements in the bathroom. €250 PER casement! That means at least €500 if we can save the outers, €1000 if we can't and even more if the frame is gone too. For €1500 we could get complete new windows, near-perfect reproductions with triple glazing (inners double pane glass, outers traditional plate glass). This was just a local carpenter I happened to ask though, we still hope for better bids.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Helping out friends or "fixing up a nightmare"

A good friend of mine used to live in a ca. 1960 condo owned by his mother. In November he decided he didn't want to live alone and moved in with two friends, leaving his mother with the empty condo.

While he lived there we had renovated on and off, particularly rewired about half the place AND NEVER CLOSED UP THE WALLS AGAIN in the hall and kitchen (sorry for the screaming, but hey, there were holes in the wall for almost 4 years!).

Unfortunately at some point he had decided to do a major makeover and prepared that by whacking down some of the tile in the kitchen, taking some plaster down too. Honestly, the tiles were cracked and chipped all over and ugly, but still... it would have been easier with them intact. One wall (with sink and stove) was still ok, so we decided to leave that but had to replaster two other walls (and rewire half the kitchen). We still have to cover the chipped floor tiles with vinyl.

In the living room someone who will not be named had the incredibly bright idea of hanging artwork by stapling it to the plaster walls and drywall ceiling. Seriously, there was an oil painting (no frame) stapled to the ceiling! Oh, and two walls had artwork applied directly using neon marker pens and spray paint. In the end we spent 3 days pulling staples and painted 5 coats of white until we realised it would never cover - we ended up scraping down two walls and removing the plaster (finish coat) in two small spots. The spray paint had to be sanded off because there was no other way to get it off.

Furthermore we had to remove most additions to the original wiring since they were too scary - including live bare wires just plastered in!

One day trying to hang a door the person doing this dropped it and the door handle whacked a nice dent into the laminate floor in the hall - that decided what to do with it. We intended to uncover the original vinyl floor which is ugly as hell but at least vintage. Unfortunately when we got that far, we discovered it was gone... now we probably need to lay a new floor there. Other than that we're basically done, but it was a whole lot of work.