Sunday, September 15, 2019

The Hearth of our Our Home

Certain tasks loom over you when you take on a renovation, and with our seasoned past it is easy to come up with a punch-list of jobs left to do, especially the major things.  The fireplace hearth was removed last Spring when the fireplace was re-pointed by our professional brick mason.  Greg wanted to finish up the hearth himself, of course.   All tasks must be done in light of our new hardwood floors being installed.  Hanging the remainder of the rough-sawn shiplap on the end that faces Congress Street, preparing and staining our heart-pine rafters, finishing the ceiling edge of the kitchen ceiling, painting our farmhouse trim are a few checks off the list.  These pictures give an idea of how the cottage appears.  Please note all the walls and ceiling need finish paint.  I have changed the color to Sherwin Williams Drift of Mist, a white in the gray scale.

This weekend has focused on pouring the firebox and lining it firebrick, and laying a bluestone hearth.  All of these proceed what we anticipate to be our most exciting part of our transformation, our Govenor’s Estate Distressed hardwood flooring. 
Original view with firebox torn out before repointing 

The hearth turned out even better than we hoped, highlighting the antique fireplace and finishing the edge.  The kitchen firebox will be decorative, used for lanterns and candles.  The living room firebox will have natural gas logs.  The small size of the house does not warrant two working fireplaces.  Greg sealed the brick and the exposed beams with a matte solution to reduce the porous surface and make for easier maintenance.  The downtown streets are lined with bluestone and after examining a local supplier stock, Greg is contemplating laying our house steps and rear patio out of the material. 

I am happy to add pictures of the completed hearth next week.  It is emotional as we see these show-stopping projects completed.  The fireplace cleaned up and is a center-piece in our cottage.  A treasure for years to come.

Greg begins to fill the box floor with cement

Bluestone is set and firebrick will be installed next time

My book, A House With Holes, Mountain View Press, releases on Amazon October 15, 2019 with more in-depth detail on our relationship to each other, this life of renovating in Charleston, and our Westside community during our years of renovation.  Much of this blog documented our journey of completing this renovation, saving this Charleston Cottage, and joining with this diverse community.  The heart of our home lies within us as yours does with you, and we as difficult as it has been seeing it through, I get emotional considering it nearly done.  We are a few months away from free weekends again.   
 By inputting your email address at my website, you will be entering to win a free weekend in stay in this cottage.  Please see full disclosure of rules for The Weekend Give A Way at www.

Saturday, March 9, 2019

Re-pointing Our Fire

The exterior is ready to be sided spring 2019

I don't know where the time has gone, during the winter months, Greg retreated inside to our last room renovation. We demo-ed it in the summer months, so the room was ready for framing and insulation.  Greg spent a few weekends insulating the entire ceiling and walls.  With each batt of insulation, the house seemed to become warmer. Our house has been 5 years, part house and part workshop.  I forgot what it means to own the whole house. What a never ending journey for both of us.  Thanks for taking the time to follow along with us.

Greg has to fit each sheet to fit into the rafters.  He's fast at hanging gypsum and uses ceiling cleats to do it alone, and it requires a great deal of measuring and precision.  The rafters are the highlight of the center of our house, as we see them now taking shape and the space opening up, we are filled with resolve.  Folks, we are seeing the last 10% of the project ahead of us and we couldn't be happier.

Original pic of the fireplace
Because he works most weekends and doesn't get enough rest, we take it slow on Saturday mornings. Our routine is drinking our coffee and munching on breakfast, planning the day and watching the TV series This Old House on PBS.  Greg respects the workmanship of Norm, Tommy, and Richard.  These men recently did a house project in the downtown of Charleston in the Elliotborough community.  This Old House is committed to training young men and women desiring to learn the trades.  They partnered in Charleston with American College of the Building Arts located near us.  I broached Greg with the possibility of emailing this college about re-pointing our fireplace and examining our wrought iron fence and gate.  Greg could do the fireplace, but it would move the project along to hire it out, so I construct an email through their website.  Within a week, ACBA contacted Greg.  Mason Professor Staley dropped by to give us an estimate on having their students do some work for us while learning their craft.  He took a tour of our house and placed his hand on Greg's shoulder.  "I like this Greg, it's old school building.  You don't see this much anymore."
What the fireplace started out prior to repointing and pressure washing.

This is a pic of the hearth tore out before the re-pointing is done.
Prior to re-pointing is complete

Notice the plastic curtain on the opposite side of the fireplace.  This dust brought us back to what we used to deal with when the floor system was open.  

Greg did his best to keep it out of our living space, but it was a depressing mess to say the least.  The mason ground out the old mortar creating huge dust clouds.  Vacuums only handle so much.  The bottom line, we had to work through it.  We kept our bedroom doors shut and covered the kitchen in sheets of thin plastic, wiping down everyday after work in the evening. It was a huge imposition, and I was ready to be done.  The last day, Greg opened the floor system up into the foundation, and they pressure washed the brick returning it to its original 1929 color.  We are so please with the way it turned out.  It is a center, two-sided antique fireplace to be up-fitted with gas logs, a focal point for our cottage.  Exciting days to see our project come together.

Representatives also examined our fence, which they dated in the 1950's.  The top of our gate is hand molded much in the style known here in Charleston.  We will sandblast and paint it in spring/summer of 2019.  Our family and friends remain our focus even in the midst of such a project as this, in the end they are what we keep with us.  We hope you have life to share with those you love.  

Sunday, September 9, 2018

Our End is Exposed: And We Are So Ready

After a few weeks off, Greg started work at 9am on Saturday morning with the plan to rip off the stucco on the end of the house.  It differed from the other board siding applications and we were concerned about how easily it could be removed.  Stucco, a form of Portland cement, is trawled onto a wire mesh and painted.  We were racing the weather and the clock all afternoon.  We hoped to get the debris loaded and the end closed up before the landfill closed at 3pm. 

We got our front space for the truck, a feat in itself as parking on our street has become crowded.  We closed the sidewalk to foot traffic with orange cones to keep pedestrians from being struck by falling cement debris.  Greg started at the top gable.  As the wood fell, I gathered and stacked the bed of the truck.  Before lunch, the end of the house was open to the framing.  Our friend, Jeffery who lived in our Freedman as a child, stopped on his bike.  As a veteran of these streets and well into his 60’s, he’s always sharing bits of what he knows about the neighborhood. 
“Mrs. Ashley is getting older.” 
“Good to know, we haven’t seen her.  Someone came and cleaned out her backyard recently.”

As we chatted a group of pedestrians came down Senate Street and turned on Congress to walk toward King Street.  Gregory and I both looked at each other and smiled. 
“The neighborhood has sure changed, just a few years ago if I had ridden my bike down Senate, they would have beat me up for being on the street.”
“That is a good thing, then."  We both chuckled.  "We moved in the last few years of some of the crime here.  Now, you can ride where you want.”
“You closing up the end before tonight?”  Jeffery looked worried we could get it done.
“That's the plan.”  Greg called out as he worked.
“Good, because someone would need to sit inside the room to keep your valuables from disappearing.”
“If I don’t get that done, Jeffery, you up for the job?”  Greg smiled knowing the answer.
“No, sir, I believe I will pass on that…”  Jeffery laughed, gave a wave and was off. 

This was not the first time Greg has had the end off of a house, and had it closed in by the end of the day.  It’s the difference between a novice and a professional.  In these type deadlines, none of Greg's movements are wasted.  What we didn’t anticipate was the down pour that came just after Jeffery rode off.  Greg hung 6 sheets of OSB board in the rain.  He lifted the sheets into place and held them while I shot the first nails to hold the sheet.  He put just enough nails to secure the sheeting, planning to further secure the next day.  Our ox was in the ditch as it were and in the cold rain we were determined to make the landfill before 3pm.  Greg is not a young man, and as we pulled to the landfill scales at 2:45pm with 1600 lbs. of debris, we smile and both sigh.  

"Looks like we made it with 15 minutes to spare, and we can go home to rest after this."  I can see Greg is spent.  And I am, too. 

This is how it was looked on Saturday at 3pm prior to the Landfill.

The next weekends, Greg hung our final two windows, and covered the OSB with a white moisture barrier.  Our son, Ethan joined us the following weekend to trim out the exterior in preparation for siding.  We are installing "eye lashes" at the gable and Greg is finishing the drip edge along the roof line.  These are small details that take time, but the beauty is in the details.  

Pictures below is how it looks over the course of the month.  Thanks for stopping in to her about our Charleston Freedman's.  Some finishing changes are ahead for us.    

In the backyard, Greg prepared for our deck with a yard drain and weed paper below.  Our backyard area is 9ft wide and 27 feet long.  This back wall will be finished with a closet.  This will make a nice outside sitting area.  All that is to come. 

Not only are the we excited, but our neighbors and pedestrians on the street stop and call out to Greg, both those we know and those we don’t and complement the changes.  We are turning the corner and we are thankful these harder tasks are behind us.  Wishing you a blessed fall season.   

Saturday, May 26, 2018

Keeping on Keeping on

The ship-lap from heartpine siding accent walls finished up in March.  It adds such character to the bedrooms, we are researching size and wood to plan an end wall in the living space with the same upfit tying the theme throughout.  The effort to accomplish this treatment while substantial, we hope will add years of enjoyment and appreciation for the age the house was built.  A friend staying over last week feels its the "coolest shiplap she's ever seen!"  We couldn't agree more.  

 We hauled 1400 lbs of construction debris from our backyard to make way for our new deck and brick patio.  The bricks seen are an old driveway installed many years ago.  The street is too narrow to have off street parking, so we are going to develop it into a private outdoor space we can use for entertaining.  The bricks stacked at the back of the property vary in age and are from deconstruction at the beginning of our project.  They will be part of the patio.  Above, the siding was moved to our front courtyard.  It is not long until we will side the rest of the exterior.
On Friday, we spent the afternoon throwing brick and making a new stack in preparation for building our deck.  We had hoped to get to this over Memorial Day weekend, but the heavy rainfall expected has changed our direction.  Greg is running electrical for our piazza lights and installing a new ceiling.  The white ceiling pictured below was demo-ed last week.  

A passer-by asked Greg if the dark studs were rotten, and while there is some rot he is replacing, the dark color is natural to heartpine studs.  Many of these are original to the late 20's.  The wood is more dense then new wood purchased at the local lumbar yard.  

Most doors now are 3068 door, 36 inches wide.  While our door is still standard they are a 2868, only 32 inches wide.  Finding it with custom features such as two panel and 3/4 light in the entrance took several weeks of looking around and trips to various lumbar yards.  Therma-Tru had doors that were very close to our idea without paying the custom price.  This was a two weekend project to get them installed with transoms.  We kept all three entrance doors as part of respectful restoration.  One door is an outside entrance to the guest room, the main entrance off the kitchen and the living room entrance.  Charleston is known for it's many entrances off the piazza, much of this due to the need to get as much ventilation during hot weather pre- HVAC.

We want to acknowledge This Old House Charleston 2018 filming near us.  Greg enjoys the craftmanship and expertise of this show.  And it amazing to have them facing some of the same challenges in their projects in Ansonborough and Elliotborough neighborhoods.  These houses while a treasure require expertise in restoring them.  This Old House Charleston 

 Over Memorial Day Weekend, we were balancing on a scaffold and ladder installing a tongue and grove ceiling.  Greg is very comfortable up in the air, but my balance is not what it once was.  He was desperate for a helping hand, so I was lending him mediocre attempts at maneuvering the wood into place.  Working overhead is harder than I understood.  We were pleased with the outcome.  A second coat of paint will finish off the primer and porch blue.

We added a new member to our family this past weekend.  Congratulations to Ethan and Sam who tied the knot at a beautiful ceremony in Ft. Mill, SC.  We found time to sew this quilt for their wedding, a family tradition.  We wish for them many happy years facing life together. This respectful renovation has the potential to overtake our life, but we always want to stop and consider what is truly important.  Family.