Monday, June 28, 2010

If You Give a Mouse a Cookie

If you have kids you've probably read the children's book series "If You Give a Mouse a Cookie." Renovating an old house is much like that series. Basically, if you give a mouse a cookie, he's going to want a glass of milk, and if you give him milk he's going to ask for a straw... and so on.

So if you re-shingle a 110 year old home, when the builder gets to a crooked window sill he's going to ask you if you want to straighten it. If you straighten a crooked window, you're going to have to replace the interior trim. If you replace the interior trim you're going to damage the plaster, and so on.

Having lasted 110 years, our home is actually still quite straight and solid. There are one or two locations however where the house clearly settled and it is most obvious when you look at the windows. Four of the windows have been manipulated over the years so that the window sash appears level, while the window opening itself has gone 1-2 inches off kilter. The technical term for this effect is called, "the hot mess."

Two of these off-kilter windows happen to be right at the front entry. We decided to let the builder "true-up" the opening on these two, then we would see how it looks and decide if its worth it to do the other two.

To complicate matters, we know there's lead paint involved. We've got 3 kids age 4 down to 8 months* so this is a big issue for us. We're happy to get rid of any lead based interior trim - but the removal itself is also tricky.

We had to clear all furniture out of the room in question, and when the builders arrived this morning they went in there and sealed themselves off with plastic sheeting. Lots of banging and sawing later we're left with this lovely interior.

The builder will now cut a new knife with our trim pieces and return in a day or two with brand new trim that matches the original exactly.

Note the hole in the wall between the two windows. We knew this was a possibility. To add yet another layer of complication to things, the walls you see here are actually wallpapered plaster, painted over by us in the lovely Benjamin Moore Yosemite Sand.

So now we wonder - do we just patch that spot, or is now the time to rip all the wallpaper down, and re-surface this room?
Like I said, if you re-shingle a 110 year old home...

*if you were not already questioning our sanity, you know for certain now that we are clearly not in our right minds due to years of sleep deprivation!


  1. Oh. My. God. What have you gotten yourselves into?!

  2. Catching up on these posts....

    Good progress. I think you've resisted temptation much better than I would have. As for project mgt. I would sometimes visit our site 3 or four times a day and spend an hr. or more with the builder. And still they messed some things up...

    The funniest (saddest??) was when I was standing with the builder and the roofing sub and pointed to the shingles and told them 'shadow' edge just as the worker was climbing the ladder to do the work. Came back later in the day only to see it done completely different. Had to rip it up and do it all over again....

  3. One more thing. You ought to take pics with the kids in them. Funny to see how both change just a short time later....

  4. My entire first floor was three layers of wallpaper painted with multiple coats of paint.. that was a "bear" to strip and then re-surface all the cracked plaster.. Some walls were being held together by the paper and paint.. watch out how big a can or worms you open..

    Lead paint is a big concern.. on the window sashes and wells are the bigger issue.. dust from the open & closing,, trim only if it's chipped or it they kid chew on it.

    CAn't wait to see the progress when I visit in August. jm