Opening a Can of Worms…

I know this is generally a blog dedicated to the joys of quilting, but at this point in time I’m going to digress a bit. You may have thought when reading the title that I was going to discuss the great book written several years ago by Debbie Caffrey, but I’m not. I’m going to fill you in on what’s been going on around here with regards to our house, which is where our quilt shop currently resides on the first floor, and part of the reason I’ve not posted anything the past several months.

If you’ve taken a look at our Facebook page in the past couple of months you will have seen a photo or two that I posted when the workmen were addressing the porches on the front of the house. What I’ve not shown yet is where this all began. Since the best place to begin any story is at the beginning, let’s do just that. At this point, you might want to get your favorite beverage in hand and find a very comfortable seat. I’ll try not to get wordy, but you know me…

In the beginning, we contracted with Wes, the foreman, Nathanael, our son, and Billy, the third man of their team, to repair and paint four windows on the east side of the house and replace handrails and spindles on the porch rails of the upperPic-House and lower porches on the front of the house. I’ll refer to these three men as “the guys” from hereon out. Seemed like a relatively small job that shouldn’t have take more than two or three weeks. You know the old saying though, “The best laid plans of mice and men.” Well, so much for our plans. Here is a before photo of our house with said porches.

The east section to be worked on is the oldest part of the house, it is also the outside wall of our dining room to be exact in case you’ve been here and need a reference point. We do not have a definite date as to when the house was built, but Rick did trace the buying and selling back to a sale in 1860 before he ran out of time and the courthouse closed for the day. So, we’ve always said that the house had to be here in the 1850’s for it to be sold in 1860, but it could be older still based on other houses in and around town. While saying it was here in the 1850’s makes sense, it isn’t terribly accurate for those with an historical bent for facts. Anyhow, all the guys were expected to do was repair the window sills, which definitely needed some help, and then paint the windows, two up and two down, on either side of the chimney (we’ll discuss that feature later). It didn’t look like all that much work to me, but then Rick says I over simplify things, which is always a no-no to the mind of an engineer.

The guys started at the bottom, always a good place to begin. When the siding was2018 Restorations - Termite Eaten Sill Plate removed from under the bottom left window, shades of what loomed ahead came to light. The sill plate under this side had been completely eaten through by termites. Wes took his pry bar and ran it straight through to the baseboard in the dining room. You’re not supposed to be able to do that. So, they jacked up that section and replaced the sill plate.

2018 Restorations - Hanging Beams CUThey also found boards just hanging in mid-air, connected to no other board as they should have been. Why? That’s the six million dollar question that has yet to be answered. Interestingly enough, when we’ve made repairs in the past to other parts of the house, we found boards hanging in mid-air without being connected above or below then as well. Maybe it’s just a quirk of this particular old house, then again, maybe not.

Wes pointed out that our house had been crafted together, quite fitting since it’s been a quilt shop for the past eleven years. He went on to say that the folks who built this house way back when used sawmill lumber, not pressure treated like we have today, probably only had a saw, a hammer, maybe a chisel, and some nails. If they were well off they might have owned a level, but eyeballing things was more the norm. Trying to clear land, get crops in the ground, and maybe defending themselves from Indians was more important to those long-ago builders than making sure everything was perfectly plumb and square, although to their credit, they didn’t do too bad a job seeing as how long their house has remained standing.

Having just said that, as I was writing this, the guys were jacking up another part of the house. I heard cracking and popping instead of sawing and hammering. It’s pretty unsettling hearing your house creak, crack, and pop all around you like it was doing. Put me in mind of going to the chiropractor. The guys have had to do a lot of jacking up at various times, especially under the front of the house which was added on in 1920. I’ll explain more about that later too.

As is always the case, you never quite know what you’re going to find when you delve into the internals of an old house. Those of us who are drawn to old houses tend not to think of that aspect when falling in love with a particular one. The realization of what you’ve gotten yourself into only dawns on you somewhere on down the road as things need to be repaired and/or replaced. In case you’re not familiar with the joys of living in an older home, it’s a given that things will definitely need to be repaired or replaced. Be sure to keep that in mind should you ever wish to take the plunge (into the abyss, as Rick would warn you) and purchase an older home. When I say older, I’m talking 100 years + here, not 20 or 30 years. Although, mind you, I have heard stories from some of my ladies about their own houses needing major repairs after only 30 or 40 years, so I guess we’ve not done to bad overall where this house is concerned.

We bought this house at auction in November 1996 and moved in on December 19. We had lived in Lincoln County for about 15 months at that point. We drove all over the county looking for a place to call home where our three children could roam freely like Rick and I did as children. This house was hidden behind pine trees so that it could only be seen if you were sitting directly in front of it at the end of the road. It was love at first sight; at least it was on my part. Rick was not equally, nor so easily, enamored. But, what could be better than a big old house on top of a hill with a long, grassy front yard gently sloping to the bottom of the driveway? Exactly!!! With its perfect vantage point, I figured it had been in someone’s family for decades though and would never go up for sale. How wrong I was, as I learned later. This poor house has been bought and sold many times over in its’ history. It started out life with 125 acres surrounding it. We bought it with 6.9 acres and added an extra 5 acres later so the kids would have some woods to explore. Yes, we bought the extra land just for the kids. It didn’t hurt that it also gave us a bit of an extra buffer between us and future neighbors. Not in an effort to be unneighborly mind, we just like lots of space. On this hill no one can build behind us (south) because it’s a flood plain for the Elk River. When the river floods it’s like having lake front property. No one can build on our east side because we’ve been told the land used to be the old dump and the ground cannot be disturbed by the digging required to build houses. Elkton Pike runs along the front (north) of our property, so the only direction where we can have neighbors is to our west. Because of all the trees, we don’t even know they’re there most of the time.

There are lots of stories to be told from having lived here for over 20 years now, but those will have to wait, or this post will become a novel. I’ll stop now and add more in future posts, assuming you’re interested in seeing the progress, slow though it has been. Suffice it to say, what was supposed to be a two to three week job has so far turned into a four and a-half month job which is not even close to being finished. As the guys have taken off each section they’ve found more damage either from termites and/or water. Since termites are always looking for a water source it’s not a good thing when you have a roof leak that doesn’t get repaired properly, several times over, and the termites migrate up to the roof. Yes, the guys found termite eaten wood up in our roof. Before you ask, we are under a termite bond and the house is sprayed every year, and every time we expose bare dirt, but apparently this damage was done before we bought the house. Add to that the damage done by powder post beetles to the untreated wood used long ago and you have a recipe for disaster, which is why the guys have had to do a lot of jacking up and reinforcing under the house. Hard to spend money on repairs that no one will ever see, but the expense is very necessary if we don’t want the house to end up in the basement, which, according to Wes, it’s amazing that it hasn’t done so already. But that’s another story for another day.

1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Phyllis Ramby
    Oct 09, 2018 @ 17:52:18

    We love that house and your family. My hope is for you to be able settle back into its warm walls sturdy and renewed. Thanks for the update on the work. Hope to see it completed soon without anymore slowdowns.


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