Never Assume

Consider this part 2 of the post from yesterday. What had been the conclusion of that post was, in fact, premature. I had opened up a corner of the wall, but it was just one corner.

Today I opened up the corner the rest of the way to the floor. There was one vertical post, so I was able to work my way down to the floor.

Unfortunately, there was not an obvious beam there. All I could see was at least three inches of mortar surrounding the base. Maybe a beam, maybe a foundation wall. We’ll have to wait until we open the floor to find out.

Across the top of the opening between the two sections of the house, though, I was able to keep pulling away plaster and lathe to expose the hoped for lintel. It did keep going, but only the width of what must have once been a window. It does not go all the way across.

West side of opening, with the stone lintel.
East side of opening, after the stone lintel ends.

The other end looked like the fields stone back wall of the house, with nothing specific holding it up above the wood frame.

Digging deeper, I was able to find wood holding up the stone. Maybe a 2×8 or so, set horizontally, so not a lot of structural support for the stone wall that is over a foot thick.

So, never assume what you see at one point keeps going to another.

Keeping that in mind, I decided to keep going to see how the beam I found at the top of the wall was supported.

North-East corner of Dining Room

This corner view has a lot going on – not least of which is the wallpaper pattern – but the beam is sitting on a post in the corner. That part was good news. How the hot water pipes for the radiators were cut into that beam, however, is concerning. Almost half of that 8×8 beam had been hacked away to make room for two 1″ copper pipes.

Knob and Tube

Our house has had its electrical system upgraded with every generation of technology since it came in to homes, including examples of new outlets wired to older wiring, so you can’t trust it just because it has three prongs. Take this example, where cloth wiring goes into an outlet I don’t recognize, then goes out through metal conduit, an ultimately to new wiring and a nice, new outlet. Don’t trust the outlet.


The entire upstairs has knob and tube wiring, which is always good for some costly drama on the home repair shows. The technology is simple, knobs hold the wire against the joists, like this part going through our attic:


And tubes run it through drilled holes in the joists:


In the end, it shows up in my office as a single two-pronged outlet. This is how it looked when I pulled the outlet from the wall to start replacing it:img_1817

Fortunately, one new circuit has already been run to the attic through what was once a closet in the living room. I was able to run wiring from there over to the office and down through the wall, so I have a real outlet in the office now. The ethernet cable I had to string along the hot water heating pipes, because I couldn’t get to that former closet to run any new wiring.

One outlet down, the rest of the upstairs to go.

It must be spring

At our old house, I was planning a fire pit for boiling maple syrup. We had two acres of woods and lots of maple trees. We don’t have that here, but there is one big old maple and a commercial range hood over our not-so-commercial stove. With the temperatures above freezing during the day and below freezing at night, it was time to see how it would work.


The first batch is shown on the left next to a grading sampler that’s probably hard to see. Light amber. Last night I finished the batch on the right: dark amber. Same tree, later in the season.

You’re invited to sample! (Just call first) Toni has some good whole-wheat pancake mix from King Arthur Flour…


The former owner was nice enough to preserve some interesting documents with the house. Unfortunately, anything of significance from the home was previously sold off so there are mostly papers. One image, though, that shows the house as of some point in the late 1800s. The roof has been raised but the Victorian bump out hasn’t been added.

Closing Day

OK, so this was the official beginning. Closing day. Excited. Naive, it turns out. Happy to have it be official. We have one month of overlap with both houses – the idea being that we can get some clean up and painting done. There are a long list of projects to be tackled. It will turn out to have been a very incomplete list..

The journey begins

So, this isn’t actually the beginning, but it’s the first photo of us in front of the house. I’ll add some posts later to fill in the story so far – and some of the more interesting stories and pictures from the past few months.

This was “landscape demo day”, where we cleared out some of the overgrown brush and cut back the vines. I’d already taken a chainsaw to the wisteria that was growing in through the storm windows and weighing down the porch.

Bill Whitney (Whitney Designs) had tagged the landscaping that was appropriate for the early 1800s so we could keep that and clear out the rest to start fresh in the spring. Our new neighbor John volunteered not just his trailer to haul debris to the town dump but also himself. He put in a full day helping us remove three loads of brush and two loads of dried leaves for Tom’s compost pile down the street.

We also found that the bush in the driveway was covering up a well. Not just a dry hole in the ground but what looks like it could be used today for irrigation (if we ever needed it).

Some nice, visible progress and a chance to say “we’re here”. It’s also clear that this is not a project we can race through – not a sprint or even a marathon; it’s a journey.