Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Norman's house

I bought a couple of houses in Baltimore. I call one "Annapolis Bog" because it's on Annapolis Road and it's so wet inside that there's nothing organic that can be salvaged. The other is Norman's House because I bought it after it's previous owner, Norman, passed away. Today I'm talking about Norman's house.

The house always needed some work. It's livable, but not great. I'm not going for great. I'm going for rentable. I already had one contractor do some work. It was clear that his heart wasn't in it. I was intending to use him for the gutting of Annapolis Bog, but he's not seeing a dime now.

One of the strange things about that place is the wood panelling over the walls. Judging from the materials it was probably put up in the 70's. I'm assuming that's when the drop ceiling went in, too. Pure class that Norman.

We picked one room and decided to see what was under the wood panelling and what was above the drop ceiling. We figured we'd pull it down, remove the wallpaper we knew was underneath, and repaint. We were fools.

Yesterday we attacked a room. Different from the one we intended. The intended room has a new gypsum board ceiling that effectively prevents us from removing that panelling without lots of careful knife work. This new room had a known problem with the ceiling light. Namely that it was attached to an extra cheap drop ceiling panel instead of the framework for the panelling. This highly flexible panelling can't really support the weight of the light on it's own so it sags significantly. To get a better look, I climbed up the ladder that Norman so graciously left us with the house and pulled down one of the panels. With it came a bunch of plaster and wallpaper. The ceiling above the ceiling was collapsing.

We refocused on our original task. Take down the wood panelling. And it came down pretty easily once we took out the plastic, faux-wood moulding... and the rest of the drop ceiling. These super-cheap ceiling panels have the advantage that they don't break if you try to move them like more traditional ceiling panels do. They came right down and did so in a condition that means I could put them back up if I chose. And even though they don't support light fixtures, they do, apparently, support crumbling plaster.

I dismantled the drop ceiling framework while Yummy started pulling loose wood panelling. When the framework came away from the walls the wood panels came down easily. That exposed beams attached to old plaster walls. Along the interior wall that plaster had kind of a falling out with the lath it covered. Falling out? Maybe a falling off. This wall we intended to repaint became, with minimal encouragement, a pile of rocky debris on the floor.

The ceiling soon joined it. Hey, it's a lath ceiling with holes in it. Why should we try to keep it? Yummy discovered the joy of playing the top of the lath like a xylophone and watching it fall away. She also realized that a determined person with a hammer can level a house in just a few hours.

Above that ceiling was a horrible mix of modern wiring and the original knob and tube wiring that the house was built with. We can also see enough of it now that we can start rewiring. Particularly since we now have a Jeffries Tube running over all the rooms. What? It's easier to convince a geek to crawl around in the Smurf sized attic and run wire if you use Star Trek terms.

Of course, after about 5 hours of work we found ourselves in a room full of partially exposed brick, bare wires, visible studs, and shin deep debris. Contractor bags are handy, but we could use some smaller ones. Start throwing debris in those bags and you've barely gotten started when you have an 80 lb bag of rocks. The wood performs better. It makes for a more impressive bag... of tetanus. But at least those nails aren't going in the bottoms of your shoes anymore. My demonstration of that hazard convinced Yummy she needed to change shoes.

We didn't get the room completely cleaned up. With the ceiling light gone we were dependent on daylight. It's January. Sunset is around noon. We went home, Yummy looking like coal miner, my hair feeling like a cast on my skull.

1 comment:

Der_Muffinman2 said...

That sounds like fun?