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Edward’s renovation blog - going solo

 
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I have started blogging here, documenting the renovation of my 1850’s colonial town house. I have a deadline at the end of June to exit my New Jersey rented house and move the family to Dutchess County, NY. These are my previous posts:

I’ve left New Jersey - some back ground history and the emotional rollercoaster of expectations and reality

The first week - camping in an empty house and the joy of installing a washing line.


Going Solo - the first bite of the elephant - removing four layers of flooring, the dog has a seizure

We returned on Saturday to NJ after a week in the new house. My plan was to return early on Monday and get in two days of work. I spent Sunday morning batch cooking for myself and the family, leaving the fridge full of jars and written instructions for my wife and youngest son. It was time to pack the car.

I have fourteen planned trips and the car needs to be as full as possible especially on the early trips. When we finally all move and leave this place behind, I’ll hire a small van for the big stuff. I want to do as few hires as possible.

Last week we only had basic camping gear, sleeping on airbeds and sitting in folding chairs. When we weren’t cleaning, we hung out in the kitchen. It felt good, all being in one place with minimal but adequate comforts.

As I started loading the car up, I reflected on just how much stuff I have. This will be my sixth move in nine years and I still have more stuff than I’d like. Moving to a house that’s square footage is double what we currently have and triple what we need, fills me with financial and moral dread. I have a history of comfort shopping . . . Especially when stressed or angry.

I started filling the car with everything I’d need - all my tools. Next went in more camping gear, sleeping bags, winter stuff like snow shovels, stuff that I want to keep but wouldn’t need. The car was full and I was ready to go. I was set to leave at dawn. Then the dog had a seizure. She had full body shudders like a violent hiccup. She was unsteady on her feet and looked puzzled. She’d take a few shaky steps and then her back-legs would buckle. This lasted about five minutes and having never experienced this before I took a twenty second video as it would be easier to show the vet rather than explain it. She had three more episodes between 7pm and 9pm. Then she slept. I stayed with her until midnight and returned at five the next day. I wouldn’t be heading north, instead I was waiting on the vets doorstep when they opened at eight.

My dog Pip has just turned ten. She’s an English shepherd and has had a raw food diet most of her life. 80% of what she eats is raw chicken wings. On her two previous health check-ups the vets have been amazed and dismayed at her blood work and the condition of her coat and teeth. I’m only assuming dismayed as they’ve not been able to upsell teeth cleaning or any medication. I take her to the woods six out of seven days, so we both get at least an hour of exercise. I could take her hiking all day in the Catskills and she’d covers three times my distance, running up and down the track. So this was our first incident and it really shook me.

The vets were kind and sympathetic, worked fast and took xrays and blood samples. They talked about MRI, scans and doggie brain specialists that totally freaked me out. I had to say no half a dozen times when they kept suggesting seizure medication - this was before they got the xrays and blood-work back. I left with instructions to monitor her and they would call me the next day. And a $722 bill . . .

I went home had a cup of tea and decided to head north anyway. I was worried and needed to keep busy. I don’t normally do worry. We got in the car and she curled up in the footwell of the passenger seat and went to sleep.

My new neighbour and the previous owner of the house had kindly offered to cut the grass. I had other plans. It was a beautiful spring day so the dog wandered around the garden and I set too with my pushalong. I probably wouldn’t have cut it this early as there are plenty of flowers. But if I didn’t then my neighbour would and he’d scalp it to within an inch of it’s life. I set the blades as high as they would go and left plenty for the pollinators. Pip was fine. She ate some grass, which is something she often does, especially if she’s eaten something she shouldn’t. We headed in and then she barfed on the kitchen floor. I looked down with dismay, there was a rag, half a black walnut shell, a couple of leaves and the grass she’d just eaten. I recognised the rag as a piece of off-cut from the window covers I’d made a few months ago. I had cut it into small squares and used it lots of household chores, like cleaning my bike chain, oiling wood work and making beeswax wraps. So she had been digesting a cloth soaked in linseed oil, tung oil, olive oil, citric acid, citric chain cleaner or beeswax. Soon after the vet called. Once again, her blood work showed she was in top shape and the xrays hadn’t picked anything up although they were mostly of her chest rather than abdomen. I explained what had happened. The vet was unsure if there was a link but it was enough to convince him that she didn’t need any medication at this point in time. She’s returning next month for her next rabies jab and we will review the situation then. I’ll keep an eye on her for anything out of the ordinary. She’s with me most of the time most days, I’ll just have to be more careful and make sure she’s not nosing around and eating things she shouldn’t. I’m guessing she must have found the rag in the garage when I was loading the car up. I have no idea what possessed her to eat it. Guilt and $722 bills are a good reminder to be more vigilant, let alone her own pain and suffering.

Once the lawn was cut and the car unloaded, I started on the Red Room. The Red Room is the second largest bedroom and it’s painted red, the kind of red that was popular in the 80’s. It’s an 8-bit red, the red that early computers with 16 colours used. There’s nothing subtle about it. The carpet is a matching blue, in the sense that it too, was found on early PC screens.

I’m not a fan of carpet and less a fan of other peoples carpet. It feels like a giant petri dish of other peoples waste products. This one had a lot of ingrained cat fur, some suspicious stains and smelt of wee. I suited and masked up and set to with a small sharp knife. I have found the best way to deal with carpet is to cut it into 18 inch strips, roll them up and bag them for easy disposal. If it was made of natural materials I may have been tempted to repurpose in the garden, but this was pure nylon and I’m allergic to cats. So up it came followed by the underlay, which was a plastic foam and the source of the awful smell. This exposed a layer of tiles covered in a deep layer of animal and human skin flakes - I was now double wrapped with N95 masks and goggles.

My first big purchase, excluding the house and vet bill, was a shop vac. I bought it because I didn’t want to trash our household vacuum cleaner, and it wasn’t up to the job of de-catting the radiators. I thought it would be a good long term investment for my workshop as I was going to be sawing a lot of timbre. It turned out to be a huge help, sucking up all the dust and detritus.

I also hate the strips used to fix carpet - the thin wooden strips that are all nails. They all had to go. Now I had to tackle the tiles. I didn’t know what they were, except brown and splodgy in design and something you’d find on the floor of an old-school barbers. They were only a couple of millimetres thick and very brittle. I’m guessing they’re some kind of Bakelite. On the plus side, they were easy to remove with a pry bar / cats paw thingammy.

Under the tiles lay 4 x 8 sheets of half inch ply. Initially I though I could lift these and repurpose in the basement as a floor for the workshop. Alas, this wasn’t to be. These were installed by someone who never wanted them removed. Ever edge had a nail at four inch spacing and the middle was nailed at eight inch intervals in both directions. The ply also stank and the lamination glue was brittle, so the edges splintered easily. I spent a couple of hours trying to get one board up intact and failed. The nails had small heads but grooved shafts, so they bit like a screw without the advantage of being able to unscrew them. Yup, I was screwed. The only solution was to get out my circular saw and cut the whole floor up into two foot squares. I set the blade to 7/16 of an inch and set to. I cut the whole floor up into a two by two grid and with the use of a crow bar and pry bar, lifted all the ply. Only the first board was half an inch, all the others were slightly thinner, so I also had a nice partial checker board etched in the paint of the boards underneath. On closer inspection, the grooves are very shallow, only just cut through the paint, so when I sand the floor they should all disappear. On the plus side, the original floor is intact, painted and a little battered but restorable. I don’t have many carpeted rooms and Red Room is by far the largest. It’s my intention to sand the floor once I’ve painted the walls and ceilings and then investigate the best way to treat them - waxes, oils etc. No doubt I’ll be back here asking questions when I reach that stage of the project.

I used :
- Utility knife with replaceable razorblades
- Pry bar / cats paw
- Crow bar / wrecking bar
- Screwdriver for removing door
- Circular saw for cutting the ply
- Japanese pull saw for removing ply in awkward places
- 31 gallon metal dustbin / trash can and 31 gallon sacks
- Big shop vac
- Safety googles and N95 masks

Probably should have used :
- knee pads because of the large number of nails that ripped through and remained after the ply was removed
- Gloves . . . Especially for removing the carpet fastener strips. I have gloves, just couldn’t find them and was loathed to buy new ones
- Upgraded face mask
- Traditional pocket knife rather than one with disposable blades
- An alternative solution to plastic sacks . . . Couldn’t find anything on the day

I’m sure a multi power tool would have been useful and quicker than a Japanese pull saw for the last few inches around the edge of the room.

From experience, bag and clean as you go. Do one task everywhere before moving on - remove all the carpet, then remove all the underlay, etc. Youtubers appear to work in studios that are far from reality! What works for me might not work for you . . .

It took me 12 hours in all and I am paying for it today. I have two more smaller rooms to work on. I started on one before leaving and uncovered the blocked off plumbing of what was once a bathroom. I have no intention of putting on back in. The pipes run through the cellar and knowing what they were for is a big plus - I can take them all out. They’re big ugly 4 inch iron pipes and badly corroded. They run through doorways and along half the walls. There are two other drains leading into it, one from the washing machine and one from the kitchen sink. I can hook these two up and replace with a 2 inch pipe but that’s for another day and a looooong way down the list. The days are ticking and I have a house to move and five rooms to finish.

I’m writing these posts because I like to write about my own experiences. They’re not intend as “how-to’s” - I’m not an expert and often problem solve on the fly. I hope you enjoy reading them and maybe feel inspired to work on your own projects or write about them. I spent a year reading up on Permaculture focusing on the agriculture. However the first PEP badge I finished was Nest and what I learnt there has already been put into practice. I’m going to have plenty of opportunity to work on my plumbing, electrical, community and tool care badges with a few others thrown in. I’ll save the woodland care and natural building ones for my next big project, five or ten years from now.


The Red Room before the work began


I wanted to know what was underneath the carpet, so ‘dug’ a one metre ‘inspection pit’ discovering a previous floor solution from the 1950’s


I really don’t want to know what this stuff is - glad i had a powerful shop vac.


Tile removal, keeping things clear as I worked


Ply sub floor


2 by 2 grid of 7/16th inch cuts to help remove the ply in manageable sections


Many of the edge nails just ripped through the old and brittle ply. I did a couple of sweeps with a long rule to make sure they were all removed


Using a Japanese pull saw to remove the ply in awkward places or close to the wall where the circular saw couldn’t reach


Original boards restored by the previous owner in the main bedroom, showing an example of what the Red Room could look like


The original boards, painted brown. Battered but generally in good shape
 
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Hopefully Pip's fit was just a result of eating that rag. Our dogs eat grass quite a bit too, but often when they have a tummy ache I think. Hopefully she will be OK now, it's a worry when they can't tell you what's wrong.

I like the bones of your house too! What a lovely floor you've uncovered. You've made a lot of progress for one day.

Thoughts on plastic bin bags....I suppose ideally you'd want something reusable. Remember when the main bin just had rubbish in- the dustbin didn't have black bin bags when I was a child. imagine buying something just to throw it away.... and we do it all the time now! Larger stuff like the carpet and ply/tiles could perhaps be tied together with string into rolls or stacks, the string could make a carry handle too. For dirt and vacuum contents ideally an emptyable (is that a word?) container with a lid, depending on when and where the contents are disposed of.

The decor is certainly...colourful! It might need a few coats of paint to tone those walls down!
Thanks for sharing.
 
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What beautiful floorboards. (Potentially.) I have sanded and polished parquet flooring in the past (found hidden under horrible green carpet) and it came up really well although it did take a bit of time.
I agree with Nancy about those red walls. Several coats of paint I think.
 
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That red room brings back memories of my brother's room at my dad's house... just in reverse, he had red carpet and blue walls!
Glad your dog is okay! Our dogs will try to eat any small things on the floor: dust bunnies, torn bits of paper, leaves... so, we are careful about things like bread ties, tear-away packaging seals, bad-for-dogs foods, and the like... even with pet insurance, it's a NO-FUN trip to el veterinario!
The clean-as-you-go with the shop-vac will serve you well!
 
Ara Murray
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How is the dog?
 
Edward Norton
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Ara Murray wrote:How is the dog?



Hi Ara,

Thanks for asking. She’s good, no further issues. I’m taking extra care during my renovation project. I’m assuming, if she can eat it, she will eat it!
 
Edward Norton
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Kenneth Elwell wrote:
The clean-as-you-go with the shop-vac will serve you well!



Absolutely. Starting to wonder how I survived without one. I’m normally a bit old school, manual lawn mower, hand saw, etc. And in this case, dust pan and brush. The shop vac though is so good and keeps the dust level low as well as a huge time saver. I can live with the guilt…
 
Edward Norton
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Nancy Reading wrote:Hopefully Pip's fit was just a result of eating that rag. Our dogs eat grass quite a bit too, but often when they have a tummy ache I think. Hopefully she will be OK now, it's a worry when they can't tell you what's wrong.

I like the bones of your house too! What a lovely floor you've uncovered. You've made a lot of progress for one day.

Thoughts on plastic bin bags....I suppose ideally you'd want something reusable. Remember when the main bin just had rubbish in- the dustbin didn't have black bin bags when I was a child. imagine buying something just to throw it away.... and we do it all the time now! Larger stuff like the carpet and ply/tiles could perhaps be tied together with string into rolls or stacks, the string could make a carry handle too. For dirt and vacuum contents ideally an emptyable (is that a word?) container with a lid, depending on when and where the contents are disposed of.

The decor is certainly...colourful! It might need a few coats of paint to tone those walls down!
Thanks for sharing.



The bones are good. Good idea on the carpet and ply. The shop vac is just that, a large bin with a lid. It has a massive filter which I clear periodically with the household vac, which is also bagless.

Took two coats on the red room, which now looks amazing. We've been bold and gone for a really deep dark blue which I'm sure someone in ten years will question!
IMG_5277.jpeg
[Thumbnail for IMG_5277.jpeg]
 
Ara Murray
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Glad the dog is OK. We currently have a labrador and they are well known for eating everything and he does: rabbit and sheep droppings, rabbit fur, sheep food, bits of dead seabird on the beach, any food the cat drops etc etc. I even caught him licking the kitchen floor one day and I could only assume I'd dropped some icing sugar when icing a cake earlier that day.
I like the dark blue walls - very "hugging" and easier to cover the red with a dark colour than a light one.
 
Edward Norton
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Ara Murray wrote:Glad the dog is OK. We currently have a labrador and they are well known for eating everything and he does: rabbit and sheep droppings, rabbit fur, sheep food, bits of dead seabird on the beach, any food the cat drops etc etc. I even caught him licking the kitchen floor one day and I could only assume I'd dropped some icing sugar when icing a cake earlier that day.
I like the dark blue walls - very "hugging" and easier to cover the red with a dark colour than a light one.



Thanks Ara - I had to laugh when you mentioned 'licking the floor' . . . Pip does this everyday after eating her food. She has a raw diet, mostly chicken wings, so I guess she just wants to get the taste of her tongue :p
 
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