Glenlochan -The Beginning

Glenlochan -The Beginning
Glenlochan - The Beginning

Glenlochan Today

Glenlochan Today
Glenlochan Today

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Recycling Scrap Metal

The old boiler of Glenlochan and its accompanying pipes has provided hours of special work for Rob.  He's been crawling around on his stomach (literally, like a worm) in the tiniest of crawl spaces under the house and in the cellar to disconnect and remove a spiderweb of pipes that had heated the house.   It did not look like a fun job, and there aren't readily visible results for his efforts, but this picture will provide a small sense of the enormity of the project.

Hauling day required reinforcements in the form of Josh.  He helped Rob carry the heavy old boiler up the cellar stairs and into the trailer. 

Two trips to Middlesex Metals has cleared the house and yard of all metal scrap, and in addition to a little pocket money for their efforts, they received a scratch-off lottery ticket at each visit.  What a great place!


Saturday, March 26, 2011

A "Controlled" Drop

When we took the walls down that had been built around the staircase and landing on the second floor, we discovered that an interesting approach had been taken in the past to fix a problematic plaster ceiling.  The sagging ceiling was framed in and then covered with a thin layer of drywall that completely masked the flaws, but in effect, left a potential collapsed ceiling waiting to happen:

We opted for a "controlled drop" of the ceiling instead of waiting for a sudden collapse.  We prepared by laying tarp to catch the plaster and to protect the staircase.  We both donned our Tyvek suits, OSHA approved face masks and goggles. (I was taking the pictures, so thankfully, there is no documentation of me in this very attractive safety gear.)  In the below picture you can really see the sagging plaster barely supported by the frame that had been built around it as Rob starts the "drop" process. 

Rob had the framing and plaster down in a short amount of time.

The pictures don't reflect it, but the actual "drop," although controlled, was really quite messy.  I was a bit too busy helping (and dodging flying plaster) to get many action shots of everything coming down, but trust me, it was a sight, and although the tarp caught much of the droppings, it took quite a while to get the mess all cleaned up and hauled out to the dumpster.  Plaster is actually pretty heavy when you have to haul it down a flight of stairs.

The end result isn't all that attractive, but hopefully it will be, someday.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

The Mystery of the Watering Trough in the Attic (With Apologies to Nancy Drew)

We have a mystery on our hands, several in fact, and all relating to Rob's discovery of what appears to be a watering trough in the attic.  A very large, steel watering trough:

Our architect, Chris Riddick of Coastal Design, suggested it might be a pig scalder, not a watering trough.  Pig scalders were used for immersing just-killed pig bodies in boiling water to aid in the removal of their hair.  Given this possible use, you can see why I'd prefer to think of it as a watering trough.  My cursory research has not been able to answer the burning (no pun intended) question of whether it's a watering trough or pig scalder definitively, and so I shall refer to it as a watering trough herein for obvious reasons. 

Whatever it is, we are also wondering why it was in the attic of the house - other attic finds included everything from disintegrating mattresses to broken picture frames (aka junk) - but nothing else along these lines.  Our collective imaginations and suggestions from others have evoked many interesting possibilities ranging from the inane (catching water from roof leaks) to the insane (think Jeffrey Dahmer).  Perhaps most puzzling, however, is how the watering trough got into the attic in the first place.  As Rob discovered when he tried to remove the trough, and as you can see in the picture below, it is simply much too large to fit through the only entrance and exit to the attic, a pull down stairs.

Thus, the mystery of the watering trough in the attic.  Was the trough put up there during construction of the home in 1907 and before the finished floors, ceilings and walls were put in place?  If so, why?  Did the attic previously have a different access point?  Our architect, Chris, believes that at some point in the past there may have been another full staircase to the attic above the staircase between the first and second floors.  If so, that may explain how the trough was carried up to the attic, but that raises more questions.  Why would a full staircase be removed in favor of a pull down stair access to the attic?  Additionally, a look at the second floor landing rails (which would not have been in place at the end if another staircase existed) suggest that those are original, or at least very, very old:

But, the laths above the existing staircase were cut underneath the plaster in the perfect opening size for another staircase, so it could be that it existed at some point. 

If we could determine the approximate date of the trough, we'll have a clue.  If we end up taking down the plaster on the wall by the stairs, we'll have more clues about whether a staircase to the attic existed before.  And, there may be a long-time Urbanna resident who knows the history of the home's interior.  Like Nancy Drew, we'll do our best to explore the clues, but unlike Nancy Drew's 100% success rate, we may never solve the mystery. 

And, for the time being at least, we'll continue to have a watering trough in our attic.

Friday, March 18, 2011

There's Horses in Them Thar Walls

Well, horse hair, at least.  The original walls and ceilings that remain in the house are plaster - horse hair plaster.  I'm fascinated by it and in awe of it.  Now that this has been pointed out to me, every time I look at the walls, I cannot help but imagine the horses who contributed their hair to the plaster cause.  They lived over 100 years ago, and not only did they probably provide years of service to those who lived in the early 1900's, their hair is now deeply embedded in our walls. 

Check out this close up of the horse hair from a chunk of plaster:

Lime plaster was generally used during the time that Glenlochan was built (although gypsum plaster also arrived on the scene in the early 1900's).  Although I'm not a plaster expert by any means, it's interesting to note that the 4 ingredients for lime plaster are:  Lime, aggregate, fiber, and water.  The lime came from limestone or oyster shells (did I mention that Urbanna is famous for it's annual Oyster Festival?).  The aggregate was generally sand, and horse hair (in the case or our plaster) or boar's hair served as the fiber.  Applied in 3 layers over wooden lath, plaster walls provided strength, durability, noise reduction, and fire resistance.  Here's a look at the wooden lath.

One of the downsides of lime plaster was that it could take over a year to dry and cure before paint or wallpaper could be applied.

We have several options to consider as we put together our renovation plans, each of which come with various advantages, disadvantages, and price points.  Repairing the plaster, where possible makes sense, but some areas are too far gone for mere repairs.  Drywalling over the plaster would probably be the most economical, but it isn't historically accurate.  (I should note that this is the option that a previous owner had already elected in many of the downstairs rooms of the home, and we aren't exactly thrilled with the results.)  Re-plastering is probably the most expensive option, and it requires a very skilled craftsman.  A middle of the road option is veneer plaster - a modern method of plastering that is more expensive than drywall, but not as costly as traditional plaster.  We have lots to think about.

"Plaster in a historic building is like a family album. The handwriting of the artisans, the taste of the original occupants, and the evolving styles of decoration are embodied in the fabric of the building."  Preservation Brief 21 of the Department of the Interior  We look forward to adding our unique touch to the fabric of Glenlochan.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Cellar Woes

The basement of Glenlochan really doesn't rise to the level of being called a basement.  It's more like a root cellar.  This little cellar is accessible from the main entry way of the house, and also from the outside:

Although double staircases to our cellar might imply that it has the potential to be a really great space, it will never be a place to hang out.  It's loftiest aspiration will be merely to house the mechanical systems for Glenlochan.  It will require a new floor, but the existing one is very interesting, with a deep indentation right in the center for the current boiler, and a chute-like area to get coal to a long ago coal burning furnace.  Our goal was to get the cellar cleared out and cleaned up for all the work to come.  Like the attic and outbuilding before it, the cellar had plenty to contribute to our dumpster.  The next 2 pictures will provide a small window into the clearing that needed to be done.

It was a hot, sweaty, and dirty job that required wearing our face masks (and a good scrubbing afterward), but the result was well worth the effort:

Clean, but still just a cellar.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Me and My Machete

The yard and grounds surrounding Glenlochan have many features that we love, and one that we do not:

Yup, a very large stand of bamboo.  Invasive, spreading, and impossible to eradicate bamboo.  The tool of choice to remove bamboo?  Well, we really weren't sure, but Rob purchased a $12.99 machete and I decided to give it a go.

Never having used a machete before, I wasn't really sure that this would be something I'd enjoy or be able to do.  But, in my effort to avoid another afternoon in the dusty house doing demo and wearing this:

I decided it was the lesser of two evils.  Is machete proficiency a marketable skill?  I'm guessing not.  Nonetheless, I appear to have a quite a talent for this handy little tool.

In an entire afternoon of hacking bamboo, I made considerable progress.....

.....or so I thought.  Unfortunately, only about 10% of the bamboo was actually cut down after all that effort.  Needless to say, me and my machete are not going to be sufficient to solve the Glenlochan bamboo problem.  Fortunately, we have a few other tricks up our sleeves...stay tuned!