Friday, February 3, 2017

The Attic of Horrors Pt. 2

Last month I ran into a friend and before I could get a "hello!" out, she grabbed me by the shoulders and said "WHERE ARE THE MANOR UPDATES!?!". I didn't think it had been that long but after checking, I realized I did not post one update in 2016. To those who follow this crazy journey, I apologize. I could go into the 20,000 reasons I neglected the blog but I'll spare you the boring details and just say that 2016 in one word was "hectic".

To dive right back in, last year was the year of more brick repointing. Surprise! It was also the year I realized that my calling in life is NOT brick repointing. Believe me, I tried. I asked Jeremy to teach me how to do it, thinking it would speed up the process. I thought, well I took ceramics in college and worked with my hands in other fine art hard can it be? It was counter-productive to say the least. I had more mortar on the ground, my clothes, body and hair than I did in the joints. I might try it again this Spring but I'll have to work on a different part of the house....preferably a part that is going to get covered by a deck or something.

Jeremy on the other hand is getting faster at it and we might be done with the whole house in 2055!

The president of the Danger Squad, aka Dad, has been helping out as well. We're getting ready to break the "don't jump around on projects" rule and take a break from the brick to rebuild the front porch. It's necessary because this year we are putting a new roof on the house and the porch & terrace need to be ready for the roofers.

Don't try this at home kids....

Porch is down to the bones right now and ready for the rebuild!

After the realization that masonry was not a natural talent of mine, I decided to jump back on a project that has been eluding a check mark since 2014...the attic. You will soon find out why something so simple as cleaning an attic has taken 3 years. Again, the "don't jump around on projects" rule was broken but here's why: Working on the attic causes extreme cases of isolation, paranoia, gagging and PTSD. Back in 2014 I posted a blog called Simon and the Attic of Horrors depicting our troubles with the boom lift and the daunting task of cleaning the attic. To refresh your memory, this is what one small section of the attic looked like.

This is probably 1/8 of the attic and the whole thing looked like this. Just tons of junk scattered all over the floor. I can't even begin to tell you how many contractor bags FULL of junk that I've hauled out of there. Every once in a while I would find something worth keeping but it was mostly crap. And speaking of crap, that brings me to the second reason why this project has been on and off again and the reason why it causes PTSD. I'm not sure I can properly convey what I actually witnessed in that attic and I'm sure it's some kind of disgusting world record. As you know, the whole roofline was exposed where the soffits had rotted away. This was a big neon "OPEN" sign to every raccoon in Macon County over the many years that the house was vacant. must have a coon problem and I think they were all in my attic at one point just having one big shitfest. I really debated on posting this picture because at some point in the future when the house is done I would like to have people over and food will probably be involved and I would like for said people to actually eat the food and not politely decline because they are thinking of this picture and know that it happened right above them. But, I said I was going to post everything about this renovation journey and this is part of it.


Lovely, right? And to put this into perspective a little more, this is a floor joist not a flat floor which means that poo is about 6" deep. This is also just one floor joist and most that were exposed were full or almost full. For anyone reading this that is wondering what kind of precautions I took (MOM!), yes I was wearing a heavy duty ventilation mask...although I am fairly certain that I should never donate blood, plasma or try to have children.

And to make things even more sanitary, why wouldn't I find a mummified..."something"?

Ok, deep breath everyone. Let's leave those images for a second and go to our happy place.

Over the course of working on the attic, I've said "I just need one more day and I'll be done!" about 50 different trips up. However, I really do feel like I'm one day away from that check mark.

Before & After

The poo has left the building!

Still a few things that need to be cleared out but definitely a big difference.

The roof peak and chimney make it a pretty cool room.

So there you have it. 3 years in the making but the attic of horrors is almost conquered!

In other Manor news, I attempted to make the house look festive this year during Christmas and put battery powered candles in the windows. Not sure I achieved festive or creepy?

I also put a tree in the window. My sisters exact words, "You're nuts".

Friday, November 13, 2015

New project underway

I would say of all the seasons, fall is the one where the Manor really shines the brightest. Even with the house still technically in "dilapidation phase", it almost looks "normal" with all of the beautiful trees that surround it.

We don't have ONE tree at our house in Kansas City but here we have almost 3 acres of some of the most beautiful and unique trees I've ever seen. I don't even mind the's therapeutic and my inner pyro gets satisfied when the burning begins! ;)

SO! It's been a while since I've updated this thing but it hasn't been because we are running out of steam. It's because we're repointing the brick on the front of the house and I didn't think it would be very interesting for you to read 50 blog updates of the most boring house project in the world. It would go something like "So here's a section of freshly mortared brick...oh, here's another section of freshly mortared brick...oh, and this brick was gone so we put a new one in" get the idea. However, repointing brick compared to rebuilding soffits is like comparing getting a root canal to going to an amusement park.

Well, we might as well get started with this. Here's a section of freshly mortared brick.

Here's another one!

...and yes...I almost killed a tiny tree frog that was hiding in the brick. My job has been to scrape the old mortar out & the little guy just about met a pretty horrific ending from my scraper tool. You never know what kind of animal or bug is ready to jump out at you. Example #1! Paw prints that were INSIDE of the kitchen cabinet from some critter that walked through flour. Horrifying! Do you know how many heart attacks I would have simultaneously had if he had still been in there when I opened this thing up?

We'll be heading to Bevier this weekend to continue this project so look forward to more brick wall photos next week!!!! *sarcasm* All joking steps. The exciting part is that once this front is repointed we are rebuilding the front terrace & that is going to make a BIG difference on the appearance of the front of the house. It may even take it out of "delapidation phase"!

Thursday, July 9, 2015

First Milestone!

I cannot believe I am actually typing this but SOFFITS ARE COMPLETELY BUILT!

Yes, we are a little excited about this. :)

Although there is no such thing as a Manor project that doesn't have it's obstacles that you have to work through, the construction gods were pretty kind to us for the last stretch of this project and there were no "major" problems. But, there were a couple of snags and the first one we encountered was the location. With the other areas of the house, we have moved the lift to where it needed to be to get to the roofline. This particular side of the house was kind of tricky and tucked away in an area that was surrounded by concrete walkways & steps. There was also the block foundation that is still there from the room we tore off & a little hill you would have to get the lift over to get to it...and that lift does not like hills at all! Basically, the lift was not an option for this spot unless we got a skid loader in there & really moved some serious dirt. Instead we opted to use scaffolding which ended up working great.

Once the scaffolding was built, the demo went pretty smoothly. This is the only time where "the more rotten the better". Besides some flashing that was nailed into the roof pretty well, everything came right down. Another plus was that the brick was in decent shape behind the trim boards so there was no switching gears to masonry right in the middle of the project.

The second obstacle was the roofline. I'm not sure why but the rooflines are not the same at this corner of the house. This is the only part of the house that is like that and it really had all of us scratching our heads on how to get it to look uniform. Oh and check out the layers of shingles on that roof! No wonder the attic is's like Fort Knox.

We weren't completely sold on how it looked but once it was painted we were a little more okay with it. I think when we get the gutters, decorative molding and trim pieces up we won't give it a second thought.

While Jeremy was conquering the soffits, I was on clean up duty. Once "the bad room" was demo'd and cleared away there was still the flooring that needed to be torn off and hauled away as well...which created a whole new mess.

Done! After taking a sledgehammer and pry bar to the floor and shoveling it onto a trailer, the rotten room is completely GONE!...and I discovered muscles the next day I didn't know I had.

This is where things got a little exciting for a second. While I was smoothing out the dirt in this area, I stuck my shovel in the ground & hit something...something hard and concrete. I thought at first it was a cinder block or brick but once I started to dig around it, I uncovered a concrete slab. After the dirt was cleared away from it I kind of just stared at it for a second & said "WHAT DID I JUST UNCOVER?!?!".

There is a "handle" that has been hollowed out on the corners of it & in the middle is a little section that has been dug out that has wood in it. We're still not exactly sure what it is but the popular vote is a step since half of the slab looks like it has been least that's what we're hoping it is! It was pretty hilarious bringing a few people back there to take a look at it. Every person had the same reaction...they stare at it for a second and then with a very concerned look on their face ask "WHAT IS THAT?!!!"...knowing exactly what it "looks" like.

One of these days maybe we'll pry it up & see if there's anything under it but at the time, getting the soffit finished was top priority. So here it is...

It needs to be painted & we forgot to buy the trim board that goes under it on the right side but that's a fix that will take about an hour so I'm still comfortable claiming soffit victory. :)

While we were admiring the roofline I asked, "So what's next?" and after some debate we both came to an agreement. Introducing our new headache/marriage tester....

First we'll be repointing all of the brick on the front of the house.

The front of the house took on water the most & has the biggest problem. I can take my finger & scrape out the old mortar if there's any there at all. Also, I'm not sure what is keeping the bricks up above the door right now.

Once we get the front repointed, we'll be rebuilding the terrace that is completely gone. Here's an old picture that shows what the terrace should look like. I can't decide if we should build the terrace railing to look like the original or come up with our own personal design. I do know the arched spandrels WILL be going back up...those things are wicked cool!

Monday, June 22, 2015

Faucet? Socket? Soffit?

After the house was de-jungled it was time for construction! I have watched enough home improvement & renovation shows to know that water is the enemy to any house & it was no less forgiving to ours. I have no doubt in my mind that if the manor was wood instead of brick it would have long since been in a landfill somewhere. Thankfully, the only major water damage was to the two addditions that were going to be removed anyway, the terrace above the porch and to the soffits/fascia boards. I am going to admit, I didn't know what a sofft was but I did know that there was a big opening going around the underneath side of where our roof came out around the whole house and that was not good. Jeremy on the other hand knew what we were dealing with & gave me a crash course. And thanks to him & the wonderful interwebs, I'm throwing out terms like fascia, frieze, cornice, soffit, rake, eave & drip edge like a regular little Bob Vila. Bam!

No soffits = no protection to the edge of your rafters, no proper shedding of water & it's a great welcome mat for racoons to get in your attic and camp out for the winter (oh the horrors I've seen in that attic!).

Here's a cameo appearance from my dad, "the foreman". He doesn't like heights so he stays below and likes to make Jeremy nervous about every cut he makes and every nail he hammers. ;) I'm joking...he's actually been a huge help over the past several months. Lesson #3: Accept help when it is offered no matter how proud you are.

We've kind of taken a break this winter but as soon as the weather cooperates we'll get back on those soffits & I'll get back to tackling the attic. *cringe* More to come later....

In the meantime, I've been trying to figure out the significance of the XO pattern that is all over the house...or even finding another house that has this kind of pattern in the brick. Not having much luck though....

Thursday, April 23, 2015

The Brush & the Barn

2015 work on the Manor is officially in full swing. Even though the final soffit was the first thing on the list, we decided to take a little break from that small nightmare & work on the barn. Plus we're notorious for getting a project an inch from completion & moving on to another. Don't do that by the way. Anyway, Yes! The Manor came with a barn. You probably wouldn't know that unless you drove by it during the winter months because that's the only time you can really see it. When the jungle starts to grow it pretty much disappears.

We thought it might be a novel idea to actually get to "use" the barn this year so we tackled the brush surrounding it first. I really wish I knew how many trailer loads of vines, thorn bushes, small trees & weeds we've actually carried off the property over the last 2 years. I know it's unreal. I kinda feel like we've wiped out a small habitat but it had to go.

Plus having trees this big growing out of your barn's foundation is no bueno!

There was a point in the deforestation process where I asked Jeremy, "So what's worse...this or soffits?". I think we both agreed that it was a toss up.

There is still a little LOT more work that can be done as far as pulling up vines but for the most part it is cleared out.

Getting to the barn was only half the battle. Of course it was full of junk. Of couuurrssse iiiittt waaaaaasss!!! And a barn full of someone else's junk is not very useful if there is no room to store any of your own junk. I admit, I was REALLY excited about this project. If you watch American Pickers religiously like I do you know that a barn that has been sitting for 23 years full of "stuff" is a treasure chest waiting to be opened. As we're driving to Bevier I'm daydreaming about uncovering some rare antique or coins...maybe a first edition book by Poe or a Rembrandt. Maybe there's a secret door that goes underground with a vintage car in pristine condition in it! Ummmmm....yeah, it was all actually just trash. We removed about a million worthless plastic flower carriers, rusted cans, soggy cardboard boxes full of soggy clothes, an innocent looking chair that a cushion fell off of to reveal that is was actually a toilet, the most disgusting mattress & box spring that I think I've ever seen...the list goes on.

I did have a keep pile & seeing how small it was in regards to the fact that I am a borderline hoarder just proves that the barn treasure hunt was really a bust. It is nice to have it cleared out though & besides a couple of small leaks in the roof it seems to be in pretty good shape.

I did find a pretty cool "wooden thingy" that looks like it was attached to a bigger & cooler "wooden thingy" that's long gone. I also found a pretty cool little table. By the way...Rule #1 when treasure hunting in barns: Open drawers carefully & slowly. Mice can apparently take flight when discovered & if you have a bad heart, you're toast!

This years list is pretty ambitious:

Fix final soffit
Attach decorative trim around finished soffits
Repoint the brick
Finish cleaning the attic
Rebuild terrace on the front of the house
Fix decorative trim on the peaks of the house
Scrape paint off of peaks/primer

....and IF we get that finished...and that's a big will be time for the big kahuna: NEW ROOF/GUTTERS!

Loooooonnnggg road ahead but seeing this old picture is pretty good motivation.