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 turning into their bright hues of red, orange & yellow.

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 the circus.

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. Thank goodness for good eyesight & the knowledge of being on your toes when working on this house. You just 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.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Infiltrate. Destroy. Rebuild.

A couple of months ago we scammed invited a couple of great friends to Bevier for a weekend of Manor renovations. There was a pretty high chance of snow that weekend so we were a little reluctant to make the 2 hour trip. Luckily, our friends are extremely crazy generous because they didn't hesitate to tell us to keep the plan the same and load up! The good news is that it didn't snow "much". The bad news is that it was Antarctica cold. So, we layered up, grabbed some hot chocolate (and maybe a little bit of Fireball) and got to work! Jeremy & TJ's job was soffit #4. It's the smallest of all the soffits but it has two corners pretty close together so that was a bit of a challenge.

This was right above the "porthole" window above the staircase that I talked about in an earlier post. I haven't forgot about it...that mystery will be solved this year, I hope.

This side of the house seems to be in much better shape than the south side which was a relief. It was also nice to not worry about re-building the "over window thingy" from scratch. Just a little bit of scraping, caulk and paint and it will be as good as new.

This was the guys first trip up in the lift. It was so cold that it took the lift forever to get them up there. The lift apparently moves like I do in the cold, ha! I can relate little lift...I can relate.

The rest of the crew, which consisted of my dad, sister, my friend Sarah & myself, were in charge of demolition of "The Bad Room". Let me tell you a little bit about "The Bad Room" and how it received such a moniker. On the back side of the house on both the north & south side, there were two rooms that were later built on...I would say probably in the 1970's. It is my guess that when Marie LaSalle had the boarding home there she needed more room to run her operation. One of the rooms had a hospital bed in it and the other had laundry hook ups. After Marie passed away and the house became severely neglected, these two rooms did not fare well and became completely rotten. This was almost a deal breaker for me (not really) when we originally took a tour of the house. I was walking through the formal dining room and opened this door expecting to see just another room but instead, I saw this horrific sight.

Geeeeez! Is this a room or a portal to Chernobyl!?!

Until that weekend I've kept that room securely locked up and would only open it if I absolutely HAD to. Out of sight, out of mind, I guess. Anytime someone would go through the house with me, I would get asked, "What's in there?". I would promptly say, "Nothing...that's the bad room".

You can imagine my excitement to finally be rid of this room but it did not go down as easily as the room on the south side. It was bigger and although it looked like you could push it over, it was secured to the house well. When looking at a room like this you kind of ask yourself "Where in the heck do I start?!". There is no good answer to this just get your pry bar, hammer & sledgehammer (my favorite!) and start tearing it apart.

This is Sarah. She's 6' tall & VERY good at demo!

There is something extremely empowering & therapeutic about taking out structures with a was definitely my favorite activity of the weekend!

My sister got in on the fun & took out most of the roof in about an hour which completely shocked me! She's an elementary teacher so I think she was getting some frustrations out of her own.

She also fell through the floor but luckily landed on duct work that carried heat to the room. LOL! Sorry Kerri...but it was really funny!

Since demo is more fun than soffits, the guys took a little break from the roof and helped out.

Here's a window and a doorway we uncovered. Mega bonus!

When it was time to shove the hospital bed out the window (which btw, was no easy weighed a ton!) my dad looked at me and said "How many old people do you think rang that dinner bell?".

"'s not a dinner bell". I'm still not sure if he believed me or not.

The guys ended up finishing the soffit which I did not get a picture of because my phone died and since we were on the verge of hypothermia we were ready to get home. We also got most of the room demo'd but my dad, Jeremy & I finished the job when we were home for Christmas. It was a pretty scary but exciting thing to see that room crash down. Jeremy basically cut all of the support beams across the roof. Each time he would make a cut it would crack and move down a little more. I have coined the name "The Danger Squad" when it comes to my dad & Jeremy with my dad being the eternal president of this club. Safety is a's just not always the first factor when it comes to him. I'm pretty sure I heard my dad tell Jeremy that if the roof fell to just ride it out and not jump off the ladder. "Did I really just hear that?".

So here it is! No more bad room!



It's pretty neat to see the back of the house without those rooms & know that this is how the house originally looked. I'm sure there were porches or something here but not rooms. As far as what we're going to do with this area...I'm definitely seeing a wrap around deck! Pardon me while I live in Photoshop land for a moment. *angelic choir*

The plan now is to clean up the mess that we've created from all the demo and to tackle the never ending brush problem while it's dorment.

And then this Spring....the first thing on the list is THE LAST SOFFIT!

I will be popping a big bottle of champagne when that project is officially done! :)