Enon Hall


These journal entries track our progress as we undertake our adventure of restoring this very old home. The main reason for keeping this journal on the web is that we have found that there are very few resources (books or websites) that follow all of the trials and tribulations of restoring an old home...from start to finish.

July 1, 2005

My Restoration Glass order arrived yesterday, in a great big box full of packing peanuts.

William and Lucy used it as their own ball room for a while. Then Gay and William took the peanuts up to the local packing store so they can recycle them.

It was a wonderful surprise to wake up this morning and find that the masonry crew had already been here for an hour this morning! They put in a long day in intense heat and at least some part of the crew will be back again tomorrow. It's coming along!

This is the top of the frame of the window that I am presently working on. I could tell that the beaded trim board was rotten, but didn't realize that the window header was also rotten beneath. I pulled everything and replaced it all with new wood.

I keep a standing inventory of the various moulding used around the house so everything was on hand. I decided to re-use the outside trim even though it had been notched around the hardware for wooden storms at one point. I like leaving those tell-tale signs of past incarnations. I'm actually considering removing the storm hardware from the old rotten board and putting it back on the new board to make the notches make more sense.

After some primer, this window frame is done, and it only took about an hour. The next window frame appears to have the exact same damage.

I am so looking forward to finally being able to hang our shutters on these windows. A blacksmith named Mark Sperry is creating custom hardware for us so they'll be accurate and look great. He does really nice work. I sent him this drawing of our window casings yesterday so he can get started. -- Bill

July 7, 2005

The foundation is almost complete. Probably only more work day will be needed. I'm meeting with the framer tomorrow to go over the lumber list.

Meanwhile, I keep plugging away at windows. --

July 10, 2005

I primed more sashes this weekend. Only 2-1/2 sashes are left, which I'll prime tomorrow. My system has been to hang four sashes after priming and then replace the oldest with the fifth, and so on. By the time a sash gets demoted to the ground it's dry enough so that dirt doesn't stick to it. Then I let them dry on the porch for at least another 48 hours before moving them back to the chicken house where they are stacked flat on top of each other.

The mason is supposed to be back Tuesday "at the earliest." I think we went to Disney World. No...really.

He still needs to tie in to the front corner of the house (rebuilding the original corner), knock my HVAC access holes through the old foundation wall, take the chimney up to second floor level, pour the garage floor, and backfill. Then I will install the crawlspace insulation and order our termite treatment.

My framer is coming back on Tuesday to do a lumber take off. I already had the local lumber company do one, but he wants to do his own...which is fine by me. He's two to three weeks out from being here, so the mason will have plenty of time to finish up his part.

Sure will be nice to see some vertical progress...at increments of more than four inches at a time! --

July 12, 2005

I woke up this morning ready to get to work, but couldn't bring myself to even look at a window. A guy needs a break!

Instead, I decided to work on the chicken house. Earlier this year I cut through a doorway so that I could move the tractor inside, but I didn't take the time to trim out the doorway.

I wanted to trim the doorway with 1 X 6s, which meant that some of the siding was too short and some was too long.

After a lot of cutting and replacing of siding it was looking good. With the thermometer reading 105 degrees, it was a hot job. I also intended to replace the rotten facia board all the way across the building, but a thunderstorm rolled through before I could get to that.

Meanwhile, I'm mulling over different approaches for the doors. -- Bill

July 14, 2005

This has sure been a wasted week as far as the addition is concerned. No mason on Monday or Tuesday. Yesterday morning he sent two of his crew who got in about an hour of work before a thunderstorm rolled through. The storm was over and gone in 30 minutes...but so were they. So the rest of the workday was lost. Today...nobody. My patience is starting to run a little thin. We're in the home stretch of the foundation, but things are at a standstill.

It's been six weeks now since work on the foundation began. And in that time we have had only 3 rain days. The constant running off to other jobs is a killer.

No mason also means that the framer hasn't come back to do his lumber take off, since he wanted to do it on a day when the mason was here so they could compare notes.

Barn Red solid oil stain... I went through 3 gallons of it today on the chicken house. I got one end finished and part of the front.

The old weathered wood just sucked in the stain, but it sure does look better. I'm sure our neighbors will appreciate the improved view, since the chicken house sits right on their property line. Actually, it sits over the line...but that's a long story...

In addition to making doors, I plan to remove all of the old, non-functioning window sashes (most don't even have glass in them) and make board and batten shutters for all of the window openings instead. -- Bill

July 15, 2005

Two sides down. One to go. (The fourth side will have to wait until the fall when the vegetation dies down back there.)

It occured to me while painting today that shutters won't work. The roof overhang wouldn't allow the shutters to swing out. For the two wide openings we could do shutters that hinge at the top and prop open at the bottom. Not sure how to treat the other openings yet. There's probably room to do accordion shutters, but that would be kind of weird.

We recieved mocked-up cabinet fronts from Crown Point with our selected colors, hardware, etc. We really like the stained Alder that will be used on all of the perimeter cabinets (although Gay wants to see smaller knobs), but we're having second thoughts about the greeen that we chose for the island. Back in the 90s it was the hot thing to put forest green with stained wood and we're afraid this is too reminscent of that, so we're looking at some different colors. It's great to be able to get these cabinet fronts so we can make sure we're happy with our choices before it's too late!

This morning I decided it was time to become the squeaky wheel so that our mason will focus on finishing up our foundation. He's promised to be here next Tuesday. Sure hope so! -- Bill

July 19, 2005

The thermometer maxed out at 110 degrees today...but still, there's much to report.

The foundation crew was back today and got a lot done, despite the heat.

The garage is graded and tamped.

The corner has been rebuilt. (Although, before I noticed he had already "grapevined" the mortar joints, which doesn't match the old work that he pieced into. Oh well, much of this rebuilt corner will be covered by the new front porch anyway.

The new foundation is lower than the old in order to match into the existing floor level with today's lumber dimensions. The new siding will have to come down lower on the old part to make it all line up.

I felt bad for the guys dying in the heat, so I pitched in to help backfill the interior of the foundation. Wow, it was HOT work!

They will be back Friday or early next week to finish things up and pour the garage floor. Meanwhile, I can get the lumber for the first floor system ordered and line up a dumpster for the framing crew to use.

I can also install the rigid foam insulation to the inside of the crawl space walls and maybe get the waterproofing membrane installed around the outside of the foundation.

We're back in the land of high speed Internet access!! A local company (Kaballero) is setting up a Motorola Canopy wireless system around our area. (Basically like a giant WiFi network.) They installed our antenna today, which picks up our Internet signal from the tower located about a mile and a half away. This is a temporary location for our antenna. Once the addition is finished, we can hide it on the far end of the garage.

We also bought a new toilet for upstairs. Despite our best efforts and even with the major improvements resulting from input from Allen in the Forum, we still weren't getting adequate flushing power. We bought an American Standard rear discharge (or "rear outlet") toilet with a pressurized tank. (The "Yorkville") We sure hope this will do the trick. Gay removed the old toilet today and we'll install the new one in the morning and give a full report. (Jim K - We understand that Kohler has discontinued the Barrington.)

One problem that we see already is that this new toilet sticks out 32" from the wall. The old one only stuck out 28". That 4 inches is going to be a killer in an already tiny bathroom and will prevent the door from opening all the way back against the wall, unless we do something really creative. But, we didn't have any other choice. You just gotta be able to flush. -- Bill

July 20, 2005

After much adventure today, the new throne is installed and appears to be operating very well! Of course, it only took 10 hours to complete this seemingly simple project. (Well, almost complete. I have to put the baseboard back.)

First I had to make a new platform for the new toilet to sit on.

The floor slopes, so the tapered platform is necessary to make the toilet level. The old toilet had a platform, but the new toilet is much larger and has a different profile. This part didn't take long.

With the bowl in place, I then installed the tank with the miracle Flushmate "pressure assist" tank. It's a quick and easy install. But when I turned on the water supply, the water just kept running...and running...and running. The installation instructions contained a number of troubleshooting tips, including "Water won't stop running." But I tried these all to no avail. It appeared that the problem was that the actuator button (the button on top of the internal tank that triggers the flush) was sitting way too high...even when adjusted to its lowest position. It's supposed to be about 1/8" lower than the bar that is connected to the flush handle.

So, I called Flushmate's technical support number. The recording told me that there were 10 callers in front of me. 45 minutes later the recording had counted down to 2 callers in front of me. 5 minutes later I was disconnected. After almost an hour on hold! I called back and got back in line, this time with 7 callers in front of me. 45 minutes later I had a human. For almost two hours I had been listening to a looped message telling me to have my serial number and toilet manufacturer name ready. The human who answered could care less about any of that. So I described my problem. I told her that the button was adjusted as low as possible, but still pressed up against the bar. She quickly and snippily replied that I would need to call American Standard since they install the bar. I stuttered and stammered and tried to continue the conversation, but she was done with me. I had to call American Standard, she repeated. This was not a good Flushmate experience.

Luckily, American Standard was MUCH more responsive. I had somebody on the phone in five minutes and he was very eager to help. His conclusion...the Flushmate tank was defective and that I should take the whole tank assembly back and get a new one.

Well, I purchased the toilet in Richmond. So I repacked it and hit the road. 4 hours later (nasty traffic jams on the way back) I returned with a new tank. It works fine.

It's kind of like an airplane toilet. When it flushes, it really flushes!

But I do wish we had been able to find something without the new "elongated" bowl design. It's just huge. Not sure what purpose this design is supposed to serve, other than eat up floor space. The door is a problem, as we knew it would be. It's a board and batten door that the previous owner made...not an old one. I'm actually thinking about cutting it right down the middle (it's four boards wide) and installing a piano hinge so that it can act as a bi-fold. Hmmmm... -- Bill

July 22, 2005

When it's this hot, it's important to take plenty of siestas.

William and I have been busy installing the 2-inch, rigid foam insulation inside the crawl space on all of the exterior walls. This crawl space is going to be ventless and conditioned, so the insulation is needed.

We will also be covering the ground and the foundation walls with poly to act as a moisture barrier...but not till we're under roof. (Although a swimming pool does sound nice right now.)

I graded and tamped two areas of the foundation today, removing all chunks of concrete and brick. I don't want that stuff stabbing me through the poly if I ever have to crawl under there. I was going to go rent a tamper, but found that it worked just as well if William and I marched back and forth in our boots. I marched east to west, he marched north to south. Hope nobody was watching.

The top photo is the kitchen area and the lower photo is the area that will contain our pantry, laundry room, and a bathroom.

I think I'm going to patent the "Old House Diet." I'm down 15 pounds so far this summer from working outside in the heat...not really a desireable thing for me. Oh well, I guess I can try to pack it back on this winter. -- Bill

July 24, 2005

Today was dirt moving day. We got an early start before the sun really started broiling and had the welcome additional help of one of William's cousins. We ran a non-stop wheelbarrow brigade all morning. We brought the grade in the crawl space under the kitchen up by about 2 inches. (It's the only place where we can actually make the crawl space grade higher than the outside grade, so we wanted to take advantage of that.) We also worked on backfilling around the outside of the foundation so we can schedule our termite spray for Tuesday. The boys were released from work duty after lunch but Gay and I kept going through the afternoon. Our backs are going to be sore tomorrow! -- Bill

July 25, 2005

I got the backfilling completed this morning and we had our termite treatment this afternoon. So we're ready for the garage floor pour and then framing. Framing should start next Monday. (Fingers crossed.)

There is some question as to whether I should have backfilled the foundation before the next inspection, which is for foundation and floor joists. You're supposed to backfill before the termite spray and you have to have the termite spray before framing begins. Yet I did find a place in the county's guidelines that says that foundations should not be backfilled prior to this next inspection. But, of course you HAVE to have backfilled the inside of the foundation wall before you start putting floor joists across. I don't know. But I figured that calling and asking the question would be a bad idea. We'll just hope for the best. (More crossed fingers.)

In the course of moving dirt around we've made a couple neat finds.

The first is an old shutter dog! The diamond-shaped base matches the partial bases still remaining on the law office windows...which places it around 1880 and is consistent with the ornate/Victorian style.

Looking at the break pattern of the shutter dog base and matching it with the bases on the house, it looks like this dog came from the east end window (which is not the one shown above).

In fact, looking at this old photo...I think that's our old dog on the right. But it looks like it's behind the shutter.

Gay also found this old bell. Judging from the size, it could have been used in a garden to keep birds away. -- Bill

July 26, 2005

More intense 100+ heat today. I worked until about 1:30 staining the third side of the chicken house. Then we escaped to the air conditioning of some area antique shops. Found a great deal on three cool old chairs...a kinda funky Sprague & Carleton Windsor chair and two rush seat chairs! -- Bill

July 27, 2005

I can't remember if I've addressed this on the site before...so pardon me if this is a repeat.

As a lifelong suburbanite, I have always lived in houses with central air. I am only now realizing how much I have missed because of this. Sure, I've been comfortable as heck. But I also become intolerant of heat and more prone to cocooning inside when the temperatures started to rise. We all do that. If you're vacuum-sealed inside a crisply air conditioned house and then step out into the heat, the heat feels all the more unbearable. As a result, you start going outside less and less. Until recently, we have had no air conditioning at Enon Hall. (We now have window units in the two bedrooms.) Downstairs, windows and doors stay open all the time (with screens) and we keep fans running in several rooms. We move freely between the indoors and outdoors. Often the outdoors is the most comfortable place to be. This afternoon at 4:00, with the thermometer reading 102 in the shade of the back porch, we congregated under some cedars near the creek in our Adirondack chairs and the hammock. There was a wonderful breeze there and we spent a nice hour chatting and enjoying each others' company. Had the AC been blasting inside, we never would have been out there. No way.

Come to think of it, had the AC been blasting inside I never would have been outside painting the chicken house yesterday either.

We recognize that the life that we love at Enon Hall is equally indoors and outdoors. If, once the addition is complete, we create a chilly, hermetically sealed cocoon that's too comfortable to leave, then we've lost half of the charm of life here. Our plan is to have AC everywhere, but only run it upstairs in the bedrooms...cause sleeping in sweat is just unacceptable. Downstairs, we plan to only run it in extreme heat, like what we've been experiencing here lately. Can we really do that, or is it just big talk? I hope we can. I sure love the sound of a slamming screen door.

Gay's been cooking up some wonderful dishes with the bounty of our vegetable garden. Tonight, a fried green tomato dish that I really wish I had taken a photo of. Can't wait to see what she will do when she has a real kitchen again!!

Our first lumber delivery is Monday! -- Bill

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