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May, 2009

‘Grizzly Discoveries’ a reality show about Historicism

Historicism or Hystericalism

Well a couple weeks into the project and we have come up with a new reality show.  Either ‘This old house’ or ‘Grizzly Discoveries’.  Jon and I joke about it pretty much every day…what grizzly discovery awaits for us today?The first grizzly discovery occurred when we talked with the liaison for the Historic preservation board. She said that we would have to save the front two chimneys, and replace windows with comparable looking 6 X 6 pane double-hungs.

First of all the chimneys are what I call ‘done’. They are bent over; precariously leaning over the house and for how long will they stay this way?I guess they have been precariously leaning for some time.So rebuilding them will have to wait…budget will hopefully make it through modernization of utilities, heating, electric, insulation, plumbing, and windows alone might blow the budget.

 

Now the windows, what a situation, the existing windows are the originals, 170 years old, and no amount of putty and paint is going to get them to go any longer. The Historical folks believe that these old windows are just great and that the preference for them would be that we just suffered with these decaying portholes of yore.But reality is they are an energy sieve. On researching new windows with external mullions and similar sill profiles lead to a very expensive window. Of course the Historic folks want it their way, but I would argue that ‘their way’ is rather contrived…Let me explain…the reason mullions exist is not just an aesthetic discussion, that they look nice this way, but more that it was the technology of the time. The 6 X 6 configuration has a lot to do with the availability of glass at the time…thicker glass, more expense, and thinner glass cheaper…so the mullions reduce the size of each pane so that the pane can be thin and cheap. These windows were what I would call the ‘contractors model’ of the time…they were never great, well made windows…they were cheap…so now we have to replace them with expensive, fake mullioned replicas of technology inefficient and obsolete.

The simulation ‘old’ windows are not to be clad with vinyl even though every surface in Portland Maine is covered with it.
They must have fake mullions that make cleaning difficult.They must be twice as expensive as a decent more honest double hung window with no mullions.

Grizzly discovery of the day….on removing plaster around one window in the front corner of the building leads us to find no insulation anywhere and ‘K’ bracing in the corners.

This means that there would be very little good in pumping the wall cavity full of insulation…the cellulose would never make it into all the voids, the K brace is in the way.
So this we began the long, dusty grimy process of plaster and lathe removal…Two, three, four days later and three dumpsters…we are still removing the stuff.
In the
end though we will have insulated walls with the proper thickness to make insulation affordable (insulation cost has a lot to do with thickness…to get R value it takes space or it takes expensively thin ‘space age’ insulation).  In the end the walls will have new windows in them, and the heaters wont have to run full tilt throwing ridiculous amounts of energy into ‘This old House’.

Grizzly discovery of the day….the forced air heating system was installed by a guy the wore a #2 hard hat and a size XXL jump suit.He took out main support columns in order to run his inefficient duct work…found this Grizzly discovery while examining the slumping floor system.Remedy. …remove crappy heating system and replace columns.Actually the place had not one but two heating systems…Force air ran the first floor, and a boiler ran the second floor…both oil burning monsters…efficiency was not in the vocabulary of heating men of this time.

Today we will drain the water from the system in the basement, get the sawzall out and remove miles of copper pipe…none of it insulated which we are glad of …could be worse …it could have been insulated with asbestos.More later….See next blog Here

Portland, bums and old buildings

Well back to Portland Maine, arrived with the warmth, or brought it with us. Great to be re-united with old friends. Jon Morrill has a project for me. A 170 year old house in the historic district of Portland. Its a real fixer-upper if ever I spied one. Yikes! Take a look, this building has seen so little maintenance over the years other than some quick masking tape and nailed up asphalt shingles.

Our strategy here is to get this building insulated, it has none. A new heating system, it has two heating systems now that are ancient. It needs new windows, electrical system, plumbing…you name it this building needs it…especially some TLC. Yesterday we met with the liaison for the Historic preservation board, she was glad this building finally fell in the hands of someone who cares. Its going to be a long summer of dust here but Jon’s Nephews hopefully will pan out as help, so far so good, I have already showed them how to rip down old plaster and lathe quickly…cant say painlessly, part of the ceiling fell on

my head as I tried in vain to save an old plaster ceiling lamp ornament.

This is not exactly a dream job, but its my best friend and he really needs a hand. So far I have measured and drafted up the building. More to come later. Next 67 Grey Street blog Here