67 Grey Street

67 Gray Street exterior siding remodel


On returning to 67 Gray street, which I gutted and remodeled 5 years ago,  I convinced the owner it was time to turn his tyvek sided exterior into a real siding remodel.  Over my vacation I put in a few days and this is how it went.


This is was what it looked like when the new owner took this home under his wing


  what-happened-to-the-walls2   back-part-loses-skin  slidderoutside


tyvek  cedarbreather2

The yellow stuff is 'cedar breather' which helps give a venting space between siding and the tyvek

The yellow stuff is ‘cedar breather’ which helps give a venting space between siding and the tyvek


the homeowner putting in some 'cutman' time

the homeowner putting in some ‘cutman’ time


siding  siding2


Pretty simple materials, Pine shiplap boards, galvanized metal wainscoting with a chair rail, and Pine stained fascia boards.  For a reasonable price, coming from local lumberyards and mills I think it looks a heck of a lot better than the tyvek!  done  done2  done3

Follow up on 67 Gray Street Remodel


I recently returned to follow up on 67 Gray Street remodel to photograph the results.  There were a number of talented finishers that all helped to make this design become a very nice home.

Dining room Before


Dining room After


dinning2   dinning4      dinning3   porchview   ceiling2

Ceiling with old beams, new pine ceiling and drywall soffits

Kitchen Before


Kitchen After

kitchen3  kitchen2   kitchen

Living room Before

fireplace   2ndfront

Living  room After

fireplace    livingroom2


New Hall and staircase

 hall    stair2nd  stair                       stair-3rd

New 3rd Floor Office and Bedroom













October, we find ourselves hustling to get things closed in. The windows are going in and it feels good…finally the place is shaping up. And it’s a good thing too. This week the weather has started to head in the direction where you know the days are becoming numbered for good outdoor working conditions. Soon the drywall will start to go up and 67 Grey street will start to seem livable again. Its been a long strange trip!

Historic Remodel in October

Well some new photos…. Built the new deck and staircase to the second floor.Emily and Carlos have painstakingly almost finished the Tongue and groove ceilings.Jon has been working hard in all directions physical and mental pondering financial difficulties, and scrap’n the old siding off… hang on Jon! step-4-755832




Some of the Northstar woodworking custom made windows have been delivered by Scott Reeves himself. We are slowly putting them in… its not like slamming in new windows into a new house… this is fussy stuff.There is a lot of prep work in order to get the new windows into the old holes, seems like it takes every tool we have to get it done too.


When we started in on the front of the building there have been staging issues… how do we get way up there to put that top window in?And when we finally got staged ‘way up there’ we realized there was no sense to just put in the window so this opened up a can of worms.Remove old siding, scrape old paint, paint trim… etc.In any case some of the work has revealed good news like the high gable wall is sided with a beautiful ship lap fir … and that the siding is maybe save-able with the right paint and putty.



It’s gradually getting colder here in Portland and we are working faster and harder to get ‘her/him’ closed in before the cold howling winds of Canada come.


Also to note … Emily and I have unfortunately become commuters for the month of October… driving down everyday from Harpswell area for the days work… I have to commute and it makes me feel stupid.It’s a whole 2 hours of our day to make the drives and pretty much has ended our ability to have an hour run or bike each day… oh well this isn’t for ever we tell ourselves, and it is a beautiful place to wake up.


To anyone interested out there… we don’t mind folks stopping by to see us… its lonely on this kind of job, isolating , and mind numbing hours… so drop by and rip a piece of old green siding off… we would love it!  


Latest . manifolds..concrete, ceilings, and cellar insulation


And for those wondering about the pics of me and the guys sitting around from last blog entryno we don’t just sit around all day drinking beer. That’s an after work duty. Next 67 Grey st. Blog Here

Historic remodeling needs a new crew

Well a new crew came to help…blacky the cat,

Carlos from Manhattan, and Tucker too.  These photos are a testimony of much work, not all fun, but hell its a job that is finally cleaning up. I love to bore people with images of insulation…about as boring as installing it…just ask Emily and Carlos they love to insulate…its insulting.

ripped into the back of the beast

Well today was the day that we would find out what was under the floor, and yes hopefully not a beating heart. The lads were on hand, Silas, Parker.
Emily assisting in all areas of demolition removal, and screaming when the bees attacked from under the floor.
And Jon managing and assessing all grim findings… which there were a number of. The never-ending hearth of bricks that eventually led to a harvest of field stone. The chimney of solid dirt, and mystery cylinders. And the normal pipes of all sizes, wires galore, and dirt, insulation dust (itchy stuff) and dirt, more dirt, oh nails old rusty nails, and dirt.
We cut up the
floor, pried it up, threw it out, and what did we find, a hole of dirt, strange framing method, and dirt. So what we do now we will see. I am going to sleep on it myself, one should never mix a day of demolition with design thoughts, the two need to be separated by at least one nights rest. Next blog on 67 GreySt

On Old Plaster, can I save it ?

Here is a really exciting topic! Old buildings and old plaster. Everyone wants to save the plaster because it is so damn much work to remove it. Is this a wise choice? Well, there are number of things to be taken into account about old plaster. For one, old buildings (when I say old I am talking 100 plus years) didn’t have insulation for many many years, this is a problem to the plaster.
The plaster in a building in New England with no insulation is doomed. Over years and years moisture builds up in the wall cavities due to the extreme temperature difference between the indoors and outdoors. This causes the condensation point to occur inside the cavity… what this means is the lath nails rust away over time.
A lath nail is a very small diameter cut nail with no corrosion resistance, it is the weak point. Once the nail rusts through the lath is essentially detached from the wall studs. What happens next is that the movement of the building (these old building do move, foundation issues, and improper loading cause deflection and uplift) flexes the plaster wall. Over time cracks begin to show, from this point on the plaster is doomed. After years of movement the lath nails are rusted through and the lath is essentially detached from the studs. The only thing holding it there is the hooking action of the plaster. When the Plaster is troweled onto the gaped lath it smears through the gaps and blobs to the inside of the wall cavity creating a hook which once hardened holds the plaster in place, kind of like Velcro.
The lath itself is rough sawn so it assists in grabbing the plaster too. Once the lathe is detached and the heaving and settling of the building work on it the ‘hooks’ of plaster shear off (partly due to the moisture inside the wall cavity causing the plaster to become soft and punky); once this occurs the plaster begins to fall off the walls.
Well I know some Mr fix it will say that you can use a washer headed screw to hold this ailing plaster on, its a short term fix.
Especially when it comes to ceilings, gravity works on the plaster and literally the ceiling falls in, and I mean large chunks of heavy plaster, a real headache. So what most Mr fix it types do next is to patch the bad spots with drywall, or they drywall over the plaster to cover it and to hold it on. All of this type of remedying the ailing plaster is even more of a blight to the ‘old building’….it is adding more dead weight to the structure, and most of these structures were under built in load bearing design. The floors were often over spanned or the distance the joists run from wall to wall or beam was too far for the depth of the joist. Most old buildings used square joists because the economy of milling beams is such that you can get more squares out of a round log than taller boards.
Taller is better in joists and beams when you talk floor deflection as long as there is blocking to hold the joists upright. Getting a bit off the subject here, back to the plaster, so more dead weight is added and now the building is groaning under the weight. This is very bad for the structures beams and joists.
Because the old builders didn’t have metal joist hangers like we use today, they notched the beams and joists together as a form of joinery, sometimes a mortise and tenon connection, they thought this was superior workmanship but as we can see in old buildings it was a mistake to notch. The notches reduce the total effective height of the joist or beam and under years of loading splits will occur in the timber beam at the notches. So the modern re-modeler that is too lazy to make a mess and clean it up that plaster removal causes adds more layers of remodel weight to a structure already ailing in load carrying capacity.
This is so chronic in old homes that it is not unusual to peal 6 or 7 layers of wood paneling, drywall, more paneling, wall paper, then plaster and lathe. In the end no builder is willing to take down the layers to the start because its just hell. It is time consuming, it is dirty, it is dangerous, and it is expensive. And after days of work the wood frame is revealed…only to show sagging beams, cracked joists at notched ends, settled and sagged floors, etc… Also once you peal all this off and clean up the mess you will usually have to bring everything up to modern code. And if not mandated to do this by municipal building codes the builder will usually suggest a complete modernization because it is so much work to do this plaster removal you should bite the bullet and really fix the building .
This will include a full redo of the wiring, insulating meaning furring the walls out to accommodate reasonable priced insulation, and creating a consistent stud layout that will accommodate drywall (16″ or
24″ on center stud spacing).

So in a nutshell if you want to buy a building with old plaster that shows cracking, you might want to reconsider …this is a very expensive proposition.

And if you do buy such a building and think a quick cover up with a skim coat of plaster is going to do the trick, well it wont last, the building will most likely be energy inefficient in that it still misses proper insulation, and worse a chunk of ceiling plaster might fall on your head as you freeze to death in your bed on a cold blustery winter night.

How about new construction? Why not spend your money where it can go towards building what you really want rather than demolition and reconstruction of what most likely is at the end of it’s life cycle anyway.

A work in progress

Hi all, just merrily working away here, wanted to throw a few images up of our furring and insulation job….I know extremely interesting….not!

And a word of advice for all of you out there looking to buy a ancient decrepit historic building…please if you do….don’t call me I am up to the elbows in filth and soot. Emily puts it that the building takes a crap every night, and it sure seems like it. Every day there is a new coating of filth on the floor after having cleaned it the afternoon before. I think of it as puke myself, the building is rather bilious. So if you like dirt, filth, decay, rot, mold, gross smells, buy one of these historic warships… a building like this is all about spending a whole bunch of cash just to remedy it, and pay for dumpster removal…oh by the way we are on dumpster 6 or 7…losing track now… and the house keeps puking it up.

Oh and another word of warning…dont be like the past ‘craftsmen’ and keep adding layers to a problematic interior…remove and rebuild otherwise the frame gets so loaded up with weight that it contorts the structure….these old buildings were not designed structurally, and they were really not designed to hold up 3 to 4 times of remodel layers. I guess ‘craft’ over the years in this building was about who could buy a 10 lb bag of nails and pound ’em home every day. Nailing is a small part of construction and remodeling…Sometimes folks ask me are you recycling materials from the building? Well believe you me I would if there was a damn thing worth saving …this building consists of mostly puke covering a skeleton that has been oh so stressed.

Again dont call me on this sort of building. Life is just too short for historisism.

Turn around Point, move ahead six spaces

67 Gray Street has reached the apex of its trajectory. No longer is it rocketing into the dumpster bin by bin, but now its soaring to new levels of energy efficiency after 170 years of chilling and overheating it’s victims within.

One hundred and seventy years “this old house” held itself up even after careless and incompetent men had removed main bearing columns, cut away floor joists, and notched joists without thought or hesitation.

The post and beam structure itself has its own set of issues that over time can be seen as workings of gravity against wood, mortise and tenon, and live loading.

This old house is seeing a top down approach, the third floor, then the 2nd floor, then the first…etc. At this point we have remedied structural issues like over spanned rafters, lack of structural ties, off center loading of beams and columns.

Further… we have insulated the roof up to a R-38, we have remedied head height problems in door heights and ceiling heights. The electrical contractor is in the process of rewiring the whole place.
The plumber is re-plumbing the building to modern codes (meaning no metal pipes, but a lot of them due to venting all fixtures!).

Perhaps one of the biggest turnarounds is that the windows have been decided upon…yes! Michael Morrill has decided to hire Northstar woodworking to build them. A little bit of background, Steven Morrill, Jon and Michael’s brother is a co-partner of Northstar, so its keeping the work and money ‘in the family’. The Historic folks we hope will be happy about this too. Its keeping the window manufacturing in the area and if that is not Historically important than what is?

Like with all things that really matter in this world there must be patience, diligence, hardships, trials, and then more patience….In the end you build something that is worthy, better then previous, and hopefully with new vision as to how it could be better for us all then previous iterations had proven not.

Although we are not near done by any stretch, we are closer. And that’s just going to have to be the new motto for those of us who work on ‘This old ____’n House’ .

You cant turn 170 years of History around in a day, reiterate…a month….or two, or three…

In the meantime Emily, Jon, and Mark all wait for some new help …and they are coming (Silas, and friend) this week brought by Mike….Yeay! Bring the boys we have plenty of work…and no shortage of dust to vacuum. Next blog Here