Jenga – With Real Bricks. 

With the roof supported by the temporary
jacks, and the front bricks held in place by the threaded rods, it was time to start clearing the old bricks out of the way. We slid a couple of pieces of rigid insulation behind the façade to hold the bricks in place and were able to take all of the loose bricks that were threatening fall out down without losing a one. With this we could start removing the façade and preparing it for disposal.

With the façade down we could start taking away the loose bricks and till we get down to a solid base didn’t know how far were going to have to go. In the process we discovered some previous repairs including structural foam. 

We eventually got the front down to where the original 2 x 4 had rotted out. It was good it was solid under that because we had run out of brick we could take out. All of the debris ended up going down in a controlled manner using the hoist wheel which is proving very very useful.

With the main demolition done our next step would be to start to build.

Raising the Roof

With the scaffold in place, and ready access to the attic via the high bridge, it became apparent that the front wall was collapsing. When it was first constructed, a pair of 2x4s were set in place of rows of bricks to provide a nailer for the facade. Alas, after 100 years, they have rotted out. As a result, the top three rows of brick are leaning out, being held in by the facade itself.


The first order of business was to secure the bricks for the fall out. To do this we ran threaded rod through the brick and through the façade and then both put it back into place this will keep things from sliding out.

On closer examination it became clear that this front wall was in fact structural, and to make matters worse the façade had become load bearing.  As an added precaution we rigged up a tarp to help catch anything that fell.

The next order of business was to install some blocking in the roof structure in the attic. Along with the blocking we added some metal angle brackets to help tie the current structure together.

The next step was to install a lifting beam near the front of the trip that would be supported using scaffold jacks, driving scrap pipe to lift the whole structure up. This was also tied into the structure to keep it from rolling.The pipes, which we got from Mike Douglass, had to be cut to length before I could install them.

With the bracing in place and the safety tarp set up, we were ready to try lifting the roof a tiny bit to take the weight off the bricks and try to catch them before they fall on the cars below.

With the loose bricks remove we can finally start exposing the work area. We certainly will have many opportunities to excel.

A Bridge Too High

The project to repair the facade of the house requires access to the attic in the north wing.  Unfortunately, that access is via a hatch in the closet ceiling.  Getting up there requires dragging an extension ladder upstairs, and moving a bunch of stuff. 

Well, maybe a bridge from the south wing roof to the north wing roof.  Although that requires getting up on the roof of the south wing.  Rather then dragging out the extension ladder, maybe we can put in a pull down stairway.

But the existing opening is a bit too small (and the ONLY ceiling in the south wing that still had lath attached). But with a bit of work and some power tools, a new opening was formed. 

With the opening rebuilt, and the new pull down stairs in place, it was time to make some parts.  Many years ago, we had to move a screen house, so I cut some 1″ pipe into rollers. Adding a hole in each allows them to act as a base for scaffold railing posts.   As it happens, that is the size of scaffold pins. I also had a set of pipe legs from a church table.  As an added bonus I had some 1 1/4″ pipe caps from an earlier scaffold project. All of the hardware will get held together with some UniStrut that we cut into 12″ lengths. 

With the hardware all set, it was time to build a frame to span the gangway. 

Once the frame was assembled, we could push across the gap, and start decking it with left over Trex off cuts from the deck project.  One last trip through the closet, and we could set the legs on the north side, and finish the decking and railings. The railings can come off once the work season is over.


A High Distraction.

There is a wooden fascia along the top edge of the house – about 25 feet up.  But the years have taken a toll and part of this fell off.  This was eventually was noticed by code enforcement, so a project I had planned for the spring, got moved up a bit. Having no desire to work on this from a ladder, setting up scaffold seemed the next step.

After some judicious trimming of the shrubs, I was able to get a base unit in place and level, and a second level on top of that.   The next day I was able to get a start on the third level.  I got the tower tied into the house and a few deck boards in place.

But getting to the fourth level was looking to be a challenge – I seem to have inherited my father’s dislike for heights, but they say that where there is will, there is a way.  So, I recruited my friend Will, and work continued. 

With Will on the high work, we quickly get the forth level up, railings installed, and a ladder set up in the tower for easy access to the top. 

With ready access to the facade, the scope of the problem became visible. When the house was built, they let in a 2×4 instead of a row of brick.  There’s a second one higher up.  These provided a nailer for verticle 1x4s that supported the facade.  Alas, the 100 years or so was too much for the 2x material and it has rotted away.  Some of the brickwork needs some repointing as well.  It appears that some of the work can be done from inside the attic, although this will disrupt Joyce’s closet a bit.   Once the front gets done, I can move around to the sides.  Haven’t decided if that will be from a ladder, or more scaffold, but that is a problem for another day. 

At least there is a view from the top


Sunroom – to build, one must first tear down.

The sunroom was originally a porch that a previous owner had “winterized”.  About 25 years ago, I had beefed up the insulation, replaced cheap paneling with Sheetrock, and installed real Windows to replace triple track storm windows.  A few years after that, I added a small (really small) bathroom.  In addition, there were some structural issues with northwest corner of the porch, but in the end, water and time and other things, it was time to redo things.

The first step was to remove the old bathroom, yet maintain basic functionality.

With all of the partition walls removed, as well as the shower stall, you can see some of the water damage. More demo is required.  When the sink was first installed, the framing of the wall behind it was questionable, so a section of plywood was screwed to the wall, and the sink hung on that. 
As the Sheetrock was removed, we found a layer of 1″ rigid foam insulation. That was covering fiberglass insulation, but the studs were NOT attached to the outside wall. The studs were also not installed with standard spacing, so the fiberglass wasn’t doing all the much.

On closer examination, we discovered the carpenter ants had chewed up a lot of the foam!

As part of the new bathroom,  we wanted to move the wall out as far as possible.  So, we wanted to add some insulation to the outside of the wall, and cover it with siding.  So hook up the trailer and off to Home Depot.

With material in hand, it was time to bring in a highly trained professional (in another field), and in a good mornings work, we got insulation and horizontal braces, capped with another inch of foam, and then siding up to the roof (it might have been more than a morning).

With the siding done on the north wall, we moved back inside and started taking the ceiling down.  More foam insulation (with insect damage), and Fiberglass batts (a 15″ and 23″ pair trying to fill a 37″ bay).

But with ceiling down, we could see light between the roof ledger and the brick. When the corner post rotted, the roof and upper edge of the wall pulled away from the brick.  Well, that explained the leak.

imageimageBack outside to work on the roof.  Cleared some mortar out of a joint, bent some sheet metal to lock into the brick and bend down over the shingles.
With leak handled, took a different approach with ceiling insulation.  Put the trailer back on the car, and over to Lowes for a pallet of insulation (loads a lot quicker), then rip the panels to 37.5″, and bevel cut the ends and press fit them into the ceiling bays.imageimageimage

With the ceiling insulated, we started on the south wall. Like the north wall, it was a skin on vertical tounge and groove strips,  with very little cross bracing.  But this time, we put the insulation on the inside, and put the screws in from the outside.

We also returned to Harley. Haven to rerun the high velocity air ducts through the brick wall rather than through the old window.  This will help when we put in the ceiling.  Still have to move the water and DWV lines, but that will wait until we start plumbing the bathroom.

A tiny problem and a day lost.

A few days back, I went into the basement and discovered water dripping from the ceiling. After a bit of checking around, I determined that one of the cold water pipes was spraying water upwards.  Some quick work with some duct tape and a bucket bought  me some time. 

about 16 hours to fill


My first thought was to replace the entire run with copper (and upgrade to 3/4″ at the same time), but I had no copper tube in stock, and I did have a roll of PEX.  The pipe with the leak was 1/2 tube that I installed soon after buying the house.  When I did the upstairs bathroom a few years back, I put in a new (short) run of 3/4 tube to provide a new manifold.  In order to simplify additions, I ended the pipe with caps.  This worked out well, as I could just cut off the end of the tube, and tap in a new assembly to provide a termination for the PEX.


clipping off the old extension cap


building the new hookup on the bench


new connection in place, including leg to water heater

  The new connection included a 3/4″ feed for the water heater (yellow handled valve) but that project will wait for another day.  You can also see the stub of the old main line next to the new PEX.

The next bit of field plumbing was to cut off and cap where the old 1/2″ tube fed in. With that done, the final step was to remove the old connection to the meter, and attach the other end of the PEX.


old 1/2″ main feed


new 3/4″ pex fitting


new 3/4 pex main feed.


I had to redo the city side of the meter a few years back, and I was able to upgrade to 3/4″ at that time.  We now have 3/4″ supply lines all the way in.  I still need to tap in a few old lines to the new PEX – washing machine, sill cock, but that should be easy with PEX.   I also need to extend the ground bonding wires – that is something PEX doesn’t handle.

And what causes all this – this massive hole in the 1/2″ copper pipe pictured below.