Renovations never a simple job

My brother was kidding me Sunday as we were putting up some gyproc in my home.
“You must really be excited when you work on a room that is square,” he noted.
I think he was referring to my helping him on his cottage, where all the walls were nice and square, compared to our cabin at the lake where the walls are nice and straight.
My home is now almost 108 years old, having been built in 1904 for a Miss Hamilton and her son at a price of $800.
My wife and I remodelled it in 1979 and brought everything up to code at the time. However, 30 some years later, there are parts of the home that are truly dated to the 1980s.
Such was the bathroom off the master bedroom. My wife had decided that 2012 was the year to renew it and a pseudo budget was crafted.
When we finished it in 1980, we covered all the walls in tongue-and-groove redwood cedar. We built it well—every board was glued and nailed by hand before air nailers were a common household tool.
This year’s project was going to be a quick remodelling. Remove the paneling, paint the walls, and install new facings on the vanity cabinets, along with new taps and lights. A new vanity top was going to be the big expense.
Well, 30 years later, my memory of how the room was put together was a blur. The paneling came off but the glue pulled pieces of the drywall away, as well. I had forgotten that we had nailed cedar to the lathe and plaster on the ceiling, and I came to the quick realization that the ceiling now had to be drywalled.
The quick job of removing the cedar dragged on. I came to understand that none of the existing drywall could be salvaged and it, too, had to be removed.
My little job for a small room had grown.
Fortunately, my brother, Don, came to my rescue. I think he really enjoys drywalling and mudding. Together on Sunday, we put the new drywall up.
Getting eight-foot sheets into the room was our first challenge. Then we discovered that every wall seemed to have its own set of curves and every piece had to be custom-fitted.
It was a not a pretty job in such a confining space, but we did succeed. It was at about the fourth piece of gyproc that my brother’s comment came and I couldn’t disagree.
Old homes may have their charms but when you are remodelling, their secrets often become problems. Walls and corners are not square.
The original walls had eight or nine layers of wallpaper, which came off relatively easy. You could look at the paper and almost tell the decade it was glued to the wall.
People always have commented to me that they don’t build houses like they used to. Well, it’s a good thing that we don’t build homes the old-fashioned way. The studs in my outside walls are a full four inches by two inches.
A century ago, no one worried about insulation. Lots of felt paper was used to reduce air leaks. The studs separating the bedrooms on the second floor have all been placed on the flat, but are a full two inches thick.
Lathe and plaster hide a book of sins. The lathe and plaster on each side of the studs is a full inch thick.
Today’s construction standards are much better. I suspect that 50 years from now, someone will lament that they don’t build houses like they did in the year 2000.
The house may be more than a century old, has lots of air leaks, has stairs that squeak, and basement walls that are more than two feet thick. But it has stood the time test.
The budget has been shot, the easy changes have become a challenge, and the job continues—probably going well into February.

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