Some of you (whom I won’t identify but whose name rhymes with Bloria) were offended that yesterday’s post was so short that clicking “Read More” actually revealed nothing more. As the old-time radio host used to say, here is the “rest of the story.”



Mark came over about 12:30 as promised. He got distracted right away by the septic tank, which is still dug up. He quizzed me on what we plan to do with it. Discussion ensued. He didn’t object to the idea of leaving it as is (except for cutting the inflow and outflow pipes a little shorter) and returning to it if there’s a problem later. But — given our difficulty finding the leach field — he suggested either snaking the outflow with a camera (expensive) or just with a conventional augur-style snake. It would at least tell us something if it came to a blockage in less than 8-10 feet. If I used a snake with a screw spring, I could even pull out a sample of the blockage, and determine if it’s rock, soil, roots, or whatever. Hopefully not whatever.

On to the attic, which Mark had not seen previously. First, the roof struts are “interesting” but not objectionable. They provide strength to the roof, but don’t add anything for the ceiling itself. It’s good that the ceiling stringers are all doubled. He recommends adding cross braces near the ridge to further strengthen the structure.

But then on to next steps. Mark has a talent, really he does, for absorbing the facts on the ground very rapidly and immediately brainstorming actionable responses. In this case: rodent feces, and secondarily: mold.

His ultimate prescription: clean, clean, clean, clean, and when we think it’s clean, clean some more.

He suggests covering everything from the first floor down with plastic — unfortunate that we have done ANY power plant work (his words), “it is what it is” — and going at the second floor with a power washer. Look up solutions that will mitigate the mold and the poop. But before that: scrape and vacuum. Get all the gross matter out, remove the eave soffits, get respirators (got ’em) and blow it all out.

Then power-wash. Cover or remove all the electric and scour the wood beams and walls until it’s all as clean and fresh looking as the wood in the roof (he liked that). He asked what the plan was for the toilet outflow pipe in the floor, and misunderstanding him I said “it’s going, we’re taking it out.” But his idea was: Use it to flush out the product of the power-washing. Get someone with a squeegee and push it down that pipe. Attach an extension out the bulkhead below and send it outside. Brilliant, I thought.

No half-measures. Make sure ALL the insulation is out of all the walls below wherever the rinse will flow. Get it CLEAN.

On to the load-bearing elements. This is what he came for. Tim and I had prepped a bit, and set up a line in the basement where we thought the new beam should lie (the old beam was seriously skewed). We’d marked where concrete piers should be set, assuming the new beam would have four total — one at each end, and two in between spaced 1/3 the distance apart.


After we cut the 20-footers to measure (19 feet, one-half inch) and nailed them together, we brought it into the basement. Meanwhile, Mark had already taken down the existing beam. In truth, it was doing virtually no support work, having itself sagged well below the sag point of the floor above. So there was no need for an elaborate temporary beam while placing the new one.


Mark taught us many tricks and techniques along the way, a wealth of building wisdom. Here, he’s readying a cord to stretch taut along the bottom of the new beam, to assess the need for jacking. It needs more than a inch at the center, more than we could have accomplished with jury-rigged timber jacks. We shall return with a bottle jack capable of lifting 30 tons. And once the beam is good, we’ll do the concrete piers and support columns.


Outside to look at the problem with the stairs. The upper landing is cantilevered and sports a couple of meagre 2×6’s at a weird angle — not enough for this design. They will be replaced by the 6×6 columns already mentioned, but we needed to know where to start digging the holes for their concrete piers. Mark climbed, found the framing under the vinyl, and dropped two plumbs. We started those holes.

I thought it was a fantastically productive 3-4 hours; and I had not expected the rapid tangible progress in the basement. And we had new marching orders for the rest of the house — which in turn require that we slow up on the remaining power-plant stuff — e.g., plumbing, electrical, etc. We want the minimum effect on stuff from the power-washing. So we’ll proceed with the bare minimum needed to support our camper life.

Oh… the camper. We were going to pick it up today! But it turned out the owners had more difficulty getting it re-registered for the season than expected. So we slid it back a week. Oh — and the owner wants to follow us to our property, help hook it up, and walk us through all its features and quirks. I said: You realize we’re taking it to Troy?? He said, Oh yes, we have car with good fuel economy, and I want it set up right. So that’s really reassuring.


I built a rabbit hutch — almost finished before it got dark.




This particular hutch may have come close in new materials to the cost of a ready-made hutch at the grain store. But we WILL be doing more with salvaged materials at our property. Oh yes we will.