Why, Oh Why, Didn’t I Take the Blue Pill?

Why, Oh Why, Didn’t I Take the Blue Pill?

You would think it would have been THAT kind of day. And it was a big day: Jason there with both his helpers, Kyle and Reid; the electrician back with his helper….

And it started with a reiteration of yesterday’s plan: sheath the chimney in plywood and cover that with vinyl siding — to achieve the primary goal of weatherproofing the house.

At the midpoint of the day we were deciding to demolish the chimney altogether.

At the midpoint of the afternoon we were chasing mice out of the stairway ceiling.

At the end of the day we had a new skylight:

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Somewhere in there they cut down a stack of 2×6 framing members, and were deluged with a carpenter ant nest.

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Sometime after that I dashed to the store and came back with a cooler full of drinks on ice for the crew. They deserved far more.

In a nutshell, we defined three interlocking issues on the east face of the house:

  • The top of the chimney in worse shape than previously thought. While working, a large chunk of chimney brick broke off and slid down the roof to the ground. We still haven’t inspected the inside up-close from the top (a chimney specialist inspected it from the bottom back in March, and pronounced it sound). It has rudimentary and ill-applied flashing, augmented with what Jason called “12 tubes of caulk.” Obviously ineffectively, to judge by the water rot below.
  • All the surrounding framing and board siding, correspondingly, in worse shape than previously thought. They had to cut out an 8-foot section of the top-plate of the 2nd-floor wall, comprising a stack of three flat 2×6’s under a string of three sistered 2×6’s — all of it rotted or infested with ants. This section bore the load under one end of the ridgepole, so before ripping the last part out, they installed a brace on the ridgepole support itself. Just in case.
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    Brace is the angled board on the left.

  • Most “unexpected” (for some value of “expected”), the entire porch, stairway, and upper landing — inlcuding all their roofing, trim, siding, and underlying framing — is completely fubarred. No valid construction methods were used in this adventure, let alone weatherproofing methods. There were places that insulation was open to the elements. A nest of live mice fell out of one ceiling section. Under a window, the vinyl “J-channel” was cunningly attached so as to channel water behind the flashing — flashing misapplied and utilizing an improper material to begin with. Not least, the overall construction gestalt was to simply push the porch addition up against the existing house, siding and all, and half-heartedly run a few screws through to “fasten” it. In no sense is this entire structure really tied in to the main building, with a raft of attendant issues.

The upshot is that I have to tackle at least parts of the porch sooner than I was intending. But Jason proves his worth over and over, not only taking all this unpleasantness in stride, but navigating his way through the path of least resistance — to achieve our minimal goals of weatherproofing, sound and safe structure, and keeping costs down.

The “skylight” (pictured above at top), is where they removed the roofing from above the landing area, and then cut away a seemingly arbitrary chunk of roof framing (such as it was) with the aim of rebuilding it in an integrated fashion with the house proper. All of this really just to support restoring the outside roofing and siding with appropriate flashing.

Meanwhile we also jacked up the landing from below (it had been supported by two inadequate struts):

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Again, we’d known this was due eventually for a load-bearing rebuild, but had no idea it would occur today.

So I’m soaked with sweat, filth, exhausted from running around, decision-making, too little sleep — too tired in fact to even decide if I am discouraged at this juncture. Jason will rent a “manlift” to speed the work including taking down the chimney, and we get to postpone the wood stove expense and take some time to think about exactly what we want and need, without the artificial constraint of feeling like we have to use the existing chimney. Once the chimney is down, the other finish work should go relatively quickly across uninterrupted wall-spans; the hardest, fussiest work will be the flashing around the sections of adjoining roof with varying degrees of pitch.

Jason kept apologizing for being the bearer of bad news and I kept apologizing for the rodent and insect infestations. But really, we’re incredibly lucky and (don’t say it! don’t say it!) we’re pretty sure we’ve almost (shut up!!) maybe, almost, seen the worst (sigh) the house has in store for us.

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