Removing a Relic

We think our Nest has lots of special features, but one of these is a certain type of wood paneling that has my dad – the master forester – seeing hearts. It’s called Wormy Chestnut… or as Richard Harper calls it, “a true relic.” Apparently, this woodland artifact is basically extinct and wormy chestnut lumber is an extremely rare find these days…and Matthew and I  [GASP]  wanted to paint it. So, in swooped the mighty mustachioed forester to rescue the Chestnut lumber in all its wormy glory from those who seek to whitewash its beauty beyond recognition!

The room we call our office was paneled floor-to-ceiling with the “good stuff,” so in lieu of covering up something so special with paint, we decided we would rather share the Wormy Chestnut with someone who really appreciates it! It took a few tries to discover a method of removing the tongue and groove boards with little damage (because they are so old, they’ve become fairly brittle), but the forester finally landed on a crude-but-effective system of prying each board away from the wall about an inch and then using a saws-all to cut through the nails holding it to the wall. Then his trusty nail puller (me) dutifully pried out the remaining nails.

What will the forester do with his loot? Well, he’s not sure yet, but Matthew and I have a feeling it will be something very special and maybe a little piece of it will make it’s way back to the Nest one day  🙂

Close-up of the grain and pattern of American Wormy Chestnut.

Close-up of the grain and pattern of American Wormy Chestnut.

In case you would like to know more about why Chestnut lumber, especially Wormy Chestnut, is so rare, here’s a little explanation from the Nest’s very first guest blogger:

So… what’s so special about the American chestnut?

Before the turn of the 20th Century, American chestnut was a dominant hardwood tree in the eastern United States occurring mostly in the Appalachians from Maine to Mississippi. Some of the largest trees reached heights almost 100 feet with diameters over 9 feet occurred right here in the Southern Appalachians which occupied 25 to 40 percent of the lower cove forests. Large crops of its sweet nut were enjoyed by humans and were a major contributor to wildlife forage.

Unfortunately, an Asian chestnut tree imported to the U.S. around 1900 carried a bark fungus commonly called the chestnut blight. The American chestnut had little resistance and the blight virtually girdles the tree killing it. By the 1930s, an estimated 3 billion trees had died.

The wood is somewhat rot resistant and many trees lay on the forest floor for years before being salvaged, hence the “wormy” effect of the lumber where insects bored throughout the tree; a.k.a. wormy chestnut.

The wood was strong, light, and was widely used for construction, furniture, and decorative trim. It has a true brown patina – not too light, not too dark… just right to warm a room – chestnut! My favorite is a room paneled with variable width boards that have been left to age to its natural brown patina.

Small shoots of American chestnut are still living throughout the Appalachians, but are soon attacked by the chestnut blight before reaching a few feet tall. Hybrids are being developed to resist the blight. One live chestnut hybrid in the Clemson area is almost 18 inches in diameter and about 60 feet tall – there is still hope!

So, what really is so special – it is a relic of a once great tree important to the forest, and… well… I just like it!

Richard Harper
Professional Forester, Retired

There you have it, folks! Straight from the Forester’s mouth.

Here are a few photos of the removal process:

A "before" picture of the Wormy Chestnut walls.

A “before” picture of the Wormy Chestnut walls.

Getting started!

Getting started!

Saws-alling with a smile!  :)

Saws-alling with a smile! 🙂

Pulling off the last few boards.

Pulling off the last few boards.

The loot!

The loot!

Here's a little Forester Flashback of Richard in his early forestry days. He's on the cover of Westvaco CFM News magazine, November 1983.

Here’s a little Forester Flashback of Richard in his early forestry days. He’s on the cover of Westvaco CFM News magazine, November 1983.

From Stoop to Porch

Nothing says, “Welcome, friends!” like a sweet little covered porch!

Truthfully, there wasn’t really anything wrong with our original front stoop; a sturdy set of stairs and a little landing leading right up to our front door. Totally functional? Yes. Something to remember? Ehhhh, not really.

Its lack-luster presence and barely-there overhang at the front door (hardly enough to keep a guest out of the rain as they ring the doorbell) just wasn’t exactly the warm welcome we wanted. So, with a few very simple changes/additions, our so-so stoop has become a precious porch!

We worked with our builder to design a simple, architecturally appropriate overhang that would shelter the entire front stoop and add a little extra curb appeal to the front. I could describe it all to you, but wouldn’t you rather see pictures? I thought so…

A few “before” pictures:

Before! In fact, this photo is so "before" that it was one of the very first photos we snapped as we were beginning the journey to buy the house (September 2014)... it was ours roughly one year later!

Before! In fact, this photo is so “before” that it is actually one of the very first photos we snapped way back when we were a couple of baby birds just beginning the journey to buy our Nest (taken September 15, 2014)… it was officially ours roughly one year later (we closed on September 25, 2015!).

The Newton Nest_Front Porch Remodel_IMG_6339

The Newton Nest_Front Porch Remodel_IMG_6653

The “after” pictures:

Well hello, pretty porch!

Well hello, pretty porch!

Side view!  You can see here how much farther the porch roof extends from the house. It now shelters the entire landing.

Side view! You can see here how much farther the porch roof extends from the house. It now shelters the entire landing.

New front door!

New front door!

Close-up of the tongue and groove ceiling.

Close-up of the tongue and groove ceiling.

And just in case you didn’t quite get the picture… here are a couple of side-by-sides:

Front Porch Before & After

Front Porch Before & After

 

Up on the rooftop…

…click, click, click. That’s the sound of our roofers, not St. Nick.

Just in time for Christmas, we have a brand new runway for Santa’s sleigh! Well, that’s not the only reason we are replacing the roof, but it seems like good timing, right?

As you know by now, our little nest hasn’t exactly been water tight over the years and most recently, after removing all the plaster ceilings, we realized that a leaky roof was part of the problem. None of the leaks were terrible, in fact, without removing the ceilings, we probably wouldn’t have known for a long time that we had a slowly growing problem because all the little drips were being absorbed into the attic insulation. We were hoping to avoid replacing the roof, but truthfully, I think we are a little relieved to have it done now instead of kicking that can down the road. We’re looking at it as an “insurance policy” for all the work we’re doing on the inside…

Scraping off three layers of old shingles!

Scraping off three layers of old shingles!

Waterproof barrier is on (the bright green stuff).

Waterproof barrier is on (the bright green stuff).

New shingles going on!

New shingles going on!

Santa, is that you?

Santa, is that you?

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New roof! Front view.

New roof! Front view.

New roof! Rear view.

New roof! Rear view.

Saddle up Santa, we’re all ready for you!
(Hint, hint: we like power tools and home improvement gift cards!)

She’s got good bones.

Two weeks later, framing is complete. And it is GLORIOUS!

First on our list was fixing the weak links. Because of the age of our home and its state of disrepair, we had a few trouble spots to address where there were rotten or otherwise compromised studs and/or support joists. Many of these places were around windows that had begun to leak slowly over the years and underneath the super-heavy cast iron tubs in the bathrooms. Common theme: water. Don’t let it fool you; water can be the destroyer of worlds if you leave it unchecked! Thankfully, we had mostly superficial, ugly-but-not-serious damage. We only had two relatively small “surprises” where floor joists needed to be shored up from underneath the house…both cases in the bathrooms underneath three and five hundred pound tubs. (Can’t say I’m surprised that a few of those poor joists needed some reinforcements after carrying weight like that for 70+ years.)

Damage control:

A couple of nasty rotten spots caused by slow leaks.

A couple of nasty rotten spots caused by slow leaks.

Two front doors? Nope! Repairing the joists under the master bathtub/beside the front porch.

Two front doors? Nope! Repairing the joists under the master bathtub/beside the front porch.

Worst water damage of all... the wall in the great room slowly separated from the chimney around the fireplace, creating such serious water damage that the entire wall had to be rebuilt. (Luckily, this was once a garage that was closed-in to make a den, so the floor is concrete and was not compromised.)

Worst water damage of all… the wall in the great room slowly separated from the chimney around the fireplace, creating such serious water damage that the entire wall had to be rebuilt. (Luckily, this was once a garage that was closed-in to make a den, so the floor is concrete and was not compromised.)

Wowzer! It's pretty clear where the water was coming in...

Wowzer! It’s pretty clear where the water was coming in…

Okay, now on to the fun stuff

You may remember from the Best Laid Plans post that we decided to make minimal structural changes to the floor plans, but these small tweaks bring pretty substantial rewards, making our house a lot more functional. So, now that framing is complete, here’s the bird’s eye view of our nest’s anatomy.

Newton Nest - Aberdeen Floorplans 12.9.14

Notable tweaks: opening up the kitchen to the great room, creating a powder room within the office, splitting the butler’s pantry to make a laundry room, and reconfiguring the bedroom hallway to create a true foyer, more privacy and a large closet for the master suite.

Pretty good bones, am I right?

The most exciting part of this framing expedition – something you can’t see on a 2D blueprint – is that because of some unusable attic space and a little creative thinking, we were able to vault the ceiling of the great room…and, as a special surprise… our MASTER BEDROOM! Yay! Talk about a transformation…

You just have to see it for yourselves, y’all! Here goes:

Laundry room is framed!

Laundry room is framed!

Prepping the office for the addition of the powder room...we are losing one window in here, but totally worth it!

Prepping the office for the addition of the powder room…we are losing one window in here, but totally worth it!

New hallway (through old laundry room and a guest bedroom closet).

New hallway (through old laundry room and a guest bedroom closet).

Hello, powder room!

Hello, powder room!

Putting in the LVL support beam before removing the kitchen wall.

Putting in the LVL support beam before removing the kitchen wall.

New scissor joists are in the ceiling, so the old cross beams are coming out!

New scissor joists are in the ceiling, so the old cross beams are coming out!

Ta-dah! Our new and improved kitchen space, now open to the great room with vaulted ceiling.

Ta-dah! Our new and improved kitchen space, now open to the great room with vaulted ceiling.

Great room view from the back door looking toward the kitchen.

Great room view from the back door looking toward the kitchen.

Master bedroom with new vaulted ceiling!!!!! We love that the little round window in the peak is now visible from the inside, too.

Master bedroom with new vaulted ceiling!!!!! We love that the little round window in the peak is now visible from the inside, too.

Next steps in our Nest Building adventure:

Exterior improvements
– Siding Repair
– New Windows
– New Roof

Interior essentials
– Electrical
– Plumbing
– HVAC
…then we can close up the walls. Hooray!

The devil really is in the details.

It’s a tedious job, but somebody’s gotta do it!

The sledgehammer swingin’ is over and now we are left with the nitty gritty detail work around “the edges” of each room. This is the last of the demo work that must be done before our builder can bring in the framer and really get the renovation phase going.

I suppose we brought this headache on ourselves by attempting to save the trim work, but we think it will be worth it to keep a few of the original details intact.

All the demo is done except the plaster left around the "edges" of each room.

All the demo is done except the plaster left around the “edges” of each room.

Close up of the left over plaster around the trim.

Close up of the left over plaster around the trim.

Chipping away along the baseboards.

Chipping away along the baseboards.

If we're not chipping away at plaster remnants, we are pulling nails out of the studs. Details, details, details.

If we’re not chipping away at plaster remnants, we are pulling nails out of the studs. Details, details, details.

Clean edges!

Clean edges!

We were able to carefully remove the plaster around the archway from the foyer into the formal living room -- one of the many details we love about our house!

We were able to carefully remove the plaster around the archway from the foyer into the formal living room — one of the many details we love about our house!

While tackling the detail work, Matthew took on one of our toughest “muscle” projects – master bathroom tile removal! Oh sure, those little square subway tiles look like they’ll chip right off, but what you can’t see is the two and a half inches of concrete behind them! Wowzer! This project – by far – took the most muscle power. Good thing Matthew’s got the guns for the job!

Master bathroom tile pre-demo. (Notice how the window goes halfway into the shower and there's also an air vent inside the shower!) We plan to remedy both of these little quirks.

Master bathroom tile pre-demo. (Notice how the window goes halfway into the shower and there’s also an air vent inside the shower!) We plan to remedy both of these little quirks.

Lauren's sad attempt at demo-ing tile!

Lauren’s sad attempt at demo-ing tile!

Matthew "Muscles" Newton makes some real progress.

Matthew “Muscles” Newton takes over and makes some real progress. (If you look closely, you can see he’s pried a huge chunk away from the wall — his arm is behind it!)

Pretty thick stuff! It's apparent that this tile was laid to last.

Pretty thick stuff! It’s apparent that this tile was laid to last.

SUCCESS! Believe it or not, it took three wheelbarrow loads to get all that tile rubble out of the tub.

SUCCESS! Believe it or not, it took four wheelbarrow loads to get all that tile rubble out of the tub.

Next step is getting electricity to the house so we can use power tools to speed up this detail work and run a shop vac to help with clean up. We have been waiting for more than two weeks now, so wish us luck…and if you happen to know someone at Duke Power who can bump us up on the list, we wouldn’t be upset if you made a call 😉

The sky is falling!

Chicken Little:  “Oh, help! The sky is falling!”
Henny Penny:   “How do you know?”
Chicken Little:  “I saw it with  my own eyes, and heard it with my own ears, and part of it fell on my head!”

If Chicken Little thought the world was coming to an end after a little acorn landed on his head, he and Henny Penny would have lost their minds in our house this weekend! Saturday’s major task was knocking the plaster off the ceilings. And yes, a lot of it fell on our heads.

It’s bad enough to have the plaster falling in your face, but we got the added surprise of loose insulation raining down upon us. There’s no way to spin it, this was a dirty, itchy, no good, very bad job. However, unlike Chicken Little, we know this isn’t a sign that the world is coming to an end, but more like a beacon of hope to know this dirtiest of jobs done and behind us!

We were again lucky to have lots of volunteers for demo day number two—Matthew’s sister Rebecca, my parents, my sister Emily, and our friend Skyler all came to help. Plus, we hired a local handyman named Doug to help with the really tough stuff.

Here’s a recap of all our dusty, dirty fun:

Matthew makin' it rain.

Matthew makin’ it rain.

IMG_0021

Loose insulation everywhere!

It's a dirty, dusty job, but somebody's gotta do it!

It’s a dirty, dusty job, but somebody’s gotta do it!

demo pics

Wheelbarrow load after wheelbarrow load to fill up Big Red…again!

We haven't scared Rebecca away yet!

We haven’t scared Rebecca away yet!

Even though my mom was down a hand, she went to town pulling nails out of the studs. A broken arm can't slow her down!

Even though my mom was down a hand, she went to town pulling nails out of the studs. A broken arm can’t slow her down!

My dad, the forester, came to help with a special wood project. ;)

My dad, the forester, came to help with a special wood project. 😉

My sister, Emily, is stylish as always with purple earplugs that perfectly matched her sweatshirt.

My sister, Emily, is stylish as always with sassy purple earplugs to coordinate with her sweatshirt.

Sisters that demo together, stay together.

Sisters that demo together, stay together. (We missed you, Rebecca!!)

Sledgehammer Sisters. #thoseharperwomen

Sledgehammer Sisters. #thoseharperwomen

Skyler joins the demo party!

Skyler joins the demo party!

Making progress!

Making progress!

Hammer down! (This actually happened twice!!!)

Hammer down! (This actually happened twice!!!)

Finished!

Finished!

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Another busy day... another full dumpster.

Another busy day… another full dumpster.

Excuse me, your studs are showing…

That’s right! Our studs are on full display, so try not to stare.

After our permit was approved, we slapped that baby up in the window and went to town with hammers, crowbars, and a lot of elbow grease. And, thankfully, we had a couple of volunteers, too! Matthew’s sisters, April and Rebecca rolled up their sleeves, donned dust masks and spent the entire day working with us on Saturday. Hours of hammering and one huge dust cloud later, we had exposed the bones of our little Nest!

Here’s a recap of our Demo Day:

Demo time!

Demo time!

Goodbye kitchen cabinets...

Goodbye kitchen cabinets…

The nastiest job of all... old carpet removal.

The nastiest job of all… old carpet removal.

Then linoleum floor tiles had to be scraped up!

Then linoleum floor tiles had to be scraped up!

Saving the cabinet hardware before the hammers begin.

Saving the cabinet hardware before the hammers begin.

Watch out! It's hammer time.

Watch out! It’s hammer time.

Making some progress.

Making some progress.

Real women swing sledgehammers (while kicking their leg up in an awkward demo dance move).

Real women swing sledgehammers (while kicking their leg up in an awkward demo dance move).

Taking a break in the bathtub.

Taking a break in the bathtub.

Clean up in bedroom three!

Clean up in bedroom three!

Dining room demo. April is meticulous!

Dining room demo. April is meticulous!

Removing ceiling tiles and  faux wood paneling in the family room.

Removing ceiling tiles and faux wood paneling in the family room.

Attic gold! Matthew found a beautiful vaulted ceiling after removing the old, yucky acoustic tiles in the family room. Jackpot!

Attic gold! Matthew found a beautiful vaulted ceiling after removing the old, yucky acoustic tiles in the family room. Jackpot!

Peek-a-boo!

Peek-a-boo!

Cleanup continues.

Cleanup continues.

Bin load #1,978. These ladies we troopers!

Bin load #1,978. These ladies were troopers!

Big Red is full again!

Big Red is full again!

Post-demo Kitchen.

Mid-demo Kitchen.

photo 1

Whoa! No more plaster in the dining room.

Lots of studs showing!

Lots of studs showing!

The dust cloud...a.k.a. the reason we wore masks!

The dust cloud…a.k.a. the reason we wore masks!

The Newtons -- happy after a hard day of work!

The Newtons — happy after a hard day of work!

Demo by the Digits:

  • 3 ladies and 1 dude
  • 6 hours of hard work
  • 2 sledgehammers
  • 2 crowbars
  • 1 rubber mallet
  • 4 sets of gloves
  • 8 earplugs
  • 4 respirator masks
  • Approximately 1 million (we stopped counting) bin loads full of plaster and insulation taken to the dumpster
  • 1 giant red dumpster – FULL
  • 1 big ol’ cloud of dust
  • ZERO injuries!

All in all, it adds up to a greatly productive day.