Dave is gently ripping apart the second floor landing of the house. He’s poking around to see how to support the dormer and the bridge that will connect it to the tower. I had been wondering about the integrity of the sagging roofline since buying the cottage. Today’s demolition reveals there is no ridge pole and the old front walls bow out.
I visited my mom today so was not home while Dave was working. Lee and I had already moved the bookcases out of the hall so Dave had room to work. I expected the landing would be in chaos upon my return, but. Lee had cleaned up so well that only some sheet rock dust and some stray insulation remained. He’s wonderful. But I didn’t expect the closets and laundry room to be emptied into my office/guest room. It’s crowded. I can live with it.
I also wasn’t expecting to find the dark somewhat rotting wood of the original 1870 roof. It makes me so nostalgic for my 1780 barn in New Hampshire. But it’s just nostalgia, not regret, and now I have a new old home to keep alive.
Drafted pre-May 22, 2012, and unfortunately revised & revised & . . .
The thought of writing about the construction of the addition was with me from the very start of the project. I knew it wouldn’t be Tracy Kidder’s House, but who wants to do what has been done. It would be my addition. It was a start.
Finally I had bonded to the project. I felt a responsibility and a love towards the old beams and the buckling front wall. My little cottage had stood through 150 years of pelting rains, heavy snows, and the winds that blow down the Hudson, whistling around the cottage walls year-round, occasionally even driving my “outside” dog Tuck inside.
Pulling this portion up now that it fits into the chronology and anticipating reliving that rush of emotion, I was so let down. The revised draft began:
Work on the tower has been on hold for a week. It is totally discouraging since I don’t feel I can do anything to speed it up. I’m at the mercy of the contractors and the weather.
My first rewrite was written when I was down, when the weathermen had been forecasting rain just about every day for three weeks. It hardly rained during that time, but who knew. Dave wouldn’t break through the roof in case it poured, and it did, but only once or twice.
Lee couldn’t start work on the inside until Nick, our concrete man, came and poured the slab over the radiant heat pipes. Nick wouldn’t schedule the truck for the foundation because he worried the truck would sink into mud if the rain should come. Mud never happened.
Dave said he was going to pull out the sheet rock along the staircase to see if there were any supporting posts, but he wouldn’t do that until he was further along with the other work. I lived with fears of the worst: the first floor cabinets torn out, the floors destroyed, and all my careful planning of the addition to keep the integrity of cottage intact having been done in vain.
That high that I expected to find in the writing, the high from discovering the old house, is no longer evident in the writing. Was it ever there?
A lesson learned. Don’t discard the old when revising.
We were on hold for quite a while, both the house and my writing. Tower #1 was written on June 29th. It took about five weeks for me to become inspired again. I didn’t want to write about my tower while down.
Unfortunately other dates are mushy through this, but I believe the slab was poured and the roof was opened up by the first week of June. It was gloriously sunny and windy weather. The winds had come in and lasted for several weeks. Dave and his crew loved working by the water, but hated working in the wind. It is a miracle no one was blown away carrying plywood.
They opened the roof, and you can see the bedroom door off the second floor hallway. The third picture in this run, taken after the framing had begun on the dormer, shows how the closet, stairway, and laundry closet line up under the new LVL. Hopefully you can approximate how low the ceiling was at the top of the stairs, low enough to bump one’s head repeatedly, and why we wanted to bump the ceiling up into a dormer.
If you need help envisioning how low the ceiling was, imagine two bedroom closets built into the front sloping wall that are sized for children, or maybe men, but definitely not women who wear dresses that cover more than their bums. Definitely nothing longer than mid-thigh. Now imagine bumping your head when stooping to get something from the closet. We have the former owners who lived here and orchestrated the 2004 redo of the house to thank for this. Lee bumps his head probably more than I do. My only consolation is that the former owners must have bumped their heads also.
The ceiling on the landing is now extraordinarily high for such a small room, and with the sun pouring in the round corner windows we installed, and the niche in the wall that Lee built with a leftover window from a house he renovated, I feel as if I am in my personal chapel.
Dave found a very non-intrusive way to add posts on either side of the staircase to support the new LVL that became the major support of the cottage and all the new weight it was to bear. That only required redirecting a few water pipes in the basement.
My office was a disaster until two weeks ago when we finally decided we wouldn’t be making that much dust for awhile. We put stuff back into the closets, at least temporarily, and moved some of the furniture over to the second floor of the tower. Yes, I did survive the clutter, but very grumpily.
I should let you know too that Lee has moved into his man cave two weeks ago. It looks like a squirrel house to me.