New Support and New Shape

One of the things we have always wanted to do was to put a complete dormer on the back of the house.  When you do a project like this on a limited budget you have to prioritize what you can get done and what you can’t.  With everything else that we were doing it seemed like the dormer would have to be dropped from the project until our contractor suggested just putting up the exterior shell for the dormer which would set us up to complete the interior renovation at another time at a much lower cost.  That sounded good  to us so we went with it.  Here the team begin demolition of the existing roof to begin building the dormer. While we will not demo the space for a while we will provide some interior access doors to allow us to use the space for storage.

Because we are not doing the interior they will only demo the sections of the roof necessary to build the exterior shell. In this photo you can see the roof open at the top, bottom and side where they will be framing. Also note the stripping of the side wall of the old dormer.

One of the things that is a concern in adding the new dormer is that it changes the weight of the roof and affects the current support structure.  The builder wants to beef up the main beam of the house at the crown and then increase the supports underneath that beam and the house in general to handle the extra weight. Here they are inserting the new main beam in roof.

The new beam will be constructed using three (I believe that are 2 x 12) large planks. Here the team is putring two of the planks in position before they are hoisted into the interior of the house.

Anyone who has ever done home remodeling knows that no matter how much you plan – there will always be the unexpected.  There was a concern that the interior framing would not be substantial enough to support the new beam so we have decided to relocate the center windows upstairs and move them toward the back of the house so that we can build up the supports under the beam. Moving the windows will have to wait until the rest of the windows arrive.  In the mean time, the crew got to work framing in the dormer.

The roof is supported and open for framing. Two by fours are lifted to the roof the begin the framing work.

On the east side of the house the new beam is being built and the framing is taking shape on the dormer.

The dormer is taking shape. The window is framed in and the roof is almost completed on the east side.

The dormer on the east side is nearly complete.

Work continues on the west side of the house. In this picture the new beam is clearly visible at the top opening in the roof.

When the dormer is complete on both sides the tyvek is applied to provide protection from moisture. The holes of the two windows have been covered up for now in case we get rain. Don't want water getting in after all this work.

Now that the dormer have been built the team can continue foaming the house to get ready for the next phase.

The house finally takes on a different shape - part Cape Cod and part Saltbox I guess. I really looks so much bigger now. Foam is applied to the entire exterior and now we are ready to go to the roof.

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Installing Windows

I find it fascinating to watch the process of installing windows.  As you have seen in previous posts, the windows are pulled out four inches to be flush with the new exterior.  The first step in that process is chop back the existing window sill and then install foam in the same space.

Here the exterior window sill is cut back to be flush with the frame of the old house.

Foam is installed to fill the space once occupied by the sill and to provide a base for the new window.

One of the things they are concerned about is making the shell as airtight and moisture proof as possible.  This is no less a concern with the windows.  Before the window is installed the crew adheres the same peel and stick vinyl wraps to the entire opening.  I guess you can say every window is “hermetically” sealed.

Here the vinyl seal is applied to the interior part of the frame all the way to interior sill.

Once the window frame is completely sealed it is time for the window to be installed.  These windows are triple glazed, energy star rated windows from Paradigm.  The windows are part of their green product offering. The glass in the windows is Guardian Climaguard Low E glass which really helps limit the influence of the outside environment on inside temperature.  As I mentioned, the windows are triple glazed and filled with argon gas.  To read more on the Climaguard windows follow this link.

Once the window frame is totally sealed the window is installed. Metal strapping is affixed to all four sides of the window and those straps are screwed in tightly to make sure each window is secured properly with a tight seal.

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Foam, Foam, Foam

One of my neighbors said to me that when he looked at the current state of the house it was looking more like a cocoon than anything else.  I can see his point.  Slowly but surely, the house is being wrapped in foam.  In some cases the lines of the house are obscured and you loose all sense of shape.  Here the guys are foaming the front and sides of the house.

Two layers of thick foam are added to the front entrance. The foam is added in sheets and then later trimed to the roof line.

The foaming continues on the back and west side of the house.

Here the foam is applied to the front and east side of the house.

When they are done foaming the entire shell will be enclosed on four inches of thick insulation. Our house will literally be eight inches wider and eight inches longer then when we started.  It will also be four inches taller.  How effective will the insulation be? The contractor told me a story of having a police helicopter hovering over one of their jobs.  Why? The helicopter was fitted with a device to measure heat signatures and most houses give off a distinct temperature signature.  The heavily insulated home had no signature – it was like a big blind spot on their scopes.  Needless to say they wanted to know why. Super insulation baby!

The other thing that I find fascinating is how much attention they pay to making sure that this insulation is tight and that no moisture can penetrate it.  Every corner and every seam is heavily taped to seal the surface.

Here they are installing a peel and stick vinyl strip to each corner to prevent moisture from getting behind the insulation. This vinyl strip is applied twice - first to the inner layer of foam and then to the outer layer. Also notice the tape on the seam for the same purpose.

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Last Stages of Repairs

I have to say that I am losing track of what work is done on what days.  I should have been keeping up on  a daily basis.  So I am just going to post up based on different aspects of the project.  Here the focus was finishing the repairs of the moisture and insect damage and then continue with insulation.  At the end of day five the front wall as enclosed and the insulation the moisture barrier was installed.  The window was not cut out at this point because they wanted to make sure that the house was protected in case it rained.

The front area where we had the moisture damage is closed in, the mosture barrier is installed along with an initial layer of insulation.

One other area that had to be addressed was the area around the front and side steps.  When this house was built, in the 1950’s, they didn’t think anything about having the concrete stairs butt up against the wooden sill of the house.  this allows water to collect and seep into the sill.  In both areas they had to cut away the concrete to inspect the sill and what they found was more rot.  The rotted sections of sill had to be cut away and replaced.

They cut away about 3 to 4 inches of the concrete steps to get a look at the sill. This sill had to be removed and replaced. Before they enclose this area a moisture barrier is installed to protect the new sill.

Here is the interior view (from the basement) of the new sill under the front entrance.

On the front of the house where the window and insulation have already been installed.
The next step here is to apply the boards that will be used to install the siding.

The front wall where the window and insulation is already installed the strips of wood are installed a preparations are made to install siding.

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Day 5 – Fixing the Underlying Structure

Before the major insulation work can continue the underlying structural damage done by the moisture that leaked into the walls.  Synergy Companies assigned two of the top guys to work on repairing the structure.  Today we are focusing on the major section in the front of the house.  The guys will remove all the exterior boards to reveal the extent of the damage.  Anything that looks questionable will be replaced.

The two carpenters from Synergy Companies reveal the damage one board at a time.

With everything exposed we find that most of the damage is at the top of both walls. We lucked out. Usually water would run down the walls and settle in the bottom sill. As it turns out the sill was in great shape so it is not as bad as we feared.

The Header

The worst damage was at the top. This is the header above the window. The pieces are literally falling away as he taps it with the hammer. It is pretty brittle stuff.

Window Removed

Next the team removed the window and prepared to place plastic over the window. It is determined that while the sill is good all the remaining parts of the support structure will need to be replaced.

Support Wall

Since the rotted section is a load bearing wall they will need to support the wall from the inside before they remove the exterior supports. Here is the temporary support erected inside the house.

Every part of the damaged support structure is removed and replaced with material. Look at the nice new header. Quite a change. Before we are done the wall will be insulated and then new exterior sheating applied.

At the end of the day the wall was completely covered up.  If everything goes well we will repair the damage on the side of the house tomorrow and then we will be moving closer to insulation and siding.

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Day 4 – A New Phase

The work continues – finishing stripping the west wall and beginning to put the moisture barrier on the entire house. Part of this is a permanent barrier and part is due the expectation of rain on the weekend.  We want to make sure the house is watertight.

At the same time the repairs to the back corner begin.  The bad wood is cut away and the damaged section of the wal is rebuilt.

On the front of the house the team begins insulating and peparing to remove the old window and install the new triple glazed replacement window.  This was being done for a couple of reasons.  First, we didn’t have a place to really store the window over the weekend and it made sense to get it in right away.  Second, Fine Homebuilding Magazine is filming the project and the wanted to catch footage of a window installation.  These first two shots show you the front of the house before the installaton started.

The are installing solid sheets of foam insulation (each 2″ thick) for a total of four inches of insulation on the exterior wall.  This also will create a moisture barrier that will prevent water from getting trough and will provide a tight air seal.  They are very careful to close any gaps between the panels as they are installed. Notice the taping of the seams.  At the top of the shot you can also see the underlying moisture barrier.  Also notice the videographer from Fine Homebuilding Magazine.

This is the second layer being applied over the first layer for four inches of total insulation.  Looks really warm to me.

These pictures are of the inside of the old window.  I wanted to give you an indication of the current size of the sill.  When the window is installed the window will be pulled out four inches to create 6-7 inch interior sill.

All the insulation is installed and it is now time for the old window to come out and for the new window to be installed.

The window is removed and the team begins preparing the frame for the new window.

This is the interior view of the new window. Notice the metal strapping at the left side of the window. This is done all around the window as part of the anchoring system.

This is an exterior view of the new window after installation.

This is the interior of the window sill after the installation.  From the lip of the old window sill to the interior of the new window we are looking at exactly 8.5 inches.  It really opens up the room and it looks great.

Notice the four inches added to the interior sill area and the anchoring straps for the window. The cats are going to love this feature. The sill is at least 4" deeper than before.

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Day 3 – More Naked Truth

This was a day to reveal everything that was still hidden.  The team arrived and immediately begain swarming all over the house.  Siding was flying in all directions.  Shingles  and tar paper was being scraped from the front room.  There was so much pounding going on that all the pictures on the wall in my office were askew from the vibration and luckily only one fell but was not damaged. 

More discoveries emerged from under the siding.  We found a mouse that had taken up residence under the siding – in the exterior wall.  Extreme water damage showed up in the front of the house above the dining room window and along that side of the front entrance.  We also found a small infestation of carpenter ants in the moisture laden wood on the other side of the front entrance.  The ants were promptly eradicated to make sure they didn’t try to make their way into the house itself.  Here is a picture of the east side of the house being stripped.

Here is the moisture damage on the side wall of the front entrance (the adjoining wall to the previous damage).

On the  opposite side of the entrance we find that the wood has moisture in it and a nest of carpenter ants has taken up residence. Before the team continued they sprayed the nest to kill off these unwelcome guests.

All the shingles and tar paper are removed from the roof and we find that there are no moisture or structural problems.  It looks like we have all the bad news out in the open. We asked how typical this type of damage was and were told that while most houses will have some of these issues we were the worst case they have uncovered so far. Lucky us!

Roof Over Dining Room

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Day 2 – The Naked Truth

On the second day of the project the team began removing the old exterior to get down to the underlying wood frame and sheating.  The need here is to make sure that there are no structural issues that need to be addressed and to provide a base to establish a tight seal when the exterior insulation is applied.  Along the way we discovered a few uninvited guests had taken up residence in the house and they were promptly evicted.  There was a hornet’s nest in the vent for the bathroom fan.  They were evicted with extreme prejudice.  Also note the tarp that has been attached to the bottom of the house to capture all the wood that is coming off the house.  This is good practice from a cleanliness perspective but there is also an envrionmental reasong for the tarp.  Not knowing when the underlying paint was applied to the house the contractor wants to be sure that if there is lead paint here it all ends up being tossed in the dumpster.  Here are some pictures of the house at different stages of “nakedness.”

It didn’t take long for structural damage to emerge.  At the back corner of the house we find damage casued by moisture and carpenter ants.  One of the problems with houses of this era (1950’s) is that they weren’t built with much of an overhang so the gutters were typically attached right up against the frame of the house.  This increases the likelihood of ice dams forming in winter time which, as they melt, forces water back into the frame of the house. In this case the back corner was saturated with water. This is an attractive proposition for carpenter ants who can only eat wood that is moist.  In this section of wall the water damage was made worse by carpenter ants. No active infestation was found here so all we have to do is repair the damage. 

The back of the house if completely naked to the world.  They have even removed all the window trim and flashing.  The second picture gives a side view of the corner of the house with the water/ant damage. 

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Day 1 – Getting Started

On the morning of July 6th we peered out our window see the demolition crew arrive.  Time to get ready to strip the house of its outer shell.  It wasn’t long before ladders were up and scaffolds were being built along the back of the house. First off – the gutters.

After the gutters were off the team moved on to stripping the first layer of siding on the house.  It was like a archeological dig.  As we peeled back the siding the house from another time emerged.  I can see why the changed the color to blue. That green is ugly.  The good thing is it won’t be there for long.

Down to bear wood on the back roof  and ready to tackle the second story.  The next step is putting the scaffolding in place.  These guys don’t waste any time.  Dave Joyce from Synergy Companies has his supervisors straw hat on and looks positively tropical as the thermometer heads toward 100 degrees. At least I get to run inside to the air conditioning every now the then. These guys are swarming over my house like ants.

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Looking Like a Construction Site

We were greeted today by the first signs that work was about to begin.  The date is July 3rd and a dumpster was delivered to our home.  That was followed shortly by a porta potty.

I have to admit it is a bit exciting to finally see things starting.  This has been a journey of over a year to get to this point and to finally see signs of activity is exciting. I am sure there will be many surprises ahead but the at least we are moving forward.

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