Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Attic Renovations

In a prior post I alluded to the fact that our attic is undergoing major renovations. The attic was already finished space when we bought the house: it was divided into two bedrooms, in which were two (three?) of the five children. It was sparsely insulated and not particularly nice. There is also a chimney in the exact middle. This chimney goes no higher than the third attic ceiling, and no lower than the 2nd floor. Once upon a time it went from basement through the roof, and was the means by which the house was heated. For a good long while it's been used as an electrical chase, in blatant violation of fire codes.

We used the attic as storage space. More correctly, we used it as a dumping ground for all the stuff we couldn't get around to properly unpacking when we moved in...two years ago. It aspired to so much more. It will become something more along the lines of master suite, with a full bath and kitchenette. Get your sledgehammers ready!

Of course, that was decided well over a year ago. In the meantime, there was the laborious process of completely emptying the attic. This was mostly accomplished by hauling boxes down three flights of stairs and stacking them in the basement. There was also the process of coming up with a new floorplan. Due to quirks of how the home is sited, where the windows and stairs are, and other details, it actually proved rather difficult to figure out where to put things. Hours were spent, pencil and ruler in hand, hunched over pages seeking a solution. A few months ago, we thought we had a solution that would make floor-planning much easier and provide ample lighting: blow out the west-side gable and turn it into a full-width dormer. More hours were spent facing down the tyranny of the resulting blank page of newfound space and freedom. We got a plan we could be happy with. More than happy: it was going to be outstanding. Then we learned that changing the roofline would, all by itself, cost $17,000. More hours were spent over paper with pencil and ruler and much erasing. We detailed a floorplan within the confines of the existing envelope. Through out contractor, demolition got started a little while back. Some of it actually took place while we were in St John. When we returned, we found the remains of the interior walls and carpeting piled in the center of the floor. A week later I gave up my driveway for a 20 cu-yd dumpster it all got tossed into. (The remains of the collapsed fence found there way into the dumpster, too). An insulation guy came and sucked out the 18-month old cellulose and reinjected it into the (thoroughly non-insulated) second floor walls.

So now our attic is stripped down to bare wood.

As it turns out, in addition to the real vent stack, there was this oddball hidden behind the kneewall.

You can see where the chimney used to be.

Another nifty discovery: our house once had a serious fire. Instead of the simple gable it has now, it once had a hipped roof (sloped on all four sides, coming to a peak). Up in smoke, then rebuilt, at some unknown point in the past. Here you can see where the old charred rafters leading out to one corner have been sistered to new wood.

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