With the general parameters of the addition set and Erik Johnson hired to draw plans, we can now focus on work that needs to be done to the existing home that will not be affected by future construction.
I love original dark woodwork, and I wouldn’t dream of painting it white (unless, of course, I lived in a new Dave Knecht Homes built Colonial Revival).
But I also like light and the ability to see things I am looking for, and despite the huge windows and open rooms typical of a Van Doren Shaw home, this house feels dark. Part of that is the East – West exposure, and we can’t do anything about that. Here are three things we can do while still maintaining the warmth and charm of this historical house.
First, the awnings. They have to go. Yes, they are quaint, but they are blocking the light coming into the house and honestly, they look a little frumpy.
Second, the trees. Sorry tree lovers (and I consider myself one) there is such a thing as too many trees. That gorgeous bay and enormous pair of windows should be letting in all kinds of light, but instead all we see are pine needles and shade. The backyard is dank and nothing grows there. I can almost feel the mold.
And if that isn’t enough reason to convince myself cutting down three beautiful mature trees is justified there’s this:
That moss is not charming. It does not add character. It is the result of large trees growing way too close to the house and covering the cedar shake roof. Moss thriving in the shade of this garden in Kyoto is beautiful. Moss thriving on our roof under our beautiful trees ruined our $58,000 cedar roof. When the home inspector checked the roof, he could poke his finger through parts of it. Thankfully he caught it, and we negotiated that into our asking price. There are treatments you can apply (usually annually) to try to keep moss at bay on partially shaded roofs, but our roof was completely covered so we cut the trees down.
The third, and most invasive way to address our light issues, is to add more lights. Remember those charming Victorian style lights that were all individually controlled?
Well they don’t give off enough light, and most of them (the cheap imitations) aren’t even charming. In addition, we have one outlet per room and no cable (or internet) on the second floor. Electrical and cable updates area must.
So Dave schedules his electricians and I learned about knob and tube and plaster walls.
Knob and tube wiring was the system used way back when electricity was new, and up until the 1940’s. It was not bad, it just has outlived its usefulness. At that time, the electrical requirements for homes were very low. There were no TV’s or large appliances, and only the prominent rooms were lit with a single overhead light fixture, while closets and hall sconces were controlled with a pull chain or an individual switch on the light fixture itself. My office alone needs more power than that. Knob and tube also has no grounding wires, so fires and electrical surges are a problem, and forget plugging in anything with a 3 pronged plug.
So the knob and tube has to go, which mean holes in the beautiful plaster walls.
I love plaster walls. They’re the real deal. Plaster is a great sound insulator, and it protects against fire.
But plaster is a mess when you are retrofitting your electrical and cable service. It’s not easy to patch, which makes finding paths to fish your conduit between existing walls a risky business.
I’m just glad I didn’t paint and decorate before we updated the electrical, because these walls are a mess. (for more on scheduling, read Get A Plan .
The wall paper on the second floor hall was neutral, so it was on my ” I can live with this to save money list “. But the patches from the electrical work pretty much made that a mute point. Which leads me to this:
When you peel old wallpaper off plaster walls, chances are the previous owner didn’t apply it properly, and the plaster will come off with the paper. Also,the paper usually peels off in pieces roughly the size of a postage stamp.
So all walls with wallpaper on them need a skim coat ( a thin coat of joint compound or mud used to make a damaged wall smooth). Add that to my “Didn’t See That One Coming” list.
But all the mess was worth it. We have light, our risk of fire and electrical shock are greatly reduced, our walls are smooth and white ( BM White Dove, to be exact) and we have cable. Sort of.