Monday, January 02, 2006

Our attic is the coolest place EVER

I really, really need to get started on the historic structure report (HSR) for our house. It is supposed to be my winter project so we have a decent, prioritized list of maintenance and projects ready for when warmer weather hits. Instead, I have been Slacker Girl. Well, as of today I am Slacker Girl no more!

This afternoon I squeezed through the cubbyhole that is the only access to our attic and began the process of documenting the existing condition of the house. Overall, I couldn't have been more pleased with what I found. First, some good news--it was pouring down rain and I didn't see any drips anywhere, which means the slate roof is holding up well. I honestly expected to see a few here or there, but there's nothing. I saw a couple places where there's some very old water damage but it's not extensive. Over all, it looks like the old girl is holding up really well, thank goodness! We'll definitely need to get up there and insulate, which will be interesting considering that the joists are so close together. We also have dozens (not kidding) of old hornet/wasp nests up there. Hopefully they're empty. There's also a bat up there. Just one, which surprised me. I thought they mostly lived in groups. Guess not!

The house is, as we suspected, constructed very well. True 2x8 joists on 16-inch centers rather than the current standard (which is either 22 or 24, I always forget). I never felt so much as a wobble while I was up there. One of the chimneys looks as though it's had some problems over the years, and at one point it may have been patched with Portland concrete. We'll have to chisel that out and replace it with a lime-mix mortar.

Up in the attic, it's easier than ever to see that the kitchen is an addition. For one, it's not constructed as well. What's more fun to see, though, is the existing clapboard that they did not remove from the original house before adding on. And then there's the gable end trusses. They're just cut out to provide access to/from the addition, but you can see where they once met each other. Interesting stuff indeed.

V and I had some questions that I was hoping to answer as a result of going up there--a few of them I did manage to answer, but one is still a big mystery. We have been wondering if there had ever been a stairway or even a ladder mechanism going out of where our upstairs bath is (from the days when it was a closet) when I was in the attic I stuck my head down into the cavity to see. The existing stairway ceiling is all drywall and it's newer (I'd say within the past 10 years or so), which means it's been replaced fairly recently. BUT, there's plaster/lath ghosts on the backside of the bathroom wall. Isn't that weird? The walls of that cavity are also plastered, and plastered very nicely. I suspect those would not have been finished with such quality if that was never a "used" space. But there aren't any ghosts of joist notches, stairs, risers, or anything like that. So now we're more perplexed than ever. One of these days I'm taking a drywall saw to that bathroom wall! :) I'm wondering if maybe there was access, but if it was more of a haymow ladder type mechanism than actual stairs. The ceiling joists over that cavity are wider than the rest of the original house, and that makes me think there's a purpose behind the difference.

Next stop, the crawl space!

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