The main part of our home was built in 1790 in the 2/3 Georgian style, with stone quarried from the land around the house. Around 1900, a two story timber extension was added as an east wing, providing a large room on the first floor, and a bathroom and rear bedroom on the second floor. Later still, it’s anyone’s guess when, another one-story single room extension was added to the rear of the house, also using timber, and which is where the laundry was located until we moved it to the second floor.
These pictures were posted on Zillow and were how the rooms on the first floor looked for a long time after we moved in. Actually, these pictures are the CLEANEST and tidiest that these rooms looked because we rapidly turned this area of the house into what a hardware store would look like if it were run by a hoarder – random piles of lumber stacked everywhere, boxes we had yet to unpack, tools, paint brushes, cans of paint and stains, brooms, buckets and an old fridge perfect for keeping our beers cold. Yes, it’s an unremarkable, blank canvas with a disgusting linoleum floor.
But like the rest of this house, I saw so much potential in these rooms, and not because of what was inside the house. For me, it’s what lies outside the windows and door that excited me the most; the trees and the beautiful parkland. More about this in a minute. The process of peeling away decades, and in places a century, of bad decorating decisions has revealed troves of buried treasures as we’ve moved from project to project, and this endeavor would prove no different.
One afternoon about a year ago, Ben and I were in the basement doing some cleanup when looking up, I noticed that the floorboards for the extension seemed to be some sort of hardwood. Could there really be a hardwood floor hidden beneath the linoleum? There was only one way to find out, requiring a circular saw, a crow bar and a hammer (and eventually a dumpster and several boxes of bandaids for all the blisters).
Unfortunately, after closer inspection, we weren’t going to get off so easily. Instead of finding one linoleum floor, we found two. These were some odd choices to try to decipher – as we carefully pried up one floor, we found an older linoleum floor and another layer of ply board underneath. Most puzzling of all was that both layers of tacky tile were almost the exact same color. Thank you ’70’s and ’80’s!
The next disappointment was that large sections of the hardwood floor were not just missing, but had gaps in the floor, providing direct, yet unsafe access to the basement. This left us with hours of googling and youtubling to see if we could cleverly tie in new pieces of boards to the old as we had done in the kitchen.
Alas, we would make a weird discovery under the layers of ply and tile that gave us some much needed inspiration for how to “fix” the floor. What we think we found is an old hearth, perhaps used by a structure that predated the current extension. We chipped away a few layers of the concrete, more out of curiosity than actually caring about progressing the intended goals of finishing the project, and discovered a brick alter of some sort. We wouldn’t be able to keep this as a feature of the room (I know, I know – we tried to!!), but as we didn’t want to jeopordize with the integrity of the incredibly old wood floor by trying to tie in new planks, we decided to leave the wood floor the way it is and add a slate floor where the gaps are as a nod to the hearth that was likely there during an early chapter of the home.
Once we had removed the layers of ply, two linoleum floors, and several gazillion nails (many century old, square nails that are wonderfully handmade … all saved in a jar for a rainy day project), we came to our next hurdle. And this is where I discovered Audible, and lost myself in some wonderful novels. For a month’s worth of weekends, on hands and knees, I ever so carefully and painstakingly scraped this awful, sticky, stubborn and oh so disgusting tar-paper from the top of the hardwood. It was beyond hard work, but over time this tedious excavation began to show some real promise.
The next part of my design goes back to the parkland and beautiful views which in warmer weather, I want to draw people outside to enjoy the amazing setting, and in cooler climates, I want to provide views from inside. We had a solid wooden door between the kitchen and these rooms, and then another wooden door leading to the outside. We decided to replace both doors with french doors in order to connect the kitchen with this part of the house, and to connect this part of the house with the park. (There’s hubby Ben after installing one of the doors – a bona fide stud muffin!)
Next we tackled the walls, which I’ll cover in more detail in the next article on this renovation. Sticking with the floors and the refinishing process (aka, operation “sweet bliss”). At this stage, it was obvious we weren’t going to finish the dining room in time for Thanksgiving. Working on a home like this means you have to be patient, and let the pieces fall into place as and when they will, which often means letting go of your vision of what a gathering might look like. Heck, Christmas is just around the corner!
By this point of the renovation, and with that beast of a sander in hand, I was fighting back tears of joy. Emotional that the floor was close to being saved, and as I moved to a finer and finer grain of sandpaper, the room filled with the sweet smell of pine (and either red pine or heart pine at that!).
There’s still a fair bit of work we need to do to finish these rooms, but even at the point where this project is, I couldn’t be happier with the results. To uncover this long forgotten piece of the house, and to restore it to the point where the impressions from those who lived in this house, and left their mark on these boards can still be seen today, leaves me brimming with pride. I can’t wait to see what these rooms look like a week or two from now!