before + after: chronicles of an 1820’s log cabin – days 1 to 6

before + after: chronicles of an 1820’s log cabin – days 1 to 6
written by David, pictures by Stephanie

Day 1: Gentlemen…and Lady, start your Sawzalls and let the demolition begin.

Day 1

The dumpster arrived promptly at 1:00 pm and the demolition began promptly at 3:00 pm! Well, actually the part demo, part sleuthing began at 3:00 pm. We had been told that beneath all the layers, yes layers and there were three, there lived LOG! So, we began our quest, our search for the Holy Grail. With the first wall we hit pay dirt. LOGS! As we stripped away modern drywall, 1950’s era wood-grained corrugated cardboard paneling and 1880’s era horse-hair plaster on hand-split lathe, we were rewarded with the pot-of-gold at the end of the rainbow…an 1820’s log cabin. The logs where in great shape with most of the chinking and stone filler still firmly affixed. The fireplace and chimney unfortunately had suffered a worse fate. They must have collapsed at some point as the chimney had been reconstructed using cinder block and firebox bricked in solid. The good news is the fireplace can and will be saved. The day ended in a cloud of dust with the kitchen empty and the west wall of the cabin both upstairs and downstairs stripped down to log.

Day 2: Gentlemen…and Lady, start your Sawzalls and let REAL the demolition begin.

Day 2

Day 2 dawned with a crew of six (6), fit and ready to do battle.  I can not begin to describe the carnage, only to say that by the end of the day the dumpster was FULL! FULL! FULL!  As was a stake-side equipment trailer and the bed of a full-size Ram 2500 pick-up truck.  As for the house there were exposed logs throughout the first floor, exposed hand-hewed ceiling rafters and walls removed from the second floor of the cabin.  Time to let 200 years of dust settle and plan for Day 3.  We left the job looking a bit like zombies as our skin was ashen colored from all the mortar debris and we were shuffling about  from being tired and weary.

Day 3: What do you mean you can’t get me a new dumpster until noon!

Day 3

One lady down, the crew of 5 began the second day of all our assault (read: demolition) on the cabin at 0730. While waiting on the delivery of the new dumpster, stripping of the walls on the second floor of the cabin began in earnest. By the time the dumpster arrived the pile of rubble on the floor was 2 feet high and the dust so thick you couldn’t see the far side of the room. Additionally, the closet walls in the first floor bedroom where down as was most of the drywall in the kitchen and bedroom leaving another pile of shrapnel. After lunch we began loading the new dumpster and by the end of the day the second dumpster much like the first was FULL! FULL! FULL! Two dumpsters…2 days, now that’s some demo! The end of Day 3 yielded some excitement. After removing the parquet wood tile floor and luan backer that had been installed over the 1940’s era wood floor on the first floor of the cabin, we discovered the original hearth stone showing slight cracks but otherwise intact . In cleaning the stone we noticed that someone had etched, by hand, a date in the stone. I wonder what was significant about “dec. the 6 1927”?

Day 4: Pulling out the chinking and haul it in a bucket.

Day 4

With most of the heavy lifting out-of-the-way, we were down to the laborious task of chinking removal while waiting on the arrival of our first material order. The space between the logs had been “chinked” with flat field stones packed with a lime-mortar plaster scratch coat then finished with a lime-mortar plaster top coat. Due to the age and the state of the plaster chinking, re-pointing was out of the question so, out the plaster must come. The plaster has to be removed carefully as to not disturb the rubble filling, making it time-consuming as well as a labor intensive job. Day 4 also brought the plumber to remove all the existing piping as well as any remaining fixtures.

Day 5: To frame a crooked ceiling.

Day 5

With the ringing of my phone at 7:15 am, Day 5 was off and running. It was the lumber delivery driver wanting to know where to drop the framing material. Hot damn…to be honest, 4 days of demolition had me itching to build something. Before we begin, an item of note… apparently the folks of the 19th century where vertically challenged. The ceiling height upstairs was barely 6 feet and for me at 6′ – 7″ I’d had it with 4 days of banging my head on low hanging timber, it was time to raise the roof, so to speak, on the second floor. The cabin’s gable roof had been framed in the style typical of the early and mid 1800’s; semi-straight young pine trees skinned of bark set as the framer saw fit with 1″ x 4″ ridge pole on an 8:12 pitch. All of that crooked goodness made complete with the use of the second floor ceiling rafters as collar ties. My plan…leave the existing roof framing in place, install a new 2″ x 8″ ridge pole, sister new 2″ x 6″ rafters to the existing pole-rafters and install new collar ties 3 feet above the existing. Easy, right? Not so fast! No rhyme or reason to the spacing of the existing pole-rafters. Then, several of the pole-rafters on one side of the roof did not match the diameter the opposing pole-rafter on the other side, one rafter had rotted away and had been replaced by an out of twisted rough cut 2″ x 4″ and in several cases the rafter tails did not line up with the collar ties. A real nightmare. Needless to say, with lots of pushing, pulling, lifting and blocking, we managed to get all the new rafters and collar ties in place. Oh yeah, almost forgot to mention we lost about 5 lbs. each! It’s damn hot in a gable beneath the metal roof.

Day 6: Cutting collar ties and playing with logs.

Day 6 #1

Day 6 #2

We started Day 6 in a shed atop Mount Gilliad, just south of Leesburg, Virginia. We were there to pick out a log to be used as a post in the widened kitchen entrance. Once the perfect log, also from an 1800’s log cabin, had been selected, we headed to the cabin to let the fun begin. Arriving back at the cabin, time had come to cut the collar ties on the second floor and see if our new framing would hold as planned. Holding our collective breaths, I set the sawzall blade on top of the first rafter and pulled the trigger…seconds later, the blade had sliced clean through the 200 year-old rafter and nothing happened. The roof held (I knew it would, LOL) so we cut away the remaining 8 rafters.  We left the remaining rafter-tails long, out of the wall, as they will be boxed out during finishing and fitted with recessed lighting. Once the rafters were cut, it was time to go downstairs and play with logs and a chainsaw. The connection between the log cabin, the kitchen and bedroom, added to the house in the 1970’s, was the original cabin’s back door.   With an opening width of less than 3 feet and a height of just over 5 feet, it had to be adjusted…a lot, and in both directions. We were looking to get an opening of 6 feet wide and 7 feet tall.  To achieve an opening of those dimensions, it was going to need the removal of some existing logs and the addition of a log post. After marking the existing ceiling joists at the notch in the logs to assure that there was no movement, we began to disassemble the wall. After the first log was removed we were off to the races and in no time we had removed the wall and fashioned a post out of the reclaimed log. Just like that… POW! an opening 6 feet wide  and 7 feet tall really opening up the space. Day over…time to let the dust settle once again.

PlanetDwell ICON 300 res

We look forward to the days and weeks to come and hope you will continue to follow us on theChronicles of a Log Cabin.  We welcome any and all comments on our posts.  We would love your audience and implore you to “follow” and “like” us here on our blog.  We also encourage you to “share” our blog posts among your friends.

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