The Good, the Bad and the (really) UGLY

I’m excited to say that our Farmhouse remodel saga is moving into a new much anticipated phase!  When we first bought the property a few years ago, we immediately had it rewired as a safety measure and to add some heat because the only heat source was an old wood stove.  Luckily we did all that because the electrician showed us the “rigged up” wiring upstairs and said it was unbelievable that it had not burned down already.  I guess you could call that Phase 1, The Necessity Phase.

Then, out of funds and with economic uncertainty looming, we put the brakes on and just enjoyed the farm “as- is” and used it mostly as a summer house.  Its WAY better than a tent if you ask me. Then one winter, the pipes froze and broke so we were forced to replace all of them and repair the drywall damage, so I guess you could call that Phase 2, The Unexpected Phase.

So, some more has gone by and we have now faced the fact that the house is in dire need of major foundation work, before anything else can even be done at all.  The floor is so un-level that you actually feel like a drunken sailor walking across the living room to the other side. I am not exaggerating, I don’t drink that much…..really.  So here we enter Phase 3, The Good, the Bad and the (really) UGLY Phase. (I’m an Interior Designer by training and as you can imagine, I want to hurry up and get to the Pretty Phase).

On the Ferry headed to the farm to check out Phase 3

Over the last year or so, the sloping floor seemed to be getting worse and worse, guests were tripping etc. so we bit the bullet and found a great contractor who specializes in fixing these “situations”.  He really appealed to us because he was one of the only contractors we interviewed who understood the the shambling- falling- apart charm and the inherent GOOD bones of the place. Plus he never once said “tear it down and put up a double wide”.  All contractors who think they are imparting some kind of wisdom to us when saying that are immediately eliminated.  We want to work with craftsmen who understand preserving the GOOD, fixing what is clearly BAD and totally eliminating that which is downright UGLY.

So lucky for us…..we found our wonderful contractor Geoff, not Jeff.

The existing farmhouse in repose


Upon some nasty under the house recon, Geoff not Jeff, confirmed our suspicion that there were a multitude of sins hiding under there.  Like an archeologist, he walked us through the historical evidence of the BAD additions that had been pasted together over the years to form our farmhouse.  Almost all of these parts and pieces were were not built correctly.  Ironically, the oldest part of the house was built in 1925 and was supported on old growth stumps, instead of posts and piers and these areas were more or less fine.  The outside of each log was charred in order to repel bugs the floor framing was built directly upon those stumps. Many of the older areas were also supported on large boulders that were probably cleared from the land and used along with the logs cleared from the forest.

Stump support

Charred support logs that were under our house


Our future landscaping rocks

In the spite of the overwhelming task of removing these gigantic boulders by hand, in a space roughly 30 inches high, Geoff didn’t complain, he just said “Well, when we’re done you guys are going to have some great landscaping rocks”. Wow….I think I would have whined a little bit.


This is the really UGLY part.  Having been around the block a few times, we knew that if this was visible on the outside, then there must be rot on the inside and underneath too! We were not disappointed.  Again, Geoff was not daunted and said “Well, it’s a little worse than I thought.  I’ll need to replace some additional areas of rot while I’m under there”.  Of course, at this point I’m thinking that double wide might have been a wise and practical idea after all.  A red flag is waving “STOP” in my head and I’m seeing thousands of dollars of extra charges coming.  Yikes, we have already dug into this PILE OF CHARM and there is no turning back, what have we unleashed here?

More rotten wood, might as well remove the whole thing

Plus, around the same time as the “Rot Discovery Phase” we also discovered that the only closet in the whole house was actually a porch.  This pseudo-porch-closet had “sort of” been enclosed, with nothing really supporting it underneath at all. It was cantilevered to the west and not in a modern way. Ha. We are not really laughing.


Fun times


But in the end, as it turned out our original instinct about the house was right; It wasn’t too BAD and Geoff is really GOOD.  We only had to spend a few hundred extra to add entirely rot free floor joists  to the original price. The archeological dig also uncovered a door to a root cellar that we didn’t know existed, some old unidentifiable metal, an old water spigot that still works and will really come in handy, and an old (scary looking) doll face!  Alas, no buried treasure had been hoarded underneath the old house! Dang it.

All new pads are poured much better under there

From the looks of the patchwork under there, we now believe the house was added onto about 6 times.  Things are progressing really well overall and it’s great to have this part of the work nearly over with. There have some cracks in the interior walls, which is to be expected because the house was out of level by at least 6 inches. Fortunately none of the windows broke, probably because most of them have BB holes in them. (I really don’t want to know how that happened) The doors are all out of alignment and will have to be rehung and adjusted, not a big deal all things considered……

The UGLY phase will be done soon!  Can’t wait for the PRETTY phase to begin.  (I think it may be a while yet).