87. The Accidental Demolition

The demolition of the mudroom was planned. We had important work to get finished before real winter starts. After all, mudrooms are the bridge between the real house and the outdoors. We bought and installed the new window, stripped the walls and ceiling, Mr. H.C. did the electrical work… and then somehow, we managed to skip the finishing part, and ended in the living room taking out the walls.

This happened because we accidentally bought a new living room window. We hadn’t planned it this soon — the living room was to be later — but we all know what happens to plans…

Window trim pulled off led to a smell, that led to tearing off old paneling, that led to plaster that wasn’t worth saving, that led to finding no insulation in the walls, that led to bare studs in the living room…

And these are the lovely windows that started the accidental demolition of the living room.


They look pretty from the inside as well, despite the fact that they grace a stud wall.


These were three individual windows that were connected at the factory, I think for the sole purpose of making them heavier. Although we only had to install one window, it took four people to shove that window in the empty space. Thank you Matt and Joanna!

And just so you remember what it used to look like:
and from a distance, the old and the new:

The gray cedar shakes will be replaced with white cove siding that matches what is on the house already. I’d really like to get rid of the brick as well, but the idea of actually taking it off, makes me shudder. I’d like to talk Mr. H.C. into painting it letting me paint it, but that’s a long shot…

The rest of the yews are going too. Those two in the middle that are gone? Mr. H.C.’s tractor couldn’t even pull them out! He hacked at them with a chain saw and the roots are still there. Now we’ve got a new saying — tough as an old yew

These sliding glass doors are next:

And they are going to be as tough as an old yew to change…

86. Demolishing the strongholds

We strapped on our armor this past week. We were doing battle.

safety glasses and masks

Against the creatures who have lived and died in our walls.

What is living in the walls of your house? The better question might be phrased What is dead in the walls of your house?

It isn’t pretty, and it isn’t picture-worthy. What? You say, you don’t really want to see pictures of Dead mice, Old nests, Dead ladybugs, Old hickory nut shells, Scat, and Spiders? Throw in dirty insulation, rusty nails, and forty-year old newspapers that have been stapled to the walls? And dust, lots and lots of plaster dust…

Lesson learned: If your house is neglected, unwanted creatures will move in to dwell with you.

I actually wished that the newspapers were in better shape — I love looking at old newspaper ads and reading articles from the seventies would be fun. But the newspapers were of the sort that couldn’t be touched without gloves — heavy duty work gloves, that is.

This newspaper is dated March 14, 1974.

This newspaper is dated March 14, 1974.

I have stopped dithering about what is to be done next and decided to just go with what is. Or what will be? Everything we do to this old cottage is an improvement; so does it matter if one project isn’t quite finished before we start the next? Or, more accurately, does it matter how many rooms are torn up in the effort to finish them all?

Lesson learned: Demolition of walls is only fun once it is done.


The view from the living room through the holes. The mudroom has already been gutted; the living room is on its way….

The holes in the mudroom lead into the living room. An air conditioner was once there; a log box for storage and easy access for fireplace logs was once there too. Now they are just gaping holes that have to be repaired. Wiring is another issue. The wiring in the living room is just hodge-podged up there and has to be fixed. The electric panel is in the mudroom, and right now with those holes between the two rooms, it is a perfect time to rewire the living room too.

When we bought the window for the mudroom a few weeks ago, we also ordered a new series of windows for the living room. (Can’t pass up a sale on Anderson windows!) In order to take out the large window in the living room to replace it, we had to take off the current trim and a bit of the old paneling. Once we had some of the paneling off, there was a terrible stench. We have had bad smells at this place pretty often; we have torn up carpet, peeled off wallpaper, and scrubbed walls to get rid of smells. This one was very bad, so we had to keep tearing out to find the root of the evil, er…the smell.
Living room wall demolition

We are now down to bare studs on the living room wall. (We were hoping this wasn’t the plan…) But three dead mice later, the smell is gone. So now insulation is a necessity too.

Lesson learned: Every part of a house is interconnected.

We thought we would be doing this cottage one room at a time. It’s easier to manage that way; it’s easier to think about one room at a time. But the inter-connectedness of the wiring, walls, roofline, ceilings — all makes that impossible to do. And I’m okay with that — finally.

My post on the finishing of the kitchen that is ready to be published? It will just have to wait. And that’s okay too. After all, the whole house has to be finished for us to get featured on This Old House anyway. 😀

Lovely expensive sheers (K-mart special) hanging next to bare stud walls and insulation. Is this like leather and lace?

Lovely expensive sheers (K-mart special) hanging next to bare stud walls and insulation. Is this like leather and lace?

There are many lessons in this post, but these three should be repeated:

  • If you neglect your house, unwanted creatures will move in to dwell with you.
  • Your house is interconnected; it can’t be dealt with one room at a time.  
  • Demolish the strongholds of ugly stuff today; the longer you wait, the bigger the job.