Old Stone House

About Us

October 25, 2006

Filed under: @ 9:33 pm

Over the last two years my wife and I have been slowly restoring/renovating our old stone house. Along the way we’ve experienced the typical frustrations that most go through, and on many occasions have sought out advice from others to guide us on our travels. Naturally, we’ve turned to the web on countless occasions for whatever information we could find – sometimes rewarded with deep pools of wisdom, other times finding nothing. The one thing we have learned in our e-travels is that those who want to restore an old home become part of a tight-knit group – a masochistic troupe that supports each other, offers suggestions whenever possible, that pass little judgment, and offer encouragement when the going gets tough. We’ve benefited from the experiences of others, so naturally we felt we should give back what we can.

However, not all our motives are that noble…

Restorers have a natural enemy – the callus renovator! The individuals who dismiss the old ways, in favour of ill-guided, aesthetically abhorrent practices thinly veiled as ‘improvements.’ Tearing out twelve inch baseboards in favour of flimsy MDF casings. Running plumbing lines over the walls rather then through them (and when they do go through a wall, cutting every structural support they can find). They swap ‘drafty old windows’ with the cheapest vinyl replacement on the market. Update the electrical with as few breakers as necessary. Drywall over the peeling wallpaper. Restore floors with multiple layers of peel-n-stick tiles and industrial carpet. Trash any light fixture that isn’t a dome. Eat the gingerbread. Fill in the chimney. Rip off the porch. And put on an addition. When they have finally finished their destructive mania, the restorer then signs his handiwork by ‘freshening’ up the whole project by painting every wood surface they can find with the obligatory palette of ‘mint’ or ‘pink’.

The renovator’s only purpose is to improve the restorer’s dwelling, and ruin their life…

Hopefully over the course of our restorations visitors will be able to find some useful information, or at the very least, ideas of what they might do differently. We aren’t professional contractors, but rather simply a handy couple. As well, we aren’t embarking on a full periord restoration – we are doing our best to restore our house with some modern compromises.  We endeavor to do our best, and if visitors gain wisdom through our mistakes – all is not lost. Thanks for visiting.

Solidarity!

6 Comments »

  1. Hi Michael

    I’ve spent the last half hour reading your blog from start to finish and what a journey it’s been. The bathroom looks fantastic. I almost wish I’d waited until now before doing ours as that slate blue you chose is just great. I particularly liked the image of you standing with that bucket over your head with water pouring all around you…I’m certain that day’s coming for me too.

    I wanted to ask: what part of Ontario are you from? Reason I ask is we’re not AB natives – the wife is from Cambridge originally but studied at OVC in Guelph, so she’s been pestering me to find out where you are?

    I’m all caught with your story now and will be reading often. I’ll say it again, the design of your blog is just great. Wish I had the time or talent to revamp mine.

    Cheers
    Chris

    Comment by Chris and Mandy Emery — December 1, 2006 @ 9:58 pm

  2. Wow!what an amazing site and story we have slowly been restoring our house on limited funds and now at the point where we are tired and going to list and get a smaller house.

    Comment by Tony Moon — December 23, 2006 @ 9:37 am

  3. Came across your website by accident. We own an old 18th century stone farmhouse. I was researching to see if there are any ways to insulate the house better. Do you know of any books or websites that I could access that would help? Thanks for your help.

    Comment by Barb Jarrett — October 4, 2007 @ 4:00 pm

  4. I haven’t any resources to suggest – early in the research process we learned that the dead-air space in the walls was too minimal to be filled with insulation and the only way to insulate the walls was to tear out the plaster and lathe and install stud-walls. One of our solutions has been to install doors between each room and to rely on localized heating. Thanks for the note. Good luck!

    Comment by Oldstonehouse — October 8, 2007 @ 10:35 am

  5. Oh my goodness. Those thoughts of people ripping off roofs tearing down walls, painting the inside pink or green, sent shivers up my spine, I am looking at restoring an old farmhouse that I am purchasing myself. I hope ur project turns out well. I will check back often, as I will definitely need help in my new endeavor. Hugs…

    Hi Joleen – thanks for the kind words. Everyday we get to gaze at the callous renovations of the past – but in truth, we wouldnt have wanted a perfect house – this one is just fine! 😉

    Comment by Joleen Mirenda Alaniz — February 15, 2010 @ 5:02 pm

  6. I’m on the verge of deciding between charmless new construction with every Energy Star feature and a charming circa 1939 all fieldstone cape with plaster lathe walls. While the stone house is not only immensely charming retaining a lot of original details, it has a new roof, was recently repointed, has kitchen and baths needing only modest updating and seems to be in great shape and literally rock solid and, even rarer, an attached (basement) garage and oil radiator heat. Here’s the big question and concern – does an all fieldstone exterior coupled with a plaster lathe interior make for better or worse insulation for heating and air conditioning? The house has its original windows plus storm windows and I noticed that in the upstairs children’s plastered wall-to-ceiling attic bedrooms despite the presence of the original radiators there were rollaway electric ones. To me that signals high heating bills with the attempt to reduce costs via “localized heating” as you mentioned earlier. What are your thoughts regarding the insulation value? The old stone house is a bargain, but not if I have to pay several hundred dollars a month in heating bills. However, the one big and hopefully non-invasive renovation we’d probably perform would be to have two zone forced air heating ducts installed so we can have both a heat pump (economical in northeast Pennsylvania) and central air. The seller is supposed to meet us this weekend with copies of last winter’s utility bills which should answer the question, since the rollaway heaters consume electricity. I can also send pictures of this home, which seems to need very little renovation.

    Comment by Michael — April 30, 2010 @ 12:53 am

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