Old Stone House

The Devil’s in the Details

November 13, 2007

Filed under: Ugly Addition @ 10:45 am

devilthumb.jpgPerhaps one of the most frustrating, yet rewarding aspects of renovating is detail work. What might take the renovator weeks to design, plan and execute will only garner a passing ‘looks good’ from the common visitor. So too is the case with our ugly addition.

As far as we can determine, the rear of our house has had several additions made over the years. There was, and still is the original stone ‘summer kitchen’ on the back of the house. At some point this room had its side walls removed in favour of adding a pair of ‘wings’ to each side to create our side entrance and the bathroom. Later, the sunroom was added across the back of the house. Although an architectural disaster, these additions do make sense as they provide much needed space and functionality – the only problem is that they do so at the expense of aesthetics.

While we can’t decisively date either of the additions, were fairly confident that the sunroom was added in the 80’s, and the ‘wings’ on either side of the kitchen must have built in the 50’s. The unintentional demolition of the walls on the kitchen revealed wiring/building materials that were indicative of the 50’s, as well as the fact that cinder-block construction was also popular at the time.

The one thing that we marvel at (and hate just as equally) is how the owner who added the cinderblock wings managed to erect the walls 2 inches out of level. From foundation to roof the wall leans out about 2 degrees. This would probably go unnoticed however the sunroom addition is square and true, so it draws your attention to the lean of the wall.

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This has bothered me since the day we moved in.

Originally someone suggested that we ‘strap’ the sunroom wall so that it lined up with the addition, but this would have created problems with the window, as well as cover in most of the soffit. Another suggestion was to build the siding around the protruding edge and simply live with it – but this would have bothered me for the rest of eternity. After much though I decided that I had some options with the siding itself, as it was 1+ inches thick, and by reducing its thickness to match the difference in the protrusion I might be able to camouflage the offending seam. Thus, I planed the four boards on the addition leading up to offending edge – successively reducing their each board’s thickness by ¼ inch so that the last board was only a thin ¼” thick veneer. I shimmed the leading board on the sunroom so that it stepped down another ¼” from the seam, and bent it to match the contours of the wall by anchoring it with 4” screws. I now had a series of even steps across the wall which evened-out the 2” difference. Finally, I dadoed each of the bats to match the difference in height between the boards, using a simple jig that allowed the dado depth to increase about ¼” along the length of the board – again to offset the angle of the wall.

It took an entire day to install 8 boards, but now the seam is gone. If you look down the side of the addition you can see a very gentle hump where the wall bulges around the seam, but other then that the offset is completely concealed.
Only my wife and I know how much care and effort it took to correct this problem – and the results will undoubtedly go unnoticed by anyone who looks at the new siding – and if I try to explain it to them they just simply won’t understand, or question the wisdom of spending so much time correcting something most people don’t care about…

Sigh… The devil’s in the details.

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