Saturday, June 24, 2017

What You May Find When Renovating Century Homes

When renovating century homes don't be surprised by what you find behind the walls.

Its amazing what you can find when you start pulling apart older homes walls, once that lath and plaster comes down and all the other layers that are applied on top of it you start to find some interesting and some times strange things.

Century homes have usually been renovated several times before we get at them and usually the renovations are repairs, patches and quick fixes like covering old lath and plaster with ceiling tiles or other layers of drywall. Because of this we end up finding things that have been placed there or left or there or brought there by others, here's a little list of things that we have found inside century walls and ceilings;

  • Newspapers. We find a lot of pieces of old newspapers. Whether they were placed there on purpose to mark the date of the renovation, or left there by accident or used as a cheap form of insulation its always interesting to read the date and articles of older pieces of paper.
  • Tools. We've found hammers, screw drivers, electrical supplies, crow bars, nails and several other things.
  • Clothes. Shirts, gloves, shoes and once we even found a corset in a ceiling.
  • Umbrella. Once we found a umbrella in the walls.
  • Cane. Why someone left a cane in the walls is about as weird as an umbrella.
  • Sawdust. A lot of older homes used sawdust to insulate the walls.
  • Children's toys.
Some of the not nice things that we have found have been;
  • A family of mice. Many many mice alive and dead.
  • Raccoons.
  • Cats.
  • Squirrels, alive and dead ones.
  • Wasps nests.
  • Bee hives.
  • We once found a ceiling that was completely filled with Bat poop!
All of the things listed above don't really cost you extra money but some of the other things we find do, once you start removing ceilings in old homes you find;
  • Fire Damage. A lot of old homes have fire damage once you start looking behind ceilings and walls.
  • Structural damage from cutting beams and joists from previous renovations. This is sometimes that reason that an old homes floors go up and down.
  • Old wiring. Knob and tube and sometimes aluminum wiring is still found in these old homes.
  • Old or damaged plumbing that requires repairs.
  • The lack of insulation.
  • Blocked or missing duct work.
Remember that when you commit to opening up century home ceilings you have to commit to repairing or replacing anything that needs to be repaired. You don't want to cover up problems that you find,so in your renovation budget you need to set a side a repair fund to fix whatever you find.

Remember just because an old home looks good and solid doesn't mean that everything will be perfect once you start looking behind the walls and ceilings.

Removing lath and plaster is a dirty and dusty job that nobody likes to do,that's why people try everything to no take them down. But the only real way to properly renovate a century home is to take the rooms back to their original studs, this is the best way to bring the home up to code and also to fix anything else that you find.

Rob Abbott
Village Builders Inc.  

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Use Solar As Your Backup Generator

Are you worried about losing power at your house, thinking about installing a back up generator?

I have another option that could be almost the same price and give you the back up power that you were thinking about, solar panels.

That's right you can now use solar panels as a backup generator, not only use it as a back up generator but have the solar panels feed the grid while its waiting for the power to fail.

Why would you feed the grid with power? Because the electrical company will pay you for the power you make, that's right the power company will pay you for the power that is made by the system. When the power fails and there is no grid to feed then you either turn a manual switch for the power to be transferred to the house or you have an automatic switch that is triggered that will push power to the house.

This system is called a dual system, the one difference between a normal feed the grid system is that you require a bank of batteries for the solar panels to fill so that when the power does fail there is something for the house to draw on to power it.

Depending on the size of the system will depend on how much of the electrical in the house you will be able to run, but even a small system will run the essentials to help you survive the power outage.

In a long power outage you would have to closely manage your power usage but every morning when the sun came out the batteries would start to be re-charged giving you more hours of power usage.

Even though most people would not be able to install a solar system large enough to power their entire house they would have enough power the essentials every day and throughout most or all of the night. Also it wouldn't matter how long the power was actually out for, the system would keep regenerating itself everyday and you wouldn't have to worry about running out of gas, diesel or propane.

In a world where climate change is making it more and more difficult to predict the weather and how we seem to be experiencing larger and larger storms think how nice it would be to know that you would never have to worry about living without the basic amount of power that you require to survive. Power to run your water pump so that you could flush the toilet and drinking water, run medical equipment if needed, sewage pumps, refrigerators, freezers,a  tv so that you could see the news, the oven to cook certain things, coffee maker, lights at night and your security system.

Having back up power where you didn't have to rely on the grid is almost an essential thing, the cost of solar has come down and now's the time to start relying on it.

Rob Abbott
Village Builders Inc.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Insulate And Wire Those Extras Before You Drywall

When you are renovating your home every time you open up a ceiling or a wall to do some work no matter what it is you should consider what else should go in there?

Sounds like a natural thing that you would install everything that needs to go in before you cover it back over but you should think about other things that you might require in the future.

For example in ceilings where there would be livable space above, here are some of the things that you could installed;

  • Sound insulation to stop noise from traveling between floors.
  • Lighting. Potlights or other lighting is easier to install when the ceilings are open.
  • Conduits for future electrical or cable/internet upgrades in the future.
  • Ductwork, Now is the time to upgrade ductwork or add more heat runs.
  • Speakers and speaker wire.
If you are working on walls then all of the things above apply other then the potlights, but you could add in wall sconces instead. 

A couple of things to think about when you have walls open are leaving room for future chases like the wiring that is required for solar panels. As solar panels become cheaper in the upcoming years more and more people will be opting into installing solar panels on the roof, leaving an easy access to run the wiring to the electrical panel will save you money and needless repairs to the walls that you just had re-drywalled,

Some other things that could go in walls:
  • Central vacuums piping and outlets.
  • Flooring lights, these are lights that are installed near the floor to light up hallways.
  • Blocking to hold tv's or heavy paintings on the walls.
  • Safes,
So when you are planning that renovation think about spending a little money on the future of what you might require and save yourself more money in the long term.

Rob Abbott