I have purchased the house next door to me (93 Second Ave) with the idea of converting it to a garage. Rather than tear the house down, I am exploring putting a garage door into the front (in place of the bay) and redoing the first floor. I have been taking some pictures of the inside and outside of the house. We have built a bridge between the two buildings.

Slate Window Sill, Rear Brickwork, Copper Siding We are getting down to the final details. The last thing for the front, was the installation of the slate windowsill. One of the original windowsills split in half, giving me a section roughly 1 1/2" thick, just what we needed. This was cut to length and width, and then I had to notch the corners to fit around the firring strips. It turned out that it was a tad too thick, so I ended up removing the wainscoat sections, planning 1/4" off of the top of them, and then I was able to fit the slate into place.

Another finishing detail was with the scupper to drain the roof - with some plywood backing, we were able to extend a course of NovaBrik all the way to the north wing, and added a wainscoat cap to nicely finish the top of the scupper. The backside is still open of course for each cleaning - I don't want to have a pool on top of the bridge. I also gave the lip of the scupper a little more angle to help the water drain well.

We finally had to figure a way to finish the support brackets on either side of the window. These are 2x6s in an L configuration with angle blocks for strength. We ended up fabricating copper "shingles", that slip up under the one above, and nail in at the bottom. The nails are covered by the one below it, and so on down to the bottom. We make a Z fold at the bottom of the shingle to provide a place to slide up the lower shingle. But since these are bent with 2 45 degree angles to go around the wood supports, we need to make relief cuts on the back side before bending. We also put a 90 degree bend next to the window so it can slip in between the wood and the window. This should give a nice finish to the sides of the window, and use up the rest of the roll of copper.

Another big step here, was to remove the top level of scaffold. We can finally open all of the bridge windows!


Copper Roof, Bricking the Back, Under the Bridge (July 2006) With the completion of the brick work on the front of the bridge (a few photos here), work moved to the back of the bridge. The first step was the construction of the copper roof cap for the bay window. This involved a new soldering iron (gas powered, 25,000 BTU) and learning how to bend and join copper. The basic idea was to build 4 panels, with a flange going up the wall (to be covered by brick) and a short flange to go down over the front edge of the top of the window, to be anchored with copper rivits to some copper tabs previously installed. The 4 sections were to be joined with standing seam joints, and the odd corners and angles soldered. The standing seams were crimped over with an assortment of tools, including several types of pliers and benders (using benders as crimpers can also result in a broken bender - oops). One of the most effective methods was a small hammer and an iron backing block.

With the 4 panels bent, and the surfaces that were to be soldered tinned (coated with solder), each pair was joined together with the standing seam, and then taken out on to the roof to be fitted. Once the angle of the roof was determined, back into the workshop and the top and bottom flanges were riveted and soldered together. Soldering requires a tight mechanical connection - real roofers don't design panels this way. Once each pair of panels were soldered, they were conneected together and the entire unit was placed on the roof and fitted. Again back into the shop and the final flanges were rivited and soldered. Some extra patches were added to improve watertightness, and finally the whole assembly was ready for installation on the roof. One of the changes that came from the soldering, is that the standing seams are no longer standing - it was easier to solder by folding the seams over so they lay flat.

A rainy work day gave me an opportunity to finish the underside of the bridge. We didn't want to leave the sheetrock (2 layers, type X firecode) exposed, so we installed firring strips and covered it with vinyl siding. Soffit was only available in white, and we wanted a different color. Some J channel and other fittings and the underside of the bridge looks pretty good.

With the copper cap in place, we could start installing the NovaBrik above it. The first 6 course of brick actually are a little wider to fully cover the top of the window. But once we were clear of the window framing, we jogged back in to basically just cover the space between the buildings. There is a corner brick that we used to cover the ends of the brick, and we capped it with some wainscoat sections. The bridge roof is flat and drains through a scupper on the upper left hand corner. We extended this with a copper pan, and it will eventually dump into a gutter. We need to get another section of wainscoat to finish the area above the scupper.



Bricking The Exterior - Front(June 2006) After many long delays (roughly 18 months), the NovaBrik finally arrived. Joyce, Johnny, the truck driver, his helper and me moved 2 pallets of this stuff (about 4500lbs) to the back of the house and piled it by the South Wing. After another month of assorted delays, we finally started hanging this brick on the front wall of the bridge. NovaBrik is a mortorless brick product that is basically screwed to firring strips, with each layer interlocking with the previous layer. Like brick, it has to be cut with masonry tools. Most of the cutting took place outside using a 14" diamond blade chop saw - fortunately some pretty heavy wind was blowing to clear the dust away quickly. Some of the finer detail work, like to cut out for the windowsill, required the use of a wet tile cutting saw - and it is a WET saw.

The first step in hanging the brick, was to install the firing srips - we decided to use 3/4" pressure treated plywood, and a few minutes with the circular saw produced enough for the project. The next step was to attach the starter strip. In order to get the bricks to end at the right height at the top of the window, they recommend that you stack up 5 bricks on the start strip, and measure, and calculate the offset. Later revisions of the manual suggest alternate ways of handling this. So after carefully measuring the width of the wall, and the window (for starter strip above the window) we stacked and measured a test wall. Next up, was to attach the starter strip, and get it level - at least something in the bridge is level, the bridge itself seems to have some slope to it. With the starter strip in place, we dry place a few bricks to figure out where we want the ends of the courses to fall to avoid tiny bricks at the end. At this point, we discover that after all the careful measurements, and 18 months of planning and waiting, the window was 18" wide - so much for the 16" window sill we had ordered. Fortunately, we had ordered a lot of wainscoat for the top of the wall - we took two sections of that, gave us a nice extension past the window, and used that for the window sill (this did require some fancy cutting of brick.) The brick also needed to be drilled for the screw holes. Our first test holes with the rotary hammer demonstrated why you don't want the SDS bits - too agressive. So we borrowed a hammer drill and things went well from there.



Rough Electric and Opening the Bridge! (December 2004) December gave us an opportunity to install the front window. Mark spent most of the day on a ladder in the front of bridge, installing 1" of rigid insulation, the tyvek house wrap, and finally the front window. After the was all sealed into place, the bridge was almost weatherized. The next step was to finish all of the rough electrical wiring (including nail plates for cable near the edge of lumber).

By this point, both windows were in, and pretty well caulked in place, there was 4" of insulation on the roof, and 1" on the front wall, and 5" of fiberglass above the rear window. The temporary door to the south wing was also sealed moderatly well (the cats can't through at least). We decided it was time to open up the window into the north wing. Although this was a bit ahead of schedule according to the construction plans (the bridge has not been sheetrocked nor painted), the convience of going between the north and south wings without climbing through the window was too hard to resist. So, working from the brige side, we removed first the outside and then the inside layer of bricks (with appropriate supervision), then the storm windows and both window sashes (from the "outside"), and finally the window sills and interior panelling. After adding a plywood threshold, the bridge is now open!


Roof Deck (November 2004)
With the coming of cold weather, it was important to get the roof installed. We used an EPDM (Rubber) roof membrane, which came as a single sheet, that we had to glue down. The glue (contact cement) has some temperature limits, so we had to get it in before it got too cold. By November, it was getting close to the limit, but we did not want to depend on tarps surviving the winter. We did half the deck, and the back half of the membrane, and when the contact cement was dry, layed it out and pressed it tight with a steel roller. We then folded back the other half and repeated the process.

Before the membrane could go down, we first had to build a drain scupper in the northwest corner of the roof, and then build up 4" of rigid insulation. This went in as two layers of 1 3/8" rigid, a layer of 1" and a final layer of 3/8". This wasn't what was originally planned, but our supplier was out of the 1 3/8 when we went back for the final sheet. This was then covered by a layer of 3/4 plywood decking which was attached with 6" screws to the deck below. These screws needed to be countersunk so that they would not stress the membrane. The countersinks were drilled before the plywood was put into place.

Rear Window (September 2004)
By September, the roof deck was in place, and the knee wall at the back of the bridge was in place (except for the top board.) We were fortunate that the deck level on the scaffolding to river side of the bridge was about 2" below the rough window opening (or where it would be.) The rear window, is 6 feet tall and 6 feet wide, and is actually wider than the bridge and attaches to the ends of the houses, not to the bridge. To make things more challenging, the extra support hardware on the window is taller than the rough opening - so the window has to be put in place from the outside. So, Dad, Joyce and I moved the window out onto the scaffolding (which was enclosed by tarps), finished the knee wall, and then put the window into place. Once that was done, the scaffold deck was raised to the next level, which allowed us attach the upper supports for the bay window.
Roof Anchors (June 2004)
The roof was to be attached to a pair of pressure treated ledger boards that are bolted to the brick walls. Unlike the floor ledgers, these anchors are not through bolted, but instead glued into the bricks with a two part acrylic adhesive. The ledger boards were marked and drilled, put in place temporarily to act as templates for the holes in the bricks, and then taken down while the bolts were put into place. One of the challenges was working around the star shaped retaining plates that are partially covered by the ledgers. The back sides of the ledgers needed to be hollowed out with a router to allow for these. The top of the ledgers are cut at an angle to give the roof the appropriate pitch, while leaving the lower edge level for the ceiling.
Floor Deck and Tarping the work area (May 2004)
Once the floor deck was in place, it was time to start working on the roof structure. This involved bring the "Quick Up" scaffolding out onto the deck. We also wanted to try to keep the work area somewhat dry, so we started the first set of tarps over the work site. A crossbar was set between the two upstairs windows between the north and south wings, and this formed the peak of the "tent". Tarps were also attached to the top of both the front and back wall. This provided some protection from the elements.

Conduit Passage and Joists
One final task before we started hanging the floor joists for the deck, was to ensure that each of the holes for conduits and pipes was adequately sized and all the way through. It is much easier to work on these from the outside, rather than in the floor joists inside. Once each hole had been tested (by passing a sample of the pipe through it), the were stuffed with fiberglass insulation to keep the heat in and critters out.

With the holes done, the floor joists could be installed. So far, I have 4 of them in, including the triple at the end. I also have a sheet of subfloor in place - which will let me retire the crate I was using as a step. This also provides a reference for where the rest of the floor joists will go, and where the ends will get trimmed. The shelter is working well, keeping the ice and snow outside of the work are. There is still the challenge of keeping the palm nailer warm - when it gets cold, it won't cycle anymore.



Ledgers and Bricks
The end of the really cold weather (and lots of other commitments) allowed me to resume work on the bridge. We finally got outside and set up some scaffolding to act as a work platform so I can attach the ledger boards to the side of the house. These ledger boards are mostly attached with 1/2" threaded rod, backed on the inside with 6" steel bearing plates. The ledger boards were marked in advanced, showing the location of both the floor joists in the north and south wings, as well as the location of the floor joists for the bridge itself. The remaining space was available for the support rods and for a number of conduits that will go through the floor between the wings.

I put up a temporary shelter above the work area - using blue tarps. This does keep the rain off the work area. After a few days of climbing in and out of the window (that gets old quick), I started removing the bricks and the windowsill and now I have a larger opening which makes it much easier ot get out to the work platform. When I am not working, this hole is covered with a sheet of flakeboard. One handy little thing, is that the alley light acts as a work light when I am out there.


Cleanup, Round 3A, September 2003
The work in early September was to get ready for the arrival of the dumpster to remove all the debries. We had finished gutting the way back room (on the main floor) and moved forward to the back room. On removing the panelling above a pair of side by side closets, we discovered a second set of doors above the closet doors. These had been nailed shut. We eventually opened them, but alas, they were empty. On removing the trim from around the doors, it became clear that each pair of doors (upper and lower) had been installed as a single, prehung unit! I have never seen this type of arrangement before. We got a little smarter about the scaffold, we set the planks half way up (half a deck) and that made a good working platform to clear the ceiling and upper part of the walls. During this phase, I found some crumpled newspaper with a date of 1910. That is the oldest "date" we have found so far. Later on, I found a newspaper from 1940 in the area around some electrical work.

Before we had the dumpster, we had been boxing up the plaster into cardboard boxes - generally the ones used for the RPI Laptop program. These were a good size, as full of plaster, I could still carry them and they stacked pretty well. We also bundled the lath. One problem we started to run into, was where to stack all the boxes of plaster. By the time the dumpster had arrived, we had over 80 boxes upstairs, and many more in the basement. When we had a dumpster a few years ago, we had a lot of plaster on the second floor to move, so we built a slide. While that worked fine from the second floor, coming from the first floor was slightly uphill. We built a small cart that would ride in the slide, and rigged a rope and a pair of pulleys so the person at either end could move the cart in either direction. With that in place, Dad loaded boxes and lathe on the cart and sent them to me in the dumpster where I stacked them. We were able to clean out the main floor in about 4 hours. The next day, we spent the entire day carrying boxes and lath and wood up the alley. That pretty much filled the dumpster, but we continued to remove plaster and lath, and we could dump the plaster (via buckets) into the dumpster and it could find it's way down between the wood and boxes.

Cleanup, Round 3, September 2003
After gutting the two back basement rooms (the back room and the way back room), we moved our effort upstairs. Again, we started in the way back room, with the intention of gutting it, and then being able to store stuff from the front of the house, as we worked our way forward. This room was at one time a kitchen, and in fact, had been two rooms. We had removed a dividing wall during the first round of cleanup. Most of the walls had plaster and lath on them, and had panelling at one time. Although the panelling was gone, the firring strips were still in place, as well as the track for a dropped ceiling. The normal attachment technique for the firring strips was a pair of 16 penny nails every 8 inches. These either missed the lath or broke it if they hit it. We had to work around the old clawfoot tub which had ended up in that room. We were able to clear a wall, and then put it there. We also used the scaffolding to work on some of the higher spots. This did not work as well as I would have hoped - it was a bit too tall.
Cleanup, Round 2, August 2003
I finally have my building permit to build the bridge between the north and south wings. In order to connect the ledger boards to the brick walls, I need to get access to the inside of the brick walls. Since they were hidden behind plaster and lath, some demolition and cleanup was needed. Well, one thing led to another, and we have now gutted two rooms, and filled 3 others with debries. The photo to the left is one room that is now filled with scrap lumber. But at least now the back room and the way back room in the basement (now just one room), have had ALL plaster and lath removed, and the damage to the floor is more obvious. Next step is to finish rebuilding the stairs and fixing the roof drain. I have also installed lighting (two zones) in the basement and have rehung the construction lights on the main floor. I also have telephone, cable TV and music piped in from the North wing; it is beginning to feel like home.
Merging the Back Yards
One of my first projects with the new house was to merge the backyard of 93 (the new house) with the backyard of 95 (my current house). This involves removing the fences (stockade, chain link and a concrete curb) between the yards, as well as the two gates into the back yard. In order to secure the yard, I put up a new gate between the two buildings in the gangway, and we put up stockade fence between the new yard, and the house on the far side (91). For some reason, this fence had been removed. Eventually, the shed will go, and I need to work on some finish details on the new fence and better lighting in the gangway between the houses.
Initial Cleanup
The second project with the house was to clean up all the fallen plaster (many ceilings), expose the leaking roof drain, removed water soaked building materials (like walls), get rid of dropped ceilings and ugly panelling and just generally clean out the place. To this end, I got a 30 yard dumpster, took a weeks vacation, and with the help of my family, filled it!. We also tore down the shed - that really opens up the view of the water from the gangway. Some of the pictures here are of water soaked building material - it isn't pretty what years of soaking does to sheetrock, plaster and homesote. To aid in clearing stuff from the second floor, we constructed a 20' long chute to go from the front window to the dumpster. This worked quite well and saved a lot of trips up and down the stairs (and made it very easy to find the house). This dumpster had 5.45 tons of debris (according to the bill from the trash hauler.)
Outside
Some photos of the outside of the house. There are some close ups of the brick on the front of the house that do not appear to be well attached - the morter is missing to a depth of 4 or 5 inches!
First Floor
Well, there is not a lot to redeem the first floor (which is good, since in my general outline, most of it comes out. The one interesting detail is the light fixture built into the banister. Originally, I think it was a gas fixture. There are photos of where the kitchen used to be, but the sink, and the drain connections are gone. Makes the washing machine hookup less useful. The array of piping (radiators) has several cracked fittings, which explain the extensive water damage to the hardwood floor. However, the water damage in the bathroom is coming from the OUTSIDE of the drain pipes in the upstairs bathroom. Yes, that is standing water on the top of the toilet tank. It isn't visable in this picture, but the bottom of the tank has fallen out.
Second Floor
The second floor gets it's water damage directly from leaks (at least 3) in the roof. In one of the bedrooms, we appear to have mushrooms growing through the floor. This does not bode well of the condition of the roof and the interior walls. At least this apartment HAS a kitchen, crude as it might be. However, it appears that the water pipes connecting to the water heater have broken both in the intake and exit side of the heater. Oh well. At least there is a nice view from the back window.
Basement
The basement is divided into two parts, the front part with the furnaces (two) and a LOT of broken pipes and the rear part with an apartment.... In the front part, it appears that both the heating pipes as well as the water supply pipes are broken in a number of places. The first break in the water supply comes 8 inches after the shut off valve. Better there then before the shut off I guess. So much for running water. Actually, there is running water.. a lot of it... In the back part, in a closet you have the drain from the roof. Although the pictures do not show it very well, it is split wide open from floor to ceiling. Judging from the rot of the wood in the closet (including the back stairs in the missing floor), it has been leaking for quite a while. This apartment also gets to share in the water damage from the two floors above.
Neighborhood
Well, it is a beautiful day... (Wait, that is copywritten..) Anyway, there are some nice houses on this side of the street, and some not so nice houses. You decide. The other side of the street is zoned for business, and sure enough, we have a medical office building, a printing plant and a plumbing wholesale supplier.

finkej@rpi.edu