Thursday, January 12, 2012

Thoughts on Wallpaper and Earthquakes


That’s the total number of different types of wallpaper found in my house – so far.  I may find more, but at this point, I think this is “it.”

The reason I’m telling you about paper number 18 is that it’s a really interesting find. 

Last weekend we were being treated to the penultimate winter weather on Vancouver Island – rain, wind, heavy black clouds and wind all rolled into one glorious day (also known as a hoolie) to spend inside.  I elected to (finally) climb into my attic space and check out the box of Christmas Ornaments that had been left behind.

Out to the shed, I collected the ladder and then inside I prepared to go up into the attic. 

Flashlight in hand, I climbed the steps and pushed the hatch open.  I pulled the box out and laid it on the floor below.  There is some interesting stuff – a couple of tall stand-up Santa Clauses, some flocked and glitter-encrusted plastic holly/cedar boughs and some bells.  Nothing antique though - ah well.  I had a look around and lo and behold… I found the hatch into the upper attic – the TRUE attic space to my house.  I pushed that open and climbed up further.

I didn’t find anything particularly interesting except for a HUGE unused space that, some day, I can convert to living space.  I did also note, however, that there really isn’t any insulation to speak of up there (there was some of that blow in fill between the rafters) and I have lined up an immediate project for myself as well as a long term one (in the conversion of that space into living area.)

On my way back out of the upper attic, however, I *did* discover something VERY interesting. 

Or rather, a FEW very interesting things. 

The walls between the bedrooms and the main living space of the main section of the house are very rough cut 2” by 8” planks – and I would estimate them to be 12’ long. Between the rooms there are two layers of them – so the original walls are VERY sturdy wood that’s not actually framed the way we would see in a conventionally framed house.  I suspect that they were nailed firmly to the rafters when the rooms were added.

I suspect this is why, after 115-some-odd years’ worth of earthquakes, my house is still standing.  I learned that there have been 7 major ones in the last 100 years - including one that measured 7.3 on the Richter scale right here in Cumberland (the epicentre was Forbidden Plateau) in June of 1946 that was so strong that it knocked down chimneys – here’s a short write-up that has been respectfully taken from the Earthquakes Canada website:

“Vancouver Island’s largest historic earthquake (and Canada’s largest historic onshore earthquake.) The epicentre was in the Forbidden Plateau area of central Vancouver Island, just to the west of the communities of Courtenay and Campbell River. This earthquake caused considerable damage on Vancouver Island and was felt as far away as Portland, Oregon, and Prince Rupert, British Columbia. The earthquake knocked down 75% of the chimneys in the closest communities, Cumberland, Union Bay, and Courtenay, and did considerable damage in Comox, Port Alberni, and Powell River (on the eastern side of Georgia Strait). A number of chimneys were shaken down in Victoria and people in Victoria and Vancouver were frightened, many running into the streets. Two deaths resulted from this earthquake, one due to drowning when a small boat capsized in an earthquake-generated wave, and the other from a heart attack in
Seattle. “

So at the very least, I know my house is built to last!

Anyhow, something else I discovered then I was up crawling around in my attic (and sub-attic space) was Wallpaper Number 18.  This find was a dilly!  The wallpaper itself is probably the least obnoxious I have found and is also the most historically significant one.  This is the ORIGINAL wallpaper put up in the house.  How do I know this? Its cloth backed paper (yes, paper stuck on linen cloth) that had been tacked directly to the rough-cut planks of wood that made up the original walls!  The paper is so brittle (100 years later) that I will have to remove it VERY carefully in order to take a sample… Hopefully I'll be able to provide you with a peek in the next week or two.

With love across the waters,

Monday, January 9, 2012

New Wood Stove - The During and The After... AH!

Well, the wood stove installation was successful and I now have my furnace turned off and a cheery fire burning happily away in my wood stove.

During... The guys arrived (a team of 2) around 1PM this afternoon and got started right away - one with unpacking bits from the truck and cutting up bits to go inside the house and then placing bits in the chimney and so on and so on.  The other guy got ladders set up and set to work on the roof.  

I took Jasmine out for a quick walk and when I came home the thought that struck me was that my house, from about a block away, looked like a giant house-shaped hookah pipe!

The Hookah Pipe
When I got back into the house, they had brought the stove in and were working on making connections between the chimney insert and the thimble - the insulated thing that goes through the hole in the fireplace.

Getting Closer!
Fairly soon after that, they were done and on their way.

I ran out, located some wood I could burn (at Home Depot - fairly inexpensively, until my lumberjack friend brings me wood and cuts down my tree...) and 45 minutes later (I had no newspaper with which to start the fire so I used my shredding bin material - which I will most definitely use again - it worked a treat!) and much blowing involved, I had a little fire going.  

A Little Fire Started...
It's now about 3 hours after that and I have a warm and cheery fire burning brightly, I have the wood out of the bags and neatly stacked on the hearth for quick use and the stove has warmed up enough that the blower has even kicked on!

Warm and cheery fire burning bright.  Hearth and environs decorated once more...
I can foresee many comfy evenings spent reading happily in front of the fire...

With love across the waters,

A Big Thing Off The List

Big day in my house today!  Today is Wood Stove Installation Day. A power outage on a very cold day in October (I think it was October) made it patently clear that my house is in desperate need of a secondary heat source.  The power went out at around 10:30 in the morning and didn’t come back on until nearly 6 PM and though the day wasn’t below zero outside, it had been snowing and was pretty chilly.  When I got home from work that afternoon, the inside of the house was roughly 10*C and it was dark, damp and cold.

It was at that point that I determined that a wood stove was a necessity.  Last month when my oil tank was “topped up” and I found that the tank needed 500 litres of oil and the bill for THAT came to almost $700, well, the wood stove became a DESPERATE necessity! Long-term plans involve changing my oil furnace into an electric furnace – but it will, when all in said and done, be my secondary heat source.  The house is not properly insulated (more on that later) and wood as a heat source is MUCH cheaper (and better for the environment.)

And really, there’s nothing quite like sitting curled up in front of a wood stove, watching the flames and soaking in that lovely drowsy heat and, well, just BEING.

Today is the big day – the stove and pipes and blower will be installed. In preparation, my task (completed yesterday) was to dismantle the electric fireplace and take apart the mantle.  Not a difficult chore – all I really had to do was break some glue seals and pull it all apart.  The fire screen, wood from the mantle and the heater itself are all out shoved into my mud room – I’ll move it all to the shed in a little wile – once the team is actually here and my wood stove is on its way to being installed.  It's almost 1PM now, though, and I'm starting to be concerned the job might not get finished today...

Anyhow, just so you can see where I am progress-wise, here are some pictures for you.

Before - this was taken just after I signed the paper-work to buy the house – the furniture shown isn’t mine:
"Before" - complete with fireplace screen and electric heater in place.
This is “disassembled” and waiting for the wood stove:

A blank slate to work with.

I added the towel about a month ago when I pulled off the mirror
the hole was just open and leaching out all of my heat!

These brick outcroppings are interesting - the brick to hold up original mantles!
And hey – look what else I discovered while I was taking it apart – yes, painted leaves on the hearth – they had been covered by the brick that was holding the mantle up – with the new set-up, they will be totally visible!

Hand-painted leaves!

With love across the waters,