RENOVATING #1: Putting 'Living' back into the living room....

Blog entry by rdlaurance posted 12-18-2011 04:34 PM 13917 reads 0 times favorited 2 comments Add to Favorites Watch
no previous part Part 1 of RENOVATING series Part 2: Putting 'Living' back into the living room...Finale »

Seems as though it has been a long time (15 months) in coming since my earlier and only posted item here on Refurbishers®. As such, I was feeling that perhaps a new posting was to be my ‘today’s project.’

Project indeed! Perusing through four years of construction photos (literally thousands) … selecting just those that I felt were important enough aspects of the project … importing into Photoshop for editing to trim the memory sizes and then a long sit down with a fresh brewed ‘cup o joe’ to peck out this text. Fortunately it is a dreary looking day outside, somewhat typical for this time of year while the hydronic radiant floor heat is feeling much too good on the bare feet. So the desire to meander outside is next to nonexistent.

A little background on the broader picture of this particular renovation project.

January of 2007 seems to be the beginning date. It was then that my partner, Christel, and I found a listing for this house and property on the internet site of a local real estate firm. It didn’t appear like that great of a place but the price was very attractive and it was nearby. More in the country, though adjacent to another community’s border. The weekend started out similar to this one with the heaviness of gray overcast skies. By noon the sun began to break so we decided to take a little drive to check out the house.

Upon finding the address, I must say, I really was not much impressed. The property had seen basically no maintenance in roughly 40-50 years aside from maybe one (two at the most) exterior paint jobs. We spent about 40 minutes just wandering around the site taking it all in. By this time the sun was bright upon the landscape with a special kind of light. In retrospect, I think the two of us fell in love with this site, at that time. It just felt so incredibly good!

The next Monday we contacted the agent and the following day toured the interior. Again, I wasn’t too impressed with the house, but the location just seemed to hold us spellbound. Within a couple of weeks, the house was ours and though I had immediately started making plans on ‘things to do’, it wouldn’t be until July before I could begin what was to be this enjoyable journey of transforming the house back into the jewel that it seemed to hold on its setting.

Being a well educated yet unemployed ‘foreigner’ here in Sweden, I had nothing but time and lots of knowledge and skills to put forth on renovation. I had moved to this wonderful country seven years earlier from Oregon with a slight detour of about five years in Florida. I was …oh, so elated when I left the southeast, wondering, ‘how so many people could be so wrong!’ It is nice to live once again in a place that marks the passage of time with four actual seasons. Guess I must have missed that the most!

A little background on the house now. Some of this information has been gleaned from the dismembering of the years as I stripped the house back to her bones in order to rebuild. The style of house (called Skånelänga) is typical of this southern district of Sweden (1800-1900).

Surprisingly, to me, I found under the outer facade and under the interior wallpaper, that the house was in fact constructed from adobe bricks, in Swedish referred to as lersten. This style of building is no doubt an offshoot of the cob wall construction from the region’s earlier times. The official records first list the house from 1919, which actually is when they began keeping records. After working through most of the house’s original construction and doing a bit of study, my belief is that the house could actually predate that by another 50 years, as a minimum. Parts of the house even hint at having been erected from as early as the late 1700’s.

As the house has been here for many generations, I decided to remain true to its architectural style, in appearance, all the while updating its amenities. You know, things we now take for granted in our new fangled habitats… like replacing the outhouse with an actual bathroom complete with running water, bathtub and flushable toilet. I redesigned the outer facade to give it a fresher, more unique appearance with additional embellishment but still remain true to the nature of the original facade’s overall appearance. It has been a real joy to work on.

Since I did all the labor myself (excluding some of the plumbing and all the electrical), the whole house had many different states of finish at the same time. I will attempt to put together in this blog (and future blogs) the work and progress in a specific area of the house to maintain a better since of order, even though the actual renovation seemed hardly that.

The first room I portray here is the living room. When we purchased the house, two of the windows were boarded up (and rotting) and the space reeked of mildew. Old and antique furniture positioned and stacked haphazardly appeared as if it had been stored there for decades.

After clearing the room, I assessed the room and began stripping the old wallpaper from the adobe walls. The walls had been papered about five or six time. Stripping the paper from the ceiling and ceiling timbers was one of the dirtiest jobs I did with this house. There was six or seven layers of heavy paper here with many layers of what appeared to be limestone whitewash on each. All of that flaking paint was coupled with inches of dirt, dust and seeds that had filtered down, over the decades, from the attic flooring which also served as the living room’s ceiling.

Stripped down to bare walls now, it was time to look under the flooring. A good pry bar and a couple of hours saw this work done in short order. The rectangular brown areas on the wall bear testimony to a time when the wall also had one additional window and a door in the corner that opened up directly into the stall which was torn down during the 50’s.

The wood was deteriorating with dry rot, so I pulled it all up and removed the flooring timbers, as well. They weren’t in much better condition. So now I’m down to a dirt floor. I continued digging down, lowering the earth level to about 75 cm (about 30”) so as to allow the buildup of new flooring. This required removing, quite literally, tons of stone from the interior of the whole house.

A few of the stones were so large and heavy that I wasn’t able to move them from within the house. In such case, the remedy is to dig a deeper hole and bury the stone. In this next picture you can see that in digging a deeper hole for the burial ceremony I happen to discover a root from one of the elm trees nearby. The root was rotting, as all the elms here died about eight years earlier from an elm disease that devastated Sweden’s elms. Similar to the Dutch Elm Disease that produced the same dismal effects in the USA decades earlier.

After leveling the earthen floor and packing it down, I had dug a deeper trench alongside the stone foundation, built wooden forms and reinforced the inner foundations with rebar and concrete. Once that was complete I laid down a felting cloth and hauled in about 20cm of makadam (drainage gravel), which was packed tight.

Following that was 25cm of a type of styrofoam underfloor insulation built up in three overlapping layers.The remaining vertical edge of exposed concrete along the perimeter of the wall also was covered with insulation to keep floor heat from bleeding off from the (finished) heated floor.

Once the entire house’s interior foot print was stripped, dug out and finished to this insulation stage, it was time to plumb for the hydronic thermal floor heat. This involved the laying of reinforcement mesh and then weaving the PEC tubing back and forth in each room and attaching it to the mesh.

A few days later, a couple of young men from a nearby company came by and pumped a cement-based liquid spackel into cavity resevoir on top of the floor insulation, filling each room to level. I was impressed! A couple of hours of their work pumping and the floor was finished. Twenty-four hours later it was hard enough for walking and working on.

That last picture was a beautiful sight. As it had been too long it seemed that the house had been a gutted structure with dirt and stone flooring. The glistening level sheen of water on the surface of this new floor definitely warmed my heart to see. And I know Christel felt good seeing it, as until now there was no limit of me tearing down this, that, and everything else to ‘make it right.’ Finally the appearance of the renovation appeared more on the plus side of construction, rather than the minus side of demolition.

Now that we have a floor to stand and work on, I believe I’ll end this blog here, on that positive note. Next blog I’ll continue with the remainder of the living room restoration.

I hope I haven’t fatigued anybody with my dialog and photos. Still being new at blogging I’m trying to make it sound as interesting as possible yet am trying to refrain from sounding like I’m showing my 1960’s vacation slides of my trip alone to Disneyland, on the projector. Let me know if it is approaching that level of boredom so that in the future, possibly I can enliven it with a bit of popcorn, pretzels and beer. Me eating and drinking while putting it together!

....rick in south Sweden

-- Above all, it is a matter of loving art, not understanding it. (Fernand Leger)

2 comments so far

View Renovation's profile


6 posts in 4383 days

posted 02-18-2012 02:11 AM

What an awesome project! It’s a good job you put the thermal floor heat system, should allow the hot air to rise and provide more efficient heating. The reason this is brought up is because some particular problems have been raised about other similar heating and cooling systems for the home, such as the gas furnace. That’s why gas furnace repair in Denver is usually quite common and thriving.

View RackLoon's profile


7 posts in 4149 days

posted 02-21-2012 10:46 PM

Wow that’s great, what a difference that floor will make, not only practically but also psychologically. Now you’ll know exactly what you’re working with. A very good base to build from!

-- http://thedinosaurwalk.com/bunk-bed-plans/

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