Sippican Cottage

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A Man Who Has Nothing In Particular To Recommend Him Discusses All Sorts of Subjects at Random as Though He Knew Everything

Laundry Window Greatness

So we’ve more or less sorted out the stairs leading down to our laundry room. A fair bit of work is completed. We’ve made a lot of progress. Of course, in the scheme of things, saying that is like Napoleon saying, “Hell, we’re in Warsaw already. How hard could it be to go to Moscow?” The laundry room itself is maybe more straightforward than fiddling with riser heights, but there’s a lot more work in it.

As you might recall, our laundry room project wasn’t a deliberate act, exactly. I couldn’t fix our bathroom until I got the laundry out of there, and once it was done, the laundry couldn’t go back. To paraphrase someone or other, Some are born with great laundry rooms, some achieve laundry greatness, and some have laundry room greatness thrust upon them. I was being thrusted upon like a man with a leg and a poodle.

So, what’s the terrain look like down there, anyway? Like this:

This is how we found our basement when we moved in. I’m standing at the bottom of the stairs we’ve been talking about and looking towards the door that leads to the side porch I had thrust upon me. As you can see, the windows on either side of the door were boarded up. There were seven boarded up windows in this room. Of all the crazy stuff the former denizens accomplished, their affection for blocking out the sun in a climate that touches twenty below is perhaps the most piquant.

There’s an ice house located about a block from my house. The local residents used to saw blocks of ice out of the river, and store them in sawdust for use all summer. The building is a big, windowless block with no interior partitions. Of course refrigeration got invented, so no one needs ice for their icebox anymore. There’s someone in the icehouse doing people’s taxes now, and making them shiver just the same. I can only guess that the people who used to live in my house went into that dark, windowless, undifferentiated hole to get their taxes done, and thought, Now that’s living! Maybe we can achieve the perfect cryogenic troglodytic environs of our very own!

Looking back the other way, you see the area where the laundry is going to go:

Let’s see. There’s another obligatory boarded up window. On the left is the oil burner that never worked. There’s a lot of pipes that don’t carry water. There’s a white drain pipe sticking up against the wall that isn’t attached to anything down one floor. There’s a two-foot wide section of wall standing there, looking sheepish. It doesn’t know why it’s there, and it feels bad about it, I imagine. There’s a weird box on the upper wall, with some sketchy U-shaped rusty conduit piping coming out of it. I can’t say it didn’t do anything, because while it had no useful function, it scared the shit out of me, which is a form of doing something. It was the original electrical service panel, which still had electricity running through it. If you hinged that lid up, inside the box was a Frankensteinian tangle of exposed knob and tube wires, jerry-rigged up to a more modern circuit to keep it sparking, some mice nests, some water that had leaked in, and some ice that had formed in the water. The inside of the box was completely lined with blankets of asbestos. Other than that, it was perfectly safe. I closed the lid, and thought mayhaps we should, oh, I don’t know, at least modify that baby.

That rectangle leaning against the wall is an ad hoc bulkhead hatch to the basement below this basement (our house is built into a steep hill). It’s a piece of OSB with a 2 x 4 scrap screwed to it to beef it up, if you can call it that. Here’s the view down the hatch:

Fun stuff. These stairs were even more rickety than they appear in the photo. We’ll have to replace them, too, along with the OSB trampoline that covers the stairhole.

Here I’ve run into a brick wall, literally and figuratively. That crude door leads into what we call the Basement Basement. It’s a big room with big granite blocks for walls, and a concrete floor. It contains the base of the massive brick chimney, the abandoned oil tank, the water service coming in from the street, and about four hundred mouse skeletons. They came inside to escape the winter and froze to death anyway, I imagine.

Here’s the exterior side of the potential laundry room, just as we found the house when we bought it. Those two boarded up windows face due east. They were the only chance of getting anything like morning sunlight into that room, a precious commodity in February, I tell you what, and they boarded them up.

This aggression will not stand, man. I’m putting the windows back.

The only problem, I suppose, is I don’t have any windows to replace them, or money to buy any, either. Some men have laundry window greatness thrust upon them, I guess.

[To be continued]

4 Responses

  1. Could it be that at some time the snowpack came up to and over the bottom of the windowsills?
    This might explain why they covered over the windows. Either that or the windows just did not work to keep out animals and such.

    Is it ever possible to drive over to a higher-population city? If so, you would have a better selection of used construction materials, and maybe even a more competitive price.

    1. Hi Anne- You’re pleasant and sensible, and are searching for pleasant and sensible reasons that would explain the behavior of unpleasant lunatics. They were nuts, and did strange things for inexplicable reasons. That about covers it.

      By the by, we already live in the higher-population city around here. Almost 4500 people. And all my used construction materials, including the eleven windows I put back into most of those boarded up window holes, came from the dump. It’s hard to beat their prices.

      Thanks for reading and commenting.

  2. Looking at these pictures I’m kind of wondering what the kind folks who sold you this house/disaster area were thinking. I’m also kind of wondering what the value of a vacant lot is in your neighborhood, because given the condition of the house, it might have been worth more without the (so-called) structure on it. Since you’re looking at laundry, let’s do a list from the ground up:

    – Foundation: Non-existent in some places, sadly lacking in most.
    – Walls: They exist, but some aren’t really connected to anything. Zero insulation.
    – Roof: Aside from the holes and critters living in it, it at least kept the sun out. Sharing a common trait with the walls, it had no insulation.
    – Plumbing: Probably mostly lead like a Roman villa; was there any galvanized steel with openings the size of a pinhole?
    – Drains: We’ve heard about the Fountain of Fudge, I’m guessing the rest wasn’t any better.
    – Electrical: A mix of Romex, knob-and-tube, and stuff that would make a fire inspector blanch. You could tell you’ve got power because of the sparks that would fly turning something on.
    – Furnace: An old oil-burner that never worked, tied into piping without water. Not to mention the oil tank, which is now a hazardous waste site. Removing those is not fun.
    – Heating: Well, between the sparks and baseboards starting fires in random locations at least part of the house could be warm

    I’ve been in a few houses that needed “renovation” like this and ran, rather than walked away, since I completely lack your multitudinous skills at carpentery, structures, framing, electrical and plumbing. I also had a full-time job, which precludes being able to spend enough time working on the house.

    I’m surprised the sellers didn’t pay you for taking it off their hands, but you’ve turned it into a magnificent dwelling.

    1. Hi Blackwing- Thanks as always for reading and commenting.

      The sellers were the bank who foreclosed on the last denizens. The bank took an awful bath on the place. They were left holding a mortgage bag that was triple what we paid for the place. The Great Recession was like that. No one was buying nothing nohow. The bank manager actually offered us a two-for-one deal on another house on the same street. He mistook us for rich swells.

      You’re not wrong to wonder if the place was so far gone that it wasn’t worth saving. When I made our 24k offer on the place, I explained that the number was based solely on the shade the building threw on the ground, and not a penny more.

      It was rugged living here at first, but it was better than being homeless. Still is.

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