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The Diary of Our House And Barn Projects

August, 2005



August promised to be filled with real building, or so we hoped. That was the good news. The bad news was that we spent most of the month "off line" so our "news" is stale - but at least our history record is in tact.

August 3, After Work Inspection


It had been a few days and I was anxious to see the progress. The day before, I had looked quickly on the outside. Now I wanted to see the real inside story.


The Living Room looked more and more open. The ceiling was higher -- not really. It was the floor that had lowered, as the builder prepared to make room for the new floors. The remnants of the hall wall were being gradually removed. Hopefully, the whole wall won't disappear before things get rebuilt enough

Meanwhile, the office "paint" was being carefully removed. On the ceiling, the support beams showed, but the clay material between the beams was still in place. The loose paint and plaster on the walls had also been removed and that revealed even more painted and stenciled walls. The last time we had seen this room, the surface was black from some long-ago fire, so this seemed like an improvement.


The second chimney had been removed. This was done to make more room in the bathrooms, although part of the space would be given back as a pipe chase and wiring access channel. At this point, it was just an opportunity for a major miss-step.

The ground floor bathroom looked different with the chimney gone and an ancient bread oven opened up. Axel has suggested that the oven become a niche in the shower. This seems like an interesting idea, but it's still hard to imagine.



Finally, on the back of the house, the kitchen was getting small "improvements". It was now possible to walk into the room without ducking, since the hall coming in had been lowered, at least part of the way. Axel had made the point a few times that it was floor elevations that remained a tricky part of the work and I think this kitchen entry was one of the trickiest.



August 4, Late Evening Inspection


How much could have happened in one day? Quite a bit and yet things seemed even more undone.

Outside, the front of the house was becoming a billboard. I suppose it's good that everyone wants to sign their work.


Inside, the floor of the hall and the office was down to the stone and brick of the cellar ceiling. That's as far as it will go.


The living room was also as far down as it would go. The plastic vapor barrier was something new instead of just more removal.


The stairs going up looked so weak I didn't even try them. Somehow they seemed stronger when the underside was covered with plaster and reeds.



Out in the kitchen, there was a gaping hole where the utilities would run. This was a very efficient use of the old "utility" access for the waterless WC.


Out back, the barn looked like a tank had driven through the back door. This was one of the "surprises" that arose and had to be dealt with. It was either fix it or run through quickly, before the wall fell down.


However, the daily sunset was finished.

August 5, Concrete Progress

The living room was now filled with concrete. This was real progress!

Meanwhile, there was more old plaster coming off. This wall in our bedroom has all sorts of evidence of fires, so we're not sure what the house history is telling us.


Out in back, even the barn was shaping up.

August 6, Day by Day


The living room floor was now hard and ready for activity. Axel's architect table looked more presentable than when it was standing on the dirt.

Across in the office, several layers of the old plaster had been removed. The last time we saw this room, the top surface was smoke-stained black, so the bright pink and blue is a surprise. On the ceiling, the big beams were showing. We had considered leaving them showing, but they just are not the nicely-finished beams of other houses, so we will keep the original design and cover them with plaster.

In the other ground-floor room, a bathroom, the chimney and wash basin were gone, but the bread oven was uncovered. This little niche will be inside our shower as a reminder to a previous use of the room.

Underneath our feet, the cellar was shaping up. Axel had talked us into improving access to this dungeon and even Marianne liked it now. I'm not sure there's too much we can do here, but we'll have proper storage for our potatoes and wine.

Out back, there was a mountain of old sand and dirt from inside the house. This reclamation pile will be transformed into a wonderful patio, for all the sunny summer days we'll have -- next year.

August 9, A Quick Examination

The old stone walls were about to disappear behind a brick facade. This facade, and the insulating filler between it and the stones, should keep our living area cozy.


Back in the kitchen, what was Marianne looking up at?


The stone lintel holds the main beam that supports the kitchen roof, but it's hard to tell what keeps the stone together. The plan was to widen the doorway a bit and also replace the broken stone support. Now, if all this can be done with out a complete collapse!


The sunset from our hotel room reminds us of the sunsets that we will see out that kitchen doorway at this time next year.



August 10, Meeting the Team

This was a planning day for the contractors who would be running wires and pipes. Everyone had to have their ideas set before the building contractor filled the kitchen and hall floors with concrete.

Mr. Kramer, the electrician, poked around and concluded he could run his wires from the cellar to the attic without too much complication. Our plan for electrical devices is fairly basic, as we try to maintain an old flavor to the building, without sacrificing modern requirements.



Mr. Gumbrecht, the heating contractor, had more of a challenge. Axel specified a floor elevation that prevents piping in some areas where the cellar ceiling is higher than desired. In the end, the architect and contractor seemed to reach a workable arrangement

Meanwhile, Wolfgang, one of the Einbecker workers who are doing the basic construction, got final consultation from Axel. This process of very hands-on "architecting" seems to be working. The contractors blend their experience into Axel's plans and ideas and the result makes sense. We hope this continues to be our assessment after we move in, a few months from now.

Our contractor roster was up to seven firms, including the Treuner Architect Bureau. (Three or four more contracts are pending.) Our construction site now had a poster showing the neighbors and curious who was doing work, what village they were from and, oh by the way, what the house should look like in the end.

August 18, Inspect and Move


This was a hectic Thursday and a crazy week. Our "diaries" show moving details, but August 18th found us with both a moving van and a huge concrete truck parked in front of 17 Schoenbornstrasse. I suppose a house should be more finished when moving in, but we do what we have to do.

Upstairs, the last of the unstable old plaster had been removed. Bones of the original construction showed everywhere. In some ways, it will be a shame to cover over all this half-timber construction, but, unlike German "fachwerk" buildings, it had never been designed to show.


Downstairs, the living room brickwork was complete. Mr. Einbecker had managed to recreate the original arched and flared window openings.



In the morning, the kitchen floor was getting preparation for concrete. (I hope Mr. Einbecker's workers removed their tool boxes!)


In the afternoon, the workers had wheelbarrowed 5.8 cubic meters of concrete into the kitchen and the small bathroom.


August 26, Another Quick Examination


This was just a quick stop on my way between the Erlangen office and dropping off some American colleagues at the Frankfurt airport.

The kitchen was looking more and complete. The small pantry had taken shape and all the outer walls had been redone with new brick. Again, the Einbecker craftsmen did a great job on shaping the windows and doors



And, upstairs, the walls were completed and there were signs of the electrician (note switch location next to the door.)

August 27, A Tile Fireplace (Kachelofen) Bonanza

A week or so ago, we had run across a display of tile fireplaces (kachelofens) in a village a mile or two from Marianne's new apartment. When we finally had a meeting with the owner, Mr. Blei, we found an amazing display of kachelofens and all kinds of architectural detail hardware.


Here is Mr. Blei, showing off one of his kachelofens, this one made by the Meissen porcelain people. He is pointing out that, in fact, there is one more tier so the complete fireplace is almost eight feet tall (2.4 meters)

The warehouse covered room after room of artifacts. There were "ovens" of course, a couple hundred according to his website. We saw perhaps 10 or 20% of that inventory and wanted most of them!
The other specialty of Mr. Blei's antique business was doors, hundreds of perfectly-restored doors. Amazing.
If you wanted to restore your own doors, there was a hardware store of perfect replacement pieces for doors, kachelofens, old iron work, etc. Everything was organized and as clean as it had been when made generations ago.


Diaries - Travel

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The Diary of Our House And Barn Projects