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The Diary of Our House And Barn Projects



July, 2008

Dear Families and Friends,


This page is "under construction".

The (March) plan was that we would be working inside the barn by now. While we are running a bit behind, that's still not a bad prognosis.

July 2, Little Walls and Little Bees

On the last day of June and the first two days of July, Hans Nehr and his crew stayed busy with little things: build small walls; cleanup inside and out; install support rod; repair the roof on the pig sty; and, partially, restore an old post on the sty.

On the ground floor, we needed a couple of walls installed above the old stone, up to the new floor. These were done in the typical over-built manner we have come to appreciate.

Meanwhile, upstairs, the last of the construction elements was installed: a steel rod connecting the middle support bean up to the main peak beam. After that, all the remaining wood and scrap was removed and the room looks great, plenty of open space.

Back outside, there were some repairs needed on the pig sty. The top row of tiles were held in place only by their weight and had come loose, more than once. Mr. Nehr sent his main carpenter, Ollie, up to do the job of installing flashing along the front to provide a windbreak sheltering the old tiles. Again, it seems a bit over-kill, but at least the little storage building will stay covered now.

We had also asked that a roof support post be improved to look like the other two. The work involved getting up in the little space between the top of the pig stalls and the slanted roof. While there, Ollie tried to knock down an abandoned hornets' nest. The only problem was that there were still plenty of hornets around and five of the most upset managed to sting Ollie and send him to the local emergency room. He never came back and I can't blame him. Now we need to find an exterminator. The roof support post may never get fixed.


July 4, Off on a Work Day

I took off Friday the Fourth of July. No one else did, so we paid a visit to a couple of the local shops who are doing some work for us.

Yesterday, we had visited Mr. Nölp's carpentry shop for the first time. He is repairing the old barn doors.Once again, we were amazed at the large-scale business that exists just a few doors from us. Bavaria is famous for wood furniture and wooden interiors and I think one reason is that every village has a carpenter or two, with all the latest wood working machines

The old doors are in good hands. The shed, where they are being worked, is filled with old wood, ready to make the necessary patches. Mr. Nölp seems to appreciate the old work, pointing out that the square-cut nails in our door means they are even older than we had thought, perhaps even going back to the early 1800's or before. In any event, he will try to restore the doors without changing them, just as we would have hoped.

On the other side of Pommersfelden, is an even larger wood shop, where Mr Löhr is making our windows.

Marianne could not get over the size of our new windows. Mr. Löhr kept explaining that there are four opening panes, like he was lifting, and four smaller fixed panes. And there is the double-wing glass doors on the front, as well as a pair of smaller windows up high. It's a lot of glass.


Mostly, we can't wait for those windows to be installed in the big, blue patches currently decorating the back of the barn.


July 15, Door Check

Today Marianne and Axel checked on our barn doors.The wood has been "refinished", but just enough to preserve it for another hundred years. The wrought iron hinges and hardware have also been cleaned. Soon, we would see it in place.


July 19, Two Doors in Place

Mr. Nölp installed the doors today. They look great. They also function well, although that may have been the hardest part. The old hinges and hardware are not easily adjusted and the big door needs a special technique for getting the top to close. Marianne and I initially tried to close it gently, and the top just wouldn't latch. Later, we got instructions: "Just slam it!" Sure enough, close the big panel with emphasis and the old latch works fine.

Our door carpenter also provided drawings of the new/old back door. He has agreed to make the door look old, similar to the truly old doors on front. This picture isn't too good, but I'll bet the door will be another good addition to This Old Barn. (see July 25.)

I also got my "new" workbench. We found this old piece in a local antique store. It's solid pine and other than the hideous green, is quite functional. It wasn't free, but when I figured it was just a little more than an IKEA work table would be, I considered the price to be fair. Now, of course, I have another project.

July 21, BIG Windows

Today the windows arrived, from all the way across town. I didn't think the little truck was big enough, but I guess it was. Mr. Löhr's crew installed the frames and windows in just a few hours. I'm always amazed when things fit, but they expect it to be OK.


The windows on the back are very big, no doubt about it. The front will be traditional enough, once we put sliding shutters over the "French Doors", but there's no doubt we have the biggest windows in the neighborhood.


The best part is the view from inside. This truly is a place to sit, relax, and look out on our peaceful valley. I can't wait for the chance.


In fact, we have a delay coming up before we make more progress. Our plumber isn't answering phone calls. He is the critical path because the sewer lines need to be placed before we can finish pouring the floor for the entry. The entry needs to be poured before the stairs and walls can be built. The walls need to be built before the electrical can go in. Etc.

Anybody know a good plumber?

July 25, Back Doors and Plans Forward

Yesterday, Marianne had a look at the new back doors Mr. Nölp made. They are wonderful. He used old wood, a traditional style, and replicas of old iron nails. It's almost a shame to put these on the weather side of an old barn!


I took today (Friday) off, mostly because Axel was coming over and we had several things to cover. Besides, the weather forecast was sunny and who needs work anyway? Except that, without the pay that work brings in, barns can't be remodeled!

The first order of business was getting the staircases ordered. Mr. Voit came over and we went through all the various options and choices. The entrance stairs will run in a simple "L-shape" with the long part on the back wall. That wall will be mostly bare stone and we think the steamed birch stairs will look nice against the sandstone. ("Steamed birch" is another of those terms that we have had to learn. ) The stairs up to the sleeping loft will be even simpler, with pine sides and oak treads.

The rest of the meeting with Axel covered every other contractor. I'll try to summarize, in the order things need to be done:

- Plumber: Axel and our neighborhood plumber, Mr. Gumbrecht, are not communicating. This is a serious problem because the next step has to be placing the sewer lines and the water lines in the floor of the entrance/bath. Pouring the floor is a requirement before the stairs and the bathroom walls can be done. Best hope for when: sewer line next week, floor the week after.

- Back door and shutters: Mr. Löhr has given us OK bids for the back door and the shutters over the front window. However, actually building the door depends once again on the height of the entrance floor. The shutters can be done anytime, but we are still trying to get a design that is both functional and fitting to the style of our old/new barn. Axel has some ideas and he said he'd send a sketch.

- Plaster (outside): Mr. Fritsch, another Pommersfelden local, has completed a bid for cleaning the walls outside and patching here and there. The idea is that the front side will be re-plastered, but the sides will only get new plaster where there is new cement or where we want a small amount of insulation. The old sand stone will get some sort of coating to help it not wash away. I will try to do the removal of old plaster myself. Swinging a hammer at old stuff seems within my skill level. All this should happen in August and September.

- Insulation and walls: We need to install the ceiling insulation and the lath that will hold the drywall before our electrician can do his thing. Slavco, our prime miscellaneous contractor, is pretty booked but we will work to get him on Fridays and weekends, starting in a couple weeks. Here too, I'll contribute some "sweat-equity". Later, in September or October, Slavco and his team will do the heavier lifting associated with drywall and installing the insulation and covering of the garage ceiling.

- Tiles: We didn't talk about tiling for the bathroom and the entrance floor. I'll remind Axel that, as a minimum, we need to get a slot in Mr.

- Electrical: Mr. Kramer has submitted a bid that fits with our latest plans for lights and power outlets. It's more than earlier estimates, but directly connected with the details we've added to our plan. In any event, he won't work until some of Slavco's work is done: maybe end of August? Later, after drywall, the balance of the electrical installation should happen.

- Lights: With Mr. Kramer's schedule, it seems we won't be needing the lights from Nysets' until September, at the earliest. That's OK, since we need to pace our spending, at least a little. Showing our good planning, the long summer days will be ending about then as well.

- Paint, flooring, etc: These are more tasks for do-it-yourself. It's looking like October or November.

- Furniture: Finally, there is the question of furniture. Mostly this means getting our stored-for-10-years things from San Jose. This sounds like a good Christmas present!


So, that's the plan. Things are reasonably close to the original thinking, mostly because we'd always believed that this project needn't be a rush. There's probably a lesson here for a number of construction projects.


John and Marianne



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