The Tales Buildings Tell

Renovation and Additions afford the opportunity to fill-in the missing chapters that have been torn out of a building’s monograph, but ya never know what’s behind a given wall…

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Buildings tell stories…all kinds of anecdotes, “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly” if you will (to repackage Sergio Leone’s famous Spaghetti Western).

Renovation and Addition projects afford the opportunity to fill-in the missing chapters that have been torn out of a building’s monograph, but ya never know what’s behind a given wall. The following are a selection of images we have collected from projects over the years – for example one half of an intact double-hung window buried inside a wall, and even used by the electrician!

The demolition process judiciously reveals a building’s past, and the following are some (profound!) words of advice/observations/thoughts to consider should you be contemplating a renovation or addition:

  1. Basement and crawl space floors comprised of compacted soil are common in buildings of a certain era. If warranted or desired, a vapor barrier can be installed and (in addition to) a screed slab which can help regulate humidity issues in addition to several other benefits. However, a building does need a continuous foundation if there is a basement. Believe it or not (please note sarcasm), soil should not be visible between the top of the basement floor to the bottom of the building’s exterior wall. Concrete, concrete block, stone, even wood are acceptable materials – NOT soil!
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Basement demo!
  1. If interior sheathing (e.g. drywall) is removed from an exterior wall, there are few exceptions that warrant being able to see the neighboring building. We’re advocates for natural light and ventilation, but not via this method in particular…
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Look – you can see the sky through the wall!
  1. It’s not uncommon for older buildings to show signs of “settlement” issues (e.g. cracks in walls, doors that don’t close/open properly, etc.). Key to addressing such structural “character” is to determine whether or not the building is actively experiencing this issue as greater problems may be forthcoming (a topic we’ll address in separate blog posts!). As it relates to rectifying uneven subfloors (the stuff under carpet, wood, tile, etc.), Crate and Barrel cardboard boxes are not an acceptable material for addressing such an issue, hopefully for obvious reasons. No matter how rigid it may be, paper is not a structurally sound material! And fastening it with nails does not justify such an undertaking!
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Inventive but incorrect use of Crate & Barrel boxes!

While the above is intended to be a comical jab at poor construction and quasi-educational, we recommend consulting with a qualified professional for any concerns you may have with your own building!