Sunday, January 31, 2010

Another Weekend Report

This weekend was more of the same. Sanding, sanding, sanding. Pictured below is the hallway upstairs, before sanding at left, and after at right. (We didn't do the railing yet, but with everything else done I'm thinking it really should be done now too.)

I should have taken a picture of the other end of the hall as well. If I had, you would see that we also got all three bedroom doors and their accompanying trim sanded as well.

That was Saturday, with Charles and I working together. Charles kept busy with the power tools on the smooth surfaces while I inched around the room with a variety of scrapers and sanding blocks working on the trim. The picture at right was actually taken a couple weeks ago, but it is an accurate portrayal of how I spent all of Saturday. 12 hours straight of that kind of work is hard on the arms.

When we got back to the farm Saturday night, my mom reported that our oldest kidlet was requesting a Mom Day, so Charles went to the Einsel House by himself today, while the kids and I spent some quality time together. Of course, some of that quality time was spent picking up our special ordered 600 square feet of kitchen and bath flooring. As we pulled out of the parking lot with the back end of the van weighed down rather heavily, the youngest kidlet was singing, "You save big money, you save big money, when you shop Menards!"

Back at the Einsel House, Charles finished sanding in our future bedroom. (I'll have to tackle the edging job in our room on another day.) The living room is the next (and final) room on the sanding list.

In other news, new floor registers are popping up in various rooms. Even better, there is heat coming from these registers! That's right, for the first time this winter we actually have central heating at the Einsel House. Before this, it was usually about 80 degrees in the basement, around 60 degrees on the first floor, and pretty darn cold upstairs. Now, we can set the thermostat and get the same temperature throughout the house. This is all because the HVAC crew went ahead and hooked the temporary furnace to all the new ductwork they've installed. The new furnace and heat pump are sitting in boxes in the kitchen waiting for us to get done sanding, and then they will be installed.

(I realize that the register is the focal point of that last picture, but did you notice the beautiful, nicely sanded baseboard in the background?)

Thursday, January 28, 2010

The House Next Door

Alternately titled "See, Charles, It Could Be Worse"

How amazing is this place!? As the first picture suggests, this cabin sits deep in the woods at least 1/2 a mile back from the road. I had driven by for years without even knowing it was there. There is no evidence that the house ever had electricity or indoor plumbing. I've been told by someone who grew up nearby that this place was already empty and falling down back in the 1950's.

Between the house and the road are the remains of a barn foundation. Supposedly the barn itself was burned down by a hired hand in retaliation against the homeowner. When this occurred I'm not sure, but the passage of time is clearly indicated by trees nearly a foot in diameter growing inside the barn foundation. According to the elderly neighbor who farms the land north of us, the barn was stacked full of original growth walnut lumber when it burned.

Normally, seeing an abandoned house saddens (and often angers) me. But this place is somehow different. The crime of abandonment occurred so long ago that whatever penance I would typically feel is due has surely already been paid. All old houses have a sense of story, but with this cabin, that story feels almost tangible. It sits right on the surface, with no 1970's paneling or 1930's linoleum to strip away. The appeal is undeniable, and yet, to give in to that appeal feels vaguely like committing a crime. The isolation that pervades this place is so overwhelming that any honest visit feels like an intrusion.

But I don't think that will be enough to keep me away.

Monday, January 25, 2010

The Weekend Report

First, an update on the bathroom floor. First thing Saturday morning I planned to take another picture of the hole, this time with the basement light on, but our general contractor had installed the new subfloor the day before, so it's another photo opportunity missed.

Also on Friday, the contractors finished the ceiling over the north end of the kitchen. The last step here will be rebuilding beams to match the south end of the kitchen.

Speaking of the south end of the kitchen, here it is:

It's the heart of the home - even mid-renovation. : )

As for what we accomplished this weekend, Saturday we continued sanding woodwork in the laundry room. It was a race to the finish, but when we left that night we considered the room done. Unfortunately, inspecting our work yesterday I found a few areas that still have those annoying circular arches left by the random orbital hand sander, so at some point I'll have to sand those areas out by hand. Here's a picture of those two baseboards that had to be stripped of paint before they could be sanded (pardon all the dust in the air):

And a close-up of one section of baseboard:

Sunday we put down the sanders and moved upstairs, priming the hallway and south bedroom. Here's the hallway:

And the bedroom:

This bedroom has seen quite a bit of work. When we bought the house there was moisture condensing on the interior side of the stone walls. (A not uncommon problem with stone houses.) This had caused the plaster to fail on portions of the south and west walls, and there were active areas of mold and mildew growth. We scraped the walls back to solid plaster and primed over the walls before our contractor joined the action. He began by patching the largest holes and then skimcoated the entire room. We primed over the skimcoat this weekend.

As the picture above shows, until the permanent furnace is installed we are are keeping the moisture in check with a combination of various fans, space heaters and dehumidifiers. We're hoping our new central heating system will be sufficient to keep the new walls dry. We've increased the amount of heat to all of the upstairs bedrooms, and we have added cold air returns to each room to help circulate the air. Still, we'll be keeping a close eye on all the stone walls upstairs, hoping to avoid a recurrence of the condensation issues.
One final note for this post - I apologize for my habit of repeatedly waiting until after dark to take pictures. I'm not too fond of pictures taken by the light of a flash, but I guess they're better than nothing.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

It's 4PM. Do You Know Where Your Mother Is?

One day earlier this week as I walked the alley from the office back to my car, I called up my mom on her cell phone to see if she had by chance fed the animals at the Einsel House. She told me that she was at the house and that she could feed the animals, but could I stop by anyway because she “needed my opinion on something”.

Twenty minutes later I pulled the van in the drive, walked through the kitchen, and as I entered the dining room it occurred to me that perhaps we shouldn’t allow my mom quite so much unsupervised time at the Einsel House. She was sitting cross-legged on the bathroom floor in front of me, the circular saw on the floor by her right knee, the sawzall on the floor by her left knee. In front of her:

A few posts ago here I jauntily mentioned reaching the “putting back together phase”. I obviously spoke too soon.

Although Charles and I had no plans to rip out the bathroom floor, mom was not unjustified in attacking it with multiple power tools. Remember that directly under the bathroom is the beam we just spent several months slowly jacking back to (almost) level. You can see it clearly in the picture above. (That beam measures 10x10 by the way.) When the Einsel House’s previous owner remodeled the bathroom he worked with the sagging beam, placing shims under the bathroom’s subfloor so that it was level. Then we send contractors in who raise the beam several inches. And suddenly the bathroom floor is no longer level. Mom had the floor ripped up before we could get an exact measurement, but she’s guessing that the floor dropped about an inch over 2-3 linear feet.

So up came the carpet, and down came the circular saw. Two layers of subfloor came out, but only one (3/4”) will go back in. And although the floor still won’t be perfectly level, it will at least be much closer. (Perfection would require removing the tub, toilet and sink cabinets, which even my mom admits would be more work than would be justified by the reward.)

It’s another entry on the list of things Kimberly-could-have-lived-with-it-as-it-was-but-she-knows-in-the-end-she’ll-appreciate-having-it-fixed. Or, as my mom said, “I know it was perfectly safe before, but you’ll thank me someday anyway.” And she’s right.

As my dad is wont to remind me, I’m a lot like my mother. So perhaps it isn’t surprising that I have a hard time getting upset with her, even when she does things like chopping a hole in the bathroom floor without asking permission first. Truthfully, it’s possible that I would have beat her to that crooked floor if I had her collection of knowledge and tools. And chutzpah. The Einsel House may be expanding my own knowledge and tool collection, but I’ve got a long way to go before I’ll ever come close to my mom in chutzpah.

Thursday, January 21, 2010


I found the following pictures in my inbox earlier this week - sent by my Aunt D, who had camera duty on the day insulation went up in the back bedroom.

Here's Uncle D behind the south knee-wall:

And my lovely sister-in-law behind the north knee-wall:

Thanks to their work, the back bedroom is now the warmest room upstairs!

Monday, January 18, 2010

A Bunch of Boring, Repetitive Pictures

Boring and repetitive, perhaps, but don't you agree they are lovely? The drywall seems to me to be visible evidence that we've reached the "putting back together phase" - we're "over the hump" at least as far as interior construction. It gives me hope that someday (I'm itching to add the word "soon" here - but I realize that's probably still premature) we'll reach that glorious day when we can begin PAINTING!!! And shortly after painting will be that even more glorious day when we can actually MOVE IN!!!!!

Okay, I'm calming back down. Patience. Patience.

Much of the new drywall is covering equally new ductwork. With solid stone walls, we didn't have many options for placing ductwork other than boxing it out of the corners of rooms. We did this as unobtrusively as possible. I actually like the dining room (the last drywall picture). That little angle at the top of the drywall makes me smile. When the HVAC contractor asked if it was okay to angle the ductwork there I gave an emphatic "Yes!". My only request was that they not cover any of the woodwork surrounding either door. With the baseboard back up and the wall finished I think this corner will look like it fits right in with the rest of the house.

Speaking of the rest of the house, it's still dusty. We didn't get to any of the bedrooms, but the laundry room was a focus of attention all weekend. Saturday was lovely. Charles' dad spent the day with our son, and for lunch they brought everyone at the Einsel House hot dogs, corn on the cob and a pot of baked beans. We left the Einsel House at 7pm and when we got back to the farm we were greeted by my brother and sister-in-law, who had a turkey dinner ready, complete with mashed potatoes and green beans. We were spoiled that day!

In the laundry room Charles ripped out the carpet. The wood floor is lovely, but unfortunately there are two old register holes that have been covered with plywood. Charles has brought up the "C" word, but I'm still plotting ways to keep the original wood uncovered. I spent the entire weekend sanding more woodwork (with help both days from my dad). Somewhere earlier on this blog I stated that none of the woodwork in the Einsel House had ever been painted. I was wrong. After getting up close and personal with the trim in the laundry room, it is obvious that the entire room had been painted at one time. The good news is that someone before us decided to strip the wood back to it's original walnut. And they did a good job. The bad news is that whoever we owe this thanks to got tired before they finished the room, and with two baseboards left they broke out the brown paint.

Below are pictures of one of those baseboards, first with the brown paint, and second without the brown paint (and without most of the white paint that was under it). This baseboard sanded down quite nicely, but I forgot to get a final picture.

I'm glad that stripping paint will not be a recurring theme at the EH. I spent large portions of Saturday and Sunday sitting crosslegged on the floor. By Sunday night I had bruises running down both legs from repeatedly bracing my elbows against my legs for additional leverage as I pulled the scraper against the wood. But seeing the tight grain in the original walnut undercovered again makes it all worthwhile. : )

Friday, January 15, 2010

Change in Plans

Earlier this week I spent nearly $50.00 on sand paper. And another $20.00 on respirators. This weekend we’ll put that $70.00 to work.

Yes, delayed gratification is becoming a theme at the Einsel House. We’ve got tung oil and two colors of paint that were originally integral parts of the plan for this coming weekend, but it now looks like they will all remain sealed for the indefinite future. Charles and I stopped by the house briefly yesterday and were quite pleased with the progress being made by the contractors. Our general contractor has been quite busy hanging drywall. And the HVAC crew finally has all the new ductwork installed.

On the HVAC front, the only work left will be replacing the temporary furnace with the permanent furnace, and then attaching all this new ductwork to the new furnace. However, it would be healthier for our new furnace if we can finish all the dusty work while the temp is still on the job. So, rather than painting and finishing woodwork we’ve decided to spend this weekend doing more sanding. I predict the bedrooms and laundry room will see most of the action.

Stay tuned for pictures….

Monday, January 11, 2010


I wanted so badly to get a first coat of tung oil on the dining room woodwork last weekend. So badly. It didn't happen. But after two more days of solid sanding, we're at least close. 95% of the room has been aquainted with fine grit sandpaper, there are just a few stubborn spots on one door left to keep working on. At about 6pm on Sunday I gave up the final vestige of hope that the first gallon of oil could still be opened that night, and once again I contented myself by putting mineral spirits on a rag and rubbing it into the smooth, raw walnut in various places. And I told myself to just be patient.

(Patience: A minor form of despair disguised as a virtue. ~Ambrose Bierce)

The picture above was taken in the dining room. That's the bathroom door dominating the picture. There are four doors that we have sanded down, but the bathroom is the only one we took off of its hinges. That is because the bathroom door was the only one that no longer closed. Our contractors have been correcting some settlement issues in the basement, and as a result the wall the bathroom door was in has moved quite a bit the past couple of months. The picture below was taken Sunday when I placed a level on top of the bathroom door frame.

This door frame was level when we bought the house. After taking that picture I carefully dismantled the entire frame. We'll let our general contractor handle straightening the door jamb, and then we'll carefully put the frame (and door) back up.

But, to show that the havoc to the bathroom wall is worthwhile I also have the following series of pictures from the bedroom directly above the bathroom:

At left is a stud from this knee wall in its condition when we bought the house. In the center is the same stud after about a month of slowing correcting the sagging beam in the basement. And at right is a current picture from the same knee wall. (The stud from the first two pictures is now behind insulation, but these double studs are only a few feet left of the one in the original pictures.) The contractors tell us that they are not planning to raise this wall any more. Although there is about another inch the studs could be raised, doing so would result in a very crooked bathroom floor downstairs. The bathroom floor is already a little bit wavy, but I'm not too concerned. After all, it's an old house, a few crooked floors seem appropriate. As long as the contractors are not concerned that anyone will fall through the floor, I'm content.

To close today I have a couple more pictures pictures featuring Mother Nature. Here's a view of the stone bridge over the creek, taken from Charles and I's future bedroom:

And finally, a view from the kitchen. This is looking across the field to the cemetery where John & Elizabeth Einsel are buried.

The winter weather may complicate getting work done at the house, but it sure is providing some beautiful scenery.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Why Einsel?

Our wait for the Einsel House was a long one. We became aware of the property in January of 2009 but it was August before the sheriff sale where we placed the winning bid on the property, and it was October before we were able to close and take possession.

During the long spring and summer of 2009 I began to research the history of the house. I learned that the land we now own by purchased by John and Elizabeth (Welty) Einsel in 1833. John was born in Maryland in 1799 to Henry and Barbara (Seitz) Einsel. At some point, he moved to Fairfield County, Ohio where he married Elizabeth Welty in the mid 1820’s. John and Elizabeth had three children while living in Fairfield County -–Sarah in 1826, Noah in 1829, and Lydia in 1830. In 1833 they bought the property where our house currently stands, and their fourth child, Henry, was born on this property in October, 1834. An 1880’s biographical sketch of Henry Einsel states in part, “His parents, John and Elizabeth Einsel, natives of Pennsylvania and Maryland respectively, came to this county from Fairfield County, Ohio in 1833, and at once entered upon the pioneer work of developing a farm.” After Henry, John and Elizabeth had two additional children born on this property, Mahala in 1836 and Levi in 1841.

We doubt any of these children were born in our house. The Einsels almost certainly spent their first years on this property in a log cabin, typical for pioneer settlers of this county. Because of the sheer amount of labor involved, the current stone house probably took several years to build. Based on the house’s construction, layout, and the style of the woodwork in the house, we are guessing that the current house dates from the 1840s, possibly the very late 1830s.

Census records indicate that John Einsel was a farmer, but we also know that the Einsels operated a stone quarry. It was located along the creek, just east of the road. The picture at right is taken from an 1874 county atlas. The Einsel House is represented by the square near the center, and the quarry is represented by the circle with the jagged line partway around it, just where the creek meets the road.

Geological Survey of Ohio, Volume 1, which was published in 1873, contains the only written reference I have been able to find for the quarry on our land. Among a list of quarries in our county it says, “Noah Einsel has a handsome quarry, in beds which dip E., N.E.”. We are not sure how long the quarry remained active, but I am guessing that it lived out its entire working life in the nineteenth century. The quarry itself remained, but was filled in about 10 years ago by the Einsel House’s last owners. We would love to open it back up, someday, but that may be a feat that would rank right up there with the original construction of the house.

By 1850 the Einsels’ oldest daughter Sarah had married, but John, Elizabeth and the remaining 5 children are all listed in that year’s census. The census taker noted that Elizabeth was unable to read or write. By the time the 1860 census was taken, only two of the children (Lydia and Levi) were still living at home.

These two censuses also provide a tantalizing clue as to the construction of the house. In 1850, the real estate owned by John Einsel was valued at $5,500. By 1860 that amount had risen to $12,320. I need to get back to the county recorder’s office to determine if John purchased additional land in the 1850s. If he did not, then the difference in value surely suggests improvements to buildings on his land. One theory is that the two story section of the stone house dates from the 1840’s, but that the back section of the stone house (dining room, bathroom and back bedroom above) were not completed until some time in the 1850’s. Another theory is that the entire stone part of the house dates to the 1840’s, but the frame section (kitchen) was added in the 1850’s. A final possibility is that the stone house is actually younger than we believe, and actually was built during the 1850’s. I work the same hours that county offices are open, which makes research difficult, but if I’m able to uncover any other clues I’ll be sure to update here.

John and Elizabeth remained in the stone house until their deaths, Elizabeth passing away in 1865 and John in 1872. Of their children, Sarah, Noah, Henry and Mahala all married and raised families of their own. Lydia never married and lived in the stone house all her life. Youngest son Levi died tragically in 1870 during a vacation. His obituary reads,

“DEATH OF AN EXCURSIONIST – Mr. Levi Einsel, of Bloom Township, who accompanied the Southern Excursion party, which left here on the 18th ult., died very suddenly and unexpectedly at Huntsville, Alabama, on Friday, of congestion of the lungs. When he left here he was in his usual health, which, however, was not very good, although nothing of a serious nature was anticipated. His many friends were deeply pained to learn of his sudden demise…”

If you look back up at the atlas picture above you will notice that just north of the Einsel house is a church. John and Elizabeth are buried in the cemetery beside this church. Immediately beside them are the stones for their children Lydia and Levi, and further down the row are gravestones for various of John and Elizabeth’s grandchildren.

Below is a picture of the headstones for John, Elizabeth and Lydia Einsel. And as my oh-so-subtle addition to the photo shows, you can just barely see the Einsel House itself in the upper right corner of the photo. This picture was taken from a website on local cemeteries and is several years old. Sadly, John Einsel’s headstone has since fallen off of its base, and is now laying on the ground behind Elizabeth’s headstone.

When John Einsel died in 1872, the property including the stone house was left to his unmarried daughter Lydia Einsel. When Lydia passed away in 1880 the property went to her brother, Noah Einsel. By this time, however, Noah had moved to the county seat, where he was partner in a mill. In 1882, nearly 50 years after his parents first settled here, Noah Einsel sold the family homestead to Henry Smith.

As the nineteenth century came to a close the property would change hands several times. But the next chapter of the Einsel House’s history, although brief, is perhaps the most exciting chapter for the house’s current owners. (More on that to come later...)

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Winter Scenes

Coming up the drive:

The view from Charles and I's future bedroom:

Monday, January 4, 2010

Thank You, Skinny Guy, Thank You

A few more pictures that I took at the house yesterday. Here's some work by my uncle, getting ready to place two new outlets before the wall and ductwork in the living room reach the drywalling stage:

And below is evidence that the HVAC contractors have been at work:
Actually, the picture above also shows off the work of our masonry contractor, who built the stone pillar between the two large ducts. When we bought the Einsel House there was one large hole here. The stone threshold in the doorway above that large hole was literally falling into the basement, and we're still not sure how the large timber in the middle of the picture was held up before the masons built the new pillar to support it.

But for the final picture today I have to return to the HVAC crew. I'm afraid that sometime this week one of their employees has to venture into the space under our kitchen. This didn't get done before New Year's because they had to wait for the "skinny guy". The picture below simply does not do justice for how completely nasty the poor Skinny Guy's job was/is.

Even a skinny guy will have his back scratched by the floor joists above him as he army-crawls through this nastiness. And as you can kind of tell, the ground is a rocky mess, which has to be hard on the stomache in such cramped quarters. And of course you have to figure there's also the usual crawlspace accoutrements of spiderwebs, spiders, and mice carcasses in various states of decay. I feel for you, Skinny Guy, I do.

In fact, I feel so badly for you that after leaving the house Sunday I mixed up a batch of brownies intending to leave them at the Einsel House for you. But unfortunately my tried and true best ever brownie recipe (one whole cup of cocoa goodness and more sugar than flour, yum!) is with all my cookbooks locked in a storage unit for which we are paying $48.15 a month in rent. And the runner-up recipe I pulled from the internet Sunday night produced pathetic dry lumps that didn't even deserve the title of "brownies". So, Skinny Guy, I'm sorry. Some frosty winter day in the future, when I'm baking gooey, rich brownies in my snug and warm Einsel House kitchen, I'll think of you and be grateful for the hideousness you were willing to endure this week. But tonight I'm stuck refilling my kids' milk glasses as they work on the crumbly brown mess sulking on the kitchen counter.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

"What Are We Seeing...."

Kate at The Sow's Ear asked after the last post, "What are we seeing pegged to what in that HVAC hole photo?" Well, Kate, here's more answer than you probably expected. I'm not 100% sure, but I do have a pretty good idea. The board to the right in that photo is right up against the stone front wall of the house, so whatever goes through it must go into (or through?) the stone wall as well. This had me stumped for a while, until I thought back to taking off the old porch. The picture below was taken immediately after the porch came down. Notice my little circle at left.

The long board sticking out above the door held up the roof peak of the porch we tore off. However, the Einsel House's most recent porch was clearly not the original porch. If you look carefully you can see there were originally six other boards coming out of the stone wall, but at some point they were cut off flush with the stone. I suspect that the giant mortise and tenon photo from yesterday's post is the other end of the board I circled above. It's the right location, the right height, and it makes sense that those boards would have been securely anchored on the interior side of the stone wall.

(And if you're new to the Einsel House and the lintel in the above picture has you hyperventilating, don't wory, it's been fixed, although getting there was rather nerve-wracking.)

Friday, January 1, 2010


Such a perfectly lovely New Year's Day! After a long and trying December, it was like therapy to spend the entire day at the Einsel House getting nice and dusty and dirty. We spent the entire day sanding woodwork in the dining room, as Celia demonstrates below:

(Mom and I had oscillating hand sanders, but we haven't upgraded Celia to the power tools yet.) I spent most of the afternoon on the basement door, which is so perfectly delicious:
Every door on the first floor of the Einsel House looks like this basement door. The board in the middle of each door is 15 1/2" tall. They are all mortise and tenon construction. The only nails in these doors are holding on the hardware. But the doors are not the only mortise and tenon construction in the Einsel House. Take a look at this:

This picture was taken by sticking the camera into a hole the HVAC contractor cut to run ductwork to the second floor. It shows the area between the ceiling of the first floor and the floor of the bedroom above. Although I was not at the house when this was discovered, my mom tells me that the contractor was quite amazed when he discovered this.

And a couple more pictures to catch up on the family work day at the house last week. Here's the back bedroom with insulation:

And below is a left over piece of Einsel House history. My sister-in-law discovered this shoe behind the north knee-wall while insulating. I have no idea how old it is, but it looks like about a size 7.