house made of mud

rescuing a sonoran row house

Month: April 2015

ceilings

i wanted to share one thing about the house that’s nearing completion: the ceilings. when we bought the place, some of the rooms had fairly decent ceilings, others none at all–just ceiling joists–while others had either old packing crates or barrel staves between the joists. we wanted very much to keep as many of them as possible, though it turned out that that just wasn’t feasible in the packing crate and barrel stave rooms–they were just too old and brittle (trust me, i sorted through a bunch of them myself by hand). so in those rooms we pulled the old ceilings down (after, you may recall, removing the three or so feet of dirt that was on top of them) and did what the resourceful always do: used what we had.

the result is marvelous pastiche of different colors and textures–every room is a little different. pics follow below, of course.

the ceiling in part of what will be my study. we used some old 1X4s that had been pulled out of the building.

the ceiling in part of what will be my study. we used some old 1X4s that had been pulled out of the building. i love how the slightly wider widths make it feel not-fussy.

one of the original ceilings that is staying. we'll patch the broken areas.

one of the original ceilings that is staying. we’ll patch the broken areas.

master bedroom ceiling. this room is a little more complicated than the others because it used to be two, so i'm going to have to figure out how to deal with the different colored joists. for here, we used old floor boards.

master bedroom ceiling. this room is a little more complicated than the others because it used to be two, so i’m going to have to figure out how to deal with the different colored joists. for here, we used old floor boards. (note the “missing” joist we now have in the middle where the wall used to be. if anyone out there has an old 2×10 circa 1890, let me know. we’re currently on the lookout.)

this might be a solution for the master bed: staining the joists darker (though these ones here are dark because they got singed in the fire).

this might be a solution for the master bed: staining the joists darker (though these ones here are dark because they got singed in the fire. design by serendipity?).

ceiling in the study, also old floor boards. i love that some of them have old paint on them.

ceiling in the library, also old floor boards. i love that some of them have old paint on them.

ceiling in the living/dining room area; it's original and staying that way. we're still working on how we'll transition between the two ceiling heights.

ceiling in the living/dining room area; it’s original and staying that way. we’re still working on how we’ll transition between the two ceiling heights (yes, that white space in the middle is currently the sky).

original ceiling in the kitchen. i've always loved this one.

original ceiling in the kitchen. i’ve always loved this one.

new ceiling of 1x4s for what will be chris's study.

new ceiling of 1x4s along with some wider boards mixed in for a non-fussy feel (don’t want to be too matchy-poo poo, as oprah once put it) in what will be chris’s study. apparently the pigeon sitting on the beam below it approves. goodness knows we have not yet managed to convince them that they really ought to find new houses.

original ceiling in the kitchen. it's staying along with that too-cool water-damage patina.

original ceiling in the guest house kitchen. it’s staying along with that too-cool water-damage patina.

this is one of my favs of the new ceilings. when we ran out of floor boards, randy proposed ripping some of the old floor joists in half. this is the guest house living room.

this is one of my favs of the new ceilings. when we ran out of floor boards, randy proposed ripping some of the old floor joists in half. this is the guest house living room.

and, my absolute favorite: the guest house bath. a huge thanks to greg clark, the former caretaker, for this one. he salvaged some colored peg board and stored it at the house thinking it might come in useful someday. fingers crossed it jives with the multi-colored cement tiles i have picked out for in there!

and, my absolute favorite: the guest house bath. a huge thanks to greg clark, the former caretaker, for this one. he salvaged some colored peg board and stored it at the house thinking it might come in useful someday. fingers crossed it jives with the multi-colored cement tiles i have picked out for in there!

and one we're still waiting on--the last one, really: the zaguan. we were going to do saguaro ribs in here--a traditional ceiling material in the barrio, but not only are they tough to find, they're also frequently not harvested sustainably. so we're doing cedar latillas instead--essentially long, small logs. it will looks similar to a saguaro rid ceiling, if it won't have exactly that same look (if anyone knows a good rib source, let us know!)

and one we’re still waiting on–the last one, really: the zaguan. we were going to do saguaro ribs in here–a traditional ceiling material in the barrio–but not only are they tough to find, they’re also frequently not harvested sustainably. so we’re doing cedar latillas instead–essentially long, small logs. it will looks similar to a saguaro rib ceiling, if it won’t have exactly that same look (if anyone knows a good rib source, give me a shout. i could still be convinced to change my mind.)

finally--to change gears: . a floor. or, at least, the beginnings of one. this is my study at the south end of the house, and today was the first time i could walk between the two rooms without having to take gigantic steps up and down. they've begun putting in aggregate and grading in preparation for the new floors. whoo-hoo!

finally–to change gears: a floor. or, at least, the beginnings of one. this is my study at the south end of the house, and today was the first time i could walk between the two rooms without having to take gigantic steps up and down. they’ve begun putting in aggregate and grading in preparation for the new floors. whoo-hoo!

 

day 70

well, time certainly flies when you’re restoring an historic adobe structure (not sure how it got to be day 70 already). here’s some of what’s been happening over at our house o’ mud lately. enjoy!

Photo Mar 11, 12 57 20 PM

they’ve been continuing to work away at the roof. this is a shot of the south end before it was sheeted.

Photo Mar 17, 11 34 02 AM

along with the roof framing and sheeting, they’ve been working on re-building the top of the parapet (i.e. the top of the wall), with several courses of adobes that get placed over the bond beams. here are some of the masons working on the north end of the house. note the two guys below, supplying them. there were also two other guys on the ground, supplying the guys at mid-level!

Photo Mar 17, 11 33 19 AM

work has also been happening on other spots of the exterior, such as on this corner, where the adobes had worn away. eventually the bottom you can see here will be high enough to reach the top (which is sitting on the concrete bond beam).

Photo Mar 05, 1 13 39 PM

a bunch of recycled bricks (fired, not adobes) sitting in the yard that we’ll use in the zaguan. we had a bunch from the brick interior wall that collapsed, but not enough. randy managed to source a few more for us (where he finds this stuff i don’t know, and i don’t ask!). they’re a lovely pinky-red.

Photo Mar 17, 8 24 54 AM

one of the things i love about renovation: sometimes you get to the site and something really cool has happened. in this case, i showed up one day to find that the guys had taken down the wall between the two small rooms that we’re combining to make our master bedroom. it’s huge! i’m honestly not sure what we’ll do with all of that space, but i’m sure we’ll adjust (reading nook, anyone?).

Photo Mar 17, 8 25 15 AM

another shot of the master bedroom from the other direction. our bed will go approximately where the red-trimmed ladder is leaning against the wall.

Photo Mar 17, 11 40 00 AM

i, meanwhile, have been working away at the inside walls as i can. most of them look like this: flaking paint that has to come off (yeah, it’s killing me, too). so i’ve been scraping away.

Photo Mar 06, 11 48 00 AM

in a couple of spots i’ve had to do more than scrape, however, like in this room, which will be the master bath. unfortunately all of that lovely black color that you see was attached to a bunch of mud plaster which had pulled away from the wall behind. i had to take nearly the entire thing down–there was no help for it. (note: the soot in the corner shows where there was a fireplace.)

Photo Mar 06, 12 26 52 PM

this is how much black was left afterwards. but at least there are some really nice adobes underneath there!

Photo Mar 14, 10 54 53 AM

outside, still more discoveries: as the guys have dug around the structure some, we’ve discovered there is, indeed, a stone foundation to the house (we thought it was all just sitting directly on the ground). this is good news, because having a foundation is a much better thing than not having one. we’re going to try to grade so that the stones are once again visible, and can do their original job of protecting the adobes above from moisture.

Photo Mar 17, 11 39 31 AM

other discoveries: this is a canale (a water drainage pipe) that i found sticking out of one of the inside walls of one of the rooms. a remnant, obviously, of what was the exterior before someone stuck another couple of rooms on the end of that building.


Photo Mar 17, 12 34 37 PM

in that same room (it will be chris’s study), i was working on a ladder and looked up to see there was an old pulley over my head. no idea what on earth someone might have used it for, though i guess if we need to hoist something in there, we’re all set.

Photo Mar 19, 11 25 10 AM

a jerry-rigged brace (in what will be my study) that someone used to try to keep the outer wall from leaning out from the structure. it’s a couple of metal spikes stuck through a larger, toilet-roll-like sleeve. clever, huh?

Photo Mar 20, 12 04 29 PM

the fireplace in what will be my study. that’s a dimplex electric fireplace insert sitting in it. we opted for electric rather than gas to avoid running more utility lines under the structure. i hope it’s going to look okay when we’re done. it fits pretty well! 

Photo Mar 23, 1 20 57 PM

and then, one day, i arrived to find this: a finished corner on the front elevation. yay!

Photo Mar 31, 3 41 08 PM

more building on the parapet at the back of the house.

Photo Mar 31, 3 41 12 PM

and more.

Photo Mar 31, 3 41 22 PM

and still more.

Photo Mar 31, 3 44 05 PM

behind those top walls, meanwhile, the front part of the roof is almost entirely framed and sheeted. which is worth a super big yay. you’re looking at a couple of months worth of work right there! now we just need to get the back arm of the house, which covers the main living area and the kitchen, squared away. 

Photo Mar 31, 3 57 51 PM

last picture: as of just a few days ago, the top of the entire front facade had been rebuilt. it’s tall again! and square again! next up: finishing the exterior repairs, and prepping for lime stucco.

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