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MY VERY OLD HOUSE Part 1: My 2022 DIY Summer Project: Replacing My Backyard Storage Shed

Roughly thirty years ago we bought our house--our Very Old House. Originally built in the 1850s, very little of the original detailing in the roughly 172-year-old structure has survived. The two details that did are the coal fireplaces in six of the rooms (three floors, and they all were sealed off a long time ago). The reason we know they're designed for coal burning is because they are shallow and designed to have a coal-burning stove in them. The other detail, and it only exists in the bottom floor, is the tin ceiling.

Over the years I've renovated four rooms (three extensively), including the kitchen, as well as the back entrance/laundry room, re-did the roof (for that I had professional help), and lesser DIY projects. This, mind you, this from someone who has no formal carpentry training. (Work involves me doing a lot of standing in one place, staring at the spot I planned to work on and then working out in my mind what had to be done, how to do it, and then playing various scenarios out until I was satisfied with the solution.)

I would do these projects during the summer when Joëlle, my teacher wife, would leave for France to spend the summer with her parents. Initially she'd do this with our kids, then after they grew up, on her own. While she was gone, I'd tear apart whatever room I had targeted, do all the messy work, and have everything done by the time she returned.

This year I'm tackling the old wooden shed in our backyard.

The shed was old when we bought the house and the subsequent thirty years finally did it in. As you can see at the bottom of the sliding door, the wood is rotting away. For years things were okay, but then somewhere between five and ten years ago squirrels managed to get in and wreak havoc, causing me to do some patching. Then three years ago rats got into the shed and, despite additional patching, they continued to infest the place. I figure they were disturbed by construction in the neighborhood and found the shed to be a convenient hiding spot.

Initially Joëlle and I looked at pre-fab sheds, but were put off by the high prices. The ones we liked best were in the $2,000 range and that was definitely out of our price range. So, I decided I'd build it myself. I looked online at some plans, and after some study figured that it was within my skill-set. There'd be a little bit of a challenge, particularly with laying the concrete floor, but I had had to do a concrete patch on the front sidewalk thanks to some very bad asphalt patchwork by a city crew when they had to replace the natural gas line leading to the house. And, my brother is a landscape architect who has had to design all manner of things, so I leaned on him for additional advice.

But, before we get to building the new shed. I have to tear down the old shed. So, the day after Joëlle left for France, I went to work. First order of business: take everything out.

The white plastic rectangles you see at the top of the wall are pieces of plastic ceiling tile left over from when I replaced the old (grungy) acoustic ceiling tile in the living room. Basically, what I did was simply covered over the acoustic tile with the plastic tile. I anchored the acoustic tile with a screw and washer combination at the tile edges before covering them with the ceiling tile (lots of glue). Then I took caulk on the edges to clean it up.

I almost never throw out leftover stuff from projects because I never know if/when I might have a use for the scrap. And, in this case, the scrap worked out perfectly in sealing the gaps between the wall and roof of the shed. The bottom was another matter and you can see the dirt along the edge (I swept up most of the rat shit).

With everything out, now it was time to go to work. I decided to start with the roof.

As you can see, the asphalt tiles are old and in need of replacement. As I started peeling away the tiles, I discovered that the roof contained huge ant colonies. The gap between the wooden roof and the tiles wasn't big, but as narrow as it was, it was wide enough for these very tiny ants to set up their colonies. As soon as I began peeling away the asphalt tiles, I saw ants scurrying all over the place, grabbing eggs and taking them away.

I started work around 7:30 a.m. as the temperature was supposed to get into the 80s. Even though I worked up a sweat, the good thing was that I was working in the shade thanks to a large magnolia and another tree whose name I forget.

After a little more than two hours, I had stripped away the shingles and tar paper under coat.

This is the exterior view.

And this the view looking up from the inside. The large rectangular opening used to be a section of plywood that had rotted away. The gap you're seeing in the upper left was caused by me taking a crowbar between the joists and plywood and prying the plywood roof loose.

By now I was getting tired. I'm out of shape, and since it was starting to get warm, decided to call it a day after bagging all the loose shingles and tar paper. It was about 11:30 a.m. when

I finished. I went inside to take a shower and wash my work clothes. Tomorrow it's supposed to rain, so I'll have a day off.

Then I'll take off the roof, section it, and bag it.

That's it today from MY VERY OLD HOUSE.

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