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Old 08-21-2014, 11:29 AM
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House Fire Update-Demo Has Begun!

Finally now that we're 75+ days post fire, there is at least some progress. Structurally, things are solid. Except where some plumbing was hacked in for the upstairs bathroom. Apparently floor joists aren't load bearing. Even more frightening is the rotted out vent pipe for the bathroom pluming. Hidden behind the walls, we never would have seen it. Fortunately we haven't suffered any ill-effects from sewer gases.

It's just a start and we're still going back and forth with the insurance company over paying for a complete gutting of the second story. They initially allowed only for cleaning and painting of existing walls. After opening up the downstairs walls, we're able to see some smoke intrusion into the second floor walls. The adjuster is supposed to be coming back out. Fingers crossed, he'll allow more funding to gut the upstairs as well. They estimated 4-6 months to complete the restoration and they've just started. Throw a small addition (with full basement for future finishing and use) and we're probably closer to 6-9 months until everything is done. Maybe by Mother's Day 2015?...

Here are some pics if anyone is interested to see what early 1900's construction looked like. And to see some examples of 70's vintage hackery on a renovation.

"Modified" floor joists for upstairs bathroom. Support, shmupport.


Original ventpipe-pretty sure it's supposed to be more pipey than venty inside the wall. Not sure what the mish-mash of various sized and shaped pieces of wood to the right are?


Living room view towards dining room. Thinking we'll open up that wall on other side of stairs! Really like the openness.


The view from the other side towards the living room.


Last one is the chimney that was hidden in the wall that separated the kitchen from the dining room (which would be to the left). Think we'll leave it exposed and open up that wall. I think it'd look cool to have some of the "old" exposed since so much of the house will be covered with new material. It's largely decorative now anyway since the new furnace will be vented directly outside via PVC pipe. The den in the back hasn't been gutted yet. Might open that up, too.
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'06 Chevy Tahoe Z71 (for the wife & 4 kids, current mule) '03 Honda Odyssey (son #1's ride, reluctantly) '99 GMC Suburban (255K+ miles, semi-retired mule) 21' SeaRay Seville (summer escape pod)
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Old 08-21-2014, 11:48 AM
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Just a few tips about fire and smoke remediation . . . unless properly done, the smell will be there for years, if not decades. Shellac sealing of exposed timbers is recommended. It doesn't look like an issue for you, but all hollow core doors should be tossed, especially newer ones that have cardboard (yes, that's what's in there now) inside, since they are smoke sponges.
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Old 08-21-2014, 12:43 PM
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Best way to eliminate the possibility of smoke smell is to gut and seal the framework and sheathing. Actually watch out for this insurance adjuster as he sounds not too bright either but tight.

You want assurance there will be no fire damage residual smells in the house. Actually gutting and redoing the second floor is not that costly. Plus any insulation benefit with new vapour barriers etc will not hurt. By gutting you also get the attic insulation plumbing and wiring up to code. This house would have had no vapor barriers when constructed. Even worse perhaps no insulation in the upstairs walls. Your adjuster pretty obviously does not want to pay for the code upgrades but this goes with the job.

If there was any water up there the finer hairs on the existing insulation if any can be compromised. As for load bearing walls downstairs there should be normally at least one.

I am not in love with insurance companies adjusters as they are so unpredictable. Sometimes just fine and other times I do not want to get into it.

If you have a friend with a substantial amount of building experience you should have him have an overall look and talk to him. If you have little building experience back and forth discusions with the adjuster may not be too productive.

Also forming up a good relationship with your local building and electrical inspectors if they are competent could go a long ways. The electrical inspector for example is not going to allow the knob and tube wiring to remain upstairs or would not in my jurisdiction. I would even pay them especially the building inspector a little more to appear quite frequently on site during reconstruction. The contractor will be far more on his toes.

I do not cut corners myself but am all too aware of far too many that do in the construction trades. I am only a part time builder at best though. You do not want what is just basically a patch up job on the cheap to occur.

Now is the time to upgrade the windows and external doors even if some if not all of that cost comes out of your pocket. Make absolutely sure there is a building permit in place. Otherwise this adjuster may be ripping you off. If I totally gut a house for renovation everything has to brought up to code. A partial gutting may not require this. So much depends on local practice I imagine though.

Last edited by barry12345; 08-21-2014 at 01:17 PM.
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Old 08-21-2014, 01:35 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MTI View Post
Just a few tips about fire and smoke remediation . . . unless properly done, the smell will be there for years, if not decades. Shellac sealing of exposed timbers is recommended. It doesn't look like an issue for you, but all hollow core doors should be tossed, especially newer ones that have cardboard (yes, that's what's in there now) inside, since they are smoke sponges.
Thanks for the tips! That is their plan for the floor joists in the basement. They're going to soda blast everything and seal the beams, which are full dimension 3"x12". They may sister a couple of the ones that got scorched but they didn't char or start to burn, but they want to be safe. It's amazing how much less it smells with the (limited) insulation out of walls!

Fortunately all of the doors were all solid of the same vintage as the house. Unfortunately the door at the top of the cellar stairs was blown open and I think the FD removed it the rest of the way in exactly the fashion you would expect in an active fire situation behind that door. I'm hoping they'll let us salvage them and strip them for refinishing. If not, I'll scrounge the salvage yards (or hit up Hattie when he tears down some old gem ) for some old solid doors. I may just repurpose a couple if we end up opening up some doorways.
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Old 08-21-2014, 01:53 PM
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Check if Daryl Hall has any . . .

Daryl's Restoration Over-Hall : DIY Network
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Old 08-21-2014, 02:05 PM
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Check if Daryl Hall has any . . .

Daryl's Restoration Over-Hall : DIY Network
I've been watching this show. Daryl has everything stockpiled.
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Old 08-21-2014, 02:06 PM
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Swampy,

I would cut open a small door underneath the stairs and finish it out. Great place to use for storage: maybe a vacuum cleaner, kid's toys, etc. Why let space go wasted?
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Old 08-21-2014, 02:15 PM
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It could be already, given that the tallest portion is in the hallway behind the risers.
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Old 08-21-2014, 02:28 PM
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Yikes!
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Old 08-21-2014, 02:30 PM
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It'll be lovely when it is done - think of the end result
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Old 08-21-2014, 02:32 PM
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Swampy,

I would cut open a small door underneath the stairs and finish it out. Great place to use for storage: maybe a vacuum cleaner, kid's toys, etc. Why let space go wasted?
Litter box area for the cats, cut in a small swinging door. You'll thank me.
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Old 08-21-2014, 02:59 PM
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Thanks, barry! I'll answer by paragraph so I can keep track.

Quote:
Originally Posted by barry12345 View Post
Best way to eliminate the possibility of smoke smell is to gut and seal the framework and sheathing. Actually watch out for this insurance adjuster as he sounds not too bright either but tight.
I actually think the insurance adjuster is a combination of being very bright and tight. I think he's well versed in the game. I can't help but think his compensation (or retirement which is supposedly nearing) is somehow tied to that magic payout percentage. Our contractor has worked with him before. They say he's fair but it does take some work which = more time.

Quote:
Originally Posted by barry12345 View Post
You want assurance there will be no fire damage residual smells in the house. Actually gutting and redoing the second floor is not that costly. Plus any insulation benefit with new vapour barriers etc will not hurt. By gutting you also get the attic insulation plumbing and wiring up to code. This house would have had no vapor barriers when constructed. Even worse perhaps no insulation in the upstairs walls. Your adjuster pretty obviously does not want to pay for the code upgrades but this goes with the job.
It's going to be great to have insulation in the walls and roof! Our house is always first to have the snow melt off it. We don't have an attic, just small crawl space areas in the eaves, so I couldn't reasonably get to the rafters to insulate it. Whether insurance pays for it or not, we'll be tearing out most of the walls which will give us access to the rafters. The blown-in insulation had settled about 1/2 way down the first floor walls, I'd imagine the same for the second floor. Assuming there is any.

Our insurance company, which rhymes with CallsLate, doesn't pay for any code upgrades (they may now offer a policy that does but we don't have it). They will pay to replace all of the existing outlets, switches and wiring since they come out with the demolition. If additional outlets are required to meet code (and they are since most rooms only have one outlet, a couple have two), the cost for the wiring, outlets and electrician are on us. We're not replacing the plaster and lath, going with sheetrock instead, so that should free up some funds to cover that expense as well as the plumbing work that will need to be done.

Quote:
Originally Posted by barry12345 View Post
If there was any water up there the finer hairs on the existing insulation if any can be compromised. As for load bearing walls downstairs there should be normally at least one.
Water and fire damage was limited to the cellar so everything above the first floor is limited to the more nebulous "smoke damage." Most of the walls will be retained, just want to enlarge some of the openings.

Quote:
Originally Posted by barry12345 View Post
I am not in love with insurance companies adjusters as they are so unpredictable. Sometimes just fine and other times I do not want to get into it.
Our contractor, who specializes in fire restoration, doesn't love our insurance company. He says when we get the non-renewal notice from them to give him a call and he has some recommendations. I might do that when we're all done, notice or not.

Quote:
Originally Posted by barry12345 View Post
If you have a friend with a substantial amount of building experience you should have him have an overall look and talk to him. If you have little building experience back and forth discusions with the adjuster may not be too productive.
I do and the contractor is very astute at the game they play. The more money we get, the more money he gets so he has no problem bringing in his engineers when needed (not that we've needed it yet but the friends who worked with him before us said they did it often).

Quote:
Originally Posted by barry12345 View Post
Also forming up a good relationship with your local building and electrical inspectors if they are competent could go a long ways. The electrical inspector for example is not going to allow the knob and tube wiring to remain upstairs or would not in my jurisdiction. I would even pay them especially the building inspector a little more to appear quite frequently on site during reconstruction. The contractor will be far more on his toes.
Our local inspectors are notorious already plus I know them. The knob and tube will all come out since it will fall under code upgrade.

Quote:
Originally Posted by barry12345 View Post
I do not cut corners myself but am all too aware of far too many that do in the construction trades. I am only a part time builder at best though. You do not want what is just basically a patch up job on the cheap to occur.
That's for sure! Even though I trust our contractor, I've seen his prior work and have talked to previous clients, I do work right around the corner so I can pop in anytime to see the progress and will.

Quote:
Originally Posted by barry12345 View Post
Now is the time to upgrade the windows and external doors even if some if not all of that cost comes out of your pocket. Make absolutely sure there is a building permit in place. Otherwise this adjuster may be ripping you off. If I totally gut a house for renovation everything has to brought up to code. A partial gutting may not require this. So much depends on local practice I imagine though.
We will definitely be doing it on the back of the house. Because of the historic district we're very limited on window and door choices on street visible sides and, frankly, acceptable doors and windows won't be in our budget this time around. We'll take some measures to make them more airtight though. And the ugly, standard issue triple track aluminum storm windows will still be in place and they help a lot despite their aesthetic deficiencies.

What may be interesting will be the tug of war between the Historic District Commission and the building inspector over the windows in the two upstairs bedrooms, which are in the opposing gable ends. The existing windows (3 narrow ones right next to each other) don't meet the code for means of egress. The rooms have direct access to the stairs and access to the windows on the back of the house is semi-direct. Although you'd think safety would always trump aesthetics, neither the adjustor or the contractor know which way that will go due to the small size of the house. Safety (code upgrade) we pay, aesthetics (fixing the damage done while ventilating the house) they pay.

Permit is already in place.

Let the fun (and paying) begin!
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1980 300TD-China Blue/Blue MBTex-2nd Owner, 107K (Alt Blau) OBK #15
'06 Chevy Tahoe Z71 (for the wife & 4 kids, current mule) '03 Honda Odyssey (son #1's ride, reluctantly) '99 GMC Suburban (255K+ miles, semi-retired mule) 21' SeaRay Seville (summer escape pod)
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Old 08-21-2014, 03:01 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MTI View Post
Check if Daryl Hall has any . . .

Daryl's Restoration Over-Hall : DIY Network
Quote:
Originally Posted by suginami View Post
I've been watching this show. Daryl has everything stockpiled.
I saw and ad for it and almost choked on my coffee. I already watch a fair amount of mindless tv, might try an episode or two.
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1980 300TD-China Blue/Blue MBTex-2nd Owner, 107K (Alt Blau) OBK #15
'06 Chevy Tahoe Z71 (for the wife & 4 kids, current mule) '03 Honda Odyssey (son #1's ride, reluctantly) '99 GMC Suburban (255K+ miles, semi-retired mule) 21' SeaRay Seville (summer escape pod)
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Old 08-21-2014, 03:06 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by suginami View Post
Swampy,

I would cut open a small door underneath the stairs and finish it out. Great place to use for storage: maybe a vacuum cleaner, kid's toys, etc. Why let space go wasted?
Quote:
Originally Posted by MTI View Post
It could be already, given that the tallest portion is in the hallway behind the risers.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Simpler=Better View Post
Litter box area for the cats, cut in a small swinging door. You'll thank me.
I'd love to since closet space is at such a premium along with some built-in bookshelves. Right now, the stairs for the basement do run parallel underneath the main stairs. The door is right around the corner in the pic with my kid in it. We have toyed with the idea of relocating the basement stairs to the back in the new additions so it hasn't been completely ruled out yet.
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1980 300TD-China Blue/Blue MBTex-2nd Owner, 107K (Alt Blau) OBK #15
'06 Chevy Tahoe Z71 (for the wife & 4 kids, current mule) '03 Honda Odyssey (son #1's ride, reluctantly) '99 GMC Suburban (255K+ miles, semi-retired mule) 21' SeaRay Seville (summer escape pod)
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Old 08-21-2014, 03:09 PM
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Well, that makes sense.
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