The photographs of Dignowity Hill and San Antonio used within this blog are the property of Juan A Garcia Eastlight Photography. All rights are reserved to the owner. Copy and use of these images are forbidden without written permission. Contact Juan at for permission.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Balloon Framing

Houses built in the late 1880's through the 1930's typically used a type of light weight framing called " balloon framing.  William Kibbel writes in his blog on This Old House Web: "Balloon framing is a style of wood-house building that uses long, vertical 2" x 4"s for the exterior walls. These long "studs" extend uninterrupted, from the sill on top of the foundation, all the way up to the roof. When it first came into use, well before the mid-nineteenth century, it was a radically different type of construction from the "timber frame" or "braced frame" that preceded it for centuries. The earlier style timber framing used large timbers interlocked with chiseled joints (mostly mortise and tenons) secured with wood pegs. The balloon frame relies solely on nails to secure each piece. The only chiseling is for the horizontal boards that support upper level floor joists, the diagonal boards, or for corner braces that are "let in" to the studs so as to be flush with the wall surface. Balloon" was originally intended to be a derogatory term implying a light weight structure that could be easily carried off in a breeze. I'd like to point out that there certainly are many, many balloon-framed structures, between 75 and 175 years old, that haven't floated away." (This Old House Web, 

The house that we're currently restoring was built in 1912 and is built with balloon framing. You can see from the image below how the studs are nailed directly on top of the sill that sits directly on the foundation beam.  The studs run uninterrupted the length of the wall with no stops in between the studs. The studs were typically held together with horizontal "wind bracing" pine boards. These houses may been built for their light weight structure and probably to keep costs down but there is nothing light weight in the fact these old houses are still standing after over 100 years!

Friday, June 22, 2012

Time to Dry Wall

All system go!  We passed our rough in inspections for the electrical, plumbing and HVAC systems. This is a significant milestone in the project because it means we can proceed with getting the interior walls dry walled. The first load of sheet rock was delivered and stored inside the house. It was good to get to this point.  This project is moving fast and we hope to get the interior completed by mid August.  Did I mention that we have a buyer for the house?

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Front Porch Part II

This has been a hectic 3 weeks! Considerable progress has been made on getting the front porch back in shape. The porch columns were delivered a few days ago. We decided to go with a traditional Victorian style column style to complement the what we think the house is a folk Victorian example. To be honest we're not certain what the original style was of the house because of all the alterations that were made over the last 100 years! But judging from the high pitch roof, the front porch and architechtual details around the gables which gives a suggestion of some ginger bread styling common to Victorian houses of the era the house has strong indications of some Queen Anne styling.

Porch columns and harvested siding
Back to the porch columns....these are examples of turned columns which traditionally consist of three segments: the top square, the turning and the base square.When a post terminates against a wall then a "half post" was used. Turned columns are typically painted a solid color and often times the the turnings were painted a trim color to give the columns some eye appeal.

The columns in the image are resting against the front wall of the house. The only reason I mention this to point out the the boards used on this wall and around the porch are reclaimed siding from a house that was scheduled to be demolished. The house had had a fire the previous year and we obtained permission from the owners to harvest the siding. Also notice that the majority of the bead board underneath the porch is original to the house. We discovered the old bead board once we removed the sheet rock. We had to replace some of the missing boards with bead boards we harvested from the old kitchen area in the house.  

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Moving Quickly Along

After 3 days of working on demolishing the old driveway and clearing the debris, the plumbers dug a trench to the main sewer connection. At same time that the plumbers were working on the sewer line connection work was progressing on repairing the front porch. The headers had to be replaced as well as replacing some rotten joists in the porch roof.

If you're under a tight deadline like we are it really helps to have several different aspects of the project underway at the same time. So far to this point in time, a month into the project, work has moved fairly quickly.  The weather has cooperated, no rain so far to delay or stop work and the labor has been good so far. It can be a challenge to find skilled carpenters and other skilled labor that is reliable and dependable. So far so good, the crews working on the project are contentious and are showing up for work everyday!

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Removing the Old Concrete Driveway

Ok, so we've gotten past the break in and theft of our copper wiring by making sure that security in and around the house is tighter. We'll be installing a security system in the house very soon!

In the meantime, work progresses!  This week sub contractors working the plumbing and electrical systems of the house have been almost tripping over each other as they quickly work to reinstall the wiring that was stolen and continue replacing all the existing plumbing with new pipe.

We also tackled the removal of the old drive way pad. This was necessary for 2 reasons. First the concrete on the old drive way was buckled and had become a trip hazard. Our insurance carrier was reluctant to provide coverage on the property unless we repaired the drive way. Secondly, we needed to remove the concrete pad to install a new drainage line to hook up to the city's sewer system. The line lay underneath the old concrete driveway.  The original pipe was made of terra cotta pipe which has a tendency to crack in shifting soils. We decided since we were removing the concrete and we were installing all new PVC pipe in the house that it would be prudent to upgrade to newer pipe for the hook up. The plan for the drive way is to grade it and lay crush granite instead of pouring a new concrete pad

Old driveway with buckled concrete pad.
Using a pneumatic hammer to break up concrete pad.

Hard work!

The big boy arrives!

Making quick work of the driveway demo!

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Break in!

Three weeks into the project and we have a break in! Shortly after the electrical was rough in someone burglarized the house and stole some of the copper wiring that had been installed. The burglars managed to break in through one of the window openings even though the window was secured with a piece plywood.
Copper wiring stolen! Empty switch boxes.
This is one of the risks of doing these projects.  Copper wiring is a favorite of thieves that hit construction sites looking for materials that can be sold to metal recycle vendors.  Moving forward we decided to have one of the workers stay in the house for security purposes. We reported the incident to the police but there really wasn't much they could do at this point.  Lesson learned!