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Down to the Wire – John’s House Pt. 4

I have not had the nerve to ask John THE question: 

“Will the work be finished by April 30?”

Now that the electrical wiring is all done, John’s been working hard to meet his  self-imposed deadline.  But I know he’s had a couple of major life events to deal with recently.  So I waited a bit before checking in.

I find John working throughout this Easter weekend. For him, this is not a time to kick back and rest for the holidays.

As usual, he’s well prepared for this phase of work  — the plastering and painting.  He’s stocked up on supplies……

Blog Photo - John Paint Cans

For patching holes in walls and baseboard ….

Blog Photo - REd Room with Holes in Plaster

Repairing the plaster around the new light switches ….
Blog Photo - John Plastering Around Light Switch

Priming walls and painting the woodwork….

Blog Photo - John Yellow Room Primed

And the most delicate work of all:

Blog Photo - Green Room with Yellow room in BG

The walls and ceiling of this room.

Blog Photo - Hohn Rebuilt Green Room Medallion and CM

See that thing in the ceiling?  No, not the black thing – the white thing, to the left.  It’s a finely crafted medallion  – a gem rarely seen in houses today.  This medallion – along with the plaster ceiling and crown molding, was badly damaged by a water leak from the floor above some years ago.  John, intrepid soul, decided to repair them both.  But first, he had to stop the problem from recurring:

“A new eaves trough and downspouts solved this, which is what I did just after taking possession of the house.  Since then there has been no more water leaking into (the house).”

Blog Photo - John's Work on Ceiling and CM and Leaded windows

The features in this room are remarkable. The high ceilings. The medallion. The deep crown molding. The leaded windows.

Is there progress?  Heck, yes.

Blog Photo - Green Room and Leaded Windwos Complete

Have a look at this:

Blog Photo - John Yellow Room and Scaffold

And this:

Blog Photo - John Red Room FinishedAnd this:

Blog Photo - Finished Green Room

And this too.

Blog Photo - John Yellow Room Painted

Plus, John also finished up the wood flooring on the third floor.

Blog Photo - John finished floors

Seems to me like John just might get to keep his promise to Ann – that they’ll move in by month-end.  After all, he’s been working like the dickens.   But I don’t have the heart to ask him this, on top of everything he’s gone through lately.

So we’ll just have to find out together.

Stay tuned.

Photos by John Garside.

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The Dreaded Knob and Tube (John’s House, Pt. 3)

Ever heard of knob and tube?

Old knob and tube along with new wiring
Old knob and tube along with new wiring

It’s the kind of wiring used in old houses.  Like John Garside’s.

The gracious old house in lakeside  Prince Edward County, Ontario, has beautiful features.

Blog Photo - Picton Staircase 2

But behind those lovely features is knob and tube  — on the second and third floors of the beautiful home.  And that old knob and tube wiring can be dangerous.

Blog Photo - Picton House Exterior 2

“I knew the wiring was not quite fine,” John says.  “The chief electrician, Dan, and I spoke about the house and the work.  My comment: ‘ I want it to be beyond code’.  He replied: ‘very good’. ”

Blog Photo - Old wiring

It made sense to go above the basic requirements, or “beyond code”.  John didn’t intend to replace the new wiring for a long time.

He knew the  job would take a lot of time and involve “lots of new switches, plugs and all new wiring everywhere!”

Blog Photo - electrician and red walls

Which meant punching holes in beautiful plaster walls.

“Yes.  The holes are 4 inches in diameter and these allow them to fish the wires through the ceiling and around the joists.  Very complicated and very time consuming.  But it saves the plaster and the crown moldings!!”

Blog Photo - electrician working on ceiling

Blog Photo - Yellow room,s econd floor

The plaster and crown moldings in most of the rooms are remarkably beautiful.  (I’ll show them to you in next week’s story.) They’d cost a ton of money – and time –  to replace today.

But boring 4 inch holes isn’t enough access to remove and replace all of the wiring.  John had to rip up the floors on the third floor.

Blog Photo - Old floors more ripped up

“To get rid of all the knob & tube wiring on the second floor it was a better to remove the 3rd floor flooring so we would have access to the ceilings and walls of the 2nd floor”, John explains. ” That way the new wires could be sent up from the basement to the third floor, then dropped down into the appropriate room on the second floor.  This saved a great deal of grief!”

I think I understand that…..

Electricians Bob and Brian did the wiring work.  That left John to do the rest… the re-plastering on the second floor,  the replacement of the  flooring on the third.

“I am working on it right now!” John says.

Blog Photo - Old floors and work stand

Blog Photo - New Floors in progress wide shot

He’s working hard.  Time flies when you have a promise to keep.

Blog Photo - John's third floor - new floors in progress

John  promised his wife Ann that they’d move in by the end of April.  That’s three weeks away.

And there’s still a lot to do.

So, fingers crossed…..

And good luck to John.

Photos  by John Garside.

 

 

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Part 2: John’s House in Prince Edward County

TACKLING THE GREEN ROOM

John Garside and his wife Ann sold their home in big-city Toronto last year and bought a house two hours away in Prince Edward County.  They’ve been living in a condo nearby while John renovates the house.

image via prince-edward-county.com
image via prince-edward-county.com

Prince Edward County is known for small towns, farms and lakeside living.  In the last decade, its vineyards and wines, fine cheeses and restaurants have also become popular. The County is a well-known mecca for artists and weekenders.

John has bravely promised Ann that they’ll be able to move in by the end of April.

Blog Photo - Picton House Exterior 2

But their “new” home  is more than a hundred years old, huge — almost 4,000 square feet —  and needs repair.   John, who has never taken on a project of this scope, is doing almost all the work by himself.

The first room he tackled was “The Green Room” on the main floor.

“It was the worst room in the house, ”  he says.  “A water leak from the 1980’s had caused a great deal of damage to the plaster ceiling, walls and the crown moldings.”

Blog Photo - Green Room in Progress

John took on the challenge –– very carefully.  He rebuilt ceiling, walls, and even the crown moldings.

“I repaired what others would have scrapped, and I did it all by myself!  And I had never done anything like this in my life!”  You can hear the joy in his voice.

Blog Photo - Picton Green Room 3

Every time he looks at the room,  John feels “a glow of satisfaction and a sense of oneness with the house”.

Blog Photo - Picton Green Room

The house is full of beautiful features worth preserving.    John has to proceed cautiously.

Blog Photo - Picton Window

He says, “You think about each action a great deal before you act. That way the unpleasant surprises are held to a minimum.”

Blog Photo - Heritage Sign

The skills he learned from his grandfather — extreme patience, careful planning, attention to detail and observing safety rules –are all essential right now.  ‘Measure twice, cut once’ is the rule.

“You must understand,” he says,  “that the project you are working on is not modern, but 100 years old. So you must take time to think about what you are about to do, and plan in detail how you are going to achieve success.”

John puts in 8 hours every day — and no slacking off.  After all, the end of April is just around the corner.

Will he make the deadline? We’ll keep checking in.

Original Photos by John Garside

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John’s House in Prince Edward County

Some weeks ago, I asked the question: Who would buy an old house, knowing it needed a lot of renovation?

John Garside replied: “I would!”

And he’s doing exactly that.  Which led me to more questions:

Why would a big-city guy, born and raised in Toronto, sell his comfortable home and move to a small town 2 hours away in Prince Edward County?

Blog Photo - Picton House Exterior

Why would he buy a rambling old house, knowing it would need years of renovation – most of it his own labour?

And why – several months into the dusty, grueling process – is John so darned happy with his decision?

John is the former editor of the horticultural newsletter that publishes some of my garden stories and poems.  When I heard about this move, I was happy for him — but very curious at the same time.

Was he, like so many other émigrés who’ve left big cities and moved to “The County”,  planning to have his own vineyard and make wine?

Image via thecountywines.com
Image via thecountywines.com

Or produce fine cheese?

Image via kingstonherald.com
Black River Cheese – Image via kingstonherald.com

Or become a landscape painter, perhaps?

Glide by C. Pachter - via Oeno Gallery, Prince Edward County
“Glide” by Charles Pachter – Available at Oeno Gallery, Prince Edward County

None of the above.

Turns out that John has had a love affair with the small towns and lakeside settings of  Prince Edward County since he was a teenager on a Grade 13 geography project in the area. Years later, he fell in love with Ann, who also loved the area. They visited often, and even honeymooned there.

Six years ago, they bought a condo in The County for weekends and summers.  By then, the area was already becoming a trendy place.  More and more people were ditching their big-city lifestyles and operating vineyards and wineries,   restaurants, cooking schools and  art galleries. Some were winning awards for their cheese and wine.

More and more artists had moved there, while others were buying weekend and summer homes in the small, lakeside towns.  Still others discovered that The County was a great place to visit.

Meanwhile, John and Ann toured an old house in downtown Picton one weekend a year ago.

“Walking through the home,” John says,  “I felt an immediate attraction, not only for the home but the property itself.  It needed a keeper, and I really felt that we were the ideal people to take on this project.”

Blog Photo - Picton Staircase

Only four families had owned the house in 100 years.  Each owner had  preserved its grandeur.

Blog Photo - Picton Staircase 2

Each bedroom has its own bathroom.

“And lastly,” John says, “the stained glass windows in every room are wonderful!”

Blog Photo - Picton Window

John sounds like a man in love – with a house.  But his eyes were wide open.  For all its good looks, the house needed a lot of work.  New electrical wiring and plastering,  for starters.   That meant floors and walls ripped open, etc., etc., etc.

John’s been doing the work for several months now.

“This project”,  he says, is “the greatest test of my skills in my life”.

For one thing, he’s doing most of the work alone. For another, he’s not a brawny guy – John weighs only 155 pounds.   And then the third thing: he promised Ann that they’d move in by the end of April.

So how’s it going?   Will John and Ann be able to move into the house as planned?

Blog Photo - Green Room in Progress

We’ll find out!  I’ll check in with John each week.  And I’ll share pictures and progress with you.

Good luck, John!

Original Photos by John Garside