Wednesday, June 30, 2010

12 Steps on Building a Stairway to Heaven

This is the spiral staircase in the castle. It is the only staircase that goes from the first floor to the fourth floor, no I don't know how we are going to get furniture to the upper floors yet Patti, but I am sure Andy has it all figured out and will tell us all in due time.
Anyways, we need the staircase to go up one more flight to the roof because that is heaven! You've seen the view from up there in previous posts, a hottub, bar, and roof top garden are a must!

So Andy found three pieces of concrete work at the castle during the cleanup and he quickly realized they were formwork for the spiral staircase, he's clever like that!
He then decided he was going to make the rest of the formwork needed to get to the roof, so he took the concrete pieces and studied them carefully. He finally figured out a way to reverse engineer the formwork, which he wanted me to note was very complicated, so that he could make these forms to extend the staircase up from the fourth floor to the roof.

What may seem like a relatively small part is, in actuality, the linch pin for how the stair works. The piece is an unusual piece of conrete work in that it has to be cast with a hollow center and has to leave exposed the structural rebar in the casting that will help anchor it during the second pour.
These are pictures of Andy's process for re engineering the concrete pieces.
Andy & Rex were able to work on this process in the workshop back here at the house, so everynight for 14 days, the minute Andy got home from work, he went right to the work shop to work on this.
Of course, he would not have certain pieces or materials he needed, so they made alot of trips to Lowes, I need to go to Lowe's and make sure there are no good looking woman there, cause he went alot.
Sure these pictures seem to be flowing smoothly and it looks like a piece of cake, but there was alot of trial and error to make this all fit and work, editing, my friends, is a wonderful thing.
and now it is time to pour the concrete. It took a couple of tries to get the concrete at the right consistancy, but we did it!
and here is the final product. he made 14 of these. One will be placed on top of the other and a stair poured for each.
this is a picture of the stairs where they currently stop and you can see how this piece will go on, right there in the center.
The formwork all made it to the castle last weekend and Andy hopes to set one in place and pour a stair tread a day next week while he is at Boyscout camp with Rex. Funny how the boyscout camp is only 15 minutes away from the castle and Andy says he usually has about 2 hours of downtime there in the afternoon that he can head to the castle to pour! Fate or coincidence?
Stay tuned to find out how many stairs closer to heaven we are in a few weeks

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

The initial "To Do" list was something like this....

The trailer's packed and ready to go, as you can see here. So planning is essential when renovating a castle and while my husband has no social planning skills what so ever, he can plan for a renovation. He'll spends hours each evening, sketching, making list, looking through catalogues, and giving me instructions on what to order.
And the planning doesn't stop with catalogues, apparently, stopping at every antique store you stumble along in your travels is also a very important part of furnishing a castle. he just came home with a piece today that he found, and thank god, because it has to be cast into the wall. Just look at the money we are saving doing the shopping early and already having this piece before we do the walls.
1. so, planning is the first thing, and along with all the things I mentioned above, obviously Andy has been working on the design and his office has been completing the construction documents. This phase has been going on since last December.
2. measuring it up. This happens time and time again. As the plans get more specific, we measure new aspects of what has already been measured. oh, believe me, we take this stuff seriously, so safety is very important, here is Uncle Mark sporting his safety googles!
and here is the construction formen Tosh, the orange hat is his!
3. tools & equipment - Like a kid in the candy store, buying a castle also means buying lots of new tools and equipment. For the ladies, just so you can understand, tools and the proper equipement are like having the perfect pair of shoes and jewelery for your outfit! There is nothing more exciting than walking into the local hardware store and realizing you can rent the stuff your wife won't let you buy! Yes, that brush cutter was powerful and tiring, but it was very manly!

4. Clean up the castle - for anyone who knows my husband, you know I often say he is not the neatest of men, but when it comes to the castle and his work site, he is worse than me. We have spent every weekend we have been there so far cleaning ! We literally pulled everything that was in there and lying around out and organized it into piles of usefullness or trash. Then we hauled pails of dirt and morter up 1-2 stories and placed them in the large containers. There were also loose piles of dirt they used to mix the concrete on each floor and we had to shovel that up, put it into buckets, and carry that to the fourth story containers. Then came the sweeping. There was probably 2-3 inches of dirt and other stuff on the floors and stairs and we have managed to sweep every aspect of that castle free of that, atleast for the time being. Did I forget to mention there were piles of unusable concrete bags that we had to get rid of and they were very heavy. We found this slide out front of castle and we brought it around back and the concrete went for a slide!

5. Open it up and air it out. On our first two visits there, we unblocked some of the windows that still had concrete blocks in them to get the air moving. We also took the plexiglass off some of the upper story windows. When you are moving all that dirt and debris, it is good to have some air in there. It also looks alot better with the windows open and Todd looks good carrying the plexiglass out!

6. organize building materials - over a 20 year period lots of things have been brought in to use for later aspects of the build and alot of them were just here and there, so another project was getting building materials sorted out and getting rid of stuff we can't use and organizing stuff we can.
7. form work on cisterne - so one of the rooms on the main floor of the castle is something Ed called the cisterne. It seems he was thinking about using it for water collection of some sort, we are going to use it for a wine cellar and game room, but either way, the origional wooden form work when they poured the origional concrete almost 20+ years ago was still there. You men are probably saying, wow, why would they leave it, you ladies are probably saying what is form work and what does it matter. Well, building lesson I received on this was - when you are pouring concrete, you have to have a structure, often wood, that you pour it into and when the concrete is dry, you take form work off. Well, it seems it can be a big project to do this and one Ed didn't want to do, so Andy & Rex went to town with their crow bars in hand ripping it off. This took about an entire day, but it all gone now.

8. securing the structure - another important aspect for us is making sure when we leave the castle, that it is locked, safe, and secure. Obviously with any job site you can always have unwelcome guest who want to see what is going on and if they want to get it, they will, but we can make it hard to do so and we can make sure it is as safe as possible if they do. So, another one of our focuses was getting the big steel door in the back of the structure hung. Andy realized the door in the room as we entered must go to the back opening, but it didn't seem to fit. It appears Ed misjudged the opening for door as he didn't account for the hinge and swinge of it. Andy said we had to use the door, it is gianormous and solid steel and expensive! So we had to knock out a row of the concrete block to get it to fit. Then we had to oil and grease hinges and then we had toMcguyver a way to get it up and on. Andy figured it out, we got 3-4 of us and we did it, that was a proud moment!
9. perk test - Ed put in a well and there is water at the site, but we need to do some small perk test around the site and then a deep dig perk test. My Uncle Frank made some calls and got us a backhoe to come in and help with that. Apparently the results are good and the water is where it needs to be.
10. clean up the property - I spent alot of time with friends, family, and the kids picking up trash on the property, old rusted cans & parts, piping and wiring that was left, glass. We made two trips to the local dump, I think that makes up regulars!
We also started to try and improve the curb appeal by getting rid of a bunch of the brush that had been left after loggers came in and harvested some of trees. This picture may not look like much to you, but it was alot of work to get this view, and she should have seen the scrapes and scratches on my legs!

Here's Aunt Julie and the twins cleaning brush!

and here is King Ding Dong, as his shirt says, feeling happy with all the work we accomplished. Many thanks to uncle Mark, Aunt Julie & the twins & The Marshall's for helping out this weekend. Thanks to Jen, the kids, & Bruce for stopping by and making us take a break, and much thanks for staying tune for more updates.

and somevideos to help prove that hard work can be fun!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Where to begin??????

So many have asked, "how do you know where to start when it comes to renovating a castle that has been unfinished for 25 years?" Well, hopefully you have an Awesome Architect who knows alot about everything and can't stop thinking about it!
Andy began the process the day he saw the article in the paper, he started dreaming and imagining what a castle in the Adirondacks should look like. The next week, after he visited the castle, he started also to think what Ed was trying to do. Andy said he could tell where Ed was going by the work he had already done. It is really important to us to honor all the time and effort Ed & his family have put into this place, while also trying to make it our own. This is the sketch that has stuck since the beginning (the grey one is the very first & the tan one with the flag is the most recent version) :
This is a sketch of the North Elevation:
Andy spends ever moment he is not working or spending time with the family on the castle. If he is not sketching, he is searching the internet for inspiration and ideas, or he is ordering new tools and equipment that we need to do the work , or he is scouring through antiques stores, in between meetings, for a great piece that belongs in a castle (I can't even get into my garage at this point because there are apparently alot of lonely castle pieces in local antique stores that need a home). When I look over and he finally seems to be resting, he'll open his eyes and say, "I figured out how to do this and that" This past week he has been spending alot of time up in his workshop. I asked him what he was doing and he said, "I am working with some of the old concrete framework we found at the castle to build a model that will help us understand and finish the stairs (there is lots more to come on that topic!) Here are some of the inspirations he got from the internet for doors and other aspects of a castle:
What would the inside of the castle look like you ask? well here is what Andy is thinking:
This first is a sketch for a secret room, every castle has to have one of those, but I can't tell you where it is!
This is the entrance into the Great room. Since we can't do a draw bridge on the outside, we are bringing it in!
and once inside the great room, here is what you'll see. Of course this is just a small rendering of what will be truely great!
If only he could stop at conceptualizing rooms, he is even working on the fixtures and furnishings.
This first sketch is the queens vanity:
I thought this was a sketch of the Queen's crown, it seems big enough for my head, but Andy said it is a chandalier! yes, it is recycled XanderBlue glass. some see broken glass, we see a mosaic light fixture
Andy may not sleep, but I need to. Stay tune, next post will be about our last work weekend at the castle and what a castle "to do" list looks like.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Sir Ed

So this is Sir Ed, our new castle mascot. He is a tall, shiny, knight brought to us by the Lundborgs. He is so tall, in fact, that he didn't fit in their car and they had to borrow a friends car to get him home and then to us.
When Ruby woke up the next morning and saw him standing in the living room, she was very scared, but as you can see, Andy is very proud of his new knight! Now he will have someone to watch over the castle when he is not there.
Thanks Lundborgs and if anyone else was thinking of getting us a knight, Andy says one is just fine, thank you!