This is a close-up of one of the things that can happen when a house is left to rot. Fortunately this house was left for just a couple of years, so things haven’t gotten too bad.
The house was built of the smaller stones that you see, then covered with a kind of heavy, 19th-century equivalent of stucco. As with contemporary stucco, it can crack. Water seeps between the structure and the stucco, then it freezes, expanding in the process. It can pop that stucco right off – and has done so on this house, in quite a few places.
My contractor will have to remove all the damaged wall coating. Then he will replaster the house with new stuff, all smooth and gold-colored. Some day soon, my house will be beautiful again. Then we will keep it that way with the floor heating, which will evaporate stray seepage and end the freeze-thaw cycle for a good, long time.
That’s enough depressing stuff for now. There will be plenty more to come. Let’s take a break. Let me show you something that I hope will give you an idea of why I got myself into this.
This is the upstairs landing, showing the stairs to the attic. Notice the light coming from below? Notice that they have walled off the access to above, so it’s relatively dark there? I’m sure that was for climate control but it looks dreadful. My plan is to rip out the walls and that green door. (Green Door, really: for San Franciscans of a certain age, depending on your interests in such matters, this either definitely goes or definitely stays. In my house, it goes.) This will leave a fairly nice staircase leading to the attic. We will insulate the attic and put a skylight over these stairs. This house has big windows anyway, so we don’t need a light well, but I think the visual effect will be quite nice.
Can you see the cracks in the ceiling? It is possible that this indicates structural damage, but I don’t think so. When you walk on the attic floor, it is solid. I think those are expansion cracks. There is significant heat gain at the roof. Of course when we insulate, that won’t be an issue, so I expect that the cracks will not return.
And then? My plan, of course, is to become the crazy lady who lives in the attic; Jacques is even learning how to get his stubby little legs to climb the stairs. This floor will be an office for me, guest rooms for you. One of you may have to share your room with a piano — not until my funding recovers, of course.