House Excavations, green border
family home projects work in progress

The Old & New Inside the Walls

Work continues on our dining room renovation project. Since my last post on the topic, we have taken out all the plaster and lath. In fact, that dirty job ended up being a bit bigger than we expected.

Some of the lath along the south wall went behind the front wall of the closet. As Erik attempted to remove it, plaster inside the closet fell off the wall. We didn’t intend to redo the closet, but there was no easy way to repair the plaster that had fallen, so off it all came, along with most of the lath. We had to be careful not to remove lath that connected to the living room walls or we would have had to do that room, too. (No, thank you!)

Strangely, there were two channels, and only two channels, of fibrous insulation in the south wall, one inside the closet and one outside the closet. The rest of the exterior walls were devoid of insulation. Why the previous Elvig/Mueller family bothered with putting in only two channels of insulation, we’ll never know.

Looking down at the south wall outside the closet. On the right side of the photo is the wall, still mostly covered with lath but revealing insulation within one of the wall channels. A ladder is on the left side of the photo. May 5, 2022.
Looking down at the south wall outside the closet. On the right side of the photo is the wall, still mostly covered with lath but revealing insulation within one of the wall channels. A ladder is on the left side of the photo. May 5, 2022.

 

I lined a cardboard box with a black plastic garbage bag in order to collect the fibrous insulation. I filled many bags with this monstrously dusty stuff. Yuck. May 8, 2022.
I lined a cardboard box with a black plastic garbage bag in order to collect the fibrous insulation. I filled many bags with this monstrously dusty stuff. Yuck. May 8, 2022.

As we continued work on removing plaster and lath, we discovered more treasures in the walls, some old and some new. The new(er) stuff included more Legos, more writing implements, a toy car, a purple die from Dungeons & Dragons, a plastic toy baking pan, and, most surprising of all, a copy of the Millennium compact disc by the Backstreet Boys. We knew that had belonged to Daughter and she happily took it back.

Some of the stuff we found inside the dining room walls, sitting on a window sill in the dining room. Wall treasures include a Millennium compact disc by the Backstreet Boys, a plastic toy baking pan, pencils and pens, a toy car, a purple die, Post It Notes, and Legos. May 5, 2022.
Some of the stuff we found inside the dining room walls, sitting on a window sill in the dining room. Wall treasures include a Millennium compact disc by the Backstreet Boys, a plastic toy baking pan, pencils and pens, a toy car, a purple die, Post It Notes, and Legos. May 5, 2022.

Old items, these from the Elvig/Mueller family, included a ball of fabric stripping, which I suspect may have been used for rug-making, a tiny pillow, and a pamphlet-sized cookbook.

Ball of blue fabric stripping we found inside the west dining room wall. May 4, 2022.
Ball of blue fabric stripping we found inside the west dining room wall. May 4, 2022.

 

The tiny pillow we found in the bottom of the south dining room wall. May 5, 2022.
The tiny pillow we found in the bottom of the south dining room wall. May 5, 2022.

Most appropriately, Erik also found a cast iron shoe form. The reason it was appropriate for him to find the shoe form is because he has been binge-watching shoemaking videos on YouTube for the past month. One of his favorite channels is by cobblers Trenton & Heath out of Nashville, Tennessee. (Give them a watch! Proper old-school shoemaking is a fascinating process.)

Cast iron shoe form found in the bottom of the dining room wall. May 8, 2022.
Cast iron shoe form found in the bottom of the dining room wall. May 8, 2022.

Having torn apart most of the plaster and lath walls in our house (only the living room left), what is striking about the dining room is how many items we found, more than in any other room of the house. There were far more of our children’s things in the walls than those from the Elvig/Mueller family. Some of this was probably because we never got the trim in the kids’ bedroom above the dining room, so stuff was bound to fall in (or be pushed in by Rotten Spotty, who was fond of batting around Legos). Some of it was also due to our children having more items to fall into the walls, with each successive generation having more and more stuff.

The small pillow, ball of fabric, and shoe form were all too big to simply fall into the plaster and lath walls unless the walls upstairs had been taken out at some point before us. But that’s not likely because we took plaster and lath out of the upstairs, too, and it didn’t seem to have ever been disturbed. Perhaps they were purposely placed for someone (us!) to find in the future.

It’s certainly been fun excavating the dining room walls, both for our children’s history and for that of the previous family, who built the house.

Next up … putting it all back together. (The rough wiring has been done and approved, so we are on our way.)

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