Handmade History: Standing seam zinc roof installation

Another lovely mini-update from our current upstate project: the handmade, standing seam zinc roof has been installed over the entrance! A lot of exterior projects have come together this week, including the near-completion of the mudroom addition, plus the finishing touches on the four chimneys that were completely rebuilt atop the roof.

Left: The aluminum siding being removed. Right: The exterior after the siding and door trim and pediment have been removed.

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The story of our clerestory

As you may have read in our last post, we’re adding a clerestory to our current upstate project. And those of you who read that last post may have been left wondering—what in the world is a clerestory? The definition is pretty simple, and while you may not have known the word ever existed, you’ve probably encountered more than one clerestory (or clearstory, clearstory, or overstorey) in your day.

The clerestory at Rokeby Mansion designed and built by Stanford White

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Paneling progress!

Our project upstate is bustling along. In spite of the recent snow, we’re managing to still make progress. Materials that will be used in the house (like Waterworks bath fixtures and beautiful new porcelain tiles) are being dropped off daily, and the project is in that phase where it’s just on the brink of gelling: windows are about to be installed, rooms are about to emerge from the tangle of 2x4s, and the second floor clerestory is thisclose to giving Rokeby Mansion a run for its money (more on the clerestory story in a later post!)

Top: Before the paneling went up in the master bedroom.
Bottom: After the installation of some of the pieces of Cherry paneling.

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Transforming “the den” into “The Study”: the wonders of architectural salvage

Our project up in the Albany area has been chugging along for a couple of months now. If you receive our newsletter, you saw progress being made on the geothermal system that is being installed. That portion of the project is now in the home stretch, and work inside the house is ramping up.

Demolition of concrete basement floor
We’re not kidding about the pickaxes flying.

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A peek at history in downtown Albany

We obviously love ourselves some local history here at Howard Hall. The Hudson Valley is one of those historical hotspots in the country where a lot has happened: so many important national and even international historical figures have called it home, and many historically significant buildings still stand here. The banks of the Hudson River are dotted with everything from humble Dutch dwellings to looming stone mansions. If we’re lucky, the importance of these homes and buildings has been recognized and actions have been taken to preserve them, in addition to making them open to the public.

A postcard of the Masonic Temple in Albany

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Surprise! You just discovered… 6 more weeks of work

Picture it: an old, creaking house, built before the Civil War, possibly built before we were even technically a country. It’s probably seen some “renovations” since then—the tacking on of an unsightly addition, the dissection of each stately room to accommodate apartments. You know the deal. But here you are, ready to tear down those ungodly, aluminum-sheathed tumors posing as “extra rooms” and rip through those unnecessary walls. You are going to unburden that beautiful home from its prison of vinyl floor tiles and layer after layer of hideous paint. And while you’re tearing and ripping, you keep waiting to stumble upon a treasure. An old jug from the 18th century buried in the cold, damp earth of the basement floor, perhaps. Or documents signed by George Washington hiding behind attic walls. Surely there must be some amazing find just waiting for you to unearth it. Right?

I’m afraid I might be about to dash some dreams and burst some bubbles. I apologize in advance.

Not so much a hidden treasure as a lurking nightmare. We discovered asbestos in the basement of our most recent Hudson Valley project. Every speck of it has to be removed before we can even begin thinking about downstairs demo work.

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Dec 2012 Howard Hall Newsletter: Going Geothermal

Hello, friends! We don’t know how it happened, but the last of the autumn leaves has fallen and winter is officially upon us (well, almost officially). The days are getting shorter, it’s snowed on more than one occasion, and fighting off the constant, gnawing chill of winter has become my number one goal. Full-body mittens help, FYI.

We are currently combating the cold at one of our latest projects. One of the biggest parts of this full-house restoration just outside of Albany, NY is the installation of a geothermal system. Geothermal systems are just what they sound like: geo (meaning earth) and thermal (meaning heat). Earth heat systems. While we all know that the best way to keep your Dr. Pepper cold at the beach is to dig a cup-holder sized hole into the sand and let Mother Nature do its thing, digging a little further, say 250 to 300 feet, is where things start to heat up. Tapping into this naturally occurring heat source can both heat AND cool your home in an energy efficient and environmentally friendly way, not to mention you could significantly lower your utility bill.

Top: This huge drill was used to make five 250 ft holes. Center: One of the five 250′ holes. They will house two polyethylene pipes joined at the bottom with a u-joint. A water-based fluid is sent down one pipe and up the other, soaking up heat as it goes. Bottom: The heat is then transferred into the home through pipes laid in this trench.

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Preserving the character of history

As anyone who has every renovated a home (or who just watches a lot of HGTV) knows, you gotta whip everything up into a great big mess before you can make it pretty again. We’re currently in the thick of this backwards-to-go-forwards demo stage at one of the projects we currently have chugging along in the Hudson Valley: the walls no longer exist, and the ceilings are being peeled back. Piles of wooden beams lay like fallen soldiers on the demo battlefield. Old cabinets, bookcases and vanities are huddled together in the middle of what used to be a room (you know, when there were actually walls) like refugees trying to escape. Intense.

Bye bye walls

The refugee pile

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Sandy Donations: Anyone in need of a hot water heater, boiler or oil tank?

For most of the country it feels like superstorm Sandy is but a distant memory. Unfortunately, there are still hundreds of families still struggling with the aftermath. We know many of them have much rebuilding to do, and we here at HHF would like to be able to help, even if it is only in a small way.

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The Mystery of the Howard Hall cemetery

No, you’re not about to read my attempt at a suspense novel aimed at gawky pre-teen boys who have an insatiable lust for adventure and mystery solving. Although, there is a book involved, and also a bit of a mystery. A missing person’s case, if you will. Did I mention that these persons are dead and buried somewhere on our property?

What won’t those boys get themselves into?

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