Stalwart Foundations

One of the first things we heard, in that very first phone call to the realtor about this house and mill, was that its structure and foundations are strong. We found evidence of just how strong when we began chipping off some of the plaster in the living room, study,  and what will be my parents’ bedroom.

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This crack is in the living room and there are a few more like them in the other rooms. From seeing this, you would not be insane to think that the wall could be dangerously damaged…but it is not. It is solid enough to hammer on. So why the cracks?

We asked the previous owner, Dino, about it and he lay the blame entirely on the mill, specifically the “new” mill. Because the house is kind of encrusted into it, with parts of the old mill sitting right above the wheel and its mechanism, the vibrations of two centuries’ worth of water power took their toll on the house.

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They’re not nearly as bad as they look, these cracks, and we have had two thumbs up from the architects we’ve had inspect the property for structural damage. It needs a bit of cement and a replastering, that’s all.

It does, however, mean that the mill will have to remain quiet and still, as much as I would love otherwise. Yes, these cracks are easy to fix, but the next ones might not be. And for the vibrations to have been violent enough to cause them, can you imagine what it must have felt like to live there while the wheel was running? It’d be like trying to sleep in a washing machine.

As much as I’d adore to have that mill working, I can’t, in good conscience, put the house at risk. In this, my family and I are in complete agreement.

In the future, we hope to learn how both mills work and perhaps provide tours to people interested in learning about how a Victorian watermill functioned. That hasn’t changed.  But they’ll just have to use their imagination for the actual movement. The poor house has been shaken enough.

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While I’ve been chiseling away at the kichen wall, my parents have been working on removing the broken vintage tiles from the study. The tiles thesmselves were so damaged with humidity and were of such poor quality that they crumbled apart the moment you lifted them. Beneath them were layers of some kind of plaster that someone in the house’s past had used to try to smooth out the leveling issues the floor has. Issues whose cause we weren’t too sure of.

Until we saw the floorboards.

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There are a number of them that are buckling with rot and which will have to be replaced. Others have holes, ACTUAL HOLES the size of my head through which you can give the old mill a cheery wave. But the most astounding thing about this floor is how its past owners fixed it. Or rather, patched it. Instead of removing the damaged boards, they just placed new ones on top. Which, of course, meant that the floor would have been uneven. Small potatoes, apparently, because they just added all of those layers of plaster or whatever it is (an I’m talking about layers the thickness of two of those bricks on the left) and placed the tiles on top. It might have worked for a few years, but the humidity that comes up from the old mill would have been enough to make more boards buckle and the entire thing to start sinking again.

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Look at the uneveness. It’s bizarre.

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It is looking a bit better now, and because the massive wooden beams that hold up the ceiling of the old mill are in great shape, there is no danger of crashing through the floor.

 

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We will be replacing the damaged wood and adding another layer (ONE thin layer) of wooden planks before adding the actual wooden floors we want, which are going to be salvaged from other homes. Crossing my fingers that we are able to find Victorian ones.

That will be the case for the study and my parents’ bedroom. The same issue is present there, as well, so it will mean peeling back pancaked plaster from uneven planks in a few days.

The living room, however, is a wonder and if someone lays a hand to a single of those ceramic tiles, I will take it at the wrist.

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I don’t know which god from which pantheon to thank for the eveness of these floors. If we’d had to remove these original snowflake tiles, I might have taken a running leap into the river that conveniently runs behind the house.

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