Cappers Farmer Blogs > This Old Farmhouse

Concrete Work Helps 100-Year-Old Farm

Lori HavensIt's been an incredibly busy week at Farm on the Hill here in Wisconsin's Driftless Region! After watching the barn form frozen waterfalls inside this past winter, where the water was pouring into the place we plan to have sheep, and seeing the floor of the room in the barn that we planned to use as the brooder become a sheet of ice, and also watching the stones fall out of a load-bearing wall in the basement of the house, we finally decided to make the investment, and we hired a mason and his crew. I have to give a major shout-out to Mark Kast Masonry, LLC, for their terrific work! What a great bunch of guys ... we will be hiring them again, most definitely, for the next job! They do both the vertical work on the walls and the horizontal work that we needed done, so we were able to make a real transformation! 


Brooder before (the area under the large viewing window was a sheet of ice):



Brooder after (4 inches of concrete to raise the floor level, since we determined that the water was coming from under in this room, not from leaking walls):


We hired our neighbor (and his skid steer) to clean out the barn and the old liquid waste trench that was part of the old dairy operation that was once here ... the trench was filled, all winter, with 6 inches of solid ice, and with 6 inches of water all spring and early summer. 

Trench before:


Trench after:



Wall Repair:

See the hole in the wall in the photo below? It was there so the lucky person mucking out the barn via the trench could empty the muck into the manure spreader, which was parked on the pad on the outside of the hole in the wall. We have no use for that "exit point," so the guys walled it in for us. First, they filled it in with blocks, then they "sculpted" over it with concrete to reinforce. (Note: the vertical barn wall work is not finished ... this is just the start.)

















Foundation Wall:

Our basement has two halves: the original half (which is almost a century old), and the new half, added sometime in the last nine years by the previous owner. Much has been done in the last year, by us, to the old half. This time, however, it was the new half that was getting a facelift, indoors and "out!"

The wall that divides the new half of the basement from the old is the original, 100-year-old stone foundation wall. The side of this wall that faces the "new half" of the basement was the original exterior foundation wall. To understand this better, here's a little "word picture" for you, then a photograph:

Go back in time to the 1910s. Picture a big, rectangular hole in the ground that, when the house was built, was to be the basement. The builder took the stones, and pressed them into the dirt "walls" of that hole until he had the entire thing "walled in," then he used mortar to secure the stones in place on what became the inside of the basement.

Fast-forward almost 100 years, and dig an adjoining hole, right up to the old one, to add more basement alongside (plus a new kitchen on top of it). Use a sledge hammer to break through the old wall, creating an opening from old basement to new. Then remove all the old mud from what was the exterior side of the old wall, so it now shows on the other side, the new side. This is what we have.


Since this "exterior side" of the stone wall was just pushed into the original mud/dirt hole, it becomes a crumbly mess when it's exposed. Not only do we constantly have dirt piling up at its base, we also have gravel and large stones dropping off of it. Not very safe, and certainly a constant mess. Tuckpointing and then a sculpted concrete coating fixed this old, exterior-now-interior wall!






The finished wall:



Opposite the newly sculpted wall are the sliding glass doors that lead to the back "yard" of the house and the pastures. The area just outside the doors was a weed-laden mess for the last year. Not any more!





There is still much to do as we reclaim This Old Farm, but each step we take brings us one step closer to the long-term dream coming true! I hope you've enjoyed our tour!

6/29/2014 9:16:16 PM

Hi Mary, To answer your question, YES, I do connect with other bloggers, quite often! I think that those of us who enjoy blogging pack many emotions in our writing (which is why I sometimes have long time spans between blog posts, if I'm seriously tired and/or overwhelmed...I just won't be able to find the energy to write), and so it's easy to connect quickly with other writers who are experiencing the same things in life :-)

6/29/2014 8:18:19 AM

Lori, Mary again. You mentioned on one of my old blogs that we seem to be living in parallel worlds with some of our projects. Yes, and you also mentioned that I was a kindred soul. Thanks, as I consider that a nice complement. Do you also connect with other bloggers, sometimes more than friends? Although our friends are interested and very supportive, we are somewhat loners in what we do, andI find other bloggers, Capper's Farmer, etc. my real connection sometimes. Happy day!

6/29/2014 6:54:27 AM

Hi, Lori, Wow! You must still be smiling about all that renewal. I love the look and smell of new concrete. Good pictures! Yep, we have strange walls in our old basement, too! I'm looking forward to a blog someday about how your welcoming center is working out! Oh, how I wish I were younger!!! Mary from Old Dog New Tricks

6/28/2014 8:37:59 AM

Lori, boy, you have had many challenges in the restoration of this old house. I'm glad you found a company that would tackle such a project. I'm going to be working on some concrete steps next week but nothing like your project. I'm always amazed at the construction and building techniques of a century ago. It was all grunt and lift manual labor back then. Walls may not be put together as well as today but still 100 years later walls are still standing and houses are still being used for dwellings. I'm always partial to stone and rock used for building. Limestone was a major material used for building retaining walls in my city during the mid 20th century. Slowly they are being replaced by the new century concrete retaining wall blocks. It makes for a ready source of limestone for projects in the garden when contractors tear out the walls to rebuild them. They are glad that someone will haul the rocks away. Good luck with the rest of your restoration. ***** Have a great concrete work day.