Forensic carpentry

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Like many writers, I wish I could do more with my hands than set them to laptop and paper. I’m also in love with old houses. And in spite of the expense and disruption, I’m finding the process of renovating the room that will soon be my home office — swapping peeling red linoleum for hardwood floors — totally engrossing.

Our contractor calls this forensic carpentry: the process of uncovering that here was once a window, or there, beneath the red linoleum, are black and white linoleum tiles. It gets even more interesting in the oldest part of the house, where, though it’s not being renovated, you look at a section of floor once covered by a bookshelf and realize that the amber pine boards used to be painted brown. I wish I could see a time-lapse video of how things have evolved over the course of the house’s 200+ year old history.

Do you live in an old house or apartment? What’s the most surprising thing you’ve discovered?

3 thoughts on “Forensic carpentry

  1. My 20 year old house had all the construction debris including the bag with the petrified remnants of a fast food lunch sealed beneath the bathtub. It all became soaked in a flood, then “set” behind the drywal and had to be shovelled out when the restoration service came in to repair the flood damage. Sigh…

    • Yikes, how funny (but not that funny), Beth. I guess that’s the layperson’s version of those experiments about how long it takes a Twinkie to decompose? I guess the flood brought that one to an end.

  2. My wife and I bought our fist home in 2005, a 1910 beach cottage, and live there now with our 3 children. For various reasons, we ended up taking the house down to the studs. In one of the bedrooms, written on the inside of the exterior shiplap I found the name of the carpenter and the year he built the house written in pencil! He signed his work like any artist. The funnier thing is that my 90 year old neighbor who has lived in the neighborhood her WHOLE life knew the guy! We ended up putting a window in that very section of the house, but I saved the piece of wall with the signature. It’s hanging in my garage.

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