No worries

You know, there’s a reason that I’m not the person in charge of building stuff around here. Because there’s so much that I misunderstand about house construction. There’s a new renovation (or two) going down Chez Harlot. Both driven not by the urge to improve our home, but by the urge to not have it fall to bits. The front porch was as shaky as a go-go dancer when I moved in 10 years ago, and we’ve got to replace it this summer or the letter carrier is going to fall through it one morning.

Jean, our family carpenter, (whom you will remember from such classic hits as “why does the back of my house have weather?” and “Oh my, what a big nail gun you have“) turned up, assessed the damage…declared that the porch (in any form) was really not going to make it, and this is the front of my house.


Whoa. Dude is not screwing around. When the porch was dismantled, I found three guys standing around the front of the house.


They looked pensive. What were they looking at? This.


A hole in the side of my house. A huge hole in the side of my house. A place where the bricks have fallen right out and there is …let me be perfectly clear about this….a HOLE in the side of my HOUSE.

It goes right under the bay window in the front (which is apparently the best place that there could be to have a hole in the side of your house. Really ideal.) and it’s huge. Two skunks could walk through that side by side. Hell, they could bring a raccoon, some snacks, a couple of cold ones, build a swimming pool and a skunk manor in there. It’s a BIG HOLE. Me? I don’t like the hole. This hole seems like a poor feature of my home. I’m no real estate agent but I think that this hole would not be a selling point. The hole (Jean explains) is caused by the fact that the 120 year old mortar holding the bricks of my home together is…well. It’s gone. There is none. Let’s try to figure out what the reasonable response to this news is. There’s a big hole in your house and you think:

A. Oh, good. No worries. Carry on. (Said in a relaxed and pleasing voice, as you gently prune the roses.)


B. Holy *&^%$#!!! There’s a *&^%$ing hole in the side of the house? What the %^&* ! are we going to do? How does that happen? The mortar is gone? The bricks fell out because the mortar is gone? #$%^&*##….Wait….this is a brick house! *&^%$!!@!! (Said in a voice that is the exact opposite of relaxed and pleasing, as you fall to your knees imagining yourself hemorrhaging money as every brick in the house falls out and you have to start selling the stash and maybe your youngest child on ebay to pay your contractor and you can’t even ever make it stop because nobody will buy a house with a big HOLE in the side of it. )

That’s the one I went with too, but I did it all in my head as the gentlemen assessed the nature of my destiny. Imagine my surprise when the verdict was…


No worries. Jean is going to stuff some insulation under the bay window, but the basement doesn’t start until further back, it’s just dead space under there, and there’s no reason for me to be upset. None. Those bricks? Nope. They (I swear this) aren’t structural. Jean will put them back in with some mortar just to make me feel better and keep out the vermin, but the bricks? Useless. Who knew? Guess what’s holding up the bay window? Go on. Guess.

The roof! The roof is holding up the window, plus it’s attached to the house, so it’s not like it’s going to snap off (apparently) and the roof (It’s a good roof) is holding up the bay.

I’m stunned. Completely stunned. There are no words for how this is the opposite way that I thought construction worked. You know when you are little and you play blocks and you pile a whole bunch of them on top of each other and then, if you take the bottom ones out, the whole things falls down? Even if you have a really good roof? That’s how I thought it worked. I could not be more surprised to learn that along with the roof…”Force of Habit” is holding up my 120 year old house. That’s right, Force of Habit. Don’t believe me?

It has to be true, because this is what’s holding up the porch roof.


Right. Time for a lie down.

201 thoughts on “No worries

  1. Hi, Stephanie,
    Holes in foundations, huh! Out where I live, you would now have to jack up the entire house and build a new foundation with no bricks and then tie the house to the foundation. That’s what fault lines running very near your house do. But I don’t think there are earthquakes in Toronto so maybe one doesn’t have to do that. Because that really is B in your scenario. It is very boring to spend money fixing your foundation. All that work and money and nothing to show for it. No new kitchen, no new bathroom, just a house that shouldn’t fall off its foundation in the BIG ONE. And a smaller stash because you’ve had to pay for all of this. BORING! (By the way, your books are in no way boring.)

  2. As someone who grew up in an old house (1910, very old for Miami) and now lives in an old house (1936, old-ish for this neighborhood in Oregon) … well, I didn’t know whether to chuckle or knock on wood. Scuze me while I go do the latter.

  3. I am confuuuused. We should have started our block structures with the roof? Maybe this is why we are not high-paid contractors?

  4. When you said your house is a BRICK HOUSE I started to panic for you in thinking, what is going to happen when all of the mortar disappears?
    I too do not have a mind for these things.

  5. As an engineer who knits, I would say “Don’t worry about the hole!” It really is a tiny hole. Here in the south we leave the undersides of our houses open with just a few supports at the cornersand elsewhere. And he is accurate, in a very simplified way, about the roof thing.
    Now the porch, I’d be worried!!!! But that’s being fixed.
    Good Luck.

  6. Not wooden blocks, Legos. 🙂 You take the bottom one out, and the rest are still just as stuck together as they were before…..
    And how nice to find this is true. Like you, I was on my knees with visions of enormous sums of money disappearing into that hole…….
    — Vicki, whose dilapitated garage must be replaced — a new garage is almost as boring as a new foundation………………. Sigh.

  7. This is why we moved to a much newer house last year. After 12 years of fixing things, the list was as long as ever. Every time we tried to fix something, we uncovered previous “fixes”, done by previous owners, that actually made things worse.
    The family room is down a step from the rest of the house. It’s in an addition that was done 30 years ago, and they were laying the cinder blocks on a Friday afternoon. They ran out of cinder blocks with one row to go. Go out and get cinder blocks, or go drink beer?
    Yup, one row of cinder blocks equals one step down inside the house.

  8. After some of the stuff my homeowning friends have had to deal with this past winter and spring, and now this post? I am *so* glad I rent an apartment.

  9. The roof is holding up the window? The what is holding up the what now? Houses confuse me.
    We are having our kitchen renovated, just started the process, and already I am terrified of what is going to turn up. Maybe our horrible old cabinets are supporting the roof! And tearing them out will cause a never-ending chain of house-related disasters!

  10. Our previous house was built in 1910-ish and, turns out, didn’t exactly have a foundation, as such. At least parts of it didn’t. The kitchen, to be exact, was apparently built on two by fours laid over unmortared flagstone.
    Our current house is newer (1949) and has a decent foundation. The roof is another story.
    I’m going to have to forward to this to my husband–we’re in the middle of renovations ourselves and perhaps it will make him feel better. Or possibly make him paranoid about what we’ll find.

  11. If Jean finds any grey furry lumps in that hole, you know where the squirrel was stashing your fleece.

  12. Hooray for Jean! I think haveing fresh insulation under your bay window will help make your house warmer in the winter (this way you can leave the heat off past Nov 1). Holes are scary, I have a crack in the foundation – probably been there for 40 years – I am getting if fixed. I was told its not structural either – but I agree this is my foundation we are talking about.
    Just a quick thought – if he replaces the bricks so they can easily moved out again it could be good yarn storage.

  13. My head is spinning, and I don’t even live in your house. Or anywhere near it. My theory is that you have many layers of accumulated stash that are providing the real support that keeps the house from falling down.

  14. That’s funny – the first thing I thought when I saw the hole was “Oh good! More room for the Harlot’s stash!!” Hmm.

  15. We had something similar happen under our kitchen porch a couple of years ago. Big hole. Dale fixed it and, so far, so good. Heh.

  16. Yesss, I think a lie down is in order- but only after some very strong drink.

  17. Woah Dude. I feel your pain. I am in a similar situation… In November we moved into a roughly 100 year-old house. This past winter was *cold*. At least, it was inside my house! We had the good man from Energuide for Houses come and evaluate the efficiency of our home. You ready? 40% efficient. I know, it could be worse, but really. 40%? We just had the insulation-blower-inner-guy come to give us an estimate, and he casually mentions that houses like ours are easy to retro fit with blow in insulation because there never was any insualtion in there in the first place. Pardon??!
    Good thing I have a good sized stash to regulate temperature. In fact? Perhaps I need more… 😉

  18. Thank God! I’ve heard of stashing money in the basement, but this is ridiculous. Bottom line- Mo betta saving the stash for stash …for when the heating goes …not sure about basement and roofs, but I know sweaters work as home heat and weather protectors- at least in VT. It’s kinda rustic, ayah.

  19. Just had a second read. Did you say “dead space”? How much, and can it be accessed from the inside of the house to store…….WOOL?!!!

  20. You had me really worried with a few days of no posts, particularly since you had a near-death virus recently. Better a hole in the house than relapse of viral uglies.
    Yes, I’ve rebuilt a porch after I fell through it; had hole-in-the-house; have had raccoons (in mating season*) and squirrels in my attic; a chipmunk in the kitchen (and the cats didn’t care). Currently my contractor is talking about tuck-pointing the old brick foundation on my house, “but the house will last another 100 years”. Built 1929, approaching old-ish. Only about 30 more years of that on my bank account.
    go knit to relieve stress, it helps, you know.
    *raccoons make noisy raccoon-activity, often.

  21. Before bricking up the hole: consider the amount of stash you could stash in there (in properly sealed packages, of course) If you pack it in tight enough, critters won’t have room to get in.

  22. Your porch looks like our deck will later this summer. Can’t wait. I think I will go to the cottage while it gets fixed.
    Oh wait, we have to redo the deck up there, too. Crap.

  23. Welcome to my world, Harlot! In preservation, we find that a hole is never just a hole, a porch project is always bigger than you think, and home is almost always worth the trouble.
    Trust Jean. He knows of what he speaks.

  24. Hmmm… wonder what’s been living under there? Bricks where they are, looks like something was in a hurry to get *out*?
    Dude. Bright side. Once hole in exterior is fixed, simple trap door in bay window room floor yields new stash hideaway!
    In process here of repairing like-sized hole in PAPERboard(its not WOOD? – my garage DOOR is made of PAPER?) bottom exterior of overhead garage door. Finally a constructive use of 5th grade papier mache skills…

  25. Yep…amazing, isn’t it. When we renovated the kitchen, we kind of ripped of the back of the house. I was terrified that adding a bathroom (read: lots of weight) and an additional bit of space in the kitchen (suspended seven feet off the ground with only one measly post holding it up) was going to wreak all sorts of structural damage on the house. It’s been three years and so far so good. But I’m still suspicious.
    You might consider getting your contractor to put a trap door in the floor where the bay window is after he repairs the hole. That way you won’t have critters and you’ll have a lot of additional stash space. The trap door could be covered with a very nice Oriental rug and no one will be the wiser.

  26. I don’t know why you think Force of Habit wouldn’t be holding up your porch roof – that’s all that holds ME up most days.

  27. Yes, the roof holds up the bay. It’s an anaolgy to knitting from the top down. Or, better yet, finishing a sweater from the bottom up, then deciding you don’t like the bottom so you cut it off and knit from the body back down.
    Or, maybe you should just accept it on faith, like moebius knitting. In any event, try to think of it in terms of knitting. It makes more sense that way.

  28. I don’t know Steph… I think you missed a KEY opportunity to hide more of your yarn stash in this hole! Think about it – why close it up… rather slap some concrete down and around it to “line” it sort-of-say and then use it to store more yarn and fiber (in air tight plastic bins of course) 🙂
    Now you’d not only have a “yarn closet” but a “yarn hole” !!!

  29. Ack! I would have been in need of smelling salts. We are in the process of buying a house now, and the thought of all the responsibility and these very same pitfalls give us heart palpitations.

  30. Holy crap! Forget the lie down! Forget the wine! Get knitting and knit fast, because you might need a huge SLING that suspends your whole house from the roof! I know you have enough yarn, but do you have enough time??

  31. ok out of this long post I really only have one question. The post says May 6…but today is the 9th right?? Am I losing it. Yes I see the porch is a problem…maybe I am losing my mind.

  32. SO confusing. If the roof holds up the bay window, that’s like gravity is reversed. Now *I* need a lie down.
    (Especially disturbing since I just got up about 2 hours ago. Hrm.)

  33. When I was in college, I painted the study of the rental house I was living in. I noticed the wall was kind of peeling. Hmmm, I thought. Further investigation revealed that the wall was built not with drywall, but with newspaper.
    I lived in a papier mache house.

  34. um, good luck with all that? found your third book in the bookstore and bought it right away. I LOOOOOOOVE it. seriously. It can’t stop laughing. thank you so much. quite possibly my favourite. but i’m not sure, cause i really loved your other two.

  35. Force of HABIT??? Is this some law of physics I didn’t know about? (Perhaps Chicago-based?) I too would have thought that the things on the bottom would be holding up the things on top of them, but apparently I know nothing.
    (Btw, perhaps now is not a good time to ask, but why does your blog refuse to remember me, despite my diligently typing in my name, email address and blog and changing “remember” from no to yes every time I come here? Was it something I said? No, it’s probably something to do with physics.)

  36. I’d say your stash is holding your house together. All that wool in one place (well all over the house but in ONE house) is doing more than taking up space. And you thought your stash was too big. Now you have a huge reason to go add to it. Double it even. You need to fill in all of the nooks you can. After all, they may give you a discount for merely buying in bulk.

  37. Yeah, I’d think of calling a brick guy. Go for the pointing. Not sure what exactly pointing is, but it involves spending money, and it’ll help the bricks stay together.

  38. My house is only 101 or 102 years old (built 1904 or ’05, depending on which record you’re examining), but I was laughing a laugh of recognition and fear as I read your post. Or maybe it was just hysteria.

  39. Laughing hysterically…I bought a 105 year old house three years ago. The master bedroom had three layers of ugly lineoleum. (Yes, really). So, being fearless, I decide to check what’s under there, and find a gorgeous floor. Then decide that real wood floors and fake wood walls (Dark 1960s style panelling) are not going to happen in my bedroom. So, what’s behind the panelling. Hey, intact plaster. Sounds like a plan! Until I got half way around the room, and discovered the hole in the plaster bigger than me! Bad words! (This was the point where my sweetie came home.) Much fun ensued. The room is beautiful now, and we’re getting ready to attack another one. Old houses are such fun!

  40. Still giggling at “in a relaxed and pleasing voice, as you gently prune the roses” — I know the chances of me having a “relaxed and pleasing voice” under the circumstances would be exactly nil, roses or no roses……

  41. Ok. I have to lie down with you. That last one made me feel as shaky as the time we realized the front part of the garage was leaning down the hill. And, it’s only 32 years old.
    Tonight, I will drink a toast to you and your house.

  42. Just a note on repointing brick/stone. It is a process of [usually] removing a bit of the old mortar and then laying in a new layer of mortar. It isn’t always the best option. It can be very difficult to make the composition of the new mortar match the old mortar and then with differentials in expansion of the mortars you can cause bigger issues. Obviously, if the mortar is gone, this is not an issue, and you’re talking about relaying the wall, not repointing it.

  43. I think we live in the same house but in different countries. Yet you have the pleasure (?) of owning & I rent. And you care about your dwelling & fix things, where my landlord doesn’t give a rat’s fanny about the condition of the building & I swear one day I’m going to walk out of my bedroom & put my foot through the floor.

  44. Oh dear…tomorrow I find out if I’m moving into a cooperative in a creeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeaky old building…not sure I want in now!

  45. Gee, I thought it was just our house that was defying the laws of physics! Good to know we aren’t alone.

  46. I am having heart palpitations on your behalf…our house is 1927. Just replaced the (rotted) front stairs last year, and a month or two ago, a skunk still found a hole underneath the porch. In the middle of the night. Woke us up when it sprayed, and it took forever to get the smell out. Tell Jean to use chewing gum if he has to, but plug that hole up, and protect the stash from becoming “scented” pronto!!! Good luck!!!!!

  47. It’s because the roof is strong, and the rest of the house holds up the roof.
    My friend lives in a house, the foundation of which is sinking in opposite directions down the centerline of the house. What this means is that, at the top of her bedroom wall, there is a crack that lets the sunlight in, that slowly gets larger as the two halves sink away from each other.
    And I currently have pigeons nesting in my attic, in the hole left by the roofing guy who forgot that one bird block. I was going to get the nest out after the babies left, but those virile little pigeons got busy faster than I could get the nest. And silverfish come with pigeons. And silverfish eat yarn.

  48. hole= ok, falling bricks from a brick house= ok and the roof is holding up the window.
    whoa. I think I’d need a wee lie down Prehaps a nice little drink to go along with that nap.
    I think Jean may end up with a sweater for this summers projects.

  49. i cannot stop laughing. not at your misery, I swear, but, really, at the fact that were I not renting an apartment in a house that gets a ridiculous amount of water in the basement when it rains (condemning me to a future of poison mold, I am sure) I would be living in a house with a hole in it…..

  50. So who hides in that hole when things get dicey at your house? My mid 1800’s house has a plant growing up through the kitchen floor every summer. This tells me there is a hole somewhere, but I refuse to look. Ignorance is bliss?

  51. We live in a 150-year-old house that sags in the middle, and I’m just sure one of these days we’re all going to fall through. Hope we have a good roof too!

  52. So that’s where the squirrel was hiding the stash. You might want to check for the pink mohair before the close it up.

  53. Force of Habit is holding up a lot of things around here, too, but not the house so much. Good luck with the new porch!

  54. But it is really fun to see a bay window hangin’ out, having a good time, not worrying about little things, like, being propped up.

  55. I’ve seen 200 year old wooden houses where the corner post has rotted out at the bottom and, just as you say, “force of habit” is holding the corner of the house up. It’s an amazing thing. TheBon had a good point about the mortar, esp where those are old bricks–might be worth asking a mason, if you have one handy. And, if you’re curious, you might ask Jean whether your house is really a brick house–the white brick on the outside walls looks like it might be veneer stone to me, and if so, it could have either wood or stone underneath. But if you’re not curious, you might not want to know (or you might not care!)
    Deep calming breaths. Remember, deep calming breaths. Good luck with the porch!

  56. I hear you, sister. But you know, you could have saved a lot of time demolishing the porch if you had just gotten some drunk kids to ram into it with their dad’s Lincoln. Ask me how I know.
    But just think about how much character an older house has. Know what else has character? Dollar bills. They have characters all over ’em. Unfortunately, you can’t have both. Sucks, don’t it? Yep, I totally feel your pain.
    Tomorrow, I’ll post pictures of the daffodils growing out from under the rubble-formerly-known-as-the-porch so you won’t feel so alone with the gaping hole in your house.

  57. Roof holding up the bay window? That I can understand. Holes?? It looks minor. Not at all like the time the woodchucks tunnelled under the pool deck and ate (yes ate) a hole through the 6×6’x that framed the wall of one part of our house and decided to have their babies in my basement. Nothing quite like baby woodchucks to destroy a collection of Christmas ornaments and other good things (thank goodness no yarn)

  58. Aww-I was sure you were going to say you found the gray squirrel’s lair. Guess it wouldn’t be under the house, though-they have a tendency to go up, I believe. That would have taken a lot of the pain out of finding the hole, though!
    I found your latest at my local mega-bookstore over the weekend-it may be my favorite! I loved your thoughts on turning sock heels and laughed myself silly more times than I can count.

  59. The roof holding up the window actually makes sense to me. Maybe I should lie down until it doesn’t make sense anymore?
    Steph, maybe you could knit up some supports and use fabric stiffener to keep them in place. Ok, just a thought.

  60. The bright side is that if skunks do decide to take up residence below your house, you won’t have any snakes! -Stephani with no E

  61. Ah, old house syndrome, and the cascading repair process. I know it well. About to embark on something along those lines myself.
    I am utterly baffled by all things carpenterial. Force of habit sounds plausible to me. It’s a powerful force in my life, let me tell you. Now, can you think of a way to make force of habit work for knitting?
    And definitely keep those critters out. I’m still afraid to open up a nice box of stash and find the remnants of our flying squirrel infestation. Yum.

  62. Should we replace our knitting needles with hammers and come rescue your house? This reminds me of a commercial where a man was putting the bricks back together on an old victorian with a milkshake for mortar. Sorry, probably not funny to you.

  63. I read that to my Number Guy and he nearly dropped the screwdriver he was using to assemble his comupter. He says that you need to get to work on the next book for financial reasons. Me? I think you should just so’s I can have another funny book to read.

  64. See, being a geek, I realize that force of habit is one of Newton’s laws of motion. Sure, physisists may call it “inertia”, but I think “Force of Habit” describes “Objects in motion tend to stay in motion, and objects at rest tend to stay at rest until acted upon by an outside force”.
    But, I don’t understand house building either….

  65. Though your house is in fact “mighty, mighty” enough to hold up the world, it is clearly “lettin’ it all hang out.”
    Oh dear. Disco.

  66. As the owner of a 178 year old house, let me say …. I feel your pain. There’s no such thing as a “little” repair on an old house.

  67. I recommend a knitted sort of bra to help hold up the bay window. I would imagine that some good felted wool would last longer and be less subject to rot and pulled out nails.

  68. All I can say is that when you go for that lie down maybe you shouldn’t lie in the bay window.

  69. oh oh oh There used to be a programme on TV called “this Old House”. My brother in law watched every SAt after lunch. My sister always said she didn’t have to watch the #$% #$% thing because she was living in one. Said brother in law was a builder and they lived in that house for52 years or more, the house was 100 plus old . EVERY sping , summer and fall it was renovation time for one thing or another. It was NEVER ending. At least brother in law could do all the work BUT the house was always in turmoil one way or another. My sister says to tell you to get the hole fixed and plan on moving out. Good luck .

  70. How does your roof hold up your bay window? Australian gravity.
    You poor kid!

  71. Welcome Spring, Welcome Home Repairs. We have appointments with an electrician and a plumber this week, plus we need a big ol’load of dirt, and some paint, and I’m not even sure how to fix the driveway. I say fill in the hole, and put a nice stoop/porch over it. No one will ever know. Of course what this says about the rest of the brick that is holding up your house – I don’t know. Good Luck!

  72. You are too funny! I am a new knitter and have been reading your site for a couple of weeks or so. I found and read your books before I found your blog. They are all great. Keep up the wonderful work. Sorry about the hole!

  73. Have you heard about the (used to be called, not sure if it still is) West Coast Transmission building in Vancouver? They put up a central pillar and then built DOWN and held the whole thing together with YARN (well cables but the idea is the same) …..Pause…. have g**gled and found out that it has been converted to condos – imagine a knitter living in a building held together with string???? Pictures on the architect’s site.

  74. Ah, yes. The vagaries of construction. I remember those days. Who am I kidding? I’m LIVING those days even as we speak. Sounds like Jean has a good handle on things … deep calming breaths, plenty of Screech and chocolate, and knitting while Jean works on the foundation. Sounds like a good plan to me.

  75. I sense a Theme: Many knitters live in old houses. Is this because we can’t afford the squeaky new domicile having spent all our money on stash enhancement? No, more likely, we appreciate the work and skill that went into making our living space. Repairs are just the cost of living in a “real” building. I, too, will post a picture of the rotting porch in front of my 100+ year-old home. Take that lie down now. The summer will, no doubt, hold more repairs (puh,puh,puh..I spit to avoid the dark angel).

  76. Welcome to the world of old houses. 18 months ago we fell in love with a house built in 1889. We love it. But, the original floor of the basement was dirt. At some point, someone decided to pour concrete… but they didn’t have enough… so they added more water. The floor literally cracks under your feet. We had new house supports and pads put in so the house wouldn’t fall down.
    They apparently had some watery cement left over, because they plastered it on the outside over the stones the basement is made of and hand drew cinder blocks on it.
    I am not kidding, hand drawn cinder blocks over rock.

  77. My apartment in the US is in a house built in 1901. The foundational supports are whitewashed tree trunks…. The house is actually in pretty good shape, but the floors are uneven enough that it is fairly easy to amuse the cat. Just drop a ball near one wall and watch it roll…

  78. Ah, old houses. For the same reasons that I can knit a sweater that someone can trot out and buy at some soulless large store, I live in a very old house. And, like Peg in Kensington, it’s an old house conveniently located right beside a major fault line. What fun! It’s a daily adventure to see what will work and what not. Bt just like knitting, it’s the craftsmanship that matters.
    Oh, and knowing a really good contractor doesn’t hurt.

  79. My dear Harlot,
    I will not buy your youngest child unless you teach her how to do laundry first.

  80. Chiming in with the knitting engineer, it’s not always gravity that one really has to worry about. Here’s to your roof (lifts glass of adult beverage). And ‘force of habit’ is actually one of the laws of physics, it’s also known as ‘inertia.’ ~a knitting architect.
    Psst! – I’d leave aside those well-meaning (naively opportunistic? Naah.) suggestions about putting yarn outside your defensible perimeter, via trap doors and such. Remember the nesting squirrels…you’d open the door one day and they’d be stretched out on little woolly couches, needle-felted via squirrel claws, watching Red Green on bootlegged cable. Probably come knocking their upstairs neighbor, wanting to borrow duct tape. Or beer.

  81. ROFLOL, Thank you, I really needed your wonderful point of view today. Oh my, take a deep breath! Now examine picture #3. See that nice solid brown stuff showing, it is a beam. Your house will not fall down around your ears. I have been involved in remodeling/adding on/repairing old homes for over 50 years and we haven’t lost one yet! Most bay windows are cantilevered out over the foundation wall, and from your explanation it sure sounds like yours is also. Unless the floor is already sagging or bouncing, you are fine.
    This past year we removed 4 layers of wallpaper which had been covered by untold layers of paint from one of our bedrooms. Under that we found the most beautiful, smooth plaster and the nicest walls in the whole old house. Now in process of making minor repairs and getting ready to paint and decorate. We have lived here 33 years and will never be finished. But that is what happens when you own a house. Eagerly awaiting pictures of what will be a lovely new porch.

  82. The internal cussing must be a Canadian Composure thing. In my experience, Americans do it out loud. Very loud.
    It was kind of you to think of the postman and spend some money to ensure safe coffee and yarn delivery, although I think he could learn to come to the back door. As for the veracity of Jean’s evaluation- you knit him stuff right? It is in his best interest to level with you or no more Canadian woolies for him. It’d be bad knit karma to placate the Harlot with euphemistic phrases like “Force of Habit” when he means sheer luck.

  83. It might be time for something stronger than wine. You might want to start stashing airplane bottles with the liquor of your choice for just such an emergency. Good Luck!

  84. HYSTERICAL!! I totally sympathize as someone that lives in an old house with many “unofficial” entries. At least bats tend to enter homes a bit higher up!

  85. Say. I didn’t notice a wedding ring. Is Jean married? (Sorry. But a nice man who does good work and shares his talents is a keeper!)

  86. Wow, your house is magical! It seems that somehow you should be able to work this to your advantage and store more yarn. I mean, you did say “dead space,” didn’t you?

  87. What’s the big deal? Surely you could knit a house???
    *everybody sing!*
    It’s a brick — HOUSE
    It’s mighty mighty
    Just lettin’ it all hang out (and up)

  88. And here I thought only marriages were held together by force of habit…..who knew.
    I recommend the adult beverage and the lie down, followed by practicing your cheque writing skills.

  89. I had a raccoon family come live under my house when I lived in California. A couple decided to come in and raise their young there. It took loud music and torment to get them out. Like closing up the opening when the parents went out at night to get food. Papa never came back (isn’t that typical?) but mama kept at it till we couldn’t stay awake any longer. Next night the family had vacated the premises.
    Anyway, hope they don’t find anything else wrong with the house. Otherwise you’ll have to write even more books and stay away from blogging for longer periods of time in order to pay for the work!

  90. Do you suppose that contractors make this stuff up just to make us feel stupid? Are they related to the guys in auto parts stores?
    My problem in my current little corner of southern California is ground squirrels. They steal wool, of course, but as their name suggests, they dig. They dig everywhere! I have visions of my house disappearing someday. Collapsing right up to the roof into a huge labyrinth of squirrel tunnels.
    Hope your problem is quickly, easily and relatively inexpensively fixed.

  91. You will not have to sell either stash or child.
    Drink to calm those nerves.
    Then reread Barbara Walker’s Knitting From the Top. I find a strange synergy between your new knowledge that the roof is actually holding up the window and the realization many have when they realize they can knit a sweater from the neck down. This knowledge has rocked your understanding of house construction to its foundations (which apparently is alright since those foundations are merely decorative) in much the same way that encountering top-down knitting shakes one’s understanding of sweater construction.
    And in the same way that one finds that one’s sweater is a-ok whether it be knit bottom-up or top-down, I am confident you will find your home to be sturdy.

  92. This weekend when I was in the Washington, DC area for MSW, I was told that the Washington Monument has no mortar. The stones are held together by weight. No mortar, no glue, not even a little gum. Construction is a scary, scary thing. But sleep easy–old houses are old because they last. All they need is a little TLC and a second mortgage…

  93. So sorry about your house……’d better start on Book #4 real soon!! I’d go for the trap door under the bay window for stash !!….or for time out for the truly unrepentent!!! Yes, carpinter looks very friendly… Too bad he’s so far away….a man handy with tools is definatly a keeper!!!! I’d better check my foundtion……..wait the only foundation I have is holding up something totally different……..!!

  94. Ok, never commented before, but this story left me so empathetic I felt it was necessary. Just remember that you have a pretty successful career as an author and can always try getting a loan from a bank. I am sure it would work out fine in the end. No need to sell the stash or your children. If worse comes to worse you could always force the kids to drop out of school and get jobs to help pay for it. (completely kidding, its amazing how sarcasm doesn’t come across in typing.) Good luck, and keept us posted! (you are getting me through finals week at college)

  95. It’s so very good to see that you are, indeed, still alive and well enough now to venture out of doors, where the beautiful springtime sun is shining. Just remember, the lilacs will be blooming very soon, and all will be well. The porch shall be put right, as shall the hole in the bricks. Not to worry.

  96. Oh. Dear. Can’t do this, mustn’t laugh…but losing it…control, I am in control… ROFLMAOWTIME!!
    Sorry. Really, really sorry, Stephanie. Especially for the expense. But oh, goddess– Just be glad your Joe isn’t a man like my father was. Dad’s hobby was building/rebuilding the house(s). My mother was married 40+ years to a guy who regularly took up projects like this until the day he died, for *fun*. You think a hole is bad, try moving into a 100-year-old farmhouse that ended up on jacks for an entire year. Or so. In Oregon. Think Venice. (I went into that and other adventures on my blog a while back, so moving right along…) Seriously, it’s just *one* hole – ok, and the porch – and things sound like they’re under control. Jean has it in hand. You can tell by the calm, relaxed ‘assessing’ stance in the pix. They’d be surreptitiously fiddling with hammers and such if they were faking it. But they’re showing the true ‘we can handle it’ stance, there. Really; I swear. Stay calm, buy more Screech, and just be glad nothing fell apart during winter! Plus keep in mind it’s better than ripping the bathroom apart…

  97. Perhaps, for your own peace of mind, you should knit a house cozy. Just wrap it all up in lovely, comforting wool. And hey, perhaps it will felt in stormy weather and become that much stronger. Just an extra layer to hold the walls in place, dontcha know? And it should be nice insulation, too.

  98. OK, I seriously thought that when they pulled out your porch, they found a box of yarn or something of that sort.

  99. Right, if you believe that one… you sure Jean hasn’t been drinking? Hope Toronto isn’t on a fault line, like in a quakezone. You can send stash here for safe keeping 😉

  100. Oh my gosh…when you do something, you do it big, don’t you? Take a deep breath and recite after me: “This too shall pass….this too shall pass….” Then go get a large block of chocolate and some lace to knit, to keep your mind off the strange and frightening sounds coming from the void where your front porch used to be. Truly, everything will be fine. I just hope you’re feeling much better now. Go have that lie-down and think about Finnish mittens or something.

  101. Dont’cha love old houses? We had a nice hole under our front porch which led into the crawlspace that’s under the front half of our house. When we got back from our Christmas vacation, there was a horrible stench greeting us at the front door. I was sure something had died in the basement, but no – three raccoons had taken up residence in the crawlspace.
    Three months and several hundred dollars later, our basement is our own again. Raccoons do not make good tenants! They are messy and stink to high heaven. I’m glad you haven’t had any unwanted guests, although they do make good blog fodder!

  102. perhaps you could knit a little curtain to cover the hole. maybe in mason-dixon washrag pattern “looks like brick”

  103. Steph,
    I have to say, my husband is a framer and it never ceases to amaze me when he drags me to the latest (yes I do mean he literally drags me, I’ve seen so many…)house he’s building and launches into the intricates of it’s construction. (when he starts talking about pitch and rafters I just smile and nod). Hope everything goes smoothly! Glad to see ur feeling better too!

  104. Oh my. Rebuilding is so much work. So now you know what it’s like in my world. Well, at least you like Jean (I hope) because you’ll probably see quite a bit of him for the next few weeks. I think those guys standing around gaping at the hole could use some knitting lessons. Maybe they can put drawers under your house to hold wool, since the whole thing is some anti-gravity contraption held up by the roof.

  105. Hum…did you find any of your missing dpns under there? Along with your tape measures? I bet they and the squirrel are in kahutz to break out the stash and run for freedom – while they see the opportunity; and the squirrel is going to take advantage of their vulnerable moment and lure them – and the stash – into his nutty little grip. Where they most certainly will be forever lost to what they had once known as home.
    Joking aside, I hope all works out for you, and think “planters” in the new porch.

  106. It is never good when the person working on your house comes to find you and says, “May I show you something?”

  107. I’m so sorry… A while back when I was pregnant, w/toddler, and jobless and my husband was still in school, we moved into a house owned by his grandmother, circa 1890. This house was so old that all of the glass in the french doors was untreated–my oldest son (who has low body tone) actually pulverized two panes of it by tapping them with a plastic hammer. Only parts of it (and not the parts you’d think either) were on an actual foundation, so if you dropped a baby bottle in one room, you’d find it somewhere else entirely. My husband’s grandmother was against changing the house in any form, so when we finally wrung permission to tear out the wretched wall paper in one of the rooms, imagine our total horror when we discoverd that the walls of the room were HELD TOGETHER BY THE WALLPAPER. No kidding–the wallpaper was on cheesecloth which was tacked to 2×4 studs–no drywall, no wood JUST WALLPAPER. We totally bite at anything resempling home repair… we pretty much moved out of the place before we could finish the drywall drive. Let’s just say that, after living there Steph, I could very well believe that your roof is what’s holding your house together. The place I used to live in was apparently held together by wallpaper and spit. At least most of your place has mortar.

  108. I would have Mr. Washie interrogated if I were you. He’s been up to no good, I swear. They’ve been known to dig tunnels for their ultimate escape. Are you sure one of your dpns isn’t missing. I can hear him going HEH! HEH! HEH!
    Twenty-four hours of solid questioning and/or threats ought to make him fess up.

  109. ha: My first thought was also that this was where the squirrel has been hiding your stolen fleece. Perhaps we are so used to how knitting unravels that we expect everything else to pull apart with a hole and a light tug.

  110. Based on what I see in your picture, I think Jean is right on. The bricks don’t look structural and you can just build them back up again.
    Believe it or not, this is considered an amusing hobby in my family.
    In my current fixer-upper, the main roof is holding up my front porch roof! It’s a little hard to contemplate, but if you see it “uncovered”, it makes sense.

  111. Seven years ago my husband and I bought a 130-year old house in Haliburton for an all season cottage and future retirement place. It seemed in good shape and passed the inspection, but then we got some surprises after we bought it. It’s good that my husband can make or repair just about anything because we too found a hole–actually two of them, one each under the front and side doors. There was water leaking into the basement every time it rained, and soaking into the main beam of the house and rotting it. My husband was able to repair all the damage. So don’t worry, you’ll get a new front porch. Just remember to stock up on beer and snacks for the repair gang, and they’ll happily work for you.

  112. With all the carrying on you’re doing you’d think they’d found Jimmy Hoffa’s body under the porch.
    Be glad that you don’t have termites. It blew me away seeing one episode of “Dirty Jobs” where the exterminators were called in to a church in Louisiana and the main beam was part wood part termite poop.

  113. Well, a little tuckpointing never hurt any bricks. Just ask Jean. He is apparently more handy than not, but why wouldn’t he suggest you use that for more storage? Every old house I EVER saw needs more storage!

  114. Being my “Little Mary Sunshine” self, at least it isn’t rain comming down from your roof onto you bed at 2 am during the worst storm in centuries. I speak from experience on this one…you’re much better off.

  115. A trap-door in the floor with an Oriental rug over it is not a bad idea. Always something good out of everything!

  116. Hoooboy. Yup. A hole. It’s definitely a hole. The whole explanation of the hole and how it fits into the grand scheme of the whole house thing is mind boggling. I thought, too, that everything is held from the bottom up, not the roof down. Whoa. Stunned. Hmmmm.

  117. Is it bad that the whole time I was reading that I was thinking, “Well, you could stash a WHOLE LOT of yarn in there-and no one would know!” LOL!

  118. Steph, I hope you had a good lie-down. As a Civil Enginner who’s done structural work for years and whose parents are both architects (and I’m married to a Civil Engineer as well, truly frightening isn’t it?) I would REALLY recommend a second opinion. REALLY. No, REALLY. Have a structural engineer come take a look and give an opinion. Mortarless bricks just aren’t good news. And the roof holding up the window? That’s something that we engineers laughingly call ‘sky-hooks’ and don’t tend to work well, or at all (it’s an engineering joke, sorry). I know this is a downer, but REALLY, get an engineer in to take a look. Good luck, I feel your pain.

  119. Wait a second, a lie down BEFORE ordering more yarn? What’s the Harlot’s world comming to? Oh yeah – home demolition uh sorry RENOVATION will do that to any self respecting Harlot.
    Best of luck.

  120. OK, so where I went with the “brick house” phrase was the old song that goes “she’s a brick house”, and now that song is stuck in my head. Thanks for that….
    Glad your stash assets are safe and the Jean has thumbs up on this one. Thinking about selling stash to fix a house is such an unpleasant thought, I think I’ll go disco dance around the living room to the song in my head…

  121. Many years ago, I had skunks move into the space under the house and have babies. They were so cute! They would pop up in the kitchen from under the cabinets. However, they stink from an early age on. It would ruin your stash. Therefore, they must not be allowed in. Sorry skunks. ps Love the house. It looks like something I would pick, to the absolute horror of my logical, practical and engineering type husband.

  122. Many years ago, I had skunks move into the space under the house and have babies. They were so cute! They would pop up in the kitchen from under the cabinets. However, they stink from an early age on. It would ruin your stash. Therefore, they must not be allowed in. Sorry skunks. ps Love the house. It looks like something I would pick, to the absolute horror of my logical, practical and engineering type husband.

  123. add insulation?
    i bet that’s where your psycho squirrel has been hiding your fiber all along… packed tight enough, it might be able to hold up the whole house…

  124. Once, my dog attacked a cat that wandered into our yard, and the cat then crawled through a hole under the porch to die. Turns out the animal control people don’t actually crawl under your porch to retrieve the dead animal, they expect you to somehow put the animal in a bag by the curb. Which, of course, means you are the one who has to crawl under the porch to get the dead cat.
    So, hopefully there isn’t a dead cat under your porch. Good luck!

  125. Hi! When I saw the hole under yur house I immediately thought it was there on purpose. If the spece under your house is really “dead space”, no cellar, it needs to be ventilated to prevent the moisture from the ground causing any possible wooden structures under the house to rotten by mould. Hence the hole for ventilation.Actually there should be at least one on each side of the house to make sure the air circulates properly, I think. Consult your builders.

  126. Could you please update the Tour list?
    Are you still coming to New Hampshire this weekend? Thank you.

  127. ha! the joys of living in an old house. new construction isn’t nearly as interesting.
    you’ll be fine as long as jean is on the case.

  128. Hmmm, makes you consider both the design and structural possibilities of a yurt, doesn’t it.

  129. Reading this made me want to go home and check my foundation…
    I have to thank you though. Reading your latest book has enabled my (non-knitting) spouse to say things like “maybe you should try a different cast on” when I start knitting conversations.

  130. Ohmigod! I am so relating to your masonry issues right now. My house was built in 1908, and the last bit of elderly masonry holding part of the chimney together gave up the ghost during a “significant” rain event. (Eight inches! Eight inches of rain! Very biblical. Very End of Days.) When I woke up to a *water stain* on my bedroom ceiling, only to discover it had *rained in my attic* during the night, hyperventilating was the only option. So I am in complete agreement with your decision to go with Door No. 2 in the Reaction Roulette. Glad to hear it’s not really a big deal after all. (Mine wasn’t, either. My neighbor scrambled up on the roof and patched everything. Definitely Neighbor of the Year material.)

  131. My daughter, who’s in China, referred me to your blog, saying,”She reminds me of you.” One week later, all your books are on order, and I’ve begun reading your blog…from the beginning. This is not assisting me in making sense of the two households(ours and my mother’s) that I am attempting to combine into some sort of cohesive unit while caring for 9 dogs, 7 cats, 5 birds, 3 Angora goats, and 10 rabbits. And establish our fledgling fiber business at our new/old (read “needs renovation”) little farm. I don’t know which of you to curse first. However, I am laughing a lot more, despite the Pomeranian with the pinned femur and the Maremma pup who has continued her habit of pulling on the goats’ fleeces, except now, unfortunately, they’ve been shorn. I plan on retaliating when we get the blog up on our incipient web site. Payback!!

  132. Every time something goes wrong with our house (a mere youngster at 50), my mother swears she’s going to sell it and move into a condo. I whisper the magic words in her ear and she forgets the whole thing and gets whatever needs it fixed. What are the magic words? “You’ll have to clean the basement and the garage if you sell the house!”

  133. OMG! Well I hope things go well with that. But it looks like you’ve got yourself a hardworking/honest contractor there.

  134. Well, am I the only knitter who lives in an apartment building, one that is constantly being repointed (as I write this) because it leaks? Built not-so-well in 1940. I came home a couple of summers ago to find all sorts of water damage over one of my windows and had to scream and yell to get it fixed… old houses have troubles but they were built to last. My first thought was “insulation=stash” like so many others. I’m sure your hole will be fixed up nice and tight and I hope the construction doesn’t go on too long – even with nice friendly carpenters it’s hard too live with for very long. And if someone can knit a boat I bet you could knit a front porch…;-)

  135. Did you check in the space before they closed it up? Maybe there’s something cool in there. Like a time capsule. Or a box full of paper one dollar bills from last century.

  136. At least I wasn’t the only one who immediately thought of the wool-stealing squirrel! You did check the hole for wool, DPs, needles and tape measures, right?
    We used to live in a house built around 1850 and never knew what we’d encounter next. One day I came home from grocery shopping to find that I was missing half the kitchen wall. DH was replaced the kitchen window and discovered that the sills (large beam between the foundation and the walls)had rotted away.

  137. Yeah. My house is held together by force of habit too…that and the spit of the termites that are munching away on the wood framers. At least you found some honest repairmen. In my little corner of heaven (not), every repairman (well, there was one (1) out of 18) that has the integrity of a used-car salesman. Good Luck!

  138. Your WHOLE HOUSE is made of BRICKS? There was no worry about your WHOLE HOUSE loosing mortar & crashing down on you? I guess I have no sense for this sort of stuff either. Good luck!

  139. Hope you can get it fixed fast! The longer it waits gravity, weather etc can weaken the roof support. Be sure to put a little E3000 in the mortor.
    Big hugs and Good Luck!

  140. Holy cr$%^&!
    I’d have had to lie down several times before learning that my roof was holding up the bay window.
    I assume that you’re having someone check the rest of the mortar? Is tuckpointing in your future??
    I’m sure glad that the hole you found in YOUR house was much less damaging than the hole we found in our previous house. That hole let in water… lots and lots of water. Enough for fish to swim in, had we had fish.
    It wasn’t pretty. But I did get a new bathroom out of it. Oh, wait… I paid for that, didn’t I?

  141. Stephanie, if you end up with skunks, email me. BTDT. Fourteen just in the first spring in Montana. I’ve stepped out to use the outhouse and come back to see a cute little skunklet sitting on my doorstep sunning himself. That week, luckily, he was still too young to spray. Unfortunately, he matured the next week…
    Bless Jean. What have you knit for him?
    As for brick — it’s better than sticks or straw, eh?

  142. Hey Stephanie , Sorry to hear about the hole in your foundation,I too live in an old house, we have a least five foundations all built with 16 inch walls. When my hubby pulled off the front poarch to replace it , he found a another door way of ,course this needed repair, but hubby builds like we live in a place with hurricane gales, (we live in Wisconsin) so good luck and take care and keep your knitting dry.

  143. Your contract must LOOOVE you!! I love how they don’t seem to mind having their pictures taken!!
    and this is just weird, my mom is visiting and she is sitting with me in the living room we are both on our laptops, (cause we are a family that talks to each other, right) she giggles and tells me to go read your blog. I was already reading it. weird… really weird…. *L*

  144. okay, let me try to understand this. Your roof is holding up your house. Holy Moley, I’m in trouble because my roof is getting ready to fall around my ears. I guess the walls will be the next to go.
    Are you sure the roof explaination is not just a “Man answer”? You know they will say anything in a convincing way to see if women will believe it. Stuff something under the porch posts before the roof theory doesn’t really work.
    But don’t worry. I have found in the past that selling the First born will get you a lot more money then the last born.

  145. okay, let me try to understand this. Your roof is holding up your house. Holy Moley, I’m in trouble because my roof is getting ready to fall around my ears. I guess the walls will be the next to go.
    Are you sure the roof explaination is not just a “Man answer”? You know they will say anything in a convincing way to see if women will believe it. Stuff something under the porch posts before the roof theory doesn’t really work.
    But don’t worry. I have found in the past that selling the First born will get you a lot more money then the last born.

  146. Okay, that is scary if the house is made out of brick and the motar is kind of just gone in that area. I’d be scared that the rest of the house would just go *poof* too. But I guess if the rest of the people aren’t worried that it’s going to be okay. And how does a roof keep a house together? That’s really confusing…but good to know. I’d go sit in the corner and knit to stop me from just twitching from the stress.

  147. Steph
    Are you missing a great opportunity to get Mr. Washie out and replaced? Don’t think of it as a hole, think of it as an opportunity.

  148. I sympathise – I’m pretty sure that ‘force of habit’ is the only thing keeping our front porch up.

  149. My reaction to such news is “La la la la la, I can’t hear you!!!) And hope hubby knows what the heck he is doing. These older houses have their faults but really, what is the alternative?

  150. The bay window is being held up by the roof using a variation of the cantilever principal, most famously illustrated by Frank Lloyd Wright in his Fallingwater House ( In this case, the roof trusses/rafters are the horizontal which is balanced by weight of the rest of the roof and the connections to the rest of the house. As the man said, no worries. The bricks were put in under the window for show, and the real side of the house is probabaly 3-5′ (or however large the window) back from the front of the window.
    The front porch, however, needs to be replaced. It’s a good thing that a porch, unlike a room -inside- the house, doesn’t need as much work (drywall, window installation, etc.). It does need to be sloped, slightly, to drain properly. Which might have been part of it’s problem to begin with. Along with shoddy construction technique, even for 120 years ago. I’ve seen odder, though.
    Anyhow, good luck!

  151. Holy crap. I really hate it when the construction guys poke their heads in and ask you to come out and look at something. It gets exponentially more expensive every time it happens. Hop on over to my blog to see the deconstruction going on at my house. (Wood rot, and it goes back several posts.) Apparently stucco was the only thing holding up one whole side of my house.

  152. Your house is 120 years old? That is fabulous! Blessings on you for preserving our heritage for future generations! ~*~

  153. Okay, totally off topic, but please, please, PULEEZE don’t come to Chicago between June 12 and July 3rd… or immediately before or after August 6th… that’s not asking TOO much, is it? It’s just that I am just dying to see you, but I am also getting to the “very” stage of pregnancy… Love your blog, love all your books, love YOU! 🙂

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