We live in a cool old farm house. It’s one that my uncle, grandpa and great-grandpa built. Part of it is an old log cabin. Then they added on to that in the 1950’s. Then my dad started digging a basement out from underneath the log cabin, so grandpa finished it. Then they finished the upstairs in the 1960’s and added a garage. Then they added a sunroom in the 1990’s.

Parts of the house are a little cooler than others. Literally. The upstairs is usually quite a bit cooler. When the mrs. wanted to start working on the boys’ room, adding some ship-lap, I agreed, but we would have to tear out all the old stuff, and properly insulate the wall, replace the wiring, etc.

Since part of being a quazi-homesteader is self-reliance, we did it all ourselves. For the other homesteaders out there, I thought I would share with you what we learned and how we did it.

The Starting Point 

I started by taking off the trim around the window. You can see, it was just a wall. This wall faces the East, which is where we get the bulk of our winds coming over the cascades in the winter time, bringing us our colder air. So, it’s pretty important that this wall be sealed up well.

Tearing off the plaster/drywall and removing old insulation. 

Before tearing this off, I put up a plastic wall to trap in most of the dust/mess. I bought some contractor grade trash bags, because the household bags basically ran away and hid in the corner.

I was lucky to have drywall and plaster as opposed to the lath and plaster that is in other parts of the house. The plaster did make it pretty tough to tear apart. I scored the wall anywhere it met another wall/ceiling. It’s pretty hard to score plaster well, but it did keep most of the other surfaces in tact.

I wasn’t anticipating having insulation in the wall. There was mostly rock wool insulation, with some fiberglass as well as a little of the old blow-in type. It was all pretty nasty. There had been mice in the insulation, you’ll be able to see why in a minute.

The Old Siding

What you see here is the old siding. It’s interesting because this was siding that had been on an old saw mill on the property that they tore down and reused the wood for the addition. Farmers and homesteaders have been recycling long before it was cool.

On the left of this picture you can see the big cracks between the siding. That made an excellent point of entry for mice, birds, and all sorts of vermin.

At this point in the process, I shopvaced the tar out of everything.

The Whole Wall Exposed

Spray Foam & New Wiring

Since I was wanting to keep air and creatures out, I bought 12 cans of spray foam and, shall we say, generously applied it. It’s not real fun to work with, at least from my opinion. Mainly because it’s messy and hard to keep off of things. Some notes if you’ve never used it. You hold the can upside down to apply, and you want to try to keep the tip as clean as possible. Wear gloves and clothes you don’t care about. If you get it on you, you need to use paint thinner or mineral spirits to get it off. (I didn’t have either, so I used gasoline. Don’t worry, I don’t smoke.) Some spots I had to apply as much as I could and wait for it to dry to add more. The big hole in the top middle of the picture was where they cut away the siding to anchor the chimney to the studs.

I was also fortunate to have some attic access in the knee wall to the left, so I could get to the old wiring. It was the kind that has the fabric sheathing and no ground. I replaced it all with 12/2 with ground. I also added two lights for the beds that will be built there. I ran a spare line up into the attic for a potential, future exhaust fan to help draw the hot air out in the summer. I also ran a line around to the other side of the room into the attic to be able to tie in other outlets to new wiring and get them off the old knob and tube.

Adding Plywood & nailing boards. 

I wasn’t kidding about keeping air and critters out. So, I added plywood and then spray-foamed around that. I also added a stud to the space that was over 20″. The studs weren’t exactly square/plumb. That meant a lot of trips to the saw. And I may or may not have lost my sanctification towards the end of the plywood and used a little “manual persuasion” to get the last piece in place. Don’t worry, I won.

I also added nailing boards across the top.

The Insulation!

The part I was most excite about! Getting something that would keep some of my very expensive heat in and the cold out. The only gap that was standard sized was the one that I put in. I had to cut all the others down to fit, because the studs were on 14″ centers instead of 16″. I also “spliced” the insulation at the bottom to get it around the electrical, instead of cramming it behind. That’s supposed to be the right way.


At this point, I put up the shiplap. I read some who put up drywall. We opted not to do that. In some places it may be code, so check into that. I couldn’t find anything here that said it was code, so I went without it to save time and money.

You can also see the lights, which are some outdoor lights from home depot.

No, the wall isn’t curved, it’s a panoramic shot.

That’s where we are at this point. We have painted since then. I will post another set of pictures as I do the built in beds and get everything wrapped up.

What I learned: 

With old farmhouses (and probably any old house) you will encounter things that were done before they had codes/standards. They will cause you frustration, but, you have no choice to to figure out a way around them. In all reality, having studs every 14″ is stronger, so that’s a good thing.

I also would recommend taking your time on the shiplap. A lot of it wasn’t real straight. I did quite a bit of finagling to get it to look decent. Now, I wish I would have spent more time getting the gaps more even. You can’t pry on pine much without damaging it.

All in all, it looks pretty good. I’ve learned more for next time. And there will be a next time. And a next time.