Christmas 1999: New walls, old hauls

The Old House Web

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The Ciccarellis'
Christmas decorations

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Pocket door: lost and found

Termite damage
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Root invasion
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Bracing for the rain
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A beam damaged by waterattic07.jpg (7553 bytes)
Temporary basement wallattic15.jpg (3849 bytes)
Slowly straightening the floor99111306windetail2.jpg (7054 bytes)
New load-bearing basement wall99112318view.jpg (9032 bytes)
Moving the cellar steps into place99112316ventcover.jpg (12231 bytes)
New steps to second floornine.jpg (7721 bytes)
New cellar wall and stepsten.jpg (12337 bytes)
First floor wall
using recycled lumber

Friday, December 31, 1999

Never retrieve a fully loaded six-ton dumpster in a pouring rainstorm. Not only will you pay $55/ton for water weight, but it makes quite a mess of the lawn.

Our dumpster guy made this mistake and it ended up costing him $100 for a tow truck to pull the dumpster truck out of the front yard.

The decorated dumpster is the third we've filled since we began removing the 1970s "improvements" to our 1898 Victorian nearly two months ago.

Under the seasonal wrapping is the contents of what used to be one of four apartments. I wanted to wrap some gold foil around the dumpster to go with the bows, but that didn't happen with the frequent rains we've been having.

We've disconnected the separate power supplies in three of the four apartments. Now we need to have the outside meter boxes removed.

This should be easy...but there is an unbelievable construction boom in our area. Everyone is so busy, it's tough to get folks to come out and do the work.

Treasures...And Tricks

In the basement we found a collection of 21 doors original to the house. Most of them have some form of damage, but one of the best preserved ones is a 9 foot tall pocket door with a male edge bead.

We were sure that at some point it had a mate with a matching female 1/2 inch groove on the leading edge.

We were delighted when the crew demolishing the entry foyer uncovered just such a door, hidden inside for the last 27 years.

Our next find was unpleasant -- additional termite damage in the basement. We discovered this when a dilapidated partition was removed from under a beam.

We were glad that the beam shown had already been treated a month ago, but still, this was more damage than we'd expected.

A few trees planted too close to the foundation caused problems in a recent rainstorm. The roots growing under the Northeast (turret corner) wall opened a space under the foundation.

During a heavy rain, we had to set up a barricade of towels and cement bags to keep incoming water from forming a small river. We've got a backhoe scheduled to arrive during the next warm weekday to dig out the tree, backfill and properly grade ten feet out from the foundation.

Raising the...floor

At the dawn of a new millennium, some people raised the roof in celebration. We raised...the floor.

Along the rear (Southwest) edge of the basement stair cut we uncovered a pair of beams heavily damaged by water. We knew this was trouble - the floor in this area creaked considerably and was already sagging.

The picture shows the water damage to the beams, the base of the wall and the lower portions of two of the wall studs. Behind that first beam, which runs the 85" along the length of the stair cut, is a second, equally damaged, beam running 95".

The beam would have to be replaced. In order to do this, we first needed to remove any weight the beam carried -- and that was no small task.

Immediately above the beam was a load-bearing wall which supported a similar load-bearing wall on the second floor.

Fortunately, the second story floor joists were perfectly sound. They could support that upper wall easily, with a small cantilever, if we built a temporary wall below.

We needed to start in the basement and construct a new, temporary wall to support the first story's floor.

We first constructed a temporary wall in the basement. We placed three 30,000 pound-rated columns under the floor with a 6x6 pressure treated timber (which will later be used for porch supports) on the basement floor (bottom) and under the floor joists(top).

Atop that, we built a second wall between the first and second floors, and adjacent to the wall whose load we were actually trying to relieve.

Once this was done, we sloooooooowly turned the screws at the tops of the columns in the basement, carefully monitoring:

* The levelness of the kitchen floor to see how far we needed to raise the floor. We used a taut string along the east edge of the kitchen.

* The levelness of the upper 6x6, so as not to raise one part of the floor too much. We used a carpenter's level for this.

We knew that we couldn't get the sag completely out of the floor, nor did we desire to.

The floor had taken 101 years to get to this state, and no few hours of jacking was going to change that. The idea here was merely to get rid of any excess sag. Thankfully, the floor pretty much came back to level.

Now the floors were where they were supposed to be and the beams could be replaced with new, pressure treated lumber (the local lumber yard was out of 2x12 16' non-treated).

The basement stairs were installed, and with the load off the floor, the first floor stairs were put in place as well. Note in the picture that the load bearing wall between the columns has now been removed.

Now it was time to rebuild the permanent walls and remove the jacks. First, we built the new load bearing wall in the basement. Then we built the wall above that.. Note in the first floor wall, the original timbers, with the exception of the one with the severely damaged end, were reused.

The replacement pair of studs was offset 1/2 inch to match the width of the rough hewn 2x4's which measure a full two by four inches, not the modern 1 1/2 x 3 1/2 inches. After a well coordinated day's work, the damaged beams were gone.

New Year's Revelation

On New Year's Eve, it finally dawned on us just what that odd beveled/raised section of floor in the kitchen where we're living could be. Perhaps a raised hearth?

A good 15 minutes of work with a hammer and crowbar, and we were able to see the outline of the third fireplace. The mantle of this fireplace had been in the basement during the house showing but was removed before we took possession. Time to call the chimney guys back in for an estimate of how much it will cost to chip out that cinderblock and reopen this.

And that's what we did over Christmas vacation!

Next installment: Repointing a basement wall.

To see more of Steve's pictures, click here.

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