On the Level

This weekend we continued our demolition, working on the downstairs efficiency kitchen and bathroom. Nothing too interesting to report, so it’s a good time to talk about something we did a while back.

At some point last year I got a little antsy in the pantsy and decided to start taking up floor boards in the upstairs part of our home’s addition. To give some background, our house was originally a two story brick structure with an L shaped footprint. An outdoor two story wooden porch had filled in the L to make a nearly rectangular total footprint. I’m estimating in the 1950’s, this porch was enclosed to make what we now have, which is a wood framed addition to the original brick structure. The first floor of the addition is a nice level concrete slab, and the second floor appeared to be mostly the original, sloped away from the house, porch from the 1800’s. Overall, the porch was not too bad, but the slope really was too much to live with, so up came the floor.

Our original intent was that we would take up the old floor boards, use shims or sister new boards onto the existing joists to level them, and then put down a new subfloor. Then we took up the first few boards and decided to change course. Once we could see the underlying construction, it felt risky to even be standing on it. The porch was not only slanted by design, but also because apparently during the previous renovation someone had decided that a floor joist does not need to span all the way to a supporting beam if you use long enough nails (see picture). Also, we found that what must have been the original, and much smaller, section of porch on the inside corner of the L, had never been replaced even though the joists had rotted at the ends. On the plus side, when we removed these possibly 200 year old boards we did find some cool old square cut nails. Eventually, we ended up removing all of the existing joists and rebuilding the entire floor. A little bit more work, but definitely worth it.

One more note, we still haven’t installed most of the subfloor while we wait to finish the things that happen under the floor: wiring, plumbing drain lines, and gas lines. Our slow progress has actually come in handy, when this weekend we started removing the plaster ceiling downstairs, and for parts of the demolition we could just go upstairs and kick the ceiling down from above. Much easier than lifting the spud bar over your head for hours.

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