Saturday, January 23, 2016

A (lengthy) update on our house project...

This will be a lengthy post as it has been a long time since I updated our progress on the house project.  

Once we tore the house apart we attempted to address some of the areas that were really sagging.  We knew that part of the problem in the cellar was from previous owners removing supports.  Other parts of the house were very uneven but some of that was just the settling of a 105 year old house.  This house is unique in the aspect that the chimney is in the center of the house.  The chimney has stayed in place and the rest of the house has settled around it, so all of the floors angle down from the center of the house.  We knew we weren't going to be able to fix this without jacking up the entire house and redoing the foundation.  We did discuss that option but decided against it.  Instead we focused on the areas that were the most bothersome, the current kitchen and the upstairs hall.  

One of the first things we did was put in a center beam from front to back. This provided a fix for some of the poor framing along that center wall as well as enabling us to open up the wall between the front door and living room. 
lifting the center beam into place

setting the center beam into place

living room/entry wall before center beam

living room/entry wall after center beam

Our next step was to jack up the floor joists, making them as level as possible and then cladding the old joists with new.  In the cellar there was a noticeable sag, by leveling them out we gained about 2 inches of headspace down there. 
jacking up the floor joists in the cellar
new floor joists cladding the old ones, new support posts

Before we started jacking up the 2nd level floor joists we had to set the new boards in place.  That was easier said than done!  To start with, the boards are heavy and so long that you have no room to maneuver. There were a lot of scenarios that involved the two of us trying to hold onto the boards, desperately trying to not fall off of the ladder as we shoved the boards around!   We may or may not have realized that we would need to do this before we started setting up floor jacks...
storing the new floor joists up in the ceiling before setting up the floor jacks

Next step was to start lifting the floor joists.  Once we would get the jacks in place we would start raising them up about an 1/8 inch at a time.  
jacking up the floor joists

We tried to get the floor joists as level as possible.  We needed to get the sag out of this ceiling to fix the upstairs hallway.  But we didn't want to lift it to the point of messing up our staircase since our steps are solid.  Once we were happy with the progress we cladded the old joists and bolted them together. 
cladding old floor joists

new floor joists in kitchen ceiling

they do try to help...

This gives new meaning to having a "green" house...

Leveling out the floor joists did help even out the floor in the upstairs hall but there was still a section of flooring that was elevated almost an inch higher than the rest of the flooring.  In this house the hardwood flooring was installed and then the walls built on top of the flooring.  This comes in handy when you are moving a wall because the flooring is continuous underneath the wall.  But it makes it difficult to replace sections of the flooring without losing the necessary support for the walls.  In this area we couldn't take up very much of the flooring because it would weaken the section where the corner wall and door jam sits.  Peter took up a few of the highest boards and shaved down the floor joist until the boards would lay with only a slight hump.  
shaving the floor joists to lower the floor boards

Wythe building a parking garage to pass the time

We had some trouble finding a company for the HVAC.   Some companies aren't at all interested in putting in duct work in a house that is over 100 years old.  A couple companies were interested but uncertain as to how to make it work.  We finally found a company that was really willing to work with us on finding a way to lay out the duct work to minimize the impact on the house.  The house is considered a story and 3/4's, that means that upstairs we have 8 foot ceilings at the highest point  but there isn't enough attic space to put any duct work or equipment up there.  The HVAC man spent hours with us designing the layout of the duct work, figuring out where the vents could go and where to fit a chase in this little house.  We did end up having to build out a wall in the kitchen but we were able to frame the wall out so that it just looks like a thick wall there. 
framing around the duct work

We were then able to put bulkheads in the library, that duct work will eventually have bookcases built around it.
framing around duct work in library

We wound up doing the insulation ourselves.  We ended up spending about the same amount on materials as we were quoted for labor and materials. However, we were able to put in double the amount of insulation than what the companies were quoting.   We wanted some interior walls insulated and the companies we talked to didn't want to insulate any interior walls. So, we ended up doing it ourselves.   
Since insulation is relatively easy to put up, I worked on that while Peter worked on projects requiring more skill.  I thought I would never stop itching!  It was amazing how much the house changed when we started closing up the walls.
we opened up the area under the eves to squeeze out a bit of storage space

insulating the house
we added insulation in some of the interior walls

Our next big push was to get everything ready for drywall.  Some items were major, such as plumbing, electrical, etc.  Some were minor but time consuming.  Such as, pulling nails from the studs.  When you have pulled lath off of the studs there are billions of nails.  

So, maybe not billions.  But there are many, many....
this is a good example of  how many nails are in every stud and joist

Before drywall we also had to get rid of the french doors in the living room.  These had been added as an entrance way when the house was converted to a duplex.   The french doors were removed and replaced by a double window from the back of the room. 
removing french doors in living room

While preparing for the drywall Peter was cleaning out some debris from the top of the kitchen wall.  Suddenly there was a bit of commotion and mice started running as he disturbed their nest.  Peter pulled down the nesting material to throw away.  Most of it was pretty nasty but I noticed that it looked old and took a closer look.  Sure enough, the nest was made of all old papers, one newspaper showed the date of  March 8, 1923.  It is possible we just disturbed the oldest, active mouse nest in Charlottesville. 
papers from active mouse nest

We were finally ready for drywall and had it delivered to the house.  
drywall delivery
bringing in the drywall

I could write pages and pages about the drywall installation but I'd rather not dwell on it so I will try to cover it briefly. 
It was terrible, and a horrible experience all around.  
While we have done most of the work on this house with our own grubby paws, we decided to hire out the drywall work in the interest of time.  The company we hired had been recommended to us, we had seen their work and knew they could do the job we were looking for.  Unfortunately, they either subbed it out or used their clean up crew to do our job.  Everything that could go wrong, did.  Everything we tried to get them to fix, got worse.   We finally paid them to leave the property and never come back.  
Not only are we still fixing the problems they created but it really killed our love for the house and it has taken some time to get back in the swing of things. 

keeping herself entertained

We also hired a company to sand the floors. We weren't very optimistic about how the floors would turn out based on the condition of them.  The first floor of the house had had two layers of flooring on top of the original.  When we finally got down to the original floor there was a lot of glue to scrape off and tons of nail and screw holes.   We also had to patch a lot of the flooring where it was rotten or damaged beyond repair.  We looked into locating old flooring for the patching job but it is very expensive and we never did find a great match.  Considering that we are planning to put an addition on the house and not planning to use 100 year old flooring in the new section we decided to go with new wood and just patch it in as best as we could. 

All in all we were pretty happy with how they turned out!
living room/entry floors before refinishing
living room/entry after refinishing
living room/kitchen floors before refinishing

living room/kitchen floors after refinishing

Now, we are concentrating on getting a few more essentials done before moving in.  I've been working on painting, we are setting up a temporary kitchen and getting the half bath put back together.  We are also trying to clean up and build some shelving in the cellar so that we have a place to store our worldly possessions.  The cellar is still flooding when we get a lot of rain so this is proving to be tricky.   We extended our lease at our rental house to enable us to have the house more habitable but it will still not be finished.  It will be months, if not years, before all the trim is stripped of 100+years of paint and repainted.  We are trying to get a few doors done so that we can have some interior doors installed before moving. 

'til next time...