Thursday, March 19

The Old House Blog Has Moved

Please update your links to the new Old House Blog

From now on all the new blogging will appear on the 'Home Garden Companion' site.

Saturday, December 21

And now for the walls:

Now that the old ceiling has been totally removed and the old oak joists exposed, it was time to remove the old plaster & lath walls.  In 2 previous rooms I had done, I left all 4 plastered walls intact and faced them with 1/4" drywall.  In this room I decided to remove the plaster and lath on the 2 exterior walls so I could remove the old blown-in insulation (to be replaced with R11 fiberglass insulation).  With the 2 interior walls I left the old plaster in place and faced them with the 1/4" drywall.  This is a fairly simple way to obtain a new smooth surface.  To make certain the 1/4" drywall stayed in place I used heavy duty Liquid Nails adhesive and drywall screws.

I also removed the window and door casings and the baseboards.  Next, on the exterior walls I adjusted the electrical outlets, and since I had those walls open, I decided to add another 2 outlets.  Per NEC you are supposed to have an outlet within 6 feet (Thus, you could have them 12' apart and be in the middle and therefore within 6 feet of an outlet).  Being an old house, it is "grandfathered in".  But, given the opportunity to easily add an additional couple outlets, I did.

Since the old floor was still in place, we were able to sweep up and dispose of the plaster just as we had for the ceiling.  We also used the same fan set-up to exhaust the dust.

Old Construction Issues:

Now that I had the ceiling and 2 walls exposed down to the joists and studs, it was time to prepare to install the drywall.  However, there was a problem that needed to be addressed first.

1.  As I previously mentioned, the ceiling sagged (saucer like) to about a 4" dip in the center of the room.  A previous post explains why.  In order to rectify this, I purchased 2x8x16' boards to sister on to the old oak joists.  The actual span was a little under 16'.  Once I cut them to the proper length and mitered the top edges to follow the rafter line, I had my son lift them up to me through the 2nd floor bedroom window.  We installed them one at a time lifting into place.  We applied heavy duty Liquid Nails adhesive to the old oak joist, then manuevered the new joist onto the 2 end plates.  Once in place, I used 3" deck screws to sister the new joist onto the old.

2.  Once we had all the new boards "sistered" to the old joists it was time to trim off the sagged part of the old oak joists that sagged below the new ones.  The easiest way to do this was to just carefully run my circular saw along the bottom sagged edge of the old oak joist to make it level (even) with the new joists. Where I couldn't quite get to the edges (by the wall) with the circular saw, I trimmed off the remaining 2-3" with my reciprocating saw. By doing this, I now basically had double joisted the span.  This had accomplished 2 things.  First, I greatly strengthened/reinforced the span.  Second, I now not only had a level ceiling, I had a level base for laying down subfloor T&G plywood in the attic above for storage space.

3.  The walls presented another problem.  The old oak studs were not on center and they were not plumb.  They varied in thickness from 2"-2-1/4".  The main problem was that not only were they not plumb, but they varied in width from about 3-3/4" to 4-1/4".  AND, there was sometimes that variation in the same stud from top to bottom..  How I handled that was to sister new studs onto the old ones plus add a few new ones.  This still resulted in some of the old studs being wider than the new ones.  What I did was use my DeWalt portable planer to plane/shave the old oak studs down to the same width as the new ones.  Since I was going to install my drywall horizontally, it wasn't as critical to have the studs perfectly plumb.

4.  Now that the demolition and prep work was done, my next step was to install the ceiling drywall.  I will discuss this in my next post.

Thursday, December 19

Getting started

First order of business in beginning this project is to:

Get room cleared out of all the stuff that had accumulated in it over the years.  Since the room was basically unusable as an occupied space, it became very useful as a dumping ground.  We called this room the "junk room" and it has fulfilled this use and now is finally being made livable after all these years.


Prepare for demolition work.  We decided to leave the floor in place until last.  This way, as we removed the old plaster and lath from the ceiling and walls the debris would collect on the floor for removal to the trash bin.  Also, the old floor served as a floor to work off of and it also didn't matter that it got damaged by falling plaster and lath.  

 Before we started knocking down the old plaster, we first rolled up the old insulation in the attic above the ceiling.  

Let the demolition begin:

Demolition is usually easy.  You do need to take some safety precautions (goggles, dust masks, etc).  The basic tools needed are a wrecking bar, vise grips, and a hammer.  In order to minimize the amount of dust getting into the rest of the house, we closed the door and opened the 2 windows.  In one window we put a window fan (set on "high") exhausting the dust to the outside.  The other window served as the intake to create cross ventilation. This greatly minimizes the amount of dust settling/floating in the house. Once these preliminaries were done, we began tearing down the old ceiling.  Once you have smashed a hole in the plaster you can begin using the wrecking/pry bar to begin  pulling down the old plaster and lath.  The vise grips are used to remove any remaining lath nails from the joists.  Once the old ceiling is totally removed it is time to begin cleanup.  I purchased an inexpensive 33 gallon trash can and a box of 50 heavy duty contractor trash bags.  We would scoop up about 50 lbs worth of debris in the bag, then haul it out to the trash bin.  The reason for about 50 lbs was only because that weight was manageable and still avoid causing the bag to break. This was mainly for the old plaster which adds up to a lot of weight.  With the old lath, we threw it out the window to be used as kindling for our wood stove during the winter.

I have posted some pictures (in a previous post) of the exposed ceiling and the old oak joists .  What you see here is the unfinished attic.  The BX armored cable you see was for the old ceiling light fixture.  This was the only wiring for the room.  There were no receptacles in any of the upstairs rooms when we moved here, only single ceiling light fixtures with a wall switch.

Monday, December 16

Reason for bowed ceiling

There are a couple reasons for the bowed ceiling.  As I previously mentioned, both the floor and the ceiling sagged like a saucer.  The sag was about 4" in the center of the room.

Sag reason #1.  The old 2x8" oak joists (roughly 16" on center) spanned almost 16'.  This is undersized for this span (even considering they were oak).  Looking at the span tables, the joists should have been 2x10 - 2x12, depending on the species of lumber.  I would like to state that the 2x8 oak joists were rough sawn and were a full 2"x8" (more or less, as things were not exactly "standard" back then).

Sag reason #2.  We were told that previous Amish residents from the past had brought the bathroom facilities inside.  In order to have "running water", they had rigged up a gravity system where they stored the water upstairs and piped it down to the bathroom below (much like a water tower).  Now with water weighing 8 lbs/gallon it is very easy to see how even having a 500 gallon tank up there would easily weigh 4000 lbs.  And, if it leaked, that would cause even further warping

The floor of this room was obviously the ceiling of the 1st floor room below.  I had previously leveled that ceiling by removing the plaster and lath in that room.  Then, instead of doing anything with the existing undersized oak joists, I went to the low point of the ceiling and "sistered" 2x6" boards onto the existing 2x8 oak joists.  The old joists, over nearly a 100 year time frame had sagged as far as they were going to.  By sistering the new 2x6 joists to these, I actually strengthened the span.  Once the ceiling was level, we installed full length 3/4"  T&G bead board (which I stained).  We had also redone the walls in this room and wallpapered.

A photo of the bead board ceiling (in the room below) is shown above.

Saturday, December 14

Leveling floors & ceilings in 120 year old farm house.

First...A little history.

Back in 1985 my wife and I and our 5 children (at the time) purchased an old farm house out in the country that was built in stages beginning in 1894.  We had lived in the city and felt it would be a good idea to move to the country.  Anyway, after about a year of looking at "out in the country" properties, we found this one.  I liked it at first sight.  Being young and strong (but not overly bright), I underestimated what I was getting into in regards to the amount of work and money this place needed.  But, like I said, when you are young, there is that feeling of invincibility...that feeling of "Yea, I can do that...piece of cake".  Kinda' like that saying "ask a teenager, they know everything".

Anyway, I am not complaining.  I have actually enjoyed my life here and the work I have put into the place.  There is a sense of pride and accomplishment when you step back and say "wow, was I really able to do that!"  I really enjoy the projects (once I start them).  One of my biggest struggles is getting started.  Often I will come up with reasons why a particular project is too hard (too expensive, beyond my skill level, too busy...whatever).  But, after my wife plants the seed in my head, and after all my initial resistance, I begin to mull it over, research it, ask lots of questions...then I get started.

This old house was an obvious, very rundown, handyman special.  It had very minimal electricity, no heat, no insulation, sagging floors & ceilings, and many other shortfalls.  In order to get the bank to even give us a mortgage on the place we had to first upgrade the electric to a 200A service in order to install necessary heating. 

Over the 28 years we have been here, the projects have been many...and ongoing.

I often tell people that I live in the projects.

My latest project has been to finally tackle one last unfinished room in the house.  This is an upstairs bedroom with a seriously sagging floor and ceiling along with failing plaster.  The floor & ceiling both sagged about 4" to the center of the room in a saucer like manner.  If you placed a marble anywhere along the perimeter it would quickly roll to the center.

Tomorrow, I will explain the reasons behind the bowed floor along with how I dealt with it.  Until then...

Pictures of the upstairs bedroom project