Thursday, March 27, 2008

Warning: Head-Bone Connected to the Pain-in-the-Neck-Bone

So, we have a new if not completely finished roof. The interior stopped shipping water. Great news.

BUT, it is a fact of rehabbing life that when you fix something, you find the next weakest link in the chain of jerry-rigged repairs and jake-legged improvements, plus any naturally occurring problems. When a box gutter is dumping water out the wrong end, for instance, it doesn't send water down the downspout and into the drain out to the storm sewer. When you fix the box gutter, re-attach the downspout and then get a couple inches of heavy rain, you send hundreds of gallons of H20 down that drain. That drain that hadn't seen water in years. That drain that was badly clogged.

So, water was not running down the drain. I was unaware of that. For a while. Then, I heard water running. In the basement. Uh-oh...

It seems that some time ago, a prior owner attached a kitchen drain to the storm drain, just below the downspout, and not very well at that. Since there were hundreds of gallons of water coursing down with no way to get through the drain, the water found the next weakest link and that was around that former kitchen drain hookup, in the basement.

Fortunately, or unfortunately, the water was coming in at the dirt end of the basement, actually in the crawl space, which we have currently exposed. It drained right into soil, so there was no real damage, but there's a funky smell and a bit of moisture lingering at the north end of the house.

The good news is our plumber, Bert. I called him, he came. He said he'd have to cut the concrete to get at the drain and that it would take a couple days to get to it. It took him one and they were done early in the morning. I had intended to take a few pictures, but they were in and out before I could move. They under-promised and over delivered. Me like. I'll be talking more about our plumber later.

One bit of upside is that they hooked up a "Y" connector so that I can drain water off the concrete patio and into the drain instead of down the walk or up against our house.

It could have been worse, so I'm thanking our lucky stars.

Now, back to furring and framing.

Friday, March 14, 2008

False Alarm... back to blogging.

OK, we called the lumberyard to ask for an ETA and apparently the truck doesn't have our load of lumber on it, so we're back.

And now, to the roofing.
Well, they're not done yet.
And it's raining.

I got to give it to the laborers, they knew they weren't done and so they rigged up a clever temporary fix until they get back, which is right where the top boxgutter from the gable roof meets the valley at the shed roof. As you can see, they've taken a bit of the metal and laid it over the top of the junction so that the water drains down to the shed roof into the lower box gutter. I just hope we don't have any wind...

Here's the boys hard at work on a beautiful 55 degree day- the first dry one in a few weeks.

[By the way the house directly to the right of ours is for sale by the city. Owner-occupied rehabbers come take a look! Heck, make an offer on the one to the left of us, too. Currently it's being rented out as three different apartments and is in desperate need of a single family owner.]

Back to the roof: the flashing. I would've asked the laborers if they were planning on a little more work on the flashing, but my Spanish isn't so good anymore.

This is the East side of the house, looking up at the roof. Maybe it's just me, but I'm not so happy with the way this looks. I have to assume they're just not finished on that part, either. I would have thought that the underside would have gone down first, but I'm not a roofer.

The West side also needs some finishing work, too. The flashing so far is buckling up towards the back, and the picture at the bottom of this post shows some mighty big gaps from the inside of the 3rd floor.

I was tempted to take down the plastic we have hung up through the second floor, the 'water feature' as the hubby calls it, but he said no- wait until they're finished, so up it stays.

I can't wait to have a finished roof. Everything we've been putting off depends on it.

Furring & Roofing : a busy day.

First of all, I wanted to show another image of what we did with the furring on the second floor with the 2 foot oc measurements and how we furred in the windows. The blue lines represent where we had to add in the extra 2x4's, and the orange lines represent the regularly spaced 2' 2x4's.

Of note is the gap we've left at the bottom near the floor. We've spaced for another 2x4 along the bottom and a 1 1/2" gap for wiring and electric. This space is so that we can cover the wires at the vertical 2x4's with a 1 5/8" standard nailer plate (to prevent the drywallers from hitting a nail through the wiring at the bottom of the wall.)

Also, the red arrows point to where the E-W wall used to attach to the East wall. Here, of course, is exactly where a 2x4 needs to go, so we pulled out the rest of the plaster (most of it was pulling away from the brick from the demo process anyway) and we're tapconning and gluing in small 1"x2" boards to the brick, as to be flush with the plaster for when the 2x4 goes on top, it will be flush with the other 2x4's.

It should work.

OK, I was going to write about the roofing process... it's day 3 for Benchmark Roofing and I've got a few problems, but Reimier Lumber just called with our lumber delivery order, So we've got to run.

To be continued....

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Concealed Shoes - an alternative to human sacrifice.

Yes, we found shoes. Hidden "concealed" shoes built into the house.

The demo team turned them up during the demolition process, so I'm not sure exactly where in the house they were found, (we're trying to find the crew to ask them) but I'm ever so grateful they were set aside for us. What am I referring to? Old (single) shoes hidden in the walls during the original construction of the house, around 1860.

I thought it was odd, but nevertheless, very very cool. There were six shoes altogether. Two adult shoes (that didn't match each other) and four children's shoes, all mismatched as well. The adult shoes barely held together and I'm sorry to say, didn't get saved. I really regret not keeping them now, even if they were barely soles and cloth and a couple of grommets. Now that I know a little more about the whys and wherefores, I'm kicking myself with those two lost shoes.

So here's a little bit of what we picked up in our research of concealed shoes from the Wayland Historical Society in Massachusetts:

When owners of old houses begin renovations, they should be aware that they might turn up some unexpected treasures in the walls of their homes. Two Wayland families have discovered a trove of old shoes hidden in the house walls, a reflection of an ancient superstition that hiding shoes in a house as it was being built, would ward off evil.

Jennifer Swope, assistant curator of the Society for Preservation of New England Antiquities, points out that although hundreds of these concealed shoes have been found in buildings in both Europe and Eastern United States no one has ever photographed these finds in the exact site where they have been found.

When tearing out the wall in an old chaise house about eighteen years ago, James and Mary Reed found a baby's white, ankle-high shoe, some small wooden toys and some ears of corn. Their Old Sudbury Road home has been the site of so many additions since the earliest part was built about 1750 that they were not sure whether the shoes were hidden at the time the chaise house was built or in a later renovation.

The Raymond Johnsons who live in the Brintnall-Loker house, the oldest house still standing in the Cochituate area, have found shoes in two different locations in their home. In an upstairs wall, near a window, four well-worn shoes--none of them mates--were found. The photograph at the right shows a common custom of having several members of the family each contribute one shoe to the cache. In the second instance, a toddler's little shoes had been deliberately built into the wall near a downstairs fireplace. Hidden with it was an old sleigh bell. The toy tree shown right was found with shoes in the Reed house. The Johnson shoes are currently being researched to determine their age and whether they have been buried in the walls at the time the house was built in 1740, or whether they were added in a later building improvement.

The Wayland shoe finds have been listed on an international index of concealment shoes, maintained at the Northampton (England) Museum. More than a thousand concealment shoes, some dating back to the fourteenth century, have been reported in Western Europe. In this country these shoes have been discovered mostly in New England, but there have also been reports of buried shoes as far south as Virginia and far west as Missouri.

Why would shoes be deliberately built into a home or public building? Some have speculated that the tradition stems from the prehistoric custom of killing a person and placing the body in the foundation to insure that the building holds together. Later shoes were used as a substitute for a human sacrifice. Shoes may have been chosen, because over time they take on and keep the shape of the wearer's foot. Shoes were hidden near openings in the home--doors, windows, chimneys--the perceived weak places in the building that were thus protected from evil by the shoe owner's spirit.

About half the shoes registered in the concealment index are children's shoes. Women's shoes are more common than men's. Shoes are almost invariably well worn, perhaps because the donor didn't want to waste an expensive new shoe on the project, or perhaps because a well-worn shoe is more likely to retain the shape of the wearer's foot and hence his spirit. Though shoes are the common denominator, more than two hundred different personal possessions--coins, spoons, pots, goblets, food, knives, toys, gloves, pipes, even chicken and cat bones--have been found hidden with them.

Considering how widespread and long lasting this folk belief has been, it is curious that nowhere was it described in writing until references began to appear in mid-twentieth century archaeology literature in scholarly journals. Some speculate the tradition of hiding shoes was a male superstition, kept secret almost out of fear that telling about it would reduce its effectiveness. Others feel contemporary writers did not describe it since superstition ran counter to prevailing religious beliefs and the Puritans punishment of witchcraft and magic was well-known.

When removing walls especially around windows and doors, under roof rafters and behind old chimneys, homeowners should be aware of the possibility of turning up concealment shoes. While most are found in eighteenth and nineteenth century homes, a find hidden as late as 1935 has been reported. If shoes are found, they should left exactly as they were discovered and photographed. Items found with the shoes are as important as the shoes themselves and should also be saved.

Sources include: Displayed Shoes and Concealed Ones, Early American Homes, April 1999; Hidden Shoes and Concealed Beliefs, Archaeological Leather Group Newsletter ; Shoes Concealed in Buildings, NorthamptonMuseums Journal 6, December 1969 ; Ralph Merrifield, The Archaeology of Ritual and Magic , B.T. Batsford Ltd., London, 1987

So here's our treasure:

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Why you use 2' increments for furring.

One word: DRYWALL.

When furring in the windows, we almost made the huge mistake of mis-attaching the furring strips.

For the sake of example, let's say we started in the right hand corner of a room and were laying furring along the wall to the left. Since we'd never done this before, we started with the assumption that when you started from the corner with the first furring strip, you'd measure from the exposed edge (the left side of the 2x4 ) of the corner 2x4, measure over 24" to the left, then lay the second furring strip to the right side of that 24" mark. So far so good.

The question was what happens when you come to a window, or a door frame. What then? I thought, well, you just frame in the window on all four sides, then continue measuring 24" to the left of the left side of the window and start measuring 24" from there. WRONG.

Apparently, you need to keep the 24" pacing around the wall and room, regardless of what gets in the way, because of the drywall 4'x8'measurements. So, if you need to add more strips around a window or a door frame that is not at a pre-measured interval, you just add in new furring where you need it.

In the animated image here, I've shown what we did, and why. CLICK THE IMAGE.

Note (in the animation) the orange arrows show where we added in the additional furring to the left, above and below the window to accommodate the window, but did NOT adjust the 2' spacing of the regular furring strips, and how the drywall would be laid in (from the ceiling downwards) after everything was in place.

Again, I note: In the 'preview' image, it doesn't show the animation, so you'll need to click on the image to see the full presentation.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

ceiling joists reinforced, wetwall plans.

I just wanted to update the progress on the joists between the first and second floors and toss in a picture or two.

We just finished completing the reinforcement of the joists with 2x4s at the bottom of each of the 2x8 joists with a nail gun (nails about every 12" - which may be overkill, but should be stable) and in areas where there was bowing in the boards, we pre-drilled holes through the 2x4 and the joists and reinforced with lag bolts, then tightened the bejezzus out of them. After a few days, we climbed back up and tightened them again for the pure joy of it. In the case of a couple split and damaged joists, we also sistered 2/8 stock to them as well and used carriage bolts through joist, 2x4, and 2x8.

How much of the cross bridging we decided to pull down and what pipes are still existing in the joists determined which side of the joists we attached the 2x4's to, so they're not all on the same side of the joists. As you can see from the image, some are on the North side of the joist, some are on the South side, but they're all reinforced.

As a side note: we attached 2x6's to the floor joists that will be directly under the shower and tub on the second floor to handle any additional load from all the water while taking a bath. Overkill, I know, but when you have the opportunity to avoid disaster-- you take it.

The fun part is getting up on the second floor and jumping up and down. No more bouncy floors.

We still have to figure out how much room the HVAC guy is going to need to the left and right side of the chimney for the 8" round duct work he wants to install -- we have an idea, obviously, but we don't want to cut it too close and we don't want to lose any additional space if we can avoid it.

And of course, we can't finish the furring out on the rest of the West wall until we know exactly where the end of the chimney wall will be for us to measure out the 2' increments for the furring strips. So we wait until we hear back from our HVAC guy.

In the meantime, we started furring out the second floor, putting in the horizontal firebreaks at the top of the walls, just under the ceiling joists, and then attaching the vertical furring strips to the wall underneath.

Learning Moment: On the first floor, we tried attaching the vertical wall furring strips first, with the intent to attach the top horizontal firebreak/furring strip after the fact, which was, in the end, a bad idea. We discovered that just because you measure down 3 1/2 inches from each joist doesn't mean you can then insert a 2x4x10 evenly across the tops of the furring strips.

What we did originally was, after positioning each 2x4x10 against the wall (on top of the jig I made to adjust for the 2x4 to be attached horizontally across the flooring, plus an additional 1 1/2" gap for wiring) I used a 2x4 cut piece of block and held it up against the board, just under the ceiling joist to mark the length of the board to cut. It was a good plan, except that the ceiling joists weren't equal or level.

Since we used construction adhesive as well as tapcons to attach the furring strips to the wall, we ended up having to take the circular saw, adjusting the depth to 1 3/8 (just below the width of the 2x4) and cutting of the tops of a couple of the furring strips to make a long 2x4 fit above it. So, always fit in the top firebreak/furring strip in first.

We're now also preparing to frame in the wet wall on the first floor. We've decided to adjust the plans to allow for an additional 12" of space in the kitchen, so we're moving the wet wall to the South by one joist. Since the wet wall will only be 6" deep (with additional 5/8" drywall on each exterior surface) we'll be placing one edge of the wall on one floor joist and will need to add blocking under the floor to support the other side of the wall (since it won't be on a joist, which are approximately 14" apart.)

Also, in building the wet wall, we'll be using 2' x 2x4 horizontal furring strips on the West wall to make sure the wet wall and future dry wall has something to be attached TO. This means, starting from the top of the horizontal furring strip between the joists where the wet wall is to be built, we will need to measure down 2" and mark that point as the center of the next 2x4. This allows us to attach the wet wall anywhere vertically between the 2 ceiling and floor joists.

In the drawing (sorry, no pictures YET) I'm trying to show that (C) is the new wet wall to be built, (B) is the 2x4 horizontal furring strip/firebreak (that is always installed before the vertical furring strips) and (A)is the joist under the floor that will NOT have part of the wet wall built over it.

(1) shows the gap from the vertical furring that will allow for electrical wires to pass horizontally without having to cut through the furring. (2) is the horizontal blocking we'll install before building the wet wall, so we can attach the wet wall to the WEST wall. And (3) is the additional blocking we will need to install from the basement to support the side of the wet wall that is not over a joist.

More images to come soon....

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Tapcon Quick Tip

As part of our preparation of the house, we're firring out the brick walls to accommodate wiring and spray foam insulation. This also gives us a chance to make sure the walls are plumb for the 5/8" drywall. Fortunately, they are, for the most part.

But, one has to be aware of how much the heads of the tapcons rise above the face of the 2x stock, as this will interfere with the dry wall. Additionally, we need to be concerned with tightening the screws in too much. If we over-tighten the anchor, it will strip out of brick and masonry leaving nothing for the tapcon to hold onto.

So, if you drive the tapcon in hard in order to make the head flush with the firring strip, you stand a high probability of boring out the hole and causing the anchor to fail. So, what to do?

Since the boards are pre-drilled (a masonry bit won't do well with wood), one can purchase a and use a counter-sink bit which will allow the head of the screw to drive flush with the boards without excess tightening. Fair enough, but if you don't want to stop what you're doing to mess around with that, I've found that often the drill "head" can be simply driven down against the board until it cuts about 1/16" into the board, which will allow that tapcon head to be sunk to board level. We'll try to provide a picture of this.

Just remember, don't over tighten your tapcon anchors and countersink your anchor holes in firring strips (be sure to check out the link to for cheap tapcons, too).

Our prior post on tapcons is here.