More on the Floor

Every floor is under construction at once. Or maybe I should say “the floor of every floor”… as in, the basement floor, the first-floor floor, and the attic floor. Let’s tackle them one by one.

D.D. took a jackhammer to the basement floor. Previously a section of this slab sloped up at the base of the old stairs, forming a bumpy landing. Bob suspected the house was built atop an erratic boulder nobody wanted to move at the time, and D.D. basically removed the protruding part, kicking up lots of choking dust in the process. Now instead of a bump the basement has a hole – we’ll have to do something about that.

Ultimate jackhammer power in the hands of D.D.

Ultimate jackhammer power in the hands of D.D.

In the living room we’re gradually replacing the old floorboards with a modern plywood subfloor. Mark and Paté figured out how best to remove the floorboards, working a couple of pry-bars between the bottom of each board and the joists below. There’s actually another subfloor below the floorboards, which we left in place because (I guess) it smoothes out the unevenness of our joist timbers. After removing enough floorboards to expose a four-foot-wide segment, we cut ¾-inch plywood sheets to create the new floor, and so on.

A mighty nail gun in the hands of Mark, as he installs the new subfloor.

A mighty nail gun in the hands of Mark, as he installs the new subfloor.

The attic flooring and the living-room finish ceiling will be two styles of tongue-and-groove floorboards. D.D., Paté, and I made an assembly line to hoist the flooring from Bob’s trailer around the house, up through the attic window, and stacked onto “stickers” so all sides can dry and acclimate to the indoor environment before we install it. Underneath, Hans installed cleats on both sides of the joists so we’d have a place to nail the ceiling. He called ceiling-board measurements up to me (often with “short” and “long” edges since the joists bend a little) and I cut them on the chop saw, then passed ‘em back down for installation.

Foaming at the Mouth

Much of the house is freshly insulated. On Friday Nate sprayed expanding foam into all the walls upstairs, a few of them downstairs, and half the roof. The dormer roof has to wait because the sheathing is rotten, and we’ll replace it when we redo the roof. (The gable side needs new sheathing as well, but we can lay it over the original.)

Today Nate worked hard to saw back extraneous foam that pokes in front of the studs, so there’s nothing in the way of drywall later. The foam smells pretty bad, but it’s not nearly as nauseating as the Bondo wood-filler Bob used to patch a rotten portion of a timber floor joist near the stairs. Good day to wear a respirator, not that any of us actually did.

Bondo. Hold your breath.

Bondo. Hold your breath.

Once the Bondo was dry to the touch, Hans and I proceeded with ripping up the old floor and installing ¾-inch plywood around the stairs. Making the new floor level is an ongoing challenge. We aim to match the existing subfloor and so the new hardwood flooring may run continuously with the old, but the existing subfloor varies. One piece of plywood has a ¼-inch shim under one side and a ½-inch shim under the other side, with nothing in the middle. Fortunately this piece will wind up mostly under the stair landing, so once we finish nobody can step on it.

Hans applies a bead of glue to keep the new subfloor from squeaking.

Hans applies a bead of glue to keep the new subfloor from squeaking.

D.D. ripped out some more walls and salvaged an accordion closet door along with some nice 2×4 studs. Mark measured and installed some nailers for the perimeter of the new subfloor where it meets the old. I helped figure the riser and tread lengths of our steep new basement stairs, for which Hans intends to cut stringers as soon as Bob acquires the lumber.

D.D. pries apart a closet door frame.

D.D. pries apart a closet door frame.

Blank Stair

Stairs. Gone. Poof.

We removed the stairs to the attic first, then proceeded with the stairs to the basement. There really wasn’t much to it. We exposed the stair stringers on all sides, then Hans took the sawzall and sliced through each stringer’s top and bottom connection points. He also cut the stringers near midspan to chop the stairs into manageable pieces for removal. Outside, D.D. did the grunt work of separating treads, risers, stringers, and nailers, and tossed anything not salvageable onto the burn pile.

Hans chops up the basement stairs.

Hans chops up the basement stairs.

For the next couple days, access to the attic and the basement is ladders-only. That didn’t seem to slow us down much. Led by Hans, we got a nice jump start framing the new stairwell, which is a shade wider than the old and sits about six inches east. Main support joists on the first floor are mostly new construction: a trio of 2x8s on one side and a 2×6 sistered to a partially-rotted original timber on the other. Mark and D.D. destroyed the kitchen wall and a few others, making a wonderfully open floor plan, at least for a little while. Hans and I ripped ¾-inch plywood to fit around the new stairwell and shimmed it to match the height of the existing subfloor.

Downstairs, head clearance tops out around six feet and gets further interrupted by timber joists and utilities. I spent as little time down there as possible, but Mark went full speed, installing more temporary jack posts and permanent joists to supplement the existing ones. Fitting a particular 4×4 beam into place required him to bend an active gas line about a half-inch. Didn’t seem to faze him.

Upstairs, Mark, Hans, and I sheathed the sorta-structural closet wall in plywood. I installed a slew of joist hangers, including a monster of Bob’s own fabrication to reinforce the ridge beam between two dormer rafters. Paté prepped the attic for insulation, sealing off the shower stall and the floors with plastic sheets, and then gave the whole place a good thorough clean. Nate the insulator arrives tomorrow!