What’s that lurking under the floor?

stonenaturalI said a few weeks ago that I would write about activities that are consuming a lot of my time and energy, even if they’re not glass related.  Perhaps a better way to say it is I’ll either write about my glass craft, or write about what’s pulling me away from my craft.  For the last few weeks that’s been rotten wood.

The neverending todo list

As I might have mentioned before, we live in an old Queen Anne house, built in 1897.  It’s a wonderful place, with tall ceilings, 6 fireplaces, stained glass, and some of the original plaster walls.  And in good weather my favorite feature is a screened porch on the back, added more recently, that overlooks a fenced yard shaded by a mature Ginko tree, and on the other side a small lily pond.  (The green frogs are trading their guttural gulping calls as I write this.)

We’ve known for a while that some of the tongue and groove flooring on the screened porch was rotting, due to a leaky gutter and general exposure to the elements.  Repairing that damage had been on my list for years.  An unrelated item that’s been on my list for about two years is buying a travel trailer so that Amy and I can camp more conveniently and comfortably.  Fixing the porch became a top priority when Amy said “I don’t want to talk about buying a trailer when the porch is in the condition it’s in.”  That was all the motivation I needed.

damage

Just a few rotten floorboards, no big deal.

Since I’d been thinking about doing the work for several years, I had a good idea how to approach it. The porch railing had been built on top of the tongue and groove decking, with the posts and bottom 2×4 nailed to the decking,  so if I wanted to avoid dismantling the railings I was going to have to find a way to cut those nails, both above and below the floorboards, so that I could pry the boards out horizontally.  And I’d need to slide new boards into place under the posts and bottom 2×4.  I started by using my Rockwell rotary tool, which is useful for many situations, but the blades made for that tool aren’t as long as I’d like.  I had better luck using my reciprocating saw with a 6″ demolition blade.  When I started I had a difficulty slipping the blade in above and below the flooring, and I finally hit on the idea of building a doubled 2×6 vertical post, wedging the top end under the upper framing, and jacking it up with a 6 ton bottle jack to raise the posts and railings enough to get free space.  That gave me enough room to work the saw blade in and cut the nails, and it was even more helpful when it came time to slide (drive) new floorboards into place.

It’s usually worse than you think…

What I hadn’t anticipated was how badly the structural members under the decking had deteriorated.  The floor is framed with 2×10 joists toe-nailed into beams made of tripled 2x10s, with those beams supported on cinder block piers.  As I removed the floorboards near the wettest spot (right over one of those beams) I realized that the outer end of the beam, all 3 layers of 2×10 lumber, had rotted away, and the beam had sagged about an inch below the top edge of the cinder blocks.

I’d already been to Lowe’s for flooring and a few 2x10s (I could see from the outset that I was going to have to sister up or replace a few joists), but I went back again, confident that they’d have some sort of screw jacks for bracing floors, and found just what I needed, for a paltry $35 each.  I bought two, so that I could support both the beam and the joists that attached to it, and once I had them in place I was able to cut each member of the beam back to sound wood, staggering the joints, so that I could bolt the replacements in place on the end of the original beam.  Six inch exterior grade carriage bolts and washers allowed me to bolt the whole beam together securely, with the bolts running all the way through the tripled stack, and when I lowered it into place on the pier it was rock solid.  That gave me a stable platform to re-attach the joists.  I also added cross bridging between several joists to further strengthen the framing.

The project took longer than I expected, almost two weeks, and it was brutally hot at times, but it was fairly simple work.  I still need to paint, and (especially) get the leaky gutter replaced, but we now have a rock solid porch.

Several friends have been surprised that I tackle stuff like this myself.  It helps when you’re a tool junkie, here are a few of my favorites:

Stay tuned for notes from the 2016 Glass Arts Society meeting at the Corning Museum of Glass, both firsts for me!

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