Monday, November 9, 2009

Knox Hill Cottage Project : Weekly update Part 1

Things are moving right along and because of the complexity and details of a couple of these projects and the fact that many of you are facing the same restoration issues, this will be a
two part update so I can focus on "How To" repairs.
One big project is the "restructuring" of the basement stairs. As many of you may recall these stairs were added later to replace an outside staircase. The stairs are too steep and the treads too shallow to be safe so we are changing the way they run. Under our main stairs the wood floor was run under them which is a part of today's how to post. So we removed the flooring under that part of the stairs where the basement stairs will eventually run.
Inevitably in the restoration of an old house you will need to do a floor repair or replacement. Usually a register is being relocate or sometimes a repair was made incorrectly. In our case we once had a huge cold air return in the front parlor. This was later 'boxed in' when a gas fired boiler system and radiators were added. Replacing and repairing sections of old floors is often problematic as old growth flooring is different size than new stuff and some millwork places did their own size of flooring. So what do you do? Well look for flooring in hidden places. Usually under stairs (like we did) sometimes in a closet or an attic. By using old wood,your floors should match upon sanding. Now in our case we will eventually put down a completely new square edge oak inlay on our floors but we need to get the rooms livable soon so we will initially use the old flooring so we need to get them into "presentable' shape.
Just pulling up patch and nailing down new flooring may not "fix' your problem. When you need to do a replacement as we did, NOW now is the time to fix any problems UNDER the floor which in this case were called for. In our case ( and the case in many old stone foundation floors at some point), someone decided to "insulate" by cramming stones between the floor joists and adding a
mortar/stucco filler to "seal' the edges of the house. This was common practice in the late 1800's early 1900 before insulation became widely used. The problem with this is all that stone transfers cold into the basement and can "wick" moisture into the joists causing damage. We were lucky due to the fact our house sits well above grade that wasn't a problem, BUT, a radiator with a small leak over the years had weakened a joist and repairs were called for. Our foundation is 24 inches thick. We pulled out the added stone/mortar put between the joists and using a foam insulation we got back into any hidden cavities or and cracks where wood trim met the wooden sills.
We had one joist with some damage due to the leaking radiator and we added a new joist repair next too it which was done my taking new material and using a good bonding construction adhesive, screws and lag bolts to bond the two together. We made this sister piece long enough to reach into the pocket in the foundation and out to good wood in the joist. We also filled any large holes in the wood with albatron, a wood epoxy material great for repairs. It is expensive but its a "permanent repair"and well worth the cost.
While we had this area open we also added insulation in the pocket between the joists and foundation to further prevent air infiltration. Of course eventually EVERY pocket that was stuffed with added stones and mortar will have to be cleaned out caulked and insulated but since we could easily get to this corner now was the time.
Install of the recycled flooring is pretty easy . IF,we were not eventually putting down a new hardwood floor over this one I would have gone further into the room, cut boards out at farther joists so to stagger the joists. In this case it doesn't matter because of the eventual new floor.
Tomorrow's installment: replacing knob and tube in overhead lighting applications without tearing out your plaster.

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