Wednesday, October 12, 2022

Getting Started - Finding the Problems

This tiny little bottle was in the back of a cabinet
As you start pulling back the layers of an old house, you're bound to find problems.  This house has some big structural issues that we saw when we bought it.  And we're fully aware we will find some other surprises as we go along.  That's just the way things go when you're renovating an old house - particularly one that is this old.  (We know of a highly respected builder who came to look at it when it was on the market and recommended tearing it down.  He said there were just too many structural issues and would cost too much to fix them.  Obviously we don't agree, but we know there will be challenges😁) 

But sometimes we also find some cute stuff.  Look at this tiny bottle of rum we found in the back of a cabinet!  

So what's the biggest problem we know about?  First and foremost is the failing back dormer.  We have no idea when this was added, but it's got some serious issues.  Typically when you add a dormer to a home, you put the back side of the dormer over an interior wall or the outside wall, so you can carry all the weight of the dormer to the basement foundation.

That didn't happen here.  The outside of the dormer comes down in the middle of the back sunroom.  And when you look at it from the back, you see it falls in the middle of the dining room.

This hip dormer isn't properly supported below and is sinking into the rooms below

And you can see some of the issues by looking at it from the outside.  Instead of a nice, level line, it's dipping on either side of the stink pipe (that's the cast iron waste pipe that vents to the outside) - particularly on the right side, where it's sinking the most.

And the floor plans really illustrate what's going on.  The corner that is failing the most falls right in the middle of the dining room.  That's not a good way to handle all of that weight!

We've started doing some exploratory demolition to peel back layers and see what's really going on.  And what we discovered is pretty horrifying.  It looks like the dormer was built correctly, but at some point (and judging by the dark oxidation on the wood it was quite awhile ago), someone just cut off the posts holding the dormer up - and transferring all that load to the basement - and figured they weren't needed.  Instead they treated it as a cantilever and built a new wall a couple of feet back.

They did add a few 2x4's in the basement under the new wall that was built (on 24 inch centers!), but they are clearly not handling the load. 

And in the dining room (the spot that has the huge drop in the floor above), someone tried to hang a joist hanger on the ceiling joists (with lots of shims in between), but again, that's not sufficient to handle that much weight from above.  

How can you really tell?  Well if you go into the bedroom above the dining room, you immediately notice the slope of the floor.  I started with the usual marble trick to see if it rolled downhill quickly,

 but followed up with a laser level - which showed the floor drops 4 INCHES in a 7 FOOT wide room!!!  

Sigh.... I hate when we find things like this, but am happy that we can fix it before there is some sort of catastrophic failure.  We're working on a plan now to replace that dormer with one that is properly supported.  It will be a big renovation, but absolutely necessary.

And in the meantime, we'll keep peeling back layers to see what other surprises are waiting for us!  Stay tuned for all the fun! 

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  1. I was taking down a drop ceiling and had nude photos fall on my head! LOL

  2. My husband's response when I showed him the pictures was "oh my god!".


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