Monday, December 15, 2014

Let's Rejoist!

Most people say that in life only death and taxes are certain. Things can always be "certain" depending on what the situation is. Well this situation is working on an old 1920's Tudor style house. While working on a 1920's Tudor style house 3 things are certain, a home project will never go as planned, it takes infinitely longer to fix something than it does to break it, and even if it was done the proper way in the past it may need to be fixed in the future.

Clearly from our blog it is evident that we have done a large amount of work to our property. Not just the boring slap some paint on here, put this detail trim there, and change that light fixture in there. We have had to do some major stuff, for instance install a sump pump and pit. Well another project was fixing some floor joists.

In our house, one of the things that I demanded is that when we start working on it, we work from the bottom up. Meaning we did everything we could to this house to ensure it will last another 100 years, before we did the boring stuff (see definition of boring stuff above). Lucky enough for me, I have a wife that agreed even though she loves that boring detail work. Probably for the first 8 months, if not longer, we spent our time fixing and improving things in the basement. Seriously, we probably went for a year without a single picture on the wall. Which for any men reading this... I can confirm that is about the maximum amount of time your very loving and understanding wife will allow you to get away with not hanging pictures on the walls.

The first thing we did in the basement was just clean the dang thing. Vacuuming between every joist, pulling out every old nail, and getting rid of all the old worthless pipes that some lazy plumber left in random places. Hours were spent just pulling nails alone. Easily half of a 5 gallon bucket was filled with nails.

When you spend all that time doing this, you realize every little thing that is wrong with your house. We found a few things that needed to be addressed immediately; 1 floor joist had significant dry rot and/or termite damage, another had about 3/4 of the joist notched out (thanks joe the plumber for that, seriously the main joist under the tub?), and a third had a crack in it due to a knot. The fixes were simple enough in theory, the first 2 we needed to sister joists to and the 3rd we only needed to bolt some stiffeners on each side to make sure the crack would not get any worse.

*Joist 1: Dry rot joist not pictured before*

Joist 2: 3/4 cut joist:

Joist 3: Crack due to a knot and time:

The dry rot joist was not that bad to sister, it was time consuming though. The first thing we had to do is to pull back any wiring that ran through the joist, simple enough. The next thing we had to do was remove a fair amount of duct work to be able to get the joist fully in place. After that, we began the long process of maneuvering a 2x8 - 12 board into place while feeding it through a stairwell. This was equivalent of putting a square plug in a round hole. You think it may work at first so you try for a while to do it, then finally realize something different must be done. Our "something different that must be done" was just taking the sawzall and cutting a hole in the wall. At this point we actually dry fit the joist into place, and it went into place quite nicely. We took it out and used construction adhesive on the joist, and nailed them together. Joist 1 done.

The "joe the plumber joist" took about just as long. The electrical was pulled already due to the other joist. However this time around, there was an old return that was not taken out when it was removed. We quickly found out why the HVAC guy did not remove it, it was probably one of my least favorite encounters with sheet metal my entire life and took about 2 hours to fully remove. This time without the stairs in our way we had a easy path to feed the new joist into place. However, this dry fit attempt did not work. The old joist had bowed too much that we could not get it into place. So we got creative and raised the joist with a car jack and 2x4 to slide the new joist in. With a little love and small tools it worked, by "little love" I mean Brooke banging it with hammers into place (so it would be flat against existing joist) and by "small tools" I mean me using a 20 lb sledge to drive the new joist like a nail the length of the existing joist. This joist was glued and nailed as well. Joist 2 done.

The final joist with the crack was the easiest to fix. The crack was not that bad, maybe 2 inches long. If I thought the crack would not get any worse I would not have done anything, but that was not the case. I used my trusty 2x4 and car jack again to get the beam up and make sure it was level. 

Once it was level, I cut a 2x8 -10 in half. Then I screwed the 2 boards together in a couple places. Next, I drilled 8 1/2" holes for the bolts that I would be using to secure these pieces in place, making sure the holes were not lined up perfectly with one another to help keep the wood from splitting. Next I took one piece glued and screwed it in place, then used the hole in that piece to guide the drill, to drill through the existing joist. 

Once that was done, I simply tightened the bolts with to secure the second board (with glue as well). Joist 3 done.  


*Note: This also fixed a squeak in the floor above*

Now, this isn't a glamorous post, but having the peace of mind that our home innards are structurally sound is the most important thing. more “Let's Rejoist!”

Thursday, December 4, 2014

"Quick" Weekend Tiling

My parents have helped Matt and me out a tremendous amount the past couple years.  Since they own several rental homes that they are always trying to improve, their own house can get neglected as a non-priority sometimes.  We all know that feeling, right?  So last weekend over Thanksgiving weekend, Matt and I offered to tile their bathroom for them which they had already bought tile for.  Surprisingly, this gorgeous tile came from Costco - not your normal home improvement stop!

Matt and my goal was to have this old laminate gone and the new bathroom tile job done in two days.  The bathroom before:

However, we always seem to run into troubles as almost no DIY home improvement projects can go exactly as planned.  Once we ripped off all the laminate, we discovered a problem (which my parents had already suspected might be a problem).  The toilet had been leaking; but it had been leaking for so long that the sub floor was completely rotted out.  

We first sprayed the black mold with bleach and then cut out the sub floor around the toilet ring and replaced it with brand new plywood (which included re-framing under the floor so the plywood had something to attach to).  

Next, we checked for squeaks around the floor (which can be fun cause we just bounced around the floor) and tightly screwed down the sub floor in any area that had slight squeaks.  If you ever are re-doing a floor of any kind, I highly recommend remembering to do this step!  It's your only chance to fully get rid of those annoying floor creeks.

We then had to shorten the door trim since a layer of concrete backerboard and tiling would be raising the floor higher than before.  We lucked out that the door was already short enough that we didn't have to trim that down.  The piece cut off on the door trim shows how much the floor is raised with backerboard and the tile dry fitted to fit perfectly underneath the trim.

The backerboard is extremely simple to put down as there are even grooves in each location where a 1 1/4" #10x hardi backer screw should be placed.  The hard part here is cutting this concrete board.  It's not easily scored with something like a utility knife.  The easiest way we have found to cut it is with a grinder.  If anyone else out there has a better way to cut this, let us know!!  *Update: A savvy reader says installing the blade backwards on a circular saw results in a clean cut*

The next step is sort of two fold.  Choosing your starting point for the first line **this is crucial as if the first line is messed up/not square, then everything else will end up not square**.  At the same time we were dry fitting to find our starting point; my mom also had to decide how she wanted the tiles laid (brick pattern, perfect grid, staggered, etc).  

She decided, with our agreeing opinion, to go with a 1/3 staggered pattern.  Note that we also have the tile threshold placed in the doorway ready to go (pictured above) and also mortared into placed joint tape in between the two backerboards (not pictured).  We were finally ready to tile!  We mixed our mortar, cut our tile, and started laying tile with one of our favorite new tools for tiling... the QEP Tile Leveling spacer and clips.  The reason we used these are because we were working with such big tile in a small space.  Larger tile is truly harder to install than smaller 12"x12" tiles.  Watch a YouTube or Home Depot's video on how they work, it's pretty baller.  You can see the level spacer system below.

This is what poor Matt looked like from the tile cutter.

We cleaned up the tile (and ourselves) and let it sit overnight.  The next morning we kicked all of the clips off, grouted, and cleaned again.

We installed the toilet with a new wax ring and the vanity sink.  My parents had a working bathroom again!

Now we just need to convince them to update the vanity and cabinet . more “"Quick" Weekend Tiling”

Monday, December 1, 2014

Building firepits

I am not a huge fan of cold weather, but there are definitely perks that can come from it.  The best thing about the temperatures dropping is bonfires!  Nothing beats talking around a fire with friends and family roasting marshmallows for some good ol’ s’mores.  In honor of how much Matt and I love bonfires, this week’s blog post is about the fire pit we built at our rental (which I’m super jealous of – we don’t even have one at our house).  Here is our lovely fire pit we built last month! 

We had an awkward hole in the flagstone patio in the backyard since we took out the un-level, poorly constructed fountain that was previously there.  It was a no brainer what we should put in its place – a bonfire pit!  Before picture of the hideous hole and backyard:

Since we wanted to match the same landscaping d├ęcor we had throughout the yard, we went with the mixed red/charcoal Windsor stone concrete retaining wall block found at Home Depot for $1.80/piece.  Plus, as I am signed up for all Home Depot Garden Club e-mails, they constantly send out coupons for $5 off of $50 or $10 off of $100 for Lawn & Garden purchases.  I highly recommend you sign up for these deals if you enjoy saving money (I hope everyone enjoys saving money…)!
Bonfire pits should typically have an inside diameter of 36-44".  Since we were retrofitting a fire pit in a pre-existing hole, we lucked out that our pit was the perfect size.  First, we had to dig at a minimum 12”x12” deep hole in the center of the pit for drainage and then tamped the dirt.  Next, we filled with drainage rock and leveled the rock for the retaining wall blocks to be placed. 

Once again, we tamped.

Then we placed the first row of blocks around the edge making sure each block was level front to back and side to side.  Leveling blocks on rocks is not fun...  

Kept building up the rows to desired height.

As a last note, we also made sure there were ventilation spaces on the bottom row for air flow.

Now we are ready to enjoy this cool weather (and s’mores ;)).  As a little perk: Try using Reese’s instead of Hershey’s.  It’s delicious!

Check out Mending the Fence and Grass is Always Greener for how we built the fence and laid sod! more “Building firepits”