Week 7 To-Dos

  • Compare meter diagram with water line and create install plan
  • Plan plumbing system, order partsC
  • Clean and de-spider basement
  • Continue patching drywall throughout the house
  • Get quotes for insulation in Master Bedroom
  • Begin framing in addition
  • Look at Black Friday deals on Fridge, Range, Dishwasher.
  • Finished rough-in for drainage in open floor
  • Decide on master bedroom window
  • Finish joists for 1st floor addition.
  • Lay 1st floor addition subfloor.
  • Begin putting in joists for 2nd floor sistering.
  • Install window (weather permitting)
  • Emily vacuums plaster dust

Day 45: Building a Wall


Old Wall

After a crazy frustrating weekend, I spend two and a half days working on the wall that divides the kitchen and the living room.  The vision is to open up the kitchen, which will actually end up pretty small, by having a breakfast bar/seating area that looks in on the stove and counter space.  Hopefully this will also let more light into the living room, which seems kind of dark.

The framing of this house is odd to say the least.  The wall that divides the kitchen from the living room has joists running parallel below it, but perpendicular above it.  This makes it a partially load bearing structure.  Now so much to worry about load transfers, but enough to practice some caution with how we went about altering the structure.  The first step was to reinforce the joist in the basement by sistering another 2×8 to it.  This turned out to be a problem and a half as there were a ton of mechanicals in the way.  Now they’re mostly strewn about the basement floor.

The next step was to create some temporary support walls on either side of the kitchen wall to bear the weight of the ceiling once I take the wall down.  I learn a really cool trick from Bob Vila for temp walls that aren’t going to be up very long.  I would usually build a standard framed wall and knock it into place with a mallet.  Mr. Vila showed me how to create an A-Frame with 2x4s.  Essentially you start with a 2×4 on the ground and one ready to go into the air.  Wedge it up with a 3rd set on top of the floor piece, and use a 4th to create an A.  Then pull the legs of your A toward each other, knocking on them with a mallot if needs be.  depending on how far you’re spanning, you might need two ro three of these frames.  It was quite doable with one person, got the job down, and didn’t require me to cut any wood, so I can still use all the 2x4s.

With my temp wall in place, I can start cutting away the old wall.  We had taken down the plaster and drywall as part of demo a few weeks ago.  Now I just had to unwire the switches and outlets and pull the cable.  I was careful to label everything as I went since, while I have an index of all the circuits, I don’t actually have a map of the wiring.  Which is to say, if I cut something or lose track of some wire, I won’t be able to tell which circuit it is without some laborious trial and error.  Once the wiring was set aside, the sawzall made short work of the previous wall.

I wish I was a woodworker.  I know the wood I’m pulling out of the house is really neat.  It has a nice red luster under a century of dirt.  I just don’t know how to use it to any effect.  I’m always secretly jealous when people refer to some treasure they own with an anecdote about how it’s made from wood recovered from a hundred year old barn or something like that.  What I can save will end up in a pile in the garage in the hopes that it turns into something some day.

With the old wall gone, I set about framing the new wall in place.  Normally, when you build a wall, you’ll build it on the ground and raise it to where you want it to be, then nail it in.  This is the best way to nail your parts together and to ensure that everything is square and level.  But, when you’re dealing with an old house, where nothing is square to begin with, you have to make due.  As such, I built half the wall on the ground and the other half in place.  If you were to google what I’m talking about, you’d find essentially this method:  1) measure out your new wall using a plumb bob and square, snapping chalk lines so you know where everything is going; 2) Nail your top plate to the supports in the ceiling; 3) Nail your bottom plate to supports in the floor (plate just being a word for the board at the top and bottom of your wall); 4) Toenail your studs in place every 16 inches.  This method is kind of a pain in the rear as not only is it difficult to nail a board to your ceiling, but toenailing (driving a nail through the end of a board at an angle so it sinks into the board beneath it) is difficult  and troublesome to your measurements.

2013-11-14 12.18.47

New Wall

I ended up nailing the double top plate to the ceiling, and building the studs and bottom plate separately.  Then they all got put together in place.  In a previous post I think I mentioned building the beam for this project.  It was a triple 2×8 sitting on double 2×6 posts.  Once the beam was set, I could knock in the cripple wall studs (little blocks that separate the beam from the top plate so there’s about a 4 inch gap I can run wiring through.  And we have a wall.

This is only part of the ultimate project.  Next I’ll need to build a wall in the wall to frame out the bar.  I’m also going to build a soffit (think feux wall) on the kitchen side to run duct work through from the range hood vent.  But for now, the supports are down and we have a bit old opening between our living room and kitchen.  This tricky part is that it’s super convenient for working in the space to leave it all open, but I know eventually I need to close it off and finish the work.  Luckily I have about a million other projects that need my tending.

Week 6 To-Dos


We were kind of under the weather this weekend, which knocked us off our game and our schedule for the project.  Today we got back to work and sunk the last of the basement joists (kind of…but that’s another post).  Tomorrow and probably the following day or two I’ll spend finishing demo in the addition and laying down the new subfloor.  Hopefully by next week we’ll be framing in the addition.  If we actually sit down and do the To-Do list for this week, I’ll be sure to post it.

BTW – we’ll be working through the holidays, so if anyone is jonesing to help string wire, hammer nails, or run plumbing during their off time this year, just let me know.


I didn’t expect Daylight Savings to have such a dramatic effect on our project.  A few weeks ago, I could work until 6 or 6:30 without a problem.  Now it’s quitting time at 4:45 or so.  Right now there’s exactly 3 working circuits in the house: Basement GF, Garage, and dining room.  Part of the heavy lifting section of this project has meant pulling apart mechanicals and removing wiring from walls marked for demo.  It’s a meticulous process and I’m constantly in fear of losing track of a junction box worth of circuits.  Bottom line is I depend a lot on solar power to light up my work space.  With winter just around the corner, the sun is sleepier sooner and that means less work time for me.


America is one of the few countries in the world that builds predominantly with wood.  This is due to the rich natural resources in North America.  Basically we have lots of trees and not a lot of people.  By contrast, Europe started running out of significant forestlands in the 1200s.  Engineering knowledge has advanced over the centuries, but the fundamental ideas for how to build a wood framed house are still the same.  You start with some kind of foundation or structure to build on top of.  Then you create a network of wooden supports crossing your foundation walls and supports.  Add some walls and repeat.  Add some more walls and repeat one more time, cap it off with a roof, and you have a house.  This network of cross linked wooden supports consists of beams.  Depending on the size, style, and design of your house, you may have one or more central support beams.  If you crawl under your house or go down to your basement, this is the big structure that spans your foundation to which all the other boards are attached in some way.  Attached to that beam, will be boards running perpendicular called joists.  This are pieces of lumber set on end (the skinny side is turned to the sky) which make up the bones of the floor.

In the olden days, the central support beam in a house would be a single sewn log.  Depending on how far it had to span and how big the house was going to be, this thing might have been huge.  Imagine more than 18″x18″ and 40 feet long (most weren’t this big).  As more forest were cut down, it was more and more expensive to harvest wood like that.  Technology progressed and crafted support beams began to replace single log beams.  Essentially the idea is that you take some number of boards, usually the same size as the joists you’ll be using, and sandwich them together using fasteners and glue.  When you take two boards and nail and glue them together like a sandwich, the result is a stiffer, stronger piece of wood.  Importantly, even if you can build up a beam the same size as the old, single tree design, it won’t be as strong as the single log.  Two boards are always weaker than one big board*.  Still, this method is very useful.  For example, if you have sagging joists (usually you’ll notice your floor sinking a little bit), it’s often a good solution to glue and nail another board parallel to it in order to strength the original.

2013-11-14 12.19.02Crafting a beam in this style is used all over in modern framing.  When you install a large opening in a wall for a doorway, window, or pass through, you’ll usually construct a beam by sandwiching several boards (and sometimes plywood to make it flush with your framing) together.  This beam, called a header, is used to carry the load above the opening to the posts on either end and down to the foundation.  As part of our kitchen redesign, we built a header using 3 2x8s and some 1/2″ OSB.  The final beam was about eight and a half feet long and will span the opening over what will one day be our pass through bar seating.

*I feel like I should point out that this isn’t true anymore, exactly.  In the past 20 years or so, technology has continued to evolve and we now have engineered lumber products.  The idea is that you can take wood pulp, lay it out mechanically, stiffen it with glue, and knit it together.  The resulting product is a board with the same dimensions as sewn lumber (i.e. 2×6, 2×8, 2×10, etc etc etc), but many times stronger.  As a result, today’s building designers can create structural frameworks that are longer, larger, and support more weight over a greater span than anything that could be done in wood framing even 75 years ago.

Day 42: Time to Build

2013-11-11 11.09.41At last we get to start creating something.  We started mid October and since then it’s been mostly demolishing things.  We’ve taken down walls, ceilings, floors, lights, pipes, pretty much everything.  Now we get to put stuff back up.  The dumpster was hauled away last Thursday and then this Monday our order from Commonwealth Lumber showed up.  It was pretty cool actually.  A rather modest flatbed truck backed up into our driveway and the driver dumped a package of boards off the back.  I would have thought it would have caused damage, but everything looked great.  Em was super excited that it came wrapped and bundled like a Christmas Present.  Yay presents!

We ended up ordering from Commonwealth because we needed to special order some laminated lumber joists.  At to that about fifty 2x4s and about a dozen really long boards and it just made sense to get everything delivered rather than trying to figure out how to haul it ourselves.  Emily liked the sales rep at Commonwealth a lot too.  He was about 70 and very grandfatherly.  Their prices were maybe slightly higher than other places we looked at including Home Depot (which tends to have the lowest prices around) but it was only $30 to deliver it and that made them pretty comparable to everyone else.  I’d recommend them to anyone in the area who needs building supplies.

2013-11-11 11.33.08In addition to the lumber order, we did a big buy at Home Depot for some various odds and ends including OSB for subflooring, drywall for patching, sewer pipe for draining, a back door for…back dooring…and a window, which turned out to be the wrong one but we’ll return it for the right one eventually.  All this adds up to one very full garage with new stuff.  I really like the smell of freshly cut lumber.  One the best parts about going to a home improvement store is walking up and down the lumber aisles smelling the smells.  I also like when I’m cutting something and the saw kicks sawdust everywhere.  I’m hoping that as the new lumber is grafted onto the old house frame, the odor in the place shifts from plaster dust to new wood smell.  We also picked up 30lbs of framing nails and 5 gallons of jointing compound.  Time to go to work.