Day 45: Building a Wall

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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.

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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.

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About Nathan

Originally from central Florida (near Orlando), I've lived in the Cleveland area since 2008. When I'm not caught up in the life project de jure, I paint, sculpt, play games (mostly board games and video games), and run a small hobby import/export business.

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