Assessing the Structural Issues
Once the room was gutted, structural repairs had to be made before this kitchen could make progress towards becoming a guest bedroom we would feel comfortable putting a guest in. The termite damaged wall would have to be replaced. That wall was supporting the weight of the ceiling in the kitchen and also in the large north pen. Supports for the roof were also resting on this wall. I need to remind you that this wall was a series of 1″ thick planks nailed to the sill log at the bottom and to boards in the attic. The boards were bowing under the weight.
To complicate matters, the front pens seemed to be pulling away from the house as was evidenced by the ever increasing gaps between the ceiling joists and the board they were supposed to be resting on. Unfortunately, the front wall of the house was bowing in (or the small pens and front porch were bowing out). This resulted in the ceiling joists not touching their support beam in the center of the house. In the attic, chains had been attached to the center front of the house and were strung back to the center. They were attached to the center roof supports and turnbuckles were in place to adjust the tension. Obviously, if this kitchen was ever going to be a bedroom, we had to repair the structural issues.
On the front porch, the previous owners had added 2″x 4″s in attempt to have the front of the house come out and meet the joists. It was a wreck and we knew that we had to do something beyond restoration if we were going to stop the madness.
We removed the original ceiling boards and planed them down as much as we could. The boards were cupped and so we couldn’t get the paint off the edges. We liked that the layers of paint were still on display and didn’t bust out the sander on them. A coat of poly made the boards glow.
When we pulled down the boards, we found that the joists had tremendous character. They were notched. Some still had bark on them and you could see the saw marks. We thought they were beautiful.
And so, even though the original plan was to put the house back the way it was, we decided to leave the joists exposed. This provided us with the opportunity to display the building methods, the original construction materials, and it allow us to raise a low ceiling up just a bit. Instead of nailing the ceiling boards back underneath the joists, we placed them on top of the joists. Over this we installed a layer of plywood so we could walk around in the attic if needed. The plywood also made it possible to use blown insulation as it provided a solid, no gap surface.
Wiring for Electricity
We absolutely knew that we needed to replace all the electrical in the old house. The house had knob and tube wiring. Knob and tube wiring is cool. It was first used in the 1880s until the 1940s. With all the rat-chewed wiring, I am still amazed that the house hadn’t burned down.
There was one catch with installing new electrical. Remember those 1″ plank walls? You can’t run wire through a solid board. All the electrical would need to be run through the exterior walls.
I, of course, didn’t want to take down all the interior shiplap for fear that it would break or that it wouldn’t go back together correctly. We knew we were replacing all the exterior, so we worked from the outside instead. The exterior was stripped of clapboard siding, and we made repairs to the framing and then started running electrical wiring.
We planned to run electrical, install insulation, install OSB, and then wrap the entire thing in construction cloth. Jerry and I decided to use the same process throughout the old house, but we decided to do this room by room so that we didn’t compromise the structure by taking all the exterior boards down at once.
Repairing the Main Structural Issue – The Load Bearing Wall
We replaced the 1″ plank wall with a framed wall capable of carrying the weight of the two ceilings. We made the decision to replace this wall with a framed wall immediately after removing the sheet rock. From the beginning, we knew this wall was problematic. It was the first major alteration to the old house and I was terrified to make a mistake. However, if this kitchen was ever to become a bedroom, this structural problem would have to be repaired.
There was an added benefit to the framed wall. It made running electricity easier because we now had an interior wall that had space inside of it. Jerry and I framed the new wall directly over the sill log. We also removed the floor in this room to make it easier to remove the termite damaged wall planks. This room was a total gut job.
Everything has a learning curve and this project was no different. Until now, we had been doing one project throughout the entire house (emptying it all, removing sheet rock in all...). But now, we began to focus on one room at a time so that we could see more progress. The south side seemed to be (to me) in better shape so we tried to start there and learn our lessons there. We hoped that we could develop a process and that would speed things up. That didn’t work out so well. Everything seemed to take forever. However, I can’t tell you how great it was to finally start putting the house back together after so much tearing out.
Next up? Floors and windows and insulation, and, and, and……