Monday, March 19, 2012

A Post about Posts

And subflooring! And spring!!!

Last October, it felt like all of our hopes were dashed as winter cozied itself up to our drafty farmhouse and work on the foundation had to stop. It was too late to install the heaters and so we were forced to man up and prepare for another impending winter of below-zero temps, 4 foot snow drifts and a frigid home. Perhaps it was Mother Nature shining down some kindness on us, perhaps it was global warming... call it what you wish, but either way Vermont (and the rest of the country) has had one of the mildest winters of the last 100 years.

Last March we arrived at the house to find a few feet of snow, temperatures still hovering around freezing and gray skies. This past weekend afforded us a very different view... sunny skies, 65 degrees, a mainly snow-free lawn and buds on the trees. For better or worse, winter came and went with a whimper and Spring has declared itself the winner. While I am a constant advocate for the ice caps, polar bears and stopping the rise of the ocean's temperatures, I cannot lie... this abnormally early and warm spring feels like a little gift of sympathy handed directed to Tony and I. We will no longer have to toil in aching cold. Even though I said last April we'd never be cold again, I mean it this time!!

By next fall plumbing and heating will be installed and a proper VT winter will be warmly welcomed back to the town of Jamaica. But until then... be gone with you, winter weather!

Now, it's time to talk shop...

The Subfloor

Add another check to the first floor checklist because the subfloor is FINISHED! Tony and I spent two long weekends up at the farmhouse this past month and managed to make some pretty sweet progress in the kitchen and dining room area. The pictures tell the whole story, but we can proudly say the subfloor has been laid, and we've since begun laying out the hardwood floor on top of it. It's almost a shame to put flooring back over it because our subfloor job might be the cleanest-looking spot in the house. 

New subflooring in the kitchen and bathroom

We feared putting down the floor might take far longer than it ended up taking due to the unlevel nature of the floor joists, which required placing shims on every joist to even out the subfloor. Well for once, the house worked in our favor as we realized the despised lathe we'd been ripping off of the walls was actually the perfect height and width to nail down onto the floor joists. Instead of having to custom cut shims for each joist we were able to simply dig from our garbage pile and reuse these lovely little pieces to give us a near even dining room floor, and for that we'd like to say 'Thank you, wood lathe! You may have given me 1000 splinters and smacked me in the head more times than I'd like to remember while taking you down, but you saved us an entire day of work when it came to flooring.' For that, we are truly grateful.

 The despised lathe is a friend in disguise!

In the end, we were able to lay out the entire subfloor in one day, including custom cuts for the chimney and what not. I then had the pleasure of donning a fashionable pair of rollerblading knee pads and crawling around the floor screwing each piece of flooring into place. There will be no squeaks in this kitchen hardwood floor if my knee pads and power drill have anything to say about it.

We then moved onto a bigger and more challenging task, which brings us to our title. Barn posts.

Wall supports - functional and fashionable!

A little further down on our checklist you will find a note that says 'remove rotten wall studs'. This mainly applies to two problems - one in the kitchen and one in the living room. Before the roof was fixed by the previous owners, some serious ongoing leaks had severely damaged wall supports in these key load-bearing corners. We hadn't realized the extent of this until we attempted to install a new (and fairly cool-looking) wall support system. 

Rotten joists - clearly doing a world of good

After finishing up the subfloor, Tony went about removing all of these rotten wall joists and replacing them with nice, clean 2 x 4s. He rebuilt the damaged doorways of the arched doorway out of the kitchen and the library doorway, and then hand-notched two 8 foot barn posts we conveniently found lying in the basement. The intent of these posts is to provide support to the water damaged-area but also will play a key role in holding up a 16 foot long beam that will run across the kitchen. 

This beam runs along a ceiling joist that used to be supported by a wall that was present in the dining room area. That wall in the dining room was in line with the bedroom walls upstairs and provided support to the entire wall system above. Without the wall below, the weight of this ceiling has shifted and started falling downward. Without reconstructing a wall that would bisect the dining room, we knew we needed to support this area and fast! Enter in the barn posts.

After a few exhausting attempts to cut the barn posts to the right size, we had them firmly in place and installed the 16 ft. beam across. My head functioned as an impromptu house jack.

One head, many functions...

After our many efforts, it only made sense to discover that this 16 ft. support beam in fact had a massive gap between itself and the ceiling joist it was intended to support. As we soon discovered, this was due to our water-damaged corner which had fallen nearly 2 inches when compared to the other side of the room. Our joy knew no bounds. We immediately went about trying to raise up the falling corner and added some height to the barn post by installing extra subflooring underneath it. Writing this out in one sentence make it sounds somewhat easy when in fact this took place across a series of nail-biting hours, while using the hydraulic lift to raise up this corner simultaneously meant caving in our newly installed floor. With every pump of the hydraulic lift, our floor sunk down further and the walls upstairs creaked and cracked. I was convinced something was going to fall, and it'd probably be our new floor with us in tow. The barn post was so snug that we had to cut wall joists just to try and get extra room to maneuver the post around.

Eventually we were able to raise the house up without anything else collapsing and placed the 16 foot beam back in place. A gap between it and the ceiling remained, which we'd been told will always be the case since the ceiling is not level, and so we had to shim the remaining gap.

Our little success story has hit a small speed bump after Tony's sister and brother-in-law, our resident architects, reviewed the structure and recommended that we replace our 16 ft. beam with one that is wider, so we'll actually have to take apart our stylish system again soon. It's certainly better to do it the proper way the first time around but taking down these beams is a bit too much for the mind to process at the moment! In the meantime, we can appreciate our cool-looking barn posts which will remain exposed when we put up drywall, adding a nice touch of rustic appeal to our future dining room.

The well-earned character of these barn posts will remain visible

In our 'down time' Tony and I also rebuilt the doorway into the basement and began laying down the flooring we took up in January. A door now sits snugly in its' proper door frame, and we no longer have to duck through a hole in the wall to get downstairs. I then took it upon myself to insulate the hell out of the new framed-out wall so no more cold drafts can rise up and chill our bones from the basement. With a snug subfloor installed in both the kitchen and bathroom, and a proper doorway into the basement in place, those horrible winter drafts won't be making their way upstairs any longer!

We plan on returning to the house this coming weekend and will spend some time rummaging around for old barn wood to use for flooring and possibly for the 16 ft. long ceiling support. Let's see how far our luck can carry us! If we are unable to find any quality older wood we will have new beams cut for the ceiling and also for the flooring, as we will definitely be short on both. Unfortunately we realized as we were putting back down the flooring that we won't have enough to complete the whole kitchen/dining area. I guess the old, huge floor gaps that opened up the room to the basement should have hinted at that.

Thanks for reading, and until next time... go bask in the warmth of this welcome spring season!
- Melissa


  1. I seem in the picture that it encounter a very bad water damage.

    1. Hi Sampsa. It definitely did! There were a few bad leaks in the house some years back, but luckily the roof was repaired before we bought it. We only have a few more areas to fix up and then all of the rotten wood will be gone (hopefully)! The last thing we want is the entire roof falling in haha.