Monday, July 16, 2007

Joist hoisting

Before I get all typey about our weekend of joisting, let me recap some of the loose ends that we tied up last week:

- finished taping and sanding the drywall outside the bathroom and the one dining room wall which is shared with the bathroom
- primed it all (looks great for now!)
- upgraded the electric in the tool room (still need to track down that open ground)
- measured and cut exterior wood trim for the dormer window
- painted eaves and more windows
- epoxied the wooden backsplash to the vanity top
- siliconed the vanity sink basin

Okay, now the joist weekend. We need to double up all the ceiling joists downstairs (except for the kitchen and bathroom) so that the house will be able to soundly support an attic bedroom and half bath. We estimated that it would take 25 2x6x12 planks of pine. I called up our local builder's/construction supply store (not the big box) to see if they'd deliver and not only would they deliver, but their prices are lower than Home Despot. Not having to make two trips for lumber in the van would've been worth the premium alone, had there been any. The wood, along with a case of glue, was dropped off Friday.

There had been a big debate (okay, mostly in my own head) about whether the new joists needed to rest on a beam at each end, or if "sistering" them and stopping just short of the beams would be as good. After thoroughly investigating this, I decided that we needed to rest on the beams. It would increase the strength as much as it would increase the rigidity. And, being that I think our ceiling joists are undersized anyway, why not go all the way? The main issue with going all the way to the beams was the question of what kind of sagging and crowning issues would we encounter. Also, on each beam there is blocking between joists. Blocking is the wood that's nailed to the beam and fit snuggly between the joists. This contact helps the joists carry the weight across the beam. Each block would need to have 1.5" cut from them - would this be easy where there is blocking in the eaves?

I couldn't imagine sleeping soundly Friday night if I didn't know the answer to the blocking cutting question, so got the reciprocating saw out and tried it out. It took me 20 minutes or so to get the first one. But, I figured out what was going on pretty quickly and within an hour I had cut 3/4 of the blocking in the dining room and living room and saw that this was not going to be an issue.

Saturday morning after the farmers market and a nice breakfast we got down to the joist project, starting in the living room. With the blocking already cut, we just needed to cut through the wooden brace that keeps the joists from bowing. Sliced through that and knocked the small piece off the old joist with a mallet and flying shards of wood. The whole front wall sits just under the eave of the roof, so that end of each new joist would need to be notched so that it could fit in there. By the second or third joist, Erika had this down to the point where, once pounded in, the joist would just barely come in contact with the slope of the roof, which was great because that meant we were keeping as much wood intact as possible. Gif animation time:

Just before lifting each joist into place, we'd put a nice thick bead of glue along the old joist. Then, with Erika on one ladder and me on another, we'd lift the plank up over the inside beam, slide it back and lift the front end up, and then bang it forward into place. All but one of them needed to be whacked with the mallet in order to get it to slide into place or to stand up under the old strongbacks and attic floor. Often times once Erika's end was on the beam, my end would be too low to slide over the front beam. In these cases, I'd push up on the joist with all my strength, hoping to barely clear the beam and at that moment Erika would whack the other end with the mallet and the joist would slide and wedge into place. It felt great to know these things were being wedged in and set tightly with the structure of the house.

Once in place, we would set a couple of clamps on them to help bring the old and new joists together. Then the screws. We put 2 three-inch screws (one above the other) every 16". Trying to screw into that old wood, as you've heard us say here before, is sometimes damn near impossible. It took all the strength I had to get these in and countersunk. I'd be hanging back off the joist with one arm and using that leverage to pull myself back in as my other arm drove the screw. Sometimes I'd use my head and neck against a neighboring joist as leverage. By the end of the day, I estimated that I'd sunk over 130 screws this way, and only one or two weren't sunk to my liking.

The day progressed like along those lines. One exception was the stairwell to the attic. When the previous owners put in the staircase to the attic, they did not leave enough head clearance. We looked up at the framing there and very quickly understood exactly what needed to happen, and we also noticed errors in their framing (we were pretty proud of both these things). We would need to remove the header, cut the joist that extends from the header to the outer wall, and cut 11" of attic floor away. After careful measuring, we wedged a temporary stud between the floor and half joist and then cut the joist, about 11" before the end of its span. Then we made the rest of the cuts and removed that part of the attic floor. We cut a second header out of some of that rock hard house lumber and nailed it up. Voila, proper clearance (and the temporary stud kept the joist from falling on anyone's head)!

Inserting that joist was pretty exciting. It required a lot of force to lift one end into place. Erika and I did this shoulder to shoulder standing on the staircase. We lifted and bended the thing with our entire bodies until it suddenly snapped and whipped right into place. It was pretty cool. And now the living room joists were all done.

We started on the dining room joists. It was getting late. By the time we finished putting the first joist up in the dining room, I just didn't have the strength to get the screws in. Barely had enough in me to keep the drill above my head. So we swept up, straightened up, and started cooking the night's feast.

- John

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