Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Home podiatry

Footer repair, that is. Concrete footer. Ours had a big old gap in it, right underneath the threshold between living and dining room where we walk constantly. We've explained before how this semicircular gap in the concrete--put there to accommodate an old heating duct--left two floor joists almost totally unsupported in their 24-foot run. Bad stuff. Before we can lay the soapstone down in our fancy new threshold, we need to shore that up.

A number of proposals were floated as to the best way to accomplish this, and we eventually picked the simplest one. (See, we have learned something!) We'd build primitive forms and fill the gap back in with concrete, then put shims under the joists. Nice and easy. No metal brackets, no jacking.

We went down to the hardware stare and severely overestimated the amount of concrete we'd need--bought 5 bags, which is absurd, but better than not having enough. Our truck struggled back up the hill to the house. I crawled into the crawlspace--hello!--and we rigged up some super-ghetto forms with plywood and 2x4 bracing and large clamps.

Before we knew it we were choreographing a little number I like to call "The Humpty Dance." No, wait, I mean "Cure Me." Yeah, that's it. It involves scooting in and out of the crawlspace, coordinating complex steps between the hose shutoff and the wheelbarrow where your partner is mixing concrete, and climbing up and down a ladder to scoop wet concrete into the form with a garden trowel. It takes less than an hour but it's intense. We had these sweet costumes with respirators, and shovels for props. Big time.

A few scoops of Portland cement later, followed by a nice leveling-off at the top, and we were done! (Note: Blog entry not meant to be used as DIY instructions. Completely useless in terms of actual information.) A half-moon of wet concrete curing against the ol' 1932 footer of the house. The forms only fell apart once, that we know of. We were psyched since we thought this would be an onerous task and it was standing between us and a finished threshold.

Did you know you're not supposed to touch wet concrete? So much for writing your initials with your finger.

And then it was only 2pm on a Sunday so we canned some peaches and pulled out a bunch of dying stuff from the garden and put down bonemeal and greensand and chicken poop and rye seed and felt good about ourselves.

Oh, and look what we did on Saturday:


- Erika

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Next set of gaps: flooring

Okay, on to the next project!

Once upon a time, we removed some walls and installed some oak posts and beams. Where there used to be walls, there exists gaps in the hardwood floor. Unsightly. Over the months, we had tossed around the idea of creating a threshold out of red oak to match the beams, but eventually, we settled on the idea of building the threshold from soapstone. After all, we've got a nice slab left over from when we made the sink top, and there's other soapstone in our design and we expect these thresholds to pull that together nicely.

Not all the floor boards are missing from where there used to be a wall between the living room and dining room - the flooring is intact where a door must have been. So, the first step was to remove the existing boards to create a clean and continuous line.

And of course, the job starts with something funky. There was a slab of oak under the post near the stairs which needed to be cut off close to the post (about 3/4" from the post). We couldn't get that close with any of our tools, so I sharpened up a 1" chisel and set to chiseling it out. Went well!

Moving on, there were some floor boards that needed removing. The old tongue-and-groove pine is a great system; the stuff is in there tight. I set the circular saw depth to 3/4" and cut down the seam of two boards, severing the tongue. Some boards were pried up, others had to be knocked out with a wood block and hammer. Most were safely removed without damage, and none of the neighboring boards that we plan to leave in place were marred. Once the boards were out, we chiseled off the tongue. Ah, a very nice shape.

Also, there is some missing flooring around the chimney in the dining room. And there must have been some moulding there at one point or another, because the flooring that is there is discolored. The shape suggests that a wrap-around inlay would look quite nice. So, we decided on a width for the inlay (sticking to existing proportions, we went with the width of a floor board), marked the floor with red china marker, checked the saw depth again, and cut away some more perfectly good old hardwood flooring. Nerve-wracking!

So now we've got the area cut out. There are some leveling issues that we'll have to tackle, but we're optimistic. Off to a good start!

- John