Saturday, February 6, 2010

Lemons and Lemonade

It's another entry in the list of unexpected repairs at the Einsel House. First was the broken stone lintel over the front door. Second was the sagging roof over the north end of the kitchen. And third is the dining room ceiling/back bedroom floor.

Truthfully, "unexpected" is probably a bit of an overstatement. From the start the back bedroom made me nervous. There is a bit of a bounce in the floor, and of course we knew the studs along the south wall had dropped significantly. The south wall has been raised and a new support added in the basement, but the bounce in the floor remained. It shouldn't remain for much longer though.

The story here is a bit like a game of "Telephone". Charles and I are almost never at the house while our general contractor is working. So my mom often relays messages from us to our contractor, or vice versa. Several times I had asked my mom to double check with B that the back bedroom floor was safe. Every time mom told me that B had assured her the floor was fine. At the same time, mom mentioned to me several times that B had asked if we wanted him to take out the dining room ceiling. Now, the ceiling had no cracks in it, or any other obvious reason to replace it, so I always had mom relay to B that we saw no need to replace the dining room ceiling.

At this point, you can perhaps see where this story is going.

The dining room ceiling and the bedroom floor are one-and-the-same. It seems so obvious now, but keep in mind that the conversations related above occurred sometimes weeks apart, and we were preoccupied with the 6,741 other projects we have underway at The Einsel House. It was our contractor who finally connected the dots. Once again, I had brought up my concerns about the safety of the floor in the back bedroom. My mom took B up to the room to point out my concerns and B said, "I agree. That's why I want to open up the ceiling below this and see what is going on." Ah ha! The clouds parted and the sun appeared!

So last Tuesday the dining room ceiling came down. And it's now quite obvious why the floor felt a bit bouncy. The area of particular concern is pictured below:

At left is another picture of the problem area. If we had any doubts about the original layout of this portion of the house, uncovering this ceiling has laid them to rest. The current dining room definately had a wall along the north part of the room that was later removed. Originally, that wall served as the support for the floor joists of the bedroom above. When that wall was removed the joists were simply sistered together for a length of about 6". And (as you can see in the picture above) sometimes the joists did not even touch each other, so a small block of wood was placed between them. In the picture at left the joists on the right side of the photo are under the north knee-wall of the back bedroom and the joists on the left side are under the bedroom itself.

The wall in the dining room came down years ago and obviously the bedroom floor never caved in, but we would rather be safe than sorry. And the bedroom above this has only been used as attic storage for the past several decades. We plan for the room to house a bubbly preschooler with a known penchant for jumping on the bed.

So what's the plan? The obvious solution would be to place a beam under the sistered joists. But the walls that the beam would need to be anchored in are both stone walls. We could put the beam on supports placed against the walls, but the dining room already has one corner boxed out for ductwork and we don't like the idea of adding two more areas like this to the same room. So, B and his crew came up with another idea. They are having new floor joists made that will be long enough to span the entire width of the back section of the house. (That's the dining room and bathroom on the first floor, the bedroom with the area behind both knee-walls above.) There will be eleven of these new joists, and each will be sistered alongside an existing joist.

In other news, this week was the first time I've ever seen horsehair plaster:

At least three different horses contributed to this part of the Einsel House. We found the white hair pictured above, some black hair and some red hair.

And in still other news this week, my uncle informed us early in the week that because of the new ductwork and the location of a main beam in the basement, he was having difficulty placing the drier vent. He wondered if we had considered moving the laundry back into the basement. So say hello to my future laundry room:

You know the saying, "What do you do when life hands you lemons?" Well, if I had posted this last Monday or Tuesday it would have been a pretty sour entry. But by the end of the week I had found the sugar necessary to make lemonade. With the dining room, it came in simply seeing the ceiling opened up. I'm simply fascinated by seeing how this house is put together. And peace of mind is a nice thing, too. I'll sleep better at night knowing my daughter isn't going to wake up on the dining room table.

As for the laundry area, yes, it will be in a 160 year old basement. But, that means it can be messy and company will never know! And I will have so much more room, both in the now open room upstairs, and for the laundry itself. (I can leave my ironing board up all the time!) And best yet, we can now finish a laundry shoot in the bathroom that the previous owners had started. Lemonade is a pretty good drink after all!


  1. Fill up that area in the middle of the basement with water and you can take your genuine 19th C washboard and scrub your clothes in it! lol

    Seriously, though, I know how it goes with those contractor communications where everyone assumes he knows what's going on and no one really does. Thank heavens the penny dropped before your ceiling did.

    And assuming the basement is dry, it should make a great laundry room. More space to sort clothes on the floor, while keeping it out of public view.

  2. You can even have an indoor clothesline.

  3. Kate - Thankfully I don't have a washboard, lol! We were told by previous owners that it was a wet basement, but so far we have had almost no water down there. (Of course, the gutters we put on the house probably helped.)

    Karen Anne - Interesting idea!