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May 13, 2007
Nightmare on the 2nd floor (Part 3)

Gail examines the last second of second-story floor that needs repair. If you look at the very center, you can see how the two cross-joists bend downwards toward the long center joist.

When we last left our mountain home almost a month ago, we felt that our repair work on the second-story floor was done. During the intervening time, however, we decided that there was one more “situation” that we should fix.

In the finished house, this spot occurs between the master bathroom and the upstairs sitting room. In the construction, this is the spot where – in April 2005 – we had placed a pallet containing all eight upstairs walls. The pallet ended up sitting there for more than a year on its wooden skids, slowly making the floor joists beneath warp under the weight. With the upstairs walls now happily installed, the sag in the floor unhappily remained.

In April 2005, we set a large and heavy pallet of walls on the second-story floor. The pallet ended up sitting there for more than a year.

Our first thoughts had been either to fill the sag with cement mastic or just hide it under the final interior wall. As we mulled further back home, however, we decided that we really needed to take the time and opportunity to fix it properly.

So we journeyed back up on Friday evening, May 10. Under different circumstances we would have left the boys at home, as there wouldn’t be much construction work needed from them for this task. However, this was Mother’s Day weekend, and Gail wanted the family to be together. The “Do this for me for Mother’s Day” plea (which should always be used sparingly) worked well against the boys’ teenaged reticence – especially when it took us almost four hours in the car through heavy rush-hour traffic.

The long drive up was rewarded with an evening spent catching up on episodes of “Lost” and “Heroes.” Gail and Russell didn’t begin work until Saturday morning, while the boys slept in. Gail awoke early, looked out her “bedroom” window, and saw her first-ever wild rabbit down below. It was a good omen.

The main area of floor warping occurred under a section of the second-to-outermost ring. The main culprit was a pair of long 2x6s that spanned more than eight feet across. Russell’s initial reluctance to replace these joists was based on the multiple difficulties of removing the old joists (we could not access their nails), cutting new joists (our stock of new 2x6s were only eight feet long), and installing the new joists (where exactly would we nail them, and how would we support their weight?).

The straight-edge demonstrates where and how the floor section is warped.

Gail had brainstormed solutions to each of these challenges, and so we set to work. First, Gail removed the old joists by using a Sawz-All with a metal blade to cut right through the old nails. Next, we were able to locate a couple of pieces of 2x6 from our scrap pile that met the required length. Finally, we fastened the new joists into place using flexible metal nailing plates instead of joist hangers.

(Luckily we found a stash of these nailing plates leftover from last year’s deck construction. This saved us an hour and a half of driving into town to buy more.)

Russell with the old joists removed

With the new lengthwise joists installed, the cross-joists still sagged.
Gail repaired this by installing flexible nailing plates (Note the beam, wedged from below, propping up the adjacent joist).
The finished section, showing the fexible nailing plates.

Cameron screws the new joist in place.
Joss replaces the OSB subfloor.

The joist repair took most of Saturday. This task was supplemented with small chores that included installing a chandelier above the dining table and trying (unsuccessfully) to move a gigantic piece of flagstone up the hill. (This required yet another invocation of “Do this for me for Mother’s Day.”)

On Sunday morning, Cameron and Joss cooked a delicious Mother’s Day breakfast of pancakes and sausages. They even took care of the dishes while the parents packed up.

We can now declare the second-story subfloor to be done. Our next task will be to fix the four second-story corner walls, where the openings were mis-manufactured too small for the window panes. Russell tried starting on that task this weekend, but didn’t get very far. (His work-in-progress created yet another hole that we have temporarily covered with yet more plastic sheetng.)

But that will have to wait for another day…

Joss prepares breakfast on Mother's Day.
Cameron grills pancakes and sausages.


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