Removing the kitchen floor with a chainsaw, crowbar and sledgehammer. More debris too!

Tearing out the kitchen floor seemed like a good idea.  A couple of joists needed to be replaced, and it seemed to make sense that while I was at it, I might as well do the job right.  My first real decision – replace only two joists, or tear out and replace all the joists and the floor as well.  Removing only the offending joists (cutting away the hundreds of nails from the floors above), and  somehow fitting new joists into position, and securing them sufficiently to be structurally sound, seemed like it could almost be more work.  

Old joists. Good call to remove them all.

Also, the remaining joists would look awful compared to the new joists.  Tearing out the floor and all the joists would probably be not too much more work, and the finished job would be so much nicer.  The more new, the better.

Several chainsaw blades, and a long day with a four-foot crowbar and sledgehammer later, the floor was out.  Once the dust had settled and I could take a good look at things, I was horrified to see a lot of rot.  Oh no.  Upon further poking and inspection it was apparent that the sill plate and bottoms of the studs were completely rotten!  Disaster!  I couldn’t believe it.  I knew the house needed work, but I did not expect any structural damage.  I specifically hired a home inspector to make sure there was no structural damage and that the roof was basically sound.

Extreme rot. Sill and stud bottoms completely gone.

I would never have bought this house if the inspection had revealed structural damage.  As you know, I agonized over the price, and the budget, to complete the job.  I can’t afford this.  Also, this project is supposed to be fun.  A feasible job for a weekend warrior do-it-yourselfer.  I do not have the expertise, equipment, or resources to tackle structural issues, let alone the mental fortitude.  A setback of this magnitude required some regrouping.

That evening I settled in for a few beers and a run through the five stages of grief.  Denial (this can’t be happening, it’s not possible that the home inspector missed this rot and damage), and a beer.  Anger (that $#@^%*! home inspector!  Only a %^@# idiot (and me) could have missed it), and another beer.  Bargaining (I’ll never drink again if this somehow miraculously goes away), and, incongruously, another beer.  Depression (oh bother, it’s hopeless, I quit), and a couple more beers.  Finally, I reached acceptance, and intoxication.  It is what it is.  Yes, it’s bad, and certainly a setback, but I’ll figure it out.  I will simply add ‘Repair rotten/collapsing rear of house’ to the ‘To Do’ list, and muddle onward.

Chuck Silfee excavating exterior foundation of kitchen.

I went back to the house and started clearing away the rotten wood to see what I was actually dealing with.  Further poking around also made it apparent that the dirt on the outside of the foundation was higher than the foundation wall!  I have never seen that as accepted practice in any home renovation book.  I called a contractor I know (who has a backhoe), so that we could dig the dirt away .  This was getting worse by the day!  As you can see, the entire perimeter of the exterior walls of the kitchen are completely rotted.

A foot or more below grade, where it should have been.

Completely rotten.

The sill plate and wall studs have rotted away.  The only thing holding up the rear of the house is the siding!  And the side of the house is somehow resting on … frankly, I’m not sure how or what it is resting on, or for that matter, why it is still standing.

I took yet another unplanned trip to the lumber yard.  What materials does one need to build columns from the basement floor to the kitchen ceiling?  I bought nine 16 foot 2 x 4’s, which I lagged together to make three long (thin) columns.

Emergency measures.

Prior experience - jacking up and rebuilding the rotten bottom of my garage wall.

Although they look like toothpicks, hopefully they will keep this place standing while I plan the process of the next step.  Coincidentally, and quite fortunately, last summer I found a similar problem in my garage.  (I say fortunately because at least I know that this setback is, although a huge PIA, hopefully manageable).  I jacked up the wall of my garage, cleared out all the debris, installed a new sill plate and studs, and lowered the garage back down.  It seemed to work pretty well.  However, that was a garage, not a two-story addition to a house, but I have to start somewhere.

Some people seem surprised when I tell them that the house is not finished and rented.  Even without this major problem, I guess some people have no idea how much I have actually bitten off that I can’t chew.  I just laugh and comment that these things take time.  Otherwise, if I had to actually explain it, I would probably break down crying on their lapels!  It really isn’t that bad.  Yes, it is a huge nightmare, and will cost me a lot more than I anticipated, but so it goes.  One silver lining is that I have great grist for the blog!

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