The first step in lopping off the bump-out is supporting the structure. As it turns out, the bump-out is not very well engineered. The roof of the house is supported by the North and South walls. In the case of the bump-out, the 2×6 ceiling joists have a clear span of about 14′ from the partition wall near the center of the house to the outside of the bump-out wall. There is a 2×4 flat across these joists that the rafters are notched into. A 2×6 is simply not strong enough to support any kind of load at a 14′ span. More alarming still is the fact that the walls of the bump-out are not framed well from a structural standpoint, with the window intersecting all but one of the bearing studs and, of course, no proper headers.

Bump-out ceiling structure

I framed a new section of exterior wall, including partial sheathing. Normally I would have just assembled the framing and put the sheathing on after it was in place, but there isn’t much space inside the bump-out to work once this wall is up. I left out the bottom of the sheathing because the last pieces of sheathing will also need to cover the ends of the floor joists after we cut them back, as well as the top corner so we can pass the windows back into the second floor after we remove them. If I was smarter, I would have put the gap in the middle course of sheathing so I’d have a nice doorway, but I’m not and I didn’t. As I mentioned in my previous post, the plan is to disassemble the bump-out from the inside, so I don’t have to spend a lot of time way up on top of a ladder, handling heavy chunks of house.

Framing and sheathing the new wall

Getting this section of wall tipped into place proved vastly more difficult than anticipated, because of the ceiling joists. In the center of the bump-out, the ceiling joists were sagging almost a half inch lower than the sides, simply because of the weight they were carrying. I didn’t want to frame the wall section short enough to fit, so instead I fought a contest of wills with the mostly-upright wall section and the ceiling joists, trying to hammer the section completely vertical without completely destroying it. I employed a number of methods to get it into position, including cutting the undersides of the bowed joists with a circular saw, using another stud to jack up the joist, and finally using two 3′ pry bars at the same time while kicking at the sill plate to get it the last inch into position.

I went into my weekend thinking I’d have the wall up in a few hours, and instead it took both days. I didn’t even get it screwed into place until Monday evening. Even then I needed to use an array of clamps to get the sides aligned before I screwed it in. This is unfortunately how this project seems to go with some frequency. Hope springs eternal: maybe I can get the new sistered rafters into place with a bit less struggle.

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One of the things we decided to do early on in our project was to remove the second floor bump-out. This is a cantilevered overhang above the sidewalk along the side of our house. It’s about ten feet long, extends about two feet out, and currently has four windows. It’s not an unattractive house feature, and because it’s on the South side of the house and the neighboring house is only a story and a half, it brings in a lot of natural light. It’s also original to the house, meaning that the floor structure is the same joists extended out past the end of the wall, rather than a poorly tacked on expansion as we thought originally. So why are we getting rid of it?

There’s a few reasons we don’t want the bump-out. First is the location from an interior perspective. The wet wall of the house hasn’t moved, despite our complete overhaul of the floor plan. Because of this, the second floor bathrooms are located in a specific place (right where the old one was, and where the kitchen was). The old bathroom was fairly small, about as wide as a bathtub and about as deep as a tub, a toilet, and a pedestal sink. We’d like a bigger bathroom since it’s the main bathroom in the house and it will also be incorporating the laundry room. Given where the stairs and hall are, the bathroom has to extend into the part of the house where the bump-out is. While the bump-out was well suited to being a dining room, it’s less suited to be part of a bathroom. When I was designing the second floor layout, I tried a number of configurations to incorporate the bump-out into a bedroom, but it just doesn’t fit.

From the back

From an exterior point of view, it’s mere inches from the neighbor’s roof. We actually had hail break a bump-out window because it ricocheted off their roof. It makes the already dark sidewalk along the house even darker. It complicates the roof line on the side of the house we want to install solar panels. From a building envelope point of view, it makes insulation and water management more difficult. In short, it doesn’t fit our our design, and we’re taking it off.

Bump-out interior

With that decided, how to do it? Since our basement is three feet out of the ground and our floors are ten feet tall, even the bottom of the bump-out is pretty high off the ground, to say nothing of the roof. Because it’s on the narrow side of the house, we can barely put the extension ladder up if it’s against the house, though we can put it against the sides of the bump-out. I came up with a plan for not only removing the bump out from the inside, but putting in the replacement exterior wall from the inside as well. Reality may intervene with this approach, but at the outset at least, and with a fresh pack of reciprocating saw blades we’re going to find out!

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At some point I guess we should just expect unexpected plumbing to happen. However, I can say with certainty that we didn’t expect a loud thud followed by a cascading shower of water from the mechanical room ceiling one fine Saturday evening. We’d just gotten the kids into bed and Sarah was doing dishes when it happened. I came running from the living room (one of us has to sit watch so the kids stay in bed and go to sleep) and she was already pointing me out the back door and upstairs.

Cast iron pipe dropped

When we got upstairs we saw what had happened: one of the three cast iron soil and vent stacks in the wet wall had basically fallen straight down about two feet. The straps holding it in place were both snapped, the top of the stack was in the attic instead of sticking through the roof, and most critically, the PVC pipe it connected to at the bottom (where the washing machine drains) had cracked at the main stack and the waste water from the washing machine had poured out of the broken pipe end into the basement from above.

Broken fitting

The good news is that there wasn’t any serious damage. The 2″ cast iron pipe was already slated to be removed, nothing in the mechanical room that got wet was harmed, and the PVC section connecting the washer was temporary. We turned off the washer and went to bed, leaving the problem for the next day.

Vent stack dropped out of roof

Sunday morning I started by removing the cast iron pipe. This drain used to be used by the kitchen drains from the first and second floors. Apparently, it had been supported by the plaster and lath of the walls, and with only the straps (and the PVC pipe underneath) holding it up, it simply gave way. The bad news was that the PVC had cracked at a fitting, right before it went into the main stack, so I had two options: use a heat gun, some pliers and about an hour to pry the remains of the fitting out and try to re-use the Tee, or cut out the 4″ PVC stack section and put in a new one. That seemed easier, so I ran to the store and got some supplies, including a 10′ section of 4″ pipe.

Pipe removed

I managed some Three-Stooges-level incompetence when it came to removing the old PVC pipe section, spilling the remaining water inside at several opportunities before finally getting the rest into a bucket and the pipe out of the wall…before knocking over the bucket on the floor. I did my best to clean up the new mess on the subfloor and Sarah put down even more towels in the mechanical room below. I put together a new branch for the washing machine and glued it together with minimal fuss.

Roof penetration

The final step was to patch the hole in the roof. When I got up on a ladder in the second floor and took a look, I found the expected congealed tar, but also some bent aluminum flashing. Because I didn’t want to get onto the roof and do a more extensive repair, I simply put some flashing tape over the aluminum cylinder from within.The roof (and walls) already leak, so it doesn’t need to be perfect at this point. We’ll be putting on a new roof in the not-too-distant future and it’s Good Enough™ for now.

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The North side of our house is very close to the neighbors house. Like us, they have a sidewalk down the South side of their house, but unlike us they have a bay wall on the side of their house that’s cantilevered over the basement on both the first and second floors, similar to our second-floor-only bump-out. That means in places their house is less than two feet away from ours. Given that, when we drew up our plans, I eliminated all of the windows on the North side. While they bring in some indirect sunlight, the view wasn’t anything to get excited about and removing them simplified things like the stair landings and potential furniture arrangements. Plus, windows have lower insulation values than a wall assembly, so we’ll lose less heat.

We removed the windows on the first floor a few years ago. Ha! looking back at that post I was still hoping we could partially spray foam. As it turns out, they use a fire protective coating on the spray foam that additional spray foam won’t bond to. As a result, you put it all in at one time or you don’t put in any. But I digress. Removing windows on the second floor when there isn’t even room to put a ladder up outside added to the complexity of the project. Instead, I worked out a way to close them up entirely from the inside. Fortunately, the first window was the small pantry window that had been buried in the wall. It actually has vinyl siding over it on the outside, so if I wasn’t planning on doing it from the inside before, I certainly was now.

The pantry window (buried in the wall) covered by siding

Because our house is balloon framed, the windows don’t have jack and king studs with a header. Instead, they simply cut a hole in the framed exterior wall, added a partial stud on either side of the opening, and called it a day. To close these in, we just sistered to the studs on the sides of the hole, with replacement framing for the vertical studs that had been cut. Sarah’s dad, Mike, helped me pick up the five sheets of ¾” plywood for sheathing.

Doing this from the inside meant that after I removed the existing window, I needed to completely frame the replacement studs and sheathing, along with house wrap stapled to the exterior. Then I fit the assembled framing into the hole from the inside. The downside of this approach was getting the house wrap tucked to the outside so it would cover the gap between the old sheathing and the new and create a proper drainage plane. However, the house wrap will likely all get redone when we replace the siding. For the time being, it’s mostly to protect the sheathing in the absence of siding.

I ran into an extra challenge with the window over the stairs, and had to build scaffolding from boards, plywood scraps, and a ladder. This wasn’t the safest work environment, particularly when lifting the heavy pre-assembled framing into the hole and then finding it didn’t completely fit on the first try. In order to reach the top so I could screw things in and trim one of the studs, I didn’t really want to put a stepladder on top of the scaffolding, so instead I climbed up into the attic and reached down from above. I managed to complete everything without accident.

The last window I did was above the landing, near the top of the stairs. It required a smaller makeshift scaffold than the one over the stairs, but I saved it for last because I noticed the sheathing above and to one side of the window was rotted, as well as the stud adjacent to the window. I cut out the rotted sections and put in the new stud and sheathing above the window opening first, since I could slide it in behind the remaining siding. With that done, I then put in the pre-assembled framing for the window opening from the inside, just as I had for the others. Fortunately, the rest of the sheathing and studs in the house are in pretty good shape, despite innumerable leaks in the siding, soffits, roof, gutters, windows, and trim. My next job will be removing the second floor back door, which currently opens to about a twenty-foot drop.

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I was back upstairs this week, removing the interior walls. I left the center wall for the time being. It’s not really a bearing wall, but it probably helps stabilize things and we’re not ready to start on the structure yet. I’ve got some ideas on how I’m going to tackle subfloor leveling as well as the attic floor upgrade, since it’s all 2x6s right now.

South wall, looking East

I’ve also been working on de-nailing all of the exterior walls, which is a tedious bit of business. I’ve made it about 25% around the perimeter. I was able to remove the remainder of the old gas lines for lighting and the last bits of old supply plumbing, plus a portion of the old drain and vent pipe, but there’s still some work to be done to get the rest out, which means the wet wall can’t be removed quite yet.

North wall, looking East

I’ve accumulated a rather sizeable pile of both lumber to be saved and scrap to be pitched. The lumber, much like the outside walls, needs to be de-nailed. I’m also planning out the next steps, which include closing up the windows on the North wall as well as the back door, and putting in the new drain and vent stack. That requires some forethought to get all of the proper junctions and fittings in place for the eventual toilets, sinks, and tubs that will connect to it.

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