As I was leveling the bay, it occurred to me that before I put down the OSB subfloor, I needed to run the conduit for the electrical box. In Chicago we have to run EMT conduit for all electrical. No Romex wire, no BX armored cable, just hard pipe conduit. Looking at the, er, generous amount of framing I used when we installed the windows, there was no way to run the conduit sideways. The window itself meant I couldn’t go up, and the masonry below made it difficult to go down, but still less difficult than the other options. Regardless, resolving this now, before I put down the subfloor, would be vastly easier than doing so afterward.
Dean came over Saturday and we figured out how to run the conduit with the least damage to framing, brick, subfloor, and spray foam. The box is mounted in the center of the window and the conduit goes straight down before bending at an angle to the left. The shim I put down on top of the brick needed to be cut at an angle so the conduit could pass through, directly beneath the subfloor. Dean notched out the sole plate while I chiseled out a narrow channel in the brick behind the front joist with my rotary hammer and drilled a hole through the joist in the center of the bay.
With some careful bending (followed by some not so careful bending) we managed to get the first piece through the joist and the second piece around the channel and up into the wall next to the front door. That meant we could put down the OSB in the bay, which required just a little bit of notching on the underside to fit around the conduit where it curved up into the wall. Now when it comes time to do the rest of the electrical we won’t have to worry about how to put this in without damaging the brand new subfloor.
The pre-subfloor leveling isn’t quite done yet, and the bay window on the front of the house brought its own set of challenges. For starters, the joist running across the very front of the house (and across the widest part of the bay) is embedded in brick, meaning I couldn’t jack it up the way I did most of the others. There’s also a gap of nearly two feet between that joist and the joist in the center of the bay, which is considerably wider than the 16″ that most of the joists are spaced. Finally, the old floorboards rested directly on top of the brick foundation and extended under the bay walls, whereas in most of the balloon-framed house, it only reaches the edge of the wall.
When we rebuilt the bay windows, I noticed the floorboard situation and debated replacing it then, but between doing only one window at a time and the corner studs not being replaced, I decided against it. That meant the first step was to use an oscillating multi tool to cut the floorboards back at the wall edge. Then I glued shims to the top of the existing joists and added some blocking joists to better support the gap between joists.
Questions sprang to mind of how to control air and vapor infiltration through the foundation and through the gaps in the wood, and how to insulate the bay properly. We’ll be spray-foaming the cavities in the wall, and on the sides of the house we’ll spray foam the top of the foundation wall to air seal it to the wood, but here that isn’t an option because the brick comes all the way up to the underside of the floor. The exterior rigid insulation doesn’t help either because it doesn’t extend over the brick.
I decided to attach an inch-thick shim to the inside edge of the brick wall (on top of sill gasket) that will support the subfloor. In front of the shim, and along the top of the brick on the sides of the bay, we’ll fill with spray foam. I’ll also glue the outside edges of the subfloor to the framing to further seal everything. Hopefully that will be sufficient, since it will be damn difficult to do anything about it with the subfloor in place.
When I initially test fit the shim I realized that the brick was —perhaps unsurprisingly— uneven. In order to properly support the shim I had to mix up some mortar and straighten out the top of the foundation. That meant waiting a couple of days for the mortar to set up, but then I was able to drill some holes into the brick and secure the shim with Tapcon screws.
I went through a few cans of “big gap” Great Stuff, since the real spray foam won’t be for a bit. Fortunately it’s so cold that it cures slowly, giving me ample time to even it out. I got the first of three pieces of OSB down that go into the bay. I took my time and worked out the dimensions exactly, accounting for all of the unevenness of the studs. There’s still a small gap along the edge of the angle, but I’ll fill that with caulk. The important part is it’s secure, level, and insulated. I’m considering whether I should exchange the one piece of blocking in the center with two, since that would be a more proper 16″ spacing, plus there’s a good chance I’ll wind up putting an electrical outlet in the floor there. One of the reasons to use screws instead of nails is you can change your mind without too much hassle.
I spent nearly all of this past weekend leveling the joists in the first floor. That effort was largely successful, with the nine remaining 12′ spans all adjusted to within a sixteenth of an inch using Method 3. I also leveled five other joists that required the tapered shimming method and got a few more sheets glued and screwed down. My hope, and in fact my expectation was that having done that I would then be able to start putting down full, 8′ sheets of OSB, allowing me to finally finish up this project.
Unfortunately, that hasn’t happened. In addition to not being level, the joists are not evenly spaced. They employ a generous “sixteen” inches on center alignment that means the 8′ sheets don’t line up in the middle of a joist at either end, sometimes coming short of one joist entirely. I tried planning ahead, measuring out to the next sheet and seeing if I could make one sheet stretch, but it just didn’t work. Instead I’m finding myself cutting sheets at roughly 32″, 48″, or 64″, plus or minus an inch or so.
On top of this, I’m finding that the walls aren’t exactly even either, so that I’m having difficulty getting the panels to align evenly down a joist and one panel to the next. After putting down an 8′ panel that left a gap at one corner and was snug at the other, I decided I needed to do better. As a result, instead of cutting my panels square at say 48″, I cut an edge that tapers back a ½” or so from the tongue to the groove, so that panels meet in the center of the joist and the tongues fits snugly into the grooves. This is precise and thus time consuming work. Tonight I spent two hours putting two small panels down, incrementally increasing the completed area by a whopping thirty-six square feet.
When I finished carefully scribing, cutting, and fitting the second of these panels I discovered that the joist was torqued and the shim I glued down was sticking up on the exposed side. Because of this, the second panel is raised up higher than the first. It’s a slight difference, but after the inordinate amount of time I’m spending to make everything level, it’s extremely frustrating. I’ll probably have to go back around with the power planer and even at least a few seams.
I keep reminding myself how I wanted to hire this project out, and thinking I really should have done that, high cost or no. At this point it’s starting to feel like it would have been worth it, assuming they would have done as good a job. It’s hard to even estimate at this point how long it will take me to finish. I’d like to think I’ve figured out my methods now and it should go faster, but who knows. The bay will bring its own set of challenges and I still have some of the shorter joist spans to level. After that I need to fill in the narrow, 5″ gap all along the North wall. Needless to say, I’m really looking forward to this project being done.
Before we bought our extreme fixer upper, we watched a lot of Holmes on Homes. In addition to an irrational fear of hiring contractors, the show also instilled the importance of building level, plumb, and true. When you’re renovating an old house that’s something of an uphill battle, and at times it’s downright impossible. However, we’re planning on in-floor radiant heat, which uses plywood and aluminum panels that lie on top of the subfloor and has channels for PEX tubing. The subfloor needed to be level and flat, and the existing plank floor was not going to cut it.
The first new subfloor was done when I reframed the wet wall back in September. At the time I decided that “level” was where the joists rested on the steel beam at the center of the house, since I knew the beam was level. The joists sloped slightly higher toward the South wall, so I used a planer to shave them down to be level and put the new subfloor down. I call this planing method of leveling “Method One”.
When I started work on the back section of subfloor, I realized that the wet wall was the exception rather than the rule when it came to joist height at the South wall. Most joists were ¾” higher at the outside wall than the beam, making Method One a bad option. Not only would planing that much off be a time consuming pain, I didn’t like removing that much wood from the joists. I decided instead to establish a new level, on top of the small section of subfloor I’d already done. Instead of planing down, I cut and glued down long shims that tapered from nothing to ¾” (depending on the particular joist) over the course of ten feet. This is “Method Two”. It is also a pain in the ass, but slightly less so. There were a few variations of this while we tried to work out the best way to do it.
With the back section leveled, but time consumingly so, I wanted to find a faster way to do it. Since the ¾” slope was fairly consistent, I next tried jacking up each joist at the beam and/or the outside wall and putting a shim underneath it, using my trusty hydraulic jack. This is “Method Three” and so far the most straightforward, if still time consuming. In some cases this was all I needed to do, while in others there was still a bow in the center of the spans that I fixed with a long shim, ala Method Two.
I did consider some other methods, such as sistering another joist to the first one. Some people have even used just a 2×4 rather than a full height piece. I didn’t do that partly because I didn’t want to rip out and replace all of the cross bracing between the joists, plus I don’t like the idea of the weight being carried off center of the joist. I want the floor to be as quiet as possible, which is why all the shims and subfloor are being glued down in addition to screws.
I still have a ways to go before the subfloor is done. I’m doing the leveling and the subfloor installation concurrently because we need a way to walk through the first floor, plus a place to put all of our tools. I’ll be working on it in the evening this week as well as this coming weekend. I’m hopeful I can finish by Sunday, but we’ll see.
I’m sorry folks. This post could have been full of exciting, spark-showering photos of angle grinding, but we didn’t take in-progress shots. In fact, I only took phone camera pictures, so on top of not being as interesting they’re also grainy and blurry. I’ll try to do better.
Anyway, here’s the old boiler and steam pipes in the foreground with the new boiler and new panel in the background. I finished taking down the steam pipes this weekend. I mostly used the angle grinder with a cutting disk, though in a few places I used the reciprocating saw with a metal blade and some cutting oil.
I was surprised to find that one section of the return pipes was still full of water, even though it hadn’t been running since last winter. I thought it would have evaporated by now, but I guess not. It eventually drained and I finished cutting it out.
Because some of the supports were literally falling out of the ceiling, I strung it up in places with wire and bungie cords while I was removing it. All of the pipe went into my scrap pile, which at this point takes up a decent chunk of the basement. Once the snow melts I’ll haul it over to the recycling yard.
Once everything was taken down it really opened up the basement. I also removed a leftover section of the old gas pipe while I was at it, just so I could call it 100% done. With the pipes removed and the chimney down, there’s nothing in the way of finishing the new subfloor, except for all of the stuff on the first floor I have to move out of the way. I’ve got most of the back section done, and I’m hoping the rest of it will go more quickly.
The old boiler will wind up going to scrap too. It’s not as heavy as I expected. It’s pretty amazing how much different this section of the basement is from when we bought the place. I suppose that’s true of the first floor, too, since it’s all gutted, but somehow this feels more substantive.
Twitter FeedMy Tweets
- Basement Beam (9)
- Basement Demo (9)
- Basement Electrical (3)
- Basement Mechanical (13)
- Chimney Removal (3)
- First Floor Beam (6)
- First Floor Demo (11)
- First Floor Electrical (1)
- First Floor Stairs (2)
- First Floor Subfloor (8)
- First Floor Windows and Doors (11)
- Gas Pipe Re-Routing (2)
- Livable Second Floor (15)
- Plans and Permits (23)
- Random Projects (10)
- Ruminating (6)
- Wet Wall Re-frame (4)
- ▼ 2014 (7)
- ► 2013 (46)
- ► December (3)
- ► November (3)
- ► October (3)
- ► September (4)
- ► August (6)
- ► July (2)
- ► June (3)
- ► May (6)
- ► April (5)
- ► March (5)
- ► February (1)
- ► January (5)
- ► 2012 (40)
- ► December (5)
- ► November (2)
- ► October (3)
- ► September (3)
- ► August (1)
- ► July (2)
- ► June (3)
- ► May (2)
- ► April (8)
- ► March (5)
- ► February (3)
- ► January (3)
- ► 2011 (32)
- ► December (4)
- ► November (5)
- ► October (1)
- ► September (2)
- ► August (7)
- ► July (9)
- ► June (4)
Tagsair sealing architect basement basement demo bathroom beam boiler cast iron chicago chimney removal cleaning contractors delivery demo door electrical first floor flashing footings framing garage heat house insulation iron door joists kitchen leveling LVL outlet planning plumbing radiant heat radiators rigid insulation roaches spackle spray foam stairs structural structure subfloor tile windows wiring