Friday, February 18, 2011

How to jack a house

So one of the ways I wanted to optimize this renovation, was to do as little interior excavation as possible. And so when working with the architect, I asked if I could replace the floor beams with large steel beams that would span  the 20 ft width. He said yes, so the plans were updated.

The giant steel beams have two benefits. First they will allow me to easily lift the house, since I will have large and sturdy platforms to jack up. Secondly, they will make excavation easier since I will only have to excavate and place pin piles on the outer perimeter of the house. So yay on both accounts!

Unfortunately Everett Steel didn't have the means to deliver the beams into my driveway easily. It would've required me renting an excavator or something to unload it from a flatbed. So I decided it would be easier to rent a flatbed from Handy Andy and use that to pick up and drop off the beams. It worked really well actually. I managed to back up into the driveway and then "toss" the beams off the back and in front of the house.

The floor joists can't sit directly on the beams, so pressure treated 2x6s need to be bolted to the top of the beams. This involved drilling way too many holes in thick steel. Suffice to say, I spent a lot of time with my 1/2 heavy duty drill, my Drill Doctor and a bottle of cutting fluid.

Here is a picture of the underneath of the house. You can see the original floor beams underneath the joists. And you can see they are just sitting on wooden posts on top of concrete pier blocks. They were in remarkably decent shape actually.
So I wasn't about to physically drag the beams around and put them under the house. They were 300+ lbs per, and really ungainly. So, mini-excavator to the rescue! (Can you tell I love this machine?)

Here, you can see the beams after they are initially installed. Pay attention to how low the house is sitting here, It'll eventually get jacked up quite a bit.
Once the beams were in place, I started jacking the house up and adding cribbing, to bring the house to level, and also allow me to remove the old beams, posts and piers.

And here, you can see the new beams installed and all of the old beams removed. It's amazing how much room it opened up underneath the house.

Here you can see the back of the house, the angle of this shot is crooked, but the house has been jacked up about 6 inches and looks soo much better.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011


One of the interesting aspects of renovating an older home, is what you find when you tear it apart!
For instance, the walls of this home were filled with all sorts of "insulating" material. Such as newspapers from the 30s.

Note the warning on this page: apparently Italy was arming in the 30s, who knew?!?

I know I showed this picture earlier, but sawdust. Really?
Apparently the builder of this house liked potatoes. Or like stealing sacks from Elmer Hansen. One or the other.
Most of the insulating material was from the 30s, and it was pretty concentrated in the back portion of the house, which makes me think the back porch was originally enclosed during this time. Which makes sense given the type of construction used.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Exterior Demo

Now that the driveway is complete, and I can back up a 5 yard dump truck (from Handy Andy Rentals, of course!). So now I am willing to work on the exterior demolition. 

My initial plan for the house was to demolish the old (and poorly) enclosed porches. This will take the structure back to the original footprint.  The first step was to demolish the back enclosed porch. I don't have many pictures from this stage, as the novelty of documenting the whole process had worn thin. So here you just get to see the back of the house, after the demo, wrapped in plastic.

This is what the old porch looks like on the floor of the transfer station. This is roughly 2,500 lbs of debris I just unloaded.

During the demolition of the back porch, you could see that they had actually insulated portion of the structure with sawdust. It was pretty amazing just how much sawdust was used. I was also impressed that the whole thing hadn't burned down in the last 90 years. It wasn't a house of cards, so much as a house of kindling.
Here you can see the dump truck backed up in the driveway during the front demolition. Not having to haul the material the extra 30 odd feet might now sound like a big advantage, but it was *massively* helpful.

I found so many entertaining things during the demolition. For instance, one wall was filled with a bee hive. Which would be cool if there was honey. But there wasn't. Thankfully there were no bees.
I finished up with the front demolition rather late. But here is a picture of the knee bracing I installed to support the roof once the front porch was gone.
This is better picture of the front of the house, now that the exterior demolition is complete!