Repairing Sub-floors is Not for Sissies

David and I decided to set aside a few hours on a Saturday to remove and replace 64 sq. ft. of damaged dining room sub-floor.  It had become dangerous due to various poor construction techniques.  We thought it wouldn’t be so bad, pull up the rotten wood and replace it  with new.  In the process we would get rid of that hideous peel and stick vinyl tile.

That tile is part of the reason the floor was rotting from below.  There was no moisture barrier under it either.  I didn’t know that.  As you can see, I like my floors all shiny and clean.  I cleaned them often, with plenty of cleaner, water, scrub brushes, mops and wax.  Little did I know that every time I cleaned the floor, water settled below the tiles and gradually rotted away the wood.  Wonderful.  My clean habit played a dirty trick on me.

I told David I would take up the tiles and he could help me take up the wood and place the new sub-floor.  After all, it was only the surface area of two 4 x 8 sheets of plywood.  How hard could that be?   Let’s just point out who is in that picture.  It isn’t me!  I managed to take out about four of those tiles, the rest were too difficult.  They were firmly attached to the rotting wood.  Since we weren’t ready to demo the entire floor, we were only removing the 64 sq. ft. we intended to remove.

Once all the tiles were removed, David used a circular saw, set to the exact depth of the sub-floor, to make the cuts.  He used a reciprocating saw to make the cuts against the walls.  One thing the previous owners did correctly was to use plenty of nails.  That made it difficult to remove the sub-floor in areas where the wood was still solid, mostly around the nails only!

With all the wood removed, the structure was exposed.  There it was.  Our worst fears.  The framework was not properly done.  Pieces of wood just stuck in here an there.  Parts of the floor joists were missing, others were improperly installed.  There is no crawl space as previously believed.  There was maybe 12 inches between the joists and the ground.  Part of the structure was resting on concrete, the rest on sand only.  We began to realize that the addition wasn’t just an addition but instead it was built onto a rickety old porch.  The timbers didn’t match up well, the spacing was off.  The structure of the house was not properly supported.  Now what are we going to do?  Right away we both began planning how we would could fix this situation.

The surprises were not over.  As David continued to remove debris, and I continued to clean up the mess, I accidentally stepped on a soft spot and promptly fell through the floor.  This same thing had happened to David earlier in the day.  As we were removing the sub-floor at the bedroom door (now an office) we discovered there were no supports under the wall.  That was the hardest discovery.  This particular wall runs the entire length of the house.  It had started to sink, but we are not sure if this is why since the foundation is also pulling at the same wall.  It was unsettling though, to find that there was nothing supporting it.

We continued to make progress, David cutting and nailing, me picking up the mess and doing errands for him.  Eventually everything was removed and cleaned up and ready to place the new wood.  Finally the temporary patch was done!


Wilderness in the Walls

After living in this house a short while, we discovered animals were making themselves at home in our garage.  We realized they were coming in through the windows we thought were closed.  After fastening them completely closed we stopped seeing raccoon in there.

Shortly after the garage infiltration, we started to hear noises in the kitchen wall.  We were unable to figure out how it was getting there.  I was convinced it was some horrible creature.  It had to be.  It was noisy as it went under the house and up inside the walls.  The real horror started when we realized it was more than one.  It was a family moving in for the winter.  This animal  thought it was bringing it’s wife and kids in to live in our walls for the whole winter.  We still didn’t know what it was.  Finally it managed to crawl it’s way up to the attic and tear up a ventilation duct.  We hired someone to come fix it and find a way to block animals from getting in under the house.  The repairman was happy to fix the damage, but was unwilling to work on the animal issue, which he diagnosed as opossums.

We blocked every possible opening under the house we could find.  This seemed to work until the next fall when once again we had animals trying to get under the house.  This time it was not just opossums.  Now, racoons wanted to live in the crawl space below the house.  Raccoons and opossums do not get along well. Once we had this little zoo going on, skunks absolutely did not want to be left out and they found a way under the house and managed to wiggle through the exterior wall to the master bathroom and then squirm their way to the cavity formed by the bath tub.  In this nice little warm space between the sheet-rock and bath tub, they had a nice little nest in which they were planning to raise babies.

Once again we head outside to find the locations these animals were getting under the house.  This time,  we just can’t find it.  That night, all those animals come in for their nightly rest at 2:00 a.m.  At some point the opossums and the skunks manage to cross paths.  The fight was on.  So was the stink.  From then on, until we could find a way to make sure no animals could dig their way under the house, we would have to deal with the skunk perfume.  It took a while, but eventually we either trapped or blocked all the animals from the house.  But the damage done by the animals remains, until we can take apart the walls to repair  the electrical and structural damage.  The list just seems to keep growing.

Kitchen Islands Cost HOW Much??

We have a really nice sized kitchen.  It’s out of date by about 30 years, but that’s how it goes when you live in 76 year old house.  The current kitchen, along with several other rooms, were added to the house sometime in the early 1970’s.  And it shows.

Most people would be satisfied with the amount of counter space and cabinets.  There is about six feet of uninterupted countertop on the one side, and another three feet on the other.  There is very little space between the stove and sink to work.  All that being said, there was this glaring open area in the middle of the room.  Space that could be used for an island.  That’s it!  I’ll buy an island!  Or so I thought.

As it turns out, kitchen islands, even small ones, are very expensive.  I found one about 1/3 the size I wanted for $800.00.  If they had a nice counter top they cost even more.  This situation was unacceptable!

As is the way we are, I decided to make my own island.  I would choose size, color and countertop.  There was no shortage of ideas with all the design shows and the plethora of information on the internet.  I liked that idea.  So did David.  Might as well save some money and keep his wife out of his hair for a while.  

This dresser was found at a second hand store.  Not much to look at, but it was sturdy and had a nice design.  The other one was part of the furniture my husband brought when he moved from Atlanta.  It was in equally bad shape, if not worse.  It was about 20 years newer but still quality materials were used to make it.

And so it began.  I sanded both the dressers, took off the hardware, and began painting.  Because it was cold out, the painting took place on my kitchen floor.  There were all kinds of paint cans, brushes and plastic all over the floor.

Walking and using the refrigerator was difficult.  So was cooking.  Everyone was happy when it was finished.

I paid special attention to the fine details of the woodwork to be sue it wasn’t lost in the paint.  I wanted an island, but I wanted one with character.

Once I got it all assembled and out of the way, I put on the new hardware and waited a few weeks before I started the second dresser.  It looked so much better it was inconceivable that it was the same dresser.

Some months later, when things calmed down from the other activities of the household, we pushed the dressers back to back in the center of the kitchen.  I carefully measured the walk way around the dressers to be sure there would not be any obstacles to the appliances or cabinets, and still be comfortable to walk around once the island was finished.

One dresser is six inches longer and 1/4 inch taller than the other.  No problem!  David will build spice shelves to fill the extra space at the end.  For the 1/4 inch height difference, we put 1/4 inch cork layer on the shorter dresser.   It worked great!!

Unfortunately,  we noticed when we put the dressers back to back that the one had yellowed.  After much thought, we decided it was because of the differences in the paint and the original materials used in the production of the dressers. Since we know the kitchen will eventually be renovated, we decided to wait and correct the color problem at that time.

The hardest part of this entire project was deciding what type of surface should we use.  Having spent a large amount of time watching HGTV and researching on the internet, as well as shopping at the local home improvement stores, we finally decided to make an oak countertop.

Selecting the wood wasn’t very difficult, but realizing the price of sanded wood is higher than expected, we made sure to choose the best wood for the job.  Once we got it home we used sand paper to knock off the sharp edges and round the corners.  We used a nail gun to affix it with six 2″ finish nails.

Usually staining wood is a job to do in the shop or garage.  I didn’t want to try to bring it in after it was finished without scratching it.  After three coats of stain and three coats of polyurethane, it was finished.  We are very happy with it and would do it again.  We learned some things while doing the project, and those skills we will take with us to the next project.

We no loner have two dressers in our kitchen.  We have a center island to inspire me to cook and gives that “wow factor” I’m looking for.  Eventually the rest of the kitchen will catch up to the center island.