Repairing Sub-floors is Not for Sissies

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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!