Sunday, September 15, 2013

It's a new post! Literally!

I've been dying to get a post up, but I wanted to wait until a project was completely finished before blogging about it....  plus I wanted to get the post highlighting all the awesome the house can offer before I got to the doom and gloom.  Because I can get a little project crazy, I'm keeping myself to about three 'big' projects at a time.  The first three big ones I picked were the sinking farmers porch, playset, and busted bathroom door frame.  
The first project to make it to the finish line - the farmers porch!  Hold onto your hats. It's a big one.

Our inspection report was a large 30 page document outlining a lot of issues we need to fix.  While we knew we had our work cut out for us, we felt that the benefit of having a home our not-so-young family would have room to grow up in outweighed the cost of working extra hard in the next few years.

Excerpt from our Inspection Report

Back to the farmers porch.  As you can read above, the inspection report suggested a contractor look over the porch (actually most of the report say that, even if in person he said it would be an easy DIY project).   We decided to take a chance and go at it on our own.  If we finds that it sinks back down again, we'll call in an expert.

The internet paired with some  builder friend's experiences lead me to believe the farmers porch sank because of the drain spout that exited right at the footer.  I do worry it could be a bigger issue that will require more digging up of the concrete, but we'll go with our best guess for now. Our plan is to bring the wood part of the porch back up, leaving the concrete in place, extend the drainpipe out (maybe putting in a drywell) and see if it sinks anymore.

So basically, we're going to replace that short 6"x6" timber with a timber about two inches longer.  And although this was clearly the most problematic post, we'll be doing the same for the neighboring post, which had also sank a little.  My guess is because it started to bear the weight of that entire side of the porch, it started to sink as well. 

And while we're at it, we're going to replace the post.  Not only is it cracked, but it was bowed out to the side too.  The rest of the posts were just fine, but this one just didn't give me a good feeling.

While researching how to fix this problem, I stumbled on this article from Fine Homebuilding.  It really helped clarify what we were going  to do and what material we needed.  I had actually already bought a PT 4" x 6" beam & 2x4's for the playset, and there were some PT 4x4's near the shed already, so that worked out perfectly.  A co-worker had offered some house jacks already, and it wasn't until I read that article that it really clarified what I needed to do with them.  It was actually pretty hard to find any good info on how to correctly use/support house jacks online.

You should have seen me trying to load this into the cart 2 minutes before the store closed...
Friday night I bought a new post, a post attachment plate, some cinder blocks and a PT 6"x6". We had bought a circular saw a few trips earlier, knowing we needed some sort of power saw to our name, and borrowed a saws-all and chopsaw. We also bought a ladder, again, knowing we'd need it later.  My mom took the kids that night and we were set to start working Saturday morning... until I started reading the post instructions the night before.  They went something like this (it really was this random!):

1) Paint the post, even thought it's pre-primed.
2) Make sure you use several coats of paint.
3) Intall the post.
4) Make sure you installed the post after you already painted it.
5) Really, paint the post first or you're not doing it right and the warranty is void.
6) Let me tell you again how we want you to paint the post and seal the holes.

And unfortunately, I had not picked up any post paint yet.  So first thing Saturday I had to head to Home Depot for some paint.  Trip #2.

In-between coats on the new post, we got started on the prep work.  We took the stairs off, removed the gutter, pulled out the decking around the post and separated the railing from the post.

If you'll notice, there's nice glaring sun in this photos.  It got pretty hot out there, and just 20 feet away, our still dirty pool sat.  Teasing us.  Oh, how we wished we had googled how to care for a pool... before we lost internet.  Then we could have jumped in and cooled off during our breaks.

Then we started erecting the support for the roof.  First we dug out solid ground for the cinder blocks and placed the house jacks on them.  We used two 2x4's  to keep the posts set upright and plumb, staked to the ground until we got the cross-brace in.

Jon was able to lift the beam in place, pretty much by himself, and we started lifting the house jacks.  The painted wood boards at the top of the porch were a cover the for the support beams underneath, so we used a few blocks to press through facade to the support beams.  We kept jacking up the roof until it was clear the post wasn't load bearing anymore.


So at this point we were able to pull out the old beam.  We sliced off half and there was a very very moist sawdust inside.  I was suspicious and we carefully pressed on.  As we removed more and more of the beam, it was easy to see that carpenter ants had made a home in the post (which was surprisingly moist for the little rain we've had lately) and tore out a fair amount of it.  I was very glad we decided to get a new post.  We calked the bottom as directed, but left holes for water to escape.

We decided this was a good stopping point for the night.  1) It was getting darker and mosquitoes were out. 2) It was clear the old post was the same size as ours, and the previous builder needed a 1/2" spacer on the top of the post for it to fit correctly.  We didn't have anything that would work. 3) The hole the post was sitting in was really moist and we wanted it to air out overnight.

So at this point Jon left for the hardware store, Lowe's this time.  Trip #3.  We bought the same riser we needed for the bottom to put in the top as just a spacer.  I couldn't find the riser's load bearing capacity anywhere, the the load-bearing post required it, so I figured it would be fine on both ends.

I was a little worried leaving the porch like that overnight ("What if a bear runs into the support posts?"), but the next morning it was just fine.  We attached the support bracket to both sides with caulk and put the post in place.  At this point things got a little muddled, and we wasted a bit of time here. I didn't want to raise the roof up and down a lot, so the intent was to now raise the floor (and post) to meet the roof.


We needed to dig out holes to place house jacks & cinder blocks so we could raise the floor of the porch....  which unfortunately meant trying to dig a hole under a porch.  Not fun.  The side was easy, the front was much tougher, which requiring going down about a foot lower.  We used two jacks at first, one on the front and one on the side. 

So now would be the point where we raise up the jacks and lift the floor easily.  Hah. 

The small jack I had picked for the front was nice and short, so the hole didn't have to be crazy deep (we were already at ~18" deep).  But, it turns out, it also had a smaller hole the rod that came with the jacks didn't fit in.  I knew the dowel would fail, but tried it anyway.  Using a bigger jack didn't seem like a good option, since the next size we had available was about a foot taller (ie, digging a foot deeper).  Digging those holes and getting the cinder block close level already took a long time.

Trip to the store #4.  We got two stakes, since there were cheap and smaller than the other rod that came with the jacks.

But not small enough.  Thankfully the tip was pointed it gave us enough leverage we could still use it as intended.


So now we raise the floor nice and easy, right?  Nope.  The picture above shows much of the issue.  The jack on the side only supports the joist and not the beam.  Since we decided to keep the roof hoisted, and the jack holding that was in the way of the optimal space, the other jack had to be a down a few feet farther.  When we went to jack up the floor it just didn't feel right to me.  The front would lift, but do most of the lifting on the next post over, allowing the beam to curve a bit.  The side jack would be doing all the lifting of the end support and the joist would likely rip up away from the beam.  Not ideal.

So the idea of raising the roof twice seemed like the much better option, so we lowered the roof back down, pulled out the cross supports and screwed the post into place.  At least at this point we can say part 1 is complete and the new post is in!

So we after removing the roof support, we dug a new hole and added a third jack in.  Digging that hole was easier.  I dug with a spade, placed the dirt on Jon's shovel, and he would pull it out of the hole.  Finally, we were at the point where we can raise the porch up.  Before we started lifting, we used the sawsall to detach the beam from the 6x6" timber for both posts, so the floor was free to lift without damaging the beam or the metal post standoff.

Next we needed to try to pull the wood out without damaging the standoff (those things are $30 a pop!).  Jon and I worked at one side enough to pull down the flap and expose the bolt holding the standoff down.  Our cheap-o walmart adjustable wrench kept popping out of place when we tried to unscrew it though!!  Oy!  Eventually Jon was able to wiggle the metal washer bracket enough to free the whole thing...  but between all the mistakes we had made that was it for the day.

Thanks to work, almost a week went by before we got back to it, and thankfully we didn't have a drop of rain.  I was fairly nervous about rain, since we had no gutter hooked up and three big holes ready to be filled all of that misguided water. 

Two new supports!

To cut the 6x6", Jon used the circular saw and cut on all 4 sides, cleaning up the center with a handsaw.  I decided it would be easiest to use screws to hold in the brackets, since access was limited, but unsure if that would be to code.   Thankfully, 'Sampson Strong Tie' has a really robust website, and I was able to find the only screws recommended for these exact brackets.  Trip #5 (Home Depot) for the screws and I got the last box (and a new adjustable wrench).

Thanks to the new adjustable wrench, and now knowing what to do, I was able to get the old post out for the middle support in about 10 minutes.  Screwing the new ones in was super easy, about 10 more minutes, and I was able to remove support from all the jacks that night (this was on Friday, after work). Total contrast to the last day we had worked on the house.

Roof Line Before

Roof Line After
So here is the fruit of our labor.  It's amazing how noticeable those few inches are when you look at the roofline.

The next day, Jon was busy taking care of the big kids, so I replaced him with this hunky guy in his swim diaper speedo. He helped me fill in the holes... and un-fill them again.

After fixing the landscaping, we reattached the gutter, railing and stairs and also replaced the torn out decking.  I caulked/painted and holes or scratches in the new post, and decided this would be a good time to do repaint the top rail all the way around the porch, to protect a little more, since it was showing some wear.

...And thankfully, we got the pool all cleaned up by then.  So this time, I got to join these guys after a hard day's work.

Our first project to be completely finish was one of the big ones on the list.  I can only hope the fix turns out to be long term solution, and the drainage was the only underlying issue.


Hilaree said...

You guys are so badass. So impressed with all your hard work - if anyone can fix up a house, it's you guys! Congratulations!

Cassie said...

Haha, Thanks!