House Project: Basement Joist Replacement (part ii) & Platform Rebuild

By , February 20, 2018 12:21 pm

When we first toured our home, we noticed the floors weren’t level, and knew we’d have to fix them at some point (as much fun as it is to watch the cats’ ball toys roll to the lowest points of the house, ha). We started working on one of the unlevel areas in June 2016 when we put jacks in the basement where two joists were being crushed due to faulty loading. We replaced one joist in August 2016 (it was a priority to get done then, due to work going on two floors above), and – drumroll, please! – replaced the other one this weekend!!! Other parts of the house remain unlevel, but it’s exciting to make progress!

As I mentioned, when Steven and I started clearing the way for this joist replacement project, we found some wackadoodle construction under our first floor stair landing, so he and my dad took care of that during this project, too. But the first priority was the joist.

They picked up the new joist – a $19 2×10 – on Thursday night. Kind of funny to think all of this work is being done to put in a piece of lumber that costs less than $20!

And they got to work Friday afternoon. Despite our previous weekend’s work of clearing all the odd wood framing out from around the ductwork, they still had more to clear out to be able to get the joist in. You can see in the photo below that there was a lot of wood and conduit around the joist, and the stairs behind it were also in the way.

So a lot of Friday was more demolition! They ended up cutting out the drywall above the brick wall to expose the joist.

View from the other side:

They also took down a lot of ductwork and started demolishing the goofy stair platform. You can see in the photo that there was a double platform – which had no point to it. There used to be a post there too, which supported the platform. But they rebuilt it in a way that the post is no longer required!

Old photo:


They did put a jack there in the meantime though.

They kept working on Friday until they were able to get the joist in, which required cutting out part of the stair (and not taking the whole thing out THANK HEAVENS), turning off the power and moving some of the conduit. But they got it in. Yay! (This joist is under the wall next to the dining room, which is why they told me and Mom to move when we were playing Blokus in there!)

On Saturday, they focused on rebuilding the stair platform, and redesigning the ductwork that went underneath it. The wood supporting the platform hangs off of the new joist they put in, so a post is no longer required. Before, it relied on it <— dumb design.

Some of the old bottom platform was structurally supportive at the foundation wall, so they put blocking in between the old pieces, to support it more.

As you can tell, I don’t have very good before pictures (dammit, that is my job!) but the ductwork used to be below the second platform. Since they were taking that out, and rebuilding it, the ductwork could curve up, and we could have more head space there! Woo hoo!

They spent a lot of time redesigning the ductwork, and cleaning out what they were reusing (they used some new pieces, too). Then they put it all back together, and the project was DONE!

And now, we have this pile in our basement, and everything is covered in dust! But that’s how it goes with these projects. Although, what the hell was going on in the previous “design” that they had this much extra wood hanging around?! Seriously?!?!

Ha, I made them take this photo on Sunday.

Thanks for all your hard work, Steven and Dad! Dad, we’ll let you know what the next project will be for your spring visit!

If you made it this far, and can follow all of this, thanks for reading! I will be better about taking before and after shots from the same angle for future projects (because you KNOW we are going to have them)!

8 Responses to “House Project: Basement Joist Replacement (part ii) & Platform Rebuild”

  1. Chaitali says:

    Wow, that’s so impressive that they were able to take care of all of that! Hopefully the cats aren’t too disappointed at the level floor 🙂

    • kilax says:

      I am impressed too! And luckily for the cats, this only fixed part of the house, and they can still chase the balls in the living room. Ha ha ha!!!

  2. I have a few questions, which you may not be able to answer, but I’m going to ask anyway:

    Question #1: Why was there faulty loading in the first place? Presumably, aren’t there at least a couple levels of review when it comes to building a house that should prevent that kind of thing? Like, shouldn’t the architect design the house with loading in mind? If the architect screwed up, shouldn’t the contractor realize there’s an issue? (To be fair, I don’t really know anything about contractors, so maybe I’m overestimating their expertise/influence in construction.) It just seems like someone somewhere along the line in the initial construction of the house should’ve realized, “Wait, this will throw off the loading and won’t work.” Unless it just deteriorated into that condition? (I suppose this was actually more than one question, haha.)

    Question #2(ish): What’s the purpose of the brick wall next to your stairs, the one the drywall came down before you cut it (the drywall) away for better access? Is there a purpose? It doesn’t seem like it’s supporting anything, and that seems like a LOT of work to enclose a staircase (compared to leaving it open, or just putting up a railing, or even just putting up wood/drywall around it instead of laying brick). But maybe I’m not understanding the full picture!

    I assume your house isn’t *that* old, at least not in the grand scheme of things (do you know how old it is, now that I ask? Based on what I’ve seen, I’m guessing it’s not pre-WWII?), but in my perfect dream world, I would LOVE to own an old house some day, and I feel like your blog posts about your house projects are just a small preview of what could be in store for me if I ended up with the 1930s-or-earlier house of my dreams, haha.

    • kilax says:

      Ask away! I love your questions! Although my answers are all speculation.

      We assume our house started out as some sort of farm house that was added on to. It’s the only thing that could explain all the different designs and changes and crap that doesn’t make sense. So… we don’t think anyone ever checked out the loading, or the design. We think they just built. In a real design, it would be stamped by an architect, and the architect would have had a structural engineer review it (now, whether a contractor would FIX something faulty in design TOTALLY depends on the contractor, ha!). But it was bad design, which resulted in the joists deteriorating!

      And you are looking at that brick wall correctly! There is almost NO point to it. One side of it is supporting floor above it (acting as a column) but THAT IS IT. We have no idea why the staircase is encased like that. We wonder if the person who lived there just loved doing brick work or something? So bizarre, right?!

      We think our house was build in the 70s (1975, maybe?). So yeah, a 30s house could have a lot more interesting stuff (although, it may be built more solidly!!!). Thanks for reading through and asking all your questions. My husband was excited for your comment. “Do you think your one friend will comment who is in to house stuff?!” 🙂

      And I hope you get to have your cool old house someday!

  3. Troy says:

    Well played, gentlemen! Truly epic project done!

  4. Mica says:

    Wow, that was a huge project (and just a $20 piece of wood?? That’s crazy!)! As always, I’m so impressed that Steven [and your dad] know how to do this. I actually have learned what a joist is from reading your blog! I appreciate that you take the time to document the process and annotate the photos. I can’t completely wrap my head around what’s happening, but I can tell that the old arrangement was weird!

    • kilax says:

      Thank you (for being impressed) and for reading it all! I think it’s hard to wrap your head around it because I was so lazy about documenting it, so I will do better next time. But yeah, basically there was a lot of extra wood in the basement and two crappy joists (one replaced Aug 2016 and the one replaced this weekend).

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