Need suggestions repairing a floor joist


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Social climber
The internet
Sep 11, 2012 - 11:29pm PT
Holy f*#king shit!! Grab the parachute and JUMP NOW!!!
Captain...or Skully

Sep 11, 2012 - 11:31pm PT
Yer gonna die fer sure.....;-)

philadelphia, pa
Topic Author's Reply - Sep 11, 2012 - 11:42pm PT
Everyone dies sometime, Capt Skully. I figure idle hands get me in trouble, so may as well do something interesting. And if that mold and who knows what else hasn't gotten me yet (did I mention the *inches* of mouse poop in the cabinets of the cottage?), I'm going to live forever.

And truth be told, we really did get it for a song and the bones are good, so a basic clean and fix-the-worst will still put us well ahead. What's more it's on 1/2 acre and one of only a handful of properties in the township grandfathered for 2 dwellings, so that's a plus as well. Oh, and it's in a great school district, so when our 2 year old is ready it gives us the option of simply adding 10 minutes to my wife's commute and avoiding putting her in the not-even-worth-considering/worst-in-the-area school district we're in now. Knowing we had a couple years to work on it was a large part of taking on the project....

Sep 11, 2012 - 11:54pm PT
This thread is excellent, all members pitching ideas with a goal of fixing the problem -too bad we couldn't bring the same sensibilities to fixing the rotten floor of the USA financial situation -if folks turned a house problem into an ideological battle they'd get their clock cleaned -why the double standard i wonder?

Sep 11, 2012 - 11:55pm PT
Oh wait -i've got it -there is a conspicuous absence of members of the politard threads from both sides of the spectrum on this one -hmm -those that can do-those that can't preach?
Captain...or Skully

Sep 11, 2012 - 11:59pm PT
Oh, I'm with ya, not ag'in ya. It just needed to be out there, is all.
It's traditional.
There seems to be some good ideas floatin' about and as it's not my field of expertise, I'll bow out to those that DO know.
The Warbler

the edge of America
Sep 12, 2012 - 12:13am PT
There are a lot of good ideas here, one basic one that I agree with and would do/have done is carefully open up the floor to get access to the hellhole. Your floorboards should be able to be recycled if you remove them with care. This not only gives access, in and out, for you and materials, but air circulation and light to your work site.
Jim Brennan

Trad climber
Vancouver Canada
Sep 12, 2012 - 12:16am PT

Of all the thousands I've spent on tools, the most valuable and loved $35.00 bucks I ever spent was on this respirator from 3M.

Credit: The Lung Society

What doesn't kill you does indeed make you stronger but being able to enjoy grabbing all the air you need when in fun mode makes you stronger than
ever !

Trad climber
San Francisco, Ca
Sep 12, 2012 - 12:20am PT
Wow. If it's any consolation here is my wife and newborn son (and dog) sitting in the "master bedroom" of our 1906 remodel in SF. The picture is several years old but the wounds still feel fresh...

Credit: ontheedgeandscaredtodeath

Ice climber
chingadero de chula vista
Sep 12, 2012 - 12:24am PT
^If that dog, did all of that, I'd put him/her on a leash.

As far as the floor joist repair goes, demo the wood. Demo is fun. If you can't handle the steel replacement like Mr. Breedlove suggests, get someone else to do it.

If you can't handle the demo, hire the dog above. Only thing I can fault it on is the cleanup. When I demo stuff, it's so clean you can eat off it.


Trad climber
Sep 12, 2012 - 12:42am PT
tgt, jstan and bruce are all on the money.

those of us living west of the 100th meridian mostly grew up in, working on, repairing, and building ballon frame buildings in mostly dry soils.

yr dealing with something a bit different. but it's not like it's that weird. most of northern and western europe spends huge chunks of its time dealing with similar issues. i would follow tgt's advice on the radiator and pipes regardless of what else you do.

my guess is that experienced local contractors are going to suggest two really different options-- the incremental/cheap option (chop out the rotten & sister it up) and the fully-modernize-at-least-that-chunk-of-yr-foundation option. we're guessing from yr post and pix that the radiator/pipes are the proximate issue, but given how low and old that corner is, and not knowing how the house is situated, it's tough to diagnose. anyone local is going to spend a bit of time on the outside scoping the drainage & soil,situation before venturing a bid on the basic obvious homeowner this-stuff-is-rotten style repairs visible in the photos.

but honestly, without seeing more, i wouldnt get too choked. it's an old frickin house. folks in europe (and new mexico) live in ancient sh#t that's falling down and periodically go round and brace it up with rebar or whatever. the only additional issue you seem to face involves the rotting wood which may attract termites or ants depending on yr local situation.

edit: that said, im with werner on steel. light, strong, termite proof-- really sad that americans didnt embrace it for residential stuff the way they did for commercial. most of the euro modernization projs involves steel reinforcement of ancient stone sh#t.


Sep 12, 2012 - 12:45am PT
Oh my!

Sep 12, 2012 - 12:50am PT

Thanks for making this thread along with all the photos which speak a thousand more words.

This is great!!!!!!

Trad climber
The land of Fruits & Nuts!
Sep 12, 2012 - 12:54am PT
Hoh man, that's a can of worms for sure.

I've been doing this kind of stuff for about 12 years and could confuse you with yet another long winded opinion.
Warblers suggestions are about what I'd do. You definitely need to pull up the hardwood floor to get to the subfloor as I can see it's obviously rotten. No way around it, pull it. Pull that baseboard and plaster wall to see whats behind there as well.

Dry Rot is like cancer. You can fix the cause, but if you leave just a little behind, it will continue to grow regardless if it continues to see more moisture or not.

I can clearly see this is NOT a simple fix. Simple as to how to tackle it, yes. But as far as how extensive it is and how much work it will take to fix, not an easy task. I can see at least 70 grand in damages from you photos. I'm probably not seeing another 20% of the whole problem.

You should get a licensed contractor to re-engineer that foundation leak and make sure it's taken care of correctly.

If I were you, I'd be filling out a request to be featured on Holmes on Homes.

Social climber
Sep 12, 2012 - 12:59am PT
The black stuff is rotted wood, the white stuff mats of hairy mold

Yikes. I'd be dying from all those damp molds. One of the reasons I love living in the west.

Hmmm. The more you post, the more potential issues I see. Like, for instance, ya wanna be careful sealing up the outside with all the new stucco; you really don't want to seal existing damp inside the walls where it will sit, destroy the mortar and rot the lumber. Not good. The structure has sat for 150 years, quite happily. Any thing you think you need to do can wait a few months or even years. Our own house is 100 years old, one thing I've learned is to not rush into things.

Add gutters and downspouts, landscape the ground within 6 feet of the house to drain away from the structure. Installing a french drain is a pain but might be be a good idea. Maybe a sump pump in a hole in the lowest part of the basement if there's a high water table. Ventilate the basement/crawl space? Add a damp course membrane, maybe?

I would not rip up the floor. Your floor is fine. There's no way to attach a new one; it'll be a nightmare. I would not try drilling into the existing stones of the foundation--you'll probably just loosen them. Ya gotta work with the structure, not fight it. Yes, do dig out the dirt and stuff in the basement, isolate the lumber from the dirt. You want to preserve the fabric of the old structure as much as possible (that's what makes an old house cool) while using modern techniques and materials to stop current damage and protect it from further damage.

On the plus side, the walls look plumb, roof looks good and the house looks to be structurally stable. You could happily ignore everything for a decade or more; the repair work would be pretty much identical but you will have ten more years of accumulated knowledge of what to do/not to do.

Yeah, cool house!
Jim Brennan

Trad climber
Vancouver Canada
Sep 12, 2012 - 01:06am PT
Yeah !

Wood as a structural component really sucks if you're wanting a solution you don't have to revisit. It moves, it shrinks, it expands, it cracks, it twists, it snaps and it rots.

I think every structure starting now, should be constructed from concrete and steel.

The only use for wood should be decorative as in baseboards, cabinetry, doors, floors and the occasional millwork flourish to resolve a design.

HA !
Jim Brennan

Trad climber
Vancouver Canada
Sep 12, 2012 - 01:14am PT
Oh, don't forget about the wonder material Asbestos and how it may be lurking in various applications through time.

VCT tiles, drywall mud and sheathing, plaster and lath, pipe insulation at the elbows and siding shingles from basically the dawn of time until the mid 80's should be suspect. This is a big deal in commercial reno's but seems to be not taken seriously in single dwelling wood frame residential renovations.

Sep 12, 2012 - 01:28am PT
There are a lot of good ideas here, one basic one that I agree with and would do/have done is carefully open up the floor to get access to the hellhole.

Probably right as the underlayment at a minimum is rotten. But boy this puts you into the lathe and plaster. I suppose you could cut all of that back three inches up and then cover with baseboards. You will likely find the studding is questionable. If they are bad, you just cut away the lathe and plaster that was holding the framing up.

Water in the crawl space is deadly. I put in an area drain around one house just to stop that.

Odysseus had nothing on Datsman! If he is much older than 35 the house is probably going to win.

MSA has stopped making the respirator I use. It has metal cans that I wrapped three layers of N95 face mask material over using hose clamps. That way only one part in 8000 of the ambient dust gets to the primary filter. When you peel them off you can estimate how much dust got through to the primary.
Roger Breedlove

Cleveland Heights, Ohio
Sep 12, 2012 - 11:40am PT
I think John is right in staying below. The floor(s) are between the joists and the sill plate, if there is one, and the studs. The old walls are full of stuff that you don't want in the air. And the radiator is sitting on top of the floor, more or less in the way. Lathe and plaster are hard to cut without loosening whatever sections are left--a sawsall will vibrate the lathe so hard that the keys on the remaining part of the wall break off leaving a very uncertain upper wall. Pretty soon, you will be in a nice new condo wondering how it so out of hand so quick.

Where is your house, anyway?


philadelphia, pa
Topic Author's Reply - Sep 12, 2012 - 12:53pm PT
Lunchtime update:

Spent the morning digging out the remains of a fake pitcher pump at the back of the house, as I noticed the pipe remaining in the hole was always full of water. Turns out they encased the bottom of the pump in aluminum flashing, so there simply was nowhere for the water to go. Very happy to find that it wasn't hooked up to a pipe that had been feeding water into it (and then draining into the basement.

Anyway, this radiator came off surprisingly easy (unlike the other two I've had reason to pull do far). The floor underneath is in good shape, so no way I'm tearing it out to attack the joist from above as that would be a nightmare of which-side-is-the-T&G-on, it being fastened with soft iron cut nails that don't pull out, removing the scary 1950's surface mount ribbon cable electrical feed (with plug&play outlets!) and then attempting to peel the molding that's nailed into the plaster (no studs or lath in these walls; it's plaster direct on the stone).

Here's a pic of the floor under the radiator. Very surprised it's so solid, with nary a soft spot anywhere.

Figured while I was there I may as well scrape out the one crack and get a pic of the wall construction... Hard to make it clear with the camera on the phone, but it really is a couple brown coats, a scratch coat and a final coat of plaster directly on the stone. Actuall now that I think about it I have a great pic from the bathroom demo that shows it clearly (they didn't plaster the area between ceiling below and the floor, which also shows there's no wood running the length of the sides of the house). Oh well, this pic will have to do...

Ok, off to cut out the pipes...
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