You know why I named this post Medieval Times? Because they joust, and that reminds me of joist and that’s what this post is about. I tend to think I’m rather creative with my titles (remember the Coldplay one?), but maybe I’m just laughing to myself and you’re thinking the same thing Katie is 99% of the time–”you’re so weird.” Yes.
Anyways, one of the first projects, and potentially most important for Katie’s piece of mind, was to replace/sister the existing floor joist in our kitchen that was “holding up” the floor underneath our fridge. Why? Well, the floor was about two inches off level in the back of our house, which we credited to an approximately 4″ by 4″ notch cut into the existing joist:
Why also? Because Katie has a general fear of floors collapsing that I think is entirely irrational, but I love her so I do what she says.
But anyway, as you can see the notch in the joist was pretty substantial, and the rest of what existed to hold the joist up was sort of like a bad mashup song–just throw a few things together that don’t work and hope for the best. Welp, the best here was that the floor was sagging, and it just so happened that the refrigerator was right on top of it. Super safe. So those “sister joists” (which consisted of seemingly random scraps of various sized boards that weren’t really supporting anything, and were shoddily screwed in with some basic drywall screws) had to go:
Removing all those erroneous boards also gave us a chance to get a better look at the joist. It turned out that there was actually an existing, semi-functional 2×10 sister joist attached to the 2×10 “original” joist with the notch in it – although I write original in quotes because this joist is clearly not original to this hundred year old townhome, in which all other viewable floor joists are huge, 4×10 guys. But anyway…unfortunately, the 2×10 sister didn’t do much in terms of stabilizing the floor, since it didn’t actually cover the notch that was the real culprit of our sag. What it DID do was cover about a 4 foot span of the joist where various wires ran through:
So really, that “sister” joist was really more of an ugly stepsister. Woof.
Since we are not in the business of haphazardly removing potentially live wires, we knew we had a few options here. Either remove the existing sister only from the portion of the original joist that had no wires in it, or completely remove and replace everything with the help of an electrician/plumber, since the joist was also precariously perched over our relatively new water heater. We had a few general contractors come out to give us estimates – all of which ranged in the $1-3k ballpark. Since we could come up with lots of better ways to spend a few G’s, we decided that the first option was the way to go.
So one Saturday we enlisted the help of a few trusty recruits for the project: Katie’s dad and brother. We figured if we attempted this as a two person mission, we’d both kill each other–so we should have at least have some witnesses around.
First things first: in order to attack this project, we really needed to see what was going on. We could already tell after removing the random smaller boards nailed/screwed into the existing joist that things weren’t as simple as they might seem – so we decided to also remove the floor. Our best option here was to come at everything from the top, so we could see exactly what we were working with – so we whipped out our circular saw, set it to a hair deeper than the 3/4 inch floorboard depth, and let er rip. Which created a huge hole in our floor, but left us much more room for activities (if the activities you like are replacing joists) and the opportunity to see what was actually going on:
With the floor out of the way, we could continue with the circular saw to cut into it and remove the 2×10 sister joist that wasn’t being very sisterly. We cut a few times in order to remove as much as the sister as possible without running into any wires, etc:
This was a total turning point in the project because with the sister removed, we could actually see the original 2×10 joist that was anchored into the brick foundation. What we discovered was pretty disappointing: the “original” joist was not actually a single 2×10 as it should have been, but instead was made of TWO 2x10s – which explained the need for a super janky 4×4 post in the middle of our basement to support the ends of each where they met in the middle of the house. We don’t actually have any original photos of that discovery – we must have been so distraught that we forgot to take them. But here are a few before and sneak peak afters so you can see what we mean (the after includes a new, metal post that we installed):
To remove the existing post and replace it with the more reliable metal one, we actually had to purchase two adjustable posts, which were cheap (around $40) and easy to find at our local Home Depot. First, one went under the notched side of the existing joist as a temporary support (we just adjusted it so it fit loosely upright):
Then, we removed the old janky post and replaced it with the second new metal one – this was an all-hands on deck situation so there aren’t any action photos, but yu can see from the “after” above that we put it directly where the old post was, right underneath the meeting point of the two existing 2×10′s.
Next we had to wrangle a new 2×10 sister joist into place, which took a few steps. (Sidenote: I just want to make a note here because maybe this will happen to you, but I’ve written the word “joist” so many times that its starting to look like a made up word.) First, we had to prep our new sister joist for the wall, and the wall for the sister joist. We removed a good amount of brick and some old concrete from the foundation wall, so the new sister could fit into the foundation right next to the existing 2×10 and be completely supported there. The problem was that the hole we made was just slightly too small and the board just a little too fat. Rather than remove another entire brick to enlarge the hole, we just used our plane to shave off some of the joist wood, kind of like we did when we replaced our front door.
When we’d removed the few milimeters it took to finally fit the new sister joist into the wall, we could gradually work the rest of the sister joist into place; then the two 2×10′s got secured together using some massive lag bolts, which scoffed in the face of the teeny little screws that had held the old ugly stepsister joist in place:
Finally, we cemented the sister joist into its final resting place in the brick foundation using some structural-grade repair cement. The stuff needed a few days to dry, so we packed up our stuff and called it a successful (if exhausting) day.
Now you may notice that I called this post Part I. You may also notice that I called the post “temporary”, and that at this point in the story, we still had a huge gaping whole in our kitchen floor. I assure you, all of these these things eventually got remedied with the rental of a hammer drill – but that’s a story for another post, isn’t it?