Monday House, part vi, levelling the floors

Recall that over time the Monday House had settled in the middle. Sometimes that was natural wood shrinkage and rot; sometimes it was careless hacking away at the supporting structure by plumbers, ductworkers and homeowners.

Additional steel support posts are required, and some beams and joists need reinforcing or “sistering”. As part of the process, the contractor will jack up the saggy portions. The jack required to lift a three storey house is astonishingly small:


That’s not much larger than an apple juice can or two litre pop bottle. The build up of boards at the base distributes the weight over several joists, so that the jack doesn’t just push down through the floor when we want it pushing UP. A steel handle is inserted into the small ring on the left of the jack and it is jacked up like a car jack.

The force going up is carried by the wooden post sitting on top of the jack. We don’t want that to simply punch up through the floor and raise a single point of the floor and walls above, we want it to move a substantial area around the point of jacking. So the top of the post on the jack is under a joist. On the second floor …


the wall shown above has been given two temporary 2×10 braces running horizontally, so that the upward force is transmitted to adjacent studs in the wall. The whole thing is jacked up to level, then a reinforced joist and post is put into place to hold the floor in the level position. In other portions of the house, new temporary stud walls have been built adjacent to old walls just for the jacking up process.

In the pic below you can see the new LVL beam towards the upper right, greenish coloured, sistered against the ceiling joists, directly below the bedroom wall shown in the above pictures, and a new supporting post has been cut into the board wall to carry some of the weight down to the foundation.


The necessity of the new LVL joist may be more apparent in the following picture, which shows how the old joists under the load bearing wall shown above, had been butchered by plumbers:


Down in the basement, the rebar has been wired to form a grid  to distribute the forces being carried by the new post, much like your foot does at the base of your leg. Peg leg pirates had a tendency to sink into the sand. The size and pattern of rebar is specified by the engineer. The rebar is then set in the hole in a particular way and the cement is poured:


Here are two holes ready for future pads and posts, and one hole – to the right –  has been cemented and the post put in place:


Once all six posts are in,  the house has been  levelled,  and all the new and reinforced structural elements are in place and inspected by the city building inspector and the homeowners’ engineer, the posts will be bolted to the beams and floor so the structure cannot twist or be knocked over by earthquakes.


In other progress, the old electrical service right out to the street was replaced:


The old panel was removed …


And the new panel put in …


After assessing his future electrical needs, the homeowner opted for 125amp service. As the house is rewired, additional circuit breakers will be installed:


The two inch plastic conduit that brings the copper wire from the street past the meter to the basement can be a huge source of air leakage into a basement. The conduit in this case was given an air seal at the meter and at the point it comes into the basement.


The back-of-the-house staircase was finally removed. These back stairs seem to capture everyone’s imagination, as do secret doors and hidden rooms. Well, this staircase is toast:


Now there is only a diagonal shadow of where it once was:


Into the dumpster:


And install joists to bridge the gap where the stairs used to be:



The next step is to install the rest of the forest of steel posts in the basement on their concrete pads. Then there will be some more jacking up of beams and joists to get the house back to level. And then, the most dramatic changes the home owner has been waiting for ….


But before we get there, readers seem to like the little horror stories of the old house. So here is a close up of the joists under the old bathroom floor. Look closely at those joists. What exactly was holding up the john?

IMG_7580 IMG_7581

The top portion of the joist and the bottom portion do most of the work. The centre portion does the least. And, of course, that’s the only portion left. The new homeowners on their throne will be solidly supported as all these joists will be sistered or replaced.

And while there hasn’t yet been found the proverbial pot of gold, a nice  woodworking plane was:





10 thoughts on “Monday House, part vi, levelling the floors

  1. Without any practical use for the staircase myself, I find it sad to see it in the dumpster. It looks in pretty good shape in the picture. How old was it?

    1. 114 years old, but somewhat lacking in traffic for about a quarter century. Yes, old staircases have a value, particularly for contractors and house builders that need temporary stairs during construction before the nice, final stairs are installed. However, like so many items in a renovation or downsizing, they come available at such a fast rate and all at once, so it is hard to dispose of them by reselling. And it is an economic imposition to tell the homeowner to pay the contractor time and mileage to take it off to some recycling depot. “Can” vs “Worthwhile”.

    1. Aaron: electricity isn’t much affected by gravity, so I dont know why a panel should be installed “portrait” style vs “landscape”. If portrait position, the lowest part would be closer to the floor, less convenient to use, and should we get 40 days of rain ….

      1. The door doesn’t stay open properly and the breaker labelling on the door will be sideways. Small details, I know.

        Apparently horizontal panel mounting is primarily a Canadian thing. It usually has to do with separation rules between the service conductors and the branch circuits. I can see why they did it in this instance as the old panel had the branch circuits coming in from the top and wouldn’t have been long enough to come down the sides.

  2. Just a week or so ago I was looking for the breaker panel at a house in Boulder Colorado to identify a circuit that might have the smoke detectors wired in. To my astonishment, the panel was outside at the back of the house. All the houses in the development (about 20 years old) were the same. Really handy on a dark rainy night when you overloaded a circuit!

  3. Perhaps there is some value in the old woodworking plane to a collector. There should be a date of manufacture or patent on it to determine age.

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