Monday House, part vii, Dramatic changes

Older houses from the early 1900’s were made up of numerous small rooms, each with doors, that could be closed off from the hall or other rooms, probably to conserve heating and avoid drafts.

This is definitely what most people do not want today. We want larger, open spaces that flow into each other. To this end, the owners of The Monday House are removing the wall between the kitchen and dining room, and much of the wall betweeen the dining room and the main hallway.

In the picture below, a temporary stud wall has been built on each side of the hallway wall:



The original, load-bearing hallway wall studs are then removed. The beam is put into place, and temporarily held up with a jack and post:


In the picture below you can see the new beams and temporary walls still up:


A laser level shoots a light beam around the room,  perfectly horizontal. The carpenters then ensure the new LVL beams are exactly elevated to the same iso line:


With more daylight, the laser level is revealed to be a rather mundane little box, not much larger than a tape measure:


So here, ta da ! drumroll please !  is the “after” picture, with the temporary stud walls and support posts removed, revealing for the first time the large kitchen / dining room. The doorway to the immediate right is to the living room:


So what does it look like as one walks down the hallway? The new space is about 16′ wide by 23′.


And from the kitchen itself, the view back down the hall towards the front door:


And the view from the kitchen island towards the living room:


The bottom edge of the new LVL beams sets a new line that will be repeated throughout the design. For example, the living room doorway, previously noted several pictures back, has been enlarged to be wider and taller:


Bulkheads will be added to disguise the dropped beams and to convey modern ductwork to the second and third floors, and for plumbing to drain from the new second floor main bath and a future third floor bathroom.


The electricians are now on site to run wiring up through the perimeter walls. If nothing else, the carpenters need power sources too. Here is the old wiring stripped out of the basement ceiling:


And surprise, inside a bedroom wall, a wasps nest, fortunately vacant:


At the bedroom ceiling, the joists supporting the third floor don’t meet current codes, so they were “sistered” … twice !


In fact, pretty much every basement ceiling joist, every first floor ceiling joist, and the second floor ceiling joists, have been reinforced, resupported, jacked up, levelled, and sistered in one way or another. This house is now way stronger than current codes and will easily stand up for another few hundred years.


On the second floor (bedroom level) the old linoleum layers and old copies of the Evening Journal and the Citizen have been tossed. The softwood floors are not in great condition for refinishing, being cupped and split and shrunk. Worse yet, there is no subfloor under them. Floor boards on joists, period. Google research reveals that this was quite a common practice back in 1904.


While that might have been useful for Nancy Drew to spy through the floor boards and listen to tell tale squeaks, it means our floor boards are “springy”, and any spills will land right on the ceiling below. And the old floor materials didn’t quite reach all the way to the exterior walls:


When renovating, there are unknowns. There are known unknowns, and unknown unknowns. This was a nasty surprise. And expensive. Several days work for the crew of four will be required and new flooring will have to be purchased.

Below, the perimeter portion of old flooring is removed, using the remaining old floor as a working platform:


The new ply subfloor is installed on the exposed area…


… and demolition works its way towards the hall.

The new plywood is 3/4 inch tongue-and-groove. Normally, a thinner ply would be used, but here the floor joists aren’t to the modern pattern, so a number of the joints land between joists, requiring bridges and extra supports. The plywood is glued down, nailed, then screwed. No squeaks allowed.


To facilitate laying the new ply subfloor, the remaining partition walls between the bedrooms and bathroom were removed and will be built again with new studs. There are some days when it seems there won’t be all that much old house left …



In an absolutely brilliant bit of planning, some additional joists are installed to the right of the narrow attic stairs. These stairs are just 24″ wide, and are legal non-conforming. However, it is difficult to get furniture up said narrow stairs. The third floor is sorta finished, and the owner intends to leave it that way for a few years, so they don’t want the expense of replacing the stairs now (which would also lead them into dormer and roof issues….).

By installing the reinforcing in the ceiling now, it will be easier to widen the stairwell later, and insert new stairs. The bedroom door will also be adjusted to make the eventual conversion easier. Tempting as it may be do “do it all at once, and be done with it” all these things require design decisions, knowledge of how spaces will work, and not least of all, money.



Walking inside the Monday House is now much more cheerful, with level floors and wide open spaces, multiple views to and out windows, bigger rooms, and all the old wallpaper and plaster now just a fond memory. There are no major unknown unknowns likely to appear now that everything has been exposed, inspected, reinforced, and replaced.

Meanwhile, the owners are out kitchen shopping.