I'm in the midst of working with a small crew on a pretty good-sized residential project, and today we finally got a big chunk of the job buttoned up. I think we've spent about a week on demo, a week rebuilding an exterior wall, a week building a roof structure and a week rebuilding a 2nd story deck; we've probably lost a week due to rain days as well.
Anyways...the 2nd story deck...it's essentially the genesis for this entire project, as its construction back in 1989 was definitely not done properly. Or, maybe it was and a subsequent patch job wasn't. It's hard to say, but what we did know for sure - up front - was that any time it rained, water was getting into the rear section of the house, from pretty much the top of the 2nd floor wall down to the 1st floor, and a healthy portion of that water infiltration came at the the level of the 2nd story deck. Upon getting into the demo, we discovered that the decking and a large portion of the exterior wall had been replaced at least 1 time since the building's rehab in 1989.
What is shown in the above pic is the original deck, and plastic the homeowner put up to try to shield the house from water until any repairs could be made. When we first started pulling up deck boards and removing siding from the house, we discovered that 1, the flashing used to do what the plastic essentially did was minimal at best and the wrong stuff to begin with (it was valley flashing, which is sort of like glorified foil), 2, replacing the deck boards - whoever did it previously - without replacing the flashing meant the existing flashing had about 100 holes in it from the set of screws used to attach the first set of deck boards (any guess as to how well flashing with 100 holes in it works?), and 3, the decks's structure was a construction fiasco.
The original deck structure had 2x12 joists @ 24" centers, and considering that the deck is somewhere around 19' long, that's a looooooong distance to span 2x12s on 24" centers. I'm guessing the existing deck, in its initial state, had to feel pretty "bouncy" with any real weight on it. At some point, somebody came back in and added 2x6 "joists" (a 2x6 doesn't make for a very good joist over any real significant distance) in between the original 2x12 joists, but they pieced them all together so that instead of a single 2x6 running the entire 19' across the length of the deck, the installer used several short boards and pieced them all together. Given the location of the joints, lack of any double beams, small size of the additional joists, etc., I'm not sure the 2x6s added a whole lot in terms of any real support.
Lipstick on a pig, really.
The existing deck had a drain system on the underside of the joists, and a few electric fixtures in the ceiling. Those had been flashed and caulked in, but if you check out the above pic of the caulk catastrophe...that's kind of how everything was done. If you're using that much caulk, for anything - ever - you're probably not doing things properly. And the pic with the flashing kind of sums it up: wrong material, destroyed condition, and the end result is water infiltration and rotten sheathing.
The original scope of work was to simply replace the deck boards and railing, but given how sketchy (and rotten) the existing framing was, we tore out everything other than the existing ledger board and opposing rim joist. We then added some masonry anchors to the ledger board, installed new 2x12 joists @ 16" centers, and lagged the rim joist adjacent to the back wall of the house to the house itself. We also doubled up the rim joist - so, (2) 2x12s - that the new roof is attached to. That gave us a stable base to work from.
After rebuilding and resheathing the exterior wall of the house we caulked everything in and installed the proper flashing at the deck-to-house connection. From there, it was deck drain time.
See that roof there? We built that too, but that'll be the topic of a different blog post. And don't worry, she got a little messy and dirty during deck construction, but with a little effort on our part - and some rain - she cleaned up pretty well.
Anyhow...because the clients wanted a finished beadboard ceiling on the underside of the deck joists, we opted to use a Trex product for the deck drain system. It's a pretty straightforward system and installation, but it proved to be challenging. The system isn't much more than some kind of pvc/plastic/?? (I really don't know what the material is, but it's kind of like the stuff used to make gallon milk jugs) and a LOT of butyl tape and caulk. Don't know what "butyl" is? I don't either, but if you can imagine a substance that's equal parts chewed gum, taffy and headache, that's it. It's CRAZY sticky, which is good - that means it'll work well - but it's also something where you kind of get 1 shot to get it where you want it, and if you miss, there's no undoing it.
The installation amounts to unrolling the pvc/plastic/?? stuff, stapling it to one joist, creating a trough, stapling said trough to the opposing joist - making sure the trough slopes to the funnels/downspouts that come with the system - and then caulking and taping all the seams. There's a little more to it than that, but that's the gist of it. A smarter person than myself would have started the installation at the house and worked towards the roof, but that's a story for another day.
Once we had the deck drain system installed and everything flashed sufficiently, it was business as usual: build a cedar deck. We used 5/4 cedar deck boards for the decking, 4x4 cedar posts with cedar 2x4s and 2x6s forming the railing, and black aluminum balusters.
The whole thing turned out pretty well. Once we get the underside buttoned up with the beadboard ceiling, it'll hopefully be a very, very long time before somebody has to get into any of it...and wonder how much of a small fiasco the deck reconstruction was at times. Overall it was a pretty fun component of the job, and the last leg of the work - the decking and railing - was really easy. On projects like this we always kind of joke about how nobody down the road will ever know the aggravation that comes with rebuilding bad construction, or fixing problems that never should have existed, or installing seemingly simple systems - like the deck drain - that aren't quite as easily installed as the manufacturer would have you believe...but that's OK; when the end result is solid, level, looks good and does all the things it's supposed to, all the little fiascos along the way seem to be well worth the time involved to deal with them.
I think I'll call it "The West Belle". There isn't much left of the house that once stood @ 4171 West Belle Place, but the few chunks of lumber I was able to salvage from the structure are going to become a table, I hope; if I'm a little creative, I think I'll have enough lumber to build the table I have in mind. She's gonna be 6' long, 3' wide and stand about 36" tall. If I'm feelin' a little feisty I may film the build and create a video or two.
For those of you following along...and for those of you that are new to this little 4171 project...
...the house was built in 1882. That's been covered. Tonight I looked up the origin of the name of the street, and as it turns out, the guy for whom Jennings, MO is named (James Jennings, if I remember correctly), when he came to MO from VA in the early part of the 19th century he bought a big chunk of land around Grand & Olive. Subsequently, 7 streets in that area are named after his children (Belle, or some derivative of that name, being one of them).
Oh, and the map shown below is from 1897. It's pretty crazy to see the area now, given how densely populated/developed the area was 100+ years ago.
Stopped by the 1882 house being demo'd yesterday. There wasn't much left.
But...I was able to snag a decent chunk of reusable lumber. I took as much as I could fit in my car.
Not as much as I could safely fit in my car, or comfortably fit in my car, or easily fit in my car, but as much as I could possibly cram in.
Back when I traded in my truck...one of the worst choices I've ever made.
Funny...I spent the day ripping out rotten wood - I'm talking rotten framing, which was beneath rotten sheathing, which was beneath rotten siding, which was beneath the dumbest quantity of caulk anybody has ever used to do anything - no more than 27 years old, and then tonight I was given an entirely intact transom that dates back to 1882. The 1882 thing is whole, not counting some minor damage from it being knocked over by a GIANT piece of equipment (but the glass didn't even break!), and the stuff built in 1989 is absolute garbage.
The stuff we've been dealing with - the thing built in 1989 - couldn't have been done more improperly. Anytime you see caulk (and duct tape, no BS) used by the gallon, odds are good it's hiding some janky workmanship. In this particular case, the framing was way, WAY wrong structurally, there was zero air/water barrier on the outside of the wall sheathing, the flashing was all a complete joke, and not a lot of things were actually held in place by anything more than hopes and prayers. We're getting paid to replace that giant bunch of nonsense.
After work I swung by the 1882 house being demo'd - the owner alerted me to another lumber stash - and bumped into the owner. She didn't want to see the door jamb from one of the entry doors get buried in the debris, so she gave it to me. For free. Like I said before, not counting the minor stuff caused by a giant machine knocking it to the ground, the entire door jam was largely intact, including glass (it's all kindsa wavy and has traces of 27 different layers of paint on it) that is either original, or...original. Has to be. Anyways, that was pretty nice of the owner.
It never ceases to amaze me: the people that built stuff generations ago took so much pride in their work (or really appreciated the fact that they had a job, or both) that the stuff, even with the most minimal of maintenance, is borderline bulletproof. This exterior door jamb survived for 134 years because it wasn't held together with tape and caulk; every joint is such a good fit that nobody needed to use that stuff.
And the crap we're tearing out on the current project, that was built in 1989, it's absolute garbage. The entire rear wall of a 2-story house, including the 2-story deck, all of it...complete trash.
Hopefully it'll be 134 years before somebody has to replace the stuff we're replacing the 1989 construction with.
Working on a Saturday means I try to do something a little different. Roof construction isn't all that entertaining...unless you're really into jigsaws and circular saws and speed squares and birdsmouths (the little notch I cut with the jigsaw) and ladders and whatnot...but I figured I'd throw together a really short video to show some of the progress being made on the CWE job.
I had a very interesting day today.
I'll save the details of said interesting day for another time, but I can tell ya that having to deal with the traffic and street closures in the Central West End (CWE) due to the Phyllis Schlafly funeral...what a nightmare.
Anyways...this morning I paid a visit to the house @ 4171 West Belle Place, which is near the CWE. I had heard the house was going to be demolished, and the owner was willing to part with pretty much anything. Unfortunately, the house was way, way too far gone to snag anything from the interior; the roof had collapsed at some point, fallen into the basement and taken everything with it. My understanding is that the house had (relatively) recently been placed on the National Register of Historic places, but in the condition the house was in...nothing was going to save it from the demo crew. Regardless, the house was built in 1882, and is/was a pretty solid example of Italianate architecture.
I went back to the house at lunch and hung out with the demo crew and neighbors, who were getting ready to watch the show, and then after I got done working at another job site, I swung by again and grabbed a few chunks of lumber that I'll turn into something. I was hoping to get something substantial, but there really wasn't any safe way to salvage much of anything.
The neighborhood itself appears to be one in transition. The Gaslight Square demolition and reconstruction several years ago seems to have brought a lot of new construction to the area, and IKEA, located a few blocks away, has undoubtedly spurred some new development. That said, there are still a LOT of vacant lots and houses in teardown condition.
The 1909 Sanborn Map paints a different picture:
100+ years ago, the blocks surrounding the house @ 4171 West Belle Place contained bakeries, drug stores, churches, a hospital, and more than one 2-story outhouse. With United Railways Co. having the right of way through an alley, I'd imagine there was some industrial areas and large employment centers nearby.
After 134 years, the house will come down, and before too long it'll be forgotten about by everyone but the immediate neighbors and historic preservation buffs (there had been an effort made to block demolition). As much as I hate to see old buildings get torn down, this one seemed different; 134 years is a pretty decent lifespan for just about anything, and having put my own 2 eyes on the building, it seemed like it - the house - was just ready to go. It's neighbor to the west was long gone, and some janky, piece of sh_t apartment building had been built (decades ago) just to the east, in what had one time been the eastern half of 4171's lot. The nearby older homes are boarded up (or gone), and new construction is popping up all over the place. The old house @ 4171, as glamorous as it might have been at one time...it's time had passed, and I think the house - as crazy as it sounds - kind of knew it.
I'll check in with the demo guys over the next day or two to see if there's anything else I can grab, and hopefully I'll be able to build some decent stuff.
Want an update on the CWE project? Well, it's not very far along. We've had some rain, a holiday, silly warm temperatures, a fiasco of existing construction to sort through and definitely not as many hands on deck as I wish we had...but we're making progress. Somehow, we're making progress.
There's a bajillion little details that have gone into getting from this:
It's been a fun project so far, but by the end of every day it looks like everybody on site just fell in a lake. Getting some of that material - 2x8s, 2x12s, etc. - 10+ feet off the ground, into place and fastened...it's a bit of a workout.
We started getting roof rafters on the first floor deck today, as well as replacing the second floor deck joists. The first floor deck is staying mostly as-is, not counting having to raise the middle of the band board by a full 2" to bring the thing back to level, and "shimming" it...with a 4x4 (which covered the 2" we had to jack the thing up plus the height of the brick the band board had been sitting on previously, and bridged the splice in the existing double 2x12 beam).
The original plan was to leave the second floor deck framing in place, but after tearing off the deck boards and seeing the cacophony of failure that was the existing framing (rotten 2x12 joists, 24" on center, 18+ foot span and with a hodgepodge of ancillary framing in between each joist bay), we decided to replace the joists. Unfortunately, that means getting really long, really heavy 2x12 boards 10' up in the air, and the ladders we're using...not the safest of options.
If it doesn't rain too much between now and the weekend we should be able to get this thing lookin' like somethin' halfway decent before too long. That's goal #1. Avoiding some sort of heat stroke in the process is goal #2.
I was putzin' around the shop on Monday and decided to finally get a few serving board blanks finished up. I really hate making rectangular serving/cutting boards, because eeeeevvvvvvveeeerybody makes those; I prefer doing something a little off the wall, whatever that may be on any given day.
On Monday, I gave the end of a couple boards a bit of a wave. After looking at them for a minute, they sorta reminded me of the little ghosts in Pac-Man.