The Cross House
I have an deeply-held belief system with regards to old houses:
1) One needs to expect structural issues.
2) As long as you discover SIX or less structural issues, you are lucky. All is well. The Gods have blessed you.
3) If however you find SEVEN, give the house back to the previous owner. And RUN FOR YOUR LIFE.
After buying the Cross House in 2014 I soon, not surprisingly, started to discover structural issues. One. Then two. Hey, I was calm as this is to be expected. Then three. I started getting nervous. Then four. OK, I am kinda freakin’ out, man. Then five. Panic is now setting in.
But no more. To date, I have not reached nor gone past the vital SIX mark.
Whew. Praise the Lord. Hallelujah.
STRUCTURAL ISSUE #1:
Standing in the Octagon Bedroom (so named because it has a octagon-shaped tower in the south-west corner) I wondered why there were so many cracks in the plaster walls.
This is an important consideration because if you repair cracks without understanding the underlying cause as to WHY the plaster cracked over time you will, without question, have the cracks reopen.
One thought led to another and with the help of a laser level (a way way way cool & necessary device regarding old houses) it was soon discovered that the bedroom…sagged. An inch-and-a-half in the middle.
An inch-and-a-half may not sound like much but it is. Such a sag is readily obvious, can be discerned walking across the floor, and causes windows to not close properly (or at all).
But why an inch-and-a-half sag?
After some deep thought, and many runs up and down the main stair, the answer was discovered. It made me gasp.
You see the foundation? Then the bay cantilever?
All is structurally good. Had the bay been capped only by a roof all would have been well.
But (scary theme music now) the architect or builder of the Cross House loaded the weight of the second-floor octagon bedroom (very very bad), AND loaded the weight of the massive roof (spectacularly bad) onto the bay cantilever.
As soon as my brain grasped the enormity of what had been wrought in 1894 I grew alarmed. Geez. Wow. And, please excuse my language, but WHAT THE FUCK WERE THEY THINKING?????????????
OK. Now back to the pink EEK. This points to where TWO FLOORS of load were sitting on top of 2×12 floor joists with NO SUPPORT UNDER. This is bad. SO very bad.
And the joists were sitting on top of a cantilever. Oh dear, my heart and mind and nerves just ached.
Hey! What a great idea!
Of course, having a solution is quite a different thing than manifesting the solution, you know, as reality.
We had to:
1) Cut through the floor joists. This of course would make the house collapse…
2) …so we had to temporarily support the upper levels.
3) Then we could cut the joists, insert the steel beam, jack up the sag, install vertical supports to keep the beam in place, remove temporary supports, and with the assistance of divine intervention the house would not collapse and crush us.
In the above image there are three sets of supports. In the foreground there is a temporary beam holding up the floor joists. Behind that is the new steel beam, being supported by really impressive jacks. Then behind that is another temporary beam holding up the rest of the floor joists. Why a triple set of beams? Because we brazenly cut right THROUGH the joists to install the steel beam.
Sensible people would have simply installed the steel under the joists (my initial, sensible plan) but this would have created a beam where none was intended, and would have impacted the nice visual of the ceiling plane continuing uninterrupted into the bay. And I do love a smooth plane.
All this effort corrected an issue which has been there from Day 1. Now, windows close, floors do not sag, and cracked plaster can be repaired and will stay repaired.
At least it is hoped.