The Cross House
I have a rule.
The rule is absolute.
If you buy an old house, EXPECT to discover at least six structural issues. And be calm.
But, if you find a seventh issue, GIVE THE HOUSE BACK TO THE PREVIOUS OWNER.
The point of The Rule is that all old houses have structural issues. Expect them. Do not be surprised. Be calm.
But if you hit Issue #7? RUN FOR YOUR LIFE!
With the Cross House I did, of course, discover structural issues:
- The south exterior kitchen wall was virtual. There was so much water and termite damage that the wall came apart by hand. No crowbars were required.
- The east kitchen exterior wall had no foundation under it. I am serious. It never did have a foundation under it. Even though the second-floor and roof rested on this wall.
- The west exterior wall, centering on the bay window in the parlor, was also unsupported. The second floor and roof were just sitting on the cantilevered parlor bay, with no beam under. Oh. My.
- The four-story servant’s stair is kinda like a tower in the NE corner. But this tower is being pushed AWAY from the house by the thrust of the massive roof. Oh. Dear.
- In the two-story stair hall there is deliriously wacky original framing, which over the last 122-years has caused all kinds of havoc.
- The upper landing of the staircase is sagging.
I have now owned the house two years. And discovered SIX structural issues. So I am just a single issue from handing the house back to the previous owner! Luckily, I am pretty sure I have found all the issues. Pray that this stays a trueism.
AN ISSUE UPDATE
In short, what the above caption is saying is: Eek. BIG FRIGGIN’ EEK!
A 22-foot-long beam, made out of three 2x12s, is just too long.
Then to load multiple floor joists, running at a right angle from the beam, onto an already overloaded beam is, well, bad. Very bad.
Then to load a wall on top of overloaded joists AND an over-loaded beam is very very very bad.
To compound this structural horror story, in 1929 two kitchens and another wall were loaded onto the overloaded beam and overloaded joists.
Just writing all this makes my heart stop.
Over the last 122-years the beam sagged, quite understandably (really, I am sympathetic), by 2.5 inches. This sag also dragged down the joists. And the weight of the wall also caused the joists to sag.
To make matters even worse, the north side of the house has settled 2-inches. This means that the north end of the beam is now 2-inches lower than its other end, 22-feet to the south.
- Beam with sag.
- Beam no longer level.
- Dropped joists.
- Joists with sags.
The result of all this, a condition stewing for 122-years, was an obviously sagging floor, a sagging stair balustrade, two crooked door frames, and a great many cracks in the plaster.
In short? A stairhall which looked drunk.
This structural mess is also ongoing, meaning that I could reset the door frames so they were level, repair all the cracks in the plaster walls, and the problems would just manifest all over again in time.
FIXING ISSUE #5
When I purchased the house the very first thing I did was to remove the 1929 wall. This removed some weight from the sagging beam. But the beam still sagged. And a 22-foot beam, sagging for 122-years, does not un-sag. No, it will remain sagging no matter what.
Unless you cut right through it.
Which we did.
This of course wholly, and in an instant, destroyed ALL structural integrity.
So, yea, eek. But it had to be done.
I designed all this structural rejiggering, and have an odd talent for such work. It must be a past life thing.
Yesterday, Justin and I spent two hours with a laser level (coolest invention ever!) working to determine just what the hell was going on with all this sagging and overloaded beams/joists. It was during this meeting when we discovered that the whole north side of the house had sunk by 2-inches (which means that in China there is, presumably, a corresponding slight bump in the ground).
The meeting was a lot of fun. It is odd, I admit, what I find enjoyable.