Filed Under: Do it yourself, Remodeling    by: ITC

While the upper floors of a house will always be constructed of wood, the ground floor may be made of wood or it may be of solid concrete.

All wood floors are based on the same method of construction with minor differences. They all have a supporting framework of wooden beams called joists onto which are nailed wooden boards or plywood panels and may have a plain or decorative finish.

The joists of wooden ground floors are supported at their end — and sometimes at one or two points in between — or additional wood beams known as “wall plates”. These, in turn rest on the tops of low brick “sleeper” walls.

These are not solid, but are laid in honeycomb fashion with spaces between the bricks to allow the air to circulate below the floor to prevent condensation and rot forming. For the same reason, vents are usually fitted at the base of the external walls and must always be kept clear. Slates or strips of flexible flashing material are laid between the wall plates and sleeper walls to prevent damp attacking the wood.

Sometimes the joists are laid on top of individual bricks set on the ground. Upstairs, the joists are also supported by wall plates but these are held by metal brackets called joist hangers, which are cemented into the walls. Sometimes the joist ends may be set in sockets between the bricks, with a metal plate below to spread the load through the wall.

Most modern houses have solid ground floors. These comprise of a layer of compacted gravel on top of which is a 4in layer of concrete called the subfloor. A damp-proof membrane bitumen or thick plastic is laid next and is carried up and down the wall to link with the flashing around the base of the house.

A thin layer of mortar can be laid on top of the membrane which will provide a level surface for most types of flooring.

Over the years a wooden floor can suffer considerably from wear and tear. The joists may warp or sag, boards may shrink to open up gaps through which draughts whistle, or they may become loose or damaged. The whole structure may be further weakened by woodworm or rot. Fortunately, many of the minor problems can be cured easily, although serious rot or insect attack may mean complete replacement and should be dealt with by a specialist.

Probably the most common fault with a wooden floor is creaking floorboards due to the fixings working loose. The cure is simple: either drive the nails back in or replace them with longer nails or screws. Punch nail heads below the surface and countersink the screw heads.

Gaps of less than 1/tin can be filled with papier-mdché, which you can make yourself. Half fill a bucket with small pieces of torn, soft white paper, gradually adding boiling water while you pound the paper into a thick paste. Allow it to cool and stir in enough cellulose wallpaper paste to make a thick mixture. Add wood stain to match the color of the boards.

When the papier-mâché is quite cold, force it between the boards with a filling knife, leaving it slightly proud of the surface. Leave it for at least 48 hours then sand smooth.

Fill wider gaps with softwood fillets: cut the fillets fractionally wider than the gaps they are to fill, using a backsaw. The fillets should be fractionally deeper than the floorboards: that is, about lin. Plane the fillets so that they taper slightly at the bottom then tap them into the gaps with a hammer and block of wood. Use a plane to shave the top edges of the fillets flush with the tops of the floorboards. Make sure the ends of fillets meet on a joist: secure them to the joists with brads.

Damaged boards

Damaged sections of boards should be cut out and replaced, or a new board fitted if the damage is substantial. First check that there are no pipes or cables running below the damaged section, otherwise you will have to remove the entire board in case you cut into them by accident.

To cut out a section of board, first find the edges of the joists at each end. Do this by sliding a knife blade along the gap between the boards. If the boards are tongued-and-grooved, you will have to cut through the tongues by drilling a starting hole and using a keyhole saw or with a circular saw set to the depth of the board.

Drill a starting hole for the saw just in from the edge of each joist and cut through the board at each end in line with the joist edges.

Lift out the damaged section; if it is nailed to intermediate joists, lever it free using a masonry chisel and a stout length of wood. Lever the board upwards at the fixings with a chisel until you have lifted the end enough to be able to slide the wood below it, while resting it on the tops of the boards on each side. Pushing down on the end of the board will spring the fixings from the joist. Continue in this fashion until you have freed the board. A complete floorboard can be removed in the same way.

Screw or nail lengths of 2in sq batten to the sides of the joists flush with the undersides of the old boards. Then nail a new section of floorboard to the tops of the battens.

Sagging joists

On wide, unsupported spans, the joists may sag in the centre of the floor, giving it a slightly “dished” surface. To overcome this, add packing pieces to the tops of the affected joists.

Lift the floorboards and place a straightedge across the joists at several points. Measure any gap between the tops of the joints and the straightedge and use the measurements to mark out lengths of softwood batten. These must be the same width as the joists. Plane the battens to size and nail them to the tops of the affected joists. Finally, re-lay the floorboards.

Removing the Walls

Filed Under: Do it yourself, Remodeling    by: ITC

If the walls running across the ends of the beam are load bearing, it may be possible to cut directly into them to form bearings. In thi situationa longer than normal padstone should be used to spread the load sideways, or it may be necessary to add some extra strengthening by toothing in a shallow pier.

You must make the complete opening while the load above is still supported by the temporary props. It is essential to have all the necessary tools, equipment and materials to hand so that you can proceed quickly with the job.

At floor level, either trim the masonry off flush with a solid floor, or just below a wooden one. In the latter case, take care not to break through any water proofing membrane.

If there is a difference of level between the floors of the two rooms, either build a wooden step or cast a concrete one in situ.

With the masonry removed, you can make the bearings. Lifting the beam into place will be heavy work so it is as well to do a little preparation beforehand. To avoid the need for lifting the beam from floor level to the ceiling in one go, support it on trestles or pairs of stepladders, setting it so that you can get hold of it easily.

Set the coarse adjustment of the jack posts that will support the beam so that they can be set in place quickly and the fine adjustment made without fuss.

Lift the beam into place on the capstones and check that it is square across the room by taking measurements from nearby fixed points. Set the jack posts in place and tighten them until the beam comes up tight against the joists or masonry above. Check that the beam is completely level and make any fine adjustments with the posts.

At this stage you can remove the posts holding the joists, but leave any needles in place.

Trowel a layer of mortar between the top of the capstone and the underside of the beam and then tap pieces of slate into place to wedge the beam tightly upwards. You may need to insert two or even three pieces. Do the same at the other bearing, making sure it forms as tight a wedge as possible.

Finish off by pointing more mortar round the ends of the beam and capstone. If it is set on bearings cut into the end walls, fill the cavities around the ends of the beam with whole bricks or offcuts and more mortar, pointing it neatly.

With the bearings finished, check along the top of the beam to make sure it is fully supporting the joists or masonry above. If there are any gaps they must be wedged out too. In the case of masonry, use mortar and more slate wedges. If it is a wood floor, drive slates between the beam and any joists that are not otherwise supported.

Allow the mortar to harden for at least two days before removing the jack posts from below the beam together with any needles and their posts. Fill the needle holes with brick offcuts and mortar, then make good the ceiling, adjacent walls and floor.

If you have used a steel beam, clad this in a material that will protect it from fire: do not leave it exposed. The usual method is to clad the beam with gypsum board on a wooden framework nailed to wedges hammered into the sides of the beam.

The corners of the gypsum board should be taped or fitted with metal corner beads and finish it.

Concrete beams can be directly plastered over, their surfaces being rough enough to provide a key for the floating and finish coats.

When the beam has been plastered, finish the piers as well, using battens or special beads to form the corners. (Beading is probably best since the piers project into the room slightly and are, therefore, more likely to be knocked.)

Finally, cut the baseboards to fit around the base of each pier.

If the wall is of the non-load-bearing variety, the job will be much simpler since there is no need to fit a beam.

With a masonry wall, simply hack off the plaster and remove it brick by brick or block by block from the ceiling down. Cut out any metal ties holding the partition to the end walls, or cut through any bricks or blocks that have been toothed into them. At floor level, trim the masonry off flush — it may just sit on top of the floor anyway.

Replace the ceiling, if necessary, by cutting back to the nearby joists and nailing on a fresh strip of gypsum board. Finish it off with a skim coat of plaster and repair any damage to the walls.

If the wall is a wood-framed stud partition, simply lever off the cladding and prise apart or unscrew the frame. Fill any holes in the adjoining walls and redecorate.

Working on the Interior

Filed Under: Do it yourself, Home repair, Redecorating, Remodeling    by: ITC

Wearing protective clothing, (especially the goggles), carefully cut away the plaster from within the lintel outline to expose the masonry below. Remove the bricks or blocks by cutting through their mortar joints and lifting them out. If any above the slot should drop, remove these and keep them for replacement later. Retain any whole bricks from the slot for possible reuse.

Lift the lintel into place, bedding it on mortar (3 parts soft sand: 1 part masonry cement) laid on the “bearings” at each end of the slot. It is best to get the help of an assistant with lifting the lintel, especially when lifting weights above the head. Make sure the lintel is level and, if necessary, pack it out below the ends with tiles or slates.

Finally, fill any spaces around the lintel with more mortar and replace any bricks or blocks that may have dropped out at the slot-cutting stage. If the wall is constructed of blocks, bring the lintel up to the height of the adjacent blocks by laying a course of bricks on top, and mortering them in place.

Leave the mortar to set for at least 24 hours, and preferably 48. Then remove the needle and wood supports. Fill the needle holes with brick offcuts and mortar. Lever off the baseboard and place it to one side for cutting down later.

Remove the plaster inside the outline of the opening to expose all the masonry below. Using a light sledge hammer and bolster chisel, cut this out by chiseling through the mortar joints, carefully working down the wall one course at a time. Because of the bonding pattern used, you will find that on alternate courses you will have to cut through bricks at the sides of the opening. Do this as you come to them. driving the chisel into their faces and levering them out from below to leave a straight edge to the opening. Remove all the bricks from the opening.

Trim off the masonry flush with a solid floor, or jus: below a wooden one. In the latter case, join the tv,-: floors by screwing battens to the joists then fit a piece of plywood or short pieces of floor-board on top neaten and close the gap.

The frame can be held in place with either galvanized metal ties mortared to the wall, or by screws and wall plugs. If ties are to be used, you need three per side. Cut recesses in the sides of the opening for the ties. If you intend screwing the frame to the wall, drill screw clearance holes in it and offer it up so these can be marked on the wall. Drill and plug the holes.

Set the frame in place, packing out the sides as necessary with wood offcuts to set them vertical. Then either fill the tie recesses with mortar and brick offcuts or insert the screws.

Fill in the gaps round the frame with more mortar and offcuts and trowel a thin layer of mortar over any exposed masonry at the sides and top before refinishing the plaster.

Finally, nail lengths of molding around the frame, mitering the corners, and trim and refit the base boards to the base of the wall.

Making a New Doorway

Filed Under: Do it yourself, Remodeling    by: ITC

As with all jobs of this type, making a new doorway requires careful planning. You should also check the requirements of your local building code.

A lintel must be chosen to match the type of wall being cut into and you must select a position for the door that, if possible, will not interfere with existing cable and pipe runs and which should be at least 18in from any corner.

It is possible to buy doors and ready-made frames in a range of standard sizes, and unless you are making the frame, it is best to buy the door and frame first, making the opening to fit it. Make sure its height leaves enough of the wall above the opening for fitting the lintel and the temporary wood supports.

With a masonry wall, you must provide temporary support for the wall above the opening and the load it carries while you cut out a slot for the lintel. If the wall supports the joists of the ceiling above, you must also make sure you support the ceiling on both sides of the wall as well.

Support the wall with 6ft lengths of 2 x 4in wood called “needles” — on top of adjustable metal props, which work like an automobile jack (you can rent these), spaced at 3ft intervals. With a normal sized doorway, you would need only one set centrally above the opening.

To support the ceiling, lengths of 4 x 12in wood are used across the tops of more props. None of the props should be more than 2ft from the wall, and if they are to stand on a wood floor, the feet should be placed on another length of 2 x 4in wood to spread the load.

Before marking out the doorway on the wall, use a bricklayer’s chisel and hammer to remove patches of plaster roughly where the edges and top of the opening will be. This will allow you to adjust fairly accurately the position of the opening to coincide with the mortar joints, in order to reduce the number of bricks you have to cut through.

Measure up the door frame, adding 2in to its width and lin to its height to allow for positioning. Using these dimensions, draw an outline of the opening on the wall. Then measure up the lintel — which should be at least l ft wider than the opening — and add a further 2in to its width for fitting. Draw the outline of the lintel on the wall above the door opening.

Finally, draw the outline of the wood needle centrally above the needle outline. Repeat the outlines on the other side of the wall.

Cut the hole for the needle with a hammer and bricklayer’s chisel. Slide the needle through so it protrudes equally on both sides of the wall and fit the props beneath it, tightening them to take the load. Both props must be adjusted simultaneously to ensure even support. Then fit the ceiling supports.

Bridging Openings

Filed Under: Do it yourself, Home repair, Remodeling    by: ITC

The way you tackle the job of making an opening in a wall or removing the wall completely in your house, depends on the type of wall it is and its construction.

A load-bearing wall contributes to the strength of the house by supporting some of its structure: a floor/ceiling, an upstairs wall or part of the roof.

A non-load-bearing wall is simply a dividing partition and its complete removal will have no effect on the rest of the house.

Inspect the floor space above it for signs that it supports the joists, or an upstairs wall. Look in the attic, too, to see if any of the roof framework rests on the wall in question.

All external walls are load-bearing and in general any wall at right-angles to the joists will be load- bearing too. Walls that run parallel to the joists are probably non-load-bearing.

Walls may be of brick, concrete blocks or be wood framed. All three types of construction are used for both load-bearing and non-load-bearing walls.

When you make an opening in a wall, no matter how narrow or wide, you must insert a supporting beam or lintel across the opening to take the load of the structure above, even if it is a non-load-bearing wall. The problem is that even by removing a narrow row of bricks or blocks to make room for the be will put the structure at risk.

For a narrow opening like a door, the bond in pattern of the bricks or blocks will tend to make the wall above the opening self-supporting (or self-corbelling) and only a small triangular section of masonry will be at risk. This can be removed, the lintel fitted and the masonry replaced.

With a very wide opening, the self supporting tendency will disappear and a wide area of the wall will be liable to collapse. To prevent this happening. you must support the wall (and sometimes the ceiling on either side) temporarily with heavy wood and adjustable props.

Openings in walls may be spanned by lengths of concrete, steel or wood. Those for fitting over small openings like doors and windows are called lintels; those for spanning wider gaps are called beams. The following are common: Steel Joist — a heavy I or L-shaped girder for spanning very wide gaps in load-bearing walls; Reinforced Concrete Lintel — for internal or solid brick external walls in spans of up to 10ft.

Heavy to lift and often cast on the job site, is the Pre-stressed Concrete Lintel — lighter than reinforced concrete lintels but not suitable for load- bearing walls, except in upper floors. For spans of up to loft, the wood lintel is used in wood framed walls.

Home Repair Tips – Finishing Walls

Filed Under: Do it yourself, Home repair, Remodeling    by: ITC

Walls are the first thing anyone entering your home will see. They should be kept clean and in good repair.

There are many ways to finish walls. Probably the most common is painting. Paint preserves and beautifies many objects. It protects metal from rust, wood from mildew and plastics from sun damage. Paint also makes them easier to clean.

There are many types of wall coverings. Paper, plastics, and fabrics are some. Wall coverings can be prepasted and pretrimmed. Some are washable; and some are even treated for easy removal at a later date.

Paneling is easy to care for, and there are many different types to choose from.

Whatever type of wall finish you use, the job should be clean and neat. You should also know some of the chemistry of the materials and surfaces you are working with—what will mix and what may explode.

Painters will always have work. Even if the perfect paint—one that never wears out—is discovered, there will always be someone who doesn’t like the color!

Drywall is soft. It is best held in place with large headed drywall nails, screws or staples.

To prevent nails and seams from showing, nails are dented into the walls. The dents are then filled with drywall cement. Then you cover the seams with drywall tape and plaster over with drywall cement.

Finishing drywall seams. Apply compound over the seams and nail impressions. Work the tape into this compound. Smooth over, allow to dry, and sand.

In many modern houses, interiors are finished with drywall. Drywall normally comes in sheets, 4′ x 8′, 4′ x 10′, or 4′ x 12′. It is usually 5/16, 3/8, 1/2 or 5/8 inch thick. The most common size is 3/8 inch thick 4′ x 8′.

Drywall sheets are nailed to the house joists with large headed nails, screws, or staples. Nails are driven so that a small dent is made in the drywall. This depression is then filled with a type of cement and covered over with tape

There are three basic ways to finish drywall:

• Painting

• Wallpapering

• Paneling

You may apply paint directly to drywall. New drywall usually takes two coats: one to seal it and one to present an even, finished surface.

Wallpaper is becoming popular again. It comes in rolls and is applied directly to the drywall. Before it will stick, the drywall must be prepared with a glue-like coating of sizing. The trick in applying wallpaper is to avoid bubbles and match the edges and the pattern precisely.

Paneling is glued or nailed directly onto the drywall. Panels may be veneer, wallboard, imitation masonry, or some other material.

Moldings and baseboards finish off walls and ceilings. In older homes they are always made of wood. Most new molding and baseboard is made of synthetic materials which are more flexible and less likely to crack when nailed into place.