Attics and Extensions

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

Being able to get into the roof space of your home is important, not just because of the extra storage capacity it offers but also to be able to deal with emergencies like leaking roofs and burst pipes. and also to be able to install extra light fittings to the rooms below.

Most houses already have some form of hatchway providing access to the attic but it may not always be in the most convenient place, and in some instances there may be no access to the attic at all. In both situations you can make a new opening with comparatively little trouble.

The usual position of an attic hatchway is in a hall or over a landing. but in the latter case make sure it is not over the staircase itself. Do not put it near an external wall either if this meets the eaves of the roof, as there will not be enough headroom above the opening.

Another important consideration when positioning an opening is the space needed in the roof and in the room below for any attic ladder you intend fitting.

Having decided on the approximate position. locate the adjacent joists by tapping the ceiling and probing with a bradawl. or mark through from the loft if you can reach it by some other route.

Break through the ceiling between a pair of joists and open up the hole until you can make a saw cut alongside one of them. Then mark out the opening on the ceiling from this baseline. Its size will be determined by the joist spacing and since this will be too close to make the opening between the pair, it will have to span three. This means cutting through the center joist and linking it to the joists on each side with short “trimmer” joists. The wood used must be the same size as that of the original joists.

Before you cut through the intermediate joists. support the ceiling on each side of the opening with stout planks and wood or adjustable metal props.

Line the opening with 1 in thick planed wood the same depth as the joists and nailed in place flush with the ceiling. The corners of this can be simply butted together.

Then make up a plywood trapdoor for the opening. hinging it to the bottom of the lining and either fitting a magnetic catch on the opposite side or an automatic catch such as that supplied with an attic ladder.

Finally, nail lengths of mitered molding around the opening, driving the nails into the joists so that the molding holds the edges of the ceiling firmly in place.

Relaying Floor Boards

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

Buy boards at least two weeks before starting work and stack them in the room in which they will be laid. This will allow them to dry out properly, preventing shrinkage later. Ideally, choose tongued-and-grooved boards (T&G), but if you are just replacing odd boards, square-edged ones would be better. In the latter case, make sure you get the right size: 4in and 6in are common widths and the usual finished thickness is 3/4in. but thicker boards are available.

Removing the old boards

Lift the second board in from the wall. Then use a length of stout wood to lever up the others. Take care along the walls, since the boards are likely to be tucked under the baseboard. Tidy up the joists by pulling out any remaining nails and fitting packing strips if necessary.

Fitting the boards

Fit four or five boards at a time, keeping any end joints between them to a minimum. Where joints cannot be avoided, make sure the boards meet at the center of a joist and that their ends are cut square. Use up offcuts when you can and stagger the end joints so they do not all fall in a line.

Mark and cut the first board to clear any obstructions and fit it up against the wall. Force a chisel blade into the top of the joists and use it to lever the board tight against the wall while you drive two nails through it into each joist. Use cut floor brads at least twice the length of the depth of the board.

If you are using T&G boards, the groove of this first board should face away from the wall and be nearer the joist than the top. Set the next four boards in place and push them tightly together using wooden wedges or floor cramps.

In the former case, nail a length of wood temporarily across the joists and fit pairs of opposing wooden wedges between it and the boards. Tapping the wedges together will force the boards tight up against each other. Floor cramps clamp to the joists and when tightened exert great force against the edges of the board, (you should be able to get them from a good tool rental company).

In both cases, cut short offcuts of floorboard to fit between the edges of the boards and the wedges or cramps to protect the board edges. With the boards cramped tight, nail the outermost one down. Then remove the wedges or cramps and nail the remainder.

Continue in this way across the room. Where there are pipes or cables below the floor that you might want to reach in the future, screw the boards down. Cut off the tongues of T&G boards to make lifting easy.

The final boards

Stop within the width of two boards from the far wall since you will not be able to cramp these last boards. To fit the final boards, first lay a full board up against the last one to be nailed down. Lever it tight up against this board with a chisel. Next, take a short offcut of floorboard and hold it against the base so that its other edge overlaps the full board. Hold a pencil against the edge of the offcut and run it along the full board to mark the profile of the wall on it.

Cut the board along the pencil line and then refit it, but this time along the wall, springing in a full board between it and the others at the same time. Nail both boards down.

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.

Remodeling Your Home

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

When space becomes cramped at home, it is not always necessary to move to a larger house to solve the problem. Often, more usable space can be arranged using the resources already at your disposal – and usually at a much lower cost and less frustrating than that of moving.

There are several ways in which you can gain a substantial amount of extra living space in your home – from simply partitioning off larger rooms to making two or more smaller rooms, opening up under-stair areas, or removing a wall to enlarge a room to converting attic space and building a single-storey, ground floor extension.

Room divisions, and very often attic conversions, can be carried out without the need for filing with your local building department, but a permit may be required to build a separate extension. As local laws can vary considerably in different locations, it is always best to check first with your local building code.

The size of a room, its shape, and the number of rooms you have can each present particular problems – a growing family may mean you could do with more bedrooms, or an additional bathroom to ease that early morning traffic jam, perhaps even separate dens for the older and younger elements of the family. Many people have also to look after elderly or infirm relatives, in which case an extra powder room or bathroom and bedroom can be very useful if not a full-scale extension.

Extra rooms can be provided by partitioning off larger ones with wood-framed walls complete with access doors. In the same way, large open-plan rooms can be divided into smaller, cozier rooms if that is what you prefer. In the latter case, a partial or half-height partition would provide an effective division between, say, the dining and living areas of a room while retaining the spacious, airy feel of an open-plan layout.

Using similar skills, you can improve the light of gloomy rooms by installing larger windows and, perhaps, even more than one.

Converting an attic to provide extra living space may be the answer to solving the needs of a growing family and their interests. It will obviously involve more expense than a simple room division, (particularly if you need to install a window and staircase) but it is worth remembering that such a conversion will add greatly to the overall value of your house.