Monday, January 28, 2008

Digging Out! - Pictures

Here are some pics of the amazing things that I came across while digging out my basement:
Here is a fine example of the twisted 2x6's. You should also note that there is a single verticle "branch" that is lodged into one of the 2x6 floor joists. I'll illustrate the damage this is causing below.

Here's a series of pictures that illustrate the termite damage from yester-year and the magnificent job someone did to rectify the situation:

Ok, to highlight what's wrong with the aforementioned image, let's imagine that someone placed a 4x4 adjacent to an eaten 4x4, but not on solid foundation but rather a 1x12 board that spans the top of what one was a basement window well. No one in their right mind would ever think that a 1x12 spanning 24" could hold up anything but a few books, right? Here are a few more that attempt to highlight the lunacy:

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Digging Out!

Ok, now I've done it; I've taken on one of the biggest do-it-yourselfer projects around. I am digging out the "other side" of my basement. You see, our home was built in the late 1800's and on grade, so there was origionally just a small crawl space of a basement. Later in the 1920's it is believed that the then homeowners started to dig out the basement and had undermined and underpinned the existing foundation (made of field stones) with concrete. (I actually found a newspaper, the New York Times date March 12, 1928 under a large field stone, so I assume that this is when the work was being done.) Later in the 1970's, as my neighbors recount, a family - by the name of the Barnett's had done some more work down there. What exactly, I don't know. In the early 90's, the most previous homeowners, the Lettera's had either finished or refinished the basement - including the installation of a full bathroom. (All the fixtures in the house seem to be late model \ home-depot regular items, so 1990's is just about right...)

About four years ago, we had a major flood in the basement. The pressure relief valve on our oil-fired hot water heater had went dumping a few thousand gallons of (yes, hot) water in the basement. Much of the sheetrock was destroyed throughout and I replaced a good portion of the sheetrock that seemed to be the oldest and most flimsy. When I opened on wall, what I saw amazed me - some idiot used two 2x6x10's to support the upper floor. On top of it, they used regular 10-D nails to keep them together. Can you guess what happened? See if this paints a picture for you:

Ok, you might be asking - what is it actually that I see in this aweful picture? Well, it is a concrete poured wall with a step formed out and two twisted 2x6's hanging on for dear life. A few years ago, when I first saw this I did a couple of things, the first is that I installed that adjustable lolly column to assit in the weight distribution and the second thing I did was to mark the wood and the concrete as to identify where everything was and to see if the situation has worsened as time goes on. Well luckily nothing has gotten worse over time but unfortuanately nothing has gotten better either so my #1 priority here is to replace those twisted 2x6's with three 2x8's that are either lagged or bolted together (I'm leaning toward using 5/8" threaded rod / pan washers / lock washers / nuts)...

Since I am actually planning on taking that old field stone \ poured wall down, vertical supports will installed in its place. What I'm planning on doing making a good strong footing by digging out about 2' below the floor level, hammering in 3' pieces of rebar in a few different diagonal directions and wrapping the tops of the rebar with steel wire mesh (approximately 8 to 10 guage wire) to form a basket. I'll nail together four pieces of wood to create a form so that the concrete pour for this footing is presentable. I plan on pouring 5000psi concrete to make the footings which should do quite well for the task of holding up my dining room, and upper level bathroom and office (where I'm typing right now).