View Full Version : Wall repair adventure

06-12-2017, 12:00 PM
I know I may get some flak from real carpenters for this little repair side-project, but here it is anyway....

I am gutting out my bathroom this summer and as in the past when tearing into this 1918 house, stuff gets found. Some interesting, and some sort of bad.

The bathroom was obviously shoe-horned into the place, likely in the 40s or maybe even later. I think the area currently occupied by the bath was originally part of the kitchen and the wood stove was probably located where the bathtub and a wall currently are.

When I removed the suprisingly single layer of newer drywall, I found that there was originally a much wider window from the current one. You can see it was filled in on the right side in this picture. There was no insulation below the window in 2 of those 3 cavities even though I found the plugged holes for the blown in cellulose in all of them. Someone must have forgot.


Any rate, it became apparent that back when that larger window was there, there must have been a water leak at the corner and ants had moved in


The tongue and groove sheathing boards were rotted and crumbly and there was "sawdust" too from the ants. I didn't find any actual ants dead or alive and everything was bone dry now so this happened long ago. In many spots, I could see the tar paper that covers the sheathing and also the siding. This house has another layer of siding over the original or else it would be rather drafty!

It seemed the ants were not content with the sheathing but also tunneled out this stud under the window sill. It was about 1/3 eaten up.


And it just got worse from there, ugh. The sill and even the subfloor had some damage. I was applying the screwdriver test to this and kept digging out crumbly wood.


Eventually, I got back to something mostly solid. I probably could have gone farther under the next to the left stud but it was solid enough and at some point a person needs to limit the project. The right side sill goes under those sister'd 2x4s and the adjoing wall so no real access. It was also mostly solid.



I am not sure what the concrete in between the floor joists is for, but suspect it was to lock the floor framing to the foundation. I don't think there is a plate on top of the foundation that the joists sit on, but rather they are just setting directly.

The ends of the subfloor were gone but the floor in the corner is not soft since there is a blocking between the 2 joists about a foot or so to the right since they't cut through one of them for the toilet drain. Good thing I guess at least for this problem.

The rim joist has damage but short of tearing 2 layers of siding and a layer of sheathing from outside to get at it; its not happening. Fortunately, its not eaten through and damage is pretty local to between those 2 floor joists. Ends of those were solid.

So, my repair was to fit in something to span across the the bad area between the 2 joists to fill in the rotted out sub floor and then replace that section of sill on top of that.



Once I had the sill replaced, I got a 2'x4' piece of 3/8" plywood sheathing and cut it to fit tightly between the 2 studs bordering the repair area. I then trimmed a 2x4 off by 3/8" and after prefitting it all in the wall I attached the sheet of plywood to the stud with screws from the "outside" and placed it in the cavity. The stud was nailed in at top/bottom and the edges of the plywood screwed to the old sheathing around the edges were it was solid.


One thing that occurred to me, maybe I should drill a few small holes in that plywood and fill up the cavities in the old sheathing under there with spray foam??

I also need to do something with the left end of that window sill board as it is floating and not connected to the stud a few inches to the left. With the interior wall boards removed it is not the most solid there right now. Once I get insulation in there, those interior tongue and groove wall boards will go back and eventually new drywall over that as it was before.

Interesting how "light" they built in those days but its still standing and pretty straight/square 100yrs later. There is no header above the window other than a horizontal 1x4. They must have relied on the interior tongue and grove wall boards for a lot of structural support, a main reason those are going back.

Another interesting observation. The cellar under this part of the house has fiberglass insulation between the floor joists and I had to pull some of it out to inspect this area from below. I noticed that the diagonal subfloor boards appeared to be reclaimed barn siding that was laid down with the "outside" down and inside up. A couple years back when I had the upstairs gutted to the rafters, I noted the roof sheathing boards were partially reclaimed from some other roof and had old tar paper and tacks facing inward. Also some had old concrete residue on them and must have been used as forms for the foundation I suspect.

06-12-2017, 02:15 PM
That project reminds me of my dad saying in jest, "wash where is shows and powder were it don't". Unless you are repairing something to sell, all you need to do is make it safe and serviceable. If the repairs work for you they are fine.

06-12-2017, 03:42 PM
I've seen a number of old houses that were built partially out of the cement coated, form lumber, like you described. I guess that was instant recycling back in the day.

06-12-2017, 03:42 PM
The reclaimed lumber is from another time. Now it wouldn't be worth the time and labor to reclaim it. Faster and therefore cheaper to get new. In my youth we reclaimed the lumber and the nails if we could.

Skip Lackie
06-12-2017, 05:03 PM
Thanks Jeff. At one time I owned a house built ~1825, and any significant repair was a real adventure, so I can appreciate your efforts. Good read, and nice job.

06-12-2017, 06:19 PM
In the late 1950's, my dad (truck driver) was transferred to anther trucking terminal about 70 miles northeast of where we had been living. Although the rent was almost thirty dollars a month...it turned out to be a rather picturesque 19'th century two story farmhouse. It had clapboard wooden siding, and multiple second story dormers. The foundation supports were uneven field stones, gathered from the very land upon which the house was built.

Like many such elegant old homes, on the ground floor, the bedrooms were on one side, living room, dining room and kitchen were on the other, with a hall & staircase in the middle. For years, the hall was an open path from the front porch, through the house right out the back door. No indoor plumbing. By the time we rented the place, the back of the hallway had been closed off and a bathroom with sink, toilet, and bathtub had been installed. As you can imagine, time and use had taken its toll. Although shopworn, settled a little off kilter here & there, I have fond memories of that place. The fire places, wrap around porch, creaky old porch swing, and placing my head against the wall to fall asleep with the humming of honeybees between the exterior clapboard and inside bead board walls. After my folks finally bought their first home, the old farmhouse went through several renters, but suffered from neglect. Now, there's nothing left but a few of the old oak trees.

In your house, is it possible that the large window opening you mention was actually a doorway, before the bathroom was installed?

06-12-2017, 07:28 PM
Hello John,

All signs indicate the wall below the window is original and not been filled in. My guess is that was the original double-sectioned kitchen window. Good chance there could have been a sink there with a "slop bucket" to collect the drain. I did find a hole down low in the interior boards were perhaps a drain outside went at one time.

The change in paint color seen off to the left in the 1st picture is were the original stairs was. I expect there was a wall and door there and then the stairs went up half way to a landing and took a 90 deg turn. Both my grandparents farm houses had doors on the stairs to close off heat loss from below. Upstairs rooms only got a little heat from grates in the floor.

When I rebuilt the stairs a couple of years ago I had hints of this from the other side of a wall now there off to the left of the top photo. When the bath was put in, they tried to turn the stairs into a "double-winder" and did a poor job of it. I removed it all and started over. Its still now a double winder or sort of a spiral and narrow and steep but now at least now all the step heights are the same and the pie shaped steps all have matching angles so less likely to cause a trip/stumble. I also fixed the floating upper floor joists that were left un-supported when they filled in the ceiling over the new bathroom that made for a bouncy floor up there! Had to add in several 2x6's. Unbelievable.

The main kitchen area today is a add-on to fill out the L shape of the original structure and only is on the 1st floor. Last year I had the adjoining area torn up and the header they put in when the cut out the wall to the addition was pretty marginal compared to what they would do now. I tried to reinforce it some but what they did didn't appear to have sagged much if any and its likely been that way for >60yrs.

06-12-2017, 11:23 PM
I believe that the lumber used back then was of better quality, as in tight-grained/dense lumber from the virgin forests of Minnesota.

Before you re-sheetrock, don't forget to print-out this forum thread and tuck it into the wall so that a future remodeler can discover it 100 years from now.

Also, while your at it, add a urinal to your bathroom. You can thank me later. :)