I’ve said before one of the reasons I continue to work is that I love taking an old, neglected house and turning it into a home families can be proud of. We’ve just begun that process with the Roadrunner house. And unlike some “flippers,” we believe we have an obligation to the future owners of our projects to provide safe, quality housing. That means we often spend money where nobody will ever see it, in areas where some would cut corners to save on expense and make more money. You can call us stupid or ethical; that’s up to you.
Supporting the Second Floor
Last week, I mentioned the beam (header) across the entryway—the one that keeps the second floor from falling into the living room—had cracked. When we bought the house, we noticed it had sagged in the center of the opening. We had hoped to be able to jack it up and sister some additional supports, but that plan (and a good chunk of the budget) went out the window when we saw the beam had cracked. We couldn’t do a half-assed job on it.
So we ordered an engineered LVL that would support the weight of the second floor. LVLs, which hadn’t even been invented when this house was built, are stronger than “natural wood.” They are our go-to choice for headers.
Replacing this header required building two temporary supporting walls to support the second floor while we removed the header. There wasn’t room to hide the header in the ceiling for a more “open concept.” So we ended up installing the new LVL header exactly where the original had been. We also reinforced the studs that support the header in the wall—I forget the real word for this and somehow “king stud” just doesn’t sound right—by sistering in an additional 2×4 on each end.
Cleaning Up the Kitchen
I also mentioned we had found water damage in a kitchen wall from a drain line that was no longer in use. While the wallpaper glue had killed the mildew, the water had rotted the sill plate and some of the studs.
Rather than “patch at” the damage, we opted to repair it completely. Once again, we had to support the second floor while we demolished and re-framed the offending wall. We then installed a new moisture barrier between the exterior brick and the new framing, re-insulated the wall, and replaced the interior drywall.
Finally, while installing can lights in the front room we’re calling an office, our electrician found that some of the lights we had been planning to keep had been installed “backward.” My Spanish isn’t that good, but what I understand that to mean is that the ground and hot wires had been reversed on the way to the switch. This error had been a fire hazard for years. Of course we fixed that!
The Bottom Line
These are just three examples of “invisible” repairs that cost a lot of money in the renovation. We could have just covered them up or “patched at” them, and nobody would have ever known the difference…that is, until one of them failed. But that could have been decades and numerous additional renovations down the road.
We just don’t do that. If we find a problem, we fix it properly, even if you can’t see it.