Rotten Floors and Bodgers

There comes a time in the life of every house that a floorboard will cave in and you will sink through the carpet, this happened when we said, 'Goodbye' to our wood stove oven. At the time we thought the weight of it had destroyed an old board in the hallway but a few years later the unmistakable smell of dry rot wafted through the house. It's been around six years since we waved goodbye to our old oven we hope it worked out well for the new owners, who got a bargain and we got a hole in the hall floor. At the time I laid hardboard over it, wrote it off as a rotten board. We then discussed the merits of a solid floor over a wooden one. We'd do it in time, it wasn't at the top of our to do list. However, there was something about having a stone floor here that was appealing but not so appealing if we fell down the stairs. All decor is swings and roundabouts, especially if you live in a fun fair. So, as we got down to constructing a new gate for the garden (more about that next week) our handyman came in. Glyn's being doing work for us for years, he's seen D grow up and our house fall down. Every time we phone him up, he sighs and tells us to plan for the worst. It's an old house, start one job and it leads to forty-nine more. 

Dry rot

We and Glyn should have learnt by now not to be gleefully optimistic. 'Sure, it's only the floorboards that are rotten let's crack out the crowbar and get those suckers up!' The floor into the hallway has always dipped, that should have been a warning sign for us. The soil pipe goes out of the house under floor, this should have told us that it wouldn't be a simple job. 


Dry rot under floors

The boards didn't just come up, they splintered into dust to reveal joists bodged together with an old door frame, piles of stone packed under the wood without any slate between them resulting in rot. There was rot under the stairs, the ends of the joists here were dust. There were rotten beams by the door, mainly resulting in the kind of wood that you snort rather than drill into. In the end, the only solid piece of wood in the entire hall was that ruddy door frame propping up the floor. The rest you could have used in a homemade sequence for Karate Kid to make you look tough. When the final board came up the whole supporting structure beneath collapsed into the hole. Thankfully, that soil pipe was not cracked but it was clay and laying a solid floor was out for fear of breaking it. So, a job that should have taken a couple of delightful hours now spanned the whole day. Carol went out. I stayed in with D who oversaw the project with helpful phrases, such as, 'You're doing a good job there, Glyn' and, my personal patronising favourite, 'You know what you're doing there, don't you? Look at the good work he's doing, Daddy'. Thankfully, D is a child, if he said that as forty-four year old man he'd wake up in hospital. Glyn, now crying and bemoaning the fact that out of all the jobs he's done in our home this was the worst, laid new joists. This was technically a floating floor and it is built now to distribute the weight to both supporting keystones either side of the hall but as this is a high traffic area Glyn created further support by tying it all together to distribute the weight into the front room also.


Joists


Joists

This time the floor was level and no longer dipped which we discovered when we put the coat rack back and it didn't need a chock under it to keep it from falling over. Sadly, the hardwood we planned was too thick and we went for redwood which was easier and faster to fit. This we will stain to match the oak in the front room. By the end of the day Glyn had given us a new hallway that didn't threaten to fall through to the centre of the Earth. We have discovered over the years that it is false economy for us to try and do all the jobs around the house, we can do some of them but when it comes to jobs like this it is best to get someone else in to do them so you can work to throw money into the hole. That's old houses for you!


New floor from redwood

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