Here is an update video.
This project has been more of a challenge for me than most other work I have done on my rentals. It’s not the biggest project I have done, or the most expensive. But it has been the most unique. I’m pretty confident in my ability to repair things that are broken.
I’m pretty confident in my ability to repair things that are broken. Most of the other houses that I have worked on have been built in the last 50 years so the construction is pretty common. It’s not too big a deal for me to replace a few boards that are rotten or replace a toilet that is leaking. Generally, I can just look at how it was done before and put it back the way it was.
But with this house, those rules don’t really apply. This house was built in 1890, long before any building codes. And this house was not built on a concrete foundation. It was supported by beams and posts that rested on rocks. And this bathroom was not part of the original house.
There was no indoor plumbing when this house was built. It looks like indoor plumbing became commonplace in the 1930’s. So, I am guessing that this is around the time this bathroom was built. There was no electricity either so all that was added later as well.
However, this bathroom may not have been a bathroom originally. The vent pipes for both the sink and toilet are on the exterior of the house. Also, aside from the tub that I ripped out, which was added fairly recently, there is no real evidence that there was ever a tub or shower here.
Also, look at this picture. The vertical boards are the original structure of the house. This is where I found the 1890’s newspaper. The horizontal boards are exterior siding boards. On the other side of that wall is where the bathroom is. So, the house used to end at the vertical boards, then the room that is now the bathroom was added, then another addition was made (see where the ceiling drops) that added additional square footage to the house.
Another thing that makes me think this wasn’t originally a bathroom was some square nails that I removed from a board. This board was on tacked onto the exterior siding show in the above picture and wallpaper was then put over the entire wall. Square nails weren’t used much past the beginning of the 1900’s. I’m thinking maybe the bathroom was originally a baby’s room or something…but who knows?
Also, this house was converted into a triplex at some point in time. The guy I bought the house from had owned it for around 25 years and he didn’t really make that many improvements during that time, and the improvements he did make were, shall we say, interesting (like using a rubber automotive hose as a tub spout).
All that being said, I really had no idea what to expect once I started pulling things apart. After gutting the bathroom the first order of business was to get the structure back to a solid state. The whole room definitely had a large slope to it. My father-in-law came over to help me jack it up so we could get some new posts under the main beams and hopefully get it more level again. I bought a 20 ton (probably WAY overkill) hydraulic jack
I bought a 20 ton (probably WAY overkill) hydraulic jack but before we could use it I ended up having more rot than I anticipated. So I put in a 4×6 beam all the way along the length of the bathroom under the sill plate. Once that was in place, I was able to use that as a strong point to place the jack under.
I also dug a small trench along the exterior walls about 3-4 inches deep and filled it with gravel. Then I placed a run of concrete blocks on top of the gravel. My hope is that this will provide two benefits. It should settle as much as just dirt and it should also keep the skirting boards up off the ground to prevent rot.
As we started to jack it up, we could hear lots of creaking and cracking. Most of that was probably the many layers of paint breaking apart along the wooden siding. We also started to notice that as we lifted it up, the whole room wanted to pull away from the house. To combat this we put some boards along the floor joists in the bathroom and screwed them into several of the joists of the main house. The goal was to try and make the bathroom more connected to the main structure.
I think we ended up lifting it about 1.5 inches and then decided that was all we should do. There was still a major slope in the bathroom so the next day I sistered up all the existing joists with new 2×6’s. This allowed me to create a level floor without having to adjust the existing boards.
Next, I was able to put down the new subfloor. Because the joists were fairly far apart, I opted for the thicker tongue and groove plywood. This picture doesn’t show it very well, but you can see how unlevel the room still was by looking at the gap between the plywood and the wall boards. The only way to fully hide the slop would be to put drywall on the walls and ceiling. But I like the old boards so I will not be doing that.
I have never done any work like this before so it really is figuring it out as I go along.
Another challenge has been the plumbing. Because I am rearranging the bathroom (putting a corner shower in where the sink was a putting the sink where the tub was), I am having to redo the pipes. Ideally, I would use plastic pipe and hide it away in the wall. But that would involve tearing off the old boards, which I do not want to do, building a new wall in front of the old, also something I do not want to do because it would cover up the old boards and it would make the bathroom even narrower. It would also give me more drywall work to do as well.
So, I decided I would put in new galvanized pipes and I would make them all exposed on the wall. Problem is, I have never worked with galvanized pipe in my life. But, after thinking about it a bunch and watching some Youtube videos, I figured I would give it a shot. I put in the first pipes to get my hot and cold up in the room so I could lay my subfloor.
The first attempt was a failure. I broke the tool! To be fair, it was a cheap tool from Harbor Freight and those tools aren’t expected to last very long. So I took it back, got a new one, and went slower for my next attempts. I put in a valve on the hot and cold under the house so that I could work on the rest without having to shut off the water to the other units. And I put a cap on the ends once I got inside so I could text my first few connections…no leaks yet!
Galvanized pipe isn’t like PVC or PEX. These you just cut to length and either glue or compression fit them together. Galvanized pipe you have to cut, which is a process in and of itself, and then cut the threads. It’s a pretty tedious process and kinda messy since you need to use cutting oil.
But I think I am doing just fine and I think the final product will look pretty neat…at least I hope it will.
There has been a lot of learning so far, and there will be plenty of learning yet to go (I’ll be using a big floor sander for the first time). But, this is what life is about isn’t’ it? We learn new skills, try new things, and then the next time the learning curve won’t be so steep.
I apologize if there are typos and awkward sentences. Between working on the house, watching the baby, going on a short vacation with our church group, and being sick, I haven’t had much time to write any new posts. Even now, the only reason I am not working on the rental is because I am at home watching Kyah while Keely is out on a photo shoot…and Kyah is asleep.