HELP! Damaged Floor Joists in a Century Balloon Framed Home

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Posted by: from Carleton Place
3/17/2013 at 6:55:21 PM

Looking for professional help! Hope I'm in the right category...please let me know if this should be in repair.

Thought we'd switch out the fixtures in the 2nd floor bath and found a nightmare. Some 50 yrs ago, the floor joists were butchered for plumbing. Three of the joists were notched half way or more and the board subfloor was completely removed! The tub was balancing on a couple nails because the next joist is under the wall in the adjoining bedroom leaving about 2' + from the last joist to the wall with nothing to hang on the other side...a veritable subfloor diving board.

I hope I've adequately explained this, but I've attached a pic JIC. We've reinforced the notched joists by sistering on each side but are at a loss at to how to support the floor on the left of pic.

Could we nail blocking from the visible joist to the one under the floor beyond the wall to support the subfloor? Nail a ledge on the rim board? Do both?

Unfortunately we can't hang a new joist in this gap without lifting the entire floor to the back of the house as it would have to span the entire house ...30 ft or so. On the other side of this gap, we could hang a couple new joists between the sistered ones from the rim board as there is a beam above the stairs...about an 8' span. But this would require lifting what is left of the existing board subfloor between the outside wall and the stairs...I'd rather not do that either. Is it necessary?

To add to the problem, we found knob and tube running under the floor between where the bath was and the stairs so it needs to be removed BEFORE we can slide in those joists and then rewired. Fun times!

I've requested quotes from about 6 companies and only one has offered to fix the problem. Haven't heard back from the others and it's been over a week...makes me think this is not a desirable job OR am I being impatient? Or maybe I'm not contacting the right people?

But it doesn't stop there as there are also joists on the first floor that were cut for plumbing under the kitchen and bath but it's a bit easier to fix them as there is access from the basement. This will require a few joists, blocking and teleposts with concrete pads underneath.

Any advice? And would this require a permit as we're not changing the structure, just reinforcing?


help! damaged floor joists in a century balloon framed home
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Munro in Carleton Place
Date/Time3/17/2013 at 7:07:07 PM

And here's a pic of the floor between the old bathroom and the top of the stairs. This is what would need to be removed to add the joists and where the knob and tube is running.

HELP! Damaged Floor Joists in a Century Balloon Framed Home
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Steve from Bath Revival in Oshawa
Date/Time3/17/2013 at 8:29:39 PM

I think you are a bit panicked. The knob and tube is probably disconnected. A lot of century homes have the joists cut up for plumbing as indoor plumbing came around and no rules governed it. If it has been 50 years nothing is going to happen in a few weeks.

I think you are best to bring in an engineer and get permits done to ensure the structure is sound. It probably won't be as bad as you think to get it back together since it is balloon framing. Once you get an engineer and permits then hire someone to do it. At least whoever does the work will know exactly what is to be done. That way an estimate will be easier to make.

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Date/Time3/17/2013 at 8:35:23 PM

This sounds like a serious job. Would be more efficient to come out and have a look at the job and evaluate the situation.

You asked in your email if a permit is required, from the extent of damage to the floor joists your best bet would be to take out a permit and have a city official come out and sign off on a repairs done. Best to have a city inspector sign off and inspect work done by contractor.

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Date/Time3/17/2013 at 8:37:30 PM

Good evening.

To my best knowledge a permit is not required as long as the structure is not being replaced or being altered (changed) and only being reinforced.

This is a time consuming job and most guys want the easy money as this is not an expensive job just a bit of hard work and knowledge of structual support. I've encountered and repaired this type of crafty workmanship many times especially in older Hamilton homes. Not my favorite project to do but I dont turn away paying customers.

This needs to be reinforced properly to avoid future major problems. This should be taken care of sooner than later.

I hope this helps answer some of your questions.



HomeWorks by Design

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Larry from R & S Enterprises in Innisfil
Date/Time3/17/2013 at 8:57:55 PM

As you already well know. This is a big job and has to be seen in person to get a proper understanding of how bad it is and what will be needed.

Larry Miller

R&S Enterprises

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Munro in Carleton Place
Date/Time3/17/2013 at 9:09:34 PM

Thanks guys! Your replies lead me to surmise this isn't a DIY project?

I should have mentioned the knob and tube is still live as all the first floor lights are connected to it. It needs to be rewired. They must have updated everything except what was in between the two floors and the upstairs hall three-way because it's hard to get to and they just made everything going to the panel look new.

Steve, you're right about nothing happening right away, I guess I'm just panicked as my 8 month old son is really starting to get around and this is right outside his bedroom. Want to close it up asap. But i'd like to get more than one estimate.

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Date/Time3/17/2013 at 9:11:40 PM

Hi Monick,

I've done a lot of bathrooms in Toronto and we run across this problem all the time the plumbers in the old days were a bunch of hacks and just cut everything out of the way. What you've done so far looks okay to me. I see no problem to nail some blocking under the floor beyond the wall support the subfloor.

As far as the knob and tube goes check to see if it is live or not. If it is not live it's not in use just cut it out of the way. If it is live I would suggest calling an electrician in to replace it.

As far as a permit goes it's up to you. Getting a permit will add a lot of cost to your job, engineering drawings permit applications, and at least a month to go through the whole process.

I hope I've been some help to you.


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Steve from Bath Revival in Oshawa
Date/Time3/17/2013 at 9:39:17 PM

It could be DIY. If you have drawings and the help of an engineer and city inspector. Not the knob and tube but the framing. At least you could figure out if you are capable with the knowledge of how to do it correctly. You would be surprised how helpful city inspectors are if you do it correctly through them first.

The price of a permit and inspection is nothing in comparison to the cost of the job. The cost of an engineer would be the only additional cost. But you will pay for it either way in the end

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Date/Time3/18/2013 at 7:36:57 AM

I would suggest having a structural engeneer have a look at accurate drawings as well as the photo's. If not actually coming out to see the site.

Regarding the electrical, lets get an experianced electrician out there ASAP.

I have read other posts, some suggest it will probably be a simple fix. Avoid "sales" responses. I have renovated several homes built from 1904 to the nineteen fourty's in the Toronto area. Some of what I have run into was a nightmare.

No one can give you a quote until it is seen. And only those with experiance with this age of construction and the damage done can put a price together. Remember though, If everything is not opened up yet. the quote will have to have provisions in it for the possibility of more work, and more expense.The fee from the structural engeneer has usually run me anywhere from 500.00 to 1,500.00. I would then build it out following the plans generated by that firm.


James Fram

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Michael from Nothing But Bathrooms in Toronto
Date/Time3/18/2013 at 8:08:12 AM

I do agree with the majority if people here. A structural engineer might be a wise idea. But it is within your discression to make that choice. There are plenty of capable contractors here that can make an educated decision. One you could feel safe with.

Is the area that's not being supported the area the tub is going ?

Hope you find a solution.


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Munro in Carleton Place
Date/Time3/18/2013 at 11:04:36 AM

Ok, here's the whole story.

We did have a structural engineer come but he made structural recommendations without any thought to how it should be executed. This is his recommendation:

"Remove plumbing within former second floor bathroom and install 2'x8' joists 24' on centre. Existing joists are not to be considered when spacing new joists. Joists to bear at same location existing joists bear. First full length joist south of the stairwell: sister a 2'x8' joist with nailing as per attached built-up beam detail. Sistered joist is to be supported by exterior wall and to extend 5' beyond the location of the plumbing hole in the existing floor joist."

When I read that, sounds like we have to support the joist in the gap by hanging a joist spanning the entire house as that is where the "existing joists bear", which means lifting the ENTIRE floor of the hallway along the stairwell. That's a HUGE job and we wouldn't be able to use the upstairs bedrooms. I'm also afraid that if we get the inspector to review this, we'll be required to do this recommendation or the permit won't be approved. I'm all about doing things by the book, but if this is overkill for overkill's sake, I'd rather save my money and my sanity.

We also called electricians a few weeks ago as we knew it needed to be gone first. Problem is, if we're going to hang joists off of the stairs and (instead of hanging a joist spanning the entire house) hang another off of blocking between the joist under the floor beyond the wall (is that a good idea?), the knob and tube has to be removed and then rewired AFTER the joists are put it. That means the electrician has to make two trips. Also, the firm that gave us our only quote we got won't start the job before the electrical is gone even though he could work on the basement and then come up and drop in the joists once the wires are gone and then the electrician could then finish rewiring. But I understand why - because I can't guarantee the electrician will be done or show up on time. And I respect that he doesn't want to charge us for sitting around.

So I guess I'm asking for advice because I don't want to lift the entire floor. I could ask the engineer down again for $135/hr for guidance, and he said he'd come, but I feel that he should have provided this service before hand and it feels like we're being had. So much for going by the book.

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Date/Time3/21/2013 at 6:29:50 PM

Hi folks,

James again.

I hate spending cash as much as the next guy. But I strongly suggest you build the support the whole span as has been suggested by the structural engineer.

I know, you are thinking...the floor has not sagged yet, why do it now. But evrything is open, and the structure has begun to shift, wether you can visibly see it or not.

You don't need a permit if your are just making repairs. But trust me, when it comes to structural items, over kill is the route to go.

Good luck with it.

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