Closet Reconstruction

Another action-packed Saturday laboring away on things that probably don’t need to be labored on.  A few of you may recall that waaaaaay back in 2008, pretty much the first project Mel and I did around the house was to install a few shelves in the bedroom closet.  We’ve been pretty happy with the shelves, but it became apparent that we were going to have to do some major work in the closet area.  Unfortunately, while working on the-fascia-project-from-hell, I  discovered something a little bit startling – one of our walls was rotten. I’ll explain later.

So here’s what we started out with this morning:

Nice, right?  Well turns out the back of that closet is just a knee wall, and there’s unused space behind it.  We needed to get into that space.  So we had no choice but to just start hacking away at it.  Here you can see the studs that used to be the knee wall, and the old shelf that someone just left in place when they built the knee wall:

Neat, huh?  I was hoping to find treasure behind the wall, but all we found was an empty whiskey bottle.  We thought it was funny that when they built the knee wall, they just left that little shelf and drawer in place behind the wall:

Ok, so after hacking away at it pretty much all day, now all we’ve got is a completely empty room with no walls.  We even pulled up the carpet to expose the original maple floors in the closet:



This is the first time we’ve exposed the original maple floors, and I was a little disappointed by what we found.  Previous owners had painted the floor, and then installed linoleum right over the top.  In addition, in at least one location, someone hacked right through the floor…  We’re pretty sure this floor is are NOT a good candidate for restoration.

Anyway, just to let you know a little bit about the anatomy of a 100+ year-old house, here’s the guts of how the flared eaves are constructed.  For the record, this is a pretty lousy design that pretty much guarantees that the roof overhangs on the outside will sag over time:

Balloon framing is constructed by allowing the floor joists to simply be hung from the wall studs (rather than resting on the 1st floor walls). Also, generally, a lousy design prone to sagging.

Electrical cable routed outside the wall cavities????  Great.  Now what am I going to do with that???

Anyway, that’s what I did today.  Tomorrow, we’ll get some new insulation up and hopefully start some hanging some drywall.  Yippee!

8 thoughts on “Closet Reconstruction”

  1. Seeing this post makes me worry again about all the things that are probably wrong with our house that are covered up. Those walls look a lot like our rotted garage. Good luck with fixing it up. If you need some cheap floor ideas, Mark's brother put down pine planks and painted them white in his upstairs and I think it looks really nice.

  2. There is nothing I love more than seeing original hardwood floors in an old home! I'm so sad that someone hacked right through it!

    Have fun on your latest project! Looks like it will be a blast!

  3. I have some good and some terrible patches in my hardwood floors. It can be done well if you are willing to put in the time and/or money. Paint will come off.

  4. I've learned so much about house construction from reading your blog. That looks like a lot of work, but knowing the two of you, the after pictures are going to be pretty cool. Too bad you have to do a bunch of work to get there.

    Also, anyone who would paint a wood floor should be forced to re-finish one. Similarly, people who wallpaper should be forced to remove wallpaper at least once.

  5. The TENTH (2nd from last) pic down showing the floor joists… what exactly are the floor joists resting on?
    My house is a similar design from 1851, and i have no idea how/what the design plan is etc. We cant work out what the floor joists are resting on other than wall studs which arnt even attached to the floor joists. Its a lath and plaster wall.

    Any advice is much appreciated.

    My email is:

    1. They are not resting on anything. They are side-nailed into the wall studs. I suspect yours are as well. This is the definition of balloon framing. If you google it, you fill find many examples and much info. Good luck.

  6. Hiya Reuben, thanks for the reply. On closer inspection i think the joists are resting on a top plate of some kind. But they are not attached to any studs directly. This must mean its a platform design?
    The 2 stair well walls are actually support walls made of wooden studs and lath and plaster with the upstairs floor joists running in to them! Its a shame i cant send a pic in to you to see.

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