The trough: emergency timber framing

Every renovation project has its trough, and this was mine:

You are looking at what was formerly holding up my kitchen floor.  Now, there are a few things wrong with this picture.

The first thing is the sill beam that runs from the bottom right of the photo, over to the left under that dainty little post.  It’s rotted completely through.  I actually investigated this very beam before I bought the house, and when I jabbed at it with a screwdriver, it felt solid from the side.  But when I uncovered it from above, I was able to vacuum out the dust that had formerly been solid wood, until it was kind of a hollow U-shaped bowl.  That keyhole thing in the side is a hole where solid wood should be.

The second problem is the dainty little post.  Not only is it sitting on that rotted out beam, but it’s doing the work of a much bigger post, which had been located just to the left of it in this photo, and seems to have been removed, long long ago, to accommodate a beehive cook oven.

Now the old beehive cook oven has been demolished – you can see the outline of the inside of it there to the right of the dainty post.  But they left the dainty post in place and never replaced the original beefy post.  Note the mold on the post (really a wall stud).  Water had been coming in the building at this point, which probably explains the rotted beam below.

Here’s a view from the other side, showing a large 2nd floor beam that once sat atop the missing post, and the ghost tenon on the end of another beam that once tied into a mortise on the same missing post.  This post seemed to have been an important part of the structure.  It was holding up a lot of stuff.

I needed to take out that moldy insufficient post, replace the rotted section of the sill beam, and put in a new post that was more like the original post.  And the new post needed to be exactly the right height to catch the weight of two different beams at different heights.  This is a timber-framing project, and I have never done any timber framing.

To the rescue: my friend Serena, who is a carpenter artist timber framer preservationist life saver.

After I braced up the 2nd floor beam above with the help of my old boss Greg, the dainty little post/stud came out easily, and Serena got to work cutting out the rotted wood:

Pay no attention to that other main beam that looks like it should be tying into the rotted beam right about at this point – that’s a blog post for another day.

Serena had just enough time to cut a couple of complicated joints for the new piece…

And with a little coaxing, my Mom and I were able to get it into place and bolt it there.

One major piece of work accomplished!  But Serena had to go, and I still had to get that big post in.  Left on my own with the little bit of timber framing instruction Serena gave me, my first set of chisels and a totally insufficient set of 18 volt cordless tools, I tackled the post project.

As any carpenter will tell you, nothing is ever square.  I was using a gigantic post – 8″x10″ of green pine lumber, which was very heavy even for two people.  I needed to get these measurements and cuts right in one try, since I only wanted to try and fit that post in there once!  Taking it out to trim or re-cut it was just not an option.

So I spent about 5 days measuring, and 3 days cutting the post and all its complicated shoulders.

I measured and cut, measured and cut, pretty wigged out and scared of getting it wrong.  And then the day came when I had no more excuses, it was time to try and fit it in there.  It was just me and Mom that day, and fortunately, both of us have been lifting weights.

Well, the post went in on the first try.  It needed a little trimming I was able to do in place, and quite a bit of persuading from the 4-pound sledge, but it went in there, and fit beautifully on all of its sides.

Ah, look at all that clean new wood.  The new post is the one in the back.  The two pressure treated posts to the left and right are the temporary supports.

We had not been sure at all that this was going to work, but it did.  What a relief!

We were so happy that we signed the post.  Mr. Mason was my 7th grade math teacher.  I had to add and subtract a lot of fractions to cut this post.

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3 Responses to The trough: emergency timber framing

  1. Silvia Styles says:

    I’m so proud of you!
    Sent from my BlackBerry

  2. Joyce Brennan says:

    Thanksgiving at your house?

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