Miyk tuk te stars down so i iz a first flor cat now. Witowt stars to 2 flor tey hav lader. how doz i clim??? i dont now! so i trapd on 1 flor. and dor to owtsid iz not wurkin. so i trapd insid!! can sumbudy help?????? i want not be trapd! and yes i stil haz houz!!! not orunj cat! me own al!!!!!!!!! ecsept not like bein trapd.
Once the steel was up, the focus shifted to the stair treads. For these we tracked down some giant joists that a friend was removing from an old warehouse. These things were precious (and cost a lot too). You can’t just buy 3×16″ old growth pine new, it needs to be salvaged from somewhere. We estimated we’d need about 60′ so we rounded up and got 70′ to be safe. We would need a total of 13 straight stairs (3″ x 10.5″ x 28″) as well as 11 corner stairs of varying sizes. I clean, measured and cataloged the wood. The wood was ripped down to <12″ to fit though the planer and then planed down (on one side) to 2 7/8″
Somewhere in here we decided that it would be worth the extra effort to flush mount the brackets in the wood. We would weld on the angle so that it and any ugly welds were hidden by the board. This took a whole lot of routing, but I made a jig to set up guides and it went pretty smoothly. I also got a pretty good system down for churning out brackets in 8 easy steps including countersinking the hole so the screw too was flush.
The problem with 100 year old joists is that they’re never perfect. Even once planed, most boards still had flaws and bad edges that needed to be removed. In the end we just barely had enough that can be used as 10.5″ straight treads and a whole bunch < 10″ wide. TO SKETCHUP!
Since the steel was already in place, we could get some really accurate measurements in order to draw up this in Sketchup. Once digital, I started playing around with stair designs. One of the challenges was my requirement that both the back and the bottom needed to be rough cut and the top and the front had to be immaculate when planed and sanded AND the grain had to run parallel to the front edge of the stair. In the end I decided to do a 3 piece design. I would cut 1″ off the rough cut side for the back and then build the tread out of the 8″(or so) board and then glue it all back together. To save material I arranged this in Sketchup to waste as little board length as possible.
I put a lot of faith in my drawings. I printed out a layout with measurements of all the edges and diagonals so I could draw this out on the boards and check my work. Second step was to cut off the rough edge. Next was to rip the board down to the correct width. Then a very technical free hand (eyeballing it) cut of the diagonal to be cut straight. This angled cut off would rotate around to be glued with several 4″ long 1/2 lag bolts thrown in for some serious clamping and pining duties.
Rotating had some cool benefits. Since it was basically the same grain pattern, only further down the board, the resulting assembly has the grain mirrored along the nearly invisible glue line. Upon cutting, this is what we would see:
The last cuts were made to straighten out the back edge so I could glue back on the 1″ rough edge. Once this was all together I sanded just like we did the floors. On the finished boards its hard to tell they’re not once piece.
Final fitting of the boards was a challenge even with the help of Sketchup, particularly in the corner. That particular “kite” stair had to line up on both the not perfectly 90* corner and two sides of the post and have no more than a 1/8″ gap on any edge. For this we made a template out of an end-of-life dry erase board.
Straight stairs needed some final touches as well. Here is a photo of the finished top stair which had to tie in the the hidden brackets, the 3″ post stubs, the C-channel and the bricks.
There are a whole lot of cuts in there, but in the end it makes for a very clean and simple step.
Finally this flight is coming together. Here is a view looking up.
Finally I’m getting there. I had slowly worked down from the top of the 3rd floor, down the 2nd floor.. skipped ahead and worked up from the basement last February. I finally burned myself out in March, got back to it in September on the 1st floor, and here I am at the last wall over a year after I started. We had the Thanksgiving 4 day weekend and we were going to use it to finish up these damn bricks.
[We Must Have a “Before” Photo of This Somewhere]
This one was always going to be the hardest. Nearly all the salmon bricks had spalled and were crumbling. Some bricks you could crush in your hand. Pointing was pretty much out of the question as the bricks would crumble faster than the mortar. After the basement, pulling them out and re-laying them seemed like the best method. I started next to the back door. Most of those had been broken in half so I had to replace a bunch. Once I was sure the wall could carry the load without its assistance, I pulled the wood door frame. Hello 6″ wider doorway.
Siri helped a lot. Laying bricks uses considerably more mortar than pointing so keeping me fed with mortar (and food) all weekend was her job.
What’s with the pockets? To top it off we had a special surprise we had picked up when we visited the Moravian Pottery & Tile Works outside Doylestown, PA. H.L. Mencken had incorporated tiles from this factory in his back yard a century earlier and I wanted to incorporate some too. We were not sure how we’d do it when we bought them, but Siri thought it over and decided that we should do a zig-zag going up the stairs with everyone in height order starting with Emi.
From the bottom right we have Emi’s tile with her moon, because cats love the night. Next row up is for Iris. Her tiles is for her zodiac sign of Cancer along with a tree because she love to climb them (and is growing like one). Next row up is Siri’s with her Sagittarius zodiac tile and a heart, because she has so much love to give. Next row up is my Taurus zodiac sign and a goblet of beer, because I love beer. All of this is set in mortar Siri mixed using sand we brought back from the dunes of Liwa in the UAE.
Now it’s time to clean up and dust everything. Christmas is here and I want a clean space for the first time in months.
P.S. This is not the end. There are still bricks hiding behind the stair stringers. I will do these when I pull out the stairs. They’ll need to go quickly because the stairs will be out and that’s something we don’t want stretching out too long.
Mi coller getz lost so wy oners need no wy? tey ask me but i not tell. tey desided 2 get new one tat is worse tan be4. it has bel so no catch birds, no secrets. i hat bel. i like bee sneekie cat. it is haff oranj cats falt, sinz hee got old won of. wy did i haff 2 say tat? i not tak no mor, i tel 2 many secretz. i also notis no houz work and humanz gon a lot. wut up with tat? i want intrstin houz work, and i want humanz around mor. i stil hav fun. i run a lot, and i love get pets. i am uzing siri ofis computr 4 this. it iz warm, and tipes eesly. i lik 2 think it az I HAZ IT!!!! and yes i still haz houz. gudby. i wish i didnt haff 2 leev, but ter r cat prties tat i must go. gudby.
The next stage of the brick project is the stairway down to the first floor. Since cleaning up is such a pain on an uneven floor, I wanted to install the new floor first. Easier said than done though. The floor is held up by joists that were sitting on long since rotted away boards and bricks. This caused them to be uneven and to sag / creak when walked over. Previous owners had made matters worse installing heat registers in the floor several times. Underneath in the crawlspace many of the bricks had started to crumble. When bricks fell out, they would fill the hole with fiberglass insulation (WTF??). Its amazing we never fell through. In some places the bricks were missing five feet down. The board and the 7 bricks on top of it were all moving as you can see in this video:
It was pretty much the same story all the way around. I decided to replace all the bricks between the stretcher courses. I’d do a vertical section here and there and leave the old bricks in to hold up the house. I’m still alive to write this so I guess it worked. In the end I replaced a 24″ strip between stretchers all the way around where the floor would go.
As I moved to the back of the stairway, more and more of the rotted joists had to be removed. In the end we hung the stairs with a 2×4 from the joist in the ceiling above and used a 2×12 plank to get across the pit. (We even hosted a party like this.)
In the back, as I replaced the bricks, I left 3 pockets to install the 2×8 joists in as I decided to have the joists run perpendicular to how they were originally. This has the added benefit of making trips into the crawl space less likely to cause head injuries. I’d use joist hangers on the last joist at the back of the kitchen and I’d double up the middle joists to be able to carry the extra weight of the stairs sitting on it.
Finally with the bricks done and the joists in we installed the subfloor. Next is the stapling up of our final 1/6 floor heating. This will cover the kitchen and the stairway. Up until now, we had no heat in that end of the 1st floor and the other half could barely keep up on the colder days.