There are two ways of exerting one’s strength; one is pushing down, the other is pulling up.
-Booker T. Washington
Here’s where things get complicated: when you “gut” a house, as we did, you want to find good “bones.” What do you do when the bones are deteriorating and in some places altogether missing? In our case you draw up a plan, pull up your bootstraps and build them back up to create a strong structure. To understand the complexity of this project, it is necessary to realize that our home is actually two distinct adjoined structures.
The northern, original (pre-civil war) structure is composed around a timber frame. The characteristics of a timber frame are large beams joined together with mortise and tenon joints, and wooden pins in the most significant intersections. Timber framing is rarely used in modern residential construction. It was, quite common in the era our house was originally constructed and it was a joy to come across during demolition. Timber framing is characteristically strong, durable and in this authors opinion beautiful. It is our hope to celebrate the beauty and timelessness of the original timbers in our overall design of this wing of our home.
The southern structure, most likely a very early addition to original structure, utilizes what is known as “balloon framing.” In this system individual structural elements (in our home true 2×4’s) extend from the sole plate on the first floor to the top-plate on the second. The floor joists for the second floor rest on an embedded 1×4 and are nailed to this stud and the rafters rest directly on top of the top plate. This said, each stud within the frame bears a significant load, and if it is compromised anywhere the consequences can be significant. Unfortunately, areas of the balloon frame have rotted away over time and other areas were removed during previous remodels. These factors, combined with our own prospective layout changes, led us to believe that taking on the extremely ambitious task of reframing was worthwhile.
The interconnectivity of a balloon frame structure enabled us to safely support the second floor and roof while removing sections of the first floor structure. We did so by creating a system of 6×6 post and beams pressurized by hydraulic floor jacks.
For our new framing we did a traditional double-top plate 2×6 wall on an insulated sole plate with 2×10 headers above the window and door openings. In addition to an overall stronger wall, the transition from 2×4 to 2×6 walls allows us to achieve a higher R-value with our insulation.
Once pressure was released from the temporary supports, the floor joists rest directly on the double top plate. The remaining section of the original balloon frame extends approximately 4 feet before reaching and supporting the rafters.
During this process we also moved the door from one side of the back of the house to the other. It now opens into the mudroom.