Wednesday, April 5, 2017

The Wall of Hidden Problems

My house was built with an unfinished basement. At some point (around 1978, based on the orange shag carpet and brown paneling), the previous homeowners made an attempt at finishing it. They built two walls to separate the basement into individual rooms, and added electrical wiring.

Then they apparently abandoned the project and just left everything there for nearly 30 years. When I bought the house, I came into possession of this time capsule from the '70s... along with some hidden problems.

The biggest problem lurked in the homemade walls. The walls looked innocuous. Crooked, sloppily made, and ugly... but not harmful.

I removed the drywall and doors, but I left the studs in place because live electrical wiring was attached to them.

A few months ago, I noticed that some of the studs were bowed, as if they were bearing a lot of weight. This alarmed me. I had a structural engineer evaluate the situation.

The conclusion was that the soil beneath the house had expanded, pushing up on the concrete basement floor. This, in turn, was causing the improperly built walls to push up on the floor joists above. The walls needed to be taken down as soon as possible.

I needed an electrician to move the wiring before I could remove the walls. In the meantime, I sawed through some of the studs to relieve the pressure on the floor joists.

And the cacophony began.

The floor in my living room/dining room began to creak. With the upward pressure gone, the floor joists settled and the subflooring loosened. So as I walk across, the subflooring moves up and down. The nails move in and out of the wood, creating the most horrible sound... a VERY LOUD sound as unpleasant as fingernails on a chalkboard. The creaky area is huge, and it's in the main living space where I'm constantly walking. It's so bad, it creaks even when my seven-pound dog walks across.

IT IS DRIVING ME CRAZY.

Several days ago, the electrician rewired the basement, moving all the wiring off the studs. I spent this past weekend removing the walls. They were surprisingly easy to remove... mainly because they were not attached to anything. They were simply wedged in between the concrete floor and the floor joists above. The walls had been jammed in so tightly, some of the floor joists were scraped and dented. It was the perfect example of how NOT to build a wall.

I thoroughly enjoyed taking the cursed walls down and was very pleased when nothing remained but a pile of wood.


Unfortunately, I still have the creaky floor to deal with. I spent hours in the basement shimming and gluing the floor from below, but it's too far gone for the usual remedies. I will have to pull up the flooring and fix the problem from above. That will be difficult and time-consuming, and I'm not sure I'll be able to successfully re-install the flooring.

Those stupid walls have caused me more frustration than any other problem in my house.

12 comments:

  1. Sorry to hear that there nothing worse than houses with problems.

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    1. Thanks. This is a particularly frustrating problem.

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  2. We bought our home from family (it is a family property and house with a long history), which means that most of the work was done by said family. We got really excited to pull up the old, stinky, ugly carpet to replace it with this beautiful flooring that I'd fallen in love with, only to find out that there are some major issues with the flooring and joists. An entire section of my floor is bowed and cannot be easily corrected. It will require major time, effort, and money to correct. In the meantime, I had to replace the nasty old carpet with slightly attractive carpet (due to pets and eczema, I detest carpet), and only put down my beloved flooring in other areas of the house. I am devastated and so angry at the idiocy that created this huge problem. I feel your pain and I hope that you're able to fix the issue without too much grief.

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    1. Ugh! Sorry to hear that! Carpet can hide all sorts of ick and issues.

      In the process of learning DIY, I've done lots of less-than-perfect work on my house... but never on anything that would affect the structure of the house.

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  3. Urgh, sorry to hear that, it sounds like a very annoying thing to have. Maybe it's worth the time and effort for having a living space that you'll be 100% happy with. Talk about fixing the mistakes of others!

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    1. It is no fun having to fix someone else's 40-year-old mistake.

      I'll have to put in whatever effort it takes to fix the floor, or I'll lose my mind. The sound is just beyond awful. Though it does make for an effective burglar alarm... no one could possibly sneak around in my house. ;)

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  4. Next, you'll discover that the previous owners had the house built on an ancient Native American burial site.

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    1. Probably any day now, as the landscapers are digging trenches for the sprinkler system.

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  5. Sounds like the guy who owned by boyfriend's boat previously. He was so inept that the marinas around there still tell stories of his incompetence. I ripped apart a shelf he made without any tools because the bolts were so loose.

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    1. Yikes. At least with a house, there is no chance of running into something or sinking.

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  6. I started laughing at the orange shag carpeting and brown panels. When my parents bought their second house, it was done entirely in shag - my room in bright pink! Luckily I was seventeen at the time and moved out shortly afterwards. lol

    I enjoy a good squeaky floor, but only if the house is really old. 1970's squeaks are not nearly as interesting, I'd imagine. :(

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    1. Shag is apparently back in style now. There are lots of shag rugs in stores. I can't like them, though. In my mind, I see those long, shaggy fibers hiding all sorts of dirt and ick.

      These squeaks don't sound like history, they sound like damage. Not what a homeowner wants to hear. :/

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