Let me tell you a little bit about our side trip into the exciting world of joist repair. We weren’t planning to go down this rabbit hole, but…
As you may recall, we’re doing the electrical work ourselves, with leadership from Amanda’s dad. One of the first circuits we ran, we needed to drill through eight joists above the first floor to get to the electrical panel from upstairs. Pretty much immediately after we had run the wires, we learned of our mistake. Not by anything giving way or collapsing or anything, but by finding and closely reading the instructions on “allowable hole placement” from the joist manufacturer (our contractor had sent it to us earlier that day, but we hadn’t looked at it yet). Guess where we had drilled for the wires? Not in an allowable location.
The joists are like wooden I-beams, with a thin web (the vertical part of the I) made of very dense plywood and a wooden flange on the top and bottom (the horizontal parts of the I). For the most part, they span from one exterior wall to the other, although some span only midway to a structural wall. In the middle of any span, you can put some pretty large holes in the web – large enough to run a toilet drain line, for example. But near those load-bearing walls, or bearing points, there aren’t many locations where holes are allowed. And right over the exterior wall, you’re not supposed to put any holes.
Our holes were right over the wall.
What followed was a process of contacting the joist manufacturer and taking measurements of span length for each joist and precisely how high above the bottom flange each hole was located. I was impressed with their customer service: they plugged our specific numbers into their engineering models. Ultimately, they recommended repairing 7 of the 8 joists by attaching additional boards to the face of the joist in the area of each hole. We could have notched the repair boards to keep the wires where they were, but we chose instead to pull the wires out and relocate them past the repairs.
This was not as easy as it sounds, but it was made a bit easier by getting to borrow our contractor’s table saw, nail gun, and air compressor (we were glad we squeezed this project in during the last weekend before they were done and took their tools with them). Each of the 7 repaired joists required 24 nails, and neither of us can swing a hammer particularly well, especially when the hammer must be swung in a confined space, at an awkward angle, overhead. Plus, the nail gun was way more fun.
Thankfully, in our basement was some leftover rim board (a wide board about an inch thick typically used at the ends of joists to transfer the load to the wall). There turned out to be just enough for us to use. We bought some plywood and set to work cutting everything to the appropriate size. Each repair needed two pieces of plywood, glued together, that would fit inside the flange of the joist, and a piece of rim board, glued to the plywood, that would cover the plywood and attach to the flange.
Amanda glued together the 7 sets of wood that we needed, and I nailed them in place. It took several hours, and some of the repairs turned out a little better than others. But we got it done.
We also borrowed their ladder. And a couple clamps.
OK, this one only has 22 nails. Still, can you imagine hammering all those in?
We generally try to avoid doing extra work, so we were careful not to put any more holes in the restricted areas. Although it was pretty fun to use the nail gun.
We also used our own new ladder. Levitation would be helpful in construction.
While we had the nail gun out, and since I had gotten the hang of using it and hadn’t been injured, we added some 2×4’s in a few places. We needed an extra board in our master bathroom so that we could nail the electrical boxes for a light and outlet in the center of the vanity. We also added some boards across our master closet in the spot where we will be mounting a rail for our closet system (if we ever get to that point). We figured we might as well add some extra support there, before there is drywall, to increase our confidence that our clothes will not come crashing down sometime in the future.
Digression: As part of the emerging “sharing economy,” I think libraries should have nail guns and air compressors that patrons could check out. Books are great and all, but I won’t have time to read anything until this house gets finished. Librarians, develop some tool libraries so your citizens don’t have to buy hugely expensive tools that they would only use a couple days a year and have nowhere to store anyway. (Apologies if you run a tool-rental business, but your prices are also expensive.)