To gut completely, or not...
I'm new here. I found this forum via a google search on "leveling floors in an old house". My wife and I bought (and are living in) a old house in Flint, MI that was built around the 1860's. We've been renovating one or two rooms at a time while we live in the other parts.
In it's early days, there were tons of chimneys that connected to coal furnaces in various parts of the house. We also had gas lines run for gas lights. Later on as furnaces replaced coal, we're finding that they cut floor joists to run second floor heat ducts. They also are run so that the basement has a low ceiling. They sistered joists that they cut poorly, if at all. They didn't remove any of the old gas lines, chimneys, and anything else that may have been updated. In one case, they nailed a 2x4 (4" side) on the underside of the floor to reinforce where they had cut flooring and then tried to reinstall.
Right now I'm working in one wing of the house (1st and 2nd floors). I've gutted the rooms down to the studs and ceiling joists. I've also removed walls (non load bearing) in order to open the rooms up to become one larger room. I need to run new duct work, insulate the walls and ceilings, and replace the windows. I have been pulling out the old electrical and gas lines that go to the pipes as I work in a room.
I also have been ripping up bad sub-flooring 3/4 x 6"? pine (tongue and groove). Where I am stuck is that the floors (surprise surprise) are uneven.
When I take a level along the length of the floor joist it usually comes out level or close enough. But running from one joist to the next one (12" apart 16' long 2x10's), they are all over the place. My friend who is a general contractor is coming over to take a look and weigh the options.
I'm considering ripping the hardwood floor up (putting in carpet) and the sub floor of both floors and re-decking and leveling both floors instead of messing with jacks. This would allow me to rip out a lot of old wiring, pipes, as well as level the floors out.
I really like this way of gutting it down to the basics so I know what is there, what has to be fixed (its a mess), and so forth. I am curious how many of you prefer to rip everything out in a renno like this? I know there are ways to preserve the old stuff. I'm concerned with having a clean, code compliant, insulated house first, and adding the historic aesthetics back in in the finish work. It might cost a little more this way, but at least I fixed what was wrong, know what IS there, and have piece of mind.
The first room that I worked on I didn't follow this model and paid for it with uneven floors (despite how much I tried) and ceilings, and walls! Lesson learned.
I've been keeping a photo record of my work on my facebook. I can post links if desired.