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Old 03-15-2016, 10:09 AM   #1
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Fixing a squeaky bedroom floor leads to a new kitchen?


We bought this 100 year old 2-flat in Chicago with the intention of just "freshening it up" and getting it rented ASAP. So much for great ideas.

How it all started...

I understand that old houses with hardwood floors will have "unfixable" squeaks here and there; some people say that it even adds to the charm of the house or whatever, and I guess there will be some that you just get used to, but the bedroom adjacent to the kitchen on our first floor unit was incredible. It seemed like every single step in that little room was accompanied by at least a couple different squeaks. I mean, it was ridiculous. So, not knowing a thing about hardwood floor installations, I decided to pull the floor up.



Ah, but before the floor comes up, I need to pull the baseboard. And that's when I learn how old plaster behind baseboard does not like to be bothered. Not to mention how many layers of paint get put on an apartment wall over a century or so.



So I carefully pulled up all the wood, being careful not to damage the surfaces or split any of the tongue / groove, taking plenty of time to do it right (haha! The innocence of the naive...)



Interesting construction, for sure. First of all, the subfloor system was a learning experience. Underneath the hardwood were perpendicular strips every 16". Obviously these increase the opportunity for squeaks. I'm still not exactly sure why this method was used, although someone told me it helps prevent wear to the hardwood by allowing some flex. Continuing under these strips was the anti-squeak (yeah right!) paper followed by a layer of 6" planks that were generously nailed into the joists - no plywood back then, I guess!




They didn't spare the nails, that's for sure. They used a lot, I mean a LOT. By the time I made it through all the layers in the floor, I pulled enough nails for your average barn-raising, I think. Well, the scrap collectors that come through the alley were happy with me anyway.

I did find a few neat items in the floor as I was removing it. I didn't get pics of everything, but here are a couple memorable items:







I did a little internet research on the "Nevada" button. It turns out it was part of a set of buttons, one for each state ("Hey kids, Collect all 45!") that came in a pack of "Sweet Caporal" cigarettes. Note the Patent dates on the button (1894 and 1896). It turns out that these particular pins - the ones with the US states - were only made in 1896. I thought that was odd considering that the house was built in 1916. I assumed that a carpenter building the house just tossed the pin when he opened his pack of smokes, and this got stuck between layers of the floor, but the pin is 20 years older than the house. Well, something to ponder as I'm pulling out more baseboards.

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Old 03-15-2016, 12:00 PM   #2
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Re: Fixing a squeaky bedroom floor leads to a new kitchen?


What baseboards, you ask? Well, the ones in the kitchen of course. Yeah, I was asking for trouble, and I sure found it. I can't seem to find a decent pic of that kitchen before I started working on it, but it was original size 1916 apartment kitchen (tiny) with a decently sized pantry that frankly could be better used these days as more kitchen space. So I got that bug in my head. Here's how it looked before I started demo.

View from the hallway:



View down the hall from the kitchen:



The only pic I seem to have of the undemo'd kitchen:



A shot looking the other way, after I started the demo in the bedroom. You can see the horribly painted old steam radiators:



The kitchen in the upstairs unit is essentially the same:



So if I'm going to commit to this, I'm jumping in with both feet. As I mentioned, this kitchen desperately needs more space, so that pantry has to go. There is an exterior window in there, but the wall isn't load bearing, so there should be no issue pulling that wall down, right?

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Old 03-15-2016, 12:13 PM   #3
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Re: Fixing a squeaky bedroom floor leads to a new kitchen?


Looking good Andiy.

I just wish my old legs could still do that kind of work, but then again maybe they have served their purpose well enough and I'll just enjoy looking at other energetic people's accomplishments.

Please keep us updated on the progress.
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Old 03-15-2016, 02:05 PM   #4
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Re: Fixing a squeaky bedroom floor leads to a new kitchen?


Energetic. Good one.

Anyway, I started in that ugly old pantry.





Of course, it is that nasty dirty plaster and lath so I did make a little mess, but once I get the wall and the soffit down, I'm practically done right?







Of course not! It's a (#&$^ wet wall! I've got the original cast iron vent stack and drain in this wall. Believe me, I was quite tempted to come up with some way to keep the original plumbing there and wall around it, but my conscience got the better of me, and I knew I had to take it down. It was going to be a pain because I wasn't rehabbing the 2nd floor kitchen, so the stack and drain in the 2nd floor would have to stay where they were, while I sloped a connection through the ceiling (which I didn't plan on demoing ) to connect to my "new" wet wall which was going to be at the back of what used to be the pantry.



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Old 03-15-2016, 02:19 PM   #5
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Re: Fixing a squeaky bedroom floor leads to a new kitchen?


So, good ol' cast iron plumbing, eh? That stuff lasts forever, maybe I should leave it? No, I'll do it the right way. With a wave of my magic chain pipe cutter, and Voila! It's gone, and the new one magically appears, 3 feet away!



Ha, I wish. Believe me, I was not too keen on routing those pipes through the middle of the 100 year old joists, but since there was no way that I was rehabbing two kitchens at the same time (we do have to live here too, you know), I felt like my options were limited. But of course I'm glad I did pull out that old cast iron. Have you ever seen the inside of a 100 year old kitchen drain pipe?



Yeccchhhh! Nasty!!! I can't imagine how water was getting through that pipe, but it was! In case you aren't disgusted enough, here's another view.



And the smell - oh lawdy, the smell! I got rid of it all, right quick, but I thought later - I wonder if any old wedding rings made their way down that pipe over the last century, and were still residing in all that gunk? Of course, I would've had to clean it all out to find out so... no. That's one secret those pipes took to their grave.

Well, I'm obviously in deep now, so I might as well go for broke, i.e., gut this b*tch down to the bricks and the joists. Let's build us a kitchen!!!!
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Old 03-15-2016, 03:00 PM   #6
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Re: Fixing a squeaky bedroom floor leads to a new kitchen?


That ugly old pantry was probably built with pride just as your renovation is being done. Do you suppose someone will say that about your work / design in another 100 with all the new materials and technology available.Probably.
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Old 03-16-2016, 09:52 AM   #7
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Re: Fixing a squeaky bedroom floor leads to a new kitchen?


Now that there is a little more room to breathe in the kitchen, with the elimination of the pantry wall and cast iron pipes, it's time to move on with the masonry. The window in the corner (above, near the drain / stack) and this unused chimney, left over from the coal and oil days



are now limiting options in space and design. Of course, more windows = good thing, but that corner placement... not so much. So that means, more demo, and then get out the trowel!





A bonus, if you want to call it that, is that I was able to "recycle" most of the bricks from this and other areas in the house. The chimney itself happily sacrificed a few. (Aside: note the original size of the kitchen window, it used to be 70", like every other window in the house. Also note the less than complete conversion - definitely not the way I would have done it. But if there is one thing I've found in working on this building - there have been plenty of "good enough" mod and repair jobs done around here. And those quotes I used are the sarcastic kind. I was just looking for a nicer way to say half-assed.)

But enough editorializing, and back to the kitchen. The next big decision was about the floor. There is a hardwood floor underneath (4 layers of linoleum / vinyl / asbestos, etc) that may be worth saving, I don't know. What I do know however is that the kitchen inconsistently slopes down 1 to 2.5 inches from the exterior wall to the center beam. And that will need to be raised to level, which means the hardwood has to come up. The tough part about the decision was whether or not to try and save the wood. I weighed the options, and after I saw the condition of the wood when I peeled up some of that tile (not so good), I made up my mind to trash it. Yes, I'm sure that would kill Norm Abrams and then make him roll over in his grave, but hey, Norm ain't paying for this rehab and to be honest, I've never been a fan of wood floors in the kitchen anyway so, I'm going with tile.



Nice, eh? Another aside - note the plumbing in the upper center of that picture. That was a drain in the cubbyhole where the icebox was located, i.e., pre-refrigeration days. I've talked to people who actually remember that as a kid, their job was to empty the drain pan from the icebox. Well this house was in a nice neighborhood, with all the modern conveniences - like a built-in drain for the icebox. Very cool learning a little bit about history while working on the house. But let's get back to demoing this floor.

There he is - Destructo the Invincible at it again...



And down to layer two...



Time to walk the plank(s)! By the way, many of these rough cut subfloor planks were 14' long, maybe that was a standard? But unfortunately they'll have to come out to level up the joists, so it's time to pull nails. Lots and lots and lots of nails.



As I promised, out to the bricks and down to the joists. Note the plaster and lath for the ceiling in the basement. While that seems like a much more complete method of construction from back then, it will come back to haunt me later, but that's for a different project showcase.


Last edited by Andiy; 03-16-2016 at 10:04 AM.
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Old 03-16-2016, 09:22 PM   #8
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Re: Fixing a squeaky bedroom floor leads to a new kitchen?


Regarding the old buttons you found. . .I do have a friend who has been collecting buttons since at least when Reagan ran for Governor in Calif. About 45 yrs. He has them on the wall. I'm sure a few have fallen over the years :}
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Old 03-17-2016, 04:41 AM   #9
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Re: Fixing a squeaky bedroom floor leads to a new kitchen?


Looking good Andiy.
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Old 03-17-2016, 07:07 PM   #10
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Re: Fixing a squeaky bedroom floor leads to a new kitchen?


That pipe is was something that cannot be unseen.
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Old 03-18-2016, 04:45 AM   #11
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Re: Fixing a squeaky bedroom floor leads to a new kitchen?


I'm curious about the old bricks. They now use brick ties to the structure. How about the old construction in the OP's pics above?
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Old 03-18-2016, 02:54 PM   #12
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Re: Fixing a squeaky bedroom floor leads to a new kitchen?


Obviously I'm not going to be able to do too much more walking on top of joists, so it's time to get a floor down. Unfortunately I didn't get any pictures the newly leveled joists but there is this picture of after the subflooring stage started. You can see where I sistered the new two-bys to the original joists. Yeah, it was fun getting them all perfectly leveled up and in alignment.



And just as the original builders spared no nails, I spared no deck screws. But that's not all, I also spared no subflooring glue. There ain't gonna be no squeaks here. That's 3/4" flooring OSB followed by....



...another layer of 3/4" flooring OSB. Again, glued n screwed like mad.

Before I go further, I have to send out props to the Mighty Mazdaspeed 3, and all it did during the project. Of course, I found the pickup I wanted as soon as the kitchen was done, but until I did, the Mazda was going to have to fill in. Obviously I couldn't be hauling too much of anything without a flat bed of some sort... so ho-ho, hi-ho, it's off to Harbor Freight I go...





And a mere day and a half later...



Luckily I had already installed the hidden hitch on the Mazda, so just hook it up and let's get down to the Depot! (don't hate - my options for picking up lumber etc. are limited.)



I knew the 'speed version of the 3 was already pretty tough, and my "special modifications" (ahem) had it in the 300hp and tq range, so I knew it was up for a few delivery runs. And as predicted, it didn't break a sweat.

Next? On to the electrical!
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Old 03-18-2016, 04:07 PM   #13
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Re: Fixing a squeaky bedroom floor leads to a new kitchen?


Those pipes will give me nightmares haha and imagine finding something that could cover the whole project haha
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Old 03-18-2016, 05:10 PM   #14
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Re: Fixing a squeaky bedroom floor leads to a new kitchen?


Well at least the next step should be a bit of a "break" for a while - framing! I was on a summer crew that rough-framed houses back in the early 80's and I always had fun doing this. Ahh, memories. Of course, this was just a kitchen and a bedroom, so the walls went up pretty fast. Of course I conserve as many materials as possible since I'm environmentally minded (a.k.a. cheap); the wall between the kitchen and the bedroom didn't have to come down, so I reused the 2x4s that actually measured 2x4.



I know how electrical standards have changed over the years, (my old place had knob & tube!) and I know there have been some, umm, "creative" mods done over the years, so I wasn't sure what I was in for. Luckily, the fuse box had been replaced with proper breaker boxes. But the original fuse box was still there (without the fuses) and it looked a little something like this...



Ok, I'm not going to touch it. All the new lines in the kitchen are going to be properly sized, fused, and wired per outlet or appliance. I'll have to get back to this thing later.

Let the conduit bending begin!







And so on, and so on. The wiring in this place is pretty wack, and hard to trace, e.g., there is one circuit that includes a closet on the first floor, an outlet on the second floor, and the porch light. Yeah, that kinda wack. You know, I used to hate having to be the lackey to my drill sergeant of a dad when he did all the work on his houses when I was growing up, but I sure learned how to mind my ps and qs, that's for sure. I wasn't going to hack up the electric in this kitchen.

Ok, I know it's out of order now, but since this forum apparently doesn't allow editing posts that are more than a few minutes old, I'll toss in another shot of that Harbor Freight trailer. In our space-challenged city garage, I've got limited room to store things like... trailers, but this thing fits the bill, literally. Just pull out a couple locking pins, fold it up...



and roll it into a corner on the built-in casters.

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Old 03-19-2016, 04:16 PM   #15
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Re: Fixing a squeaky bedroom floor leads to a new kitchen?


Nice work here, definetely nice work going on. Any surprises you weren't counting on? I just bought my first home and its built in 1880 but seems in very nice shape, although the floors are definitely going to have some surprises for me

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