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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
Good morning folks, odd question for you here. I'm living in a circi 1890's home and I've recently removed the old plaster from the living room ceiling and I'm thinking about this old rough cut 2x8 lumber...

...before I replace the ceiling with drywall, I'm wondering if I should take some measures to shore up this wood before I re-cover it? It's old, seemingly extremely dried out and one is cracked.

Aside from fixing the cracked joist, what are some ideas to get extra mileage out of these old things? Obviously things like polyurethane, in a small way, strengthens wood, is there something you all do when you find this old stuff?

-Jason
 

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No real advice, but I would start with a DIY or professional review of its load capacity. For you and future buyers it would be nice to know how it ranks with planned modern use.

Might be interesting to take a core sample somewhere to get a picture of how far back those trees started their life. Here in Maine, folklore has repeated the detail that back in our lumber hay day they shipped 12x12 timbers that were 80' long and totally clear. Those came from some ancient trees.

Before you close it up, air seal and insulate the perimeter.

Best Bud
 

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What's above that area, living space, or attic?
Balloon wall construction?
How bad is it sagging in the middle?
Pulled a string yet to see just how bad it is?
 

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Polyurethane won't add any strength to the wood, Maybe help it from drying/rotting any further, but that's a different issue.

How long are those 2x8s?

Is the floor above "bouncy?"
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 · (Edited)
Checking the joist perpendicularly, they are not all plum with each other, some of them are way off, over half inch.... so some have a good amount of sag.

These are directly below the master bedroom. I'm not familiar with the term balloon wall, but the exterior walls are rough cut 2x4 on top of stone foundation with stone wall basement, the exterior is horizontal planks (maybe 1x6, also old as dirt) with white 1 inch-ish Styrofoam, and then vinyl siding.

Yes, there's a good amount of bounce, with this being the middle of the living room ceiling, a perpendicular beam is not a good option.

Thanks Bud, will definitely be doing a full set of fiberglass at a minimum, possible fiber on the outside and roxul on the inside if cost allows it.
 

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I see an old chimney that probably started life without a liner, just bricks. Not something you would want to use. May have been upgraded.

Balloon framing refers to the wall studs running from basement all the way up, with floors attached to the sides of them, often leaving an air path from basement to attic. That would be both a fire issue and an energy issue.

As woodchopper mentioned, you can sister new beams alongside for both strength and to help straighten them out. Check above to see if the floors are level or if the up and down carries to that floor. You don't want to make the bottoms level and end up making the floor above not so level.

When Sistering, you can look for material bowed in the opposite direction to help neutralize the bowing, but, old timbers may be difficult to persuade.

Bud
 

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Checking the joist perpendicularly, they are not all plum with each other, some of them are way off, over half inch.... so some have a good amount of sag.

These are directly below the master bedroom. I'm not familiar with the term balloon wall, but the exterior walls are rough cut 2x4 on top of stone foundation with stone wall basement, the exterior is horizontal planks (maybe 1x6, also old as dirt) with white 1 inch-ish Styrofoam, and then vinyl siding.

Yes, there's a good amount of bounce, with this being the middle of the living room ceiling, a perpendicular beam is not a good option.

Thanks Bud, will definitely be doing a full set of fiberglass at a minimum, possible fiber on the outside and roxul on the inside if cost allows it.
if you have the ceiling height on the first floor, you can increase the floor joists to 2 x 10 or 2 x12 and that will also give you a straight ceiling to sheet rock...and again sister them to the old floor joists..
 

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Over time wooden joists and beams take a "set", which means they deflect permanently and will not spring back to straight even if the load is removed. This is normal for wood, and does NOT indicate any reduction in strength. The result is a permanent sag to the joist, normally most easily measured at the center of the span, where the sag will be greatest. You can measure the sag using a tight string line from one wall to another along the joist, or you can use a laser level.

You should estimate the load carrying capacity of the joists, since they are probably full dimension lumber you need to use a calculator that can handle actual dimensions, not just nominal dimensions. You will also need to estimate the modulus of elasticity of the lumber, and the maximum fiber bending stress, since the lumber almost certainly predates modern tables, and is likely stronger than typical big box lumber.

The only issue with permanent sag is that the floor above will deflect along the joists, and you will not have a flat floor. This can effect porcelain tile, and may make a wooden floor feel unusual, and marbles will roll towards the middle. I occasionally look at old houses for people in my area, and when they ask me if this is a problem, I point out that sag in an old floor in a historic area such as my part of the world means the house has "character".

Conclusion: If the joists are strong enough, I would leave them alone. If you simply cannot live with a sag in the floor, you have a significant repair job ahead.
 

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since the lumber almost certainly predates modern tables, and is likely stronger than typical big box lumber.
I thought that the above statement was worth repeating.

Most of the wood used prior to 1900 was old growth stuff. The rings are closer together than the lumber harvested from the younger trees of today. It is would generally be stronger than almost any full dimension lumber of the same species you would find today, and even stronger compared to the nominal dimension stuff at the big box.
 

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The reason I asked if this is balloon framing is because with the walls open from under the house to the attic you need to add fire blocking at the top and bottom of those wall before finishing them.
Wood choppers suggestion is the best so far.
Main reason is anything you do below is going to effect the floor above, need to be looking at the bigger picture. What's the floors look like above that area?
What type flooring is it?
Old lumber like that was rough cut and often green when is as built and the ceilings and walls where never flat, not an issue when you plastering, but looks like poop when installing sheetrock.
What I've done many times on houses that old when it's balloon walls is cut into the wall studs to allow for a 2 X 6 ledger to set the new sistered 2 X 10 floor joist to sit on.
Once done there is no more bounce of the second floor and now you have a an even flat surface for the new sheetrock.
 
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