Long Term Home Remodel Project

Phase VI - Remodel the Den / Previously Converted Porch


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Old overhang With the roof closed up, we turned to the interior. The first thing was to remove the remains of the old main roof overhang then to clean up the mess. The construction mess would have been enough but it was just the beginning. Most of the houses in The Village had wood shingles when new. Past reroofings typically left those wood shingles and added composition over them. Ours was one of those. The current code apparently no longer allows that practice. The shingles had to come off and be replaced by solid decking. Wood shingles were installed over 1x4 decking with ample air spacing. It is hard to imagine the mess that removing 50 year old cedar shingles makes in the attic. In addition, part of the earlier remodel jobs had added many recessed lights to both the living room and the kitchen. The cedar splinters and dust near those created a serious fire hazard. Each of those light fixtures had to come down so all the nearby shingle remnants could be removed. That took a while.

In addition to fixing the leaky roof, we wanted to make the room more liveable. The walls shared with the main house, being originally exterior walls, were covered in exterior siding and the rest of the room, that originally was open, had been covered in mahogany plywood paneling by the previous owner. The ceiling had always been low at a little over 7 feet. We put the new ceiling in to follow the roof as in the kitchen. It now goes from almost 8 feet at the outside wall to over 9 feet opposite. I replaced the siding with sheetrock. The previous owner insulated the outside walls when he closed the porch in. I left that temporarily but painted the mahogany white. Again with the help of a son-in-law, we applied sheetrock to the ceiling and the interior walls. These photos show the room in West wall East wall its current condition. It is serving as a temporary woodworking shop until later phases of this remodel can be accomplished. On the right is the soffit at the bedroom roof overhang mentioned in the last phase.

We intend to raise the floor to match the rest of the house in the future. That will best be done by removing those outside walls and rebuilding them on top of the new floor. A new patio door is also planned on the back wall to replace the single door on the side. Also, one of the old sliding windows will be replaced with a Thermal Window matching the rest of the house. The east approximately 10 feet of the room will become a walk-in closet for the master bedroom and it will get a glass block window much like those in the garage.

Well, that brings us up to the end of 2011. The next plan is to move the laundry from the kitchen to the short end of this back room. This will make room in the kitchen for a more proper pantry. The main reason though is to finally solve a nagging plumbing problem. The pipes are old and probably too small to begin with. The result is the washer periodically floods the kitchen. We have to have the rooter out at least annually to keep the floor dry. Then my woodworking tools will move to the garage and the back room can become the den that it should have been all along. Well, about 10 feet of it is to become a walk-in closet for the master bedroom. But that is the next stage of the projects. Stay tuned.


. . . Long Pause . . .


We did intend to start rather soon on this next step but, plans being what they are, it just did not happen that way. Instead, it was mid 2013 before activity began again. My oldest son, a carpenter by trade, finally moved back from Arkansas and we set about the transformation of the old covered porch, converted into bedrooms by the previous owner then converted to a temporary shop and storeroom by me, into its intended purpose of a proper den with 10 feet of one end being a walk-in closet for the master bedroom.

One of the major problems with the room, being a converted porch, was the slab was too close to the ground. The lie of the surrounding land frequently caused minor water encroachment under the walls and into the room. This, of course, is unacceptable in a proper den or any other room for that matter. The room is 10 feet by 32 feet, set into an ell of the house. One long side shares a wall with the kitchen and the living room. The other faces the back yard. One short side joins the master bedroom and the other faces the side yard. The old flat roof was supported by 4x4 posts spaced 8 feet apart along the long side. These were left when the room was originally closed in and incorporated into the walls. My plan was to remove the existing walls, a section at a time while temporarily supporting the new roof, then construct a concrete stem wall and rebuild the wall on top of it. The stem wall was to serve two purposes. First it would be high enough to prevent water inside and it would match the height of the floors in the rest of the house. A raised floor would then be added over the slab to match the height.

Old west wall and door Door moved to south wall We started on the short wall at the end of the room. It is a non-supporting wall but the slab slopes away from the house by about 2 inches. For some strange reason, the previous owner decided to put the back door of the house on this wall into the side yard rather than the back. Not knowing just how long it might take to get the project done and not wanting to be without a back door for an undetermined time, we carefully removed the door and very temporarily installed it a few feet away on the long wall, where it probably should have been all along. On the left is the end wall with the door in its original location. The right side of the photo shows a pass through into the kitchen. On the right, we have moved it around the corner to the long wall facing the back yard.

With the wall removed we cleaned the concrete to the best of our ability. There was a layer of tar paper under the bottom plate that left a lot of residue to remove. A good treatment with muriatic acid after that left fairly clean concrete. Hopefully, it will be sufficient for the new stem wall to stick to. That done, we erected forms, drilled the slab and set anchor bolts and extra rebar in epoxy then poured the wall. For concrete, we used Quikrete Pro 5000 with an acrylic additive to help reduce porosity. Before pouring, Door moved to south wall Plumbing wall we spread a slurry of thinset using an adhesion additive instead of water to ensure the integrity of the joint between the slab and the wall. This procedure was used on the whole stem wall; the only difference being the rest was fairly level rather than sloped. This is the first new stem wall we constructed. I knew to jiggle the concrete as it was poured into the form but obviously did not do enough. I'll have to patch that later. The rest was done better. That little slab on the ground is where the old door was located.

Sewer excavation This is the wall for the laundry and wet bar so I contracted our plumber to extend the hot and cold water supply from the kitchen and route the drains outside to tie into the sewer line as it exits from under the slab. We built this wall and a short section of the adjoining wall with 2x6 studs to get a little extra insulation space. The plumber advised me that it would meet code to take the drain through the wall then into the ground. This saved having to cut a hole through the slab, a job I did not relish. He also suggested a device called a "Studor" vent which allows venting the drains inside the walls instead of having to go through the roof. It has a very sensitive diaphram that lets air be sucked in but not blown out. This vents the drain but still prevents leakage of sewer gas into the room. It would have been very difficult to vent the laundry without this device because of the headers supporting the old porch roof. This shows the plumbing and that labor-saving vent. In the wall, you can see where we have roughed in for another glass block window. I decided to temporarily reinstall the air conditioner instead until we replace the central unit; the current one does not cool this room and needs some help in the kitchen. The other photo is the hole dug for the new sewer line. It is over two feet deep at the near end and a little deeper at the other end where it ties into the clean out. The steel bridge is so we can get in and out of the house.

Door header removed With the plumbing done we took on the next section of the long wall. This was actually a section and a half, including one of the supporting 4x4 posts. As it turned out, the posts really weren't doing much anyway. They had been set in the dirt and the slab was poured around them. They were all rotted away about an inch below the top of the slab. The reason for doing more than one section was the post was right in the middle of the new patio door. There was a complicating factor here. The old porch roof was supported between posts by doubled 2x8 headers and I had added 3 2x4s on top of those when raising the roof in the previous chapter. With the new stem wall raised about 4 inches above the slab, the existing header did not leave sufficient headroom over the door. It was necessary to cut it and one 2x4 out and replace them with a 2x6 header. We used 4x4s to temporarily support the exposed rafters while this was done then proceeded as before. I had been given a temporary sliding door and window to use until we received the new ones from Thermal Windows who had supplied all the other windows in the house. The temporary door was the same size that I wanted so we built for and installed it. Then I ordered the new door and a window to match the rest of the house except slightly smaller. Delivery was estimated as 4 to 5 weeks. For most of the remainder of this section, my middle son took a few days of vacation and pitched in to help. Between the two of them, progress was much quicker and I did not have to work nearly as hard as before.

Waiting for door and window The next section was to hold the new window and it had the same problem with the old header. We solved it the same way as for the door. The same friend I got the temporary door from also gave me a temporary 5x6 foot window. Since we wanted a 5 foot wide new window, we installed it as five feet wide so the framing would match the new one when delivered. The new window will not be 6 feet high but it is a simple project to raise the height of the sill plate for the actual size when the new window comes. The next section after that had an old window but the replacement is a solid wall so there were no header or other problems to deal with. The final section will eventually be in the master bedroom closet and was to have a 7 foot wide glass block window. I decided to drop the window down a couple of inches to clear the existing header. That section also went in without any problems. Installing a glass block window is a bit challenging as there are no instructions with the materials. Actually, the kits we used for the front windows are no longer available and their instructions were not exactly accurate. The best approach is to fully construct it on the bench and carefully measure everything. This is what I did and it fit the rough in almost perfectly. With the walls built, the door and windows installed, new siding installed and painted, we insulated everything and installed sheetrock. Here the wall is finished but with the temporary door and big window. Sorry for the blue tarp blocking the right side. It was used as a sun shade as this is the south side of the house. Here you can see the new stem wall below the siding and see the approximately 3-1/2 inches we raised it. We haven't had an actual frog-strangler rain since but so far there has been no sign of water or dampness inside.

Finished The new door and window came on Friday, about a week sooner than estimated. Middle son took another half-day of vacation to help accept delivery, actually to help carry them from the street to the back of the house, then over the weekend we installed both. The door fit perfectly on the first attempt. Of course, we had to add to the wall below the new window but after that it also installed without incident. Apparently, our initial construction with the temporary units was right on. These photos are of the finished project, painted and ready for use. With winter Finished not far away, I decided to stop on the den temporarily and turn my attention to the backyard storage building. Taping the sheetrock and raising the floor could be done in cold weather as it is all inside work. Building the shed would be miserable in winter conditions. See the next section for the shed then that will be followed by finishing the den.