In the Zone Part II: Headers and Footings and Stringers, Oh My

Another unexpected casualty of our seemingly endless battle with the knotty ranch was the front porch. Bounded by a broad concrete slab below and an equally broad awning above, this aspect of the property appeared serviceable. That is, it seemed to perform its primary functions, which were to give folks a solid surface on which to walk—or stand, sit, sleep, or even skateboard, for that matter—and to provide shelter from the elements while walking, standing, sitting, sleeping, skateboarding, falling, sustaining a concussion, and waiting for the paramedics.  

Comprised of hunter green metal and supported by five 8 x 8 faded seafoam green posts, the awning itself seemed sturdy, if a bit overengineered, not to mention ugly. Much like the Golden Girls-era ceramic tile living room floor, I wasn’t wild about it, but it was reassuring to know it would function as is, especially given how many other things did not.

So the Jarhead and I decided to delay addressing its aesthetic shortcomings until after we had replaced the roof, repaired the sagging ceilings, and updated the interior; or until one of us inherited a fortune from a heretofore unknown but incredibly generous long lost relative; or until a tornado sucked up the house and dropped it on an unpleasant woman with a penchant for flashy footwear, at which point a bogus wizard or kindly insurance adjuster would help us build another one—whichever came first.

I know that’s a lot to hope for, but we’ve always been the hopeful sort—as evidenced by the fact that we keep buying houses that most people wouldn’t give a second look—but stay with me. The ride gets even wilder.

It was about the time we made the decision to leave the front porch alone that the guys working on the kitchen ceiling discovered, among other things, that the drains were vented into the attic (for a refresher on that list of revelations, check out the previous post, In the Zone.) In the course of investigating those issues, they also realized that the bay window near the kitchen sink had no header, and that the structure inside the awning was literally a sprawling tower of lumber with no cross ties holding it together laterally and was ever-so-slowly pulling apart and flattening out under its own weight. We also learned that to make room for a proper header, the bay window would have to be replaced with a shorter window, and that—perhaps best of all—the structures above the awning were connected to the structures inside the kitchen ceiling, and thus would cost less to repair if we did it all at the same time.

In other words, the fates REALLY wanted us to update that front porch. A few weeks and several sleepless nights later, we had a new and improved front porch with a cheerful white awning, recessed lighting, three—not five—gorgeous cedar tone posts, two swanky storm doors, and one bright, beautiful kitchen window. It may not look that great yet—since its overall mood is still calico cat meets the patchwork puppy—but once we’ve painted the siding and the trim, it should finally pass muster.

That’s the good news. Now for some not-so-good news.

Among the things we had noticed but were either too busy or too deep in denial to look into at first was a disconcerting slope in the mudroom floor. Now, by disconcerting, I don’t mean a golf or tennis ball would roll away if you set it down. I mean, don’t look now but my glutes are getting quite shapely from walking up and down this hill all day long. To put it another way, if the room was just a few feet longer we could have charged kids to slide down it on gunny sacks to raise money to pay for the repairs.

Okay. That may be a bit of an exaggeration. We probably wouldn’t have raised anywhere near enough money to pay for the repairs.

Anyway…

The mudroom itself was built as part of an addition completed sometime between 1970 when the mobile home at the center of this hybrid dwelling was hauled onto the land and 2019 when we bought it, and also served as the laundry room. The addition connected the mobile home portion to the garage and included a bedroom and a cute but oddly shaped bathroom owing to the fact that the house and the garage did not sit parallel to or even close to perpendicular to one another.

When our contractors finished the kitchen and the awning and finally had a chance to look into the mudroom issues, they found that the outer wall had been built without footings, and the windows had been installed without headers. They also found that the idiots and/or crooks who built the addition had gotten frighteningly creative when it came to choosing material for the stringers that support the floor.

Case in point, the wooden rod that had once been the handle of a broom or mop, and the chunks of studs, 1-inch planks, and bits of siding where there should have been 2 x 10 or 2 x 12 boards. Which made me wonder: had they resorted to the broomstick because they’d run out of spare siding, studs, and planks that would span the distance between the walls? Or had they resorted to spare siding, studs, and planks because they had run out of broomsticks? Who can say?

Now you may be asking yourself, why would someone go to all the trouble and expense to build an addition connecting their house to their garage and not protect that investment by doing it properly and/or according to code.

I don’t blame you. We found ourselves asking that very question, as well as several others. Like:

Why would you go to all the time and expense to tear off the roof of a mobile home, build a spacious addition along the entire east side, vault the dining room and living room ceilings, finish them with beautiful knotty pine, and then not bother to make the seams straight, the corners square, or the floors, walls, or doorways level?

And: Why would you go to all the time and expense to put a bazillion windows and glass doors in every room of your house, and then not frame those doors and windows with proper headers to make sure they remain plumb and continue to open and close?

Maybe they were do-it-yourselfers and didn’t know any better. Or perhaps they hired contractors who didn’t know better. Or maybe they hired carpenters who knew better but took short cuts to increase their profit margin. Either way, we had a wall in our mudroom that was sinking, and a floor that belonged in a funhouse.

So, the wall came down, footings went in, and the wall went back up (minus the windows, since new windows cost money) along with a new subfloor, a second HVAC system (since the one in the mechanical room was inadequate to the task) and a couple white shaker cabinets, plus a row of quaint matte black hooks and space for the for the Jarhead’s many pairs of boots.

In case you’re wondering, he doesn’t have a boot fetish. He just buys a new pair here and there and never throws the old ones away.

But that’s not important right now. What is important is that we got the mudroom and porch structure fixed.

Now about that flooring.

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