In 2013 I purchased a house built in the 1920’s located on the outskirts of Asheville. Since that time I’ve been re-wiring, re-plumbing, combining rooms, etc. This post will highlight one of the main projects that I’ve been working on, The Kitchen Remodel. The Kitchen and Dining room in this house were both very small and difficult to work with. About 6 months ago I decided to take down the wall between the two rooms and make one large kitchen. I replaced the load bearing wall with three 8 inch wide by 8 inch tall beams. The top horizontal beam was 11 feet long and the two vertical beams were 8 feet tall.
This project taught me lots of great skills for working with this old house. The process of taking down a load bearing wall, working with large rough cut beams, rigging pulleys, etc. I took various pictures and videos through this process that I’ve added below. I’ll try to list out descriptions for each piece of the process in a step by step tutorial but I do have a few gaps in the photo process.
Demolition Party – Slingshot Wall Take Down
I kicked off the wall take down with a demolition party. Special thanks to Nathan Masters from Simple-shot shooting sports for bringing over the sling shot arsenal and the one inch ball bearing ammo bundle. We had a blast…
Removing the Knob and Tube Wiring
Here are few more shots from the demolition process. The plaster that was covering the walls contained horsehair so I assume most of this wall is original. Once the majority of the plaster was down and the lath was exposed I could see what I was dealing with. I knew that the wiring would need to be relocated but I wasn’t really sure how old it was.
It turns out that the power running to the light switches, lights and outlets was old school knob and tube wiring. I ran a new circuit from the breaker box and re-wired the two lights and outlets. I also moved the switches to the wall since I’ll be taking this wall out completely.
The old Knob and tube is still in the ceiling but I’ve capped the wire that was running to the breaker box. The neutral wire is part of a loop that connects to other rooms so I left this in place. This kept me from having to track down the other outlets and lights that are on this loop.
Setting Up the Temporary Walls
In order to take down the main load bearing wall I needed to build two temporary walls. These walls were built about 18 inches from the load bearing wall on either side (one in each room). I laid a 2×4 on the floor and another on the ceiling and then added verticals (studs) every 2 feet. The two temp walls allowed me to take down the old load bearing wall without worrying that the upstairs would end up downstairs. These temp walls stayed in place up until the final stretch so they show up in a number of the pictures.
Beam Delivery from Frank at Unique Wood Cuts
The 12 foot beams of Red Oak came from my Buddy frank who owns Unique Wood Cuts in Old Fort. They were rough cut and about 600-700 lbs each. I had 5 friends help me unload and stack these beams in my kitchen so they would stay out of the elements while I prepped for the build out.
Stacking and Working with the Beams
Once the beams were stacked in the kitchen the task was to plane, sand, rotate, repeat. I made a time lapse video that you can see below. It shows one side of one beam and a quick shot at rotating the beam to the next side. Since the majority of this project was done by myself after work I had to get very creative with moving these beams alone.
Halfway through the video you can see the frame that I built around the beams in order to lift and rotate each piece of wood. This worked really well and I only had to lift the beams about 2 inches in order to rotate them.
Cutting the Lower Beams
Once I worked with the top beam (planned and sanded all sides) and cut it to length I decided to move it out of the way so that I could work with the two bottom beams. The top beam was cut to 11 feed and will go horizontally across the room. The two lower beams (seen in picture) will be the vertical beams and will be cut down to 95 inches.
Once the top beam was out of the way I was able to cut the two lower beams to about 100 inches and will later cut them to the exact length that I need. This gave me a little more working room in the kitchen.
Moving the Top Beam
This next part of the remodel probably would have been much safer with a few helpers. The task was to get the top beam (now cut to exact length at 127 inches) moved into place without taking down the temp walls. The bigger issues is that you can’t pivot a beam this size into place (see photo). It needs to be tipped or twisted in a direction to allow it to fit in place. This was a challenge to accomplish by myself but some furniture dollys helped out considerably.
Hoisting the Top Beam Into Place
Once the beam was in place (a few feet off the floor) I needed to raise it into place at the ceiling level. I did this with two hefty ratchet straps and some anchor bolts that I put in the floor joists up above. The bolts had large eyelets on them to hook into. I basically worked both sides up in an alternating pattern and set braces every few feet to be safe. This worked better than I thought it would and I got the beam raised by myself in one evening.
Once the beam was at ceiling level I still had to rig up a jack system to lift the top beam as much as possible in order to make everything super snug once finished. I used a 5 ton floor jack and two 2×4’s screwed together to lift the top beam an additional 1/4 inch. This essential lifted the upstairs a tiny bit. I marked the wall/beam so that I could see a mark were everything needed to be.
Final Vertical Beam Measurement and Cut
Once I hoisted the upstairs up a 1/4 inch or so and marked the wall where it needed to rest, I took my final measurement. This was from the bottom-side of the top beam down to the resting place (1/2 inch plywood recessed into the floor) that was roughly floor level. With 95 Inches as my final dimension, I cut the last two beams to length. Again these beams will need to be slid into place rather than pivoted into place.
Both vertical beams were extremely tight and needed to be beat in place with a rubber mallet. At this point I’ve got enough hours into cleaning all the beams (planning, sanding, cutting) that I wrapped the hammer with about 6 socks to keep it from smudging the wood. Each beam moved about 1/8 inch with each blow. It took about an hour per beam with some needed breaks every 25 hits or so.
Bracing The Floors Underneath
This step is a bit out of order but It’s important to mention. I strengthened the floor joists below the footprint of the two vertical beams. Once everything is finished and in place, these two 8×8 inch areas will carry the weight of all three beams and the entire upstairs of the house. Previously there were two 2×10 (real 2×10’s) sandwiched together and running underneath the wall that I took down. These beams are sitting on foundation at either end.
I purchased a pressure treated 2×10 and cut it into 4 sections. I took each piece and sistered it to the ends on either side. This created 4 sections of 2×10 (2 old, 2 new) below each vertical beam in the kitchen. I have pictures of this but its basically a shot of a dirty basement joist (email me if you want more info on this).
Taking Down the Temp Wall
Once the top beam was hoisted as far as it could go and the vertical beams were bashed into place, it was time to let down the jack and remove the temp wall. This was a little nerve racking. I went overkill with the beams, the bracing, the reinforcing but it was still a little scary to let everything rest down on the new beams.
Everything worked out well and the upstairs didn’t end up downstairs. This was a big plus and the kitchen is now going through it’s final stages on cabinet and counter-top placement and layout. I’ll have another post for that process.
The wood is aging very nicely. It’s cracking (as it should be) along the grain and starting to show some amazing patterns. I can’t wait to watch this wood dry and age of the coming years. This timber frame kitchen remodel is just the beginning of a great journey underway at the Sasscastle.