Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Back to Work

Yesterday I finally got back to work on the house. I removed the rest of the paneling in the dining room, working carefully so I can reuse the paneling as needed in other parts of the house. It revealed a few more interesting things in the construction of the house.

The complete and utter lack of insulation no longer surprises me, but I found some other reasons why the dining room was always cold before. One was the nice cold well next to the chimney. I'd seen the space before from up in the attic, but I hadn't realized there was just a layer of paneling between it and the living space. The attic is open to the outdoors via roof vents, so that meant a whopping 1/4" of paneling for insulation. What's that, R 0.25 or less? There's a similar little space open to the attic in one of the other corners. Couple those with the general lack of insulation, the mirror butted against the outside wall, the leaky French doors, and it's no wonder the room was cold.

And here, boys and girls, we have a lesson in why you put a header above doors and windows, and why if you use two 2-by pieces, you put them vertically, not stacked. It's harder to see in the photo, but there's a nice downward bow to the 2x4s and the trim below it, about 1/2" or more. This lesson goes double if it's a load-bearing wall (which this is, as the ceiling joists rest on that wall, and indirectly, the roof does as well). Given the span and it being load-bearing, this header really ought to be 4x6 (and will be when I'm done).

The construction of this house is puzzling. Some things like the diagonal bracing show great care and craftsmanship. And other things leave you scratching your head. Of course, I'm sure someone in 50 or 100 years working on the house will wonder some of those same things about my work. Of course, I'm building to current building codes or better, so it will all be solidly built and well-insulated, so probably not so many.

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