We have to fix the floor.
Check that. I ain’t fixing the floor. I know how. I also know it’s not worth the effort. I’ve got to flatten it out some, and get a substrate down we can work on. That’s a worthwhile expenditure of a few pennies and some effort.
I mentioned creep in an earlier essay. If you’ve just tuned in, I wasn’t referring to any of my relatives. Creep is the deformation of wood structural members over time. The kitchen floor was a textbook example of creep. The span was too long, the floor slowly sagged in the middle, the joists and the occupants got used to their new shape, and eventually the floor became a permanently dished shape. This was exaggerated by the slumping of the back of the house, because the side walls didn’t slump as badly as the back wall. That made the kitchen floor dished in all directions.
It would have been a major overhaul to sister new joists under the kitchen floor after jacking it back up. No thanks. The house is all roly-poly anyway. Let’s flatten out the floor as best we can and move on.
First, we take an out-of focus snapshot of the opening where the kitchen meets the dining room. It was essentially a ramp going up. We cut out the nasty birch strip flooring, and sanded the hump at the edge of the dip with a belt sander. The floor was all patched right there anyway. Even if we could refinish the birch, it would have looked like a quilt sewn by a blind aunt when we were done.
The we installed a piece of exterior plywood we had kicking around. We lowered the leading edge at the dining room to take into account the thickness of the new subfloor we were about to lay on top of it. That took the curse off the uphill climb from kitchen to dining. We shimmed and glued and nailed it to death.
There was a worse dip where the sink would be placed. The floor basically had a trench in it right there. A million footfalls in front of the run of cabinets there a century ago was responsible, I’ll bet. A fully loaded refrigerator had stood there for decades as well, slowly tipping forward as the floor sagged away from the exterior wall. We need to deal with the dip. I went to the local lumber yard and asked for some floor leveler. They had this substance they called floor leveler, that was labeled floor leveler, and they honestly believed was floor leveler. It was all they had, so I decided to call it floor leveler, too.
Back in the day, we used to buy stuff that was basically mortar. It worked pretty well. This stuff was basically drywall compound. I kept looking at the label, and the floor, and the goo in the bucket, and wondered where society had lost its way in the last twenty years. I gave it an honest shot.
The next day, it had already started to crumble. If you know anything about these types of remodeling jobs, the bete noire of all flooring jobs is a crunchy sound when you walk over a newly installed floor. After you’ve tiled or whatever, it’s too late to fix it. It sounds like you’re walking on shredded wheat as you make your way to your computer to rip your flooring installer a new one on Yelp. I hit the patch with a hammer a couple of times, and the whole thing popped out. Then I did what I should have done in the first place. Experience is a cruel teacher, but men will learn from no other, said some famous guy who can go piss up a rope for pointing that out to me and my floor.
Let’s fill it in solid.
I laid a stick across the Cumberland Gap of floors, from high spot to high spot, and measured and marked the depths in various places, and traced the outline of the area we had to fill. The deepest part was about 3/4″, so we cut an oval piece of 1/4″ subfloor, and beveled the edges with a belt sander. Then we did it again, twice, in ever increasing areas, until the dippity-do was filled in. I glued and nailed that sumbitch to death. Then we laid sheets of subfloor over the whole thing.
The adhesive was the same brand I used to use. It didn’t smell bad, which was a bad sign. It used to make your eyes water and gave you headaches and the occasional out-of-body, transcendental vision. If you got it on your skin you’d wear it for weeks. Now the stuff just lays there and sorta pretends it’s glue.
I know all about ages. There was the Jazz Age, and the Atomic Age, and the Information Age. I went to school in the Bronze Age, myself. Anyway, I think we should name the 2020s as the “It Might Still Work, But I Doubt It Age.” It doesn’t roll off the tongue though, so I’ll keep working on it.
I nailed the dickens out of the subfloor with ring-shank underlayment nails. It is hard as hell to bang ring shank nails into an ancient birch subfloor, so I got to do the whole thing myself while my spare heir got to stand behind me and learn how to swear by listening to me.
I see my knees have given out by this time. We’re only doing three sheets of subflooring right now. That’s 96 square feet of floor, and it didn’t even cover half of the floor in there. Victorian houses have big rooms, people.
But with the smooth, flat floor right there, we can install the sink for good, right next to the open cabinet for the dishwasher. The pex piping runs along the back wall behind the dishwasher, and up into the sink cabinet through two ready-made punchouts in the cabinet. You can see how deep the left hand basin is in this picture (the black rectangle on the left).
Reader and commenter blackwing was wondering in the comments about our building inspector:
I like the picture of your construction supervisor in the last picture. Has he/she been helping by sticking their head right into where you’re working every step of the way?
Apparently blackwing is a veteran of the cat-owning wars.
[More kitchen folderol tomorrow. If you’d like to support Sippican Cottage, tell a friend about us, leave a comment, subscribe for (ir)regular updates, buy a book, or hit the tip jar. Thanks!]