Lifting Victorian floorboards
So another wonderful three day weekend to crack on and get lots of work done. I wanted to get on with fixing that flipping radiator and lifting Victorian floorboards.
However before I could get started on the radiator I first needed to pick up the telephone and hopefully have some spruce sheeting delivered that day. I’d made enquiries the night before but I’d not managed to finalise the deal, however with an early call I was hoping that the wonderful Travis Perkins would pull through and deliver quickly and they did just that with a promised delivery of that very day. Not only had they done this but they had also beaten another quote I’d been supplied by a competitor who couldn’t even deliver that week.
So moving on with aspirations to clear the radiator problem by Friday lunchtime I decided I had to bite the bullet, remove a strip of skirting and lift some boards to investigate where the blockage was. I’d spent the Thursday night before lifting the bathroom boards (the easier ones) to be thwarted in my attempt to find an obvious problem, so I had no alternative now, I had to remove my lovely finished skirting and boards.
Boy did I put the skirting on well, it took some getting off and I had to drill some screws out. I think I also found the problem with the nails being tricky to hammer in (see previous post) as some were a little bent, I reckon I’d just not drilled the holes deep enough, I found later that the trick is to drill a hole a little deeper than expected and not hammer the screw/nail home but screw it into its final resting place after tapping it in as far as it will go with a hammer – not wellying it in with a hammer and cracking the skirting. A much better solution I think you’ll agree.
An hour later and I was still no nearer finding a resolution, all the panels up and there was still no kink in the piping to be found. I removed the radiator return pipe connection and tried blowing through the pipe but there was still a blockage, I tried forcing water through and still a blockage. Still it was definitely in the return pipe from the radiator to the manifold – but where?
Anyway one brainwave later- I tired pushing some wire down the pipe and located the position of the blockage – and I’d found the kink position, or rather the knot (well a half knot kinky affair) was directly under the wall between the rooms. In fact I’d not needed to lift the floor or remove my lovely skirting as when I’d been searching in the bathroom as if I’d bothered to get down on the floor with a torch, I would have been able to see it easily. I would have saved hours removing skirting, lifting boards and then repeating the process in reverse and then throwing in a bit of painting and filling at the end.
Still the morning wasn’t a complete exercise in radiator trouble shooting as a phone calll from a delivery driver indicated my spruce was heading out of Evenwood. Ten minutes later and I was carrying eight sheets of spruce through my garden and into my back door. Not the intended front door as the street outside my front door was now a free-for-all parking spot and people had now taken to parking directly opposite my front door. Things don’t generally bother me much, but this parking issue was now starting to get out of hand, I reckon if you live somewhere then you should park your car outside of it and not someone else’s house. F**kwits, this will need resolving.
Anyway the job was now dragging on and leaking into my valuable free Friday, looking at the knot it was now quite apparent it wasn’t a simple job of de-kinking it, it would have to be cut and re-joined together. The problem now was I didn’t have any 15mm straight coupling joints, so it would mean further expense and time with an unplanned trip to Screwfix.
Killing two birds with one stone I decided to make the trip into a Mother’s Day card/present finding mission and a shopping trip too. So two hours later and quite a few quid lighter I returned sporting a straight coupler, some wood filler and glue (I felt I needed filler and glue… ok!) some cards and presents for my Mum and Izzi’s Mum and far more groceries than I’d planned. An expensive trip.
Anyway this was getting late now, so I hastily chopped out the knot, fitted the coupler, dropped the boards, fitted the skirting and patched up the new holes in the skirting, I would leave the finishing for a later date.
I stopped for lunch, now a whole morning and most of the afternoon into the job.
Post lunch I decided to flush the system properly as per manifold instructions with some hose and some nifty connections I’d bought during the week. Basically the manifold has a flow and return rail with isolating butterfly valves. On each of these rails there are threaded taps that one can connect hoses to drain and charge the system – if one has the right connections. Again more money down the drain but I needed these connections to try to isolate the problem I’d had and mid-week a trip to B&Q (well two trips as I forgot a bit and had to exchange another 🙂 ) had resulted in two threaded connections for the flow and return on the manifold and a snug fitting gizmo to fit on my bathroom tap. Anyway all nicely connected up I opened the valves on the manifold to the new circuit and closed those on the old circuit and expected a steady stream of water to drain into my bathtub as I charged the newly fixed circuit from the bathroom tap. Not a smidgen of water was to be had.
This was beginning to get a little tiresome.
Much testing, disassembling, squirting, drenching, screwing and unscrewing, taking apart of piping, gnashing of teeth and still no joy.
I was giving up hope, I was beginning to suspect a faulty drain tap on the manifold when trying resolution mk cxii I undid the drain hose from the manifold drain tap and peered into the end of the hose. There in the end of the hose was a neat circle of a rubber seal, the rubber seal from the inside of the drain tap cap. Well I never… the little bugger had sneaked off the cap and into the end of the hose, making a perfect seal.
I was more pleased to find the offending problem than remark on the loss of two more hours of work time… I pressed on, I don’t even think I swore once.
Anyway with the seal removed it all worked wonderfully, the tap turned on and I flushed the new circuit and then I repeated the process with the other circuit and this flushed nicely too. I disconnected the hoses, I closed the valves that needed closing and I opened those that needed opening, I switched on the heating and eureka after a bit of bubbling and fizzing the radiators both popped into life, marvellous stuff.
Apart from the tiny leak on the small radiator TRV all was well.
Well now I’d lost most of the day, I decided to finish off with a bit of sorting out. Basically I did some housework and then got into the large room and moved the wood around into a tidy pile at the end of the room and basically got everything ready for the grand strip out on Saturday.
Chores out of the way and I made a decision that as earlier that week I’d missed my birthday in some mid-week work, then as I’d barely celebrated any of my birthday at all I should find time to finish off my day with a movie and a bottle of Prosecco.
Off to bed… happy.
Up at sevenish on Saturday and an early start to try to catch up on the work lost yesterday and it was straight into the big bedroom and stripping out floorboards.
Not my favourite of jobs as my floorboards have been fixed into place with nails knocked in by Victorian bodybuilders. This made everything a bit tough, the boards are bad enough to get out even if you just want to trash them, I needed to save them… intact.
The tricky thing to do when removing boards is to not break them and not break the tongue and grooves too. I’d read up since my previous attempt to remove floorboards and I’d found a couple of tips, I’ll impart them here:
- Work your way from the tongue side back, a YouTube post reckons that the grooves are more easily broken than the tongues at the joint and this is the best way to work across a room.
- Use one of those wonderful lifting tools (Roughneck 64640 Demolition And Lifting Bar) I mentioned in a previous post, just don’t go mad with it, work your way along the board lifting it a bit at a time, then work your way back. Just lift it enough to get a reciprocating saw blade under.
- Cut the nails with a reciprocating saw then ease the boards up a bit more to get at any nails further in. Make sure to be incredibly careful to search before for any power cables or pipes before working the saw blade into a gap as the saw will cut through anything in a jiffy.
- Get a pure metal cutting blade for the reciprocating saw, not one of those wood/metal hybrid ones.
- As well as being careful of the saw blade be careful of the bit of the saw that hammers up and down. I was luckily wearing large gloves when my finger got caught in it, the gloves saved me quite a bit of pain I reckon
- Wear big gloves
- Gently prise off the board saving the tongue and groove – well most of the time at least, it’s not a perfect art.
- Ignore all I’ve just said and take the advice of a far more knowledgeable person who I just talked to – he works with wood and has done for decades. His advice “knock the nails through with a punch”. Hmmm I’ll bet he’s right too, all that faffing on with a saw and a jemmy and I reckon I could have saved far more boards too. My nails are pretty ancient and fixed with concrete though, they might have not been so open to a good punching. I’ll try it out on my next floor.
Anyway hours later and one rather saw back and finger later too and I’d removed the lower section of the room.
I don’t know if I’ve made this clear in the past but the big front bedroom was apparently once two rooms. On stripping the wallpaper this was very obvious with different coloured walls under the paper and a strip of filling on the ceiling. On stripping the connecting boards – a manky little ramp of short boards – this room demarcation was apparent too by the presence of the bottom of the previous wall and lots of rubble in the gap between the joists. The big problem wasn’t the rubble though but that one room was lower than the other and the manky ramp was meant to disguise this, however it did a very bad job of this and even the once thick carpet laid over it did little to mask the problem.
My initial solution to this was to consider using bolts and timber beams, basically bolting the timber to the joists and in so doing lifting the floor – by making the new timber sit proud of the joists – by the amount required to square out the room. I’d committed myself so much to this idea that I’d already spent a small fortune on bolts and structural timber. On further inspection though this all looked a bit ermmmm…. premature. Looking at the lay of the land it seemed to me that the lower half of the room was sitting 12mm short of the higher part, so why not buy structural plywood 12mm thick and rather than spend eons bolting timber to joists, why not just screw sheets of plywood to the joists, lifting it to the required height.
Bingo – and the reason for the spruce delivery yesterday.
This also meant that laying my reclaimed boards would be much easier as I could fix it to continuous plywood board and I wouldn’t have to worry about the gaps between joists, or the fact that tongues and grooves might be missing, the plywood would support the boards.
Now before I could do this I needed to do more jobs:
De-nailing the boards I’d pulled up – this took ages and despite my best efforts to pull the nails through the boards I gave up and popped them out with a claw hammer.
Clearing the rubble from between the joists – a simple job… NOT. The rubble between the joists where the wall had sat filled four rubble sacks alone.
Cutting up the scrap wood to go on the fire, a dangerous job with a circular saw and lots of naily wood, not a job to do when tired at the end of a hard day but I got away with it. In fact the boards provided the best firewood I’d used and the fire managed to lift the thermal store to a lofty 80 degrees in no time. The hottest it had ever been.
Taking up the floorboards in the corridor and bathroom ready to route pipes.
Drilling out holes and dragging heating pipe through for the radiators – as one goes through more joists it gets more and more difficult to pull the pipe through, I reckon I’d made the holes a bit too neat as after an hour of pulling it got too much. I was physically exhausted, I turned on my back, pondered on what to do and decided to call it a day. A half hour of putting back boards and it was a trip to the shops (with a black face that I was unaware of), a bath and a curry before bed.
A long couple of days, lots of work achieved and little to show for it.